Samuel Freeman Miller (American National Biography)

Herman Belz, "Miller, Samuel Freeman," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
The controversy over slavery led Miller, a Whig emancipationist, to move to Iowa in 1850. He became a successful lawyer, specializing in land title, commercial, and transportation cases. In 1854 he joined in organizing the Republican party in Iowa. Although he did not hold an elected office, he became a prominent Republican and a strong supporter of Abraham Lincoln. Politically well connected, Miller sought appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1862 President Lincoln appointed him to the high bench.

Practical and nondoctrinaire in his approach to the law, Miller was a statesmanlike judge whose leading opinions tended to be grounded in prudential judgments and fundamental constitutional principles. Concerning the nature of the Union, the central constitutional problem of his time, he was a states' rights nationalist who sought to balance affirmation of federal sovereignty and recognition of local autonomy. Outstanding expressions of his support for national sovereignty appeared in his dissenting opinion in Ex parte Garland (1867), where he voted to uphold a federal loyalty test oath applied to members of the federal bar in peacetime. In Hepburn v. Griswold (1870), the first of the legal tender cases, he wrote a dissenting opinion advancing a powerful argument for the constitutionality of congressionally authorized paper money as legal tender. He gave the opinion of the Court in Wabash v. Illinois (1886), striking down a state regulation of interstate commerce and practically necessitating the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.
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