Alfred Moore

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Alfred Moore
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
April 21, 1800 – January 26, 1804
Nominated byJohn Adams
Preceded byJames Iredell
Succeeded byWilliam Johnson
Attorney General of North Carolina
In office
April 22, 1782 – December 14, 1792
GovernorAlexander Martin
Richard Caswell
Samuel Johnston
Alexander Martin
Preceded byJames Iredell
Succeeded byJohn Haywood
Personal details
Born(1755-05-21)May 21, 1755
New Hanover County, North Carolina, British America
DiedOctober 15, 1810(1810-10-15) (aged 55)
Bladen County, North Carolina, U.S.
Political partyFederalist

Alfred Moore (May 21, 1755 – October 15, 1810) was a North Carolina judge who became an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Moore Square, a park located in the Moore Square Historic District in Raleigh, North Carolina was named in his honor, as was Moore County, established in 1784, also in the state of North Carolina.

Moore is noted for having written just one opinion for the Court during his term of service: Bas v. Tingy, a minor case of maritime law. Although a member of the Court for nearly four years, poor health kept Moore from the Court's business during much of his tenure. In particular he did not participate in Marbury v. Madison, a landmark case decided while he was on the Court. Moore was one of the least effective justices in the history of the Court, his career having "made scarcely a ripple in American judicial history."[1]

Family and early education[edit]

Moore was born in New Hanover County, North Carolina as a member of a prominent local political family. Moore's father, Maurice, preceded him in the practice of law and served as a colonial judge in North Carolina, while his uncle James Moore was a prominent Continental Army officer during the Revolutionary War. Alfred was sent to Boston to complete his education, but he returned to North Carolina and read law as an apprentice to his father before being admitted to the bar at the age of twenty.

Political career[edit]

In 1775 the American Revolutionary War broke out and Alfred served as a captain in the First Regiment, North Carolina Line, of which his uncle, James Moore, was colonel, and took part in the defense of Charleston, S.C. in June 1776. He resigned in 1777, but served in the militia against Cornwallis after the battle of Guilford Court House. The war was costly to the Moore family. British troops captured the Moore plantation and burned the family home, and Alfred’s father, brother, and an uncle were among those who served and died.

At the end of the war Moore was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly, which eventually elected him to serve as Attorney General; a position he held from 1782 to 1791. As Attorney General in 1787 he argued the State's case in Bayard v. Singleton [I NC (Mart) 5], which as decided (against the State) became an important early instance of the application of judicial review. Moore was an ardent Federalist favoring a strong national government and he took a leading role in securing North Carolina’s ratification of the United States Constitution after the state had initially rejected it in 1788. After North Carolina’s admission to the Union as the 12th state, Moore worked as a lawyer, was active in political affairs, and served as a judge of the superior court in 1798 and 1799. [1] He served in the North Carolina State legislature, but lost by a single vote in his run for the United States Senate.

Supreme Court Justice[edit]

Moore was nominated by President John Adams to a seat vacated by the death of James Iredell, and he served until his resignation on January 26, 1804.

In 1799, Associate Justice James Iredell died suddenly. On December 4, 1799, President John Adams responded to the vacancy by nominating Moore, who was then confirmed by the United States Senate on April 21, 1800, receiving his commission the same day. At 4 feet 5 inches tall he is the shortest justice ever to sit on the Supreme Court and, due to poor health, Moore’s contribution to the court was abbreviated. In his five years of service he wrote only one opinion, Bas v. Tingy, upholding a conclusion that France was an enemy in the undeclared Quasi-War of 1798–1799. Moore's scant contribution led one Court observer to place him atop a list of the worst justices in the history of the Court.[2]

After leaving the Supreme Court in 1804, he helped found the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Personal life[edit]

In the early 1780s, he married Suzanne Eagles.

He died in Bladen County, North Carolina, and is buried at St. Philip's Church, near Wilmington.

His summer home, Moorefields, built around 1785 in Orange County, North Carolina near Hillsborough, still stands, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


  1. ^ Hall, Kermit L., ed. (1992). The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 650-651. ISBN 978-0-19-505835-2.
  2. ^ Bernard Schwartz, "Ten Worst Supreme Court Justices", A Book of Legal Lists (1997).

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
James Iredell
Attorney General of North Carolina
Succeeded by
John Haywood
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Succeeded by
William Johnson