Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




The purpose of this study is to utilize the insights provided by the decisions of the Virginia Court of Appeals during the years 1776-1830 to gain a fuller understanding of the concept of "republicanism" through an analysis of its application in courts of law.;It is clear that in the years after the Revolution, the Virginia Court of Appeals made a striking statement about the nature of that Revolution in Virginia. It defined a new constitutional order by elevating the Virginia constitution to the plane of higher law, and by articulating and implementing the doctrine of popular sovereignty. The court made workable such previously theoretical constructs as the separation of powers, and adapted the English legal heritage to republican dictates and the demands of a new society. It was also instrumental in applying new republican conceptions to specific areas of the law. In so doing, the court displayed a clear deference to the policy initiatives of the legislative branch.;While applying republican principles, the Virginia court added a decidedly conservative gloss, favoring stable rules of law and the protection of existing property rights at every opportunity, in the process supporting the existing political order. at the same time, the Virginia Court of Appeals was in the forefront of a localistic response to the challenges posed by the establishment of a new federal government.;Taken together, these conclusions suggest that Virginia retained in large part a conservative, localistic strain of republicanism well into the nineteenth century, while its judiciary remained essentially incrementalist in its policy-making approach.



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