Rare Books Blog

March 22, 2013

From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843
An exhibition talk
by Michael von der Linn

Connecticut gave birth to the earliest American law schools, one of which lives on today as the Yale Law School. A March 27 talk at the Yale Law School will delve into the school’s origins.

The speaker, Michael von der Linn, is guest curator of the Yale Law Library’s current exhibition, “From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843.” Since 2001, von der Linn has been Manager of the Antiquarian Book Department at The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., one of the world’s leading dealers in antiquarian law books. He holds a Ph.D. in musicology from Columbia University. Von der Linn has an ongoing interest in the history of American legal education. The Summer 2010 issue of The Green Bag included his article, “Harvard Law School’s Promotional Literature, 1829-1848.”

The talk, entitled “From Litchfield to Yale: Footnotes to the Exhibit,” takes place at 2pm on Wednesday, March 27, in Room 122 of the Sterling Law Building (127 Wall Street) on the Yale University campus. The talk is free and open to the public.

The exhibition is open to the public, 9am-10pm daily through May 31, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery of the Lillian Goldman Law Library. It was curated by Michael von der Linn and Mike Widener, the Law Library’s Rare Book Librarian. It can also be viewed online here in the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog.

March 4, 2013

The Legal History and Rare Books Special Interest Section (LHRB-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries, in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Fourth annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition.

The competition is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School. Professor Cohen was a leading scholar in the fields of legal research, rare books, and historical bibliography.

The purpose of the competition is to encourage scholarship in the areas of legal history, rare law books, and legal archives, and to acquaint students with the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and law librarianship.

Eligibility: Students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, or related fields are eligible to enter the competition. Both full- and part-time students are eligible. Membership in AALL is not required.

Requirements: Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website: http://www.aallnet.org/sis/lhrb/. Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., April 1, 2013.

Awards: The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses associated with attendance at the AALL Annual Meeting. The runner-up will have the opportunity to publish the second-place essay in LH&RB’s online scholarly journal Unbound: An Annual Review of Legal History and Rare Books.

Please direct questions to Robert Mead at or Maguerite Most at .

February 18, 2013

The news of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation brings to mind an image from our rare book collection that illustrates a previous papal resignation, that of Pope Celestine V. Celestine appears together with his successor, Boniface VIII, in an image at the opening of a 1514 edition of the Liber Sextus: Sextus decretalium liber a Bonifacio. viij. in concilio Lugdunensi editus (Venice: Luca Antonio Giunta, 1514). The Liber Sextus formed part of the Corpus Juris Canonici ("The Body of Canon  Law") that served as the foundation of canon law in the Catholic Church from the Middle Ages until 1917. 

It is unsurprising to find images of Boniface VIII at the opening of the Liber Sextus, since he is the pope who ordered its compilation. It is surprising to find such unflattering images. The woodcut depicts two scenes from Boniface's life.

In the foreground, Boniface embraces a fox who pulls the papal tiara from the head of his predecessor, Celestine V. A dove over Celestine's head symbolizes the Holy Spirit conferring its blessing upon Celestine. In essence, the image repeats the accusation that Boniface tricked the saintly Celestine into resigning.

Celestine V had been a monk renowned for his piety and asceticism, who founded a strict branch of the Benedictines. A divided College of Cardinals elected him in July 1294 after having failed for over two years to elect one of their own. The new pope accepted his election reluctantly, and soon concluded that he was unfit and unwilling to continue to serve as pope. Some sources say Celestine's decision to resign was his alone, while others say Cardinal Benedetto Gaetani, the future Boniface VIII, goaded and tricked him into resigning. All agree that Boniface drafted the papal constitution authorizing a pope's resignation. Boniface was elected pope immediately afterward, in December 1294. Celestine tried to return to a hermit's life, but he died as Boniface's prisoner in 1296. Celestine was canonized in 1313.

Interestingly, Pope Benedict XVI visited Celestine's remains in 2009, after they had survived the L'Aquila earthquake (see photos here). He proclaimed the Celestine Year from 28 August 2009 to 28 August 2010, to mark the 800th anniversary of Celestine's birth.

On the right of the image shown here is a scene from the end of Boniface VIII's papacy, in 1303. He was taken prisoner by the powerful Colonna clan of Rome, with whom Boniface carried on a bitter and bloody feud. The Colonnas and their ally, King Philip IV of France, demanded Boniface's resignation, to which Boniface replied that he would "sooner die." His wish was granted a few days later. It was Philip IV who later nominated Celestine V for sainthood.

Both Boniface and Celestine make appearances in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. Dante places Boniface in the eighth circle of Hell, reserved for those guilty of simony. Dante's exile from Florence was a direct result of Boniface VIII's political machinations, and Boniface was "Dante's most reviled theological, political, and personal enemy" (Danteworlds website, University of Texas at Austin). Celestine V is believed to be the coward beside the gate of Hell who made "the great refusal" by abdicating the papacy and paving the way for Boniface's election as pope.

