1815-1850: Law and Justice: Chronology
1815-1850: Law and Justice: Chronology
- 5 Jan. The Hartford Convention proposes a series of constitutional amendments intended to reduce the political power of the South, including elimination of the Three-Fifths clause; a bar against consecutive presidents from the same state; and prohibitions against the admission of new states, imposition of another embargo, or declaration of war without the agreement of two-thirds of the states.
- Congress provides for publication of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, previously undertaken on an informal basis; Henry Wheaton is the first reporter appointed officially by the Court.
- Mar. Congress charters the Second Bank of the United States, which opens on 1 January 1817.
- 20 Mar. The U.S. Supreme Court announces its decision in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, upholding the constitutionality of Section 25 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which authorizes the Court to review state-court interpretations of the federal Constitution.
- Harvard Law School is established following the appointment of Massachusetts chief justice Isaac Parker as the Isaac Royall Professor of Law.
- The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules in Wightman v. Coates that a marriage engagement is a legally enforceable contract.
- 2 Feb. The U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, invalidating New Hampshire laws that revised the college charter to bring the institution under public control.
- 17 Feb. The U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in Sturges v. Crowninshield, ruling that congressional power to enact bankruptcy legislation does not preclude the states from passing insolvency laws but finding that the Contract clause bars the retrospective application of relief laws (that is, cancellation of debts formed prior to passage of the legislation).
- 6 Mar. The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the charter of the Bank of the United States against constitutional challenge in McCulloch v. Maryland, invalidating Maryland legislation that imposed a tax on a branch of the national bank.
- 15 May Congress adopts legislation identifying the international slave trade as piracy punishable by death.
- Kentucky abolishes imprisonment for debt.
- 3 Mar. The U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in Cohens v. Virginia, affirming the holding of Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee that Section 25 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 is constitutional.
- Joseph Story issues a circuit court ruling in La Jeune Eugénie, upholding American capture of a ship engaged in the African slave trade while flying the French flag. Story emphasizes that the slave trade is not only outlawed by France but is contrary to natural law.
- Kentucky senator Henry Clay files the first Supreme Court brief by an amicus curiae (“friend of the Court”) other than the federal government, in Green v. Biddle, which threatened the stability of land titles in Kentucky.
- The New York state penitentiary at Auburn implements a system of silent congregate labor during the day and solitary confinement at night.
- 31 July Chancellor James Kent leaves the New York bench upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of sixty.
- 19 Dec. The Senate confirms President James Monroe’s appointment of Smith Thompson of New York as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, replacing H. Brockholst Livingston.
- Yale Law School is established.
- 2 Mar. In Gibbors v. Ogden the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates a Staten Island ferry monopoly chartered by the state of New York, finding that the monopoly conflicts with congressional regulation of interstate commerce.
- 18 Mar. The U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in Osborn v. Bank of the United States, upholding the right of the Bank to sue state officials in federal court.
- Louisiana promulgates a civil code.
- 16 Mar. The U.S. Supreme Court finds, in the case of The Antelope, that the international slave trade is sanctioned by “the usages, the national acts, and the general assent” of participating countries.
- James Kent publishes the first volume of Commentaries on American Law.
- 9 May The Senate confirms President John Quincy Adams’s appointment of Robert Trimble of Kentucky as associate justice of the Supreme Court, replacing Thomas Todd; Trimble becomes the first federal judge to be elevated to the High Court.
- 18 Feb. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Ogden v. Saunders, holds by a 4-3 vote that states may enact insolvency statutes providing for the discharge of debts formed after passage of the legislation; Chief Justice Marshall files his only dissent in a constitutional case.
- 12 Mar. The U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in Brown v. Maryland, invalidating a state tax on imported goods.
- Richard M. Peters Jr. succeeds Henry Wheaton as reporter of the Supreme Court.
- Ohio abolishes imprisonment for debt.
- 17 Dec. President John Quincy Adams nominates John J. Crittenden to the Supreme Court to replace Robert Trimble; the Senate postpones action in anticipation of the inauguration of Andrew Jackson.
- 20 Dec. Georgia adopts legislation declaring Cherokee laws void as of 1 June 1830.
- Construction begins on the Eastern State Penitentiary in Cherry Hill, Pennsylvania.
- The Massachusetts penitentiary at Charlestown abolishes the practice of tattooing the words “Massachusetts State Prison” on inmates.
- Vermont and New Jersey abolish imprisonment for debt.
- 7 Mar. The Senate confirms President Jackson’s appointment of John McLean of Ohio as associate justice of the Supreme Court, replacing Robert Trimble.
- Lemuel Shaw is appointed chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, beginning three decades as one of the most influential judges in the country.
