Robert Joseph Pothier

Robert Joseph Pothier (9 January 1699 – 2 March 1772) was a French jurist.[1]

Robert Joseph Pothier
Orléans - musée des beaux-arts (Portrait du juriste Robert Joseph Pothier).jpg
Born(1699-01-09)9 January 1699
Died2 March 1772(1772-03-02) (aged 73)
Orléans, Kingdom of France
Resting placeOrléans Cathedral


He was born and passed away at Orléans. He studied law to qualify for the magistracy, and was appointed Judge in 1720 of the Presidial Court of Orléans, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. He held the post for fifty-two years.[2]

Pothier paid particular attention to the correction and co-ordination of the text of the Pandects. His Pandectae Justinianae in novum ordinem digestae (Paris and Chartres, 1748-1752) is a classic in the study of Roman law. In 1749 he was made professor of law at the University of Orleans.[2]

He wrote many learned monographs on French law, and much of his work was incorporated almost textually in the French Code Civil. His theories on the law of contract were influential in England[3] as well as in the United States.

Pothier devised a law limiting recovery in the case of improper performance of a contractual obligation to those damages which are foreseeable.

His wrote numerous treatises.[2] His works have been published in collected form on several occasions, the first edited by Giffrein in 1820-1824.[2]


Title page of Traités des contrats aléatoires, published 1767
  • Coutume d'Orléans, Orléans, 1740; 1760.
    • Coutumes des duchè, bailliage et prévôté d'Orléans, et ressort d'iceux (in French). Paris: Jean Debure. 1772.
  • Traité des obligations (1761)
  • Du Contrat de vente (1762)
  • Du Contrat de bail (1764)
  • Du Contrat de société (1765)
  • Des Contrats de prêt de consomption (1766)
  • Du Contrat de depot et de mandat (1766)
  • Du Contrat de nantissement (1767)


Bas-relief by Joseph Kiselewski (1950) at the chambers of the United States House of Representatives

According to Janwillem Oosterhuis, "like Domat, Pothier's methodology did not consist of constructing an ideal type of Natural law but rather the application of rationalistic methods to existing law, in particular Roman law and customary law."[4]


  1. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Robert Joseph Pothier" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ a b c d   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Pothier, Robert Joseph". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ Furmston, Michael; Cheshire, Geoffrey Chevalier; Fifoot, Cecil Herbert Stuart (2017). Cheshire, Fifoot and Furmston's Law of Contract (Seventeenth ed.). Oxford. p. 22. ISBN 9780198747383. OCLC 989520736.
  4. ^ Janwillem Oosterhuis (2011). Specific Performance in German, French and Dutch Law in the Nineteenth Century.


  • Traité des obligations:
    • François-Xavier Martin, trans. A Treatise on Obligations, Considered in a Moral and Legal View. Newburn, N.C.: Martin & Ogden, 1802 (reprint Union, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange, 1999).
    • William David Evans, trans. A Treatise on the Law of Obligations, or Contract, 2nd American edn. Philadelphia: R. H. Small, 1839.

External linksEdit

  • Montmorency, James E. G. (1913). "Robert Joseph Pothier". In Macdonell, John; Manson, Edward William Donoghue (eds.). Great Jurists of the World. London: John Murray. pp. 447–476. Retrieved 9 March 2019 – via Internet Archive.