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PENirsYLyAiriA magazine of histobt and biography. 





Edward Shippen, the third of that name in this country, 
was the son of Edward and Sarah Shippen.^ He was born in 
the city of Philadelphia on the 16th day of February, 1729. 
Of his early education we have no authentic account. One 
biographer,^ indeed, has thought fit to dwell with compla- 
cency upon " his attention to his studies, his respectfulness 
and submission to his preceptors, the engaging affability of 
his manners and the propriety and decorum of his general 
deportment." It is to be feared, however, that much of this 
glowing eulogy should be attributed to the partiality of the 
writer rather than to the merit of his subject. This only 
we are fairly entitled to presume, that, being the son of a 
prosperous merchant and well-known citizen, he enjoyed to 
the fall whatever educational facilities the Philadelphia of 
his time afforded. 

In 1746, having reached the age of seventeen years, young 
Shippen entered upon the study of the law in the office of 
Tench Francis, Esq., the most noted counsel then at the Phila- 
delphia bar, whose practice was large and lucrative, and who 
was in the following year appointed to be Attorney -General 
of the Province. \ . 

In such an office it may well be believed that Mr. Shippen 
had an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with the 
practical details of his intended profession. We have his own! 
authority for the statement that at some time during this* 

[' For a brief genealogical reference to this family, see the Magazine, 
vol. V. p. 453, and vol. vi. p. 332 ; and, for fuller information, Mr. Balch's 
Shippen Papers j and Mr. Keith's Provincial Councillors of PennsyU 
vania. — Ed.] 

« Dr. Charles Caldwell, Port/olio, 1810. 

Edward Shippen. 

period he drafted with his own hand the first " common re- 
covery" ever suffered in Pennsylvania,^ and it was no doubt 
I^ J just such practical experience as this that he laid the 
foundation of that extensive and useful knowledge of Penn- 
sylvania precedents for which he was afterwards so justly noted. 

But, however thoroughly the practical details of a lawyer's 
business might be acquired in Pennsylvania, there was at 
that time little or no chance for a student to become fami- 
liarly acquainted with the more abstruse parts of his pro. 
fession, the great underlying principles of English juris- 
prudence, and their application to controversies between man 
and man. Books were scarce, and well-trained lawyers few. 
Beside Tench Francis, John Eoss and John Moland were 
the only counsel of note at the bar. Nor was the bench 
much better supplied, so that cases were too frequently settled 
according to the untutored dictates of natural justice rather 
than by the fixed and immutable principles of law. It was, 
therefore, determined that Mr. Shippen, having spent two 
years in the pursuit of his legal studies, should complete 
them under more favorable auspices, that he should be entered 
regularly at one of the London inns of court, and by pur- 
suing the course of studies then in vogue should duly qualify 
himself for admission to practice as a barrister. 

With this intent Mr. Shippen in 1748 sailed from Phila- 
delphia. An interesting account of his voyage and arrival 
in London will be found in the following extract from a 
letter written by him to his brother Joseph shortly after his 

arrival : — 

" London, Feb. 25tli, 1 748-9. 

Dear Joe . . . You desire that I should give j^ou a par- 
ticular account of my voyage, which I shall do with the 
greatest pleasure, though the narration may not be altogether 
so agreeable as you could wish. For eight days after we left 
the Capes we had as fine winds and pleasant weather as one 
could possibly desire, in which time we had run to the outer- 
most part of the Banks of Newfoundland, something above 
a third part of our passage; the eighth day, about nine 
o'clock, we had a storm come on from the northwest so sud- 

» Morris's Lessee v. Smith, 1 Yeates, 238-244 ; Lyle v. Richards, 9 S. & R. 

Edward Shippen. 

denly that we could not possibly ^et our sails furled time 
enough to prevent the violence of the wind from tearing our 
mainsail and foresail all to pieces. The maintop yard was 
lowered and the sail furled but the fury of the wind drove 
the yard from its proper place quite up to the head of the 
maintop-mast, blew the sail loose and made it stand abroad 
like a vane. We continued in this situation for about an 
hour, without any further damage, when the gale increased 
to such a degree, that we could not by any means keep the 
ship before the wind, but she violently broached to, and we 
must have inevitably gone to the bottom, had not the captain 
very seasonably cut away the mizzen-mast, which brought 
her to rights. Some time after this, the wind raged still 
more and obliged the ship, notwithstanding the loss of our 
mizzen-mast, to broach to a second time, and now we had 
lost all hopes and thought that nothing less than a miracle 
could save us from the impending ruin, The ship lay on her 
beam ends, so that one could sit straight up on her side and we 
expected every moment to perish. The sailors were so dis- 
heartened that they would not work a stroke, but quitted 
the deck, every man but one, and retired to their cabins to 
pray. After lying some time in this melancholy posture, we 
had the good fortune to have our maintop-mast with the 
head of our mainmast blown away ; which took away so 
much of the power of the wind over us, that we righted once 
more, and got before the wind and thus we continued, ex- 
posed to the mercy of the winds and seas, till about six 
o'clock in the morning, when we found the storm somewhat 
abating, and, in about two hours afterwards, we had but a 
very moderate gale. But to have seen the havoc that was 
made upon deck and the miserable plight we were reduced 
to from the loss of our sails and masts and the shattered con- 
dition of everything about us would have made men of more 
philosophy than any of us feel concerned, even after the 
abatement of the wind. But, thank God, this terrible storm 
was succeeded by three or four days of very fine weather, 
which gave us time to mend our sails and put ourselves in as 
good a posture for proceeding with the voyage as could pos- 
sibly be expected from people in our condition, yet we thought 
ourselves so unfit to enter into the English channel, that we 
consulted several times whether it was not most proper to put 
into Lisbon to refit. But the captain's opinion prevailed that 
we should stand for the channel and put into the first harbor 
in England, in case it should be thick or stormy weather. 
So we proceeded and arrived safe in the Downs the twenty- 
vseventh day after we left the Capes. We landed at Deal and 

Edward Shippen. 

took coaches for London, where we have had the pleasure of 
congratulating one other upon our deliverance. . . • Since 
I have been in London I have enjoyed a very good state of 
health and have spent some time in seeing all the curiosities 
of this populous city, which I shall forbear to particularize 
at present. The relation will serve to pass an hour or two of 
our winter evenings when we get together again. 

