Registration Opens for Third Annual Digital Archives in the Commonwealth Summit

Registration is now open for the third annual Digital Archives in the Commonwealth Summit, which will take place at the Library of Virginia on December 6, 2019. Registration is free.

The Summit is an interdisciplinary conference focused on the creation, management, and use of digital archives throughout Virginia. Building on the success of previous Summits in 2017 and 2018, this year’s gathering will focus on digital projects that address the legacies of slavery and freedom in Virginia. We welcome individuals from various fields—archivists, scholars, librarians, museum specialists, and technologists—to attend and join the conversation.

The 2019 Summit is a joint effort between the University of Virginia Law Library, the Library of Virginia, George Mason University, and the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.

You can register for the Summit here.

Panels this year include:

  • Virginia Untold: African American Narratives at the Library of Virginia
  •  Show & Tell: New & Upcoming Digital Projects from Around Virginia
  • The Stories We Tell: Complicating Institutional Narratives Through Archival Expansion
  • Community-Engaged Learning through Oral Histories and Community Archives
  • Positioning Digital Archives as Scholarly Endeavors
  • A lightning round with the opportunity for audience members to present

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

The Arthur J. Morris Law Library is the home of research for students and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law.

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Library Acquires Jefferson Letter on Law School’s Founding

Just months before he died, Thomas Jefferson completed one of his last tasks in the project to establish the University of Virginia: the selection of the University’s first law professor. In an April 1826 letter recently acquired by the UVA Law Library, Jefferson wrote to members of the University’s Board of Visitors that John Tayloe Lomax had accepted the professorship of law and would commence law classes in July 1826.

Early this summer, the Law Library was alerted to the letter’s upcoming auction at Sotheby’s. Prior to its sale at Sotheby’s, the letter had once been part of the James S. Copley Library, a large private collection of American manuscripts, books, pamphlets, broadsides, and maps. As a circular letter to the Board of Visitors, Jefferson wrote, signed, and sent copies to every member of the Board. The New York Public Library holds James Madison’s copy in its collections; the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at UVA holds the copy sent to Joseph Carrington Cabell. Based on markings on the UVA Law Library’s newly acquired letter, we believe that this is the copy sent to James Breckenridge.

The Law School Opens

Jefferson’s letter is an important institutional record in its own right, but its significance becomes more apparent in the context of other sources from the same time period. Based on further research, we know that the letter marked the end of a prolonged search for the University’s first law professor, during which Jefferson and Madison had scrutinized the credentials, elocution, and politics of numerous candidates. Their stringent criteria—must be a devoted patriot, a native Virginian, a legal philosopher more than a “common-place” lawyer, and an effective public speaker—coupled with the difficulty of convincing established jurists to move to central Virginia, resulted in the law chair remaining unfilled when University classes began in 1825.[1] Finally, in this April 1826 circular letter to members of the Board of Visitors, Jefferson announced Lomax’s hiring and the much-anticipated opening of the new Law School.

As with other aspects of UVA’s founding, the University’s historical relationship with slavery underlies the newly acquired letter and gives perspective to our understanding of the document. The opening of the Law School depended on the labor of enslaved people. Lomax’s own undergraduate education had been funded by his uncle, John Tayloe III, one of the largest slaveholders in Virginia at the time. Twenty-six male students, most from slaveholding families, formed Lomax’s first law class. Law lectures were held in Pavilion III, which had been built in large measure by enslaved laborers.[2] As the letter joins other primary sources in UVA archives, it offers the opportunity, in line with ongoing initiatives at the University of Virginia, to investigate and tell a full story of the University’s founding, particularly the founding’s deep connections to slavery.

Thomas Jefferson's architectural plans for Pavilion III
Thomas Jefferson’s elevation and floor plan for Pavilion III, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia

Teaching the Law

After assuming his professorship, Lomax implemented the law school’s early curriculum, which comprised two year-long sessions: legal procedures in the first, for those entering practice after one year’s preparation, and principles of law in the second. Eschewing Jefferson’s preference for Sir Edward Coke, Lomax taught Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries to first years for its “general map of the law,” followed by additional assigned texts. In the classroom, he “rigidly and critically” examined the students upon their readings “every other day.”[3]

During annual examinations, students submitted written answers to a committee of University faculty for review. Below are actual Law School questions from 1829.

  Public Examination, School of Law, 1829[4]

1.  What are the ages at which male and females are competent to different legal purposes? Viz.

Males. To take oath of allegiance? When at years of discretion to marry? To choose a guardian? To make a testament of personal estate (by the common law? By Act of Assembly)? To be an executor? To aliene land?

Females. To be betrothed? To be entitled to dower? When at years of discretion to consent or disagree to marriage? To bequeath personal estate? To choose a guardian? To be an executrix? To dispose of herself and land?

2. What four requisites are necessary to make a tenancy by curtesy?

3.  Of what two sorts is the remedy for false imprisonment? What are the four means which may be employed (at common law) for removing the injury? And which of them is now the most usual and effectual means in all manner of illegal confinement? What is the remedy by way of satisfaction of the injury?

The Jefferson letter will now be part of the Law Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Interested researchers should contact archives@law.virginia.edu.

 

[1] For examples of Jefferson’s and Madison’s correspondence regarding the law professorship search, see Jefferson to Breckenridge (“the appointment should not be given to a mere common-place lawyer”), 22 December 1824; Madison to Jefferson, 31 December 1824, 1 February 1825, and 4 August 1825. See also James Ambuske and Randall Flaherty, “Reading Law in the Early Republic: Legal Education in the Age of Jefferson,” in The Founding of Thomas Jefferson’s University, eds. John A. Ragosta, Peter S. Onuf, and Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019).

[2] For a biography of Lomax and the financial support he received from his uncle to attend St. John’s College in Annapolis, see E. Lee Shepard, “John Tayloe Lomax,” in Legal Education in Virginia 1779-1979: A Biographical Approach, ed. W. Hamilton Bryson (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1982), 359; For John Tayloe III as one of the largest Virginia slaveholders in this time, see Richard S. Dunn, “Winney Grimshaw, a Virginia Slave, and Her Family,” in Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 9, no. 3 (2011): 495; For a list of the first law students, see A catalogue of the officers and students of the University of Virginia Second session, commencing February 1st, 1826 (Charlottesville: Chronicle Steam Book Printing House, 1880); For the role of enslaved laborers in the construction of the UVA lawn buildings, the African American community at the University, and the University’s connection to slavery more generally, see The President’s Commission on Slavery and the University, Report to President Teresa A. Sullivan, 2018.

[3] See Lomax’s 1829 outline of the Law School curriculum in “University Intelligence,” The Virginia Literary Museum and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts & Sciences &c., August 5, 1829.

[4]University Intelligence: Public Examination,” in The Virginia Literary Museum and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts & Sciences &c., September 9, 1829.

Written by

Randi Flaherty

Randi Flaherty is the Special Collections Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library. She is also an early American historian with a focus on foreign maritime commerce in the early American republic.

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Your Legal Rights as a Woman: A Handbook for Virginians

Five years after the University of Virginia Law School began offering a “Women and the Law” course, which was supervised by two male professors in 1972, the Virginia Law Women (VLW) embarked on an extraordinary project. Six members of the group—Joan Kuriansky, Susan Buckingham Reilly, Diane Pitts, Jackie Blyn, Diane Smock, and Tracy Thompson—researched and wrote a legal handbook for women in Virginia titled Your Legal Rights as a Woman: A Handbook for Virginians (1977). Modeled on a handbook created by the North Carolina Law School Women, the text was, as the introduction stated, “written by women for women who want the law to work for them…Today we have many more rights than we had even five years ago. But unless we are aware of these rights we cannot exercise them” (VL141 .Y817 1977). The handbook, funded by the Virginia Commission on the Status of Women, was written in lay terms and explained Virginia laws concerning marriage, divorce, adoption, property rights, insurance, taxes, employment, social welfare programs such as Medicare and worker’s compensation, birth control, abortion, the criminal justice system, and gay rights. It also included a section on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) which had been approved by Congress in 1972 and was awaiting the requisite 38 states to ratify it into law at the time. In concert with consciousness-raising movements and projects across the country in that historical moment, the text made women conscious of the rights they were entitled to and the wrongs they suffered on account of their gender.

A stack of letters in a manila folder.
A stack of the many letters received by VLW requesting copies of the handbook.

While the Virginia Law Women distributed the handbook locally to libraries, organizations, agencies, alumni, and faculty, the Virginia Commission on the Status of Women distributed the bulk of the copies across the state. In the VLW manuscript collection here at Law Special Collections, one folder brims with requests for the handbook at the time of its publication. Dozens of women who read about the handbook in the newspaper wrote and asked for copies. Several stated that they planned on using the handbook to help them through their divorces. One high schooler even asked for the handbook as research for a paper on the ERA. The group received requests from rape crisis centers, women’s prison projects, libraries, law schools, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the ABA, the National Organization of Women (NOW), the Women’s Law Coalition, and Legal Aid. The combination of the handbook’s popularity and the significant changes in laws applicable to women in this period resulted in revised editions in 1979 and 1984. In the second and third editions, new sections were added to reflect changing laws, such as Title VII, Title IX, establishing credit, mental health, and domestic violence. In addition to the revised editions, the VLW taught a local continuing education course on the handbook in 1980. While the handbook did not address everything (the absence of a discussion about the legal implications of American racial inequality is noticeable), it served as a much-needed resource for women across the state.

