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Digression o' the Day for February 24, 1999

The regular Links O' the Day page for this day involves guest speaker Jim Bacchus, the only US citizen who is a member of the World Trade Organization's Appellate Body.  This digression discusses the source of the on-line biography featured on the Links O' the Day page, which leads to a discussion of Thomas Jefferson and of Napoleon.


The Political Graveyard.  The site from which I found Mr. Bacchus' biography is called "The Political Graveyard" and focuses on listing the cemeteries in which politicians are buried, although--as you might have already inferred given that Mr. Bacchus is very much alive--the site also includes information on living former politicians as well as on those currently politicos.)   Mr. Bacchus' biography is included because of his membership in The House of Representatives, in which he served as a result of elections in 1990 and 1992. 

Live Politicians.  The federal government's legislative branch and its executive branch have done, in my view, an excellent job of making use of the World Wide Web.  For a guide to the Executive Branch, look for the "You can also browse" heading on  this page on the White House site.   As to the legislative branch, you may visit the Web site of the House of Representatives or of the Senate.  These sites of the individual chambers are the best way to find out about individual members of Congress.  To track the progress of legislative output (including committee hearings and committee reports), you'll do best to go to the site of the Congress as a whole

Thomas Jefferson.  The Congress' site is administered by the Library of Congress and is named "Thomas," after one Thomas Jefferson--a man known to history, of course, primarily for his giving to the fledgling Congress the books that initially constituted the Library of Congress.  There is a biography of Mr. Jefferson on the White House site, as well as a longer biography of Jefferson on the Grolier Online site.  (The latter was penned by UVA professor Dumas Malone, who won the Pulitzer Prize for History for his multi-volume biography of Jefferson.)  The Political Graveyard lists Mr. Jefferson as interred at Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.  The Political Graveyard also lists Mr. Jefferson as the eponym of counties in  just over half of the nation's states.  See the entry for Mr. Jefferson after you scroll about two-thirds of the way down the page here.

Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase.  Mr. Jefferson was President of the United States when the international treaty effecting the "Louisiana Purchase" was negotiated between the United States and France.  (Indeed, the White House site's biography, mentioned in the paragraph above, lists as its only "fast fact" the purchase by Jefferson of the Louisiana Purchase.  This kind of treaty, involving the exchange of money (and promises to pay money) for territory, is very much like a contract between nations.  Compare this kind of treaty to the Marrakesh agreements resulting from the Uruguary Round, which contain tens of thousands of pages setting up subtantive rules and constituting an organization with a complex dispute-settlement procedure.

The Louisiana Purchase and Napoleon.  As you probably know, the United States was able to make the Louisiana Purchase at a bargain-basement price because Napoleon, who ruled France at the time of the Purchase, needed cash.  A now-removed Compton's Encyclopedia biography of Napoleon apparently concentrates on the good times, because it omits any mention of the Louisiana Purchase.  (I suppose that, from Napoleon's point of view, it would have been "the Louisiana Sale," actually.) 

Napoleon and Waterloo.  Napoleon met his Waterloo at, conveniently enough, Waterloo, a place in Belgium of which you make take a virtual tour here. 

Waterloo and ABBA.  ABBA is familiar to all fans of '70s rock as a Swedish super-group.  During several years in the 1970s, the krona volume of ABBA-record exports exceeded the krona export volume of any Swedish company except Volvo.  (Note: This page originally had said it was Saab.  We thank Cathy Palombi of the Law Library for tracking down the correct answer.)  In 1974, ABBA had an international smash with a song called "Waterloo," which opened with the lyrics, "At Waterloo, Napoleon did surrender."  The song is perhaps better known lyrically--if you can remember any lyrics to this kind of song at all--for the phrase, "Sometimes you win when you lose."  (See the complete lyrics to "Waterloo" if you wish.  See generally a Swedish site about ABBA, available in both Swedish and English.) 

Napoleon and Waterloo (redux).  Despite the implications of ABBA's catchy hook, however, Napoleon pretty much just lost at Waterloo, winding up almost immediately thereafter in exile on a rocky British-owned island in the South Atlantic called St. Helena.  He died there just a few years later.

Napoleon and the Law.  Between the time that he played a crucial role in the Louisiana Purchase and the time that he played a desultory role at Waterloo, Napoleon conquered Austria, conquered Prussia, conquered Austria again, divorced Josephine, married an Austrian princess, failed to conquer Russia, failed to defend France against a joint Anglo-Russo-Austrian-Prussian invasion, was exiled to Elba, escaped from Elba, and directed the preliminary maneuvers in the Waterloo campaign.  More importantly for legal purposes, he also supervised the re-writing of the French civil code into what is now still frequently called the "Napoleonic Code."  The Napoleonic Code not only remains significantly intact in modern France but also served as the model for civil codes all across Europe.  In fact, Napoleon has almost certainly had much more influence on European law than any European lawyer or judge has ever had. 

France After Napoleon.  If you're interested in post-Napoleonic France, you might try this site on contemporary France's governmental agencies from someone who calls himself The History GuyWarning: For some reason, a lot of the French government's Web sites seem to be exclusively in French.


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This page was last updated on 04/05/99.