The Jurisprudence of Slavery, Freedom, and Union at Washington College, 1831-1861


Alfred Brophy

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On Thursday, Sept. 29, distinguished legal historian Alfred Brophy delivers the 2011 Hendricks Lecture in Law and History. The topic of Prof. Brophy's talk is "The Jurisprudence of Slavery, Freedom, and Union at Washington College, 1831-1861."

In his talk, Prof. Brophy will discuss the ideas about law and constitutionalism at Washington College—and in Lexington more generally — in the thirty years leading into Civil War. He details the shift from Enlightenment ideas about freedom —even if circumscribed by economic reality — to the reluctant embrace of slavery, because it was part of the Constitution.

In contrast with Virginia Military Institute, where pro-slavery and pro-secession ideas were more prevalent, Brophy argues that at Washington College there were a wide range of ideas related to Union, slavery, utility, sentiment, Republicanism, and constitutionalism. He says Washington College and Lexington emerge as important formulators of the Southern response to changes in the United States in the years leading into Civil War, as Southerners discussed the mandates of jurisprudence and constitutionalism and the future of slavery and Union.

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