Harry Truman’s Notebook for Kansas City Law School
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“Section I must be learned in detail and as a whole… learn by heart” HARRY S. TRUMAN.
Autograph Manuscript Notebook, [Kansas City, Missouri, ca. November 20, 1924–January 29, 1925]. 48 leaves, in pen and pencil, on a removable pad of no. 2 memo paper, inserted in a limp mottled brown leather binder, the front cover gilt with the logo of the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Co. and gilt-lettered “Things to do Today”
and “Harry S. Truman.”
The front pastedown is stamped with the name of Phoenix Mutual representative Edwin H. Green. 5 x 3 in. In maroon buckram folding case.
In November 1922, Harry Truman was elected to a two-year term as Judge of County Court, Jackson County. Truman later wrote that he and two other judges, Elihu Hayes and Henry McElroy, “ran the county, but we ran it carefully and on an economic basis.” Biographer David McCullough agreed, writing that “the new court stood in striking contrast with what had gone on before. … Under McElroy and Truman a county debt of more than a million dollars was cut in half. The county’s credit rating improved. So did county services and … the quality of work on the roads.”
Although Truman’s was an administrative, not a judicial, position, in 1923 he began attending night classes at the Kansas City School of Law, studying contracts, trusts, criminal law, and Blackstone. The present notebook is filled with his extensive notes:
“Willis on Damages Keysar on Damages in Corpus Juris 17 “ “ 710-767 A cause of action in which the plaintiff has the right to recover Damages, the Compensation which the law will allow. 165 US 5866 Only Injury is the wrong ful act or tort which causes loss or harm actual or compensatory damages are those which are given for the actual loss. … Direct damages result from the wrong without any intermediate or controlling factor. Excessive damages are those which are greater than the law allow. Exemplary, punitive, or vindictive are in the way of punishment” (pp. 29–31);
“analize the cases for next lecture under that section 4th Year of James I Common law of England is the law of Mo. Pleading is a branch of the law procedure in which wrongs are redressed. Code pleading—a logical sylogism [.] Law is a major premise[.] Facts—minor premise...Judge Park on Damages Dec 20 1924 17 Corp Juris 767-811 Avoidable consequences No recovery which could have been avoided by reasonable exertion of plaintiff. He muse exercise reasonable care or the care of a reasonably prudent man ” (p. 41-2);
“Section I must be learned in detail and as a whole… learn by heart” (p. 54);
“Replevin a proceeding between landlord and tenant. The landlord restrained his tenants goods. The tenant went to the sheriff and got his goods without an original writ and it was taken to a higher court on a writ of certiorari” (p. 62).
Defeated for reelection in 1924, Truman began to direct his energy elsewhere. He was a salesman for the Kansas City Automobile Club, president of the National Old Trails Association, and an active Mason and Army reservist. He dropped out of the Kansas City School of Law after two years of classes. The next year, he was elected presiding judge of the Jackson County Court, serving until 1934, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
According to American Book Prices Current, apart from a few checks, no earlier Truman holograph has sold at auction since at least 1979.
Nathaniel E. Stein (Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, January 30, 1979, lot 166). The Frederick Nederlander Collection.