Northern Illinois University Press

A Law of Blood

The Primitive Law of the Cherokee Nation

John Phillip Reid

“Daring and convincing.” —Journal of American History

“Meaningful.... As a piece of legal history it is exemplary. As a piece of interpretive research it should not be overlooked.” —The Journal of Southern History

“Rich in detail and explanation.... Certain to remain an exemplary and frequently-referenced source for all students of Cherokee history and Native American history.” —Canadian Journal of History

John Phillip Reid is widely known for his groundbreaking work in American legal history. A Law of Blood, first published in the early 1970s, led the way in an additional newly emerging academic field: American Indian history. As the field has flourished, this book has remained an authoritative text. Indeed, Gordon Morris Bakken writes in the foreword to this edition that Reid’s original study “shaped scholarship and inquiry for decades.”

Forging the research methods that fellow historians would soon adopt, Reid carefully examines the organization and rules of Cherokee clans and towns. Investigating the role of women in Cherokee society, for example, he found that married Cherokee women had more legal authority than their counterparts in Anglo-American society. In particular, Reid explores the Cherokees’ revolutionary attitudes toward government and the unique relationship between the members of the tribe and their law. Before the first European contact, the Cherokee Nation had already developed a functioning government, and by the early nineteenth century, the first Cherokee constitution had been enacted.

(2006) 352 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-608-2
paper $26.00

John Phillip Reid is Professor of Law Emeritus at New York University and the author of numerous books on legal history, including Controlling the Law and The Ancient Constitution and the Origins of Anglo-American Liberty.

Table of Contents

Foreword - Gordon Morris Bakken
One: A Race of Mountain Men: The People
Two: A Source of Disunity: The Regions
Three: A Leadership of Crisis: The Ascendency of Chota
Four: A Rule by Consensus: The Towns
Five: A Family Writ Large: The Clans
Six: A Native Politeness: The Headmen
Seven: A Nation's Mouth: The National Council and Speaker
Eight: A Darling Passion: The Law of Coercion and of Equality
Nine: A Right to Vengeance: The Law of Homicide
Ten: A Way of Peace: The Mechanics of Vengeance
Eleven: A Touch of Justice: The Mitigation of Liability
Twelve: A Social Permissiveness: The Law of Marriage
Thirteen: An Occupant's Tenure: The Law of Property
Fourteen: A Nephew's Right: The Laws of Inheritance and Status
Fifteen: A Way to War: The Law of the Nations
Sixteen: A Gift of Scalps: The Law of Visitors and Retaliation
Seventeen: A Bloody Hatchet: The War Machine
Eighteen: A Beloved Occupation: The Law of Capture and Adoption
Nineteen: A Path Swept Clean: The Making of Peace
Twenty: A Still Hot War: The Keeping of Peace
Twenty-One: A Scolding House: The Cherokee Legal System
Twenty-Two: A Way of Dreaming: The Cherokee Legal Mind
Twenty-Three: A People of Law: The Future

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-608-2
paper $26.00