For citations to scholarly writings on papal resignations in the Middle Ages, see "The first papal abdication since six centuries", a posting in the excellent Rechtsgeschiedenis Blog, "Legal history with a Dutch view." The Wikipedia articles on Celestine V and Boniface VIII provide additional details and links to additional sources.

-- MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

 

February 9, 2013

Until the end of the nineteenth century most students prepared for the bar through an apprenticeship or self-study. These methods were often criticized by elite lawyers, who believed legal education would be more rigorous and thorough if it was taught in a classroom. By the late-eighteenth century a few colleges offered law lectures, beginning in 1779 with the College of William and Mary, but these lectures were designed not to train lawyers, but rather to educate future political leaders and businessmen.

Vocational legal education in America began with Tapping Reeve’s establishment of the Litchfield Law School in 1784. The success of Reeve’s program, and its perceived value, inspired the establishment of three other schools in Connecticut: Seth Staples’s in New Haven, Zephaniah Swift’s in Windham, and Sylvester Gilbert’s in Hebron.

Into the second decade of the nineteenth century Connecticut had more law schools than any other state in the union. Their proprietors had similar backgrounds. Born into comfortable circumstances, they were mostly graduates of Yale College, who became some of Connecticut’s leading attorneys. Their ability at the bar brought them wealth, fame, and high social status. They tended to be politically and socially conservative. Civic-minded and active in politics, they were involved in public service as legislators, judges, and local officials.

(1) Litchfield Law School. Years of operation: 1782-1833. Proprietor: Tapping Reeve, 1782-1820, James Gould, 1820-1833. Instructor: James Gould, 1798-1820. Number of students: 1,000+. (2) New Haven Law School. Years of operation: c.1800-1826. Proprietor: Seth Staples, c.1800-1824, Samuel Hitchcock, 1824-1826. Instructor: Samuel Hitchcock, 1820-1824, David Daggett, 1824-1826. Number of students: 67+ (lists of students prior to 1819 are unknown). (3) Gilbert’s Law School, Hebron. Years of operation: 1810-1818. Proprietor: Sylvester Gilbert. Number of students: 56. (4) Swift’s Law School, Windham. Years of operation: 1805-1823. Proprietor: Zephaniah Swift. Number of students: 12+ (records incomplete).

– Notes by Michael von der Linn

Map: Amos Doolittle & Mathew Carey, “Connecticut From the Best Authorities,” in The general atlas for Carey’s edition of Guthrie’s Geography improved (Philadelphia: Mathew Carey, 1795). Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

“From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843,” curated by Michael von der Linn and Michael Widener, is on display through May 30, 2013, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 9, 2013

“Advertisement.” In Catalogue of the Litchfield Law School, from 1793 to 1827 inclusive (Litchfield, Conn.: S. S. Smith, 1828). [Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

For the most part, Connecticut law schools attracted students through the reputation of their instructors and the recommendations of former students. As indicated here, they also relied on circulars and advertisements. Several were published in prominent regional and national periodicals. Litchfield’s course was completed in fourteen months, but students were welcome to attend for briefer periods. The other three schools adopted Litchfield’s schedule (and charged similar fees).

John C. Calhoun, Letter of introduction to Tapping Reeve, 1810 Feb. 10. Courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society.

The reputation of the Connecticut schools attracted students from nearby states and, over time, other regions of the country. John C. Calhoun, a future U.S. Senator, cabinet secretary, and Vice President trained at Litchfield, is a distinguished example. In this letter he introduces William Martin, a fellow South Carolinian who will be attending Litchfield. Martin did not choose Litchfield due to a lack of options in the South; by 1810 there were good law schools in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Certificate of Charles Adams’s attendance at Litchfield Law School lectures in the summer of 1812, signed by Tapping Reeve, 1812 Aug. 2. [Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Certificate of Elijah P. Grant’s studies at Yale Law School from August 1831 to April 1832, signed by David Daggett and Samuel J. Hitchcock, 1832 Dec. 22. [Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

In most cases, bar associations would not admit a candidate to his examination unless he submitted a testimonial letter that confirmed his satisfactory completion of an apprenticeship. Applicants trained at law schools were not excluded from this requirement.

– Notes by Michael von der Linn

“From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843,” curated by Michael von der Linn and Michael Widener, is on display through May 30, 2013, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Tapping Reeve
February 9, 2013

Engraving by Peter Maverick, 1820, based on a portrait by George Catlin. Reproduced courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society.

Tapping Reeve (1744-1823)

  • B.A., Princeton, 1763, M.A., 1766.
  • Read law in Hartford under Judge Jesse Root, later chief justice of Connecticut.
  • Judge of the Connecticut Superior Court, 1798-1815, chief judge, 1815-1816.
  • Author of The Law of Baron and Femme (1816) and A Treatise on the Law of Descents in the Several United States of America (1825).

