Distrust of the Legal Establishment in Perspective: Maryland During the Early National Years
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Type of Work40 Pages
Citation of Original PublicationSawyer, J.K. (1993). Distrust of the Legal Establishment in Perspective: Maryland During the Early National Years. Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture, 2(1), 1-40.
distrust of lawyers
Despising lawyers has been popular for centuries, and knowing when to take it seriously is often difficult. Since the 1640s in England, vicious attacks on lawyers and the common law have occasionally accompanied reform movements. Are these outbursts evidence of a long-term tradition of radical hostility towards the legal establishment? Or do they point to a tradition of political posturing with little real substance? With respect to early America, some very good historians have come to differing conclusions on these questions. Maxwell Bloomfield suggests that, while radical in tone, the attack on lawyers was rooted in essentially middle-class values and was not seriously connected to an ideology of social leveling or egalitarianism. He nevertheless demonstrates elegantly that the anti-lawyer sentiment of the Jacksonian period was part of a longer-term and culturally pervasive pattern. Richard Ellis's work, in partial contrast, documents radical attacks on the legal establishment during the Jeffersonian years, notably in Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Other legal historians have often stressed that fundamentally different conceptions of law, lawyers, judges, juries, and courts shaped the legal politics of Americans in the post-revolutionary years.