Chapeze, Ben
March 10, 2007 01:22PM
Lawyers and Lawmakers of Kentucky, by H. Levin, editor, 1897. Published
by Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago. Reprinted by Southern Historical
Press. p. 198. Hardin County.

BEN CHAPEZE, of Bardstown, was born in Trenton, New Jersey, March 27,
1787, and died in Elizabethtown, September 26, 1839. His father was
Dr. Henry Chapeze, a native of France, who, imbued with the spirit and
love of liberty, came to America with the Marquis de La Fayette and
offered his sword and his talents to the colonies in their struggle for
independence; he served as a surgeon in the American army. On the
termination of the war he married Sarah Kenny, a native of Ireland, and
soon thereafter removed to Kentucky, settling at Bardstown, where he
remained in the practice of his profession to the date of his death,
which occurred in 1810.
Ben Chapeze was educated in the private schools at Bardstown, then
the most celebrated in central Kentucky, and although he was endowed by
nature with more than ordinary ability he had little love for books and
no thought of entering one of the learned professions. In early manhood
he betook himself to the calling of wagoner, and it was not until after
his marriage to Elizabeth Shepherd, daughter of Adam Shepherd, the founder
of Shepherdsville in Bullitt county, which took place May 7, 1812, that
he commenced the study of law. After his marriage he settled in Bullitt
county, on a small farm, which he cultivated with no great success. His
wife was a woman of great native intelligence and ambitious for the
success of her husband, in whom she recognized latent ability.
With the aid of Wilford Lee, a justice of the peace before whom
Chapeze had made a defense of an action brought against himself, he
secured books and set diligently to work, morning, noon and night, at
the hours not required by his farm duties, and at the end of three years
he secured his admission to the bar. Judge John Rowan was his preceptor
and friend and directed his study. He entered on the practice at
Shepherdsville in 1815, removing later to Elizabethtown and in 1820 to
Bardstown, where for nearly twenty years he was one of the leading lawyers
of the state, following the circuit and practicing in Nelson, Meade,
Hardin, Bullitt, Breckinridge, Spencer, Washington and Marion counties,
as well as looking to a large and lucrative business in the court of
appeals. The reported decisions of that court not only show his
numerous retainers, but the interested reader will find evidence of his
superior skill and learning in the petitions for rehearing filed by him
and published with the decisions. He was employed in many important
and celebrated cases. His argument in the noted case of De Parcq versus
Rice, was said by those who heard the arguments of Ben Hardin, J. J.
Crittenden, C. A. Wickliffe and John Rowan to fully equal the efforts of
those celebrated and able advocates.
He was a painstaking, hard-working and thorough student of his
profession, of great originality, strong natural ability and sterling
integrity. His voice was deep and sonorous; style of oratory ornate,
with a tendency to use words of Latin origin. He abounded in candor,
charity and magnanimity; was known to many by the sobriquet of "the
honest lawyer," while his personal appearance gained for him amongst his
brother lawyers the appellation given him by Ben Hardin of "the Black
Prince.: His dark complexion, long raven hair and lustrous black eyes,
his fine physique and presence, his neatness of person and garb and his
courteous manner making it an appropriate appellation.
He had little taste for politics, but was twice a representative
for Nelson county in the legislature in the interest of the anti-relief
for Old Court party during the heated contest of that era, being a
colleague, during his last session, of Ben Hardin. On the close of the
Old and New Court contest he joined the Jacksonian party, which was mostly
composed of those previously allied with the New Court party. He was an
elector and cast his vote for Jackson for president in 1828. He was the
associate and intimate of many of the great lawyers of the state and the
equal of all.
His wife was a devout Catholic and reared her children in that faith,
and he died a recipient of its consolations, after an exhaustive trial at
Elizabethtown, at the end of which he fell in the court-room, and, being
removed to the hotel, was bled by the attending physician in the face of
his protest and that of his friend Ben Hardin, who said: "Don't let them
bleed you, Ben; you'll die if they bleed you. If you submit to it I
advise you first to have your will written." Mr. Chapeze replied that
his will was already written, but that he would resist the bleeding. This
promise he did not keep and he was bled, as the practice then was, and at
the end of nine days he was dead.

Chapeze La_Fayette Kenny Hardin Lee Shepherd
Bardstown-Nelson-KY Bullitt-KY NJ Ireland France

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