« ZurückWeiter »
attending as many of the courts in this Province, together with New Castle, as I might think convenient, and that he would assist me all that lay in his power.-he intending to decline Lancaster and New Castle. His Lancaster business he has resigned to me already, which will be of great service in introducing me to his clients and the people in general, and I suppose I shall attend the August court at Lancaster, and also at New Castle. His reasons for my not settling at New Castle were that the county was poor, and not able to support more of the fraternity than were in it already, and not fit for any person [to] live in, but I might by attending there make near as much as if settled; and, by my going from hence. I should lose the acquaintance I had acquired, and get quite out of knowledge. That while I thought proper to stay in Philadelphia, I should be welcome to his table and my lodgings, as at present, but at the same time would not advise or persuade me to go or stay, but would leave me entirely at my own disposal, as he thought it difficult to tell what might be most for my advantage. I think, under the circumstances, it would be prudent to follow his advice, at least for awhile, to see how matters will answer, as it will undoubtedly be in his power to assist me both in this and the other counties in the Province. But you will be pleased to let me know your sentiments in this respect as soon as it shall be convenient, and you will very much oblige "Your loving and obedient son, "GEORGE READ.
"Mr. JOHN READ, Christeen Bridge."
By then existing laws of Maryland and the " Three Lower Counties on Delaware" Mr. Read was entitled to a double. portion of his father's property. His first act after his admission to the bar was to relinquish, by deed, all claim on
*This right to a double portion was anciently peculiar to the Jews. (2d Blackstone's Commentaries, p. 214; Tucker's edition, chap. xiv., Of Title by Descent, Rule 3) In Deuteronomy, xxi. 17, it is declared to be the right of the first-born, and was his in the patriarchal age, to support his dignity as the ruler of his family, and, probably, its priest. It was the law in Delaware, as to personal estate, from 1683 to 1742, and as to real, from 1683, when it was, as far as appears, first enacted as to both, till January 29th, 1794, when it was repealed. Appendix, Delaware Laws, vol. i. p 16, etc., and Delaware Laws, vol. i. chap. exix. a, p. 119. It was also, at the time of the Revolution, the law in New
his father's estate, assigning as the reason for this relinquishment that he had received his full portion in the expenses incurred by his education, and it would be a fraud. upon his brothers not to renounce his legal right.
In the year 1754+ he settled in New Castle, and commenced the practice of the law, in the then three lower counties on Delaware, and the adjacent ones of Maryland. He found himself in the midst of powerful competitors, men of undoubted talents and able lawyers, among whom were John Ross, then Attorney-General. Benjamin Chew, Joseph Galloway,§ George Ross,|| John Dickinson, and Thomas McKean. To have rapidly obtained full practice among such competitors is of itself sufficient praise.
England, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.--Hildreth's History of the United States, vol. iii. p. 388.
* Part of which was a farm of one hundred and eighty acres, with a spacious brick house, and barn, and other buildings and conveniences adjacent to Christiana Bridge, with a store-house and wharf used as a landing, from whence an extensive trade was long carried on with Philadelphia and other places. John Read died in 1756, aged sixty-eight years, and his wife, Mary Howel, September 221, 1784, in the seventyfourth year of her age. Both are interred in the Presbyterian buryingground of Christiana, and have substantial marble monuments over them.
In an almanac for 1754, which I found among his papers, is this entry in his bandwriting, "Came to New Castle 6th March, 1754.”
See Appendix A.
§ Of Galloway's manner I have no personal knowledge. From inspection of the docket, his practice appears to have been extensive. He adhered to the royal cause, and migrated to England, where, after exciting considerable public attention by his attacks on the conduct of Sir William Howe, in America, he remained till his death.”—Rawle's Recollections of the Philadelphia Bar; Watson's Annals of Philadel phia, pp. 267, 268.
"The talents of George Ross were much above mediocrity. His nanner was insinuating and persuasive, accompanied with a species of pleasantry and habitual good humor. His knowledge of law was sufficient to obtain respect from the court, and his familiar manner secured the attention of the jury. But he was not industrious, and his career, after the commencement of the Revolution, was short." He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.—Rawle's Recollections ; Watson's Annals, p. 270.
"But in those times the sphere of the lawyer was somewhat limited. In the provincial courts no great questions of international law were discussed. There were no arguments upon the construction of treaties, and no comparison of legislative powers with constitutional restrictions. Even admiralty cases had little interest. Everything great and im
the 30th of April, 1763,* he succeeded John Ross as Attorney-General for the three lower counties on Delaware. He was the first Attorney-General expressly appointed for these counties, as before this period the Attorney-General of Pennsylvania was the prosecuting officer in Delaware. Mr. Read held this office until soon after he was elected a delegate to the Congress of 1774, when, believing it incompatible with the right discharge of the arduous duties of a representative in that august body that he should continue to be trammeled by an office held under his Britannic Majesty, he resigned it.
