Abolitionist Chief Justice Helped John Brown
CHIEF JUSTICE REUBEN ATWATER CHAPMAN (1801-1873) practiced law in Westfield, Monson and Ware, MA, before settling in Springfield, where he practiced law with Whig politician George Ashmun. He was presidential elector for Massachusetts and cast a vote for Abraham Lincoln’s first election to the presidency. Chapman handled legal matters for radical abolitionist John Brown when Brown was in business in Springfield. Later Brown sought Chapman’s help when he languished in jail after his failed attempt to seize the Union arsenal in Harpers Ferry, but Chapman was unable to help. Chapman supported the abolition of slavery but was against granting equal rights to women, believing it would have a negative impact on men and women by changing established social policy and mores.
Offering two ALSs with the highlight contained in the July 4, 1858 letter. 2 pp, 5 x 8, Springfield, “I congratulate you on the occasion of laying Cushing on his back with his heels up (Confidential). I spent Monday eve at law club. Sitting behind Judge [George Tyler] Bigelow. We spoke of the vacancy on the Superior Court Bench. He said the appointment of Russell ?, one of the most important things that [abolitionist] Gov. [Nathaniel] Banks could do…He did not know you were a candidate till I told him & he expressed himself very fully in your favor or a suitable man. I think you had better put some of your friends in consideration with the gov…You may read this to the Gov. if you think it helpful. I do not feel authorized to go further than let him know…”
3 pp, 7 ¾ x 9 ¾, Springfield, Feb. 4, 1857, ALS, “The subject of your letter of yesterday…I have thought and talked about considerably…The great objection to taking away one of our…judicial terms is that it introduces a system of delays of justice. Delays are already so great as to be a reproach to the administration of justice. And when every other kind of business is gaining speed every year…if we…practice delays we shall merely speed the downfall of our judiciary system. It needs today merely a tolerated & efficient politician to attack it at this point in order to endanger it very greatly…I much prefer to go to Boston for law arguments & have a case decided which the arguments are fresh, we ought to have court terms twice a year…”
Folds and light toning, but in overall excellent condition.
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