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Book Chapter

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Nan Goodman & Simon Stern








Legal language in America, a species of the political discourse of popular sovereignty, underwent significant changes during the nineteenth century. Beyond dramatic changes in the technologies of language, two major sociolegal dynamics of political development drove linguistic innovation during the nineteenth century: expansion and consolidation. Religious revivals and political reform movements, including a number of utopian projects, spread the language of liberty and popular consent as groups migrated west. The sensational 1829 pamphlet known as Walker's Appeal turned America's language of political liberty against the slave trade. David Walker, a former slave, directed his words primarily to the colored people of the United States, urging them to "assert their rights as men" by revolting against their slave masters. As the nineteenth century came hurtling to a close, new disintegrating forces worked against national efforts at linguistic consolidation. The most visible development involved the displacement of customary legal discourse by institutions and statutes over time.

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