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Statute Law in Colonial Virginia

Governors, Assemblymen, and the Revisals That Forged the Old Dominion
Warren M. Billings

BUY Cloth · 192 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813945644 · $39.50 · Feb 2021
BUY Ebook · 192 pp. · ISBN 9780813945651 · $39.50 · Feb 2021

Between 1632 and 1748, Virginia’s General Assembly revised the colony’s statutes seven times. These revisals provide an invaluable opportunity to gauge how governors, councilors, and burgesses created a hybrid body of colonial statute law that would become the longest strand in the American legal fabric. In Statute Law in Colonial Virginia, Warren Billings presents a series of snapshots that depict the seven revisions of the corpus juris the General Assembly undertook. In so doing, he highlights the good, the corrupt, and the loathsome applications of broad legislative authority throughout the colonial era. Each revision was built on prior written law and embodies the members’ legal knowledge and statutory craftsmanship, revealing their use of an unbridled discretion to further the interests they represented. Statutes undergirded Virginia’s evolving legal culture, and by examining these revisals and their links, Billings casts light on the hybrid nature of Virginia statute law and its relation to English laws.


This book represents an important contribution on the substance of the Virginia revisals, a topic that no one has addressed in book-length form. The scholarship is completely sound, and Billings is the most important colonial Virginia legal historian and the only person who can make all the necessary connections.

Mary Sarah Bilder, Boston College Law School · Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention

The preeminent historian of early Virginia, Warren Billings trains his penetrating lens on America’s oldest legislature and the statutory overhauls it accomplished during two eventful centuries. His fast-paced, highly readable account sheds new light on the pulls and tugs on both sides of the Atlantic that shaped this pivotal first experiment in American democracy and that influence law-making even today.

Frank B. Atkinson, former chairman of the federal Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission · The Lion’s Den: A Story of American Renewal

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