Category: Recent Acquisitions

The Williams Collection of Historic Law Books

The following is the first of several posts that will explore selected titles from a collection of law and law-related books donated by the family of A.S. Williams, III. The Williams Historic Law Book Collection consists of seventy volumes that date from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. They are in their original bindings, and many of them have penciled notes on the margins and flyleaves.

These lovely books were donated to the Bounds Law Library by the family of Birmingham insurance executive and noted bibliophile A.S. Williams, III. Williams’ magnificent collection of more than “20,000 volumes and pamphlets published between the late-seventeenth century and 2009” is a major holding of the Hoole Special Collections Library.[1] The family’s gift to the Bounds Law Library consists, as noted above, of a legal collection assembled by Williams’ father-in-law, the late G.G.W. Hoover. Hoover was himself an insurance executive and a man who had a rare appreciation of the printed sources of the common law.[2] A few titles from this collection are briefly described below, in alphabetical order by author.

James Barr Ames, A Selection of Cases on Pleading at Common Law (Cambridge, MA: John Wilson & Son, 1875). This is one of the first “casebooks” produced at Harvard during the deanship of Christopher Columbus Langdell. Ames (1846-1910) was one Harvard’s leading professors.[3] The theory behind the “casebook method” was that students, by reading properly arranged cases, would be able to deduce the principles and rules of law for themselves. Since the late 19th century—indeed, today—the casebook method has prevailed in American law schools. This copy of Ames contains numerous (and voluminous) marginal notes in a late 19th-century hand.

Charles W. Bacon, et al., The American Plan of Government, 4th edition (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1921). Bacon (1856-1938)[4] was a New York lawyer and an instructor in Political Science at the City College of New York.[5] He authored several works on the U.S. Constitution.

This volume contains notes on the front pastedown leaf and front free flyleaf, as well as underlining and other annotations in the text. These are in the hand of the book’s early owner William H. Wilson. One of Wilson’s flyleaf notes tells us that the book was purchased on February 6, 1952, at Claitor’s Book Store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Claitor’s is a longstanding bookstore, publishing house, and landmark of Louisiana’s world of books. Several of the titles in Bounds’ Williams Collection bear Claitor’s distinctive blue and white sticker.

James M. Beck (1861-1936) was a Philadelphia native and distinguished practitioner of law, admitted over the course of his career to the bars of Pennsylvania, New York, and England (he was made a bencher of Gray’s Inn in 1914). During World War I, Beck wrote articles and gave addresses against German aggression. In the 1920s he served as Solicitor General (1921-1925), appointed by President Warren G. Harding. Then he was elected to Congress as a Republican from Pennsylvania, serving from 1927 until his resignation in 1934. Beck resigned because he considered that Congress had become a “rubber stamp” for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Beck was a leading political conservative, whose books reflected his concern for the rights of the states.[6]

The A.S. Williams collection at Bounds includes three titles by James M. Beck, as follows:

(1) The Constitution of the United States: Yesterday, Today—and Tomorrow? Foreword by President Calvin Coolidge (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1924). Beck’s Wikipedia article says of this title that “It was a best-seller, going through seven printings within ten months. A special edition of 10,000 copies, with a foreword by President-elect Coolidge, went to schools and libraries across the country.” This copy contains many handwritten notes (mostly in pencil) on the recto of the front free flyleaf and at various points in the margins of the text.

(2) May It Please the Court, O.R. McGuire, editor (New York: Macmillan, 1930). This title consists of a number of speeches, articles, and addresses, some historical and some political. With the exception of a penciled date of the recto of the front free flyleaf, it appears to be unmarked.

(3) Our Wonderland Of Bureaucracy (New York: Macmillan, 1932). This critique of the complexities of modern government (published just before the advent of the New Deal) contains a good deal of heated language. On socialist leaders (p. 85), Beck says that their message appeals “particularly to the lower intelligence, which fears its own capacity and sub-consciously favors a dictatorship.” A slim notepad laid in the book contains several brief notes, including a quote from Aristotle: “The laws have no lasting vitality save in the spirit of the people.”[7]

Louis B. Boudin (1874-1952), Government by Judiciary, 2 volumes (New York: William Godwin, Inc., 1932). Boudin was a member of a group that was surely underrepresented in this collection. His Wikipedia page describes him as “a Russian-born American Marxist theoretician, writer, politician, and lawyer,” and says that he is chiefly remembered for Government by Judiciary. This work counters the views of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Specifically, Boudin takes Holmes to task for agreeing with Chief Justice Marshall that the U.S. Supreme Court has the power to declare laws unconstitutional. The work’s annotator (who favored red pencil) was likewise critical of this doctrine. He wrote “No! No!” opposite a passage setting forth Marshall’s view of the matter. This volume shows that legal populism was alive in Alabama, or wherever the annotator happened to live.

These volumes contain a number of marginal notes in red pencil. In many instances, the annotator was quite critical of Boudin’s interpretations. At the top of page 25, he asks: “How could [his] implication make both legislature and Supreme Court both supreme!!” On page 169, the annotator responds to the notion that Federalism or Antifederalism was “a matter of geography” by saying tersely: “No, never was.”

