37 N.Y. 25, Haviland v. Hayes

Citation:37 N.Y. 25
Case Date:March 01, 1867
Court:New York Court of Appeals

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37 N.Y. 25




New York Court of Appeal

March 1, 1867

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H. A. Nelson, for the appellant.

A. J. Parker, for the respondent.


In border cases, it may be difficult to say what is sanity and what is insanity. A distinguished writer says: "No one can say where twilight ends or begins, but there is ample distinction between day and night." Between sanity and insanity there is ample distinction. It is not necessary to attempt a definition of insanity, nor to criticize that made by Lord Brougham or Sir John Nicholl, or Dr. Ray, or to distinguish between the definitions given by numerous other eminent writers. The present is not a case of twilight, but one having ample distinction as to its character. A course of action for a series of years entirely different from that governing mankind at large, and different from his own former conduct and character; where the principles, feelings, emotions and grounds of action differ entirely from those we all recognize as governing ourselves; where the individual, without motive, abandons the better and higher parts of his nature, neglects civilization and refinement and comfort; where this difference is permanent and marked; where the change in his intellectual capacity, from that of an educated, careful and attentive business man, is to one who is allowed

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no money except a trifle, like that which will please a child; whose property and person are entirely under the control of others, brutally exercised and uncomplainedly submitted to; who requires the daily care of his wife to shave him; who at length becomes an inmate of a lunatic asylum, confessedly insane, and who thenceforward lives and dies a lunatic; all these circumstances indicate a clear case of insanity. Nice distinctions are not here required.

Prior to certain pecuniary losses which occurred before 1827, it is proved that Park Haviland was a good business man, prudent, discreet, cheerful, a quiet member of the Society of Friends in his vicinity, ordinarily liberal, and in no way distinguished in his conduct from the mass of his neighbors.

Numerous witnesses were examined, who testified, that, for many years prior to 1848, and commencing as early as 1827, they had heard him shouting, praying and cursing, so that he could be heard at a distance of a mile; they testified to his hiding himself from observation for many years, to his sitting in the hog-pen for hours when occupied by the hogs, to his sullenness or stupidity at his house, that he complained of pain in his head, and that all the business was transacted by his wife and his son. If these were isolated transactions, not parts of his permanent character, I should not place much reliance upon them, as I do not upon the isolated instances of self-control or good conduct, to which I shall hereafter refer. They seem, however, to have been his general characteristics for many years. His old acquaintances who had known him for forty years, his friends in the church, his relatives, all concur in their general estimate of his character, and in their description of his conduct, and in the change in his character which then took place. The persons best qualified to speak upon this subject were those who had that opportunity of constant observation which a residence in the same family would give, who could see him at the table, in the family circle, and who knew his habits during a period of years in all the relations of life. It is to the wife, the children and the domestics of the family that

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we should naturally look for the fullest information. Their testimony is quite satisfactory to me, confirmed as it is by so many other witnesses in the case.

The wife testifies that she was married to Park Haviland in 1827; that, after her son Albert was eighteen years of age, she and Albert managed the farm until 1850; that prior to this, it was managed by his other sons George and Asahel; that her husband did no business except to do an errand as a child when requested, that he took no interest in the business and did no work. As early as the birth of her son Albert...

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