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Marshall-Wythe School of Law Records

Identifier: UA 34.009

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

The Marshall-Wythe School of Law Records include publications, course schedules, announcements, and other material produced by the program as well as some student papers.

More digital material related to The William & Mary Law School may be found in the William & Mary Law School Scholarship Repository.


  • Creation: circa 1930-2012


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Acc. 2010.347 is closed until 2044. Consult a staff member for assistance. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Historical Note:

The Chair of Law at William & Mary, created in 1779 by the Board of Visitors at the urging of Thomas Jefferson, was the first established in the United States. The first occupant of the Chair was George Wythe, in whose offices studied Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, James Monroe and Henry Clay. Wythe, a leader in the struggle for independence, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a member of the Federal Constitutional Convention. He became a powerful force in the development of American legal education. During the decade of his professorship, he developed a comprehensive course of law study which emphasized the acquisition of practical skills in such areas as legislative drafting and oral advocacy.

Wythe's successor was one of his pre-Revolutionary students, St. George Tucker, who proved to be a pioneer in legal education. Tucker drafted a formal description of the requirements for a law degree at the College, which included an exacting schedule of qualifying examinations in history, government and related pre-law subjects. Tucker's course material was soon published as the first American edition of Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England. This work was the earliest treatise on the common law adapted to the needs of the legal profession in the United States. For a generation, Tucker's volume was considered the leading authority on American law.

Tucker's successors as Professor of Law at William & Mary included the brothers William and Robert Nelson, James Semple and St. George Tucker's son, Nathaniel Beverley Tucker. The younger Tucker was the author of Principles of Pleading, which became a leading authority of its day. Beverley Tucker is perhaps best remembered as one of the ablest exponents of the states' rights school of Southern constitutional law.

The growth of the Law School at William & Mary was abruptly halted by the beginning of the Civil War. The commencement of military campaigns on the Virginia Peninsula compelled the College to close its doors. It would be another 60 years before the historical priority in law could be revived in a modern program that is now more than a half-century old.

Today, the College of William & Mary is a public university supported by the Commonwealth of Virginia and supervised by a Board of Visitors appointed by the Governor. It is nationally recognized for its rigorous curriculum and excellent faculty. The Law School attracts students from all regions of the nation. Its alumni practice law throughout the United States, in Canada and in several foreign countries.


21.00 Linear Feet

Arrangement of Materials:

This collection is currently being arranged and described. Consult a staff member for assistance.

Acquisition Information:

Various gifts and transfers.

Related Materials:

In the summer of 2010, William & Mary’s Wolf Law Library launched the William & Mary Law School Scholarship Repository to promote and archive our community’s intellectual output.

Information about related materials is available at

Separated Materials:

The book Winds of change : perspectives on the world's search for stable democracy was separated from Series 1 and is now located in Archives Books under JC423.W475 1993.

Processing Information:

Rehoused and box and folder list added to Archon by Carleigh Branch, Special Collections Staff, in September 2013.


Guide to the Marshall-Wythe School of Law Records
Eileen O'Toole, SCRC Staff.
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository