Peter Vivian Daniel
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States|
March 3, 1841 – May 31, 1860
|Nominated by||Martin Van Buren|
|Preceded by||Philip Barbour|
|Succeeded by||Samuel Miller|
|Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia|
April 19, 1836 – March 3, 1841
|Nominated by||Andrew Jackson|
|Preceded by||Philip Barbour|
|Succeeded by||John Mason|
April 24, 1784|
Stafford County, Virginia, U.S.
|Died||May 31, 1860
Richmond, Virginia, U.S.
|Alma mater||Princeton University|
Early life, education, and career
Daniel was born in Stafford County, Virginia, in 1784 to a family of old colonial heritage. He was educated at home by private tutors and entered the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) at the age of eighteen. After one year, he decided that it was not in his best interest, and he went back to Virginia to study law under former Attorney General of the United States Edmund Randolph in Richmond and was admitted to the bar in 1808. Shortly after returning he entered into a conflict with a Fredericksburg businessman, John Seddon. It is thought a political issue sparked the challenge to a duel. Since dueling was prohibited in Virginia, the Daniel-Seddon duel was fought in Maryland. The duel took place and Daniel wounded Seddon, who later died of his wound shortly after returning to Virginia. Daniel married Randolph's daughter, Lucy, two years later.
Daniel soon found success in politics. He joined the Richmond Junta, the ruling political party at the time, which allowed him several opportunities. In 1809, Daniel was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, and in 1812 became a member of the advisory Virginia Privy Council. He remained on the Council and in 1818 was elected Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. During the 1830s, he was a member of the Richmond Junto, a powerful element of the Jacksonian Democrats, and a strong supporter of both Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. In 1830, he ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Virginia. He would retain his two previous positions until 1836 when President Andrew Jackson appointed him to the federal judiciary.
Eastern District of Virginia
On April 6, 1836, Daniel was nominated by President Jackson to a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia vacated by the elevation of Philip Pendleton Barbour to the Supreme Court. Daniel was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 19, 1836, and received his commission the same day. Daniel sat on the District Court for nearly five years, yet he was against latitudinarian judicial constructs, or the practice of District Court Justices also riding the Circuit Court system.
On February 26, 1841, Daniel was nominated by President Martin Van Buren, to be elevated to Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, again to a seat vacated by Philip Barbour. At this time, there were no intermediate courts of appeal, and it was not uncommon for appointments to the Supreme Court to be drawn from the ranks of sitting District Court judges. Additionally, there was a tradition of having representation from certain geographical areas on the court, and the appointment of Daniel to succeed Barbour continued the tradition of that seat being held by a Virginian. Daniel's appointment met with dissension among the Whig party in Congress. Van Buren nominated Daniel during his last week as president, and Daniel was appointed as a Justice before his predecessor was even buried. Daniel's elevation was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 2, 1841, near the end of Van Buren's term, and his commission issued on March 3, 1841. Daniel repaid Van Buren by supporting him until 1848 when Van Buren ran for the presidency again under the Free Soil party’s nomination. Daniel, a proponent of slavery, resented his friend for abandoning the Democratic Party. Daniel remained on the court, against the urgings of his associate judges, until his death, in 1860, in Richmond, Virginia.
Daniel was the most frequent dissenter in the Taney Court with nearly two-thirds of his opinions going against the majority. Of the seventy-four opinions he wrote, fifty of them were dissents. His political views were extremely conservative and made the other justices around him seem moderate in comparison. He was a supporter of slavery, arguably the largest of the Taney Court, and he disagreed with the amount of power that was given to the National Government. He authored only one significant opinion, West River Bridge Co. v. Dix, in his eighteen years. He sided with the majority in the Dred Scott case Daniel wrote a concurring opinion in the infamous decision of Dred Scott v. Sandford in which he stated that "the African negro race never have been acknowledged as belonging to the family of nations." He was also in Jones v. Van Zandt and was a dissenter in Prigg v. Pennsylvania, which affirmed the legality of the Fugitive Slave Act. Justice Daniel is especially known to law students and legal scholars for having authored several prominent dissenting opinions, some prophetic of changes in the law, and some emblematic of his viewpoint on states' rights.[dubious ]
Daniel died on May 31, 1860, in Richmond, Virginia at the age of 76. He was preceded in death by his first wife Lucy Nelson Randolph who died in November 1847. He left behind his second wife, Elizabeth Harris, and five children.
- John P. Frank, Justice Daniel Dissenting: A Biography of Peter V. Daniel, 1784-1860 (Harvard University Press 1964 ISBN 0-678-08028-3).
- Friedman, Leon, and Fred L. Israel. The Justices of the United States Supreme Court, 1789-1969, Their Lives and Major Opinions. Vol. 1. New York: Chelsea House in Association with Bowker, 1969.
- Abraham, Henry Julian. Justices, Presidents, and Senators: A History of the U.S. Supreme Court Appointments from Washington to Clinton. New and Rev. Ed., [4th ed. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999.
- Huebner, Timothy S. The Taney Court Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2003.
- Urofsky, Melvin I. The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Garland Pub., 1994.
- Smentkowski, Brian (Jan 5, 2007). "Peter Vivian Daniel". Encyclopedia Brittanica. Encyclopedia Brittanica. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
- Daniel, Peter (1857). "Daniel, Peter V. (1784-1860) The opinion of Justice Peter V. Daniel of the United States Supreme Court in the famous Dred Scott case.". The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
- Data drawn in part from the Supreme Court Historical Society and Oyez.
- Peter Vivian Daniel at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
|Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States