Jackson List: Birthday Reading (1938)

Today marks the 126th anniversary of Robert Houghwout Jackson’s 1892 birth, in his family’s farmhouse in Spring Creek Township, Warren County, Pennsylvania.

It seems that on many a February 13, Robert Jackson did nothing special, and nothing special happened to him.

Jackson did have an unusual experience on this date in 1938—eighty years ago today.  He then was Assistant Attorney General of the United States, heading the Antitrust Division.  He also had been nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to become the Solicitor General of the United States, succeeding Stanley Reed who had been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Jackson’s Senate confirmation hearing had begun in late January, and on February 13th he was in the midst of testifying, ultimately over three days, in a hearing that was thorough, very substantive, and sometimes contentious.  (To boil it down, some Senators were concerned that Jackson was a radical threat to American constitutional law and capitalist freedom and, related, that he was rising to become a leading force in the Democratic Party and, perhaps, presidential material in 1940, when it was expected that F.D.R. would not seek a third term.)  Jackson also had, in the previous week, been part of arguing before the Supreme Court in defense of the constitutionality of the Public Utility Holding Company Act, a major New Deal law.

On Sunday, February 13, 1938, his 46th birthday, Robert Jackson was the subject of a New York Times Sunday Magazine profile article, “Jackson Sets Forth His Political Philosophy.”  The article is online here, readable in full text by Times subscribers (but, alas, behind a paywall for non-subscribers).

The writer, Felix J. Belair, Jr., was The Times’s chief White House correspondent.  Belair seems to have interviewed Jackson for the article—it contains extensive quotations from him, plus two photographs.

I regard the article as strong personal profile journalism.  It is distinctly pro-Jackson, published at a moment when he was a well-publicized, controversial nominee in the middle of a Senate confirmation battle.  It also is an article that contains some of what we call political spin, and some dubious stories.  The article reports:

  • Jackson has no law degree;
  • He has many friends but few intimates;
  • He once made Justice James C. McReynolds, not generally a jovial figure on the Supreme Court bench, laugh during an oral argument;
  • Jackson defends FDR as working to make the private enterprise system work;
  • Jackson believes that people will not accept waves of unemployment; they must be fed or they will turn to a new political system;
  • His 1934-35 work at the Treasury Department, including his study of wealth concentration, was a basis for the 1935 tax reform law;
  • He is not opposed to productive bigness in companies, just to holding companies that are put together for the purpose of speculating in corporate securities;
  • He believes the U.S. needs a high wage industrial economy;
  • He thinks about the future—one quotation looks ahead to “1960” (when Jackson would have turned 68, but which he did not live to see—he died in 1954);
  • He testified in defense of FDR’s 1937 “Court-packing” proposal;
  • His record in major constitutional arguments before the Supreme Court is 4-4;
  • He is a father, a horseman, and a businessman;
  • He attended Albany Law School but did not receive a degree.  (This is true, but Belair did not report that this was only because the school regarded Jackson, age 20 when he completed all requirements, as too young to receive a degree.  The article also incorrectly states that Jackson did two years of law school course work in one year—a myth that follows him still.  And the article does not mention that in addition to attending Albany Law School, Jackson trained for the bar by apprenticing for two years in a law office.);
  • Jackson’s law practice started in (conservative) Jamestown, New York, where he defended radicals charged with crimes growing out of a street railway strike and, surprisingly, won;
  • He subsequently became counsel to businesses (including in Buffalo, New York, and elsewhere, which Belair did not mention);
  • Jackson loves horses:  they were central to his farm boyhood in Spring Creek; he owns a horse farm in Jamestown; he lives with his wife Irene, daughter Mary, and horses on a large property in Maryland;
  • He works late and rides early, often with Mary, sometimes trying out on her, or on his horse (more amenable?), speeches that he is preparing;
  • He and Irene also have a son, William (then a Yale College freshman).  (Belair reported that Jackson hoped Bill would become a lawyer, but in fact, at least by the time Bill was finishing college, Jackson was open to Bill pursuing whatever career path he wished—and he did then go to law school and became a very accomplished lawyer.);
  • Jackson likes to talk about his ancestors, including his great-grandfather Elijah Jackson, the first white settler of Spring Creek;
  • His middle name, Houghwout, is a family name, from ancestors who were early Dutch settlers New Amsterdam;
  • Jackson’s family politics:  Andrew Jackson Democrats;
  • He never sought political office.  (That is largely true, unless one counts, unreported here, his election in young adulthood to country political organization office.);
  • He was appointed corporation counsel in Jamestown by a Republican mayor (which is true—Mayor Sam Carlson was a smart, liberal Republican);
  • Jackson came to Washington at the personal request of FDR.  (This might be an exaggeration of Roosevelt’s personal role in Jackson’s recruitment to the New Deal.);
  • Jackson offers blunt criticism of the bar (the legal profession), including for its conservatism and opposition to government reform;
  • He has critics and enemies but also many friends and admirers;
  • He has been mentioned in the past for numerous offices, including the Supreme Court, the U.S. Senate, and the Governorship of New York;
  • He has no idea what future will bring—maybe just a return to practicing law in Jamestown.