By the time he got to Chapter 33, on “Due Process of Law and Trial by Jury,” the annotator was taking marginal notes in a nearly auto-written mode. In the margin of page 357 he writes: “Trial by jury a good thing.” A few pages on, he summarizes what he has just read with the comment: “All silly.” On page 361, when Boudin refers to grand jury deliberations as “part of trial by jury,” the annotator comments: “But not an essential part.” On page 363, in response to another passage discussing juries, he writes: “But are not rights preserved as well by a jury of 8 as by 12?” Two pages later he attacks again, then relents: “What! Yet maybe so.”

Henrici de Bracton, De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae, edited by Sir Travers Twiss, 6 Volumes (London: Longman & Co., 1878). Volume I contains an Introduction, pp. [ix]-lxvi, and a detailed “Index,” pp. lxxvii-cv. Similar detailed indexes head up the main text in each of the six volumes. The main text is presented throughout the work in Latin and English on facing pages. A more conventional index is presented after the main text in each of the volumes.

Each volume contains the bookplate of Seneca Haselton (1848-1921), a notable lawyer, mayor of Burlington in Vermont, Minister Plenipotentiary to Venezuela (1894-1895), and member at different times of the Vermont State Supreme Court.[8]

Henrici de Bracton[9] (c. 1210-1268) was a Devonshire man who served as clerk to the great royal judge William of Raleigh, Henry III’s trusted advisor and Chief Justice. By most modern accounts, the treatise known as “Bracton” was compiled in the 1220s or 1230s by Raleigh and passed along to Bracton, who put it in its final form. Bracton was a learned man in his own right, having studied Civil Law at Oxford. Indeed, the treatise De Legibus is remarkable for its efforts to reconcile common law and the ius commune, including Roman and canon law. It is equally notable for its use of case notes (of over 400 cases) to illustrate points of pleading and doctrine. It was the first English treatise to do so. The great medieval historian Frederic William Maitland discovered Bracton’s “Notebook.” This was a personal reference work containing notes of some 2,000 cases. Maitland published an edited edition of it in 1887.[10]

De Legibus opens with a much-quoted passage on the needs of a king:

“These two things are necessary for a king who rules rightly, arms forsooth and laws, by which either time of war or of peace may be rightly governed, for each of them requires the aid of the other, in order that on the one hand the armed power may be in security, and on the other the laws themselves may be maintained by the use and protection of arms.” [I: 2][11]

Maitland called Bracton’s De Legibus “the crown and flower of English jurisprudence.”[12] Given the decades that it took to put this work together, the brilliant legal minds that worked on it, and the universal jurisprudence to which it aspired, the treatise has earned such praise.

Thus endeth the first installment concerning our A.S. Williams Collection titles. This selection has contained, among other things,

(1) An early casebook, one of the foundation-stones of twentieth-century legal education.

(2) Works by a prominent anti-New Deal lawyer.

(3) An important work by a notable “Marxist Theoretician.”

(4) A gleaming jewel of the Middle Ages.

What more could one ask for?

PMP

 

[1] For a description of Hoole’s A.S. Williams III Americana Collection, see the guide at https://guides.lib.ua.edu/williams-collection.

[2] Mr. Hoover died in 1976 at the age of 85. Mr. James Williams furnished Mr. Hoover’s obituary, dated June 9, 1976 (newspaper unknown).

[3] For Ames’ Wikipedia article, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Barr_Ames.

[4] For Bacon’s obituary, see New York Times, November 11, 1938.

[5] For a scathing review of this title, see 31 Political Science Quarterly 626-628 (Dec., 1916).

[6] For Beck’s Wikipedia article, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Barr_Ames.

[7] Our Wonderland of Bureaucracy, x.

[8] See Wikipedia, “Seneca Haselton,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seneca_Haselton.

[9] Sometimes spelled De Bratton.

[10] See in Bounds Law Library, at KD600 .B73 1887.

[11] The quote is even more sonorous in a more recent translation of Bracton. See George E. Woodbine, editor, On the Laws and Customs of England, Samuel Thorne translator, 4 volumes (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), thusly: “To rule well a king requires two things, arms and laws, that by them both times of war and of peace may rightly be ordered. For each stands in need of the other, that the achievement of arms be conserved [by the laws], the laws themselves “preserved by the support of arms.” The Woodbine/Thorne Bracton is available at the Bounds Law Library (Reserve) at KD660 .B7.

[12] See the Ames Foundation website, at https://amesfoundation.law.harvard.edu/digital/Bracton/bracton.html.

Recent Acquisitions: Six Ledger Sheets from the Circuit Court of Perry County, Alabama, February 11-19, 1878; Documenting Criminal Court Fees Certified by Alabama Probate Judge Porter King

This post by Rodney Lawley is an addition to our recent acquisitions. Lawley works with Litera Scripta editors as a research assistant in the special collections and archives of the Bounds Law Library.

The work of Porter King, a prominent nineteenth-century lawyer, state legislator, and businessman from the State of Alabama, is featured in the latest acquisition of the John C. Payne Special Collections of the Bounds Law Library. The Judge Porter King Ledger is a six-page legal document detailing criminal court fees issued by the Court of Perry County, Alabama (February 11-19, 1878).Image of Porter King ledger.

