The History of Law, compiled by Hartley Burr Alexander, Illustrated by Lee Lawrie

Vintage post cards of the "New Capitol" in Lincoln, Nebraska. c. 1930s.
Vintage post cards of the "New Capitol" in Lincoln, Nebraska. c. 1930s.

The sculpture at the Nebraska State Capitol was designed by Lee Oskar Lawrie, and executed by the Edward Ardolino Company that did the actual carving. Lawrie collaborated on the thematic content for the sculpture program with the capitol's architect, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue and Hartley Burr Alexander, the capitol's philosopher, illustrate the heritage and ideals for governance.

The History of Law, as illustrated by Lee Lawrie, wraps around the horizontal portion of the lower section of the structure, leading the viewer from the earliest developments in Western Law to the admission of Nebraska as a state in 1867. It is illustrated with twenty-one, five by nine foot panels, carved from Indiana Limestone.

Western law has developed from both common law, legislation and to some extent from the judiciary, when ruling on the constitutionality of issues. Western civilization traces written history back to at least as far as to the Egyptians and law dates back thousands of years, from some of the earliest laws, the Ten Commandments, through the worlds of Greek and Roman culture, through the dark and middle ages, into English Common Law, up through the American colonial period, the American Revolution, and the Civil War immediately prior to statehood for Nebraska came in 1867.

Native cultures, who inhabited the Great Plains for tens of millennia serve as reminders of our heritage, before and after the coming of European civilization and the melting pot that Nebraska is today. These native cultures held sacred beliefs and served as collective stewards of the land.

It is to these two influences, of the advance of Western Civilization, and honor to those native cultures who came before us, to whom the philosopher pays homage. Feast your eyes on the collaboration's creations.

One must observe that Western Law necessarily involved the progress of political thought which evolved over the millennia. As history illustrates, Western Law is not something that can be merely air-dropped and expected to take root.

Western law has given rise to legislatures and courts of laws, tempered by juries, and it is based upon principals handed down from lawgivers from Moses, Hammurabi, Salon, Charlemagne, St. Louis, Napoleon and even Abraham Lincoln. These greats have given us societies where the rule of law is legitimate. Civilization evolved from tribal cultures, but not all cultures have developed beyond tribal levels of justice. Around the world, many nations and peoples, blood feuds and revenge are still the predominant forms of justice. As they say, "Those who choose to ignore history are condemned to repeat it."


Thanks to Paul Hammel of the Omaha World Herald for running the article about my work. You can find the book at the Nebraska State Capitol's Gift Shop, the Museum Store at the Nebraska History Museum, both in Lincoln or you may preview the entire book, full sized, online here. For more of Lawries work, please visit my other site,









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