The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Fuller, Melville Weston

Edition of 1920. See also Melville Fuller on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

FULLER, Melville Weston, eminent American jurist and one of the chief justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was borne in Augusta, me., 11 Feb. 1833; d. Sorrento, Me., 4 July 1910. He was graduated at Bowdoin College (A.M.) in 1853, and attended a course of lectures at the Harvard Law School (LL.D.), and was admitted to the bar in his native city in 1855. He began the practice of law, meanwhile becoming the associate editor of the Age, a Democratic newspaper. In 1856 he was elected city attorney and president of the common council. He resigned these offices and removed to Chicago, where he established an extensive law practice.

In 1862 he became a member of the Illinois State Constitutional Convention, and in the following year was elected from Cook County to the lower house of the State legislature. He rose rapidly in State and national politics, and from 1864 to 1880 was regularly a delegate from Illinois to the Democratic national conventions. In 1876 he placed Thomas A. Hendricks in nomination and was himself seriously considered as a candidate for presidential nomination in 1880. The same year he practically retired from politics, but gained additional fame as a lawyer during the next few years. In the famous lake-front case in Chicago he was counsel for the municipality, and in the Cheney ecclesiastical case, he defended Rev. C. E. Cheney, a Protestant Episcopal clergyman, rector of Christ Church, Chicago, against an action brought by an ecclesiastic council.

In April 1888 President Cleveland appointed him chief justice of the United States Supreme Court to succeed R. M. Waite (q.v.), deceased. He was confirmed 20 July 1888, taking the oath of office 8 October. About this time Bowdoin, Harvard College and the Northwestern University conferred degrees upon him. In the Supreme Court he soon became a prominent figure, and he was largely responsible for the expansion of Federal power, by means of the decision asserting the implied authority of the executive to protect the Federal judge on occasion when there is just reason to believe that, while in the exercise of official duties, he is exposed to personal danger. This was especially applicable to the case of one Nagle, an Arizona cowboy, who was made a United States marshal to protect the person of Chief Jusice Field, and who while performing this duty shot and killed Judge Terry, of California. In December 1889, he delivered before the two Houses of Congress and address commemorating the inauguration of President Washington.

In 1899 Justice Fuller was a member of the Arbitration Commission convened at Paris for the adjustment of the Venezuela boundary question. In 1904-05 he was chosen by Great Britain as arbitrator at The Hague in the case of the French flag at Muscat. Consult an article by Reeder in University of Pennsylvania Law Review (October 1910), for a summary of his work in the Supreme Court.