Cover

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Flaps, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword

Dennis A. Rendleman

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pp. ix-xiv

On Thursday, April 29, 1959, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin announced on page one: “‘Prairie Justice’—an intriguing account of the development of law in Illinois from its earliest days—will be published in serial form in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, starting with a special introduction in the Bulletin’s Law Day issue on...

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Editor’s Introduction

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pp. xv-xxii

One piece of literature missing from the vast and interesting history of Illinois is a concise narrative of the judicial branch. Several histories of Illinois touch on legal and judicial aspects but never as the constant thread throughout the work.1 Legal history in general and court histories, specifically, are a burgeoning sub-discipline with several state court histories and...

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1. “Whose Home Is in the Wilderness”

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pp. 1-17

“Will you promise, before God, to speak the truth concerning the matters I shall ask you about?” Michel Chassin, member of the Provincial Council, looked up from the documents before him to ask the question of the Black prisoner who faced him nervously on the other side of the table. Even before he finished speaking, the quill pen in the hand of Perillau, the...

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2. Law and Anarchy, Virginia County, Federal Territory

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pp. 18-30

The Seven Years’ War was over, and the French dream of magnificence through colonial possessions in the new world ended in the cession of all the northwest to Britain. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 marked the beginning of a period during which the existence of law as a body of rules was all but destroyed by the disintegration of civil...

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3. The Coming of the Common Law

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pp. 31-49

The Ordinance of 1787 was the first general charter of government created for the mid-continent area named “The Territory Northwest of the River Ohio.”1 The idealism of the Ordinance was beyond the understanding or powers of expression of all but a very few of the inhabitants. Its phrases were written by men to whom the terrors and dangers of the wilderness...

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4. A Frontier Court

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pp. 50-71

On a quiet street in Kaskaskia on the morning of December 7, 1808, a horseman reined his horse close to the picket fence in front of the house of Robert McCall. The horse’s hoofs were heavy with the mud that lay deep and black along the center of the street. A hundred yards to the north stood the home of John Edgar with its broad eaves supported by cedar posts sweeping...

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5. Lawyers and Law Courts

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pp. 72-100

James Monroe was president of the United States when Illinois was admitted to the Union on December 3, 1818. It was a time of impermanence and transition. War with Great Britain had ended on Christmas Eve in 1814, but the Treaty of Ghent left many issues unsettled. Cautiously the government at Washington began to assert itself in the affairs of nations. In...

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6. Law and Politics

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pp. 101-123

The political situation in Illinois in 1824 was still characterized by division in terms of local issues and factions. Separation into national political parties was of little consequence in local elections. As in territorial days there were still two major factions, but most of the old leaders were missing. The aging John Edgar still lived in his wide-galleried house in Kaskaskia, but his...

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7. Giants in the Prairie

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pp. 124-147

“Prairie land requires a strong team, and a large plow kept very sharp, to break it up thoroughly. This must be done well, and every particle of sward turned over; or it had better be let alone.” By 1839 Illinois had become the Prairie State. The frontier was west of the Mississippi and civilization had begun in the midlands. A last, small Indian war had been fought, and Blackhawk...

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8. Trails of the Circuit Riders

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pp. 148-173

A quarter century lies between the effective date of the Constitution of 1848 and the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Munn v. People.1 The powerful and conflicting forces that affected the law of Illinois during this twenty-five-year period brought about greater changes than in any other similar period from the beginning of statehood to the economic depression...

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9. The Coming of Age

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pp. 174-206

The Little Giant lay dead in Chicago, his turbulent career ended just as his country’s severest ordeal began. The accelerated pace of living that he typified gathered still greater speed in the ensuing years. The remaining four decades of the nineteenth century brought about the rapid maturing of the legal order in Illinois. Before the beginning of a new century, an operating...

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Epilogue

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pp. 207-212

The legal history of Illinois is of special significance in the development of law in the United States. Settlement of the Illinois country began early and proceeded at an extremely rapid pace because of its position on the Great Lakes and the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. This rapid growth intensified the problems attending the expansion of population into a new territory. The...

Notes

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pp. 213-240

Index

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pp. 241-250

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About the Author, Back Cover

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p. 250

Roger L. Severns (1906–61) earned degrees from Beloit College and Chicago Kent College of Law and earned his juris doctor degree in 1938 from the University of Chicago Law School. Severns taught law at Chicago Kent College of Law and practiced law at the firm of Isham, Lincoln, and Beale before leaving that firm to form Parkhill, Severns, and...