Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Law > 182. Benjamin N. Cardozo

182.  Benjamin N. Cardozo (1870-1938).  Communism. Autograph manuscript on paper, 66 pp., Senior Thesis, prepared for A.B. degree, Columbia College, 1889. RBML, Benjamin Cardozo Papers

Born in New York, Cardozo attended Columbia College, graduating in 1889, and Law School but left without taking a law degree. He served as counsel to other lawyers, and soon gained a reputation as a "lawyer's lawyer." He was elected to the New York State Supreme Court in 1913, then a year later to the New York State Court of Appeals, becoming Chief Judge of the court in 1927.

Especially in commercial law, Cardozo's opinions carried great weight in New York and throughout the country. His decision in the landmark case of McPherson v. Buick Motor Co. (1916) changed the very nature of product liability law, making manufacturers directly liable to the consumer.

Cardozo argued that rules of law should be judged not by their antiquity or logic but by the extent to which they contributed to society's welfare. He was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Hoover in 1932 to succeed Oliver Wendell Holmes. Joining the liberal block headed by Justices Louis D. Brandeis and Harlan Fiske Stone, he voted to uphold much of the early New Deal legislation. In his six terms he showed promise of becoming one of the Court's great justices, but died before he could leave a significant corpus of opinions. His papers held by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library include his senior thesis, shown here, as well as his lecture notes kept as a student at Columbia, and his commonplace books.

Gift of the Estate of Benjamin N. Cardozo, 1938

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