Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Plea for Local Court Records

In my final post, I want to end with a plea, or better yet, a pitch. Use local court records, in your research and your teaching, and if you have the power to do so, help preserve them. These records are important for the stories they tell and the voices they feature.
Photo by the author
 In terms of my own research interests, the extant cases reveal a previously unknown world of black legal activity. In these records, you find the story of Milly, an enslaved Mississippi woman who sued a white man for sizable debts he that owed her. She won, even though she didn’t have the standing to initiate the suit in the first place. You will also meet Franchette, a free woman of color who sued Isabella Hawkins (a free black woman and former slave) three times to recover stolen property. In these lawsuits, Franchette accused Hawkins of stealing her cows and branding them with the letters “IH,” and in all three cases the court ordered Hawkins to return the cattle and pay Franchette damages. 

Hawkins herself was no stranger to the courtroom, although most often she did the suing. For instance, in 1834, Hawkins sued Frederick Haydt, a white man, for stealing her horse and attempting to sell it. The court ordered that Haydt return the horse. She even successfully sued the local sheriff after he seized her slave to settle a debt incurred by her former owner. She initiated this lawsuit against the sheriff only a few short years after her manumission. In addition, you see hundreds of enslaved people suing slaveholders for their freedom and claiming ownership over their bodies and their labor. In their suits for freedom, they also made claims to property they held as slaves and expected the court to help them safeguard it. They also demanded (and received) back wages, compensation for their unpaid labor.
Photo by the author
            But there are other things you can see as well. Because these records document the everyday workings of the court system in local communities, it was ordinary people who used them. Many of them were poor or living on the margins—people who, unlike wealthy planters, left few records about their lives behind. Many were illiterate, for instance, so they didn’t keep diaries or account books. As social historians and scholars of race and gender have long shown, court records provide some insight into the lives of those whose voices we may not have otherwise heard. Indeed, in some cases these are the only records we have that document the lives of non-elites.
            You also see married women—black and white—using the courts to their own advantage. This too might seem surprising, because in the early 19th century married women in the U.S. lacked a legal personality. Once they married, they forfeited their legal rights. Yet, they were present in the local legal record of Mississippi and Louisiana (and elsewhere), acting at law in their own names and making contracts and suing to enforce them. They also sued their own husbands for mismanaging their property or for damages for abuse. In other instances, they sued their husbands for divorce. Indeed, local court records show married women playing fast and loose with the doctrine of coverture, ignoring it when convenient and using it when it benefited them.
            You might find interesting anecdotes to tell your friends or new insults to hurl at your enemies. For instance, you could tell them about a Mississippi man who was charged with using deception to obtain a set of false teeth, or a Louisiana man who ran naked through a theater with ladies present and then stripped off his pants in court while the judge read the charges against him. Defamation lawsuits are full of great insults: like one of my favorites, “grasshopper from hell.”
Photo by the author
In using these records, you might even reach an audience outside of academia. For instance, right after the publication of my book, a descendant of one of the formerly enslaved litigants I wrote about emailed me. She found her family member in my index (his name came up in Google Books in an internet search), and she contacted me for more information about him and other members of her extended family. I have also been lucky enough to meet several descendants of the Belly/Ricard family, a family I discuss in a chapter-long case study at the end of my book.

            In addition, these records make great teaching tools. I refer to the insights I have gained from reading them in my lectures, and I make them available to my undergraduate students for use in our class discussions (in classes that range from women’s and gender history to legal history to the history of U.S. slavery). I also provide copies for both undergraduate and graduate students interested in a wide range of research topics. As I tell my students each time I teach with them, you should work with these types of records not only because you might enjoy being a voyeur or at least a witness to everyday life, but also because they demand a particular set of skills. They teach us how to figure out a complex social landscape and how to think more robustly about power; and they teach us how organizations work on the ground (rather than how organizations think they work). In other words, working with trial court records makes us attentive to what people value and the lengths they are willing to go to in order to protect those things. Such skills are valuable to the history major, but also beyond.
           
Photo by the author
But if for no other reason, using local court records in your own work could bring increased interest to fragile records and, perhaps most importantly, funding opportunities to preserve and care for records that are in danger of disappearing from history.

Thanks again to the editors for the invitation to guest blog. Readers, there are copies of representative cases on my website (kimberlywelch.net). And if you have any questions about Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South or want to talk about accessing, using, or preserving local courts records, please get in touch.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Kroncke to University of Hong Kong Law

Congratulations to Jedidiah Joseph Kroncke, who this fall will become an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law.  He is the author of The Futility of Law and Development: China and the Dangers of Exporting American Law (Oxford University Press, 2016), which explores the role of U.S.-China relations in the formation of modern American legal internationalism and the decline of American legal comparativism. He is underway on a new book on the transnational history of American legal education.  Other projects include a study of economic republicanism and re-imagining democratic labor and property institutions.  He is Law and History Review’s first associate editor for non-Western and comparative legal history and will be serving as associate editor for the the forthcoming Journal of Law and Political Economy.

