[C.1833 Legal Manuscript: Defamation of Character in Maryland, A Public Accusation of Spousal Murder and of “Murdering” American Citizens in the War of 1812].
Lengthy 1833 Legal document outlining the case of Bishop v. Lowe wherein Philip Lowe accused British immigrant Mark Bishop, Sr. of murder, both of his own wife and of “good citizens of the United States,” likely in the War of 1812.
Written by plaintiff Bishop’s attorney, William Schley (1799–1872) of Frederick County, Maryland, the document accuses Lowe of impugning Bishop’s reputation by falsely accusing him of murdering his wife, Ann Bishop, in 1813 in England and that Bishop is a fugitive from justice.
Lowe’s slanderous remarks were made twenty years after the alleged murder and many years after Bishop’s emigration to Maryland in 1818:
...to wit, on the second day of October, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and thirty three, at Frederick County aforesaid, in a certain discourse which said Philip [Lowe] then and there had, in the presence and hearing of a certain Mary Jane Bishop, and of divers other good and worthy citizens of this State, then and there, in the presence of hearing of the said last mentioned citizens, falsely and maliciously spoke and published, of and concerning the said Mark [Bishop], and of and concerning the said Ann Bishop, deceased, and of and concerning the death of the said Ann Bishop, deceased, and of and concerning the cause, means and manner of her death, these false malicious and defamatory words following, that is to say; “Your Father” (meaning the said Mark) “is a murderer.”—“He”...“killed” (meaning that he had feloniously killed and willfully murdered) “his first wife” (meaning the said Ann Bishop deceased) “He” (meaning Mark) “is a God damn’d British son of a bitch, and ought to be hung” meaning that the said Mark was guilty of willful murder, and ought to be hanged therefor. (pp[3–4])
Attorney Schley alleges that Lowe caused “...it to be suspected and believed by [Bishop’s] neighbors and citizens, that he the said Mark…was guilty of murder…” and that Maryland law ought “...to subject [Bishop] to the pains and penalties inflicted…upon persons guilty thereof, and to vex harass and wholly ruin him.” (p)
Adding fuel to the fire, and in an apparent reference to the War of 1812, Philip Lowe further defamed Bishop by publicly accusing him of additional “murders” of American citizens:
“You” (meaning the said Mark) “are a murderer” (meaning that the said Mark had been and was guilty of willful murder. “You” (meaning the said Mark) “are guilty of murder.” “You” (meaning the said Mark) “have killed many Americans” (meaning that the said Mark had willfully and feloniously killed and murdered divers of the good citizens of United States of North America.[)] (p)
Bishop’s suit seeks $5000 in damages. An interesting case of slanderous accusations of murder with an additional, anti-British immigrant twist in Maryland, harkening back to the War of 1812 during which Maryland endured both naval and military actions.
Description: [C.1833 Legal Manuscript: Defamation of Character in Maryland, A Public Accusation of Spousal Murder and of “Murdering” American Citizens in the War of 1812].
Frederick County [Maryland], c.1833. [8¼]pp. Three Bifoliums. 12½ x 7¾ inches. Contemporary docketing. Several emendations and corrections within. Folds; a few short tears at folds and minor loss in two margins, not affecting text; very good.