previous next


The Paterson Bonaparte case again.

We find the following letter in the newspapers. It is addressed to Prince Napoleon:


"Paris, Eve Neuve, St. Augustin, 13, January 28th, 1861.
"Monseigneur: If I take the liberty to address myself to your imperial Highness, it is because I hope my motive will be my excuse. In reading the report of the action brought by M. Paterson Bonaparte, I have observed that importance was attached to the presumption that the marriage took place according to the lex loci, and that the act being valid in the country where it took place, was valid everywhere. I myself was a law student in America, and my father was a Judge of one of the Supreme Courts. His reputation as a jurist was very high, and his judgments are to this day cited in all the courts of the United States. His opinion was asked at the time of the marriage, and he said, without any hesitation. "That such a marriage might satisfy individual conscience and the reputation of the bride; but that its legal validity was doubtful, since the husband was a foreigner, not even domiciled, a minor who had not the consent of his family, and did not appear to have conformed to any one of the regulations required by French law to validate a marriage. The opinion of my father and that of several other Americans was, that if the marriage was not legal in France, neither Miss Paterson nor her children would have any legitimate rights. Moreover, it was notorious in the United States that Miss Paterson had knowingly run the risk of being only a morganatic wife, in the hope of sharing the high position to which she might aspire as the legitimate spouse of a Bonaparte.--This statement is so notorious in America that Miss Paterson has no sympathy as a young girl deceived and a legitimate wife repudiated. They say in America that she played a desperate game and lost it. I can not dare to hope that I can be of the least use to your Highness. But I have thought it almost a duty to make the above statement. I beg, in conclusion, to put myself altogether at your Highness' disposition, in case you would do me the honor to see me, or to make use, in any way whatever, of my respectful desire to render you service. I beg your Highness to receive my homage.


Mr. Robert Howe Gould's sense of "duty" must be very strong. It leads him to volunteer his testimony in a case in which he had not been summoned, against his own country-woman and in favor of a foreigner and a Prince. It is fortunate for a man so conscientious that duty for once lies on the same side with convenience. Prince Napoleon, besides the Emperor and the Imperial family, has on his side Mr. Robert Howe Gould.--His reminiscence of what his father said fifty-seven years ago must of course be exact, for was not the said father Judge of one of the Supreme Courts? Being such, of course it was impossible that he could err, or that his son could have a bad memory. Admirable evidence this. What sort of a Court can this French Court be, when such testimony is admitted, in a case of so much importance?--Here it would be necessary, at least, to take the man's affidavit; but there his evidence with regard to a fact happening fifty-seven years ago, seems to be admitted without even being sworn to.

Mr. Robert Howe Gould's father may have been a Judge of "one of the Supreme Courts," and his opinions may still be cited in all the Courts, for aught we know. But if he meant to say, that if a foreigner, being a minor, comes to this country, anywhere, and here contracts a marriage, the law here will not hold him to his bargain, he was no lawyer. --There is a principle lying at the bottom of all law which no law will ever gainsay. That principle is, that no person can be allowed to take advantage of his own wrong. This is exactly what a man would do, if he were to marry a woman and then plead his own disability to contract, as Jerome did.

With regard to the power of Jerome to contract marriage, Mr. Robert Howe Gould's father was equally mistaken, if what we have seen in the papers with regard to the French law be true. That law makes a man incapable of contracting marriage, without the consent of his parents or guardians, until he reaches the age of eighteen. Jerome was already nineteen when he contracted this marriage. It is true, his mother objected to it, being doubtless instigated by Napoleon, who was already meditating royal marriage for his brothers. But she had no authority to restrain him. The refusal of the Pope to pronounce the marriage invalid is stronger than a thousand such pieces of testimony as the letter of Mr. R. H. Gould.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
United States (United States) (2)
France (France) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Robert Howe Gould (6)
Paterson (3)
Napoleon (1)
Judge (1)
Paterson Bonaparte (1)
M. Paterson Bonaparte (1)
Americans (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
January 28th, 1861 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: