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John McKinley and the Antebellum Supreme Court

Circuit Riding in the Old Southwest

Steven P. Brown

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

I am grateful for the opportunity to research and write about the life of Justice John McKinley. I knew a good deal about both Justices Hugo Black and John Archibald Campbell before I moved to Auburn in 1998, but it was only upon arriving here that I learned of Alabama’s first Supreme Court justice. Since that time...

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1. The Most Prominent Man in Alabama: An Introduction to Justice John McKinley

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pp. 1-12

In 1849 the citizens of the south-central Alabama town of New Ruin renamed their community “McKinley” after one of the state’s most celebrated men. A Kentuckian who moved to northern Alabama in 1819, John McKinley had no personal...

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2. Logans, Law, and Political Futility

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pp. 13-28

Like many of his contemporaries, John McKinley may have assembled his private writings, papers, business records, correspondence, and other material into a collection that highlighted many of the details of his personal life. If such a collection...

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3. Alabama Fever and Georgia Faction

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pp. 29-44

The most signiacant incident in the series of events that culminated in McKinley’s 1837 appointment to the Supreme Court occurred several years before he left Kentucky. On August 9, 1814, Andrew Jackson forced the reek Indians to sign a treaty ceding twenty-two million acres of their land to the U.S. government...

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4. The Politics of Political Change

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pp. 45-71

Like so many thousands of others, John McKinley came to Alabama hoping to make a fortune off the land. As a lawyer, however, he also belonged to a distinct class of emigrants who continued to reap a financial windfall even after the...

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5. Prelude to the Court: Jacksonian Devotion in Alabama and Washington

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pp. 72-111

The 1826 midterm elections saw Jacksonian Democrats increase their numbers in both houses of Congress, although they made only slim gains in the Senate. McKinley’s election to that body was thus closely scrutinized by supporters of Andrew...

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6. The Burdens of Justice on the Antebellum Supreme Court

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pp. 112-142

There are considerable differences between the modern-day Supreme Court and its antebellum predecessor. Today’s justices come under intense public scrutiny almost from the moment they are nominated to the bench. Legal scholars, news commentators, and Internet blogs report and parse not only the justices...

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7. The Supreme Court and the Original Ninth Circuit, 1837–1842

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pp. 143-191

McKinley received notice of his September confirmation several weeks after the fact, making it impossible for him to attend the fall 1837 session of circuit court in Mobile, which began on the second Monday in October. However, he did arrive on schedule in Jackson, Mississippi, to convene court on the first...

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8. Circuit Relief and Declining Health, 1843–1852

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pp. 192-224

Contrary to reports, McKinley survived the stroke and eventually resumed his judicial duties. H \owever, he never regained his full health. The extent of the damage caused by the stroke is unknown, but it was severe enough to induce the justice’s son, Andrew, to relocate his own family from St. Louis to the...

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9. The Legacies of Justice John McKinley

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pp. 225-236

Although Justice McKinley endeavored to fulfill his responsibilities on the Court to the end, his last months were fulled with great pain, increasing physical limitations, and an awareness that his own death was not far distant. In March 1852, just...

Appendix: Justice John McKinley’s Supreme Court Opinions and Dissents

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pp. 237-238


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pp. 239-292


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pp. 293-306


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pp. 307-313

E-ISBN-13: 9780817386269
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317713

Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • McKinley, John, 1780-1852.
  • United States. Supreme Court -- Biography.
  • Judges -- United States -- Biography.
  • Circuit courts -- Southwest, Old -- History -- 19th century.
  • Politicians -- Alabama -- Biography.
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