Duly Sworn: A Guide to 19th Century Legal Documents

CWGK publishes a wealth of 19th century legal documents. This exhibit selects a representative example of a variety of documents and breaks down the parts of the document, its function, and where users are likely to see similar documents within the CWGK corpus.

Readers should keep in mind that the documents selected for this exhibit are usually complete and well formed examples of their kind. For a number of reasons including unfamiliarity with the legal system, inconsistent professional training, and the wartime shortage of government officials with so many men called into military service, CWGK contains more documents that share some or most of the characteristics of these selections but vary noticeably while serving the same purpose. All of this is to say that CWGK researchers will encounter a world where legal business was transacted in longhand.

Moreover, each CWGK document has its own history, not only reflecting its initial production but often showing evidence of passing through many offices and jurisdictions on its way to the governor's desk. Each document can tell its own story. Hopefully, this exhibit gives readers some tools to decipher some of those clues.

Each document contains contemporary definitions of legal terms extracted from John Bouvier's Law Dictionary (1856 edition), accessible in full here. CWGK editors have also added commentary on the individual documents and similar ones found in the edition.