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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Birlymen, the Scottish Court of Session, and Your Next Paper

boundary stone
“A Boundary Stone,” Donald Bain

This is a PSA for students interested in private ordering[1] and “how neighbors settle disputes.”[2] If extralegal systems such as cattle-trespass norms,[3] industry-based arbitration services,[4] and organized crime[5] are up your alley, then the case of Aitken, and Others v. Wilson and Bannatyne—from the Law Library’s collection of Scottish Court of Session Records—might provide some grist for your next paper. You can review the case documents here.

Aitken was about whether a voluntary association known as a “birly court” could enforce its own decisions.  What, you may ask, is a birly court? A lawyer for birly court members in Elsrickle, Scotland, described the organization as follows:[6]

“In most of the parishes and country villages in Scotland, particularly in the village of Elsrighill, and others in its neighbourhood, there hath been, for time immemorial, what is called the Birly court. All the small proprietors, portioners, and tenants, are members of this court, and they, every two years, or oftener, elect three of their own number, who are stiled Birlymen, and one called the birly officer.

The business of the Birly court has always been to redd the marches,[7] place and rectify pit stones,[8] regulate the mosses and common pasturages, and, in short, to determine every necessary article respecting the inferior police and for the preservation of good neighborhood. The birlymens office is to take care that the orders and regulations of the court be obeyed, and to estimate any damages which may arise from trespasses.”

The case documents provide fascinating insight into the practices of at least four

Pursuer's Proof
Pursuer’s Proof

different birly courts. They also offer a rich account of the events behind the case, which began in May 1777 as a boundary dispute between one John Wilson and his neighbor. During the ensuing birly court adjudication, Wilson was fined for using “abusive language,”[9] but he refused to pay. As a means of enforcing the fine, the birlymen went to Wilson’s house and confiscated two pewter plates. Wilson complained to the sheriff; the birlymen were detained; and they sued Wilson and the sheriff for wrongful imprisonment. In the birlymen’s telling, they had merely been acting according to “the immemorial practice of the place, and of the whole country.”[10] The sheriff, on the other hand, “could not regard what they termed a lawful poinding [i.e., “a seizure of property in lieu of money owed”[11]] in any other point of view, than as a lawless riot.”[12]

Aiken is a fun read and provides interesting material for scholarly analysis. The documents in our collection even include handwritten notes describing the court’s unreported decision. (According to those notes, Wilson and the sheriff won because, as one judge put it, “Birly courts [are] known in this country but [are] only arbitrators.”) If you think Aitken might fit with your research interests, be sure to check out this case.

 

 

[1] See, e.g., Barak D. Richman, Norms and Law: Putting the Horse Before the Cart, 62 Duke L.J. 739 (2012).

[2] Robert C. Ellickson, Order Without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes (1991).

[3] Id.

[4] See, e.g., Lisa Bernstein, Private Commercial Law in the Cotton Industry: Creating Cooperation Through Rules, Norms, and Institutions, 99 Mich. L. Rev. 1724 (2001).

[5] See, e.g., Curtis J. Milhaupt and Mark D. West, The Dark Side of Private Ordering: An Institutional and Empirical Analysis of Organized Crime, 67 U. Chi. L. Rev. 41 (2000).

[6] Andrew Crosbie, Information for Andrew Aitken Portioner of Elsrighill, David Brown and James Richardson, Tenants there, present Birlymen for the Town of Elsrighill, and William Elder, Wright there, Birly Officer, John Cuthbertson, Portioner there, John Lawson, Farmer there, and John White of Howburn, Pursuers; against John Wilson, Portioner of Elsrighill, and John Bannatyne, Sheriff-Substitute of Lanark, Defenders (Jan. 18, 1780) (Box 4, Scottish Court of Session Records, University of Virginia Law School Library).

