Melville Fuller

Last updated
Melville Fuller
Melville Weston Fuller Chief Justice 1908.jpg
8th Chief Justice of the United States
In office
July 20, 1888 July 4, 1910
Nominated by Grover Cleveland
Preceded by Morrison Waite
Succeeded by Edward Douglass White
Personal details
Born
Melville Weston Fuller

(1833-02-11)February 11, 1833
Augusta, Maine, U.S.
DiedJuly 4, 1910(1910-07-04) (aged 77)
Sorrento, Maine, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s)
Calista Reynolds
(m. 1858;died 1864)

Mary Coolbaugh(m. 1866)
Children6
Education Harvard University
Bowdoin College (BA, MA)
Signature Melville Fuller Signature.svg

Melville Weston Fuller (February 11, 1833 – July 4, 1910) was a politician, lawyer, and judge from Illinois. He was the eighth Chief Justice of the United States from 1888 to 1910.

Illinois State of the United States of America

Illinois is a state in the Midwestern and Great Lakes regions of the United States. It has the fifth largest gross domestic product (GDP), the sixth largest population, and the 25th largest land area of all U.S. states. Illinois has been noted as a microcosm of the entire United States. With Chicago in northeastern Illinois, small industrial cities and immense agricultural productivity in the north and center of the state, and natural resources such as coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a diverse economic base, and is a major transportation hub. Chicagoland, Chicago's metropolitan area, encompasses over 65% of the state's population. The Port of Chicago connects the state to international ports via two main routes: from the Great Lakes, via the Saint Lawrence Seaway, to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, via the Illinois Waterway to the Illinois River. The Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and the Wabash River form parts of the boundaries of Illinois. For decades, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has been ranked as one of the world's busiest airports. Illinois has long had a reputation as a bellwether both in social and cultural terms and, through the 1980s, in politics.

Chief Justice of the United States senior justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

The Chief Justice of the United States is the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, and as such the highest-ranking judge of the federal judiciary. Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution grants plenary power to the President of the United States to nominate, and with the advice and consent of the United States Senate, appoint a chief justice, who serves until they resign, are impeached and convicted, retire, or die.

Contents

Born in Augusta, Maine, he established a legal practice in Chicago after graduating from Bowdoin College. He also served as a newspaper editor and managed Democrat Stephen A. Douglas's campaign in the 1860 presidential election. During the Civil War, he served a single term in the Illinois House of Representatives, and political opponents would later claim that he was an anti-war Copperhead. Fuller became a prominent attorney in Chicago and was a delegate to several Democratic national conventions.

Augusta, Maine Capital of Maine, United States

Augusta is the state capital of the U.S. state of Maine and the county seat of Kennebec County.

Chicago City in Illinois, United States

Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois, as well as the third most populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,705,994 (2018), it is the most populous city in the Midwest. Chicago is the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland, and the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States. The metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States.

Bowdoin College private liberal arts college in Brunswick, Maine

Bowdoin College is a private liberal arts college in Brunswick, Maine. At the time Bowdoin was chartered, in 1794, Maine was still a part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The college offers 34 majors and 36 minors, as well as several joint engineering programs with Columbia, Caltech, Dartmouth College, and The University of Maine.

He declined several appointments offered by President Grover Cleveland before accepting the nomination to succeed Morrison Waite as Chief Justice. Despite some opposition to the nomination, Fuller won Senate confirmation in 1888. In 1893, he declined Cleveland's offer to serve as Secretary of State. He served as Chief Justice until his death in 1910.

Grover Cleveland 22nd and 24th president of the United States

Stephen Grover Cleveland was an American politician and lawyer who was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, the only president in American history to serve two non-consecutive terms in office. He won the popular vote for three presidential elections—in 1884, 1888, and 1892—and was one of two Democrats to be elected president during the era of Republican political domination dating from 1861 to 1933.

Morrison Waite American politician

Morrison Remick "Mott" Waite was an attorney, judge, and politician from Ohio. He served as the seventh Chief Justice of the United States from 1874 to his death in 1888. During his tenure, the Waite Court took a narrow interpretation of federal authority related to laws and amendments that were passed during the Reconstruction Era to expand the rights of freedmen and protect them from attacks by vigilante groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

United States Senate Upper house of the United States Congress

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C.