Give my love to mammy, and tell her I have her often in 
my mind, and wish she could mention anything that would 
be agreeable to her from hence. I should take great pleasure 
in supplying her. 

Remember me kindly to Uncle Billy and his family, Mr. 

Willing and his family, Billy and Jemmy Logan, Tommy 

Smith, and all friends ; and, dear Joe, accept my hearty love 

to yourself, and believe me your very loving and affectionate 



The London to which Mr. Shippen was now introduced 
must indeed have been a new world to him. The treaty of 
Aix-la-Chapelle had just been concluded, and the town was 
full of the fetes and rejoicings incident to the return of peace. 

As he went down to the Great Hall at Westminster he 
must have seen figures passing and repassing whose memory 
he must have loved to dwell upon in maturer years. There 
turning his steps to the House stalked Mr. Speaker Onslow, 
with ponderous wig and gown, Pelham the prime minister 
of the realm, the uncouth, unwieldy form of the Duke of 
Newcastle, and the lithe active figure of a certain late cornet 
of horse, then paymaster-general of the forces, no less a per- 
son than the future Lord Chatham. Here striding in with 
nervous energy was a shrewd Scotchman who, any by- 
stander could have informed him, was the Solicitor-General, 
Mr. Murray, the great Lord Mansfield yet to be. There too 
were Henry Fox and Charles Tovvnshend, and a score of 
others whose names were within a single decade to be coupled 
either with execrations or with blessings by American lips. 

Crossing to the other side of the Great Hall, he no doubt 
saw Chief-Justice Lee in the King's Bench and Lord Hard- 

* Balch*8 Shippen Papers^ p. 13. 

Edvxird Shippen. 

wicke, the father of English Equity Jurisprudence, in the 
marble chair. 

Outside in the streets he beheld the very scenes of which 
Hogarth has left us the imperishable memorials. The gaols 
were full to repletion of Jacobite prisoners. But two short 
years before Lords Kilmarnock, Lovat, and Balmerino had lost 
their heads on Tower Green, and those blackening trophies 
of vengeance empaled on the spikes of Temple Bar must 
often have attracted his eye as he went to and forth from his 

If he sought the more fashionable part of the town, he 
may have seen Mr. Horace Walpole, or Mr. George Selwyn, 
idly sauntering along to White's, or in the Park he may 
have met the great Lord Chesterfield, the Duke of Cumber- 
land (Billy the Butcher, as the Jacobites called him), Lady 
Mary Wortley Montague in her chair, or perhaps Mr. Gar- 
rick refreshing himself by a stroll for Macbeth, or King 
Richard. the Third, in the evening. 

Notwithstanding the many attractions by which he was 
surrounded, Mr. Shippen did not fail to maintain a lively 
correspondence with his family at home. The following 
letter to his brother-in law James Burd is of interest, both 
on account of the amiable light in which the character of 
the writer is displayed, and the glimpse we catch of the Paris 
of a century and a half ago : — 

•* London, 1st August, 1749. 

Dear Jemmy 

Your kind Fav'^ via Ireland I received, containing the 
agreeable acct of Sally's Delivery with the Welfare of her- 
self and little one which demands my hearty Congratulations. 
I sincerely wish the dear Infant may prove a Blessinor and 
Lasting pleasure to you both. If you can convey my Bless- 
ing to it by a Kiss, pray give it an hearty one immediately. 
I am highly pleased with your Smoothing-iron over the 
Disappointment (as you "Call it) of a nephew. I have at- 
tempted a French Letter to Sally as I suppose she would 
naturally expect one from a Brother just return'd from 
France. If she has time to spare from attendinsr my little 
niece and has not forgot her French I make no Doubt she 
will try an answ^ in the same Language. 

Edward Ship-pen. 

You acquaint me of your acting a play the last Winter to 
the Satisfaction of all Spectators. I am glad that Spirit is 
kept up, because it is an amusement the most useful of any 
to Young People and I heartily wish it would spread itself 
to y® younger Sort, 1 mean School Boys. For I think there 
is no method so proper to teach them Grace of Speech and 
an elegant Pronunciation and withal there is nothing that 
emboldens a Lad and rids him of his natural Bashfulness 
and fear so much as this. I now feel more concern on ac- 
count of the Education of Youth in my own Country than 
ever I did. I see how much we are defective in opportunities 
to give them Learning and how much we are excelled by 
those in Europe. As you are beginning to be master of a 
Family there I make no question but Thoughts on this Sub- 
ject frequently occur to your mind. 

I am glad to hear that all our Ships that went for Phila- 
delphia this Spring are arrived but Mesnard, and am still 
gladder on your acco* that there is a good Sale of Goods. I 
doubt not you will be able to manage your affairs so as not 
to give Cause of Complaint to any gentleman here. 

I am lately return 'd from making a short Trip into France. 
I think a man that comes to England to see the World is 
inexcusable in peaceable times if he does not visit that 
metropolis of the polite World. I have been entertained 
with an Hospitality and Politeness quite answerable to the 
general character of that nation. Paris is a beautiful City. 
The Houses all built with a fine white Stone and covered 
with Slate make a charming appearance. 

The public Buildings exceed those in England vastly, 
especially the Palaces. Versailles is very justly the pride of 
France and admiration of the whole World. Painting, 
Sculpture, Architecture and all the Polite Arts flourish greatly 
in that Kingdom. There is so much Encouragement for these 
things that many People imagine France will in a little time 
be the center of the Arts and Sciences. She increases daily 
and if England is not cautious she may take from us some- 
thing more than the Arts and Sciences. 

I suppose Capt. Stupant will be sail^ before this reaches 
you. If not, I desire my compliments to him, and dont 
forget me to all Relations and Friends. Mr. Lardner, Mr. 
Elliot, Mr. Smith, Mr. Trotter & Mr. Kidd are in the num- 
ber of these. Give my Love particularly to Uncle Billy. I 
pray God bless you and am 

Your affectionate Brother, 


' Origiaal ia possession of Chas. E. Hildeburn, Esq. 

