The Practicing Lawyer's Library in the 19th Century

The library of a French attorney in the 1800s would have contained a number of the practitioners' titles found in the French Collection, and so too would the cultivated American practitioner's library of that era. Among the mainstays of research in French law practice would have been the six French codes, as well as the works of the great commentators. 

In America, the influence of French law, and consequently civil law principles, in post-Revolutionary times extended well beyond Louisiana, America's only civil law jurisdiction. Americans identified strongly with France during this period of repudiation of British authority, and civil law principles figured prominently in the practice of early American law, especially in the early part of the 19th century. No less a legal luminary than Roscoe Pound, legal educator and Dean of Harvard Law School, wrote a law review article entitled "The Influence of French Law in America," in which he chronicles the role played by civil law, by route of French legal principles, in the development of law in America. As Pound points out, the prominent American jurists and commentators, Joseph Story and James Kent, freely cited to the Civil Code, as well as to Domat and Pothier; law reformer David Dudley Field examined the codes of other countries, including France, in his studies preliminary to his work in codifying common law practice and procedure in New York, and was influenced by Edward Livingston's codification work in Louisiana. Indeed, America in its infancy possessed a decided inclination toward the civil law evidenced by its early drive for codification of laws. 

Although common law ultimately dominated in American legal practice, the early influence of French civil law is indisputable, and the study of the history of law in this country is incomplete without reference to the French codes and commentators, and indeed, even the earliest compilations of coutumes. The French Collection offers a unique window to these earlier worlds of legal thought and practice, providing an unsurpassed resource for the legal scholar, historian, and researcher.


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