Synopses & Reviews
While the right to be judged by one's peers in a court of law appears to be a hallmark of American law, protected in civil cases by the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, the civil jury is actually an import from England. Legal historian James Oldham assembles a mix of his signature essays and new work on the history of jury trial, tracing how trial by jury was transplanted to America and preserved in the Constitution.
Trial by Jury begins with a rigorous examination of English civil jury practices in the late eighteenth century, including how judges determined one's right to trial by jury and who composed the jury. Oldham then considers the extensive historical use of a variety of “special juries,” such as juries of merchants for commercial cases and juries of women for claims of pregnancy. Special juries were used for centuries in both English and American law, although they are now considered antithetical to the idea that American juries should be drawn from jury pools that reflect reasonable cross-sections of their communities. An introductory overview addresses the relevance of Anglo-American legal tradition and history in understanding America's modern jury system.
"McCaffrey is at his best conveying the personal dimension of the war experience. The real strength of the book lies in the effective arrangement of bit and pieces of letters and diaries, which reveal emotions and attitudes that are variously humorous, shocking, and poignant. . . . The story is compelling. . . . A well-researched and entertaining study that will hold the attention of students and general readers." - The Journal of Southern History
"From the letters of soldiers on the battlefield to analyses of military policy and procedures, this is an essential volume for anyone studying the Mexican War in depth." - Midwest Book Review
"Deals with every facet of the soldier's involvement, as opposed to the experiences of a single unit or individual. . . . it must rank as the best source on the subject. The literary style is suitable for virtually every level of reader and is remarkably easy to follow." - Choice
"With effortless command of fact and an almost universal conversational writing style, McCaffrey (and his soldiers) bring us an on-the-spot understanding of Mexican War enlistment procedures, weaponry, punishments, disease and medical care, recreation, disdain for Mexican civilians, rivalry of volunteers with regular army men, food, shelter, and clothing. . . . This book fills a long-standing need. It may well become the Billy Yank of the Mexican War." - The Filson Club Historical Quarterly
"James McCaffrey is to be commended. Army of Manifest Destiny illuminates the Mexican War as an episode in the on-going history of the American soldier, as a prelude to the Civil War military experience, and as a major event in the history of American expansion. A well-researched book which will be of use to anybody interested in the social history of the American soldier. Its easy style will make it attractive to the general reader as well." - Tennessee Historical Quarterly
"McCaffrey tells us a great deal about what it was like to be a soldier in the Mexican War, drawing his information from a wide range of unpublished and published soldier writings. . . . well-researched, well-written, and insightful."
"A significant new contribution to the field...based upon extensive research...the reader gets an interesting profile of the average American soldier, and a vivid picture of the war...a noteworthy achievement." "An imaginative undertaking that examines racial hierarchy in the U.S. Southwest broadly and New Mexico particularly." "Focuses on the racial attitudes that shaped the identity of Mexican Americans. In this work, she terns to the 19th century to address the perennial issues of "whiteness" and the timely question of who is a citizen. Her well-researched historical case study analyzes the Mexican "racial" community from 1848, when the region was a territory and ceded to the US after the Mexican War, to 1912, when New Mexico became a state." "Presents a concise and compelling story of the development of Mexican American racial identity in the United States."
“This piecemeal research is interesting to the extent that the reader is interested in reconstructing the past.”
-The Law and Politics Book Review,
“This first-rate work of legal history meets the high expectations of those familiar with James Oldhams scholarship, and bears those hallmarks of excellence that we associate with that scholarship: total mastery of the manuscript and other sources, lucid exposition, fresh perspective, and sound insight. Illuminating not only the history of the jury, but the contemporary significance and judicial use of that history, this book will be enlightening for the non-specialist, and a boon to the legal historian.”
-Barbara A. Black,George Welwood Murray Professor of Legal History, Columbia Law School
“Essential reading for anyone interested in trial by jury. Oldham speaks with authority about who the jurors were and what they decided. Surprisingly, he supports a 'complexity exception' to the Seventh Amendment's jury trial guarantee in civil cases. His carefully-documented history of both male and female juries of experts is uniquely valuable. No comparable work exists.”
-William E. Nelson,Judge Edward Weinfeld Professor of Law, NYU School of Law
“An impressive achievement by the leading historian of eighteenth century English law. Meticulously researched and relevant both to historical and modern debates, this book deserves a wide readership.”
-Thomas P. Gallanis,Professor of Law and History, Washington and Lee University
“Oldham wonderfully complicates our historical image of the trial jury enshrined in the Sixth and Seventh Amendments of the Bill of Rights. Early English common law summoned juries of women, foreigners, experts, tradesmen, and neighbors, all deliberately chosen to bring their particular knowledge or experience to court. More than any other scholar, Oldham has revealed the manuscript sources that illuminate the context of English trial practice at the time the Bill of Rights was drafted in the newly-independent United States.”
-David J. Seipp,Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law
James McCaffrey examines America's first foreign war, the Mexican War, through the day-to-day experiences of the American soldier in battle, in camp, and on the march. With remarkable sympathy, humor, and grace, the author fills in the historical gaps of one war while rising issues now found to be strikingly relevant to this nation's modern military concerns.
About the Author
James McCaffrey is an assistant professor of history at the University of Houston-Downtown and is the author of This Band of Heroes: Granbury's Texas Brigade, C.S.A.