3 minute read

Ernst Freund

Ernst Freund was a brilliant legal scholar who oversaw the development of U.S. ADMINISTRATIVE LAW at the turn of the twentieth century. A social reformer, Freund was an early proponent of social research as a means of shaping the content of U.S. law. As a political progressive, he also was an articulate supporter of free speech rights under the FIRST AMENDMENT of the U.S. Constitution.

Freund was born in New York City on January 30, 1864, to German American parents. He attended the University of Berlin and the University of Heidelberg, receiving a law degree from the latter in 1884. He went to New York and practiced law there from 1886 to 1894.

Freund entered academe in 1892 when he became professor of administrative law and municipal corporations at Columbia University. (He was also a doctoral student at Columbia's School of Political Science; he received his Ph.D. in 1897.) In 1894, he began a long association with the University of Chicago, accepting a position in the political science department as a professor of ROMAN LAW and JURISPRUDENCE. In 1903, he joined the faculty of the university's newly opened law school. Freund taught courses in social legislation and proposed a new field, the "science of legislation," to underscore the connection between political science and law.

Freund became a prominent figure at the law school and served as the John P. Wilson Professor of Law from 1929 to 1932. One of his many achievements was the establishment of the University of Chicago's highly regarded graduate-level social services program, the first such program in the nation. Involved in several professional organizations, Freund served as president of the American Political Science Association in 1915.

Freund's renown in legal circles grew as a result of his cogent writing on the function and parameters of administrative law (the body of statutes, regulatory rules and regulations, and court decisions implemented by administrative and government agencies). Freund's most famous publication on the subject was Police Power: Public Policy and Constitutional Rights, published in 1904. Freund analyzed the limitations imposed on legislative power by the FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT of the U.S. Constitution. He advocated a system of legal regulations that balanced individual rights against business and property rights.


Freund's interest in statutory drafting led to a position on the Commission on Uniform State

Laws in 1908. Freund created model statutes to bolster the CIVIL RIGHTS of married women, and offered commentary on DIVORCE, guardianship, ILLEGITIMACY, LABOR LAW, and child labor. He also produced a handbook on legislative drafting in 1921 and offered drafting instructions to the AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION.

In 1928, Freund published Administrative Powers over Persons and Property, a treatise on the distinctions between the power held by government, individuals, and property. In other works, Freund wrote about the necessity of protecting what he termed the dependent class, the less privileged members of society who were vulnerable to exploitation. A man of action, he helped organize the Immigrants' Protective League in 1908 and served as president of that organization for several terms.

A staunch supporter of free speech, Freund published articles on the specific rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He believed that the open discussion of public affairs was a crucial underpinning of U.S. society.

Freund married Harriet Walton on May 13,1916. The couple had two children, Nancy Freund and Emily Lou Freund. In 1931, Freund was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Michigan. He died the following year, in Chicago, on October 20, 1932.


Freund, Ernst. 1965. Standards of American Legislation. 2d ed. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

Kraines, Oscar. 1974. The World and Ideas of Ernst Freund. University, Ala.: Univ. of Alabama Press.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Freedom of association to Good Will