[7] “Redd the marches” refers to fixing boundaries. See Redd, v.2, Oxford English Dictionary, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/160193  (last visited Feb. 8, 2018) (“To delineate or fix exactly (a border or boundary); to mark or set the borders of (a place). Chiefly in to redd the marches. . . .”); March, n.3, Oxford English Dictionary, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/113952 (last visited Feb. 8, 2018) (“The boundary of an estate; a boundary dividing one property from another; a tract of land between two properties.”).

[8] The phrase “pit stones” refers to boundary-stones. Pit, Dictionary of the Scots Language, http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/pit_n_v2 (last visited Feb. 8, 2018).

[9] Crosbie, supra note 6.

[10] Id.

[11] Poind, Oxford English Dictionary, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/146603 (last visited Feb. 8, 2018).

[12] William Craig, Information for John Bannatyne, sheriff-substitute of Lanark, defender, against Andrew Aitken, portioner of Elsrighill, and others, pursuers (Nov. 15, 1779) (Box 4, Scottish Court of Session Records, University of Virginia Law School Library).

Written by

Kate Boudouris

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

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Gregory Swanson and the Integration of UVA Law

[On February 5, 2018, the University of Virginia School of Law commemorated Gregory Hayes Swanson, who attended UVA Law in the graduate L.L.M. program and was the first black student to enroll at UVA after winning his lawsuit to desegregate the University in 1950. Read more about the Swanson commemoration here.]

Gregory Swanson Enrolls at UVA, September 5, 1950. Special Collections, University of Virginia Library.

In a 1958 interview, Gregory Swanson appealed to the readers of the Washington Post: “What Negroes want most is to feel that they belong in the mainstream of American life.”[1]  Swanson knew firsthand the challenges that African Americans faced.  Nine years prior, in the fall of 1949, Swanson initiated an application to the School of Law at the University of Virginia.  Already a practicing lawyer, Swanson wanted to earn a graduate degree in law—an L.L.M.  “My primary reason stems from the desire to teach law,” Swanson wrote to the law school’s Committee on Admissions.[2]  By the time of his application, Swanson had graduated from Howard University with an L.L.B. (now J.D.), returned to his home state of Virginia, and passed the bar. After several years of clerking and practicing law at firms in Richmond, Danville, and Martinsville, he decided teaching would be his next career move.

Swanson sent off his application materials in November 1949 expecting to hear the standard reply for an application from a black student.  Rather than attend the University of Virginia, which interpreted state segregation laws in such a way as to prevent his enrollment, he anticipated that he would be offered “grant-in-aid from the state” to attend an out-of-state institution. Writing to his former dean at Howard about his UVA application, Swanson explained that under usual circumstances this would have been acceptable.  But with the Sweatt and McLaurin cases to desegregate American universities currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, the timing seemed right to challenge the constitutionality of Virginia segregation practices in graduate education.[3] Swanson aimed to gain admission to UVA Law, and when he did, he told the Howard dean, it would be “a triumph in the struggle to break down segregation and discrimination or to bring about equalization in education facilities.”[4]

After reviewing Swanson’s application, the Law School’s Committee on Graduate Studies unanimously approved his admission as an L.L.M. student. Yet, their resounding endorsement was not enough. On January 19, 1950, the committee brought the matter of Swanson’s application before a full meeting of the law faculty. With one dissenting vote among the twelve faculty members in attendance, the law faculty also approved the Committee’s decision and sent the matter to UVA President Colgate Darden for a final determination.[6]  But it was the Board of Visitors who would have the ultimate say.  On July 14, 1950, the UVA Board of Visitors denied Swanson’s application to UVA Law.[7] 

Within days of hearing of Swanson’s denial, the firm of Hill, Martin, & Robinson and the Virginia Chapter of the NAACP organized legal staff, including Thurgood Marshall, and resources to obtain Swanson’s admission to UVA Law.[8]  Swanson filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District in Charlottesville to gain admission to UVA Law for the upcoming fall 1950 semester.[9]  Swanson and his team succeeded, and on September 5, 1950, the District Court ruled in favor of his admittance.  Not only was he a qualified applicant, the court explained, but UVA was the only state institution at which Swanson could pursue a graduate degree in law. The court order permitted Swanson to enroll immediately and barred UVA from denying admission to the UVA Law School to “any other Negro similarly situated.”[10]  Ten days later, Swanson registered as a student—as the first African-American student to attend the University of Virginia.

