Spencer Roane

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Spencer Roane
VirginiaLawRegisterNovember1896Roane.jpg
Judge of the Court of Appeals of Virginia
In office
1794 – 1822
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Judge of the General Court of Virginia
In office
1789 – 1794
Preceded by
Succeeded by
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In office
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In office
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Personal details
Born April 4, 1762
  Mahockney Plantation, Essex County, Virginia
Died September 4, 1822
  Warm Springs, Bath Co., Virginia
Resting place Warm Springs Cemetery, Bath, Virginia
Residence(s)
Education
Alma mater
Profession Lawyer
Judge
Spouse(s) Anne Henry (1767 – 1799)
Elizabeth Hoskins (1781 – 1825)
Relatives William Henry Roane (son)
Fayette Roane (son)
Patrick Henry Roane (son)
Eliza Roane (daughter)
Known for
Signature [[File:|left|200px]]

Spencer Roane (1762 – 1822), judge and political writer, was born in Essex County, son of William Roane, a burgess for Essex. Spencer Roane received his early education from Scottish tutors, and enrolled in the College of William & Mary about 1777.[1] There, he attended George Wythe's law lectures, became active in Phi Beta Kappa, and developed a taste for literature.[2] Roane was considered a "prodigy of his generation" and "one of George Wythe's most brilliant pupils."[3]

In his biographical sketch for the Virginia Law Register in 1896, Judge T.R.B. Wright says of Roane:

For the exalted character of Chancellor Wythe as a lawyer, as a virtuous and able man, and as a patriot, he entertained the sincerest respect, and always spoke in the highest terms of the benefits derived from his lectures, and with a veneration that was almost a religion on his lips.[4]

Roane continued his legal studies in Philadelphia and read Coke in his free time, and in 1782 was admitted to the bar.[5] Roane became a member of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1783-84, where he worked closely with Richard Henry Lee and served on committees with Patrick Henry and John Marshall.[6] He later served as an advisor to Governor Patrick Henry and as a state senator.[7] Throughout his political career, Roane remained a staunch Jeffersonian Republican and was opposed to the new Constitution, preferring instead a revision of the Articles of Confederation.[8]

In 1789 Roane began his judicial career as a judge of the General Court, a position he held until 1794 when the Virginia legislature elected him to the Supreme Court of Appeals.[9] There he was known for "attack[ing] each case eagerly and penetratingly" and for "clear and vigorous opinions."[10] Roane's decisions reflected his progressive, liberty-driven political ideology.[11] He was known for penning opinions that were "mindful of precedent and the law as science, but also keenly alert to the public policies of his own progressive age."[12] Although Jefferson desired Roane to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, this was made impossible when John Marshall was appointed in 1800.[13]

Spencer Roane furthered his political ideologies in 1804 when he founded the Richmond Enquirer.[14] In it, under several different pen names, Roane advanced his opinions in articles that were "lengthy and not without extreme and abusive language."[15] Although his articles were well-received by Jeffersonian Republicans, they greatly bothered the Federalists and "reinvigorated the extreme states-rights theory."[16] Nevertheless, Roane did not consider his vision of powerful individual states as incompatible with union.[17]

Roane died in 1822 in Warm Springs, Virginia, but not before his son, William H. Roane, was seated as a United States Senator.[18]

See also

References

  1. Dictionary of American Biography, s.v. "Roane, Spencer" by C. C. Pearson (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963), 8:242.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Alonzo Thomas Dill, George Wythe Teacher of Liberty (Williamsburg, Virginia: Virginia Independence Bicentennial Commission, 1979), 51.
  4. T.R.B. Wright, "Judge Spencer Roane," Virginia Law Register 2, no. 7 (November 1896), 476.
  5. Dictionary of American Biography, "Roane, Spencer," 642.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid., 643
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Lyon G. Tyler, "Roane Family," William and Mary Quarterly Historical Magazine 18, no. 4 (April 1910), 267.