Leonard Liggio: A Snapshot, part 2

This is the second in a three part series about Leonard Liggio’s life and influences. Read Part 1.

In Spring 1953, I began to sit in on Mises’ graduate seminar during vacations at Georgetown. Mises’ seminar lectures were the manuscript he was preparing for his publisher, Yale University Press, which wasTheory and History.  Of course, I was particularly interested in this aspect of history, which was foretold in parts of Human Action; and I read the manuscript translation of Ricket’s Science and History. Mises analyzed the foundations of historical sciences in the science of human knowledge.

The ‘sciences of laws’ was contrasted with the ‘sciences of events’ in Wilhelm Windelband’s Geschichte und  Naturwissenschaft, a source for Ricket and Mises.

Since I was with Ralph Raico and George Reisman, maybe they introduced me to Mises.  Mises’ Seminar was followed by a weekly visit to the Lafayette Café on University Ave. and 8th St. The actual students went home and the ‘real’ students stayed to discuss the seminar; it was there that I met Murray N. Rothbard. Thereafter, during the summer and after I returned to NYC to study at Columbia University law school, a group gathered around Murray Rothbard and his hospitable wife, Joey: Ralph Raico, George Reisman, Bob Hessen, and LPL. Among the regular participants in the weekly Mises NYU seminar were: Bettina and Percy Greaves, Bill Peterson and M. Stanton Evans. Through FEE I began to read Frederic Bastiat’s The Law, and then his other valuable writings.

The three persons with whom I have had the longest intellectual association were…

1. Joseph R. Peden who sat in front of me when I started High School freshman year (1947) at All Hallows Institute and with whom I was in discussion until his death on February 12, 1996. Joe majored in American Studies (& Italian Renaissance) at Fordham University, in American History (& Middle Ages) for his M. A. at Columbia U. For his Ph. D. studies at Fordham University he pursued Roman/Christian and Medieval History.

Joe Peden studied medieval money and medieval institutions, as well as opposition to government education in US and Europe. For many years he was an intellectual and social friend of Murray N. Rothbard. Joe taught European history almost thirty years in the history department of Baruch College (City University of New York).

2. Ralph Raico and  I met through Students for Taft; he introduced me to FEE, Human Action, and Mises’ NYU seminar. Mises sent him for his Ph. D. with Hayek at Univ of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought. His work on Acton, Tocqueville and Constant has added to our knowledge, as have his studies of German, French and Italian Liberalism.

3. Murray Newton Rothbard was a polymath and larger-than-life intellectual. During forty years I always learned something from him. He had boundless intellectual interests and was open-hearted in welcoming persons who shared his inquiries. He had an interest in the contributions of French authors to Classical Liberalism.: J. B. Say, Cantillon , Turgot, Condillac, Ch. Dunoyer and Charles Comte, and Frederic Bastiat. He encouraged me to study the work of Charles Dunoyer (1786-1863), who, with Ch. Comte, was a disciple of  J. B. Say. To that end, he presented me for academic achievement, Ch. Dunoyer’s La Liberte du Travail(1845). In the middle 1960s, Murray and I began writing the history of colonial America which became the multi-volume Conceived in Liberty. Murray was the principle author as he was senior and had a fluent writing style.

I was the second author on the first two volumes of Conceived in Liberty. Murray already had a background as his Ph. D. dissertation was published as The Panic of 1819, on the crisis caused by central bank credit expansion in the early American republic. We taught each other a lot during the research and writing of Conceived in Liberty. Classical Liberalism lost a giant with Murray’s death in January, 1995.

Early at Georgetown College, I met Frank Chodorov who was associate editor of Human Events, then a weekly newsletter of four pages of Washington news,  and a four page essay by Henry Hazlitt, Felix Morley, George Morgenstern (Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War (Devin-Adair, 1947), Walter Trohan (book on UN), Chesly Manly (The Twenty-Year Revolution from Roosevelt to Eisenhower (Henry Regnery Company, 1954) (all three of Chicago Tribune), Mises, Hayek, John Chamberlain, William Henry Chamberlin, John T. Flynn, etc.  My conversations with Chodorov were very informative and we worked on his idea for a libertarian university student organization which became the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists (Individualism is the defense of person’s rights against Socialism, Statism or Collectivism).

