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Title: Statutory Interpretation and Judicial Authority, 1776-1860
Authors: Peterson, Farah
Advisors: Hartog, Hendrik
Contributors: History Department
Subjects: History
American history
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation is a history of statutory interpretation from the founding period to the Civil War. It focuses less on dry methods of interpretation and more on both the politics of interpretation as an encounter between legislative and judicial branches of government in a developing nation and the vexed problem of which institutions had the right to define the intentions and will of “the people.” The first chapter gives a sense of the scope of legislative power in colonial America and includes a discussion of British Parliamentary claims to judicial authority. It then moves on to the revolutionary and immediate post-revolutionary period, and shows that while legislative power remained very broadly defined, state legislatures were not the only claimants to that power, but had to contend with competition from towns, county conventions, and other, smaller groups. Legislatures had therefore not yet achieved the dominance over law-making authority necessary to make statutory interpretation a meaningful category. The chapter then touches on the birth of judicial review and explains why Americans were ready to embrace styles of statutory interpretation that allowed judges to assert authority over statutory meaning. The second chapter centers on Chancellor James Kent to show the rise of a new level of professionalism in judging and legislation. Kent’s was an era in judicial history in which judges partnered with legislatures to make law. This critical formative period in American law helped create the conditions for consistent interpretation of statutes among the states and application of those statutes within the context of common law background norms. The final chapter shows how the politics of Jacksonianism shaped a turn to jurisprudential formalism, the beginning of legal science, and the birth of modern “separation of powers” ideas. It discusses jurisprudence in the context of constitutional conventions during the Jacksonian era, which changed both legislatures’ and judiciaries’ duties and redefined legislation along modern lines. The chapter also ties changes in the jurisprudence of interpretation to new ways of legitimizing judicial power.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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