Judge Lott Warren

Judge Lott Warren presided over the Lowndes County Grand Jury of 1833, at Franklinville, GA, the county seat of Lowndes which then included most of present day Berrien County.

Lott Warren was the presiding judge on the Southern Circuit at the Lowndes County Grand Jury Presentments of 1833.

Lott Warren was the presiding judge on the Southern Circuit at the Lowndes County Grand Jury Presentments of 1833.

 

According to the History of Bethel Association,

“His ancestors came from England, and settled in Virginia, from whence his father, Josiah Warren, removed to North Carolina during the Revolutionary war, and married Nancy Doty, in the county of Onslow. After the birth of two children, his parents settled in Burke county, Georgia, where Lott, the eleventh child, was born on the 30th day of October, 1797. From Burke they removed, in 1804, to a place four miles below Dublin, on the Oconee River, in Laurens county.

In his eighth year the subject of this memoir went to his first school, with six brothers and sisters, who walked daily upwards of three miles, to obtain what knowledge Mr. Matthew Burns, an Englishman, could impart during his sober intervals. The school lasted nine months; but, at the end of two quarters, Mr. Warren withdrew his children, owing to the intemperate habits of the teacher. Being a pious member of the Baptist Church, and a magistrate, Mr. Warren had a peculiar dislike to drunkards’, and, from his condemnation of that vice, his son, of whom it is our privilege to speak, no doubt imbibed that antipathy to alcoholic drinks which has since marked his career. Residing in a wilderness frontier, distant from other settlements, Mr. Warren was frequently called upon, as a justice of the peace, to unite persons in wedlock at his own house. On such occasions the visiting party brought their own wine or brandy, as the case might be, and used it among themselves; no member of the household participating.

In February, 1809, Mr. Warren and his wife both died. It is due to the memory of this excellent man to say, that he was an humble and zealous Christian, and a faithful magistrate. His very name was a terror to evil doers. He committed the guardianship of his sons Lott and Eli, (the latter now General Warren, of Houston county,) to the Rev. Charles Culpepper, who had married his eldest daughter. Mr. Culpepper was a minister of the Baptist Church, and brother of the Hon. John Culpepper, formerly a representative in Congress from North Carolina. After the season for working the crop was over, Lott passed a few weeks at school, under Mr. Joseph Culpepper, in 1809. His guardian removed to Wilkinson county in 1812, then a rough frontier settlement, and was sent to school to Mr. Elkanah Powell, (who was afterwards killed in Twiggs county, by a man named Summers.) During the six months under Mr. Powell’s tuition, our pupil learned to write, and made some progress in arithmetic. His next teacher was Mr. James Fitzgerald, (now a venerable citizen of Houston county.) and, after the usual labor on the farm, he again went to Mr. Powell’s school. While there an incident occurred, which, as it had a controlling influence on the mind of young Warren, is worthy of special notice.

A man was charged with forging a note on Gov. Irwin, and his trial came on in Wilkinson Superior Court, before the Hon. Stephen W. Harris, Judge. The prosecution was sustained by Colonel Abednego Franklin, Solicitor-General, assisted by Colonel Moses Fort. The prisoner was defended by Colonel Seaborn Jones, now of Columbus. Gov. Irwin was sworn and examined as a witness. His praise was in all the land. By leave of his teacher, young Warren was present as a spectator, the first privilege he had ever enjoyed of witnessing a trial in court. Standing barefoot, a coarse, ungainly lad of fifteen, clad in homespun, with wool hat in hand, gazing with intense curiosity, from a window, on the scene before him, all silence to hear the Governor deliver his testimony, what was his astonishment to hear Colonel Jones cross-examine the witness with as much boldness and rigor as if he had been only a common man! Speeches of counsel and the charge of the court followed; the whole proceeding filled him with an irresistible desire to be a lawyer. On his return home at night, he mentioned the subject to his sister, who expressed surprise and sorrow, raising two principal objections: first, that he had not the means, (his patrimony being less than $500,) to prepare for the bar, and in the next place she did not consider lawyers sufficiently moral. He replied that he must have an English education in some way, and as to any supposed vices prevalent amongst lawyers, he would endeavor to be an exception. His sister was nothing convinced, and disposed of his request without even consulting his guardian. She lived to see him, in less than twenty years afterwards, Judge of the Southern Circuit.

His brother, Eli Warren,  also became a lawyer and a judge, as well as a planter, state representative and representative to two Georgia Constitutional Conventions.

In the spring of 1810, young Warren entered as a clerk in the store of Amos Love, a pious Baptist, to whom Mr. Culpepper ministered in, Dublin. Owing to bad health, he left Dublin in the fall, and became clerk to S. & B. Worrel, in Irwinton, near his sister, and shortly returned to Mr. Love. Within a few weeks he was drafted into the militia service for the Seminole war; and in February, 1818, was elected Second Lieutenant of the Laurens Company, commanded by Capt. Elijah Dean.

[This was during Andrew Jackson’s invasion of Spanish East Florida on an expedition against the Seminoles in 1818, the First Seminole War.]

This was his first promotion; and highly gratified, no doubt, was he with his martial honors on the eve of an expedition. Not for the purpose of showing any military talent or conspicuous deed in arms, to entitle Lieutenant Warren to public admiration, do we attempt a brief sketch of the campaign in which he served; but to preserve a few incidents, of which he is, perhaps, the best if not the only living witness, in relation to the burning of the Indian town of Chehaw, near the present site of Starkville, Lee county. It was the burning of this town that led to an animated correspondence* between Gen. Andrew Jackson and Gov. Rabun. 

After General Gaines retired from Amelia Island, he took command of the state troops which had been ordered out by the Governor, and among them a company of Chatham militia, together with the Laurens and Wilkinson Companies. They were ordered to the Big Bend of the Ocmulgee River, below Hartford, under the command of Major Clinton Wright, of the U. S. Army, to discover the course of the Indians, who had been committing murders and robberies on that frontier. After organizing the guard, Major Wright, pointing his sword towards him, said, “Lieut. Warren, I shall look to you for the discharge of the duties of Adjutant of this detachment. Come to my fire as soon as possible.” The young subaltern went accordingly, and in vain alleged his ignorance of duty as a reason why he should be excused from the task. But the reply was, “You have nothing to do except to obey orders.” Thus forced into the position, Lieut. Warren performed its labor actively, much to his own improvement, and to the satisfaction of a meritorious officer, who was drowned soon afterwards in attempting to cross Flint River on a raft.

From Big Bend, by way of Hartford, the command marched on the Blackshear road to Fort Early, where it crossed Flint River in the night, and proceeded to destroy the Hoponee and Philemi towns, fifteen or twenty miles west of the river. Evidence had been collected implicating these towns in the atrocities on the frontier. Arrived within a few miles of the Chehaw town, which was supposed to be Philemi, a council of war was called, and it was determined to send forty of the best mounted men to reconnoitre. They discovered large herds of cattle that had been stolen from the whites on the Ocmulgee, ahd an Indian minding them. Captain Obed Wright, of the Chatham militia, who had volunteered his services, had positive orders from the Governor to destroy the Hoponee and Philemi towns, which were known to be hostile. Captain Wright then formed the command into column, and gave express orders that the women and children should not be hurt, and that a white flag should be respected. Within half a mile of the main town a gate was opened by an aged warrior, and the troops passed in. Every thing was quiet. The children swung in their hammocks, and the women were beating meal. The cavalry in front fired several pistols to the left, killing the warrior who opened the gate. Capt. Dean ordered a charge, but Capt. Wright countermanded the order. Two Indians were seen loading their guns. About this time, Howard, a friendly chief, was killed, while holding up a white flag. The men dashed off in pursuit of the Indians, who fled in every direction. Lieut. Warren was ordered, with eighteen men, to burn the cabins. First removing whatever was valuable, two or three cabins only were burnt. The command then returned to Fort Early that night, sold the plunder next day, and divided the spoil. Lieut. Warren refused his portion.

It was the opinion of all concerned at the time, that it was Philemi town which had been destroyed. The chief Howard, and two other Indians who placed themselves in the power of the troops, were murdered in cold blood. But the error had been committed rashly, under excitement, and could not be repaired. The companies were soon discharged, and returned home. Lieut. Warren resumed his situation in Mr. Love’s store.

In a few days, Major Davis, of the U. S. Army, called on Lieut. Warren in Dublin, and stated that he had orders from Gen. Jackson to arrest Capt. Wright. Lieut. Warren accompanied him to the hotel, .where he introduced him to Capt. Wright, who at once submitted. It may as well be remarked here that Capt. Wright had not been mustered into the service of the United States, and was, of course, not subject to the orders of Gen. Jackson. His arrest, by the authority of the latter, was therefore regarded by Gov. Rabun and the justices of the Inferior Court of Baldwin county, as a usurpation of power. After the discharge of Capt. Wright, upon Habeas Corpus, at Milledgeville, the Governor had him immediately arrested for disobeying orders, in not destroying the Hoponee and Philemi towns, as well as Chehaw, but, being at liberty on his parole of honor, Capt. Wright escaped.

We close this part of the memoir by a few extracts from the correspondence between Gen, Jackson and Gov. Rabun, as relevant. Referring to the outrage on the Chehaw village, Gen. Jackson in his letter of May 7, 1818, says:

“Such base cowardice and murderous conduct as this transaction affords, has no parallel in history, and shall meet with its merited punishment. You, sir, as Governor of a State within my military division, have no right to give a military order while I am in the field; and this being an open and violent infringement of the treaty with the Creek Indians, Capt. Wright must be prosecuted and punished for this outrageous murder, and I have ordered him to be arrested and confined in irons, until the pleasure of the President of the United States is known upon the subject. If he has left Hartford before my orders reach him, I call upon you, as Governor of Georgia, to aid me in carrying into effect my order for his arrest and confinement, which I trust will be afforded, and Captain Wright brought to condign punishment for this unparalleled murder.”

In his reply of June 1st, after referring to the communication of Gen. Glascock, on which Gen. Jackson based his censure, Gov. Rabun says:

“Had you, sir, or General Glascock, been in possession of the facts that produced this affair, it is to be presumed, at least, that you would not have indulged in a strain so indecorous and unbecoming. I had, on the 21st March last, stated the situation of our bleeding frontier to you, and requested you, in respectful terms, to detail a part of your overwhelming force for our protection, or that you would furnish supplies, and I would order out more troops, to which you have never yet deigned to reply. You state, in a very haughty tone, that I, a Governor of a State under your military division, have no right to give a military order whilst you were in the field. Wretched and contemptible indeed must be our situation if this be the fact. When the liberties of the people of Georgia shall have been prostrated at the feet of a military despotism, then, and not till then, will your imperious doctrine be tamely submitted to. you may rest assured that if the savages continue their depredations on our unprotected frontier, I shall think and act for myself in that respect.”

We have introduced these pungent passages, not only as a part of history, but to prepare the way to a graceful scene in Congress, twenty-four years afterward, between Ex-President Adams and Judge Warren, which we shall describe at the proper time.

Not having relinquished his design of becoming a member of the legal profession, Mr. Warren applied himself six months to a grammar school, in 1819, kept by Doctor William A. Hill, at the residence of General David Blackshear. Soon thereafter he was employed as supercargo, or agent, on a flatboat, to keep the accounts of the commissioners of the Oconee River, to buy provisions for the hands at work in cleaning out the river, and to disburse money set apart for this and other purposes connected with the inland navigation of Georgia. Having frequent intervals of leisure, he read Blackstone’s Commentaries, through while on the river, and before retiring from his situation, in February, 1820.

 

Commentaries on the Laws of England, by William Blackstone, are an influential 18th-century treatise on the common law of England by Sir William Blackstone, originally published by the Clarendon Press at Oxford, 1765–1769. The work is divided into four volumes, on the rights of persons, the rights of things, of private wrongs and of public wrongs. " As an elementary book, however, it may be enough to say that the whole body of American lawyers and advocates, with very few exceptions, since the Revolution, have drawn their first lessons in jurisprudence from the pages of Blackstone’s Commentaries; and no more modern work has succeeded as yet in superseding it."

Commentaries on the Laws of England, by William Blackstone, are an influential 18th-century treatise on the common law of England by Sir William Blackstone, originally published by the Clarendon Press at Oxford, 1765–1769. The work is divided into four volumes, on the rights of persons, the rights of things, of private wrongs and of public wrongs. ” As an elementary book, however, it may be enough to say that the whole body of American lawyers and advocates, with very few exceptions, since the Revolution, have drawn their first lessons in jurisprudence from the pages of Blackstone’s Commentaries; and no more modern work has succeeded as yet in superseding it.”

He then entered the law-office of Daniel McNeel, Esq., in Dublin, and diligently applied himself to legal studies, not, however, with such entire devotion as to exclude matrimony from his thoughts. An attachment formed at school was crowned, October 19th, 1820, by his marriage with Miss Jane Desaubleaux, orphan of a French gentleman [Louis P. B. DeSaubleaux] who came to the United States during the Revolutionary War, and who constituted General Blackshear the testamentary guardian of his daughters. The patrimony of his bride for a long time was unproductive, but at length became valuable from the character of the property. 

At March term, 1821, of Laurens Superior Court, Mr. Warren was admitted to the bar. He immediately opened an office in Dublin, and attended several of the courts in the southern and middle circuits, with a fair prospect of business.

That same year he became the guardian of his wife’s younger sister, Penelope DeSaubleaux, who was still a minor. He acted as an administrator, along with William L. Mcree, for his father-in-law’s estate, liquidating DeSaubleaux’s slave holdings and Laurens county plantation for the benefit of the heirs.

Appointment of Lott Warren as an administrator of the estate of Louis P. DeSaubleaux and guardian of his minor child, Penelope DeSaubleaux

Appointment of Lott Warren as an administrator of the estate of Louis P. DeSaubleaux and guardian of his minor child, Penelope DeSaubleaux

In 1823, he was elected a major of battalion in the militia, and in 1824 a representative in the legislature from Laurens county. With a view to improve his situation he removed to the village of Marion, Twiggs county, in February, 1825.

Lott Warren was temporarily serving as Solicitor-General of the Southern Circuit during the presentments of the Grand Jury of Telfair County at the June term, 1825. Among the jurors at that term of court were Redden Wooten, John Lawson, and Daniel McDonald, the three of which would later move to Lowndes County, GA. The presiding judge was Thaddeus G. Holt who that same year presided over the very first session of the Superior Court of Lowndes County, convened at the home of Sion Hall, and where Levi J. Knight served as foreman of the Grand Jury.

