Justice John Archibald Campbell
Justice John Archibald Campbell joined the U.S. Supreme Court on April 11, 1853, replacing Justice John McKinley. Campbell was born on June 24, 1811 in Washington, Georgia. He showed remarkable intellectual promise early in life, graduating from Franklin College (now the University of Georgia) at just 14 years old. Campbell then attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. When his father died in 1828, however, he withdrew from West Point and returned to Georgia. He was admitted to the Georgia bar at the age of 18. This required a special act of the legislature because Campbell was not yet old enough to be admitted under the standard rules.
Campbell spent the next chapter of his life in Alabama. He distinguished himself in the Creek Indian War in 1836 and served two terms in the Alabama state legislature. As his legal career developed, he argued several cases before the Supreme Court and apparently impressed the Justices. In a rare turn of events, they urged President Franklin Pierce to nominate him for the vacancy created by the death of Justice McKinley.
On March 21, 1853, Pierce nominated Campbell to the Supreme Court, and the Senate confirmed him on the following day. He took the judicial oath about three weeks later. During his eight years on the Court, Campbell made few lasting contributions. His most memorable opinion is likely his concurrence in the infamous Dred Scott case. Campbell agreed with Chief Justice Roger Taney in the outcome of the case, but he wrote separately to underscore his view that the Constitution did not empower Congress to regulate slavery.
As divisions within the nation deepened, Campbell found that his primary loyalty lay with his home region, the South. He resigned from the Court on April 30, 1861, a few weeks after the start of the Civil War. He was the only Justice to leave the Court due to the conflict. Justice David Davis eventually filled his seat.
In October 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed Campbell as his Assistant Secretary of War. Campbell participated in the Hampton Roads Conference in February 1865, an unsuccessful effort to negotiate a peace settlement. The war ended in April, and Campbell was arrested on May 30, 1865. He spent the next several months in military prison at Fort Pulaski in Georgia, due to suspicions that he had played a role in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
During Reconstruction, Campbell practiced law in Louisiana. He argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court, including the Slaughterhouse Cases of 1873. The Court ultimately rejected Campbell’s arguments, taking a narrow view of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Campbell died on March 12, 1889 in Baltimore, Maryland.