Judge King was born April 30, 1824, in Perry County, Alabama, and was the son of a wealthy Alabama plantation owner. After attending the University of Alabama and Brown University prior to 1843, King studied law under the tutelage of Colonel Thomas Chilton in Marion, Alabama. He began his law practice in 1845 and was elected to the state legislature for a single term in 1847.

Upon completing his term, King practiced law in Marion, Alabama, and he was subsequently elected as an Alabama Circuit Court Judge in 1850. King served the state in this capacity for fifteen years, interrupted only briefly by a one-year command of an Alabama Civil War regiment. In 1865, King was unseated from the Circuit Court by Governor Lewis E. Parsons, a provisional official appointed by President Andrew Johnson.

Following his removal, King applied his talents to business and served in many important roles, including director of the insurance company Central City, the Commercial Bank of Selma, and as president of the Selma, Marion, and Memphis Railroad.

King was later appointed as Alabama Probate Judge in 1877. It was during this short two-year term that he signed the ledger documents acquired for this collection. Although King was a probate judge during this period, the court fees levied in these documents are based upon criminal court convictions in cases such as murder, burglary, and affray. This action is supported by The Code of Alabama 1876 directing probate judges to act as the ex officio judge of a county court. It is with such legal warrant that Judge King executed the fee judgements recorded in this collection.

Although King’s service as probate judge was his last role on the bench, he is remembered fondly in an 1890 Birmingham Daily News article referring to King as “one of the best judges the state has ever had.” The article continued this acclaim by adding, “For the last thirty years he has been the most prominent man in the state.”

Documents within the Judge Porter King Ledger are directed to local sheriffs and constables and describe fees and costs pertaining to the issuance of writs, the serving of subpoenas, and other court actions that require public funding.

Image of Porter King ledger.One such document describes the court’s charge of twelve dollars and eighty cents for services provided in administrating a burglary charge. In this case, ten cents per mile was billed to the defendant for guard services required during his incarceration. Similarly-rich detail is provided for other court decisions, including conviction-related fees for the quasi-anachronistic charge of “carrying concealed brass knuckles.”

Judge Porter King died January 3, 1890, in Atlanta, Georgia, after “suffering about a month with a dropsical affection.” The John C. Payne Special Collections is pleased to present this representation of his historically-significant work.

Rodney Lawley

Sources

“An Alabama Jurist.” Birmingham Daily News. January 3, 1890, 6.

Owen, Thomas McAdory. History of Alabama and dictionary of Alabama biography. Volume 3. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1921. See 3:982 of the 1978 reprint by The Reprint Company, Publishers.

State of Alabama. The Code of Alabama 1876. “County Courts,” §719, 339.

 

Recent Acquisitions: A Treatise Collected Out of the Statutes of this Commonwealth, and According to Common Experience of the Lawes, Concerning the Office and Authorities of Coroners and Sheriffs

The latest addition to our collection of works dating from mid-seventeenth century England is a compilation of laws by one John Wilkinson. Its title is A Treatise Collected Out of the Statutes of this Commonwealth, and According to Common Experience of the Lawes, Concerning the Office and Authorities of Coroners and Sheriffs. He published it via The Company of Stationers in 1657. Title page of Wilkinson's Treatise.By this time there had been no king on the throne since the execution of Charles I in 1649. Puritans and supporters of Oliver Cromwell’s “Protectorate” were very much in control of the nation. They expected sheriffs and other officials to enforce punitive laws based, more or less overtly, on Puritan notions of morality. Consider this passage, from page 174 of Wilkinson’s book:

Detail of inscription in Wilkinson's Treatise.
Inscription from Wilkinson’s Treatise

“Also you shall enquire if any Ale-house keeper or other person do keep any unlawful games in his or their house or houses, or elsewhere, as cards, dice, tables, loggers, quoits, bowles, or such like. In this case the house-keeper loseth for every day forty shillings, and every player six shillings eight pence for every time. Also Constables ought to search monethly [sic] for such unlawful games and disorders in Ale-houses upon pain of forty shillings, and they may arrest such as they find playing unlawful games.”

In 1657 Englishmen still had three years to wait before the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy and the resumption, in large part, of ordinary games of chance. It may be worth noting that the American essayist H.L. Mencken famously described Puritanism as the “haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

For Dr. Julie Griffith’s cataloging of Wilkinson’s Treatise, see below:

 
Title A treatise collected out of the statutes of this common-wealth, and according to common experience of the lawes, concerning the office and authorities of coroners and sherifes : together with an easie and plaine method for the keeping of a court-leet, court-baron, and hundred-court / by John Wilkinson of Bernards Inne, Gent. ; to which is added the return of writts, by John Kitchin Esquire, now all published in English
Author Wilkinson, John, of Barnard’s Inn

 

Imprint London : Printed for the Company of Stationers, and are to be sold by W. Lee, D. Pakeman, and G. Bedell at their shops in Fleetstreet, 1657

 

LOCATION CALL # NOTE STATUS
 Special Collections  KD7296 .W55 1657  Available

 

