Insanity in Its Medico-Legal Relations: Opinion Relative to the Testamentary Capacity of the Late James C. Johnston, of Chowan County, North Carolina

New York: Baker, Voorhis & Co., 1866. First edition. 8vo. (4), 72 pp. Inscribed by the author on the half-title to Charles O' Conor and with his ANS of presentation to the same recipient affixed to the front pastedown; O'Conor (1804-1884) was a prominent New York lawyer who defended Jefferson Davis against charges of treason following the Civil War. Thornton 5575 (for the 1867 second edition only). OCLC locates 18 copies, most of which are in major medical libraries; only two are in North Carolina (Buncombe County Public, North Carolina). Later bookplate of another prominent New York lawyer and judge, Irving Goodwin Vann. Several ink markings in the text, else very good. Original gilt-stamped brown cloth (spine ends and corners somewhat worn). (#3771). Item #57279

Johnston (1782-1865), the son of Samuel Johnston, the first U.S. Senator from North Carolina and governor of that state, 1787-1789, never approached his father's record for public service, but he became one of the largest planters in the eastern part of the state, enhancing the lands left to him, including Hope Plantation, near Edenton. When he died, he left the Chowan County portion of his estate to a trusted associate Edward Wood, a resident of that county, and his possessions in surrounding counties to business associates resident in them, completely disinheriting his relatives. Hammond concludes that Johnston was insane and that the will should be overturned; it survived court challenges, however, and Wood and the other beneficiaries held their legacies.
As an aside, Hope Plantation held one of the great ante-bellum libraries in North Carolina, composed of the remnants of colonial Governor Gabriel Johnston's library, the books and papers of Samuel Johnson, including Revolutionary War-era documents of the first order, some books and papers once belonging to James Iredell, a member of the first U.S. Supreme Court, and many additions made by James Cathcart Johnston. In the early 1980s, when time had come to divest, the library was offered intact to the state, but the required money was not available (though the price was something less than the right to buy tickets for two mid-court seats at U.N.C.'s new basketball arena, then under construction, might cost). The better material was sent to auction where the Johnston copy of the Declaration of Independence (a previously unrecorded copy of the Dunlap broadside), endorsed by Joseph Hewes, a signer from North Carolina, was purchased on behalf of Williams College (for a price not much under what had been asked for the entire library and collection of manuscripts). Other material from the library is recorded in the Christie's sale catalogue Hayes-5316 (22 April 1983) and the balance was donated to the North Carolina Collection at U.N.C. where it is housed in a replica of the Hayes Plantation octagonal library.

Price: $1,250.00

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