In March of 1826,  Thomas D. Mitchell, Esq., Solicitor-General of the Southern Circuit, was killed in a duel with Dr. Ambrose Barber.  Governor Troup made a recess appointment to place Lott Warren as Solicitor-General of the Southern Circuit, the appointment being ratified by the Legislature in November, 1826.  While in office, it became his duty to prosecute several Indians in Thomas county, for murder. According to the Bench and Bar of Georgia,

That portion of Georgia was then on the Indian frontier, and the abode of a miserable population, such as the adjoining wilds of Florida had invited. Robberies and murders were frequent, sometimes perpetrated by white men and most generally shifted off on the Indians. The Hon. Moses Fort, Judge of the Southern Circuit, held the first court in Thomas county in 1826. Two Indians were convicted before him on the offence of murder. They had killed a man by the name of White as the latter and his friends were trying to recapture certain property which the Indians had stolen. The late William H. Torrance, Esq. was appointed by the court to see that the prisoners got a fair trial. His plea to the jurisdiction of the court, on the ground that the offence was committed in Florida, (within certain disputed lines,) having been overruled, very little could be said to the merits. The solicitor-general [Lott Warren] had the assistance of Mr. [Paul] Coalson, -if not in the argument, at least in the evidence. It is presumed, however, that the prosecution needed no very special aid, as there was no adverse public opinion to combat.
When the prisoners were brought before the court to receive sentence of death, they were told through an interpreter what was to be done with them, – hung by the neck until they were dead. The judge omitted to invoke the usual blessing, – “May God have mercy on their souls!” – for the reason that the prisoners did not understand English.”

He served in this capacity to April, 1828, inclusive.  He declined being a candidate for re-election.

About the time he retired from the office of Solicitor-General, the intellect and energy of Major Warren began to attract public observation. He was employed in almost every litigated case on the circuit. No one excelled him in zeal, and but few in strength, among his associates at the bar. He frequently came in collision with Shorter, Prince, Rockwell, Torrance, Strong, and other advocates of established reputation, and always sustained himself in argument. Mr. Warren was never eloquent, if flowery language, a cultivated voice, and classic gestures be indispensable to eloquence; but he was at all times interesting,—a close reasoner, with authorities well applied; and what was better still, he exhibited a degree of self-possession and common-sense which often secured him victory in the jury-box over a competitor far more astute and pretending.

In 1828, Lott Warren chaired a large public meeting held at the Twiggs County courthouse at Marion, GA to protest the “Tariff of Abominations” which had been enacted during Andrew Jackson’s administration. The tariff, which protected northern industry and was unfavorable to the Southern agricultural economy, would lead to the Nullification Crisis. On February 1, 1833 Lott Warren would play a prominent role in the formation of the Twiggs County Free Trade & State Rights Association; Thaddeus G. Holt served as the first chairman of that organization. The State Rights Party of Georgia would be launched in 1833 by prominent leaders of the Troup party, including William H. Crawford, John M. Berrien, George R. Gilmer,  William C. Dawson, and Augustin S. Clayton.  In Lowndes County, the effort to form a State Rights Association was led by William A. KnightLevi J. KnightHamilton W. SharpeJohn Blackshear, John McLean, John E. Tucker, and William Smith at Franklinville, GA, 1834.  At the Independence Day Celebration, 1834 at Franklinville, these men and other prominent citizens of Lowndes County repeatedly toasted Nullification in opposition to Federal authority.  Among the state rights Lott Warren was most concerned with were the right of Georgia to incarcerate Native Americans without interference from the Federal Government, and the right of Georgians to retrieve fugitive slaves from other states.  Lott Warren was a slave owner, as shown in the 1860 Census of “Slave Inhabitants” of Albany, Dougherty County, GA.

Lott Warren had always been a warm supporter of Governor Troup. In 1830  he was elected to the state Legislature as the senator from Twiggs County and was seated when that body convened, but the election was contested.  An investigation ensued in the Legislature, but ultimately his election was confirmed.

 In his senatorial career of only one session, he was active in the preparation and advocacy of measures which he deemed for the public good. He exerted considerable influence in debate, and returned to his constituents with praise. The organization of the Cherokee Territory, which led to the imprisonment of the Missionaries, and the fruitless mandate of the Supreme Court to enjoin the execution of the Indian Tassels, was the leading topic of the session, and received the cordial support of the Senator from Twiggs.

In November, 1831, Mr. Warren was elected by the legislature, Judge of the Superior Courts of the Southern District, for a term of three years. Although his manner of presiding was not altogether as affable and patient as some members of the bar desired, his decisions were in general satisfactory, from the sound reasoning on which they were based. Occasionally, when a question was raised, he embarrassed counsel by an intimation of his mind, yet seldom declined hearing the argument in full. It was evident, however, from his countenance, which he rarely attempted to control for effect, that his opinion had been formed, and that it was a useless consumption of time to combat it. In such emergencies, if counsel, gathering courage and fresh ideas from the necessity of the case, could succeed in impressing the Judge that his hasty conclusion was adverse to recognized authorities, a very patient hearing was accorded; and if he was really convinced of error, he always had the frankness to correct it in proper time. It has happened, that older members of the bar, entertaining a very liberal estimate of their own qualifications, and no extraordinary respect for those of the Judge, owing, no doubt, to his want of polish and urbanity,—have ventured to argue a point, contrary to rule, after the court had pronounced its decision. To such experiments, he promptly gave a quietus by reminding counsel that the protection which the Rules of Court afforded the Bench, after a question had been decided, was not altogether nominal in his court. On a few occasions, when even this hint was unavailing, and the attempt to argue was further persisted in, he has been known to order counsel to their seats.

Judge Warren never pretend[ed] to forget the obscurity and adversities of his youth; and while he manifest[ed] a due respect for the rights and feelings of others, he never permitted any infringement of his own to escape rebuke. Soon after he settled in Marion, a gentleman, who felt himself aggrieved by the testimony of Mr. Warren before a committee of the House of Representatives, made a very conspicuous and disrespectful allusion to him, in his absence, at a public dinner. As soon as he was informed of it, Mr. Warren dispatched a note by a gallant friend, opening the way to explanation, or, that failing, to another resort usual among gentleman who recognized the code of honor. Mutual friends interposed, and the affair was honorably adjusted. We mention this circumstance merely to show that Judge Warren [had] warm passions. His temperament [was] essentially sanguine. [From 1833], however, he [was] a pious member of the Baptist Church, and kept his constitutional ardor more in subjection.

In the 1830s, Lott Warren became a prominent member of the Twiggs County Temperance Society. On July 28, 1832 he was present at the constitution of this organization and was elected its first president.  He was a member of Richland Church. He served on the church committee organizing the protracted meeting of the United Effort Company held at Richland Church which commenced on the Friday before the second Sunday in May, 1835.

At the expiration of his judicial term, in 1834, without having placed himself in the power of a legislative majority opposed to him in politics, Judge Warren resumed the practice of the law.

In December 1834, in order to pursue his business interests, Lott Warren offered his Twiggs County property for sale; “577 and 3/4 acres of land, lying near Marion, most of it good planting land, finely timbered and well-watered; 200 acres in cultivation and in a good state for making a crop – also, a few hands, stock of horses, cattle, hogs, &c.”

