Waite, Morrison Remick

Waite, Morrison Remick wāt [key], 1816–88, American jurist, 7th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1874–88), b. Lyme, Conn. Admitted to the bar in 1839, he became prominent when he represented the United States in prosecuting the Alabama claims. It was Waite's task as chief justice to help interpret the amendments to the Constitution that were adopted after the Civil War. His interpretation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was long influential. Waite maintained that only businesses “clothed with a public interest” might be subject to economic regulation by the states; e.g., a state might set the rates charged by a grain elevator but not the prices of a haberdasher. The Supreme Court essentially adhered to this position until the 1930s.

See biographies by B. R. Trimble (1938, repr. 1970) and C. P. Magrath (1963).

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