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Joseph Story’s Eulogy of General George Washington – Inscribed by the Future Supreme Court Justice to His Tutor at Harvard
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JOSEPH STORY. Inscribed book, An Eulogy on General George Washington; Written at the Request of the Residents of Marblehead, and Delivered before Them on the Second Day of January, A.D. 1800. Salem, MA: Joshua Cushing, 1800. Inscribed to his tutor at Harvard: “To Prof. Samuel Webber from his respectful hble Sevt / The Auth[or].” 24 pp. Bound in 20th c full calf with marbled end papers, spine with gilt title and gilt-stamped coffins on red label. Final three letters of Story’s signature (as “the author”) trimmed during binding; forgivable due to the unique association and great rarity of any inscribed copies.

Inventory #26160       Price: $9,500

Historical Background
When former President George Washington died on December 14, 1799, Congress and the General Court of Massachusetts recommended that eulogies be delivered in all the towns.

Marblehead selected recent Harvard graduate Joseph Story to give theirs, a considerable honor for such a young man. The inhabitants commenced a procession at 2:00 p.m., led by the scholars from the various schools, the clergy, the selectmen, the town treasurer and town clerk, the Society of Free Masons, the Marine Society, and the committee of arrangements, followed by the citizens of Marblehead. They proceeded to the meeting house, while bells tolled and minute guns fired. Story then delivered an address that The Salem Gazette deemed “an elegant E[u]logy.” “On this melancholy occasion,” the black-bordered Gazette reported, “all business was suspended; and a solemnity universally prevailing evinced the gratitude and respect of a very numerous concourse for the services and character of their deceased benefactor.”[1]

By early February, printings of Story’s eulogy were offered in both Salem and Boston.[2] When he received a copy of the published eulogy, Congressman and future Massachusetts Chief Justice Samuel Sewall, with whom Story was studying law, wrote, “I doubt not it will give you reputation, and it by no means needs an apology for haste or inconsiderateness.”

Acquired by the current owner approximately 25 years ago, from antiquarian legal books specialist Meyer Boswell Books.  

Joseph Story (1779-1845), born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, graduated from Harvard College in 1798. He gained admission to the bar in 1801. He published “The Power of Solitude” in 1804, one of the first long poems by an American. He served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1805 to 1808, then in the U.S. House of Representatives for four months in 1808-1809. When he returned to his state, he was re-elected to the Massachusetts House, rising to speaker in 1811. That November, President James Madison made him the youngest person ever nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. Story served as an Associate Justice from 1812 until his death. He played a pivotal role in the Court’s asserting Constitutional authority over state courts and state legislatures. A strong ally of Chief Justice John Marshall, over a 20 year period, Story wrote more opinions than any other justice except Marshall. After Roger B. Taney was appointed Chief Justice upon Marshall’s death in 1835, Story was more often was part of a dissenting minority. He was also one of the most successful American authors of the first half of the nineteenth-century, with his legal treatises and commentaries earning him more than his salary on the Supreme Court.

Samuel Webber (1759-1810) graduated from Harvard College with a Bachelor’s degree in 1784 and with a Master’s degree in 1787. He was ordained a Congregational minister in 1787, and appointed the Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Harvard two years later. His System of Mathematics (1801) served as the only such textbook in New England for many years.

Webber was president of Harvard from 1806 until his death.

[1]Salem Gazette (MA), January 7, 1800, 2:2.

[2]Salem Gazette, February 7, 1800,4:1.

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