In January 1836.  Lott Warren moved from Marion County to Americus, GA. Following the Battle of Chickasawhatchie Swamp in the summer of 1836, he was among those presiding at a testimonial dinner at Americus, GA given in honor and gratitude for the “arduous service” of the Sumter County Volunteer Militia in the campaign “against the Creek Indians.”  The Native Americans, resisting the forceful removal to the West and fleeing to Florida, also passed through Lowndes County where local militia companies engaged them at several locations including the Skirmish at Bill Parker’s Place, the Battle of Brushy Creek, actions on Warrior Creek, Skirmish at Cow Creek, actions on Little River and at Grand Bay, and the skirmish at Troublesome Ford.

In 1837, Lott Warren was a trustee of The Georgia Baptist Institute, at Talbotton, GA.  “Talbotton is situated on the ridge of country dividing the waters of the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers, and directly on the daily stage rout from Washington City to New Orleans.”   That same year he went into partnership with William H. Crawford, with  offices in Americus, GA and providing legal services in Muscogee, Marion, Stewart, Randolph, Early, Baker, Lee, Sumter, Houston, Twiggs, Pulaski, Lowndes, Thomas Decatur and Dooly counties. In December, 1837, at a Convention of the State Rights Party, Lott Warren was nominated as a candidate for the United States Congress. In the election of 1838, he won a seat in the the U.S. House of Representatives; Julius C. Alford, who led actions against the Indians in Lowndes in Lowndes County in 1836, was also elected to the House. Although Warren did not seek the nomination, at the Anti-Van Buren Convention held June 1, 1840 at Milledgeville, he was again advanced as a candidate in the election of 1840. Subsequently , he was duly elected.

On his motion, the one-hour rule was adopted. He had seen such unnecessary waste of time for the sake of notoriety in discussion, and for selfish purposes on the part of members of Congress, that he resolved to correct the evil. Guided by a strong will of his own, against the persuasion of many friends, he moved in the matter, and the one-hour rule was incorporated into the forms of the House. Though much complained of by longwinded talkers, the rule continues still unrepealed, and will remain a proof of the sagacity and nerve of the mover…

While absent in Congress, Judge Warren was ably represented at the bar by his partner in the practice, William H. Crawford, Esq., son of the former distinguished Secretary of the Treasury—Georgia’s candidate for President in 1824. From Americus he removed to his farm in Lee county, and from thence to the town of Albany, [then] in Baker county…. In 1843 he was elected Judge of the Superior Courts of the South-Western District, and re-elected in 1847 for a term which …expire[d] in December, 1852.

For many years the Judge has acted a prominent part in the affairs of his church, frequently officiating in the pulpit, and is ever foremost in the promotion of Sunday-Schools, Bible Societies, and other benevolent institutions. He has tender sympathies and a charitable heart. Avarice forms no part of his nature. His property, though not large, renders him independent. Much of his income has been expended in a generous hospitality. Preachers, religious persons of all denominations, and his friends generally, feel quite at home under his roof.

In person, the Judge is fully six feet high, and weighs about one hundred and ninety pounds. His forehead is large and round, eyes blue, and complexion fresh and sandy. He steps quick, and is a little restless when sitting, unless his attention is much engaged. Owing to his kind feelings, which are manifest in his countenance, he does not always preserve that order in Court which a more austere visage and deportment would command. When the noise amounts to an interruption of business, he frequently alarms the bailiffs by threats of a fine for a neglect of duty. Perfect silence then reigns for a moment, but soon the uproar is renewed, the Judge himself setting the example by some pleasantry with the bar.

As the style of “Lott Warren Division, No. —,” in Sumter county, would indicate, the Judge is a son of Temperance. His lectures on that subject are very interesting. In fact, his whole time is occupied, in some way, in trying to benefit his fellow-beings. In politics, he is strictly conservative, and prefers the Union as it is, to any change which might be proposed as a remedy for real or imaginary grievances.

We have endeavored to exhibit the character and qualities of Judge Warren with that fidelity which an acquaintance of twenty-five years enables us to exercise. His example ought to stimulate poor and friendless youth to strike bravely, and bear up with fortitude, in the contest of life. If such shall be the tendency of this memoir, the writer will have accomplished his object.

In politics Lott Warren was a Whig, and he, along with his brother, General Eli Warren, and nephew Judge James Jackson Scarborough all attended the 1852 Scott Convention, the Whig state convention held at Macon, Georgia to nominate General Winfield Scott as the Whig candidate for president, with his running mate William A. Graham.  James Jackson Scarborough was trained in law under the supervision of his uncles; In 1848, Judge Scarborough would preside at Troupville, GA in the Lowndes County trial of Manuel and Jonathan Studstill for the murder of William Slaughter.

The  1934 History of Bethel Association adds the eulogy of Lott Warren by the Albany church:

“Our beloved brother, Lott Warren, departed this life on Monday, 17th of June, 1861. Such was his prominence as a citizen, a Christian, and an able and active member of this church, that it becomes highly proper that a brief memorial of his life and character should be entered upon our record.

He was born in Burke County, Georgia, October 30th, 1797. After an energetic and noble struggle with many difficulties in his early years, he at length entered upon the practice of law, which he prosecuted, with some short intervals, with much ability and success to the hour of his death. He was called by his fellow citizens to many important positions of trust and honor. He was for a time a member of our State Legislature (of the House in 1824, and of the Senate in 1830); and also Solicitor-General (from 1826 to 1828), and Judge (from 1831 to 1834), of the Southern Circuit. [It was during this period that he presided over the presentments of the Lowndes County Grand Jury.]

But it was as a decided Christian and Baptist that Brother Lott Warren became entitled to a special and honorable place upon our church records. He was baptized by the Reverend Joseph R. Hand, and became a member of the Richland Church, Twiggs County, GA in 1834. Subsequently removing to southwestern Georgia, he united with the Baptist Church in Americus. In 1845 he united with the work of the Gospel ministry, and by his occasional fervent labors in the pulpit, he rendered much useful service to the cause of Christ.

Brother Warren was remarkably exemplary in all the relations of life. He was a man of warm, earnest and unquestioned piety, decided in his opinions, of whatever he believed to be right. He was a conscientious, decided and uncompromising Baptist, though kind and affectionate in his feelings towards all whom he believed to be good men. He was the advocate of strict discipline, contributed liberally of his substance to the support of his pastor, and other pious objects. He was a friend of the poor, a bold and able champion of the cause of temperance, and an unwearied and enthusiastic supporter of the Sabbath School enterprise. For many years he labored with indefatigable zeal as a teacher in the Sunday School connected with the Albany Church. He was a lover of gospel truth, a lover of the gates of Zion, and remarkably punctual in the discharge of his duties as a church member. It deserves a special place upon our records that the Hon. Lott Warren, the able Representative, lawyer, statesman and Judge, was emphatically the humble doorkeeper of our church. On days of public worship his watchful, affectionate and gentlemanly service was ever tendered where needful, to friends and strangers, to rich and poor, that they might be provided with comfortable seats in our worshiping assemblies. His humble, cheerful conduct in this particular was a delightful comment upon the expression of the Psalmist, ‘I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.’

Brother Warren had his faults, but they were such as we might naturally expect to see in one of his ardent temperament, strong impulses and great force of character. The grace of God shone conspicuously in his life; his frailties were overshadowed by bright, prevailing virtues. He died suddenly when making a speech in the courthouse at Albany, in the defense of the life of a slave, who was on trial for commitment. He was smitten with apoplexy, sunk suddenly to the floor, and without a word, breath or struggle, passed into eternity. On the following day a large concourse followed his remains to the tomb, where they sleep in hope of a blessed resurrection.

