Daniel, Peter v. (1784–1860)

Author:William M. Wiecek
Pages:742-743

Page 742

Peter Vivian Daniel, a Virginian born in 1784, served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1841 until his death in 1860. His opinions were notable for the extremist positions he adopted on constitutional issues, including the powers of the federal and state governments, the status of CORPORATIONS, and SLAVERY.

Daniel, a Republican and later a Jacksonian Democrat, served in the Virginia General Assembly, as privy councillor, and as lieutenant governor. President ANDREW JACKSON appointed him to the U. S. District Court in 1836 and President MARTIN VAN BUREN to the Supreme Court in 1841. There the bulk of his work involved cases concerning land titles, procedure, and EQUITY. However, he did participate in most of the major constitutional decisions of the TANEY COURT. But in all instances save one, he spoke either in a concurring or in a dissenting opinion.

Viewing the federal Constitution as a compact among sovereign states, Daniel opposed the extension of federal regulatory authority in COMMERCE CLAUSE cases and extolled the states' POLICE POWER (LICENSE CASES, 1847; PASSENGER CASES, 1849). He concurred in COOLEY V. BOARD OF WARDENS (1851) because he denied that the subject matter of that case (pilotage regulation) was within the federal commerce power at all. In the first Pennsylvania v. Wheeling Bridge case (1851), Daniel condemned the use of the commerce power to restrict commerce on navigable rivers. Daniel's hostility to federal ADMIRALTY JURISDICTION sprang from the same source and was buttressed by his insistence on preservation of JURY TRIAL. He dissented in PROPELLER GENESEE CHIEF V. FITZHUGH (1851), one of the few times in which he disagreed with Chief Justice ROGER B. TANEY, opposing the extension of federal admiralty jurisdiction to nontidal waters. In his Searight v. Stokes dissent (1845), Daniel insisted that the federal government lacked any power at all to finance INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS, going far beyond the constitutional doctrine of Jackson's MAYSVILLE ROAD BILL veto (1830).

Daniel was an inveterate foe of banks and corporations, seeking unsuccessfully to deny them access to federal courts as the "Citizens" requisite to Article III jurisdiction (Rundle v. Delaware and Raritan Canal Co., 1852, dissent). In his dissent in Planters Bank v. Sharp (1848), he sought to limit the CONTRACT CLAUSE'S scope as a restraint on state regulatory power over corporations. In the...

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