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

By Archibald MacLeish; E. F. Prichard Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

The Court and Statesmanship

The following selection is part of a book review of The Supreme Court of the United States: Its Foundation, Methods and Achievements, by Charles Evans Hughes, which appeared in the American Bar Association Journal for April, 1930 (Vol. 16, p. 251).

IN HIS analysis of the true nature of the most vital contests before the Court, and the general intellectual procedure which the wise discharge of the Court's duties requires, Chief Justice Hughes makes profoundly important observations. Upon a rigorous observance of them, I venture to believe, depends the Court's successful contribution to the statesmanship of the country.

First and foremost, these lectures leave no doubt that the new Chief Justice realizes that the effectiveness of the Court's work does not derive from any language of the Constitution or the compulsions of logic or the mechanical contrivances of its organization. It depends upon the self-denying ordinances of the Justices. He recognizes fully the subtle psychologic difficulties in drawing the line, at times the shadowy line, between questions of mere wisdom or policy and those of power by pointing out that "It is doubtless true that men holding strong convictions as to the unwisdom of legislation may easily pass to the position that it is wholly unreasonable. . . ."

In his book the new Chief Justice was alive to the fact that this danger is to be avoided only by the self-discipline of the Justices, by working "in an objective spirit." And so he found that

. . . the success of the work of the Supreme Court in maintaining the necessary balance between state and nation, and between individual rights as guaranteed by the Constitution and social interest as expressed

-34-

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