Frank Johnson Goodnow

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Frank Johnson Goodnow
Frank Johnson Goodnow2.jpg
Frank Johnson Goodnow

(1859-01-18)18 January 1859
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died15 November 1939(1939-11-15) (aged 80)
OccupationPresident of Johns Hopkins University
Years active1893–1914
Elizabeth Buchanan
(m. 1886⁠–⁠1939)
Academic background
Alma mater
InfluencesJohann Kaspar Bluntschli, Francis Lieber, Lorenz von Stein[1]
Academic work
InfluencedCharles A. Beard[2][3]

Frank Johnson Goodnow (January 18, 1859 – November 15, 1939) was an American educator and legal scholar, born in Brooklyn, New York.

Personal life[edit]

He married Elizabeth Lyall (1861–1942) in 1886 and had 3 children: Isabel C. (Mrs. E. Kendall Gillett), David F. and Lois R. (Mrs. John V. A. MacMurray).


After private schooling he graduated from Amherst College (AB) in 1879 and from Columbia Law School (LLB) in 1882. At Columbia, in addition to such subjects essential for admission to the Bar, he took courses in public law and jurisprudence offered in the recently organized School of Political Science. Late in 1882 he was offered a position in the School of Political Science on the condition that he prepare himself with a year of study abroad. He studied at the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris and at the University of Berlin.


Frank Johnson Goodnow

Goodnow took up his teaching in October 1884 at Columbia, giving some instruction in History as well as in United States Administrative Law.

Made Adjunct Professor in 1887, Goodnow became Professor of Administrative Law in 1891, and in 1903 Eaton Professor of Administrative Law and Municipal Science. He became the first president of the American Political Science Association in 1903. Governor Theodore Roosevelt made him a member of the commission to draft a new charter for Greater New York, and President Taft chose him as a member of his Commission on Economy and Efficiency.

In October 1912 he accepted, on the recommendation of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the commission of constitutional adviser to the Chinese Government which took him to China in March 1913. During the years 1913–1914 he served as legal adviser to the Yuan Shikai government in China. Yuan had hired Goodnow at the recommendation of Charles Eliot, a former president of Harvard University, and had tasked him with drafting a new constitution. Between 1913 and 1915, Goodnow wrote two versions of the constitution. The first effectively made Yuan president for life, and granted him sweeping powers over the budget and foreign policy. The second version, completed in 1915, would have made Yuan emperor had he not died soon thereafter.[4][5] Goodnow became known for his assertion that the Chinese people were not mature enough for a democratic form of government—a position that was later utilized by Yuan, as he attempted to proclaim himself the Emperor of China in 1915–1916.

In 1914 he became the third president of Johns Hopkins University. At Hopkins, he is best remembered for his attempt to eliminate the bachelor's degree by cutting the first two years of undergraduate work. Called the Goodnow Plan or New Plan, students would have entered Hopkins after two years of study in other universities and would have worked toward an advanced degree, bypassing the bachelor's degree. (similar to the role of Senior Colleges) Although briefly implemented, the plan failed, largely because of the difficulty of persuading enough students to transfer to Hopkins halfway through their college education.[6] The plan was attempted again in substantially the same form, in the early 1950s, under President Detlev W. Bronk, meeting with the same lack of success. Known as a good financial manager, Goodnow greatly increased the university’s income during his fifteen-year presidency.

Goodnow is considered an important early scholar in the field of public administration and administrative law, as well as an expert in government.[7] Goodnow argued for the centrality of law in public administration. (Other public administration theorists have argued that other non-legal values ought to guide civil servants.)[8]

His first book, Comparative Administrative Law: An Analysis of the Administrative Systems, National and Local, of the United States, England France and Germany (1893) brought two important contributions to the emerging field of political science. It was one of the first systematic studies of public administration and a pioneer work in the United States for the use of a comparative method of inquiry. His most influential work Politics and Administration: A Study in Government was published in 1900 and triggered a long lasting controversy. Goodnow was also a well-known and influential Progressive, authoring a critical view of America's founding principles in his 1916 essay: The American Conception of Liberty. Influenced by previous studies by Woodrow Wilson, Goodnow carved a dichotomy between two distinct functions of government, politics as the sphere that “as to do with the guiding or influencing of governmental policy” and administration as the sphere that “has to do with the execution of that policy”.[9] The distinction was severely criticized by Dwight Waldo in his Study of the Administration (1955) but later rehabilitated by scholars who argue that Goodnow intended the distinction as a “typological” one, useful for analytical purposes.[10]

Goodnow resigned the Johns Hopkins University Presidency in 1929 and was succeeded by Joseph Sweetman Ames, but thereafter frequently gave graduate lectures in his special subjects. He was for some time a regent of the University of Maryland and a member of the Board of School Commissioners of Baltimore.

Modern Day Award[edit]

The Frank J. Goodnow Award for Distinguished Service was established in 1996 to recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to both the development of the political science profession and the building of the American Political Science Association.


  • Comparative administrative Law (1893)
  • Municipal Problems (1897)
  • Politics and Administration (1900)
  • City Government in the United States (1905)
  • Principles of the Administrative Laws of the United States (1905)
  • Social Reform and the Constitution (1911)
  • Principles of Constitutional Government (1916)

He was editor of:

  • Selected Cases on the Law of Taxation (1905)
  • Selected Cases on Government and Administration (1906)
  • Social Reforms and the Constitution (1914)


  1. ^ Rosser, Christian (2012). "Examining Frank J. Goodnow's Hegelian Heritage: A Contribution to Understanding Progressive Administrative Theory". Administration & Society. 45 (9): 1063–1094. doi:10.1177/0095399712451898. S2CID 145181668.
  2. ^ Charles A. Beard, an intellectual biography
  3. ^ More Than a Historian: The Political and Economic Thought of Charles A. Beard
  4. ^ The Economist, "Embarrassed meritocrats: Westerners who laud a Chinese meritocracy continue to miss the point", 27 October 2012.
  5. ^ Chenghua Guan, "The Color of Innovation is East Crimson", Harvard Law blogs, 13 October 2012
  6. ^ French, John (1946). A History of the University Founded by Johns Hopkins. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. pp. 195–196.
  7. ^ Haines, Charles Grove; Marshall, Edward Dimock, eds. (1935). Essays on the Law and Practice of Governmental Administration: A Volume in Honor of Frank Johnson Goodnow. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  8. ^ Laurence E. Lynn, Restoring the Rule of Law to Public Administration: What Frank Goodnow Got Right and Leonard White Didn't[dead link], Public Administration Review, September/October 2009, pp. 803–812. Retrieved on 2009-09-23.
  9. ^ Monange, Benoit (2010). "Goodnow, Frank Johnson". The Encyclopedia of Political Science. Washington D.C.: CQ Press/Sage: 684–685.
  10. ^ Patterson, Samuel C. (2001). "Remembering Frank J. Goodnow". PS: Political Science and Politics. 34 (4): 875–881.

Further reading[edit]

  • Pugach, Noel (1973). "Embarrassed Monarchist: Frank J. Goodnow and Constitutional Development in China, 1913–1915". The Pacific Historical Review. 42 (4): 499–517. doi:10.2307/3638135. JSTOR 3638135.
  • The Baltimore Museum of Art. Annual 1 The Museum: Its First Half Century (Baltimore, Maryland: The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1966),46.
  • Papers of Frank Johnson Goodnow