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The advent of Jacksonian democracy in American politics coincided with a vigorous leveling movement in American law. In one sense the latter crusade was nothing new: hostility toward the elitism of the legal fraternity had been rife since the days of the Revolution. But whereas earlier critics had worked to simplify the content of the law, reformers in the 1830's and 1840's attacked the problem from a different angle. Eschewing substantive changes, they sought instead to bring the administrators of the law under more direct popular control. Their program embraced a wide range of legislative measures in which worried conservatives read portents of mob rule.

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