Author: specialcollections

BRUTUS, CASSIUS, JUDAS, AND CREMUTIUS CORDUS: HOW SHIFTING PRECEDENTS ALLOWED THE LEX MAIESTATIS TO GROUP WRITERS WITH TRAITORS

The editors of Litera Scripta are aware that we live in troubled times. At home we face political divisions more intense than any since the American Civil War. Meanwhile, across the globe, authoritarian regimes have taken a page from George Orwell and turned disinformation into an evil form of art. The editors are confident, however, that there is very little that is new under the sun. That said, we should study the past for clues to present predicaments; and one cannot do better in this regard than to study the legal history of imperial Rome. There we see the “cult of personality” carried to its highest degree, resulting in the erosion—sometimes gradual, sometimes very rapid—of freedoms that Romans had taken for granted. This erosion of rights affected the state’s legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens. Eventually it affected the state’s ability to function.

These themes are present in Hunter Myers’ “Brutus, Cassius, Judas, and Cremutius Cordus: How Shifting Precedents Allowed the Lex Maiestatis to Group Writers with Traitors.”[1] This fine work of scholarship shows how the Roman concept of Maiestas (the “majesty of the state”) developed over time. It concludes with persuasive evidence that the Emperor Tiberius[2] twisted that element of Roman law to his own advantage—in the process corrupting the Senate, the courts, and the public itself. More dramatically, Mr. Myers shows us that Tiberius presided over his own descent into corruption—in his case marked by hypersensitivity to criticism, openness to malicious prosecutions, a thirst for vengeance, and other aspects of cold-hearted paranoia.

Hunter Myers is a member of the Class of 2022, University of Alabama School of Law and the forthcoming Editor-in-Chief of the Alabama Law Review.

[1] Honors Thesis, University of Mississippi, 2018.

[2] Ruled 14-37 AD.

 

BRUTUS, CASSIUS, JUDAS, AND CREMUTIUS CORDUS:

HOW SHIFTING PRECEDENTS ALLOWED THE LEX MAIESTATIS TO GROUP WRITERS WITH TRAITORS

By

Hunter Myers

A thesis submitted to the faculty of The University of Mississippi in partial fulfillment

of the requirements of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Oxford, Mississippi, May 2018

Advisor: Professor Molly Pasco-Pranger

Reader: Professor John Lobur

Reader: Professor Steven Skultety

© 2018

Hunter Ross Myers

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED                                 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Dr. Pasco-Pranger,

            For your wise advice and helpful guidance through the thesis process

Dr. Lobur & Dr. Skultety,

            For your time reading my work

My parents, Robin Myers and Tracy Myers

            For your calm nature and encouragement

Sally-McDonnell Barksdale Honors College

            For an incredible undergraduate academic experience

ABSTRACT

In either 103 or 100 B.C., Saturninus invented a concept known as Maiestas minuta populi Romani (diminution of the majesty of the Roman people) to accompany charges of perduellio (treason). Just over a century later, Tiberius used this same law to criminalize behavior and speech that he found disrespectful. This thesis offers an answer to the question as to how the maiestas law evolved during the late republic and early empire to present the threat that it did to Tiberius’ political enemies. First, the application of Roman precedent in regards to judicial decisions will be examined, as it plays a guiding role in the transformation of the law. Next, I will discuss how the law was invented in the late republic, and increasingly used for autocratic purposes. The bulk of the thesis will focus on maiestas proceedings in Tacitus’ Annales, in which a total of ten men lose their lives. The most striking trial that will be investigated is the one involving Cremutius Cordus, who praised Brutus and Cassius, referring to them as the “Last of the Romans.” However, does this make him a traitor who belongs in Dante’s ninth circle along with Brutus, Cassius, and Judas?

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Prologue

Roman Precedent and Exempla

The Application of Roman Precedent

Precedent in the Late Republic

Augustan Exempla

The Rewriting of Precedent under Tiberius

Inventing Maiestas

Origins of the Law – Perduellio

A Descendant of Perduellio – Maiestas

Two Test Cases: Caepio and Norbanus

From Varius to Sulla

Caesar’s Law and Motivation

Maiestas in Tacitus’ Annales

Examining Tacitus

Maiestas and Augustan Precedent in The Annales

Two Preliminary Tests Under Tacitus

Marcellus

Appuleia Varilla

Germanicus and Gnaeus Piso – Maiestas Turns Deadly

The Creep of Maiestas and Informers

Two Proceedings in 22 A.D., Maiestas Targets the Powerful

Gaius Silius, Calpurnius Piso, and the Protection of Informers

Cremutius Cordus, The Apex of Tyranny

The End of the Reign of Tiberius

Epilogue

Bibliography

 

