Nelson was born in Hebron, New York on November 10, 1792. He graduated from Middlebury College in 1813. He readl law in Salem New York and was admitted to the bar in 1817. Nelson served as postmaster of Cortaln from 1820 to 1823. In 1823. Nelson was appointed to the Sixth Circuit of New York. From 1831 to 1845 Nelson served on the New York Supreme Court. During eight of those years Nelson served as Chief Justice of that court. In 1845 President Tyler nominated Nelson to the Supreme Court. He served there for 27 years. Nelson died in 1873.