Letter from Alvah H. Worden to William Henry Seward, December 9, 1838

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Letter from Alvah H. Worden to William Henry Seward, December 9, 1838
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Transcriber:spp:mec

Distributor:Seward Family Digital Archive

Institution:University of Rochester

Repository:Rare Books and Special Collections

Date:1838-12-09

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Letter from Alvah H. Worden to William Henry Seward, December 9, 1838

action: sent

sender: Alvah Worden
Birth: 1797-03-06  Death: 1856-02-16

location: Canandaigua, NY

receiver: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: jjm 

revision: crb 2016-12-09

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Page 1

Canandaigua Dec 9. 1838
Dear S
Have you thought of the subject of the reorganization
of the Judiciary, and are you going to say any thing about it
in detail in "the Message"? Efforts are making to obtain
a term of the Supreme Court in the Western part of the State
We surely are entitled to it: from the Schedule of Causes set down
at Circuit, appended to its report of the Commissioners, ^in^ appoin-
–ted by the Legislature,(Sutherland
Birth: 1804-06-12 Death: 1887-05-25
. Oakley
Unknown
& Cady
Birth: 1795 Death: 1864-08-26Certainty: Possible
); it appears that
the number of courts west of Cayuga Lake, are more than
one third of the whole: and it is a conceded fact that it
is so: This being so, there can be no reason why we should
not have One term: It is a great tax upon the profession, that
all our cases must be sent to Albany and New York to be ar-
gued: and our clients are not willing to pay more than the
fees of Eastern counsel: thus we take all the trouble of prepa-
ration and in fact bestow more labor on our briefs than would
be requisite in arguing the cases, could we do it ourself: I
never send papers for another in which I do not bestow
more time than the counsel who argues it for he has better
to do besides read the brief: and it is in this way only that
anything like a decent argument or intelligent statement
can be had of the question involved– I deem this subject
one of the most important ones– Our judiciary system has
become degraded: and to this is owing that increasing dis-
respect for the laws so prevalent in our day; the days of
sound legal learning seem to have past by: and I cannot con-
ceive of any greater public benefit to the state: than would
result from a reform in these respects
Are you aware that the report of Suther-
Page 2

land OaCady and Oakley is positively disgraceful: that if
the bar were of that ability, and had the sound learning requi-
site that the authors could not escape without disgrace
-Look at the proposition to retain the system of Circuit
Judges: no man of sound judgment could ever recognise or
sanction such a system as being sound or discreet– at the
last June circuit I tried an important ejectment cause
involving the title to nearly the whole town of ^a large tract of land in^ Naples: causes
involving the same title had been tried before: upon every
question involving the title Judge Mosely
Birth: 1786 Death: 1851-10-02
ruled against me
while at the same time the ^prior^ causes had been argued at May
term. and the supreme court had overruled his decisions, upon
the same question arising in the former cases: a similar
case occurred at the Livingston Circuit where upon the question
of Chattel mortgages Sibley consented to a compromise ^and sacrifice of $100 of our claims^ : after the
Supreme Court had decided the ^same^ legal question which arose
in the court in our favor: Upon principle the system is
wrong: the circuit judge sits at new juries to try issues
found in the Supreme Court: and it should be presumed he is
at all events, familiar with the laws as settled in the court in
which he is sitting: but the above instances show that he is not
and from the fact that not all the cases are reported, and those
that are, do not come to the knowledge of the circuit Judge until
some time afterwards. it follows that he may be called upon, as
he often is, to decide questions of law already settled and as often
as any way he decides contrary to the rule already established: where-
as if the judge who tries the issue comes down from the court, fa-
milliar with the last decision, there is not that risque of falling
into a misapplication of legal principles: the circuit courts
leads to making many cases and bills of exceptions which would
not otherwise be made.
The proposition to prohibit courts of error from decisions
made by the Supreme Court on writs of error brought from
the com pleas which the opinion of the com pleas is con-
firmed could never have been entertained or promulgated
Page 3

