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While scholars have rightly focused on the importance of the landmark opinions of the United States Supreme Court and its Chief Justice, John Marshall, in the rise in influence of the Court in the Early Republic, the crucial role of the circuit courts in the development of a uniform system of federal law across the nation has largely been ignored. This book highlights the contribution of four Associate Justices (Washington, Livingston, Story and Thompson) as presiding judges of their respective circuit courts during the Marshall era, in order to establish that in those early years federal law grew from the 'inferior courts' upwards rather than down from the Supreme Court. It does so after a reading of over 1800 mainly circuit opinions and over 2000 original letters, which reveal the sources of law upon which the justices drew and their efforts through correspondence to achieve consistency across the circuits. The documents examined present insights into momentous social, political and economic issues facing the Union and demonstrate how these justices dealt with them on circuit. Particular attention is paid to the different ways in which each justice contributed to the shaping of United States law on circuit and on the Court and in the case of Justices Livingston and Thompson also during their time on the New York State Supreme Court.
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About the Author
David Lynch is a retired English Circuit Judge, an Honorary Fellow and Visiting Research Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University, and a Master of the Bench of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple.
Table of Contents1. The Supreme Court Justices and the Circuit Court Experiment
A Team Effort
Why Washington, Livingston, Story, and Thompson?
2. The Federal Circuit Courts: Shaping Local and National Justice for an Emerging Republic
The Politics of Federal Law
The Grand Jury Charge: A Bond between Government and Citizen
The Circuit Court Discourse in the Constitutional Ratification and Senate Debates
The Jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Courts
'A Certain Uniformity of Decision in United States Law'
3. Bushrod Washington: The Role of Precedent and the Preservation of Vested Interests
A Federalist's Journey from Revolutionary Virginia to the Supreme Court
Justice Washington and the Role of Precedent in the Federal Legal System
Property Rights and Commercial Law on Circuit
States' Rights, the War of 1812, and Slavery
4. Henry Brockholst Livingston: Consolidating Mercantile Law
The Early Years: Political Allegiances: From Federalist to Republican
Commercial Law for New York State
A Republican on a Federalist Supreme Court
Maritime and Commercial Law for the United States
5. Joseph Story: Admiralty Expertise and the Importation of Common Law
A Modernising Influence on Law and Procedure on the First Circuit
Admiralty and the Enforcement of Embargo Laws
Consistency Through the Sharing of Expertise
The Supremacy of Federal Law
The Protection of Minority Groups
Importing Common Law into the Federal Legal System
6. Justice Smith Thompson: Promoting Commerce, State Sovereignty and the Protection of the Cherokee Nation
State Supreme Court: Statutory Interpretation and New York 'Hard Law'
Contractual Obligations on the Second Circuit and on the Court
'What is to be Left to the States?'
The Cherokee Nation and the African-American Slave