Hastings Law Journal


Lewis Grossman


In 1872, California moved to the forefront of American legal reform by becoming one of the first states to codify its complete body of laws. At the time of codification, California was a state whose self-image was characterized by a complex mixture of confidence and insecurity. Californians had grand visions of a bright future due to tlje perceived progression of civilization as it drifted westward. But these visions were clouded by concerns that their state lacked the capacity for order and that California was to remain intellectually and culturally barren.

Mr. Grossman argues that codification satisfied both the insecure and confident facets of California's personality. Organizing disordered laws into a logical arrangement not only offered practical advantages, but also provided a sense of order in a chaotic era. Furthermore, since classification was considered to be the very essence of science in the nineteenth century, codification gave Californians a sense of intellectual accomplishment. John Norton Pomeroy expressed his obvious pride in the new Code during the inauguration of Hastings College of the Law in 1878, boasting that California's innovation will "spread with ever increasing rapidity, until its effect shall be shown throughout the entire extent of our common country." As Mr. Grossman concludes, the Code demonstrates the personality of a young state torn between fears of illegitimacy and dreams of greatness.

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