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The Ancient Constitution and the Origins of Anglo-American Liberty
John Phillip Reid
"A first-rate tour de force by a master … a valedictory statement of a major theme in [Reid's] lifetime's work."—G. Ellis Sandoz, Louisiana State University
"[Reid] makes a fine case for his view that ancient legal constitutional concepts were among the most important causes of the American Revolution."—Stephen Presser, Northwestern University School of Law
"Reid clearly presents thoughtful and penetrating studies that will be of great service to anyone interested in understanding the legal roots of Anglo-American liberty."—The American Journal of Legal History
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, English and American lawyers appealed to "the ancient constitution" as the cornerstone of liberty. According to this idea, constitutional law was not dictated by a monarch but based on the authority of custom, passed down unaltered from time immemorial. Legal historian John Phillip Reid convincingly demonstrates that this concept of an unchanging, ancient constitution furnished English common lawyers and parliamentarians an argument with which to combat royal prerogative power. At the same time, it provided American revolutionaries with legal arguments for rejecting the British parliament's effort to impose arbitrary rule upon the colonies.
(2005) 196 pp., notes, acknowledgments, index
John Phillip Reid is Professor of Law Emeritus at New York University. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he served as a law clerk for the U.S. District Court for New Hampshire and is the author of numerous books on legal history.
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