Composite curriculum of Litchfield Law School, 1812-1813

            The notes of certain  Litchfield students overlap in time, sometimes so precisely that the students might have been seated side by side while attending the same lecture. This coincidence is particularly striking for 1812 and 1813, years for which the notes of eleven students have survived. These were also years of heavy enrollment at the school, with 39 students in 1812 and 52 in 1813. Although none of these students kept perfectly dated or complete notebooks, nor have they consistently recorded the name of Reeve or Gould as lecturer, nevertheless from their 42 surviving notebooks  it is possible to produce a snapshot of the contents of the full curriculum  presented  by Tapping  Reeve and James Gould.

            The eleven students are:

Charles Adams (1795-1821)  1 volume

William Stutson Andrews (1793-1872)  3 volumes

Roger Sherman Baldwin (1793-1863)   5 volumes

William Key Bond (1792-1864)  5 volumes

Samuel Cheever (1787-1874)  2 volumes

Henry Leavitt Ellsworth (1791-1858)  7 volumes

Timothy Follett (1793-1857)  6 volumes

Henry Holton Fuller (1790-1852)  2 volumes

A. Bruyn Hasbrouck (1791-1879)  1 volume

Nathaniel Mather (1788-1837)   6 volumes

Elisha Dana Whittlesey (1792-1823)  4 volumes

            There is a range in age of these students,  from the youngest, Charles Adams who had just turned 18, to the oldest, Samuel Cheever at 25. Neither Adams nor Cheever had attended college, nor had William Key Bond.  The remainder held degrees from Harvard, Yale or the University of Vermont. Variation in the number of volumes can also be explained.  A certificate of attendance in Charles Adams’ sole volume states that he was in Litchfield from June 13 to August 4, 1812.  His 384 page volume contains legal titles most often found in any student’s first volume, those of municipal law, baron and feme, parent and child, guardian and ward, master and servant, sheriff and jailer. His brief attendance probably accounts for the single volume.  It is hard to believe there was not a fourth volume belonging to Harvard graduate William S. Andrews. As it stands,  his preserved notes lack three major titles: executors and administrators, contracts, and public wrongs.  Henry Holton Fuller originally wrote 3 volumes, but only volumes 2 and 3 have survived.  Of the men on this list, Fuller was the most meticulous student. He consistently numbered and dated the lectures, as well as recorded the name of Reeve or Gould.  Because Fuller numbered lectures continuously, we can infer that there were 67 lectures in his missing first volume. One regrets very much the absence of  that notebook. Regarding the two volumes of Samuel Cheever, one can suppose either that other volumes were lost or that he chose not to remain a longer time as a student in Litchfield. Since Litchfield was not a degree granting institution (Reeve gave his students certificates of attendance), there was no compelling need to stay for a full round of lectures.  Bruyn Hasbrouck’s work is represented by  a single volume containing devises, Lex Mercatoria, pleas and pleadings, criminal law and private wrongs.       

             No complete set of lectures exists within the notes of a single student.   Major or minor titles are missing from the pages of each.  Sometimes a reason is given. Writing in 1813, Elisha Whittlesey noted that:  “It was intimated by Judge Reeve that he had it in contemplation to publish his comments upon the Law of Domestic Relations, and for that reason his Lectures on that subject were not transcribed. It was the practice of the venerable Judge to lecture upon this title and to dwell upon the  rights & liberties of the wife, with much emphasis.”  Reeve’s treatise on the law of husband and wife appeared in print in 1816.  In addition to omitting  baron and feme, Whittlesey’s four volumes also lack lectures on criminal law and on real property. His fourth volume contains  a comprehensive list of titles. Using that list as a framework, it is possible to reconstruct the complete curriculum selecting the best examples of lectures and notes taken by these 11 students. The order of legal titles given below follows the list from Whittlesey’s fourth volume.  One further topic has been added, that of Practice in Connecticut, found in the notes of Roger Sherman Baldwin and Nathaniel Mather, but not in Whittlesey, who left Connecticut to practice in Waterloo, New York.

            There is no fixed form or appearance to these notebooks. Charles Adams and Henry Holton Fuller have recorded each title lecture by lecture, generally both dating and numbering lectures along with the name of Reeve or Gould. In the five volumes of Roger Sherman Baldwin, on the other hand, there is no evidence of separate or enumerated lectures. His notes, and those of  Nathaniel Mather and Elisha Whittlesey, are written as continuous text, often divided by topical subheads.  In the 80 page title of  “Executor & Administrator,” for example, there are such subheads as “lapsed and vested legacies” and “who may be an executor.” This manner of recording legal titles creates the impression of an English legal treatise, while the notebooks filled with dated lectures appear like school texts.  Books of Samuel Cheever, William Key Bond and Henry Leavitt Ellsworth combine a mixture of these two styles, with some enumerated lectures and some legal titles written as unbroken texts, with the aid of descriptive subheads. Whatever method was chosen for copying or transcribing notes, the results were useful books to keep for reference and in some cases, for adding updates of pertinent decisions.

            Within this group of eleven students and their 42 notebooks, no one title is common to all, probably because of the chance nature of preservation of  the notebooks. The most frequently occurring title, recorded by all except Charles Adams, is pleas and pleadings. These were lectures by James Gould which served as the basis for his treatise on the subject. Titles of baron and feme, practice of chancery, evidence, municipal law, and guardian and ward are found in the notes of nine students.

            Several students made remarks or included extra material. In volume four, Timothy Follett recorded the powers of chancery twice, once in eleven lectures of Reeve, dated in May, 1813, and secondly, a version by Gould, in continuous text with no lectures breaks and no dates. Samuel Cheever, whose notes on powers of chancery  also date from May 1813, wrote that the last 10 pages of this title were copied directly from Judge Reeve’s notes. William Key Bond ceased copying lectures on mortgages on February 22, 1812 in order to attend the dinner in honor of General Washington’s birthday. Nathaniel Mather’s notes contain the only references to  moot hall during this time, when he wrote down questions discussed along with arguments and authorities and the opinions of Judge Reeve and Mr. Gould. Sessions of moot hall were held on August 27, September 3, and October, 1812.

            One student copied a quote about the difficulties and satisfaction of studying law. On the second page of his notebook, William Key Bond wrote this inscription: “Melancholy and untrue is the picture which they draw of the legal study, who represent its prominent features to be those of subtlety and impudence, and of a labour dry and barren. Rather would I compare it to a mountain, steep and toilsome indeed in its first approaches, but easy and delightful in it superior ascent, and the whole top is crowned with a rich and lasting verdure. Study and Practice of Law.”  Bond was unable to identify the author because no name appeared on the title page of the quoted source.  Later the author was identified as John Raithby, The study and practice of the law considered, in their various relations to society. In a series of letters. By a member of Lincoln’s Inn.  London, 1798. An American edition was printed in Portland, Maine in 1806.

Whitney S. Bagnall                                                                             September 30, 2013

Municipal Law                      (Roger Sherman Baldwin, 1812) [lectures by James Gould]

            Interpretation of law                                                   

            Unwritten law

            Common law                                                   

            Particular customs                                                       

            Particular Laws            used in particular jurisdictions                                                  

            Public & private statutes                                                         

            Lex scripta or written law

            Kinds of statutes                                                                     

            Penal and beneficial statutes                                        

            Construction of statutes          

            Penal law of one State not noticed in another                                     

            Repeal of statutes

            Special powers created by statute                                                         

            Pleading statutes & mode of prosecuting upon them   

            Who may prosecute upon a penal statute                                

            Popular actions                                                                       

            In what cases qui tam actions will lie

            Actions on penal statutes

Private Relations-Husband & Wife (Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, 1812) [lectures by Tapping Reeve]

            The right which the husband acquires to the  personal property of his wife                             

            Husband is administrator on his wife’s property

            Wife’s chattels real

            What the wife gets by marrying the husband

            Husband cannot convey away his lands by deed in mortgage

            When the wife lives under articles of separation

            After execution, can the wife by discharged upon common bail

            Contracts of the wife

            Debts due to the wife by the husband before coverture

            Conveyances of the husband to the wife

            Separate maintenance for the wife

            Wife’s executory power

            Cases where husband & wife must join in a suit

            Whether  wife may devise away  her real property w/o the consent of her husband

            Settlements made by husband & wife upon their separation

            Celebration of marriage

            What is lawful marriage           

Master & Servant (William S. Andrews, 1813) [lectures by James Gould]

            Definition: a servant is one who is subject to the personal authority of another; a master is one who excercises that authority.




            Day laborers

             Agents, factors, brokers

            Autioneers, attorneys

            Debtors assigned in service

            General relations of master & servant

            Contracts of servants

            Servant’s own liability

            Master’s remedies by others for injuries to his servant

            What acts the master & servant may justify in each other

Parent & Child including Guardian & Ward (Charles Adams, 1812) [lectures by James Gould]

            Definition of infancy: an infant or a minor by the common law of England is anyone, male or female, who is under the age of 21 years.

            Privileges & disabilities of infants which are of a miscellaneous nature

            Contracts of infants

            When infants are not bound by contract

            Penal bonds executed by infants

            Time & manner of avoiding contracts by infants

            What offices an infant may hold

            When a judgment goes against an infant

            Relative rights & duties of parents & children

            Rights & incapcities of bastards or illegitimate children

            Duty of protecting one’s children

            Action for seduction of daughter

            Appointment of guardian, kinds of guardian

            Settlement of infants

Guardian & Ward

Sheriff & Jailer (or Gaoler)  (Charles Adams, 1812) [lectures by James Gould]

            Definition: the word sheriff is derived from “shire,” a county and “reeve,” a keeper or governor, denoting in its original sense a keeper or governor of the shire or county.

            Nature of office & manner of appointment

            Liability for prisoner’s escape after death of sheriff

            Law of escapes

            Negligent escapes

            Voluntary escapes

            Rules of common law

Executors & Administrators (Roger Sherman Baldwin, 1812) [Reeve & Gould]

            Duties of an executor

            Legacies: pecuniary, specific, lapsed, vested,

            Lands devised to pay debts

            Statute of distribution


            Differences between English law and Conn law regarding settlement of estates

            Who may be an executor

            Who may be an administrator

            Executor de son tort


            Consequence of making a debtor one’s executor

            Consequence of making a creditor one’s executor

            Additional duties of executor & administrator

Contracts (William Key Bond,1812)  [lectures by Reeve and Gould]

            Definition: A contract is simply an agreement between two or more persons upon sufficient consideration to do or not to do a particular thing.

            Requisites to a contract

            Void or voidable contracts (lunatics, infants, femes coverts)

            Who may bind others as well as themselves by assent to contracts

            Subjects of contracts: distinction between executed and executory contracts

            Contracts against the law of the land as being against public welfare.

            Of the nature and kinds of contracts

            Contracts are divided into express, constructive, and implicative by Powell

            Contracts impossible at the time of making them

            Statute of frauds and perjuries

            Classes of contracts required to be in writing

            General rules applying to all classes of contracts

            Of consideration in contracts

            Interpretation of contracts

            How contracts may be discharged, annulled or voided

Actions upon contracts

            Covenant broken (Timothy Follett, 1812) [nine lectures by James Gould]

                        General nature of covenants & how they may be created

                        Construction of covenants

                        Covenants used in conveyances

                        Covenants & other contracts to pay money by installments

                        Liability of assignees

                        Covenants in a deed





                        The action of detinue lies for  the recovery of a specific chattel and thus far, it is in the nature of a bill in Chancery in its effect.

            Notice & request

Defences to actions founded  on contracts (Elisha Whittlesey, 1813) [lectures by Tapping Reeve]


            Accord & satisfaction

            Statutes of Limitations



            Lunacy and non sane memory





            Foreign attachments

            Want of consideration

            Impossible contracts

            Composition with creditors

            Higher securities

             Former judgment,

            Discharge & payment



Bailments & Inn keepers    (Timothy Follett, 1812)          [9 lectures by James Gould]

            Definition: a delivery of goods, on a condition express or implied, that they shall be restored by the bailee to the bailor, or according to his order or direction, whenever the purpose for which they were bailed shall be answered.

            Different kinds of bailment: (depositum, commodatum, locatio et conductio, vadium or pawn, delivery of goods to be carried, mandatum)

            Liability of common carriers

            Rights of third persons in contracts of bailment

            Remedies for bailor and bailee vs. strangers and each other

            Inns & innkeepers

Private wrongs & remedies (William S. Andrews, 1813) [lectures by James Gould]

            [In his notebook, Andrews wrote that the title of private wrongs was copied from a copy of Gould’s own notes, September 1813.]




            Assault & battery

            Trespass vi et armis for false imprisonment

            Malicious prosecution

            Trespass for injuries to personal  property

Prerogative writs (Nathaniel Mather, 1812) [lectures by James Gould]



            Habeas corpus

            Audita querula

            Quo warranto

Pleas & Pleadings     (Samuel Cheever, 1812-1813) [ 30 lectures by James Gould]

            Definition:  pleadings are the mutual altercations between plaintiff and defendant put into the legal form and set down in writing.


