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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 13664553

Litchfield Law School student notebooks

Overview

A collection of 63 scanned notebooks from Litchfield Law School representing the lectures of Tapping Reeve (1744-1823) and James Gould (1770-1838) as recorded by 17 students in the school.

Dates

  • 1803-1825

Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Historical and Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Historical and Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.

Extent

63 Volumes

The collection of 64 scanned notebooks from Litchfield Law School represents lectures of Tapping Reeve (1744-1823) and James Gould (1770-1838) as recorded by17 students in the school. Eleven of these students are identified by their autographed notes while six others remain anonymous. The earliest notebooks in the collection are those of Lonson Nash, dating from 1803; the latest volume, dated about 1825, bears no sign of ownership. There is a cluster of notebooks from 1812-1813, belonging to William S. Andrews, Samuel Cheever, Henry H. Fuller, and Elisha Whittlesey, students whose times of attendance at Litchfield overlapped. The number of notebooks an individual student might fill varies over time. Lonson Nash took down Reeve’s lectures in three volumes, while in 1822 Thomas S. Fullerton required seven. These notebooks are important for two reasons: first, because they demonstrate professional legal education beyond the customary apprenticeship in a law office; and second, because they document a comprehensive curriculum of legal instruction, closely following the organizational structure of William Blackstone’s four volume Commentaries on the Laws of England.

Historical/Biographical Information

Litchfield Law School is generally regarded as the first law school in the United States, but it began only with individual instruction. In 1774, Tapping Reeve undertook to prepare Aaron Burr, the brother of his wife Sally, for a legal career in the usual manner by reading the law with him. At first, instruction took place in Reeve’s home, but by 1782, personal instruction gave way to lectures on topics of law. In 1784, a small one room school was built next to the Reeve home in Litchfield to accommodate an increasing number of students. By contemporary accounts, the school was initially known as “Reeve’s school in Connecticut.” The school was not a degree granting institution. Rather, each student received a certificate of attendance. The full course ran for 14 months including two vacations, but not all students remained for that length of time. Three months was the shortest period a student might enroll. Before admission to the bar, the student would normally seek further training in a lawyer’s office.

When Tapping Reeve was appointed a judge of the Connecticut Superior Court in 1798, he took on his most accomplished student, James Gould, to be his associate lecturer. Together Reeve and Gould lectured on the law, presided over weekly moot court, and attended regular sessions of the court in Litchfield with their students. Reeve retired from teaching in 1820 and Gould continued as sole lecturer until 1833, when the school closed. By that date, more than 1,000 men had studied at the school. Many went on to distinguished careers as members of Congress, Chief Justices of states, U.S. Senators, state governors, Cabinet members and Justices of the Supreme Court of the U.S. Others pursued careers in industry, business, and education.

Physical Location

Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Please contact the Curator of Modern Manuscripts for information.

Existence and Location of Copies

The entirety of the Harvard Law School Library's holdings relating to the Litchfield Law School has been digitized, with support from the Ames Foundation. To access individual volumes, please click the appropriate link in the container list below.

Related Materials

The Litchfield Historical Society also holds a collection of materials related to the Litchfield Law School, much of which has been digitized. They have posted both a finding aid online and a digital collection called the Litchfield Ledger.

General note

The Scope and Content and Biographical note were both written by Whitney S. Bagnall with support from the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation.

General note

Litchfield Law School is generally regarded as the first law school in the United States, but it began only with individual instruction. In 1774, Tapping Reeve undertook to prepare Aaron Burr, the brother of his wife Sally, for a legal career in the usual manner by reading the law with him. At first, instruction took place in Reeve’s home, but by 1782, personal instruction gave way to lectures on topics of law. In 1784, a small one room school was built next to the Reeve home in Litchfield to accommodate an increasing number of students. By contemporary accounts, the school was initially known as “Reeve’s school in Connecticut.” The school was not a degree granting institution. Rather, each student received a certificate of attendance. The full course ran for 14 months including two vacations, but not all students remained for that length of time. Three months was the shortest period a student might enroll. Before admission to the bar, the student would normally seek further training in a lawyer’s office.

General note

When Tapping Reeve was appointed a judge of the Connecticut Superior Court in 1798, he took on his most accomplished student, James Gould, to be his associate lecturer. Together Reeve and Gould lectured on the law, presided over weekly moot court, and attended regular sessions of the court in Litchfield with their students. Reeve retired from teaching in 1820 and Gould continued as sole lecturer until 1833, when the school closed. By that date, more than 1,000 men had studied at the school. Many went on to distinguished careers as members of Congress, Chief Justices of states, U.S. Senators, state governors, Cabinet members and Justices of the Supreme Court of the U.S. Others pursued careers in industry, business, and education.

General note

The collection of 64 scanned notebooks from Litchfield Law School represents lectures of Tapping Reeve (1744-1823) and James Gould (1770-1838) as recorded by17 students in the school. Eleven of these students are identified by their autographed notes while six others remain anonymous. The earliest notebooks in the collection are those of Lonson Nash, dating from 1803; the latest volume, dated about 1825, bears no sign of ownership. There is a cluster of notebooks from 1812-1813, belonging to William S. Andrews, Samuel Cheever, Henry H. Fuller, and Elisha Whittlesey, students whose times of attendance at Litchfield overlapped. The number of notebooks an individual student might fill varies over time. Lonson Nash took down Reeve’s lectures in three volumes, while in 1822 Thomas S. Fullerton required seven. These notebooks are important for two reasons: first, because they demonstrate professional legal education beyond the customary apprenticeship in a law office; and second, because they document a comprehensive curriculum of legal instruction, closely following the organizational structure of William Blackstone’s four volume Commentaries on the Laws of England.

General note

The entirety of the Harvard Law School Library's holdings relating to the Litchfield Law School has been digitized, with support from the Ames Foundation. To access individual volumes, please click the appropriate link in the container list below.

General note

The Litchfield Historical Society also holds a collection of materials related to the Litchfield Law School, much of which has been digitized. They have posted both a finding aid online and a digital collection called the Litchfield Ledger.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Margaret Peachy, February, 2013.

The Scope and Content and Biographical note were both written by Whitney S. Bagnall with support from the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation.

Title
Litchfield Law School Student Notebooks: Finding Aid
Author
Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA 02138
Language of description
und
EAD ID
law00265

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

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