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Remarks at the de la Vergne Volume Celebration

November 07, 2019 12:00 PM

Tulane Law School celebrated the gift of the de la Vergne Volume -- one of the most debated founding documents of Louisiana's unique Civil Code -- on Nov. 6, 2019. The following are remarks made by those speaking and presenting the history of the de la Vergne and its connections to Tulane.

Dean David Meyer 

Welcome!  Thank you all for coming.  This is an exciting occasion.  We’re here to celebrate the de la Vergne volume finding its way to Tulane and, more broadly, Louisiana’s distinctive legal heritage and the great tradition of civil law scholarship at Tulane.

The de la Vergne volume is one of the most fabled books in Louisiana legal history. As will be described by the speakers to come in more detail, the volume is an original founding document of the Louisiana Digest of 1808, and includes the hand-written notes of the Digest’s principal codifier, Louie Moreau Lislet)

Tulane is delighted to have a long and continuing connection to the de la Vergne family, as well as to Moreau-Lislet himself, as Moreau Lislet’s great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson—that is eight greats if you were counting—Tommy Barnett is a current 2L at Tulane Law School. 

Tulane’s connection to the de la Vergne family is as old as the university itself.  Louis Victor de la Vergne, a graduate of the Tulane Law class of 1965, came from a long line of Louisiana legal scholars.  Louis’ ancestor, Gustavus Schmidt, moved to New Orleans in 1829, becoming a fixture in the Louisiana legal community, where he established the Louisiana Law Journal, the first legal periodical, and helped found the predecessor of the Tulane Law School.

Louis made the study of Louisiana legal history his life’s work, and was particularly proud of the famed de la Vergne code which was held by his family.  Louis’ uncle, Pierre de la Vergne, told Tulane Law Professor Ferdinand Stone in 1938 that his family had the volume with Moreau Lislet’s personal notes, and in 1941, Tulane Law Professor Mitchell Franklin published an article making the world aware that the de la Vergne family had “an unpublished manuscript in which Moreau-Lislet gave, in detail, the exact sources for the various articles of the Louisiana Civil Code of 1808.”

Louis worked with LSU Law Professor Robert Pascal to have the de la Verge code reproduced in 1967, and again reprinted in 2008 by Claitor’s Publishing for the bicentennial of the 1808 Digest. 

Throughout his life, Louis remained a steadfast researcher of Louisiana legal history, regularly working with our own Tulane Law librarian, Kim Glorioso, to research aspects of the de la Vergne code and Louisiana legal history more broadly.  Similarly, Louis worked with his dear friend, Georgia Chadwick, the now retired Director of the Law Library of Louisiana, in researching Louisiana law, and Georgia provided invaluable services in maintaining Louis’ connection to Tulane Law School and the Tulane Law Library.

When Louis died in 2017, he bequeathed the book to his close friend, Anna Swadling, who we are so pleased to have with us here tonight.  Following Louis’ passing, Anna traveled from Santa Fe to New Orleans to meet with Tulane Law School graduates Kevin O’Bryon and Professor Vernon Palmer.  Following their meeting, Anna presented the volume to the Tulane Law Library, which was donated in memory of Louis de la Vergne and in honor of Professor Palmer. 

It is with great appreciation we say thank you to Anna Swadling for being with us tonight and bestowing Tulane Law School with this remarkable gift.

The de la Vergne code is a book of legend and has inspired prodigious debate in Louisiana legal scholarship—or what former Tulane Law School Dean Joseph Sweeney called the “tournament of scholars”—as you’ll hear more about tonight.  We’re so pleased to have this volume at Tulane Law Library, as a symbol not only of the strong history of the civil law at Tulane, but also its future at this institution. 

Today, the civil law program at Tulane is as strong as it ever has been.  Our professors in the civil law program are the leading scholars in Louisiana law and comparative law more generally:

Professor Palmer has written an untold number of books on Louisiana’s legal history, with an upcoming book to be published next year titled The Lost Translators of 1808 and the Birth of Louisiana Civil Law. 

Professor Ron Scalise serves as the current editor of the Louisiana Civil Code and authors five of the volumes in the Louisiana Civil Law Treatise series. 

Professor Sally Richardson, the A.D. Freeman Associate Professor of Civil Law, is an expert on Louisiana property law and on comparative property law more broadly, and active in shaping law reform in Louisiana on the Council of the Louisiana Law Institute and several of its committees.

Professor James Gordley is a leading scholar world-wide of comparative law, having authored several books on private comparative law and being elected as a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the European Law Institute, the International Academy of Comparative Law, and the British Academy. 

Professor Joerg Fedtke has taken his expertise on comparative law across the globe, being involved in research projects for institutions such as the European Commission, the French Cour de Cassation, and the Iraqi National Assembly, to name just a few. 

Tulane’s comparative law program extends to all areas of the law, including energy law through the work of Professor Kim Talus, economic law with the expertise of Professor Guiguo Wang, environmental law through the scholarship of Professor Gunther Handl.  I could go on describing the depth of our Louisiana law, civil law, and comparative law program at Tulane, but that would consume the rest of our program. 

Suffice it to say, the Louisiana law and civil law program at Tulane is strong.  It is built on a deep foundation as evident by the de la Vergne code and it continues to grow.  We are delighted to celebrate tonight the family of Louis de la Vergne––represented by Désirée de la Vergne St. Paul Wegmann, Virginia de la Vergne, Andrea St. Paul Bland, Rachel St. Paul Bland, David S. Bland, and Joseph Starring––and the great gift of the de la Vergne volume that Louis maintained and cherished throughout his life. 

Professor Vernon Palmer

“The Man Behind the de la Vergne Volume”

 I will speak about the “Man Behind the Book” the Créole gentleman Louis Casimir Elisabeth Moreau Lislet, who wrote and owned this book, and who alone knew the answers to the mysteries it contains.  But of course, there is also a large “Family Behind the Book”, the de la Vergne family, to whom we are so grateful, a family that preserved it for two centuries—in pristine condition—who realized its importance to legal history, and involved the Tulane faculty as early as 1938.

And there is a friend behind the book, my friend Louis de la Vergne, a graduate of this school who passed away in 2017. I had the honor of speaking at Louis’s funeral and of speaking from the heart about a truly authentic person. Louis made it his personal mission in life to promote, preserve, and share the book with scholars in Louisiana and around the world.  Truly, we would not be here tonight (and our lives would be impoverished) except for the dedication and the passion Louis had for this magnificent tome and the part it played in the civil law heritage of Louisiana. 

And there are great librarians behind it—James Duggan, Georgia Chadwick and Kim Glorioso-- and also many Scholars who debated and continue to debate its meaning so vigorously, scholars like Mitchell Franklin, Rodolfo Batiza, Robert Pascal, Allain Levasseur, Thomas Tucker, John Cairns (who wonderfully enough is here tonight all the way from Edinburgh).

And finally, there is the donor behind the book, my friend Anna Swadling, who inherited the book from Louis and then generously donated it to the Tulane Law School.  Thank you so much Anna, from me personally and from the entire Tulane Law School.

Louis Moreau-Lislet may be the most important legal figure in the history of the State of Louisiana. His drafting of two Louisiana civil codes, in 1808 and 1825, lay the foundation of the civil law in Louisiana.  But it is his own special edition of the code, compiled some years after 1808, bearing his signature and containing his cryptic or at least ambivalent annotations, this is what brings us together tonight to celebrate. 

An extraordinary jurist, linguist and public servant, Moreau-Lislet (1766-1832) was born in St. Domingue, educated in Paris, and emigrated to Louisiana in 1804 during the last days of the Haitian revolution. He was sent to study law at the Sorbonne and in 1789, at the age of twenty three, he married Mlle. de Peters in Paris. His famous relative, the statesman Moreau de St. Méry, served as his tutor and attended the wedding. Returning to St. Domingue, Moreau-Lislet was appointed assistant public prosecutor (premier substitut de procureur général) and served in various governmental capacities.

 here is interesting evidence, though Prof. Levasseur thinks it is insufficient to prove the point, that during the revolutionary upheavals in St. Domingue and prior to his departure for Louisiana he served as Toussaint l’Ouverture’s personal secretary, a position that would have been consistent with his well-known gifts as a linguist and translator. 

Finally fleeing the island he found refuge in Cuba for a year, where perhaps he perfected his Spanish.  Then arriving in New Orleans just after the Louisiana Purchase, he found employment as a translator attached to the Territorial Legislature. His talents as a lawyer and jurisconsult quickly came to the attention of the Claiborne administration, and in 1806 he and James Brown of Kentucky were chosen to draft a civil code for the Territory which was completed and promulgated in 1808.

This code or Digest was a first in three or four ways.

This was the first code of European law enacted in the Americas; it was the first reception of the French Civil Code outside of France; it was the first code of Roman civil law ever translated into the English language; it was the first code in the modern era to incorporate the law of slavery law in its provisions.

