“Places of the Piedmont” Art Reception Thursday, September 1

This week the Law Library opens a new art show, Places of the Piedmont, an exhibit of watercolors by Werner K. Sensbach (1923–2015). A public reception will be held Thursday, September 1, from 5 to 7 p.m. on the second floor of the Law Library.

About the Artist

Werner K. Sensbach was born in Mannheim, Germany in 1923. He worked throughout his life in various fields of artistic endeavor. With professional degrees from the University of Karlsruhe, Germany, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he was an architect for firms in Germany, Switzerland, and New York. He served as city planner in Columbia, South Carolina, and Roanoke, Virginia, and as the University of Virginia Campus Architect during its intensive growth period from 1965 until 1991. Werner Sensbach was also Professor of Urban Planning in the School of Architecture. Upon his retirement in 1991, the University planted an American oak tree between the East Range and Brooks Hall in his honor. Retirement allowed him to discover the Virginia landscape through the eyes of an artist. In watercolor field sketches and al fresco oil paintings, he portrayed the landscape of the Piedmont and Blue Ridge Mountains as well as the architecture of the Grounds of the University of Virginia. 

Artist’s Statement

Werner Sensbach’s work flows naturally from his interest in the landscape and man-made environment of the Piedmont Region. The Grounds of the University of Virginia and the City of Charlottesville are the subject of many of his architectural paintings. In the mid-1940s, Werner Sensbach received his initial artistic instruction from painters of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Realism) movement of the Twenties: Erich Heckel (1883 – 1970) and Karl Hubbuch (1891 – 1979) of Karlsruhe, Germany. Their style of slashing line drawings proved useful in his later career in architecture, urban design, and campus planning. After retiring from his position as University of Virginia architect and planner in 1991, Werner studied at the University of Virginia Department of Art with Richard Crozier, Phil Geiger, Dean Dass, William Bennett, Lincoln Perry & Elizabeth Schoyer.



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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.

DH Fellow: Changing of the Guard

Today is the last day for the Law Library’s Postdoctoral Fellow for the Digital Humanities and colleague-extraordinaire, Randi Flaherty. Randi’s contribution to advancing the work of Special Collections is difficult to calculate. It was Randi who inspired many of the updated interfaces and designs of our websites generally and, importantly, re-investigated the Scottish Court of Sessions papers, persuasively arguing for their digitization. She has provided a model for our outreach efforts by identifying compelling documents and objects from our collections and writing deeply-researched and compelling blog posts [link, link] and essays. She tirelessly engaged with our entire library staff and eloquently contributed to advancing the mission of the library and its archives while laying out a compelling vision for our future. I personally have come to implicitly trust her judgement and have repeatedly relied on her to help tackle problems and envision new possibilities. Without a doubt, she has laid out an exciting path for us and we will sorely miss her contributions and wonderful personality. Her next adventure as a fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies offers her an unparalleled opportunity to complete her book project based of the research she did in her dissertation. Much the same as she was here, she will most certainly be an astounding colleague there. We wish her the best of luck.

Amidst our sadness at Randi’s departure, we are very excited to welcome our next Fellow, James “Jim” Ambuske. Jim defended his dissertation this summer on Scottish soldiers and immigration to the American Colonies and Early Republic. Jim has also worked extensively with institutions around Virginia and the British Commonwealth to design digital research tools for accessing and analyzing archival collections. Jim will be taking over the Scottish Papers digitization project as well as helping continue our outreach efforts.



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Best wishes to Bryan Kasik!

Bryan Kasik and AJM
Among the many things AJM will miss about Bryan is his affinity for all things zombie.

The law library sadly bids adieu to Bryan Kasik today as he heads over to Alderman Library on Main Grounds to begin work as a Reference Librarian. Bryan has spent the past nine years with us as a our Faculty Services Coordinator. For all of the law faculty and students who have appreciated how quickly we have been able to pick up and deliver books and other items from any of the other libraries at UVa–Bryan has been the backbone to that service. Every day for the past nine years, he has happily stalked the Grounds at UVa for us with his book bag, flying up and down the stairs, in and out of the stacks, retrieving books and microfilm and journals, and then delivering them all promptly to you. Bryan made his library runs in the heat of summer, in the snow, in the rain, all with unflagging energy and enthusiasm.

Tim Breeden with Bryan Kasik
Tim Breeden (left) points the way to Alderman Library for Bryan at his farewell gathering today.