Professor Kroncke is currently a member of the faculty at FGV Direito SP in São Paulo, Brazil, where he has taught courses ranging from Comparative Law to Socio-Legal Studies. He has been a Golieb fellow at New York University Law School and a Burger-Howe fellow at the Harvard Law School.  He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Malleck on drugs in Canadian legal history

We missed this one in 2015, when Dan Malleck, Brock University, published When Good Drugs Go Back: Opium, Medicine, and the Origins of Canada's Drug Laws with UBC Press. From the publisher:
When Good Drugs Go Bad
There is something enduring about the image of the Victorian drug addict, languishing in the smoky confines of an underground opium den, the embodiment of moral lassitude. When Good Drugs Go Bad reveals that in nineteenth-century Canada, most Canadians were drug users – everyday people taking addictive drugs prescribed by their doctors and purchased at the local pharmacy.

Throughout the 1800s, opium and cocaine could be easily obtained to treat a range of ailments. Drug dependency, when it occurred, was considered a matter of personal vice. Near the end of the century, attitudes shifted and access to drugs became more restricted. How did this happen?

Dan Malleck examines the conditions that led to Canada’s current drug laws. Drawing on newspaper accounts, medical and pharmacy journals, professional association files, asylum documents, physicians’ case books, and pharmacy records, he demonstrates how a number of social, economic, and cultural forces converged in the early 1900s to influence lawmakers and criminalize addiction. His research exposes how social concerns about drug addiction had less to do with the long pipe and shadowy den than with lobbying by medical associations, a growing pharmaceutical industry, and national concern about the morality and future of the nation.

Scholars and students of the history of medicine, the history of law, and social history, will enjoy this engagingly written book about drugs, alcohol, tobacco use, and legislation in Canada. This book will also be of interest to professionals who work in the area of drug advocacy and addiction.
Praise for the book after the jump:

Two Business History Prizes to Balleisen

Congratulations to Edward J. Balleisen, Duke University, for his receipt of two prizes at the annual meeting of the Business History Conference’s annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, April 5-7, 2018.  The first was the Harold F. Williamson Prize, awarded biannually to a mid-career scholar who has made significant contributions to the field of business history.  Previous recipients include Christopher McKenna, Sally Clarke, Richard R. John, Kenneth Lipartito, and Naomi Lamoreaux.  Professor Balleisen also received the Ralph Gomory Prize, awarded for “historical work on the effects of business enterprises on the economic conditions of the countries in which they operate,” for Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff (Princeton University Press, 2017).

While we’re at it, we’ll note that the Philip Scranton Prize for the best article published in Enterprise & Society went to two articles with legal themes: David Higgins and Aashish Velkar, “’Spinning the yarn’: Institutions, law, and standards, c. 1880-1914,” 18 (3): 591-631, and Patricio Sáiz and Rafael Castro, “Foreign direct investment and intellectual property rights: International intangible assets in Spain over the long term,” 18 (4): 846-892.  H/t: Anne Fleming.

Monday, April 23, 2018

"America First" at the Miller Center

This Thursday, the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia is devoting its annual Stevenson Conference to America First: The Past and Future of an Idea.  Participants include Jefferson Cowie, Darren Dochuk, David Farber, Michael Froman, Beverly Gage, Maria Cristina Garcia, Nicole Hemmer, William Hitchcock, Geoffrey Kabaservice, Robert Kagan, Melvyn Leffler, David Milne, Christopher Nichols, and Andrew Preston.

PG Visiting Researcher in Roman Law/Legal History

[Via H-Law, we have the following announcement.]

Applications from PhD students in Roman law/legal history for the post of Alan Rodger Postgraduate Visiting Researcher, to be held during the 2018/19 academic year. The selected candidate will spend a term in Glasgow and receive a £2,000 award for support. The deadline for applications is 29 June 2018. Full details are available from our website.  The post was established in memory of Lord Rodger of Earlsferry (1944-2011), Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, and scholar of Roman law and legal history.  Ernest Metzger, Douglas Professor of Civil Law, The School of Law, Stair Building, 5 - 8 The Square, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ United Kingdom.  Legal History at Glasgow.