Call # KD7296 .W55 1657
Phys. Description [4], 288, [2], 289-302, 305-378, [6] p. ; 17 cm. (8vo)
Note Signatures: A² B-2B8
Indexed In: Wing (2nd ed.) W2246
ESTC R6569
Note Includes index
Subject Coroners — Great Britain — Early works to 1800
Sheriffs — Great Britain — Early works to 1800
Courts baron and courts leet — Early works to 1800
Alt Author Kitchin, John. Retourna brevium novelment corrigee. English
Note Special t.p.: Return of writs newly corrected

 

 

Recent Acquisitions, the Bounds Law Library

Recent Library Acquisitions, the Bounds Law Library

Today we announce some recent additions to our Special Collections holdings. In particular we’d like to call attention to some titles associated with the troubles, execution, and printed afterlife of England’s King Charles I (reigned 1625-1649).

This monarch, the second of the House of Stuart, inherited from his father James I an ongoing controversy with the House of Commons. Charles’ willingness to collect taxes not passed by Parliament, to jail intransigent taxpayers without trial, to impose martial law and to billet soldiers in civilian houses led both houses of Parliament to assert—in 1628, by means of the “Petition of Right”—that such practices violated the rights of Englishmen. Charles, for his part, maintained that as monarch he had the Divine Right to rule according to his conscience. In 1629 he prorogued Parliament, following which he ruled without it for eleven years. During this time Charles was increasingly associated with arbitrary government—and with the suppression of the religious movement known as Puritanism, carried out by his authoritarian archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. By 1642, Charles and his royalist followers were at war with Parliament and its Puritan/Presbyterian supporters. After the battle of Naseby (1645) the fortunes of war turned against the royalists; by the end of 1647 the king was in captivity. A year later, Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army had secured effective power in England. On January 20, 1649, the House of Commons (a much-reduced “Rump” Commons) put Charles on trial for his life before a specially created “High Court of Justice,” which convicted him of high crimes. He was beheaded on January 30, 1649.

The first of Bounds’ recent acquisitions to be presented is The Regall Apology, or, The Declaration of the Commons, Feb. 11. 1647, Canvassed: Wherein Every Objection, and Their Whole Charge Against His Majesty is Cleared, and for the Most Part, Retorted (1648). This small quarto volume of just under one hundred pages was published anonymously, and wisely so, since neither Cavaliers nor Cromwellians scrupled to persecute authors or publishers. As its subtitle declares, the Regall Apology is an answer to charges recently endorsed by the Commons—namely, that the king had shown numerous instances of negotiating in bad faith and that he had supported “papists” at home and in foreign lands, notably in Ireland.[1]

The king’s execution did not snuff out devotion to his cause; indeed it made him a martyr. This is shown by another Special Collections title, the anonymous Reliquae Sacrae Carolinae, or, The Works of that Great Monarch and Glorious Martyr, King Charls [sic] the I, printed safely in The Hague in 1650. Bound in duodecimo (perfect for carrying in a pocket, discreetly), this volume is a collection of letters, speeches and proclamations, together with Charles’ answer to the charges that the House of Commons had brought against him in February 1647.[2] After the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660, Charles’ admirers did not have to exercise caution. Indeed, the king’s cult proved its durability; 1894 saw the formation of the Society of King Charles the Martyr, still in existence today.[3]

A second recent addition to our Special Collections is Thomas Manby’s An Exact Abridgment of all the Statutes, as Well Repealed as in Force,  Made in the Reigns of King Charles I and King Charles II, Until the End of the Sessions of Parliament the 29th of March 1673. This small format volume was printed in London by Henry Twyford, John Streater, and Elizabeth Flesher in 1674, and it quietly provides some telling evidence. For one thing, it skips from “Anno Decimo Septimo” (the 17th year, i.e., 1642) of Charles I, to “Anno Duodecimo” (the 12th year) of Charles II.[4] The latter acceded to the throne in 1660, the year of Stuart “Restoration”; but Manby, like with other royalists, counted Charles II’s years as king from the murder of his father in 1649. Thus his duodecimo year would have been 1661. Thereby Manby effectively skipped over the English Civil War, the Commonwealth (proclaimed in 1649), Cromwell’s Protectorate (1653-1659), the brief Protectorate of Cromwell’s son Richard, and the ad hoc measures that followed. To Royalists, the enactments of those years were null and void, simply not worthy of discussion.

Lest it be thought that Bounds’ Special Collections purchases only royalist titles, consider our recent acquisition of Baron George Nugent Grenville’s Memorials of John Hampden, His Party and His Times (London: George Bell and Sons, 1899). This reprint of a biography first published in the 1830s tells of the life and exploits of a Puritan hero fatally wounded in 1643—whose name lives on in the history of Hampden Sydney College in Virginia.

PMP

Our cataloger for these titles is Dr. Julie Griffith. The catalog records of the above works are as follows:

Title The regall apology, or, The declaration of the Commons, Feb. 11. 1647. canvassed : wherein every objection, and their whole charge against His Majesty is cleared, and for the most part, retorted

 

Author Bate, George, 1608-1669

 

Imprint [London : s.n.], Printed in the yeare, 1648

 

LOCATION CALL # NOTE STATUS
 Special Collections  DA396.A3 B3  Available
.

