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William Breckinridge Breach of Promise Trial: 1894

A Relationship Blossoms, A Promise Broken, A Trial Watched By The Nation, Defense Portrays Pollard As A Harlot

Plaintiff: Madeline V. Pollard
Defendant: William Campbell Preston Breckinridge
Plaintiff Claim: Breach of promise
Chief Lawyers for Plaintiff: Jeremiah M. Wilson, Calderon Carlisle, William G. Johnson. E. P. Farrell assisted with pretrial matters
Chief Defense Lawyers: Benjamin Butterworth, Philip B. Thompson, Jr., W. A. McKenny, John H. Stoll, John T. Shelby, William G. Mattingly. Enoch Totten, Desha Breckinridge, Charles H. Stoll assisted with pretrial matters
Judge: Andrew C. Bradley
Place: Washington, D.C.
Date of Trial: March 8-April 14, 1894
Verdict: For Plaintiff
Award: $15,000

SIGNIFICANCE: In 1893, it seemed William Campbell Preston Breckinridge of Kentucky was destined for great things. The five-term Democratic congressman's grandfather was an Attorney general, his cousin was a vice president, and several other relatives were senators, representatives, and governors. There was talk of higher office and the congressman dreamed of the White House. But Breckinridge's career and reputation rapidly collapsed once Madeline Pollard sued him for breach of promise.

When Madeline Pollard first met Congressman William Breckinridge on April 1, 1884 while riding a train, she was a 17-year-old student at Wesleyan College in Cincinnati, Ohio, one of the most prestigious girls' schools in the country. Pollard was on her way home to Frankfort, Kentucky, to visit a sick sister. At that same time, the 47-year-old Breckinridge was heading to Lexington, some 30 miles away from Frankfort, where he lived and maintained a law practice.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917