Joel Bishop's Orthodoxy

Law and History Review, Vol. 13, p. 215, 1995

46 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2007

See all articles by Stephen A. Siegel

Stephen A. Siegel

DePaul University - College of Law


Most accounts of late-nineteenth-century legal thought focus on the jurisprudence of Christopher Columbus Langdell and his colleagues at the Harvard Law School. This paper, by studying Joel Bishop, a leading treatise writer whose jurisprudence was antithetical to the Harvard school, develops a more nuanced picture of the era of classical orthodoxy in American legal philosophy.

This article shows that Bishop, as compared to his contemporaries at Harvard, adhered to a more traditional, religiously informed jurisprudence that was antithetical to Langdell's more modern, positivist views. By studying Bishop's work, this article sheds new light on classical orthodoxy's genesis, popularity, and place in the development of American legal and social theory.

This Article argues that Bishop's mentalité is representative of the religiously informed scholar that dominated mid-nineteenth-century American intellectual life. At least to this extent, recovering Bishop's jurisprudence shows a unique world view that has been uncovered in other facets of nineteenth-century American culture extended into law. Studying Joel Bishop also shows that many classical legal scholars, unlike the secular and positivist jurists at Harvard, conceived law as a autonomous discipline that was nonetheless deeply rooted in morality and intimately connected with society.

This article shows that late-nineteenth-century legal thought was diverse project, and that it was part of the general transition of American intellectual life from an essentially religious to a typically secular undertaking.

Keywords: Jurisprudence, Legal History, Legal Formalism, Classical Legal Thought, Christopher Langdell, Legal Thought, Law and Religion, Philosophy, Moral Sense, Psychology

Suggested Citation

Siegel, Stephen A., Joel Bishop's Orthodoxy. Law and History Review, Vol. 13, p. 215, 1995, Available at SSRN:

Stephen A. Siegel (Contact Author)

DePaul University - College of Law ( email )

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