'Felix Cohen Was the Blackstone of Federal Indian Law': Taking the Comparison Seriously

(2019) 8:2 British Journal of American Legal Studies 371

28 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2018 Last revised: 29 Jan 2020

See all articles by Adrien Habermacher

Adrien Habermacher

Faculty of Law, Université de Moncton

Date Written: 2019

Abstract

This paper explores thoroughly the many facets of Rennard Strickland’s comparison between Sir William Blackstone, author of the 1765-69 COMMENTARIES ON THE LAWS OF ENGLAND, and Felix Cohen, architect of the 1942 HANDBOOK OF FEDERAL INDIAN LAW. It consists in a side by side analysis of both authors’ master works, political and educational projects, as well as general contribution to jurisprudence. It reveals that despite the stark differences between Blackstone’s work on the English common law from his professorship at Oxford in the late 18th century, and Cohen’s endeavors on the US federal law concerning Native Americans as a civil servant at the turn of the 1940’s, there are remarkable similarities in the enterprises of legal scholarship the two jurists took on, the larger political projects they promoted, and their role in the development of legal thought. The idea that “Felix Cohen was the Blackstone of Federal Indian Law” has stylistic appeal and could have been little more than a gracious way to celebrate Cohen. An in-depth comparative examination of legal history and jurisprudence however corroborates and amplifies the soundness of the comparison.

Keywords: Felix Cohen; Handbook of Federal Indian Law; William Blackstone; Commentaries on the Law of England; Comparative Legal History; Legal History; Native American Law; Jurisprudence; Legal Education

Suggested Citation

Habermacher, Adrien, 'Felix Cohen Was the Blackstone of Federal Indian Law': Taking the Comparison Seriously (2019). (2019) 8:2 British Journal of American Legal Studies 371, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3195522

Adrien Habermacher (Contact Author)

Faculty of Law, Université de Moncton ( email )

257, Pavillon Adrien-J. Cormier
Moncton, New Brunswick E1A 3E9
Canada
(506) 858-4893 (Phone)

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