Of all the charges that Samuel could have chosen to levy against James Beck (Base Seduction being one; I saw references to it here and there amongst the subpeonas in the case files) it is of note that he settled on the charge of Trespass. I considered this a moment. The practical side of me understood that Samuel could use this to establish concrete reasons why Beck's actions had made financial burdens greater on his family and demand the court award him greater restitution. Still, a part of me rebelled. There were aspects of it that aroused my righteous indignation as a 21st-century parent and equality-minded American. I felt introducing the idea of Trespass into the case made the vibe of the case change. Was the goal the proper dispensement of responsibility for the welfare of a child, or did Samuel have another motive? Did he consider Julia's ability to perform services for him of more importance than her meaning as his daughter? Was his anger and shame in her behavior showing?
I got my answers in a search on the legal definition of trespass in the 19th century. The search referenced Bouvier's Law Dictionary (http://www.constitution.org/bouv/bouvier.htm), published in 1856. It offered up information that clarified the practical aspects of the case as well as touch upon what I felt was the heart of the issue. I was reading through the definition when the term "Trespass On the Case" rang a bell. I checked and sure enough, the wordage in the summons calling James Beck to account in Samuel's suit was actually Trespass On The Case! I'd missed it entirely the first time because as you can see in the image, the words weren't capitalized and I'd made the assumption that the three words after "Trespass" were a qualifying statement instead of a title reference. Oops! I spent some more time getting an in-depth understanding of the legalese involved. I didn't want to miss anything else!
My first question was why Samuel didn't pursue Seduction as his primary charge. Surely, I thought, that would be the kind of charge to arouse the ire of the men -- all probably fathers of daughters -- that had been selected to the jury against Beck?
SEDUCTION. The offence of a man who abuses the simplicity and confidence of a woman to obtain by false promises what she ought not to grant.
2. The woman being particeps criminis, has no remedy for the mere seduction, nor is there, to the discredit of the law, a direct remedy in her parents. The seducer may be sued, though not directly or ostensibly for the seduction; but for the consequent inability to perform those services for which she was accountable to her master, or to her parent, who, for this purpose, is obliged to assume that less endearing relation; and if it cannot be proved that she filled that office, the action cannot be sustained.
The definition was quaint; antiquated and definitely discriminatory. No surprise there. What was clear, though, was why Samuel couldn't sue for Seduction and why he used the words he used in the statement he prepared for his suit against Beck (a statement featured in the next installment of this series.) A woman's parents (or master, i.e., husband or guardian) were required to take on the role of "employer" regardless of their love or affection for the woman in question and account for her worth in the form of the duties she was obliged to perform. Woe betide those who couldn't prove their daughter or wife or charge was a servant in some way!
Samuel's counsel, Dewey and Stanton, advised Samuel to seek a suit of Trespass. There were two different types of Trespass in Samuel's time -- remedy and tort. While today it appears that only one of the two exists (trespass is considered a tortious act, as it almost always carries with it the potential to obtain damages from the offense) in the 19th century remedy trespass was distinguished from tortious trespass. The distinction seems blurry -- the one (tort, a wrongful act that results in injury) might not necessarily lead to the other (remedy, or damages.) The type of trespass that Samuel was encouraged to consider fell under the tort banner. This sort of Trespass is defined in Bouvier's as
…An unlawful act committed with violence…to the person, property or relative rights of another. Every felony includes a tres-pass, in common parlance, such acts are not in general considered as tres-passes, yet they subject the offender to an action of trespass after his conviction or acquittal.
2. There is another kind of trespass, which is committed without force, and is known by the name of trespass on the case. This is not generally known by the name of trespass. See Case.
As mentioned in the definition above, Samuel's case fell under the subordinate clause of the trespass law. I looked at its definition and followed the necessary links to get a well-rounded idea of what Samuel was doing.
TRESPASS ON THE CASE, practice. The technical name of an action, instituted for the recovery of damages caused by an injury unaccompanied with force, or where the damages sustained are only consequential. See Case.
2. For injuries to the relative rights, as for criminal conversation, seducing or harboring wives; debauching daughters, but in this case the daughter must live with her father as his servant, see Seduction. When the seduction takes place in the husband's or father's house, he may, at his election, have trespass on the case.
I bolded the relevant wording in the last definition, since Julia admitted James Beck had entered her bed, in her father's house. There's every indication Julia had wanted this to happen -- after all, he was in her house and her sister was there and she didn't scream or resist! Regardless of her intent, the law of the time allowed for the opportunity to remove a woman's share of mutual responsibility under the umbrella of women's simplicity. Trespass On the Case gave Samuel the legal right to have his own separate charge drawn up against James Beck regardless of his daughter's willingness or resistance. After reviewing all the definitions, the charge Samuel had levied -- Trespass On The Case -- was the one he had most cause to levy and the one most likely to grant him the outcome he desired. He'd likely been advised to do exactly that by his counsel.
Next time we'll see what Samuel had to say on the case he'd implemented against the man who gave him his first grandchild. Samuel made his statement of cause and submitted it to the court very soon after the warrant was issued and served for James Beck in the June Term, 1837.
Posts In This Series:
Pt 1 - The Case Is Introduced
Pt 2 - Another Charge Is Added
Pt 4 - Famous By Association?
Pt 5 - State Your Name Please
Pt 6 - Witnesses For The Defense
Pt 7 - The Witnesses Wilson
Pt 8 - The Cases Are Resolved
Pt 9 - What A Web We Weave
Pt 10 - Another Famous Name?
(As an aside, it appears James was a bit of a rounder. I found another case from a different woman at nearly the same time, accusing Beck of bastardy as well! I meant to get a copy of it but for some reason when I returned home it was not in my pile of copies. I think I accidentally skipped over the pages. Ah well, next time! I highly recommend the Bouvier's Law Dictionary I referenced above for all your 19th century law term needs!