 Confining myself to a few undisputed facts, the two jurisconsults drafted in French language and turned those texts over to two other men for translation. Moreau and Brown followed French models in the main (Code Napoleon of 1804, its projet of 1800, and Domat and Pothier provided the bulk of the provisions) but certain Spanish writers and even the English writer Sir Wm. Blackstone made a contribution in this eclectic code.

The reason there are so many disputed issues about the 1808 Digest is that neither Moreau Lislet nor James Brown kept a journal. They made no exposé des motifs explaining what they thinking while they drafted, where they obtained their source material, why they made certain choices (Why Blackstone? Why Domat?), whether they were attempting to comply or to stretch with their instructions, or whether they intended to make this code substantively Spanish (as Prof. Pascal believed) or substantively French (as Prof. Batiza famously argued). The truth is we are in the dark because they made no contemporaneous notes about their intentions. The best insight we have into the opaque mind of Moreau lies his ex-post creation ---the de la Vergne volume— which scholars have nevertheless attempted to read as if it were a veritable exposé des motifs.

I might make one observation about the ingenious way Moreau constructed de la Vergne volume.  The original Digest of Orleans had 491 pages, half in English, half in French, on facing pages.  Moreau pulled this book apart and put a blank page between each printed page, so that he could write annotations on both sides of the blank page. He then put all the pages back together and had the book rebound. This doubled the size of the volume.  It went from 491 pages to 982 pages in length.  So that he started with this thin book.. and ended with this tome…!

By the way, there is a persistent legend that Moreau Lislet was the actual mastermind, the principal draftsman, the real codifier of the code—and that James Brown, his co-drafter who received an equal salary, did little or nothing, except to pocket his stipend. As the story goes, Brown left town and left all the work to Moreau. The evidence for this is flimsy. It is based on a single statement from Moreau years later that has been misconstrued, as our colleague John Cairns of Edinburgh has convincingly shown. Tonight we are right to celebrate Moreau as a mastermind, but we should not forget James Brown was also there at the creation.

 In 1822 Moreau was again chosen as jurisconsult, with Edward Livingston and Pierre Derbigny, to draft the Civil Code of 1825, a work described by Sir  Henry Maine as “of all the republications of Roman law … the clearest, fullest, the most philosophical and the best adapted to the exigencies of modern society.”  Some indication of Moreau-Lislet’s prestige in the legislature and the legal community is that in the balloting to select the three jurisconsults, he received nearly twice the number of votes received by the eminent Edward Livingston.

Speaking of which, I discovered recently a newspaper report that there was nearly a calamity in Moreau’s life in 1808…. Livingston’s relationship with Moreau Lislet, though generally cordial and professional, apparently was not always so. On one occasion in 1808 Judge Moreau Lislet (he was a parish judge at the time, a position that allowed him to practice law) reportedly insulted Livingston in open court, and Livingston challenged him to a duel.  Judge Moreau Lislet however apologized and the matter was dropped. But imagine if the two greatest jurists of our history had killed one another in 1808 in a senseless duel, cutting short their magnificent careers!!

I intend to close shortly.

Over the course of his extensive political career Moreau-Lislet held nearly every office of public trust in the State, including parish judge, state representative, state senator and attorney general.  

 (He once turned down a position on the Superior Court early in his career, explaining to Secretary of State James Madison that he could not support his family on the salary attached to the office.)

At the bar Moreau-Lislet was highly successful. He maintained an extensive and distinguished practice in which he handled the greatest cases of the day. He appeared as counsel before the Supreme Court in more than two hundred cases.  He also amassed one of the largest law libraries of his day, consisting of more than a thousand volumes in French, English, Spanish and Latin.  He was also renowned for his translations, most notably the first translation into English (with Henry Carleton) of Las Siete Partidas, the Spanish code.

But Moreau knew tragedy as well as triumph in his very full life.  Despite his eminence as a lawyer and jurisconsult, Moreau Lislet died poor and suffered tragically in his personal and family life.       

Professor Ronald Scalise

"Reflections on the Meaning of the De la Vergne Manuscript" 

Dean Meyer, fellow colleagues, members and friends of the de la Vergne family, assembled students, ladies and gentlemen --  it is my pleasure to speak to you briefly tonight on the topic of what the de la Vergne manuscript means.  I’ll warn up front that you’ll not have a full or even a clear answer to that question 9 ½ minutes from now.  Rather, I’d like to lay out for you some of the dominant theories and let you decide for yourself, as this issue  -- the true meaning of Moreau-Lislet’s handwritten notes to the Digest of 1808  as evidenced in the de la Vergne manuscript -- has been an issue that has been hotly contested since the early 1970s. 

