Litchfield Law School

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Tapping Reeve House and Law School
Tapping Reeve House and Law School, Litchfield, CT.jpg
East elevation and north profile of Tapping Reeve House, 2010
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Location Litchfield, CT
Coordinates 41°44′38″N73°11′19″W / 41.74395°N 73.18851°W / 41.74395; -73.18851 Coordinates: 41°44′38″N73°11′19″W / 41.74395°N 73.18851°W / 41.74395; -73.18851
Built1784
NRHP reference No. 66000879
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966 [1]
Designated NHLDecember 21, 1965 [2]

The Litchfield Law School of Litchfield, Connecticut, was the first independent law school established in America for reading law. Founded and led by lawyer Tapping Reeve, the proprietary school was unaffiliated with any college or university. [3] (While Litchfield was independent, a long-term debate resulted in the 1966 recognition of William & Mary Law School as the first law school to have been affiliated with a university.) [4]

Contents

Reeve began teaching his first student in 1774 and was teaching by lecture by 1784. Reeve later became the Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court. The school closed in 1833, having educated over 1,100 students, including Aaron Burr and John C. Calhoun. The law school, including Reeve's house, was declared a National Historic Landmark, in 1965, as the Tapping Reeve House and Law School, [2] [5] which is owned and operated by the Litchfield Historical Society as a museum displaying life in a 19th-century period school. [6] The Society also operates the Litchfield History Museum.

Tapping Reeve

Reeve was born on Long Island, New York, in 1744. He graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1763, serving for seven years as a tutor at the Grammar School that was connected with the college. There he met the children of the Princeton College's president, Aaron Burr Sr.: Aaron Burr (later Vice President of the United States) and Sally Burr, who were both his students.

Tapping Reeve moved to Connecticut and studied law under Judge Jesse Root of Hartford, and was admitted to the bar in 1772. In the same year, he married Sally Burr. They then moved to Litchfield and Reeve started his own law practice. Tapping Reeve built his six-room Litchfield house in 1773 and settled in with his wife. In 1780 he added a downstairs wing for Sally, who found it difficult to climb stairs.

Law School

Judge Gould's Law School Building, from a 1920 image Litchfield Law School.jpg
Judge Gould's Law School Building, from a 1920 image

In addition to practicing law, Reeve trained many prospective attorneys, including Aaron Burr, his brother in law. Students lived in the homes of town residents and traveled to Reeve's house on South Street to receive their morning lectures on the common law in Reeve's downstairs parlor. In 1784, in response to increasing demand, Reeve had a one-room school built adjacent to his house. [7] James Gould became Reeve's associate when Reeve was elected to the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1798. Reeve withdrew in 1820 and Gould continued until 1833. The school's lectures covered the entire body of the law including real estate, rights of persons, rights of things, contracts, torts, evidence, pleading, crimes, and equity.[ citation needed ]

Notable alumni

The list of students who attended Tapping Reeve's law school includes two Vice Presidents of the United States (Aaron Burr and John C. Calhoun), 101 members of the United States House of Representatives, 28 United States senators, six United States cabinet secretaries, three justices of the United States Supreme Court, 14 state governors and 13 state supreme court chief justices. Litchfield Law School students also held state and local political office and became business leaders. Students went on to found university law schools and become university presidents. [8] Framed pictures of students are still hung in the school, including George Catlin, Horace Mann (the educator), Aaron Burr, Oliver Wolcott Jr., and Roger Sherman Baldwin. Each name is followed by the year that the student finished, when known. [9]

Dedication of Law School.jpg

See also

Bibliography

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References

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Further reading