Rand on Conflict of Laws: An Independent Voice

Article excerpt


In 1909, at twenty-five years of age, Ivan Rand commenced studies at Harvard Law School, perhaps then the only place for the study of Conflict of Laws (also known as Private International Law). This commitment is easily traced (1) to the influence of its Dane Professor of Law, Joseph Story, who published the first edition of his famous treatise on the subject in 1834. (2) Through various editions, Story's Commentaries on the Conflict of Laws served as primary course text until 1870 when Harvard Law dropped the course from the curriculum. (3) In 1886, it reappeared as a course "offered, at most, twice", and limited to the study of domicile, capacity and property. (4) In 1894, Conflict of Laws became a permanent course and enjoyed an annual place in the curriculum. (5) This commitment at Harvard and a few other law faculties was not necessarily shared by all law teachers. Upon the occasion of his address as the new president of the Association of American Law Schools in 1904, the then dean of law at Cornel l University identified Conflict of Laws as "an excellent subject for broadening the mind ... [but] might well be omitted" from a more streamlined curriculum that stressed the value of more fundamental courses. (6) Ivan Rand did not go to Cornell; he went to Harvard.

Born in Moncton, New Brunswick, on 27 August 1884 to Nelson and Minnie Rand, he worked in the audit office of the Inter-Colonial Railway for five years before commencing studies at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, from which he graduated in 1909. The entering class of 1909 (7) at Harvard Law consisted of 311 individuals, of whom 74 were Harvard graduates (23.8%), 38 graduated from other Massachusetts colleges (12.2%), 33 graduated from colleges elsewhere in New England (10.6%), 150 graduated from colleges outside of New England (48.2%), and 16 held no prior degree (5.1%). Eighty colleges and universities were represented in this class but only one person came from Mount Allison. In its second year, the class of 311 reduced to 238 students (8) and in its third year to 219 students. (9) Even if the first year students of 1909-1910 had no basic comprehension of Conflict of Laws as an area of study, the Harvard Law Review of that year made sure that the subject was "in their face". At page one of issue number 1 of the 1909-1910 Review, dated November 1909, there appeared an article by Joseph H. Beale entitled "What Law Governs the Validity of a Contract" and the editors followed this with a second article at page 37 by Edwin H. Abbot, Jr. entitled "Conflict of Laws and the Enforcement of the Statutory Liability of Stockholders in a Foreign Corporation". The Beale article continued as the lead article in issue Number 2 of the Review, dated December 1909, commencing at page 79; as an article in issue Number 3, dated January 1910, at page 194; and concluded in issue Number 4, dated February 1910, commencing at page 260. In their second year, these same students were treated to a lead article (actually

a letter) in issue Number 1 of the Review, dated November 1910, by A. V. Dicey in which he commented:

   All Souls [Oxford] has also created a Lectureship in Private
   International Law (Conflict of Laws). My studies have interested me
   much in the subject, and it is impossible I should not feel every
   wish that this branch of law should receive more attention than has
   hitherto been devoted to it in Oxford. The reason why it has been
   but slightly studied by undergraduates is that it is only in the
   B.C.L. examination that the subject of Conflict of Laws may be
   taken up by the candidate for a degree. No man can for the moment
   expect that a very large class can be collected together for the
   study of a subject which, to those acquainted with it, presents
   special fascinations. Yet I am inclined to think that it ought to,
   and when its nature is well understood will draw to it a definite
   body of American students. …