Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Applying for admission to the bar? Try to beat this letter of recommendation...

The deadline for applications to take the July bar exam just passed in May, and we had a flurry of 3Ls seeking letters of recommendation, signatures from the recommending attorneys, and so on. Naturally, this item caught my attention. It is a March 29, 1817 letter written and signed by Daniel Webster, who argued many important cases before the Supreme Court and served in the U.S. House, Senate, and as Secretary of State.  At the time of this letter, Webster had just finished his term as a representative from New Hampshire in the U.S. House; it was two years before he would argue passionately for the survival of Dartmouth College in Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. 518 (1819).

Webster's letter is addressed to Mr. Pickering, Secretary of the Suffolk Bar; in it, Webster vouches for the credentials and character of Martin Whiting, an 1814 graduate of Harvard University. Webster states that Whiting had been working since 1814 in the Middlesex County law office of Isaac Fiske; he explains that Whiting began in Webster's own law office as a "Student at Law" in that very month, March 1817.  In the last line, Webster certifies to "regular attestations to the correctness of [Whiting's] moral character.

According to the William T. Davis's Bench and Bar of Massachusetts, Whiting was admitted to the Suffolk Bar in May 1818 and died quite young in 1823.

All four images of the letter are available on our Facebook page!

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