Series Title: Studies in Legal History
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press
Street Date: February 22, 1999
Item Number (DPCI): 247-60-7510
Origin: Made in the USA or Imported
This volume is the first comprehensive history of the evolving relationship between American slavery and the law from colonial times to the Civil War. As Thomas Morris clearly shows, racial slavery came to the English colonies as an institution without strict legal definitions or guidelines. Therefore, laws governing slaves and slavery had to be incorporated into the body of English common law that formed the basis of legal culture throughout the colonial South. Specifically, Morris demonstrates that there was no coherent body of law that dealt solely with slaves. Instead, more general legal rules concerning inheritance, mortgages, and transfers of property coexisted with laws pertaining only to slaves. According to Morris, southern lawmakers and judges struggled to reconcile a social order based on slavery with existing English common law (or, in Louisiana, with continental civil law). Because much was left to local interpretation, laws varied between and even within states. In addition, legal doctrine often differed from local practice. And, as Morris reveals, in the decades leading up to the Civil War, tensions mounted between the legal culture of racial slavery and the competing demands of capitalism and evangelical Christianity. Using a wide range of published and unpublished legal records from fifty countries and parishes, Morris offers a detailed and systematic analysis of cases as a means of establishing both what the doctrines concerning slavery were and how they were implemented.