Friday, July 20, 2018

Habermacher on Blackstone's Commentaries and Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law

Adrien Habermacher, a doctoral candidate at McGill University, Faculty of Law, has posted “Felix Cohen Was the Blackstone of Federal Indian Law”: Taking the Comparison Seriously, which is forthcoming in volume 8 of the British Journal of American Legal Studies:
This paper explores thoroughly the many facets of Rennard Strickland’s comparison between Sir William Blackstone, author of the 1765-69 Commentaries on the Laws of England, and Felix Cohen, architect of the 1942 Handbook of Federal Indian Law.  It consists in a side by side analysis of both authors’ master works, political and educational projects, as well as general contribution to jurisprudence. It reveals that despite the stark differences between Blackstone’s work on the English common law from his professorship at Oxford in the late 18th century, and Cohen’s endeavors on the US federal law concerning Native Americans as a civil servant at the turn of the 1940’s, there are remarkable similarities in the enterprises of legal scholarship the two jurists took on, the larger political projects they promoted, and their role in the development of legal thought. The idea that “Felix Cohen was the Blackstone of Federal Indian Law” has stylistic appeal and could have been little more than a gracious way to celebrate Cohen. An in-depth comparative examination of legal history and jurisprudence however corroborates and amplifies the soundness of the comparison.