David Hoffman and the Science of Jurisprudence

Maryland Court of Appeals Case, 1830

1830- Hoffman was already a well respected member of the Baltimore bar at the time he undertook his first
teaching appointment at the University.(1) The exact number of lower court cases that he was associated with, however, is difficult to identify. An examination of the various reporters published in Maryland between 1812 and 1854, along with a search of the Westlaw© database,revealed eight Maryland cases (below)in which Hoffman is clearly identified as one of the participating attorneys. Included here is the text of one these cases - Kalkman v. Causten, 2 Gill and Johnson 365 (1830), a case that dealt with who should be held responsible for paying an attorney his fee when the original parties to the contract had gone bankrupt.In addition to his Maryland practice, Hoffman was also active before the U.S. Supreme Court, handling a variety of cases most of which dealt with maritime insurance and admiralty issues.(2)

In between trying cases and working on his legal treatises, Hoffman contributed to the legal journals published in the United States.(3) Intensely interested in reforming the law, Hoffman was an early supporter of the codification movement and urged the adoption of Bentham-like codes as a means of establishing a unique American system of law.(4) In 1846 Hoffman also proposedto begin anew his efforts to teach law using his methodology. Curiously he planned to run the schoolnot as a university effort but as a more traditional, apprentice like program.(5) Finally, surviving letters to Justice Story and fellow Marylander Virgil Maxcy suggests that Hoffman maintained regular communication with his colleagues in the legal community even after he moved on to other non-legal projects.(6)

1830 title page

Maryland Cases

  • Hunt v. Edwards, 4 Harris and Johnson 283 (1817).
  • Harris v. Earle’s Executors, 4 Harris and Johnson 274 (1817).
  • Sloan v. Wilson, 4 Harris and Johnson 322 (1818).
  • Owings v. Baltimore and Reister’s-Town Turnpike Road, 4 Harris and Johnson 67 (1820).
  • Bohn v. Headley, 7 Harris and Johnson 257 (1826).
  • Ringgold v. Ringgold, 1 Harris and Gill 257 (1826).
  • State use of Mayor and City Council of Baltmore et. al. v. Boyd, 2 Gill and Johnson (1830).
  • Kalkman v. Causten, 2 Gill and Johnson (1830).


1. Maxwell Bloomfield, "David Hoffman and the Shaping of a Republican Legal Culture," Maryland Law
Review, 38 (1979): 678-679, 683. [return to text]

2. See: Chace against Vasquez, 24 U.S. 429 (1826), The Arrogante Barcelones, 20 U.S. 496 (1822) and
Chirac v. Reinecker, 27 U.S. 612 (1829); also, Peter Gustier, Memorial and argument in the case of the
ship Blaireau, praying a return of tonnage and duties, erroneously paid in1803: addressed to the Senate of
the United States (Baltimore: J.D. Toy, 1826).

3. [David Hoffman], "Construction of a Power of Attorney, and of a Deed," American. Jurist & Law
Magazine, 3 (1830): 52. [return to text]

4. Charles M. Cook, The American Codification Movement: A Study of Antebellum Legal Reform
(Westport: Greenwood Press, 1981). 72.

5. Eugene Cordell, University of Maryland, 1807-1907. (New York: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1907),

6. David Hoffman, Letter to Joseph Story, 1832. Joseph Story Papers, The Massachusetts Historical Society. [return to text]

1830, page 357 1830, pages 358-359 1830, pages 360-361

1830, pages 362-363

1830, pages 364-365

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