Jurisprudence at Davidson College Before the Civil War
35 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2014
Date Written: July 7, 2014
“Jurisprudence at Davidson College Before the Civil War” is an intensive exploration of the ideas about jurisprudence that were in circulation at Davidson College from its founding in 1838 until the Civil War. This article analyzes addresses to the two literary societies, addresses to alumni, and graduation speeches by alumni, attorneys, judges, politicians, and ministers in order to reconstruct antebellum law and political theory at Davidson College. This article employs the important methodology of examining college oratory in order to understand the cultural context of legal and political ideas across North Carolina. This article also finds that these ideas were predominantly those of the Whig Party; there was a focus on education, duty, morality, and internal improvements, as well as use of the legal system to create a well-ordered community. Together the speakers at Davidson College sought a prosperous Union and thus rejected ideas of nullification and secession. Whereas many other southern Whig colleges were often proponents of slavery and of secession, Davidson College reflected the more moderate legal and political philosophy of the North Carolina Whigs. In turn, an understanding of the ideas in circulation at a prestigious academic institution such as Davidson College allows for more complete analysis of contemporaneous decisions of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Such cultural context provides a fresh lens through which this article examines antebellum legal decisions in North Carolina involving property rights, slavery, and morality.
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