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LTC George B. Davis 1895-1901
Congress and the Army saw a need to incorporate law instruction into the curriculum early in West Point’s history. The Academy was only sixteen years old when Congress provided for the Chaplain to teach natural and political law. Though neither he nor the officers assigned to assist him were lawyers, they taught moral philosophy, the origin of civil society, principles of civil liberty, modes of civil government, constitutional law, and the law of nations.
The study of natural and political law developed each cadet's ability to reason, and provided these future leaders with an understanding of the basic principles of civilized society.
Historical Fact: The successful administration of military government in Puerto Rico and Cuba during the Spanish-American War was a result of such instruction. In territories occupied after World War II, West Point graduates were often the only officers at the unit level to have had legal training.
LTC William Winthrop 1886-1890
It wasn’t until 1953 that the Judge Advocate General's Corps was given enough officers to fill all the instructor positions at West Point with lawyers. Rather than neglect the courses in law, however, the Academy continually improved them over time.
Historical First: Congress provided for a Judge Advocate to serve as Professor of Law in 1874.
Congress must have been impressed with the need, because it allowed the Secretary of War to assign a Judge Advocate as the Professor of Law even though it was reducing to four the number of Judge Advocates in the Army. Major Asa Bird Gardiner became professor of the new, separate Department of Law. Professors Gardiner, William Winthrop, George B. Davis, and others helped improve instruction by writing legal texts that were used in the classes.
MAJ G. Norman Lieber 1878-1882
Historical Fact: In 1915, the Law Department began sending selected non-lawyer instructors to receive legal training at various law schools.
The Department continues to improve instruction, and now has full time civilian law faculty in addition to highly qualified Judge Advocates teaching our various courses.