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Henry Wheaton

Wheaton, Henry, 1785–1848, American jurist and diplomat, b. Providence, R.I., grad. Rhode Island College (now Brown), 1802. After translating the Code Napoléon into English, he practiced law, held various judicial offices, and was (1816–27) reporter of the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. While reporter he prepared A Digest of the Decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789–1820 (1821). He challenged his successor's right to use his summaries of Supreme Court opinions in Wheaton v. Peters (1834), establishing that only notes and commentary can be copyrighted. Wheaton's diplomatic career began with his service (1827–35) as chargé d'affaires in Denmark. While in Denmark he wrote his History of the Northmen (1831), which maintained that America had been discovered by Scandinavians before the voyage of Columbus. Wheaton represented (1835–46) the United States at the Prussian court. The U.S. Senate ratified treaties he negotiated with Prussia respecting the rights of immigrants, but it rejected the reciprocal trade agreements he considered his greatest achievement. Wheaton's crowning works were Elements of International Law (1836) and the companion work, A History of the Law of Nations (1845), which had great influence on international law.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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