Theses Doctoral

Where Subjects were Citizens: The Emergence of a Republican Language and Polity in Colonial American Law Court Culture, 1750-1776

Savage, Robert Mark

This thesis examines the role of the colonial American jury, particularly the petit jury, during the quarter century leading up to the American Revolution. The thesis argues that the colonial jury at the inferior and superior court levels was central to a "law court culture" that provided colonists with the education, language and experience to assume the responsibilities of participatory, autonomous citizenship, as opposed to a passive subjecthood that deferred to social and political authority. Within their law court culture, colonial American jurors acted as powerful, independent decision makers, representatives of their communities judging matters of law as well as fact. Jurors sometimes even acted as arbiters in highly charged political disputes, to challenge the power of governors and of the empire itself. When outside British forces threatened this colonial American law court culture and the independence of those citizen jurors, Americans began to perceive themselves as a people apart from the English, uniting to preserve and protect their institutions, particularly their law court culture.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Bushman, Richard L.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 28, 2011