“My friends and I might still be 11, and we might still be in elementary school, but we know . . . that we have seven short years until we too have the right to vote.” Speaking at the March for Our Lives event, 11-year old Naomi Wadler eloquently reminded us that childhood is ephemeral. Since they are future voters, she warned Capitol Hill to take the words, emotions, and pleas of children seriously. In many ways, she was also speaking to Florida State Representative Elizabeth Porter who recently exclaimed, “The adults make the law because we have the age, we has [sic] the wisdom, and we have the experience.” For many like Rep. Porter, there has been something disturbing in this moment of youth activism. It cuts to the core of social stability based on the patriarchal family order—that children are subordinate, passive members of society. We inherited this idea from the eighteenth-century revolutionary era, a point in time when age became a main determinant in who could be considered a citizen and an adult. Continue reading
Paul Finkelman is currently the John E. Murray Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where he teaches Constitutional Law and a seminar on the law of slavery. He received his PhD in U.S. history from the University of Chicago and his BA in American Studies from Syracuse University. He specializes in American legal history, slavery and the Founders, American slave law, modern human trafficking, the Civil War era, U.S. Constitutional history and law, the legal history of race relations, the history of Civil Liberties, the history of the electoral college, Constitution and firearms regulation, and Baseball and Law. He is the author of more than 200 scholarly articles and more than forty books. His next book, Supreme Injustice: Slavery and America’s Highest Court, will be published by Harvard University Press in 2017. His work on legal history and constitutional law has been cited four times by the United States Supreme Court, numerous other courts, and in many appellate briefs. He was an expert witness in the famous Alabama Ten Commandments Monument Case and in the law suit over the ownership of Barry Bonds’ 73rd home run ball. He has also recently worked with HeinOnline to create a free database called Slavery In America and the World: History, Culture, and Law, which he discusses below. This interview was conducted by Candace Jackson Gray at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD on November 30 and December 1, 2016. Continue reading
Abby Chandler, Law and Sexual Misconduct in New England, 1650-1750: Steering Toward England (Burlington: Ashgate, 2015).
Between 1650 and 1750, the courts of Maine, Rhode Island, and Essex County, Massachusetts heard 1,843 cases concerning sexual misconduct. These suits, which concerned matters including rape, sodomy, adultery, and sex outside of marriage, are the subject of Abby Chandler’s new book, Law and Sexual Misconduct in New England, 1650-1750: Steering Toward England (Ashgate, 2015). By examining three jurisdictions not previously studied by historians of law and sexuality, Chandler complicates standard narratives of the extent to which New Englanders adhered to English law. She also engagingly reconstructs the familial and neighborhood conflicts that shaped individual cases.
Abby Chandler is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. She received her PhD from the University of Maine at Orono. Her first book, Law and Sexual Misconduct in New England, 1650-1750: Steering Towards England is due to be released by Ashgate in November.
My forthcoming book, Law and Sexual Misconduct in New England, 1650-1750: Steering Toward England, uses sexual misconduct trials to examine the ways in which the growing Anglicization of the New England colonies played a role in the daily lives of ordinary colonists. Such trials may seem an unusual source base for studying broader political change, but their frequency and consistency allowed me to track the often subtle shifts toward more Anglicized legal systems. Likewise, both men and women were routinely charged with sexual misconduct, which allowed me to examine these shifts from male and female perspectives. This is the story of two widows in Essex County, Massachusetts, and their very different experiences with the Puritan dominated legal system of the seventeenth century and the Anglicized legal system of the eighteenth century.
John Adams thought that James Otis set the whole American Revolution in motion in 1761. Otis’ argument against writs of assistance, in a legal case that year, Adams wrote, “was the first scene of the first Act of opposition to the Arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the Child Independence was born.” Of course, Adams also though that July 2nd would be the most famous date in history. So forgive me for at least questioning Adams’ view that the “Writs of Assistance Case” basically jumpstarted the Revolution. That said, I do think the evidence base for the “Writs of Assistance Case” suggests that it was a major turning point in the development of the colonial legal profession. Picking up on themes in yesterday’s guest post by Craig Hanlon, the case may help make sense of the connections between legal professionalization and the American Revolution. Continue reading
Two weeks ago, 175 historians descended upon the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) in Boston for a three-day conference that considered the political, social, economic, and global parameters of the American Revolution. The conference consisted of eight panels (with pre-circulated papers), two keynotes, and some special presentations on digital projects. The conference proceedings were live-tweeted under #RevReborn2, and fellow Juntoist Joseph Adelman provided some live coverage on the blog. The Junto has also had some post-conference commentaries, including “You Say You Want a Revolution” by Joseph Adelman and “The Suddenness of the Alteration: Some Afterthoughts on #RevReborn2” by Michael Hattem.