Prologue

That upper spirit,

Who hath worst punishment, so spake my guide,

“Is Judas, he that hath his head within

And plies the feet without. Of th’ other two,

Whose heads are under, from the murky jaw

Who hangs, is Brutus: lo! How he doth writhe

And speaks not. The other, Cassius, that appears

So large of limb. But night now reascends;

And it is time for parting. All is seen. (Inf. XXXIV, 56-64)[1]

Dante vividly describes the ninth circle of hell, an icy section reserved for those who betrayed others in their life on Earth. A person who committed this type of act was, and still is today, truly considered the worst of the worst. Why is the concept of betrayal such a powerful one? Could it be due to the premeditation required to betray another person, or perhaps one imagines the damage that could be done if they themselves were betrayed?

Image of Lucifer half-submerged in ice.
Lucifer half-submerged in ice

Whatever the cause may be, the human race seems to be fascinated with the concept, as stories of treachery are as old as time itself. In Genesis Cain killed his own brother Abel, which constituted the first murder and first betrayal in the Abrahamic tradition.[2] When the Spartans held back the Persians at the “hot gates” of Thermopylae, they lost their lives due to the betrayal of Ephialtes (Hdt. 7.213).[3] Caesar was stabbed to death close to the Theatre of Pompey by a group of senators, led by the trusted Brutus and Cassius (Plut. Vit. Caes. 66).[4] Some seventy years later, Judas would betray Jesus, leading to his crucifixion.[5]

Around the same time as Judas’ actions, Cremutius Cordus was accused of treason for his written account of Roman history. His accusers specifically pointed at one phrase in which he labeled Brutus and Cassius as “the last of the Romans”. Knowing that his guilt and execution were certain, Cremutius Cordus took his own life. However, is there any resemblance between his actions, and those of Brutus, Cassius, and Judas?

Dante places the unholy triad of Brutus, Cassius, and Judas in the center of his Inferno, eternally trapped in the jaws of Lucifer himself. Their treason is inarguable, as Brutus and Cassius directly participated in Caesar’s murder, and Judas handed Jesus over to the authorities who despised Jesus. They all betrayed the leaders of their time, one being secular, the other being spiritual. Brutus and Judas both betrayed a close friend. In virtually every society that has ever inhabited the Earth, treason is one of the worst possible offenses, and one that both the government and the populace will not tolerate. This sentiment is what allowed the Roman charge of maiestas minuta populi Romani (diminution of the majesty of the Roman people) to evolve from an accompaniment to a treason charge to a forced suicide preceding, or a death sentence following, a show trial under the emperor Tiberius. Saturninus, a tribune of the plebeians, originally proposed the law to prosecute people who he believed had diminished the majesty of the Roman people. However, as Rome shifted from Republic to Empire, especially under Tiberius, the law became a convenient tool to prosecute, and execute, anyone at the whim of the emperor. Eventually, the maiestas law extended to persons who used contentious words, such as Cremutius Cordus. The maiestas law labeled speech as sedition, turned writers into traitors, and led to the death of many who dared to use the wrong words.

 

Recent Acquisitions: Six Ledger Sheets from the Circuit Court of Perry County, Alabama, February 11-19, 1878; Documenting Criminal Court Fees Certified by Alabama Probate Judge Porter King

This post by Rodney Lawley is an addition to our recent acquisitions. Lawley works with Litera Scripta editors as a research assistant in the special collections and archives of the Bounds Law Library.

The work of Porter King, a prominent nineteenth-century lawyer, state legislator, and businessman from the State of Alabama, is featured in the latest acquisition of the John C. Payne Special Collections of the Bounds Law Library. The Judge Porter King Ledger is a six-page legal document detailing criminal court fees issued by the Court of Perry County, Alabama (February 11-19, 1878).Image of Porter King ledger.

Judge King was born April 30, 1824, in Perry County, Alabama, and was the son of a wealthy Alabama plantation owner. After attending the University of Alabama and Brown University prior to 1843, King studied law under the tutelage of Colonel Thomas Chilton in Marion, Alabama. He began his law practice in 1845 and was elected to the state legislature for a single term in 1847.

