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Early Arkansas statutes

It’s been called, at one point or another, the Bear State, the Toothpick State, Rackensack, the Wonder State, the Land of Opportunity and — now — the Natural State.

Only the last three, however, were official nicknames of Arkansas, each adopted in turn by the state Legislature as a matter of law.1

And it’s finding those Arkansas laws that can be a bit of an issue — something The Legal Genealogist is grappling with in anticipation of this weekend’s 2019 Fall Seminar of the Arkansas Genealogical Society in Benton.

First, you have to find the laws of France, since the area that became Arkansas was claimed by France up until 1763 despite original settlement by the Quapaw, Caddo, and Osage Nations. Then it was claimed by Spain between 1763 and 1800. Then France got it back in 1803. Then it was part of what was sold to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.

Politically it was part of the District of Louisiana until 1805, the Territory of Louisiana from 1805-1812, and the Territory of Missouri from 1812-1819. The Arkansas Territory wasn’t formed until 1819, and — after whole chunks on the western side were carved off — Arkansas didn’t become a state until 1836.2

Arkansas revised statutes

And, as far as I can tell, there’s no free one-stop shopping for Arkansas statutes — no one place where all of the historic laws of this historic jurisdiction can be found.

But there are some resources we can all look to without too much trouble.

First, the Arkansas State Archives has a collection of all five of the Arkansas Constitutions, from the original 1836 constitution through the 1874 constitution which remains in effect today:

1836 Constitution

1861 Constitution

1864 Constitution

1868 Constitution

1874 Constitution

Next, one of the earliest compiled sets of territorial statutes for Arkansas was published in 1835 as the Laws of Arkansas Territory3 — and you can find that online at Google Books.

In 1837, the newly-admitted State of Arkansas compiled its first set of Revised Statutes,4 and you can find those online at Google Books and at HathiTrust.

And that was followed by the official Code of Practice in 1869,5 available online at HathiTrust and at Google Books.

In between and afterwards too were the digests:

1848, compiled by E.H. English;6

1858, compiled by Josiah Gould;7 and

1874, compiled by E. W. Gantt.8

That ought to keep most Arkansas researchers busy for a while…

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Finding the law in the Natural State,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 16 Oct 2019).


  1. See Laurie Marshall, “Arkansas Nicknames Through the Years,” Only in Arkansas, posted 2 Jan 2018 ( : accessed 16 Oct 2019).
  2. See generally Wikipedia (, “History of Arkansas,” rev. 10 Oct 2019. For the creation of Arkansas Territory, see “An Act establishing a separate territorial government in the southern part of the territory of Missouri,” 3 Stat. 493 (2 March 1819). For statehood, see “An Act for the admission of the State of Arkansas into the Union…,” 5 Stat. 50 (15 June 1836).
  3. J. Steele and J. McCampbell, editors, Laws of Arkansas Territory (Little Rock : J. Steele, 1835).
  4. William McK. Ball and Sam. C. Roane, compilers, Revised Statutes of the State of Arkansas (Boston: Weeks, Jordan & Co., 1838).
  5. Code of Practice in Civil and Criminal Cases for the State of Arkansas (Little Rock : John G. Price, Public Printer, 1869).
  6. E. H. English, compiler, A Digest of the Statutes of Arkansas (Little Rock : Reardon & Garritt, 1848).
  7. Josiah Gould, compiler, A Digest of the Statutes of Arkansas (Little Rock : Johnson & Yerkes, State Printers, 1858).
  8. E. W. Gantt, compiler, A Digest of the Statutes of Arkansas (Little Rock : Little Rock Pr. & Publ. Co., 1874).
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