"A tour de force . . . A painstaking case study in the development of an important, but to most nonlawyers esoteric, legal doctrine."
—H. Jefferson Powell, Duke University
"Watson gracefully balances the need for brevity and readable prose with an elegantly reasoned argument. Along the way, he simultaneously produces a startling reevaluation of the Dred Scott decision and continues, with some gentle caveats, his long-term effort to correct the currently fashionable overemphasis on the social and economic origins of legal change."
Joseph Story and the Comity of Errors examines the decisions of Supreme Court justice and Harvard law professor Joseph Story (1779–1845). According to Alan Watson, Story erred in his interpretation of Dutchman Ulrich Huber’s theory of comity—the respect accorded by one sovereignty to another sovereignty’s laws. Watson suggests that it is because of Story’s misinterpretation that the Dred Scott case went before the United States Supreme Court, whose notorious ruling against Scott fed directly into heated sectional conflict that culminated in the Civil War. Demonstrating the odd twists and turns that legal development sometimes takes, the book is also a fascinating case study that reveals much about the relationship of law to society.
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