The law library prides itself on its service to faculty, staff and students and Bryan has made us look good every day. He has also been one of our friendly faces at our circulation and reference desks, getting to know many of the students who have passed through law school along with all of the faculty. We will miss him. We’ll miss his energy, his creativity, his enthusiasm, and his ability to somehow walk down stairs while reading a book. Fortunately for the University community–he is not going far. Look him up in the Alderman Library Reference Department: he will be happy to help you find what you need.


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Ben Doherty

Ben is a research librarian and Head of Instructional Services at the Law Library. He has worked at the Law Library since 2004.

Scottish Session Papers and the Bar Exam

In the summer, the Law Library provides a quiet study space for recent graduates who are preparing to take the bar exam. Studying for the bar can be a stressful, all consuming experience, and one possible side effect is the tendency to see bar exam fact patterns everywhere. For those suffering from this condition, it becomes nearly impossible to unwind by watching a procedural drama (crim pro!), a soap opera (family law!), or even an infomercial (products liability!).

In the spirit of solidarity, we’ve been considering how the Law Library’s Scottish Court of Session Papers may resonate with the subjects tested on the bar exam. The library’s collection of Session Papers features case materials presented in Scotland’s highest civil court from 1759 to 1834. Despite their origins in a foreign legal system, the documents raise many issues familiar to modern bar-takers. They also feature memorable and significant historical facts.

The case of Birnie and Co. v. Weir, 3 Shaw’s Dig. 1732 [1800], aff’d [1800] 4 Pat. App. 144 (Scot.), presents a colorful example. Samuel Birnie developed a new, “British” form of a bleaching agent called potash. His company claimed in printed materials that this British potash had been “found to answer every purpose in bleaching, &c. equal to the best American pot.” Helen Weir, a bleacher, ordered several casks of the potash for her business but later refused to pay her bill; Birnie brought suit to collect on the account.

Why didn’t Helen Weir pay? According to her lawyers, the British potash contained “a radical latent defect.” Materials bleached with the potash initially looked white, but they turned a reddish or bluish color after being exposed to the air. Because the problem wasn’t immediately apparent, Weir had shipped defective products to her customers—including some whose white thread turned red after being sewn into the seam! Weir argued that the potash was unfit for the purpose of bleaching, and that Birnie should be held responsible for his warranty comparing British potash to American potash. In addition to withholding payment, she raised a claim for damages based on harm to her business and her reputation.

In response, Birnie pointed out that Weir had ordered the potash in three different shipments, all of which were consumed, and that she hadn’t complained until Birnie demanded payment. In Birnie’s view, these facts were decisive. Further, he maintained that British potash was suitable for use in certain stages of the bleaching process (just like American potash); the problem was Weir’s unskillful use of the product. Birnie also explained that the statement comparing British potash to American potash hadn’t been used to advertise the product or to establish its character. Instead, it was contained in “directions” given to customers after they purchased the potash.

Petition of William Alexander and sons (1772)
Petition of William Alexander and sons (1772)

It’s striking how the case materials in Birnie address some of the same questions posed by modern bar examiners: What constitutes a warranty? What happens if there’s a non obvious problem with the seller’s product? How should damages be calculated? The vivid facts and fascinating characters in Birnie bring these issues to life.

Another case in our collection, Colville v. Lauder, [1800] Mor. 1 (Scot.), resembles a multi subject exam fact pattern combining estate law and conflict of law issues. Again, though, the facts matter. Colville is a darker story than Birnie, recounting an ill-fated personal history set against the backdrop of British colonialism.

Shortly after marrying Jean Colville, David Lauder left Scotland under indenture to work on the island of St. Vincent. While living there, he wrote home to describe his experiences with sickness and violence (probably the Second Carib War). David was released from his indenture as a result of the war.

Hoping that a cooler climate would ease his health problems, he reserved enough money for passage to New York and sent his remaining savings to his father, William. David asked William to secure the money in case he returned to Scotland, and wrote that if he was not heard from again, “the money is either at [father’s] or my dear mother’s disposal.” During the next year, David traveled to New York and then Canada, where he was drowned while bathing in the Saint Lawrence River. James Watson, another Scotsman living abroad, wrote that he had “dived for [David] for two hours, and at last brought him up from twenty-four feet [of] water” to bury him. According to Watson, David’s effects included letters stating that he was going home the next year.

David’s death led to the multi-part legal quandary we mentioned earlier. William Lauder kept the money that David had sent him, claiming that his son’s letter was a valid will, and David’s widow Jean Colville sued to recover a share of the funds. Colville’s lawyer argued that it didn’t matter whether the letter was a will, because a choice of law question could resolve the case: Was the claim governed by the law of Scotland or the law of England (which regulated British territories)? Under Scots law, David’s widow was entitled to half of his moveable estate, notwithstanding any will. Under English law, a will could cut off her inheritance completely. Unsurprisingly, Colville argued that Scots law controlled.

