John Davis (U.S. district court judge) Article

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John Davis
JohnDavis BostonAthenaeum6.png
District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts
In office
February 20, 1801 – July 10, 1841
Preceded by John Lowell
Succeeded by Peleg Sprague
United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts
In office
Preceded by Harrison Gray Otis
Succeeded by George Blake
Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
from the Plymouth County district
In office
Member of the Massachusetts Senate
from the district
In office
Personal details
Born(1761-01-25)January 25, 1761
Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
DiedJanuary 25, 1847(1847-01-25) (aged 86)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Alma mater Harvard College
Occupation Judge

John Davis (January 25, 1761 – January 14, 1847) was a lawyer, member of both the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, comptroller, and federal judge.

Early life

Davis first received a private school education at Brookfield Academy like his father, before graduating from Harvard College in 1781, going on to read law and being admitted to the bar in 1786, before practicing private law in Plymouth.


Political career

In 1788 he was selected as a delegate from Plymouth to the Massachusetts state convention, called to consider adoption of the Federal Constitution. He was elected and served three times in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, then in 1795 became state senator of Plymouth County.

Later in 1795 he accepted President George Washington's request to serve as Comptroller of the Treasury of the United States, a position he resigned from in 1796 over matters of salary. Washington then appointed him United States Attorney for the district of Massachusetts, leaving the post in 1801. Subsequently, he moved permanently to Boston.


In 1801 he was appointed by President John Adams as judge of the United States district court for the district of Massachusetts. His probable most noted achievement was his wise handling of the law in regards to commercial mercantile embarrassment of New England at the time of an embargo and the War of 1812 which instilled the community's confidence in the law.

John Davis resigned this post on July 10, 1841, due to his advanced age and lived out his days in Boston, Massachusetts.

Other activities

In addition to his legal career, he pursued an interest in scientific phenomena and was deeply interested in New England history and antiquity. He served as president of the Massachusetts Historical Society (1818-1835), and was said to be the first person to refer to the Plymouth colonists as pilgrims, in his ode to an anniversary celebration in 1794. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1792, [1] He was also a Fellow[ clarification needed of what?] (1803), treasurer (1810) and member of the board of overseers (1827-1836). Davis was also elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1813. [2]

See also


  1. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter D" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  2. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
Legal offices
Preceded by
John Lowell
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Peleg Sprague