 

Call # DA396.A3 B3
Phys. Description [2], 92, [2] p. ; 19 cm (4to)
text txt rdacontent
unmediated n rdamedia
volume nc rdacarrier
Note Published anonymously. By George Bate. Cf. Halkett & Laing (2nd ed.)
Place of publication from Wing
The last leaf is blank
Indexed In: Wing (2nd ed., 1994) B1090
Thomason E.436[5]
ESTC R17396
Subject England and Wales. Parliament. House of Commons — Early works to 1800
Charles I, King of England, 1600-1649
Alt Title Regall apology
Declaration of the Commons, Feb. 11. 1647. canvassed

 

 

Title An exact abridgment of all the statutes, as well repealed as in force. Made in the reigns of King Charles I. and King Charles II. Until the end of the sessions of Parliament the 29th of March 1673. With a catalogue of all publick and private acts. And also, of the lords, spiritual and temporal of the House of peeres. And the names of the members of the House of commons, and the counties, cities and burroughs for which they serve … By T. Manby

 

Author Manby, Thomas, active 1666-1675

 

Imprint London : Printed by Henry Twyford, John Streater, and Elizabeth Flesher, 1674

 

LOCATION CALL # NOTE STATUS
 Special Collections  KD140 .M36 1674  Available

 

Call # KD140 .M36 1674
Phys. Description 20 preliminary leaves, 194, [24] pages ; 17 cm
text txt rdacontent
unmediated n rdamedia
volume nc rdacarrier
Subject Abridgments — Great Britain
Alt Author Great Britain. Laws, etc

 

Title Memorials of John Hampden, his party and his times / by Lord Nugent

 

Author Nugent, George Nugent Grenville, Baron, 1788-1850

 

Imprint London : George Bell, 1899

 

LOCATION CALL # NOTE STATUS
 Special Collections  DA396.H18 N9 1899  Available

 

Call # DA396.H18 N9 1899
Phys. Description lxxv, 420 pages : facsm. ; 19 cm
text txt rdacontent
unmediated n rdamedia
volume nc rdacarrier
Series Bohn’s historical library
Bohn’s historical library
Bibliog. Includes bibliographical references and index
Subject Nugent, George Nugent Grenville, Baron, 1788-1850
Hampden, John, 1594-1643
Statesmen — Great Britain — Biography
Great Britain — Politics and government — 1603-1649
Great Britain — Church history — 17th century
Great Britain — History — Charles I, 1625-1649
Alt Author Forster, John, 1812-1876

 

[1] The charges, which also included accusations that Charles had in effect murdered his father James I, can be found in A Declaration of the Commons of England, in Parliament Assembled, Expressing Their Reasons and Grounds of Passing the Late Resolutions Touching No Farther Address or Application To Be Made to the King, (London: Printed for Edward Husband, [February 15,] 1647).

[2] For the charges, see supra, note 1, A Declaration of the Commons of England, in Parliament Assembled.

[3] For a Wikipedia article on the society, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_of_King_Charles_the_Martyr. See also Andrew Lacey, The Cult of King Charles the Martyr (Rochester, New York: Boydell Press, 2003).

[4] Thomas Manby, An Exact Abridgment of all the Statutes, as Well Repealed as in Force, Made in the Reigns of King Charles I and King Charles II . . . (London: Printed by Henry Twyford, John Streater, and Elizabeth Flesher, 1674), [vi-viii], [ix].

George Robertson and Book Consumers in Early 19th Century Kentucky

The following is a post by our friend Kurt X. Metzmeier containing commentary on a letter from our collection.

George Robertson and Book Consumers in Early 19th Century Kentucky

by Kurt X. Metzmeier

In an interesting 1820 letter, Kentucky lawyer George Robertson illustrates some of the difficulties of a book consumer on the expanding American frontier:

Lancaster 6th July 1820

Gentlemen,

You have written to me twice that you had rec’d two boxes of books for me and sent them to Jas Anderson and Co. in Lexington.  Since the reception of this information I have sent three times to Mr. Anderson but can’t find the boxes. They say they never rec’d them.

I’m very anxious to get them—and fear that you did not send them. It is the third attempt I have made to get books here and have never succeeded yet. There is something very strange in the fatality that befalls my books.

Be so good as to examine and if you have them, send them on as soon as possible—or let me know what has become of them.

Respectfully &c

G. Robertson

Robertson Letter, 1820

The letter is a nice find. It involves one of the towering figures in Kentucky legal history at an early point in his life. It also shines a light into the book trade on the American frontier and does so in the middle of an economic crisis.  Finally, the tone of the letter is relatively mild but you can faintly discern the rumblings of a legendary temper, one that would lead to one of the more famous fits of pique in Civil War history, a stubborn conflict that would involve governors, state and federal courts, and President Lincoln’s own wallet.

