Jared Ingersoll overcame the strong influence of his Loyalist father to become a supporter of the Revolutionary cause. His training as a lawyer convinced him that the problems of the newly independent states were caused by the inadequacy of the Articles of Confederation. He became an early and ardent proponent of constitutional reform, although, like a number of his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention, he believed this reform could be achieved by a simple revision of the Articles. Only after weeks of debate did he come to see that a new document was necessary. Ironically, his major contribution to the cause of constitutional government came not during the Convention, but later during a during a lengthy and distinguished legal career when he helped define many of the principles enunciated at Philadelphia.
CAREER BEFORE THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. Ingersoll was the son of a prominent British official, whose strong Loyalist sentiments would lead to his being tarred and feathered at the hands of radical Patriots. Ingersoll graduated from Yale College in 1766, studied law in Philadelphia, and was admitted to the bar in 1773. Although by training and inclination a Patriot sympathizer, the young Ingersoll shied away from the cause at the outset because of a strong sense of personal loyalty to his distinguished father. On his father's advice, he sought to escape the growing political controversy at home by retiring to London to continue his study of the law at the Middle Temple (1773-76) and to tour extensively through Europe. But shortly after the colonies declared their independence, Ingersoll renounced his family's views, made his personal commitment to the cause of independence, and returned home. In 1778 he arrived in Philadelphia as a confirmed Patriot. With the help of influential friends he quickly established a flourishing law practice, and shortly thereafter he entered the fray as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1780-81). Always a supporter of strong central authority in political affairs, he became a leading agitator for reforming the national government in the postwar years, preaching the need for change to his friends in Congress and to the legal community.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. At the Convention, Ingersoll was counted among those who favored revision of the existing Articles of Confederation, but in the end he joined with the majority and supported a plan for a new federal government. Despite his national reputation as an attorney, Ingersoll seldom participated in the Convention debates, although he attended all sessions.
CAREER AFTER THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. Once the new national government was created, Ingersoll returned to the law. Except for a few excursions into politics-he was a member of Philadelphia's Common Council (1789) and, as a stalwart Federalist who considered the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800 a "great subversion;' he ran unsuccessfully for Vice President on the Federalist ticket in 1812-his public career centered on legal affairs. He served as attorney general of Pennsylvania (1790-99 and 1811-17), as Philadelphia's city solicitor (1798-1801), and as U.S. district attorney for Pennsylvania (1800-1801). For a brief period (1821-22) he sat as presiding judge of the Philadelphia district court.
Ingersoll contributed to the constitutional process through his involvement in several key Supreme Court cases that defined basic points in constitutional law during the early years of the new republic. For example, he represented Georgia in Chisolm vs. Georgia (1793), a landmark case in states' rights. Here the court decided against him, ruling that a state might be sued by a citizen of another state. This complete reversal of the notion of state sovereignty was later rescinded by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution. In representing Hylton in Hylton vs. US. (1796), Ingersoll was also involved in the first legal challenge to the constitutionality of an act of Congress. In this case the Supreme Court upheld the government's right to impose a tax on carriages. Ingersoll also served as counsel in various cases that helped clarify constitutional issues concerning the jurisdiction of federal courts and U.S. relations with other sovereign nations.
BIRTH: 27 October 1749, at New Haven, Connecticut
DEATH: 31 October 1822, in Philadelphia
INTERMENT: First Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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