As Chief Justice of the Fuller Court, he presided over several important cases. In Plessy v. Ferguson , the court articulated the doctrine of separate but equal and upheld Jim Crow laws. His opinion in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. struck down the federal income tax provision of the Wilson–Gorman Tariff Act. The decision was later superseded by the Sixteenth Amendment. Fuller's opinion in United States v. E. C. Knight Co. narrowly interpreted the Sherman Antitrust Act, making government prosecution of antitrust cases more difficult.

Fuller Court

The Fuller Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States from 1888 to 1910, when Melville Fuller served as the eighth Chief Justice of the United States. Fuller succeeded Morrison R. Waite as Chief Justice after the latter's death, and Fuller served as Chief Justice until his death, at which point Associate Justice Edward Douglass White was nominated and confirmed as Fuller's replacement.

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court issued in 1896. It upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation laws for public facilities as long as the segregated facilities were equal in quality – a doctrine that came to be known as "separate but equal". The decision legitimized the many state laws re-establishing racial segregation that had been passed in the American South after the end of the Reconstruction Era (1865–1877).

Separate but equal Legal doctrine used for Racial segregation in the United States

Separate but equal was a legal doctrine in United States constitutional law according to which racial segregation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guaranteed "equal protection" under the law to all people. Under the doctrine, as long as the facilities provided to each race were equal, state and local governments could require that services, facilities, public accommodations, housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation be segregated by race, which was already the case throughout the states of the former Confederacy. The phrase was derived from a Louisiana law of 1890, although the law actually used the phrase "equal but separate".

Early life and education

Fuller was born in Augusta, Maine, the son of Catherine Martin (Weston) and Frederick Augustus Fuller. [1] Both his maternal grandfather, Nathan Weston and paternal grandfather, Henry Weld Fuller were judges. His father was a well-known lawyer. His parents divorced shortly after his birth, and he was raised by Nathan Weston. He attended college at Harvard University for one year before graduating from Bowdoin College, Phi Beta Kappa [2] in 1853. He then spent six months at Harvard Law School, leaving without graduating in 1855.

Harvard University Private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with about 6,700 undergraduate students and about 15,250 postgraduate students. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning. Its history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world's most prestigious universities. The university is often cited as the world's top tertiary institution by most publishers.

Phi Beta Kappa honor society for the liberal arts and sciences in the United States

The Phi Beta Kappa Society (ΦΒΚ) is the oldest academic honor society in the United States, and is often described as its most prestigious honor society, due to its long history and academic selectivity. Phi Beta Kappa aims to promote and advocate excellence in the liberal arts and sciences, and to induct the most outstanding students of arts and sciences at American colleges and universities. It was founded at the College of William and Mary on December 5, 1776 as the first collegiate Greek-letter fraternity and was among the earliest collegiate fraternal societies.

Harvard Law School law school in Cambridge

Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1817, it is the oldest continuously operating law school in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world. It is ranked first in the world by the QS World University Rankings and the ARWU Shanghai Ranking.

Law practice

Fuller first studied law under the direction of an uncle. In 1855, he went into partnership with another uncle. He also became the editor of The Age, a leading Democratic newspaper in Augusta, Maine. Soon he got tired of Maine and moved to Chicago. In 1860, he managed Democrat Stephen Douglas' campaign for the Presidency of the United States

At the time, Chicago was becoming the gateway to the West. Railroads had just linked it to the east. Fuller built a law practice in Chicago. Within two years, he appeared before the Supreme Court of Illinois in the case of Beach v. Derby. He became a leading attorney in the city. He first appeared before the United States Supreme Court in the case of Traders' Bank v. Campbell. He also argued the case of Tappan v. the Merchants' National Bank of Chicago, which was the first case heard by Chief Justice Morrison Waite, whom he would later replace.

