Every now and then, a book comes along that brings life to an era long past and provides timely lessons for today. “Progress, Stability and the Struggle for Equality: A Ramble Through the Early Years of Maine Law” is such a book. In an engaging and thoughtful style that makes the law accessible to lawyers and the general public alike, Hugh MacMahon presents the story of the development of early Maine law across a broad range of topics. McMahon will give a talk on his book and Maine law at the Camden Public Library on Thursday, July 14, at 6:30 p.m.

“I will be talking about my book and lessons for today from Maine’s legal history,” he said in a news release. The lecture is part of the library’s “American Cultural Journey” series this summer.

McMahon identifies three themes that stand out most prominently in Maine history: economic progress, social stability, and the struggle for equal rights under the law, especially as regards race, gender, and religion. The author explains how the evolving law in Maine’s early years played out against the backdrop of old rules from the past running up against a society undergoing radical transformation brought on by momentous historical events, including the industrial revolution and the Civil War. The book presents an empathetic picture of ordinary citizens and judges grappling with the inevitable tensions arising as locomotives eclipsed the horse and buggy, factories replaced the craftsman’s workbench, and emerging views of equal rights clashed with traditional notions of social stability.


During the last several years of his law practice, MacMahon undertook a project to research the history of early Maine law from the time Maine became a separate state in 1820, and found it so interesting that he resolved to eventually publish the results of that research for its historical interest and the many lessons it contains. MacMahon’s book is a “must read” not only for lawyers young and old, but for Maine history buffs and anyone interested in the role that courts play in the search for social justice. A resident of Falmouth, MacMahon practiced law for many years with the firm of Drummond Woodsum & MacMahon in Portland. Now retired from active practice, he remains affiliated with the firm in an “of counsel” capacity. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and has taught courses as a lecturer at the University of Maine School of Law.

MacMahon came to Maine from Massachusetts by way of the U.S. Navy. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1962, and from OCS and the Naval Justice School in 1963, he served as a Lieutenant/Law Specialist, first with the Cruiser-Destroyer Force, U.S Pacific Fleet, in San Diego and then with Fleet Air Wing Three at the Brunswick Naval Air Station. In 1966, he joined the Portland firm now known as Drummond Woodsum & MacMahon. In addition to having an active state-wide practice in Maine, concentrating in employment and school law issues, MacMahon has served as a member of the Board of Overseers of the Bar and has taught courses as a lecturer at the University of Maine School of Law.