Upon completing his term, King practiced law in Marion, Alabama, and he was subsequently elected as an Alabama Circuit Court Judge in 1850. King served the state in this capacity for fifteen years, interrupted only briefly by a one-year command of an Alabama Civil War regiment. In 1865, King was unseated from the Circuit Court by Governor Lewis E. Parsons, a provisional official appointed by President Andrew Johnson.

Following his removal, King applied his talents to business and served in many important roles, including director of the insurance company Central City, the Commercial Bank of Selma, and as president of the Selma, Marion, and Memphis Railroad.

King was later appointed as Alabama Probate Judge in 1877. It was during this short two-year term that he signed the ledger documents acquired for this collection. Although King was a probate judge during this period, the court fees levied in these documents are based upon criminal court convictions in cases such as murder, burglary, and affray. This action is supported by The Code of Alabama 1876 directing probate judges to act as the ex officio judge of a county court. It is with such legal warrant that Judge King executed the fee judgements recorded in this collection.

Although King’s service as probate judge was his last role on the bench, he is remembered fondly in an 1890 Birmingham Daily News article referring to King as “one of the best judges the state has ever had.” The article continued this acclaim by adding, “For the last thirty years he has been the most prominent man in the state.”

Documents within the Judge Porter King Ledger are directed to local sheriffs and constables and describe fees and costs pertaining to the issuance of writs, the serving of subpoenas, and other court actions that require public funding.

Image of Porter King ledger.One such document describes the court’s charge of twelve dollars and eighty cents for services provided in administrating a burglary charge. In this case, ten cents per mile was billed to the defendant for guard services required during his incarceration. Similarly-rich detail is provided for other court decisions, including conviction-related fees for the quasi-anachronistic charge of “carrying concealed brass knuckles.”

Judge Porter King died January 3, 1890, in Atlanta, Georgia, after “suffering about a month with a dropsical affection.” The John C. Payne Special Collections is pleased to present this representation of his historically-significant work.

Rodney Lawley

Sources

“An Alabama Jurist.” Birmingham Daily News. January 3, 1890, 6.

Owen, Thomas McAdory. History of Alabama and dictionary of Alabama biography. Volume 3. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1921. See 3:982 of the 1978 reprint by The Reprint Company, Publishers.

State of Alabama. The Code of Alabama 1876. “County Courts,” §719, 339.

 

In Memory of David Robb, Gentleman and Scholar

The following is an obituary of David Robb (1937-2021), a scholar who made use of our Frank M. Johnson materials and visited the John C. Payne Special Collections facility on more than one occasion.

David Metheny Robb, Jr. was born on April 12, 1937 in Hennepin County, Minnesota, and died on March 5th at Huntsville Hospital due to complications from COVID-19. David Robb and his wife Frances Osborn Robb are well-known in Alabama for their work in museums and for their efforts in historic preservation. Their joint projects included a finely executed display on Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr. in the Middle District of Alabama Federal Courthouse in Montgomery, and the conversion of Congressman Carl A. Elliott, Sr.’s house in Jasper into a museum.

David Robb graduated from Episcopal Academy in 1955, and from Princeton University in 1959, where he majored in art history and developed a lifelong love of the graphic arts, printing, and travel. He served as a Naval Air Intelligence Officer on the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany for three-and-a-half years. On leaving the Navy, he worked as curator for noted collector and philanthropist Paul Mellon. After he married Frances Osborn Robb of Birmingham, they attended Yale University where they received Master of Arts degrees in art history.

Robb then received a Ford Foundation Fellowship at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. In 1969, he was appointed founding curator at the new Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth, Texas and moved up the ranks to Acting Director in 1979. In 1983 Robb was appointed director of Telfair Academy in Savannah, Georgia, where he also oversaw two historic buildings, Telfair Academy and Owens-Thomas House. In 1985 he was appointed director of the Huntsville Museum of Art. While there he organized several initiatives, including the planning of a new stand-alone building for the museum. He retired in 1995, taking on special projects, many with Frances, and traveling in England and France.

Since then, Robb presented papers at professional meetings, published in Alabama Heritage magazine, and served on state boards, including the Alabama Historical Association and the Friends of the State Archives. David Robb will be buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville, Alabama. Donations in his memory may be made to the Alabama Historical Association and the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

The editors of Litera Scripta offer their sincere condolences to Frances Robb and salute the memory of David Robb, gentleman and scholar.

