From pages Henry W. Taft, A Century and a Half at the New York Bar (1938), pages 344-347 (containing excerpts from the Diary of George Templeton Strong),from



George Templeton Strong was elected a trustee of Columbia College in 1853. He soon became actively engaged in the development of the Law School of that institution; and for many years he was in continued contact with its work, particularly during the incumbency of Professor Theodore Dwight, of whom he seems to have been the principal adviser.  On November 2, 1858 Mr. Strong notes that "our new Law Prof. Dwight dined here" (at Mr. Strong's home) and made a "favorable impression . . . Prospects of the Law School brightening." A house was rented for the activities of the school, but the purchase of a library had to await a further communication from Prof. Dwight; and on February 7, 1859 the professor submitted to the trustees "a clear & creditable paper--& we voted $2000 for a law- library.” On the following 1st of May one of the colonnade houses in Lafayette Place, formerly occupied by John Astor, was taken possession of. On May 26, 1859 arrangements had been made with all of the lecturers excepting Daniel Lord, who Mr. Strong said, was "high & mighty & Dan’l Lordish-- & evidently expects us to go down on our knees to him & beg the privilege of using his name."


In December 1859 complaints were heard of Dr. Francis Lieber, the well-known author in the field of political philosophy. Despite his distinction in his own specialty, he exhibited a Teutonic tendency to disputation which became a disturbing factor. In December 1859 he took offence because examinations in his special subjects were not to be a condition of a degree, which he considered would degrade his Chair. Mr. S. B. Ruggles, the father-in- law of Mr. Strong, sympathized with him, and asked "whether we want the Law School to turn out mere attorneys." But  while "high & liberal culture" was to be aimed at, it was questioned whether the school was strong enough to go far towards that ideal aim with "young attorneys & lawyers’ clerks" who could hardly be expected to "sacrifice a couple of hours daily to Political Science & Legal Philosophy. It is a great point gained that so many (upwards of 60) consent to come in & be taught the practicabilities of their profession. " In February 1860 William Curtis Noyes delivered lectures in the Law School which were very popular; and Mr. Strong comments: "This School is the only one of our seeds of Post-Graduate instruction that survives & grows--our only 'University' nucleus."


In March 1860 the subject of Dr. Lieber's connection with the school recurs, and Mr. Strong comments that: "His sensibilities are lacerated because he fears he 'is to be a mere adjunct of Dwight's' in the Law School, & he intends to decline all farther share in it's duties. Sorry to lose him. But he ought to see that the School cannot be established & will not win students unless training in practically useful & profitable knowledge--(such knowledge of the R. S. & Wendell & Cowen & Hill as it's Dwight's office to impart) be it's prominent feature. Lieber's political philosophy & Spirit of Laws- -& Nairne's Law & Ethics—must be gradually worked into the system. If we make them essentia l & obligatory portions of the course at once, we shall simply frighten students away & dwarf or destroy the School--as a yearling baby would be stunted or killed by a diet of beef & Madeira."


An entry of Apri113, 1860 is included because it notes a historical step in the development of the Law School: "To night to Nairne's Lecture--Law School--one of his Course on Ethics. Subject 'the ground of moral obligation.' Very high toned and quite forcible. Coleridgean in doctrine. Attendance slim-- but mostly Law Students with pens & notebooks. Saw Dwight. Tells me the Law School Bill is through both houses--and signed. So we of the Law Com: of Col: Coll: are authorized to manufacture Attornies & Counsellors. Pity that nasty little 'N. Y. University' Law School of Judge Clerke's & P. Y. Cutler's should have got a like Bill through, prescribing a shorter term of attendance." An entry under date of May 2,1860 is no less important: "To night, Prof: Dwight. & Gouv: Ogden here, a sub-committee of the Col: Coll: Law Committee, settling the form of the Law School Diploma, under the Act of April 7th--and arranging other matters. There is hope that we can get a fraction of the graduating class to attend a 3d year, and we must set up another Degree, 'Master of Laws' perhaps, orsome such thing, to be conferred on those who do so."


