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A Community Built on WordsThe Constitution in History and Politics$
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H. Jefferson Powell

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226677231

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226677224.001.0001

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1829: Writing State v. Mann

1829: Writing State v. Mann

XV. 1829: Writing State v. Mann
A Community Built on Words
University of Chicago Press

Next to the infamous Dred Scott case, State v. Mann is probably the best known American judicial decision involving the institution of slavery. The decision's prominence during the antebellum period was due in part to the fact that the author of the North Carolina Supreme Court's opinion, Thomas Ruffin, was a judge with a national reputation. Beginning at an early point, however, Ruffin's opinion in Mann began to attract attention for its language and what that language revealed about slavery as well as the author. Ruffin did not achieve these effects without effort. By chance three drafts of his opinion survive, and a comparison of them sheds important light on the final product and on Ruffin's thinking about the place of slavery in an American constitutional order.

Keywords:   slavery, constitutional order, Thomas Ruffin, State v. Mann, judicial decision, antebellum period

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