Imágenes de páginas

other departments in the business of government; but many have fallen short of the requirements of so great a function. Even under the most favorable circumstances, in dealing with such a subject as this, results must often be tentative and temporary. Views that seem adequate at the time, are announced, applied, and developed ; and yet, by and by, almost unperceived, they melt away in the light of later experience, and other doctrines take their place.

Nothing else can bring home to a student the existence and the nature of this process, the large scope of the questions presented, and the true limitations of the legal principles that govern them, with anything like the freshness, precision, and force, and I might add also the fascination, which accompany the orderly tracing of these things in the cases.

I find a pleasure in thinking that these volumes are appearing in the twenty-fifth anniversary year of the accession of Dean Langdell to his chair as a professor at the Harvard Law School. The method of legal study with which his name is associated, regarded as a mere mode of investigation, was indeed no novelty at all; lawyers have always known well enough the necessity of following it in working out their problems. But Dean Langdell, early in life, had the sagacity to apply it in his own self-instruction in law, and in his greatly valued help of fellowstudents ; and when he came back to the school as a professor, he had the courage and the foresight to introduce liere the same method of study, and to lay down for himself a mode of instruction which rigorously drove his pupils to adopt it.

Of teaching there has never been at this school any prescribed method. There never can be, in any place where the best work is sought for. Every teacher, as I have said elsewhere, “ in law, as in other things, has his own methods, determined by his own gifts or lack of gifts, -- methods as incommunicable as his temperament, his looks, or his manners." But as to modes of study, a very different matter, Dean Langdell's associates have all come to agree with him, where they have ever differed, in thinking, so far at least as our system of law is concerned, that there is no method of preparatory study so good as the one with which his name is so honorably connected, - that of studying cases, carefully chosen and arranged so as to present the development of principles. Doubtless, the mode of study must greatly affect

the mode of teaching; if students are to prepare themselves by studying cases, their teachers also must study them. And, moreover, while good teaching will differ widely in its methods, there is at least one thing in which all good teaching will be alike; no teaching is good which does not rouse and “ dephlegmatize” the students, - to borrow an expression attributed to Novalis, which does not engage as its allies, their awakened, sympathetic, and co-operating faculties. As helping to that, as tending to secure for an instructor this chief element of success, I do not think that there is or can be any method of study which is comparable with the one in question.

In order to keep this collection within the compass of two volumes and yet do anything like justice to the subject, I have selected only the leading titles, and have given to these a fairly full treatment, choosing as the text, for obvious reasons, so far as practicable, the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States. I have preferred to make the two volumes as large as they could well be, with any regard to convenient use, and to pack them closely, rather than to take the much easier course of letting the work run over into three or four volumes. In doing this, it has been necessary, almost always, to omit the arguments of counsel. Other omissions are mentioned or sufficiently indicated.



March 12, 1895.

« AnteriorContinuar »