1811 Treasury Department Autograph Letter Signed by Gabriel Duvall as First Treasury Comptroller 1802 to 1811
GABRIEL DUVALL (1752-1844). Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury and Supreme Court Justice of the United States from 1811 to 1835 during the tenure of Chief Justice John Marshall.
January 29, 1811-Dated, Autograph Letter Signed, “G. Duvall” as Comptroller, 1 page, 10” x 8”, Treasury Department, Choice Very Fine. He served as the First Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury from 1802-1811. This letter is addressed to David Gelston, Collector of the Port of New York, and authorizes Gelston to pay $231.65 for a revenue boat obtained by Caleb Hopkins. Duvall was shortly afterwards appointed to the Supreme Court by President James Madison later in 1811 and he served until 1835. A boldly written and easily readable Letter on clean fine quality period paper, having a vivid bold signature of Gabriel Duvall as First Treasury Comptroller at its conclusion.
Gabriel Duvall (December 6, 1752 – March 6, 1844) was an American politician and jurist.
Duvall was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1811 to 1835 during the tenure of Chief Justice John Marshall. Previously, Duvall was the Comptroller of the Treasury, a Maryland state court judge, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland, and a Maryland state legislator.
Whether Duvall is deserving of the title of "the most insignificant" Justice in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court has been the subject of much academic interest, most notably a debate between University of Chicago Law Professors David P. Currie and (now-Judge) Frank H. Easterbrook in 1983. Currie argued that "impartial examination of Duvall's performance reveals to even the uninitiated observer that he achieved an enviable standard of insignificance against which all other Justices must be measured." Easterbrook responded that Currie's analysis lacked "serious consideration of candidates so shrouded in obscurity that they escaped proper attention even in a contest of insignificance," and concluded that Duvall's colleague, Justice Thomas Todd, was even more insignificant.
Duvall was a clerk for the Maryland Council of Safety (which managed the state militia) from 1775 to 1777, and for the Maryland House of Delegates from 1777 to 1781.
He participated in the American Revolutionary War, first as a Mustermaster and commissary of stores in 1776, then as a private in the Maryland militia, where he fought in the Battle of Brandywine. He was a Commissioner to preserve confiscated British property from 1781 to 1782, then a member of Maryland Governor's Council from 1782 to 1785.
He was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates, serving there from 1787 to 1794. He served one term as a U.S. Representative from the second district of Maryland, from November 11, 1794, to March 28, 1796. He was then Chief Justice of the Maryland General Court from 1796 to 1802, and was the first U.S. Comptroller of the Treasury from 1802 to 1811.
On November 15, 1811, Duvall was nominated by President James Madison to an Associate Justice seat on the Supreme Court of the United States vacated by fellow Marylander Samuel Chase. Duvall was confirmed by the United States Senate on November 18, 1811, and received his commission the same day.
In the 23 years he sat on the Supreme Court, Duvall penned an opinion in only 18 cases: 15 majority opinions, two concurrence, and one dissent. The Court during this time was largely a vehicle for Chief Justice John Marshall's belief in a strong Federal government and the associate justices rarely dissented, with Marshall himself writing the large majority of opinions.
The one time when Duvall dissented was in the case of Mima Queen and Child vs. Hepburn (1813) where he was the sole dissenting justice in a case that ruled whether the daughter of an ex-slave could provide hearsay evidence that her mother was free at the time of her birth. Duvall wrote that the evidence should be allowed, and "people of color from their helpless condition under the uncontrolled authority of a master, are entitled to all reasonable protection."