The Writs of Assistance Case 1761

The Writs of Assistance Case 1761

The Writs of Assistance Case 1761
The Writs of Assistance Case 1761

George II (1683–1760), James Otis Jr. (1725–1783)

Americans were protesting to the British government’s seemingly unlimited ability to inspect private property via writs of assistance more than thirty years before the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution barred arbitrary searches and seizures. The Revolutionary War was sparked by opposition to such writs.

Following the French and Indian War—the Seven Years’ War’s North American theater—Britain became worried about the colonies’ commercial trade with foreign countries. The British used writs of assistance, which are similar to general warrants, to combat smuggling.

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The Gin Act of 1751 – London, England

The Gin Act of 1751

The Gin Act of 1751
The Gin Act of 1751 – William Hogarth’s engraving Gin Lane depicts the ills that befell Londoners from the unrestricted sale
of gin in the eighteenth century.

William Hogarth (1697–1764)

Gin is the anglicized, abbreviated version of Genever, the Dutch name for the juniper berry, which is the main flavoring ingredient in the spirit. In the late 1600s, English troops returning from battle on the continent brought this clear wine to London in their bags. It was an instant hit, and by the 1680s, Holland’s exports had surpassed 10 million gallons.

Then, in 1689, England outlawed the importing of all spirits in order to promote domestic manufacture. Domestic distiller incentives made gin cheap and plentiful, changing the kingdom’s drinking habits. Gin supplanted beer and ale as the most readily available of the few viable social pleasures, and the working people embraced it wholeheartedly.

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The Trial of John Peter Zenger 1735

The Trial of John Peter Zenger 1735

The Trial of John Peter Zenger 1735
The Trial of John Peter Zenger 1735 –

John Peter Zenger (1697–1746), William Cosby (1690–1736), Andrew Hamilton (c. 1676–1741)

New York Governor William Cosby, a dishonest and greedy robber, had control of the city’s sole established newspaper, which, of course, backed him against his critics. A leader of the opposition commissioned John Peter Zenger, a printer, to create a new publication in which they could air their grievances.

The Weekly Journal was founded, with its first editorials aimed at exposing the governor’s political ineptitude. Cosby, desperate to put a stop to the fledgling publication, had all copies destroyed. For his attacks on the government, he had Zenger arrested and accused with seditious libels.

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The Bubble Act – 1720 – A Royal Charter

The Bubble Act – 1720

The Bubble Act - 1720
The Bubble Act – 1720 – James Carter’s engraving of Edward Matthew Ward’s painting of London’s Exchange Alley captures the speculative excitement created by the South Sea Bubble.

Financial crises are not unique to any one economic or financial system, but they all arise from human greed.

The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), a struggle primarily between England, the Dutch Republic, and France for succession to the Spanish monarchy and access to lucrative trading possibilities in the Spanish colonies, had proven costly, and Parliament needed to raise cash.

It did so in a variety of ways, including selling its debt to merchants. The South Sea Company was founded in 1711 by a group of investors as a joint-stock company with transferable shares, and Parliament granted it a charter. The firm was offered a trading monopoly on Spanish territories in the Caribbean and South America in exchange for taking on war debt.

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The Statute of Anne 1710

The Statute of Anne 1710

The Statute of Anne 1710
The Statute of Anne 1710 – Under Queen Anne, the Act of Union joined the kingdoms of England and Scotland, and the statute that bears her name established the first copyright law.

Queen Anne (1665–1714)

The right of ownership in a creative work, often known as the right to duplicate it or copyright, generally belongs to the author or creator, but he or she can assign, license, or sell it.

Authors and other creators, on the other hand, haven’t always had statutory protection for their work. Prior to Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type and the printing press, documents were generally copied by hand by monks serving as scribes for the Church.

“The age of ‘authorship,’ as former Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin characterized it, had not yet come.” Following the introduction of commercial printing in England, Mary I granted the Stationers’ Company, a long-standing trade guild, a royal charter in 1557, granting them a publishing monopoly. Individual printers of the Stationers’ Company, not the authors of the books it produced, were recognized as the rights-holders in the works under the law.

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Lapse of the Licensing Act 1695

Lapse of the Licensing Act 1695

Lapse of the Licensing Act 1695
Lapse of the Licensing Act 1695 – English scholar and poet John Milton (1608–1674), as painted by Solomon Alexander Hart (1806–1881), wrote the polemical tract Areopagitica (1644) to protest the Licensing Order of 1643, which ultimately expired in 1695.

Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1398–1468), John Locke (1632–1704)

With the development of moveable type by Gutenberg in the mid-fifteenth century, Europe was faced with a new problem: regulating the written word. When William Caxton established a press at Westminster in 1476, the new technology arrived in England, but progress was slow. The Stationers’ Company was awarded a royal charter — and hence a monopoly on printing — by Mary I in 1557.

Elizabeth I, her sister, imposed the Star Chamber Decree on printing in 1586, which severely limited printing. Charles I issued a second Star Chamber Decree against printing in 1637, and further acts and ordinances restricted the practice over the years.

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The Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692

The Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692

The Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692
The Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692 – This 1892 lithograph by Joseph E. Baker (1837–1914) dramatically depicts one of the witchcraft trials held in Salem, Massachusetts

William Phips (1651–1695), Cotton Mather (1663–1728)

The law isn’t always up to the task. The Salem witchcraft trials are one of the most severe examples of the rule of law being overwhelmed by public hysteria, culminating in a complete failure of impartial justice.

More than two hundred persons were accused of practicing witchcraft in colonial Salem, Massachusetts, and were subjected to court-ordered torture, long jail sentences, or execution.

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