Graber and Gilman's "Constitution of the Confederate States"

The latest volume in the series The Complete American Constitutionalism, by Mark A. Graber, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, and Howard Gillman, University of California, Irvine, is now out.  The series “is designed to be the comprehensive treatment and source for debates on the American constitutional experience. It provides the analysis, resources, and materials both domestic and foreign readers must understand with regards to the practice of constitutionalism in the United States."  The new volume (5, pt 1) is The Constitution of the Confederate States:
The authors offer a comprehensive analysis of the constitution of the Confederate States during the American Civil War.  Confederate constitutionalism presents the paradox of a society constitutionally committed to human and white supremacy whose constitutional materials rarely dwell on human bondage and racism. The foundational texts of Confederate constitutionalism maintain that racial slavery was at the core of secession and southern nationality. This volume provides the various speeches, ordinances and declarations, cases, and a host of other sources accompanied by detailed historical commentary.
Quote promotional code ALAUTHC4 to claim your 30% discount!

TOC after the jump

Desautels-Stein on American Pragmatism and Liberal Legal Thought

Justin Desautels-Stein, University of Colorado Boulder, has published The Jurisprudence of Style: A Structuralist History of American Pragmatism and Liberal Legal Thought in the Cambridge University Press series, series Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society, edited by Christopher L. Tomlins.
In the contemporary domain of American legal thought there is a dominant way in which lawyers and judges craft their argumentative practice. More colloquially, this is a dominant conception of what it means to "think like a lawyer."  Despite the widespread popularity of this conception, it is rarely described in detail or given a name. Justin Desautels-Stein tells the story of how and why this happened, and why it matters. Drawing upon and updating the work of Harvard Law School's first generation of critical legal studies, Desautels-Stein develops what he calls a jurisprudence of style. In doing so, he uncovers the intellectual alliance, first emerging at the end of the nineteenth century and maturing in the last third of the twentieth century, between American pragmatism and liberal legal thought. Applying the tools of legal structuralism and phenomenology to real-world cases in areas of contemporary legal debate, this book develops a practice-oriented understanding of legal thought.
Here are some endorsements:
"In this wide-ranging and masterful work, Justin Desautels-Stein explores, dissects, and critiques what it means to think like a lawyer in today’s hegemonic context of liberal legal thought. Drawing on art history and musicology, ranging from the anthropologist Philippe Descola to the philosopher Hubert Dreyfus, from Roland Barthes to Michel Foucault, Desautels-Stein creatively reinvigorates the Harvard School of legal structuralism to expose the deep historical, structural, and conceptual illusions of contemporary pragmatic legal liberal thought."  Bernard E. Harcourt, Columbia Law School 
"An engrossing, at times deeply moving effort to recover the unity and purpose of Critical Legal Studies."  Charles Sabel, Columbia Law School

"A fascinating contribution to critical legal thought in the United States. Desautels-Stein revisits and reinterprets American legal pragmatism alongside late twentieth century efforts to assess and critique its practice. His direct informal style brings complex theoretical debates to life."  David Kennedy, Harvard Law School
TOC after the jump.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Weekend Roundup

  • DC Public Libraries are digitizing and publishing online, “on an ongoing basis,” the photo archive of the Washington Star.  The first batch are images of “the 1968 uprisings” after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.
 Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Maxeiner's "Failure of American Methods of Lawmaking"

James R. Maxeiner, University of Baltimore, has posted Failures of American Methods of Lawmaking in Historical and Comparative Perspectives, with the Cambridge University Press:
In this book, James R. Maxeiner takes on the challenge of demonstrating that historically American law makers did consider a statutory methodology as part of formulating laws. In the nineteenth century, when the people wanted laws they could understand, lawyers inflicted judge-made, statute-destroying, common law on them. Maxeiner offers the cure for common law, in the form of sensible statute law. Building on this historical evidence, Maxeiner shows how rule-making in civil law jurisdictions in other countries makes for a far more equitable legal system. Sensible statute laws fit together: one statute governs, as opposed to several laws that even lawyers have trouble disentangling. In a statute law system, lawmakers make laws for the common good in sensible procedures, and judges apply sensible laws and do not make them. This book shows how such a system works in Germany and would be a solution for the American legal system as well.
In an abstract, posted with the book’s front matter on SSRN, Professor Maxeiner elaborates:
America’s eighteenth-century founders expected that the people of the United States would establish a wise and happy government of written laws adopted with a single eye to reason and the good of those governed. Few Americans today would say that America’s lawmaking fulfills the founders’ expectations. Dysfunctional is the word that many Americans use to describe their methods of lawmaking. The legal professions tell the American people that they are doing the best the can. They tell a myth of common law. They say the people should rejoice, and not complain, when America’s judges make law, for such lawmaking makes America’s laws exceptional. It is how America has always made law, they say. Judges make better laws than legislatures, they claim.

The historical part of this book explodes the common law myth of dominance of judge-made law in American history. Using sources hardly accessible until 21st century digitization, it shows that statutes have had a much greater role in American law than the legal professions acknowledge.

