Tag Archives: Legal History

Law, Order, and Sexual Misconduct in Colonial New England


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ben_franklins_worldLaw and order stood as a sign of civilization for many 17th-century Europeans, which is why some of the first European settlers in North America created systems of law and order in their new homeland.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the legal history of colonial New England with Abby Chandler, author of Law and Sexual Misconduct in New England 1650-1750 (Ashgate, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/069

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John Jay, Forgotten Founder


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ben_franklins_worldJohn Jay played important and prominent roles during the founding of the United States and yet, his name isn’t one that many would list if asked to name founding fathers.

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore John Jay and his contributions to the founding of the United States with Robb Haberman, associate editor of The Selected Papers of John Jay documentary editing project. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/055

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Erie Canal Funding Challenged In Court


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groundbreakingThe State Canal Corporation has announced the 10th annual “Canal Splash” for August 7 – 15. It is mostly to promote the recreational possibilities of the canal system but some of the events along the canalways will focus on history and culture. “Celebrate the history, culture, recreational appeal, and beauty of the New York State Canal System and Erie Canalway Trail during the 10 days of Canal Splash!” says its website. The celebration is a high point in the ongoing work of promoting the canal. Continue reading

For Fear of an Elective King


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Today we address the President of the United States as “Mr. President.” But did you know that the proper title for the office was almost “His Highness the President?”

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Kathleen Bartoloni-Tuazon, author of For Fear of an Elective King (Cornell University Press, 2014), leads us on an exploration of the presidential title controversy of 1789, the first controversy to wrack the United States Congress. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/040

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Aaron Burr Revised: Conspiracy, Treason and Justice


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Aaron Burr by John Vanderlyn in 1809. Courtesy of New-York Historical SocietyWho remembers Aaron Burr as anything more than Quick Draw McGraw shooting down the near-sighted Alexander Hamilton at dawn in 1804? But there is much more to the man, as Gore Vidal revealed in his intriguing 1973 historical novel, and other subsequent scholarship.

Two aspects of Burr’s varied career stand out in today’s world. First, his treason trial that closely examined issues of what counts as an act of war against one’s own government. And second, his relationships with a series of highly intelligent and accomplished women, reflecting his high opinion of the female sex and its potential. Continue reading

The Albany Connections of Burr, Hamilton, and Schuyler


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Hamilton-burr-duelDuring the Revolutionary War, Alexander Hamilton served as an artillery captain and later a colonel and trusted aid to General George Washington. Colonel Aaron Burr also served in the Colonial Army and accompanied Benedict Arnold on his march through the Maine wilderness and his failed attempt to capture Quebec. Burr had been with General Richard Montgomery when Montgomery was shot and killed in Quebec. Later in the war, Burr was placed in charge of a regiment and his troops were stationed in Westchester County, New York. Continue reading

Three Graces Of Raymond Street, Brooklyn


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Three GRaces of Raymond StreetA compelling story about three murders in Brooklyn between 1872 and 1873 and the young women charged with the crimes is told in a new book by Robert E. Murphy, Three Graces Of Raymond Street: Murder, Madness, Sex, and Politics in 1870s Brooklyn (SUNY Press, 2015).

Between January 1872 and September 1873, the city of Brooklyn was gripped by accounts of three murders allegedly committed by young women: a factory girl shot her employer and seducer, an evidently peculiar woman shot a philandering member of a prominent Brooklyn family, and a former nun was arrested on suspicion of having hanged her best friend and onetime convent mate. Continue reading

Trial Over True ‘Night Before Christmas’ Authorship


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ChristmasTrialArt-webA jury trial in a real courtroom in Troy on Sunday, December 7th at 2 pm aims to solve a centuries-old controversy over who really wrote one of the most beloved holiday poems in the world: “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Last year “The Trial Before Christmas” was a surprise holiday spectacle that gained national media attention and attracted more than 500 spectators to the Rensselaer County Courthouse – a standing-room-only crowd. But the jury was unable to reach a verdict, so the case will be heard again. Continue reading

Chaos On An Adirondack Train: The Case Against Pullman Porter Smith


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Pullman Porter Helping Woman circa 1880sWhen the night train to Montreal set out from Utica on April 29, 1931, James E. Smith had already been toiling over the needs and wants of his passengers for many hours.  At 29 years old, Smith had been a Pullman porter for about three years.  He had done a stint in Pennsylvania and now was employed on the New York Central line of the Pullman Company.

The experience of the Pullman porter was both uncommon yet ordinary.  The Pullman Palace Car company hired black men almost exclusively as porters. This practice began under the direction of the founder of the company, George Pullman, after the Civil War. On board a luxurious and comfortable Pullman Car, Pullman porters were expected to be the ideal servants to their well off white passengers.   Continue reading

Newly Discovered Livingston Manuscript Being Exhibited


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12UnitedColonies_Livingston_p01The New-York Historical Society is displaying an important, recently discovered handwritten document that sheds new light on the period leading up to the Declaration of Independence and the final break with Great Britain.

The manuscript was discovered last summer in the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City, which served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War, and was recently acquired by Brian Hendelson, a noted New Jersey-based Americana collector. Hitherto unknown and unstudied, the manuscript is on view at New-York Historical in the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library through November 7, 2014 and will remain on loan to New-York Historical for purposes of study and display for two years. Continue reading