Joseph Story

Joseph Story

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Joseph Story was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 lawyer
Lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

 and jurist
Jurist
A jurist or jurisconsult is a professional who studies, develops, applies, or otherwise deals with the law. The term is widely used in American English, but in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries it has only historical and specialist usage...

 who served on the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 from 1811 to 1845. He is most remembered today for his opinions in Martin v. Hunter's Lessee
Martin v. Hunter's Lessee
Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, , was a landmark United States Supreme Court case decided on March 20, 1816. It was the first case to assert ultimate Supreme Court authority over state courts in matters of federal law.-Background:...

and The Amistad
Amistad (1841)
The Amistad, also known as United States v. Libellants and Claimants of the Schooner Amistad, 40 U.S. 518 , was a United States Supreme Court case resulting from the rebellion of slaves on board the Spanish schooner Amistad in 1839...

, along with his magisterial Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, first published in 1833. Dominating the field in the 19th century, this work is one of the chief cornerstones of early American jurisprudence. It is the first comprehensive treatise ever written on the U.S. Constitution, and remains a great source of historical information of the formation and early struggles to define the American republic. It also is organized in a way antithetical to modern books on the subject; rather than starting with judicial review and leapfrogging to areas of main interest, Story methodically goes through the Constitution phrase by phase, covering topics most other constitutional commentaries ignore.

Story had opposed Jacksonian democracy
Jacksonian democracy
Jacksonian democracy is the political movement toward greater democracy for the common man typified by American politician Andrew Jackson and his supporters. Jackson's policies followed the era of Jeffersonian democracy which dominated the previous political era. The Democratic-Republican Party of...

 and said it was "oppression" of property rights by republican governments when popular majorities in the 1830s began to restrict and erode the property rights of the minority of rich men.. Newmyer (1985) presents Story as a "Statesman of the Old Republic" who tried to be above democratic politics and to shape the law in accordance with the republicanism of Story's heroes, Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

 and John Marshall
John Marshall
John Marshall was the Chief Justice of the United States whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches...

, as well as the New England Whigs of the 1820s and 1830s such as Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster was a leading American statesman and senator from Massachusetts during the period leading up to the Civil War. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests...

. Historians agree that Justice Story—as much or more than Marshall or anyone else—reshaped American law in a conservative direction that protected property rights.

Early life


Story was born at Marblehead, Massachusetts
Marblehead, Massachusetts
Marblehead is a town in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 19,808 at the 2010 census. It is home to the Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary and Devereux Beach...

. His father was Dr. Elisha Story (1743–1805), a member of the Sons of Liberty
Sons of Liberty
The Sons of Liberty were a political group made up of American patriots that originated in the pre-independence North American British colonies. The group was formed to protect the rights of the colonists from the usurpations by the British government after 1766...

 who took part in the Boston Tea Party
Boston Tea Party
The Boston Tea Party was a direct action by colonists in Boston, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the British government and the monopolistic East India Company that controlled all the tea imported into the colonies...

 in 1773. Doctor Story moved from Boston to Marblehead during the war. His first wife, Ruth (née Ruddock) soon died, leaving children, and Story remarried in November, 1778, to Mehitable Pedrick, nineteen, the daughter of a wealthy shipping merchant who would lose most of his fortune during the Revolutionary War. Joseph was the first-born of the many children of this second marriage.

As a boy, Joseph Story studied at the Marblehead Academy until the fall of 1794 when his father withdrew him from school because the schoolmaster, William Harris
William Harris (academic)
William Harris , an Episcopalian minister, was the sixth president of Columbia College, serving from 1811 to 1829. In a compromise, John Mitchell Mason, a Presbyterian minister who was denied the presidency, became the university's first provost and chief operating officer.William Harris was born...

