PANEL: Courts and Society in Tudor-Stuart England
Saturday, October 24, 10:15-11:45
Chair: Cynthia Herrup, Department of History and School of Law, Duke University
Borough Corporations and Quo Warranto, 1590 to 1640: Keeping Local Order in the Central Courts
Catherine Patterson, Department of History, University of Houston
This paper investigates relations between the crown and local government in the early Stuart period by focusing on quo warranto and borough corporations. Quo warranto, typically understood as an instrument of central enforcement, held a particularly dangerous threat to urban government. The writ called into question the charters by which corporations existed and could lead to the death of the civic body. No town wished quo warranto proceedings upon itself, but a close look at the writ during this period reveals something much more complex than a heavy royal hand. The records reveal both the regular issuance of the writ and the rarity of its prosecution to the fullest extent. The courts could be extremely flexible in working with corporations to preserve their privileges. Local leaders as well as Court officials were deeply involved in the origins of many of these cases. The chief goal of writ was the maintenance of order, not necessarily legal victory for the crown. Quo warranto had the potential to be a tool of strict central enforcement--indeed, in the 1630s, King Charles I did threaten its use to punish errant corporations. But quo warranto proceedings should be seen as a tool for local governments, as well, and the central courts as a venue for negotiation between center and locality.
Quo Warranto, 1660-1750: Whose Prerogative?
Paul D. Halliday, Department of History, Union College
The information in the nature of quo warranto, though not a prerogative writ in the strict sense of the word, had most of the characteristics of one. The use of quo warranto to compel the City of London and scores of other corporations to surrender their charters in the 1680s has long been one of the central elements in the story of "Stuart absolutism." Through a study of the rarely explored records of King's Bench, case reports, and local archives, this paper challenges this view, showing instead that the initiative in the use of quo warranto lay with people in the provinces, not with agents of the crown. In the 1680s, it took townsmen and other individuals to prod the crown to use a legal device it had long been shy about employing. After 1688, when many aspects of the "arbitrary" governments of the 1680s were rejected, quo warranto lived on. In 1698, it was revived by individuals in the corporation of Hertford who used it to attack their local political foes. Though their efforts failed, they had shown that quo warranto might be used by a group of individuals to test the claims of others to hold office or to exercise certain powers. In short, quo warranto had emerged as the legal weapon of choice in provincial partisan political battles. The prerogative for using quo warranto had fallen entirely into the hands of individuals outside of royal government. Quo warranto thus joined other devices--such as mandamus and certiorari--that were developing at this time as the means by which people in the provinces could check the political excesses of their own neighbors, a transformation in the law that occurred as a result of transformations in the practice of politics.
The Decline of English Witchcraft Prosecutions, 1606-1717
Brian P. Levack, Department of History, University of Texas
Comment: The Chair
alien bodies posed to the purity of white womanhood. The success and failure of these measures could be monitored, in part, through the U.S. Census which counted certain multiracial persons at various times, with 1920 as the last year that "mulattoes" existed as a category. Soon, multiracial persons may be counted again by the Census. Is this an acknowledgment of the ultimate failure of anti-miscegenation laws and racist immigration restrictions to maintain the racial composition/purity of the national body? How does multiracialism figure in the debate over color-blindness and race-consciousness?
This paper examines these questions by comparing the present to the early part of this century when it was undergoing what might be termed a national identity crisis precipitated by changing demographics. During this period, national identity became reconceptualized in terms of familial relations. Racial-sexual policing and immigration restriction were about policing the family that is America, and both played prominent roles in helping America negotiate its identity crisis during this period. Understanding this earlier identity crisis provides a context for understanding our current national identity crisis. Although anti-miscegenation laws are no longer valid, their residue remains. In 1986, 99% of White Americans were married to White Americans. Further, extralegal forms of racial-sexual policing still take place, and thinly veiled racist immigration restrictions remain possible. the struggle over the family that is America, over the national body, is not yet over. This paper explores the ways in which multiracialism has been and continues to be a part of this struggle.
Adrienne Davis, Washington College of Law, American University
Annette Gordon-Reed, New York Law School