The most revised and debated section of the handbook was the section on the ERA. The VLW originally planned to openly advocate for the ERA in the first edition, but they deleted that paragraph, deciding simply to describe the amendment and its potential impact because their funder, the Commission on the Status of Women, asked them to remain “politically neutral” (VL16. L425L c.1). The second edition was delayed because the Commission asked them to remove the entire section on the ERA. The VLW objected, citing the copyright in their name and declaring the issue of the ERA “vital to the women of Virginia” (RG 209-82). The Commission eventually withdrew their request and the subsequent editions not only included a section on the ERA but a section that was longer than the original. While the ERA was not originally a partisan issue (it has appeared in the platforms of both the Republican and Democratic parties), the Commission’s anxieties about it have made me wonder whether they knew the story of the woman in the photograph on the front cover of the first and second editions. The photograph was of British suffragette Mary Leigh in her Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) uniform. Leigh was famous for throwing a hatchet at Prime Minister Asquith in 1912, among other militant activities.[1]

I’d like to end this post by reflecting on how these handbooks serve as a historical record of change. My own research focuses on women, politics, and property rights in eighteenth-century literature. I have spent more days than I can count poring over pamphlets about women’s legal rights, law books, and case documents from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. I inevitably came across the word “dower” in most of them. I never expected to come across that word in all three editions of Your Legal Rights as a Woman: A Handbook for Virginians. I was shocked that dower, a widow’s right to a life estate in one-third of her husband’s real property which came into being sometime around 1310, appeared in a legal handbook for women in the late twentieth century.[2] Upon further research, I discovered that dower was not abolished in the state of Virginia until 1990. I discovered that the topic of my last blog post, the law of necessaries—an integral element of coverture—was the law in Virginia until 1983 when the state Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional under the 14th amendment.[3]  Finally, I discovered the word “coverture”—the common law doctrine that rendered husband and wife legally one person after marriage, which required the husband to act as representative for them both and which stripped the wife of many legal rights—still appears in the Virginia state code in two places. The first place is section 55-35, a statute that reflects the Married Women’s Act of 1877, which enabled women to hold and dispose of property as if they were single women and declared that the wife’s property was not liable for her husband’s debts.[4]

The second place is section 55-38, a statute that states the wife’s right of entry into land cannot be barred by judgments during or after her husband’s lifetime.[5] Ironically, the word “coverture” appears in statutes that recognize women as legal persons independent of their husbands. In fact, these sections are scheduled to be repealed in October 2019 and replaced by revised sections that continue to use the word “coverture.” This means that the word “coverture” has been a part of Virginia law since the colony’s founding over 400 years ago and still is to this day.[6] To me at least as a scholar, the appearance of “coverture” in the state code raises the question of whether it was ever really abolished, or if it was simply reformed and remains part of our legal framework. Even though dower and coverture might seem like antiquated legal tools that we rightly dismissed long ago in the name of equity, they recently informed, and in the case of coverture may still inform, the way women are treated under the law in Virginia. These legal relics are one of the reasons why women would still find a handbook like this one useful today.

 

For more on the Virginia Law Women, see our collection (RG 209-82 and RG 209-2010) as well as the three handbooks (VL141 .Y817 1977, VL141 .Y817 1979, and VL141 .Y817 1984).

[1] Fern Riddell, “ Suffragettes, violence, and militancy,” British Library, 6 February 2018, https://www.bl.uk/votes-for-women/articles/suffragettes-violence-and-militancy.

[2] Marylynn Salmon, Women and the Law of Property in Early America (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), 144.

[3] See Va. Code Ann. § 55-37 (2012) and Mark S. Brennan, “The New Doctrine of Necessaries in Virginia,” University of Richmond Law Review 19 no. 2 (1985): 317–330.

[4] Va. Code Ann. § 55-35 (2012).

[5] Va. Code Ann. § 55-38 (2012).

[6] After October 2019, see Va. Code Ann. § 55.1–200 (Supp. 2019) and Va. Code Ann. § 55.1–203 (Supp. 2019).

Written by

Kelly Fleming

Kelly is a Curatorial Assistant at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections. She is also a Lecturer in the English department at the University of Virginia, where she earned her PhD in 2019. Her research focuses on the relationship between eighteenth-century British literature, women's property rights, politics, and material culture.

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Life at the Time: Photo Collection of the University and Charlottesville in the 1970s

In May 2018, UVA Law Special Collections purchased a small collection of photographs of UVA in the 1970s, including one contact sheet of Libel Show images, from an eBay vendor. When the collection arrived, we discovered that the seller had included three additional boxes of UVA-related negatives and photographs. Special Collections Assistant Sara Garcia-Pretelt has completed an initial inventory of this collection, and she describes here some of her most interesting discoveries.

The UVA Law Library’s newly acquired UVA/Charlottesville Photograph and Negatives Collection is comprised of images of the University of Virginia and the greater Charlottesville area during the late 1960s through the early 1970s. Among the photographs, contact sheets, and negatives found in this collection are scenes of student life, iconic Charlottesville landmarks, and important historic events.

