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Law and People in Colonial America

Peter Charles Hoffer

second edition
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An essential, rigorous, and lively introduction to the beginnings of American law.

How did American colonists transform British law into their own? What were the colonies' first legal institutions, and who served in them? And why did the early Americans develop a passion for litigation that continues to this day?

In Law and People in Colonial America, Peter Charles Hoffer tells the story of early American law from its beginnings on the British mainland to its maturation during the crisis of the American Revolution. For the men and women of colonial America, Hoffer explains, law was a pervasive…

An essential, rigorous, and lively introduction to the beginnings of American law.

How did American colonists transform British law into their own? What were the colonies' first legal institutions, and who served in them? And why did the early Americans develop a passion for litigation that continues to this day?

In Law and People in Colonial America, Peter Charles Hoffer tells the story of early American law from its beginnings on the British mainland to its maturation during the crisis of the American Revolution. For the men and women of colonial America, Hoffer explains, law was a pervasive influence in everyday life. Because it was their law, the colonists continually adapted it to fit changing circumstances. They also developed a sense of legalism that influenced virtually all social, economic, and political relationships. This sense of intimacy with the law, Hoffer argues, assumed a transforming power in times of crisis. In the midst of a war for independence, American revolutionaries used their intimacy with the law to explain how their rebellion could be lawful, while legislators wrote republican constitutions that would endure for centuries.

Today the role of law in American life is more pervasive than ever. And because our system of law involves a continuing dialogue between past and present, interpreting the meaning of precedent and of past legislation, the study of legal history is a vital part of every citizen's basic education. Taking advantage of rich new scholarship that goes beyond traditional approaches to view slavery as a fundamental cultural and social institution as well as an economic one, this second edition includes an extensive, entirely new chapter on colonial and revolutionary-era slave law. Law and People in Colonial America is a lively introduction to early American law. It makes for essential reading.

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Law and People in Colonial America

Peter Charles Hoffer

second edition
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Reviews

Reviews

Hoffer outlines the main features of English law and legal institutions, describes their transmission to New England and Virginia, and argues for the emergence of 'an American way of law, a style of keeping order and resolving disputes' that was more open and less formalistic than that of England... Legal and social historians will applaud the appearance of this synthesis, and, in a decade's time, will demand a revised edition.

A synthetic essay of considerable grace and scope... An excellent overview of the field.

This book more than succeeds in achieving its goal of helping students understand and appreciate the cultural and intellectual environment of the Anglophone world.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
232
ISBN
9781421434599
Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the Revised Edition
Preface to the First Edition
Acknowledgments
Chapter One. "That the Said Statutes, Lawes, and Ordinances May Be as Neere as Conveniently May

Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the Revised Edition
Preface to the First Edition
Acknowledgments
Chapter One. "That the Said Statutes, Lawes, and Ordinances May Be as Neere as Conveniently May, Agreeable to the Forme of the Lawes and Pollicy of England"
Chapter Two. "And to the End that All Laws Prepared by the Governour and Provincial Council Aforesaid, May Yet Have the More Full Concurrence of the Free-Men of the Province"
Chapter Three. "If I Am Become Their Son, They Must Act the Part of a Father"
Chapter Four. "Take All the Care in Your Power to Guard against Any Further Wicked Designs"
Chapter Five. "These Dirty and Ridiculous Litigations Have Been Multiplied in This Town, Till the Very Earth Groans and the Stones Cry Out"
Chapter Six. "Just so th' Unletter'd Blockheads of the Robe; (Than Whom no Greater Monsters on the Globe); Their Wire-Drawn, Incoherent, Jargon Spin, Or Lug a Point by Head and Shoulders In"
Chapter Seven. "On What Principles, Then, on What Motives of Action, Can We Depend for the Security of our Liberties, of our Properties... of Life Itself?"
Conclusion
Notes
A Bibliographic Essay
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Peter Charles Hoffer

Peter Charles Hoffer, Distinguished Research Professor of History at the University of Georgia, has published many books, including Law and People in Colonial America, second edition, John Quincy Adams and the Gag Rule, 1835–1850, Prelude to Revolution: The Salem Gunpowder Raid of 1775, and The Devil's Disciples: Makers of the Salem Witchcraft Trials, both published by the Johns Hopkins University...