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George Ticknor Curtis

Born: 28-Nov-1812
Birthplace: Watertown, MA
Died: 28-Mar-1894
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Historian

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Constitutional History of the United States

American lawyer, legal writer and constitutional historian, was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, on the 28th of November 1812. He graduated at Harvard in 1832, was admitted to the bar in 1836, and practiced in Worcester, Boston, New York and Washington, appearing before the United States Supreme Court in many important cases, including the Dred Scott case, in which he argued the constitutional question for Scott, and the legal tender cases. In Boston he was for many years the United States commissioner, and in this capacity, despite the vigorous protests of the abolitionists and his own opposition to slavery, ordered the return to his owner of the famous fugitive slave, Thomas Sims, in 1852. He was the nephew and close friend of George Ticknor, the historian of Spanish literature, and his association with his uncle was influential in developing his scholarly tastes; while his other personal friendships with eminent Bostonians during the period of conservative Whig ascendancy in Massachusetts politics were of direct influence upon his political opinions and published estimates. He is best known as the author of A History of the Origin, Formation and Adoption of the Constitution of the United States, with Notices of its Principal Framers (1854), republished, with many additions, as The Constitutional History of the United States from their Declaration of Independence to the Close of their Civil War (2 vols., 1889-96). This history, which had been watched in its earlier progress by Daniel Webster, may be said to present the old Federalist or Webster-Whig view of the formation and powers of the Constitution: and it was natural that Curtis should follow it with a voluminous Life of Daniel Webster (2 vols., 1870), the most valuable biography of that statesman. Both these works are characterized by solidity and comprehensiveness rather than by rhetorical attractiveness or literary perspective. In his later years Curtis, like so many of the followers of Webster, turned towards the Democratic party; and he wrote, among other works of minor importance, an exculpatory life of President James Buchanan (2 vols., 1883) and two vindications of General George B. McClellan's career (1886 and 1887). He died in New York on the 28th of March 1894.

Brother: Benjamin Robbins Curtis (Supreme Court justice, b. 1809, d. 1874)

    University: Harvard University (1832)

Author of books:
Digest of the English and American Admiralty Decisions (1839)
Rights and Duties of Merchant Seamen (1841)
Treatise on the Law of Copyright (1847)
Law of Patents (1849)
Equity Precedents (1850)
Commentaries on the Jurisprudence, Practice and Peculiar Jurisdiction of the Courts of the United States (1854-58)
McClellan's Last Service to the Republic: Together with a Tribute to His Memory (1885, biography)
Creation or Evolution: A Philosophical Inquiry (1887)
John Chambers: A Tale of the Civil War in America (1889, novel)
Constitutional History of the United States (1889-96, history, 2 vols.)



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