Justice Joseph Story and the Rise of the Supreme Court

By Gerald T. Dunne | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
Two Trips to Washington

THOMAS JEFFERSON

In late May of 1807 Story came clattering into the national capital "reduced to a mere jelly" by the bouncing of the Baltimore-Washington stagecoach.1 Had he made the trip in summer or winter, the discomforts would have been far worse. He was fated to do a great deal of traveling on behalf of the Yazoo claimants, and the sheer torture that these undertakings involved was a good index of his dedication to their cause. A lawyer, it is often insisted, is not to be identified with his clients or his case. Like all general propositions, this is a question of degree, and the answer requires some additional questions. What is the depth of his commitment to the legal theory he asserts? Is it one culled from many with professional detachment? What is the value of the cause? What activity does he expend on it? On these counts the assimilation of Story and the Yazoo claimants was complete. His emerging attitudes on the supremacy of the courts over the legislature we have already seen. The possible value of claims on the fertile Southern lands grew to fantastic proportions as the cotton exports of the United States jumped from 73,000 to 178,000 bales between 1800 and 1810. The energy he gave it in his years of advocacy was

____________________
1
"Letter to Samuel P. P. Fay", May 29, 1807, in W. W. Story, I, 148.

-47-

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