23 lawgivers


The twenty-three marble relief portraits over the gallery doors of the US House Chamber depict historical figures noted for their work in establishing the principles that underlie American law. They were installed when the chamber was remodeled in 1949-1950.

Created in bas relief of white Vermont marble by seven different sculptors, the plaques each measure 28 inches in diameter. The eleven profiles in the eastern half of the chamber face left and the eleven in the western half face right, so that all look towards the full-face relief of Moses in the center of the north wall.

The subjects of the reliefs were chosen by scholars from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia Historical Society of Washington, D.C., in consultation with authoritative staff members of the Library of Congress. The selection was approved by a special committee of five Members of the House of Representatives and the Architect of the Capitol.

The plaster models for these reliefs are on display on the walls in the Rayburn House Office Building subway terminal.

George Mason (1726-1792).
American political leader; drafted the Virginia Constitution and Declaration of Rights in 1776; was a member of the constitutional convention of 1787; led opposition to the ratification of the Constitution until the Bill of Rights was added.


Robert Joseph Pothier (1699-1772).
French jurist; author of the Digest of Pandects of Justinian, a classic study of Roman law; author of several treatises on French law, which were incorporated in the French Code Civil.


Jean Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683).
French finance minister and controller general under Louis XIV; codified commercial, maritime, and colonial ordinances; reformed the French legal system.


Edward I (1239-1307).
King of England; founded the parliamentary constitution of England; eliminated the divisive political effects of the feudal system.


Alfonso X, the “Wise” (1221-1284).
King of León and Castile; author of the Royal Code, a compilation of local legislation for general use; originator of The Seven Parts, the code used as a basis for Spanish jurisprudence.


Gregory IX (c. 1147-1241).
Medieval pope; author of a compilation of decretals (i.e., authoritative decisions) on canon law; during a critical period he was instrumental in maintaining the remnants of Roman law.


Saint Louis (1214-1270).
King Louis IX of France; author of the Mise of Amiens, a judgment on a dispute between Henry III and rebellious English barons.He ruled when France was at the height of its political, economical, and military power; then being the most powerful country in Europe at the time.


Justinian I (c. 483-565).
Byzantine emperor; appointed Tribonian to compile and consolidate the Roman legal code into the Justinian Code, which he supplemented with a collection of rulings and precedents.


Tribonian (c. 500-547).
Byzantine jurist; head of the commission that codified the laws under Justinian I.


Lycurgus (c. 900 B.C.).
Semimythical Greek legislator; traditional author of laws and institution of Sparta.
Military-savvy war veteran who, as regent or tutor to King Charilaus, outlined a great deal of reforms that became the basis of fundamental Spartan Law.


Hammurabi (fl. c. 1792-1750 B.C.).
King of Babylonia; author of the Code of Hammurabi, which is recognized in legal literature as one of the earliest surviving legal codes.


Moses (C. 1350-1250 B.C.).
Hebrew prophet and lawgiver; transformed a wandering people into a nation; received the Ten Commandments.


Solon (c. 638-559 B.C.).
Athenian statesman; author of constitutional and legal reforms. Accredited as one of the Seven Sages of Greece.


Papinian (c. 146-212).
Roman jurist; author of fifty-six books about legal questions and decisions, extracts from which were influential in the development of the Justinian Code.


Gaius (c. 110-180).
Roman jurist; author of numerous works, the most noted being the Institutes, a complete exposition of the elements of Roman law that were the foundation of Roman civil law. He served under Emperors Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, and Commodus.


Maimonides (1135-1204).
Jewish philosopher of Cordova, Spain; compiled a systematic exposition of the whole of Jewish law as contained in the Pentateuch and in Talmudic literature.


Suleiman (1494-1566).
Sultan of Turkey; reformed and improved civil and military codes; united a group of unstable territories into an empire. Also known as, Suleiman the Magnificent: Turkish Sultan of the Ottoman Empire; Known in the Islamic world as “The Lawgiver”, he set up massive reforms that ushered in a golden age for the empire.


Innocent III (1161-1216).
Medieval pope; student of canon and civil law, who, like Gregory IX, preserved the remnants of Roman law during the Dark Ages.
He reigned at the height of papal power, defining religious totalitarianism and absolutism.


Simon de Montfort (1200-1265).
English statesman; advocated representative government; established an early form of representative government in England.


Hugo Grotius (1583-1645).
Dutch statesman; Advocate-General of Holland and Zeeland; author of On the Law of War and Peace, the first treatise on international law.


Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780).
English jurist; professor of common law at Oxford; author of Commentaries on the Laws of England, which had considerable influence on the importation and adaptation of English common law in America.


Napoleon I (1769-1821).
Emperor of France; appointed a commission to draw up the Code Civil, a combination of tradition and Roman law that influenced the legal systems of European and American states during the 19th century.


Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826).
Third President of the United States; wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom.



One thought on “23 lawgivers

  1. Suleiman was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire not Turkey. The latter is the successor of the former but different entities with different structures none the less.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s