Law and Politics: Occasional Papers of Felix Frankfurter, 1913-1938

By Archibald MacLeish; E. F. Prichard Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

Mr. Justice Cardozo and Public Law

Mr. Frankfurter's interest in Mr. Justice Cardozo was also the accompaniment of a long friendship. The following selection appeared in January, 1939, as one of the Essays Dedicated to the Memory of Mr. Justice Cardozo, published jointly by the Harvard Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal. It was the last piece Mr. Frankfurter wrote before he was nominated for membership on the Supreme Court in January, 1939.

THE FAIRIES that presided over Benjamin N. Cardozo's birth were not wholly benign. But they endowed him with one gift of grace far more significant than his raret talents of mind. He was given a contagious goodness which brought to life the goodness in others. In no invidious sense was the New York Court of Appeals, especially during his presidency, Cardozo's court. And the compulsions of Cardozo's spirit upon those with whom he labored were revealed even through the austerity which insulates the Supreme Court from public knowledge of its intimate life. It is not surprising that the persuasiveness of his personality subdued his immediate environment by its sheer unconscious radiations. It is astonishing that so cloistered a spirit should have attained such a hold on popular feeling.

Other judges have had much more influence upon the governing forces of American society than fell to Cardozo's lot. Perhaps a few, but at best a very few, judges had as keen an insight into the peculiar rôle of the judge in the American scheme. Finally, there was one judge of greater originality and deeper penetration into the intellectual presuppositions of the judicial process. For it was not merely the language of playful deference which made

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