 (later president of Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

), beat Story for some minor offense. On his second attempt, Story was accepted at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 in January, 1795, with the class of 1798. At Harvard, he was an excellent and well-behaved student and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After graduating second in his class, he read law in Marblehead under Samuel Sewall
Samuel Sewall (congressman)
Samuel Sewall was an American lawyer and congressman. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts.After attending Dummer Charity School , Sewall graduated from Harvard College Samuel Sewall (December 11, 1757 – June 8, 1814) was an American lawyer and congressman. He was born in Boston,...

, then a congressman and later chief justice of Massachusetts
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is the highest court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The SJC has the distinction of being the oldest continuously functioning appellate court in the Western Hemisphere.-History:...

. He later read law under Samuel Putnam in Salem.

He was admitted to the bar at Salem, Massachusetts
Salem, Massachusetts
Salem is a city in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 40,407 at the 2000 census. It and Lawrence are the county seats of Essex County...

, in 1801. As the only lawyer in Essex County
Essex County, Massachusetts
-National protected areas:* Parker River National Wildlife Refuge* Salem Maritime National Historic Site* Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site* Thacher Island National Wildlife Refuge-Demographics:...

 aligned with the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans, he was hired as counsel to the powerful Republican shipping firm of George Crowninshield & Sons. He was a poet as well and published "The Power of Solitude" in 1804, one of the first long poems by an American. In 1805 he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives
Massachusetts House of Representatives
The Massachusetts House of Representatives is the lower house of the Massachusetts General Court, the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is composed of 160 members elected from single-member electoral districts across the Commonwealth. Representatives serve two-year terms...

, where he served until 1808, when he succeeded a Crowninshield
Crowninshield family
The Crowninshield family is an American family that has been prominent in seafaring, political and military leadership, and the literary world. The founder of the American family immigrated in the late 17th century from what is now Germany...

 to become one of Essex County's representatives in Congress, serving from December 1808 to March 1809, during which he led the successful effort to put an end to Jefferson's Embargo against maritime commerce. He re-entered the private practice of law in Salem and was again elected to the state House of Representatives, which he served as Speaker
Speaker (politics)
The term speaker is a title often given to the presiding officer of a deliberative assembly, especially a legislative body. The speaker's official role is to moderate debate, make rulings on procedure, announce the results of votes, and the like. The speaker decides who may speak and has the...

 in 1811.

Story's young wife, Mary F.L. Oliver, died in June 1805, shortly after their marriage and two months after the death of his beloved father. In August, 1808, he married Sarah Waldo Wetmore, the daughter of Judge William Wetmore of Boston. They would have seven children, though only two, Mary and William Wetmore Story
William Wetmore Story
William Wetmore Story was an American sculptor, art critic, poet and editor.-Biography:William Wetmore Story was the son of jurist Joseph Story and Sarah Waldo Story...

, survived to adulthood. Their son became a noted poet and sculptor (his bust of his father is in the entrance to the Harvard Law School Library) who would publish The Life and Letters of Joseph Story (2 vols., Boston and London, 1851).
Volume I and Volume II

Supreme Court justice


In November 1811, at the age of thirty-two, Story became the youngest Associate Justice
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are the members of the Supreme Court of the United States other than the Chief Justice of the United States...

 of the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

. He was nominated by President James Madison
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

 on November 15, 1811, to a seat vacated by William Cushing
William Cushing
William Cushing was an early Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, from its inception to his death. He was the longest-serving of the Court's original members, sitting on the bench for 21 years...

, and was confirmed by the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

, and received his commission, on November 18, 1811. Story remains the youngest Supreme Court Justice at appointment. Here he found a congenial home for the brilliance of his scholarship and the development and expression of his political philosophy.

