The intersection of property and slavery in Southern legal thought: From Missouri Compromise through Civil War

2001 2001

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Abstract (summary)

Alfred Brophy explores the development of modes of reasoning in Southern legal thought in the forty years leading up to the Civil War. The dissertation centers around three issues: how judges understood their duty to follow precedent as they reshaped the common law to comport with their ideas about economy and society; the role of political ideology in shaping constitutional protections for private property; and how judges melded considerations of humanity with cold legal logic.

The study first looks to statements in judicial opinions, treatises, and public speeches to gauge the role of precedent, experience, reason, and humanity in shaping common law development. Then it turns to the institution of property in Southern thought, to show the centrality of property and slavery to Southern law. Next, it explores the development of constitutional protections for private property and the influences of Democrat and Whig ideologies on Southern courts. It then juxtaposes two subtle interpreters of Southern thought: Louisa McCord and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Stowe's 1856 novel, Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, in particular explores the power that considerations of precedent and expediency held over Southern judges. The final chapter draws together those themes by examining Confederate state court opinions regarding property rights.

The study explores the ways that Southern judges brought strands of political theory and doctrine together to shape property law. It asks how those within and outside the Southern legal system understood what was happening. It responds to recent historical research addressing the interaction of cultural ideas, such as progress, slavery, and property, with legal doctrine in the years between Revolution and Civil War and in that way addresses the modification of legal thought from the Enlightenment ideas of the Revolutionary generation to the conservative thought of the proslavery Southerners.

Indexing (details)

American history;
Black history
0337: American history
0398: Law
0328: Black history
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Civil War; Legal; Missouri Compromise; Property; Slavery
The intersection of property and slavery in Southern legal thought: From Missouri Compromise through Civil War
Brophy, Alfred Laurence
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 62/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780493210889, 0493210881
Horwitz, Morton J.
Harvard University
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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