AHQ reviews Distinguishing the Righteous from the Roguish

AHQ reviews Distinguishing the Righteous from the Roguish


“Looney brings to his study a well-trained legal mind and a solid grasp of the nineteenth-century law and its institutions. His discussions of key decisions are clear and economically rendered. The chapters, crafted with accessible, straightforward prose, typically end with precise conclusions. The author provides useful quantification, meaningful categorizations, and cogent assessment of the various kinds of decisions handed down across the period, typically organized into periods corresponding to the tneures of the various chief justices… Distinguishing the Righteous from the Roguish is an admirable achievement. The book will prove vital to scholars interested in the history of Arkansas, the courts and jurisprudence of the state, and the law, society, and politics of the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction-era South.”

—Mark M. Carroll, Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Spring 2017


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“Although the title suggests this material will interest only historians of a brief legal era, this book is quite a lively read. It views the settlement of Arkansas from the perspective of the state’s appellate courts. Looney, a retired state judge and emeritus distinguished professor of law at the University of Arkansas, rereads written opinions of antebellum Arkansas appellate courts dealing with land titles, banking, transportation (especially railroads), debt, family law, and crime, and interprets their legal and political significance with the aid of secondary sources. He carries the narrative through conflicts that arose during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Like those of other states, Arkansas courts were concerned with developing the law needed to to regulate a growing and changing economy. But Looney persuasively argues that broader economic development was sacrificed to the need to preserve the status of a politically active planter elite—the “righteous” of the title. Significantly, courts prevaricated to preserve slavery. Even after 1865, elites tried to maintain or recover their dominance. Looney’s narrative sometimes identifies “rogues.” Land title cases, especially, could turn on forged documents or perjured testimony. Interesting and valuable.”

—P. Lermack, Bradley University, Choice, February 2017

Summing up: Highly recommended.