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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Waite, Morrison Remick

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WAITE, wāt, Morrison Remick, American jurist, seventh chief justice of the United States: b. Lyme, Conn., 29 Nov. 1816; d. Washington, D. C., 23 March 1888; He was graduated from Yale in 1837; studied law, and in 1838 moved to Ohio, where he was admitted to the bar in 1839. He began the practice of his profession in Maumee City, later moving to Toledo. In politics he was at first an active and influential member of the Whig party, and was elected to the Ohio State legislature in 1849; later he took part in the organization of the Republican party; was an ardent supporter of Lincoln; and was nominated for Congress in 1862, but failed of election. His national reputation dates from the time of his appointment by President Grant as one of the counsel to represent the United States before the tribunal for the consideration of the Alabama claims at Geneva; associated with him were Caleb Cushing and William M. Evarts, the latter a college classmate. His reply to Sir Roundell Palmer, establishing Great Britain's liability for permitting the Confederate cruisers to coal in British ports during the Civil War, was considered a model of legal argument in its clear, direct and logical presentation of the law and facts. In 1873 he was chosen by both political parties as a delegate from his county to the convention for revising the State constitution of Ohio, and was made president of that convention. In the same year he was appointed chief justice of the national Supreme Court, the appointment being approved by a unanimous vote of the Senate. Many of the most important subjects of adjudication came before the court during his term of office. Among them were the following: The constitutionality of the enforcement act; interpretation of the latest constitutional amendments; rights and powers of the State to control and regulate the charges of railroads; the polygamy cases; federal control over elections; power of the President to remove from office; power of States to prohibit the liquor traffic; repudiation of State debts and the true meaning of the 11th amendment; questions arising out of the violence of the Chicago anarchists, and the exclusion of the Chinese. His work was marked by the strictest attention to detail, and by a rigid enforcement of the rules and precedents of practice of the court; it was his custom to keep watch of the docket and acquaint himself in advance with the character of the cases about to be reached. In all questions his decisions were entirely uninfluenced by political considerations; and all parties and sections united in commending his absolute fairness. A prominent lawyer of the South said of him: “He could hold in his steady and equal hand the balance of justice undisturbed.”