by men of some judgment– A contract may be so drawn
as to give several parties a separate right of action- ligators
may bring actions for the recovery of and the consuma-
tion of the contract or well may come in question, and the
right to receive may depend upon such as construction- a
suit is brought in the common pleas ^by our party^ and in the Sup Court
by another: and it so happens that the decision of the com
pleas and Sup Court are alike: on a writ of error from
the com pleas, the Sup Court of course confirms the decision ^and it is final^
a writ of error is brought from the the decision of the Sup
Court to the court of Errors and the judgment is reversed
this cannot effect the cause originating in the com
pleas and the matter being misadjudicate the party is
remediless- and he is defrauded of his rights in violation
of the law of the land: yet men who are reputed grave and
learned, make a deliberate proposition to establish a constitution
al rule which shall lead to such results, such could not be the
case were it not that the whole legal profession was sunk in a
state of comparative ignorance: the profession will always correspond
in point of legal ability with that of the legal tribunals. and when
those are void of some learning and ability the profession may be
supposed to be so also– of what avail is sound legal learning in
our courts of com pleas and what an anomaly it is in the admin-
istration of the law that in our Courts of com law its judges should
be men inacquainted with its fis plainest principles- The Court
of Common pleas ought to be abolished It is of no practical utility
and is withal a source of expense to the public:
Are you aware of the immense cost attending the
administration of justice in this state: So far as the expenses of
Courts also are concerned. Let us see
4 Clerks of the Supreme Court______________per annum $60.000
2 Registars in chancery______________________ 30.00
6 Clerks in chancery
The highest court of judicature next to the parliament. It exercises jurisdiction at law, but chief in equity • A court of equity; proceedings in equity •
15.00
7 Vice chancellors for open 14 00
119 00
Page 4

Brt over ____________________________ $119
Chancellors Salary___________________________ 2000
3 Judges Sup Court 7500
V C of the First Circuit______________________________2000
57 Com pleas ___in various counties & clerks $1000 ea 57
1875
Surrogates Courts________________________ ___75__
262 000
On the Score of Economy the system should be over-
hauled. and for this money it strikes me that we
Could create courts and tribunals which would ^and^ secure
the services of the best talents and ability in the state
and better serve the real wants of the comunity and
further the administration of justice
Courts have and possess a high moral in-
fluence; they have a political influence in one sense &
in the true sense of the terms. If our courts were so eleva-
ted that to secure a reputation in them for ability
would be worthy the Noblest ambition. we should find
that the mere politician would sink into his natural
obscurity before the worth and ^talents^ ability of men who
by severe study and sound learning should thus reach an
elevation which nothing but integrity and purity of char-
acter could acquire: Who now seeks for legal reputation?
and what is it worth? its balm arises from the estimate placed
upon it by the Community: all respect for our legal tribu-
nals is extinct. and this is owing to the character of those
tribunals themselves: place the administration of justice in
those ^the^ hands of those with sufficient ability and virtue to elevate
and adorn their stations and you will do a great good to
the people. and more to arrest licentiousness and immorality
and reestablish public respect for our civil institutions generally
than can be done in any other way
Page 5

Mr Bemis
Unknown
wishes me to make his respects– and he desires
it to be understood that he dont want an office
I have heard nothing from you since election
have not seen Granger
Birth: 1792-12-01 Death: 1868-08-31
since his return in Mr Spencer
Birth: 1765-12-13 Death: 1848-03-13
: and
am ignorant how things are getting along– I have written
this long disquisition upon the judiciary, fearing your
attention had not been drawn to the subject
I have not heard from Sibley
Birth: 1796-11-06 Death: 1852-09-08
since his arrival
at Washington
I want some of the old law reports– what are
you going to do with yours If you will lend them to me
I will take good care of them
Have you had any communication from
David Hudson
Birth: 1782-08-23 Death: 1860-01-12
! He want the Office of Bank Commissioner
and I promised him I would write you about it- I
have done so: Mr Hudson is a worthy man as you well
know, and any appointment ^to^ Of him for to an office he is
competent to fill I am persuaded
To influence by argument, advice, or intreaty • To convince by arguments, or reasons offered •
would be acceptable
to the Whigs of this county– He was not well used last
fall in being kept off the assembly ticket– and he will
press for something– The Office of Bank Commissioner is a
very important one, and the men who are appointed can
have much political influence if they are of the right stamp
Yours Truly
A W
Will you say to Lazette
Birth: 1803-11-01 Death: 1875-10-03
I recd her letter: we are getting along
admirably well: perhaps Frances would like to hear about
Butler
Unknown
: he jumped on the stove last night and burned all
his foot: I had to give him a place on my bed: Else
Unknown

tied up his foot in buttered rags and he is getting along
Page 6

very comfortably–
Page 7

Hon W H. Seward
Auburn
CANANDAIGUA
DEC 11
N.Y.
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Stamp

Type: postmark

Hand Shiftx

William Seward

Birth: 1801-05-16 Death: 1872-10-10
Alvah Worden
9. Dec. 1838.