Author: Timothy S. Huebner


Peter V. Daniel (1784–1860)

Peter V. Daniel was a member of the House of Delegates (1808–1810) and the Council of State (1812–1836), a U.S. district court judge (1836–1841), and an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1841–1860). Born in Stafford County to a wealthy family, Daniel was educated at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) and studied law in Richmond with Edmund Randolph. (He later married Randolph’s daughter.) Daniel was elected to the House of Delegates in 1808 as an advocate of states’ rights and limited government, and that year he mortally wounded John Seddon in a duel fought in Maryland. He served on the Council of State for more than two decades, serving as president from 1818, making him acting governor in the absence of the chief executive. After the death of Associate Justice Philip Pendleton Barbour, a fellow Virginian, Daniel won confirmation to the seat after a fight in the U.S. Senate. On the bench, Daniel was sharply conservative, at times provincial, and often acerbic and witty in his opinions. He was a strong supporter of slavery and wrote a separate, even more strongly worded opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford(1857). He died in 1860.


John Coalter (1769–1838)

John Coalter was a judge of the Virginia Court of Appeals (1811–1831) and a member of the Convention of 1829–1830. Born in Augusta County and educated at Liberty Hall in Lexington, he studied law under George Wythe at the College of William and Mary. He tutored the children of Wythe’s protégé, St. George Tucker, and later married Tucker’s daughter. Coalter served on the General Court from 1809 until 1811, hearing civil cases in the western part of the state. In 1811, he was appointed to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, filling a vacancy made by the resignation of Tucker. He compiled a solid but unspectacular record over twenty years, a time when Spencer Roane, with whom Tucker had clashed, led the court and other judges followed. In 1817, Coalter served on a committee that revised the state’s laws. In 1829, he was elected to fill a vacancy among delegates at the Convention of 1829–1830, which revised the Virginia constitution. He opposed many of the proposed reforms, including reducing property requirements for suffrage, but he voted with the majority for the constitution. Coalter retired from the court in 1831, living his remaining years at Chatham Manor, overlooking Fredericksburg. He died in 1838.