Page:The Green Bag (1889–1914), Volume 25.pdf/408

This page needs to be proofread.

The Era of the Commercial


By Henry Wollman of the new york city bar THIS is the age of commercial law and this is the era of the com mercial lawyer. Constitutional law in this country has, for the most part, narrowed itself down to the question as to whether this or that is commerce, and then if it is, whether it is interstate commerce. Nearly every Monday, the whole of America awaits with bated breath the decision of the United States Supreme Court as to whether this or that highly important and intensely vital thing is or is not interstate commerce. The clauses of the Constitution giving the federal Government juris diction over commerce between the states have been stretched almost to the breaking point. Things that I believe the framers of the Constitution never even imagined the interstate provisions of the federal Constitution would reach, are now held to be within federal jurisdiction. It would have taken a man of wild imagination among the framers of the Constitution to even dream that any phase of the traffic in women, now called "white slave traffic," could be punished as being illegal interstate commerce, but that is what is now being done, just the same. Correspondence schools of one state having pupils in other states are held to be engaged in interstate commerce. Under this clause of the Constitution, work that one would naturally expect to see done by state or local boards of health is being done most effectively by the federal Govern1 Address before the Commercial Law League of America, Cape May. July 21, 1913.

ment. The character and quality of the food, drugs and drinks which now are, for the most part, shipped into the state of consumption from the state of production, are regulated and watched over by the federal Government. The continuously expanding construc tion of the interstate commerce clause and the enforcement of federal criminal laws enacted under federal constitu tional provisions, with reference to postoffices and post roads, are constantly increasing the importance of the federal Government. This, to some extent, is due to the fact that the states neglect to utilize the power they have. In this age—which might be called the Interstate Commerce Age — the importance of the states as states is waning, while federal power and control are expanding. For the past few years the lawyers and judges of this country have been treated to an unusual amount of vitu peration and abuse. The literature of almost every generation shows that lawyers have always been the subject of denunciation by the demagogue, and of ridicule by the satirist, but just the same the public everywhere puts them in the highest place, public and private, j where ability and fidelity are required. The commercial lawyer has become a very important man. A commercial lawyer is a real lawyer who understands business. The presidents of two of the three largest life insurance com panies of the world, in New York City, are lawyers. I imagine they know little about the technique of underwriting, but they are capable of taking broad