The Law Libel Show: April 18, 1975

A long-standing UVA Law School tradition, the annual Libel show displays law students’ creativity and humor through skits and musical numbers. These photos were taken on April 18, 1975 for the production titled “A Sale of Two Cities or Salooney Tunes.” The law school student newspaper reported that the show “delighted crowds and embarrassed a few professors” (Virginia Law Weekly, 1975). Pictured below on the left is a student performing as “Charlie Blackbread” and pictured on the right is an unidentified law student actor.

Student Protests: May 5, 1970

The following photos were taken by various photographers during the May 1970 UVA student protests following the Kent State shootings and President Nixon’s announcement that US troops would be sent into Cambodia. A number of UVA Law students served as student marshals during these multi-day protests. Photographer Rip Payne captured scenes of the Virginia State Police preparing to address the student protests. Pictured are officers gathered outside of the Downtowner Motor Inn (later the Cavalier Inn) at Emmet and Ivy Roads and two officers with a police dog. On May 8, 1970, during a “honk for peace” student rally outside the Rotunda, the Virginia State Police enforced the 1968 Virginia riot act, charged the demonstration, and arrested 68 people. In his photograph titled “Lawn Arrest,” photographer Jim Carpenter documented police officers arresting a student on UVA grounds. Photographer John M. Atkins, Jr. captured in his photograph titled “Marshal,” a law student attempting to negotiate with a police officer about the arrest of another law student at the door of the Mayflower van, which the Virginia State Police used to transport arrestees to the Charlottesville police station. The band tied around the student’s arm signals his role as a legal marshal to keep the peace during the student protests.

UVA Grounds and Student Life ca. 1970

Also in this collection are images of iconic UVA landmarks such as the Corner and the Lawn in the 1970s. Pictured below is University Avenue just outside of Mincer’s Pipe Shop (now known as Mincer’s) where students and professors cross over onto Grounds. Today, the Corner’s crosswalks are infamous for the students that cross with no regard for oncoming cars as they rush to classes and meetings. Nearly 50 years later, these images still capture what it is like to live and study at UVA.

The Sports Scene

As the ‘Hoos advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1984, students today are hoping for redemption for Tony Bennett’s principled and impressive team. Of relevance in this photograph collection are images of UVA men’s basketball games in the Spring of 1975, such as this photograph featuring star players Mark Iavaroni and Wally Walker playing in U-Hall.

Graduation

While most of this collection showcases student daily life, it also documents more significant moments like graduation. A symbolic UVA tradition, graduation on the Lawn is the culmination of students’ hard work over the last four years. Pictured below are families gathering on the Lawn by Old Cabell Hall to support their graduating students, while the Rotunda looms in the distance.

Unlike most of our digital collections, these images are presented under the fair use doctrine or with permission from the copyright holder, not under a Creative Commons license. Researchers can review the full collection of photographs and negatives at Law Special Collections on the third floor of the UVA Law Library.

Email: archives@law.virginia

Phone: 434-924-3023

Web: http://archives.law.virginia.edu/

Written by

Sara Garcia-Pretelt

Sara Garcia-Pretelt is an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia studying French and Sociology. She currently works as a Special Collections Assistant at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library.

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Women’s Legal Rights in UVA’s First Law Library: Baron and Feme

In honor of Women’s History Month, this post by Kelly Fleming discusses the history of women’s legal rights as reflected in the 1828 Catalogue of the Library of the University of Virginia. Kelly is a PhD Candidate in the English Department at UVa, where her research focuses on women’s property rights and political participation in eighteenth-century British novels. She is assisting the Law Library with its 1828 Catalogue digitization project.

Of the 369 law titles in the 1828 Catalogue of the Library of the University of Virginia, only one was explicitly dedicated to the legal status of wives, Baron and Feme: A Treatise of Law and Equity, Concerning Husbands and Wives (U.K. .46 .B265 1738). In fact, it was the first known English legal treatise to focus solely on the laws concerning husbands and wives.[i] Penned by an anonymous author, Baron and Feme was first published in London in 1700 by John Walthoe. It was published again in 1719 by Walthoe and in 1738 by T. Waller, also in London. The university had acquired the 1738 edition for its first library. While the Catalogue entry for Baron and Feme dates the book to 1788, other nineteenth-century catalogues confirm that the original UVA library contained the 1738 edition.

Baron and Feme’s importance as a legal work stemmed from its discussion of the precedents that defined married women’s legal rights in the eighteenth century. In England, married women’s legal rights were defined in common law and equity courts, likely resulting in confusion about what women’s rights actually were. Books such as Baron and Feme consolidated such precedents and made them available for both men and women as a practical litigation guide. Since, like England, Virginia had both common law and chancery courts, Baron and Feme’s discussion of precedent would have informed the way UVA students and local lawyers understood marriage settlements and argued women’s property rights in court.[ii]

Baron and Feme took up the doctrine of coverture from the perspective of both men and women, but with substantially more attention to the legal ramifications of women marrying. A relic of the Norman Conquest, the legal fiction of coverture declared that, after marriage, man and wife were, legally, one person, with the husband acting as representative for both. After marriage, a woman became a feme covert, a “covered woman” wearing the shadow of her husband’s legal existence. Feme coverts were unable to convey property, sign a contract, or execute a will on their own. One of the first chapters describes the unique position feme coverts held in English (as well as early American) law by differentiating them from infants (women and men under the age of 21). Like feme coverts, infants were “disabled by the law,” meaning they were not recognized as persons under the law.[iii] The difference, the anonymous author argued, was as follows: infants were not yet considered persons under the law, but they could perform “any Act for [their] own Advantage,” including binding themselves in a contract.[iv] Feme coverts were not persons and could only legally bind themselves with their husband’s consent.

