About David Daggett
David Daggett (December 31, 1764 – April 12, 1851) was a U.S. senator, mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, Judge of the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors, and a founder of the Yale Law School.
He was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts, December 31, 1764, the son of Thomas Daggett. The history of Dagget's family in Massachusetts is a distinguished one. The original Dagget, John, came over from England with Winthrop's compan, in 1630, and settled in Watertown.
At the age of 16, he enrolled at Yale, entering the junior class two years early. It appears likely that he entered Yale rather than Harvard, which was closer, because his father's cousin had been an officer at Yale. He graduated with high honor in 1783 and then earned a master's degree. Daggett was in the same class with Samuel Austin, Abiel Holmes and John Cotton Smith.
Upon receiving his master's degree, he received the unusual honor of having his commencement speech published. This marked the beginning of his reputation as a formidable orator.
In 1786, at the age of 21, he married Ann Munson. They were married for 53 years, until she died in July 1839 at the age of 72. Daggett had 19 children, but only 14 lived any considerable time, and only three survived him. One daughter, Susan Edwards Daggett, married Chaplain of the Senate Reverend Sereno Edwards Dwight, son of the President of Yale, Timothy Dwight IV.
After leaving Yale, he studied law under Charles Chauncey of New Haven (who later became a judge of the Superior Court). He supported himself by working as a butler and as a preceptor at Hopkins Grammar School. In January 1786, at the age of 21, he was admitted to the bar of New Haven County and immediately set up his own practice, turning down an offer to be a tutor at Yale.
In November 1824, Daggett became an associate instructor of the New Haven Law School; and in 1826, he was appointed Kent Professor of Law at Yale. He held these positions until health conditions forced him to resign. In the autumn of 1826, he received from Yale the honorary degree of LL.D.
Additionally, Dagget served on the Yale Corporation three times (1803–04; 1809–13; and 1832–34).
In May 1840, Daggett married Mary Lines, who was with him at the time of his death.
He died in New Haven, Connecticut, and was interred at Grove Street Cemetery.
Once Daggett was admitted to the bar he entered into public life, two years before the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. As did most of the people of New England, at that time, Dagget aligned himself with the Federalist Party.
In 1791, he was chosen to represent the town of New Haven in the General Assembly (Connecticut State House of Representatives), and was annually re-elected for six years, until 1797, when he was chosen a member of the Connecticut State Council, or Upper House. Though one of the youngest members of the House, he soon became one of the most influential, and in 1794, three years after he entered it, he was chosen to preside over it as Speaker, at the age of 29. Daggett returned to the House for a one-year term in 1805.
In 1797, Daggett was elected to the Connecticut State Council, and he retained his seat there for seven years, until he resigned it in 1804. He returned to the Council in 1809, retaining his seat until he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1813.
As well as holding a seat on the Council, he was appointed State's Attorney for the county of New Haven in June 1811, and continued in that office until he resigned it when chosen Senator in 1813.
He was elected to the Senate as a Federalist to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Chauncey Goodrich and served from May 13, 1813, to March 3, 1819.
In May 1826, at age 62, he was chosen an associate judge of the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors. He was appointed to that office by a Legislature in which a decided majority was opposed to him in political principles and preferences, and yet the respect he had garnered as a public official and lawyer swayed their vote in his favor.
He served as the Mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, from 1828 to 1829.
In May 1832, he was made Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors. He continued in that office until December 31, 1834; 70 years was the limit that the state constitution assigned to the judicial office.
Daggett and race issues
Daggett helped to draft the resolutions against the "Negro college", and spoke publicly at an 1831 town meeting against the college. He was among the most influential opponents of Simeon Jocelyn's plan.
After the "Negro college" affair, Daggett continued to oppose the expansion of education for blacks. In 1833, Prudence Crandall admitted a black student to her female academy. The citizens first warned her, then withdrew their daughters from the school. Crandall reopened the school exclusively for black women. Canterbury passed a bill stipulating that the selectmen of the town had to approve any out-of-state students of color seeking an education. Crandall was arrested for violating this law. Chief Justice Daggett ruled in 1833 that, since free black people could not be U.S. citizens, they could be prevented from being educated.
In 1835, Daggett undertook another town meeting linking states' rights, pro-colonization and anti-abolitionism. This meeting, held at the statehouse on September 9, 1835, found Noah Webster, Simeon Baldwin, and others helping to frame resolutions that condemned any interference by Congress with the treatment of slaves within any of the states, opposed the use of the mail for "transmission of incendiary information", proposed African colonization for "the free colored population", and "viewed with alarm the efforts of the abolitionists".
Throughout the 1830s, Daggett consistently opposed education and supported colonization for free blacks. During this time he served as Chief Justice of Connecticut's Supreme Court and as Yale's only full professor of law.