Political and Judicial Career
In August 1831 Daniel won election to the House of Delegates from Campbell County. He was twenty-four years old when elected and therefore not old enough to take office, but he met the minimum age requirement by the time the assembly convened in December. Daniel served on the standing Committees for Courts of Justice and of Finance and on a joint committee to examine the records of the Bank of Virginia and the Farmers' Bank of Virginia. He made his legislative debut during one of the General Assembly's most important debates, on the future of slavery in Virginia. Although he had probably not yet acquired any slaves, at that time his father paid taxes on about thirty age twelve or older. On January 14, 1832, Daniel spoke in opposition to a proposal for emancipation post nati, which would have freed children born to enslaved mothers and thus slowly extinguished the institution of slavery as older slaves died. Daniel's proslavery argument was premised on his strong commitment to the sanctity of the private property rights of slave owners.
Daniel was not reelected in 1832, but he returned to the House of Delegates for the 1835–1836 and 1838 sessions. During the first term he was ranking member of the Committee of Privileges and Elections and chaired the Committee to Examine the Second Auditor's Office; during the second he was a member of the Committee for Courts of Justice. Daniel, a Democrat and defender of states' rights doctrines, in 1845 delivered a long eulogy in Lynchburg after the death of Andrew Jackson.
Daniel took his seat on the bench during the January 1847 term and wrote his first of more than 100 majority opinions for the court in the combined cases Sheppards v. Turpin and Sheppards v. Stubbs. These cases dealt with questions of equity jurisprudence and property rights, realms of law in which Daniel excelled and that provided the subject matter for many of his subsequent opinions. His opinions were generally long essays that often recounted the legal history of the statute or precept in question and reflected a strong grasp of the procedural and conceptual technicalities characteristic of Virginia's laws.
Daniel delivered his most notable opinion on April 9, 1861, in Baker v. Wise, Governor, which upheld a Virginia law that required state inspectors to verify that ships owned by residents of another state departing Virginia for northern ports carried no escaping slaves. Daniel, who reported forty-one slaves and $200,000 in real estate in the 1860 census, ruled that the statute was a valid exercise of the police powers reserved to the states and not an infringement of Congress's power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce.
The court sat through the Civil War and last met on February 8, 1865. The judges intended to sit again in April but did not as a result of the evacuation of Richmond. In February 1866 the General Assembly, which under the constitution adopted by the Restored government had again taken responsibility for electing judges, did not return Daniel to his seat on the bench.
Because the value of his property exceeded $20,000 after the Civil War, Daniel was required to apply for a presidential pardon, which he received on July 14, 1865. He resumed practicing law in Lynchburg with his son and son-in-law. Daniel died of apoplexy while attending a session of court in the Nelson County courthouse on March 28, 1873. He was buried in the Old City Cemetery (also known as the Old Methodist Cemetery) in Lynchburg, where his memorial stone bears the inscription, "Be just and fear not."
November 26, 1806 - William Daniel Jr. is born, most likely in Winchester.
1826 - William Daniel Jr. graduates from Hampden-Sydney College.
February 1827–July 1829 - William Daniel Jr. attends the University of Virginia.
1831–1832 - William Daniel Jr. serves in the House of Delegates.
January 14, 1832 - William Daniel Jr. speaks in the House of Delegates against the gradual end of slavery.
1835–1836 - William Daniel Jr. serves in the House of Delegates.
1838 - William Daniel Jr. serves in the House of Delegates.
December 8, 1841 - William Daniel Jr. and Sarah Ann Warwick, of Lynchburg, marry.
1845 - William Daniel Jr. delivers a long eulogy in Lynchburg after the death of Andrew Jackson.
August 8, 1845 - Sarah Warwick Daniel, the wife of William Daniel Jr., dies.
December 15, 1846 - The General Assembly elects William Daniel Jr. to the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
June 6, 1850 - William Daniel Jr. and Elizabeth Hannah Cabell marry.
May 27, 1852 - William Daniel Jr. wins popular election to the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
April 9, 1861 - William Daniel Jr. issues the opinion in Baker v. Wise, Governor, in which the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upholds a law requiring certain ship inspections for fugitive slaves.
July 14, 1865 - William Daniel Jr. receives a presidential pardon.
March 28, 1873 - William Daniel Jr. dies of apoplexy while attending court in Nelson County. He is buried in the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Curtis, C. M., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. William Daniel Jr. (1806–1873). (2017, September 19). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/William_Daniel_Jr_1806-1873.
- MLA Citation:
Curtis, Christopher M. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "William Daniel Jr. (1806–1873)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 19 Sep. 2017. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: April 7, 2017 | Last modified: September 19, 2017
Contributed by Christopher M. Curtis and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography.