Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

James Watson Gerard

New York

[Source: Wikipedia]

"[James W. Gerard] was graduated at Columbia in 1811, and in 1812 enrolled as a member of a volunteer company called the Iron Grays, which was raised for the defense of New York harbor in the war with Great Britain. He also studied law at this time in the office of George Griffin, a distinguished member of the bar, and in 1816 he took the degree of M.A. at Columbia College, and was admitted to the bar. He rose to distinction in the law, and continued in active practice until 1869. He became a member of the Society for the Suppression of Pauperism in 1823, and at once urged upon the public the establishment of the House of Refuge for Juvenile Delinquents, the incorporation of which he and others procured in March, 1824. This was the first institution of its kind in the United States. Mr. Gerard was the first to publicly advocate uniforms for the police. He wore the new uniform at a fancy dress ball given by Mrs. Coventry Wadell, and by letters, addresses and persistent action so impressed upon the community the importance of the change that uniforms were finally decided upon. Opposed to slavery, he took an active part in 1854 in the public meetings held to protest against the repeal of the Missouri compromise. Mr. Gerard gave largely of his time and means to charitable organizations and movements, and in the last twenty years of his life devoted much time to the cause of public education, holding for most of that period the office of school trustee or inspector. He invariably declined to be a candidate for any other office. . . . He ... studied law in his father's office, and was admitted to the bar in 1846. He was an able advocate in the courts, and became a recognized authority on real estate and corporation law. . . . Mr. Gerard was a member of the state senate in 1876-77 for the 7th district. In 1880 he was the Democratic candidate for congress against Levi P. Morton in the 11th New York district, but was defeated. Pres. Grover Cleveland, in his second term, offered Mr. Gerard the office of special commissioner to the Hawaiian Islands, but, on account of ill health, the office was declined. Mr. Gerard was a member of the Union, Players' and Tuxedo clubs, and of the St. Nicholas and New York Historical societies. He wrote many historical papers, and delivered several addresses on the early colonial history of New York. He was the author of several minor satirical works, both in prose and verse, the most important being 'Ostrea; or, the Loves of the Oyster' (1857); 'Aquarelles' (1858); 'The Pelican Papers' (1879), etc., and two volumes of verse. The second was published over the name of 'Samuel Sombre,' and was pronounced 'one of the raciest books of fun and humor that have appeared for a long time.' . . . . Mr. Gerard was married, Oct. 31, 1966, to Jennie, daughter of Benjamin F. Angel, of Geneseo, N.Y., who was U.S. minister to Norway and Sweden under Pres. James Buchanan's administration. They had three sons. He died in New York city, Jan. 28, 1900."

[11 The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography 333 (New York: James T. White & Co., 1901] [Gerard's father, James Watson Gerard, Sr., was a "lawyer and philanthropist" and "was born in New York city, in 1794, son of William and Christina (Glass) Gerard. His paternal ancestors were prominent citizens of France, but the family emigrated to Scotland in the time of the troubles of the reign of Louis XV., and his father was born near Banff, Scotland, in 1746. For a time the latter resided in Gibraltar, from which place he removed to New York city about 1780. He became a prominent merchant, and did a very large business until his premature death by drowning, Jan. 27, 1802. He left a widow and seven children. Two of his sons were in the auction business on Wall street, under the name of Glass & Gerard." Id.]

Harper's Weekly
June 19, 1875

Chief Justice Daly , of the Common Pleas, in a recent eulogy on the character of the lateJames W. Gerard , delivered before the Historical Society, states that in 1826 Mr. Gerard achieved great success in a cotton speculation, but in the subsequent panic lost his own and his wife's fortune, and was deeply in debt.
Their fashionable house in Broadway was sold, the upper part of a house in Chambers Street was taken, and Mr. Gerard applied himself with assiduity to his profession. The success which followed his return to the bar was remarkable. To use the language of a gentleman of that period, "he rose like a phenix." Still the struggle was severe. His debts were large, and as he did not charge heavy fees, and was not in the habit of declining a meritorious case when the poverty of his client did not permit him to pay, it was some time before he was able to meet his pecuniary liabilities. The time, however, did come. When Mr. Anthon withdrew from the Common Pleas, he transferred all his cases to
Mr. Gerard. In time a house was purchased in Broadway, near Broome Street, and Mr. Gerard came to enjoy professional success, the accumulation of wealth, and an age of affluence.

James W. Gerard


James W. Gerard, Ostrea, or, The Loves of the Oysters, a Lay (New York: T.J. Crowen, 1857) [A. Fishe Shelley pseud.] [online text]

______________, Aquarelles, or Summer Sketches (New York: Stanford and Delisser, 1858) [Samuel Sombre, pseud.] [online text]


James W. Gerard, My Four Years in Germany (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1917)

______________, My First Eighty-three Years in America: The Memoirs of James W. Gerard (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1951)


James W. Gerard, Full and True Report after the Manner of the Abbé Rabelais, of the suit recently promoted in the Superlative Court of Gotham, wherein Fustian, Flammer, Fizzle & Levy, were provements, and Graspall, Gripewell, Cogger, Swizzle, and others, were respondents (New York: Wm.C. Bryant & Co., 1853)(16 pgs.)

______________, London and New York their Crime and Police (New York: W.C. Bryant, 1853)[article published in the Journal of Commerce]

______________, A Treatise on the title of the corporation and others to the streets, wharves, piers, parks, ferries, and other lands and franchises in the city of New York the title to land under water, the pier and bulkhead lines in said city, and the powers of official bodies relative to the above subjects (New York: Poole & MacLauchlan, 1872)(New York: Baker, Voorhis, 1872)

______________, The Old Streets of New York under the Dutch, a paper (New York: D. Taylor, printer, 1874)(read before the New York Historical Society, June 2, 1874)(New York: F.B. Patterson, 1875) [online text]

______________, The Old Stadt Huys of New Amsterdam a paper read before the New York Historical Society, June 15th, 1875 (New York: F.B. Patterson, 1875)

______________, The Pelican Papers (New York: F.B. Patterson, 1879)(A. Pelican, esq. [pseud.])

______________, Lady Deborah Moody: A Discourse delivered before the New York Historical Society, May 1880 ([New York]: F.B. Patterson, 1880) [online text]

______________, The Impress of Nationalities upon the City of New York a paper read before the New York Historical Society (New York: Columbia Spectator Pub. Co., 1883)

______________, The Peace of Utrecht: A Historical Review of the Great Treaty of 1713-14, and of the Principal Events of the War of the Spanish Succession (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1885)

______________, A Digested Treatise and Compendium of Law applicable to titles to real estate in the State of New York (New York: Baker, Voorhis, 1896)

______________, Face to Face with Kaiserism (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1918) [online text]

______________, Real Property Law of New York (Chicago: Callaghan and Company, 6th ed., 1926)


James W. Gerard, Burning of Washington, 1814, Magazine of American History 467 (June, 1892)

James Watson Gerard, with his wife, Mary Daly Watson, and others, 1916
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C