Law and History Review

Applied Legal History

Arbitration in America: The Early History

James Oldham c1 and Su Jin Kim

On June 29, 1789, Zephaniah Turner of Charles County, Maryland, wrote to President George Washington and observed:

Our Laws are too Numerous. Is it not possible that an alteration might take place for the benefit of the public?…Could it not be possible to curtail the Number of Lawyers in the different States? Suppose each State was to have but Two Lawyers to be paid liberally…[and] where a real dispute subsisted between Plaintiff and Defendant a reference [to arbitration] should be proposed, and arbitrators [be] indifferently chosen by both parties…whose determination shall be final.

James Oldham is St. Thomas More Professor of Law and Legal History at Georgetown University <>

Su Jin Kim is a Research Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center <>.