His public service career included serving as Recorder of the City of Hudson, as a member of the NY State Legislature and finally as a respected judge. In private practice, JWE was involved in some noted cases including the defense of forger Monroe Edwards and the endless litigation of the Parish Will.
Civic duties included serving as a Prison Inspector, where he advocated abolishing corporal punishment. JWE was also a trustee of the New York Juvenile Asylum, which sought better treatment of youthful offenders.
And, as an early member of The New York Law Institute, JWE prepared a manuscript on which its first library’s catalog was based. He is known to legal scholars for compiling Statutes at Large of New York State, popularly known as Edmonds.
But history best remembers JWE as one of the most famous advocates of Spiritualism. His interest began after his wife’s death with what was initially a skeptical examination of the Fox Sisters’ seances. In 1853, the good judge was convinced enough to inform the public that communication with the dead was real, and wrote an extensive letter regarding his new beliefs to The New York Herald :
The opinion of a respected citizen such as JWE convinced many,
including Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, of Spiritualism’s merits. Others speculated that Judge Edmonds consulted with the spirits before coming to his judicial decisions! JWE resigned his judgeship in 1853 and returned to private practice.
The Fox Sisters went on to become part of Barnum Hotel entertainments. Oldest sister Maggie later acknowledged that the seance rappings were the result of the three sisters’ talents of loudly cracking their toes.
JWE’s publication of Spiritualism with co-author Dr. George Dexter cemented his reputation in the Spiritualist community. Edmonds’ daughter Laura was a medium , and JWE claimed he was able to channel philosopher Francis Bacon and theologian Swedenborg. Two months after his death, JWE reportedly gave a lengthy speech through famed medium Cora Tappan .
So next time you are researching historical New York statutes or early cases, you are welcome to go the conventional route and contact us at The New York Law Institute... or, if you are a little bit curious and want Judge John W. Edmonds’ exact thoughts.. there may a medium in your future !