Nasty, Brutish & Short

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Cincinnati Lawyers in the 1790s

April 4, 2007 09:11 PM

Well I've switched books, and now I'm reading Mansfield's Personal Memories, an 1879 book written by a very early Cincinnatian, who went off east for school, and came back a lawyer.  I got a kick out his description of legal practice here in the 1790s:

In that day, to practice law in Cincinnati required the lawyer to ride the circuit.  And what was the circuit?  No less than the whole Northwest Territory, now comprising five states and ten millions of people.  In the circuit in which [attorney Jacob ]Burnet rode were Marietta, Detroit and Vincennes.  He would tell stories of hair-breadth escapes by field and flood.  Here there were almost impassable swamps and there unfordable streams.  One night they were belated in making a certain point, and their horses stopped suddenly and would not go.  They got off and had to camp there.  Next morning they found the horses had stopped just at the edge of a precipice which overhung Wolfe Creek.  At other times they would stop in an Indian Village and be caressed by greasy squaws, and joked with by swarthy warriors.  Such was a part of the Cincinnati lawyers' practice in the close of the last century.  Burnet says that when he came to the bar, there were nine lawyers, who, all but one, became intemperate.

So basically, not much has changed.  Though I do have to admit, it's been months since I've been caressed by a greasy squaw.  Swarthy warriors, them I joke with every day.  And eight out of nine of us are still drunks.

Comments

Greasy Squaws. YUM

Anonymous   ·  April 5, 2007 11:29 PM

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