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Noah Haynes Swayne

ohio court party supreme

Noah Haynes Swayne served as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1862 to 1881. A prominent Ohio attorney for almost forty years before becoming a judge, Swayne was President ABRAHAM LINCOLN's first Supreme Court appointment. His tenure on the Court was relatively undistinguished.

Swayne was born on December 7, 1804, in Frederick County, Virginia. He studied law with two Virginia attorneys and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1823. His antislavery views proved troublesome, however, and he moved his law practice to Coshocton, Ohio. Appointed county attorney in 1826, Swayne soon became involved in DEMOCRATIC PARTY politics. An ardent supporter of President ANDREW JACKSON, Swayne was elected to the Ohio state legislature in 1829. In 1830 Jackson named him U.S. district attorney, a position he held for almost ten years. He moved to Columbus, Ohio, to administer his office.

By 1840 Swayne had returned to private practice, but he served on many public commissions in Ohio, including a commission to arbitrate a boundary dispute between Ohio and Michigan. He left the Democratic party in 1856 because he disagreed with the party's support of SLAVERY and joined the newly formed REPUBLICAN PARTY. As a lawyer, he represented several runaway slaves in legal proceedings in which slaveholders sought to reclaim their property.

In 1862 Justice JOHN MCLEAN, an Ohio native and friend of Swayne, died suddenly. Swayne used his Ohio political connections to lobby for an appointment to the Supreme Court. President Lincoln nominated Swayne in January 1862. He was confirmed two days later.

Though Swayne spent almost twenty years on the Supreme Court, he left no mark on the institution. An inveterate politician, he lobbied for the position of chief justice in 1864 and 1873. During the U.S. CIVIL WAR, he was a consistent supporter of Lincoln's emergency war measures, including the imposition of MARTIAL

Noah H. Swayne.
ARCHIVE PHOTOS, INC.

LAW and the issuance of paper money called "greenbacks," which were not redeemable for gold or silver. In addition, he upheld the constitutionality of a federal INCOME TAX imposed during the Civil War (Springer v. United States, 102 U.S. (12 Otto) 586, 26 L. Ed. 253 [1881]).

Swayne retired from the Court in 1881. He died on June 8, 1884, in New York City.

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