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Property Law as Labor Control in the Postbellum South

27 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2011 Last revised: 10 Dec 2012

Brian Sawers

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: November 12, 2011


After the Civil War, state legislatures criminalized trespass, restricted hunting and fishing, and closed the range. Earlier studies cannot agree whether these changes in property law were motivated by racism or inevitably resulted from economic progress. This Article presents a more complete picture of the South and reports evidence that legal change was motivated by labor control. Like other legal change in the postbellum South, planters sought new laws to coerce blacks into working for low wages and under poor conditions.

Keywords: Reconstruction, open range, fence law, game laws, trespass

JEL Classification: J15, J43, K11, N41

Suggested Citation

Sawers, Brian, Property Law as Labor Control in the Postbellum South (November 12, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Brian Sawers (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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