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.
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.
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 The decision was later superseded by the Sixteenth Amendment.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.
|8th Chief Justice of the United States|
July 20, 1888 – July 4, 1910
|Nominated by||Grover Cleveland|
|Preceded by||Morrison Waite|
|Succeeded by||Edward Douglass White|
Melville Weston Fuller
February 11, 1833
Augusta, Maine, U.S.
|Died||July 4, 1910 (aged 77)|
Sorrento, Maine, U.S.
(m. 1858; died 1864)
Mary Coolbaugh (m. 1866)
Bowdoin College (BA, MA)
Fuller was born in Augusta, Maine, the son of Catherine Martin (Weston) and Frederick Augustus Fuller. 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 in 1853. He then spent six months at Harvard Law School, leaving without graduating in 1855.
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.
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.
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." 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. Fuller did not take the oath of office until October 8, 1888.
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." 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. In Western Union Telegraph Company v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 128 U.S. 39 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.. 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), 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".
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.
He also served on the Arbitration Commission in Paris in 1899 to resolve a boundary dispute between the United Kingdom and Venezuela.
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.
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.
| Chief Justice of the United States
Events from the year 1910 in the United States.Clarence M. York
Clarence Melville York (November 24, 1867 – June 20, 1906) was an American attorney who, in the 1890s, was one of the first law clerks to the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.
York was born in Vineland, New Jersey on November 24, 1867, and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1887.In June 1889, York graduated with a LL.B. from National University School of Law (now the George Washington University Law School) in Washington, D.C.. In 1890, he was a clerk at the General Land Office. From 1890 to 1896, York was a law clerk to Chief Justice Melville Fuller. He then clerked for Associate Justice Stephen Johnson Field from 1896 to 1897, before returning to clerk to Fuller from 1897 to 1905. York is the longest-serving law clerk for the Court, his record of 17 years service equaled only by Frederick J. Haig.On June 20, 1906, York died in Washington, D.C..DeLima v. Bidwell
DeLima v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 1 (1901), was one of a group of the first Insular Cases decided by the US Supreme Court.
The case was argued on January 8-11, 1901 and was decided on May 27, 1901.First inauguration of William McKinley
The first inauguration of William McKinley as the 25th President of the United States took place on Thursday, March 4, 1897. The inauguration marked the commencement of the first four-year term of William McKinley as President and the only term of Garret Hobart as Vice President. Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller administered the presidential oath of office. This was the first inauguration to be recorded on film. Hobart died 2 years, 262 days into this term, and the office remained vacant for the balance of it. (Prior to ratification of the Twenty-fifth Amendment in 1967, no constitutional provision existed for filling an intra-term vacancy in the vice presidency.)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.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.
During the era of the Fuller Court, the Judiciary Act of 1891 was passed, easing the burden of the Supreme Court by creating the United States courts of appeals. The Fuller Court was the first of three consecutive conservative courts, and established the Lochner era.Geary Act
The Geary Act was a United States law that extended the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 by adding onerous new requirements. It was written by California Representative Thomas J. Geary and was passed by Congress on May 5, 1892.
The law required all Chinese residents of the United States to carry a resident permit, a sort of internal passport. Failure to carry the permit at all times was punishable by deportation or a year of hard labor. In addition, Chinese were not allowed to bear witness in court, and could not receive bail in habeas corpus proceedings.
The Geary Act was challenged in the courts but was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in an opinion by Justice Horace Gray, Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698, 13 S. Ct. 1016. 37 L.Ed. 905 (1893), Justices David Josiah Brewer, Stephen J. Field, and Chief Justice Melville Fuller dissenting.Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Memorial
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a bronze statue, by William Couper, and Thomas Ball. The statue depicts American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It is located at the intersection of M Street and Connecticut Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. and was dedicated on May 7, 1909.After the death of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1882, there were several plans to memorialize him. His bust was placed at Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey in 1884 and a statue of the poet by Franklin Simmons was unveiled in his native town of Portland, Maine at what became known as Longfellow Square. For the statue in Washington, an association was founded to raise money for the effort, ultimately earning $21,000 by subscribers. Additionally, Congress offered another $4,000 and the site. Members of the organization included Andrew Carnegie, Henry Cabot Lodge, Charles William Eliot, Edward Everett Hale, Julia Ward Howe, and Curtis Guild. Theodore Roosevelt served as Honorary Regent. It was unveiled in 1909 by the poet's granddaughter Erica Thorp in the presence of Chief Justice Melville Fuller and the United States Marine Band.Kessler v. Treat
Kessler v. Treat, 205 U.S. 33 (1907), was a decision in which the Supreme Court of the United States adjudicated allegations that prisoners were unlawfully imprisoned by Morgan treat, the United States Marshall for the Eastern District of Virginia. In a one-sentence opinion written by Chief Justice Melville Fuller, the Court identified ten cases for which the Court entered the same decree as the one issued in Tinsley v. Treat. Justice John Marshall Harlan dissented without writing a separate opinion.Oath of office of the President of the United States
The oath of office of the President of the United States is the oath or affirmation that the President of the United States takes after assuming the presidency but before carrying out any duties of the office. The wording of the oath is specified in Article II, Section One, Clause 8, of the United States Constitution.
