Now through July 22, the Law Library will be open on Fridays until 9 p.m. and on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Best of luck to all of our recent grads now studying for bar exams!
Now through July 22, the Law Library will be open on Fridays until 9 p.m. and on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Best of luck to all of our recent grads now studying for bar exams!
A record number of law students lined up inside and outside of MyLab for last evening’s semi-annual Grilled Cheese Night. One hundred forty-two students patiently awaited the warm gooey goodness of one of the Law Library’s special recipe treats. Despite long lines, spirits among the waiting students seemed high. One student was heard to say that the event was “perfect for the middle of exams.” Another exclaimed, “This is like a taste of home!”
The event was not without a few stressful moments, however. Librarian-chefs Ben Doherty, Micheal Klepper and Tim Breeden offered both tomato and non-tomato editions of the sandwich. One student requested a gluten-free edition – just two slices of tomato with cheese in between and no bread - which none of the chefs had prepared before. But, being the true service professionals that they are, they were able to fulfill the special order to the customer’s satisfaction. Later, staff began to worry that supplies might not hold out through the 7 p.m. closing. “It looked like we might run out of bread,” said Breeden. “But as luck would have it, the last piece hit the butter just before 7!”
This semester’s GCN featured a new twist – Law Library staff were invited to guess ahead of time the number of sandwiches that would be served. The staff member submitting the closest guess was to be awarded their own grilled cheese sandwich for this morning’s breakfast. The winner was none other than Library Service Dog Extraordinaire, Bubba Jeb. Jeb’s owner, Teresa, was prepared to submit a guess of 121 sandwiches, but she said Jeb nudged her and nodded upward to say, “no it’s 136.” Though Jeb’s diet is strictly gluten-free, he was delighted to receive his prize in the form of some cheese and a few potato chips.
This semester saw the publication of the twelfth edition of Legal Research in a Nutshell, a compact but venerable text on legal research that dates back to 1968. Its original author was the late Morris Cohen, then Law Librarian at the University of Pennsylvania, but since the fifth edition in 1992 he has been joined as coauthor by our own Kent Olson. Kent has written about the book’s early days (Birth of a Nutshell: Morris Cohen in the 1960s, 104 Law Libr. J. 53 (2012)), but we sat down to ask him about his own role in the book since then.
AJM: How did you get started as a coauthor of Legal Research in a Nutshell?
Olson: It started when I was a law student, lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. In 1984, I was a second-year student at Boalt Hall (UC Berkeley) and working for the Law Library part time. My boss, Bob Berring, had worked at Harvard with Morris Cohen, the author of Legal Research in a Nutshell. Morris put out a call looking for people to revise and update chapters of the Nutshell, and Bob turned two chapters over to me. Morris may have been looking for light edits, but I attacked my chapters with gusto, crossing out huge chunks of obsolete text and inserting several new pages. A lesser man might have been offended or appalled, but Morris liked what he saw and asked me to review the entire manuscript before it went to the publisher. We talked on the phone, but we never met in person until the project was over.
The following year I came to Virginia and became a coauthor with Morris and Bob of their legal research hornbook, How to Find the Law. Morris had no interest in taking on a coauthor on his Nutshell, but in 1991 he found himself a week away from a deadline with no revised manuscript. And I was visiting him in the hospital.
AJM: Morris Cohen was a legend among law librarians. What was it like working with him?
Olson: He was my mentor and nearly thirty years my senior, but he always made me feel like a peer rather than a junior associate. Working with him was one of the great privileges of my life. He knew so much more than I did about legal bibliography (and was probably sorry that I never quite shared his love of rare books), but as legal research turned more and more to online search techniques our roles gradually shifted.
I do remember one disagreement, a friendly one, over how to describe the state of administrative law before the Federal Register and the CFR. Morris wanted to call it a wilderness, and I didn’t understand why until I realized we had very different concepts of “wilderness.” Mine was a pristine roadless area protected by environmental legislation, but he was thinking of a biblical place where people wandered lost and in despair. I think we ended up abandoning the metaphor.
AJM: You’ve now worked on nine editions of the Nutshell. How has the book, and legal research, changed over the years?
