Our problems remain epistemological.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

A New Genre: Peer-Reviewed Historical Mystery Non-fiction

A Letter from an Anonymous Referee at a Peer Reviewed Journal 

August 1, 2021 

“What Oath (if any) did Jacob Henry take in 1809?: The Problem of Conceptual Confusion between State Religious Tests and Religious Test Oaths” 

I recommend publication of “What Oath (if any) did Jacob Henry take in 1809?” And I recommend publication with no necessary revisions. 

The article’s purpose is to answer the question posed in the title. It does so, and it does so in an especially engaging manner. Indeed, the article might start a new genre: peer-reviewed historical mystery non-fiction.

Among the article’s strengths is its clarity. It poses a question and then answers it. Along the way, we learn of the article’s primary contribution, which is to correct the scholarly record regarding the story of Jacob Henry. 

. . . . 

The article is very well written. I enjoyed reading it. I could see how some might criticize the essay for not fully revealing its argument until the end, but I thought the presentation was terrific, even suspenseful. 

The author may or may not be right about what Jacob Henry did, but he/she presents a compelling case that is well documented and engagingly told. I recommend publication. 

Seth Barrett Tillman, A New Genre: Peer-Reviewed Historical Mystery Non-fiction, New Reform Club (Sept. 5, 2021, 5:27 AM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2021/09/a-new-genre-peer-reviewed-historical.html>; 

The article is posted here: <https://ssrn.com/abstract=3790115>;

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

How to Start the New Academic Year

Hi Seth,

Thanks for the query, and well spotted re[garding] the discrepancy [between the Courts Service of Irelands 2019 annual report and 2020 annual report].

We have had the figures re-checked several times, and the ones given in the 2020 [annual] report are the accurate ones.

The reason given to us for the discrepancy was that we were changing from one data collection tool to another at the time of the 2019 [annual] report—and the newer more accurate one was not in place just then. I think some items were missed in the changeover.

But the 2020 [annual] report figures are the correct ones.

We will change the 2019 [annual] report online.

We will also put in an erratum with it.

Thank you so much for letting us know of this matter, so as we can correct it.


[A Courts Service Officer]


Dear Courts Service Officer, 

Feel free to thank me in the erratum. Academics like to be cited. It helps for things like tenure-&-promotion.

Also, you will want to make sure that [Justice] Birmingham [President of the Court of Appeal] is informed of this correction and the reasons for it. He can decide if his colleagues should be kept in the loop.

I don’t monitor all the significant numbers in the annual reports. I only monitor a subset of the information about Court-of-Appeal productivity. So one has to wonder how many other errors there are. If I am spotting an error by monitoring a small subset of the information in such a large volume, it does not bode well for these reports’ accuracy. And it would be a mistake (I think) to brush this error off as an outlier. There is no good way to tell if it is an outlier absent investigation. Public accountability, democratic oversight, and good policy-making by the judiciary and the government depend on one-and-all (including the public and the press) having accurate information about judicial productivity. So again, this error should not be brushed off as an outlier.

The 2020 Annual Report has two listed auditors: Mazars and a government office. They too should be notified—so that going forward they can monitor for this type of error. And if there is a committee that has oversight over the annual reports, you can pass on my name to its chair. In the U.S., it is common for committees to invite independent academics to participate, report, and/or observe. Years ago, I was an observer on the (U.S.) National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws Committee for a model Uniform Faithful Presidential Electors Act.

Please let me know when you put a corrected 2019 annual report on line.

Best wishes,


Seth Barrett Tillman, How to Start the New Academic Year, New Reform Club (Sept. 1, 2021, 7:39 AM), <https://tinyurl.com/28nx4a8m>;