Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to "Preserve Your Honor" by Having a Duel

Over the past few months, I have read a lot about the "tradition" of challenging someone who has "insulted" you by challenging them to a duel. It was considered to be part of the "honor code." If a "challenge" was offered, you had to respond or your "manhood" would take a hit. If you are as curious as I was about this topic, you can read some of the rules for dueling. If you understand the "honor code" of the time, you have a better idea of why Jacob Spears felt he had to defend his honor with a duel after Thomas Probert told him "not to show his backside."

Jacob Spears
The last two posts discussed the powerful men who served on the prosecution and defense teams for the trial of Thomas Probert. The whole tragedy of the death of Jacob Spears was the result of what Jacob perceived as an "insult" and the need to "defend his honor." Imagine my surprise when further research showed that five years after the trial, two attorneys involved in the trial were about to have a duel of their own!

The Honorable William E. Simms (Prosecution) challenged the Honorable Garrett Davis (Defense) to a duel over comments made by Davis and reported in a newspaper article published in the Paris Citizen. According to an article in The Cincinnati Enquirer published on June 14, 1859, the "challenge" resulted from this incident:
The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 4, 1859, p. 2.

You can read a rather lengthy exchange of letters that were published on June 17, 1859 in the Louisville Courier. The article  discussed a "Difficulty Between Capt. Wm. E. Simms and the Honorable Garrett Daivs. What's fascinating to me is that, in an effort not to break the law in Kentucky, they both agreed to hold the duel in Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, June 21, 1859, p. 4.

Luckily for all concerned, cooler heads eventually prevailed. With the mediation of several "friends" and representatives of the two men, the complaint was eventually withdrawn. The Louisville Daily Courier published the following resolution to the "difficulty" in its June 23, 1859 edition:

Ironically, Garrett Davis later signed legislation forbidding duels as a means of resolving differences in Kentucky. Even today when the Governor of Kentucky is sworn in, part of the oath requires that he/she swear that they have not and never will participate in a duel. "The times they are a'changin'." Bob Dylan

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Defense Team

I had the pleasure of speaking to someone who is in the extended family of Jacob Spears, the person shot in this case. She still lives in the area and knew quite a bit about the members of both the Prosecution and the Defense Team. She made the observation that there must have been quite a bit of sympathy for Thomas' actions as he was well-represented by power houses of the time.

Garrett Davis

Garrett Davis (September 10, 1801 – September 22, 1872) was a U.S. Senator and Representative from Kentucky. Garrett Davis was born in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky.After completing preparatory studies, Davis was employed in the office of the county clerk of Montgomery County, Kentucky, and afterward of Bourbon County, Kentucky. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1823, where he commenced practice in Paris, Kentucky.
Davis served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1833 to 1835. Afterward, he was elected as a Whig to the United States House of Representatives, serving from March 4, 1839, to March 3, 1847. There he was chairman of the Committee on Territories. Davis declined to be a candidate for reelection in 1846, but instead resumed the practice of law and also engaged in agricultural pursuits. He refused to reenter politics the next fifteen years. Davis declined the nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky in 1848, and declined the American Party nomination for Governor in 1855 and for the presidency in 1856. (Note:  This was the year that he served as part of the Defense Team for T.H. Probert).
Davis was opposed to secession, however, and supported the Constitutional Union Party ticket in 1860. This convinced him to reenter politics, and he was elected by a Unionist Party position in 1861 to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the expulsion of John C. Breckinridge. He was reelected as a Democrat in 1867 and served from December 10, 1861, until his death in Paris, Kentucky, in 1872. He served as chairman of the Committee on Private Land Claims. He was interred in Paris Cemetery. By the end of the Civil War, he like many Kentuckians, was totally disillusioned with the North. (Wikipedia)
William Wilson Alexander
Birth: March 2, 1819
Death: July 21, 1874 Age: 55

William Wilson Alexander Son of William and Jane (Stamps) Alexander. Born March 2, 1819, in Paris, KY. Prepared for college at Paris Academy. On leaving college he entered the law department of Transylvania University, and took his degree of LL.B. and established himself at Paris. His practice extended to the adjoining counties. He was County Attorney of Bourbon county for a number of years, and served two terms in the Legislature. Married in Wilkinson county, MS, February 27, 1845, to Miss Jane D. Stamps, a native of that county. He died July 21, 1874, leaving a widow and six children. Mr. Alexander was a man of marked ability. An acquaintance says: "As an advocate before a jury, or a speaker before a popular audience, he was captivating and effective. Graceful in gesture, exuberant in fancy, strong in argument, and humane and pathetic as occasion demanded, he seldom failed to touch a chord in the breasts of his hearers, which responded favorably to his appeals." (Certainly to Thomas' advantage).

Col. T.T. Martin

Despite my best efforts, I was unable to find out anything about Col. T.T. Martin, the third member of the defense team. Given his title of Colonel, however, I assume he was a man who possessed leadership qualities and military experience. Still, the prosecution team outnumbered the defense team by almost 2:1. So what was to become of Thomas?