A vignette of a man and woman exchanging a glance beside a crib.
A depiction of family life from
Godey’s Lady’s Book (1851).

Complicating this comparison, the author did not distinguish between male and female infants despite the legal difficulties female infants would have encountered on account of their gender. While Sir William Blackstone may have famously called women the “favourites ”of the law, the privileges they received were restricted by their ability to negotiate patriarchal family dynamics.[v] In both England and colonial America, patriarchal hierarchies and codes of behavior structured family life. Female infants, despite their ability to contract, were likely to be controlled by a father or male family member who would frustrate any attempt to make legal decisions without his consent. In fact, even their ability to contract was up for question: English courts debated the legality of female infants consenting to a marriage settlement that barred dower in favor of a jointure.[vi] Moreover, daughters who became feme soles (unmarried women) and could own property when they came of age were unlikely to possess it because families typically planned on using the daughter’s inheritance as her marriage portion.[vii]

In the hopes of protecting women from cruel husbands, debauched husbands, and their husband’s creditors, English courts developed precedents over the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to counteract the potentially harmful effects of coverture. These precedents specified property rights for married women and addressed questions about their ability to legally consent during marriage. Baron and Feme dedicated entire chapters to these rights in an effort to help readers negotiate the complex obstacles of coverture, such as dowers, jointures, separate estates, and separate maintenances in case of abuse or divorce. Most importantly, the author included a chapter that specified what wives got out of coverture, “What Contracts of the Wife Shall Bind the Husband,” which rehearsed the arguments for and against the law of necessaries (the right a wife has to charge things to her husband’s account or in her husband’s name) in exhaustive detail. Regardless of the author’s thoughts on the law of necessaries, there were documented cases of women charging extravagant items to their husband’s accounts and getting away with it in England.[viii] My own work, which examines women’s property rights and political participation in eighteenth-century British novels, hopes to show how coverture went both ways. The legal tools necessary to mitigate, if not negotiate, patriarchal family dynamics were already in women’s hands.

The Law Library’s copy of Baron and Feme was a gift Gerard Banks Esq. gave to William Waller Hening, as the handwritten note on the title page documents. Hening, a prominent Virginia jurist, may have read Baron and Feme as research for his legal handbook, The New Virginia Justice (1795). The handbook includes a conveyancing appendix with a sample marriage settlement that created a separate estate for the wife, one of the recommended methods for alleviating the legal austerity of coverture.


[i] Lynne Greenberg, ed. Baron and Feme: A Treatise of Equity, Concerning Husbands and Wives, The Early Modern Englishwoman: A Facsimile Library of Essential Works (New York: Routledge, 2005), 3:xlviii.

[ii] Marylynn Salmon, Women and the Law of Property in Early America (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 1986), 82.

[iii] Baron and Feme, 8.

[iv] Baron and Feme, 8.

[v] William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1765), 1:433, Eighteenth-Century Collections Online.

[vi] Susan Staves, Married Women’s Separate Property in England, 1660–1833 (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1990), 119–126.

[vii] Amy Louise Erickson, Women and Property in Early Modern England (New York: Routledge, 1993), 83.

[viii] For a sampling of these cases, see Margot Finn, “Women, Consumption, and Coverture in England, c.1760–1860,” Historical Journal 39, no. 3 (September 1996): 703–722.

Written by

Kelly Fleming

Kelly is a Curatorial Assistant at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections. She is also a Lecturer in the English department at the University of Virginia, where she earned her PhD in 2019. Her research focuses on the relationship between eighteenth-century British literature, women's property rights, politics, and material culture.

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Alumnus Profile: Napoleon Breedlove Ainsworth, Lawyer and Choctaw Nation Official

In recognition of National Native American Heritage Month, this post highlights UVA Law alumnus Napoleon Breedlove Ainsworth, a member of the Choctaw Nation and a law student from 1881 to 1882.

Napoleon B. Ainsworth, printed in Leaders and Leading Men of the Indian Territory (1911), 106.

Ainsworth, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, was born on February 26, 1856 in Skullyville, Oklahoma, part of Indian Territory. At age fifteen, he enrolled in Roanoke College in Salem, VA. According to Ainsworth’s 1885 testimony before a Congressional committee on “The Condition of Certain Indian Tribes,” the Choctaw government sent a group of students each year to universities and supplied them with stipends. Ainsworth was such a student, and he attended Roanoke College on a scholarship funded through Choctaw coal mining. He graduated from Roanoke in June 1880 with the Orator’s Medal and then enrolled in the University of Virginia for the 1881–1882 term to study law.

