Justice Gabriel Duvall

On this date in 1835, Justice Gabriel Duvall retired as an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. Born on December 6, 1752 at Darnall’s Grove, which was the family plantation in Prince Georges County, Maryland, Duvall went on to study law under a tutor in Annapolis, Maryland, just as fighting was breaking out in the Revolutionary War. Duvall joined the Maryland militia and served as clerk to the Convention and the Council of Safety that took control of Maryland after British rule collapsed in 1775. After Duvall’s admission to the Maryland Bar in 1778, he began practicing law and was elected to the Maryland State Council in 1782. In 1787, Duvall was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. In 1794, Duvall was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to fill an unexpired term of John Francis Mercer, who had resigned. After two years of service, Duvall resigned in 1796 and accepted appointment as a judge on the General Court of Maryland, which was Maryland’s most prestigious court at the time. On December 15, 1802, Duvall was appointed comptroller of the U.S. Treasury by President Thomas Jefferson, which was a post placeing Duvall in complete control of accounts payable as well as the management of the major Treasury departments in Washington. On Novermber 15, 1811, President James Madison nominated Gabriel Duvall for the position of Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court, which was for the seat left vacant by the death of Justice William Cushing who had died the prior year. For the next 23 years, Duvall served on the Court and wrote a mere 17 opinions and only two dissents. However, it should be noted that Duvall’s entire span on the Court coincided with Chief Justice Marshall, who took on most of the decision-writing and with whom Duvall agreed with almost in lockstep on every case. Fort the last ten years of Duvall’s time on the Court, he was almost deaf. After retiring from the Court at age 83, Duvall returned to his family estate and resided at Marietta, a manor house he had built. On March 6, 1844, nine years after leaving the Court, Justice Gabriel Duvall died peacefully at his home at age 92.