The Tracy Family History
Melville Weston Fuller
Peter Wallace, Sr., father to Peter Wallace Jr., my 5th great grandfather, married Elizabeth Woods. They had a son...
Gen. Wm. Wallace married Hannah Woods. They had a son...
Josiah Wallace married Susannah Wallace. They had a son...
John Wallace married Elizabeth Walker. They had a son...
Hugh Campbell Wallace married Mildred Fuller, whose father was...
Melville Weston Fuller (8th Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, 1888-1910)
What! You say you have never heard of Melville Weston Fuller? Don't be embarrassed by your lack of knowledge of history. Historians say he was the most obscure Chief Justice ever to preside over the court.
He was born in Augusta, Maine in 1833, then attended Bowdoin College and on to Harvard Law School. In backwoods America he became the first Chief Justice with a strong college education.
Also, as another footnote to history, he was the only Chief Justice to come from Maine.
Melville practiced law in Chicago, became involved in politics as a staunch Democrat. He ran Stephen Douglas' campaign against Abraham Lincoln. At Douglas' funeral he gave a brilliant oration.
While in Chicago he would cover a legislative session for the Augusta Age. At the same time, James G. Blaine was a correspondent for the Kennebec Journal. Years later they would renew their friendship in Washington DC, with Melville as Chief Justice and Blaine as Secretary of State.
He did not specialize in law, but practiced in all areas. However, he almost never took divorce or criminal cases.
Melville developed a national reputation in politics, which would eventually catapult him to Chief Justice by President Cleveland in 1888. "…Mr. Fuller hesitated before accepting it."
Melville would then swear in Cleveland for his second term. One of the reasons for his appointment was "…the catholicity of his law practice…" ("Catholicity" has a duel meaning. It means a good Catholic but also means a broadness of taste, sympathetic, understanding, etc."; liberality, universality. ("Catholic" is out as he was Episcopalian.)
On the Supreme Court he believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution: To the delight of our cousins today, he found the income tax to be unconstitutional. A racist, he handed down the famous decision in Plessy v. Ferguson. This decision supported the policy of segregation in public accommodations as long as they were "separate but equal." The blacks found the interpretation to give too much "separate" and not enough "equal."
Cousin Melville enjoyed handing down decisions in favor of big corporations, thus weakening the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
Such was his prestige that he was appointed a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (The Hague Tribunal).
Apparently a sociable fellow, he had each justice greet and shake hands with every other justice before beginning court. This started a tradition that carries down to this day.
He was one of the most efficient and effective chief justices in the courts' history.
His first wife was Calista O. Reynolds. She bore him two children and died young. His second wife was Mary Ellen Coolbaugh. All total, there would be eight daughters and one son. Fuller died in 1910, after serving on the court for 22 years.
One of the daughters married Hugh Campbell Wallace; first, middle, and last are all our families' historic names.
Hugh was appointed Ambassador to France in 1912 by Woodrow Wilson.
Strangely, I cannot find much about his ambassadorship, which would have placed him in France during the First World War.
I have not yet come to the crux of the story. It is the custom that at the beginning of each new session of the Supreme Court that an official photo is taken of all the justices sitting together in robed majesty. This photo shows only five members, with the four to the right cut out of the picture.
Sitting to the right, looking like a sage, is Melville Weston Fuller. Now look to the man standing at the left. For on Cousin Melville's court, under his very command, served Oliver Wendell Holmes, who would become the most famous Associate Justice in the courts' history. Oliver Wendell Holmes is still famous to this day, and history has all but forgotten Cousin Melville...what's-his-name.
First 8 Chief Justices of the US Supreme Court
My family history web site has 79 chapters. If you would like to
know more about the other chapters then go to my
Home Page www.thetracyfamilyhistory.net