Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Davis, David

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Appletons' Davis David.jpg
David Davis, Justice of the United States Supreme Court (signature).jpg

DAVIS, David, jurist, b. in Cecil county, Md., 9 March, 1815; d. in Bloomington, Ill., 26 June, 1886. He was graduated at Kenyon college, Ohio, in 1832, studied law in Massachusetts, and went through a course at the law-school of New Haven, removed to Illinois in 1835, and was admitted to the bar, after which he settled in Bloomington. He was elected to the state legislature in 1844, was a member of the convention that formed the state constitution in 1847, elected judge of the eighth judicial circuit of the state in 1848, re-elected in 1855, and again in 1861, resigning in October, 1862. He was an intimate friend of Abraham Lincoln, and rode the circuit with him every year. He was a delegate at large to the Chicago convention that nominated Mr. Lincoln for the presidency in 1860, accompanied him on his journey to Washington, and in October, 1862, was appointed a justice of the supreme court of the United States. After President Lincoln's assassination Judge Davis was an administrator of his estate. In 1870 he held, with the minority of the supreme court, that the acts of congress making government notes a legal tender in payment of debts were constitutional. In February, 1872, the National convention of the labor reform party nominated him as its candidate for president, on a platform that declared, among other things, in favor of a national currency “based on the faith and resources of the nation,” and interchangeable with 3.65-per-cent. bonds of the government, and demanded the establishment of an eight-hour law throughout the country, and the payment of the national debt “without mortgaging the property of the people to enrich capitalists.” In answer to the letter informing him of the nomination, Judge Davis said: “Be pleased to thank the convention for the unexpected honor which they have conferred upon me. The chief magistracy of the republic should neither be sought nor declined by any American citizen.” His name was also used before the Liberal Republican convention at Cincinnati the same year, and received 92 votes on the first ballot. After the regular nominations had been made, he determined to retire from the contest, and so announced in a final answer to the labor reformers. He resigned his seat on the supreme bench to take his place in the U. S. senate on 4 March, 1877, having been elected by the votes of independents and democrats to succeed John A. Logan. He was rated in the senate as an independent, but acted more commonly with the democrats. After the death of President Garfield in 1881 Judge Davis was chosen president of the senate. He resigned his seat in 1883, and retired to his home in Bloomington, where he resided quietly till his death. The degree of LL. D. was conferred on him by Williams college, Beloit college, and the Wesleyan university at Bloomington.