 

 

 

 

Alabama’s First Woman Lawyer and a Pioneering Political Activist, Maud McLure Kelly

Image of Maud McLure Kelly.
Maud McLure Kelly, courtesy of Samford University Special Collections

Maud McLure Kelly (1887-1973) was Alabama’s first woman lawyer and a pioneering political activist and archivist. Kelly was born on July 10, 1887, in Oxford in Calhoun County to Richard Bussey Kelly, a lawyer, and Leona Bledsoe Kelly. She graduated from Anniston’s Noble Institute, a primary and secondary school, in 1904, having absorbed her parents’ staunchly pro-Confederate, Democratic views. From an early age, Kelly was fascinated with law, and after the family moved to Birmingham in 1905, she read law in her father’s office. Two years later, Kelly entered the University of Alabama to study law formally. Although the school had opened its doors to women more than a decade earlier, Kelly was only its second female student. Well liked by her classmates (who called her “sister in law”), Kelly graduated third in her class in 1908. Nevertheless, had not John McDuffie, a law student and legislator, rewritten the bar admissions statute so that women could present credentials, Kelly might never have practiced in Alabama.

Kelly was admitted to the bar in October 1908 and opened a practice in Birmingham. Within a few years she was handling a variety of civil matters and criminal cases, including a lawsuit against the Alabama Coast Line Railroad for the killing of an African American child. She also assisted the state attorney in prosecuting a case. In 1914, after being nominated by famed attorney William Jennings Bryan, Kelly was admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court. Kelly was also politically conscious. She joined women’s historical, genealogical, and cultural societies.

Image of William Jennings Bryan.
William Jennings Bryan  Courtesy, Library of Congress

An ardent suffragist, Kelly joined the Birmingham Equal Suffrage Association and participated in its campaign to give women the right to vote, serving on the executive council and the policy-making board. She also advocated for the poor and underserved. By 1919, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified and women were given the right to vote, Kelly had taken a post as a federal attorney with the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.

Image of Maud Kelly and family members.
Maud McLure Kelly and family members, courtesy of Samford University Special Collections

In addition to her work, Kelly volunteered to work with hospitalized veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center—an experience that would soon prove useful. In 1924, displeased with the scandal-ridden administration of Warren G. Harding and needed at home to care for her ailing father and two brothers wounded in World War I, she returned to Birmingham, where she resumed her practice, her professional associations (she was an officer in the Alabama Woman Lawyers Association), and her political interests. She stumped the state in 1928 for Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith, and in 1932 served as official host for the Alabama delegation to the Democratic National Convention.

Able to live off some wise investments, Kelly ended her legal practice in 1931 but continued to do civic work, notably for the American Legion Auxiliary. In 1943 Kelly accepted Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) director Marie Bankhead Owen’s offer of the combined post of acquisitions agent, editor of the Alabama Historical Quarterly, and inspector of county records. In addition, Kelly authored legislation that gave ADAH authority over public records. Retiring in 1956, she continued to care for ailing family members and took up genealogy. Kelly died on April 2, 1973, and was buried in Anniston’s Hillside Cemetery. A devout Baptist, she donated her personal collection of genealogies, local histories, maps and other items to the Special Collections Department of the Samford University Library.

PMP

 Additional Resources:

McDuffie, John. To Inquiring Friends If Any: Autobiography of John McDuffie, Farmer, Lawyer, LegislatorJudge, As Told to and Edited by Mary Margaret Flock. Mobile, Ala.: Azalea City Printers, 1970.

Newman, Cynthia. Maud McLure Kelly: Alabama’s First Woman Lawyer. Birmingham, Ala.: Birmingham Printing and Publishing Co., 1984.

Sallee, Shelley. The Whiteness of Child Labor Reform in the New South. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004.

Thomas, Mary Martha. The New Woman in Alabama: Social Reforms and Suffrage, 1890–1920. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1992.

 

Julia S. Tutwiler, “The Upton Sinclair Fast Cure for the Mind”

Julia S. Tutwiler, “The Upton Sinclair Fast Cure for the Mind”

Image of Alabama Normal College.
Alabama Normal College

The academic year 1910-1911 was an awkward time for Julia Strudwick Tutwiler. A celebrated educator, prison reformer and temperance advocate, she had only recently (May 1910) been forced to retire from her position as president of the Alabama Normal College. A letter-writing campaign by some of her former students had only antagonized the school’s Board of Trustees, who cut off her pension. Nearing her seventieth birthday and in deteriorating health, she would keep up an array of reformist activities; but she was no longer an educator, and to that extent she felt adrift.

