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James Fenimore Cooper Libel Trials: 1839-45

Settling Up

With the final decision in December 1845 of a New York State Superior Court that Greeley could not be brought to trial for Greeley's words of innuendo, both sides backed off. Each side could claim victory of sorts. Cooper had won most of his suits, and the $3,060 in settlements was worth a great deal in an age when laborers earned about $500 a year. Cooper had returned to writing novels and regained some of his critical reputation, but he never fully recovered his status in the eyes of his fellow Americans. The editors, meanwhile, had gained a wide public for their opinions of Cooper and his works and had made him look at least quarrelsome. Perhaps the major impact of these suits was the influence they had on the developments of libel law in New York and to some extent in the country as a whole, by establishing the right of libel defendants to present evidence supporting their claims as to the truth of their statements.

John S. Bowman

Suggestions for Further Reading

Adams, Charles H. The Guardian of the Law": Authority and Identity in James Fenimore Cooper.University Park: Penn State University Press, 1999.

Cooper, James Fenimore. The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper. Edited by James F.Beard.Volomes 3 and 4 (of 6 volumes). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960-68.

Outland, Ethel R. "The 'Effingham' Libels on Cooper: A Documentary History of the Libel Suits of James Fenimore Cooper…" University of Wisconsin Studies in Language and Literature, no. 28 (1929).

Waples, Dorothy. The Whig Myth of James Fenimore Cooper. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1938.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882James Fenimore Cooper Libel Trials: 1839-45 - The First Trespassers, The Legal Suits, Sideshows And Footnotes, Settling Up, Suggestions For Further Reading