Auburn, N.Y. Derby & Co, 1846. 63, [1 blank] pp. Disbound, scattered light foxing. Good+.
One of Seward's most "striking" criminal trials, his defense of a "demented negro" [McDade] on a charge of murder. The case "involved the death sentence on a poor imbecile Negro, Freeman, in whose defense Seward made in 1846 one of the most eloquent of his speeches; this he afterwards declared he would have repeated without the alteration of a word" [DAB]. This is the stated fourth edition, all printed in 1846.
The "trial, and particularly his defense by former Governor William H. Seward, aroused great excitement because of the plea of insanity" [McDade]. Demonstrating his formidable talents as a trial lawyer in this closing argument, he defends Freeman, a black man accused of murdering a whole family-- John Van Nest, his wife [who was pregnant], their child, and her mother. Seward says the slayings, "if a crime at all," are among the worst imaginable. His defense: Freeman is insane. Insanity, he says in this early definition of the term, is a "derangement of the mind, character and conduct, resulting from bodily disease." Seward urges the jury to set aside racial prejudices. "You, gentlemen, have, or ought to have, lifted up your souls above the bondage of prejudices so narrow and so mean as these. The color of the prisoner's skin, and the form of his features, are not impressed upon the spiritual, immortal mind which works beneath. Hold him then to be a MAN." "The case did much to insure a better hearing for the insane who, until then, received small consideration in the courts." McDade.
McDade 325 [noting four 1846 editions]. II Harv. Law Cat. 565. Sabin 79503. AI 46-6372 . Not in Work, LCP, Blockson, Eberstadt. Item #35334