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46 Tul. L. Rev. 4 (1971-1972)
Louisiana Civil Code of 1808: Its Actual Sources and Present Relevance

handle is hein.journals/tulr46 and id is 42 raw text is: THE LOUISIANA CIVIL CODE OF 1808: ITS ACTUAL
The Digest of the Civil Laws, generally known as the Civil Code
of 1808,1 is one of the most interesting and significant developments
in the history of codification in the western hemisphere. The
earliest2 example of a code drafted from a variety of European
sources, this code established, at least in parts a civilian system of
private law for Louisiana. The significance of the Code of 1808,
however, is not merely historical.4 Indeed, through the intermediate
* Professor of Law, Tulane University School of Law.
1 The full title is A Digest of the Civil Laws now in force in the territory
of Orleans with alterations and amendments adapted to its present system of
2 The year 1808 was one of great significance in the Spanish Empire in the
western hemisphere,, since Napoleon's invasion of Spain had dramatically
raised the issue of local self-government. The most pressing need for the
colonies that did achieve political independence during the early 1820's was to
draft constitutions rather than civil codes so that, with a few earlier excep-
tions (Bolivia, 1831; Dominican Republic, 1845), civil codes in Latin America
only began to appear in the second half of the nineteenth century. See P. Eder,
Introduction to the Argentine Civil Code at xxi-xxxii (F. Joannini transl. 1917),
which, although especially referring to Argentina, includes data of general
application to other Latin American countries.
3 As a result of developments that began early in the Middle Ages, private
law in most civil law countries is split into two, separately codified branches,
civil law and commercial law. A trend to unify private law, at least the law
of obligations and contracts, originated in Switzerland at the end of the nine-
teenth century but was followed in only a few countries.
The Louisiana Legislature requested Livingston, Derbigny, and Moreau
Lislet to prepare a draft for a Code of Commerce, but failed to adopt it in
1824. Dart, The Influence of the Ancient Laws of Spain on the Jurisprudence
of Louisiana, 6 Tul. L. Rev. 83, 89 (1931) [hereinafter cited as Influence of
the Ancient Laws]; see Tucker, The Code and the Common Law in Louisiana,
29 Tul. L. Rev. 739, 753 (1959). The subsequent adoption, however, of Uniform
Acts, such as those on bills of lading, business corporations, and negotiable
instruments, has made a commercial code unnecessary and has resulted in a
unity of private law in Louisiana, an unusual situation for most civilian juris-
As for other branches of law in Louisiana, the law of evidence and civil
procedure are predominantly based on the common law, as are constitutional
and administrative law. Dart, The Place of the Civil Law in Louisiana, 4 Tul.
L. Rev. 163, 170-71 (1930) [hereinafter cited as Place of the Civil Law].
Criminal law and criminal procedure are entirely common law. Hubert, History
of Louisiana Criminal Procedure, 33 Tul. L. Rev. 739, 740 (1959); Tucker,
supra at 753.
4 It has been said that [i]n view of the relative fullness of the report of
the Commissioners on the Louisiana Civil Code of 1825 and its numerous
French source authorities, the significance of establishing the extent and the
identity of French influence in 1808 may be more historical than practical.
Dainow, Moreau Lislet's Notes on the Sources of Louisiana Civil Code of 1808,
19 La. L. Rev. 43, 51 (1958). The French source authorities that appear in the
Projet of 1823, however, are not as numerous as may appear at first sight since

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