Academic journal article The Historian

Rutgers V. Waddington: Alexander Hamilton, the End of the War for Independence, and the Origins of Judicial Review

Academic journal article The Historian

Rutgers V. Waddington: Alexander Hamilton, the End of the War for Independence, and the Origins of Judicial Review

Article excerpt

Rutgers v. Waddington: Alexander Hamilton, the End of the War for Independence, and the Origins of Judicial Review. By Peter Charles Hoffer. (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2016. Pp. vii, 152. $18.95.)

In this smart and slim volume, the author makes a convincing argument that scholars need to pay greater mind to Rutgers v. Waddington, a complex and twisting legal case decided in New York City in 1784, in order to understand the origins of judicial review and the evolving sense of national identity in the United States. Peter Charles Hoffer begins his story in revolutionary-era Gotham, a city captured by the British in 1776, which remained their base of operations throughout the war. Although the British did not treat New York like conquered territory, they did encourage merchant Joshua Waddington and other Loyalist supporters to confiscate and operate businesses like the Rutgers brewhouse as the conflict raged on. Not surprisingly, Loyalists garnered little sympathy from their patriotic neighbors when the Revolution turned in favor of the Americans. Beginning in the late 1770s, state lawmakers passed legislation to punish British sympathizers. One of these provisions was the 1783 Trespass Act, which gave Patriots the right to sue Loyalists for damages related to property confiscated during the war. This new law soon sparked a heated legal debate when the Rutgers tavern mysteriously went up in flames in November of 1783.

Enter Alexander Hamilton, a talented young attorney deeply concerned about the survival of his young nation. In his mind, reintegrating former Loyalists was an important step in securing the United States. But he also believed something else that had perhaps deeper implications for the nation's future: The Trespass Act's effort to punish Loyalists violated the 1783 treaty that had brought the war to a close and included a promise that Americans would protect the property rights of British subjects. …

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