 

James Gould (1770-1838)

  • B.A., Yale, 1791, LL. D, 1819.
  • Received his legal education at Litchfield Law School.
  • Judge of the Supreme Court of Connecticut, 1816-1818.
  • Author of Principles of Pleading in Civil Actions (1832).

 

Oil on canvas, by Samuel L. Waldo. Reproduced courtesy of the Yale Law School.

 

 

 

 

 

Zephaniah Swift (1759-1823)

  • B.A., Yale 1778, M.A. 1781, LL.D., 1815.
  • Appears to have been self-educated as a lawyer.
  • Judge of the Connecticut Superior Court, 1801-1806, chief justice 1806-1819; Connecticut State Assemblyman, 1787-1793, 1820-1822; representative, U.S. Congress, 1793-1797.
  • Author of System of the Laws of the State of Connecticut (1795-1796) and Digest of the Laws of the State of Connecticut (1822-1823); compiler of Laws of the United States of America (1797), the first official digest of U.S. statutes.

Oil on canvas, by James Weiland, based on an engraving. Reproduced courtesy of the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch.

 

Sylvester Gilbert (1755-1846)

  • B.A., Dartmouth, 1775.
  • Read law in Hartford under Judge Jesse Root, later chief justice of Connecticut.
  • State attorney for Tolland County, 1786–1807; chief judge of the Tolland county court and judge of the probate court 1807–1818, 1820-1825; Connecticut State Assemblyman 1780–1812, 1815-1816; representative, U.S. Congress, 1818-1819.

From “Journal or chronicle of Sylvester Gilbert.” Reproduced courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

 

Seth P. Staples (1776-1861)

  • B.A., Yale, 1797, M.A., 1801.
  • Read law in New Haven under David Daggett.
  • Practiced in New Haven, later New York City; Connecticut State Assemblyman (representing New Haven), 1814-1816.

Oil on canvas, by Jared Bradley Flagg. Reproduced courtesy of the Yale Law School.

 

Samuel J. Hitchcock (1786-1845)

  • B.A., Yale, 1809, M.A. 1812, LL.D., 1842.
  • Attended Litchfield, studied in New Haven with Staples.
  • Judge of the New Haven County Court, 1838-1842; chief judge of the New Haven City Court, 1842-1844; mayor of New Haven, 1839-1841.

 

Oil on canvas, by Jared Bradley Flagg. Reproduced courtesy of the Yale Law School.

 

David Daggett (1764-1851)

  • B.A., Yale, 1781, LL.D., 1826.
  • Read law under Charles Chauncey, a distinguished New Haven lawyer.
  • Connecticut State Assemblyman, 1791-1804, 1809-1813; U.S. Senator, 1813-1819; associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, 1826-1832, chief justice, 1832-1834; mayor of New Haven, 1828-1829.

Oil on canvas, by Ulysses Dow Tenney, after a portrait by Nathaniel Jocelyn. Reproduced courtesy of the Yale Law School.

– Notes by Michael von der Linn

“From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843,” curated by Michael von der Linn and Michael Widener, is on display through May 30, 2013, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

 

 

February 9, 2013

Reeve, Gilbert, Gould, and Swift taught their students through lectures. This was the most common pedagogical system of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The lectures presented a synopsis and interpretation of a given topic, along with case summaries and references to authorities. Students would record the lectures as they were read, then edit and preserve them in notebooks.

Journal or chronicle of Sylvester Gilbert (1755-1846) of Hebron. Photostat. [Image cropped.] Reproduced courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The law schools at Litchfield, Hebron, and Windham used the lecture method throughout their existence. In this memoir Gilbert notes that he read a set of lectures based on two years of intensive research and study. Like Reeve, Gould, and Swift, Gilbert believed that he could transmit a complete summary of the law to his students.

 

 

James Gould, “Law School at Litchfield,” United States Law Journal and Civilian’s Magazine, vol. 1, no. 3 (Jan. 1823). [Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Gould emphasized the pedagogical value of taking lecture notes and organizing them in a notebook. It was also a practice that gave each student a “manual, or commonplace book, (including a repository of references,) to aid him in his professional practice.” Increasingly obsolete over the course of the nineteenth century, Gould’s method reflected an era when law books were scarce and expensive.

 

Litchfield Law School, Moothall Society. Continuation of reports of cases argued and determined in Moothall Society from August 5th 1797 to July 12 1798. Courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society.

In Litchfield and the other schools, students participated in moot courts and learned how to draft legal instruments. Hitchcock and Daggett also required occasional essays and presentations on legal topics.

– Notes by Michael von der Linn

“From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843,” curated by Michael von der Linn and Michael Widener, is on display through May 30, 2013, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

 

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