Noah Swayne

Media Items
Personal Information
Friday, December 7, 1804
Sunday, June 8, 1884
Childhood Location 
Childhood Surroundings 
Associate Justice
Nominated By 
Commissioned on 
Friday, January 24, 1862
Sworn In 
Monday, January 27, 1862
Left Office 
Monday, January 24, 1881
Reason For Leaving 
Length of Service 
18 years, 11 months, 28 days
Noah Swayne
The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Artist: C. Gregory Stapko)

Noah Swayne was the first of Lincoln's five appointments to the Supreme Court. Swayne satisfied Lincoln's criteria for appointment: commitment to the Union, slavery opponent, geographically correct.

Swayne's left his native Virginia at age 19 because he was hostile to slavery. He settled in Ohio and later served there in the state legislature. He was appointed United States Attorney for Ohio by President Andrew Jackson. He retained his opposition to slavery and joined the newly created Republican party in 1855. Swayne's close personal friend was Justice John McLean who suggested that Lincoln appoint Swayne as his successor. When McLean died, Swayne mustered support for the appointment to his friend's position.

Swayne was an undistinguished justice. He wrote few major opinions and served as an extra vote in important majority and dissenting positions articulated by others. He stayed well beyond his time; he deteriorated mentally and physically while still on the bench. Though he lacked intellectual leadership, Swayne coveted the position of Chief Justice. He campaigned aggressively and unsuccessfully for the spot in 1864 and in 1873.

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Cite this Page
Noah Swayne. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
Noah Swayne, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 26, 2015).
"Noah Swayne," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015,