Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

By Boynton Merrill Jr. | Go to book overview

27
THE FIRST GRAND JURY

Sec. 8. And be it further enacted, That each circuit court shall
consist of one circuit judge and two assistant judges, which assistant
judges shall be residents of the county in which the circuit court
shall be held to which they shall be appointed. The circuit judge, or
the two assistant judges, or the circuit judge and one assistant, shall
be sufficient to constitute a court.1

THE FATE of Lilburne and Isham lay in the hands of the law and its officials. The character and ability of the judges, lawyers, and jurymen would determine whether the brothers were to be punished or set free. Honorable William Wallace, a competent, respected, and learned man, was the regular circuit judge of the Livingston court. There had been several terms of the Livingston court at which Judge Wallace was not present; his place had been temporarily filled by Judge Henry Broadnax, whose assigned district adjoined Wallace's district. Broadnax was imperious and severe, and conducted his court with strict, if sometimes high-tempered dignity. His cases were seldom reversed.2 Either one of these judges would have insisted that the conduct of Lilburne's and Isham's trial observe the letter of the law and be free from personal influence or legal error. The ability and integrity of these two men from Russellville were above suspicion.

The two assistant circuit judges were residents of Livingston County. As was the case in most counties, these assistant judges had little or no legal training, but they were persons of intelligence who had some political experience and influence. One of the assistant judges was Jesse Ford, a veteran of the Revolution, and one of the earliest settlers of the region.3 After 1800 he became a justice of the peace, performed many marriages in the county, and in 1805, when Smithland was incorporated, he was appointed to be one of the four trustees. In 1806 Ford represented Livingston County in the state legislature and in 1809 was appointed assistant circuit judge by Governor Scott.4 Jesse Ford was fairly prosperous by the standards of the county, for he owned seven slaves. He and his wife had five young

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Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vi
  • Constructing Jefferson's Nephews ix
  • Preface xxv
  • Preface to First Edition xxix
  • Acknowledgments xxx
  • 1: Colonial Days 3
  • 2: The Fight for Freedom 12
  • 3: A Colonel in the Militia 20
  • 4: Prosperity 29
  • 5: The Virginia Planter 38
  • 6: The Shipwreck of the Fortunes 44
  • 7: Craven Peyton, Thomas Jefferson, and the Hendersons 55
  • 8: Jefferson and the Lewises 71
  • 9: The Plan to Emigrate 84
  • 10: The Trip to Kentucky 97
  • 11: The Land and Towns 111
  • 12: Houses and Crops 123
  • 13: The Smithland Neighbors 134
  • 14: Issues in West Kentucky, 1808 143
  • 15: The County Court 151
  • 16: The Year of Trouble, 1809 163
  • 17: Lilburne Enters Public Life 175
  • 18: The Church in West Kentucky 189
  • 19: The Presbyterian Lewises 203
  • 20: Insecurity 215
  • 21: Community Affairs, 1810 226
  • 22: Slavery in Livingston 234
  • 23: Tremors in the Dynasty 240
  • 24: Annus Mirabilis 248
  • 25: The Murder 256
  • 26: After the Murder 266
  • 27: The First Grand Jury 274
  • 28: The True Bill 285
  • 29: The Graveyard 293
  • 30: The Orphans 303
  • 31: During the War 312
  • 32: The Aftereffects 322
  • 33: The Epilogue 329
  • Appendix 1 - Notes on Lewis Genealogy 339
  • Appendix 2 - The Colle Sale 348
  • Appendix 3 - The Interview with Matilda 351
  • Appendix 4 - Medical Notes 353
  • Appendix 5 - Lilburne Lewis's Estate 359
  • Index 441
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