LITCHFIELD — The Litchfield Historical Society hosts a lecture exploring the legal philosophy of Judge Tapping Reeve, founder of America’s first law school, on Sundayat 3 p.m. Ronald Chester, of Boston College Law School, will give a talk on “The Legal Philosophy of Judge Tapping Reeve” and discuss Reeve’s importance as a transitional figure in the movement of early American law.
Chester has taught and written about American legal history and legal thought at various law schools. In the lecture, Chester will explore the movement of early American law from feudal status to the ability to change one’s status by individual actions, such as contracting. He will highlight Reeve’s progressive, activist views concerning the rights of married women and of enslaved people. Reeve’s publication, “The Law of Baron and Femme,” took steps to liberalize the American law of domestic relations, arguing, for example, that married women were permitted to make wills and own property. Reeve worked on Elizabeth Freeman’s case for her freedom. Her successful case for freedom, in 1783, set the legal precedent for the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts.