Peckham, Wheeler H. Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Peckham’s unsuccessful nomination to the Supreme Court, coupled with the failed nomination of fellow New Yorker William B. Hornblower, opened the way for the appointment of Louisiana Senator Edward D. White in 1894.

Born in Albany, New York, Peckham graduated from Albany Law School in 1855 and gained public attention in 1868 by successfully arguing before the Supreme Court that states lacked the power to tax “greenback” dollars. A founding father of the New York City Bar Association, in 1873 he aided in the successful prosecution of William “Boss” Tweed on charges of fraud and corruption. Later described as a “hard fighting reform Democrat,” Peckham and his brother Rufus W. Peckham became associated with Governor Grover Cleveland.

Cleveland was president of the United States when Justice Samuel Blatchford of New York died in 1893, and political observers speculated that the president might nominate one of the two Peckhams for the vacant seat, but Cleveland picked another New Yorker, William B. Hornblower. However, Hornblower had angered New York Democratic Senator David B. HillHill, David B. during an earlier investigation for election fraud, and Hill used senatorial courtesy to deny Hornblower’s confirmation on January 15, 1894. Eight days later, Cleveland submitted Wheeler H. Peckham’s name for consideration.

Peckham, however, was no more acceptable to Hill, who had been on the losing side of a patronage fight in which Peckham had sided with Cleveland against Hill. On February 16, 1894, the Senate formally voted forty-one to thirty-two to deny confirmation. The vacancy left by Blatchford was filled by Edward D. White, who assumed office in March. Two years later, Cleveland was able to secure the confirmation of Peckham’s brother to the Court. Peckham resumed his law practice in New York and died there ten years later.

Hornblower, William B.

Nominations to the Court

Peckham, Rufus W.

White, Edward D.

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