Colville's Answer
Answers of Jean Colville.

The Scottish Court of Session Papers show that for hundreds of years, life has been full of messy, surprising, tragic disputes that need to be resolved using legal principles. And like the practice of law, our documents occupy a space where human stories meet the overarching principles used to organize society. The collection provides a rich historical record, insight on past approaches to the law—and evidence that, for better or worse, questions like the ones posed on the bar exam have mattered to everyday people for hundreds of years.  (Bar-takers, please take note: Despite the similarity of the issues raised, the Court of Session may not have reached the result you’d expect based on modern state law.)

Good luck to those preparing for the exam!


Published by

Kate Boudouris

Kate practiced energy and environmental law before joining the Law Library. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Yale Law School. Kate works at the reference desk and in Special Collections.

New Sunday Hours for Bar Exam Study Period

Now through July 22, the Law Library will be open on Fridays until 9 p.m. and on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Best of luck to all of our recent grads now studying for bar exams!

– AJM 


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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.

Grilled Cheese Melts Away Exam Time Blues

Law students enjoying a comfort food study break.
Law students enjoy a comfort food study break.

A record number of law students lined up inside and outside of MyLab for last evening’s semi-annual Grilled Cheese Night. One hundred forty-two students patiently awaited the warm gooey goodness of one of the Law Library’s special recipe treats. Despite long lines, spirits among the waiting students seemed high. One student was heard to say that the event was “perfect for the middle of exams.” Another exclaimed, “This is like a taste of home!”    

The event was not without a few stressful moments, however. Librarian-chefs Ben Doherty, Micheal Klepper and Tim Breeden offered both tomato and non-tomato editions of the sandwich. One student requested a gluten-free edition – just two slices of tomato with cheese in between and no bread – which none of the chefs had prepared before. But, being the true service professionals that they are, they were able to fulfill the special order to the customer’s satisfaction. Later, staff began to worry that supplies might not hold out through the 7 p.m. closing. “It looked like we might run out of bread,” said Breeden. “But as luck would have it, the last piece hit the butter just before 7!”   

Jeb submits the winning guess on the number of sandwiches served on Grilled Cheese Night
Jeb submits the winning guess on the number of sandwiches served on Grilled Cheese Night.


This semester’s GCN featured a new twist – Law Library staff were invited to guess ahead of time the number of sandwiches that would be served. The staff member submitting the closest guess was to be awarded their own grilled cheese sandwich for this morning’s breakfast. The winner was none other than Library Service Dog Extraordinaire, Bubba Jeb. Jeb’s owner, Teresa, was prepared to submit a guess of 121 sandwiches, but she said Jeb nudged her and nodded upward to say, “no it’s 136.” Though Jeb’s diet is strictly gluten-free, he was delighted to receive his prize in the form of some cheese and a few potato chips.

– AJM 


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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.

Interview with a Nutshell Author

This semester saw the publication of the twelfth edition of Legal Research in a Nutshell, a compact but venerable text on legal research that dates back to 1968. Its original author was the late Morris Cohen, then Law Librarian at the University of Pennsylvania, but since the fifth edition in 1992 he has been joined as coauthor by our own Kent Olson. Kent has written about the book’s early days (Birth of a Nutshell: Morris Cohen in the 1960s, 104 Law Libr. J. 53 (2012)), but we sat down to ask him about his own role in the book since then.

AJM: How did you get started as a coauthor of Legal Research in a Nutshell?  

Kent Olson
Legal Research in a Nutshell coauthor Kent Olson.


Olson: It started when I was a law student, lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was a second-year student at Boalt Hall (UC Berkeley) and working for the Law Library part time. My boss, Bob Berring, had worked at Harvard with Morris Cohen, the author of Legal Research in a Nutshell. Morris put out a call looking for people to revise and update chapters of the Nutshell, and Bob turned two chapters over to me. Morris may have been looking for light edits, but I attacked my chapters with gusto, crossing out huge chunks of obsolete text and inserting several new pages. A lesser man might have been offended or appalled, but Morris liked what he saw and asked me to review the entire manuscript before it went to the publisher. We talked on the phone, but we never met in person until the project was over.

The following year I came to Virginia and became a coauthor with Morris and Bob of their legal research hornbook, How to Find the Law. Morris had no interest in taking on a coauthor on his Nutshell, but in 1991 he found himself a week away from a deadline with no revised manuscript. And I was visiting him in the hospital.

AJM: Morris Cohen was a legend among law librarians. What was it like working with him?

