Folded folio sheet, consisting of a single manuscript page, followed by two blanks and a final page addressed to Griffin at 65 Merchants Exchange, New York, with remnant of red wax seal. Old folds from mailing, Very Good.
Chancellor Kent, the most influential American jurist of the 19th century after Chief Justice Marshall, wrote this letter to another 19th century legal giant, George Griffin. Kent congratulates Griffin on his brilliant defense of Commander Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, who had commanded the Brig Somers. In 1842 Mackenzie set out for the Africa Squadron. During the passage, plans for a mutiny were discovered, with the intention to kill the officers and convert the ship into a piratical vessel. Mackenzie ordered the summary execution of three crew members, one of whom, Philip Spencer, was the son of President Tyler's Secretary of War. The incident sparked an explosive controversy. A Court of Inquiry was convened.
Kent writes that Griffin accomplished "one of the most admirable forensic arguments I ever read for its fervent, energetic & elegant style, its noble sentiments, its clear & skilful arrangement, & for its close & irresistible logic... It is a question of life or death to the future character & efficiency of the Navy."
In a long and distinguished career, Griffin is best known for his successful defense of Mackenzie. Griffin's obituary in the New York Times [May 7, 1860] called him "an active member of the bar of this City, in the full height of practice for just half a century. Few lawyers of his day achieved greater triumphs at the bar; his fame as an advocate being coextensive with the legal history of the country. Some of his eloquent jury speeches have been enrolled among those specimens of American eloquence which are daily declaimed by students in our Academies and Colleges as specimens of impassioned eloquence... He practiced with a race of legal giants. His daily competitors were men of the highest legal attainments, and of the most commanding powers of eloquence." Item #33002