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

By Felix Frankfurter; E. F. Prichard Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

The Red Terror of Judicial Reform

The following selection appeared as an unsigned editorial in the New Republic for October 1, 1924. Senator Robert M. La Follette, of Wisconsin, Progressive candidate for the presidency in the 1924 election, had proposed a constitutional amendment empowering Congress, by a two-thirds vote, to override any Supreme Court decision holding a statute invalid. President Coolidge, the Republican candidate, and John W. Davis, the candidate of the Democratic party, both opposed Senator La Follette's proposal.

REPUBLICAN papers are entitled to point out the identity of views between the Republican and Democratic candidates on the issues raised by judicial control over legislation. It is a mere coincidence that the President and Mr. Davis spoke on this subject at the same time; but it is of the deepest significance that they expressed the same beliefs. The two speeches reflected a common mind, and they might have been written by the same pen. What meaning would they convey to a foreign student of our affairs who aimed at a disinterested understanding of vital American problems? If such an inquirer were confined for understanding to the Coolidge and Davis utterances, he would only be told that some precious aspects of human liberty were formulated by the American Constitution and that the Supreme Court of the United States is their vigilant and effective guardian. Nothing more appearing in the explanations of the President of the United States and his contender for the presidency, speaking with the added apparent authority of eminence at the bar, our foreign seeker for truth would be wholly baffled to understand why traditional liberties, or the means of rendering them effective, should find opposition. Naturally he would assume that only ma-

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