- The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules in Harvard College v. Armory that trustees will be held to the standards of a “prudent investor” in handling funds; by allowing trustees to put money into investments other than the traditional land mortgages and government bonds, the decision ushers in the modern trust company.
- 6 Jan. The Senate confirms President Andrew Jackson’s appointment of Henry Baldwin of Pennsylvania as associate justice of the Supreme Court, replacing Bushrod Washington.
- 12 Mar. The U.S. Supreme Court announces its decision in Craig v. Missouri, invalidating state issuance of loan certificates as a violation of the constitutional provision that prohibits states from issuing bills of credit.
- 18 Mar. In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia the U.S. Supreme Court holds that Cherokees are not a foreign state for purposes of invoking jurisdiction of federal courts.
- New York abolishes imprisonment for debt.
- Mississippi provides for popular election of all judges.
- 3 Mar. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Worcester v. Georgia, invalidates a Georgia law under which two missionaries had been convicted for living in Cherokee territory; the Court ruled that the statute infringed on federal jurisdiction over Indian affairs.
- Litchfield Law School closes.
- 16 Feb. The U.S. Supreme Court announces its decision in Barron v. Baltimore, holding that the Bill of Rights does not restrain state governments.
- The U.S. Supreme Court outlines basic principles of American copyright law in Wheaton v. Peters, holding that Supreme Court reporters do not hold copyright over the Court’s case opinions; the decision opens the way to rival case reporting systems.
- 18 Feb. William Wirt, distinguished Supreme Court advocate and U.S. attorney general under Presidents Monroe and Adams, dies at the age of sixty-two.
- Arkansas and the territory of Florida enact married women’s property legislation.
- 9 Jan. The Senate approves President Jackson’s nomination of James M. Wayne of Georgia as associate justice of the Supreme Court, replacing William Johnson; Wayne becomes the only incumbent of the House of Representatives to join the Court.
- 15 Jan. Following the death of Gabriel Duvall, President Jackson appoints Roger B. Taney to the Supreme Court; opponents led by Henry Clay and Daniel Webster postpone Senate action.
- 6 Mar. John Marshall dies after thirty-four years as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Congress establishes the U.S. Patent Office to centralize powers previously exercised by secretary of state and attorney general.
- 15 Mar. The Senate confirms President Jackson’s appointments of Roger B. Taney as chief justice of the Supreme Court and Philip P. Barbour of Virginia as associate justice of the Supreme Court (replacing Gabriel Duvall).
- 28 June James Madison dies, leaving a will that provides for posthumous publication of the notes he had taken during the Constitutional Convention.
- Responding to the toll of circuit riding on Supreme Court justices and the demand of Western states for representation on the Court, the Judiciary Act of 1837 provides for nine federal judicial circuits to replace the previous seven and increases the size of the Supreme Court from seven justices to nine.
- 11 Feb. The U.S. Supreme Court decides in Briscoe v. Bank of Commonwealth of Kentucky that the ruling of Craig v. Missouri is not violated by the issuance of notes by a state-chartered bank in which all stock is owned by the state government.
- 12 Feb. In Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge the U.S. Supreme Court rejects by a 4-3 vote a claim that a state charter of a bridge violated a monopoly implicitly granted by a previous state charter of another bridge over the same river.
- 8 Mar. The Senate confirms President Jackson’s appointments of John Catron of Tennessee and William Smith of Alabama to the two new seats as associate justices of the Supreme Court; Smith subsequently declines the appointment.
- 25 Sept. The Senate approves President Martin Van Buren’s appointment of John McKinley of Alabama to the new seat as associate justice of the Supreme Court, in place of William Smith.
- Charles Jared Ingersoll attacks “judicial vetoes” of legislation as contrary to majority rule in an essay titled “The Supreme Court of the United States, Its Judges and Jurisdiction” in The U.S. Magazine and Democratic Review, a forum for Jacksonian views.
- 21 Nov. After Americans on the northern border organize Hunter’s Lodges intended to overthrow the British government in Canada, President Martin Van Buren orders vigilant criminal prosecution of any violations of neutrality laws.
- Mississippi enacts a married-women’s property act; four of its five statutory provisions address a wife’s control over slaves.
- The Republic of Texas adopts a homestead exemption, insulating selected property from creditors.
- Rhode Island establishes the first railroad commission in the country.
- D’Hauteville v. D’Hauteville, a sensational Philadelphia child custody battle between a Swiss nobleman and a Boston textile heiress, sparks a widespread discussion of the increasing tendency to award the custody of children to the mother, “in the best interests of the child.”
- Pressured by the economic downturn, Congress passes bankruptcy legislation. Mississippi is the first state to adopt a homestead exemption, preventing creditors from seizing the homes of debtors; almost all others follow suit within two decades.