Olson: When the fourth edition was published in 1985, we had Westlaw and Lexis but a large focus of research was still print-based – some of it in materials today’s students are fortunate never to have seen, such as digests and Shepard’s Citations. “Case-Finding by Computer” was a two-page section of the chapter on case research. Research isn’t necessarily simpler these days, but there are so many answers that used to take work that we can now Google our way to.
People talk about a “sea change” in legal research from print to online, but to my mind it’s more of an evolution. In the end, it’s still about finding persuasive authority and reasoning by analogy. If we reach the point where cases are decided by the number of “likes” or by some machine-based measure, I’ll need to move on.
The book itself has evolved with the changes in research. Free Internet sites were first mentioned in the 6th edition (1996), and HeinOnline first appeared in the 8th edition (2003). There are now more than three hundred websites discussed. We’ve had a companion website with updated links since 2003, and in 2013 we took the illustrations out and put them online as well. Small black-and-white illustrations were fine back when we were showing sample pages of books, but screenshots of websites work so much better in color and on a larger scale.
AJM: You’ve written other books on legal research, notably the concise hornbook Principles of Legal Research (2d ed. 2015). You also teach Advanced Legal Research. How do teaching and writing about legal research inform each other?
Olson: At the basic level, my students who’ve used draft versions as course texts have saved textbook money and they’ve helped to catch some embarrassing typos before they made it to print. But they also help keep me honest by letting me know what’s superfluous and what’s unclear. If we don’t cover something in class, it might not be important enough to include in the book. And without my students I wouldn’t have known that you need to explain to some digital natives the difference between a table of contents and an index.
AJM: Any regrets about the new edition?
Olson: Of course. There are always regrets. One minor one is that I completely missed that govtrack.us stopped tracking state legislation several months before we went to press. At least I could update that on the Nutshell website. A more significant omission is that I made no mention at all of Practical Law, to which our students have access through Westlaw and which is a really useful and current source of basic legal information in several disciplines. At some point I also should really think about how research by mobile app differs from website-based research.
But this just means I need to start planning for the thirteenth edition. In the past couple of months Lexis Advance added a directory of resources to its main screen and made its Advanced Search much more useful, and Westlaw introduced its “Westlaw Answers” feature when you type a question into the search box. All the references to FDsys in the current edition will be obsolete once GPO completes its transition to govinfo.gov. It won’t be long before January 2016 seems like a very long time ago in legal research.
In this post we highlight one of the many items in Special Collections on the history of lawyering in America, this time in nineteenth-century Ohio. In the 1980s, the UVA Law Library purchased at auction a lawyer’s docket book with case entries from 1823 to 1886 and a tin law office sign, both attributed to Cadiz, Ohio lawyer Walter G. Shotwell. Docket entries in this book typically list the case name, case actions, and receipts of payments. All entries have been indexed and offer a detailed look into the practice of law in the nineteenth century. Cataloged as Walter Shotwell’s ever since its acquisition, much of the docket book actually predates Shotwell’s birth in 1856. Some recent digging revealed that the book likely belonged to Shotwell’s father, Cadiz lawyer Stuart B. Shotwell, and to Cadiz lawyer Chauncey Dewey before that.
Just about the time the docket book begins in 1823, newly-minted Ohio lawyer Chauncey Dewey (b. 1796) formed a partnership with Steubenville lawyer and future Ohio Senator Benjamin Tappan under the firm of Tappan & Dewey. We can’t confirm that the docket book belonged to Dewey, but entries in this period make occasional reference to collaboration with Tappan on various cases. In 1836, this first section of docket entries stops. That same year, Dewey formed a new partnership in Cadiz with Edwin M. Stanton, future Secretary of War under presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.
When the Dewey-Stanton partnership dissolved in 1842, Dewey quickly formed a new partnership in Cadiz with Stuart B. Shotwell (b. 1819) under the firm Dewey & Shotwell, and in this year the docket book picks up again. Dewey retired from the practice in 1849 and became a leader in Cadiz’s growing banking industry while Shotwell carried on the law business under his own name. An advertisement Shotwell placed in the Cadiz Sentinel in November 1850 announced that he “continues to practice in Harrison and adjoining counties” in Ohio as an “attorney at law and solicitor in chancery.” He handled legal matters ranging from land sales to money loaning to guardianships, many of which are reflected in the docket book he kept of his cases, now at the UVA Law Library.
