Author: Mary Sarah Bilder
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Release Date: 2008-03-31
Departing from traditional approaches to colonial legal history, Mary Sarah Bilder argues that American law and legal culture developed within the framework of an evolving, unwritten transatlantic constitution that lawyers, legislators, and litigants on both sides of the Atlantic understood. The central tenet of this constitution--that colonial laws and customs could not be repugnant to the laws of England but could diverge for local circumstances--shaped the legal development of the colonial world.
Author: Warren M. Billings
Publisher: University of Virginia Press
Release Date: 2017-02-24
Virginia men of law constituted one of the first learned professions in colonial America, and Virginia legal culture had an important and lasting impact on American political institutions and jurisprudence. Exploring the book collections of these Virginians therefore offers insight into the history of the book and the intellectual history of early America. It also addresses essential questions of how English culture migrated to the American colonies and was transformed into a distinctive American culture. Focusing on the law books that colonial Virginians acquired, how they used them, and how they eventually produced a native-grown legal literature, this collection explores the law and intellectual culture of the Commonwealth and reveals the origins of a distinctively Virginian legal literature. The contributors argue that understanding the development of early Virginia legal history—as shown through these book collections—not only illuminates important aspects of Virginia’s history and culture; it also underlies a thorough understanding of colonial and revolutionary American history and culture.
Author: Craig Yirush
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Release Date: 2011-02-28
Traces the emergence of a revolutionary conception of political authority on the far shores of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Based on the equal natural right of English subjects to leave the realm, claim indigenous territory and establish new governments by consent, this radical set of ideas culminated in revolution and republicanism. But unlike most scholarship on early American political theory, Craig Yirush does not focus solely on the revolutionary era of the late eighteenth century. Instead, he examines how the political ideas of settler elites in British North America emerged in the often-forgotten years between the Glorious Revolution in America and the American Revolution against Britain. By taking seriously an imperial world characterized by constitutional uncertainty, geo-political rivalry and the ongoing presence of powerful Native American peoples, Yirush provides a long-term explanation for the distinctive ideas of the American Revolution.
While the study of "indigenous intermediaries" is today the focus of some of the most interesting research in the historiography of colonialism, its roots extend back to at least the 1970s. The contributions to this volume revisit Ronald E. Robinson's theory of collaboration in a range of historical contexts by melding it with theoretical perspectives derived from postcolonial studies and transnational history. In case studies ranging globally over the course of four centuries, these essays offer nuanced explorations of the varied, complex interactions between imperial and local actors, with particular attention to those shifting and ambivalent roles that transcend simple binaries of colonizer and colonized.
Author: Lauren Benton
Publisher: NYU Press
Release Date: 2013-07-22
Historians used to imagine empire as an imperial power extending total domination over its colonies. Now, however, they understand empire as a site in which colonies and their constitutions were regulated by legal pluralism: layered and multicentric systems of law, which incorporated or preserved the law of conquered subjects. By placing the study of law in diverse early modern empires under the rubric of legal pluralism, Legal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850 offers both legal scholars and historians a much-needed framework for analyzing the complex and fluid legal politics of empires. Contributors analyze how ideas about law moved across vast empires, how imperial agents and imperial subjects used law, and how relationships between local legal practices and global ones played themselves out in the early modern world. The book's tremendous geographical breadth, including the British, French, Spanish, Ottoman, and Russian empires, gives readers the most comparative examination of legal pluralism to date. Lauren Benton is Professor of History, Affiliated Professor of Law, and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science at New York University. Her books include A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400-1900 and Law and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History, 1400-1900. Richard J. Ross is Professor of Law and History at the University of Illinois (Urbana/Champaign) and Director of the Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History. With Steven Wilf, he is currently working on a book, entitled: The Beginnings of American Law: A Comparative Study.
Author: David J. Bodenhamer
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: 2012-02-01
The framers of the Constitution chose their words carefully when they wrote of a more perfect union--not absolutely perfect, but with room for improvement. Indeed, we no longer operate under the same Constitution as that ratified in 1788, or even the one completed by the Bill of Rights in 1791--because we are no longer the same nation. In The Revolutionary Constitution, David J. Bodenhamer provides a comprehensive new look at America's basic law, integrating the latest legal scholarship with historical context to highlight how it has evolved over time. The Constitution, he notes, was the product of the first modern revolution, and revolutions are, by definition, moments when the past shifts toward an unfamiliar future, one radically different from what was foreseen only a brief time earlier. In seeking to balance power and liberty, the framers established a structure that would allow future generations to continually readjust the scale. Bodenhamer explores this dynamic through seven major constitutional themes: federalism, balance of powers, property, representation, equality, rights, and security. With each, he takes a historical approach, following their changes over time. For example, the framers wrote multiple protections for property rights into the Constitution in response to actions by state governments after the Revolution. But twentieth-century courts--and Congress--redefined property rights through measures such as zoning and the designation of historical landmarks (diminishing their commercial value) in response to the needs of a modern economy. The framers anticipated just such a future reworking of their own compromises between liberty and power. With up-to-the-minute legal expertise and a broad grasp of the social and political context, this book is a tour de force of Constitutional history and analysis.