This clause is one of two oath or affirmation clauses, but it alone actually specifies the words that must be spoken. The other, Article VI, Clause 3, simply requires the persons specified therein to "be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution." The presidential oath, on the other hand, requires much more than this general oath of allegiance and fidelity. This clause enjoins the new president to swear or affirm that he "will to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."Pearcy v. Stranahan
Percy v. Stranahan, 205 U.S. 257 (1907), was a 1907 ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States in a tax case in which it determined that the Isle of Pines off the southern coast of Cuba was a "foreign country" for the purposes of tariffs under the Dingley Tariff Act of 1897, even though Cuba and the United States had agreed that the legal status of that island would remain undetermined until they settled the question by treaty.Seneca Nation of Indians v. Christy
Seneca Nation of Indians v. Christy, 162 U.S. 283 (1896), was the first litigation of aboriginal title in the United States by a tribal plaintiff in the Supreme Court of the United States since Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831). It was the first such litigation by an indigenous plaintiff since Fellows v. Blacksmith (1857) and its companion case of New York ex rel. Cutler v. Dibble (1858). The New York courts held that the 1788 Phelps and Gorham Purchase did not violate the Nonintercourse Act, one of the provisions of which prohibits purchases of Indian lands without the approval of the federal government, and that (even if it did) the Seneca Nation of New York was barred by the state statute of limitations from challenging the transfer of title. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the merits of lower court ruling because of the adequate and independent state grounds doctrine.
According to O'Toole and Tureen, "Christy is an important case in that it revived the concept that states had special powers to deal with Indian tribes within their borders."Although the case has not been formally overruled, two Supreme Court decisions in the 1970s and 1980s have undone its effect by ruling that there is federal subject-matter jurisdiction for a federal common law cause of action for recovering possession based on the common-law doctrine of aboriginal title. Moreover, the New York courts' interpretation of the Nonintercourse Act is no longer good law. Modern federal courts hold that only Congress can ratify a conveyance of aboriginal title, and only with a clear statement, rather than implicitly.Taylor v. Beckham
Taylor v. Beckham, 178 U.S. 548 (1900), was a case heard before the Supreme Court of the United States on April 30 and May 1, 1900, to decide the outcome of the disputed Kentucky gubernatorial election of 1899. The litigants were Republican gubernatorial candidate William S. Taylor and Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial candidate J. C. W. Beckham. In the November 7, 1899, election, Taylor received 193,714 votes to Democrat William Goebel's 191,331. This result was certified by a 2–1 decision of the state's Board of Elections. Goebel challenged the election results on the basis of alleged voting irregularities, and the Democrat-controlled Kentucky General Assembly formed a committee to investigate Goebel's claims. Goebel was shot on January 30, 1900, one day before the General Assembly approved the committee's report declaring enough Taylor votes invalid to swing the election to Goebel. As he lay dying of his wounds, Goebel was sworn into office on January 31, 1900. He died on February 3, 1900, and Beckham ascended to the governorship.
Claiming the General Assembly's decision was invalid, Taylor sued to prevent Beckham from exercising the authority of the governor's office. Beckham countersued Taylor for possession of the state capitol and governor's mansion. The suits were consolidated and heard in Jefferson County circuit court, which claimed it had no authority to interfere with the method of deciding contested elections prescribed by the state constitution, an outcome that favored Beckham. The Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld the circuit court's decision on appeal and rejected Taylor's claim that he had been deprived of property without due process by stating that an elective office was not property and thus not protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.
