David Davis (Supreme Court justice)

David Davis (Supreme Court justice)

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David Davis was a United States Senator from Illinois
Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

 and associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. He also served as Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

's campaign manager at the 1860 Republican National Convention
1860 Republican National Convention
The 1860 National Convention of the Republican Party of the United States, held in Chicago, Illinois at the Wigwam, nominated former U.S. Representative Abraham Lincoln of Illinois for President and U.S. Senator Hannibal Hamlin of Maine for Vice President...

.

Early life


He was born to a wealthy family in Cecil County, Maryland
Cecil County, Maryland
Cecil County is a county located in the U.S. state of Maryland. It is part of the Delaware Valley. It was named for Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore , who was the first Proprietary Governor of the colony of Maryland from 1632 until his death in 1675. The county seat is Elkton. The newspaper...

, where he attended public school. After graduating from Kenyon College
Kenyon College
Kenyon College is a private liberal arts college in Gambier, Ohio, founded in 1824 by Bishop Philander Chase of The Episcopal Church, in parallel with the Bexley Hall seminary. It is the oldest private college in Ohio...

 in Gambier, Ohio
Gambier, Ohio
Gambier is a village in Knox County, Ohio, United States. The population was 1,871 at the 2000 census.Gambier is the home of Kenyon College and was named after one of Kenyon College's early benefactors, Lord Gambier....

, in 1832, he went on to study law
Reading law
Reading law is the method by which persons in common law countries, particularly the United States, entered the legal profession before the advent of law schools. This usage specifically refers to a means of entering the profession . A small number of U.S...

 in Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 and at Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

. Upon his graduation from Yale in 1835, Davis moved to Bloomington, Illinois
Bloomington, Illinois
Bloomington is a city in McLean County, Illinois, United States and the county seat. It is adjacent to Normal, Illinois, and is the more populous of the two principal municipalities of the Bloomington-Normal metropolitan area...

, to practice law. He also served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives
Illinois House of Representatives
The Illinois House of Representatives is the lower house of the Illinois General Assembly, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Illinois. The body was created by the first Illinois Constitution adopted in 1818. The state House of Representatives is made of 118 representatives elected from...

 in 1845 and a delegate to the Illinois constitutional convention
Illinois Constitution
The Constitution of the State of Illinois is the governing document of the state of Illinois. There have been four Illinois Constitutions; the fourth and current version was adopted in 1970.-History:...

 in McLean County
McLean County, Illinois
McLean County is a county in the U.S. state of Illinois. McLean County is included in the Bloomington–Normal, Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Area. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 169,572, which is an increase of 12.7% from 150,433 in 2000. Its county seat is...

, 1847. From 1848 to 1862, Davis presided over the court of the Illinois Eighth Circuit, the same circuit where attorney Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 was practicing.

Davis was a delegate to the 1860 Republican National Convention
1860 Republican National Convention
The 1860 National Convention of the Republican Party of the United States, held in Chicago, Illinois at the Wigwam, nominated former U.S. Representative Abraham Lincoln of Illinois for President and U.S. Senator Hannibal Hamlin of Maine for Vice President...

 in Chicago, serving as Lincoln's campaign manager
Campaign manager
A campaign manager is a paid or volunteer individual, whose role is to coordinate the campaign's operations such as fundraising, advertising, polling, getting out the vote , and other activities supporting the effort, directly.Apart from the candidate, they are often a campaign's most visible leader...

 during the 1860 presidential election
United States presidential election, 1860
The United States presidential election of 1860 was a quadrennial election, held on November 6, 1860, for the office of President of the United States and the immediate impetus for the outbreak of the American Civil War. The nation had been divided throughout the 1850s on questions surrounding the...

. After President Lincoln's assassination, Judge Davis was an administrator of his estate.

National stage


On October 17, 1862, Davis received a recess appointment
Recess appointment
A recess appointment is the appointment, by the President of the United States, of a senior federal official while the U.S. Senate is in recess. The U.S. Constitution requires that the most senior federal officers must be confirmed by the Senate before assuming office, but while the Senate is in...

 from President Lincoln to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court vacated by the resignation of John Archibald Campbell
John Archibald Campbell
John Archibald Campbell was an American jurist.Campbell was born near Washington, Georgia, to Col. Duncan Greene Campbell...

, who had resigned in protest of Lincoln's perceived intent to go to war with seceding Southern states. Formally nominated on December 1, 1862, Davis was confirmed by the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 on December 8, 1862, and received his commission the same day.