Olson: He was my mentor and nearly thirty years my senior, but he always made me feel like a peer rather than a junior associate. Working with him was one of the great privileges of my life. He knew so much more than I did about legal bibliography (and was probably sorry that I never quite shared his love of rare books), but as legal research turned more and more to online search techniques our roles gradually shifted.

I do remember one disagreement, a friendly one, over how to describe the state of administrative law before the Federal Register and the CFR. Morris wanted to call it a wilderness, and I didn’t understand why until I realized we had very different concepts of “wilderness.” Mine was a pristine roadless area protected by environmental legislation, but he was thinking of a biblical place where people wandered lost and in despair. I think we ended up abandoning the metaphor.

AJM: You’ve now worked on nine editions of the Nutshell. How has the book, and legal research, changed over the years?

Legal Research in a Nutshell, 12th and earlier editions
Legal Research in a Nutshell, 12th and earlier editions


Olson: When the fourth edition was published in 1985, we had Westlaw and Lexis but a large focus of research was still print-based – some of it in materials today’s students are fortunate never to have seen, such as digests and Shepard’s Citations. “Case-Finding by Computer” was a two-page section of the chapter on case research. Research isn’t necessarily simpler these days, but there are so many answers that used to take work that we can now Google our way to.

People talk about a “sea change” in legal research from print to online, but to my mind it’s more of an evolution. In the end, it’s still about finding persuasive authority and reasoning by analogy. If we reach the point where cases are decided by the number of “likes” or by some machine-based measure, I’ll need to move on.

The book itself has evolved with the changes in research. Free Internet sites were first mentioned in the 6th edition (1996), and HeinOnline first appeared in the 8th edition (2003). There are now more than three hundred websites discussed. We’ve had a companion website with updated links since 2003, and in 2013 we took the illustrations out and put them online as well. Small black-and-white illustrations were fine back when we were showing sample pages of books, but screenshots of websites work so much better in color and on a larger scale. 

Olson with a student in Advanced Legal Research
Olson’s students “help keep me honest by letting me know what’s superfluous and what’s unclear.”


AJM: You’ve written other books on legal research, notably the concise hornbook Principles of Legal Research (2d ed. 2015). You also teach Advanced Legal Research. How do teaching and writing about legal research inform each other?

Olson: At the basic level, my students who’ve used draft versions as course texts have saved textbook money and they’ve helped to catch some embarrassing typos before they made it to print. But they also help keep me honest by letting me know what’s superfluous and what’s unclear. If we don’t cover something in class, it might not be important enough to include in the book. And without my students I wouldn’t have known that you need to explain to some digital natives the difference between a table of contents and an index.

AJM: Any regrets about the new edition?

Olson: Of course. There are always regrets. One minor one is that I completely missed that govtrack.us stopped tracking state legislation several months before we went to press. At least I could update that on the Nutshell website. A more significant omission is that I made no mention at all of Practical Law, to which our students have access through Westlaw and which is a really useful and current source of basic legal information in several disciplines. At some point I also should really think about how research by mobile app differs from website-based research.

But this just means I need to start planning for the thirteenth edition. In the past couple of months Lexis Advance added a directory of resources to its main screen and made its Advanced Search much more useful, and Westlaw introduced its “Westlaw Answers” feature when you type a question into the search box. All the references to FDsys in the current edition will be obsolete once GPO completes its transition to govinfo.gov. It won’t be long before January 2016 seems like a very long time ago in legal research.

– AJM 


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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.

Shotwell’s Docket Book – A Window for 19th-Century Law Practice

In this post we highlight one of the many items in Special Collections on the history of lawyering in America, this time in nineteenth-century Ohio. In the 1980s, the UVA Law Library purchased at auction a lawyer’s docket book with case entries from 1823 to 1886 and a tin law office sign, both attributed to Cadiz, Ohio lawyer Walter G. Shotwell. Docket entries in this book typically list the case name, case actions, and receipts of payments. All entries have been indexed and offer a detailed look into the practice of law in the nineteenth century. Cataloged as Walter Shotwell’s ever since its acquisition, much of the docket book actually predates Shotwell’s birth in 1856. Some recent digging revealed that the book likely belonged to Shotwell’s father, Cadiz lawyer Stuart B. Shotwell, and to Cadiz lawyer Chauncey Dewey before that.

Shotwell docket book

Stuart B. Shotwell law office docket book, Shotwell Collection, MSS 1998-6, UVA Law Library Special Collections.

Chauncey Dewey
Chauncey Dewey, printed in Commemorative Biographical Record Harrison, Ohio (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1891), 43.


