As plaintiff's attorney, in a breach of contract suit, the future US
Senator signs an 8x12 brief on behalf of himself and his partner, Alexander
Doniphan. Atchison and Doniphan, close friends, would have a falling out over
the issue of secession, but gave their names to adjacent counties in
Autograph Document signed: "Doniphan & Atchison/Atty
for Plaintiff",[signed only by Atchison], 5 pages (integral
leaf), 7¾x12¼. Also signed in docketing on verso "W G Williams/Clerk".
Ray County, Missouri, 1837 October 10. On behalf of plaintiff Benjamin
Benson, Atchison files a detailed Breach of Contract suit against defendant
Alexander Bogart, claiming that Bogart had hired Benson to build a saw mill, and
then failed to perform preparatory digging, to pay Benson for work performed, or
to reimburse him for the cost of materials purchased. The suit demands payment
to Benson of $500. ($500 in 1837 would equate to just under $10,000 in
2012.) Lawyer DAVID RICE ATCHISON (1807-1886), who began his practice
of law in Liberty, Clay County, Missouri in 1829. His most famous client was
Mormon leader Joseph Smith. Atchison represented Missouri in the U.S.
Senate from 1843-1855, serving as President Pro Tempore of the Senate
from 1846-1850 and 1852-1854. A strong supporter of slavery, of Texas
annexation, and of the Mexican War, Atchison was the bitter foe of Missouri's
other Senator, fellow Democrat Thomas Hart Benton. The Atchison-Benton feud
split the Party, eventually costing both men their Senate seats. Atchison played
a key role in the routing of the first Transcontinental Railroad, which of
course passed through Atchison, Kansas. As President Pro Tem of the
Senate, Atchison was third in line for the Presidency. The terms of
11th President James K. Polk and Vice President George M. Dallas ended at noon
on Sunday, March 4, 1849. President-elect Zachary Taylor, a religious man,
refused to take the Oath of Office on Sunday, and he and Vice President-elect
Millard Fillmore were not sworn in until noon on Monday, March 5. Therefore,
historians content that Atchison was President of the United States for a
24-hour period (noon, March 4-noon, March 5). Although there was a question
about his "time in office", since the Senate had been dismissed and there was no
President, Vice President and President Pro Tem, Atchison was the first
person sworn in on inauguration day, and, as the official President Pro Temp, he
actually was President until he sworn in Vice President Millard Fillmore
(who was then technically President until Taylor was sworn in). Atchison
commanded a pro-Confederate Missouri militia force in the first year of the
Civil War. Alexander William Doniphan (1808-1887) was Atchison's law partner
from 1833, and a close friend. While serving on the staff of General Kearny
during the Mexican War, Doniphan drafted the "Kearny code," a major influence on
the legal system of the future state of New Mexico. The Atchison/Doniphan
friendship was ruptured by the Civil War, in which Atchison supported
Missouri's secession while Doniphan remained neutral. The former partners'
names are attached to adjacent counties in Northeast Kansas, bordering Missouri.
Two vertical and three horizontal folds. Minor tears at folds and edges.
Lightly toned. Lightly creased. Lightly worn. Otherwise, fine
For more documents by these signers click the names below:
DAVID R. ATCHISON W. G. WILLIAMS
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