HomeConstitutional LawLegal HistoryLegal EthicsEvidenceProfessional ResponsibilityContact MeSearch

   

Supreme Court Justices

Noah Swayne (1804-1884)

Noah Swayne was born in Virginia on December 7, 1804. He read law as a teenager, and was admitted to practice in Virginia at age 19. Because he was opposed to slavery, Swayne moved to Ohio to practice law. Between 1830-41, Swayne was a part-time United States Attorney (prosecuting federal cases in Ohio). His anti-slavery views may have led to his acting as counsel in several fugitive slave cases in the 1850s. Swayne joined the newly formed Republican Party in 1856 (founded by, among others, future Supreme Court Chief Justice Morrison Waite). After the death of John McLean, one of the two dissenters in Dred Scott, less than a week before the beginning of the Civil War, Swayne campaigned for the nomination to replace his friend. Lincoln, desperately trying to hold together the Union, did not nominate Swayne to replace McLean until January 1862, eight months after McLean's death. Swayne supported Lincoln's war efforts, and campaigned to be named Chief Justice after the deaths of Roger Taney in 1864 and Salmon Chase in 1873. Swayne joined the dissents of Justices Stephen Field and Joseph Bradley in the Slaughterhouse Cases, but four years later joined the majority in Munn v. Illinois, in which Field and Bradley also dissented.

In 1881, President Rutherford B. Hayes, an Ohioan like Swayne, asked Swayne to step down from the Court. He did so only because Hayes promised to appoint Swayne's friend Stanley Matthews in Swayne's seat.

Swayne died on June 8, 1884, at age 79.