Edward Shippen. 

To return, however, more particularly to Mr. Shippen's 
career. He had within a month or so after his arrival in 
London been duly entered as a student of law at the Middle 
Temple. The character of his studies and the nature of his 
prospects may be learned by the following extract from a 
letter written by him to his father : — 

" London, Jan. 23, 1749-50. 

I have according to your desire visited Mr. Richard 
Penn, who made me very welcome, and yesterday I had the 

honour of dining with him I am sorry that I have 

to inform you that 1 am disappointed in my expectations of 
being called to the bar at tliis term; the occasion of it I 
could not possibly prevent. Every student before he comes 
to the Bar is obliged to perform six vacation exercises, three 
candle-light exercises and two new-inn exercises which he is 
not allowed to do alone but must join with another student. 
1 had calculated matters so as to liave performed them all 
before the end of this term ; but, unluckily for nie, the gen- 
tleman who was my companion in the exercises, having some 
engagements in the country, could not attend at the time 
appointed for the performance of one of the vacation exer- 
cises, which obliged me to defer that duty until next vaca- 
tion, so that it will be Easter Term before I can be possibly 
called, unless I consent to compound for vacation exercises, 
which would cost me near twenty pounds. I know, sir, that 
you expect me to leave England by March or February, 
which makes me at a loss how to act. But I am reduced to 
the necessity of either returning home without being made 
a barrister, and so making all my expenses at the Temple 
useless, or of prolonging my stay in England two or three 
months. The former I am sensible would not be so agreeable 
to you, and since I have gone so far at the Temple, I believe 
I must stay and see it out and depend on your gooflness to 
send me about £30 upon my coming away. According to 
my calculation, that amount, together with the money you 
have already favored me with, and the £20 you order Storke 
to let me have will suffice with frugality to maintain me till 
my departure and defray the expenses of my being called to 
the bar. All that I shall then want further will be some 
£30 or £40 for my gown and tie wig, a suit of clotfjes, my 
sea-stores and passage. Easter Term is in May, but I cannot 
take the oaths until about the middle of June, after which I 
shall leave in the first vessel. lu the mean time, I hope you 

Edward Shippen. 

will furnish me with the money necessary to complete my 
affairs with advantage and to quit England with credit."* 

He succeeded, however, in completing his studies earlier 
than he had anticipated, for he was duly called and took 
the necessary oaths in the early part of May, and on the 
seventh of that month wrote to his father as follows : — 

"I am preparing for my voyage in Capt. Adams — who 
talks of sailing next week; we have all the prospect in the 
world of an agreeable passage, having a good lot of company, 
a fine ship and the best season of the year."' 

Mr. Shippen had, according to his expectation, a favorable 
return passage, and almost immediately upon his arrival 
addressed the following letter to his father : — 

" Philadelphia, June 8, 1750. 
Hon'd Sir. My Mind has been much employed for about 
a Twelvemonth past about an affair, which, tho' often men- 
tioned to you by others, has never been revealed by myself, 
and, as I can now no longer bear the anxiety of mind which 
a state of suspense in matters of consequence is always 
attended with, I must open myself to you and beg your best 
advice and assistance. Miss Peggy Francis has for a long 
time ajjpeared to me the most amiable of her Sex, and tho' 
I might have paid my Addresses, possibly with success, 
where it would have been more agreeable to you, yet as Our 
Affections are not always in our Power to command, ever 
since my Acquaintance with this young Lady I have been 
utterly incapable of entertaining a thought of any other. I 
know. Sir, your Sentiments of these matters are more than 
usually generous and therefore I can with the greater Confi- 
dence ask your consent in this Affair, especially when I as- 
sure you 'tis the only Thing can make me happy. If I had 
obtained a Girl with a considerable Fortune, no doubt the 
world would have pronounced me happier, but, as in my own 
Notion, Happiness does not consist in being thought happy 
by the World, but in the internal Satisfaction and Content- 
ment of the mind, I must beg leave to^ay I am a better Judge 
for myself of what will procure it than they: yet I am not 
so carried away by my Passion as to exclude the considera- 

* Balch's Shippen Papers, 17. 

* Shippen Papers, MS. In the collection of the Historical Society of 

Edward Shippen. 

tion of money matters altogether ; without a Prospect of a 
comfortable subsistence, 'tis madness to marry. That Prospect 
I think I have. With a little Assistance in setting out, my 
Business, with Frugality, can't fail to maintain me, and a 
bare support with one I love is to me a much preferable 
State to great affluence with a Person one regards with in- 
difterence. Be pleased, Sir, to let me know your sentiments 
of this aftair as soon as possible. For tho' I might not press 
a very speedy conclusion of it, yet I am anxious to know my 

I am Dear Sir Your Very aflfectionate 

and dutiful Son 

Some difficulties ensued in relation to the marriage settle- 
ments, which were, however, speedily overcome; and the 
engagement of Mr. Shippen to Miss Peggy Francis was in 
the following autumn announced. 

Meantime his natural talents, family connections, and the 
prestige of his London education secured for him a fair share 
of business. In the Docket of the Supreme Court for Septem- 
ber Term, 1750, the following entry occurs: — 

" On the 25*^ Sepf 1750 Edward Shippen Jun'^ Esq*" pro- 
duced his certificate from the Treasurer of the Middle Tem- 
ple that he is utter Barrister of the Society of that Temple 
which was read."* 

We have some reason also to conclude that shortly after 
this time he was retained in some cases of note. 

On the 22d of November, 1752, Mr. Shippen received the 
appointment of Judge of the Vice- Admiralty Court — a station 
of some importance and considerable pecuniary value.* The 
admiralty court-house in which he now heard causes was 
situated over the market at Third Street at some little dis- 
tance from the other Provincial courts, as though to mark 
the difterence of jurisdiction and practice existing between 

' Sbippen Papers, MS. In the collection of the Historical Society of 

• Supreme Court Docket, Sept. 24, 1750, to Sept. 29, 1750, p. 32. 

