Horace Binney

Horace Binney bigraphy, stories - American lawyer

Horace Binney : biography

January 4, 1780 – August 12, 1875

Horace Binney (January 4, 1780 – August 12, 1875) was an American lawyer who served as an Anti-Jacksonian in the United States House of Representatives.


Binney was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and graduated from Harvard College in 1797, where he founded the Hasty Pudding Club in 1795; he then studied law in the office of Jared Ingersoll (1749–1822), who had been a member of the Constitutional convention of 1787, and who from 1791 to 1800 and again from 1811 to 1816 was the attorney-general of Pennsylvania.

Binney was admitted to the bar in Philadelphia in 1800 and practised there with great success for half a century, and was recognized as one of the leaders of the bar in the United States. He served in the Pennsylvania legislature between 1806–1807, and was a Whig member of the United States House of Representatives between 1833–1835 – here he defended the United States Bank, and opposing the policy of President Andrew Jackson.

His most famous case, in which he was unsuccessfully opposed by Daniel Webster, was the case of Vidal v. Girard’s Executors, which involved the disposition of the fortune of Stephen Girard. Binney’s argument in this case greatly influenced the interpretation of the law of charities.

Binney made many public addresses, the most noteworthy of which, entitled Life and Character of Chief Justice Marshall, was published in 1835. He also published:

  • Leaders of the Old Bar of Philadelphia (1858), and an
  • Inquiry into the Formation of Washingtons Farewell Address (1859).

During the American Civil War he issued three pamphlets (1861, 1862 and 1865), discussing the right of habeas corpus under the American Constitution, and justifying President Lincoln in his suspension of the writ. He was elected an Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1867.