Shotwell’s 1850 newspaper advertisement also announced that he had moved his office to Kilgore’s Corner on Market Street in Cadiz. Here, Shotwell may have installed the tin sign that accompanies the docket book and reads “Shotwell’s Law Office.” Adding mystery to this artifact is a painted-over “Wm.” that precedes “Shotwell’s.” We know little about the sign’s history, but Stuart Shotwell’s brother, William Shotwell, Jr., a lawyer in Butler County, Ohio, died in 1849, just as Stuart was setting up his new Cadiz law office.
Shotwell remained in business as a Cadiz lawyer until the late 1880s, where the docket book ends. His son Walter G. Shotwell trained in his law office beginning in 1878 before Walter’s admission to the Ohio bar. In 1880, Walter opened his own law office in Cadiz where this collection was likely once stored.
The Shotwell collection is open for research at the UVA Law Library. Interested researchers can contact Special Collections at email@example.com. We would love to hear from anyone with additional knowledge of these materials.
For related archival collections see:
Shotwell Family Papers, Ohio Historical Society
Shotwell Family Papers, Harrison County Historical Society
Benjamin Tappan Papers, Library of Congress (also on microfilm)
- Randi Flaherty, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities
 Commemorative Biographical Record Harrison, Ohio (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1891), 42-47, 610.
 Id, 47, 758; Henry Howe wrote that Stuart B. Shotwell once studied under Edwin Stanton in Cadiz. See Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio in Two Volumes, Volume 1 (Cincinnati: G. J. Krehbiel & Co., 1902), 894-896.
 The Cadiz sentinel. (Cadiz, Ohio), 27 Nov. 1850. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84028793/1850-11-27/ed-1/seq-3/>
 Commemorative Biographical Record Harrison, Ohio, 758.
On the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act, UVA Law Library staff opened an uncataloged collection of Scottish Court of Session papers and unwittingly discovered new materials on this momentous event in American history. The case of Scrimgeour & Son v. Alexander & Sons quickly caught our eye since North Carolina and Virginia appeared on the first pages of case documents. Stamp Act protests rocked North Carolina’s Cape Fear River in 1765 and 1766, halting trade and trapping the Scottish ship Duke of Athol in Wilmington. In a subsequent suit before the Court of Session, the Scottish merchants who owned and freighted the ship quarreled over who would pay for the vessel’s lengthy delays. The case summaries and petitions they drew up now form part of the Court of Session Collection at the UVA Law Library. The wealth of detail included in these documents provides a new perspective on the Stamp Act, revealing the disruptive power of colonial protests on both a local and transatlantic level.
John Cowan, captain of the Duke of Athol, found himself caught in the midst of this imperial crisis in October 1765 with the Stamp Act set to take effect on November 1 and his ship readying to depart North Carolina for Scotland. Cowan needed a paper clearance to avoid seizure by the British navy patrolling the entrance to the Cape Fear River. The Stamp Act placed a new tax on these customs forms, as on all newspapers, legal documents, and most printed papers. Cowan would owe four pence per sheet, and an embossed paper stamp would be affixed to the clearance as proof of payment. These impending stamp duties drew outrage from American colonists, however, who targeted for public attack anyone who accepted stamps.