Political career

He was a minor figure in Illinois politics. He spent one term in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1863 to 1865, and was a delegate to the Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1862, and to the national Democratic Conventions of 1864, 1872, 1876, and 1880. In 1876, he made the nominating speech for Thomas Hendricks, for the Democratic nomination for President. After his inauguration as President, Grover Cleveland tried to make Fuller chairman of the United States Civil Service Commission, but he declined. Cleveland then tried to persuade Fuller to accept appointment as Solicitor General of the United States, but Fuller again declined. In 1886, Fuller was president of the Illinois State Bar Association.

Chief Justice

Fuller's Chief Justice nomination Fuller Nomination.JPG
Fuller's Chief Justice nomination

On April 30, 1888, President Grover Cleveland nominated him for the chief justice position following the death of Morrison R. Waite. Fuller was not the first man to be mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee; the former ambassador to Great Britain, Edward J. Phelps, was perceived as the front-runner for the nomination, but declined because he thought that as a former Minister to England, his nomination might be looked on unfavorably by Irish-Americans, a major Democratic Party constituency.

Fuller's nomination was tepidly received in the Senate. He had avoided military service during the Civil War, and while serving in the Illinois House of Representatives had attempted to block wartime legislation proposed by Governor Richard Yates. Republicans thus launched a smear campaign against Fuller, portraying him as a Copperhead—an anti-war Democrat—and publishing a tract claiming that "The records of the Illinois legislature of 1863 are black with Mr. Fuller's unworthy and unpatriotic conduct." [3] However, he was eventually confirmed by the United States Senate on July 20, 1888, by a vote of 41 to 20, with nine Republicans voting with the Democrats to confirm him. He received his commission the same day. [4] Fuller did not take the oath of office until October 8, 1888. [5] [6] [7]

Chief Justice Fuller administering the oath to William McKinley as president in 1897. Outgoing president Grover Cleveland stands to the right. Ful-McK-Cle.jpg
Chief Justice Fuller administering the oath to William McKinley as president in 1897. Outgoing president Grover Cleveland stands to the right.

On the bench, he oversaw a number of memorable or important opinions. The famous phrase "Equal Justice Under Law" paraphrases his opinion in Caldwell v. Texas, 137 U.S. 692 (1891) where Fuller discussed "equal and impartial justice under the law." [8] [9] The equally famous (and much criticized) phrase "separate but equal," allowing segregation in the South, was made famous by the Fuller Court case Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), though the actual phrase was "equal but separate".

The Court under Fuller declared the income tax law unconstitutional in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. , 157 U.S. 429. [10] In Western Union Telegraph Company v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 128 U.S. 39 [11] the Court ruled that states could not tax interstate telegraph messages.

The Court through his opinion struck a blow against government antitrust legislation with the 1895 case United States v. E. C. Knight Co. . [12] In Fuller's majority decision, the court found that the refining of sugar by a company within the boundaries of one state could not be held to be in restraint of interstate commerce under the terms of the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act, regardless of the product's final market share. (E.C. Knight Company's owner, the American Sugar Refining Company, controlled more than 90% of sugar production at the time).

On immigration, Fuller, speaking for the court, ruled in the case of Gonzales v. Williams (192 U.S. 1, 1904), [13] that under the immigration laws Puerto Ricans were not aliens, and therefore could not be denied entry into the United States. The Court however declined to declare that Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens. The question of the citizenship status of the inhabitants of the new island territories, their situation remained confusing, ambiguous, and contested. Puerto Ricans came to be known as something in between: "noncitizen nationals". [14]

In this famous immigration case, Isabel Gonzalez arrived from Puerto Rico at Ellis Island in August 1902. Immigration Commissioner William Williams held her as an "illegal" with plans to deport Gonzalez back to San Juan, Puerto Rico. She appealed her case, whereby the Court ruled in favor of Gonzalez and allowed her to remain in the US. Fuller's opinion did not go so far as to claim that she was automatically a US citizen, however, he recognized that Puerto Rico was a territory of the US (as of the 1898 Spanish–American War), and therefore Gonzales had the right to remain in the US. This paved the way for future Puerto Ricans to freely immigrate to the US. Later, in 1917, the Jones–Shafroth Act was passed by Congress, which provided even more immigration and citizenship rights to Puerto Ricans.