On the Court, Davis became famous for writing one of the most profound decisions in the Supreme Court history, Ex Parte Milligan
Ex parte Milligan
Ex parte Milligan, , was a United States Supreme Court case that ruled that the application of military tribunals to citizens when civilian courts are still operating is unconstitutional. It was also controversial because it was one of the first cases after the end of the American Civil...

(1866). In that decision, the court set aside the death sentence imposed during the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 by a military commission upon a civilian, Lambdin P. Milligan
Lambdin P. Milligan
Lambdin Purdy Milligan was a lawyer, farmer, and a leader of the Knights of the Golden Circle during the American Civil War. In 1864, he was unlawfully given a capital sentence, and later set free by the United States Supreme Court, setting a precedent later named after him: Ex parte Milligan...

. Milligan had been found guilty of inciting insurrection. The Supreme Court held that since the civil courts were operative, the trial of a civilian by a military tribunal was unconstitutional. The opinion denounced arbitrary military power, effectively becoming one of the bulwarks of held notions of American civil liberty.

In 1870 he held, with the minority of the Supreme Court, that the acts of Congress making government notes a legal tender
Legal tender
Legal tender is a medium of payment allowed by law or recognized by a legal system to be valid for meeting a financial obligation. Paper currency is a common form of legal tender in many countries....

 in payment of debts were constitutional. He is the only judge of the Supreme Court with no recorded affiliation to any religious sect.

After refusing calls to become Chief Justice
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

, Davis, a registered independent, was nominated for President by the Labor Reform Convention in February 1872 on a platform that declared, among other things, in favor of a national currency “based on the faith and resources of the nation,” and interchangeable with 3.65% bonds of the government, and demanded the establishment of an eight-hour law throughout the country, and the payment of the national debt “without mortgaging the property of the people to enrich capitalists.” In answer to the letter informing him of the nomination, Judge Davis said: “Be pleased to thank the convention for the unexpected honor which they have conferred upon me. The chief magistracy of the republic should neither be sought nor declined by any American citizen.”

He withdrew from the presidential contest when he failed to receive the Liberal Republican Party
Liberal Republican Party (United States)
The Liberal Republican Party of the United States was a political party that was organized in Cincinnati in May 1872, to oppose the reelection of President Ulysses S. Grant and his Radical Republican supporters. The party's candidate in that year's presidential election was Horace Greeley, longtime...

 nomination. The Party supported Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley
Horace Greeley was an American newspaper editor, a founder of the Liberal Republican Party, a reformer, a politician, and an outspoken opponent of slavery...

, who received the nomination of the Democratic Party
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 as well. Greeley, however, died after the popular election and before the return of the electoral vote. His electoral votes were divided between four apparent Presidential candidates:
  • Thomas Andrews Hendricks
  • Benjamin Gratz Brown
  • Charles Jones Jenkins
  • David Davis (1).


Incumbent Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Ulysses Simpson Grant won the 1872 election
United States presidential election, 1872
In the United States presidential election of 1872, incumbent President Ulysses S. Grant was easily elected to a second term in office with Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts as his running mate, despite a split within the Republican Party that resulted in a defection of many Liberal Republicans...

.

Disputed election of 1876



In 1877, Davis narrowly avoided the opportunity to be the only person to ever single-handedly select the President of the United States. In the disputed Presidential election of 1876 between the Republican Rutherford Hayes and the Democrat Samuel Tilden, Congress created a special Electoral Commission
Electoral Commission (United States)
The Electoral Commission was a temporary body created by Congress to resolve the disputed United States presidential election of 1876. It consisted of 15 members. The election was contested by the Democratic ticket, Samuel J. Tilden and Thomas A. Hendricks, and the Republican ticket, Rutherford B....

 to decide to whom to award a total of 20 electoral votes which were disputed from the states of Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

, South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 and Oregon
Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

. The Commission was to be composed of 15 members: five drawn from the U.S. House of Representatives, five from the U.S. Senate, and five from the U.S. Supreme Court. The majority party in each legislative chamber would get three seats on the Commission, and the minority party would get two. Both parties agreed to this arrangement because it was understood that the Commission would have seven Republicans, seven Democrats, and Davis, who was arguably the most trusted independent in the nation.