Author: H. Lowell Brown
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Release Date: 2017-05-24
The book is a work of non-fiction. The book is a historical analysis of the evolution of a uniquely American constitutionalism that began with the original English royal charters for the exploration and exploitation of North America. When the U.S. Constitution was written in 1787, the accepted conception of a constitution was that of the British constitution, upon which the colonists had relied in asserting their rights with respect to the imperium, comprised of ancient documents, parliamentary enactments, administrative regulations, judicial pronouncements, and established custom. Of equal significance, the laws comprising the constitution did not differ from other statutes and as a consequence, there was no law endowed with greater sanctity than other legislative enactments. In framing the revolutionary state constitutions following the retreat of the crown governments in the colonies, as well as the later federal Constitution, the Revolutionaries fundamentally reconceived a constitution as being the single authoritative source of fundamental law that was superior to all other statutes, regulations, and judicial decisions, that was ratified by the states and that was subject to revision only through a formal amendment process. This new constitutional conception has been hailed as the great innovation of the revolutionary period, and deservedly so. This American constitutionalism had its origins in the now largely overlooked royal charters for the exploration of North America beginning with the charter granted to Sir Humphrey Gilbert by Elizabeth I in 1578. The book follows the development of this constitutional tradition from the early charters of the Virginia Companies and the covenants entered of the New England colonies, through the proprietary charters of the Middle Atlantic colonies. On the basis of those foundational documents, the colonists fashioned governments that came to be comprised not only of an executive, but an elected legislature and a judiciary. In those foundational documents and in the acts of the colonial legislatures, the settlers sought to harmonize their aspirations for just institutions and individual rights with the exigencies and imperatives of an alien and often hostile environment. When the colonies faced the withdrawal of the crown governments in 1775, they drew on their experience, which they formalized in written constitutions. This uniquely American constitutional tradition of the charters, covenants and state constitutions was the foundation of the federal Constitution and of the process by which the Constitution was written and ratified a decade later.
Author: Heather Miyano Kopelson
Publisher: NYU Press
Release Date: 2014-07-18
In the seventeenth-century English Atlantic, religious beliefs and practices played a central role in creating racial identity. English Protestantism provided a vocabulary and structure to describe and maintain boundaries between insider and outsider. In this path-breaking study, Heather Miyano Kopelson peels back the layers of conflicting definitions of bodies and competing practices of faith in the puritan Atlantic, demonstrating how the categories of “white,” “black,” and “Indian” developed alongside religious boundaries between “Christian” and “heathen” and between “Catholic” and “Protestant.” Faithful Bodies focuses on three communities of Protestant dissent in the Atlantic World: Bermuda, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. In this “puritan Atlantic,” religion determined insider and outsider status: at times Africans and Natives could belong as long as they embraced the Protestant faith, while Irish Catholics and English Quakers remained suspect. Colonists’ interactions with indigenous peoples of the Americas and with West Central Africans shaped their understandings of human difference and its acceptable boundaries. Prayer, religious instruction, sexual behavior, and other public and private acts became markers of whether or not blacks and Indians were sinning Christians or godless heathens. As slavery became law, transgressing people of color counted less and less as sinners in English puritans’ eyes, even as some of them made Christianity an integral part of their communities. As Kopelson shows, this transformation proceeded unevenly but inexorably during the long seventeenth century.
Author: Daniel W. Hamilton
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Release Date: 2009
During his career at Harvard, Morton Horwitz changed the questions legal historians ask. The Transformation of American Law, 1780âe"1860 (1977) disclosed the many ways that judge-made law favored commercial and property interests and remade law to promote economic growth. The Transformation of American Law, 1870âe"1960 (1992) continued that project, with a focus on ideas that reshaped law as we struggled for objective and neutral legal responses to our countryâe(tm)s crises. In this book, Horwitzâe(tm)s students re-examine legal history from Americaâe(tm)s colonial era to the late twentieth century. They ask classic Horwitzian questions, of how legal doctrine, thought, and practice are shaped by the interests of the powerful, as well as by the ideas of lawyers, politicians, and others. The essays address current questions in legal history, from colonial legal practice to questions of empire, civil rights, and constitutionalism in a democracy. The essays are, like Horwitz, provocative and original as they continue his transformation of American legal history.