The Joseph Story papers contain the incoming letters of Joseph Story, a Massachusetts state representative, United States Supreme Court justice, and Harvard Law School professor. The papers deal with a wide range of political and legal issues concerning Massachusetts and the United States in the first half of the 19th century.
The Joseph Story papers (685 items) consist of the incoming letters of Joseph Story, a Massachusetts state representative, United States Supreme Court justice, and Harvard Law School professor. The collection contains 672 letters, 7 financial bills, and five printed items. Included are nine letters written by Story, and four by wife Mary Story. The rest were all addressed to Joseph Story, with the exception of two that were addressed to his daughter Sarah Wetmore Story and 15 written to his son William Wetmore Story. Forty-three items are undated. The papers deal with a wide range of national and state political issues and legal matters.
The collection covers the years 1794-1806, 1819-1825, and 1839-1843, with only a few items representing the remaining years. Included are letters from United States representatives related to congressional news; letters from prominent lawyers, judges, and jurors concerning legal matters and cases; and letters concerning Harvard Law School.
In addition to the letters are three drafts of Story's Supreme Court decisions:
- October 1833: Antoine F. Picquet v. Charles P. Curtis, administrator of James Swan
- October 1843: Augustus H. Fiske v. Lyman Hunt
- October 1843: Bankruptcy case against B____.
The 1794-1806 letters document Story's early days as a Massachusetts lawyer and the beginning of his career as a state representative. Of particular interest are 10 letters from Samuel Sewall, a Massachusetts representative and later Supreme Court chief justice, under whom Story studied law. These mainly deal with Sewall's law office in Salem, Massachusetts, but also contain advice to Story on his reading of the law. Also of note are 14 letters from Jacob Crowninshield, a congress member and later secretary of the navy, concerning legislation affecting Massachusetts, policies regarding the fishing industry, and the presidential election of 1804. Prominent Boston lawyer James Sullivan contributed five letters related to various legal matters of the day.
The 1819-1825 letters document Story's activities as overseer of Harvard University and Supreme Court justice, during which time he split his residency between Salem and Washington D.C. Of special interest are 18 letters from Massachusetts congress member John Davis, in which he discussed international maritime law. Other notable contributors include Simon Greenlead (12 items), who discussed court decisions in Maine; Isaac Parker (6 items), who wrote about legal cases in Boston; Bushrod Washington (4 items), who reported on his legal cases before the Philadelphia circuit court; and Henry Wheaton (10 items), who shared judicial matters about New York. Also of note are letters from 1825 that relate to the need for altering instructional methods at Harvard, and a controversial election of members to the Corporation of Harvard College.
The Story papers contain only 27 items that date from 1826 to 1838. Of these, six are from French jurist Jean-Jacques Gaspard Foelix containing requests for Story to contribute to his journal Revue du droit français et étranger.
The 1839-1842 letters document the end of Story's career as an active justice, scholar, and law professor. Story received letters from prominent lawyers and judges from Portland, Boston, Providence, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Story also received requests for speeches and was given honors from scholarly institutions throughout New England.
Other prominent contributors include:
- John C. Calhoun (1 item)
- Henry A.S. Dearborn (9 items)
- William Fettyplace (7 items)
- Joseph Hopkinson (5 items)
- Susan Ledyard (12 items)
- Francis Lieber (10 items)
- Jeremiah Mason (10 items)
- Theron Metcalf (5 items)
- Richard Peters (15 items)
- John Pickering (8 items)
- John Pitman (20 items)
- William Prescott (5 items)
- Jared Sparks (5 items)
- Charles Sumner (8 items)
- George Ticknor (10 items)
- Bushrod Washington (4 items)
- Daniel Webster (3 items)
- Stephen White (16 items)
- Nathaniel Williams (15 items)
Items of note include:
- September 12, 1796: Leonard Woods to Story concerning religion and containing maxims on happiness
- February 12, 1799: Samuel Sewall to Story concerning advice for reading law
- January 15, 1800: Samuel Sewall to Story concerning the death of George Washington
- April 3, 1800: Sewall to Story concerning advice for reading law
- February 13, 1804: Jacob Crowninshield to Story concerning the Louisiana Purchase
- February 26, 1804: Jacob Crowninshield to Story concerning the presidential and vice-presidential elections of 1804
- March 23, 1804: Jacob Crowninshield to Story concerning the sinking of the Ship Philadelphia off the coast of Tripoli and the Barbary conflict
- November 3, 1804: James Sullivan to Story concerning probate court decisions from 1776-1779
- January 28, 1806: Jacob Crowninshield to Story concerning Napoleon's victories in Europe
- April 13, 1819: Henry Wheaton to Story concerning an "Ann Act to protect Banks against embezzlement by their agents, Clerks, or servants, and for other purposes."
- January 15, 1821: Elizabeth H. Walker to Story concerning arguments against slavery in congress
- July 9, 1821: Henry Dearborn to Story concerning a military officer's trial before a Boston circuit court
- August 25, 1821: Theodore Lyman to Story concerning the constitutionality of new laws concerning slaves and abolition in Massachusetts
- December 10, 1821: Elijah Paine to Story concerning the selection of a president of Dartmouth College
- June 1, 1822: Benjamin Livingston to Story concerning William Johnson's Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathaniel Greene
- June 11, 1822: Francis Scott Keys to Story, concerning Ralph Randolph Gurley and the American Colonization Society
- August 15, 1822: Ralph Randolph Gurley to Story concerning American Colonization Society and the "African cause"
- February 23, 1823: Sarah Dunlap to Story requesting help with her son will soon disgrace her family by marrying a divorced wife and profligate actress
- August 22, 1823: William J. Spooner to Story concerning Phi Beta Kappa
- December 7, 1823: John Mason to Story concerning the national debt and the Monroe Doctrine
- June 5, 1825: Massachusetts Governor John Davis to Story concerning the Corporation of Harvard College
- July 7 and October 24, 1825: Justice Smith Thompson to Story providing legal summaries of important cases appearing before Story
- August 20, 1828: Joseph Hopkinson to Story regarding thoughts on the presidential election between Jackson and Adams and on becoming a federal judge
- March 18, 1839: Charles Sumner to Story concerning Lord Brougham gifting Sumner his wig
- August 26, 1839: Charles P. Curtis to Story, proposing the appointment of Edward G. Loring as a master in chancery of the United States Circuit Court.
- January 7, 1842: H.G.V. Colby to William Wetmore Story concerning Colby's remarks in the case of Sampson vs. Stoddard
- March 19 and May 13, 1842: Alexander Maxwell & Son of London to Story concerning a bill for books
- June 7, 1842: Artist Augustin Edouard to Story concerning making a "silhouette likeness" of Story
- December 31, 1845: Harriet Martineau to Sarah Wetmore Story, concerning Joseph Story's death