The comparative part of this book dismantles the claim that judges make better law then legislatures. It shows how the methods of American legislative lawmaking, owing to neglect, have failed to keep up with their counterparts abroad, and have thus denied the people the government of laws that the founders expected.

This book shows how such a system works in Germany and would be a solution for the American legal system as well
TOC after the jump.

An Essay Collection on Blackstone and His Critics

Just out from Hart is Blackstone and His Critics, edited by Anthony Page, University of Tasmania, and Wilfrid Prest, emeritus, University of Adelaide:
William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-69) is perhaps the most elegant and influential legal text in the history of the common law. By one estimate, Blackstone has been cited well over 10,000 times in American judicial opinions alone. Prominent in recent reassessment of Blackstone and his works, Wilfrid Prest also convened the Adelaide symposia which have now generated two collections of essays: Blackstone and his Commentaries: Biography, Law, History (2009), and Re-Interpreting Blackstone's Commentaries: A Seminal Text in National and International Contexts (2014).

This third collection focuses on Blackstone's critics and detractors. Leading scholars examine the initial reception of the Commentaries in the context of debates over law, religion and politics in eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland. Having shown Blackstone's volumes to be a contested work of the Enlightenment, the remaining chapters assess critical responses to Blackstone on family law, the status of women and legal education in Britain and America. While Blackstone and his Commentaries have been widely lauded and memorialised in marble, this volume highlights the extent to which they have also attracted censure, controversy and disparagement.
To get a 20% discount, order here and use the code CV7 at the checkout.

TOC after the jump.

Malka on "Policing Baltimore in the Age of Slavery and Emancipation"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: The Men of Mobtown: Policing Baltimore in the Age of Slavery and Emancipation (March 2018), by Adam Malka (University at Buffalo, SUNY). A description from the Press: 
What if racialized mass incarceration is not a perversion of our criminal justice system’s liberal ideals, but rather a natural conclusion? Adam Malka raises this disturbing possibility through a gripping look at the origins of modern policing in the influential hub of Baltimore during and after slavery’s final decades. He argues that America’s new professional police forces and prisons were developed to expand, not curb, the reach of white vigilantes, and are best understood as a uniformed wing of the gangs that controlled free black people by branding them—and treating them—as criminals. The post–Civil War triumph of liberal ideals thus also marked a triumph of an institutionalized belief in black criminality.

Mass incarceration may be a recent phenomenon, but the problems that undergird the “new Jim Crow” are very, very old. As Malka makes clear, a real reckoning with this national calamity requires not easy reforms but a deeper, more radical effort to overcome the racial legacies encoded into the very DNA of our police institutions.
A few blurbs:
The Men of Mobtown tells a new and significant story of policing, one that accounts both for the rise of men in uniforms and for the role that private citizens, often constituted as mobs, played in regulating life on the streets of a teeming port city. Malka demonstrates how white supremacy and racism provided a cover and a rationalization for the acts of men who aimed to marginalize, if not wholly suppress, the ambitions and the lives of black city dwellers.”--Martha S. Jones 
“In this provocative history of policing in nineteenth-century Baltimore, Adam Malka demonstrates that the vexed relationship between African Americans and law enforcement is nothing new. Malka persuasively demonstrates that modern policing, never mind the prison industrial complex, was built on an older tradition of white male vigilantism disproportionately directed at African Americans. Men of Mobtown provides a much-needed historical perspective on contemporary racial injustice.”—Stephen Mihm
More information is available here.

h/t: Michael Meranze

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Alexandrowicz on international law

David Armitage, Harvard University and Jennifer Pitts, University of Chicago, have co-edited C. H. Alexandrowicz's The Law of Nations in Global History, published with Oxford University Press. From the publisher:
Cover for 

The Law of Nations in Global History






The history and theory of international law have been transformed in recent years by post-colonial and post-imperial critiques of the universalistic claims of Western international law. The origins of those critiques lie in the often overlooked work of the remarkable Polish-British lawyer-historian C. H. Alexandrowicz (1902-75). This volume collects Alexandrowicz's shorter historical writings, on subjects from the law of nations in pre-colonial India to the New International Economic Order of the 1970s, and presents them as a challenging portrait of early modern and modern world history seen through the lens of the law of nations.
The book includes the first complete bibliography of Alexandrowicz's writings and the first biographical and critical introduction to his life and works. It reveals the formative influence of his Polish roots and early work on canon law for his later scholarship undertaken in Madras (1951-61) and Sydney (1961-67) and the development of his thought regarding sovereignty, statehood, self-determination, and legal personality, among many other topics still of urgent interest to international lawyers, political theorists, and global historians.
Praise for the book:

"Charles Henry Alexandrowicz (1902-1975) was among the few who recognized the presence of multiple international, or regional, legal systems on the planet co-terminus with European international law. That a superhuman effort was required to trace his numerous publications is further evidence of how valuable this collection is." - Jus Gentium

Table of Contents after the jump.