I assume that Jackson, on that Sunday morning, got a copy of The Times and read Belair’s profile piece.  I bet that Jackson mostly liked it.  I bet more that he didn’t spend a lot of time on it, and that if the weather was good enough he spent more time that day on horseback.

For additional Jackson Birthday reading, here are some previous Jackson Birthday-related posts:

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Happy Holidays!

Thank you all, Jackson List newcomers this year and longtime readers.  I truly appreciate your interest, your “forwards,” your recruitments of new subscribers, and your comments.

For your reading in this season, here are links to some previous holiday season posts:

  • “Heartfelt Words, Good Will & Wishes True (1913) (click here)
  • “Christmas Cards from Nuremberg (November 1945)” (click here)
  • “Lighting the First Candle:  Holocaust Film and Chanukah at Nuremberg, 1945” (click here)
  • “Holiday Note, Chief to Staff (December 1945)” (click here)
  • “Jackson in the Holiday Season” (click here)
  • “Christmas Celebration, Nuremberg, 1945” (click here)
  • “Jackson on Holiday in Athens, December 22, 1945” (click here)
  • “Supreme Court at Christmastime (1951)” (click here)

Thank you again for your interest, and very best wishes for the holidays and 2018.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Time for a New U.S. Secretary of State (1944)

In late November 1944, United States Secretary of State Cordell Hull, nearly twelve years in office, tendered his resignation to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Secretary Hull, age 73, did not wish to leave office before World War II was won, but the reality of his recurring, worsening problems with pulmonary sarcoidosis and strong advice from his doctors dictated his decision.

On Sunday, November 26, President Roosevelt visited Secretary Hull at Bethesda Naval Hospital, where he had been receiving treatment for more than a month, for a long conversation.

The following day, the President held a news conference to announce Hull’s resignation.  The White House then released the texts of the letters of resignation and reluctant acceptance that Hull and the President had exchanged.

Later that day, the President nominated the Under Secretary of State, Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., age 44, who had been Acting Secretary in Hull’s absence, to succeed him.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously and favorably reported Stettinius’s nomination to the full Senate on November 29.

The next day, the Senate confirmed Stettinius by roll call vote, 67 to 1.  Notified of his confirmation, Stettinius travelled promptly to Bethesda to pay his respects to Secretary Hull.

Secretary Stettinius signed his commission and took his oath of office on Friday, December 1, 1944.  The ceremony occurred in the Office of the Secretary of State, in the State, War, and Navy Building (today the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) next to the White House.

At Stettinius’s request, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson administered the oath.

At the conclusion of the oath, after Stettinius said “I do,” Jackson asked “So help you God?,” prompting Stettinius to respond “So help me God.”

Secretary Hull was of course unable to attend the ceremony.  It was attended by other senior officials, including General George C. Marshall, Jr., the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, and Senator Harry F. Byrd (D.-VA).  Stettinius’s wife and children attended, as did Jackson’s wife Irene.

The ceremony was well-lit and photographed by still and newsreel photographers.  For newsreel film of the occasion, including Justice Jackson administering the oath and then he and Secretary Stettinius signing the commission, click here:

http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675037150_Edward-R-Stettinius_Secretory-of-States_swear-in_Justice-Jackson_General-George-C-Marshall

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Coincidentally, December 1, 1944, was also the date on which Alfred A. Knopf published Harvard Law School professor Sheldon Glueck’s book War Criminals: Their Prosecution & Punishment (jacket price $3.00).

In the months ahead, Secretary Stettinius and Justice Jackson each worked on the challenges of prosecuting war criminals.  Indeed, Professor Glueck became one of Jackson’s consultants in his work as U.S. chief prosecutor at Nuremberg of Nazi war criminals.

The enormity of that undertaking might have been present, at least elliptically, when Stettinius stated to the cameras on December 1, 1944, that building world peace following the war would “need active participation and support of all….”

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

 

Meeting Your Nazi Neighbor

Yesterday’s New York Times included, prominently, this quite odd and disturbing, and now quite controversial, article on Tony Hovater.  He is a 27-year-old white male U.S. citizen who resides, with his wife, near Dayton, OH.  He longs for centralized power that he calls “fascism.”  He identifies himself as a “white nationalist.”  He studies, admires, and minimizes the evil of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.  He, Mr. Hovater, is a disgusting bigot, an anti-Semite.  I’m sparing in name-calling, but it seems accurate to call him an American Nazi.