Image of Julia Tutwiler.
Julia Tutwiler

As an educator, Julia Tutwiler had tried to lead her students—whether college women at ANC or convicts at a stockade Sunday school—toward lives of reason, moderation, and self-control. The piece transcribed below, “The Upton Sinclair Fast Cure for the Mind,” may be an example of the tone she had often struck as a teacher. Upton Sinclair was a Progressive journalist and novelist, most famous today for his 1906 muckraking expose of the meatpacking industry, The Jungle.[1] By 1911 Sinclair (like Julia Tutwiler, a prohibitionist) was promoting a health regimen which included fasts of ten or twelve days.[2] Tutwiler discussed his ideas within her circle of family and friends and came up with her own more psychological insight, which she presented (together with a smattering of reminiscences) in an April letter[3] to the Montgomery Advertiser:

“Everybody here has been talking about Upton Sinclair’s Fast Cure; and some of us have tried it with good results. But have you ever tried a Fast Cure for the Mind? Did you ever resolutely resolve not to read a daily paper or a magazine for ten days, and then watch the operations of your mind to see how much stronger they were? Just try it. Ask some friend to tell you if anything very startling occurs—if Spain, Italy or Great Britain changes to a republic; somebody assassinates the Czar of Russia, or Roosevelt performs some new astounding “stunt.” If you live in a city you will see all you must really know from the bulletin boards outside the offices of the great dailies. What earthly good will it do you to learn that a man in Nevada poisoned his wife; or that a crazy lover in Oklahoma shot his sweetheart and then himself. You can learn from the census statistics that a certain number of people out of every ten thousand are going to do these same things every year, and that is enough. What good does it do you to know the man’s name? The reading of it used up a milligram of your mental vitality, and your supply is not inexhaustible.

I was once so situated that for a considerable time I was cut off from all light reading. I consider that I made more mental growth during that time than in any period of my life of equal length. When I was studying in Germany, the first Emperor—good old Wilhelm—was still reigning. Every few days the papers announced that some recalcitrant editor had been incarcerated for thirty days. Some one had written an article for his paper which displeased the censors of the press, and the editor refused to tell the name of the contributor. The editor was treated very much like a naughty little boy who is put to bed and not allowed to have any of his toys [nor] any books except his Sunday books. He was strictly prohibited from seeing the papers during his incarceration. I have thought that the rulers were very short-sighted. They did not know that he would come out of his forced retirement like a giant refreshed—like Samson after his hair had grown out. His blows would be harder than ever; if they had been “facers” before they would be regular “knock-downs” now.

I have always felt that one of the most delightful pleasures in crossing the Atlantic was that you were completely cut off from the news of the world. No daily paper, no letters no telegrams. You were a sort of Crusoe on a luxurious [moving] island, but with numerous pleasant companions. But, alas! The wireless telegraph has changed all that. A daily paper is published on every great liner. You will have to be your own mental Crusoe and resolutely withstand the temptations of dailies and weeklies for a fixed time. Try it. You will be well paid for the experience.

Julia S. Tutwiler.”

PMP

[1] Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1906).

[2] Upton Sinclair, The Fasting Cure (New York and London: M. Kennerley, 1911).

[3] Montgomery Advertiser, April 16, 1911. The published letter was checked against a handwritten draft found in the McCorvey and Tutwiler Families Paper, Hoole Special Collections Library, University of Alabama.

Review of “Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee” by Casey Cep

This post by Andrew Toler is an addition to our series of Alabama book notes. Toler is a 2020 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law and worked with Litera Scripta editors as a research assistant in the special collections and archives of the Bounds Law Library.

Review of Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

By Andrew Toler

Before the publication of Go Set a Watchman—only eight months before her death—the literary community had come to accept the fact that Harper Lee would likely publish only one book. Upon hearing the news that Lee would, in fact, publish another book, many residents of Alexander City, Alabama assumed that it would be the one that she had worked on for decades about one of the Tallapoosa County city’s most infamous residents.

The book, which Lee abandoned for good in 1987, would obviously never see the light of day—under Lee’s name, at least. In her first book, Casey Cep brings to life both the story that Lee wanted to tell in The Reverend (Lee’s working title for the unfinished book) as well as the story of Lee: her life, struggles, relationships, and complexities. In three parts and 23 digestible chapters, Cep brings to life the story of three main people: the Reverend Willie Maxwell, his attorney Tom Radney, and Harper Lee, the famous author who attempted to write a true crime story about the Maxwell case.Cover image of Furious Hours.

