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The Impact of the Antislavery Movement upon Styles of Judicial Reasoning in Nineteenth Century America

William E. Nelson
Harvard Law Review
Vol. 87, No. 3 (Jan., 1974), pp. 513-566
DOI: 10.2307/1339953
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1339953
Page Count: 54
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The Impact of the Antislavery Movement upon Styles of Judicial Reasoning in Nineteenth Century America
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Abstract

In the early nineteenth century, American judges frequently and candidly decided cases on the grounds of the social policies effected by their decisions. By the end of the century this instrumental mode of reasoning had fallen into disuse, and even disrepute; it had been replaced by a formalistic deduction of results from first principles and past decisions. This dramatic shift in judicial reasoning style calls for historical explanation, which Professor Nelson finds in the jurisprudential impact of the antislavery movement.

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