 

From the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress:

Lott Warren, born in Burke County, near Augusta, Richmond County, GA, October 30, 1797.  He attended the common schools in the area. At the age of 19 he moved to Dublin, Laurens County, GA.  He served as a second lieutenant of Georgia Militia Volunteers in Andrew Jackson’s invasion of Spanish East Florida on an expedition against the Seminoles in 1818 (First Seminole War).   After the war he studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1821 and commenced practice in Dublin, Laurens County, GA. ; was also a regularly ordained Baptist minister, but never filled a definite charge; moved to Marion in 1825; elected major of the State militia in 1823; member of the State house of representatives in 1824 and 1831; served in the State senate in 1830; solicitor general and judge of the southern circuit of Georgia 1831-1834; moved to Americus, Sumter County, in 1836; elected as a Whig to the Twenty-sixth and Twenty-seventh Congresses (March 4, 1839-March 3, 1843); was not a candidate for renomination in 1842; moved to Albany in 1842; was judge of the superior court of Georgia 1843-1852; resumed the practice of his profession; died in Albany, Dougherty County, Ga., June 17, 1861; interment in Riverside Cemetery [Oakview Cemetery].

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An Antebellum Trial at Troupville

In 1932, James Nicholas Talley, a son of Berrien County, GA and member of the Macon Bar, published a dramatic account of court proceedings  that occurred in the 1840s in Troupville, county seat of old Lowndes County, Georgia.  Samuel Mattox, son of Aaron Mattox,  was charged in the September 7, 1843 murder of William Slaughter. The Studstill brothers,  Jonathan and Emanuel “Manny” Studstill, sons of Rachel Sirmans and Hustus Studstill (aka Eustus Studstill), were also implicated in the crime. In 1836, Samuel Mattox had been the first to discover Indians were active in then Lowndes county near Ten Mile Creek, prior to the Battle of Brushy Creek.  Ten Mile Creek, the locality of the Slaughter murder, lies slightly northeast of present day Ray City, GA.

Talley’s narrative of the murder of the Slaughter boy and the trials that ensued are transcribed below, along with contemporaneous news clippings of the events and other supplemental information.

AN ANTEBELLUM TRIAL AT TROUPVILLE

By J. N. TALLEY, of the Macon Bar

Late in the afternoon of September seventh, Eighteen Forty-three, a fifteen-year-old boy, William Slaughter, rode through the pine woods near Ten Mile creek. He was driving up a herd of cattle, for it was milking time at his father’s pioneer settlement in the upper part of Lowndes.

At a distant clearing, the calves having been rounded up and penned, Samuel Mattox and his wife, Rachel, the milker, stood at the pasture bars. With them were two young men of the neighborhood, Jonathan Studstill and his brother, Manuel, who had come over to see Mattox and make plans for an early deer hunt. While they were waiting somewhat impatiently for the cows, Manuel displayed a gun which he had brought along, a rifle  so rusty and antiquated in pattern that he declared, to the amusement of the group, it wouldn’t kill a steer at fifteen steps. They were “all in a laugh,” when the straggling herd, guided by the mounted boy, came into sight a quarter of a mile away.

The ford was soon reached, but there horse and rider stopped and, scattering out over a wiregrass level, the cows began to graze.

Observing from the calf lot this delay at the ford, Jonathan with a loud halloo ordered the boy to “come on.” William doubtless did not hear the command, for he continued to await the arrival of a brother from across the creek. From his stand by the fence, possibly actuated by the instinct of the hunter, perhaps-for no reason at all, Mattox closely contemplated the distant youthful figure in the fading light dimly outlined against the dense foliage of the swamp. While Mattox was so engaged, Manuel handed him the rifle and suggested that he shoot. Jonathan likewise said “shoot,” adding that the old firearm wouldn’t hit the side of a house. “Moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil”, as was afterwards charged, Mattox took aim and sighted, first however, it is said, deliberately resting the rifle barrel on a heap of brush. “Stop” screamed Rachel, but the shot rang out, and through the clearing smoke the unoffending lad was seen to fall from his saddle.

Dropping the gun and leaving Rachel at the pasture bars, the men ran to the ford and found the stricken boy. Horrified they discovered that the ball, speeding with unexpected force and accuracy, had penetrated his skull. ­Realizing that the report of the gun had carried far and thinking to avert suspicion, Jonathan and Mattox roughly pressed a pine stick through the open wound into the substance of the brain. Upon receiving this shock, the prostrate and apparently lifeless form arose and for one awful moment stood, face distorted by pain and wide unseeing eyes fixed upon Jonathan. Seizing the horse, which had remained standing by its unconscious master,  Manuel rode away to summons help. Later when Samuel Slaughter, the brother, and [Captain John] Sanderson, a neighbor arrived, and the mother came up in her cart, they were told by Mattox and Jonathan how a random shot fired from across the creek had frightened the horse, how the boy had been violently thrown, and how in falling his head struck a pine knot. Pointing to the stick, Jonathan declared to the mother, “that snag proved your son’s death.”

Early next morning young Slaughter died. The locality where he was shot is still known locally as Slaughter’s Ford and is some five or six miles from the present town of Nashville in Berrien county.

 

Cause of Death Revealed by Hole in Hat.

The remote rural community had been thoroughly aroused. Samuel Slaughter, who heard the shot, maintained that it came from the direction of the calf pen, for at the time he himself had been “across the creek.”  The Studstills, Mattox and Rachel did much talking, and after several days Mattox acknowledged that it was he who fired the “random shot” which frightened the horse. The theory of accidental death was being generally accepted until one day Moses Slaughter at home took down his son’s hat and found a hole, clear cut and evidently made by a bullet. Then Sanderson, who had removed the stick, remembered that instead of being jammed it was loose and moved with the pulsations of the brain. The body was disinterred, a post-mortem made by Dr. Briggs of Troupville, and a rifle ball found imbedded in the left side of the head.

 A Warrant issued for the arrest of Mattox, who promptly sought refuge in the thickets about a secluded pool, afterwards called “the Mattox pond,” and now crossed by State Highway No. 11.


At this point in J. N. Talley’s story we can add that Samuel Mattox was captured and taken to Troupville, GA where he was incarcerated in the county jail. During this time the Jailor in Troupville was Morgan Swain, who was also a blacksmith and innkeeper.  Swain’s Hotel was favored by courtgoers, amicus curiae, and the just plain curious who flocked to town on court days.

As it happened, Mattox was held with cellmates Tarlton Swain and John Strickland.  Tarlton “Talt” Swain was the brother of Morgan Swain, and whereas Morgan represented law and order, Talt Swain and his posse were the community Bad Boys.  It is said that Talt  not being of a mind to take chances with a court trial, effected an escape.  The Milledgeville Federal Union reported the fugitives’ flight and the Governor’s offer of reward for their capture:

Samuel Mattox escapes from Troupville, GA jail, 1843.

Federal Union, Nov. 21, 1843 — page 1

GEORGIA:

A Proclamation

By Charles J. McDonald, Governor of said State.

