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1783-1815: Law and Justice: Chronology

1783-1815: Law and Justice: Chronology




  • The Treaty of Paris is signed and establishes the legitimacy of Loyalist land claims.
  • The Commonwealth of Massachusetts forbids slavery.


  • Tapping Reeve opens the first proprietary law school in Litchfield, Connecticut.


  • The state of New York outlaws slavery.


  • Pennsylvania experiments with penal reform through the wheelbarrow law, a statute that requires convicts to labor on public works projects.
  • New Jersey outlaws slavery.


  • Benjamin Rush writes An Enquiry into the Effects of Public Punishments Upon Criminals, and Upon Society, a treatise against capital punishment.
  • 25 Jan. Gen. William Shepherd routs insurgents under Daniel Shays at Springfield, Massachusetts.


  • 21 June New Hampshire becomes the ninth state to ratify the Constitution. With this ratification the Constitution becomes effective.


  • 24 Sept. Congress passes the Judiciary Act.
  • 26 Sept. Congress confirms President George Washingtons appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.


  • 1 Feb. The first meeting of the U.S. Supreme Court occurs in New York City.
  • 15 Dec. James Wilson begins his law lectures at the College of Philadelphia.


  • Congress passes an excise or internal tax on whiskey.


  • In Moore v. Cherry the South Carolina Supreme Court affirms the power of a judge to instruct a jury on the law.


  • A decision is rendered in Chisholm v. Georgia, allowing a state to be sued by a citizen of another state.
  • The College of William and Mary graduates Americas first law-degree candidate.




  • In Ware v. Hylton the Supreme Court declares that federal treaties supersede state laws.
  • John Adams is elected President of the United States.
  • 4 Mar. Oliver Ellsworth is confirmed as Chief Justice.




  • Fries Rebellion occurs in eastern Pennsylvania.



  • John Jay refuses reappointment as U.S. Supreme Court chief justice.
  • 4 Feb. John Marshall is sworn in as chief justice.
  • 13 Feb. Congress enacts a new Judiciary Act.
  • 3 Mar. The Sedition Act expires.


  • Congress repeals the Naturalization Act.
  • Congress repeals the Judiciary Act of 1801.




  • 4 Feb. Justice Samuel Chases trial begins in the Senate.
  • 1 Mar. Chase is acquitted of all charges.


  • 8 June George Wythe dies.
  • 14 Dec. Thomas Jeffersons second appointment to the Supreme Court, Henry Brockhoist Livingston, is confirmed as associate justice.


  • Congress enacts the Embargo Act.
  • 3 Aug. Aaron Burr goes on trial for treason.
  • 1 Sept. Burr is found not guilty by a circuit court in Richmond, Virginia, on the grounds that he was not present when an overt act of treason was committed.


  • Supreme Court Justice William Johnson defies President Thomas Jefferson and refuses to enforce the Embargo Act.


  • In the United States v. Peters the Supreme Court declares that a state legislature cannot reverse a federal court decree.


  • The Supreme Court renders an opinion in Fletcher v. Peck, declaring that a state legislature cannot abrogate a contract.


  • Justice Samuel Chase dies.
  • 18 Nov. Joseph Story and Gabriel Duvall are confirmed as associate justices.


  • In the United States v. Hudson & Goodwin the Supreme Court holds that no federal court could exercise common law jurisdiction in criminal cases.


  • The American Blackstone St. George Tucker is nominated to the circuit court in Virginia.


  • 24 Aug. British troops capture Washington, D.C., and burn most of the public buildings. The Supreme Court chamber, located in a first-floor room in the Capitol, is gutted, and whatever furniture, books, and records remain are vandalized.


  • Feb. Temporary quarters for the Supreme Court are established in the Pennsylvania Avenue home of Elias Caldwell, the court clerk.

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