1832 Autograph Letter Signed from Perez Morton, Revolutionary War patriot and Boston Lawyer, to Colonel James T. Austin.
Perez Morton writes regarding murder
About 75 words, an autograph letter signed from Revolutionary War patriot and Boston lawyer Perez Morton (1751–1837) written to Colonel James T.[recothick] Austin (1784–1870). Austin is perhaps best remembered as the biographer of Elbridge Gerry.
In this letter, Perez Morton is writing as Massachusetts Attorney General. He requests Austin enters a nol. pros. “...in the case of the Indictment for the felonious assault vs. [sic?] the man now indicted for murder.” A nol. pros. is a formal court record wherein the prosecutor of a case states he or she is unwilling to prosecute and will proceed no further to do so.
Morton’s request is difficult for us to interpret. After the word “assault” appears to be the abbreviation “vs.” This may be an abbreviation for “viz” or another word. Is Morton suggesting a man, now indicted for murder, had previously committed a criminal assault, and Morton now elects to withdraw that first charge in lieu of the more substantial charge, the crime of murder?
At present, It is unknown to us the informing details of this particular murder. Two possibilities are two murder cases tried in the second half of 1832: Commonwealth vs. William Roby or Commonwealth vs. James Jordan.
A Harvard graduate, Morton gained prominence earlier on in life as a young man for his eloquent oration in 1776 upon the death of Doctor Joseph Warren, subsequently published in Boston in the same year. (See Streeter Sale II:743). In the 1780s, Morton would be involved in the famous Apthorp-Morton scandal. Morton had sexual liaisons with his much younger sister-in-law 22-year old Fanny Apthorp. Fanny became pregnant and committed suicide. The details of the story became the basis for William Hill Brown’s The Power of Sympathy published in 1789. Morton assisted Daniel Webster in 1830 in the celebrated criminal case the murder-for-hire of Captain Joseph White by the Knapps. Perez Morton served as the Massachusetts Attorney General from 1810–1832.
Perez Morton is scarce to find in autograph letters signed. The letter’s recipient, James T. Austin, would succeed Morton as Massachusetts Attorney General and serve 1832–1843.
Description: 1832 Autograph Letter Signed from Perez Morton, Revolutionary War patriot and Boston Lawyer, to Colonel James T. Austin.
[Boston] January 9, 1832. Bifolium, wove paper, p., 8vo.,docketed. Traces of old mounting to verso, short split to one fold, two letters in small recent ink to verso.