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August 13, 2012


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Jeremy A. Blumenthal

The first I know of to quote Huck Finn was Roscoe Pound, Interests in Domestic Relations, 14 Mich. L. Rev. 177, 187 n.37 (1916).


I usually only answer one trivia per day, but...

I assume you were reading Roscoe Pound on judicial empiricism in The Spirit of the Common Law?

Pound was apparently a fan of Twain as law review fodder, as he cited Huck Finn in Individual Interests in the Domestic Relations. 14 MICH. L. REV. 177, 177 (1916):

"Tenderness of the individual interests of parents, since legal interference in family relations touches individuals in a peculiarly sensitive spot, has induced hesitation in changing the established rules, even where reasons for change were evident.

Mark Twain has satirized this. When Huckleberry Finn acquired wealth, his drunken vagrant father returned to claim his "rights." Thereupon those who had been looking after the boy "went to law to get the court to take me away from him and let one of them be my guardian; but it was a new judge that had just come, and he didn't know the old man; so he said courts mustn't interfere and separate families if they could help it; said he'd druther not take a child away from its father. So Judge Thatcher and the widow had to quit on the business." "That pleased the old man till he couldn't rest. He said he'd cowhide me till I was black and blue if I didn't raise some money for him. I borrowed three dollars from Judge Thatcher, and pap took it and got drunk, and went a-blowing around and cussing and whooping and carrying on; and he kept it up all over town, with a tin pan, till most midnight; then they jailed him, and next day they had him before court, and jailed him again for a week. But he said he was satisfied; said he was boss of his son, and he'd make it warm for him." Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chap. 5."

Alfred Brophy

Gentlemen, you are very, very good. I am reading Pound, and I didn't know about the Michigan Law Review reference. ... But, he cites Huck Finn in an even earlier work, parts of which are cribbed for the essay on "Judicial Empiricism" in The Spirit of the Common Law (1921). In fact, just to be clear about this -- the introduction to that earlier article is repeated almost exactly in the introduction to the "Judicial Empiricism" essay.

Jeffrey Harrison

Good try but a little off. A little known and defunct law review, "The Mississippi Valley Journal of Inland Maritime Law," published in 1919 a short piece on the liability of barge pilots for excessive wakes causing the smaller craft to capsize. Footnote 12, page 8, (works were more lightly footnoted in those days). The passage, "Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often." was used to support the idea that merely sounding a warning whistle did not relieve the pilot of liability. The author, Jessie K. Thurmond, taught at the Mississippi Valley College of Law for many years before being appointed as Ambassador to Paraguay in 1925.

Alfred Brophy

Jeff, very creative! There's yet an earlier article, though. I'm thinking 1911ish.


If at first you don't succeed:
Roscoe Pound, Law in Books and Law in Action, 44 Am. L. Rev. 12 (1910).

Alfred Brophy

You got it exactly right, Owen!

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