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Archive for April, 2018

An Exhibit: Early Statutory Compilations and Codes

The books presented in this post may seem to be nothing more than dusty old lawbooks, but they are in fact the mortal remains of Alabama’s frontier period. The energetic, mostly young men who made up Alabama’s legislatures faced the issues—national and local—of Jacksonian America. In response they spelled out their attitudes, self-interests, and startling biases for future generations to ponder. So in the adventurous spirit of that time, we invite our readers to read the signposts of what were once new ideas. We encourage you to visit our physical exhibit “Early Statutory Compilations and Codes” located in the main hall of UA’s Law Library.

Early Statutory Compilations and Codes

Occupying a parallel universe to Alabama’s case law, the state’s early statutory laws were diligently compiled every ten years. The legislature gave this task to highly regarded lawyers and judges who made every effort to produce volumes that would be intelligible to lawyers and lay persons. These compilers and codifiers kept in mind the frontier conditions prevailing over most of the state; they knew that these volumes were going to be packed in saddlebags and carried “on circuit.”

1823:  The state of Alabama’s first statutory compilation was assembled by Harry Toulmin, a long-tenured territorial judge who had previously published “digests” of legislation for Kentucky (1802) and the Mississippi Territory (1807). Toulmin’s 1823 Digest of the Laws of the State of Alabama . . . is an important source of Mississippi legislation—relevant to early Alabama lawyers since Alabama had been, from 1798 to 1817, the eastern half of the Mississippi Territory. Arranged alphabetically, Toulmin’s Digest was the final masterpiece of a long life of service. Assisted by the distinguished attorney Henry Hitchcock, Toulmin worked confidently, subdividing statutes, adding historical notes, and omitting obsolete sections.

Image of Toulmin's Digest title page.

Toulmin’s Digest title page

Image of Toulmin's Digest detail.

Toulmin’s Digest detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1833:  John G. Aikin published the state’s first decennial digest in 1833. Aikin followed the same alphabetical arrangement as Toulmin, with helpful marginal notes and a copious index. In addition he provided an appendix containing the “Rules of Proceedings and Practice in the Courts.” The latter was needed, since in 1832 the legislature had created a three-judge Supreme Court, replacing the banc of circuit judges who had previously served as the state’s appellate tribunal. Aikin reissued his Digest with a supplement in 1836. Attorney and belletrist Alexander B. Meek published Meek’s Supplement in 1841, containing a militia code and important changes in chancery practice that had been adopted by the Supreme Court in January 1841.

Image of Aikin's Digest detail.

Aikin’s Digest detail

Image of Aikin's Digest title page.

Aikin’s Digest title page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1843:  Alabama’s second decennial compilation was published in 1843. Its author was Clement Comer Clay, one of the state’s most notable and controversial Jacksonian Democrats. Clay served as governor from 1835 to 1837; from 1837 to 1841 he was U.S. senator from Alabama. The result of his labors was strikingly similar to that employed by Aikin. Like Aikin he included court rules—in Clay’s case, rules for the Supreme Court, circuit courts, county courts, and chancery courts, as well as treatments of judicial procedures in common law and chancery.

Image of Clay's Digest title page.

Clay’s Digest title page

Image of Clay's Digest detail.

Clay’s Digest detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1852:  The 1840s witnessed a national discussion of codification, culminating in New York’s celebrated Field Code. In 1849 Governor Henry W. Collier proposed creation of an Alabama code commission. Lawmakers complied and a commission headed by Collier’s former colleague John J. Ormond set to work. In February 1852 the legislature adopted the code they had produced. The 1852 Code of Alabama was controversial because of the modifications its authors made in the state’s common law pleading. Yet their work provided the foundation for Alabama codes for many decades.

Image of 1852 Code of Alabama detail.

1852 Code of Alabama detail

Image of the 1852 Code of Alabama title page.

1852 Code of Alabama title page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tax Collection in 1818 Alabama

Editors’ Note

This post represents the first installment in a new category that we hope will be an occasional feature of our blog. Posts in this category, 200 Years Ago in Alabama, will feature items of interest from Alabama’s past in anticipation of the state’s upcoming bicentennial celebration on December 14, 2019.

Tax Collection in 1818 Alabama

As tax day in the United States draws near, Litera Scripta highlights a territorial act that defined the assessment and collection of taxes 200 years ago in Alabama.  Fortunately, the 1818 act does not reflect the method of filing taxes today. It is interesting to note the “double tax” assigned to late filers and defaulters!

Image of 1818 Alabama territorial act.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image of 1818 Alabama territorial act.

Acts of Alabama, 1818, 2nd Session, 55-56.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“An act to alter the mode of assessing and collecting taxes” was approved in the second session of the territorial legislature and represented a modification of a similar act during the first session.