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Imperium in Imperio and the Political Origins of the American Labor Conspiracy Doctrine

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Many political essayists and judges writing in the early republic sought to circumscribe actions deemed oppressive and otherwise interfering with civil liberty. Associations seeking to advance a set of narrow interests at the expense of the public posed a threat to civil liberty. The way that threat was interpreted in the specific case of labor associations is the subject of this article. It was not the economic power of such entities that gave rise to indictments. Rather the political significance of “private confederacies” acting as an “imperium in imperio” was cited as the key threat to the new political order. Thus, Judge Levy in granting legitimacy to the American labor conspiracy laws did not cite common law precedent but his concern that “a new legislature consisting of journeymen shoemakers” would usurp the legitimate power “of our state legislatures.”
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: History, Mount Saint Mary College, 330 Powell Avenue, Newburgh, NY 12550, USA

Publication date: 2008-07-01

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