Foreign affairs

In 1893, Fuller turned down an offer from President-Elect Grover Cleveland to serve as Secretary of State.

He also served on the Arbitration Commission in Paris in 1899 to resolve a boundary dispute between the United Kingdom and Venezuela.[ citation needed ]

Personal

He was said to closely resemble Mark Twain. Once, when the humorist was stopped on the street, a passerby demanded the Chief Justice's autograph. Twain supposedly wrote:

It is delicious to be full, but it is heavenly to be Fuller. I am cordially yours, Melville W. Fuller.

He was married twice. He married Calista Reynolds in 1858; she died in 1864. He married Mary Coolbaugh, the daughter of banker William F. Coolbaugh, in 1866. He had six daughters.

Horace Williams Fuller, editor of the lighthearted legal magazine, The Green Bag , was a cousin. [15]

Legacy

He died in Sorrento, Maine, and his remains are interred at Graceland Cemetery. [16] [17]

According to one study, while on the Supreme Court, Fuller voted in favor of civil rights for blacks in 15.15% (5 of 33) of the cases before him and voted in favor of civil rights for Asian Americans in 24.14% (7 of 29) of cases before him. Both percentages were below the average for the Supreme Court as a whole. [18]

As Chief Justice, he administered the oath of office to five Presidents (Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft).

See also

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Isabel González Puerto Rican activist

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White Court (judges)

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Fuller-Weston House

The Fuller-Weston House is a historic house at 11 Summer Street in Augusta, Maine. Built in 1818, it is a fine local example of Federal period architecture, and is further notable for several of its occupants, who include the Chief Justice of the United States Melville Fuller. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. It now serves as the rectory of St. Mark's Church.

References

  1. Hatch, Louis Clinton (1919). Maine: A History (Centennial Edition), Biographical volume. New York: The American Historical Society. p. 15. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  2. Supreme Court Justices Who Are Phi Beta Kappa Members, Phi Beta Kappa website, accessed Oct 4, 2009
  3. Rehnquist, William H. Centennial Crisis: The Disputed Election of 1876. Vintage Publications, 2004. p. 226.
  4. "Federal Judicial Center: Melville Fuller". 2009-12-12. Retrieved 2012-05-21.
  5. Ely, James W. (1995). The Chief Justiceship of Melville W. Fuller, 18881910 (Chief Justiceships of the United States Supreme Court). University of South Carolina Press. p. 24. ISBN   978-1-57003-018-5 . Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  6. "Oaths of Office Taken by the Chief Justices". Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  7. "Melville W. Fuller Biography". Oyez Project U.S. Supreme Court media. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  8. Caldwell v. Texas, 137 U. S. 692 (1891) at supreme.justia.com
  9. Cabraser, Elizabeth. "The Essentials of Democratic Mass Litigation", Columbia Journal of Law & Social Problems, Vol. 45, p. 499 (Summer 2012).
  10. Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 157 U. S. 429 (1895) at supreme.justia.com
  11. Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Pennsylvania, 128 U. S. 39 (1888) at supreme.justia.com
  12. United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U. S. 1 (1895) at supreme.justia.com
  13. Text of Gonzales v. Williams at Wikisource.
  14. Gonzales v. Williams, 192 U. S. 1 (1904) at supreme.justia.com
  15. Charles C. Soule, "The First Editor of 'The Green Bag'", The Green Bag (December, 1901), Vol. XIII., No. 12., p. 551–552.
  16. "Christensen, George A. (1983) Here Lies the Supreme Court: Gravesites of the Justices, Yearbook". Archived from the original on September 3, 2005. Retrieved 2013-11-24. Supreme Court Historical Society at Internet Archive.
  17. See also, Christensen, George A., "Here Lies the Supreme Court: Revisited", Journal of Supreme Court History, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp. 17–41 (19 Feb 2008), University of Alabama.
  18. The First Justice Harlan by the Numbers: Just How Great was "The Great Dissenter?" 32 Akron L. Rev. 629 (1999)

Further reading

Legal offices
Preceded by
Morrison Waite
Chief Justice of the United States
1888–1910
Succeeded by
Edward White