Let This Life Speak: The Legacy of Henry Joel Cadbury

By Margaret Hope Bacon | Go to book overview

Introduction

On August 1, 1973, a group of lawyers, witnesses, and interested onlookers gathered in Room 3054 of the United States Courthouse in Philadelphia, presided over by Judge Clarence C. Newcomer of the U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania, to hear the third day of testimony in a unique civil action. The American Friends Service Committee ( AFSC), a fifty-six-year-old Quaker service organization, was suing the United States government for relief from the requirement that it collect income taxes from those of its employees who were conscientiously opposed to the payment of that portion of their taxes which supported the war. This requirement, the AFSC was arguing, violated First Amendment rights and threatened the organization with serious loss, were such employees to leave for reasons of conscience. Let the government deal directly with the individuals in question, lawyers for the AFSC suggested, rather than ask the organization to violate its very reason for existence.

To describe that reason Marvin Karpatkin, chief attorney for the plaintiffs, had invited to the witness stand the man who had presided at the first meeting of the AFSC, on April 30, 1917. Henry Joel Cadbury had always been a man of slight build. Now at the age of eighty-nine and a half, he appeared frail and wizened, his rumpled suit hanging loosely, his manner occasionally hesitant, as though a little confused. He wore a hearing aid, but although it was turned up to full volume he still had to ask a speaker to repeat himself. Those in the courtroom who did not know him might have wondered what value his testimony could have.

Speaking slowly and clearly, Marvin Karpatkin led Henry Cadbury through a recitation of his educational background including his Ph.D. from Harvard University -- a teaching career that in

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