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Benjamin Cudworth Yancey

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Benjamin Cudworth Yancey

Posted: 950097600000
Classification: Biography
Edited: 993660261000

From: "Biographical Sketches of the Bench and Bar of South Carolina" By John B. Oneall. 1859. Vol II Page 322

Of this eminent gentleman, I have sought for information and have not been fortunate enough to obtain much aid beyond my own memory.

He was the son of James Yancey, Esq., who, as I think, -lived in Laurens District, and was a County Court Lawyer and possibly the County Attorney. One of my informants -thinks he was born in Boston, another that he was born in Charleston. It is certain that his mother was a Cudworth, a lady of the lower country, and that he was educated at the school of Dr. Pyles, Laurens District. James McKibbin and John Caldwell were his schoolmates.

He was a midshipman on board the Constellation, under Commodore Truxton, and was present and bore a part in the
engagement between her and the French frigates, L'Insurgente and La Vengeance - the former was captured, the latter escaped in the night after having struck her colors.

After peace with France, he resigned, studied law with Goodloe Harper, Esq., in Baltimore, Maryland, and- then came to Laurens and finished his studies with B.H. Saxon, Esq., and was admitted to the Bar, but when, I can't say, for his name does not appear on the Charleston or Columbia Roll.

On the 8th December, 1808, he married Miss Caroline Bird, of Georgia, a daughter of Colonel William Bird, and the sister
of Mrs. Captain Robert Cunningham; he then settled at Abbeville. When I first saw Mr. Yancey, he was a member of the Legislature, from Abbeville District, I think, in 1812. He was then remarkable for his talent, as a ready debater and became the aid of Governor Alston, with the rank of Colonel.

Mr. Yancey was one of the Committee of Two, who examined Mr. McDuffie and myself in the Court of Equity at the Spring Term of 1814.

In the summer and fall of 1814, I met Mr. Yancey, at Abbeville and Laurens as a Solicitor in Equity and an Attor-ney-at-law. From that time forward to his death I had fre-quent opportunities of knowing him.

In October, 1816, I was returned to the House of Represen-tatives, and there met Mr. Yancey as a Representative from
Charleston. He had been a Member from Abbeville in 1810, 1811, 1812 and 1813. He failed to be returned from Abbeville, in 1814, owing, it is said, to the ascendancy of the Calhoun and Noble parties, and, as I have heard, to some unpopularity connected with the cases arising out of Patrick Duncan's right to the large tract of land granted to Livingston and his
associates, and of which Francis Salvador, at his death, was the owner, commonly called the Jews'-land cases. He removed to Charleston, was the partner of Judge Huger, and was rising rapidly to eminence at the Charleston Bar. He was the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 1816. In the business and debates of that Session in the House of Representatives he bore an active and useful part. In the summer of 1817, at the house of his friend, Col. Chistopher Breithaupt, in Edgefield District, on his way from Charleston, with his family, to visit his brother-in-law, Captain Cunningham, he sickened and died with yellow fever. He was about thirty-five years of age at his death. Mr. Yancey was eminent for his talents, legal acquirements, and unyielding firmness. He prepared his cases with great care; he was anxious, and even timid, about his preparation, but when in Court, he seemed as if he never knew the word fear. His arguments were clear, forcible, and sometimes eloquent. Most generally he relied on argument, not eloquence. He sometimes indulged in a little sarcasm. Cases, which were considered almost desperate, were confided to his care, and he was often suc-cessful where failure was anticipated.

In the Jews-land cases he visited Washington, and, before the Supreme Court, succeeded in defeating the Philadelphia Land Company, (perhaps called the North American Land Company) which had succeeded on the circuit in recovering the land. He was the leading counsel in the case against, Mitchupon for murder, which I stated in the sketch of Judge -Brevard. He was concerned, at his death, for the plaintiff, in the case of " Duncan vs. The occupants of the Jews-land" and his executors, in the defense of a case brought by Duncan against them, were allowed, on a discount, a large fee for his services - Duncan vs. the executors of Yancey, 1 McC. 449 This, although richly merited by Mr. Yancey, was a bad precedent in a Court of Justice. It was the first instance of a fee recovered on a quantum non-suit, and has since led to the association of many such claims, often exorbitant, and which have very much detracted from the standing of my brethren who, like Caesar's wife, ought to be above suspicion.

Mr. Yancey, I have already said, was a ready debater in the Legislature. He was not only that, but he was a most laborious and useful member. In 1816, the office of Chair, man of the Judiciary Committee was a post requiring un-ceasing vigilance and labor. It was his duty to see that the laws proposed were aptly prepared and judiciously conceived. He presided each night over the labors of his Committee,and next day presented the result of their labors in the various reports. Everything was pressed forward then to expedite the business of the usual short sessions of our Legislature. Mr. Yancey was never known to be behind, and he was always ready to run a tilt, or break a lance with any opponent to his views or reports.

Mr. Yancey was remarkable for his courage. He showed it in early youth, in the affair with the French frigate, and in all after-life. He was courteous, as brave; I never saw him rude in Court or in the Legislature. He died, as it were, in the morning of life, and the tears of the State were shed upon his early grave. He was mourned by his widow, and two sons, William L. Yancey, Esq., now of Montgomery, Ala-bama, and Benjamin C. Yancey, Esq., now the U. S. Minister to the Argentine Republic.

[also in this book]

[Page 604 - List of Attorneys enrolled at Charleston, South Carolina]

1786 - Yancey, James [Father of Benjamin Cudworth Yancey]
1841 - Yancey, B.C.

[Page 605 - List of Attorneys enrolled at Columbia, South Carolina]

1815 - Yancey, Charles C. [Brother of Benjamin Cudworth Yancey]
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