The Carver Inn, in the former Vinegar Hill neighborhood of Charlottesville, where Gregory Swanson lived during his one-year residency at UVA Law. Special Collections, University of Virginia Library.

The lawsuit would not be the last challenge Swanson navigated in Charlottesville or at UVA. “It is difficult to stop realizing that I am on the spot as well as a stranger in this town,” he wrote to a family member just a week after commencing his studies.  Whereas other law students lived close to grounds, Swanson lived more than a mile away—in the black neighborhood of Vinegar Hill.  During his walks to school, “whites also stop to stare at me, for they realize that I am going to the Univ.  I should like to read their minds.  Sometimes, I feel that I do.”[11]  At the law school, Swanson’s experience in many ways mirrored that of other students.  He studied tax law. He was nervous about being called on in class but proud of his first delivery. He ate lunch every day in the UVA Commons Cafeteria. Critically, however, Swanson endured repeated affronts to his presence, including fellow students who vocally opposed integration. 

Nevertheless, Swanson used his time at UVA to build and enable a more inclusive environment.  “I am endeavoring to participate [in] the University activities as much as possible so that the students can get used to the idea of a Negro being here,” he wrote to a family member in September 1950.[12]  Swanson attended lectures and football games, and he was a season ticket holder to the University’s Tuesday Evening Concert Group at Cabell Hall.[13] He also joined the UVA YMCA’s new “Committee for Racial Understanding.”[14]

Gregory Swanson on the UVA lawn. Gregory H. Swanson Papers at Howard University.

His graduate program required only one year in residence, so Swanson returned to Martinsville in 1951 and reopened his former practice.  There, he continued drafting his thesis, a requirement of the L.L.M. degree program, while simultaneously building his firm.  Balancing his career with his studies proved difficult, as it often did for L.L.M. students, and Swanson missed the two-year deadline to submit his completed thesis.  He would not receive his L.L.M. degree, nor did anyone else in his graduate cohort.[15] This, however, did little to impede Swanson.  Instead of teaching, Swanson dedicated his early career to fighting for civil rights for black Americans in both the courtroom and greater community.  Throughout the 1950s, he was an active member of the Virginia Chapter of the NAACP and the Virginia Voters League, as well as his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, which was dedicated to supporting black students and black civil rights. 

By the time he was interviewed by the Washington Post in 1958, Swanson’s legacy was obvious.  One year prior to the article, there were eleven Africans Americans enrolled at the University of Virginia.[16]  Moreover, Swanson’s commitment to racial understanding endured.  He encouraged communities to form groups similar to the YMCA committee that he had served on at UVA.  And he implored Americans to advocate for their fellow citizens.  For Swanson, inaction was unacceptable, a belief he embodied throughout his time at UVA. “Life is cheapened where man’s inhumanity to man prevails,” Swanson wrote just before he enrolled at the University of Virginia, “and those who remain silent in the wake of such action… become an integral part of the conspiracy of silence.”[17] 

 

FURTHER READING AND RESEARCH:

The Papers of Gregory H. Swanson
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University

Papers of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
Library of Congress
Plaintiff case materials and correspondence

The Papers of Judge John Paul
Special Collections, UVA Law Library
Correspondence and court filings for Swanson v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va.

The Papers of Oliver Hill
Virginia State University
[This Collection is currently being processed and will be available to researchers in Fall 2018]

The Papers of Sarah Patton Boyle
Special Collections, UVA Library
Correspondence with Gregory Swanson

Margaret Edds, We Face the Dawn: Oliver Hill, Spottswood Robinson, and the Legal Team that Dismantled Jim Crow (Charlottesville: The University of Virginia Press, 2018).

