Wayne, James M.

An expert in admiralty law, Wayne helped expand the power of the federal government over waterborne commerce as a Supreme Court justice. Although a Southerner and a defender of slavery, he supported the Union during the Civil War.

Wayne began practicing law in 1810, served in the Georgia legislature from 1815 to 1817, and was mayor of Savannah from 1817 to 1819. He served as a local and state judge from 1819 to 1828, when he was elected to Congress. He was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Andrew Jackson on January 6, 1835, confirmed by the Senate on January 9, and sworn in five days later.Jackson, Andrew;nominations to the Court

James M. Wayne

(Handy Studios/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

Wayne’s written opinions often dealt with admiralty lawAdmiralty and maritime law. In Waring v. Clarke[case]Waring v. Clarke[Waring v. Clarke] (1847), he wrote the majority opinion, expanding federal authority over ocean commerce to include major inland waterways.

In Scott v. Sandford[case]Scott v. Sandford[Scott v. Sandford] (1857), Wayne agreed with the majority that the federal government had no power to limit slavery in new territories. Despite this decision and although a Southerner, he later supported the Union during the Civil War (1861-1865). In the Prize Cases[case]Prize Cases[Prize Cases] (1863), he agreed with the majority that President Abraham Lincoln had the authority to order a blockade of Confederate ports before Congress declared war. After the war, he opposed laws intended to punish former Confederates, in cases such as Cummings v. Missouri[case]Cummings v. Missouri[Cummings v. Missouri] (1867).

Admiralty and maritime law

Civil War

Cummings v. Missouri

Jackson, Andrew

Lincoln, Abraham

Prize Cases

Scott v. Sandford