Pioneer of Retirement: Justice Samuel Nelson


In November 1872, Justice Samuel Nelson retired from the U.S. Supreme Court. The formal farewells were of the good-spirited kind that prominent public figures have almost always received: heavy on recitations of his virtues, light on mentions of flaws that were really, of course, merely misunderstood manifestations of his greatness. There were, however, two unusual features of the Nelson celebrations. This article sketches those oddities and makes a couple of suggestions about their significance then and now.