George Robertson (1790-1874)

George Robertson, whose portrait hangs in the courtroom of the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, University of Louisville, served on Kentucky’s highest court 1829 to 1834, when he resigned to resume his private practice. He returned to the court to serve from 1864 to1871.[1] For a quarter-century, he led the prestigious law department at Transylvania University, teaching men like John Marshall Harlan the rudiments of jurisprudence.[2] His decisions on issues of criminal law and tort law were widely cited, and Kentucky histories and bar tributes mark him as a leading figure in the pantheon of state judges.[3]

George Robertson

However, in 1820 this was all in the future. Robertson was at this time a journeyman lawyer (he had been practicing law since he turned 19-years-old) and a U.S. Congressman serving his third term. He had just completed a term as chair of the public lands committee and, in the prior year, had successfully sponsored a bill which he wrote to establish the territorial government of Arkansas.[4] However, being “poor and having a growing family,” he would soon quit his seat to concentrate on the practice of law.[5]  Perhaps the two boxes of books he purchased were the working law library he needed to establish his new law office.

The Kentucky Book Market in 1820

From his home in the Bluegrass, Robertson would have had many opportunities to assemble a well-balanced library and legal collection.[6] Nearby Lexington was the intellectual capital of Kentucky for its first half century. As noted by pioneer William A. Leavy (whose 1873 manuscript memoir depicts a commercial life in pioneer Lexington), in 1820 it already had several booksellers.[7] Most had long associations with the publishing centers in Philadelphia and Cincinnati.[8]

As the letter suggests, many Kentuckians also purchased books by post. In “Nursery of a Supreme Court Justice,” Peter Scott Campbell and I examined probate records of books in the library of Robertson’s neighbor from nearby Danville, James Harlan.[9] We found Harlan owned many titles from the “Law Library.” Set up like the old Book-of-the Month Club, the Law Library was published by Philadelphia firm of T. & J.W. Johnson, which reprinted English legal treatises and mailed them out regularly to subscribers.

Debt and Default on the Alabama Frontier: Notes on a 19th Century Justice’s Ledger

The subject of this blog post is a ledger used by Justices of the Peace in Clarkesville, Alabama during the 1820s and 1830s. Justices of the Peace used ledgers like this one to record developments in the cases they heard. This ledger specifically deals with the complaints filed between neighbors for outstanding debts. In it, we see the financial mechanisms of an early 19th century Alabama frontier society. Thanks to Hudson Cheshire, our former research assistant and newly-minted J.D. for this post.

Debt and Default on the Alabama Frontier: Notes on a 19th century Justice’s Ledger

Hudson Cheshire

The subject of this blog post is a ledger used by Justices of the Peace in Clarkesville, Alabama during the 1820s. The ledger is about 200 pages long, with cardboard panels and a badly deteriorated leather spine. It is 14 ½ inches in length, 6 ¼ inches wide, and 1 ¼ inches deep.[1]

William A. Robinson, a Justice of the Peace of Clarkesville County, Alabama, began recording cases in this ledger in June of 1824.

Image of first page of Justices' Docket.
First page of Justices’ Docket

The last case recorded is from August of 1830. During this period, the docket went into the hands of at least two successive justices: Samuel Beckham, from July of 1827 to May of 1828, and Kendrick Ford from September 1828 to July of 1830. The successive justices continued to record developments in the cases first handled by their predecessors. The contents of this book were not, in all likelihood, a matter of public record, but instead a mechanism for recording, for future reference, whether disputes had been resolved. Thus, there is little in the ledger by way of common law precedent or factual background for any of the legal disputes.  In that respect, it is closer to an accounting notebook than a legal document. Still, it sheds light on the legal lives of Alabamians in the 1820s. To best contextualize the ledger’s contents, a few words are in order regarding Clarke County circa 1825 and the Justices’ legal duties.

Clarke County is located in southwest Alabama, just below the Black Belt and west of Monroe County, the hometown of author Harper Lee and inspiration for the setting of To Kill A Mockingbird. In the novel, narrator Scout Finch credits the events of the book to Andrew Jackson: “If General Jackson hadn’t run the Creeks up the creek, Simon Finch would never have paddled up the Alabama, and where would we be if he hadn’t?”[2] If the Creek War of 1813 accounts for the origin of Lee’s fictional town of Maycomb, it also seems to have been a major catalyst for population growth in Clarke County. While Alabama historian Thomas Owen writes that by the time of the Creek War, Clarke County was populated enough to “furnish many soldiers to Gen. F.L. Claiborne’s army,” he also notes that the greatest population growth occurred in the decade after the war. According to Owen, a tannery, shoe factory, water mill, “iron screw” (for cotton packing), and a sawmill were all erected in Clarke County between the war’s end and 1821.[3]

The Justices who kept this ledger lived in Clarkesville, which, in the years the ledger covers, was the county seat (in 1831 the citizens voted for the county seat to be moved to Grove Hill, “the geographic center of said county”).[4] That in this time Clarkesville was the seat of a rapidly growing county is interesting because this particular ledger is almost exclusively devoted to cases involving debt and financial obligations. Through the ledger, we see the financial interdependence of a growing rural community. We see the Justice of the Peace, not just as a public servant, but also as a tradesman, who played the role of facilitating financial transactions between the citizens of his community.

