A Peculiar Humanism: The Judicial Advocacy of Slavery in High Courts of the Old South, 1820-1850 (Studies in the Legal History of the South) by William E. Wiethoff
  • Author: William E. Wiethoff
  • Title: A Peculiar Humanism: The Judicial Advocacy of Slavery in High Courts of the Old South, 1820-1850 (Studies in the Legal History of the South)
  • Size Fb2 ver: 1777 kb
  • Size ePUB ver: 1897 kb
  • Available formats: FB2, EPUB, DJVU
  • Category: History
  • Rating: 4.2 of 5
  • ISBN: 0820317977
  • Publisher: Univ of Georgia Pr; First Edition edition (April 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • Subcat: Americas
A Peculiar Humanism: The Judicial Advocacy of Slavery in High Courts of the Old South, 1820-1850 (Studies in the Legal History of the South)
In early nineteenth-century America, and especially in the Old South, the use of oratory appealed to legal professionals - judges as well as advocates. Consistent with the humanism proclaimed in classical and neoclassical works, appellate judges perceived their civic duties to demand oratorical skill as well as legal expertise. In A Peculiar Humanism, William E. Wiethoff assesses the judicial use of oratory in reviewing slave cases and the struggle to fashion a humanist jurisprudence on slavery despite the customary restraints placed on judicial advocacy.
Drawing attention to a neglected intersection of law and letters, Wiethoff analyzes the proslavery discourse embedded in antebellum judicial opinions by examining the public addresses, judicial narratives, and private papers of sixty-nine appellate judges. Wiethoff documents the judges' familiarity with the humanist tradition and surveys their attempts to equate humanism with self-interest and humanity with the desire for peace, prosperity, and the conservation of property. Yet as Wiethoff clearly demonstrates, in their struggle to obey humanist ideals, the judges articulated a humanism that was peculiarly suited to preserving existing social structures and affirming the beliefs and values of the ruling class.
In Wiethoff's critical examination of judicial oratory and narrative, the discursive artifacts created by judicial advocates of slavery attest historically to the limits of law. By contrasting the judges' proslavery appeals in a variety of cases in the upper and deep South, Wiethoff shows how context shaped the judges' perceptions, priorities, and arguments. An outstanding contribution to the literature on law and slavery, A Peculiar Humanism testifies to the character of the legal profession in the Old South and serves as an index of the beliefs and attitudes that coexisted with legal decision making.



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