More on the first students soon. But the point at this moment is that when Cornell’s law school opened its doors for the first time—one hundred twenty-five years ago—two Japanese students walked through the doors as members of the school’s small inaugural class. The following year those next two Japanese students arrived, and a steady trickle persisted during the school’s early years. Why? That takes some explaining, and the way to start is by setting the stage for the law students’ arrival in Ithaca.
In 1886, Cornell bought a 4000-volume law library, and the trustees approved their special committee’s proposal to establish a law school. Planning commenced.
The law school opened as a separately administered undergraduate department of Cornell University in the fall of 1887 with fifty-five entering students, including Keigo Harada and Masayasu Naruse. The law department operated under Dean Douglas Boardman with three resident professors who did the teaching: Francis M. Burdick, Charles A. Collin, and Harry B. Hutchins. Professors Moses Coit Tyler and Herbert Tuttle from other Cornell departments and various nonresident lecturers supplemented the program. Tuition was $75 a year, payable in three equal parts, plus a $5 graduation fee. The law school’s catalogue for 1887–1888 estimated yearly living expenses at $200–300 and textbooks, etc., at $25–50, while noting: “The additional expenses of a student depend so largely upon his personal tastes that it is difficult to give an estimate.” (This department of law did not adopt the name of College of Law until 1898, or Cornell Law School until 1925.)
Harada, Naruse, and the rest of the entering class gathered with Professors Burdick, Collin, and Hutchins on September 26, 1887, not for a formal opening function but for an “introductory lecture” in a small room on the fourth floor of Morrill Hall. The building, which had been Cornell University’s first new construction, dated from 1868. The law library was at the south end of the top floor, offices at the north end, and lecture rooms in the middle; but, for fire safety, the three sections of the building were not interconnected, so going from one to another required descending outside the building to use a different entrance. “The quarters alloted to the school were inconveniently located, poorly ventilated and generally ill-adapted for the purposes of the school.”3 (Nevertheless, the school started well and grew rapidly. In 1892, the school moved into its own newly built building, the impressive Boardman Hall located where Olin Library now stands. In 1932, it moved into its present home, Myron Taylor Hall.)
The course of study to an LL.B. would be two years, called the junior and senior years. The prerequisite was a “reputable” high school diploma or an examination showing a thorough knowledge of “arithmetic, English grammar, geography, orthography, American and English history and English composition.” (Almost immediately, pressure began growing to lengthen the course of study and to elevate the prerequisites. But law schools were then competing for students with the route of reading law in some law office and so could not be too demanding in these regards. Cornell progressed to a three-year program in 1897. The prerequisites started rising, slightly, in 1892. By 1898, the College of Law required, like the rest of the university, a four-year high school education. In 1911, the school demanded a year of college preparatory work. In 1919, it stipulated two years of college preparatory work. In 1924, it became a graduate program requiring a college degree.)
The program of study consisted of all prescribed courses. The method of instruction was primarily traditional lecture or textbook recitation, although modern pedagogy played a role as some study of cases was employed right from the beginning. The workload was heavy, whether compared to the rest of the university or to other law schools. Class attendance was compulsory. Each instructor gave frequent, indeed usually daily, quizzes. At the end of each of the year’s three terms, there were oral and written examinations. At the end of the senior year, comprehensive oral and written examinations were given. Moreover, the catalogue provided: “Each member of the Senior Class who is a candidate for a degree, is required to prepare and deposit with the Faculty, at least one month before graduation, a thesis, not less than forty folios in length, upon some legal topic selected by himself and approved by the Faculty. The production must be satisfactory in matter, form, and style; and the student presenting it is examined upon it.” (Elective courses arrived at the law school in 1921. The comprehensive examinations and theses were gone by 1897, but made intermittent returns in successive attempts at reform over the decades.)
“Furthermore, the Faculty do not hesitate to drop a student from the rolls at any time during the year on becoming satisfied that he is neglecting his work.4 Because admitted students could get advanced standing by passing an examination in the subjects treated in the junior year (Elementary Law; Contracts, including Agency; Criminal Law and Procedure; Torts; Domestic Relations; Real Property; Evidence; Common Law Pleading and Practice in Cases at Law; Civil Procedure under the Codes; and English Constitutional History), nine students of the entering class were able to graduate in 1888. Thirty-six students graduated in 1889, but that number included some new admittees with advanced standing. The bottom line is that a fair number of 1887’s entering students—about a third—never graduated.5
Harada and Naruse did graduate. By the way, they were not the only foreign students in the initial cohort. The other, William Robertson, came all the way from Ontario! There was some geographic diversity among the American students, as Cornell Law was already on its way to being a national law school. Still, about 85 percent were from upstate New York. Moreover, they had no female classmates. The school’s first woman graduate was Mary Kennedy Brown in the Class of 1893. So the Japanese students stood out. Who were they, and what were they doing here?
