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HOLLIS 13146751

Pitman, John, 1785-1864. Correspondence from Joseph Story and others, 1817-1869

Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA 02138


Harvard Law School
December 2011

© 2011 The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University
Location: Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections
Call No.: HOLLIS 13146751
Creator: Pitman, John, 1785-1864.
Title: Correspondence from Joseph Story and others, 1817-1869
Quantity: 1 box; .3 linear feet
Abstract: Correspondence recevied by John Pitman, judge in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, 1824-1864. Most of the correspondence is from Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, whose responsibility it was to attend the sessions of the circuit courts for the New England Circuit.

Processing Information:

Processed by Edwin Moloy and Margaret Peachy, 2011.

Acquisition Information:

Purchased by the Harvard Law School Library, October 2011.

Access Restrictions:

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public. Consult the Historical & Special Collections staff for further information.

Use Restrictions:

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Historical and Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.

Scope and Content

The John Pitman Correspondence spans Pitman’s professional career, from just before his appointment as a federal judge in the U. S. District Court of Rhode Island to his death in 1864. The majority of the correspondence is of a professional nature, and the bulk of the collection comprises of letters from Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story. Additionally, there is correspondence to Pitman from Story’s successors on the Supreme Court – Levi Woodbury,Benjamin R. Curtis and Nathan Clifford.
During this time period, the Supreme Court worked closely with the federal circuit courts, overseeing hearings and advising judges. Each circuit had a Supreme Court justice assigned to it, and Joseph Story served as the justice for New England . Much of his correspondence to Pitman concerned legal matters, often touching on the disbursement of costs. One legal matter that dominated the end of their correspondence was the Dorr Rebellion, and the case of Luther v. Borden, which went to the Supreme Court after Story’s death. However, the two were friends before Pitman took up his position in Providence, and their friendship grew stronger as they worked together. Many letters touch on personal matters such as family illnesses and deaths, as well as happy events such as weddings and graduations. Although Story began teaching law at Harvard University in 1829, none of his correspondence to Pitman touches upon Harvard or his teaching.

Series List/Description

Historical/Biographical Information

John Pitman served as a federal judge in the U. S. District Court of Rhode Island for 40 years. For the majority of that time, Pitman had a close personal and professional relationship with Joseph Story, who was the Supreme Court justice assigned to handling federal circuit court cases in New England. Pitman and Story first met in 1812 when Pitman moved to Salem, MA. This relationship grew until Story’s sudden death in 1845.
Pitman was born February 23, 1785, in Providence, RI, and at age 10 entered college at Rhode Island College (now Brown University). He remained tied to the University, earning his JD in 1843 and serving as a trustee or fellow for 36 years. In the seven years between graduating college and becoming eligible to become a member of the bar (at age 21), Pitman studied law in New York. In 1806 he was admitted to practice both in the mayor’s court of New York and in the New York Supreme Court. Pitman practiced law in New York, and then moved to Kentucky for two years. In 1809 he made his final return to New England where many of his professional relationships flourished. He practiced law in Providence for three years until moving to Salem. From there, Pitman worked in Portsmouth, NH for four years, finally returning to Providence in 1820, where he remained until his death, November 17, 1864.

Related Material

Alternative Form Available:

The entirety of the John Pitman Correspondence has been digitized. To access individual folders, please click the appropriate link in the container list below. Series I, Correspondence from Joesph Story to John Pitman, also comprises part of the Joseph Story Digital Suite , which brings together all of the digitized holdings of the Harvard Law School Library by or about Joseph Story.

Selected Search Terms

The following catalog entries represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Researchers seeking related materials should search under these terms in Hollis.
Clifford, Nathan, 1803-1881
Curtis, Benjamin Robbins, 1809-1874
Pitman, John, 1785-1864
Story, Joseph, 1779-1845
Woodbury, Levi, 1789-1851
Dorr Rebellion, 1842
United States. District Court (Rhode Island).
United States. Supreme Court


Within each series and/or subseries individual items or folders are identified by box and folder number. For example, the number 5-12 corresponds to box 5, folder 12.