Melville Fuller

From Academic Kids

Melville Weston Fuller (February 11, 1833July 4, 1910) was the Chief Justice of the United States between 1888 and 1910.

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Melville Fuller

Fuller was born in Augusta, Maine. He attended college at Bowdoin College, graduating in 1853. Both his maternal grandfather, Nathan Weston and paternal gradfather, Henry Weld Fuller were judges. His father was a well-known lawyer. His parents divorced shortly after his birth, and he was raised by Nathan Weston.

After finishing school, he studied law under the direction of an uncle. In 1855, he went into partnership with another uncle. He also became the editor of The Age, a leading Democratic newspaper in Maine. Soon he tired of Maine and moved to Chicago.

At the time, Chicago was becoming the gateway to the West. Railroads had just linked it to the east. Fuller built a law practice in Chicago. Within two years, he appeared before the Supreme Court of Illinois in the case of Beach vs. Derby. He became a leading attorney in the city. He first appeared before the United States Supreme Court in the case of Traders' Bank vs Campbell. He also argued the case of Tappan vs the Merchants' National Bank of Chicago, which was the first case heard by Chief Justice Morrison Waite, whom he would later replace.

He was a minor figure in Illinois politics. He spent one term in the Illinois House of Representatives and was a delegate at the national Democratic Conventions of 1864, 1872, 1876, and 1880. In 1876, he made the nominating speech for Thomas Hendricks, for the Democratic electoral vote for President.

President Grover Cleveland nominated him for the Chief Justice position when Morrison Waite died in 1888. His nomination was lukewarm in the Senate. However, he was eventually confirmed by a vote of 41 to 20, with nine Republicans voting with the Democrats.

On the bench, he oversaw a number of important opinions. He declared the income tax law unconstitutional. In Western Union Telegraph Company vs. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania he ruled that states could not tax interstate telegraph messages.

He also served on the Arbitration Commission in Paris in 1899 to resolve a boundary dispute between the United Kingdom and Venezuela.

He was said to closely resemble Mark Twain. Once, when the humorist was stopped on the street a passerby demanded the Chief Justice's autograph. Twain supposedly wrote:

It is delicious to be full, but it is heavenly to be Fuller. I am cordially yours, Melville W. Fuller.

He was married twice. He married Calista Reynolds in 1858; she died in 1864. He married Mary Coolbaugh in 1866. He had six daughters.


Preceded by:
Morrison Waite
Chief Justice of the United States
October 8, 1888July 4, 1910
Succeeded by:
Edward Douglass White

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