 

[1] Susanna McBee, “First Negro to Attend U. of Virginia Sees Need for ‘Massive Assistance.’ The Washington Post and Times Herald, 01 September 1958, A8.

[2] Gregory Swanson to Committee on Admissions, December 1, 1949, Gregory H. Swanson Papers, Howard University [cited hereafter as GSP].

[3] The two cases were Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950) regarding the admission of a black student to the University of Texas Law School; McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637 (1950), regarding segregated educational facilities at the University of Oklahoma. Swanson to George Marion, November 30, 1949, GSP.

[4] Swanson to F.D. Wilkinson, January 30, 1950, GSP.

[6] UVA Law School Faculty Meeting minutes, January 19, 1950.

[7] Emerson Spies to Swanson, July 29, 1950, GSP.

[8] Memorandum, Spottswood Robinson to Thurgood Marshall, August 3, 1950, Box 247, Papers of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Library of Congress.

[9] Complaint, Swanson v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va., No. 30 (W.D. Va. Sept. 5, 1950), Box 42, MSS 81-7, Judicial Papers of Judge John Paul, Special Collections UVA Law Library.

[10] Judgment at 3, Swanson v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va., No. 30 (W.D. Va. Sept. 5, 1950), Box 42, MSS 81-7, Judicial Papers of Judge John Paul, Special Collections UVA Law Library.

[11] Swanson to Marquerite, September 28, 1950, GSP.

[12] Swanson to Marquerite, September 28, 1950, GSP.

[13] The Tuesday Evening Concert Group, Season Ticket 1950-1951; YMCA service programs, various dates, GSP.

[14] YMCA meeting minutes, October 16, 1950, GSP.

[15] Swanson to Leslie Buckler, May 16, 1951, GSP. The annual catalog for the law school in place at the time of Swanson’s admission and enrollment at UVA Law specified that L.L.M. students would progress from their period of residence to a candidate for the degree after submitting a project plan and a description of their thesis to the graduate committee and earning the committee’s approval to become a degree candidate.  The catalog specified that L.L.M. students must submit a completed thesis within two years from the date at which they became a candidate for the degree. The University of Virginia Record: Department of Law 1949-1950 (Charlottesville: The University of Virginia, 1949), 16.

[16] McBee, “First Negro to Attend U. of Virginia Sees Need for ‘Massive Assistance,’ The Washington Post and Times Herald, 01 September 1958, A8.

[17] Swanson to Sarah Boyle, August 28, 1950, GSP.

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.

Mary Draper

Mary Draper earned her Ph.D. from UVA in 2016 and is a historian of colonial America and the Atlantic world. She is currently working on a book about the history of the early modern British Caribbean.

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Law Library Uncovers Hidden Legal Histories with Scottish Court of Session Digital Archive

Alleged Copyright Theft by Founders of Encyclopaedia Britannica Among Stories Revealed

Thirty years after the University of Virginia School of Law acquired a trove of legal documents from Scotland’s Court of Session, the supreme legal court there, the Law School’s Arthur J. Morris Law Library is building a digital archive and reaching out to partners “across the pond” to open these legal history materials to scholars and the public.

When complete, the archive will provide users with access to the previously hidden histories of people living through an era of profound change.

Last week, the Special Collections team traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland, to present the digital project at the annual meeting of the Scottish Records Association and to meet with colleagues at the University of Edinburgh Library, who are pursuing a similar initiative.

The Dome Room in the New Register House at the National Records of Scotland holds documents, including legal records, that date back to 1553. Photo courtesy of Special Collections.

The Court of Session, as Scotland’s highest civil court, hears cases dealing with divorce, real estate, bankruptcy, intellectual property, debt and a variety of other civil matters. In the mid-1980s, the Law Library purchased a collection of documents related to about 2,500 cases heard before the court between 1757 and 1834.

