8 A.B.A. J. 470 (1922)
Attitude of the Law Toward Beauty

handle is hein.journals/abaj8 and id is 490 raw text is: THE ATTITUDE OF THE LAW TOWARD BEAUTY
Evidence That Courts Are Giving Aesthetic Values More and More Consideration and That
the Police Power Is Gradually Being Developed in Reference to Them
Of the Chicago, Illinois, Bar

IN recent years the 'courts have had occasion more
and more frequently to    pass upon   so-called
aesthetic considerations affecting municipal ordi-
nances. The attitude of the courts is so important,
particularly in connection with movements now gen-
eral in this country, to promote the amenities of com-
munity life by city planning and zoning that it is
pertinent to inquire into it. What is the judicial atti-
tude toward beauty?
On first impression no two terms would seem to be
mord incongruous than beauty and the law. Beauty
is an expression of the aspiration of the individual in-
stinct with fancy and originality. Law is a rule of
the work-a-day world, an expression of the settled
opinion. of the mass, which plods well behind the gifted
spirits who give us beauty.
Beauty is like science and religion in emphasizing
the individual. For the scientist there is no law except
the truth as he sees it, and the dicta of multitudes of
men are of noforce except as they conform with this
standard. When Galileo was convinced that the earth
moved around the sun, the traditional opinion, though
centuries old and supported by the fiat of the church,
could not establish for him the contrary. For the genu-
ine follower of religion his own conscience is the real
monitor. Likewise for the devotee of beauty, the
dominant motive is to realize the conception of har-
mony and rhythm that is in him as a being unique, dis-
tinctive. But law is not made by the individual. Law
is the sum of rules imposed upon the individual to
which hd must conform whether he likes it or not.
Law is the limit beyond which self-expression of the
individual is not permitted.
Hence it has been assumed down to recent times
that beauty and the law are merely separate concerns
of life which exist independently and have nothing to
do with each other. To a large extent this is still the
case. There is evident today, however, a tendency to-
ward what we may- call the socialization of beauty
which brings into question the previous attitude of the
Even the stoutest individualist realizes the trend
toward common provision for -many of the needs of
life which onde every man supplied for himself. The
water system and light company have taken the place
of the private well and candle or lamp. Whether the
title to the utility be in the public or privately owned
is immaterial for the present purpose. Even if pri-
vately owned, the utility is subject to public regulation
and it constitutes a public agency for meeting a need
which was once regarded as wholly private. The dif-
ficulty of individual action in the face of increasing
congestion of population, and the large capital invest-
ment necessary to take advantage of modern inven-
tions, both tend toward the same end. When popula-
tion was sparse, it was comparatively easy for each
householder to dig a well in which the water would

be pure. When neighbors came closer the old-fash-
ioned well liecame unsanitary and a source of danger,
and community sewer and water systems were the
solution. Likewise a man can provide a kerosene lamp
for himself, but if he wants electric light he must
generally, as a practical matter, combine with his
neighbors. Something of the same need has become
evident in the effort of the individual to attain beauty
in his environment.
In 1880 less than one-third of the people of the
United States- were classed by the census bureau as
urban (meaning by that living in communities of more
than 2,500 inhabitants). In 1920 the proportion of
the population which was urban had increased to more
than half, 51.9 per cent to be exact. This means that
the land available for the ordinary individual in con-
nection with his home has become very much less than
formerly. In cities the price of land is too high to
permit use generally for lawns, trees or flowers. In the
less settled areas the appropriation of woods and
streams for industry has made inroads upon sites of
natural beauty. The water power of Niagara has been
harnessed and it is with increasing difficulty that the
national parks in the west are protected against indus-
trial exploitation.
Not only is the land available for beauty in city
and country thus diminishing, but the close proximity
in which people live today interposes obstacles to the
attainment of beauty. The owner of residence prop-
erty may strive as hard as he will to make it attractive,
set his dwelling well back, provide ample ground with
lawn and trees in front; still his aim may be frustrated
by his next door neighbor, who is more interested in
getting the -maximum amount of rentable space and
income-return than he is in beauty, and accordingly
projects an apartment building to the street line. For-
merly when land holdings were comparatively large,
if one had a neighbor with whose taste he did not
agree, he might find relative seclusion on his own
property and forget the adjoining owner, but today
our neighbors are too much with us-we cannot
escape. At every turn we realize that for the in-
dividual to try to attain beauty in the development of
his property, acting alone, is almost hopeless.
Along with the increasing obstacles to the attain-
ment of beauty by the individual, there has begun an
education of the public in the appreciation of it. In
the schools of our forefathers studies were mainly
utilitarian. Training in the arts is of a later date.
Today it occupies no inconsiderable place in the curri-
cula, with the result that there is being instilled into
the younger generation a regard for beauty both in
buildings and landscape, a sense of color and line that
calls for expression. At the very time that circum-
stances are making the attainment of beauty difficult
except through common action, the demand for it is
increasing and must increase if the finer traits of
civilization are not to be lost. It is important then

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