Uprisings against the Stamp Act broke out just one day after Cowan’s arrival in Wilmington, along the Cape Fear River. On the night of October 19, 500 people converged near the Wilmington court house to hang an effigy of an “Honourable Gentleman” who had voiced support for the new tax. Protestors visited every house in Wilmington and gathered all of the town gentlemen. Once assembled, the crowd burned the effigy in a bonfire of tar barrels and gave toasts to “Liberty, Property, and no Stamp-Duty.”1
Cowan was practiced in the unpredictability of trade, and these Stamp Act protests were one delay among many that the Duke of Athol had already experienced in its transatlantic journey. Owned by the merchant house of James Scrimgeour & Son in Borrowstounness, Scotland and freighted by Edinburgh merchants Alexander & Sons, the ship had originally sailed for Grenada—after considering a trip to Maryland and Virginia— with a cargo of herring, staves, and green linens. When no sugar was available by the time of her arrival, the Grenada agent for Alexander & Sons finally convinced then-captain William Dicks to sail instead for Carolina after supplying Dicks with a letter of indemnification “to remove your scruples” for the diversion.2 Dicks died on the next passage, elevating mate John Cowan to ship master. Cowan would receive two additional guineas for a hat from Alexander & Sons, “providing he behaves properly, and gives the proper assistance to our people for procuring dispatch.”3 He had believed trade in Carolina would be quick after his arrival there. On October 19, 1765, mere hours before the first protests commenced, he wrote to Scrimgeour & Son that he was hopeful the vessel would depart for Scotland no later than the end of November.4
Growing popular unrest destroyed Cowan’s hope of a timely departure, and he took action to protect his interest against the certain disappointment of the merchants back in Scotland. On October 30, with the ship still waiting for a return cargo, Cowan took a legal protest against “all concerned” for the delays the ship had already suffered and for future delays Cowan expected from the Stamp Act.5 Protesters gathered again in Wilmington on October 31 and processed through the town with a coffin containing an effigy of Liberty. Accompanied by doleful town bell, the burial march eventually proclaimed that the effigy’s pulse still beat. They returned Liberty to the town center to sit aside a bonfire that burned through the evening. Shortly after the Stamp Act went into effect on November 1, hundreds surrounded the home of the region’s stamp collector and compelled his resignation. With no officer to accept the stamps when they arrived in North Carolina on November 28, the stamps remained aboard a British naval vessel in Brunswick.6
In mid-December, stamps remained unavailable as the Duke of Athol finally began loading a cargo of tar. When William Tryon, the newly installed North Carolina Governor, arrived in Wilmington on December 19 to publically announce his commission—a spectacle met by public protest—Cowan took the opportunity to join with other ship captains and petition Tryon for legal clearances. Tryon returned the petition and directed the captains to customs officials. Customs officers referred the captains back to the Governor. Both refused to grant clearances.7 Amid the standstill, Cowan remained in port with a full cargo of tar finally on board the Duke of Athol. Meanwhile the naval blockade in the Cape Fear River seized three arriving merchant ships for sailing with unstamped papers.
As customs officials dithered over the seized ships, Attorney General Robert Jones, Jr. released a statement that these vessels were liable to prosecution due to the “great neglect” of their captains.8 Jones outlined proper procedures for ship captains to follow to avoid forfeiture at trial, and Cowan immediately followed suit. On January 29, with a notary public and a witness, he proceeded to the Wilmington customs collector, offered the proper fees, demanded a clearance, but heard in reply that the collector could only provide him with common, unstamped papers.9 These efforts might protect Cowan’s ship from condemnation, but not from seizure, and trials would be carried out in faraway Halifax, Nova Scotia. “I am now lying here loaded this four weeks,” Cowan wrote to Scrimgeour on January 31, 1766, “but cannot get out for want of a proper clearance.”10
In February 1766, new armed protests broke out around the Cape Fear River over the seized ships, forcing troops at nearby Fort Johnston to spike their guns before they could be turned on naval vessels. A crowd of nearly 700 men, most of them armed, compelled all public officers, including the customs collector, to swear that they would not uphold the Stamp Act, and the river opened for trade without stamped paper.11 On March 18, 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, and Cowan, who may have heard word that a bill to repeal had come before that body, departed Wilmington on March 31, 1766. On April 15, the Duke of Athol cleared Cape Fear for Scotland and arrived at Leith that summer.