Soon after Story's appointment, the Supreme Court began to bring out into plain view the powers which the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 had given it over state courts and state legislation. Chief Justice
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

 John Marshall
John Marshall
John Marshall was the Chief Justice of the United States whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches...

 led this effort, but Story had a very large share in the remarkable decisions and opinions issued from 1812 until 1832. For instance, Story wrote the opinion for a unanimous court in Martin v. Hunter's Lessee
Martin v. Hunter's Lessee
Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, , was a landmark United States Supreme Court case decided on March 20, 1816. It was the first case to assert ultimate Supreme Court authority over state courts in matters of federal law.-Background:...

following Marshall's recusal. He built up the department of admiralty law
Admiralty law
Admiralty law is a distinct body of law which governs maritime questions and offenses. It is a body of both domestic law governing maritime activities, and private international law governing the relationships between private entities which operate vessels on the oceans...

 in the United States federal courts; he devoted much attention to equity jurisprudence
Jurisprudence
Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal theorists , hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions...

 and the department of patent law. In 1819 he attracted much attention by his vigorous charges to grand juries
Grand jury
A grand jury is a type of jury that determines whether a criminal indictment will issue. Currently, only the United States retains grand juries, although some other common law jurisdictions formerly employed them, and most other jurisdictions employ some other type of preliminary hearing...

 denouncing the slave trade, and in 1820 he gave a public anti-slavery speech in Salem and was prominent in the proceedings of the Massachusetts Convention called to revise the state constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

.

Non-lawyers are most likely to be familiar with Story's 1841 opinion in the case of United States v. The Amistad
Amistad (1841)
The Amistad, also known as United States v. Libellants and Claimants of the Schooner Amistad, 40 U.S. 518 , was a United States Supreme Court case resulting from the rebellion of slaves on board the Spanish schooner Amistad in 1839...

, which was the basis for a 1997 movie directed by Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg
Steven Allan Spielberg KBE is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, video game designer, and studio entrepreneur. In a career of more than four decades, Spielberg's films have covered many themes and genres. Spielberg's early science-fiction and adventure films were seen as an...

. Story was played by an actual retired Supreme Court justice, Harry Blackmun
Harry Blackmun
Harold Andrew Blackmun was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1970 until 1994. He is best known as the author of Roe v. Wade.- Early years and professional career :...

.

In 1829 he moved from Salem to Cambridge and became the first Dane Professor of Law at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

, meeting with remarkable success as a teacher and winning the affection of his students, who had the benefit of learning from a sitting Supreme Court judge. He was a prolific writer, publishing many reviews and magazine articles, delivering orations on public occasions, and publishing books on legal subjects which won high praise on both sides of the Atlantic.

Works


Justice Story was one of the most successful American authors of the first half of the 19th Century. "By the time he turned 65, on September 18, 1844, he earned $10,000 a year from his book royalties. At this point his salary as Associate Justice was $4,500."

Among his publications are:

He also edited several standard legal works. His Miscellaneous Writings, first published in 1835, appeared in an enlarged edition in 1851.

The Life and Letters of Joseph Story (1851) edited by his son William Wetmore Story was published in two volumes: Volume I and Volume II

Story contributed articles (in full, and or as part of larger articles) to The Encyclopedia Americana including this article Death, Punishment of.
William Wetmore Story in The Life and Letters of Joseph Story, Volume 2, listed the articles Joseph Story wrote for The Encyclopedia Americana.": Common Law, Congress of the United States, Conquest, Contracts, Corpus Delicti, Courts of England and the United States, Criminal Law,(Story's contribution begins at "To the preceding article....") Death, Punishment of, Domicil, Equity, Evidence, Jury, Lien, Legislation, and Codes, (Story's contribution begins on p. 581.) Natural Law, Nations, Law of, Prize, and Usury. Story is sometimes identified as an "eminent American jurist" by the editors when he is a joint author of an article. See the Law, Legislation, and Codes article for an example.

Decisions


Gallison's Reports. Reports of Cases in the Circuit Court of the United States for the First Circuit 2d ed. With additional Notes and References. By John Gallison. 2 vols. Boston, 1845. Vol 1 Vol 2

Mason's Reports. Reports of Cases in the Circuit Court of the United States for the First Circuit, from 1816 to 1830. By William P. Mason. 5 vols. Boston, 1819-31. Vol 5

Sumner's Reports. Reports of Cases argued and determined in the Circuit Court of the United States for the First Circuit. By Charles Sumner. 3 vols. Boston, 1836-40.