» 4 Penn. Arch. 600 ; 2 Proud's Hist, of Penna. 291 ; Gordon's Penna. 
628, App. ; 8 Col. Bee. 171 ; Yasse v. Ball, 2 Yeates, 178-182. 

Edward Shippen. 

tbera.^ These advances in wealth and dignity now prompted 
Mr. Shippen to take another and most important step in 
life. He was on the 29th of November, 1753, married to 
Margaret the daughter of his former preceptor Mr. Francis. 
His wife brought him a dowry of £500, part of which he 
expended in extending his library. His father at about the 
same time presented him with a house on Walnut Street in 
which he began his married life.* 

Meantime his reputation for ability and prudence seems 
to have been steadily and surely on the increase. In April, 
1766, the perpetration of a fiendish Indian massacre in the 
western part of the State had lashed the people into a great 
commotion. An indignant and tumultuous crowd gathered 
at Lancaster clamoring for vengeance and setting at nought 
the eftbrts of the local authorities to control their passion 
within reasonable bounds. The Governor accordingly, on the 
15th of the month, dispatched a commission to these people 
to persuade them quietly to disperse. Of this commission 
Mr. Shippen was one. Its mediation was entirely effectual, 
for upon its appeal the mob separated at once without further 

On October 7, 1755, Mr. Shippen was chosen as a common 
councilman of the City of Philadelphia,* and on May 27, 
1758, was elected town clerk, and also clerk of the council.' 
These offices he retained until the Revolution. 

Of the kind of life then led in Philadelphia we catch 
various glimpses in his letters to his father who was then 
Prothonotary at Lancaster. The following extracts are 
selected from a large mass of business correspondence, in the 
main hopelessly dry and unentertaining: — 

"Jan. 17, 1755. 

As to a Book of Precedents for Writs I know of no such 
things in English. I have an exceeding good one in Latin 

' 1 Forum, 264, note. 

* Letter, Edw. Shippen, Jr., to his Father, Sept. 14, 1753. Shippen 
Papers MS , in Collection of Hist. Soc. of Penna. 
3 7 Col. Rec. 93. < Minutes of Common Council, Oct. 7, 1755. 

^ Minutes of Common Council, May 27, 1758. 

Edward Shippen. 

called Offidna Brevium^ but as I have daily occasion for it I 
cannot possibly spare it out of ray office, besides it is a 
science to understand the Law Latin. I cannot think you 
have any sort of occasion for such a Book, as the Lawyers 
whenever they want a writ of a special nature draw it them- 

"April 8, 1756. 
The sore throat has run through the whole town ; many 
have had it very dangerously. The way of treating it that 
is most successful is to bleed very freely upon the first symp- 
toms appearing, to use a Gargle of Sage Tea, Honey and 
Vinegar, to take strong purging Pills, if the Throat is well 
enough to let them down which mine was not, so that I was 
obliged to put up with liquid purges. If there is like to be 
a gathering which will break or require to be lanced, leave 
off the Purges and the vinegar out of the Gargle and wait 
the event, taking warm diluting drink and keeping the parts 
\evy warm. Relapses are brought on with the very least 

" March 30, 1758. 

The Doctor (William Shippen) has been at Princeton 

these 2 months ; he has inoculated great numbers there for 

the small pox. The President, Mr. Edwards, died ; otherwise 

he has been very successful."^ 

" Oct. 9, 1760. 

I have enquired at all the Booksellers' shops for Garth's 
Metamorphoses and Trap's Virgil, but can get neither. I 
had 'Ovid's Metam. translated into English verse by several 
Hands in two volumes, which I would have sent you, but can 
find only one volume. ... I have got your clothes from 
Cottringer. Jerry Warder promises to have your Hat done 
to-morrow and so does your Joyner the Table and the Box. 
... I formerly had Dryden's Virgil in English verse. I 
thought you had it."* 

Like most Americans of his time Mr. Shippen was ex- 
tremely proud of the prowess of the Provincial troops, and 
it was with singular interest that he watched and recorded 
every occasion when they won the laurels of the day. " The 
"Kew England Men," he wrote to his father on March 13, 
1766-6, referring to their services in Acadia and about Lake 
George, " are now esteemed the champions of the American 

> Shippen Papers MS., vi Collection of Hist. Soc. of Fenna. 
• Ibid. » Ibid. < Ibid. 

Edward Shippen. 

World. "^ " Bradstreet your countryman," he writes again 
on Sept. 16, 1758, after the gallant capture of Fort Frontenac, 
" has done bravely. Saying Provincials are worthless troops 
won't go down, now ; and the story that the repulse at 
Carillon was owing to the backwardness of the irregulars, 
won't be believed in England when they hear that an Ameri- 
can, with about 3000 Provincials marched into the very heart 
of an enemy's country and took a Fortress which is the very 
key to all the French settlements on the Lakes. "^ 

But, notwithstanding these natural sentiments of pride, 
Mr. Shippen like many others of peaceable and conservative 
disposition looked with horror upon the widening gap 
between the colonies and the mother country. Keenly alive 
to the tyranny to which he in common with his countrymen 
was subjected, he could see no remedy, which, in his estima- 
tion, was safe, and most particularly deprecated the making 
of a resistance which it seemed to him must inevitably prove 
futile. He thus writes to his father, concerning the inso- 
lent and overbearing conduct of General Braddock relative 
to the supplies for his expedition : — 

" Philadelphia, March 19, 1755-6. 

The Governor has laid before the Assembly a most alarm- 
ing letter from General Braddock, which charges them in 
strong terms with faction and disaflfection . . . and lets them 
know that he is determined to obtain by unpleasant means, 
what it is their duty to contribute with the utmost cheerful- 
ness. The Assembly know not how to stomach this military 
address, but 'tis thought it will frighten them into some 
reasonable measures, as it must be a vain thing to contend 
with a General at the head of an army, though he should 
act an arbitrary part ; especially as in all probability he will 
be supported in everything at home."' 

An additional incentive for entertaining these sentiments 
was afforded him by his appointment on September 24, 1765,* 
as Prothonotary of the Supreme Court, an office which does 

> Balch'a Shippen Papers^ 34. 

* Shippen Papers, Collection of Hist. Soc. of Penna. 