Contained within these legal documents from the highest level of Scottish courts are rich details about how people lived, traded, farmed, managed risk, and moved through the 18th- and 19th-century British Empire. Cowan’s story is one of many contained within the UVA Law Library’s Court of Session collection of printed case materials presented before the Court from 1759 to 1834. As a court of appeal and of first instance and the highest civil court in Scotland at the time, the Court of Session held jurisdiction over contract and commercial cases, matters of succession and land ownership, divorce proceedings, intellectual property and copyright disputes, and contested political elections. In addition to petitions and memorials, many of which include annotations, the collection includes color maps and copies of correspondence, wills, financial accounts, and census reports. The Court provided copies of these papers to all litigants and judges for each case, and it was common practice in this period for lawyers and judges to retain these papers for their personal library or legal practice. Session papers thus exist in various collections around the world, with complete copies at the Scottish National Archives and Signet Library. In 1767, James Boswell, renowned Scottish biographer and one-time lawyer before the Court aptly wrote that these case materials would provide researchers with “a treasure of law reasoning and a collection of extraordinary facts.”12
The rich historical and biographical information contained within these records is one of the main reasons the UVA Law Library began cataloging this 2,000-item collection in 2015. Scrimgeour case files, for example, include lengthy sections on legal reasoning and point to the legal texts on which parties framed their arguments (including Molloy, De jure maritimo et navali and Rhodes, Treatise of the Dominion of the Seas, both available at UVA Law Special Collections), but the depth of detail these documents provide on people, life, and law in the 18th- and 19th-century British Empire makes them promising new sources for multidisciplinary research. The Stamp Act delay is just one episode among many from the ship’s broader journey from Borrowstounness, Scotland, to Grenada, St. Christopher’s, North Carolina, and back to Leith that these documents illuminate. Early modern legal materials that originated as manuscripts, like these Session Papers, rarely exist in printed forms that can be so easily harvested for digital searching, visualization, and analysis. Further, approximately half of the documents in the UVA collection originated from cases not reported in contemporary printed digests.
In 2017, the UVA Law Library hopes to digitize this entire collection for free, open access on the web. For questions about this collection contact Special Collections at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Randi Flaherty, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities
North Carolina Gazette, November 20, 1765, printed in William S. Powell, ed., The Correspondence of William Tryon and Other Selected Papers, Volume 1, 1758-1767 (Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Department of Archives and History, 1980), 162. ⤴
Alexander Lockhart, “Answers for James Scrimgeour and Son, merchants in Borrowstounness, to the Petition of Mess. William Alexander and Sons, merchants in Edinburgh,” April 24, 1769, Scottish Court of Session Papers, UVA Law Library [hereafter cited as SCOS], 9-10. ⤴
Last quote from Alexander & Sons to James Scrimgeour & Son, March 23, 1765, printed in Jo. Maclaurin, “Unto the Right Honourable, the Lords of Council and Session, the Petition of William Alexander and Sons Merchants in Edinburgh,” January 15, 1772, SCOS. ⤴
John Cowan to James Scrimgeour & Son, October 19, 1765, printed in “Proof in the Process, Mess. James Scrymgeour and Son, Merchants in Borrowstounness, Against Mess. William Alexander and Sons, Merchants in Edinburgh,” 1771, SCOS, 6-7. ⤴
Lockhart, “Answers,” 19-20. ⤴
Lindley Butler, North Carolina and the Coming of the Revolution, 1763-1776 (Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Department of Archives and History, 1976), 20. ⤴
Lockhart, “Answers,” 19-20. For Tryon’s arrival in Wilmington see accounts in Powell, Correspondence, 169-171, 218-219. ⤴
Robert Jones to William Dry, February 3, 1766, printed in Lockhart, “Answers,” 20-21. ⤴
Lockhart, “Answers,” 21. ⤴
Printed in “Proof,” 7. ⤴
William Tryon to Henry Seymour Conway, February 25, 1766, printed in Powell, Correspondence of William Tryon, 254-259. ⤴
Quoted in W.H. Bond and Daniel Whitten, “Boswell’s Court of Session Papers: A Preliminary Checklist,” in W.H. Bond, ed, Eighteenth-Century Studies in Honor of Donald F. Hyde (New York: The Grollier Club, 1970), 232. ⤴
Recently uncovered photographs from the U.Va. Law School archives reveal a little-known phase in the legal career of recently deceased U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: football official. When the U.Va. law students of the Virginia Law Weekly and the Virginia Law Review kicked off their annual gridiron football contest in October 1970, then-U.Va. Law professor Scalia officiated from the sidelines with an eye on the field and his mind on the rulebook. This was the twelfth meeting of the two publications in this football classic that began in 1953 and always took place at the U.Va. Mad Bowl. (At the time the Law School was housed in Clark Hall on Central Grounds.) Two law school professors officiated over each contest, and the losing team owed the winner one keg of beer.
Weeks of witty trash talking had preceded this annual “gridiron juggernaught” in 1970, as it did in most years. A Law Weekly article wondered if anything could stop the “avalanche of rushers in the Weekly defense” while the Law Reviewers were still trying to “get their ersatz football players cum bookworms to do their calisthenics in cadence.” (Virginia Law Weekly, October 9, 1970).