The First Japanese
Masayasu Naruse6 was born on November 25, 1868, in the Kida District of the Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku Island, the second son of a prosperous farmer, Iwataro Naruse, and related to the ruler of the Inuyama Domain. An 1885 graduate of Keio Gijuku, where he studied English and economics, Masayasu completed a two-year program at Bryant & Stratton Business Institute in Chicago before coming to Cornell. He received his LL.B. in 1889, on the basis of his thesis, “The Principles of the Law of Negligence, and the Modern Decisions upon the Liability of a Municipal Corporation for Its Defective Streets.” He returned to Japan for a career in banking. He wrote a book on finance and translated another from English. He worked for several banks before joining the aristocratic and prosperous Jyugo Bank in 1898. There he worked his way up to president, until the bank went under in the 1927 Showa financial crisis. He died in 1930.
But before returning to Japan, Naruse had gone on to earn the Master of Laws in 1890, when Cornell Law awarded its first graduate law degrees. His master’s thesis was entitled “A Comparative Study of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of Japan and America.” It was a laudatory account of the 1890 Constitution of the Empire of Japan, employing comparative study to analyze at length each of the fifteen articles of Chapter II on the Rights and Duties of Subjects—an effort “in bringing before the learned readers, the fundamental spirits and value of this great political gift from His Majesty, and in comparing them to those gifts endowed by Providence, which this great Nation beholds.” He explained that “it may be well said that the Bill [of Rights] in the American Constitution is a command of restriction, while that of Japan is a moral gift from Mikado, thus differing in their fundamental basis.” For example, unlike the U.S. right, Japan’s constitution in Article 30 stated: “Japanese subjects may present petitions, by observing the proper forms of respect and by complying with the rules specially provided for the same.” This was “simply a matter of special privilege to the people by the grace of the Sovereign, and is not recognized as a right; thus it may be properly called a gift from the Emperor, as a matter of political morality.”
Masayasu married Miuie in 1892 in his hometown of Sanuki. They had seven children. His eldest son was a renowned French literature professor who traveled in the highest literary circles, and the second son was an engineer who became a rear admiral in the navy.
Keigo Harada was born in Akita City on December 25, 1867, the eldest son of Tanenori Harada, who would later become a well-known justice of the supreme court of Japan. Keigo was another 1885 graduate of Keio Gijuku, where he studied English literature. He continued that study for a year in Poughkeepsie before he came to Cornell. He sent a letter to Cornell saying that he had studied for four years at a great university in Japan, and therefore an entrance exam was not necessary for him —and he did enter the Cornell law department without that exam. He received his LL.B. in 1889. He returned to Japan, passed the bar in 1890, and found great success as a civil attorney in Tokyo. There he married, but had no children. He died in 1936.
His LL.B. thesis was entitled “The Treaty between Japan and the United States.” It recounted, in considerable detail and upon solid research, the treaty regime imposed on Japan by the United States and other foreign powers beginning in 1854. He was critical: “Japan is now helpless, nay, worse than helpless, fettered as she is by the chains which the foreigners forged around her. Can it be that the Americans have forgotten the tyranny of Great Britain?” He called for revision: “The treaty which was considered adequate thirty years ago has become wholly inadequate, like a cradle becomes too small for a baby as he grows. Without saying anything about legality and justice, the present condition of Japan requires a treaty which is more liberal and equal. And her claim is in no regard absurd. She does not merely beg for benevolence, but offers a sufficient consideration for the redemption of her rights—the mutual advantages which will accrue if her claims are recognized. He closed with a warning: But no doubt there may come a crisis when, disregarded again and again, Japan is obliged to take a decisive position to recover her rights.”
On the side, Harada taught at an affiliate of Keio University. The French archaeologists’ discovery of the stele containing the Code of Hammurabi in 1901 caused him eventually to redirect his life. He felt that to understand law, one had to understand the history of law, and to understand legal history, one had to study the whole ancient culture. So, he learned the Babylonian language and established in 1917 the Society of Babylon, a research society of amateurs who actually pioneered Mideastern studies in Japan. He worked tirelessly on cuneiforms and developed an arguable theory, based on similarities in myth, custom, arts, and language, that the Japanese nation descended in part from migrating Sumerians. “Mr. Harada studied all night until daybreak, then went to sleep. He used to appear at his office at four o’clock in the afternoon. So we see that Mr. Harada spent all night in study not for his profession but for his mere labor of love towards the ancient civilization. So, he was given a nickname, ‘Cho-bon-datsuzoku-koji,’ which meant a ‘Ultra unworldly old fellow.’”8
Both Naruse and Harada were part of the wave of thousands of Japanese students who went abroad for university study as a crucial part of the modernization process during the Meiji Restoration (1868–1912). At the very end of the Shogunate Era and in the early Meiji years, young students with familial or political connections were sent to the United States and Europe to pursue undergraduate study. The results were poor. By 1875, the government had tightened up the flow, putting the program under still more central control and financing. Although some privately financed students continued to go abroad, the government now backed with loans only mature students with a good academic record and a degree from one of the recently established Japanese universities. Most of these students traveled for research and advanced degrees, and many returned home to become professors. As the Meiji years went by, the greater part of government sponsorship shifted from U.S. study to German universities, but privately financed students increased in number and still favored the United States, with their many varied destinations now extending off the East Coast. Also, with time, the subjects of study extended beyond sciences and engineering to the liberal arts, including law.
