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Supreme Court Justices

Melville Fuller (1833-1910)

Melville Fuller was born in Maine on February 11, 1833. Somewhat unusual for this time, Fuller's parents divorced when he was a child, and he was raised by his maternal grandfather, then the Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Fuller graduated from Bowdoin College, attended Harvard Law School briefly, and read law in the offices of his uncles. Fuller moved to Chicago in the mid-1850s. As a Democrat, he supported Stephen Douglas in his races against Abraham Lincoln. Fuller remained in Chicago practicing law until he was somewhat surprisingly appointed as Chief Justice of the United States in spring 1888. Fuller was a well-known lawyer, and was apparently appointed in large part to aid the chances of President Grover Cleveland and Illinois Democrats in that state in the 1888 elections. Despite this, Cleveland lost the election and the state of Illinois.

Although a Democrat, Fuller was largely opposed to efforts to regulate business and property. For progressives and populists, Fuller's 1895 opinions in United States v. E.C. Knight Co. (holding impermissible use of Sherman Anti-trust Act to a sugar manufacturing monopoly on grounds that manufacture and commerce are distinctly separate aspects of business) and in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust (declaring unconstitutional as a direct tax income tax act of 1894) were quite disappointing.

In 1858, Fuller married, but his wife died six years later. In 1866, he married again, a marriage that was financially advantageous for him. Fuller died on July 4, 1910.