Daniel, Peter V.

As a Supreme Court justice, Daniel was a defender of slavery and an opponent of corporations and federal authority.

Daniel began practicing law in 1808, was elected to the Virginia house of delegates in 1809, and served as lieutenant governor from 1818 to 1835. In 1836 he was appointed a federal judge by President Andrew Jackson. On February 27, 1841, he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Martin Van Buren. He was confirmed by the Senate on March 2 and took office in January of the next year.SlaveryVan Buren, Martin;nominations to the CourtSlavery

Peter V. Daniel

(Max Rosenthal/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

At a time when corporationsCorporations were asserting their legal rights, Daniel believed that the law should not recognize these rights at all. He also opposed expanding admiralty law, which granted the federal government authority over ocean transport, to include commerce on major rivers and lakes.

Although he opposed federal power, Daniel was a strong advocate of state authority. In West River Bridge Co. v. Dix[case]West River Bridge Co. v. Dix[West River Bridge Co. v. Dix] (1848), a case involving the power of a state to purchase ownership of a bridge, he wrote the majority opinion in favor of the state. He was also a strong defender of slavery and its control by the states. In Scott v. Sandford (1857), he agreed with the majority that the federal government had no power to outlaw slavery in new territories.

Admiralty and maritime law


Scott v. Sandford


West River Bridge Co. v. Dix