“Young Man Go West!”

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The Supreme Court of Louisiana Historical Society sponsored a lecture by Professor Kjell Å. Modéer on April 12, 2012 at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.  The lecture was co-sponsored by Loyola and the Association Henri Capitant – Louisiana Chapter.

Professor Modéer, Senior Professor of Legal History, Faculty of Law at Lund University in Sweden, entitled the lecture “Young Man Go West! The Brethren Carl and Gustavus Schmidt as Examples of Legal Transfers Between Sweden and Louisiana in the 19th Century.”  Professor Modéer has written about Carl and Gustavus Schmidt in English, German, and Swedish.

Father Lawrence Moore, Historical Society Board President Donna D. Fraiche, and Professor Alain A. Levasseur each made remarks before Professor Ray J. Rabalais of Loyola introduced Professor Modéer.

Gustavus Schmidt was an eminent lawyer and legal scholar in 19th Century New Orleans, having come to America as a young man to seek his fortune. He founded the Deep South’s first law school and his Louisiana Law Journal was the state’s first law journal. His 1851 book, The Civil Law of Spain and Mexico, is one of the first comprehensive studies on Spanish legal history written in English.  At his death in 1877, Schmidt’s large private library, containing over 1,000 volumes in 13 languages, was sold at auction.

Throughout his legal career, Schmidt corresponded with his older brother Carl Christian, who remained in Sweden and eventually became a Justice of the Swedish Supreme Court.  The original correspondence between the brothers is part of the Gustavus Schmidt family papers, held at Tulane’s Louisiana Research Collection.  A finding aid to the papers can be accessed here:


Professor Modéer fielded a number of questions from Loyola faculty and students at the conclusion of his engaging presentation.  A handful of Schmidt descendants were in the audience, including Louisiana bar members Louis V. de la Vergne, Douglas M. Schmidt, and his daughter Rachel C. Schmidt.

The previous day, Lynn Becnel, Tulane Law School Manager of Publications, arranged a gathering of students and faculty to meet with Professor Modéer.  SCLHS Board member and Dean of Tulane University Law School David D. Meyer welcomed Professor Modéer to Tulane.  (Schmidt’s Louisiana Law School was absorbed into the University of Louisiana Law Department, predecessor of Tulane University Law School.)

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