January 22, 2006
Today in History: Pothier Hits America
On this date, January 22, 1802, Messrs. Martin & Ogden of New Bern, North Carolina, publish the first American translation of Robert Joseph Pothier's 1761 Traite des obligations. This Treatise on Obligations was translated by Francois-Xavier Martin. Martin's translation was a big success, and Pothier's influence was immediately felt in the common law world, most famously via the adoption of his foreseeability limitation on damages in the case of Hadley v. Baxendale. (Left: Pothier, Penn Law School)
Martin himself was an interesting figure, a native of Marseilles who came to America at 18, settling at New Bern He learned English, taught French, and set himself up as a printer. He studied law and was admitted to the North Carolina Bar in 1789. He became editor of the Acts of the North Carolina Legislature, then a member of the state's General Assembly. He was appointed a judge of the Mississippi Territory, then the Louisiana Territory, and served as attorney general of the new State of Louisiana, where he played a major role in sorting out the French and common-law legal systems in the new state, being considered by many as "the father of Louisiana jurisprudence." He ended his career as presiding judge of the state supreme court. A portrait of Martin from the Louisiana State Historical society is here.
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