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A Government of Laws Not of Precedents 1776-1876: The Google Challenge to Common Law Myth

British Journal of American Legal Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1, p. 141, 2015

University of Baltimore School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-22

115 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2015 Last revised: 14 Oct 2015

James R. Maxeiner

University of Baltimore - School of Law

Date Written: April 21, 2015

Abstract

Conventional wisdom holds that the United States is a common law country of precedents where, until the 20th century (the “Age of Statutes”), statutes had little role. Digitization by Google and others of previously hard to find legal works of the 19th century challenges this common law myth. At the Centennial in 1876 Americans celebrated that “The great fact in the progress of American jurisprudence…is its tendency towards organic statute law and towards the systematizing of law; in other words, towards written constitutions and codification.” This article tests the claim of the Centennial Writers of 1876 and finds it credible.

Keywords: common law, statutes, precedents, constitutions, written laws, civics, English law, 4th of July, codes, codification, revised statutes, legislation, government of laws, rule of law, David Dudley Field, Jefferson, John Madison, Joseph Story, James Wilson, Lincoln, systematizing

Suggested Citation

Maxeiner, James R., A Government of Laws Not of Precedents 1776-1876: The Google Challenge to Common Law Myth (April 21, 2015). British Journal of American Legal Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1, p. 141, 2015; University of Baltimore School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-22. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2597431

James R. Maxeiner (Contact Author)

University of Baltimore - School of Law ( email )

1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States
410-837-4628 (Phone)

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