Rare Books Blog

February 9, 2013

Affiliation with Yale helped to insure the continuity of Hitchcock and Daggett’s school. The others did not survive. Gilbert closed his school in Hebron around 1818. We’re not sure why, but he was probably responding to a combination of professional obligations, including his term in the U.S. Congress in 1818-1820, and advancing age. The Windham school ended with Swift’s death in 1823; ill health and declining enrollments led Gould to close the Litchfield Law School in 1833. From then, Yale remained the only law school in the state until the establishment of the University of Connecticut Law School in 1921.

Yale College diploma, 1852 July 1, awarding William Thomas Marsh the degree of Bachelor of Laws. [Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

An early example of a Yale Law School diploma. A North Carolinian, William T. Marsh (1830-1862) graduated with honors, returned home, and became a distinguished member of the North Carolina bar. In 1860 he represented Beaufort County in the state House of Representatives. Though he opposed secession, he chose to serve his state when it joined the Confederacy. In 1861 he became an officer in a local militia regiment, the Pamlico Rifles, and was fatally wounded during the Battle of Antietam.

-- 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

Baldwin, Simeon E. “Zephaniah Swift.” In Great American Lawyers (William Draper Lewis; ed.; Philadelphia: John C. Winston Company, 1907-1909).

Fisher, Samuel H. Litchfield Law School 1774-1833: Biographical Catalogue of Students. Yale Law Library Publications, no. 11. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1946.

Forgeus, Elizabeth. “An Early Connecticut Law School: Sylvester Gilbert’s School at Hebron.” 35 Law Library Journal 200-203 (1942).

Forgeus, Elizabeth. “Sylvester Gilbert’s Law School at Hebron, Connecticut: The Students.” 39 Law Library Journal 49-52 (1946).

Hicks, Frederick C. Yale Law School: The Founders and the Founders’ Collection. Yale Law Library Publications, no. 1. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1935.

Hoeflich, Michael H. Legal Publishing in Antebellum America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Klafter, Craig Evan. Reason Over Precedents: Origins of American Legal Thought. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Klafter, Craig Evan. “The Americanization of Blackstone’s Commentaries.” In Essays on English Law and the American Experience (Elisabeth A. Cawthon & David E. Narrett, eds.; College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1994).

Langbein, John H. “Blackstone, Litchfield, and Yale: The Founding of Yale Law School.” In A History of the Yale Law School: The Tercentennial Lectures (Anthony T. Kronman, ed.; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).

Langbein, John H. “Law School in a University: Yale’s Distinctive Path in the Later Nineteenth Century.” In A History of the Yale Law School: The Tercentennial Lectures (Anthony T. Kronman, ed.; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).

The Litchfield Ledger, <http://www.litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org/ledger>. A biographical database of students at the Litchfield Law School and Litchfield Female Academy, provided by the Litchfield Historical Society.

McKenna, Marian C. Tapping Reeve and the Litchfield Law School. New York: Oceana, 1986.

Reed, Alfred Zantzigner. Training for the Public Profession of the Law: Historical Development and Principal Contemporary Problems of Legal Education in the United States, with Some Account of Conditions in England and Canada. New York: Charles Scribners’s Sons, 1921.

White, G. Edward. “Law and Entrepreneurship.” In White, Law in American History, Volume 1: From the Colonial Years Through the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

The image: Zephaniah Swift, A System of the Laws of the State of Connecticut, vol. 1 (Windham: Printed by John Byrne, for the author, 1795-1796). Ownership signature of Samuel W. Southmayd (1773-1813), a student at the Litchfield Law School in 1793. Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

“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

We sincerely thank the following individuals for their help in making this exhibit possible.
      – Michael von der Linn & Michael Widener

 

Virginia Apple
State of Connecticut Judicial Branch

Whitney Bagnall

Kate Baldwin
Litchfield Historical Society

The Hon. Henry S. Cohn

Judge of the Connecticut Superior Court

Linda Hocking
Litchfield Historical Society

Shana Jackson
Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School

Mark Jones
Connecticut State Library

Debra R. Kroszner
Office of Public Affairs, Yale Law School

Bill Landis
Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University Library

Christine Pittsley
Connecticut State Library

Emma Molina Widener
Southern Connecticut State University

 

The image: Catalogue of the Litchfield Law School, from 1793 to 1827 inclusive (Litchfield, Conn.: S. S. Smith, 1828). Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

“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

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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