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Packard v. Packard

Mrs. Packard Defends Her Sanity

Mrs. Packard's lawyers, Stephen Moore and J. W. Orr, asked her to read aloud an essay which she had written for a Bible class. It contained statements such as " . . . the Christian farmer has no more reason to expect success in his farming operations than the impenitent sinner." Then Mr. and Mrs. Blessing, Methodist neighbors of the Packards, testified in turn as to Mrs. Packard's sanity.

Sarah Haslett described Elizabeth's housekeeping efforts upon her release from the Illinois State Hospital: "I called to see her a few days after she returned from Jacksonville. She was in the yard cleaning feather beds . . . The house needed cleaning. And when I called again it looked as if the mistress of the house was home." Haslett then testified about her friend's in-home confinement and described the sealed window, "fastened with nails on the inside and two screws passing through the lower part of the upper sash and the upper part of the lower sash from the outside."

The last person to testify on Mrs. Packard's behalf was a Dr. Duncanson, who was both a physician and theologian. He testified that he had conversed with Mrs. Packard for three hours, and he disagreed with Dr. Brown's understanding of Mrs. Packard's thoughts concerning her relationship to the Holy Ghost. Mrs. Packard later wrote, "A spiritual woman is a living temple of the Holy Ghost." At her trial, Dr. Duncanson located this belief in a neglected sixteenth century doctrine expounded by Socinus of Italy. "I did not agree with . . . her on many things," Duncanson testified, "but I do not call people insane because they differ with me . . . You might with as much propriety call Christ insane . . . or Luther, or Robert Fuller . . . I pronounce her a sane woman and wish we had a nation of such women."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882Packard v. Packard - Significance, Reverend Packard's Case Against His Wife, Mrs. Packard Defends Her Sanity