Peter Vivian Daniel

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For other people named Peter Daniel, see Peter Daniel (disambiguation).
Peter Vivian Daniel
Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court
In office
March 3, 1841[1] – May 31, 1860
Nominated by Martin Van Buren
Preceded by Philip Pendleton Barbour
Succeeded by Samuel Freeman Miller
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
In office
April 19, 1836 – March 3, 1841
Nominated by Andrew Jackson
Preceded by Philip Pendleton Barbour
Succeeded by John Y. Mason
Personal details
Born (1784-04-24)April 24, 1784
Stafford County, Virginia
Died May 31, 1860(1860-05-31) (aged 76)
Richmond, Virginia
Religion Episcopalian

Peter Vivian Daniel (April 24, 1784 – May 31, 1860) was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Early life, education, and career[edit]

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 at the age of eighteen. He ultimately decided that academics was not for him and returned to Virginia after one year. He studied law under former Attorney General of the United States Edmund Randolph in Richmond, and was admitted to the bar in 1808. Daniel married Randolph's daughter, Lucy, two years later. As a younger man, he shot and killed an opponent, John Sheldon, in a duel.

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. 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.

Judicial service[edit]

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 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 his beliefs, especially since Van Buren had previously been a notorious pro-slavery advocate. 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. 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, as well as 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.[citation needed][dubious ]

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.


  1. ^ "Federal Judicial Center: Peter Vivian Daniel". 2009-12-09. Retrieved 2009-12-09. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Philip Pendleton Barbour
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
Succeeded by
John Y. Mason
Preceded by
Philip Pendleton Barbour
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
March 3, 1841 – May 31, 1860
Succeeded by
Samuel Freeman Miller