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  Portrait Gallery of former Connecticut Chief Justices

Jesse Root Jesse Root  <<  |  >> 
 Chief Judge of Superior Court, 1798-1807

  • Born: December 28, 1736 (O.S.), January 10, 1737 (N.S.)*, Coventry.

  • Education: Studied in the Common School of Coventry and, though quite young, he excelled in the study of classic languages; attended Princeton College under the instruction of Reverend Aaron Burr, father of Col. Aaron Burr, where he graduated with top honors in the fall of 1756; studied theology with Rev. Samuel Lockwood, D.D., of Andover and in March, 1757, became a candidate for the ministry and was licensed by the Hartford South Association; in 1758 left the ministry upon the death of his brother, Capt. Ebenezer Root, to take charge of his father’s family; while doing so he fell under the influence of the Hon. Jonathan Trumbull who loaned him law books and advised him to study for the bar. The Hon. Eliphalet Dyer encouraged him as well. He was admitted as an attorney-at-law in Windham in February 1763 and soon set up practice in Hartford. Late in his life Yale College bestowed upon him an Honorary Doctor of Law degree.

  • Occupations and Appointments:  Delegate to the Connecticut Constitutional Convention, 1818; member, Connecticut House of Representatives, 1807-09; Chief Judge of the Superior Court, 1798-1807; appointed Judge of Superior Court 1789; State’s Attorney, 1785-89; Member of the Continental Congress, 1778-82; Captain, Lieutenant Colonel and Adjutant General in the Revolutionary Army, 1776-77; appointed by the General Assembly, along with Jabez Hamlin and others, to sign the bills of credit in the Colony of Connecticut, April 1775; began practicing as an attorney-at-law in Hartford, 1763; licensed as a Minister by the Hartford South Association, 1757.

  • Died: March 29, 1822. Buried in Nathan Hale Cemetery, South Coventry.

  • Items of Note

Items of Note:
  • Family ties: Grandson of Deacon Thomas Root (1667-1758) of Northampton, Mass., who moved to Coventry at the age of 42 and became its first town clerk and first deacon. Son of Ebenezer Root (1693-1760) of Coventry, who held various civil offices in town. Great grandfather of Austin C. Dunham (1833-1918), president of the Hartford Electric Light Company and installer of the first transmission plant in the U.S.

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  • Jesse RootHis two-volume Reports of Cases Adjudged in the Superior Court and Supreme Court of Errors from July, A.D. 1789, to June, A.D. 1793, or the Connecticut Reports, continued the work begun by Ephraim Kirby—America’s First Court Reporterwho compiled the first volume of law reports in America. These reports—Kirby’s Reports or Reports of Cases Adjudged in the Superior Court of the State of Connecticut, from the year 1785, to May, 1788, with some Determinations in the Supreme Court of Errors—were published in 1789 as a result of a law passed by the Connecticut Legislature in 1785 requiring judges to prepare their decisions in writing. Kirby’s and Root’s Reports set the standard for subsequent publications in all the states of America. A subsequent book by Root on common law was the first in the State on that subject.
  • On Monday, October 19th, Root, along with Colonel Wadsworth and Oliver Ellsworth, escorted President George Washington from Wethersfield to Hartford during his 1789 Inaugural tour of the New England States. The President would spend the next day touring various manufacturers in Hartford with the escort of Wadsworth, Ellsworth and Root.

Of his visit to Hartford Pres. Washington would write in his diary: Tuesday, October 20. After breakfast, accompanied by Colonel Wadsworth, Mr. Ellsworth, and Colonel Jesse Root, I viewed the woolen manufacturing at this place, which seems to be going on with spirit. Their broadcloths are not of the first quality as yet, but they are good; as are their coatings, cassimeres, serges and everlastings. Of the first, that is, broadcloth, I ordered a suit to be sent to me at New York; and of the latter a whole piece, to make breeches for my servants…Dined and drank tea at Colonel Wadsworth’s, and about 7 o’clock received from, and answered the address of, the town of Hartford.

Physical Description: According to a report in a local newspaper, Judge Root was “…a man of noble personal appearance, his features somewhat resembling those of Washington, though they were rather more prominent; his form was tall and rather stout, and his manners dignified yet easy. 

* Jesse Root was born on December 28, 1736 under the O.S. (old style) Julian calendar. But after the calendar revision in 1752 when England and the Colonies followed other European countries and converted to the N.S. (new style) or Gregorian calendar, his birthday would then fall on January 10, 1737.

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