Davis, David

David Davis was a close friend of Abraham Lincoln who worked behind the scenes at the 1860 Republican Convention on Lincoln’s behalf and later became a Supreme Court Justice. Davis held beliefs that fell somewhere in between the two polarized factions of abolitionists and slave owners. He would have welcomed slavery’s demise had he not felt that its end would signal the inevitable death of the United States. Born on March 9, 1815 to a slave-holding family of Maryland, Davis progressed through school in Maryland and after an apprenticeship and one year of law school, he moved to Pekin, Illinois and began to practice law even though he lacked a law degree. Although not always a large man, in his late twenties Davis ballooned in weight to over 300 pounds. In 1848 he attained the position of judge in the eighth circuit of Illinois where he worked with Abraham Lincoln and formulated a strong friendship. In 1860 Davis worked as Lincoln’s campaign manager in his campaign for president and was crucial to his success. Thus in 1862 Lincoln nominated Davis to the Supreme Court and Congress confirmed. Most remember Davis for one case, Ex Parte v. Milligan. In Milligan Davis went against his party and Lincoln by ruling Lincoln’s suspension of Habeus Corpus to be unconstitutional. Davis left the Court in 1876 and served one term as Senator from Illinois. He then retired to his home in Illinois where he died in 1886. (By David Park)
Life Span
    Full name
    David Davis
    Place of Birth
    Burial Place
    Birth Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Slave State
    No. of Spouses
    No. of Children
    David Davis (father), Ann Mercer (mother), Sarah Woodruff (first wife, 1838), Adeline "Maddie" E. Burr (second wife, 1883)
    Other Education
    Kenyon College, OH; New Haven Law School, CT
    Attorney or Judge
    Relation to Slavery
    White non-slaveholder
    Political Parties
    Liberal Republican
    Other Political Party
    Supreme Court
    US Senate
    State legislature
    State judge

    David Davis (Congressional Biographical Directory)

    DAVIS, David,  (cousin of Henry Winter Davis), a Senator from Illinois; born near Cecilton, Cecil County, Md., March 9, 1815; attended the public schools of Maryland; graduated from Kenyon College, Ohio, in 1832; studied law in Lenox, Mass., and at the law school in New Haven; admitted to the bar in 1835 and commenced practice in Pekin, Tazewell County, Ill.; moved to Bloomington, Ill., in 1836, and continued the practice of law; member, State house of representatives 1844; delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1847; judge of the eighth judicial circuit of Illinois 1848-1862; appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States 1862-1877, when he resigned to become a Senator; candidate for nomination for president on the Liberal-Republican ticket in 1872; elected as an Independent to the United States Senate, and served from March 4, 1877, until March 3, 1883; was not a candidate for renomination in 1882; served as President pro tempore of the Senate during the Forty-seventh Congress; retired from public life; died in Bloomington, McLean County, Ill., June 26, 1886; interment in Evergreen Cemetery.
    “Davis, David,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000097.

    David Davis (American National Biography)

    During his fourteen-year tenure on the [Supreme] Court Davis participated in several notable decisions. That for which he is best remembered is the Court's 1866 ruling in Ex parte Milligan. In September 1862, President Lincoln had issued a proclamation suspending the writ of habeas corpus for civilian prisoners in the North under military authority. Such persons could be arrested for resisting the draft, obstructing volunteers, or other acts of disloyalty. Moreover, such individuals could be tried and punished by courts-martial or military commission. Lambdin P. Milligan, leader of the Sons of Liberty, an Indiana Copperhead group opposed to the war, was tried and convicted by a military commission based on the proclamation. Overturning Milligan's conviction, Davis held that Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus had been an unconstitutional usurpation of congressional authority and that the president had no authority to authorize the use of military courts except in case of controlling necessity. Although Davis received harsh criticism from Republicans for this decision, he believed it an important statement of civil liberties protection.
    Robert M. Goldman, "Davis, David," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/11/11-00219.html.
    Chicago Style Entry Link
    King, Willard. Lincoln’s Manager: David Davis. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960. view record
    How to Cite This Page: "Davis, David," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/index.php/node/5540.