The Bramble Bush: On Our Law and Its Study

The Bramble Bush: On Our Law and Its Study

The Bramble Bush: On Our Law and Its Study

The Bramble Bush: On Our Law and Its Study


These lectures grew out of an attempt in 1929 and 1930 to introduce the students at Columbia Law School to the study of law. They were privately printed in 1930, and met with reasonable favor. But I found out early that their bite for a beginning law student lies rather in November than in September; and a man's own ideas--especially on perspective and whole-view--change as he gains experience. Hence for ten years I planned and worked over a rewrite.

Then it slowly became clear that I have no business to rewrite. The young fellow who wrote these lectures just isn't here any more, and the job he did has its own virtue, and I have no right to mess it up with Monday morning quarter-backing which has used two decades in getting from Saturday to Monday morning. Hence I republish with no more change than is normal as a man corrects page-proof: a comma deleted here, a clarification wrought there--but within the limits of one line or two.

How to accomplish any introduction is a problem as perennial as it is perplexing. Of one thing I remain persuaded: across the problem of material, and indeed of method, cuts that of manner. The primer type of textbook introduction has been well done and yet found wanting. The materials-to-work-with type is, thank Heaven, today a flourishing line of thought, work and publication, and already beginning to bear.

But a right text is a different thing. It should be a standing introduction. It should be simple. It should seem to lie open to a student who has never met the law, and give him a footing. He need not fully understand it all, or any of it; but out of each page, each sentence, he should get enough to carry him along, and what he gets should be accurate enough to help him in his work.

But the work of a right text-"introduction" has then only begun. It ought to invite, excite, to a second reading and to a third and to a fourth. Each reading, in the measure that the reader has moved on into the law and gained a further wherewithal to read, should introduce him further. This is the only right goal. With all its surface simplicity, an introduction must cut as deep as its author has wit and strength to see the way. It must cut for that deepest simplicity which is true meaning.

I still think this ideal obvious. An introduction, like a teacher, must gain and not lose in retrospect, or be a half-thing. Hence no man's solution is likely either in matter or in manner to seem sufficient to himself, much less to others. But as we begin slowly to discover how to approach these . . .

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