In 1798, he was elected a judge of the superior courts of law and equity. At this time the state was divided into eight judicial districts, Edenton, Halifax, New Berne, Wilmington, Fayetteville, Hillsboro, Salisbury, and Morganton. Court was held twice a year, at which two of the four judges had to preside. These courts had supreme jurisdiction, for there was no court of appeals, and their decisions were final. This obvious defect was endeavored to be remedied by the act of 1799, directing the judges to meet together at Raleigh twice a year to settle questions of law and equity arising on the circuits. In 1801, the act of 1799 was continued for three years, and the meeting of the judges was called "the court of conference."
In 1804, this was made a permanent tribunal, and its name changed in the following year to that of "the Supreme Court." In 1808 the judges were authorized to appoint one of their number chief justice, and Judge Taylor was selected. In 1818, the supreme court was established, and John Lewis Taylor, John Hall and Leonard Henderson were appointed to hold it. Judge Taylor continued as chief justice until his death, which occurred at Raleigh, January 29, 1829.
Soon after his appointment, Judge Taylor began to take notes of the cases decided by him and his associates; and in 1802 he published "Cases Determined in the Superior Courts of Law and Equity of the State of North Carolina."
In 1814, he published anonymously the first, and in 1816 the second volume of "the Carolina Repository;" also another volume of reports from 1816 to 1818, known as "Taylor's Term Reports." His charge to the grand jury of Edgecombe, in 1817, was published at the request of the grand jury, and is a model of its kind, showing the various offences that grand juries are bound to notice, and a general summary of their duties.
By the act of 1817, he was appointed with Henry Porter and Bartlett Yancey to revise the statute law of the state, and the statutes of England in force in the state. This work was completed and published in 1821. In 1825, Judge Taylor continued this work. He, about the same time, published a treatise "on the Duties of Executors and Administrators."
This devoted loyalty to his profession did not prevent Judge Taylor from worshipping at the shrine of the muses. There was not, perhaps, a better belles lettres scholar in his day. While at the bar he possessed a singular felicity of expression, which always seized the most appropriate word suited to the thought. His efforts were distinguished by a playful, benevolent humor, great ingenuity and skill in argument, and a most retentive memory. Always polite to his associates, and respectful to the court, with high and generous feelings, he was loved and respected. Of the mode in which he exercised the functions of a judge of this highest tribunal in our land, his recorded opinions will demonstrate, and these are models of eloquence and logic, whilst they are admired for their research and classic beauty.
As a neighbor, no one had a more benevolent disposition, more sincere in his friendships or more affectionate in all the relations of life. His tribute to the memory of the late James F. Taylor, who died in 1828, is creditable alike to his head and heart.*
* This may be found in 1
Devereux Reports, 527.
This gentleman, though bearing the same name, was no blood relation, and was only connected by having married his adopted daughter, Eliza L. Manning. Judge Taylor was twice married. His first wife was Julia Rowan, by whom he had one daughter, who married Major Sneed, a son of whom was attorney-general of Tennessee. The second wife was Jane Gaston, a sister of Judge Gaston, by whom he had one daughter, who married David E. Sumner, of
* This may be found in 1 Devereux Reports, 527.
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