Biography of Charles Daniels



CHARLES DANIELS, whose death took place while this work was in press, occupied for many years a conspicuous position at the bar and on the bench. He was a son of Welsh parents and was born in New York city March 24, 1825. His father was a shoemaker and of him the son learned that trade. The family subsequently removed to Toledo and there both parents died. At the age of seventeen years, with limited education, the young man was forced to depend upon his own efforts for a livelihood and advancement in life. While laboring as a journeyman shoemaker he stopped in Canandaigua and in the court house in that village he one day listened to a speech by the eloquent Mark H. Sibley, which made so forcible an impression upon him that he at once formed the determination to become a lawyer. Great as was the task he thus set before himself, he attacked it with all the zeal of his ambitious nature. By reducing his expenses to the least possible amount he saved money with which to buy books and began study, which he pursued late at night and kept an open book on his bench beside him through the day. By the same persistent and unceasing study he acquired such a knowledge of the classics while in Canandaigua that he was permitted to finish his course of law study in five years instead of seven, as was then required. As he advanced in professional learning he entered the law office of Clinton & Nichols and also studied with Eli Cook, one of the former mayors of Buffalo. He was admitted to the bar at the age of twenty-two years and was taken into partnership with Mr. Cook, with whom he remained until 1850. After that he continued in practice alone.

From the beginning his legal career was brilliant and honorable. In 1863 he was appointed by Governor Seymour to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court bench caused by the death of Judge James G. Hoyt. In November of the same year he was elected to fill he unexpired term, which ended in 1869. He was then re-elected for a full term of eight years, at the expiration of which he was again elected. for the term of fourteen years. This long period of judicial service expired in 1891. The amount of arduous labor performed by Judge Daniels as Supreme Court justice was enormous, sometimes involving the decision of 500 cases in a year; and his judicial ability was so great and his knowledge of law so profound that his decisions were rarely reversed. He was appointed associate justice of the General Term, first department, in 1873, by Governor Dix, and was appointed to the same position in 1880 by Governor Cornell. By this time, through his sitting on the trial of the canal frauds, under appointment by Governor Til. den, and his decisions in the famous case against Tweed, Genet and others of the notorious New York city ring, Judge Daniels had acquired a national reputation.

In 1892 he was elected to Congress to represent the Thirty third District, and was re-elected in 1894. In that body he added to his high reputation. He was the leading spirit in founding the Buffalo Law School in 1887, which became the law departmeut of the University of Buffalo. He was elected dean of the school and professor of constitutional law, both of which positions he held until his death. Judge Daniels died suddenly in his office on December 20, 1897.

Our County and its people
A descriptive work on Erie County, New York
Edited by: Truman C. White
The Boston History Company, Publishes 1898


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