Lessors of Doe D. Gilbert (plaintiff) sued Ross (defendant) in connection with property Gilbert allegedly obtained from A. G. Miller, who died in 1832. The best evidence that Miller ever owned the property was a 1789 deed that pertained to the property in question and another property owned by Weetman. Baxter, Ross's lawyer, held the deed as security for a debt Weetman owed and refused to produce the deed in court. The trial court did not call Weetman to testify as to the deed's contents. The lessors proffered secondary evidence: (1) an attested copy of the deed, which the judge rejected because it lacked an official stamp, and (2) a shorthand note of the deed's contents, which the judge admitted because it had been used as evidence in other litigation. The trial court ruled in favor of the lessors and Ross appealed. Ross argued that in the absence of the original deed, the attested copy was better evidence than the shorthand note and therefore the trial court improperly admitted the note as evidence.