Whereas, official information has been received at this Department, that SAMUEL MATTOX, charged with the offence of murder, and TARLTON SWAIN and JOHN STRICKLAND, charged with the offence of aiding prisoner to escape from Jail, in the county of Lowndes, have made their escape from the Jail of said county.  Now in order that the said Samuel Mattox, Tarlton Swain and John Strickland, may be brought to trial for the offence of which they stand charged; I have thought proper to issue this my Proclamation, hereby offering a reward of ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, for the apprehension and delivery of either, or THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS for all three, to the Sheriff or Jailer of said county; and I do moreover, charge and require all officers, civil and military in this State, to aid and assist in apprehending and securing said fugitives.
Given under my hand, and the Great Seal of the State, at the Capitol in Milledgeville, this the 7th day of November, 1843, and of the American Independence the sixty-eighth.

CHARLES J. McDONALD.

By the Governor,

J. W. A. Sanford, Secretary of State,

Nov. 7 1843.

The Governor’s offer of a reward was issued by Georgia Secretary of State John William Augustine Sanford.  Sanford had been prosecutor Augustin H. Hansell‘s commanding officer in the Indian Wars of 1836.

It is interesting to note that the legal classified advertisement following the reward announcement  above was for the law offices Samuel Spencer and H. S. Stewart.  Spencer’s presence in Troupville, or the lack thereof, would figure prominently in later court proceedings during the trial of Jonathan Studstill.

Mattox was apparently captured in a timely manner and remanded back to the jail at Troupville to stand trial.

Resuming the account by J.N. Talley:

Mattox Convicted

At Troupville, Mattox was put on trial for his life, convicted, and sentenced to death. The many vital questions argued by counsel were finally decided by the then highest judicial authority, a superior court judge, for there was no supreme court, and no appeal.

New York Herald, June 24, 1844. Samuel Mattox convicted of murder in Lowndes County, GA.

New York Herald, June 24, 1844. Samuel Mattox convicted of murder in Lowndes County, GA.

The execution took place in July (probably 1844) on a hill just east of the Withlacoochee river, and was conducted by sheriff John Towels, who happened to be an intimate friend of the victim. The hanging was witnessed by a crowd said to have been the largest, with one exception, ever assembled at Troupville, the exception being a circus in the late 50’s which for all time set an attendance record at Lowndes’ antebellum capital.

1844 Hanging of Samuel Mattox at Troupville, GA was reported in the Milledgeville Southern Reporter, August 13, 1844 edition.

1844 Hanging of Samuel Mattox at Troupville, GA was reported in the Milledgeville Southern Reporter, August 13, 1844 edition.

Milledgeville Southern Reporter
August 13, 1844

Troupville, Lowndes Co.,
July 30, 1844.

Messrs. Editors:  – Samuel Mattox was found guilty of the murder of William Slaughter, at the last term of our Court, and sentenced to be hung on Friday last, which was done in presence of one thousand persons, as we suppose; and the very next day, (last Saturday.) Alexander McFail killed Ebenezer J. Perkins, by stabbing him. Thus it is among us: one scene of murder succeeds another in such rapid succession, that it is alarming and distressing. McFail has fled.

Truly yours, &c.

J. N. Talley noted in his narrative that, “The records of the Mattox trial were destroyed when the courthouse burned in June, 1858.” From later news clippings, we know that one of the jurors was Ajaniah Smith, who later moved to Baker’s Mill, FL.

Tifton Gazette, March 8, 1901 clipping indicates Ajaniah Smith served on the jury at the trial of Samuel Mattox in 1844.

Tifton Gazette, March 8, 1901 clipping indicates Ajaniah Smith served on the jury at the trial of Samuel Mattox in 1844.

Tifton Gazette
March 8, 1901

Mr. A. Smith, of Baker’s Mill, Fla., is one of the old-timers in this section and was the first sheriff that Brooks county had.  He also fought the Indians in this section, and served on the jury which hanged Samuel Mattox for the murder of a son of Moses Slaughter, in Berrien county many years ago. – Valdosta Times.

Talley documents that  in the matter of the murder of William Slaughter the legal proceedings were an incredibly drawn out affair, stretching over a seven year period. His narrative picks up in 1848 with the trial of Jonathan Studstill, who allegedly aided and abetted the murder of Slaughter.

The Studstill Case

The Studstill brothers had been indicted for murder in the second degree, a capital felony. The charge against them was not tried until 1848, five years after the crime had been committed. Throughout this long period Jonathan languished in Troupville’s little jail near the banks of the Withlacoochee. In the meantime Rachel Mattox had become Rachel Bailey. This comely, young woman seemed dogged by the spectre of crime. Her second husband [Burrell Hamilton Bailey] some years later was also tried for murder, but found not guilty.  (SEE Showdown in Allapaha and  The State vs Burrell Hamilton Bailey)

Troupville in 1848, boasted of three hotels and four lawyers. The resident bar, normally adequate for local needs, was more or less eclipsed by the semi-annual advent of the circuit riders. These perambulatory dignitaries, traveling in gigs and sulkies or on horseback, that year had begun their ­”Fall’ riding at Dublin on the first Monday in September.

An Old Indictment

The following indictment had been returned against Jonathan and Manuel Studstill:

GEORGIA, LOWNDES COUNTY.

The Grand Jurors, etc., in the name and behalf of the citizens of Georgia, charge and accuse Manuel Studstill and Jonathan Studstill, both of the County and State aforesaid, with the offence of murder, as principals in the second degree. For that one Samuel Mattox, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil, on the 7th day of September, 1843, with force and arms in the County aforesaid, in and upon one William Slaughter, in the peace of the State then and there being, feloniously, unlawfully, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, then and there did make an assault, and that he, the said Samuel Mattox a certain rifle gun of the value of twenty dollars, the property of Manuel Studstill, then and there being found, the said rifle gun being then and there charged with gunpowder and a leaden bullet, which rifle gun he, the said Samuel Mattox, in both his hands then and there had and held at, against and upon him, the said William Slaughter, then and there feloniously, unlawfully, and of his malice aforethought, did discharge and shoot off; and that he, the said Samuel Mattox, with the leaden bullet aforesaid, by force of the gunpowder aforesaid, so by him, the said Samuel Mattox as aforesaid, discharged and shot off, him, the said William Slaughter, in and upon the left side of the head of him, the said William Slaughter, then and there feloniously, unlawfully, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, did strike and wound, giving to the said William Slaughter, then and there, with the leaden bullet aforesaid, out of the said rifle gun, so as aforesaid discharged and shot off, in and upon the said left side of the head of him, the said William Slaughter, one mortal wound of the breadth of one inch and depth of two inches, of which said mortal wound he, the said William Slaughter, on and from the said 7th day September, in the year aforesaid, until the 8th day of September, in the year aforesaid, at the house of one Moses Slaughter, in the County aforesaid, did languish, and languishing did live, on which said 8th day of September, in the year aforesaid, about the hour of nine o’clock, in the morning, he, the said William Slaughter, at the house of said Moses Slaughter, in the County aforesaid, of the mortal wound aforesaid, died.

And the jurors aforesaid, on their oaths aforesaid, do say, that the said Manuel Studstill and the said Jonathan Studstill, on the said 7th day of September, in the year aforesaid, in the County and State aforesaid, then and there feloniously, wilfully, unlawfully, and of their malice aforethought, were present, aiding helping, abetting, comforting, assisting and maintaining the said Samuel Mattox in the felony and murder aforesaid, in manner and form aforesaid, to do and commit, contrary to the laws of said State, etc.

This indictment language, convoluted and legally flawed as it was, became an exemplar of indictments, and was cited in legal forms encyclopedias for decades afterwards.  Although the Lowndes court records of this trial were also lost in the courthouse fire of 1858, we know from other court records that the foreman of the jury was Thomas M. Boston.

