History of the American BAR
The Federal Bar and Law, 1830-1860
The Federal Bar in the years from 1830 to 1860 showed a marked change from that of the first thirty years of the Nineteenth Century. Daniel Webster continued, until his death in 1853, the undisputed head; but the lawyers of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia no longer monopolized the arguments.
In 1838, the only notable case before the Supreme Court was Rhode Island v. Massachusetts (I2 Peters, 657), argued by Daniel Webster and James T. Austin, Attorney-General of Massachusetts, against Hazard and Southard of Rhode Island. The Court held that it had jurisdiction over boundary disputes between States, thus again affirming the supremacy of the Federal jurisdiction.
The session of the Supreme Court in 1839 was marked by the decision of the great case of Bank of Augusta v. Earle (13 Peters, 519), which was argued by D. B. Ogden, Sergeant and Webster, against C. J. Ingersoll and Van de Graff, and which was the first case establishing the right of a corporation to do business outside the State of its incorporation.
The year 1840 was marked as the first year in which a railroad appeared before the Court as party in any suit. The Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad Co. v. Simpson (14 Peters, 448).
The year 1841 was notable for two celebrated cases. The first, Groves v. Slaughter (15 Peters, 449), involving the Mississippi statute prohibiting the introduction into the State of slaves as merchandise for sale, and affecting upwards of $3,000,000 of property, was argued by Henry D. Gilpin and Robert J. Walker, against Walter Jones, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster. The second, U.S. v. Amistad (15 Peters, 518), in which Judge Story delivered one of his most celebrated opinions, was of peculiar interest, because of the appearance for the defendant of John Quincy Adams, then seventy-four years of age and whose last engagement as counsel before the Court had been in 1809, thirty-two years before, in Hope Insurance Co. v. Boardman (5 Cranch, 56).
The case involved the freedom of certain negroes who, while being brought to this country illegally by slave traders, had gained mastery of the vessel and murdered the officers. Having been taken together with the vessel into a United States port by a United States war vessel, they were claimed as slaves by their alleged Spanish owners.
In this year came the decision in the Genesee Chief (12 Howard, 443), a case argued by Stanley P. Mathews of Ohio against William H. Seward of New York. Chief Justice Taney held that the old Common Law doctrine that admiralty jurisdiction was confined to the ebb and flow of the tide was unsuited to this country and that the admiralty courts extended to the Great Lakes and all navigable waters of the country. This decision was of extreme importance to American internal commerce, for it threw into the Federal courts a vast range of torts and contracts connected with shipping and maritime matters, thus giving a unity to this branch of the law extremely desirable in view of the development of the growing commerce in the new Western States (1)
In 1852, the first railroad negligence case arose in this Court, Philadelphia & ' Reading R. R. v. Derby (14 Howard, 468), in which the Court referred to the “new, power-
(1) See article in American Law Register, Vol. I (1903).
"As questions of collisions and on the law of carriers are daily arising, especially in our western waters, our readers will see the very important character of this decision."
With the outbreak of the Civil War, the early history of the American Bar and law comes to an end. The cases which arose after that era were, in large part, of a distinctly different character; and the lawyers of the fifty years since have been grappling with questions of which their predecessors knew nothing,- the political, social and economic problems growing out of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments; the development of the great modern corporations; the intricacies of modem finance, with its mass of new law relating to shares of stock, bonds, mortgages, stockholders and receivers; and the vast increase in novel and revolutionary economic legislation.
The American Bar of the years 1860-1910 presented, therefore, an entirely different type, – the modern corporation or business lawyer, whose history is not within the scope of this book.