The story that Lee wanted to turn into a true crime book in the style of In Cold Blood—which she helped research with its author, her longtime friend Truman Capote—is chillingly told by Cep in the first part of Furious Hours. Born in 1925, the Reverend Willie Maxwell was a tradesman and lay Baptist minister in Tallapoosa County, Alabama. Although at first respected in the small communities of Tallapoosa County, suspicion began to swirl around Maxwell after several of his relatives and associates—five before he was through—died under suspicious circumstances. The suspicion in the community included allegations of voodoo practices: unfounded allegations that were likely rooted in racism against African-Americans, but which the media—both local and national—devoured. Instead of voodoo, the most likely cause of the deaths was the dark power of life insurance, as Maxwell had life insurance policies on every single victim of the suspicious deaths. As a matter of fact, Maxwell was often in dire financial straits during the time of the deaths—which ranged from 1969-1977. Although the story is better told by Cep, the string of deaths of those close to Maxwell finally came to an end in 1977 with his own abrupt demise—shot to death at the funeral of his last victim.

Before his death, however, Maxwell needed his insurance money. And many life insurance companies refused to pay him, given the suspicious nature of the deaths of those on whom the Reverend held insurance. So the Reverend turned to the courts to get the money that he felt he was owed. Tom Radney, the lawyer that helped Maxwell sue the insurance companies—and also successfully defended him against charges of homicide related to the deaths—is the centerpiece of the second part of Cep’s work.

Juneteenth

According to persuasive folk memories, Union general Gordon Granger read an order at Galveston, Texas on the 19th of June, 1865, to the effect that all previously enslaved people were free. Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect, officially, on January 1, 1863. It freed as many as 3.5 million slaves, but existing Confederate governments, state and federal, had refused to acknowledge it. Therefore the arc of freedom had gone forward with the rising fortunes of the Union armies, and Texas—the Confederate state most geographically remote from Washington, D.C.—was one of slavery’s last refuges.

Freedom for Alabama’s more than 435,000 slaves had come in stages as the war swept through the state. Huntsville, a key location in the Tennessee Valley, was occupied twice by Union troops; the second, more conclusive of these occupations took place in the autumn of 1863. Centers of population in south Alabama were largely untouched until the Confederacy came crashing down. On April 12, 1865, the capital city of Montgomery surrendered to General James Wilson, whose forces had previously captured Tuscaloosa and reduced Selma. The surrender of Mobile took place on the same day, following the Confederates’ loss of their fortifications at Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely. In many instances these victories were hastened by the presence of African American troops in the Union armies. Each triumph was followed by memorable feelings of jubilation among the Freed People—who soon faced a new reality of building lives as farmers, craft workers, teachers and students, physicians and lawyers, citizens and public officials. So they lived without the chains of slavery, launching the history of a free people during the uncertain transition known as Reconstruction (1865-1877).

Though Emancipation came at different times in different places, the tradition of celebrating it on June 19th—Juneteenth—goes back as far as 1866. By the 1920s and 1930s, Juneteenth celebrations had taken the form of food/cultural festivals. The observations grew in significance in the 1970s, and by 1980 Texas (appropriately) had become the first to declare Juneteenth an official holiday. Florida followed suit in 1991, Oklahoma in 1994, Minnesota in 1996, and by the end of the twenty-first century’s second decade forty-seven states had declared a holiday on June 19.[1] Alabama enacted its official Juneteenth observances in 2011, and today the date is celebrated by concerts, parades, fairs, educational events, and the gift of free food.[2]

The Bounds Law Library holds several titles that contain historical information on Juneteenth. Among them are Paul Finkleman, editor, Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619-1895, 3 volumes (Oxford University Press, 2006); and Deborah Willis and Margaret Krauthamer, Envisioning Emancipation : Black Americans and the End of Slavery (Temple University Press, 2013).

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth

[2] https://bhamnow.com/2020/06/12/week-long-juneteenth-celebrations-begin-with-2nd-annual-parade-at-kelly-ingram-park-on-june-13/#:~:text=Juneteenth%20is%20the%20oldest%20known,slavery%20in%20the%20United%20States.&text=Celebrated%20in%2042%20states%2C%20Juneteenth,the%20Alabama%20Legislature%20in%202011.

