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date: 18 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the origins of comparative law activities during the colonial British American period and the formative era of the United States. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, knowledge of Enlightenment philosophy and Roman and continental European legal systems acted as a filter for the importation of rules and structures to serve a culturally diverse people and to construct an emerging nation in the new world. Nevertheless, the first 125 years of United States history saw some exportation of American laws and legal institutions, primarily to the newly independent Latin American nations in the 1820s. These included concepts from the Constitution of 1789, the 1791 Bill of Rights, and public law structures such as federalism, a presidential executive, and judicial review of legislative and executive action. By the twentieth century, American comparative law began to form as an organized activity, with its own institution, journal, and annual meetings. This process was uneven, but steady. When the Comparative Law Bureau folded into a more comprehensive ABA section, the American Foreign Law Association kept the flame alive. Comparatists dealt with more complex methods and issues, some debated in international meetings. After World War II, law school professors established American comparative law on a firmer institutional basis with a new association, journal, and scholarly meetings.

Keywords: American comparative law, Bill of Rights, codification, Declaration of Independence, law and development, natural law, Roman law, United States Constitution

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