As you’ve heard, a copy of the de la Vergne manuscript was first brought to the attention of the Louisiana legal community in 1941 when Mitchel Franklin of the Tulane Law School alerted the world to its existence.  In 1958, both he and Professor Dainow from the Louisiana State University Law School published translations of the preface or the “Avant-Propos” noting, perhaps too casually, that the notes in the de la Vergne manuscript were the Spanish and Roman sources of the articles of Louisiana Digest of 1808.

Shortly thereafter work and study of the manuscript began earnest. In 1965, the late Professor Robert Pascal of the LSU law faculty argued that the handwritten notes demonstrated that Moreau Lislet fulfilled his mandate in 1808, which had been to develop “a digest of the civil laws now in force in the territory of Orleans.” That is, the de la Vergne manuscript proves that the Louisiana Digest of 1808 was based upon Spanish, not French law.  Let me explain.  Although Louisiana was owned by the United States at the time of the Digest of 1808 and had been purchased from France in March of 1803, Professor Pascal argues that Spanish law was in effect at the time of the transfer to the United States because France had only recently reacquire the territory of Orleans from the Spanish in 1800 and had not yet replaced its law at the time of the handover to the US.  As evidence of this theory, one can cite the fact the French governor, Laussat, did not assume his post in Louisiana until March 26, 1803, a time at which Louisiana had already been sold to the United States.  In fact, actual French control was not assumed until even later, November 30, 1803, which was a mere twenty days before the US took possession of Louisiana.  Even after US control and for reasons I do not have time to explicate here, the civil law was preserved in Louisiana, such that by the time of the Digest of 1808, the drafters in codifying the law in force were codifying civil law, not common law.  But what civil law?  According to this theory, the law at the time of codification was still Spanish law, and as the drafters had been tasked with codifying the law in force at that time, they codified Spanish law into Louisiana law, not French law.  The notes in the de la Vergne manuscript, which refer primarily to Spanish and Roman sources, help prove this.  In fact, Pascal notes that the marginalia fails to contain even a single reference to the French Civil Code or its projets.  Although the text of the Digest was written in French, it was likely done for accessibility and ease of reading by the populace, such that the form of the Digest of 1808 was French but its substance was Spanish.

Other proponents of this theory include former deans of both Tulane and LSU.  The de la Vergne manuscript was first commercially reprinted in 1968 jointly by LSU and Tulane Law School.  At that time, Deans Cecil Morgan of Tulane Law School and Paul Hebert of LSU law school published a preface to the reprint in which they too noted, again perhaps too casually, that the notes “opposite the French texts are to the actual sources of the texts themselves.  These latter are very predominantly to Spanish laws and works, even in those many instances in which it is obvious that the words of the particular texts were taken from the French Code Civil of 1804, or one its projets.  The annotations, therefore, lend support -- they argued -- to the conclusion that the Digest was indeed in substance primarily a digest of Spanish laws in force in the Territory of Orleans in 1808, even though the formal source of many of its provisions was the French Code Civil or one if its projects.”  I hasten to note that this view was later disputed by a subsequent dean of the Tulane Law School, Joseph Modeste Sweeney, who wrote that “with all due respect and in friendship, not animosity,” I find the conclusions of Morgan and Hebert to be “strained,” at best.  As of yet, I’ve not asked Dean Meyer to weigh in and break the tie. 

Although it’s understandable -- at first glance -- to conclude that the notes may be source references, further study calls that into question.   After all,  the preface or the “Avant-Propos” in the volume itself, written in ornate French, states that the “aim of this work is to make known by notes written on the blank pages attached to the Digest … which are the texts of civil and Spanish law that have some connection” to the articles in the Digest.  It further notes that “the citation of the laws which have some relation to the various articles of the Digest was not limited to those which contained similar provisions; ... also included [were] those laws, on the same subject, which presented differences or which contained exceptions to the general principle.” 

Now, that’s all quite mysterious, as it doesn’t exactly say the handwritten notes are the source notes, which wouldn’t be hard to do, if that’s what they were.  In fact, it seems to say something quite different.  This mystery led to a second theory as to the de la Vergne manuscript offered by Professor Rudolfo Batiza of the Tulane Law School who undertook a painstaking and detailed examination of the digest --- article by article --- to demonstrate that some 1500 articles (about 70%) of the Digest provisions were copied directly from the French civil code of 1804 or from the Projet to the French civil code.  Very few articles, in fact, he argued, come from Spanish law.  The references in the de la Vergne manuscript were not sources, but rather “concordances.”  Batiza concedes that Spanish law was in effect in Louisiana in 1808, which, he argues, was why the drafters of the de la Vergne manuscript needed to refer to Spanish or Roman law, which might have been familiar to the legal community and which correspond to the new articles in the French-derived Digest of 1808.  He concluded that “[t]he numerous citations appearing on the 245 interleaves include relatively few actual sources and generally fail to disclose the real origins of the Code of 1808.”  In short, the Digest of 1808 was French, not Spanish.

Now, as anyone who knew Bob Pascal would realize, this theory by Batiza did not sit well.  In fact, a debate between the two “raged” in the pages of the Tulane Law Review with Professor Pascal and Batiza replying to each other repeatedly and somewhat caustically—Was the source of the Digest Spanish law or French law?  After Batiza published his studying claiming the Digest was based upon French law, Pascal replied that “even under ordinary circumstances” it would be his “academic duty to respond publicly to Professor Batiza,” but he note quickly these circumstances were “far from ordinary.”  Batiza retorted claiming that Pascal’s view was a “distorted” one that he was bound to rectify and clarify.  In fact, at the end of one article, Batiza  asserted that if  Professor Pascal still believed  -- even after Batiza’s exhaustive study – that Louisiana law was Spanish, not French, then “owe[d] a duty to the legal profession that he c[ould] no longer postpone,” namely to produce for each of the 1530 provisions in the Digest a Spanish source with a substantially similar rule.  In the last line of the article, Batiza writes, “This writer looks forward to Professor Pascal’s magnum opus.”

Not to be lost on anyone familiar with this debate is the irony, of course, that Professor Pascal, who is clearly of French extraction, is arguing that Louisiana law is Spanish, and Professor Batiza, who is obviously Hispanic, is arguing for French Law….. but that’s a matter for another day.

Professor Sally Richardson

We have heard tonight from Dean Meyer about how the de la Vergne volume made its way to Tulane, from Professor Palmer about Moreau-Lislet, the main codifier of Louisiana law, and from Professor Scalise about what the de la Vergne volume means and what people have argued it means.  All of this leads us to the final question:  what’s next? 


For the volume itself, that question is easy:  the volume will be housed in Tulane Law Library’s rare books collection, under the watchful care of the Director of our Law Library, Professor James Duggan.  The de la Vergne volume will serve as a centerpiece for the great historical documents Tulane has collected concerning Louisiana legal history. 


The more difficult question, though, is what impact will the volume continue to have in the future.  Certainly the de la Vergne volume has had great import on Louisiana legal scholarship, not only in the great debates Professor Scalise noted between Professor Pascal at LSU and Professor Batiza at Tulane, but the volume has had much further reach in legal scholarship.


The de la Vergne volume has been cited in more than 75 law review articles, and not only the law reviews one might expect such as the Tulane Law Review, the Louisiana Law Review, the Loyola Law Review, the Tulane European and Civil Law Forum, and the Louisiana Bar Journal, but also more national and international journals such as the Cornell Law Review, the American Journal of Legal History, and the American Journal of Comparative Law, to name a few. 


Scholars throughout Louisiana have relied on the de la Vergne volume to understand the history of the Louisiana Civil Code.  Scholars like the late Professor Yiannopoulos at Tulane, the other esteemed speakers tonight, Professors Palmer and Scalise.  I myself utilize the de la Vergne volume in understanding the history of Louisiana’s Civil Code articles related to property law.  Others who currently work at Tulane or who have worked at Tulane, and many distinguished scholars from around Louisiana and beyond utilize the de la Vergne volume:  Shael Herman, John Cairns, the late-Bob Pascal Alain Levasseur, Olivier Moreteau and Randy Trahan from LSU, David Snyder, Agustin Parise, Tulane alum and former adjunct professor Max Nathan, Georgia Chadwick one of Louis’ dear friends and the former Director of the Louisiana Law Library as Dean Meyer highlighted, Kathy Lorio, Monica hof Wallce, Dian Tooley-Knoblett, John Lovett, Nick Davrados at Loyola, Nadia Nedzel at Southern . . . the list goes on and on.  The de la Vergne volume has truly become a center piece for Louisiana legal scholarship. 