The University of Edinburgh Library, the National Library of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates Library and the Signet Library hold more than 4,000 volumes of the court’s papers combined.

Unlike the handwritten manuscripts produced by English or American courts from this period, the Court of Session did its work in print. Memorials, petitions and even evidence were given to the court in this form. Today, the clear type makes the collection more accessible to researchers and easier to digitize.

Users will be able to search through a single document or the entire collection, peruse the rich data provided for each case and download documents for free.

War, revolution and the Enlightenment transformed the lives of 18th and 19nth century peoples living around the Atlantic basin. These documents illuminate the lives of Scottish merchants trading with colonial Virginia tobacco planters; provide insight into the transatlantic slave trade; show how Scottish women defend their limited legal rights; and trace conflicts between literary figures and their publishers, among other stories.

For example, the copyright dispute at the heart of Clark v. Bell (1804) opens an entry point into the early history of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Among the sources creators Colin Macfarquhar and Andrew Bell consulted was work by James Clark, a veterinarian and King George III’s farrier in Scotland. In 1801, Clark sued Bell (Macfarquhar having since died) for copyright infringement under the Copyright Act of 1710.

Clark alleged that the two men had incorporated verbatim portions of his two treatises on equine care without his consent. After “the best and most valuable parts of them are inserted in the Encyclopaedia Britannica,” publishers refused to issue new editions of his work, Clark said. He charged that Bell and Macfarquhar had violated the Copyright Act, harming his business interests and reducing his potential income. The court agreed.

The Lords of Session (as the judges are called) sided with Clark and later affirmed judgement on appeal.

 
Joseph Marshall, head of special collections and the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh Library, shows an example of a bound volume of documents held in the library’s collection. Photo courtesy of Special Collections.

What Clark v. Bell offers is a legal window into the creation of one of the most iconic literary productions of the past three centuries. The case documents provide details on the process Bell and Macfarquhar used to assemble the Encyclopaedia’s early editions — and suggest where to look next. (The record makes it clear that Bell and Macfarquhar faced similar accusations from other authors.)

Collaborating with the Edinburgh-based coalition will allow the Law Library’s Special Collections team to continue to bring rich legal materials like these to light as we trade knowledge and expertise with our colleagues abroad.

It will also enable the two groups to reconstruct case histories in digital space, making it easier for scholars, genealogists, bibliophiles and law students to access a complete case record.

Compiled in leather-bound volumes (like similar collections in Scotland) at one point, the Law Library’s documents were removed from their bindings sometime after 1835. They rest now in archival boxes that consume 64 feet of shelf space in the Library’s Special Collections unit — as we steadily continue to digitize their contents.

The Law Library is preparing to release its first batch of documents. Look for them online soon. For more information on the project, including how you can support it, contact archives@law.virginia.edu.

(This article was first published on the University of Virginia School of Law website on November 17, 2017.)

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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What We Talk About When We Talk About Legal Texts

What comes to mind when you think about the texts that law students read? Most of the time, it’s cases, statutes, contracts, and law review articles. Sometimes, it’s texts on legal theory. But if you asked Thomas Jefferson, in order to understand the law, students needed to read widely in everything from natural science to literature.

Jefferson and his eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century contemporaries didn’t see law as an isolated discipline. Rather, they considered it to be one branch of philosophy (or “reason”), which joined history (or “memory”) and the fine arts (or “imagination”) as the three “faculties” of learning. In “philosophy,” law stood alongside mathematics, ethics, and religion. This breakdown of “faculties” was inspired by the English philosopher, Francis Bacon, whose 1605 book, The Advancement of Learning, shaped the ideas of Jefferson and many other Enlightenment-era thinkers.

In early American legal education, practical training was just one of three components. The other two were theoretical knowledge (note only of the law but also how individuals and societies related to one another) and a general education that often included languages, philosophy, and history. The goal was to train good lawyers but more importantly, craft young men into well-rounded, virtuous citizens.[1]

William Wirt, U.S. Attorney General for James Monroe and John Quincy Adams.