The Court Room

The State against Manuel and Jonathan Studstill, murder, was sounded for trial at the December term, 1848. The small scantily furnished court room was crowded. Within the bar a dozen or more lawyers occupied cowhide bottom chairs irregularly arranged behind plain pine tables. These tables supported sundry well-worn but highly prized volumes of law, a nondescript collection of ink wells and quill pens, and numerous resplendent stove pipe hats carefully deposited upside down. Trained under his uncles, Eli and Lott Warren, the presiding judge James Jackson Scarborough had become one of the outstanding lawyers of two circuits. His reputation at the bar, however, it is said, was surpassed by that which he attained while on the bench, and “there was a child-like simplicity about him which blended with his legal acumen and judicial ability made him a refreshing character.”  Augustin H. Hansell, solicitor general, appeared for the prosecution. The following year he was to succeed Scarborough as Judge of the Southern Circuit, a station which he occupied and conspicuously adorned during forty-three years. To assist in the prosecution had been retained Samuel Rockwell, rich in garnered experience and gifted in forensic oratory. On behalf of the Studstills appeared the learned Carlton B. Cole, twice judge of the Southern Circuit and destined in after years to preside over the courts of the Macon Circuit, and with Clifford Anderson and Walter B. Hill to form the first faculty of the Law School at Mercer University.

According to J. T. Shelton’s Pines and Pioneers, Carlton B. Cole was assisted by Peter Love, John J. Underwood, Clark, and Samuel Spencer.

Procedure Reviewed

The State being ready, the first motion came from the defendants who asked for a severance and that they be tried separately.  This granted, Hansell announced that Manuel’s case would be taken up first. Cautiously refraining from announcing that Manuel was ready for trial, Cole informed the court of a pending plea of autrefois acquit.  Issue being joined, there was a complete trial, which ended in a verdict against the plea. Thereupon Hansell announced that the State elected to put Jonathan on trial. This unexpected action was vigorously protested by Cole who insisted that the prosecution could not abandon the case on trial and take up that of Jonathan; Judge Scarborough held, however, that the disposition of the plea was merely the removal of an obstacle out of the way and not a part of the main trial, and directed Jonathan to plead. Cole now moved for a continuance of Jonathan’s case on account of the absence of Samuel Spencer, a member of the Thomasville bar, who was then at Tallahassee in attendance on a meeting of the Presidential Electors, the first to be held in the new state of Florida. In support of this motion it was shown that one [William] Holliday had been subpoenaed by the State for the purpose of proving that in a conversation Jonathan had confessed his guilt. Spencer was expected to testify that Holliday afterwards admitted being “so beastly drunk” on the occasion in question as to have been utterly incapable of understanding the conversation or anything else. The motion was overruled, but the prudent Hansell during the trial was careful not to call Holliday as a witness, thus avoiding the effect of a favorable ruling which might constitute reversible error.  These preliminaries disposed of, at a word from his attorney, Jonathan slowly walked to the prisoner’s dock and awkwardly stood there for arraignment and plea. Already knowing what the State held against him, the prisoner soon tired of listening to the verbose indictment, and turned his gaze straight to a window by the judge’s bench. There, beyond the moss draped trees fringing the Withlacoochee he saw the very hill where a few years before an enormous crowd had gathered to make of Mattox’ hanging a Roman holiday.

With jury in the box the stage was set for the trial of Jonathan’s case upon its merits.

The Trial Proceeds

The attention of all in the court room centered upon Augustin H. Hansell as he arose to open the case for the State. In appearance the young solicitor general was tall and strikingly handsome, clean shaven, his abundant hair worn rather long as was the fashion, and his dress, that affected by gentlemen of his profession – dark frock coat, trousers neatly fitting over high boots, waistcoat of gaily flowered silk, surmounted by the folds of a black stock sharply contrasting with his gleaming linen. The prosecuting attorney told the jury that if the State produced that proof the nature of which he had outlined, it would be their duty to find Jonathan guilty.

Before any evidence was submitted, the dignified Cole, addressing the judge, stated that even if the State’s proof should measure up to the expectations of the learned solicitor general, yet the jury would be bound to acquit the prisoner, and moved the court for a directed verdict of not guilty. It was pointed out by Cole that although the indictment charged Jonathan with murder in the second degree, it nowhere directly charged Mattox, the principal, with the offense of murder. While the offense had been described in the body of the indictment, nevertheless, argued Cole, there was at its conclusion no express allegation that Mattox had murdered the deceased, and that the omitted expression, technical though it was, could be supplied by no other. 2 Hawk. Pl. Cr. 224.

The attorneys for the State could not controvert the proposition that this objection to the indictment was fatal at common law. They contended, however, that the rule laid down did not apply to a principal in the second degree, but could find no authority. Driven from the principles and precedents of the cherished common law, the prosecution was reluctantly forced to fall back upon that section of the penal code of 1833, which provided that every indictment shall be deemed sufficiently technical which states an offense in the language of the code or so plainly that the nature of the offense may be understood by the jury. Prince 658.

Notwithstanding the indictment was an imperfect specimen of the draughtsman’s art, yet its meaning being understandable, the judge was constrained to overrule the motion.

Over the objection of the defendant, the indictment against Mattox, together with verdict and judgment and certain confessions made by him, were offered in evidence by the State, and then from the stand was narrated the story of how the boy while driving up his father’s cattle had been shot at the ford on Ten Mile Creek.

Rachel, the chief witness for the prosecution, and perhaps the only woman in the crowded court room, found herself in a trying situation. On the one side was fixed upon her the stern gaze of the unrelenting old pioneer settler, and on the other she beheld the kindly pleading eyes of Jonathan, friend of her former husband. Under these circumstances she clung to the anchor of remembered truth and testified that she heard Jonathan and Manuel tell Mattox to shoot, that the gun wouldn’t hit a boy at fifteen steps, but that she did not know whether her husband took aim or fired at random. Opposing her statement was that of Manuel who said he did not hand Mattox the gun, that so far as he saw or heard, his brother had nothing to do with the killing, and that he did not hear Rachel tell Mattox not to shoot,

The evidence concluded, on the law Cole argued that because of the great distance, the killing was not a probable consequence of the negligent act, therefore, the homicide was reduced to involuntary manslaughter as to which there could be no principal in the second degree. The State, however, contended that since the shooting itself was an unlawful act, the defendant was guilty, if the killing was even a possible consequence.

Argument Long and Loud

As soon as the first outburst of impassioned eloquence put the village on notice that jury speaking had begun, men came running from the square, the groceries, the taverns, and stables, and soon taxed the capacity of the courtroom. The anticipation of this probable consequence, it may be remarked without impropriety, did not prevent the aforesaid outburst from being made both early and loud, for it should be remembered that in those days the perambulatory attorney usually had in mind not only the case in hand but two others in the bush, and frequently also political preferment in the offing.

To most of those present, the jury speaking, which embraced argument, anecdote, pathos, oratorical flights, and sharp clashes between counsel, was the high point of the semi-annual entertainment presented by the court. The distinguished and resourceful antagonists no doubt made free use of all the material afforded by the case on trial, and we may imagine how in the disputation poor Rachel was bandied and buffeted back and forth – now thrown down as weak, simple, dominated, untrustworthy –  now exalted as a paragon of unswerving truth and womanly virtue. 

