Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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COWEN, Esek, jurist, born in Rhode Island, 24 February, 1787; died in Albany, New York, 11 February, 1844. He was descended from John Cowen, a native of Scotland, who settled in Scituate, Massachusetts, in 1656. His father's family removed in 1790 to Greenfield, Saratoga co. Four years afterward he removed to Hartford, Washington County, New York, and at sixteen years of age began the study of law, at the same time teaching during the winters. He was admitted to the bar in 1810, and began practice in Northumberland, New York. In 1812 he removed to Saratoga Springs, which was afterward his residence. He was reporter of the supreme court in 1821-'8, and was then appointed judge of the 4th circuit. In 1835 he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the supreme court, and continued in that office until his decease. Judge Cowen's opinion in the celebrated McLeod ease, in connection with the Canadian rebellion, in which were discussed the question of perfect and imperfect war and other great national principles, attracted wide attention. Of his opinions in general it has been said that "in their depth and breadth of research, and their strength and reason of bearing, they are not excelled by any judge in England or America." He has frequently been compared to Lord Mansfield. Judge Cowen was more than six feet in height, and possessed great dignity of presence and unassuming man-hers. In 1812 he was one of the founders, in Northumberland, Saratoga County, New York, of the first temperance society in the United States. He was the author of "Civil Jurisdiction of Justices of the Peace in New York" (2 vols., 1844); "New York Reports, 1823-'8" (9 vols., 1824-'30); and a "Digested Index of Reports" (1831); and edited "Phillipps oil Evidence" (5 vols., 1850).
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