But why select Cornell in particular? And why pursue law studies in a common-law country, rather than France or Germany? Here the explanations lie in the fact that both Naruse and Harada came from Tokyo’s wonderful Keio University. It is the oldest institution of higher education in Japan, and it has long maintained a vibrant connection with Cornell University.9
At the connection’s origin, we find Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835–1901), who was one of the founders of modern Japan and hence appears on the 10,000-yen banknote. He pursued many interests and endeavors, being known as the Japanese Voltaire (whose image appeared on the 10-franc note) or Ben Franklin (whose image appears on the 100-dollar bill). He was not only the most influential cultural and political personality to set the tone for the Meiji era, and thus often called the father of the Japanese Enlightenment, but was also a towering figure in Japanese higher education. He started a school to teach Dutch in 1858, and renamed it Keio Gijuku (or Keio Public School) in 1868 and Keio University in 1890. In 1884, the oldest son of Fukuzawa Yukichi, named Fukuzawa Ichitaro, entered Cornell University for three rather lonely terms of study in agriculture. As a result, Cornell became well-known at Keio, and vice versa. Influenced by the high regard Fukuzawa Yukichi held for Cornell, a number of Keio graduates came to study at Cornell University, for all sorts of study. Accordingly, in 1887, Naruse and Harada chose to attend Cornell’s newborn law department.
In sum, Cornell Law’s relationship with Japan began with its founding. One could almost say that our tradition of welcoming Japanese students was part of the mission from the very beginning. Students from Japan continue to contribute importantly to the Law School, as both students and alumni. That history is hinted at today on the walls of classroom 389.
1. Narukawa, a graduate of the Tokyo School of Foreign Languages, wrote a thesis entitled “High Treason” for his Cornell LL.B. 1890. All the cited theses are in the Cornell Law School Library. Otherwise, alumni records from that period are basically nonexistent. Thus, I have had to rely on information from the Internet and the library; help from Mitsuru Claire Chino ‘91, Assistant Registrar Lyndsey Y. Clark, and Professor Charles K. Whitehead; and inspiration and assistance from Masayoshi Harada, LL.M. ‘13, and Masashi Naruse, LL.M. ‘13.
2. Takemura (1865–1912), LL.B. 1890 (thesis: “The Duty of Lawyers”), also received the Master of Laws in 1891 (thesis: “The Law of Customs and Usages”). He was connected to the Takemura daimyo family. He attended the University of Michigan before coming to Cornell. He died in Korea, aged forty-seven. He seemed to have had some post-Cornell connection to Masayasu Naruse, because the latter was cc’d on a 1923 letter to Cornell University from Kyoto Bank confirming that Takemura had worked at the bank as an auditor.
3. Edwin H. Woodruff, “History of the Cornell Law School,” 4 Cornell L.Q. 91, 95 (1919).
4. Harry B. Hutchins, “The Cornell University School of Law,” 1 Green Bag 473, 485 (1889).
5. A listing of forty-eight of the initial students, including Keigo Harada from Yokohama and Masayasu Naruse from Sanuki in Kagawa Prefecture, appeared in the Cornell Daily Sun, Sept. 28, 1887. Of the listed, sixteen did not go on to earn a degree.
6. His name was 成 瀬 正 恭. So, the given name can be read as either Masayasu or Seikyo.
7. 慶応義塾出身名流列伝 [Lives of Notable Graduates of Keio Gijuku] 453 (Keio University, 1909).
8. Takahito Mikasa, “Near Eastern Studies in Japan,” 5 Orient: Rep. Soc’y for Near E. Stud. Japan 1, 3-4 (1969); see Seiichi Mori, 弁護士原田敬吾とバビロン学会の設立 [“Attorney Keigo Harada and the Establishment of the Society of Babylon”], 4 Mod. Japanese Stud. 161 (1987).
9. Kurakichi Aida, 慶應義塾とコーネル大學 [Keio Gijuku and Cornell University], 29 Shigaku 101 (1956).