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E Pluribus Unum

How the Common Law Helped Unify and Liberate Colonial America, 1607-1776
Narrated by: Jonathan Yen
Length: 13 hrs and 22 mins
Categories: History, American
4.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From their inception, the colonies exercised a range of approaches to the law. While New England based its legal system around the word of God, Maryland followed the common law tradition, and New York adhered to Dutch law. Over time, though, the British crown standardized legal procedure to more uniformly and efficiently exert control over the Empire. But, while the common law emerged as the dominant system across the colonies, its effects were far from what English rulers had envisioned.  

E Pluribus Unum highlights the political context in which the common law developed, and how it influenced the United States Constitution. In practice, the triumph of the common law over competing approaches gave lawyers more authority than governing officials. By the end of the 18th century, many colonial legal professionals began to espouse constitutional ideology that would mature into the doctrine of judicial review. In turn, laypeople came to accept constitutional doctrine by the time of independence in 1776.  

Nelson shows that the colonies' gradual embrace of the common law was instrumental to the establishment of the United States. Not simply a masterful legal history of colonial America, Nelson's magnum opus fundamentally reshapes our understanding of the sources of both the American Revolution and the Founding.

©2019 Oxford University Press (P)2019 Tantor

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  • Philo
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 07-25-19

A banquet for the legal scholar, or the curious

This sharp work imparts to me a real feel for the pre-USA's frameworks of rules and dispute resolution, but also for the order and disorders of folks' daily lives. I can relate to the ideals and challenges in Puritan Massachusetts and its satellites, right alongside those in the more business-oriented settlements of Virginia. I have roots in both these places and sensibilities, but I would urge anyone disconnected from these, but with a legalistic turn of mind, to give this a hearing. It surely deepens my knowledge for purposes of explaining our roots to my business law classes. People not versed in these trials and errors are absolutely doomed to thrash around repeating them, and often unsuccessfully. A look around our world and our society every day shows abundant examples. There was a huge amount of testing done in those times, in situations we can well recognize.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful