IN THE SPRING of 1937 Life magazine reported that no issue in recent years had shaken the country as did President Roosevelt's proposal of February 5 to enlarge the size of the Supreme Court to fifteen by appointing a new judge for every justice over seventy who refused to resign or retire. In proposing to increase the Court's membership to ensure pro-New Deal decisions, the president presented Congress with a momentous and serious issue. Almost overnight there began a nationwide debate on the court plan and the very fundamentals of U.S. government.
No less amazing than the boldness of the proposal itself was the manner in which the electorate rose up in wrathful protest against what it believed to be President Roosevelt's effort to "pack" the Court to validate his New Deal. No group was more outspoken than the nation's press in joining this vociferous discussion of constitutional theory and practice. The demonstration in defense of the Supreme Court amounted to nothing less than a popular tribute to its integrity and the character of its members. It was almost a vote of confidence in the Chief Justice, Charles Evans Hughes. Meanwhile, the justices went about their job without comment on the political storm of which they formed the vortex.
The subject of this book concerns that constitutional conflict between the executive and judicial branches of the government from 1933 to 1937. It occurred at a time when a rapid transformation was taking place in U.S. economic, social, political, and jurisprudential life. The very ideal of U.S. government during those years was being greatly modified. The Roosevelt era saw the beginnings of a perceptible shift of emphasis from legal to social justice and was accompanied by a waning respect for settled law. The lessening of the lawyer's influence in the commu