The injection of Taylor's claim under the Fourteenth Amendment gave him grounds to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a majority opinion delivered by Chief Justice Melville Fuller, the Supreme Court also rejected Taylor's claim to loss of property without due process and thus refused to intervene on Taylor's behalf, claiming that no federal issues were in question and the court lacked jurisdiction. Justices Gray, White, Shiras, and Peckham concurred with the majority opinion. Justice Joseph McKenna concurred with the decision to dismiss, but expressed reservations about the determination that an elected office was not property. Justice David J. Brewer, joined by Justice Henry B. Brown, contended that the Supreme Court did have jurisdiction, but concurred with the result in favor of Beckham. Kentuckian John Marshall Harlan authored the lone dissent from the majority opinion, claiming that the court did have jurisdiction and should have found in favor of Taylor based on his claim of loss of property without due process. He further argued that elective office fell under the definition of "liberty" as used in the Fourteenth Amendment and was protected by due process.Thomas H. Fitnam
Thomas Howard Fitnam (August 19, 1854 – April 5, 1919) was an American attorney who was one of the first law clerks to the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving Chief Justice Melville Fuller from 1888 to 1889.In 1854, Fitnam was born in Washington, D.C., to Rosella Dant and Thomas Fitnam, a harness maker. As a young man, Fitnam Jr. worked as a plasterer and printer. In June 1884, at age 30 Fitnam graduated from Georgetown University with a LL.B., where he won a prize for his essay. He continued his post-graduate studies at Georgetown, receiving his LL.M. in 1885. In 1885, he worked as a pressman for the United States Government Printing Office. After clerking for the Supreme Court, Fitnam engaged in private practice and was an examiner and trustee in the Equity Court in Washington, D.C..Fitnam died in Washington, D.C., on April 5, 1919.United States presidential inauguration
The inauguration of the President of the United States is a ceremony to mark the commencement of a new four-year term of the President of the United States. This ceremony takes place for each new presidential term, even if the president is continuing in office for a second term. Since 1937, it has taken place on January 20, which is 72 to 78 days after the November presidential election (on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November). The term of a president commences at noon ("EST" – Eastern Standard Time) on that day, when the Chief Justice of the United States administers the oath of office to the president. However, when January 20 falls on a Sunday, the chief justice administers the oath to the president on that day privately and then again in a public ceremony the next day, on Monday, January 21. The most recent presidential inauguration ceremony was the swearing in of Donald Trump to a four-year term of office on Friday, January 20, 2017.
Recitation of the presidential oath of office is the only component in this ceremony mandated by the United States Constitution (in Article II, Section One, Clause 8). However, over the years, various traditions have arisen that have expanded the inauguration from a simple oath-taking ceremony to a day-long event, including parades and multiple social gatherings. The ceremony itself is carried live via the major U.S. commercial television and cable news networks; various ones also stream it live on their websites.
Since the 1981 inauguration of Ronald Reagan, the ceremony has been held at the west front of the United States Capitol facing the National Mall with its iconic Washington Monument and distant Lincoln Memorial. Other swearing-in ceremonies have taken place on a platform over the steps at the Capitol's east portico on a regular basis for 180 years, and occasionally inside the Old Senate Chamber on the old north side, the chamber of the House of Representatives in the south wing, and the central Rotunda under the dome. Additionally, on two occasions—in 1817 and 1945—they were held at the Executive Mansion, (later known as the White House).
Though it is not a constitutional requirement, the Chief Justice typically administers the presidential oath of office. Since 1789, the oath has been administered at 58 scheduled public inaugurations, by 15 chief justices, one associate justice, and one New York state judge. Others, in addition to the chief justice, have administered the oath of office to several of the nine vice presidents who succeeded to the presidency upon their predecessor's death or resignation intra-term. When a new president has assumed office under these unusual circumstances the inauguration has been conducted without pomp or fanfare.Waite Court
The Waite Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States from 1874 to 1888, when Morrison Waite served as the seventh Chief Justice of the United States. Waite succeeded Salmon P. Chase as Chief Justice after the latter's death. Waite served as Chief Justice until his death, at which point Melville Fuller was nominated and confirmed as Waite's successor.
The Waite Court presided over the end of the Reconstruction Era, and the start of the Gilded Age. It also played an important role during the constitutional crisis that arose following the 1876 presidential election, as five of its members served on the Electoral Commission that Congress created to settle the dispute over who won the Electoral College vote.
During the Waite's tenure, the jurisdiction of federal circuit courts (as against that of the State courts) was expanded by the Jurisdiction and Removal Act of 1875, which gave the federal judiciary full jurisdiction over federal questions. As a result of the change, caseloads in the federal courts grew considerably.White Court (judges)
The White Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States from 1910 to 1921, when Edward Douglass White served as Chief Justice of the United States. White, an associate justice since 1894, succeeded Melville Fuller as Chief Justice after the latter's death, and White served as Chief Justice until his death a decade later. He was the first sitting associate justice to be elevated to chief justice in the Court's history. He was succeeded by former president William Howard Taft.
The White Court was less conservative than the preceding Fuller Court, though conservatism remained a powerful force on the bench (and would remain so through the mid-1930s). The most notable legacy of White's chief-justiceship was the development of the rule of reason doctrine, used to interpret the Sherman Antitrust Act, and foundational to United States antitrust law. During this era the Court also established that the Fourteenth Amendment protected the "liberty of contract." On the grounds of the Fourteenth Amendment and other provisions of the Constitution, it controversially overturned many state and federal laws designed to protect employees.William F. Coolbaugh
William Findlay Coolbaugh (July 1, 1821 – November 13, 1877) was an American politician and banker from Pennsylvania. After working his way up the ranks at a Philadelphia dry goods house, he began his own store in Burlington, Iowa in 1842. He became active in Iowa politics, serving in the Iowa Senate from 1854 to 1862. In 1855, he was the Democratic Party candidate to the United States Senate, but lost. In 1862, he moved to Chicago, Illinois to set up a banking house which became the Union National Bank of Chicago. Coolbaugh was also the father-in-law of Chief Justice of the United States Melville Fuller. Coolbaugh died of an apparent suicide in 1877.