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James Moore Wayne (1790 – July 5, 1867) was an American attorney, judge and politician who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1835 to 1867. He previously served as the 16th Mayor of Savannah, Georgia from 1817 to 1819 and the member of the United States House of Representatives for Georgia's at-large congressional district from 1829 to 1835, when he was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Andrew Jackson. He was a member of the Democratic Party.

James Wayne
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
January 14, 1835 – July 5, 1867
Nominated byAndrew Jackson
Preceded byWilliam Johnson
Succeeded bySeat abolished
Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
In office
February 22, 1834 – January 13, 1835
Preceded byWilliam Archer
Succeeded byJohn Mason
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's at-large district
In office
March 4, 1829 – January 13, 1835
Preceded byGeorge Gilmer
Succeeded byJabez Jackson
16th Mayor of Savannah
In office
September 8, 1817 – July 12, 1819
Preceded byThomas Charlton
Succeeded byThomas Charlton
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Savannah, Georgia, U.S.
DiedJuly 5, 1867 (aged 76–77)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Other political
Mary Johnson (m. 1814)
EducationPrinceton University (BA)



Born in Savannah, Georgia, Wayne was the son of Richard Wayne, who came to the U.S. in 1760 and married Elizabeth Clifford (who died in 1804) on September 14, 1769. Wayne graduated from Princeton University in 1808, read law to be admitted to the bar in 1810, and began his practice in Savannah. He served in the United States Army during the War of 1812, from 1812 to 1815, as an officer in the Georgia Hussars. He served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1815 to 1816. He then served as Mayor of Savannah from 1817 to 1819, thereafter returning to private practice in Savannah until 1824.

He then served as a judge, first of the Court of Common Pleas in Savannah, Georgia from 1819 to 1824, and then of the Superior Court of Georgia from 1824 to 1829, until he was elected as a Jacksonian to the United States House of Representatives, serving from March 4, 1829 to January 13, 1835. He resigned to accept the appointment as an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court. He was nominated by President Andrew Jackson on January 7, 1835, to a seat vacated by William Johnson, and was confirmed by the United States Senate on January 14, 1835, receiving his commission the same day. He served on the court until his death on July 5, 1867. He favored free trade, opposed internal improvements by Congress (except of rivers and harbors), and opposed the rechartering of the United States Bank.[1]

Wayne in his elder years

While Wayne served his time as an Associate Justice he heard many cases about slavery, tax, and reform. A "Jacksonian", Wayne agreed with President Jackson on the ideals of deepening rivers and harbors, but disagreed on the expansions of highways and canals. Wayne also agreed with Jackson on the Indian Removal Act and believed that the land that used to belong to the Indians would belong to the state. The fact that Wayne refused to accept the Indians as an independent nation and forced them to move west, made him appealing to Georgians. Wayne was a Unionist, and against the formation of the Confederate States of America, which was shocking because he was from the state of Georgia. As a Unionist in a southern state, Wayne took a careful approach on the ideals of nullification and consolidation.

While Justice Wayne himself remained loyal to the Union, his son Henry C. Wayne served as a general in the Confederate Army.

In 1844 Justice Wayne heard the case Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad Co. v. Letson.[2] This case was about a man named Letson who brought a contract against a railroad company, claiming that the cities did not fulfill the contract with him for the expansion for the construction of the road. It centered on the principle that a citizen in a particular state should have the right to sue a corporation, which is based in another state and even conducts its business in another state. Justice Wayne opened his statement regarding the case when he said, "The jurisdiction of the court is denied in this case upon the grounds that two members of the corporation sued are citizens of North Carolina; that the state of South Carolina is also a member, and that two other corporations in South Carolina are members, having in them members who are citizens of the same state with the defendant in error" (43 U.S. 497, 555). Later in his statement, Justice Wayne commented, "A corporation created by a state to perform its functions under the authority of that state and only suable there, though it may have members out of the state, seems to us to be a person, though an artificial one, inhabiting and belonging to that state, and therefore entitled, for the purpose of suing and being sued, to be deemed a citizen of that state" (43 U.S. 497, 555). In these statements, Justice Wayne was explaining how owners stopped being relevant and that businesses now had easy accessibility to federal courts. This case was instrumental as it showed the view of the Supreme Court that corporations could be viewed as 'citizens' of the states where they were incorporated. This court case was significant in Justice Wayne's career and development because it showed that he was willing to increase dominion in the courts.