            General rules


            Joinder of parties

            Courses of action that cannot be joined

            Dilatory pleas

            Pleas in abatement

            Non or misjoinder

            Pleas to the action

            Modo et forma

            Pleas stating special facts

            Special pleas in bar

            Novel assignment




            Profert & oyer

            Departure in pleadings


            Demurrer to evidence

            Arrest of judgment & repleader

            Causes of arresting judgment

New trials                  (Henry H. Fuller, 1813)           [lecture by Tapping Reeve]

            Granting a new trial

            Causes for granting a new trial

            Discovered testimony

            Misconduct of parties

Writs of error                        (Henry H. Fuller, 1813 [lecture by Tapping Reeve]

            Defintion: a writ of error is a commission given to the judge of a superior court by which they are authorized to examine the errors upon which the judgment was given.

            Effect of a reversal

            Errors in law

Bills of exceptions    (William Key Bond, 1812) [one lecture by James Gould]

            A bill of exception is a statement of facts and of some interlocutory judgment founded on them, annexed to the record for the purpose of laying a foundation for a writ of error. [At the end of this lecture is a form of a bill of exceptions in Litchfield County Superior Court.]

Evidence         (Henry Holton Fuller, 1813)    [12 lectures by Tapping Reeve]

            General observations:  An infinite variety of new questions will arise on this subject, and we can only lay down general rules; there are numerous wrong decisions on this subject.

            Plaintiff & defendant as witnesses

            Impeaching credit of a witness

            Escaper as witness

            Trustee as witness

            Exclusion of witnesses

            Character of witness

            Parents as witnesses


            Depositions in Connecticut

            Delivery of a deed

            Parol testimony

Real Property                       

            Kinds of estates           

                        Fee Simple                              

                        Fee Tail                                  

                        Life estate                               

                        Tenant in tail after possibility of issue extinct



                        Estate for years                                   

                        Estate at will                           

                        Estate at sufferance                 



                        Joint tenancy                          


                        Tenancy in common


            Title by deed  (Timothy Follett, 1813)  “from Mr. G’s notes”

                        Purchase includes every mode of acquiring an estate except that of descent

                        Nature of deeds


                        Construction of deeds  

            Title by execution                   

            Estates on condition                                                   



Alienation by Deed   (Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, 1812) [James Gould]

            Two modes of acquiring lands, tenements, and heriditaments: first by descent, second by purchase.

            Nature of deeds

            Requisites of deeds       




            Deed Escrow

            Deed Construction

Fraudulent conveyances      (Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, 1812) [nine lectures by James Gould]

            All conveyances of property made to deceased creditors are void against them

            Marriage in law is always a valuable consideration

            Who can take advantage of the statute of 27 Elizabeth

            To constitute a purchaser used anything, the purchase must be of the identical thing

            Voluntary bond

            Badges of fraud

            How far fraudulent conveyance is binding upon the parties

Remedies for injuries done to real property (W.S. Andrews, 1813) [lectures by Gould & Reeve]





            Forcible entry & detainer

Lex Mercatoria (William Key Bond, 1812) [24 lectures by Tapping Reeve]

            Merchant law is common to commercial countries

            Belligerent & neutral vessels

            Risk to ships on voyages




            Loss by general average

            Abandonment of vessels

            Insurance on lives

            Bills of exchange

            Illegal consideration

            Acceptance of bill



            Stoppage of goods in transitu  

Powers of Chancery             (Timothy Follett, 1813) [eleven lectures by Tapping Reeve]

            General powers incapable of definition

            Marriage  contracts entered into for the settlement of estates

            Matters of fraud

            Power of marshalling assets

            To relieve against penalties

            Application for payment of penalties

            Power of issuing injunctions

Criminal law/Public wrongs (Henry Holton Fuller, 1813) [eleven lectures by Tapping Reeve]

            Definition: A crime is said to be an act in violation of some public law, or an omission to do what is required by law. Crimes may be violations of statutes or of common law.


            Persons exempt from punishment

            Principal and accessories



            Perjury, subornation of perjury




            Riots, routs, unlawful assembly











            Offences against religion




            Excusable homicide

            Justifiable homicide

            Binding over

            Commitment by courts


Practice in Connecticut       (Roger Sherman Baldwin, 1813)

            Jurisdiction of our courts in civil law cases

            Single magistrates

            County courts

            Superior court

            Supreme Court of Errors

            General Assembly

            Proceedings to enforce civil rights

            Bail and special bail

            Defences in pleading

            Changing and altering pleas

            Issue and trial