Just about the time the docket book begins in 1823, newly-minted Ohio lawyer Chauncey Dewey (b. 1796) formed a partnership with Steubenville lawyer and future Ohio Senator Benjamin Tappan under the firm of Tappan & Dewey. We can’t confirm that the docket book belonged to Dewey, but entries in this period make occasional reference to collaboration with Tappan on various cases. In 1836, this first section of docket entries stops. That same year, Dewey formed a new partnership in Cadiz with Edwin M. Stanton, future Secretary of War under presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.[1]


Stuart B. Shotwell
Stuart B. Shotwell, printed in William T. Perry, ed., History of Carroll and Harrison Counties, Ohio (New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1921), 614.



Cadiz Sentinel, November 27, 1850.
Cadiz Sentinel, November 27, 1850. Digital version available at Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress.

When the Dewey-Stanton partnership dissolved in 1842, Dewey quickly formed a new partnership in Cadiz with Stuart B. Shotwell (b. 1819) under the firm Dewey & Shotwell, and in this year the docket book picks up again. Dewey retired from the practice in 1849 and became a leader in Cadiz’s growing banking industry while Shotwell carried on the law business under his own name.[2] An advertisement Shotwell placed in the Cadiz Sentinel in November 1850 announced that he “continues to practice in Harrison and adjoining counties” in Ohio as an “attorney at law and solicitor in chancery.” He handled legal matters ranging from land sales to money loaning to guardianships, many of which are reflected in the docket book he kept of his cases, now at the UVA Law Library.[3]
Shotwell's Law Office shingle
Shotwell Law Office Sign, Shotwell Collection, MSS 1998-6, UVA Law Library Special Collections.

Cadiz, Ohio Court House
Cadiz, Ohio Court House, from Jacob Jarvis and H. Anderson, “Map of Harrison County, O.” (Cadiz: Jacob Jarvis, 1862). Digital version available at Library of Congress.

Shotwell’s 1850 newspaper advertisement also announced that he had moved his office to Kilgore’s Corner on Market Street in Cadiz. Here, Shotwell may have installed the tin sign that accompanies the docket book and reads “Shotwell’s Law Office.” Adding mystery to this artifact is a painted-over “Wm.” that precedes “Shotwell’s.” We know little about the sign’s history, but Stuart Shotwell’s brother, William Shotwell, Jr., a lawyer in Butler County, Ohio, died in 1849, just as Stuart was setting up his new Cadiz law office.[4]
Walter G. Shotwell
Walter G. Shotwell, printed in William T. Perry, ed., History of Carroll and Harrison Counties, Ohio (New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1921), 613.

Walter G. Shotwell, printed in William T. Perry, ed., History of Carroll and Harrison Counties, Ohio (New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1921), 613.

Shotwell remained in business as a Cadiz lawyer until the late 1880s, where the docket book ends. His son Walter G. Shotwell trained in his law office beginning in 1878 before Walter’s admission to the Ohio bar. In 1880, Walter opened his own law office in Cadiz where this collection was likely once stored.[5]

The Shotwell collection is open for research at the UVA Law Library. Interested researchers can contact Special Collections at lawarchives@virginia.edu. We would love to hear from anyone with additional knowledge of these materials.

For related archival collections see:

Shotwell Family Papers, Ohio Historical Society

Shotwell Family Papers, Harrison County Historical Society

Benjamin Tappan Papers, Library of Congress (also on microfilm)


– Randi Flaherty, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities 


[1] Commemorative Biographical Record Harrison, Ohio (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1891), 42-47, 610.

[2] Id, 47, 758; Henry Howe wrote that Stuart B. Shotwell once studied under Edwin Stanton in Cadiz.  See Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio in Two Volumes, Volume 1 (Cincinnati: G. J. Krehbiel & Co., 1902), 894-896.

[3] The Cadiz sentinel. (Cadiz, Ohio), 27 Nov. 1850. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84028793/1850-11-27/ed-1/seq-3/>

[4] Commemorative Biographical Record Harrison, Ohio, 758.

[5] Id.


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Randi Flaherty

Randi Flaherty was Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities (2014 to 2016) for the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections Department.

Transatlantic Ripples of the 1765 Stamp Act

On the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act, UVA Law Library staff opened an uncataloged collection of Scottish Court of Session papers and unwittingly discovered new materials on this momentous event in American history. The case of Scrimgeour & Son v. Alexander & Sons quickly caught our eye since North Carolina and Virginia appeared on the first pages of case documents. Stamp Act protests rocked North Carolina’s Cape Fear River in 1765 and 1766, halting trade and trapping the Scottish ship Duke of Athol in Wilmington. In a subsequent suit before the Court of Session, the Scottish merchants who owned and freighted the ship quarreled over who would pay for the vessel’s lengthy delays. The case summaries and petitions they drew up now form part of the Court of Session Collection at the UVA Law Library. The wealth of detail included in these documents provides a new perspective on the Stamp Act, revealing the disruptive power of colonial protests on both a local and transatlantic level.