UVA School of Law, Catalogue of Students, 1881-1882. Ainsworth was the first UVA Law student to provide a residence location in Indian Territory.

Since a JD was not required to pass the bar at that time, this single session at UVA was enough for Ainsworth to pursue the career he already had chosen as a practicing lawyer. Prior to returning home to the Choctaw Nation, Ainsworth married Emily Thompson in Roanoke, and they eventually had three children, Ben P., Helen, and Agnes. Upon his return, Ainsworth was appointed draftsman for the Council of the Choctaw Nation by Chief Jack McCurtain. He then served as National Weigher at McAlester, in Indian Territory, for three years, before resigning in order to focus on his law practice. Following the death of the National Auditor, Ainsworth was appointed to that position, and then in 1887, he was reelected to fill the same office for a second term.

In 1889, Congress established the United States Court in Indian Territory. Ainsworth became a noted member of the bar of this Court, which held jurisdiction over civil cases between persons residing in Indian Territory and citizens, states, or territories of the United States. He remained active in the affairs of the Choctaw government until he died on August 20, 1922.

The law establishing a United States Court in Indian Territory (links to the full text).

Written by

Kelly Fleming

Kelly is a Curatorial Assistant at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections. She is also a Lecturer in the English department at the University of Virginia, where she earned her PhD in 2019. Her research focuses on the relationship between eighteenth-century British literature, women's property rights, politics, and material culture.

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Special Collections Team Wins Cromwell Research Grant

Buried deep in the stacks of Edinburgh libraries lie court records that tell stories about early America. In the Faculty of Advocates Library and The Signet Library, both just a few doors down from Scotland’s Court of Session, and in the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh, rests evidence of Glaswegian merchants who traded for Virginia tobacco, families divided by the American Revolution, enslaved men and women who toiled on Caribbean sugar plantations, and much more. These Session Papers, the printed material submitted to Scotland’s supreme civil court as part of the litigation process, contain hidden histories of early America and the British Atlantic world.

Through a generous grant from the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, a team of historians from Special Collections at the University of Virginia School of Law’s Arthur J. Morris Law Library will soon visit Edinburgh to begin identifying court cases involving early American litigants. Drs. Jim Ambuske, Randi Flaherty, and Loren Moulds, the co-directors of the Law Library’s Scottish Court of Session Project, will travel to Scotland’s capital to investigate these court records. While some cases appear in published law reports, most remain hidden in the bound volumes of court documents held by these historic Edinburgh libraries.

The Cromwell Foundation, which supports American legal history scholarship, has commissioned the Law Library team to survey Court of Session cases involving early America. Working closely with Edinburgh librarians, Ambuske, Flaherty, and Moulds will locate such cases and prepare a publicly available report on their findings. The report will enhance the discoverability of these cases for future scholars working on legal or early American history projects. It will also help identify groups of Session Papers for priority digitization as part of a collaboration to make these records more accessible for legal and historical research.

Finding evidence of early America in the Session Papers will illuminate the close ties between Scotland and America in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As the historian Timothy J. Shannon has recently shown in his new book, Indian Captive, Indian King: Peter Williamson in America and Britain, Session Papers can recover the lives of individuals like Williamson. In the mid-eighteenth century, the Aberdeen native claimed to have been kidnapped and sold into indentured servitude in the American colonies. While it seems clear that he was in the colonies as a young man, and perhaps later fought in the French and Indian War, his claim to have been held captive by Native Americans at one point is more suspect. Nevertheless, Williamson “played Indian” for Scottish audiences upon his return home and parlayed his alleged experiences into commercial opportunities. We know of his story in part because he sued the Magistrates of Aberdeen in the Court of Session, charging that they had been complicit in an illegal servant trade that had sent him to North America.

While in Scotland, the Law Library team will meet with collaborators at the University of Edinburgh, the Edinburgh Law School, and representatives from the Advocates and Signet libraries to advance a transatlantic partnership that is pursuing the creation of a digital archive to hold nearly 250,000 individual Session Papers. Using a combination of computer technology and human interpretation, the collaborators are exploring ways to more efficiently identify people and places within these printed documents, which will assist in the cataloging process, enable digital humanists to conduct large-scale analyses of the material, and make it easier for scholars and the public to search for historical figures and locations.

The project team is grateful to the Cromwell Foundation for its significant investment in the Scottish Court of Session Project. For more information on the Foundation and its efforts to support legal history scholarship, please visit www.cromwellfoundation.org. To learn more about Special Collections at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library, please visit archives.law.virginia.edu.     

