Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Gabriel Duvall (1752-1844)
MSA SC 3520-379

Biography:

Born December 6, 1752, in Prince George's County.  Son of Benjamin Duvall (1719-c. 1801) and Susanna Tyler Duvall (1717/18-1794).  Resided at "Marietta," the Duvall family home in Prince George's County, and in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, from at least 1777 until at least 1802.  After 1802 he resided in Washington, D.C.  Married first wife Mary Bryce (c. 1762-1790), probably on July 24, 1787.  Married second wife Jane Gibbon (1757-1834) on May 5, 1795.  Children:  Edmund Bryce (1790-1831), possibly Polly (born by 1794).  Died on March 6, 1844, at "Marietta," Prince George's County; interred in  the family burial ground on the estate.

Duvall was a lawyer admitted to practice in Prince George's County in 1778, the Annapolis Mayor's Court by 1781, and Anne Arundel County by 1783.  He maintained an active law practice in Anne Arundel County between 1783 and 1792, and in Prince George's County until at least 1823.  He began his career as a clerk in the fourth through the ninth Maryland Conventions of 1775 and 1776, and a clerk in the Council of Safety in 1776.  He was a clerk in the Lower House after 1777 and a member of the House of Delegates representing Annapolis from 1787 to 1793.  He was a member of the Commission for the Sale of Confiscated British Property in 1781 and 1782.  He was a prosecutor in the Mayor's Court in Annapolis from 1781 to 1784.  From 1782 to 1786 he was a member of the Executive Council, resigning first on August 29, 1784, reelected in 1785, and resigning for the second time on April 20, 1786 because of his belief that ".....the late Act to vest certain Powers in the Governor and Council, is repugnant to the Constitution and Form of Government of this State....." (A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789, Vol. I,  A-H [Baltimore:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979], 291).  He was a recorder at Annapolis from 1788 to 1801.  He was a member of the board of visitors and governors of St. John's College in Annapolis from 1792 to 1802.   In 1794 he was appointed a major in the Anne Arundel County militia.  In November, 1794, he was elected to fill a vacancy in the U.S. House of Representatives and served until March 28, 1796, when he resigned to become a judge of the General Court of Maryland, 1796-1802.  He was an alderman at Annapolis in 1798, and a Maryland Senate elector in Annapolis in 1801.  He was the first comptroller of the U.S. Treasury, serving from December 15, 1802 to November 21, 1811.  In 1808 Duvall helped to organize the Columbia Manufacturing Company, a cotton factory in Washington, D.C.  On November 15, 1811 he was appointed by President James Madison associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and served until 1835.  He resigned on January 15, 1835 because of deafness.   Duvall was an Anglican who maintained pews in St. Anne's Church, Annapolis, and another parish in Prince George's County, probably Queen Anne Parish.

Duvall was acquainted with Thomas Jefferson and publicly defended him in 1800 against the charge that he had fled from Richmond before the British advance during the Revolution.  Duvall described Jefferson as "the Friend of the People" and was a Jefferson presidential elector in 1800.  Jefferson wrote to Duvall in 1802 expressing his "sincere esteem and high consideration" of him, noting he had "so much merited the public confidence."  Although John Quincy Adams remembered Duvall as a feeble individual domineered by William Pinkney, John Marshall praised him upon his resignation from the Supreme Court for "the fidelity with which he discharged the part which had devolved" on him, for his "private virtues," and the "purity of his public life" (ibid.).

At his death in 1844, Duvall left a law library of 528 volumes and an additional 400 volumes on other subjects as well as 800 acres of land in Prince George's County to his sister Sarah Simpson and his grandchildren Marcus, Edmund, Mary Frances, and Gabriella Augusta Duvall.

Return to Gabriel Duvall's Introductory Page


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