The contest that Scalia observed on this October day was not pretty and ended in a 38-0 romp by the Law Weekly. Showing no mercy to their downtrodden competitors in the game’s write-up the next week, the Law Weekly staff reveled in their triumph:
“Spearheading a deadly passing attack, Jim ‘Needle’ Addison moved the Weekly’s mighty gridiron machine to the highest score in the history of the annual publications classic.” (VLW, October 16, 1970)
Throughout the game, Weekly quarterback Addison connected for numerous lengthy touchdown passes and a “fantastic 40-yard run right down the right sidelines which left the Reviewers hopelessly gasping [sic] their blue books.” (VLW, October 16, 1970)
Professor Scalia would prove critical to the Law Review’s single moment of football glory. In the first half, an interception put a momentary stop to the Law Weekly’s romp through the Reviewer’s defense. But momentary this glory would remain. With Professor Scalia acute to the action from the sideline, the Reviewers watched as their triumph was “nullified by the officials under the keen eye of ‘Codebook’ Scalia for fielding too many players.” (VLW, October 16, 1970)
- Randi Flaherty and Loren Moulds
Full-sized images are available at http://archives.law.virginia.edu/objects/gridiron-contest-1970 and http://archives.law.virginia.edu/objects/scalia-referees-gridiron-contest
Law school teaches you how to think like a lawyer. The UVA Mindfulness Center’s introduction to mindfulness enhances your law school learning by giving you tools to focus, retain information, communicate effectively, and handle stress.
Eight, 75-minute weekly sessions of hands-on, expert-guided practice in mindfulness techniques like meditation, mindful eating, mindful listening, and mindful movement, led by the UVA Mindfulness Center.
Tuesdays, 3:45-5pm, February 9 to April 5 (no meeting during Spring Break). There will be a half-day retreat on March 19.
At the Law School.
The workshop is open to all law students, and is free of charge (sponsored by the Law Library). Enrollment is limited. To sign up email Kristin in the Library (email@example.com). In order to get the most out of the workshop, commit to attending all eight sessions and the half-day retreat.
If you’re curious about mindful meditation, drop in anytime at the Wednesday noon 15-minute meditation study breaks, every Wednesday in the Library’s 2nd floor Klaus Collaborative Classroom. Also check out books and audio about mindfulness, available in the Library’s Reserve Room.
- Kristin Glover
With the new year, you may have noticed a new face in the library. Alex Jakubow joins our research and reference team to support empirical legal research. Alex is skilled with data collection, cleaning and analysis. As law increasingly turns towards large datasets and statistical methods, his expertise will be critical to supporting UVA Law scholarship.
A Wisconsin native, Alex earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the University of Richmond in 2008. He then attended graduate school at Rutgers University, where he earned a Ph.D. in political science in 2014.
Alex married his graduate school sweetheart, Devon Golem, in September of 2012. Career decisions have taken the pair across the entirety of the continental United States and back in a relatively short amount of time. In less than four years, Alex and Devon have lived in New Jersey, California, and New Mexico before moving to Virginia in December of 2015. Alex and Devon look forward to staying in place for a while, especially when family is near: Alex’s mother and sister respectively live in Williamsburg and Alexandria.
Devon and Alex live in Charlottesville with their canine companion, Lunch Lady Doris. Doris, a brownish-red Papillion/Dachshund mix, is approximately eight years old. She enjoys having Alex and Devon as tenants in her apartment and sneezes uncontrollably when excited.
Outside of work, Alex enjoys reading, traveling, exercising, and socializing with loved ones. He also looks forward to taking full advantage of the area’s many and varied opportunities for outdoor fun. Guilty pleasures: prolonged consumption of Netflix and, when his family is out of town, video games.
- MoreUs Staff Writers
Our latest video production by Bryan Kasik takes you behind-the scenes of SDS (the Student Delivery Service). Join the man behind the stack of books as he explodes all of the myths surrounding this popular Law Library service.
In February 1745, the British ship Hardwicke lay anchored off Batavia (now Jakarta), and mariner Joseph Bonner fell ill. After eighteen months at sea, Bonner and his shipmates aboard the 498-ton Hardwicke had traveled across the world from England to China and now to the Java Sea on a trading voyage for the British East India Company. The journey had been harrowing, which had convinced the Hardwicke's commander, John Hallett, to stay at Batavia until the start of the next season. Known as a graveyard for Europeans in this period, Batavia provided little respite for Bonner, who may have fallen victim to one of the city’s regular outbreaks of malaria. "Being sensible of the uncertainties of this present life," Bonner began drafting his last will and testament.
