COLLECTION GUIDES

1794-1901; bulk: 1831-1877

Guide to the Collection


Collection Summary

Abstract

This collection consists of the correspondence, diaries, and other papers of Boston lawyer George Bemis.

Biographical Sketch

George Bemis, a Boston lawyer and legal scholar, was born on 13 Oct. 1816 to Seth Bemis and Sarah Wheeler Bemis in Watertown, Massachusetts. After passing the Harvard entrance exam at the age of 13, Bemis graduated from the institution in 1835 and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1839. His primary law interests included reform of the Massachusetts penal code, European public law, and international law. He is known for his involvement in many nationally prominent cases, such as serving as co-counsel to the prosecution and editor of the published trial reports during the Parkman-Webster murder case and assisting the U.S. government in pursuing Alabama's claims against Great Britain after the Civil War. In 1858, Bemis suffered from a severe lung hemorrhage believed to be related to his arguing a legislative railroad case for several hours late into the night the day prior. This health scare inspired a move to southern France, where he spent the rest of his life. He died in Nice, France, on 8 Jan. 1878.

Sources

Hoar, E. R. Memoir Of George Bemis. Boston: John Wilson and Son, 1878.

Collection Description

This collection consists of correspondence, diaries, and other papers of Boston lawyer George Bemis. Bemis's early correspondence is primarily conducted with his Harvard classmates Ebenezer R. Hoar and Frederick Eustis; with Harvard professors, including President Josiah Quincy; and with his siblings Seth, Jonathan W., and Sarah Bemis. Later correspondents include Charles Sumner, Charles F. Adams, William H. Seward, and F. W. Sargent. Other materials include 10 volumes of diaries Bemis kept from 1836 to 1865; a journal of a trip to Europe kept by Jonathan W. Bemis, 14 Nov.-13 May 1854, detailing his visits to France, Italy, and Scotland; part of a bound draft and hand-corrected proof of George Bemis's Report of the Case of John W. Webster; and Bemis's will.

Acquisition Information

Gift of George Bemis through his estate executors, Mar. 1881, and Edward Hamilton, Oct. 1956.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Loose papers, 1794-1901

Arranged chronologically.

This series consists primarily of correspondence between George Bemis and his Harvard classmates Ebenezer R. Hoar and Frederick Eustis; with Harvard professors, including President Josiah Quincy; and with his siblings Seth, Jonathan W., and Sarah Bemis. Later correspondents include Charles Sumner, Charles F. Adams, William H. Seward, and F. W. Sargent.

Box 1
1794-1842
Box 2
1843-1847
Box 3
1848-1860
Box 4
1861-June 1865
Box 5
July 1865-Aug. 1867
Box 6
Sep. 1867-1870
Box 7
1871-1877
Box 8
1878-1901, undated
Box 9
College papers and bills, 1831-1837

II. Volumes, 1835-1887

This series contains 10 volumes of diaries Bemis kept from 1836 to 1865. Entries primarily describe Bemis's legal activities, including his studies at Harvard Law School, counseling prisoners at the Massachusetts State prison in Charlestown, and court cases, including his role in the prosecution of Harvard professor John W. Webster for the murder of George Parkman. Later entries note Bemis's interest in international law.

Also included is a journal of a trip to Europe kept by Jonathan W. Bemis, 14 Nov.-13 May 1854, including visits to France, Italy, and Scotland; part of a bound draft and hand-corrected proof of George Bemis's Report of the Case of John W. Webster; and Bemis's will and obituaries.

George Bemis memoranda and diaries, 1835-1865

Arranged chronologically.

Box 10Folder 1
Memoranda, expenses, 1835-1841
Box 10Folder 2
Diary, 1836-1838
Box 10Folder 3
Diary, 1839-20 Apr. 1841
Box 10Folder 4
Diary, 21 Apr. 1841-15 Jan. 1843
Box 10Folder 5
Diary, 16 Jan. 1843-23 Apr. 1848
Box 11Folder 1
Diary, 30 Apr. 1848-Feb. 1852
Box 11Folder 2
Diary, Mar. 1852-Aug. 1857
Box 11Folder 3
Diary, Oct. 1857-Sep. 1858
Box 12Folder 1
Diary, Dec. 1858-8 Jan. 1860
Box 12Folder 2
Diary, 8 Jan. 1860-Oct. 1861
Box 12Folder 3
Diary, Nov. 1861-1865
Box 12Folder 4
J. W. Bemis diary, 1853-1854
Box 12Folder 5
F. G. Bemis scrapbook (obituaries), 1887

John White Webster case materials, 1850, undated

Box 13
Mss. relating to the case of John White Webster
Box 14
Report of the Case of John White Webster, 18502 vols.

III. Oversize papers

This series consists of three folders of oversized material removed from throughout the collection.

Folder 1-3
3 oversize folders.

Preferred Citation

George Bemis papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.

Persons:

Adams, Charles Francis, 1807-1886.
Bemis, Jonathan Walker, 1811-1895.
Bemis, Seth.
Eustis, Frederic Augustus, 1816-1871.
Hoar, E. R. (Ebenezer Rockwood), 1816-1895.
Parkman, George, 1790-1849.
Quincy, Josiah, 1772-1864.
Sargent, F. W. (Fitzwilliam), 1820-1889.
Seward, William H. (William Henry), 1801-1872.
Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874.
Webster, John White, 1793-1850.

Organizations:

Alabama (Screw sloop).
Harvard University--Students.

Subjects:

Alabama claims.
Europe--Description and travel--1800-1916.
France--Description and travel.
Italy--Description and travel.
Lawyers--Massachusetts--Boston.
Murder--Massachusetts--Boston.
Scotland--Description and travel.
Trials (Murder)--Massachusetts--Boston.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Claims.