David L. Yulee v. Francis Bradier
About This Case
In 1861, the Florida Supreme Court considered the case of David L. Yulee v. Francis Bridier.
This case involved the attempt of one party, Francis Bridier, to “set up a certain paper writing, purporting to have been executed by Susan Murphy, deceased, and to establish the same as her last will and testament.” David L. Yulee challenged the will, based on “want of mental capacity, and undue influence.” Unfortunately, there are no other details with which to establish the basis for Yulee’s claims.
In St. Johns County Circuit Court, the jury found the will held by Bridier to be “invalid and of no effect.” Bridier pursued an appeal before the Florida Supreme Court based on charges that the circuit court had acted improperly during the trial.
One of the points of contention was the admission of testimony from a “Miss Striska.” Striska apparently knew Murphy and was party to an earlier or alternate version of her will. In some circumstances this would have rendered her testimony inadmissible. However, the court found that since her testimony was corroborated by other witnesses her remarks did not mislead the jury.
The high court upheld the verdict rendered by the lower court and found in favor of Yulee.
What is most interesting about this case is the involvement of David L. Yulee, who was elected as Florida’s first United States Senator in 1845 (also the first Jewish member of the U.S. Senate). Prior to that time he had practiced law in St. Augustine, served as a territorial representative to Congress, and was a delegate to the Florida constitutional convention of 1838.
Yulee owned a large sugar plantation on the Homosassa River north of Tampa and also invested in railroads. During the Civil War he served in the Confederate Congress, which after 1865 resulted in a nine-month imprisonment at Fort Pulaski in Georgia.
After his imprisonment, Yulee returned to Florida and again invested in railroads. He is credited with spurring the economic development of northeast Florida after the Civil War.