Petition of Jo. Maclaurin
Jo. Maclaurin, “Unto the Right Honourable, the Lords of Council and Session, the Petition of William Alexander and Sons Merchants in Edinburgh,” January 15, 1772, Scottish Court of Session Papers, UVA Law Library.

John Cowan, captain of the Duke of Athol, found himself caught in the midst of this imperial crisis in October 1765 with the Stamp Act set to take effect on November 1 and his ship readying to depart North Carolina for Scotland. Cowan needed a paper clearance to avoid seizure by the British navy patrolling the entrance to the Cape Fear River. The Stamp Act placed a new tax on these customs forms, as on all newspapers, legal documents, and most printed papers. Cowan would owe four pence per sheet, and an embossed paper stamp would be affixed to the clearance as proof of payment. These impending stamp duties drew outrage from American colonists, however, who targeted for public attack anyone who accepted stamps.
An Act for Granting and Applying Certain Stamp Duties
An Act for Granting and Applying Certain Stamp Duties, and Other Duties, in the British Colonies and Plantations in America (London: Mark Baskett, 1765), 282. Digital copy available at the Princeton Digital Repository.

Uprisings against the Stamp Act broke out just one day after Cowan’s arrival in Wilmington, along the Cape Fear River. On the night of October 19, 500 people converged near the Wilmington court house to hang an effigy of an “Honourable Gentleman” who had voiced support for the new tax. Protestors visited every house in Wilmington and gathered all of the town gentlemen. Once assembled, the crowd burned the effigy in a bonfire of tar barrels and gave toasts to “Liberty, Property, and no Stamp-Duty.”1

Cowan was practiced in the unpredictability of trade, and these Stamp Act protests were one delay among many that the Duke of Athol had already experienced in its transatlantic journey. Owned by the merchant house of James Scrimgeour & Son in Borrowstounness, Scotland and freighted by Edinburgh merchants Alexander & Sons, the ship had originally sailed for Grenada—after considering a trip to Maryland and Virginia— with a cargo of herring, staves, and green linens. When no sugar was available by the time of her arrival, the Grenada agent for Alexander & Sons finally convinced then-captain William Dicks to sail instead for Carolina after supplying Dicks with a letter of indemnification “to remove your scruples” for the diversion.2 Dicks died on the next passage, elevating mate John Cowan to ship master. Cowan would receive two additional guineas for a hat from Alexander & Sons, “providing he behaves properly, and gives the proper assistance to our people for procuring dispatch.”3 He had believed trade in Carolina would be quick after his arrival there. On October 19, 1765, mere hours before the first protests commenced, he wrote to Scrimgeour & Son that he was hopeful the vessel would depart for Scotland no later than the end of November.4

Plan of the Town of Wilmington in New Hanover County North Carolina
Claude Joseph Sauthier, “Plan of the Town of Wilmington in New Hanover County North Carolina, 1769, British Library, digital version at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center.

Growing popular unrest destroyed Cowan’s hope of a timely departure, and he took action to protect his interest against the certain disappointment of the merchants back in Scotland. On October 30, with the ship still waiting for a return cargo, Cowan took a legal protest against “all concerned” for the delays the ship had already suffered and for future delays Cowan expected from the Stamp Act.5 Protesters gathered again in Wilmington on October 31 and processed through the town with a coffin containing an effigy of Liberty. Accompanied by doleful town bell, the burial march eventually proclaimed that the effigy’s pulse still beat. They returned Liberty to the town center to sit aside a bonfire that burned through the evening. Shortly after the Stamp Act went into effect on November 1, hundreds surrounded the home of the region’s stamp collector and compelled his resignation. With no officer to accept the stamps when they arrived in North Carolina on November 28, the stamps remained aboard a British naval vessel in Brunswick.6

In mid-December, stamps remained unavailable as the Duke of Athol finally began loading a cargo of tar. When William Tryon, the newly installed North Carolina Governor, arrived in Wilmington on December 19 to publically announce his commission—a spectacle met by public protest—Cowan took the opportunity to join with other ship captains and petition Tryon for legal clearances. Tryon returned the petition and directed the captains to customs officials. Customs officers referred the captains back to the Governor. Both refused to grant clearances.7 Amid the standstill, Cowan remained in port with a full cargo of tar finally on board the Duke of Athol. Meanwhile the naval blockade in the Cape Fear River seized three arriving merchant ships for sailing with unstamped papers.

Plan of Johnston Fort at Cape Fear
John Collet, “Plan of Johnston Fort at Cape Fear With the project of one Covert way with places of Arms,” 1767, Clements Library, University of Michigan.

As customs officials dithered over the seized ships, Attorney General Robert Jones, Jr. released a statement that these vessels were liable to prosecution due to the “great neglect” of their captains.8 Jones outlined proper procedures for ship captains to follow to avoid forfeiture at trial, and Cowan immediately followed suit. On January 29, with a notary public and a witness, he proceeded to the Wilmington customs collector, offered the proper fees, demanded a clearance, but heard in reply that the collector could only provide him with common, unstamped papers.9 These efforts might protect Cowan’s ship from condemnation, but not from seizure, and trials would be carried out in faraway Halifax, Nova Scotia. “I am now lying here loaded this four weeks,” Cowan wrote to Scrimgeour on January 31, 1766, “but cannot get out for want of a proper clearance.”10
Answers for James Scrimgeour and Son
Alexander Lockhart, “Answers for James Scrimgeour and Son, merchants in Borrowstounness, to the Petition of Mess. William Alexander and Sons, merchants in Edinburgh,” April 24, 1769, Scottish Court of Session Papers, UVA Law Library.

In February 1766, new armed protests broke out around the Cape Fear River over the seized ships, forcing troops at nearby Fort Johnston to spike their guns before they could be turned on naval vessels. A crowd of nearly 700 men, most of them armed, compelled all public officers, including the customs collector, to swear that they would not uphold the Stamp Act, and the river opened for trade without stamped paper.11 On March 18, 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, and Cowan, who may have heard word that a bill to repeal had come before that body, departed Wilmington on March 31, 1766. On April 15, the Duke of Athol cleared Cape Fear for Scotland and arrived at Leith that summer.
Leith, Scotland
Leith, Scotland, a section from John Laurie, “A Plan of Edinburgh and Places Adjacent From an Actual Survey,” 1766, National Library of Scotland.

Scottish Court of Session Papers at UVA Law

Contained within these legal documents from the highest level of Scottish courts are rich details about how people lived, traded, farmed, managed risk, and moved through the 18th- and 19th-century British Empire. Cowan’s story is one of many contained within the UVA Law Library’s Court of Session collection of printed case materials presented before the Court from 1759 to 1834. As a court of appeal and of first instance and the highest civil court in Scotland at the time, the Court of Session held jurisdiction over contract and commercial cases, matters of succession and land ownership, divorce proceedings, intellectual property and copyright disputes, and contested political elections. In addition to petitions and memorials, many of which include annotations, the collection includes color maps and copies of correspondence, wills, financial accounts, and census reports. The Court provided copies of these papers to all litigants and judges for each case, and it was common practice in this period for lawyers and judges to retain these papers for their personal library or legal practice. Session papers thus exist in various collections around the world, with complete copies at the Scottish National Archives and Signet Library. In 1767, James Boswell, renowned Scottish biographer and one-time lawyer before the Court aptly wrote that these case materials would provide researchers with “a treasure of law reasoning and a collection of extraordinary facts.”12

The rich historical and biographical information contained within these records is one of the main reasons the UVA Law Library began cataloging this 2,000-item collection in 2015. Scrimgeour case files, for example, include lengthy sections on legal reasoning and point to the legal texts on which parties framed their arguments (including Molloy, De jure maritimo et navali and Rhodes, Treatise of the Dominion of the Seas, both available at UVA Law Special Collections), but the depth of detail these documents provide on people, life, and law in the 18th- and 19th-century British Empire makes them promising new sources for multidisciplinary research. The Stamp Act delay is just one episode among many from the ship’s broader journey from Borrowstounness, Scotland, to Grenada, St. Christopher’s, North Carolina, and back to Leith that these documents illuminate. Early modern legal materials that originated as manuscripts, like these Session Papers, rarely exist in printed forms that can be so easily harvested for digital searching, visualization, and analysis. Further, approximately half of the documents in the UVA collection originated from cases not reported in contemporary printed digests.

Print from A General Treatise of the Dominion of the Sea
Print from A General Treatise of the Dominion of the Sea: And a Compleat Body of the Sea-Laws, 2nd edition (London, 1709).

In 2017, the UVA Law Library hopes to digitize this entire collection for free, open access on the web. For questions about this collection contact Special Collections at lawarchives@virginia.edu.

– Randi Flaherty, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities  

  1. North Carolina Gazette, November 20, 1765, printed in William S. Powell, ed., The Correspondence of William Tryon and Other Selected Papers, Volume 1, 1758-1767 (Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Department of Archives and History, 1980), 162.

