About John Archibald Campbell
John Archibald Campbell (June 24, 1811 – March 12, 1889) was an American jurist.
Campbell was born near Washington, Georgia, to Col. Duncan Greene Campbell (for whom the now-defunct Campbell County, Georgia was named). Considered a child prodigy, he graduated from the University of Georgia in 1825 at the age of 14, and immediately enrolled at the United States Military Academy for three years and would have graduated in 1830, but withdrew upon the death of his father (July 1828) and returned home to Georgia. He read law with former Georgia governor John Clark, and was admitted to the bar in 1829, at the age of 18 which required a special act of the Georgia legislature.
While at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, on 24–25 December 1826, Campbell was involved in the Eggnog Riot also known as the "Grog Mutiny". Proceedings began on December 26, 1826, courts-martial was complete on 16 March 1827, and ended on May 3, 1827, with the Presidents adjusting of some of the verdicts and approval of the rest. Campbell was among 70 cadets that were involved but a review concluded that only 20 (one soldier) be charged. Many notable cadets such as Jefferson Davis (involved but not charged), George Bomford (Expelled on four charges, but allowed to resigned), and Robert E. Lee (not involved but testified), were involved in the incident. Nine expulsions were approved by President John Quincy Adams. There was a call for Campbell to be expelled, along with James W. M. "Weems" Berrien (remittance allowed) but this was rejected so Campbell escaped court martial.
Campbell later moved to Alabama, establishing a practice in Montgomery. There he married Anne Goldthwaite and, in 1836, was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives. In 1839 he moved to Mobile and resumed private practice, but was elected again to the state legislature in 1843. Campbell was twice offered appointment to the Alabama Supreme Court, but declined on both occasions.
In 1852 the death of John McKinley created a vacancy on the Supreme Court. President Millard Fillmore, a Whig, made three nominations to fill the vacancy, all of whom were denied confirmation by the Democratic-controlled Senate. After the election of Franklin Pierce, a Democrat, a group of sitting Supreme Court justices approached Pierce to recommend Campbell as a nominee; this is one of the few times sitting justices have made recommendations for new nominations. Pierce, who was hoping to stave off insurrection by appeasing the South, agreed to nominate the Alabaman Campbell. The nomination was made on March 21, 1853, and was approved by the Senate on the same day.
Campbell strongly opposed secession, and in early 1861 served as a mediator between William H. Seward, Simon Cameron, and the three Confederate commissioners Martin Crawford, Andre Roman, and John Forsyth, Jr.. Campbell had been instructed that the Lincoln administration's policy was for peace and reconciliation, not war, but during the meetings Campbell learned that the U.S. government was reinforcing Fort Sumter and had requested 75,000 volunteers, and Campbell decided that he had been lied to.
Court retirement and Confederate appointment
After learning of the reinforcement of Fort Sumter, Campbell resigned from the Court on April 30, 1861, and returned to Alabama. A year later he was named Assistant Secretary of War by Confederate president Jefferson Davis, a position he held through the end of the war. After the fall of Richmond in 1865, Campbell was arrested and imprisoned at Fort Pulaski, in Georgia, for six months. After his release, he was reconciled and resumed his law practice in New Orleans, Louisiana. In this private practice he argued a number of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court including the Slaughterhouse Cases and a number of other cases designed to obstruct Radical Reconstruction in the South.
Campbell served only eight years on the Supreme Court, though he remained in good health until his death in 1889 and could have served on the court for many years had the Civil War not intervened. He was regarded as a brilliant jurist.