The annals of litigation furnish no two more interesting or peculiar cases than those of Madame Paterson Bonaparte
, and of Mrs. Myra Clark Gaines
, both of which have, for many years, occupied prominent positions before, not only the legal profession, but the eyes of the world.
was one of the early settlers in the colony of Louisiana
His business tact soon placed him at the head of its monetary world.
while his popular character and agree.
able manners afforded him a similar position in the social circle.
In 1802 he became ac- quainted in Philadelphia
with a lady of extraordinary personal beauty, named Zulime Carriere.
She was born in the old French colony of Biloxi
, and her parents were emi- grants from Provence
first met her, she had been living in wedlock with a swindler named Jerome De Grange
, who having dazzled her with a glittering coronet, married her, and then disclosed the astounding facts that he was a confectioner and a bigamist.
Zulime appealed for protection to Clark
, who being warm-hearted and chival- rous, at once espoused her cause, and after becoming convinced that De Grange
had an- other wife living, espoused herself.
The marriage was kept secret, and in 1806 Myra
, now Mrs. Gaines
, was born.
Being naturally destrous of having her connection with Clark
a publicly acknowledged one, Zulime went to New Orleans to obtain legal proofs of her first husband's rascality.
While she was gone, Clark
, who had become an influential politician, became enamored of Miss Caton, a grand-daughter of Charles Carroll
, with whom he contracted an engagement, but when reports were brought to Miss Caton alleging her lover's marriage to Zulime, she at once insisted upon a release from the engagement, and she subsequently became the Marchioness of Wellesley
In the mean time, Zulime had returned to Philadelphia
, and sought to obtain proofs of her marriage with Clark
, who had, with singular treachery, destroyed all that he could discover.
Finding herself helpless, in a strange country, and with a child dependent upon her, she was wholly at a loss what to do, and in her destitution, driven almost to despair, she accepted the hand of Dr. Gardette
, who united his fortune with hers.
, in the mean time, had become penitent, but, on hastening to find his former love, ascertained that she was the wife of another.
He took the child Myra
, placed her under the care of a friend, and had her most liberally educated.-- Zulime lived for a long time after that, at- tained the age of 78 years, and died at New Orleans but a few years since.
, whose business talent was proverbial, amassed an immense fortune in Louisiana
, which he bequeathed by will, in 1813, to his mother, Mary Clark
, naming Beverly Chew
and Richard Relf, bankers of New Orleans, as executors.
Charges have been preferred against the executors of bad faith and mismanagement, but however that may be, Myra
— then Mrs. Whitney
--having discovered at maturity that her mother had been the wife of the deceased millionaire, with an impulse of honorable affection for which she cannot be too highly praised, determined to assert her right, as the legitimate child and consequent heiress to the entire property.
That she met with opposition and with obstacles of all sorts may well be imagined, but she battled for her rights against the most fearful odds.
Her husband died, but she remarried, and in so doing enlisted a powerful auxiliary in the person of Gen. Gaines
, who believed in her legitimacy and aided her with all his might.
It would be wearisome merely to index the various legal struggles, the attempted social ostracisms, the treacheries, experienced by Mrs. Gaines
in this work of her lifetime.
She sued in numerous courts, and with varied success, until her fortune was gone, her friends convinced of the uselessness of further trial, and all but her own indomitable spirit fled.
She still struggled on, and, as a last resort, brought the case in its amplitude and its labyrinths of legal technicalities to the Supreme Court of the land.
There, after a long and patient hearing, she has obtained her victory.
has unanimously decided that Myra Clark Gaines
is the only legitimate child of Daniel Clark
, and that, as such, she is entitled to all the property left by him. Nor are the years and energies of the courageous woman too far spent to prevent her enjoyment of her vast wealth.