• Balch's Shippen Papers, 35. 

^ Martin's Lists in Library of Hist. Soc. of Penna. 

Edward Shippen. 

not seem to have been inconsistent with the discharge of his 
judicial duties, and which certainly did not prevent his at- 
tending to the details of a rapidly growing practice. 

The next year came the news of the repeal of the Stamp 
Act, a measure which afforded Mr. Shippen sincere joy as 
promising to effect a reconciliation between the colonies and 
the mother country. The news arrived in Philadelphia on 
April 6, 1766, and he thus concludes a letter to his father of 
that date : " I am stopt short with the joyful • news of the 
Stamp Act being repealed. I wish you and all America 


In 1770 Mr. Shippen suffered a great decrease in the 
amount of revenue which he derived from his judicial posi- 
tion. His remuneration consisted entirely of fees levied upon 
the various suitors, and of course was increased or diminished 
in proportion as the business was abundant or scanty. In 
this year Jared Ingersoll received the appointment of Com- 
missioner of Appeals in Admiralty, and accordingly set up a 
tribunal which seems to have been of co-ordinate jurisdiction 
with the Vice-Admiralty Court, and to have drawn away 
most of the causes from it.^ 

On December 12, of the same year, Mr. Shippen had, how- 
ever, the satisfaction of being nominated as a member of thfe 
Provincial Council,* a station in which he served the Prov- 
ince faithfully for nearly five years, as the minutes of that 
body will show. 

The renewed troubles with the ministry in England were 
now viewed by Mr. Shippen with increasing apprehension 
and distress. As far as can be ascertained he took no part 
in any of the popular measures on behalf of the colonial 
cause. Quietly discharging the routine of the offices which 
he held, he preferred to stand aloof from the scenes of ex- 
citement about him and to await the event of the collision 
between the colonies and the mother country which now 
seemed every day more imminent. One curious result of the 

* Shippen Papers, Collection of Hist. Soc. of Penna. 
' Martin's Lists in Library of Hist. Soc. of Penna. 
» 9 Col. Rec. 704. 

Edward SMppen. 

discontinuance of the use of tea by the American people is 
noted in the following extract from a letter to his father : — 

" April 20, 1775. 

Peggy has searched every Shop in town for a blue and 
white China Coffee Pot, but no such thing is to be had, nor 
indeed any other sort that can be called handsome. Since 
the disuse of Tea great numbers of People have been en- 
deavoring to supphr themselves with Coffee Pots. My 
Brother, having no Silver one, has taken pains to get a China 
one, but without success."^ 

At length the Revolution came, bringing with it a train 
of evils to all those who were unfortunate enough to enter- 
tain opinions like Mr. Shippen's. He was of course at once 
deprived of his offices and dignities, nor did the troubled 
nature of the times and the great mercantile and financial 
depression and distress allow him much opportunity to con- 
tinue the practice of his profession. Mistrusted by the 
authorities of the State, he was by order of the Supreme 
Executive Council placed on his parole to give neither suc- 
cor nor information to the enemy, and was bound with 
sureties not to depart further than a limited distance from 
his home.^ "I intended to have visited you this summer," 
he writes to his father on July 12, 1777, "but the Test Act 
stands in my way."^ The following very interesting letters 
to his brother-in-law, Jasper Teates, express clearly his 
political views during the early stages of the war : — 

"19th Jan'y 1776. 

Dear Sir, I inclose you the bill for your settee and chair 
which Mr. Fleeson thought it necessary to accompany with 
an apology on acct of its being much higher than he gave 
Mrs. Shippen reason to expect it would be ; he says every 
material which he has occasion to buy is raised in its price 
from its scarcity and the prevailing Exorbitance of the 

I thank you for the trouble you have taken about Tush 
and Crawford. If I do not find a safe opportunity of sending 

' Shippen Papers, MS., in Library of Hist. Soc. of Penna. 

« 11 Col. Rec. 269. 

* Shippen Papers, in Library of Hist. Soc. of Penna. 

Edward Shippen. 

up Tush's bond before your next Court I shall do it then. I 
find the practice of taking securities in silver dollars is be- 
coming common. The Trustees of our college as well as 
other people have done the like and I dont find it is like to 
give any uneasiness. 

The repulse our troops have met with at Quebec, with the 
death of Montgomery and the loss of all Arnold's men give 
us but little reason to expect a reduction of Canada this 
winter. However, the Congress have ordered five or six 
regiments to be sent there immediately. We have had Lord 
Drummond with us for about a fortnight. He left England 
in September, and was so much with Lord North and others 
of the administration before his coming away, that he appears 
to know all the designs of the ministry respecting America. 
He has had many free conversations with several gentlemen 
of the Congress since his arrival, and I hope with some efiect. 
He tells us the ministry see the destructive consequences of 
the present contest in its fullest light and are extremely de- 
sirous to have an end of it, that they would gladly receive 
any proposals from America which had the least tendency 
to produce an accommodation, and would even dispense with 
forms and receive them* from the Congress, but that they 
apprehend the loss of America unless they make vigorous 
efforts next summer, which they will most certainly do. He 
thinks that before any blow is struck terms will be held out 
by the General which will be mild, but, if not accepted, any 
Exertion is to be dreaded. He advises the Congress to send 
gentlemen over immediately to treat, as tlie surest means both 
to preserve their own consequence and to serve America, as 
he thinks it probable the Colonies may divide about the pro- 
priety of accepting the terms which will be offered when ttie 
Army comes over, in which case the Congress will be in 
danger of being forsaken. Whatever the Congress may do I 
dont find any disposition for sending over persons to negotiate. 
I am told, however, a majority are for moderation, but how 
long this will last is uncertain, as every unlucky event in- 
flames and every successful one elates. 

