The Legacy of the Lawyers’ American Revolution
Almost evenly divided in numbers and talent at the start of the crisis, in 1782 the revolutionary bar and the loyal bar faced vastly different futures. The revolutionary lawyers had stepped into the role of constitution drafters and lawgivers. Their lives, fortunes, and honor were enhanced by their part in the Revolution. Having a “vested interest in making sure the new nation succeeded” they fashioned an American republican law, a concept of public engagement, adorned with categories of fundamental liberties and rights that had great capacity for expansion. Though originally confined to a narrow band of the citizenry, time, sacrifice, and a growing sense of inclusiveness would, eventually, expand a male, white, entrenched, and propertied governing class to include women, people of color, working people, and newcomers. A second achievement was a little more self-serving. The revolutionary lawyers’ participation in the new confederated and state governments set a pattern, a precedent if you will, of a public role for lawyers outside of the courts. When a new generation of lawyers passed the bar and began practicing,...
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