Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Joseph Brevard, a South Carolina judge, observed in 1814 that "the laws of a country form the most instructive portion of its history." Certainly the successive printed collections of state statutes are among the most reliable and readily available sources for early American legal history. While statutes on their face do not reveal the extent to which they proved effective, the fact remains that to a unique degree statute law, as the product of the legislative process, mirrors the considered values and ideals of a society. Yet the legal history of South Carolina, and indeed that of most southern states, remains largely unexplored. This study attempts to fill part of the gap with an analysis of South Carolina statutory law in the immediate post-Revolutionary era, between the British evacuation of Charleston in December of 1782 and the ratification of the Constitution of the United States in 1788. An investigation of the statutes governing the state during these years should furnish some insight into the impact of the Revolution upon the status of the law as well as the functioning of South Carolina society in the Critical Period. These crucial and unsettled years would see Carolinians follow their victory in the Revolution with the restoration of civil government.