A Book called Common Sense, wrote in favor of a total 
separation from England, seems to gain ground with the com- 
mon people; it is artfully wrote, yet might be easily refuted. 
This idea of an Independence, tho' some time ago abhorred, 
may possibly by degrees become so familiar as to be cherished. 
It is in everybody's mouth as a thing absolutely necessary in 
case foreign troops should be landed, as if this step alone 
would enable us to oppose them with success. A Gentleman 

Edward Shippen. 

of some weight in the Congress told me, he wished some of 
the country committees and other public bodies would some- 
how or other signify their disapprobation of an Independence 
as a step that would strengthen the hands of the advocates 
for a reconciliation in the Congress. I am told the Conven- 
tion of Maryland are about something of that sort, and you 
must have observed the instructions of the people of New 
Hampshire to their delegates in the Provincial Congress run 
in the same strain. 
My Best love to Sally and all the family. 

I am D"^ Sir 

Y' Very aflTectionate Hble Serv. 
Jasper Ybatbs, Esq. EDW. SHIPPEN, Jr."« 

« 11th March, 1776. 

Dear Sir: 

I received your favor of the 19*^ Febry inclosing £29-7-0 

for Mr. Benezet The dullness of business obliges 

one to think of collecting ones demands in order to keep 
ones receipts upon an equality with the current expenses of 

Since the Resolution of the Assembly to increase the num- 
ber of members I find some of the leading men of your 
county are very anxious that you should be one of the new 

members to be elected the first of May There is 

certainly a design on foot to reduce the affairs of this pro- 
vince to as great a state of anarchy as will put us on a level 
with some of the colonies to the Eastward ; it therefore seems 
the part of every |i;ood citizen to afford a helping hand to 
support our tottenng constitution. The scheme of the Con- 
vention was principally to get Andrew Allen and a few other 
good men removed from the Congress ; they have stood forth 
and dared to expose the designs of the cunning men of the 
East, and if they continue members of Congress will prevent 
this province from falling into their favorite plan of Inde- 
pendency. This will probably be a summer of events, and, if 
you can think it any way consistent with the good of your 
private affairs to go into the Assembly for this year or at 
least till the first of October, I believe it would be very agree- 
able to all your friends, both here and in your own County^ 
who all think that at this time you may be particularly use- 
ful. You, however, can judge better for yourself than any 
other person. 

I am D^ Sir your very affectionate humble Serv* 


' Original in the possession of Chas. B. Uildeburn, Esq. ' Ibid. 

Edward Shippen. 

As the war went on Mr. Shippen found his position in 
Philadelphia growing more and more disagreeable. He 
finally, therefore, withdrew with his family to his country 
place near the Falls of Schuylkill, and remained an impas- 
sive spectator of the great public events transpiring around 
him. How he thought and felt at this period is most gra- 
phically set forth in the following extracts from letters to his 
father, written by him in the early part of the year 1777 : — 

" Jan. 18, 1777. 

Tour condition with regard to the income of your offices 
is to be lamented, and the only consolation you can have is 
that everybody else is in the same situation. How long 
matters may thus continue cannot be known, yet I thins 
another summer must necessarily show us our fate. If the 
war should continue longer than that, we are all ruined as to 

our estates, whatever may be the state of our liberties 

The scarcity and advanced price of every necessary of life 
tnakes it extremely difficult for those who have large fami- 
lies, and no share in the present measures, to carry them 
through, and nothing but the strictest frugality will enable 
us to do it. . . IliveneartheFallsof Schuylkill, a very clever 
retired place, yet am in daily apprehension of every house in 
town being filled with soldiers, which has been the fate of all 
which have been left empty. In order to prevent this I now 
go to town almost every day, that I may be seen in and about 
my house, which is constantly opened every day, and has all 
the appearance of being inhabited, and is really lodged in 
by two or three women every night. By this means I hope 

to escape the mischief. I have lately had an affiiction 

of another kind. My Son Neddy was sent on an errand by 
his master into Jersey, where he staid longer than his busi- 
ness required. In order to avoid being pressed in the militia 
service, when General Howe had advanced as far as Trenton 
and it was thought he was making his way to Philadelphia, 
Neddy was prevailed upon by Johnny, Andrew and Billy Allen, 
to go with them to the British army, which he accordingly 
did, and was civilly received there by General Howe and the 
British officers. His companions soon after went to New 
York, and Neddy remained at Trenton. When the attack 
was made on the Hessians there, he was accordingly taken 
prisoner by our army and carried, with others, to General 
Washington, who, after examining his case, and finding that 
he had taken no commission nor done any act that showed 
him inimical, very kindly discharged him, and he is now 


Edward Shippen. 

with us. Though I highly disapproved of what he had done, 
vet I could not condenin him as much as I should have done, 
if he had not been enticed to it by those who were much 
older, and ought to have judged better than himself."^ 

" March 11, 1777. 

The complexion of the times is still bad. I know not 
when there will be any alteration for the better. I mean that 
peace (the most desirable of all human conditions) seems at as 

freat a distance as ever. General Howe in all probability will 
e in Philadelphia in a month or two, having been reinforced 
(as it is said) at Brunswick, and General Washington's army 
in no condition to prevent him, but his coming to Philadel- 
phia will only be the introduction of all the calamities of 
war in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia will be as a place be- 
sieged by the American army, and the country will be laid 
waste by the two contending parties. In this dreadful situa- 
tion of affairs I am at a loss to know how to dispose of my 
family. Advantages and disadvantages present themselves 
by turns, whether I determine to remain in Philadelphia or 
remove to a distance. Your situation is better; you are 
already at a distance from the seat of war, and may remove 
still further if necessary, yet no situation is actually exempt 
from the possibility of danger. We must make the best of it. 
I presume your office will get into other hands. . . In these 
times I shall consider a private station as a post of honor, 
and, if I cannot raise my fortune as high as my desires, I can 
bring dow^n my desires to my fortune; the wants of our 
nature are easily supplied, and the rest is but folly and care."* 

When the British took possession of Philadelphia, Mr. 
Shippen returned with his family to town, and was on terms 
of intimacy with many of the officers of the British army. His 
daughters, particularly the youngest, were much flattered 
and admired, and were considered among the chief belles of the 
place. Their father, it is true, declined to allow them to 
attend the " Meschianza" after all their preparations were 
made ; but this, there is reason to believe, should be attri- 
buted to a just feeling of shame on his part at the indelicacy 
of the costume in which they were expected to appear, rather 
than to any unwillingness to allow them to take part in the 
festivities of an enemy. 

" Balch's Shippen Papers, 254. « Ibid. 256. 

JEdward Shippen. 

When the Americans again took possession of Philadel- 
phia, Mr. Shippen remained in town. He now found it, 
however, with his straitened means, very difficult to sup- 
port the expenses of his family. All kinds of foreign mer- 
chandise were almost out of the market, or if for sale only at 
ruinous prices. On July 8, 1778, he writes to his father : — 

"I have sent you by Mr. Yeates half a dozen pounds of 
chocolate, but I am afraid it will be very difficult to procure 
Madeira wine at any price ; the only pipe I have heard of for 
sale was limited at eight or nine hundred pounds . . . There 
is no such thing as syrup, the sugar bakers having all dropped 
the business a long while. It is possible after some time 
there may be an importation of Irench molasses; if so, I 
will try to get you some."* 

And again on December 21, of the same year, he writes to 
the same correspondent : — 

**I shall find myself under the necessity of removing from 
this scene of expense, and I don't know where I could more 
properly go than to Lancaster. The common articles of life, 
such as are absolutely necessary for a family, are not much 
higher here than at Lancaster; but the style of living my 
fashionable daughters have introduced into my family and 
their dress will, I fear, before long oblige me to change the 
scene. The expense of supporting my family here will not 
fall short of four or five thousand pounds per annum, an ex- 
pense insupportable without business. . . . I gave my daugh- 
ter Betsy to Neddy Burd last Thursday evening, and all is 
jollity and mirth. My youngest daughter is much solicited 
by a certain General' on the same subject ; whether this will 
take [>lace or not depends upon circumstances. If it should, 
I think it will not be till spring. What other changes in 
my family may take place to forward or prevent my re- 
moval from Philadelphia are still uncertain."* 

These plans, however, he was destined never to carry out. 
When peace was once more established, and the independence 
of the United States assured, there was at once an imperative 
necessity for honest and capable public officers; and so uni- 

' Balch's Shippen Papers^ 266. 

[' Benedict Arnold, whom Miss Shippen married the following April. — Ed.] 

* Ibid. 268. 

Edward Shippen. 

versal was the regard and respect in which Mr. Shippen was 
held, that, notwithstanding the sentiments he had entertained 
during the Revolution, he was, with the general approbation 
of the community, called once more to assume the judicial 

On May 1, 1784, he was appointed President Judge of the 
Common Pleas of Philadelphia,* an office in which he so con- 
ducted himself as to give the public every cause for satisfac- 

On September 16, 1784,* he was appointed Judge of the 
High Court of Errors and Appeals, for which office he duly 
qualified on September 21,' and which he retained until the 
abolition^of the Court. 

But the remuneration derived from these offices was small. 
For the latter he was paid but a pound a day for every day's 
actual attendance in court, and we know that between the 
time of his appointment and the 3d of October, 1785, he re- 
ceived in this way but £59.* He thus writes to his brother 
Joseph about his affairs on New Year's day, 1785 : — 

"I am not yet absolutely settled in my future plan of liv- 
ing. They have put me into an office which yields me com- 
{)aratively nothing, and I cannot afford to continue in it un- 
ess some allowance be made. The matter is before the 
Assembly, who seem willing to do something ... I have 
the strongest assurances that it shall be pushed at the next 
meeting of the Assembly. Should it fail, I must betake my- 
self again to my practice ... it being impossible to support 
a family in this expensive city without some profitable busi- 

In the autumn of 1785, he consented at the solicitation of 

his friends to be nominated for the office of Justice for the 

Dock Ward of Philadelphia. The following is the account 

of the election which he wrote to his brother Joseph : — 

" Oct. 2, 1785. 

The inhabitants of this district have seen fit to elect me 
a magistrate, tho' without my solicitation or even wish to 

' 14 Col. Rec. 103, 1 Dall. 76. « 14 Ool. Rec. 207. 

» Id. 210. * 16 Col. Rec. 534. 

• Shippen Papers MS., in Library of Hist. Soc. of Penna. 

Edward Shippen. 

accept it ; but, as I found an earnest desire in the people to 
choose some person who might be of use in the maaristracy, 
and also to set an example to the other districts in future, I 
was prevailed upon to consent to their running me in the 
Ticket, and though a strong interest was made very early in 
favor of a Mr. Dean, a Militia Colonel, yet the Gentlemen of 
the Ward turned out so very generally, that I was elected by 
a great majority of votes. Tho' I dislike the business and 
know it will be burthensome, I shall, however, undertake it 
in Expectation that, having been in this instance the choice 
of the people, I may be in the way of something more to my 

On October 3 he was duly commissioned,^ and on the fol- 
lowing day received an appointment as President of the 
Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace and Oyer and Terminer.* 
Both these positions were, however, so irksome to him, that 
on November 20, 1786, he presented his resignation from 
them both,* which was duly accepted on the 5th of the fol- 
lowing December.* 

Judge Shippen at this period lived on the west side of 
Fourth Street near Prune, and kept up apparently an estab- 
lishment of some pretensions. Like many other Pennsylva- 
nians of his day, he was. a slave-holder. He writes to his 
brother Joseph on September 17, 1790 : — 

" I have some thoughts of parting with my black man 
Will ; he is my coachman, but not so careful as my other 
servant ; he is, however, sober, and I believe tolerably honest, 
and a strong healthy fellow, who can do a variety of work; 
his^ greatest fault is being rather an eye servant. ... As I 
believe you are in want of help, I would let you have him, 
either to buy or hire, or, if you would like to have him some 
time on trial, I would have no objection. I think his age is 
about 32. He cost me £100. You may have him for half 
that sum."* 

So satisfactorily did Judge Shippen discharge the duties of 
his office in the Common Pleas, that on January 29, 1791, he 


* Shippen Papers MS., in Library of Hist. Soc. of Penna. 
« 14 Col. Rec. 548. » Id. 649. 

* 15 Col. Rec. 130 ; 11 Pa. Arch. 91. » 15 Col. Rec. 138. 

* Shippen Papers MS., in Library of Hist. Soc. of Penna. 