The courses that William Wirt, attorney general under James Monroe and John Quincy Adams and a close friend of Jefferson, advised law students to take reflected this view. In 1822, Wirt wrote Hampton L. Carson about his legal education. Read William Blackstone, Wirt urged, as “the best introductory author,” who can offer “a clear and comprehensive view of [the law’s] present state.” But don’t stop there, Wirt added. In addition to statutes, rulings, and natural law, Wirt encouraged Carson to read history, literature, rhetoric, and the classics.[2]

Adopting a holistic understanding of legal education as something that cultivated virtue and moral improvement meant engaging with a diversity of texts. “[E]verything is useful which contributes to fix us in the principles and practices of virtue,” Jefferson wrote to Robert Skipwith in the summer of 1771. Fiction, in particular, proved a good way to learn about ethics, especially because “[w]e never reflect whether the story we read be truth or fiction.” Jefferson noted that Macbeth’s murder of King Duncan in Shakespeare’s famous 1606 play ignited the same “horror of villainy, as the real one of Henry IV.”[3]

Jefferson believed that fiction proved the best way to learn about ethics because it teaches us what to do and what not to do. We are “as warmly interested for a fictitious as for a real personage,” Jefferson observed in his 1771 letter. “The spacious field of imagination is thus laid open to our use and lessons may be formed to illustrate and carry home to the mind every moral rule of life.” Jefferson maintained that reading Shakespeare’s King Lear, for instance, could better teach young men and women about duties to their elders than “all the dry volumes of ethics, and divinity that ever were written.”[4]

Today, fiction isn’t usually required reading for law students, but some law professors still consider it to be valuable. For years, our faculty have integrated works of fiction into the curriculum to add texture and depth to the stories of law.[5] We surveyed UVA law professors this summer to find out of what fiction they consider required reading for understanding the law. You can join the discussion on the UVA Law Library’s Facebook page. We’d love to hear your suggestions as to what fiction you deem essential for a legal education that even Thomas Jefferson would approve of.

 

[1] See, for instance, Mark Warren Bailey, Early Legal Education in the United States: Natural Law Theory and Law as a Moral Science, 48 J. Legal Educ. 311 (1998).

[2] Id. at 321.

[3] Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Robert Skipwith, Aug. 3, 1771, in 1 The Papers of Thomas Jefferson 76, 76-77 (Julian P. Boyd ed. 1950).

[4] Id.

[5] Denise Forster, Using Literature to Make Better LawyersUVA Lawyer, Fall 2005, http://www.law.virginia.edu/html/alumni/uvalawyer/f05/literature.htm.

 

Written by

Melissa Gismondi

Melissa leads interpretation for the first phase of the 1828 Catalogue Project. She holds a PhD in early American history from the University of Virginia and is currently working on a book about the political partnership of Andrew Jackson and his wife, Rachel. Follow her on Twitter @melissajgismond.

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Meet Special Collections’ Public History Summer Interns

Late Spring brings new growth to Special Collections at the Law Library as academics everywhere turn their thoughts to Summer research and writing. We are fortunate to have two stellar individuals joining the team over the next few months in partnership with UVA’s Institute for Public History to spearhead two important legal history projects. 

Abby Holland - Special Collections
Third year Abby Holland will contribute to the Dean Lile Diaries digitization project this summer.

Abby Holland, a rising 3rd year American Studies major with a concentration in race and ethnicity, brings her experience working with Civil War diaries in Small Special Collections and the digital tool Neatline to the Dairies of William Minor Lile project. 

Born into an Alabama slaveholding family in 1859, Lile studied law at the University of Virginia in the early 1880s. He later settled in Lynchburg to practice his trade. In 1893, UVA’s Board of Visitors appointed Lile to a law professorship in the expectation that he would succeed his great uncle, John B. Minor, as head of the law department. Minor died in 1895. Nine years later, during a period of administrative reorganization, university president Edwin Alderman named Lile as the Law School’s first dean. Lile died in 1935.