  2. Alexander Lockhart, “Answers for James Scrimgeour and Son, merchants in Borrowstounness, to the Petition of Mess. William Alexander and Sons, merchants in Edinburgh,” April 24, 1769, Scottish Court of Session Papers, UVA Law Library [hereafter cited as SCOS], 9-10.

  3. Last quote from Alexander & Sons to James Scrimgeour & Son, March 23, 1765, printed in Jo. Maclaurin, “Unto the Right Honourable, the Lords of Council and Session, the Petition of William Alexander and Sons Merchants in Edinburgh,” January 15, 1772, SCOS.

  4. John Cowan to James Scrimgeour & Son, October 19, 1765, printed in “Proof in the Process, Mess. James Scrymgeour and Son, Merchants in Borrowstounness, Against Mess. William Alexander and Sons, Merchants in Edinburgh,” 1771, SCOS, 6-7.

  5. Lockhart, “Answers,” 19-20.

  6. Lindley Butler, North Carolina and the Coming of the Revolution, 1763-1776 (Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Department of Archives and History, 1976), 20.

  7. Lockhart, “Answers,” 19-20. For Tryon’s arrival in Wilmington see accounts in Powell, Correspondence, 169-171, 218-219.

  8. Robert Jones to William Dry, February 3, 1766, printed in Lockhart, “Answers,” 20-21.

  9. Lockhart, “Answers,” 21.

  10. Printed in “Proof,” 7.

  11. William Tryon to Henry Seymour Conway, February 25, 1766, printed in Powell, Correspondence of William Tryon, 254-259.

  12. Quoted in W.H. Bond and Daniel Whitten, “Boswell’s Court of Session Papers: A Preliminary Checklist,” in W.H. Bond, ed, Eighteenth-Century Studies in Honor of Donald F. Hyde (New York: The Grollier Club, 1970), 232.


Published by

Randi Flaherty

Randi Flaherty was Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities (2014 to 2016) for the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections Department.

Professor Scalia Administered Justice on the Football Field, Too

Recently uncovered photographs
from the U.Va. Law School archives reveal a little-known phase in the legal career of recently deceased U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: football official. When the U.Va. law students of the Virginia Law Weekly and the Virginia Law Review kicked off their annual gridiron football contest in October 1970, then-U.Va. Law professor Scalia officiated from the sidelines with an eye on the field and his mind on the rulebook. This was the twelfth meeting of the two publications in this football classic that began in 1953 and always took place at the U.Va. Mad Bowl. (At the time the Law School was housed in Clark Hall on Central Grounds.) Two law school professors officiated over each contest, and the losing team owed the winner one keg of beer.

Go Weakley!

Weeks of witty trash talking had preceded this annual “gridiron juggernaught” in 1970, as it did in most years. A Law Weekly article wondered if anything could stop the “avalanche of rushers in the Weekly defense” while the Law Reviewers were still trying to “get their ersatz football players cum bookworms to do their calisthenics in cadence.” (Virginia Law Weekly, October 9, 1970).

The contest that Scalia observed on this October day was not pretty and ended in a 38-0 romp by the Law Weekly. Showing no mercy to their downtrodden competitors in the game’s write-up the next week, the Law Weekly staff reveled in their triumph:

“Spearheading a deadly passing attack, Jim ‘Needle’ Addison moved the Weekly’s mighty gridiron machine to the highest score in the history of the annual publications classic.” (VLW, October 16, 1970)

Antonin Scalia enjoying a moment on the sidelines.
Antonin Scalia enjoying a moment on the sidelines.

Throughout the game, Weekly quarterback Addison connected for numerous lengthy touchdown passes and a “fantastic 40-yard run right down the right sidelines which left the Reviewers hopelessly gasping [sic] their blue books.” (VLW, October 16, 1970) 

Professor Scalia would prove critical to the Law Review’s single moment of football glory. In the first half, an interception put a momentary stop to the Law Weekly’s romp through the Reviewer’s defense. But momentary this glory would remain. With Professor Scalia acute to the action from the sideline, the Reviewers watched as their triumph was “nullified by the officials under the keen eye of ‘Codebook’ Scalia for fielding too many players.” (VLW, October 16, 1970)

 – Randi Flaherty and Loren Moulds 


Full-sized images are available at http://archives.law.virginia.edu/objects/gridiron-contest-1970 and http://archives.law.virginia.edu/objects/scalia-referees-gridiron-contest



Published by

Randi Flaherty

Randi Flaherty was Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities (2014 to 2016) for the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections Department.