Property Law as Labor Control in the Postbellum South

33 Law and History Review 351

Posted: 9 Feb 2013 Last revised: 12 May 2015

See all articles by Brian Sawers

Brian Sawers

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: January 11, 2013


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, postbellum South, trespass, race, open range

JEL Classification: K11, N41, J15, J43

Suggested Citation

Sawers, Brian, Property Law as Labor Control in the Postbellum South (January 11, 2013). 33 Law and History Review 351, Available at SSRN:

Brian Sawers (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

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