Category Archives: Upcoming Publications

Moral Contagion: Black Atlantic Sailors, Citizenship, and Diplomacy in Antebellum America

Michael A. Schoeppner. Forthcoming from Cambridge University Press in March 2019. Available to pre-order now via Cambridge University Press and Amazon.

Between 1822 and 1857, eight Southern states barred the ingress of all free black maritime workers. According to lawmakers, they carried a ‘moral contagion’ of abolitionism and black autonomy that could be transmitted to local slaves. Those seamen who arrived in Southern ports in violation of the laws faced incarceration, corporal punishment, an incipient form of convict leasing, and even punitive enslavement. The sailors, their captains, abolitionists, and British diplomatic agents protested this treatment. They wrote letters, published tracts, cajoled elected officials, pleaded with Southern officials, and litigated in state and federal courts. By deploying a progressive and sweeping notion of national citizenship – one that guaranteed a number of rights against state regulation – they exposed the ambiguity and potential power of national citizenship as a legal category. Ultimately, the Fourteenth Amendment recognized the robust understanding of citizenship championed by antebellum free people of color, by people afflicted with ‘moral contagion.’

About the Author:

After taking his Ph.D. in American legal history from the University of Florida in December 2010, Michael Schoeppner accepted a two-year fellowship with the American Council of Learned Societies. In 2013, he joined the faculty at the University of Maine-Farmington, where he currently serves as an assistant professor of history. His research explores the relationship between race, migration, and American constitutional development, especially in the nineteenth century. He has published work in the Journal of American History and Law & History Review. The College of Charleston’s CLAW  (Carolina Lowlands and Atlantic World) program awarded Moral Contagion its 2017 Hines Prize for the best book manuscript by a first-time author.

Murder in the Shenandoah: Making Law Sovereign in Revolutionary Virginia

Jessica K. Lowe. Forthcoming from Cambridge University Press (December 2018). Available to pre-order now via Cambridge University Press and Amazon.

On July 4, 1791, the fifteenth anniversary of American Independence, John Crane, a descendant of prominent Virginian families, killed his neighbor’s harvest worker. Murder in the Shenandoah traces the story of this early murder case as it entangled powerful Virginians and addressed the question that everyone in the state was heatedly debating: what would it mean to have equality before the law – and a world where ‘law is king’? By retelling the story of the case, called Commonwealth v. Crane, through the eyes of its witnesses, families, fighters, victims, judges, and juries, Jessica K. Lowe reveals how revolutionary debates about justice gripped the new nation, transforming ideas about law, punishment, and popular government.

Endorsements:

Advance praise: “In Murder in the Shenandoah, Jessica K. Lowe deftly investigates a deadly brawl to illuminate the legal culture of the new nation’s most influential state, shortly after the American Revolution. Filled with plot twists, surprising revelations, colorful characters, and rich insights, this book will reward anyone interested in the roots of American criminal law.” –Alan Taylor, author of American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750–1804

Advance praise: “Elegantly written and copiously sourced, Jessica K. Lowe’s book is a must-read for specialists and students alike. Lowe upends the accepted notion that southerners went outside the law to resolve conflicts because of the culture of honor that was inextricably embedded in slavery. She uses criminal law to open a window into social change in postrevolutionary Virginia and to set the stage for antebellum-era conflicts in imaginative and unexpected ways.” –Victoria Saker Woeste, American Bar Foundation

Advance praise: “Jessica K. Lowe’s beautifully crafted account of murder and justice powerfully illuminates the reconstruction of criminal law in the early American republic. Lowe skillfully turns the story of a single Virginia killing into a compelling meditation on how people, high and low, struggled over the meaning of equality and the rule of law in the aftermath of revolution. A formidable piece of scholarship, Murder in the Shenandoah is also a gem of historical narration and analysis, at once tough-minded and humane.” –Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln

Advance praise: “Professor Lowe has produced a volume that is both a murder mystery and a mini-treatise on the history of criminal law in colonial Virginia. Hard-nosed legal history has seldom been presented in such fascinating, readable form. Behind the legal story is an equally important story of social change in early Virginia. Lowe knows her Virginia law, and applies to it the questions of a modern historical sensibility. Readers will be surprised and intrigued by this admirable volume.” –Stanley Katz, Princeton University Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies

Advance praise: “In Jessica K. Lowe’s poetic telling of a murder trial in the Shenandoah Valley on Independence Day in 1791, we see how issues of class, violence, and the rule of law came together to lead to the execution of a Virginia patrician. Lowe’s beautifully written book shows the law in motion. Wage workers, slaves, jurors, and the legal and planter elite all cross her stage as the values of democracy made a new American law.” –Alfred L. Brophy, author of University, Court, and Slave: Proslavery Thought in Colleges and Courts and the Coming of Civil War

About the Author: Jessica Lowe specializes in 18th- and 19th-century American legal history. She received her J.D. with honors from Harvard Law School in 2002; after law school, she clerked in the District of Connecticut and on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Lowe also practiced appellate law at Jones Day in Washington, D.C., where she worked on a number of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. She is admitted to practice in Virginia and the District of Columbia. Lowe received her B.A. (high honors) from the University of Virginia (1998). She then studied at Yale Divinity School (1999-2000), where she was a Marquand Scholar. Lowe received her Ph.D. in American history from Princeton University in 2014.  Her dissertation was awarded the St. George Tucker Society’s Bradford Dissertation Prize for best Southern History dissertation. Murder in the Shenandoah is her first book.

Lowe has held fellowships from, among others, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Princeton University Center for Human Values and the Center of Theological Inquiry (a Templeton Foundation grant), and participated in the 2013 Hurst Institute for Legal History at the University of Wisconsin. In 2011, she received the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Lowe teaches legal history, constitutional history, and classes in crime and punishment at the University of Virginia School of Law. She is the founder of the interdisciplinary Legal History Writing Group, which brings together scholars from the Law, History, Politics and Religious Studies departments once monthly for informal discussions of works in progress, and co-coordinates the Law School’s Legal History Workshop series. In 2013, she co-organized a conference commemorating the 100th anniversary of Charles Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution (1913). Lowe has also served as a fellow at Brown College, the undergraduate residential college, and is a member of the Early American Studies colloquium at the International Center for Jefferson Studies.

Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Constitution, and Empire

Sam Erman. Forthcoming from Cambridge University Press in November 2018.

Almost Citizens lays out the tragic story of how the United States denied Puerto Ricans full citizenship following annexation of the island in 1898. As America became an overseas empire, a handful of remarkable Puerto Ricans debated with US legislators, presidents, judges, and others over who was a citizen and what citizenship meant. This struggle caused a fundamental shift in constitution law: away from the post-Civil War regime of citizenship, rights, and statehood and toward doctrines that accommodated racist imperial governance. Erman’s gripping account shows how, in the wake of the Spanish-American War, administrators, lawmakers, and presidents together with judges deployed creativity and ambiguity to transform constitutional meaning for a quarter of a century. The result is a history in which the United States and Latin America, Reconstruction and empire, and law and bureaucracy intertwine.

Listen to Erman discuss his book as part of the SLH video series here.

In the News:

 

About the Author:

Sam Erman is an Assistant Professor of Law at the USC Gould School of Law. He came to USC from the Smithsonian Institution, where he was a postdoctoral fellow in Latino studies. Erman’s primary areas of research include the history of Puerto Rico and its relations with the United States. His dissertation, Puerto Rico and the Constitution: Struggles around Status and Governance in a New Empire, 1898-1925 examines closely the United States’ promise of citizenship to Puerto Rico.

Prior to his fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution, Erman was a Raoul-Berger-Mark DeWolfe Howe Legal History Fellow at Harvard Law School. He clerked for Judge John Paul Stevens and Judge Anthony M. Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court and Judge Merrick B. Garland of the United States Court of Appeals. He received his JD from the University of Michigan Law School, summa cum laude, and his PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan. He completed his AB in English at Harvard College, cum laude.

You can read a longer bio of Professor Erman on the USC website here.