Law, Labor, and Ideology in the Early American Republic

Law, Labor, and Ideology in the Early American Republic

Christopher L. Tomlins

Language: English

Pages: 428

ISBN: 0521438578

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Law, Labor, and Ideology in the Early American Republic is a fundamental reinterpretation of law and politics in America between 1790 and 1850, the crucial period of the Republic's early growth and its movement toward industrialism. The book is the most detailed study yet available of the intellectual and institutional processes that created the foundation categories framing all the basic legal relationships involving working people at work. But it also brings out the political and social significance of those categories, and of law's role in their creation. Tomlins argues that it is impossible to understand outcomes in the interaction between law and labor during the early Republic unless one also understands the preeminence that legal discourse was assuming at the time in American society as a whole, and the particular social and political reasons for that preeminence. Because of the breadth and novelty of its interpretation this is a book not just for those interested in the history of law or the history of labor, but for anyone interested in the broad stream of American political and social history.

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creation of useful artifacts to the general benefit of their society, had been significantly overshadowed among those who labored by a distinctly different identification of labor with exploitation, the accumulation of capital and the securing of profit by employers at the expense of those who worked for them.26 Accompanying this change, and a key element in it, was the growth of an awareness that the supposedly freely bargained relationship into which workers entered with their employers was in

as to combine in our own defence. We would, therefore, recommend to our brethren throughout the Commonwealth and the Union, to organize themselves into associations, which, by mutual correspondence, may bring about a concert of action between all the workingmen of the country.31 To the Workingmen of Charlestown, one clear consequence of association - a consequence which Manning forty years before had not dwelt on and indeed had had no reason to think about - was that it offered them an

eds., Working-Class Formation: Nineteenth-Century Patterns in Western Europe and the United States (Princeton, 1986), 157—96. If the Workingmen of Charlestown are any guide, the development of the "new sense of class" which Bridges sees as a post-1850 phenomenon must be allowed to have been under way at least a decade earlier. For a different assessment, see Victoria Hattam, Labor Visions and State Power: The Origins of Business Unionism in the United States (Princeton, 1992). 14 Prologue: two

point of a "remarkable process by which the judiciary in America suddenly emerged out of its colonial insignificance to become by 1800 the principal means by which popular legislatures were controlled and limited" - is also noteworthy {The Radicalism of the American Revolution [New York, 1992}, 323). Given these conclusions, it is puzzling that Wood's account of the politics and culture of the early republic in fact has almost nothing to say about law. 26 Law: the modality of rule

drew the full title of Wythe's foundation chair to my attention.) Herbert Baxter Adams is one of the few historians to have seen any significance in the title Jefferson chose for the William and Mary chair. Adams used it to point to Jefferson's curricular innovations at the college 36 Police: the pursuit of happiness As we have seen in Chapter 1, historians of American law have dedicated considerable energy to detailing the prominent role of law in the formation of the early republic. They

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