Call for Panelists for SHEAR 2017: The Doctrine of Discovery in Early America

Joshua Jeffers's picture

Hello Everyone,

I am I am interested in assembling a panel for next year's SHEAR conference that looks at the Doctrine of Discovery in early American thought.  In short, the Doctrine of Discovery is the idea that by virtue of their “discovery” of the New World, European sovereigns gained title to the “discovered” lands.  The Marshall Court ruling in Johnson v. M’Intosh established the Doctrine as law in the United States in 1823.  It remains the basis for nearly all land title in the United States and has influenced the development of analogous doctrines in other former British colonies, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. While the origins of the Doctrine can be traced to the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas in which Pope Alexander VI divided the New World between Portugal and Spain, the Doctrine is notably absent from legal and intellectual discourse in British colonial America only to emerge, seemingly from nowhere, in Marshall’s ruling in Johnson.  Indeed, I have been unable to find evidence that Marshall knew of the Treaty of Tordesillas.

My paper will map the re-emergence of this idea in American legal discourse, specifically focusing on John Marshall.  I am open to papers that examine any aspect of Discovery ideology in the early republic.  If you are interested in participating, please send me <> a brief paper abstract and cv.

Panel proposals are due on 12/1, so time is of the essence.

thank you,

Joshua Jeffers


Middle Tennessee State University