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James Oliver Robertson intended no sacrilege when he called the Declaration of Independence a sacred text, an essential component of what has become American “holy writ.” It is now venerated as a founding document of the national civil religion. The Declaration, Robertson emphasized, reflects an expectation that the new United States would become the nation among all nations. As celebrated now, independence then provided the political means to achieve a social end, that social end being a better life for Americans, their new nation acting as an exemplar for the larger world. Or, as Stephen E. Lucas put it, the Declaration of Independence went through an “apotheosis,” through which, over the years, Americans have come to “see its original purpose in universal terms almost wholly divorced from the events of 1776.”
[It] is not I who am on trial here today, but the Law of the New Hebrides.
In 1906, Britain and France jointly annexed the New Hebrides. A y-shaped archipelago in the southwest Pacific Ocean, the New Hebrides—which became Vanuatu upon independence in 1980—comprised some eighty islands characterized by high levels of linguistic and cultural diversity. At the moment of annexation, there were also Presbyterian, Anglican, and Catholic missionaries and Euro-American planters and traders, who overlaid religious and national divisions onto the existing social and linguistics ones. Anglo-French rule under the New Hebrides Condominium added a hybrid legal system to this complex mix. During the colonial period, four distinct jurisdictions existed, indicative of the divided, rival nature of governance. These included joint Condominium law, British common law, French civil law, and from 1928, a native code and courts. The plurality and ambiguity of the legal system left ample space for critique and for alternative, extrajudicial justice, as this article explores.
On February 23, 1938, a Jerusalem Military Court convicted Mustafa Mansour of the unlawful possession of a weapon and for opening fire at a bus. The prosecution's key witness tying Mansour to the shooting was, however, not human but canine. Due to darkness the police could not pursue the “brigands” immediately following the incident. They returned at dawn accompanied by Doberman Pinschers. The dogs tracked footprints from the crime scene to the defendant's village, and then to his house, where the police discovered a few rounds of ammunition, some of which were spent.
One of the most important legacies of the American Civil War, not just in the re-united States of America but also in the nineteenth and twentieth century world, were the new laws of war that the conflict introduced. “Lieber's Code,” named after the man who authored it for the Lincoln administration, was a set of instructions written and issued in April 1863 to govern the conduct of “the armies of the United States in the field.” It became a template for all subsequent codes, including the Hague and Geneva conventions. Widely understood as a radical revision of the laws of war and a complete break with the Enlightenment tradition, the code, like the war that gave rise to it, reflected the new post-Napoleonic age of “people's wars.” As such, it pointed forward, if not as the expression of the first total war, then at least as an expression of the first modern one, with all the blurring of boundaries that involved.
On July 31, 1944, Rikizo Yoneyama, a former resident of Haney, British Columbia, an agricultural area east of Vancouver, wrote to the Canadian Minister of Justice to protest the sale of his property. Two years earlier, when he and his family had packed their belongings for their forced expulsion from coastal British Columbia, they could take with them only what they could carry and, like other displaced people, they left much behind. “I realize that we are the victims of a war emergency and as such are quite willing to undergo … hardship … to help safeguard the shores of our homeland,” wrote Yoneyama, “however, I do urgently desire to return to my home … when the present emergency ends. May I plead your assistance in the sincere request for the return of that home?” When letters like his did receive a response from the federal government (there is no record that he did so in this case) it came in the form of standard letter, acknowledging that “the disposal of … property will be a matter of personal concern” but informing Japanese Canadians that, in conformity with a new federal law, everything, including their homes, would be sold.
That spirits and gods, devils and idols, should be endowed with legal rights and enjoyments is again a practice as common as it seems to be ancient.
Perhaps you will go to the length of saying that much the most interesting person that you ever knew was persona ficta.
In May 1926, the German Society for International Law discussed the foundational question of the subjects of international law. “Who can appear independently before international forums? only states? or also others, particularly individuals?” asked the speaker, Godehard Josef Ebers, a professor at the University of Cologne. The topic possessed a strange novelty. “In the nineteenth century one hardly even considered the problem,” Ebers noted incredulously. Now it appeared both neglected and pressing. The society's resolutions that year recognized that ever more non-state “factors”—including groups such as minorities as well as individuals—were emerging as the bearers of international rights and duties. The appearance of these new subjects suggested a transformation in the deep conceptual substructure (Grundauffassung) of international law, which had hitherto recognized states alone as international persons.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Vital Mareille—a champion of the plaidoirie sentimentale—tried to explain the reasons for its rise in France and its continued popularity into his own era. He defined it in the following terms: “The plaidoirie [defense summation] sentimentale is, precisely, that which seeks to move; one can say: that which comes from the heart of the attorney, to address that of the judges.” The plaidoirie sentimentale had existed in France before 1800, but it entered its golden age in the nineteenth century, and became a specialized form of judicial oratory. It developed chiefly in response to the introduction of trial by jury in 1791. Attorneys had to craft a rhetorical approach that would appeal to these “simple citizens,” and for this, sentimental eloquence was ideal; however, no recent scholar has attempted a systematic study of this important form of courtroom rhetoric from its origins in the early nineteenth century to its gradual replacement after 1890 or thereabouts by a more fact-based, “positivist” approach. This is unfortunate, because the history of the plaidoirie sentimentale reveals much. It includes juridical issues such as how the rhetorical practices of magistrates themselves contributed to the affective nature of French jury trial and the impact of the abolition in 1881 the résumé (summing up),which had been the judge's one means of countering the effect on a jury of an eloquent defense summation. It also reveals important changes in the attitudes of judges and jurors toward male mistreatment of women and the sexual “double standard” from the middle of the nineteenth century on and of how attorneys of the era drew on both the “new” emotion of sympathy and the “old” one of honor to persuade jurors to acquit. This adds to the evidence that emotions have a “history.”