Mr. Read was particularly eminent as a deep-read lawyer, and he was versed in special pleading, the logic of the law. His elocution was neither flowery nor rapid, unlike that of one of his ancestors, who, as I have heard from my father, was styled "silver tongued McMullin;" on the contrary, he was somewhat slow in his speech, and negligent in his manner; but his profound legal knowledge, his solidity of judgment, and his habit of close and clear reasoning, gave him an influence with juries and judges which the graces of the most finished oratory would have failed to gain for him. His conclusions were always founded upon calm and cautious deliberation, and seldom led him into error. His legal knowledge and judgment were so conspicuous that his opinions were in high and general estimation, and he had given such evidences of his integrity that he was called the honest lawyer."
There are a number of Mr. Read's "Almanacs" among his papers, in size very small,-about four inches by two. In that of 1779 I find noted several works of science and literature, no doubt for purchase as he might have opportunity, and the terms of membership of the Philadelphia Library Company,-from which I infer that his reading was not that of the mere lawyer. In the "Almanac" of 1758
posing was reserved for the mother-country."-Rawle's Recollections of the Pennsylvania Bar before the Revolution, p. 267.
* In an almanac, found among his papers, for 1769, is this memorandum: "At a levy court of Kent, held 14th November, 1768, George Read, as Attorney-General, was allowed for his past services £70, and for the ensuing year, £15."
Showing his picture to an aged neighbor, he remarked, “I have often, when young, heard Mr. Read speak." "He was slow," said I.
"Yes," answered he, "but sure."
he notes a bet of John Vangezel with him, "that the Island Battery is in possession of the English on Sunday, the 18th of that month," and on the 11th of August, a bet with Charles Gordon, "that we do not hear of the surrender of Cape Breton by this day week." The British army, under General Amherst, effected a landing on the island of Cape Breton June 8th, and in a few days invested Louisbourg. A very severe fire was maintained against the besiegers from the town and from the battery at Light-house Point, on the northeast side of the entrance of the harbor. On the morning of June 12th, an hour before dawn, General Wolfe was detached with two thousand men (light infantry and Highlanders) to seize that post, which he took by surprise, the enemy abandoning it on his approach, and a number of smaller works were successfully carried. Several strong batteries were erected on this point, from which the ships in the harbor of Louisbourg were greatly annoyed. Louisbourg capitulated July 27th:* so that Mr. Vangezel won, while I think it almost certain, as there were neither electric telegraphs, nor railroads with their locomotives, at that day, but intelligence was very slowly transmitted, Mr. Gordon lost his bet. These entries in the "Almanac" carry us back almost a hundred years, and set us down in the groups of colonial quidnuncs, anxiously discussing the then engrossing topic,-the expedition against the French possession, Cape Breton,-just as quidnuncs are disputing and betting now upon the invasion of the Crimea, and the siege of Sebastopol; and a hundred years hence, I am afraid, they will not be without a similar subject of speculation. Mr. Dickinson writes to him as follows from
“PHILADELPHIA, October 1st, 1762.
"DEAR SIR,-I took the liberty, a few days ago, to make you a troublesome request to try a cause between Williams and Humphries, Huested and Boles, and another between
* Smollett's History of England, vol. ii. pp. 387, 388, 389; Holmes's Annals, vol. ii. pp. 80, 81; Bancroft's History of the United States, vol. iv. p. 297.
That Mr. Read partook of the martial spirit at this time pervading many, if not all, of the North American Colonies, I infer from finding his name in the roll of the militia company subjoined to this chapter, Appendix B. When the above paragraph was written the war in the Crimea was in progress.
Dennis and Campbell, at your adjourned court, as I shall be prevented from attending by several causes of consequence in our Supreme Court, to be tried at that time. My letter, with a short state of each case, I presume you have received, and hope you will be so kind as to favour me with
"Another request I have to make to you is that you will, if you approve of it, propose the inclosed law to the Assembly, at the next session, as useful and necessary to be passed.
"It is almost an exact copy of the Pennsylvania law to this purpose, and I wonder how it has been so long neglected. My reason for desiring this law to pass is that I know it will contribute to the advancement of justice, particularly in one instance, and I believe every Colony besides yours has made provision in such cases.
"I assure you, upon my honor, that I have not the least interest in promoting such a bill. But I know some persons would industriously oppose it if they could find out that my head or hand or even my little finger had been employed in framing it.
"I am imagine modicum manet alta in mente repositum. "I shall, therefore, be greatly obliged to you if you will be so good as to entirely suppress my name.
"You can introduce the matter very well by mentioning the propriety of such a law to our worthy friend, Mr. Vanbebber, who, as a judge, may, with great consistence of character, desire leave to bring in such a bill; so might Mr. Rice. I don't know which has most influence in the House.
"You may congratulate me on my salvation, for I am, certainly, among the elect, and may enter into the Assembly of righteous men.
"My pleasure is that this happens without opposition, or the discontent of those I esteem, which I regard as a great happiness. Mr. S. W made a candid, manly declaration of his reasons for opposing me last year, which were the same you once mentioned to me, and I think sufficient. It would have given me great pain to have been the occasion of uneasiness to a man I so much respect as I do Mr. BBut now I flatter myself with coming in with the general approbation of good men.
* What this law was does not appear, the draught inclosed in this letter not being with it.