American Legal History


Syllabus, American Legal History

Shandong University Law School

Spring 2005


Professor Elizabeth Dale





All the materials listed below may be found on line at Cases and Materials: An Introduction to Legal History (click on the title or go to my webpage and click on the title there).


On line resources (free):




Grades for the course will be based on a seminar paper of ten pages. The subject of the paper will be assigned during lesson 4, the paper will be due the last week of classes.



Part I: Law in the Colonial Period


Lesson 1: Introduction to legal history


Lesson 2: Law in the Early Colonial Period: Massachusetts Bay

Winthrop’s Model of Christian Charity (1630)

The Pynchon Court Record (1639-1640)

Laws and Liberties (1649)



Part II: The Eighteenth Century: Revolution and Independence


Lesson 3: Independence and the Legal System: State Constitutions and Constitution-Making

Declaration of Independence (1776)

Constitution of Virginia (1776)

Constitution of Delaware (1776)


Lesson 4: Law in the states, the example of South Carolina’s courts

Records from the York County, South Carolina Court (1788)

Records from the York County, South Carolina Court (1796)


***Assignment of seminar paper topics***



Part III: Law and Social Order in the Nineteenth Century


Lesson 5: Promoting the Economy.

Dartmouth College (1819)

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)

Enfield Toll Bridge v. Connecticut River (Conn 1828)

Charles River Bridge Case (1837)


Lesson 6: Laws relating to people (Labor, the Law of Slavery, and Family Law).


Farwell v. Boston and Worcester Railroad (Mass 1842)

Commonwealth v. Hunt (Mass 1842)



State v. Mann (N.C. 1829)

Commonwealth v. Aves (Mass 1836)

Fugitive Slave Law (1850)


Family law:

Nickerson’s Case (N.Y. 1837)

Barry v. Mercein (N.Y. 1840)

Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments (1843)


Lesson 7: Crime and Punishment (juvenile justice)

De Beaumont and de Tocqueville on the American Penitentiary System (1833)

Brief History of Juvenile Justice

Illinois v. Turner (Illinois 1870)

Mansfield’s Case (Pennsylvania 1903)

Commonwealth v. Fisher (Pennsylvania 1905)


Lesson 8: Changes in tort law

Brown v. Kendall (Massachusetts 1850)

Thomas v. Winchester (New York 1852)

McPherson v. Buick Motor Co. (New York 1916)


Lesson 9: The Legal Profession: Lawyers and Judges in the 19th Century

“Beginnings of Columbia Law School in New York, 1858-1862”

Bradwell v. Illinois (1873)

Biography of Kate Kane Rossi, from Stanford University Law School’s Women’s Legal History Biography Project

“Judicial Corruption in New York City” (1869)


Lesson 10: Law and the status of minorities at the end of the Nineteenth Century

Civil Rights Cases (1883)

Plessy v. Fergusen (1896)

Baylies v. Curry I (1889)

Baylies v. Curry II (1889)



Part V: The 20th Century


Lesson 11: Law and the Economy at the beginning of the century

Holden v. Hardy (1898)

Lochner v. New York (1905)

Muller v. Oregon (1908)

Loewe v. Lawlor (1908)


Lesson 12: The Expanding Government: The New Deal

West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (1937)

Palko v. Connecticut (1937)

United States v. Carolene Products (1938)


Lesson 13: Brown v. Board of Education and Beyond  

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

Baker v. Carr (1962)

Loving v. Virginia (1967)


Lesson 14: From the Warren and Burger Courts to the End of the Twentieth Century

Mapp v. Ohio (1963)

Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)

Miranda v. Arizona (1966)

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

Roe v. Wade (1973)

Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992) (O’Connor opinion)

United States v. Lopez (1995)


Lesson 15: Wrap up