According to one historian, "[n]o one, perhaps not even Davis himself, knew which presidential candidate he preferred." Just as the Electoral Commission Bill was passing Congress, the legislature of Illinois
Illinois General Assembly
The Illinois General Assembly is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Illinois and comprises the Illinois House of Representatives and the Illinois Senate. The General Assembly was created by the first state constitution adopted in 1818. Illinois has 59 legislative districts, with two...

 elected Davis to the Senate. Democrats in the Illinois Legislature believed that they had purchased Davis' support by voting for him. However, they had made a miscalculation; instead of staying on the Supreme Court so that he could serve on the Commission, he promptly resigned as a Justice on March 4, 1877, in order to take his Senate seat. Because of this, Davis was unable to assume the spot, always intended for him, as one of the Supreme Court's members of the Commission. His replacement on the Commission was Joseph Philo Bradley
Joseph Philo Bradley
Joseph Philo Bradley was an American jurist best known for his service on the United States Supreme Court, and on the Electoral Commission that decided the disputed 1876 presidential election.-Early life:...

, a Republican, thus the Commission ended up with an 8-7 Republican majority. Each of the 20 disputed electoral votes was eventually awarded to Hayes, the Republican, by that same 8-7 majority; Hayes won the election, 185 electoral votes to 184. Had Davis been on the Commission, his would have been the deciding vote, and Tilden would have been elected president if Davis and the commission had awarded him even a single electoral vote.

Senate career


Davis served only a single term as U.S. Senator from Illinois.

In 1881, Davis' renowned independence was again called upon. Upon the assassination of President James A. Garfield, Vice President Chester Arthur succeeded to the office of president. Per the terms of the Presidential Succession Act
Presidential Succession Act
The Presidential Succession Act establishes the line of succession to the powers and duties of the office of President of the United States in the event that neither a President nor Vice President is able to "discharge the powers and duties of the office." The current Presidential Succession Act...

 of 1792, which was still in effect, the President pro tempore of the Senate
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
The President pro tempore is the second-highest-ranking official of the United States Senate. The United States Constitution states that the Vice President of the United States is the President of the Senate and the highest-ranking official of the Senate despite not being a member of the body...

 would be next in line for the presidency, should it again become vacant at any time in the 3½ years remaining in Garfield's term. As the Senate was evenly divided between the parties, this posed the risk of deadlock. However, the presence of Davis provided an answer; despite being only a freshman Senator, the Senate elected Davis as President Pro Tempore. Davis was not a candidate for re-election. At the end of his term in 1883, he retired to his home in Bloomington.

Legacy


Upon his death in 1886, he was interred at Evergreen Cemetery in Bloomington, Illinois
Bloomington, Illinois
Bloomington is a city in McLean County, Illinois, United States and the county seat. It is adjacent to Normal, Illinois, and is the more populous of the two principal municipalities of the Bloomington-Normal metropolitan area...

. His grave can be found in section G, lot 659.

His home in that city, the David Davis Mansion
David Davis Mansion
The David Davis Mansion, also known as Clover Lawn, is a Victorian home in Bloomington, Illinois that was the residence of David Davis, Supreme Court justice and Senator from Illinois. The mansion has been a state museum since 1960...

, is a state historic site. At his death, he was the largest landowner in Illinois, and his estate was worth between four and five million dollars.

Family


David Davis's family stayed in the same neighborhood that Davis last lived in. They all built their own houses and owned the surrounding land. Many of the family members have continued to live in Bloomington to this day.
Davis was a cousin of U.S. Representative Henry Winter Davis
Henry Winter Davis
Henry Winter Davis was a United States Representative from the 4th and 3rd congressional districts of Maryland, well known as one of the Radical Republicans during the Civil War.-Early life and career:...

, and his grandfather John Mercer was an ancestor of Presidents
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 and George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 through George Herbert Walker
George Herbert Walker
George Herbert Walker was a wealthy American banker and businessman. His daughter Dorothy married Prescott Bush, making him a grandfather of former President George H. W. Bush and a great-grandfather of former President George W. Bush.-Life and career:Born in St...

, the son of Davis's first cousin David Davis Walker
David Davis Walker
David Davis "D.D." Walker , a St. Louis dry goods wholesaler, founded Ely & Walker, which remains a clothing brand to this day. Walker was a first cousin of Senator and Supreme Court Justice David Davis. Through his son George Herbert Walker, he was the great-grandfather of President George H. W....

, a successful St. Louis businessman. As David Davis Walker's first cousin, he is first cousin three times removed to George H.W. Bush's generation of the Bush family and first cousin four times removed to George W. Bush's generation of the Bush family.

External links