This Day in History — November 18

On November 18, 1790, George Robertson, jurist and congressman was born in Mercer County. He was educated in Mercer County before enrolling at Transylvania University, then studying law under Martin D. Hardin in Frankfort and Samuel McKee in Lancaster before being admitted to the bar in September 1809. He practiced in Lancaster and served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1817 to 1821. He supported the 1820 Missouri Compromise, an agreement between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the U.S. Congress involving regulation of slavery in the new western territories.

Robertson served briefly as Kentucky’s secretary of state and in 1828 accepted appointment to the Commonwealth’s court of appeals, most of the time as chief justice. Resigning from the court in 1843, he practiced law in Lexington, often as a defense lawyer. One of his most famous defense cases was the trial of Abner Baker, who was convicted for the murder of Daniel Bates in Manchester in July 1845. He was unable to obtain a pardon for Baker from Governor William Owsley. Robertson was an instructor of law at his alma mater, Transylvania University from 1834 until 1857.

At the age of seventy-four, he was elected to the Kentucky court of appeals, where he served until a stroke forced his resignation in 1871. In this time serving on the court, published some radical opinions, such as drunkenness as a defense against a murder charged, which detracted from his otherwise favorable image. Robertson died on May 16, 1874 and was buried in the Lexington Cemetery.

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