Lile produced an eleven-volume journal over the course of his adult life. The entries begin in 1882 and cease in 1932. They record Lile’s experiences in post-Civil War and Reconstruction Virginia as the United States entered the Gilded Age and the new international order. Lile’s journals illuminate the intersection of local and national politics and culture. They detail his participation in numerous Virginia and regional legal cases, comment on Democratic and Republican politics at the state and federal levels, technological changes such as the introduction of automobiles in Charlottesville, prohibition activities, and economic booms and busts that gripped the nation. 

Abby will spend the summer developing her digital history skills by preparing a new transcription of one of Lile’s volumes and writing interpretive essays that introduce readers to him. Her work is part of an on-going effort to prepare a digital documentary edition of these wonderful journals. She will also pursue a project of her own design based on the diaries that will enrich our understanding of the law, Virginia, and the United States during a period of chaotic transformation. 

Melissa Gismondi comes onboard as co-director of our Digital 1828 Catalogue Collection Project, an initiative supported by the Jefferson Trust Foundation. Melissa specializes in the history of nineteenth-century North America. She recently defended her dissertation and will receive her Ph.D. in August 2017. Her work focuses on the military and political partnership of President Andrew Jackson and his wife, Rachel, which she is developing into a book. She is also the moderator of BookStory, a new book club from BackStory, a program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. 

Melissa Gismondi - Special Collections
History Ph.D. candidate Melissa Gismondi is co-director of our Digital 1828 Catalogue Collection Project.

As we noted in our Jefferson Trust grant application:

“In 1820, Thomas Jefferson believed the new University of Virginia would empower the ‘illimitable freedom of the human mind, to explore and to expose every subject susceptible of it’s contemplation.’ Jefferson envisioned the library as the centerpiece of university life and the foundation of his grand vision for American education. In 1824, he selected 7,000 volumes, including over 700 law books, to fill the library’s shelves. Jefferson believed that enabling access to these texts at UVA would overcome economic disparities and create educational opportunities for a broad audience. ‘Great standard works of established reputation, too voluminous and too expensive for private libraries,’ he wrote to the university’s purchasing agent, ‘should have a place in every public library, for the free resort of individuals.’ In Jefferson’s mind, an easily accessible library should be one of the cornerstones of a democratic society by allowing citizens and scholars convenient access to knowledge and the tools to create new knowledge.

The Digital 1828 Catalogue Collection Project reconstructs the original corpus of 721 legal texts purchased for the first UVA library and listed in UVA’s 1828 Catalogue. The UVA Law Library has been working for forty years to collect these rare legal titles, most of which were originally selected by Thomas Jefferson. This student-centered project will build a digital version of this collection using a new tool called the Virtual Bookshelf. The Virtual Bookshelf will enable new historical scholarship on foundational texts in early American and transatlantic legal history, and provide UVA libraries with a powerful new way to manage their digital presence. Built on a rich database of bibliographic information, this immersive website preserves the traditional browsing experience while providing students with experiential learning and leadership opportunities to explore the law library’s international origins and contribute to the university’s digital evolution.”

Over the next few months Melissa will create interpretive content for the new 1828 site, explore interesting facets about particular texts, and help us lay the groundwork for new scholarship centered on these fascinating volumes. Along the way she’ll develop her own professional interest in digital history and engage the public through social media. 

Both Abby and Melissa will contribute regularly to this blog over this summer. Be sure to follow us on social media for updates about these exciting initiatives. 

 

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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Jefferson Trust Award to Facilitate Digitization of Jeffersonian Law Book Collection

Congratulations to our Digital Collections team, which was just awarded a grant from the Jefferson Trust to fund the Digital 1828 Catalog Collection Project. The project seeks to assemble and digitize all of the law books that were hand selected by Thomas Jefferson for inclusion in the 1828 Catalogue of the Library of the University of Virginia.  

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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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