 

Written by

Jim Ambuske

Jim Ambuske is the Horatio and Florence Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities. He received his Ph.D. from UVA in 2016 and is a historian of the American Revolution and early Republic. At the UVA Law Library, Jim works in Special Collections to develop interpretive content for the library's major initiatives, curricula for future courses in the digital humanities, and research projects rooted in the library's archives and manuscript holdings. His primary responsibilities at the Law Library include oversight of the Scottish Court of Session Papers project and promoting scholarly access to the library's significant holdings in early American, Virginian, and transatlantic legal history.

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Registration Opens for the Second Digital Archives in the Commonwealth Summit

Registration is now open for the second annual Digital Archives in the Commonwealth Summit, which will take place at George Mason University on November 30, 2018. We’re excited to be co-sponsoring this event along with our colleagues at George Mason University Libraries, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

The Summit is an interdisciplinary conference focused on the creation, management, and use of digital archives. We welcome individuals from various fields to attend and join the conversation—archivists, scholars, librarians, museum specialists, and technologists are all encouraged to participate. Building on the success of the inaugural Summit in 2017, this year’s conference seeks to facilitate information-sharing and reflection on the practical and theoretical considerations that shape digital archives.

Panels this year include:

  • Institutional Opportunities and Challenges in Building or Re-Imaging Digital Archives
  • Finding the Hidden in Plain Sight: The Enslaved Children of George Mason and Mason’s Legacies Projects
  • A lunch workshop on The Library of Virginia Transcription Initiative
  • Revealing Hidden Histories and Rebuilding Lost Spaces with Digital Technology
  • A lightning round with the opportunity for audience members to present

You can register and read more about the Summit here—and if you’re unable to attend in person, follow along on Twitter using #DASummit2018.

Written by

Kate Boudouris

Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian, Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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Launch of Alabama Claims Transcription Project

The UVA Law Library and the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History are pleased to announce the C.S.S. Alabama Claims Cases Transcription Project. The over 100 documents in this collection center on the life and death of the British-built commerce raider C.S.S. Alabama and her sister ships, the C.S.S. Florida and the C.S.S. Shenandoah. Constructed in Liverpool, England in 1862, the Alabama disrupted Union commerce and supply lines in both Atlantic and Pacific waters during the Civil War. Between 1862 and 1864, Captain Raphael Semmes and the Alabama’s crew conducted seven major raids in waters ranging from the Gulf of Mexico to the Java Sea. They attacked or destroyed nearly seventy Union merchant ships, capturing or burning millions of dollars’ worth of cargo before the U.S.S. Kearsarge sank the Alabama on June 19, 1864 off the coast of France.

The Alabama’s success as a commerce raider made for a point of contention between the United States and Great Britain. After the war the American government held its British counterpart liable for damages. American citizens sought compensation for property lost to these British-built Confederate vessels. In 1871, the two nations signed the Treaty of Washington, which established an international arbitration process for resolving these disputes. The treaty marked a significant development in modern international law. In the end, the British government paid the United States $15.5 million in damages.

William Wallace Crapo
William Crapo, printed in Phineas Camp Headley, Public Men of To-day, 1882.

The C.S.S. Alabama Claims Cases Transcription Project features 108 documents from the law practice of Boston attorney and future U.S. Congressman William W. Crapo. Between 1870 and 1876, Crapo (pronounced “Cray-poe”) corresponded with numerous individuals such as attorneys Henry A. Barling and A. H. Davis as he worked to secure restitution from the British government on behalf of his clients. He also worked with bankers, insurance officials, and individual claimants. The letters and telegrams record how lawyers lobbied Congress and President Ulysses S. Grant’s administration as they pursued claims against the British government. They offer a unique perspective on the Civi War’s legal and diplomatic legacy.

UVA Law librarians completed an initial transcription of the Crapo material in the early 1990s. We now seek eagle-eyed members of the community to help refine that earlier work using Fromthepage.com, a crowdsourcing transcription platform to help enable their discovery and use by researchers. As far as we are aware, historians have never cited this collection in any scholarly research.

Here is but one example:

Henry A. Barling [New York] to William W. Crapo [New Bedford, Massachusetts]
13 December 1870

Confidential

New York Decemr. 13 1870
Dear Sir,

I infer from the tenor of yours of yesterday that the “Sufferers” may fly the track on the proposition of Johnson & Higgins, for two reason’s, the first on account of
the compensation & next because of a hesitancy most people have of giving Powers of Atty. even to their intimates. Johnson & Higgins I know to be honorable people & ones that would not abuse a trust — still, you could get a power where they could not because every claimant in N.B. has confidence in you.

Now what I want to get at is, if we fail with J & H in getting what we aimed at the other day, I think I can suggest to you a plain (sic) that all the parties at interest will jump at, & in which your interests as well as our own can be as well cared for as by the arrangement now pending, but I will not suggest it now as it might be taken as a symptom of bad faith toward J. & H. — by whom I intend to stick until I see they cannot succeed & then if you will join B. & D we can, with proper energy, & I assume we both have enough of it, make a very handsome business of it.

What I have written you will of course consider as strictly
confidential.

