The Letters of William Cullen Bryant - Vol. 1

By William Cullen Bryant II; Thomas G. Voss et al. | Go to book overview
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School, of which he had been the principal founder. Bryant knew Parker would hold court terms at Lenox in March and September 1824.
2.
At the June 1823 term of the Court of Common Pleas Bryant won for store- keeper Grotius Bloss of nearby Alford a judicial assessment of damages and costs against a neighbor, Augustus Tobey, who had accused Bloss publicly of burning his own store to collect the insurance on its goods. This judgment was confirmed by a jury in September at the Supreme judicial Court term. But Tobey's lawyers, led by veteran John Whiting (see 41.2), moved successfully in arrest of judgment. As Bryant explains, during his absence his associate counsel William C. Jarvis was hurried into a decision which put the victorious plaintiff on the defensive. Bryant's later "plain, common-sense argument" failed to convince the appellate justices, who overturned the jury verdict in September 1824 and levied court costs against Bryant's client. Supreme Judicial Court Records, May Term, 1823-May Term, 1827, pp. 164-169, Berkshire County Court, Pittsfield, Massachusetts. See also Bigelow, Bryant, pp. 38-39; Life, I, 201-202; Berkshire Eagle, June 20, 1878. This reversal of judgment was crucial in Bryant's decision soon afterward to quit the law for journalism. Half a century later he wrote of the verdict, "By a piece of pure chicane, in a case the merits of which were with my client and were perfectly understood by the parties, the court, the jury and every body who heard the trial or heard of it, my client was turned out of court after the jury had awarded him damages and deprived of what they intended he should receive. This did not much heighten my respect for the law." Letter to unidentified correspondent, May 7, 1878, Lafayette College Library.

93. To Messrs. Robert B. Southwick & Co.1

Great Barrington Dec 27, 1823.

Gentlemen.

Sometime since I wrote you that I had seen Jno. C. Deming and that he promised to call on you and make some arrangement of the demand against him and [Cyrenus] Stevens. Since that time I have not heard from you.

At present I have some news to communicate concerning him and Stevens of no very agreeable nature.

A man in West Stockbridge, a creditor of Deming to a considerable amount, and who had given him money to discharge a certain debt, which he neglected to pay over & appropriated to his own use, was sued on that debt and called on Deming for security. Deming made to him an assignment of all his effects, and in the assignment stipulated that if the property assigned upon being sold should bring more than enough to pay this debt the surplus should be applied towards the payment of other claims which were mentioned in the assignment, and among which I cannot learn that yours was named. The property however, it is said, will not more than pay the debt it was first intended to secure. In the mean time Deming went off to the State of New York, and is now in Albany on the limits. --One of the creditors, whose name was mentioned in the assignment, has attached the property assigned--and the consequence, it is expected, will be a law suit.

While these things were transacting, Stevens was buying goods in the City of New York. He purchased, it is said, a considerable assortment,

-147-

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