In his charge Judge Scarborough no doubt “summed up” the testimony as is still done in the United States Court, and may have expressed his opinion. Certain it is, the Judge stated to the jury if Rachel swore the truth the defendant was guilty. In view of the hard circumstances of this unusual case and the prominence given her testimony, it is not unlikely the jury conceived the practical question to their determination to be, Did Rachel swear the truth? Since an effort at her impeachment had miserably failed, it was perhaps, easy for them to conclude that she was a truthful witness, and, therefore, to decide, as they did, that Jonathan was guilty of murder.

The pageantry of the trial over, its excitement and suspense ended, a wave of sympathy appeared to move the hushed crowd of curious onlookers.  As they heard the fearsome pronouncement of the judge, interrupted only by the stifled sobs of Rachel, and saw Jonathan standing at the bar, with his staring gaze fixed upon the barren hilltop beyond the Withlacoochee.

Conviction Affirmed

The conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court sitting at Hawkinsville at the June Term, 1849. Studstill vs. State  7 Ga. 2. 

In sustaining Judge Scarborough’s ruling that the indictment was good, although it did not meet the technical requirements of the common law, Justice Joseph Henry Lumpkin used the following language:

 “The age is past for the civil and criminal justice of the country to be defeated by the absence or presence of one or more ‘absque hocs,’ ‘then and theres,’ videlicts,’ etc. And for one, I rejoice to see edifices built, although they may be ‘with the granite of Littleton, the cement of Coke, the trowel of Blackstone, and the Masonic genius of a hundred Chief justiciaries, and covered with the moss of many generations,’ swaying beneath the sturdy blows so unsparingly applied by the hand of reform. Why should the spirit of progress which is abroad in the World, and which is heaving and agitating the public mined in respect to the arts, sciences, politics and religion, halt upon the vestibule of our temples of justice? Why not penetrate tearlessly, the precincts of the Bar and Bench, and remodel the principles and practice of the old common law, to accommodate it to the enlightenment of a rapidly advancing civilization? Our courts should co-operate cordially with the Legislature in building up a modernized jurisprudence, upon the broadest foundations.” _­Studstill vs. State, 7 Ga. 2.

Jonathan Receives Pardon

By an act approved February 6, 1850, the General Assembly granted to Jonathan Studstill a pardon and declared him entirely exonerated and discharged from the pains and penalties of his conviction and sentence “as fully, freely and entirely as if such conviction and sentence had never taken place or the offense committed.”

After this disposition of Jonathan’s case, apparently the prosecution against Manuel was abandoned.

Pardon of Jonathan Studstill, Acts of the State of Georgia 1849-50.

Pardon of Jonathan Studstill, Acts of the State of Georgia 1849-50.

 AN ACT to pardon Jonathan Studstill of the county of Lowndes.

Whereas at a Superior Court held in and for the county of Lowndes, at December Term, 1848, Jonathan Studstill was convicted of the crime of murder; and whereas petitions from a large number of the citizens of said county of Lowndes have been presented to the General Assembly, asking the exercise of legislative clemency:
Be it therefore enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Georgia in General Assembly met, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That from and immediately after the passing of this act, the said Jonathan Studstill be and he is hereby declared to be freely, fully and entirely pardoned, exonerated, and discharged from the pains and penalties of his said convictions and sentence as fully, freely and entirely as if such conviction and sentence had never taken place or the offence committed.
Approved, February 6, 1850.

∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫

The Dumb Act

 It is significant that the same legislature passed a statute, approved February 21, known as “the Dumb Act of 1850,”which made it unlawful for any superior court judge in his charge to the jury to express or intimate his opinion as to what has or has not been proved or as to the guilt of the accused. There was at the time a considerable sentiment in favor of curbing the judiciary, but the Studstill case was probably one of the leading factors which crystallized that sentiment in Georgia.

The bill which became known as the Dumb Act was introduced by Richard H. Clark, then a senator living at Albany. Incidentally it is interesting to note that the author of the bill himself subsequently occupied the judicial station for twenty-two years. We are told this distinguished jurist would sometimes lose sight of the restraints thrown around the judge by our peculiar system of jurisprudence and appear to invade the province of the jury, and that most of the reversals of his judgment by the supreme court were based upon exceptions to alleged expressions of opinion before the jury. 99 Ga. 817

Judge Clark was familiar with the Studstill case, and in 1876 he referred to it as “one of the most interesting cases in the judicial annals of the State.” (58 Ga. 610).

 

Old Troupville

Lowndes County in 1843, when young Slaughter was killed, lay between Thomas and Ware, extended from the Florida line northward ninety miles, and was very sparsely settled. Its first county seat Franklinville, on the Withlacoochee two miles west of Cat Creek, had been abandoned ten years before and a permanent capital established at Troupville, a village situated in the angle formed by the confluence of the Little and Withlacoochee rivers, some six miles distant from the site of the present city of Valdosta.

At the time of the Studstill trial in 1848 Troupville was still a small village the next decade however, being a gateway to the new state of Florida, and supposed to be on the line of a projected railroad from Savannah, its growth was almost phenomenal.  At one time its bar consisted of thirteen members. Its newspaper The South Georgia Watchman, was the predecessor of the Valdosta Times.

When attending court, the judge and lawyers usually stopped at a tavern widely famed for its hospitality and presided over by a genial host, who was affectionately called “Uncle Billy Smith”. Across the street from the inn was the public square. On this was situated not only the court-house and jail, but also the stables belonging to the stage line and a convenient “grocery”.

The orderly decorum of the court room at Troupville was occasionally disturbed by energetic but short-lived fist fights on the square, but another disturbance occurring periodically had the more serious effect of halting the court. This was preceded by the shrill blasting of a bugle, followed by the measured“ beat of galloping horses and the loud, reverberations of the lumbering stage coach from Thomasville, as it rattled across the boards of Little River bridge. The forced recess continued until the stage with four fresh horses crossed over the Withlacoochee bridge and departed on its long journey through the pines to Waresborough.

A source of interruption within the court room itself was the practice of having grand jury witnesses sworn in open court. From time to time, more or less inopportune, a grand juror escorting two or three witnesses would appear at the bar, where upon the business in hand was suspended until the oath could be administered. These interjected proceedings were narrowly watched, and not infrequently a bystander, whose conduct was about to be investigated would be seen to make a hurried departure for the purpose of securing temporary immunity from punishment should the grand jury return a presentment.

The general complexion of a court crowd in those times differed somewhat from that of the post bellum period in that the black population remained at home, excepting the family coachman. These privileged and interesting characters contributed their bit to entertain the transients on the square, while their influential masters within the courtroom occupied chairs and hobnobbed with the dignitaries of bench and bar.

Court Week always attracted a great concourse of people. Some attended from necessity or compulsion, some to enjoy the feast of erudition and eloquence; others to trade, traffic or electioneer, but to many it was an occasion for much drinking and horse swapping, and for indulgence in cock fighting, horse racing, and other “Worldly amusements” for which Troupville became somewhat notorious. Indeed, among the Godly, it was regarded as a wild town – almost as wicked as Hawkinsville.

 

A Vanished Town

Now beneath a spreading oak that shades the old Stage road, a granite marker points out to passers-by the place where once stood Troupville – the far famed capital of Lowndes.

Only the rivers there remain, eternally the same –
Black waters, musically slipping,
Whose ripples sway the gray moss dipping
From hoary overhanging, trees
That murmur to the whispering breeze
Old tales of ancient memories.

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