I remain
Dr. Sir

Yours truly
Henry A. Barling

W. W. Crapo Esqr
New Bedford

 

The above letter hints at discussions with clients concerning New York Insurance firm Johnson & Higgins. Barling’s plea for secrecy suggests a strategy in flux as the lawyers navigated complex legal and political shoals. The remaining papers in the collection describe in detail how lawyers and their clients negotiated deals and lobbied powerful individuals in defense of their legal interests.

Correcting the transcriptions will provide new insight into the Civil War era and the legal world it created. To start transcribing, visit the project’s webpage and signup for a free account on FromThePage. Participants in this project will find a complete set of instructions on the project website. Once finished, the UVA Law Library will make the completed transcriptions available on its website.

Questions? Please contact archives@law.virginia.edu

Further Reading:

Charles C. Beaman, Jr. The National and Private “Alabama Claims” and Their “Final and Amicable Settlement” (Washington, D.C., 1871).

Charles S.C. Bowen. The “Alabama” Claims and Arbitration Considered from a Legal Point of View (London, 1868).

Adrian Cook. The Alabama Claims: American Politics and Anglo-American Relations, 1865-1872 (Ithaca, NY, 1975).

James McPherson. War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865. (Chapel Hill, 2012).

Frank J. Merli. Great Britain and the Confederate Navy, 1861-1865.
(Bloomington, 1970).

Featured image: Édouard Manet, The Battle of the Kearsarge and the Alabama, 1864 (John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Public Domain)

Written by

Jim Ambuske

Jim Ambuske is the Horatio and Florence Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities. He received his Ph.D. from UVA in 2016 and is a historian of the American Revolution and early Republic. At the UVA Law Library, Jim works in Special Collections to develop interpretive content for the library's major initiatives, curricula for future courses in the digital humanities, and research projects rooted in the library's archives and manuscript holdings. His primary responsibilities at the Law Library include oversight of the Scottish Court of Session Papers project and promoting scholarly access to the library's significant holdings in early American, Virginian, and transatlantic legal history.

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Advancing Legal Research at UVA Law

This week concludes another semester of Advanced Legal Research at UVA Law.  A new crop of students stands ready to tackle the legal puzzles of case law, business, and legislation that they will face as practicing attorneys.  Teaching legal research methods has been one of the law library’s long-standing contributions to the law school curriculum.  Here we look back at the teaching of legal research at UVA Law over the past 100 years.

In the 1910s, first year law students took Legal Bibliography and Brief Making as a required course in their first term for “an intimate acquaintance with law books and skill in their use.” (UVA Law Catalogue, 1915-1916).  Here is the class’s exam from March 1919.  How would you fare?

1919 Examination in Legal Bibliography and Brief Making, Sutton Collection, Law Special Collections

 

Books were everything in Legal Bibliography and Brief Making in the 1920s, as the class notes of Phillip Burks (Law class of 1928) reveal.  Excerpt: “To meet the needs of lawyers, ‘selected cases’ of the various states have been published- they are known as American Decisions, 100 vols. to 1865- they contain valuable annotations.”

Notes for Legal Bibliography and Brief Making, Phillip Burks (Class of 1928), Law Special Collections

 

In 1944, Law Librarian Frances Farmer, the first woman to gain faculty status at UVA Law, taught Legal Bibliography as a required first year course. Farmer lectured on the methods and materials of legal research.  For their final assignment, students prepared briefs which they then tried in the law school’s moot court.

Law Librarian Frances Farmer, circa 1942-1944, Law Special Collections
Legal Bibliography, UVA Law Catalogue, 1943-1944

 

In the 1960s, the law school created a Legal Methods class, in addition to Farmer’s Legal Bibliography seminars. Like its predecessors, Legal Methods was a required first year course, and it introduced students to the problems of “legal analysis, research and writing, drafting and pleading, modern litigation and appellate practice” in a small group setting. Over time, Legal Methods evolved into the law school’s current Legal Writing & Research (LWR) course, which now has its own set of dedicated faculty.

Legal Method, UVA Law Catalogue, 1960-1961

 

In 1993, with computerized research on the rise in legal research, librarian Kent Olson introduced a new course at the law school, Advanced Legal Research (ALR). Building off the foundation of research skills that law students gained in their first year LWR seminars, ALR offered students the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of research techniques and research tools.

Advanced Legal Research, UVA Law Catalogue, 1993-1994

 

Library faculty, led by Professor Olson, continue to teach ALR at UVA Law and offer the course in both the fall and spring semesters.  Much has changed in legal research alongside the shift from print to digital.  Still, even since the early days of Legal Bibliography, an emphasis on hands-on, practical learning has remained in these courses as the tried and true means to prepare students for the legal questions of the working world.

Kristin Glover teaching ALR at UVA Law

Written by

Randi Flaherty

Randi Flaherty is the Special Collections Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library. She is also an early American historian with a focus on foreign maritime commerce in the early American republic.

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