Justice Biographies

Justice Horace Peters Biddle

(Twenty-sixth Justice)

Justice Biddle

Justice Biddle was born on March 24, 1811, in Hocking County, Ohio, and died May 13, 1900, in Logansport, Indiana.32

Justice Biddle was an exceptional scholar and voracious reader.33 He did not begin to study law until age twenty-five.34 His intellect gained him the attention of U.S. Senator Thomas Ewing of Ohio, who used his influence to help Biddle obtain an appointment at a prominent Ohio law firm.35

He was admitted to the Ohio bar at Cincinnati and to the Federal bar in 1839.36 In that same year, he began his own law practice in Logansport, Indiana, which he continued until 1846, when he was elected judge of the Eighth Circuit.37 He served there until he resigned in 1852 to make an unsuccessful bid for an Indiana state congressional seat.38 He was re-elected judge of the Eighth Circuit in 1860, and served until the end of his second term in 1871.39

In 1857, Justice Stuart resigned from the Indiana Supreme Court seat, indicating that the resignation would be effective the first Monday in January 1858.40 The Republican party assumed that the seat was vacant and nominated Biddle, who was elected by a considerable majority.41 Governor Willard, a Democrat, believed that Justice Stuart's term ended in 1859, and he refused to commission Biddle, instead appointing James Worden to the bench.42 The Indiana Supreme Court (all Democrats) heard the case on the strength of mandamus proceedings which Biddle brought against the governor.43 The case was decided in the governor's favor, and James Worden was appointed to the bench.44 In 1872, the Democratic party nominated Biddle for an Indiana Supreme Court seat, and he won the election.45 His term on the Indiana Supreme Court was from January 4, 1875 to January 3, 1881.46

Although Justice Biddle gained great recognition as an attorney and as an Indiana Supreme Court Justice, he is probably more widely known for his literary work. His first published work was a collection of poetry titled, A Few Poems, which received glowing reviews from the great poets of the time.47

By far, Justice Biddle's greatest accomplishments were in the field of music. He wrote many works about music theory including a highly popular treatise titled The Musical Scale.48 He invented an instrument called a "tetrachord" and subsequently published a book about its invention.49 And he wrote a review of Tyndal's theories of sound which was accorded a high rank not only in this country, but also in England.50 Among Biddle's many writings the following titles should be mentioned: Elements of Knowledge; A Scrapbook of Poems; The Amatories: by an Amateur; A Discourse on Art; The Definition of Poetry; The Analysis of Rhyme; Russian Literature; America's Boyhood.51

32. 1 id. at 260.
33. 1 id.
34. 1 id. at 260-61.
35. 1 id. at 261.
36. 1 id.
37. 1 id.
38. 1 id.
39. 1 id. at 262.
40. 1 id. at 261.
41. 1 id.
42. 1 id.
43. 1 id.
44. 1 id.
45. 1 id. at 262.
46. 1 id.
47. 1 id.
48. 1 id.
49. 1 id.
50. 1 id. at 262-63.
51. 1 id. at 263.

Source: Browning, Minde C., Richard Humphrey, and Bruce Kleinschmidt. "Biographical Sketches of Indiana Supreme Court Justices." Indiana Law Review: Vol. 30, No. 1, 1997. View this source in PDF format.