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Supreme Court Justices

Morrison Waite (1816-1888)

Morrison Waite was born in Lyme, Connecticut on November 29, 1816. His father was a chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court of errors. Waite graduated from Yale in 1837, and read law with his father. He then moved to Ohio to practice law. Waite was a Whig legislator in Ohio in the late 1840s, and helped found the Republican Party in Ohio in 1856. He was a successful lawyer, but not known outside of Ohio. Waite came to national attention when he was appointed with two others to represent the United States before the Geneva Arbitration Panel. The lawyers were successful, gaining a $15 million award. After the death of Salmon P. Chase in 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant eventually offered the post to Waite, who accepted. Waite favored state police power (traditionally, health, safety, welfare and morals) regulation of the economy during his 15 years on the Court. He wrote the Court's opinion in Munn v. Illinois, in which the Court sustained an Illinois law regulating maximum rates of grain elevators (where grain was stored before it was shipped from Chicago elsewhere), on the ground that the grain elevator business was "affected with a public interest." Waite was also the author of the Court's decision in Reynolds v. United States (1879), in which the Court upheld the criminalization of polygamy in the Territory of Utah. In general, Waite was an awkward writer. Waite was a member of the Court that strictly interpreted Reconstruction Civil Rights legislation. 

Waite died on March 23, 1888.

In 1840, Waite married Amelia Warner.