How the 1853 Supreme Court Ignored the Law, in Favor of Philanthropic Intent, Making Baltimore & New Orleans Beneficiaries of John McDonogh’s Legacy
32 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2010
Date Written: 2007
This 32-page 2007 article is titled “How the 1853 Supreme Court Ignored the Law, in Favor of Philanthropic Intent, Making Baltimore & New Orleans Beneficiaries of John McDonogh’s Legacy.” It analyzes how John McDonogh’s 1838 Last Will and Testament violated the Napoleonic Code, which was incorporated into the Louisiana Constitution. After McDonogh died in 1850, his will was litigated in both state and federal court and wound up in the Supreme Court of the United States in 1853. The Court was confronted with the nation’s largest philanthropic gift to that point in our history. Unfortunately, that gift was established through a will that violated state constitutional law. The article explains how the Supreme Court ignored the law in favor of John McDonogh’s intent. Professor Byron L. Warnken received a scholarship to McDonogh School from 1958 to 1964 and is naturally very grateful to the 1853 Supreme Court. This case proves that the Supreme Court does not speak last because it is right, but rather it becomes right because it speaks last.
Keywords: John McDonough, Supreme Court, wills, trusts & estates, legal history, case studies, philanthropy, land ownership, Baltimore, New Orleans, education of the poor
JEL Classification: K19, K39, K49, N41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation