Monday, April 29, 2013

Recent acquisition: Joseph Story letter on bankruptcy law

This exciting acquisition is a letter from Joseph Story, the influential Harvard Law professor and legal scholar who served as an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court from 1812 until his death in 1845.  Story penned this letter to one William Tudor, Esq. in the midst of his tenure on the Supreme Court. 

The contents show a rare glimpse into the opinion of an active Supreme Court justice on a matter before the U.S. Congress.  Story was a longtime supporter of federal bankruptcy legislation.  The first federal Bankruptcy Act, adopted in 1800, had been repealed in 1803. When this letter was written, Congress was considering a new bankruptcy bill, which Story clearly supported.  His correspondent, William Tudor, had asked for Story's support in securing a position as a Commissioner of Bankruptcy under the new legislation, if passed.  Story voices his support while noting that it's unclear who would have the power to make the appointment--the executive or the judiciary.  In the end, the law that was the subject of the letter failed to pass, but another one that Story actually helped draft was ultimately passed by Congress in 1841.  

The other pages of the letter are featured on our Facebook page.  Those interested in Justice Story and his writings would enjoy visiting the beautiful digital suite on Story created by the special collections staff at the Harvard Law Library.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Legal History Roundtable with Michael Hoeflich--Thursday, April 18th

Michael Hoeflich holds a B.A. and M.A. from Haverford College, a J.D. from Yale Law School and the M.A. and PhD from Cambridge University. He has taught at the University of Illinois, Syracuse University, and the University of Kansas and was dean of the law schools at Syracuse and Kansas. He is currently the John H. & John M. Kane Professor of Law at the University of Kansas. Among his publications are Roman and Civil Law & the Development of Anglo-American Jurisprudence (1998) and Legal Publishing in Antebellum America. 1780-1870 (2010).

Professor Hoeflich will discuss his work, "“From Scriveners to Secretaries: Legal Document Production in Nineteenth Century America."  

The Roundtable offers an opportunity for Boston College faculty and faculty from other area institutions, students, and members of the Boston College community to meet and discuss a pre-circulated paper in legal history. Meeting several times each semester, the Roundtable seeks to promote an informal, collegial atmosphere of informed discussion.

The talk will be held in the Law Library Conference Room (279), which is located behind the Rare Book Room.  Please take a look at the current exhibit in the Rare Book Room, which features books on Roman law that were gifted to the law library by Professor Hoeflich in 2009 and 2012.

Refreshments will be served starting at 4:15pm, and the talk will begin at 4:30pm. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New acquisition: Granville Sharp's "A Tract on Duelling" (1773)

Granville Sharp (1735-1813) is perhaps best known as the initiator of the British abolitionist movement and an important force in bringing the end of slavery in Great Britain. His antislavery work "The law of retribution, or, A serious warning to Great Britain and her colonies : founded on unquestionable examples of God's temporal vengeance against tyrants, slave-holders, and oppressors," published in 1776, was massively influential in Britain and the rebelling American colonies. We proudly hold that title as well, thanks to a generous gift from Professor Daniel R. Coquillette.

This new acquisition is the second and final edition of Granville Sharp's Tract on Duelling, in which he rails against the legal acceptance of the practice of duelling. Sharp collects the writings of none less than Sir Edward Coke, Sir Matthew Hale, Lord Chief Justice Holt, and Henri Bracton to support his argument. Sharp wrote pamphlets on a variety of topics, and many, including this one, are quite impassioned. He goes right to the point in his Preface, writing that

"[t]he intention of the following Tract is to prove that the plea of sudden Anger cannot remove the imputation and guilt of Murder, when a Moral Wound is willfully given with a weapon:

That the indulgence allowed by the Courts to voluntary Manslaughter in Rencounters, and in sudden Affrays and Duels, is indiscriminate, and without foundation in Law:

And that the impunity in such cases of voluntary Manslaughter is one of the principal causes of the continuance and present increase of the vase and disgraceful practice of Duelling."

Sharp ends the tract with even stronger language, stating that it is disgraceful that the protectors of duelling "still persist in the unreasonable and unjust practice of punishing lesser crimes with more severity than the crying Sin of voluntary Manslaughter, which, as I have already proved in my preface, is absolutely unpardonable in this World, by the Law of God!"