Joseph Story

Joseph Story, Hall of Fame

Story's Story

Joseph Story (9/18/1779-9/10/1845) was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, during the Revolutionary War - son of a Son of Liberty who had taken part in the Boston Tea Party. He was admitted to the bar in 1801. Ten years later, at age 32, Story was nominated by President James Madison to the Supreme Court. He was, and remains, the youngest Supreme Court Justice appointment. He served until his death in 1845.

Story is remembered for his opinions in Martin v. Hunter's Lessee and the Amistad case. His Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, published in 1833, were the second comprehensive treatise on the subject, and remain an authoritative source on the formation of the Republic and the interpretation of its laws.

Some favorite quotes from Story

Without justice being freely, fully, and impartially administered, neither our persons, nor our rights, nor our property, can be protected.

Constitutions are not designed for metaphysical or logical subtleties, for niceties of expression, for critical propriety, for elaborate shades of meaning, or for the exercise of philosophical acuteness or judicial research. They are instruments of practical nature, founded on the common business of human life, adapted to common wants, designed for common use, and fitted for common understandings.

If these Commentaries shall but inspire in the rising generation a more ardent love of their country, an unquenchable thirst for liberty, and a profound reverence for the constitution and the union, then they will have accomplished all that their author ought to desire. Let the American youth never forget that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and blood of their ancestors; and capable, if wisely improved, and faithfully guarded, of transmitting to their latest posterity all the substantial blessings of life, the peaceful enjoyment of liberty, property, religion, and independence. The structure has been erected by architects of consummate skill and fidelity; its foundations are solid; its compartments are beautiful as well as useful; its arrangements are full of wisdom and order; and its defences are impregnable from without. It has been reared for immortality, if the work of man may justly aspire to such a title. It may, nevertheless, perish in an hour by the folly, or corruption, or negligence of its only keepers, THE PEOPLE. Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people in order to betray them.
[This passage was not in the first edition, but did appear in the second, 1851, and all later editions.]