Bernard Schwartz - Main Currents in American Legal Thought. PDF

PDF This work is the legal counterpart to Parrington's classic, Main Currents in American Thought. It is a history of the development of American legal thought both as a reflection of the nation's history and as a major contributor to that history. Schwartz shows how an American conception of law developed after Independence - one that stressed the consensual rather than the imperative element and which used the law as an instrument to meet the needs of the new nation. The great early jurists refashioned the common law as an agent for change and progress. As time went on, however, a more negative conception began to develop. It is the author's thesis that the emergence of formal legal education and the impact of slavery upon the law played significant parts in this development. His treatment of the last century concludes with an analysis of post-Civil War jurisprudence, when the negative conception of law became dominant. The last three chapters trace American legal thought since the 1881 publication of Holmes's Common Law, which foreshadowed the development of twentieth-century law, with its renewed emphasis on law as an instrument of social change. The life of the law in relation to that of the nation during a period of unprecedented change is stressed throughout. As with Parrington, the story is presented through the work of significant individuals. The result is a procession of the jurists who contributed to the development of American legal thought and how that development played a crucial part in the growth of the nation.

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