ten by a liberal historian who startednout believing that Alger Hiss was innocentnand ended up convinced of hisnguilt. It knocked the stuffing out ofnHiss, to say nothing of his dwindlingnband of Stalinoid loyalists. (The factnthat in Recollections Hiss has next tonnothing to say about Weinstein is morenrevealing than anything else about thenbook.)nThe other thing that has changed, ofncourse, is the reputation of WhittakernChambers. Forty years ago, he was anmorose, rumpled senior editor of Time,na magazine which could scarcely havenbeen in worse odor among the respectablenliberals of the day. Thirty yearsnago, he was a morose, rumpled seniorneditor of National Review, a magazinenwidely thought to be published bynright-wing fanatics for right-wing fanatics.nEight years ago, the right-wingnfanatics took over the White Housenand promptly became trendy. RonaldnReagan posthumously awarded Chambersnthe Medal of Freedom. PipenCreek Farm, site of the sacred pumpkinnpatch, was declared a nationalnlandmark a few months ago. JohnnJudis’s new biography of William F.nBuckley Jr. makes a highly persuasivencase for Chambers having exerted anmoderating influence on Buckley and,nby implication, the entire conservativenmovement. You can’t get much furthernin than that.nTo be sure, the battle is not yet won.nConcealed Enemies, the hideous PBSn”docudrama” about the Hiss-nChambers case, confused a lot of ignorantntelevision viewers a few years back.nEven today. Recollections of a Lifenmanaged to snag a reputable publishernand rack up a few favorable reviews,none of them in The New York Times.nBut Alger Hiss is no longer stylish, andnfor that reason alone it is increasinglynpossible to be interested in WhittakernChambers without being labeled a fanatic.nIndeed, it is quite possible to beninterested in Chambers without beingnparticularly interested in the Hiss-nChambers case. The Pumpkin PapersnIrregulars continue to meet every Halloweennto hash over the succulent insnand outs of prothonotary warblers andnWoodstock typewriters, but youngernconservatives are more likely to think ofnWhittaker Chambers as a writer ofnconsiderable power and a key figure innthe development of modern Americannconservatism, than as the ex-spy whonnailed Alger Hiss.nBy contrast, now that the court ofnpublic opinion has rendered its verdictnon the Hiss-Chambers case and AlgernHiss has finally (finally!) run out hisnlegal string. Hiss himself has becomenless and less intriguing, both as annabstract cause and as a flesh-and-bloodnperson. As a result. Recollections of anLife, despite its egregiously offensivenblasts at Whittaker Chambers’s sanity,ncomes across rather feebly. Thoughnthe old reflexes twitch a bit when Hissncoolly labels Chambers “a psychopath,”nthe impulse to reply quicklynresolves itself in mild irritation. It isnhard to get too terribly upset over anbook filled with lies so few peoplenbelieve any more. If Alger Hiss diesnunhappy, that will surely be the reasonnwhy.nTerry Teachout is a member of theneditorial board of the New York DailynNews and the editor of Ghosts onnthe Roof: Selected Journalism ofnWhittaker Chambers, 1931-1959, tonbe published next year by RegnerynGateway.nFrontier Justicenby Odie FaulknLaw and Community on the MexicannCalifornia Frontier: Anglo-nAmerican Expatriates and thenClash of Legal Traditions, 1821-n1846 by David J. Langum, Norman:nUniversity of OklahomanPress; $30.00.nIn the September 1987 issue oi Chronicles,nJacob Neusner wrote, “To statenmatters bluntiy, if you have to teach inna college in order to pursue the researchnyou wish to undertake, then go,nteach.” In his “Acknowledgments,”nProfessor Langum admitted doing justnthat: “I wrote this book over manynyears and at three different schools,nDetroit College of Law, NevadanSchool of Law, Reno, and . . .nCumberland School of Law, SamfordnUniversity, Birmingham. All threenprovided wonderful institutional supportnin many direct and indirect ways.”nThe Southwestern humorist-writernJ. Frank Dobie once commented thatnmost academic research consists ofnnnmoving bones from one graveyard tonanother — meaning that scholars huntnobscurities and then use them to producenacademic articles and booksnwhich do little more than gather dust innlibraries. Langum shows in this worknthat such does not have to be the case,nfor this study is a tribute to the relevancynthat can be produced throughnuniversity-subsidized research — andnthe intellectual excitement that can bengenerated by poring through dustynarchives.nHis topic is the law—that body ofnstatutes whereby men try to live togethernwithout being at each other’snthroats. In particular he studied, as hisntitle indicates, Mexican law in Californianduring the period 1821-1846. Thisnis a subject of such obscurity that thenresult, in the hands of a less thoughtfulnman, doubtless would have been ofninterest only to the most dedicatednantiquarian. Instead we have here anvolume that deserves wide reading fornits insights into some of the failings ofnour modern legal system.nThe law has been variously defined.nIt may be, as Dickens had one of hisncharacters say, “a ass, a idiot”; ornperhaps it is, as Sir Edward Coke callednit, the “perfection of reason.” In thenpast most legal historians viewed thenlaw as the command of the sovereign.nThus its use — or misuse — dependednupon the intent of the state and itsnrulers. The law could be used to thenbenefit of society, or it could be used tonsuppress human rights and human dignity;nC.S. Lewis once cynically statednit was his belief that such was the casen”among Communists and Democratsnno less than among Fascists.”nMore recently, activists have studiednlegal history to prove that the law hasnbeen a manipulative instrument usednby the economic and political establishmentnto perpetuate its power. Andnthese activists have condemned the lawnfor failing to bring about social, economic,nand political change in thendirection they feel society shouldnmove. Yet they have been among thenmost active in using the law to bringnsuit against every level of governmentnand business to effect the changes theynwant made.nIt was with these arguments in mindnthat Langum produced his study. Firstnhe sketches the general history of Californianprior to the war between thenNOVEMBER 1988/35n