Edward Shippen. 

was made an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the 
Btate,^ an office in which he so conducted himself as to win 
still more respect and confidence from the community. The 
following letter to his brother-in-law Jasper Yeates, in refe- 
rence to the Whiskey Insurrection, shows the lively interest 
which he took in public affairs: — 

" Philadelphia, 6th Angast, 1794 

Dear Sib : 

The alarming Conduct of the Inhabitants of the Western 
Counties seems to reduce the general Government to the 
Dilemma either of risking a civil Commotion by the use of 
an armed force, or of submitting to the subversion of the 
Law and of Coui-se to the prostration of the Government of 
the United States. In this situation the President has con- 
ceived the design of sending some respectable Commissioners 
to meet the inhabitants at a general meeting, which it seems 
is called by themselves on the 14th of this month, there to 
represent to them the dreadful consequences of their per- 
severance and to urge them to a Submission to the Laws, on 
promises of an amnesty for what is past. I have been asked 
whether I thought you would consent to be one of those 
commissioners, some confidence being placed in your nego- 
tiatory talents, as well as in the general good opinion enter- 
tained of you in that County. All that I could say was that I 
knew in general your good wishes in favour of the Support 
of the general Government, and that I did not doubt, if it 
could at all consist with the situation of your private affairs, 
you would not hesitate to contribute to a work of such 
magnitude, especially if your associates were made agreeable 
to you. On this idea Mr. Bradford has consented to be one, 
and I believe Mr. James Ross of Washington is expected to 
be the third. I am requested to represent this matter to your 
consideration by letter. There certainly has not been a 
Crisis when the Exertions of every influential Citizen could 
be so useful—no less perhaps than saving the effusion of 
some of our best blood. 
I am Dear Sir 
Your Very affectionate friend & hble Servt 

Hon'ble Jasper Ybates, Esq. EDWD. SHIPPEN." 

In 1799, Chief-Justice McKean was elected Governor of 
the Commonwealth. He was perfectly acquainted with 

" 1 Yeates, 7. 

Edward Shippen. 

Judge Shippen's talents and ability. He, therefore, appointed 
him Chief-Justice in his own place,^ an honor which the re- 
cipient's long and faithful services in the Province and Com- 
monwealth undoubtedly merited. Judge Shippen continued 
in office until the latter part of the year 1805, when feeling 
the infirmities of age creeping upon him he resigned, and 
on the 16 th of the following April (1806) suddenly and quietly 

The Philadelphia newspapers of the succeeding day con- 
tained the following paragraph. 

" On Tuesday, 15 April inst.. Died suddenly the Hon. Ed- 
ward Shippen, late Chief-Justice of the Supreme Court of 
Pennsylvania, in the 78th year of his age. At a meeting of 
the gentlemen of the Bar of Philadelphia, Jared Ino:ersoll, 
Esq., in the chair,it was unanimously resolved that the Gentle- 
men of the Bar will attend as mourners the funeral of the 
late Chief- Justice of Pennsylvania, the Hon. Edward Shippen, 
and that they will wear crape on the left arm for thirty days, 
as a testimony of the respect they bear to his memory. — Hoe. 
BiNNBY, Sec'ry." 

He was buried at Christ Church Burying Ground, but with- 
out tablet or slab to mark the spot. By his will* he nominated 
his sons-in-law, Edward Burd and Dr. William McHvaine, 
and his daughter, Mrs. Lea, as his executors, and divided his 
property with marked fairness among his surviving children 
and grandchildren. 

Of the political viewa of Chief-Justice Shippen enough 
has perhaps already been said. That he opposed the separa- 
tion from England is without doubt true, but in this he re- 
sembled many others whose interests or disposition prompted 
them to abhor change. It should, however, in this connec- 
tion, be remembered that he was never accused or suspected 
of any positive act of disloyalty ; and it is believed that the 
minutest scrutiny into his actions or correspondence will fail 
to substantiate such a charge. 

* Martin's Lists in Library of Hist. Soc. of Penna. 

* 1 Binney, Ply Leaf. 

» Dated April 1, 1785 ; admitted to Probate, Apjil 25, 1806. Registered 
at Pbila. in Will Book 1, page 479. 

Edvxird Shippen. 

As a lawyer, Chief-Justice Shippen was without doubt 
" patient, discriminating, and just." To his pen we owe the 
first law reports published in Pennsylvania.^ Unhappily but 
few of his decisions have been handed down to us verbatim. 
As far as can be judged at the present day, they evince a 
thoroughly careful and practical cast of mind. Kot so replete 
as the opinions of his great successors, Chief-Justices Tilgh- 
man and Gibson, with the more abstruse learning of the pro- 
fession, they intimate a most familiar and protracted ac- 
quaintance with the practical details of business, the forms 
of writs, nature of process, etc. etc. 

" Chief- Justice Shippen was a man of large views,"^ said 
Chief Justice Tilghman, and one "for whom I always enter- 
tained a most affectionate regard."* " Everything that fell 
from that venerated man," said Judge Duncan, " is entitled 
to great respect."* He was indeed, just such a judge as the 
State required — of some ability, great experience, and un- 
doubted integrity. Of his personal character, it is at this 
late day difficult to speak intelligently. He was a lover of 
literature outside the realm of his profession, and was suffi- 
ciently interested in the cause of general education to be at 
one time a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania.* In 
his relations to his fiamily he was punctilious in the discharge 
of filial and fraternal duty. As to his own household, it 
may be remarked that his old housekeeper, Molly Cobb, who 
had lived with him many years prior to his death, was of 
opinion that "it ought to be wrote upon his tombstone that 
he was a good purwider for his family." His manners are 
said to have been austere and his disposition unyielding. 
But it should be remembered that the qualities which best 
befit a judge are often those least calculated to win and 
retain popular favor and esteem. The best extant portrait 
of Chief-Justice Shippen is that by Gilbert Stuart, now in 
the possession of the Corcoran Gallery in Washington. 

* 1 Dall. 30. « Walker v. Bamber, 8 S. & R. 61. 
» Lyle V. Richards, 9 S. & R. 332. * Id. 366. 

• Austin V. Trustee^of U. of Pa., 1 Yeates, 260. 




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