Ephemera from an 1898 Congressional Campaign

Editors’ Note

This post represents the second installment in a new category that we hope will be an occasional feature of our blog. Posts in this category will feature materials that are unique in some way, perhaps through ownership, creative attachment or insertion of documents, or other unusual items. Our previous post, “Next to His Bible”: John Randolph Griffin’s copy of the Louisiana Civil Code was the inspiration for this category that we have titled, Preserved in Amber. Our current post features an interesting small collection that is described by Hudson Cheshire, a 2017 J.D. candidate at the University of Alabama School of Law.

Ephemera from an 1898 Congressional Campaign

The topic of this post is a recently acquired collection that offers a glimpse into the life of a small town politician in early 20th century Alabama. The collection includes a copy of Alabama Reports Volume XXVII (the Alabama Supreme Court cases argued in the June term of 1855), and three documents that were laid within its pages. Two of the documents are laundry receipts for one Samuel Blackwell. The third is a notice for a series of events where Blackwell would be speaking in his 1898 campaign for Congress.Blackwell 01

Samuel Blackwell, the subject of the laundry receipts and political flyer, lived from 1848 to 1918 and is buried in the Decatur City Cemetery. While history has relegated Blackwell to obscurity, the sparse documents that remain suggest a man of relative political success in his place and time.Blackwell 02

Blackwell began his career in public service early, enlisting in the Confederate Army at fourteen years old. By his fifteenth birthday, he was a prisoner of war in Camp Douglass, a large Union prisoner camp in Chicago. Years later, as the Morgan County delegate for the Constitutional Convention of 1901, Blackwell recounted a comrade’s sardonic description of the conditions at Camp Douglass: “We slept until after breakfast, skipped dinner, and went to bed before supper.” [Journal of the Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of the State of Alabama, 1901, 3025].

A document from 1903 indicates that Blackwell served at least one term as mayor of New Decatur in the early twentieth century and in the 1910-1912 Biennial Report of the Attorney General of Alabama, Samuel Blackwell is listed as the Blackwell 03Solicitor for the Morgan County Law and Equity Court. Perhaps the only lasting glimpse into Blackwell’s perspective comes from his words at the 1901 Constitutional Convention, preserved in the Official Proceedings. Describing the Convention’s atmosphere of pessimism regarding the voting capacity of the general population, historian Sheldon Hackney quotes Blackwell saying, “nature has marked the weak and incompetent to be protected by Government, rather than to be the directors of the Government.” [Populism to Progressivism in Alabama, 196].

Had Blackwell been successful in his 1898 campaign for Congress, he would have been better remembered in Alabama history. Nevertheless, available records merit the assumption that Blackwell was an influential political figure at the turn of the century, if only in his own small corner of the world.

Hudson Cheshire, Research Assistant, Bounds Law Library

 

Historic Maps of Alabama: Judge Benjamin Cohen Exhibit

The University of Alabama Law Library Special Collections recently received a collection of maps acquired by Special Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Cohen during and after litigation of the Alabama and Mississippi Boundary Case [470 U.S. 93 (1985)]. Cohen Maps PleadingThis case was initiated in 1979 by Alabama Attorney General Charles Graddick, who was aided by a team that included then-Assistant Attorney General Mark Brandon, now Dean of the University of Alabama School of Law. The Alabama Attorney General’s office  joined with its counterparts in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Florida to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the status of the “Mississippi Sound”—a much-navigated waterway running just off the coastline of these states. The states wanted the Sound classified as an inland waterway, thereby granting to each ownership of a share of the submerged lands. With ownership would come the right to regulate access to the petroleum and other mineral deposits under the Sound. Constitutionally, the matter fell under the original jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court, and in the printed briefs it is identified as “No. 9, Original.” The Court appointed a Special Master to hear the case; he delivered his findings in 1984. The Special Master found “that the whole of Mississippi Sound qualifies as a historic bay under the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone. . . and thus constitutes inland waters.” Both the states and the U.S. Government filed exceptions to the Special Master’s report; Benjamin Cohen argued the case for Alabama in November 1984. In February 1985 the Court ruled in favor of the Special Master’s report, overruling the federal government’s exceptions.

New Acquisitions: Judge Cecil M. Deason Collection

DeasonIn Alabama, one seldom has a chance to examine the papers of a state trial court judge. Circuit judges don’t often leave behind collections for posterity—less so, certainly, than their counterparts on the appellate bench. The Bounds Law Library recently received the papers of Judge Cecil M. Deason (1903-1994), who lived in stirring times and found himself in the middle of historic events. The following was written by Research Assistant Ethan Wilkinson (UA Law, 3L; BA, Birmingham Southern College). He also was the primary arranger of the Deason Collection.

The University of Alabama Law Library Special Collections recently acquired the papers of Cecil Deason, a long time Solicitor and Circuit Judge in Jefferson County. The collection, consisting predominantly of newspaper clippings, photographs, judicial materials, and an assortment of other items, covers most of Deason’s adult life, including his service in World War II, his time in the Solicitor’s Office in Jefferson County, and his tenure serving on the bench in Alabama’s 10th Judicial Circuit.Deason Scrapbook

Cecil Deason was born in Bessemer in 1903. He graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1929 and returned to Birmingham to begin a private practice. Two years later he was appointed Solicitor to the Jefferson County Court of Misdemeanors. It was during this time that Deason constructed his first scrapbook, revealing his fascination with both high profile crimes and the judicial system, recording any and all newspaper articles that related to highly publicized crimes, the Alabama court system, or trials that caught the newspapers’ attention. Deason enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1941, serving as a staff intelligence officer in the Pacific and eventually rising to the rank of Commander by the end of World War II. During his time in the service, Deason kept a meticulously detailed photographic record of his wartime experience, in particular chronicling his stay in the Philippines. The snapshots, arranged into a large photo album, paint a vivid portrait of both the brutality of the conflict and the workaday atmosphere of camp life, each juxtaposed against the jungle background of the South Pacific islands.Deason holding Klan robe

After the War, Deason returned to the Solicitor’s office in Birmingham. During this time the future judge made a name for himself as an anti-crime force in the state. In particular, two cases propelled Deason’s name into the headlines and laid the foundation for his future rise to the judiciary: the prosecution of Ku Klux Klan members for attacking and flogging a woman in northern Jefferson County in 1949 and the prosecution of Albert Fuller for the assassination of Democratic Attorney General candidate Albert Patterson in Phenix City in 1954.The Klan case drew a national spotlight to Birmingham, where a rash of cross burnings and attacks had swept the area in the early summer of 1948. One of the victims, Edna McDana of Adamsville, identified one the masked attackers who broke into her home and flogged her. However, despite Deason’s and Chief Solicitor Emmett Perry’s best efforts and McDana’s testimony, Coleman Lollar was acquitted by an all-white jury after just an hour and a half of deliberation. But the trial broke headlines across the country and put both Deason’s and Perry’s names and faces (often holding Klan robes up for the jury to inspect) in papers from New York and Chicago. Deason would later receive hate mail from as far away as New York, some writers attacking him for prosecuting a white man and others accusing him of not doing enough to gain a conviction.Deason discussion

Deason gained further notoriety for the prosecution of Phenix City Deputy Sheriff Albert Fuller for the murder of Albert Patterson. Patterson had just received the Democratic nomination for Attorney General in a hotly contested primary, campaigning on a promise of saving Phenix City, his home town in Russell County, from the clutches of the local (and incredibly corrupt) political machine. Fuller, Circuit Solicitor Arch Ferrell, and outgoing Attorney General Si Garrett were indicted for the murder, though the latter two were ultimately acquitted. The case was moved to Birmingham to shield the proceedings from the corruption of Russell County’s judiciary, and Deason was appointed special prosecutor for the case by Attorney General John Patterson, Albert’s son. Although Fuller was defended by Roderick Beddow, then the most eminent defense attorney in the state, Deason secured a life sentence in a trial that gripped the state’s attention. Within months of the trial’s conclusion, the younger Patterson cleaned out the city’s corruption in a move that would send him to the governor’s mansion in 1959, and Deason cemented his legacy as a hard line prosecutor worthy of serious consideration for judicial office.

Deason Scrapbook Deason was appointed to the specially created 10th Judicial Circuit in 1961 after receiving votes of confidence from both the Alabama State Bar Association and the Alabama Association of Circuit Judges. He served that seat for over a decade, eventually becoming a prominent member of the Circuit Judges’ Association and a vocal leader of the judicial reform movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, vehemently defending the jury system and pressing for increased salaries and resources for Alabama’s courts. When he retired in the mid-1970s, Judge Deason left a legacy reflected in the papers and numerous newspaper clippings he saved. His advocacy of tough justice for criminals and his stands on behalf of judicial reform were each underscored by a deep sense of duty and service to both the state and country.

New Acquisitions: Letter from Justice Hugo Black

We have recently acquired a 1953 letter from Justice Hugo L. Black to his good friends Marilew and Herman Kogan of Chicago. In it Black congratulates the Kogans upon the birth of their son Mark. Apparently he is responding to Marilew’s announcement: “We just produced another Democrat.” For information on the rich cultural and journalistic careers of Herman (1914-1989) and Marilew (1919-2007), see their obituaries in the Chicago Tribune, March 9, 1989, and June 22, 2007. For another glimpse of Black’s friendship with the Kogans, see Roger K. Newman, Hugo Black: A Biography (New York: Pantheon Books, 1994), 100. Below is a transcript of the letter, followed by digital images of the same.

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Feb. 10-53-

Dear Marilew & Herman:

That’s just grand about Mark! Maybe by the time he reaches voting age his party will be in power, although things look a little dark now.

Wish I could see all of you, but during these winter months I like warm climates. In fact, I am leaving in a few minutes for three weeks in Florida. Court recessed yesterday until March 9th.

 My hope for you two is that you enjoy your children as much as I have enjoyed & now enjoy mine. They have convinced me all over again that the family is a grand institution.

 Why do you not have a baby sitter sometime & visit Wash[in]gton? Looks like if you wait too long you might have to get an army of sitters—and that too would be OK.

 Love to both of you and the young Kogans,

                                                                        Sincerely, Hugo Black

P.S. If you would give me your address sometime I would not have to rely on delivery at your place of business [the Chicago Sun Times]. 

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Black-Kogan letter combined pagesBlack-Kogan envelope