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Outspoken and controversial, Stephen Field served on the Supreme Court from his appointment by Lincoln in 1863 through the closing years of the century. No justice had ever served longer on the Court, and few were as determined to use the Court to lead the nation into a new and exciting era. Paul Kens shows how Field ascended to such prominence, what influenced his legal thought and court opinions, and why both are still very relevant today.

One of the famous gold rush forty-niners, Field was a founder of Marysville, California, a state legislator, and state supreme court justice. His decisions from the state bench and later from the federal circuit court often placed him in the middle of tense conflicts over the distribution of the land and mineral wealth of the new state. Kens illuminates how Field's experiences in early California influenced his jurisprudence and produced a theory of liberty that reflected both the ideals of his Jacksonian youth and the teachings of laissez-faire economics.

During the time that Field served on the U.S. Supreme Court, the nation went through the Civil War and Reconstruction and moved from an agrarian to an industrial economy in which big business dominated. Fear of concentrated wealth caused many reformers of the time to look to government as an ally in the preservation of their liberty. In the volatile debates over government regulation of business, Field became a leading advocate of substantive due process and liberty of contract, legal doctrines that enabled the Court to veto state economic legislation and heavily influenced constitutional law well into the twentieth century. In the effort to curb what he viewed as the excessive power of government, Field tended to side with business and frequently came into conflict with reformers of his era.

Gracefully written and filled with sharp insights, Kens' study sheds new light on Field's role in helping the Court define the nature of liberty and determine the extent of constitutional protection of property. By focusing on the political, economic, and social struggles of his time, it explains Field's jurisprudence in terms of conflicting views of liberty and individualism. It firmly establishes Field as a persuasive spokesman for one side of that conflict and as a prototype for the modern activist judge, while providing an important new view of capitalist expansion and social change in Gilded Age America.

Known as the “Gateway to the Goldfields”, Marysville was once one of California’s largest and most prosperous cities during the gold rush era. Millions of dollars in gold were shipped from Marysville to the U.S. Mint in San Francisco. The community began in 1842 when Theodore Cordua purchased land for a livestock ranch near the junction of the Yuba and Feather River’s, the major waterway from Sacramento. By 1851, the city of 10,000 was incorporated and named after Mary Murphy, a survivor of the ill-fated Donner Party and wife of Charles Covillaud, one of the city founders. The citizens of Marysville prospered during those days and built magnificent homes in Gothic Victorian, Queen Anne, Greek Revival, Edwardian, Italianate, and Eastlake styles. Brick commercial buildings, mills, ironworks, machine shops, and factories were built as well. Although many have now been lost to fire, flood, and redevelopment, the city still retains much of its early charm.


Coauthor Tammy L. Hopkins and her husband own the largest collection of Marysville memorabilia in the city. Coauthor Henry Delamere is Marysville’s city historian, journalist for the Territorial Dispatch newspaper, and a member of the Friends for the Preservation of Yuba County History.

Marysville                                          # 547374

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Our current offerings include several books that have been authored by local residents. Most of these individuals have been born and raised in the Yuba County area. Many of the books that were published by Arcadia books are part of the Images of America series.

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Justice Stephen Field (Inscribed)        # 608171

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