Lot 318 of 455:
Letter from N.H. Swayne, 1st Republican Supreme Court Justice  

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Letter from N.H. Swayne

Swayne, N.H.





1 pp. 20.5x16 cm. (8x6¼") Handwritten letter.

Letter written by attorney Noah H. Swayne to recommend Richard Plantagenet Llewellyn Baber, to whom he was a mentor. Swayne writes that R. P. L. Baber is a resident of Ohio, is "of good moral character", and is "a person of sufficient legal knowledge and abilities to discharge the duties of an attorney & counsellor at law."

Swayne was notable as the first Republican to serve as Supreme Court Justice (and only Quaker to ever serve). Baber has been credited with being "the first to suggest Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency." (see "The Weekly Law Bulletin and Ohio Law Journal, 1885 Vol. XIII, p. 84).

Baber was an influential political operative and "helped organize the Republican party in [Ohio]. He recognized that [Abraham] Lincoln’s performance during his debates with Stephen A. Douglas in nearby Illinois was laden with national significance, and being a printer, decided to publish Lincoln’s speeches. This was done in early 1860, just in time to kick off Lincoln’s campaign for the presidency. Baber quickly sent Lincoln by express twenty copies of the Ohio State Journal in which the publication announcement appeared, for distribution 'amongst the Illinois press.' In May 1860, Baber was instrumental in turning the vote of the Ohio delegation at the Republican convention in Chicago to Lincoln." (see Raab Collection online). So significant was Baber's contribution to Lincoln's candidacy, that he has been credited with being "the first to suggest Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency." (see "The Weekly Law Bulletin and Ohio Law Journal, 1885 Vol. XIII, p. 84).

Baber was also largely responsible for the celebrated "Baber Law" which bears his name. Enacted in 1871, the often cited law governing Ohio primaries protected political organizations from fraud in their primary nominations. "That law, for its time, was a great advance in the right direction. It still left matters entirely optional with the party, but it provided the party with the alternative of a mass convention, delegate convention or primary election and protected each, to a certain extent, at least, by the law. The primary election plan for the choice of delegates and party managers, was especially favored by this act...This advance...was a step in the right direction and it pointed the way to our present primary law from which so much is expected by the adherents of each political party." (see The Ohio Journal of Commerce, 1910, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 104).

Following the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson honored Baber with the rank of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel in appreciation for his wartime service as a Union Army paymaster, hence the Colonel designation which sometimes appears in Baber's name. Later in life however, the well-known lawyer and former political power broker would fall on hard times. "He was once the possessor of considerable property, but somehow or other it slipped through his hands and he died poor." (see "The Weekly Law Bulletin and Ohio Law Journal, 1885 Vol. XIII, p. 84). Records indicate Baber spent his final days at the Central Asylum for Insane in Columbus, Ohio where he died.

Baber's uncle N. H. Swayne would rise to a position of national prominence when on January 21st, 1862, he was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Swayne was the first of five Supreme Court justices appointed by Lincoln, and the first to be confirmed.

Lot Amendments

Some edge wear and toning; overall very good.

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