Goluboff Elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences has announced its newly elected members. Among them is legal historian Risa Goluboff (University of Virginia Law). Here's an excerpt from the University of Virginia press release:
Goluboff, a nationally renowned legal historian who became the first female dean of UVA Law in 2016, is also the first woman on the school’s faculty to be elected to the academy. Her scholarship and teaching focuses on American constitutional and civil rights law, and especially their historical development in the 20th century. She is an affiliated scholar at the Miller Center and a faculty affiliate at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. She was elected to the American Law Institute in 2017. 
“It’s a privilege to be elected to the academy and to join such an esteemed group of scholars,” Goluboff said. “I’m deeply honored. I’m also thankful for the support the Law School and UVA have given me over the years, which has been critical to my growth as a legal historian and scholar.”
Congratulations to Risa Goluboff!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Property, Personhood, and Picking Favorites


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In my teaching, I often make a point to use—and discuss—the research I did for Black Litigants in the Antebellum American South (the cases, findings, implications, and so on). One question that undergraduates, in particular, almost always ask me is: “what is your favorite case?”
Photo by the author


My response varies. I have many “favorites.” Sometimes my answer involves evidence that felt particularly hard won, such as one of the cases I found amongst the bugs and rats in a Plaquemine, Louisiana, storage shed (research I mentioned in a previous post). It involved a free black man who chased a white man on horseback for miles, screaming insults and waving a loaded pistol. Sometimes my response to the “favorites” question involves the women of the Belly family, who took to the courts with regularity to protect and convey their property, to enforce the terms of their contracts, and to adjudicate a number of other disputes. They even sued their husbands. But most often my answer involves the case that I used to open the book—the case that I see as emblematic of the larger points about personhood and property that I make throughout. This case involved an assault, and I will share excerpts of my discussion of this lawsuit below.
Photo by the author
On Sunday, September 6, 1857, two white men, William Calmes and John Buford, violently seized, whipped, and attempted to kidnap Valerien Joseph in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. Empowered by their duties as slave patrollers, Calmes and Buford entered the property of another white man in search of runaway slaves. There, they came upon Joseph, a free black carpenter engaged in his work. Although Joseph had not given them any reason to believe he was a runaway, and despite the protests of onlookers and Joseph’s own declarations that he was a free man, Calmes and Buford grabbed Joseph and attempted to carry him away. When others tried to intervene, Calmes yelled that he “would do what he pleased,” for he intended to seize and then sell Joseph as a slave. In order to subdue their prey, they took turns beating him in the head with a large stick. Then Calmes removed Joseph’s clothing, forced him on his belly, and whipped his naked body with a cowhide “forty to fifty times” while an armed Buford stood guard to prevent others from assisting their bloodied captive. Eventually the onlookers helped pull Joseph from the clutches of his captors, and he managed to escape.
Five days after the attack, Joseph sued Calmes and Buford in the Ninth Judicial District Court, a local trial court held in Pointe Coupee Parish. He demanded damages: the “illegal and wicked acts of said Calmes and Buford,” Joseph insisted, “have caused your petitioner damage to the amount of fifteen hundred dollars.” To that end, he requested that the white judge, A. D. M. Haralson, summon his attackers to court for a public accounting of their offenses against him, and “after due course of law,” “they be condemned” to pay him $1,500, plus interest and court costs. The defendants denied the charges against them, and the case went to trial. The court subpoenaed the testimony of several witnesses, and each verified Joseph’s claims: one white man testified that Calmes and Buford “fell upon Joseph” and “pulled him out of the yard and struck him on the head with a stick.” Another white man (in charge of organizing slave patrols) testified that Calmes and Buford were not in fact on patrol that day. And still other white witnesses relayed that Joseph was “born free” of an Indian mother and a black father. After hearing the evidence, a white jury found for the plaintiff and issued a judgment for damages: $300 from Calmes and $200 from Buford. The judge denied the defendants’ request for a new trial and ordered the men to pay their debt. Both men also faced criminal charges for Joseph’s attack, but the outcome is unknown.
Photo by the author
That a black man would take his white attackers to court in the first place seems paradoxical in itself. That he would win is yet more surprising. But perhaps more interesting still is how Joseph framed his suit.
Joseph did not begin his petition to the court with a description of the violence inflicted upon him (as one might in a lawsuit for damages). Instead, he framed the case as a debt action, using the language of property and obligation. Calmes and Buford, he insisted, owed him money: “The petition of Valerien Joseph, a free man of color, residing in the parish, Respectfully shows,” he began, “That William Calmes and [John] Buford, residents of the parish aforesaid, are justly and legally indebted, in solido, unto him in the sum of fifteen hundred dollars, with interest of 50% from judicial demand until paid.” They owed him this amount, moreover, for their illegal assault on his property: his body.
The jury agreed and awarded him $500 for his trouble. Buford paid the $200 shortly after the trial, but Calmes ignored the judgment. When the amount went unpaid over a year later, Joseph initiated additional legal proceedings against him. This time, Judge Haralson ordered the sheriff to seize Calmes’s property, sell it at auction, and settle his obligation to Joseph. Although Calmes absconded to Mississippi before the court could seize his property, Joseph continued to press his case. He made another white man, John A. Warren, a party to the lawsuit and pursued garnishment proceedings against him. Warren possessed property belonging to Calmes, property that could be seized and sold. When Warren failed to attend court, Joseph received a judgment against him (in default). On April 20, 1860, mere months before Louisiana left the Union to join a slaveholders’ republic, the court ordered Warren to pay Joseph $350 (the original amount plus court costs and interest). When Warren did not pay, the sheriff seized his property, sold it at auction, and provided Joseph with the proceeds. One year later, almost to the day, shots would be fired at Ft. Sumter initiating a war over the right to hold black people as property.
At work in Joseph’s “demand” are a series of interlocking understandings about the relation of one’s property to one’s person, both in the sense of one’s physical body and in the more abstract sense of one’s ability to be seen at law as someone who “counts” such that he or she can make a claim. These relations between one’s person, one’s property, and one’s legal claims form the subject of this book. To properly understand Joseph’s suit, why he went to court, why he insisted on describing assault as a matter of debt and obligation, why he won, and why he eventually managed to have a white man’s property placed on the auction block, requires that we re-evaluate our understandings of the relationship between black people, claims-making, racial exclusion, and the legal system in the antebellum South more broadly.
This case raises questions about who had access to the power of the law and under what circumstances. Calmes and Buford certainly expected that they did. After all, they were white men, men whose race and status gave them claims to legal and political standing. They were slave patrollers, empowered by state statute to detain possible runaways. As slaveholders, they held property rights in black people. Thus, with the law on their side, they might then get away with kidnapping and selling a free black man. Their property, however, ended up on the auction block. Joseph, by contrast, harnessed the power of the state to serve his interests and to do his bidding: he sued two white men, bound them in obligation to him through debt, and compelled the courts to seize white property and sell it at auction to settle his claims and compensate him for his degradation. The court record of the slave South is rife with stories like Joseph’s.

