Vanderbilt Law Review

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This Note examines the history of one early nineteenth-century circuit court and the caliber of its bench and bar. To analyze the workings of that court, this Note applies the analytical framework adopted by Friedman, Blume, and other historians to the raw data provided by a study of the Williamson County Circuit Court records. In each of several substantive areas for which the court's records provide information, the Note first considers Friedman's generalizations about nineteenth-century law and then interprets the Williamson County data in the light of those generalizations and the results of other case studies. This Note proceeds on the theory that the records of the Williamson County Circuit Court reveal substantive decision making representative of all newly established nineteenth-century judicial systems struggling for existence and order. It suggests possible explanations for those findings that do not comport with the results of previous studies in other areas. But this Note concludes that in Tennessee, as elsewhere, it was the strength of the American justice system that helped tame the frontier, rather than the frontier that "tamed" the law.