The Civil War, Race, and the Law in New York City

in The Origins and Development of American Legal History in New York City(1609-1865)
Lesson 5

Created by Dr. Aaron Welt,
Judith S Kaye Teaching Fellow

NYS Common Core Grades 11 & 12:
United States History and Government
Participation in Government and Civics

This series of five lesson plans is designed to familiarize upper-level high school and college students with the early history of American law, with a specific focus on New York City. These lesson plans utilize online resources provided by the Historical Society of the New York Courts and aim to introduce students to the major events and turning points that help us understand how American law, courts, and the criminal justice system developed in early US history. The lesson plans are divided chronologically and thematically, but are meant to be instructed in conversation with one another. For each of the outlined class activities, students should write down their answers and submit them to the instructor.

This lesson plan meets the following guidelines of New York State’s Common Core Social Studies Framework (2017):

  • Expansion, Nationalism, and Sectionalism: 11.3b, 11.3c


The Historical Society’s website contains a wealth of related resources, including descriptions of the cases and biographies of the judges who decided the cases.

The Lemmon Slave Case: The Superior Court Judgment

The Lemmon Slave Case
Judicial Notice Article

Louis Napoleon
Conductor on the Underground Railroad

Chester Arthur
Lawyer for the Enslaved People

John Jay
Lawyer for the Enslaved People

Erastus Culver
Lawyer for the Enslaved People

Henry Lapaugh
Lawyer for the Lemmons

Elijah Paine
Superior Court Judge

The Lemmon Slave Case: Appeals to the Court of Appeals

William Evarts
Lawyer for New York

Charles O’Conor
Lawyer for the Lemmons

Samuel Foot
Former Court of Appeals Judge

William Wright
Court of Appeals Judge, Affirmed

Hiram Denio
Court of Appeals Judge, Affirmed

Thomas Clerke
Court of Appeals Judge, Dissented

George Comstock
Court of Appeals Judge, Dissented

Samuel Selden
Court of Appeals Judge, Dissented

Elizabeth Jennings v. Third Avenue Railroad Co. 

Jennings v. Third Avenue Railroad Co. 

Chester Arthur
Lawyer for Elizabeth Jennings

Hon. William Rockwell
Brooklyn Circuit Court Judge

New York City Draft Riot Cases

Court Cases Related to the New York City Draft Riots

Hon. John McCunn
New York City Judge

Hon. Samuel Nelson
Justice of the New York Supreme Court of Judicature

Image Citation: The New York Public Library, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection

New York’s Courts and the People Behind Them
Lesson 4
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