Davis' years in the Senate were pleasant ones for him. He enjoyed the power of his independent position and was assiduously courted by both parties. He was respected for his work for the Court and for his association with the martyred Lincoln. He retained a close relationship with Mrs. Lincoln and her son and, at their request, served as administrator of the family estate. Six months before Mrs. Lincoln's death, Davis secured a congressional act granting her $15,000 outright and an annual pension of $5,000. He retired from the Senate after one term in March, 1883, and returned to Bloomington, where he died three years later.
In his contemporary milieu Davis was a prominent figure, but in the light of history, Allan Nevins' judgment that Davis was a man of the "second rank of eminence" probably serves most appropriately.
The largest collection of Davis' personal papers are held by the Chicago Historical Society. Davis' letters are an invaluable source for the politics of the Civil War and Reconstruction periods, but unfortunately they contain little of value for his judicial career. His rare comments about the Supreme Court usually indicated his boredom and dissatisfaction. Willard L. King, Lincoln's Manager: David Davis ( Cambridge, Mass., 1960) is a useful biography that concentrates on Davis' political activities. Stanley I. Kutler, Judicial Power and Reconstruction Politics ( Chicago, 1968), and Charles Fairman, Mr. Justice Miller and the Supreme Court, 1862-1890 ( Cambridge, Mass., 1939), are more complete on Davis' judicial role.