Oliver Wendell Holmes: Sage of the Supreme Court

By G. Edward White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
5
A MORE IMPORTANT
AND MORE VISIBLE
COURT

In 1901, as Holmes turned 60 and anticipated his third year as chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, a series of events began to unfold that resulted in his being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. During the previous year Justice Horace Gray of the Supreme Court, the half-brother of Holmes’s friend John Gray, had developed an illness that made his retirement from the Court at the end of its term that June a possibility. For most of the years of the Supreme Court’s existence, geography has played an important part in appointments. For the first two-thirds of the 19th century the Court met only briefly in Washington and for the rest of the year the justices traveled on “circuits” around the country—each circuit consisting of several states—and decided appeals from the federal district courts that were assigned to their circuit. There was a New England circuit, a circuit including New York State and Vermont, a circuit including Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, and so on. As the nation expanded westward, and new states came into the Union, new circuits were added: Now there are 11.

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Oliver Wendell Holmes: Sage of the Supreme Court
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Prologue- the 90Th-Birthday Address 7
  • Chapter 1 - The Family Legacy 13
  • Chapter 2 - Our Hearts Were Touched with Fire- The Civil War Years 25
  • Chapter 3 - The Practical Struggle of Life- Becoming a Lawyer and a Judge 35
  • Chapter 4 - The Quiet Years 57
  • Chapter 5 - A More Important and More Visible Court 69
  • Chapter 6 - A New and Solemn Volume Opens 79
  • Chapter 7 - An Unlikely Reformer 94
  • Chapter 8 - The Yankee from Olympus 106
  • Chapter 9 - Toward Melancholy- The Retirement Years 126
  • Epilogue 138
  • Chronology 143
  • Further Reading 145
  • Index 147
  • Acknowledgments 151
  • Picture Credits 153
  • Text Credits 155
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