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Reeve, Tapping, 1744-1823



Tapping Reeve (1744-1823), an American jurist and founder of the Litchfield Law School, helped bring order to the law through systematic and integrated instruction.

Tapping Reeve, the son of a Presbyterian minister, was born in Brookhaven, Long Island, in October 1744. He entered the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) at 15 and graduated first in his class in 1763. In 1771 Reeve left his post as tutor at Princeton to read law in the traditional way in a judge's office in Hartford, Conn. In a year he was admitted to the bar, and he moved to the remote village of Litchfield, Conn., to begin his practice.

As his reputation grew, young prospective lawyers began to seek Reeve out to supervise their legal preparation. But he soon went beyond the usual procedures (which gave the clerks little or no overview in their reading and only a perfunctory knowledge of established legal forms) to introduce them to the substantive principles and concepts of law. In the absence of accessible textbooks and reports, he inaugurated in 1782 a series of formal and connected lectures which embraced the whole field of jurisprudence. Two years later, with students overflowing home and office, he erected a small frame building near his home and assembled his law library there. In this school he met his classes of from 10 to 20 men. On Saturdays the students were examined on the week's lectures, and Monday evenings were reserved for moot court sessions.

For 14 years Reeve conducted the school alone, but when, in 1798, he was appointed a judge of the superior court, James Gould began to share the teaching duties. The notes from their lectures, as the school catalog noted in 1828, "constitute books of reference, the great advantage of which must be apparent to every one of the slightest acquaintance with the ... Law."

Before the school closed in 1833 because of increased competition from New York, New Haven, and Boston, Reeve and Gould graduated more than 1,000 lawyers. The roster of names reads like a "Who's Who in Nineteenth-century America," including 2 U.S. vice presidents, 3 Supreme Court justices, 6 Cabinet members, and 116 congressmen.

After 16 years on the state supreme court Reeve was elevated in 1814 to chief justice. He retired the next year, at the age of 70. He published The Law of Baron and Femme (1816), a legal analysis of domestic relations that went into four editions. Financially straitened and flagging with age, he withdrew from his school partnership in September 1820 and died in Litchfield on Dec. 13, 1823.

"Tapping Reeve." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998.

Found in 11 Collections and/or Records:

Beckwith family papers


Identifier: 1988-01-0
Scope and Contents The Beckwith family papers (1988-01-0) consist of correspondence, financial records, legal documents, military records, diaries, photographs, and other records. A small group of papers predates those of the Beckwith family. At present, only materials created prior to 1840, a limited selection of post-1840 materials, and those that relate to Josiah Beckwith (1803-1871) have been processed. They are arranged in three series. Series 1, Papers (1767-1892), contains a collection of primarily...
Dates: translation missing: en.enumerations.date_label.created: 1767-1972; Other: Date acquired: 01/01/1988

"Litchfield Hill" from Harper's New Monthly Magazine


Identifier: 00-2013-112-0
Scope and Contents

"Litchfield Hill," is an article from Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 2013-112-0, about the town of Litchfield during the Revolutionary War and some of its most famous residents from the later 18th and early 19th centuries: Tapping Reeve, Sarah Pierce, Oliver Wolcott, James Gould, and Benjamin Tallmadge.

Dates: translation missing: en.enumerations.date_label.created: no date

Litchfield Law School collection


Identifier: 1890-10-0

This collection includes materials pertaining to Tapping Reeve, James Gould, the Litchfield Law School, and alumni of the school.  It was assembled by the Historical Society over a period of years.  Many of the law books used by Reeve and his students are also held by the Society and can be found through the book catalog.  The Society's institutional records document the history of the Tapping Reeve House and Litchfield Law School building.

Dates: translation missing: en.enumerations.date_label.created: 1773-1990; Other: Date acquired: 01/01/1890

Litchfield Law School student lecture notes, Between 1800-1820.

Series 1

Identifier: Series 1
Scope and Contents Notes of lectures by James Gould and Tapping Reeve taken by an unidentified student at the Litchfield Law School sometime between 1800 and 1820. Lecture topics include Lex mercatoria and bills of exchange ; Evidence ; Writs of error ; New trials ; Real property ; Mortgages ; Devises ; Alienation ; Injuries to real property ; Powers of chancery ; Criminal law. This is the second volume in a series. Volume three is also in this collection. Location of other volumes is unknown. This volume is...
Dates: Between 1800-1820.

Litchfield Law School student lecture notes, Between 1800-1820.

Series 1

Identifier: Series 1
Scope and Contents

Notes of lectures by James Gould and Tapping Reeve taken by an unidentified student at the Litchfield Law School sometime between 1800 and 1820. Volume 3. Sheriffs ; Bailment ; Contracts ; Covenant. Volume 2 is also in this collection. Location of other volumes is unknown. This volume is stored with the Litchfield Law School collection student notebooks.