Story's Reports. Reports of Cases argued and determined in the Circuit Court of the United States for the First Circuit. By W. W. Story. 3 vols. Boston, 1842-47 Vol 3

"These volumes contain all the decisions of Mr. Justice Story on his Circuit. The decisions relate particularly to questions of Equity and Admiralty, and are of great practical value."

Death and legacy


Mount Auburn Cemetery
Mount Auburn Cemetery
Mount Auburn Cemetery was founded in 1831 as "America's first garden cemetery", or the first "rural cemetery", with classical monuments set in a rolling landscaped terrain...

 was dedicated at a civic celebration in 1831. One of the principal speakers at the cemetery's opening was Associate Justice Joseph Story. He is buried there "as are scores of America's celebrated political, literary, religious, and military leaders. His grave is marked by a piece of sepulchral statuary executed by his son, William Wetmore Story
William Wetmore Story
William Wetmore Story was an American sculptor, art critic, poet and editor.-Biography:William Wetmore Story was the son of jurist Joseph Story and Sarah Waldo Story...

."

Story died at home in Cambridge in 1845.

Story County, Iowa
Story County, Iowa
-2010 census:The 2010 census recorded a population of 89,542 in the county, with a population density of . There were 36,789 housing units, of which 34,736 were occupied.-2000 census:...

 was named in his honor, as was Story Hall, a dormitory at Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. The school is routinely ranked by the U.S...

, and the DePaul University College of Law
DePaul University College of Law
DePaul University College of Law is a law school located in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Founded in 1897 as the Illinois College of Law, the school became part of DePaul University in 1912 and is one of the academic colleges of DePaul, a Big East Conference university. The College is known for its...

 chapter of the legal fraternity, Phi Alpha Delta
Phi Alpha Delta
ΦAΔ , or P.A.D., is the largest co-ed professional law fraternity in the United States of America. Phi Alpha Delta has members who are university students, law school students, lawyers, judges, senators, and even presidents. It was founded in 1902 and today has over 300,000 initiated members...

.

Quotations by Story


  • "The Constitution unavoidably deals in general language. It did not suit the purposes of the people, in framing this great charter of our liberties, to provide for minute specifications of its powers, or to declare the means by which those powers should be carried into execution. It was foreseen that this would be a perilous and difficult, if not an impracticable, task. The instrument was not intended to provide merely for the exigencies of a few years, but was to endure through a long lapse of ages, the events of which were locked up in the inscrutable purposes of Providence." Martin v. Hunter's Lessee
    Martin v. Hunter's Lessee
    Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, , was a landmark United States Supreme Court case decided on March 20, 1816. It was the first case to assert ultimate Supreme Court authority over state courts in matters of federal law.-Background:...

    , 14 U.S. 304 (1816)

  • "The patent act uses the phrase 'useful invention' merely incidentally. . . . All that the law requires is, that the invention should not be frivolous or injurious to the well-being, good policy, or sound morals of society. The word 'useful,' therefore, is incorporated into the act in contradistinction to mischievous or immoral. For instance, a new invention to poison people, or to promote debauchery, or to facilitate private assassination, is not a patentable invention. But if the invention steers wide of these objections, whether it be more or less useful is a circumstance very material to the interests of the patentee, but of no importance to the public. If it be not so extensively useful, it will silently sink into contempt and disregard." Lowell v. Lewis, 15 F. Cas. 1018 (C.C.D. Mass. 1817)

Further reading

  • McClellan, James. (1971) Joseph Story and the American Constitution; a Study in Political and Legal Thought, with Selected Writings (University of Oklahoma Press, 1971
  • Newmyer, R. Kent. (1985) Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story: Statesman of the Old Republic (University of North Carolina Press, 1985), the standard scholarly biography online edition
  • Presser, Stephen B. "Resurrecting the Conservative Tradition in American Legal History," Reviews in American History, Vol. 13#4 (Dec., 1985), pp. 526-533 in JSTOR

External links