Finkelman & Kennon, eds., "Congress and the People's Contest: The Conduct of the Civil War"

New from Ohio University Press: Congress and the People’s Contest: The Conduct of the Civil War, edited by Paul Finkelman (President, Gratz College) and Donald R. Kennon (former chief historian and vice president of the United States Capitol Historical Society). A description from the Press:
The American Civil War was the first military conflict in history to be fought with railroads moving troops and the telegraph connecting civilian leadership to commanders in the field. New developments arose at a moment’s notice. As a result, the young nation’s political structure and culture often struggled to keep up. When war began, Congress was not even in session. By the time it met, the government had mobilized over 100,000 soldiers, battles had been fought, casualties had been taken, some civilians had violently opposed the war effort, and emancipation was under way.

This set the stage for Congress to play catch-up for much of the conflict. The result was an ongoing race to pass new laws and set policies. Throughout it all, Congress had to answer to a fractured and demanding public. In addition, Congress, no longer paralyzed by large numbers of Southern slave owners, moved forward on progressive economic and social issues—such as the transcontinental railroad and the land grant college act—which could not previously have been passed.

In Congress and the People’s Contest, Paul Finkelman and Donald R. Kennon have assembled some of the nation’s finest scholars of American history and law to evaluate the interactions between Congress and the American people as they navigated a cataclysmic and unprecedented war. Displaying a variety and range of focus that will make the book a classroom must, these essays show how these interactions took place—sometimes successfully, and sometimes less so.
Contributors to the volume: L. Diane Barnes, Fergus M. Bordewich, Jenny Bourne, Jonathan Earle, Lesley J. Gordon, Mischa Honeck, Chandra Manning, Nikki M. Taylor, and Eric Walther.

More information is available here

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Bodenhamer's "Very Short Introduction" to the U.S. Constitution

The latest volume of interest to constitutional and legal historians in Oxford’s “Very Short Introduction” series is The U.S. Constitution: A Very Short Introduction, by David J. Bodenhamer, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis.  (We're sending our review copy to the President.)
Though the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788, its impact on our lives is as recent as today's news. Claims and counterclaims about the constitutionality of governmental actions are a habit of American politics. This document, which its framers designed to limit power, often has made political conflict inevitable. It also has accommodated and legitimized the political and social changes of a vibrant, powerful democratic nation. A product of history's first modern revolution, the Constitution embraced a new formula for government: it restrained power on behalf of liberty, but it also granted power to promote and protect liberty.

The U.S. Constitution: A Very Short Introduction explores the major themes that have shaped American constitutional history: federalism, the balance of powers, property, representation, equality, rights, and security. Informed by the latest scholarship, this book places constitutional history within the context of American political and social history. As our nation's circumstances have changed, so has our Constitution.

Today we face serious challenges to the nation's constitutional legacy. Endless wars, a sharply divided electorate, economic inequality, and immigration, along with a host of other issues, have placed demands on government and on society that test our constitutional values. Understanding how the Constitution has evolved will help us adapt its principles to the challenges of our age.
TOC after the jump.

Koposov on memory, history, and law

Memory Laws, Memory WarsNikolay Koposov, Emory University, has published Memory Laws, Memory Wars: The Politics of the Past in Europe and Russia with Cambridge University Press. From the publisher:
Laws against Holocaust denial are perhaps the best-known manifestation of the present-day politics of historical memory. In Memory Laws, Memory Wars, Nikolay Koposov examines the phenomenon of memory laws in Western and Eastern Europe, Ukraine, and Russia and exposes their very different purposes in the East and West. In Western Europe, he shows how memory laws were designed to create a common European memory centred on the memory of the Holocaust as a means of integrating Europe, combating racism, and averting national and ethnic conflicts. In Russia and Eastern Europe, by contrast, legislation on the issues of the past is often used to give the force of law to narratives which serve the narrower interests of nation states and protect the memory of perpetrators rather than victims. This will be essential reading for all those interested in ongoing conflicts over the legacy of the Second World War, Nazism, and communism.
Here is the Table of Contents:
  • Introduction
  • 1. The rise of memory and the origins of memory laws
  • 2. Memory laws in Western Europe
  • 3. Memory laws in Eastern Europe
  • 4. Memory laws in Ukraine
  • 5. Memory laws in Yeltsin's Russia
  • 6. Memory laws in Putin's Russia
  • Conclusion
Further information is available here.

A New Essay Collection on Ancient Greek Law

The University of Texas Press has published Ancient Greek Law in the 21st Century, “eleven essays by leading scholars [that] chart new directions for the study of ancient Greek law.”  It is edited by Paula Perlman, a professor of classics at the University of Texas at Austin.  The volume includes an introduction jointly authored and achapter authored by Adriaan Lanni, Harvard Law School.  Professor Lanni's chapter is "From Anthropology to Sociology: New Directions in Ancient Greek Law Research."
The ancient Greeks invented written law. Yet, in contrast to later societies in which law became a professional discipline, the Greeks treated laws as components of social and political history, reflecting the daily realities of managing society. To understand Greek law, then, requires looking into extant legal, forensic, and historical texts for evidence of the law in action. From such study has arisen the field of ancient Greek law as a scholarly discipline within classical studies, a field that has come into its own since the 1970s.

This edited volume charts new directions for the study of Greek law in the twenty-first century through contributions from eleven leading scholars. The essays in the book’s first section reassess some of the central debates in the field by looking at questions about the role of law in society, the notion of “contracts,” feuding and revenge in the court system, and legal protections for slaves engaged in commerce. The second section breaks new ground by redefining substantive areas of law such as administrative law and sacred law, as well as by examining sources such as Hellenistic inscriptions that have been comparatively neglected in recent scholarship. The third section evaluates the potential of methodological approaches to the study of Greek law, including comparative studies with other cultures and with modern legal theory. The volume ends with an essay that explores pedagogy and the relevance of teaching Greek law in the twenty-first century.
TOC after the jump

Monday, April 16, 2018

Immigration & Ethnic History Society Awards to Kang, Hirota

The Immigration and Ethnic History Society just announced the winners of its annual awards, and legal history fared well.  

According to the Society's Twitter account, the Theodore Saloutos Book Award, "for the book judged best on any aspect of the immigration history of the United States," went to S. Deborah Kang (California State University, San Marcos) for The INS on the Line: Making Immigration Law on the US-Mexico Border, 1917-1954 (Oxford University Press, 2017). Julian Lim (Arizona State University) received an honorable mention for Porous BordersMultiracial Migrations and the Law in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).

The First Book Award went to Hidetaka Hirota (City College of New York) for Expelling the Poor:
Atlantic Seaboard States and the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy
(Oxford University Press, 2017)

Congratulations to all!

