The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions - Vol. 2

By Leon Friedman; Fred L. Israel | Go to book overview
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work, sent his resignation to President Roosevelt. On September 15 of that year Gray died.

As a student of Gray's decisions observed, it is difficult to say that Gray had a "position" on many legal matters. His forte was largely technical and historical; his goal was to show the overbearing weight of authority on the topics which drew his attention. In a changing world, much of what he had isolated and pursued tended to become lost.

But not all has been lost. Gray's historical position is secure. He was a Chief Justice in a distinguished line of Massachusetts Chief Justices. He was unchallenged as a legal scholar and historian. He was the expositor of Juilliard v. Greenman, the dissenter in Leisy v. Hardin, and he played important roles in other cases. It would be difficult to establish that Gray had been a great Justice. Even a perfunctory comparison of the work of Gray and that of John M. Harlan, his near contemporary on the Court, would show that Harlan's sense of justice was clearer than Gray's and led him to more enduring conclusions. But if he did lack qualities which give distinction to many Supreme Court Justices, from Marshall to Holmes and beyond, he had other qualities and achievements which give him a secure lien on posterity. As students review our legal history from time to time, they are likely to rediscover one or another aspect of Gray and his work and refresh their purposes with it.


Although official materials and personal papers available at the Library of the Supreme Court may be examined and interpreted, Justice Gray's long years of distinction did not result in a substantial body of studies and memoirs. His contemporaries contributed several helpful writings, notably George F. Hoar , "Memoir of Horace Gray," 18 Proc. Mass. Hist. Soc. 2nd ser., 1903‐ 1904 ( 1905); Samuel Williston, "Horace Gray," in W. D. Lewis, ed., Great American Lawyers ( Philadelphia, 1909); Moorfield Storey, "Horace Gray," in M. A. DeWolfe Howe, ed., Later Years of the Saturday Club, 1870-1920 ( Boston, 1927). Willard L. King, Melville Weston Fuller ( New York, 1950) glimpses Gray among his court associates in later years. Perhaps indicative of work yet to be done are R. M. Spector, "Legal Historian on the United Sates Supreme Court: Justice Horace Gray, Jr., and the Historical Method," 12 American Journal of Legal History 3 ( July 1968), and Elbridge B. Davis and Harold A. Davis, "Mr. Justice Horace Gray: Some Aspects of His Judicial Career," 41 American Bar Association Journal 421 ( May 1955), both of which discuss Gray's legal principles, and John Malcolm Smith, "Mr. Justice Horace Gray of the United States Supreme Court," 6 South Dakota Law Review 221 ( Fall 1961), which sees him in more dimensional terms. The one full-length study presently available is Stephen R. Mitchell, Mr. Justice Horace Gray, an unpublished doctoral dissertation ( University of Wisconsin, 1961), which surveys his entire career.


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