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Legitimating the Law

John Phillip Reid

Publication Year: 2012

John Phillip Reid is one of the most highly regarded historians of law as it was practiced on the state level in the nascent United States. He is not just the recipient of numerous honors for his scholarship but the type of historian after whom such accolades are named: the John Phillip Reid Award is given annually by the American Society for Legal History to the author of the best book by a mid-career or senior scholar. Legitimating the Law is the third installment in a trilogy of books by Reid that seek to extend our knowledge about the judicial history of the early republic by recounting the development of courts, laws, and legal theory in New Hampshire. Here Reid turns his eye toward the professionalization of law and the legitimization of legal practices in the Granite State—customs and codes of professional conduct that would form the basis of judiciaries in other states and that remain the cornerstone of our legal system to this day throughout the U.S. Legitimating the Law chronicles the struggle by which lawyers and torchbearers of strong, centralized government sought to bring standards of competence to New Hampshire through the professionalization of the bench and the bar—ambitions that were fought vigorously by both Jeffersonian legislators and anti-Federalists in the private sector alike, but ultimately to no avail.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-10

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One—The Arena of the Giants

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pp. 3-18

If the discipline of American legal history were as completely researched as scholars could wish, the judicial history of state-court systems would largely be a history of comparisons. To best trace the development and progress of the judiciary of a state, we would compare that development...

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Two—An Unschooled Judge

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pp. 19-39

During the year that the eighteenth century turned into the nineteenth, William Plumer, Jeremiah Smith, and other New Hampshire lawyers working to reform the state’s judicial system thought that the main difficulty they faced was the low compensation that the state paid to its judges. Next,...

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Three—Federalist Indian Summer

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pp. 40-49

We must go back to the decade before Jeremiah Smith first became a judge, to the first week of 1793, and a moment when William Plumer pretended to be annoyed. “My patience is exhausted,” he wrote Smith. “Every week, for near two months, when the post called at my door, I have in vain anxiously...

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Four—Federalist Apostate

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pp. 50-62

The uniqueness of Jeremiah Smith’s service as chief justice was one of the very few aspects of New Hampshire governance about which the Federalists and Republicans were able to agree during the first decade of the nineteenth century. When it was believed that he would resign because...

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Five—A “Law” Governor

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pp. 63-80

Jeremiah Smith had been chief justice for less than a year when the Republicans spread stories that he was slated to replace John Taylor Gilman as the next Federalists’ gubernatorial candidate. Instead Gilman was replaced as governor by Republican John Langdon who was so popular that his...

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Six—In Judicial Depths

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pp. 81-98

In turn-of-the-century New Hampshire, “election day” was not the day people voted, but the first day of the legislature’s June term, the day when the two houses of the General Court met in joint session and counted the returns from the towns and certified the winners of elections. On...

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Seven—Legislative Hegemony

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pp. 99-113

The election of 1813 was a New Hampshire political watershed, and many people expected that year’s General Court would become one of the most memorable in history. It was memorable but not for the reasons that people had anticipated. It was memorable only for legislation reshaping...

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Eight—Dependent Court, Reluctant Chief

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pp. 114-130

The legislature of 1813, the first that was Federalist controlled since 1802, “has generated and brought forth a monster,” the New-Hampshire Patriot complained of the new Judicial Act. “The Legislature of this state,” the Gazette agreed, “have attempted to prostate in the dust the independence...

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Nine—Contesting Courts

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pp. 131-150

Doubts concerning the wisdom, political propriety, and constitutionality of the Judicial Act of 1813 were not the only reason that Jeremiah Smith hesitated in accepting the appointment to a second term as chief justice. It was important to him to learn who his associate justices would be. He...

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Ten—Judicial Interregnum

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pp. 151-169

“The Judiciary department of the state government upon the stability and independence of which depend the security and happiness of the people is now in a condition at once unprecedented and melancholy,” Portsmouth’s Gazette bemoaned during the week that Chief Justice Jeremiah Smith allowed his...

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Eleven—Addressing Out the Judges

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pp. 170-178

The thesis can be confidently asserted and plausibly defended that the election of 1816 was the most memorable in New Hampshire history for two reasons: First, starting with its victory that year, the Democratic Party would be absolutely dominate in the state for two decades—until John...

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Twelve—A Receptionist Court

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pp. 179-192

By legislating from office Jeremiah Smith and Arthur Livermore, and then addressing the two off the court along with every other ex-judge then living, the Republicans had taken the first two steps in their program to reinstitute the Superior Court and place it under the control of the political majority....

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Thirteen—Judicial Legacy

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pp. 193-212

After appointing the three judges of the new Superior Court, Governor Plumer surely had the right to expect that his problems with the judiciary were behind him. With his party in absolute control of the government, there was no chance that lawyers could bring back any reforms of Smith’s...


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pp. 213-242

Short Titles

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pp. 243-255

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pp. 257-258

Support for research was provided by the Filomen D’Agostino and Max E. Greenberg Faculty Research Fund at New York University School of Law and by Richard L. Revesz, dean of the School of Law. Research was made easier and convenient by the professional competence, help, and...


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pp. 259-267

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090593
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875804514

Page Count: 252
Publication Year: 2012