Teacher and Pupil: Henry Tutwiler and William Russell Smith, 1869

In November 1869, Henry Tutwiler sat down to review (for the Mobile Register) a translation of the fifth book of the Iliad. A slender volume titled Diomede: From the Iliad of Homer,[1] it was the work of his former pupil William Russell Smith, who had studied under Tutwiler at the University of Alabama more than thirty years earlier. The two men had been friends ever since. Indeed, Tutwiler figured largely in Smith’s recollections of Tuscaloosa days, as a “delicate stripling of a youth,” a recent graduate of the University of Virginia who was so learned that he was “a whole faculty within himself.” Evidently Tutwiler’s manner as a professor was so appealing that “every boy fell absolutely in love with him” and felt for him “real affection, which suffered no diminution by the lapse of time.”[2]

Photographic image of Henry Tutwiler
Henry Tutwiler

While Tutwiler carried out several duties during his years (1831-1837) at the University, he was primarily a Classics professor. Smith has left us a memorable snapshot of his teacher: “As one of his peculiarities, Professor Tutwiler was seldom seen in or out of the school-room without having a small volume in his left hand. He had a diamond edition[3] of the ancient classics, and carried about with him either Virgil, Horace, the Anabasis, Iliad, Cicero, Terence, or Euripides. These were his quiet companions, from whom he seemed to be inseparable.” Smith went on to say that Tutwiler “was never without a pencil; and would stop in his walks, under the shade of an oak, and enrich the margin of his book with some useful hint or scholarly annotation.”[4]

In the decades since their shared time in Tuscaloosa, each man had enjoyed a distinguished career: Tutwiler as the founder of the Greene Springs School, the state’s most celebrated private academy; and Smith as a lawyer, U.S. Congressman, and author of legal treatises, works of fiction, plays, and poetry.[5] In his review of Diomede, Tutwiler recognized Smith’s status as an important public figure by including him in a list of European statesmen and crowned heads who were devoted to the Greek and Roman classics. Tutwiler was happy, he added, “to welcome any effort to throw off the reproach under which we, of the South especially, have labored, of a neglect of classical literature.”[6]

Tutwiler was aware that Smith had been laboring over the Iliad for some twenty years. Yet seeing a portion of that work “gotten up in the best style of Appleton’s” awoke in him memories even older.

Image of William Russell Smith
William Russell Smith

“We well remember,” Tutwiler wrote, “how, when a lad at the University of Alabama,” Smith “was in the habit of handing in as exercises, poetical translations of the Latin poets.” Conjuring up (for modern readers) images of class files carefully stored away at Greene Springs, he declared that “we could, even now, lay our hands upon some of these juvenile productions.” Tutwiler understood that Smith’s translation was a true labor of love, and he quoted a passage from Diomede in which Smith declared that his pleasure in the work “has been long continued, making many a night glorious.”[7]

The Iliad is Homer’s telling of episodes from the Trojan War—beginning with an ugly quarrel in which Agamemnon, leader of the Greek expedition, offends the supreme Greek warrior Achilles. Their temper tantrums bode ill for Greeks and Trojans alike. Book five presents the exploits of the Greek hero Diomedes, who, inspired by the pro-Greek goddess Pallas (Minerva), rages like a berserker among the forces of Ilium (Troy), killing several notable warriors. In the process we meet many of Homer’s cast of mortals and immortals and see much of the home life of the latter. Such is Diomedes’ divinely granted power that in the course of his rampage he wounds Venus, goddess of love, and Mars, the god of war. Book five ends with Mars safely back in Olympus, his wounds healed.

Litera Scripta editors announce the publication of Law and Miscellaneous Works: The Lives and Careers of Joel White and Amand Pfister, Booksellers and Publishers

The Bounds Law Library has published its ninth Occasional Publication, titled Law and Miscellaneous Works: The Lives and Careers of Joel White and Amand Pfister, Booksellers and Publishers. The book features biographical essays by David I. Durham and Paul M. Pruitt, Jr. and an essay by Michael H. Hoeflich analyzing Pfister and White’s printed catalogs. Image of Law and Miscellaneous Works cover.In addition, the book contains facsimile images of White and Pfister’s catalogs and other documents, including White’s correspondence with publishers. Emigrants to antebellum Tuscaloosa, White and Pfister separately operated bookshops, built up clienteles, and began to publish books. When the state capital moved to Montgomery in 1846 they moved with it and soon established a partnership. Following Pfister’s death in 1857, White continued in the business of bookselling and publishing; his most notable author was Tuscaloosa lawyer and politician William R. Smith, author of The History and Debates of the Convention of the People of Alabama (1861). After secession White undertook a clandestine mission to acquire large quantities of high-grade paper for the Confederate government. Following his own personal Reconstruction, White served as publisher of the Alabama Reports (vols. 50-83), working with the clerks, lawyers, and reporters attached to that institution. All the while he continued to operate his bookstore until shortly before his death in 1896. Law and Miscellaneous Works reveals a little-known world of nineteenth-century southern booksellers and small-scale publishers and places it in the context of regional and national affairs.

