Republican Law, 1770-1830

Chancellor's Chair Lecture by Christopher Tomlins

March 21, 2011


Prof. Tomlins is a legal historian with wide-ranging interests who has taught at universities across the globe. He joined the UCI Law faculty after 17 years as a Research Professor on the faculty of the American Bar Foundation. He has degrees from Oxford University and the University of Sussex, and a PhD in History from The Johns Hopkins University. He has written or edited six books, most notably Freedom Bound, recipient of the prestigious Bancroft Prize awarded each year by Columbia University to the best books in American history.

His lecture addressed the expressive legalism of the American Revolution and explained how it turned into a legal culture that ceased to stand in imaginative solidarity with “the people themselves.” Republican law lived in a contradiction between a revolutionary people imbued with law as imaginative possibility, and a constituted polity whose law defined the limits of imaginative political action. As the republic matured, the tension between its two formative revolutions became ever more apparent and eventually contributed their mite to the great unraveling that would end in another civil war.