George Mathews, Jr.

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George Mathews, Jr.

Birthdate: (62)
Birthplace: Augusta, Virginia, USA
Death: November 14, 1836 (62)
Bayou Sara, West Feliciana, Louisiana, USA
Place of Burial: St. Paul's Cathedral Cemetery Augusta. Georgia
Immediate Family:

Son of Governor George Mathews and Anne Mathews
Husband of Harriet Mathews and Sarah Mathews
Father of Charles Lewis Mathews; Joel E Mathews and Anne Chase
Brother of Ann Paul Blackburn; Rebecca Ann Meriwether; Margaret Mathews; Charles Lewis Mathews; William Mathews and 2 others
Half brother of Sarah Mathews

Occupation: Burial: Greenwood Plantation. Chief Justice of the Superior Court of the Territory of Orleans, 1806-1813, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Louisiana, 1813-1836. For more info:
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About George Mathews, Jr.

George Mathews, Jr. (September 30, 1774 – November 14, 1836) was a Judge of the Superior Courts of the Territory of Mississippi and the Territory of Orleans, and Presiding Judge of the Louisiana Supreme Court from 1813 until his death in 1836. His ruling in Marie Louise v. Marot was cited as precedent by dissenting U.S. Supreme Court Justice John McLean in the 1856 landmark Dred Scott v. Sandford case.

Early life

Mathews was born in Augusta County, Virginia on September 30, 1774, the son of a planter and Revolutionary War officer, George Mathews and his wife, Polly. The elder Mathews would later serve twice as Governor of Georgia. In 1785, the elder Mathews moved himself and his whole family to Wilkes County, Georgia in land that today is in Oglethorpe County. Mathews returned to Virginia for his education at Liberty Hall Academy (which later became Washington and Lee University). He originally set out to become a physician but was persuaded by his father to study law under his brother, John Mathews, in Augusta, Georgia. He married Harriet Flowers in 1809 and they resided in St. Francisville, Louisiana at her family's Butler-Greenwood Plantation.

Harriett and George lived at Butler Greenwood and raised indigo, cotton, sugarcane and corn, shipping the crops from their own dock on Bayou Sara and extending their landholdings to include a sugar plantation in Lafourche Parish that, according to Lewis Gray’s figures, placed them among the top 9% of sugar planters in the state in the 1850s.

Career on the bench

In 1804 Mathews was appointed by President Thomas Jefferson to be judge of the Superior Court of the newly created Territory of Mississippi. He served for two years on that court before being appointed judge of the Superior Court for the Territory of Orleans in 1806.

When Louisiana became a state in 1813, the territorial courts were replaced by a new Supreme Court. Mathews was appointed by Governor William C.C. Claiborne as judge of that new high court on February 23, 1813. He served alongside Judges Dominic Augustin Hall, Pierre Derbigny and Francois Xavier Martin. He reputedly learned both French and Spanish as much of the law of the State of Louisiana was rooted in the traditions of the land's previous colonial overlords and many lawyers spoke one of the two languages but not English.

Dred Scott v. Sandford precedent

In the early 1830s, a Louisiana family went to France with their young slave girl, Josephine Louise. When the family returned home, the slave girl's mother sued to obtain a declaration of immediate emancipation as a result of the girl being transported to a country that did not recognize the institution of slavery. The 1835 case, Marie Louise v. Marot (1836) was heard by the Louisiana state district court and appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court. The Court held that a slave who is taken to a territory prohibitive of slavery cannot be again reduced to slavery on returning to a territory allowing of slavery. Mathews, speaking for the court, stated that "[b]eing free for one was not in the power of her former owner to reduce her again to slavery."

21 years later, his precedent was relied upon by US Supreme Court Justice John McLean, who dissented from the court's Dred Scott ruling that a slave was a piece of property that could by transported by his owner from a Southern state into a territory that forbade slavery without losing his slave status. Six of 8 justices did not abide by the precedent in what has been considered the worst decision ever made by the Supreme Court.

Legacy and honors

Mathews died in St. Francisville on November 14, 1836 and was buried at Grace Episcopal Church.

The Louisiana Historical Association celebrated the Centenary of the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1922 and at that time Mathews was remembered as, "short, rotund, placid, even-tempered, and genial, with a touch of humor and pleasantry in his intercourse with men and on the bench. His disposition crops out in his opinions which, moreover, are fine specimens of taste and learning."

Mathews, Louisiana is named in his honor.

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George Mathews, Jr.'s Timeline

September 21, 1774
Augusta, Virginia, USA
Age 35
Louisiana, United States
November 14, 1836
Age 62
Bayou Sara, West Feliciana, Louisiana, USA
St. Paul's Cathedral Cemetery Augusta. Georgia