Justice Joseph Story and the Rise of the Supreme Court

By Gerald T. Dunne | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXX
False Hope, False Dawn

IN BRIEF ASCENDANCY

"The nomination of Harrison runs like wildfire on the prairies,"1JusticeStory wrote from Washington in early 1840 in an observation which posed an interesting question, for the farthest west the Justice had ever been was Niagara Falls and that in 1825. Nonetheless this comment which he sent a Harvard professor admirably illustrated the growing determination of the Whig Party to beat the Jacksonian Democrats at their own game in an electoral appeal wrapped up in the frontier trappings of log cabins, hard cider, and the common man.

And not only was Justice Story a Whig, but at sixty he was an elder statesman of the party, counselor of its leaders, and high strategist in its councils. He was cautious enough about his political activity, and it would be two more years before he would avow his partisan faith even in private correspondence. "I am a Whig," he wrote Henry Clay in 1842 "and although I do not pretend to mingle in the common politics of the day, there are great measures, upon which I have a decided opinion and, which I would not disguise if I could."2 Among the "great measures"

____________________
1
Letter to Simon Greenleaf, Feb. 6, 1840, in W. W. Story, II, 327.
2
Letter to Henry Clay, Aug. 3, 1842, in Swisher, 430; see also Newmeyer, "A Note on the Whig Politics of Justice Joseph Story," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XLVIII ( 1961), 480.

-381-

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