Chodorov put me in touch with Capitol Hill staffers who often had been denied rehiring at universities by the Communist cells. I was able to draw on them for lectures at GU as I was an officer for several years of the GU International Relations Club of which Tibor Kerekes was faculty advisor. These included some staffers of Sen. William E.  Jenner of Indiana : Edna Lonnigan and Willis Ballinger. At Georgetown I appointed myself president of the film society and showed films with some politics; each year I showed Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.

At Georgetown I benefited from top refugee teachers: Tibor Kerekes had been Otto von Habsburg’s tutor; coming in the early 1920s; Heinrich Rommen left Bonn in the 1930s and taught Modern Political Thought from Locke, using his book on Natural Law (Herder; Liberty Fund). I had full courses in English and in American Constitutional History.  I had logic and epistemology taught by John Toohey, S. J. then in his late eighties, who was a strong teacher of Thomist epistemology (Cf, Notes on Epistemology). The crowning course was by Charles C. Tansill concerning the strategy of the Battalion-of-Death Senators who defeated the ratification of Wilson’s Versailles Treaty.  Tansill swore me into Phi Alpha Theta, the national history fraternity, followed by dinner at the Cosmos Club with an address by George Washington University  dean, Henry Grattan Doyle.

Another source of ideas was the semi-monthly magazine: The Freeman.It was edited (1950-54) by Henry Hazlitt, John Chamberlain, Suzanne Lafollette, and Forrest Davis. It had articles on current issues, including by Ludwig von Mises. On the radio there were commentaries by George Sokolsky and the Manion Forum of Notre Dame Law, Dean Clarence Manion. Col. Robert R. McCormick spoke during the intermission of the Saturday pm broadcast of the Chicago Light Opera sponsored by McCormick’s Chicago Tribune.

When I attended Columbia University law school, every law student in America had to take the course on the History of Legal Institutions (now it is hardly taught as an elective and few concern European legal institutions). The professor of legal history was the renowned Julius Goebel. Legal history was the course I liked the most, but I did not imagine that since 1990 I would be teaching the seminar on the history of legal institutions at a law school. It was in 1983 that I encountered the other major legal history influence: Harold Berman’s (then at Harvard U. & now at Emory University at the age of 89 years) Law & Revolution is the most influential book on European legal history. I have the pleasure of visiting with him whenever Berman comes to Washington.

An additional legal history influence was Richard Epstein (who studied Roman Law at Oxford) who I first encountered at a Liberty Fund/IHS seminar at the University of San Diego in 1979. Epstein led me to a deeper understanding of Law Merchant in his explanation that true Roman Law (before the backward Justinian Code of the Bas Empire) was judge-made like Common Law. He had already explained in his essay on “Strict Liability in Torts” that the true Roman Law had very advanced ideas on torts.

Henry Veatch, philosophy chairman at Georgetown University also lectured  in the San Diego seminar.

At Columbia law school I studied with the top law professors in the US: Julius Goebel, Patterson, Allan Farnsworth, Jones, Jack Weinstein, Herbert Wechsler, Charles Black  (his wife, Barbara Black, later dean of Columbia law school, was my tutor). A few years later I joined the Columbia University Faculty Seminar on the History of Legal and Political Thought. It was a monthly meeting at the Columbia faculty club of which Joe Peden and Murray Rothbard were members. There I was able to further develop research areas I had already initiated such as Peace of God movement, the Fairs of Champagne, and Law Merchant. The origin of my interest was the works of the great professor at the University of Ghent, Henri Pirenne (who wrote his two volume medieval economic history from memory while incarcerated in a German castle as a World War One prisoner-of-war).

