Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

D, Davis, John Chandler Bancroft

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman

From: The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2nd Edition)

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved. Subscriber: null; date: 31 October 2020

Davis, John Chandler Bancroft

(b. Worcester, Mass., 29 Dec. 1822; d. Washington, D.C., 27 Dec. 1907), diplomat, historian of law, and Supreme Court reporter of decisions, 1883–1902. Davis held an impressive succession of positions before ending his career as the U.S. Supreme Court’s reporter of decisions. The son of Massachusetts governor John Davis, he attended Harvard but was suspended in 1840. His A.B. degree was finally awarded to him in 1847. After studying law, Davis became secretary of the American legation at London in 1849 and for a time was its acting chargé d’affaires. He then practiced law in New York and was the American correspondent for the London Times. Suffering from ill health, Davis gave up his law practice in 1862. Recovered from his illness, his career resumed with election to the New York Assembly in 1868. President Ulysses S. Grant soon appointed him assistant secretary of state, a post Davis held until 1871. He resigned to become American secretary to the joint High Commission with Great Britain, which set a mechanism for settlement of claims from Confederate depredations on the high seas. Davis prepared the United States’ case before the resulting arbitration tribunal at Geneva. He was later arbitrator between Great Britain and Portugal in a dispute over African possessions. He became minister to Germany in 1874 and was appointed to the Court of Claims in 1877.

Davis finished his public service as the U.S. Supreme Court reporter of decisions from 1883 to 1902, editing volumes 108 through 186 of the *United States Reports. At the Court, he classified historical items in the Office of the *Clerk. Davis authored various works on diplomacy and history and was awarded an honorary LL.D. by Columbia University in 1887.

See also reporters, supreme court.

Francis Helminski