Dates: Between 1800-1820.

Marian McKenna papers


Identifier: 1989-02-0
Scope and Contents

Manuscript and galleys of "Tapping Reeve and the Litchfield Law School" by Marian McKenna, 1989.

Dates: translation missing: en.enumerations.date_label.created: 1989; Other: Date acquired: 04/07/1991

Charles B. Phelps Litchfield Law School notebook


Identifier: 00-2022-22-0

Charles Bartlett Phelps student notes taken while studying at the Litchfield Law School. The volume is 485 pages. The page numbering starts with 501, indicating that there were likely earlier volumes.

Dates: 1806 - 1807

Lyman Beecher Stowe speech


Identifier: 00-2010-226-0
Scope and Contents

Speech delivered by Lyman Beecher Stowe at the celebration of Litchfield's bicenennial. He remarked on his ancestors and their connection to Litchfield and his appreciation of some of the memorable citizens of Litchfield, including Sarah Pierce, Charles Loring Brace, Oliver Wolcott, Benjamin Tallmadge, Tapping Reeve, James Gould, and John Pierpont.

Dates: translation missing: en.enumerations.date_label.created: 1920 Aug 2

Benjamin Tallmadge collection


Identifier: 1933-19-0

The Benjamin Tallmadge Collection documents the personal life and professional career of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge through his correspondence as well as his legal, financial, and personal papers.  An army officer, chief intelligence officer, and organizer of the Culper spy ring during the Revolutionary War, Tallmadge became a businessman and U.S. Representative from Connecticut in Congress after the war.

Dates: translation missing: en.enumerations.date_label.created: 1777-1864; Other: Majority of material found within 1778-1833; Other: Date acquired: 01/01/1933

Thompson Family Papers


Identifier: 1929-01-0

The personal papers of the Thompson family (1929-01-0, 3 linear feet) consists of correspondence, notes, personal manuscripts and newspaper publications of various writings of Esther H. Thompson on various topics pertaining to the history of Litchfield, including her childhood recollections of troops mustering for the Civil War on the town green.

Dates: 1786-1929; Majority of material found within 1802-1929

Additional filters:

Collection 9
Archival Object 2
Correspondence 5
Law--United States--Study and teaching 5
Account books 4
Law students -- Connecticut -- Litchfield 4
Litchfield (Conn.) 4
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Law -- Study and teaching -- Connecticut 3
Lecture notes -- Connecticut -- Litchfield 3
Notebooks 3
Business records 2
Diaries 2
Lawyers--Correspondence 2
Litchfield (Conn.) - History 2
Receipts 2
United States--Politics and government--1775-1783. 2
African Americans 1
African Americans -- Connecticut -- Litchfield 1
Autograph albums 1
Billheads 1
Circulars (fliers) 1
Collecting of accounts--United States 1
Composition (Language arts) 1
Connecticut -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 1
Connecticut--Politics and government 1
Dairy farming 1
Dairy farming -- Connecticut 1
Deeds 1
Drafts (documents) 1
Drawings 1
Drugstores -- Connecticut -- Litchfield 1
Education 1
Epidemics--New York (State)--New York 1
Estate inventories 1
Families -- Connecticut -- Litchfield County 1
Farming - Connecticut - Litchfield 1
Financial records 1
Gardening -- Connecticut -- Litchfield 1
Gardening -- Connecticut -- Litchfield -- Societies, etc. 1
Genealogy--Connecticut 1
Greeting cards 1
Judicial records 1
Land titles--Connecticut 1
Law--Connecticut 1
Lecture notes 1
Legal documents 1
Litchfield (Conn.) -- Church history 1
Litchfield (Conn.) -- History, Military 1
Manuscripts 1
Medicine 1
Medicine--United States--History--18th century 1
Merchants -- Connecticut -- Litchfield 1
Methodist Church -- Connecticut 1
Military records 1
Photographs 1
Physicians -- Connecticut -- Litchfield 1
Postmasters 1
Privateering--United States 1
Real property 1
Revivals--United States 1
Scrapbooks 1
Second Great Awakening 1
Slavery 1
Slavery -- Connecticut 1
Southern States--History--1775-1865 1
Speculation--United States 1
Speeches 1
Thompson Family 1
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783 1
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Secret service 1
United States--Politics and government--1783-1865 1
United States--Politics and government--1865-1933 1
United States--Religious life and customs 1
United States--Social life and customs--1783-1865 1
Western Reserve (Ohio) 1
Women - Education - Connecticut - Litchfield - History 1
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