The court case of Dred Scott v. Sandford was argued in front of the United States Supreme Court, and was decided for Sanford by a 7-2 vote on March 6, 1857, with Chief Justice Roger B. Taney giving the majority opinion and Judge Wayne concurring. This landmark decision against slave Dred Scott ruled that African-Americans, whether slave or free, were not to be considered American citizens and thus could not sue in federal court. The ruling also found the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, ruling that it violated the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, therefore the federal government has no jurisdiction to regulate slavery on federal property. Though the Court thought this ruling would put to rest the question of slavery, it exacerbated tensions and led directly to the United States Civil War, which resulted in the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1865) abolishing slavery, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (1868), granting equal citizenship to African-Americans.

In Dred Scott v. Sandford, Taney wrote that the Constitution viewed people of African American descent as an "inferior order and altogether unfit to associate with the white race either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect" (60 U.S. 393). Some scholars[who?] view this decision, which Justice Wayne concurred with, as one of the worst to ever be handed down by the Court. Justice Wayne showed his concurrence with Taney when he wrote: "Concurring as I do entirely in the opinion of the court as it has been written and read by the Chief Justice" (60 U.S. 393), he went on to write that he concurred in "assuming that the Circuit Court had jurisdiction," but he abstained from expressing any opinion upon the eighth section of the act of 1820, known commonly as the Missouri Compromise law, and "six of us declare that it was unconstitutional" (60 U.S. 393).

In order to prevent President Andrew Johnson from appointing any justices, Congress passed the Judicial Circuits Act in 1866, eliminating three of the 10 seats from the Supreme Court as they became vacant, and thus reducing the size of the court to seven justices. The vacancy caused by the death of Justice John Catron in 1865 had not been filled, so upon Wayne's death there were eight justices on the court. In 1869 Congress passed the Circuit Judges Act, setting the court at nine members. With Wayne's and Catron's seats remaining vacant, the Court had eight justices at the time of this Act, so one new seat was created. The new seat was ultimately filled on March 21, 1870, by Joseph Philo Bradley. (In the meanwhile, William Strong had filled the seat vacated by Robert Cooper Grier.)

Justice Wayne served on the Supreme Court for 32 years, one of the longest terms for any justice. His leanings stayed consistent and many of his decisions believed power resides in the federal offices such as the U.S. Congress. He held to this in the Dred Scott case, supporting Chief Justice Taney's opinion in the face of harsh criticism by many. With the beginning of the Civil War, Wayne was thrust into personal and professional crisis. He chose to remain with the Court while his own son left the U.S. Army to fight as a general in the Confederate Army. Another one of his colleagues, John Campbell, also left the Court to serve in the Confederacy. However, Wayne forever the Unionist, held to his nationalistic views, believing there was no legal support for a state to secede. He also felt that by remaining on the Court he could continue to support Southern causes. He was not popular in his home state of Georgia with this decision, but he felt strongly against secession and backed Lincoln in his quest to preserve the Union. After the war ended, he never forgot his Southern roots and labored hard to protect his South from undue penalties.

Wayne died in Washington, D.C., and was interred in Laurel Grove Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia. His sister Mary was the great-grandmother of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA. In 1831, he sold his home to William Washington Gordon, Juliette's grandfather. This home is now called the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace.

Legacy and honorsEdit

During World War II the Liberty ship SS James M. Wayne was built in Brunswick, Georgia, and named in his honor.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ New International Encyclopedia
  2. ^
  3. ^ Williams, Greg H. (25 July 2014). The Liberty Ships of World War II: A Record of the 2,710 Vessels and Their Builders, Operators and Namesakes, with a History of the Jeremiah O'Brien. McFarland. ISBN 1476617546. Retrieved 9 December 2017.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Charlton
Mayor of Savannah
Succeeded by
Thomas Charlton
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
George Gilmer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
Jabez Jackson
Preceded by
William Archer
Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
John Mason
Legal offices
Preceded by
William Johnson
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Seat abolished