Court Life

William sits on a Jury

King George County Order Book 3 – Courtesy Library of Virginia

Wm on jury Sat Jan 5, 1744

It is Saturday January 5, 1744/5 O.S. and William Longmire is settling into his position as Court Recorder quite nicely. When court was not finished the previous day due to a large docket it was adjourned until the next day, as was the case here. And as he had since June of 1744 he recorded the above cases on this Saturday as they transpired or perhaps acted as official court scribe later. However, today proved to be different for William as he entered into record the case of Edmond Barker Plt vs John Bartlett Dft. For amongst the names of the elected and sworn jury members he would duly enter into record, would be his own. And on this day William would sit on a jury, not once, but twice, some nineteen years after he, himself, was sentenced to death by a jury in London.

To sit on a jury at that time in Virginia took a little doing, so to speak. You had to own 100 acres of land or be judged a man of substantial means or of good standing, such as a merchant. William, himself, rented land from Lovell Harrison and definitely was not a merchant. However, he did have standing in the community by virtue of his by then nearly 10 years service to the court writing deeds, inventories, wills, etc. And for some time prior to jury service he also kept accounts and maintained ledgers at Col Thomas Turner’s dry goods store for the most prominent men in that county and others nearby.

In this particular case it is worth noting that William had already served on a jury more than a year and a half earlier. Saturday June 4, 1743 to be precise. And one of those jury members who sat with him was James Jones – President Monroe’s grandfather. Another interesting point is that the most prominent men of the day, the Court Clerks, Burgesses, other high ranking officials, and the largest landowners seldom if ever served on juries. Perhaps this is why William only served jury duty 3 times – on Saturdays when the jury pool seems to have been somewhat smaller.





Categories: Court Life

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