Dane, Nathan (1752–1835)

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DANE, NATHAN (1752–1835)

A loyal graduate of Harvard College, Nathan Dane of Beverly, Massachusetts, became a lawyer, politician, and scholar. In 1787, while representing his state in Congress, he single-handedly composed the northwest ordinance. Its provision outlawing slavery derived from Thomas Jefferson's land ordinance of 1785, but Dane deserves credit for writing the various other provisions that amounted to the first national bill of rights. It included, too, a precursor of the contract clause.

After serving in various state offices, Dane was forced by deafness to retire to his law practice and to legal scholarship as the century ended. Although he attended the hartford convention, he spent most of his energies on a compendium of American law, published in eight volumes between 1820 and 1829 and known as "Dane's Abridgment." The work earned him the name of "the American Blackstone" and the money that he gave to develop Harvard Law School. Dane Hall was the first building and Dane himself chose the first Dane Professor, Justice joseph story.

Leonard W. Levy


Johnson, Andrew W. 1986 The Life and Constitutional Thought of Nathan Dane. New York: Garland Publishing.