About this time the General Term of the Supreme Court held that the la w as to the admission to the bar of graduates of the Law School without further examination, was unconstitutional. Mr. Strong comments: "We shall present a cleaner case in certain points, but I have no doubt they will

treat our Diplomas with like contempt. I think they are manifestly wrong,--and it may be worth our while to carry the question to the Court of Appeals--so that it may be settled one way or the other. If the Act of April /60 don't give us this privilege, Judge Parker's Albany Law School ought not to enjoy it under a like Act passed some years ago." In emphatic colloquial terms he expresses himself as follows: "Dwight is to move tomorrow at General Term for an order admitting our Law School graduates under the Act of /60. He read me his points, which are about as conclusive as anything in Euclid. I have the Opinion of the Court on the 'University' application,--& a most shallow & flippant production it is. The Legislature is bad enough, but our Courts are little better. Witness the arrogance with which these three Judges—two of them second-rate lawyers, & the third (Leonard) a tenth-rate groggy attorney, overrule & nullify an Act of the Legislature, without even hearing Counsel. They ought to be impeached. Dwight's motion will be denied of cour se, & its denial won't do us much harm. A Bench adorned by Leonard & Sutherland naturally dreads an educated Bar, and instinctively discourages whatever tends to raise the professional standard from it's present zero point of utter degradation."


The School was "prospering beyond my hopes" and the decision of the General Term "is generally discussed & condemned. It is spoken of as a decision against the College--(tho' in fact agst this nasty little sham Law School of Cutler's & Judge Clerke's) & advertises us most effectively."

On May 22, 1860 Judge Sutherland declined to hear Professor Dwight on a motion to admit the school under the Act which had been declared to be unconstitutional. On being reminded that the Act had been declared without argument to be unconstitutional and had never been before the court, Judge Sutherland admitted that he had never seen it and "took the papers, with a very bad grace--said the Court would see whether there was any material distinction between the two cases: and was generally swinish & sulky. They will deny the motion of course. "We go to the Court of Appeals. There is one view of the case on which that Court may go against us--but it does not seem to have occurred to the Supreme Court, and I am not sure there is anything in it. On the question of a discretion in the S. C. the exercise of which cannot be reviewed, I have no doubt at all."


On June 16, 1860 Professor Dwight was heard at length on the Law School appeal in the Court of Appeals, which held an evening session for the purpose, "Judge Denio--O'Conor & others say it was a very able argument. " and in the following autumn, on October 16, the Court of Appeals reversed the order of the General Term. As a result, on November 25, 1860, the Supreme Court "at last reluctantly concluded that it won't do to nullify the decision of the Court of Appeals" and Judge Ingraham showed the discontent of the court at the reversal by remarking

that "the Court had some feeling about the case:--& it would have been better if they had had notice of the argument of the appeal." Evidently, the reversal rankled in the minds of the court and there appeared in the Morning World of November 27, 1860, an "extraordinary opinion as to

the effect of the decision" and Mr. Strong comments, "Who ever heard before of an inferior tribunal 'protesting' against a decision of an appellate court--& carrying it into effect at the same time?"


On May 23, 1860 occurred the first Law School Commencement at the Historical Society Hall on Second Avenue and "Bidwell delivered an address to the class, of about an hour, & very creditable." In April 1861 Mr. Bidwell continued his lectures, this time on the "Law of Defamation."

It was "a brilliant success."


In November 1862 the School is "expanding and thriving." Dwight is receiving his salary from fees and it amounts to more than $6000. Students are asking for a third year with a degree of Master of Laws--"That School has thriven beyond the utmost we hoped--thanks to Dwight's

admirable talent for teaching."




“The prevailing sentiment concerning the admission of young women to the law School was adverse, Mr. Strong commenting that: "No woman shall degrade herself by practicing law, in N. Y. especially, if I can save her. Our Committee will probably have to pass on the application, pro forma, but I think the clack of these possible Portias will never be heard at Dwight's moot-courts. 'Womens' Rights-women' are uncommonly loud & offensive of late. I loathe the lot. The first effect of their success would be the introduction into society of a third sex—without the grace of a woman or the vigor of man, and then woman, being physically the weaker vessel, & having thrown away the protection of her present honors & immunities, would become what the squaw is to the male of her species;--a drudge & domestic animal. This would be Barbarism plus Railroads & Telegraphs. And it might be long before the whirligig of Time brought us another Age of Chivalry to found a new civilization.”