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 Brandeis and the Constitution

This selection appeared in the Harvard Law Reviewfor November, 1931 (Vol. 44, p. 33), in a series of essays celebrating Mr. Justice Brandeis's seventy-fifth birthday. It later appeared in a book of essays, Mr. Justice Brandeis ( 1932), which Mr. Frankfurter edited.

DEFINITIVE history of great political events may challenge the fecundity of historians, but of necessity escapes them. Even an adequate history of the Supreme Court awaits writing, to say which is no failure of gratitude to Mr. Charles Warren, who did not purport to paint a full canvas. He attempted only an essay on The Supreme Court in United States History. To write the history of the Court presupposes an adequate social history of the United States, which, as yet, we lack. Much brave scholarship is now enlisted to give a critical understanding of our past. And the illuminating chapters of the Beards and of Parrington, together with the History of American Life, edited by Professors Schlesinger and Fox, bring nearer the day of a comprehensive history of our civilization.

Moreover, the work of the Supreme Court is the history of relatively few personalities. However much they may have represented or resisted their Zeitgeist, symbolized forces outside their own individualities, they were also individuals. The fact that they were there and that others were not, surely made decisive differences. To understand what manner of men they were is crucial to an understanding of the Court. Yet how much real insight have we about the seventy-four men who constitute the Supreme Court's roll of judges? How much is known about the inner forces

-113-

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