Alfred’s Doombook: The Anglo-Saxon Foundations of Magna Carta

From time to time we like to post historical essays written by recent Law School graduates. Today’s post is a work of intellectual history by Christopher Collins, a 2019 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law who is currently a graduate student in the UA College of Communication and Information Sciences. Chris is working on his MLIS. The title of his essay is “Alfred’s Doombook: The Anglo-Saxon Foundations of Magna Carta.”

 

Alfred’s Doombook: The Anglo-Saxon Foundations of Magna Carta

Magna Carta might often be misunderstood, but far worse is that King Alfred’s Doombook[1] is so neglected. A.E. Dick Howard wrote that Magna Carta “became and remains today one of the great birthrights of men who love liberty.”[2] But on June 15, 1215, it had nowhere near the significance it has assumed in recent years––its force of law actually declined over the next several centuries.[3] J.C. Holt even opened his magnum opus on the Charter with the statement that “Magna Carta was a failure.”[4] And yet we know it as Magna Carta––the Great Charter; but it was less an act of greatness than a preservation of the status quo[5] and perhaps even a bad-faith baronial power grab.[6]

Much of Magna Carta’s influence derives from the fact that it was thought for many centuries to be the oldest extant consolidated written statement of English law.[7] Even after the rediscovery of the old Anglo-Saxon laws, Magna Carta continued to be worshipped as “a sacred text, the nearest approach to an irrepealable ‘fundamental statute’ that England has ever had.”[8] King Alfred’s Doombook, however, is the oldest extant consolidated written statement of English law, and it is time to rediscover it as the true founding document of Anglo-American legal heritage.[9]

Image of Alfred the Great statue.
A High-Victorian Vision of Alfred the Great

This paper aims to show that while Magna Carta is rightfully revered as “a foundation stone of English and American legal rights,”[10] it is not the origin of our liberty-loving rights. Magna Carta is rather a later stone placed upon an Anglo-Saxon legal foundation started by Alfred’s compilation of laws, the Doombook. King Alfred compiled these laws toward the end of the ninth century.[11] He consolidated longstanding customs and practices from the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and added Biblical authority.[12] Alfred’s goal in promulgating his Doombook aimed at uniting the English amid existential threats posed by large-scale Viking invasions. And the English kings seemed to base their authority partly on continuity with their predecessors––the legitimate king preserved the traditions of his predecessors, and this is the topic of Part I of this paper.

Image of King John signing the Magna Charta.
King John, backed into a corner at Runnymede

Kings Alfred and John actually had a great deal in common, as will be discussed in Part II, though history has been kind to the former and critical of the latter. Both were unlikely kings, favored by their fathers and dutiful to their brothers. But Alfred inherited a kingdom on the verge of annihilation whereas John would be crowned king of an efficient and almost automated governing apparatus.[13] This apparatus owed much to the reforms of John’s father, Henry II, but the system itself was built on the works of Alfred and the laws of his Doombook.

Parts III and IV will discuss Magna Carta and the Doombook. Part III will mention two fields that show no Anglo-Saxon precedent: the Charter’s “immediate use” provisions and the introduction of environmental law into the realm of English legislation. Part IV will discuss four common threads that show a continuum between Magna Carta and Alfred’s Doombook. These threads involve the regulation of customs and immigration; the rights of widows and the freedom of marriage; the idea that the king is not above the law and his need to seek counsel from his subjects; and the idea of due process and the equal application of the law of the land.

Every influence English law encountered, including Norman influence, has left an imprint on its character, but the Conquest merely wove itself into the established Anglo-Saxon fabric.[14] England did not begin anew when William and his Normans conquered the island.[15] The Anglo-Saxon system persisted and continued to provide the matrix within which English law would grow.[16] Magna Carta, like many famous tapestries from the Norman and Angevin era, is made of intricate stitching. But the first stitches to Magna Carta were not Norman or Angevin––they were Alfred’s.[17]