I studied International Law which helped me since international private law is a modern version of the Law Merchant. I was able to study the work of John Bassett Moore, his beloved student, Edwin C. Borchard (whose law students at Yale founded the America First Committee (Gerald Ford (future president), Potter Stewart (future Supreme Court Justice), R. Douglas Stuart, Jr. (Quaker Oats CEO), Kingman Brewster (later president of Yale University & ambassador to London) and R. Sargent Shriver (later vice presidential candidate of Democrats in 1972, and brother-in-law of JFK (who joined AFC at Harvard)) and Philip Jessup. These authors influenced Robert A. Taft’s view which he built on William Howard Taft’s.

The interest of Murray Rothbard and Joe Peden also in medieval economic institutions and thought had been encouraged by our encounters with Raymond de Roover who was a close friend of Ludwig von Mises. One of the students of Mises’ seminar followed Mises’ advice and organized a monthly dinner of the Mises Circle at the NYU faculty club. Each month someone would speak: Henry Hazlitt, F. A. Hayek, Fritz Machlup, Raymond de Roover, Philip Courtney, Sylvester Petro, etc. De Roover was from Antwerp and an accountant. He taught at Boston College Graduate School and then City University of New York). His accountancy permitted him to decipher the Florentine bankers’ accounts (Medici Bank) and to discover that they received interest through having payment, for example, in Florins and contracting in letters-of-exchange for repayment in Venetian Ducats or maybe dinars. He wrote very important studies of the medieval Canonists’ writings on the permissible of interest for risk including repayment in a different coinage. De Roover was a close associate of Joseph Schumpeter and Schumpeter’s treatment of  medieval and early modern economists reflects de Roover’s impute. Murray Rothbard, Joe Peden and I spent occasional hours with de Roover with beer after the Mises’ dinner when de Roover came to NYC from Boston, and later when he joined Brooklyn College.

At Fordham University graduate school I built on the foundations given at Georgetown. The graduate history department had been created in the 1930s with Hilaire Belloc as a visiting lecturer with senior professors from NYU, Pennsylvania and Harvard. Then the harvest of scholars who were refugees from Europe. There is nothing today comparable to the education that I received. The history professors were hardly-achievable models. I was examined in my final comprehensive exam in three fields of my Major of Modern European History: History of International Relations, French History, and East-Central Europe; & two Minor fields: Medieval History, and American Diplomatic History. Fordham professors included: Ross J. S. Hoffman (English history during the American Revolution and history of international relations), A. Paul Levack (French History) (Hoffman and Levack were the editors of Burke’s Politics (Knopf, 1949) which was the revival of Burke studies); Oskar Halecki (Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Habsburg Monarchy and Versailles Conf.; he attended Jagiellonian University and was dean at the University of Warsaw), Gerhard Ladner (Medieval Reform Movements; he came from Austria and won the 1959 Haskins Gold Medal for his Harvard University book on The Idea of Reform in the Church Fathers); Fr. Vincent Hopkins, S. J. (American history; wrote the book on the 1857 Dread Scott Decision). I took four yearly seminars with Halecki, as well as courses. Halecki introduced me to conservative historian John Lukacs.

At the beginning of 1958 Ayn Rand, whom Murray Rothbard had known some years earlier, invited him to bring his friends to meet Ayn Rand and her friends following the publication of Atlas Shrugged. Since  my graduate studies at Fordham University often involved spending all day at the NY Public Library before going to late afternoon class, I was not suited to her late hours. Famously, I fell asleep at 3am while she was speaking. Since I was a theist, I did not continue to join the meetings. A crisis emerged in late spring. Nathan Brandon had sought to convince Murray’s wife, Joey, on atheism, which she did not accept. Murray was told he most divorce his theist wife. which he declined.

At that point Murray was expelled from the “Randian Collective” on the grounds that his new article, “The Mantle of Science”, failed to footnote Ayn Rand as his source for the concept of reason. Murray had cited scholarly books on rational philosophy which predated Ayn Rand’s writings, not to mention that he was a graduate of Columbia College’s famous Civilization course taught by some world famous philosophers. Ralph Raico and I were called upon on July 4, 1958 to repudiate Murray, which we did not. Murray wrote the article for a William Volker Fund conference at Sea Island, GA.

This is the second in a three part series about Leonard Liggio’s life and influences, join us next week to read the final edition. Click here to read the third section.