Bonner’s estate was simple. To his shipmate John Whittridge, Bonner left all of his ship-board belongings: "my Cloathes, Bedding and wearing apparell which I am or shall be possessed of at the time of my Decease." To his parents, Joseph and Elizabeth, Bonner left all of his Hardwicke wages. In the presence of John Hatfield and the Hardwicke's Chief Mate Carteret Le Geyt, Bonner signed his one-page will. Compared to the strong and smooth signatures of his witnesses, Bonner's signature scratches across the page, the trailing “r” at the end perhaps indicative of one weakened by illness.
This single manuscript, donated in 1992 to the University of Virginia Law Library, was recently digitized by the Law Library's Special Collections staff. When we came across it in our collection, we wondered about the history behind this unassuming document. Using textual clues and a variety of online research tools, including the Social Networks and Archival Context prototype created by U.Va.’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, we quickly learned that Joseph Bonner’s will was written in the waters off modern-day Indonesia, 10,000 miles away from its current home at the U.Va. Law Library. Despite its simplicity, this document offers a window into the hazards of eighteenth-century seafaring and the vast maritime geography in which mariners like Bonner lived and worked.
The Ship Hardwicke entered into the service of the British East India Company in December 1742 and departed Portsmouth, England six months later for India and China. Britain was at war with Spain at the time, which heightened the risks of trade in the sea lanes on which Bonner and the Hardwicke planned to travel. The EIC had directed the ship first to Bombay or Surat, where it would pick up items appropriate for the China trade, namely cotton, pepper, sandalwood, olibanum (frankincense), and the remainder in silver. The Hardwicke indeed sailed to India by the usual route, stopping at the Cape of Good Hope in October 1743 and then the Maldives. In March 1744 it reached Bombay before continuing its journey east.
Trouble began in July 1744 during a stop at the Ladrone Islands south of modern-day Hong Kong when the Hardwicke heard news of armed Spanish ships from Manila patrolling the passage to Canton, China (now Guangzhou). Consequently, Hallett sailed the ship to Amoy (now Xiamen), a port to the north of Canton that specialized in the tea trade. The Hardwicke’s supercargoes went ashore to request Amoy protection from the Spanish and permission to trade, but Amoy officials refused the Hardwicke entry into the inner harbor unless the ship relinquished its guns and ammunition. Feeling ill-treated, Hallett sailed to Malacca in modern-day Malaysia and then to Batavia. This was monsoon season, and Hallett reported that the passage had been “very hazardous.” Here the ship remained until calmer winds and waters returned, and here Bonner grew more and more infirm.
The Hardwicke did venture back to China from Batavia and trade in the Pearl River beginning in the summer of 1745. On its voyage home, filled with a lucrative return cargo, the Hardwicke sailed in convoy with other EIC vessels. England had declared war on France in 1744, adding to the peril on the high seas. News of French ships in the same area of the Malacca straights put this EIC convoy at risk, and they sailed home under the protection of two British naval vessels. In May 1746 the Hardwicke was at St. Helena, and in August 1746 she was safely back in England.
Did Joseph Bonner survive his illness to carry on with the voyage? Further research beyond digitized, open access materials — at the British Library or elsewhere — will have to solve the puzzle. For now, as we await an answer to this history mystery, we will preserve Bonner’s (last?) will and testament for further research and welcome the diversity of time, space, and subject it brings to our legal history archive.
- Randi Flaherty
For Further Research:
Journals, Ledgers, Pay Books, and Receipt Book of the Hardwicke, L/MAR/B/568, British Library: Asian and African Studies Room.
Orders and Instructions to Lascoe Hide, Henry Hadley and Richard Pinnell, Supercargoes of the Hardwicke, E/3/109 ff 5-9, British Library: Asian and African Studies Room.
List of Goods to be provided for the Hardwicke at Canton, E/3/109 f 10, British Library: Asian and African Studies Room.
List of the packet sent with the Supercargoes of the Hardwicke, E/3/109 f 11, British Library: Asian and African Studies Room