1. The History of Law in the United States
Hereby it is manifest that, during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, and such a war as is of every man against every man…. In such condition…the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651).
he legal history of the United States begins with the states’ ratification of the Constitution at the end of the eighteenth century, a political agreement, our social contract. Ever since then our laws and our court decisions have been measured by its text, as amended. Its very amendments teach us much of the history of the law here. If you would understand our law, then understand our constitution, and its interpretation by the courts through the years.
The very notion of governing by agreement, of giving up the use of force-- personal force, group force, gang force, of the non-rule that “might makes right”--and putting the “social contract” in place of it, is based, however, on a longer, on a greater history than that of the last few hundred years, so long a history that in its beginnings it is not a history, and we are beginning to know it only through a study of the evidence of the fragments of the objects of our origins. And if we are to understand something more of ourselves, and understand whither we are going, we must look back upon the pathway that we came on, that pathway paved with our mores, and our customs, and with the law.
The Law of Life
Jack London (born John Chaney; 1876-1916). Most known for his stories of dogs--The Call of the Wild, and White Fang, and the adventure book, The Sea Wolf, London wrote vivid tales of the American West, the Pacific, and the far Northwest....