Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New in Law & History Review

Law & History Review's Feb. 2012 issue contains a number of interesting articles and book reviews.  Abstracts of articles that may be of particular interest to our readers follow. The link to the full issue, the contents of which are available free online to subscribers, is here.

"Federalists, Federalism, and Federal Jurisdiction" by Alison L. LaCroix (Chicago--law)

Historians and legal scholars generally agree that during John Marshall's tenure as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835, the federal judiciary expanded its power to interpret the Constitution and asserted with increasing force its authority to speak on behalf of the Union. This single story of judicial nationalism, however, contains two distinct and largely non-overlapping strands. Historians have tended to focus on the Supreme Court alone, to the exclusion of the lower federal courts, and have largely treated early national controversies over the lower federal courts as outgrowths of the political turmoil that accompanied the emergence of the first party system. Legal scholars in the fields of federal courts and constitutional law, meanwhile, have devoted significant attention to the lower federal courts but have largely neglected the history of how those courts developed beyond the key early moments of the Constitutional Convention and the First Congress.

"Plaintiffs v. Privateers: Litigation and Foreign Affairs in the Federal Courts, 1816–1822" by Kevin Arlyck (NYU-Ph.D. candidate)
On January 24, 1817, Don Juan Stoughton, the Spanish consul in Boston, wrote to his colleague in Baltimore, Don Pablo Chacon, to thank him for his recent efforts in supplying Stoughton with information about the Mangore, a private armed vessel recently arrived in the Chesapeake. Stoughton believed that the privateer was responsible for the capture of a Spanish-owned merchant ship that had recently turned up in Massachusetts. Stoughton had recently filed suit in federal district court to recover the vessel and its cargo on behalf of the rightful owners, but to do so he had to establish that, in the course of its recent expedition, theMangore had violated federal law prescribing American neutrality. In addition to providing intelligence in this matter, Chacon had secured local counsel to represent Stoughton at depositions of privateer crew members being taken in Baltimore.

“Too Many Courts and Too Much Law”: The Politics of Judicial Reform in Nova Scotia, 1830–1841 by Jim Phillips (Toronto--history; criminology) and Bradley Miller (Toronto--post-doc)

The 1830s was Nova Scotia's “Age of Reform.” Although historians have documented the growing tensions between elected Assembly and appointed lieutenant governor and Council, the concomitant attacks on the established economic elite, and the rise of a distinct party in colonial politics, little attention has been paid to the role played by the colony's courts and judges in this crucial decade. This lacuna is surprising, because reformers were convinced that the judges of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court (NSSC) were bulwarks of the old order and barriers to progress, and as their movement gained influence in the 1830s it brought the judges and the court system to the fore. This period saw numerous proposals for reform to the colony's laws and legal system, some effected and others not. Here we examine those aspects of the reform platform that were most hotly contested precisely because they exemplified the ways in which controversies about the legal system both reflected and exacerbated broader political and social change. The most important issues were judicial fees and the role of the chief justice as head of the Tory-dominated lieutenant governor's Council. We also examine two other matters in which the judicial system was directly linked to reformers' general demands for a system of government more responsive to the needs of ordinary Nova Scotians: judicial salaries and the role of the lower civil courts.

“Agreement Supersedes Law, and Love Judgment:” Legal Flexibility and Amicable Settlement in Anglo-Norman England" by Richard L. Keyser (Western Kentucky-history).
The anonymous author of the Laws of Henry I (Leges Henrici Primi) seems to undercut the value of the laws and courts of early-twelfth-century England by making a number of pessimistic comments about the capacity of formal legal proceedings to render justice. At a few points in this treatise, probably completed shortly after 1108, he also voices a preference for friendly agreement. Noting that similar predilections were widespread in medieval Europe, many recent scholars have seized on one of the author's remarks that explicitly compares these two approaches to conflict resolution by proclaiming: Pactum enim legem uincit et amor iudicium, which is translated by L. J. Downer, the work's most recent editor, as, “For an agreement supersedes law and amicable settlement a court judgment.” Ever since Stephen White and Michael Clanchy used this Latin sentence as, respectively, a title and an opening epigram in influential essays written over 25 years ago, it has become a scholarly commonplace, epitomizing what is now often seen as a deep-seated medieval preference for settling disputes through informal compromise. Most scholars that refer to this aphorism, however, use it merely as an illustrative device, without exploring this provocative assertion's meaning in its original textual setting. When considered in light of the Leges Henrici Primi(henceforth: LHP) as a whole and this work's wider context, this statement proves more revealing of complex contemporary attitudes about agreements, conflict resolution, and law than the frequent reference to what is taken to be a categorical declaration of the superiority of friendly concord might suggest.
"Marriage on the Margins: Free Wives, Enslaved Husbands, and the Law in Early Virginia" by
Terri L. Snyder (Cal State Fullerton--Am Studies).
In 1725, Jane Webb, a free woman of color, sued Thomas Savage, a slave owner and middling planter, in Northampton County Court, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Webb v. Savage was an unusual lawsuit, the culmination of over twenty years of legal wrangling between two parties who had an uncommon and intimate connection. The case originated in a 1703 contract between the pair, and at the time it was written, its terms, assumedly, were clear and mutually agreed upon. Two decades later, however, a tangled skein of circumstances obscured the stipulations of that original agreement. Over the course of those same years, the legal meaning of freedom for individuals like Jane Webb had fundamentally changed. Both fraught interpersonal relations and the evolution of race-based law mattered to the 1725 chancery case for one simple reason: Thomas Savage owned Jane Webb's husband. Despite the fact that Webb's spouse, named only in the records as Left, was enslaved, their marriage was legally recognized, and the seven children born to the couple, following the legal doctrine partus sequitur ventrum, took their free status as well as their surname from their mother.