Ancient Law and Modern Eyes

David Snyder, American University Washington College of Law


My article on the Louisiana law of possession' argues that the Louisiana Digest of 1808, commonly called the Civil Code of 1808,2 comes directly from the Roman law on the same subject. The redactors of the Louisiana law did not simply follow Spanish or French law or commentators. Although this argument is contradicted by Professor Batiza, he and I do not disagree about the law and its sources as extensively or as deeply as the tone of his Essay might suggest. In fact, my research often started with Professor Batiza's work, as my footnotes reflect. Professor Batiza, however, has largely misconceived the argument in my article. He reads it in a way that does not entirely make sense given modernity's imperfect knowledge of Roman law, and the even less perfect understanding of those living in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Perhaps most importantly, Professor Batiza's insistence on one method3 of examination has obscured some of the sources of the Code. The approach that I have employed can offer responses to questions that his technique has not been able to answer, without making his work any less valid or valuable.