- 2 Mar. The Senate confirms President Martin Van Buren’s appointment of Peter V. Daniel of Virginia as associate justice of the Supreme Court, replacing Philip Barbour.
- 8 Mar. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. is born in Boston.
- 9 Mar. The U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in The Amistad, freeing Africans who had mutinied on the Spanish slave ship carrying them toward Cuba.
- The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Swift v. Tyson that state judicial decisions are not “laws” binding on federal courts presented with issues of state common law in cases between citizens of different states.
- Massachusetts chief justice Lemuel Shaw articulates the “fellow servant rule,” barring recovery for injuries caused by the negligence of a coworker, in Farwell v. Boston & Worcester Railroad Corporation.
- Shaw also rules in Commonwealth v. Hunt that labor unions, including those using boycotts to enforce closed shops, are not necessarily criminal conspiracies.
- New Hampshire becomes the first state to abolish all requirements for admission to the bar, except for solid moral character.
- 1 Mar. The U.S. Supreme Court, with its decision in Prigg v. Pennsylvania, invalidates a Pennsylvania law that limited the workings of the Fugitive Slave Act.
- The U.S. Supreme Court dismisses case reporter Richard Peters Jr. for incompetence.
- Joseph Story issues the first injunction for trademark infringement, upon the application of the manufacturer of “Taylor’s Persian Thread.”
- 31 Jan. The Senate rejects President John Tyler’s appointment of John C. Spencer of New York to the Supreme Court to replace Smith Thompson.
- 3 Mar. President Tyler appoints Reuben H. Walworth of New York to the Supreme Court to replace Smith Thompson.
- 15 Mar. The U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in Louisville Railroad Company v. Letson, holding that a corporation is to be treated for jurisdictional purposes as citizen of the state in which it was chartered; by reversing Bank of the United States v. Deveaux (1809), the Letson ruling made it easier for corporations to participate in federal court litigation involving citizens of different states.
- 5 June President Tyler appoints Edward King of Pennsylvania to the Supreme Court to replace Henry Baldwin.
- 17 June Reuben Walworth withdraws from consideration for the Supreme Court.
- 7 Feb. Edward King withdraws from consideration for the Supreme Court. President John Tyler appoints John M. Read of Pennsylvania to replace Henry Baldwin on the Supreme Court; the Senate takes no action on the nomination.
- 14 Feb. The Senate confirms President John Tyler’s appointment of Samuel Nelson of New York as associate justice of the Supreme Court, replacing Smith Thompson.
- 10 Sept. Joseph Story dies after thirty-four years as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Thomas M. Cooley, influential jurist of the Gilded Age, is admitted to the Michigan bar.
- Congress repeals the bankruptcy law of 1841.
- 3 Jan. The Senate confirms President James Polk’s appointment of Levi Woodbury of New Hampshire as associate justice of the Supreme Court, replacing Joseph Story.
- 22 Jan. The Senate rejects President Polk’s appointment of George W. Woodward of Pennsylvania to the Supreme Court to replace Henry Baldwin.
- 4 Aug. Twenty-seven months after the death of Supreme Court Justice Henry Baldwin, the Senate ends a protracted struggle over his replacement by confirming President Polk’s appointment of Robert Grier of Pennsylvania.
- Massachusetts establishes a state reform school for juvenile offenders.
- 6 Mar. In The License Cases the U.S. Supreme Court upholds state legislation requiring the licensing of establishments that sell liquor.
- 12 Dec. Jurist James Kent dies at the age of eighty-four.
- New York adopts the Field Code of Civil Procedure, drafted by David Dudley Field to simplify common-law rules for conducting litigation.
- The U.S. Supreme Court establishes time limits on oral arguments, allotting two hours for each side.
- The American Legal Association is founded to provide businessmen with references to “at least one prompt, efficient and trustworthy Lawyer in every shire-town and in each of the principal cities and villages of the Union,” illustrating the increase in long-distance commercial transactions.
- 3 Jan. The U.S. Supreme Court decides Luther v. Borden, holding that enforcement of the Guaranty clause of the Constitution, which promises each state a republican form of government, presents political questions not justiciable in the federal courts.
- Seven states enact legislation increasing the power of voters to choose judges; Michigan and Pennsylvania switch from appointed to elected supreme courts.
- In Brown v. Kendall, Massachusetts chief justice Lemuel Shaw sets forth the principle that liability for injuries caused in an accident will only result if the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care.
- 30 Aug. Harvard professor John Webster is executed in Boston for the murder of physician George Parkman, ending a sensational case.
- 18 Sept. President Millard Fillmore signs the Fugitive Slave Act.
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