Beyond legal scholarship, Louisiana jurisprudence has similarly picked up on the de la Vergne code.  Cases like Creech v. Capitol Mack, in which the Louisiana Supreme Court explored the history of the community property articles to determine when the community could be held liable for debts incurred prior to marriage.  The court turned, in part, to the de la Vergne volume to understand the sources of Louisiana’s community property articles, and thus understand their meaning.


Or in the case Danos v. St. Pierre, in which the court used the de la Vergne code to understand how Louisiana’s wrongful death statute should apply in the context of a stillborn child.  In reaching its conclusion, the court used the de la Vergne volume to indicate that Spanish law had been a primary source used by Moreau-Lislet in the original drafting of our Civil Code article on legal personhood when a child is, as the Code said, “born dead.”  Viewing Spanish law as a primary source for Moreau-Lislet, the court them embarked on a study of the Siete Partidas, all in the name of trying to understand Louisiana law pertaining to the wrongful death statute in 1980.  


The de la Vergne code remains important, a central part of Louisiana legal history, because it gives us insight—whatever we may interpret that insight to be—into the mind of Louis Moreau-Lislet, the premier codifier of our original Digest of 1808 and the Civil Code of 1825. That insight remains . . . well, insightful.  Helpful.  Important.  Not only in legal scholarship and jurisprudence, but also in the work of law reform. 


Many of my colleagues at Tulane, as well as my colleagues at other institutions are active in groups such as the Louisiana State Law Institute.  For all of us involved in efforts to revise the Civil Code, contemplating where the Code should go requires a complete understanding of where the Code has been.  For my own work on the Property Committee of the Law Institute, the starting point for any discussion is what was Louisiana law in 1808.  Some may find such a starting point as old fashioned – and maybe just old – but it is essential.  For as a former Tulane law professor and comparative law expert, the late-Ferdinand Stone once wrote, the beauty of the Code is that it “introduces order and system into [a] mass of legal concepts and ideas . . . [so as to] present the law as a homogeneous, related whole rather than a series of isolated propositions.”  To fully appreciate how a concept like ownership operates in the Civil Code, one must understand all of the concepts that lead up to ownership—how things are classified in Louisiana, how one can possess those things, the means by which possession of certain things leads to ownership.  It is a giant jigsaw puzzle that fits together.  That puzzle, though, cannot examine only a small snapshot of the law at one particular moment.  To fully understand how the system operates, we must explore how was the system created and how has it evolved.  For that understanding, the de la Vergne code is and will always be an important component of research of Louisiana law. 


Because of the importance of the de la Vergne code in not only understanding Louisiana legal history, but also understanding the meaning of current law, it is exciting to have the de la Vergne code here at Tulane where the civil law is, as the Dean said at the outset of the evening, strong.  The faculty in the civil law and comparative law at Tulane are a great dominating force locally, nationally, and internationally as the Dean indicated.  But so are our students.  Today at Tulane, while only approximately 20% of our students arrive on Freret Street with a connection to Louisiana, 40% of our students decide they are interested in the civil law and want to remain in Louisiana. 


Our civil law students are an active force in the student body in areas such as the Law Review and other law journals and Moot Court.  Our students are writing about Louisiana law themselves, relying on sources like and including the de la Vergne code.  For example, to understand the form requirements for contracting an antenuptial agreement in Louisiana, one student just last year relied on in part the de la Vergne code.

Our students are excited about the study of civil law and sharing that excitement with their common law peers.  For example, the Civil Law Society—many of whose members are here tonight—regularly preach the power of the Civil Code, the benefits of having an organized body of law that one can (at least theoretically) sit down and read.  They take field trips around the state to learn more about the history of Louisiana.  They engage in active discussions on what the law should be. Just two weeks ago, I walked into my Community Property class at 8:30am on a Monday morning and groups of students were debating how retirement accounts should be classified as community or separate property and the benefits and detriments of the different methods by which retirement accounts and other types of property acquired over time is classified.  Now I know retirement accounts are important, but they aren’t always the most exciting thing to discuss.  When I saw the lively, energetic debate that was going on, all I could think was “I should get another cup of coffee or a shot of espresso before class starts.” 

But suffice it to say, the civil law is alive and well and, as the Dean said, strong at Tulane.  It is true with our faculty and with our students.  Receiving gifts such as the de la Vergne code further cements the importance of the civil law at Tulane, not only in the years that have passed, but also today and for years to come.