García, "Strategies of Segregation: Race, Residence, and the Struggle for Educational Equality"

We missed this Nov. 2017 publication from the University of California Press: Strategies of Segregation: Race, Residence, and the Struggle for Educational Equality, by David G. García (University of California, Los Angeles). A description from the Press:

Strategies of Segregation unearths the ideological and structural architecture of enduring racial inequality within and beyond schools in Oxnard, California. In this meticulously researched narrative spanning 1903 to 1974, David G. García excavates an extensive array of archival sources to expose a separate and unequal school system and its purposeful links with racially restrictive housing covenants. He recovers powerful oral accounts of Mexican Americans and African Americans who endured disparate treatment and protested discrimination. His analysis is skillfully woven into a compelling narrative that culminates in an examination of one of the nation’s first desegregation cases filed jointly by Mexican American and Black plaintiffs. This transdisciplinary history advances our understanding of racism and community resistance across time and place.
A few blurbs:
Strategies of Segregation is a carefully researched, effectively argued, and beautifully written study of the centrality of school segregation to the racialization of space and the spatialization of race in Oxnard, California. Its deft blend of evidence from archival and oral history sources makes a major contribution to the histories of school and residential segregation. This fine book also reveals how Mexican Americans and Blacks fought back and battled for educational equity and racial justice.”—George Lipsitz 
“Through a study of how school segregation and residential segregation reinforce one another, Strategies of Segregation examines how structural racism became embedded in Oxnard, a city just north of Los Angeles. David G. García’s analysis across multiple urban institutions and interlocking racial practices will make this a model book for years to come.”—Natalia Molina
More information is available here.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday Book Review Roundup

At Dissent, Gaiutra Bahadur reviews Peter James Hudson's Bankers and Empire: How Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean and Stuart Hall's Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands.

Kathleen Belew's Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America is reviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books.  Also at LARB is a review of Steven J. Zipperstein's Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History  

The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment by Alexander Bevilacqua is reviewed in The New Republic.  Also in The New Republic is Linda Gordon's review of R. Marie Griffith's Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics 

Beth Lew-Williams' The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America is reviewed at Slate.  Also on the site is a review of Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World by Joshua B. Freeman.

Ronit Stahl's Enlisting Faith: How the Military Chaplaincy Shaped Religion and State in Modern America is reviewed at H-Net.

In The Nation, William P. Jones reviews Steven M. Gillon's Separate and Unequal: The Kerner Commission and the Unraveling of American Liberalism  Separate and Unequal is also reviewed in The Atlantic.
Image result for Raza Sí, Migra No: Chicano Movement Struggles for Immigrant Rights in San Diego.
In the New York Review of Books is a review of Lawrence James' Empires in the Sun: The Struggle for the Mastery of Africa.

The Washington Post has a review of Show Trial: Hollywood, HUAC , and the Birth of the Blacklist by Thomas Doherty.

Ben Austen's High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing is reviewed in The New York Times.  Also reviewed in the paper is Benn Steil's The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War.  Priya Satia's Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution is also reviewed.

Fahad Bishara discusses his A Sea of Debt: Law and Economic Life in the Western Indian Ocean, 1780-1950.  Also on the site, Jimmy Patino speaks about his Raza Sí, Migra No: Chicano Movement Struggles for Immigrant Rights in San Diego.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Weekend Roundup

  • Over at JOTWELL's Property section, Shelley Ross Saxer (Pepperdine Law) has posted an admiring review of University of Virginia legal historian Maureen Brady's forthcoming article on "Damagings Clauses."
  • Also in JOTWELL, from the Intellectual Property section, Mark McKenna (University of Notre Dame) praises "The Article of Manufacture in 1877," by Sarah Burstein (University of Oklahoma).  The article appeared in Volume 32 of the Berkeley Technology Law Journal (2017).
  • Martha S. Jones, Johns Hopkins University, will deliver the keynote speaker at the Spring 2018 Commencement Ceremonies at the University of Michigan-Flint
  • “So you want to synthesize filmmaking with legal history? Davidson has a course for that": John Wertheimer’s "Filming Southern Legal History" seminar.  More.
  • Timothy Snyder's revelatory essay on Ivan Ilyin and his influence on Putin's Russia.  Chilling reading, after reports of Stephen Bannon's advice to the White House on executive privilege.
  •  Our friends at the Max Plank Institute for European Legal History have announced Legal Journals of the 19th Century (Juristische Zeitschriften des 19. Jahrhunderts).  It provides “online access to a vast collection of legal journals . . .   Seventy-five journals were selected, compiled in uninterrupted series, supplemented with structural and meta-data, and published.”  More.
Weekend Roundup is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.