E. Lee Shepard


That well-known but inadequately understood institution, the county court, was brought to life and placed in clear perspective as an integral part of the life of colonists of every variety of status and calling nearly thirty years ago in Charles Sydnor's classic, albeit impressionistic, study, Gentlemen Freeholders: Political Practices in Washington's Virginia (1952). Sydnor proclaimed that in eighteenth-century Virginia planters, not lawyers, dominated the political scene and thus dispensed with the legal profession. Sydnor's domain was politics; his discussion centered on the "county oligarchies." In recent years scholars have recognized the pressing need for a deeper understanding of the operations and impact of the early Virginia bench and bar. To answer this need for research which will take us through the door Sydnor opened but beyond which he only peered, we now have, in A. G. Roeber's new book, a well-crafted guide to this relatively uncharted territory of the Old Dominion's legal history.