In modern American History the Supreme Court has become the final arbiter of numerous aspects of society; from gay rights to abortion, race relations to commerce, and nearly everything in between. But was that the original intention? How did this come to be?
This History of the Law course with Dr. Oliver Bateman will explore those questions and trace the adaptation of laws to the changing social and economic needs of the early United States with an emphasis on the interrelations of law, public opinion, the legal profession, judiciary, and the political process. Topics include the Transatlantic origins of American law, slavery and indentured servitude, poor laws and dependency, family law, and developments in criminal and civil law.
Each session, we will sort fact from fiction while examining the themes around which this course has been organized:
- The seemingly endless debates that have polarized American judicial culture since the nation’s inception: “state’s rights” versus a “federal system,” “activist” versus “restrained” judging, and the demand for popular oversight of judges as set against the desire to insulate the judiciary from the caprices of the electorate.
- The Transatlantic origins of early American jurisprudence.
- The complicated relationship between slavery and freedom in early America, with particular attention paid to how the growth of freedom that occurred following the American Revolution depended—at least in part—on the continued enslavement of more than 20 percent of the population.
- The impact of the law on outsiders and renegades sometimes identified as disadvantaged, disabled, delinquent, or deviant.
History of the Law with Dr. Bateman will be taught in two parts, 6 sessions each. This is part one: American Colonies to the Civil War.