Stanley Matthews (Supreme Court justice)

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Stanley Matthews
Thomas Stanley Matthews - Brady-Handy.jpg
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
May 12, 1881 – March 22, 1889
Nominated byJames Garfield
Preceded byNoah Swayne
Succeeded byDavid Brewer
United States Senator
from Ohio
In office
March 21, 1877 – March 4, 1879
Preceded byJohn Sherman
Succeeded byGeorge Pendleton
Personal details
Thomas Stanley Matthews

(1824-07-21)July 21, 1824
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
DiedMarch 22, 1889(1889-03-22) (aged 64)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Mary Matthews
RelativesT. S. Matthews (grandson)
EducationKenyon College (BA)

Thomas Stanley Matthews (July 21, 1824 – March 22, 1889), known as Stanley Matthews, was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from May 1881 to his death in 1889. Matthews was the Court's 46th justice. Before his appointment to the Court by President James A. Garfield, Matthews served as a senator from his home state of Ohio.


Matthews was born in Lexington, Kentucky.[1]

He studied and practiced law in Cincinnati[1] before moving to Maury County, Tennessee, where he practiced from 1840 to 1845. After editing the Cincinnati Herald for two years from 1846 to 1848, Matthews was selected to serve as the clerk of the Ohio House of Representatives and as a county judge in Hamilton County. He was then elected to the Ohio State Senate for the 1st district, where he served from 1856 to 1858. He was then appointed as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, serving from 1858 to 1861.

In 1861, Matthews resigned as United States Attorney to serve as a lieutenant colonel with the 23rd Ohio Infantry regiment of the Union Army during the American Civil War. His superior officer was Rutherford B. Hayes; William McKinley also served in the regiment. With the 23rd Ohio Regiment, Matthews fought at the battle of Carnifex Ferry. On October 26, 1861 he was appointed colonel of the 51st Ohio Infantry Regiment. and on April 11, 1862 he was nominated as brigadier general of U.S. Volunteers. However, the nomination was tabled and never confirmed. Nevertheless, Colonel Matthews commanded a brigade in the Army of the Ohio and later the Army of the Cumberland. Colonel Matthews resigned from the Union Army on April 11, 1863.

Matthews ran for the United States House of Representatives in 1876, but was defeated. A year later, he won a special election to the Senate to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of John Sherman. He did not seek reelection.

On January 26, 1881, President Rutherford B. Hayes nominated Matthews for a position as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Members of the Senate characterized the appointment as an example of presidential cronyism since Hayes and Matthews had been classmates at Kenyon College and both had practiced law in Cincinnati and served as officers in the state infantry.[2] With the nomination facing political opposition, and as the nomination came near the end of Hayes's term, the Senate did not act on it. Upon succeeding Hayes, incoming President James A. Garfield renominated Matthews in March 1881,[3] and the Senate confirmed him by a vote of 24 to 23, the narrowest confirmation for a successful U.S. Supreme Court nominee in history until the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.[1] He served on the Court until his death in 1889.[4]

His funeral was attended by many people.[5] His remains are interred at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.[6] Also interred there is John McLean, another Associate Justice.[7][8]

A collection of Justice Matthews's correspondence and other papers are located at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center library in Fremont, Ohio and open for research. Additional papers and collections are at: Cincinnati Historical Society, Cincinnati, Ohio; Library of Congress, Manuscript and Prints & Photographs Divisions, Washington, D.C.; Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio; .Pierpont Morgan Library, New York City, New York; State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Archives Division, Madison, Wisconsin; and Mississippi State Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi.[9]

Important decisions[edit]

Among these was Yick Wo v. Hopkins. In 1880, the elected officials of city of San Francisco, California thought they had a clever way to deal with the Chinese in the city. They passed an ordinance that persons could not operate a laundry in a wooden building without a permit from the Board of Supervisors. The ordinance conferred upon the Board of Supervisors the discretion to grant or withhold the permits. At the time, about 95% of the city's 320 laundries were operated in wooden buildings. Approximately two-thirds of those laundries were owned by Chinese persons. Although most of the city's wooden building laundry owners applied for a permit, none were granted to any Chinese owner, while virtually all non-Chinese applicants were granted a permit. Yick Wo (益和, Pinyin: Yì Hé, Americanization: Lee Yick), who had lived in California and had operated a laundry in the same wooden building for many years and held a valid license to operate his laundry issued by the Board of Fire-Wardens, continued to operate his laundry and was convicted and fined $10.00 for violating the ordinance. He sued for a writ of habeas corpus after he was imprisoned in default for having refused to pay the fine.

The Court, in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Matthews, found that the administration of the statute in question was discriminatory and that there was therefore no need to even consider whether the ordinance itself was lawful. Even though the Chinese laundry owners were usually not American citizens, the court ruled they were still entitled to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Matthews also noted that the court had previously ruled that it was acceptable to hold administrators of the law liable when they abused their authority. He denounced the law as a blatant attempt to exclude Chinese from the laundry trade in San Francisco, and the court struck down the law, ordering dismissal of all charges against other laundry owners who had been jailed.


Matthews' son, Paul Matthews, was Episcopal bishop of New Jersey. His grandson, T. S. Matthews, was editor of Time magazine from 1949 to 1953.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "'Moral dry-rot': The only Supreme Court justice who divided the Senate more than Kavanaugh". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Stanley Matthews biography at Sixth Circuit Archived 2009-08-27 at the Wayback Machine United States Court of Appeals.
  5. ^ Dead Justice, Stanley Matthews Funeral in Washington, March 26, 1899 New York Times.
  6. ^ Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  7. ^ "Christensen, George A. (1983) Here Lies the Supreme Court: Gravesites of the Justices, Yearbook". Archived from the original on September 3, 2005. Retrieved 2013-11-24. Supreme Court Historical Society.
  8. ^ Christensen, George A., "Here Lies the Supreme Court: Revisited", Journal of Supreme Court History, Volume 33 Issue 1, Pages 17 - 41 (19 Feb 2008), University of Alabama.
  9. ^ Location of papers, Sixth Circuit Archived 2009-01-19 at the Wayback Machine United States Court of Appeals.
  10. ^ "T. S. Matthews Papers 1910-1991". Princeton University. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  11. ^ Foderaro, Lisa W. (6 January 1991). "T. S. Matthews, 89, Ex-Editor of Time and Author". New York Times. Retrieved 15 September 2013.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Ohio Senate
Preceded by
George Pendleton
John Schiff
William Converse
Member of the Ohio Senate
from the 1st district

Served alongside: George Holmes, William Converse
Succeeded by
William Hatch
A. B. Langdon
Charles Thomas
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
John Sherman
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Ohio
Served alongside: Allen Thurman
Succeeded by
George Pendleton
Legal offices
Preceded by
Noah Swayne
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Succeeded by
David Brewer