Offering a two-page, 8 1/2 x 13 1/5, ALS, Philadelphia, January 14, 1786, from EDWARD SHIPPEN IV to JASPER YEATES, two historically important early Pennsylvania men, discussing a estate and trying to determine the intent of a deceased man’s will in great legal detail. Both Shippen and Yeates served in many official positions, including the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Yeates also served as a negotiator in the Whiskey Rebellion. Both men were impeached but acquitted.
SHIPPEN (February 16, 1729 – April 15, 1806) was an American lawyer, judge, government official and prominent figure in colonial and post-revolutionary Philadelphia. He was appointed judge of the admiralty court in 1755. Three years later, he was elected to the city’s common council. In 1762, he was appointed prothonotary of the supreme court. Shippen had been burgess of Lancaster for several years. During his tenure as burgess, the Conestoga Indians were massacred by the Paxton rangers. Shippen and other leading citizens were attending church at the time. By the time they had reached the scene, the Paxton boys had left town. He became a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Council in 1770. Shippen attempted to stay neutral in the Revolutionary War, hoping that the colonies and the mother country would be reconciled. He didn’t support the extension of royal authority and, therefore, was not a Loyalist. But he also opposed the radically democratic Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, which sought to reduce the hold on government by powerful families like the Shippens. Shippen was a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1791, he was appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, serving with JASPER YEATES and EDWARD BURD, both kinsmen and former students. Shippen became chief justice in 1799, but in 1804 he and Yeates were impeached on flimsy political grounds, for charging a man with contempt of court. The next year, the Pennsylvania Senate acquitted him and his associates. His fourth daughter, Margaret, was the second wife of Benedict Arnold.
YEATES (1745 – 1817) was admitted to the bar in 1765. He served as a delegate from Lancaster County to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and received a commission as Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1791. Following ratification of the Constitution, Yeates became a Federalist and on August 8, 1794, George Washington appointed him to a commission to negotiate with participants of the Whiskey Rebellion. The commission produced a treaty, which guaranteed the rebels a pardon.
The letter reads, in very small part, “...In the case of Robinson v Robinson, if the general intent could have been complied with by giving LH an Estate for Life, that construction would have been preferred, but this could not be done by the rules of law as the heirs male could not take by purchase; therefore thro’ necessity in order to comply with the general intent...This makes it material to consider what was the general Intention of the Testator in the present case. It seems as if two different Intentions may be ascribed to him, both with some degree of plausibility. 1st, that it should never go over & be appraised to tell then was a failure of issue male & female even tho the Devisee should not devise it to one of his sons or daughters – Upon this construction there would seem to exist such a necessity to given the Devisee an Estate trial as there was in Robinson’s case...That the Testator meant what every plain man, not a lawyer, would understand, that if the Devisee died without leaving a Son or a daughter to whom he might devise the land, it should go over & of course that the remainder would take place on the contingency happening...”
The letter is in very good condition with a couple of burn marks affecting a few words. Fold splits reinforced with archival tape.
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