Robertson, George

Born: 1790-11-18 Mercer County, Kentucky

Died: 1874-05-16 Lexington, Kentucky

Flourished: Lexington, Kentucky

George Robertson was a lawyer, U.S. Representative, state legislator, state government official, law professor, and appeals court justice. Born near Harrodsburg, Kentucky, Robertson received his early education in his native Mercer County and later attended Transylvania University. Leaving Transylvania in 1806, he read law at Frankfort in 1808 and Lancaster in 1809. In September 1809, Robertson earned admission to the Kentucky bar and commenced practicing law in Lancaster. He combined his legal practice with politics. In 1816, Robertson won election, as a Democratic-Republican, to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving in that body from March 1817 until his resignation in 1821. He supported the Missouri Compromise and, as chair of the Committee on Private Land Claims, a liberal public land policy for white settlers moving west. Returning to Kentucky, Robertson entered the Kentucky House of Representatives, serving in that body from 1822 to 1827. He won election as speaker in 1823, 1825, 1826, and 1827. Between 1824 and 1827, Robertson led the Old Court party, which fought successfully against efforts to abolish the Kentucky Court of Appeals and replace it with another court. He declined appointment as governor of the Arkansas Territory, and he also declined offers of diplomatic posts to Colombia and Peru. After a short stint as Kentucky's secretary of state in 1828, Robertson accepted appointment to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, where he served as chief justice from 1829 to 1843, when he resigned and resumed practicing law in Lexington. Robertson also became a professor of law at Transylvania University. In 1848, he again won election, as a Whig, to the Kentucky House. Robertson returned to the Kentucky House in 1851, serving another stint as speaker in 1851 and 1852. In 1864, Kentucky voters elected him justice of the Courts of Appeals for the second district, a position he held until a stroke forced his retirement in 1871.

Robertson married Eleanor Bainbridge in November 1809. The couple had ten children--three surviving their father.

Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 1741; Robert M. Ireland, "Robertson, George," The Kentucky Encyclopedia, ed. by John E. Kleber (Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 1992), 776.