Daniel, Peter V.


Quite rare 1852 ALS of the conservative Virginian while Associate Justice, unable to supply requested autograph of Chief Justice John Marshall



Type: Letter
Description: “(1784-1860) Virginia-born Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court 1841-60. Attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) at 1818 but returned home after one year and studied law under former Virginia governor and US Attorney General Edmund Randolph (whose daughter he married), admitted to the bar 1808. He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates 1809, in 1812 joined the advisory Virginia Privy Council. In 1818 he was elected Lieut. Governor retaining his Council seat. During the 1830s, he was a member of the Richmond Junto, a powerful element of the Jacksonian Democrats. In 1836, Daniel was nominated by President Jackson to a seat on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia vacated by the elevation of Philip P. Barbour to the US Supreme Court, confirmed April 19, 1836, receiving his commission that day. While on the District Court he was against the practice of District Court Justices also riding the Circuit Court system. On February 26, 1841, Daniel was nominated by President Van Buren to serve as an Associate Justice, again to a seat vacated by Barbour (who had died). As Daniel’s nomination to the Court came during the last week of Van Buren’s term it was strongly opposed by Senate Whigs; President-elect Wm. Henry Harrison, also a Whig, was entering office March 4. Nonetheless, he won Senate confirmation by a wide margin on March 2, 1841, receiving his commission the 3rd. His actual service on the Court began January 10, 1842, and ended May 31, 1860, upon his death. Daniel was the most frequent dissenter in the Taney Court with nearly 2/3 of his opinions against the majority; 50 of 74 opinions he wrote were dissents. He authored only one significant opinion, West River Bridge Co. v. Dix, in his 18 years. His political views were extremely reactionary and made the other justices around him seem moderate in comparison. He was an ardent supporter of slavery and disagreed with the amount of power given the federal government. He concurred with the majority in the 1857 Dred Scott case and wrote a concurring opinion in which he stated that “the African negro race never have been acknowledged as belonging to the family of nations.” He concurred with the majority in Prigg v. Pennsylvania which affirmed the legality of the Fugitive Slave Act.

10 1/2 x 7 ¾ ALS while Associate Justice, Richmond, Virginia, December 3 1852, 1-1/8 pps (one thin grey sheet, last 2 lines incl. close and signature on verso), replying to someone seeking an autograph of the late Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, a fellow Virginian. Justice Daniel says his responses to the collector’s communications were delayed ”…by the hope and endeavour to obtain for you the autograph of the late Chief Justice Marshall which you expressed the desire of possessing; yet strange as it may appear, I have been unable from any of his connections or acquaintances in this place to whom application has been made to procure or even to find a simple signature of Mr. Marshall.” He suggests contact with James K. Marshall, the late Chief Justice’s executor in Fauquier County, who may find something for him. He does transmit (not included herewith) the autographs “…of two of Virginia’s most distinguished sons, viz that of Edmund Randolph, once Attorney General of the United States and Secretary of State, and a leading member of the Convention which formed the Constitution of the United States [and Daniel’s father-in-law].” The other is of William Giles, former Virginia Congressman, US Senator, and Governor.

One of the rarer Supreme Court autographs, only one item (his handwritten dissent in Dred Scott, is in ABPC auction records!”
Condition: Very good, tape stain at top right corner of front page & top left corner of 2nd page, few trivial fold separations

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