Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Otis Family: Part 3


Two previous posts showcased some of our Otis materials, which are largely related to the legal practice of James Otis, Sr. Otis was the father of the patriot James Otis, Jr., the poet and political writer Mercy Otis Warren, and the politician Samuel Allyne Otis.

This 1738 document is an indenture binding Hannah Attequin, a Native American woman from Mashpee, to Silvanus Bourn. Bourn was a wealthy merchant and lawyer living in Barnstable. He also served as judge of the Barnstable Court of Common Pleas, becoming Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas before his death. Additionally, Bourn  was a member of the Governor’s Council, Register of Probate, and then Judge of Probate for Barnstable County. The indenture transfers Attequin’s debt from the recently deceased Joseph Hinckley over to Bourn, who was actually Hinckley’s uncle. Though the indenture states that Attequin was binding herself to Bourn, her signature is nowhere to be found in the document.

James Otis, Sr., alongside John Gorham, acted as a justice of the peace in witnessing the document. Otis and Bourn were neighbors, friends, and cousins by marriage. Both were active public figures in Massachusetts, with Otis being appointed judge of the Court of Common Pleas and judge of Probate for Barnstable County the year after Bourn died. Additionally, the two acted together as guardians of the local Mashpee Indian tribe.

From looking at various genealogical records, including this site and this book, we believe that Joseph Hinckley, the previous party to the indenture, was the great-grandson of Samuel Hinckley, Sr. Samuel is also known for being the common ancestor of three presidents: George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

Many thanks to Robert Rubin for his helpful description of this item. Some of the information in this post comes from The Otis Family in Provincial and Revolutionary Massachusetts by John J. Waters, Jr.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Recent Acquisition: More from Joseph Story on Proposed Federal Bankruptcy Law


A previous post introduced readers to the correspondence between Joseph Story and William Tudor. At the time of the letters, Story (1779-1845) was serving as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Tudor, who wanted to serve as the Massachusetts Commissioner of Bankruptcy as his father had, sought a letter of recommendation from Story. The initial request came from Tudor as Congress was considering a new bankruptcy bill, which Story emphatically supported. In our previously acquired letter, Story wrote that he was uncertain whether the legislation would grant appointment power to the executive or judicial branch.

In this letter, dated five months later, Story obliges Tudor with the requested letter of recommendation. He reminds Tudor that, as the bill stood at the time of writing, the appointment commission would be made up of State judges. Story notes that if the legislation were amended to give appointment power to the executive branch, Tudor would need to forward the recommendation to the President. At that time, he would have been referring to James Monroe.

Ultimately, the bill in question failed to pass. This would disappoint Story, who long advocated for a federal bankruptcy law. He would go on to aid in drafting similar legislation that was eventually passed by Congress in 1841, making it the first federal bankruptcy law enacted since the repeal of the Bankruptcy Act in 1803. Story would continue to serve on the Supreme Court until his death in 1845. To this day, he is the youngest Supreme Court Justice at the time of appointment.

Many thanks to Michael von der Linn at Lawbook Exchange for the description on which this post is based.