Session 1 & Keynote

by Paul Maharg on 20/04/2012

First session

The session began with a welcome and some basic stats – eg that there are over 400 participants to the conference.  33 Supreme Court Justices present at the conference – influence of the Courts has been very important to the development of the Bar Exam.

We learned about the work and personnel of the NCBE Education Committee.  Eg admissions specialists.  Rolled out National State Bar Exam.  NCBE organization pull together the conference so that Bar examiners can learn from each other in their state jurisdictions and from other jurisdictions globally.

Publications, and research, and historical research as well as educational research.  Specific issues eg re scoring – the organization is there to make Bar admissions a more defensible, more sophisticated form of evaluation.  Interesting session, and already I get the sense of how varied the Bar process and product is from state to state; and how much the conference exists to bring together Bar Exam practitioners & good practice.

Given by Dr Todd Groce, CEO and Director of the Georgia Historical Society.    Good website on the history of Georgia.  Groce talked on the meaning of the Civil War — Virginian, migrated to Tennessee, now Georgia.  History is all around us — he quoted a bumper sticker he saw recently — ‘General Sherman, where are you now that Atlanta needs you?’

150th anniversary of the Civil War, so he advanced an argument about the legal basis of the conflict — the principle of secession.  Shd a state have the right to secede at all?  If so, at which point? (I guess, a version of the Stoic doctrine of necessity).  To the Unionists, secession was a threat to individual liberty, and anti-democratic (because it opposed democratic processes).  At the end of the secession road lay tyranny, and death to the experiment in self-government in the republic — which in 1861 was of course alone in being a self-governing democracy.  Many in Europe doubted it would succeed — ie government of, for, by the people.  Groce drew a parallel between Washington’s suppression of the Whisky rebellion in the 1790s with Lincoln’s use of the Militia Act, and the arguments underlying both actions.  Groce drew on the 400,000 or so southerners who fought for the North — not all southerners were secessionists — including Fremont & Miggs.

Groce drew the inevitable link between slavery and secession, quoting secessionists and their founding documents, including a rejection of Thomas Jefferson’s principle that all men are created equal, ie that slavery was the ‘natural and moral condition’ of black people.  As Groce said, even hearing these words after so long was uncomfortable.  Groce contrasted this with the revisionism after the War, when the origin of the conflict was recast as a war against intolerable and tyrannical actions by the North.  The actions of the secessionists were in fact (according to unionists)

Obama’s election, Groce pointed out, would not have been possible for the Civil War.  And after his election, there was something that didn’t happen that was important — no military units moved on Charleston, no tanks rolled, no one seceded.

Interesting analysis of the union case.  How does it play out in Scotland now, given that there is an upcoming vote on independence?  The clear difference is the democratic process of the independence referendum itself (and around which debates are still continuing).

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