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The Southern Judicial Tradition

The Southern Judicial Tradition: State Judges and Sectional Distinctiveness, 1790-1890

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    The Southern Judicial Tradition
    Book Description:

    This first book to examine the lives and work of nineteenth-century southern judges explores the emergence of a southern judiciary and the effects of regional peculiarities and attitudes on legal development. Drawing on the judicial opinions and private correspondence of six chief justices whose careers span both the region and the century, Timothy S. Huebner analyzes their conceptions of their roles and the substance of their opinions related to cases involving homicide, economic development, federalism, and race. Examining judges both on and off the bench--as formulators of law and as citizens whose lives were intertwined with southern values--Huebner reveals the tensions that sometimes arose out of loyalties to sectional principles and national professional consciousness. He exposes the myth of southern leniency in appellate homicide decisions and also shows how the southern judiciary contributed to and reflected larger trends in American legal development. This book adds to our understanding of both southern distinctiveness and American legal culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4228-3
    Subjects: Law, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Southerners, Judges, and Southern Judges
    (pp. 1-9)

    The public lives of southern state appellate judges, including both their conception of the judicial role and the substance of their decisions, mirrored the simultaneous growth of sectionalism and nationalism in the nineteenth-century United States. As southerners, their careers reflected the influences of the region’s political culture, especially the nineteenth-century South’s emphasis on decentralized authority, white supremacy, and sectional identity. As appellate judges, they operated within an increasingly integrated American legal community in which judges asserted their independence, drew on common sources of authority, and developed a professional consciousness. The evolving relationship between these two larger developments—between political sectionalism...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Spencer Roane, Virginia Legal Culture, and the Rise of a Southern Judiciary
    (pp. 10-39)

    Spencer Roane’s judicial career lay within a peculiar middle period in American history. Appointed to the bench in 1789 and serving until his death in 1822, Roane’s term of service fell between two important demarcations in American history: he served after the American Revolution and the establishment of the Constitution and before the Market Revolution and the explosion of sectional tensions. In his day public officials viewed their world through the lens of the war for independence, and the eighteenth-century idea of the struggle between liberty and power remained in the forefront of their minds. The full force of the...

  6. CHAPTER TWO John Catron, Jacksonian Jurisprudence, and the Expansion of the South
    (pp. 40-69)

    Judge John Catron’s state judicial career coincided with the territorial growth of the republic and the continued rise of sectional tensions. As Americans moved westward during the early nineteenth century, many carried their slaves with them, thus confirming the lesson of the Missouri Crisis: expansion had profound political and legal ramifications for the issue of slavery. But more than slaves, new settlers brought with them their customs, habits, and values—their ideas about government, law, and honor as well as their dreams about land, opportunity, and prosperity. Expansion therefore affected not only the questions surrounding slavery but also issues of...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Joseph Henry Lumpkin and the Vision of an Independent South
    (pp. 70-98)

    While John Catron’s career developed alongside that of Andrew Jackson, Joseph Henry Lumpkin’s life and work paralleled that of early-nineteenth-century social reformers. Although most scholars have viewed the North as the only realm of reform, southern Whigs like Lumpkin embraced their own vision of social progress. Lumpkin devoted as much of his life to reform activities as he did to his judicial labors, and he came to view these dual roles as inseparable. Prior to his appointment to the Georgia Supreme Court in 1846, Lumpkin’s career consisted of two parallel paths: he emerged as one of the leading legal professionals...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR John Hemphill, the Texas Supreme Court, and the “Taming” of the Frontier
    (pp. 99-129)

    While the 1840s and 1850s witnessed the emergence of social reformers like Lumpkin, the period also saw the continued expansion of the nation’s boundaries. Texas and the American Southwest, in particular, captured national attention during this era as American political leaders focused their gaze on the future status of slavery in new lands. White settlers in Texas, meanwhile, who had already established a slaveholding republic, faced the task of transplanting American institutions to the former frontier of Mexico. Typical of these Texas transplants—who were mostly young, male, southern, and slaveholding—John Hemphill labored to bring “civilization” and stability to...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Thomas Ruffin, Judicial Pragmatism, and Southern Constitutionalism
    (pp. 130-159)

    From the perspective of the state’s supreme court reports, Thomas Carter Ruffin’s North Carolina looked much like the rest of the antebellum South. A contemporary of John Catron, Joseph Lumpkin, and John Hemphill, Ruffin confronted the same legal problems and tensions as his colleagues in other states. Expanding democracy, a growing economy, violent criminal behavior, and the political strains surrounding slavery and sectionalism all converged on Ruffin during his judicial career, which spanned the period 1829–53. Ruffin returned to the state supreme court for a year of service in 1859 and thereafter played an active role in state politics...

  10. CHAPTER SIX George W. Stone, Political Sectionalism, and Legal Nationalism
    (pp. 160-185)

    The life of Alabamian George Washington Stone, unlike those of other leading southern jurists, spanned nearly the whole nineteenth century. Born while James Madison occupied the White House, Stone lived through the decades of sectional antagonism that followed, experienced the fiery trials of the Civil War and Reconstruction, and welcomed the post-Reconstruction promise of a New South. He twice served on Alabama’s highest court: from 1856 to 1865 and from 1876 to 1894, the last ten years as chief justice. Because of his lengthy tenure, Stone confronted a wide variety of issues, including the constitutional consequences of southern independence, the...

  11. CONCLUSION: Southern Judges and American Legal Culture
    (pp. 186-192)

    Legal nationalism and political sectionalism defined the lives and work of nineteenth-century state judges in the American South. National unity and integration increasingly characterized American legal culture by century’s end: southern judges read the same case reports, law treatises, magazines, and journals as their northern colleagues, while southern jurists conceived of the judicial role and created a body of substantive judicial opinions in many ways comparable to their counterparts. Sectionalism manifested itself in southern judges’ commitment to secession before the war, redemption during the Reconstruction period, and the Democratic Party and Lost Cause ideology during the late nineteenth century. Although...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 193-224)
    (pp. 225-252)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 253-263)