After reading and then rereading the article, and then reading some of the many good and varied comments on it, I’m glad that it exists.  It correctly appalls many, while educating them on who this man is, as an individual and as a type—inside vote totals and protest mobs are individuals, and it’s good to see one so closely.  (Here, reported in The Atlantic, is a long account of another, Andrew Anglin, who is much more horrifying because of the violence he threatens.)  And it’s good—well, not “good,” of course, but informative—to read and reflect on how Mr. Hovater feels empowered by President Trump.  The President of course (I wish), plus anyone who supports him even slightly, should read about Mr. Hovater and think more about the dangers of lighting fuses.

If Mr. Hovater worked for me, I’d probably fire him.

If he lived near me, I’d be a very concerned neighbor—I’d watch for bad behavior and, seeing anything, err on the side of calling the cops.  They serve the law and the general public—they’re on our side.

I hope that Mr. Hovater’s wife wakes up—I hope that she stays safe, gets interested in politics, gets smarter, and leaves him.

And I hope that Mr. Hovater gets interested to get smarter.  He needs teaching.  Some of it can come right from some of the books on Nazism and World War II that he owns and permitted the NYT  to photograph.  If he’s game to start studying and thinking critically and thus, objectively, better, I’d take him on as a student.  I hope that other teachers would too.  But I’d urge anyone to do this only very carefully—Hovater would have to be game, which seems very unlikely, and he would have to get to work and not just spout what the NYT story reports that he thinks currently.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth any serious teacher’s time.

The odds are that he will continue as he is, thinking and reading and speaking evil ideas.

That leaves me sad, and alarmed, and glad to live in a country with the constitutional fiber to protect all expression, even his.

Jackson List: A Doctor’s Thanksgiving Wisdom (1953)

Robert H. Jackson lived actively, vigorously, despite knowing of his family’s history of heart disease.  His father, Will Jackson, died in 1915 at age 52, apparently of heart trouble.  Other members of the Jackson clan had heart problems too.  One of his sisters, having “had three quite bad spells with [her] heart” when she was only 34, referred with some fatalism to the possibility of having “a Jackson heart.”  Robert Jackson might have had his first heart attack as early as January 1941, when he was 48 years old.  His medical care attended to his heart from at least then until the end of his life (1954).

In 1934, when Robert Jackson was forty-one years old, he was appointed to national office for the first time and moved to Washington, D.C.  But his extended family and many of his closest friends remained in and around his adult hometown, Jamestown, New York.  They were the people who, and western New York State was the land and region that, Jackson loved—if you’ll excuse a line, he left his heart…  So he returned there regularly to visit, at least a few times every year.

And Jackson kept his Jamestown doctor.  Dr. Samuel Hurwitz, M.D., was a general practitioner with skills in cardiology.  Jackson liked and trusted Dr. Hurwitz and saw him each year.  He was attentive to Jackson, prescribing various medicines (bellergal; aminophyllin; nitroglycerin) that Jackson took as needed.  They corresponded during periods between Jackson’s Jamestown visits.

In November 1953, Jackson sent word to Dr. Hurwitz, probably by letter, that he needed prescription refills.  Hurwitz wrote back, enclosing signed prescriptions, noting “I have omitted the [patient] name and date, which you can put in when ready to fill the Rx’s.”

Dr. Hurwitz also noted his awareness of Jackson’s extrajudicial endeavors, which then included his well-publicized November 2, 1953, keynote speech at the dedication of the American Bar Center at the University of Chicago.  “The Jamestown papers follow and report your travels,” Dr. Hurwitz wrote.  “All of us applaud your philosophy.”

Dr. Hurwitz closed his November 1953 note to Justice Jackson, written on Thanksgiving Day, with a modest, I think admirable, nod to the role of fortune, and perhaps the role of higher power, in every life:

On this day anyone should be thankful for all the good he has, which are none of his doing.

I hope that your life is filled with good, as mine is—Happy Thanksgiving.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Biographer Goggles

Janet Maslin, in her New York Times review last week of Ron Chernow’s new biography of Ulysses S. Grant, praises Chernow for “manag[ing] to put on Grant goggles and deal primarily with this one soldier’s role in the military, this one leader’s role in the Civil War.”

I find this helpful.  Without such goggles—or, pick another metaphor, without binoculars that can be trained on one figure, or without a magnifying glass that can enlarge details of a key face in a crowd—biographical writing can too easily become general history.  That context is necessary, of course.  But not too much—the biographer’s point is to see, to point to, to communicate, the life of a person.

Back to my goggles.

President Reagan Against Political Gerrymandering

I received yesterday the new memoir by Harold Burson, The Business of Persuasion.  Now in his tenth decade, Harold is a giant in the field of public relations, co-founder of the global firm Burson-Marsteller, formerly an Armed Forces Radio Network reporter during 1945-46 at the international Nuremberg trial of the principal Nazi war criminals, a truly wise man, and, I’m very lucky to say, my friend.

I have only begun to read the book. So far it’s smooth and smart, filled with great stories and clear, profound life-lessons.  Harold calls these his “Takeaways,” and he very helpfully itemizes these keys to success at the end of each chapter.

When I finish reading Harold’s book—which will be soon, because, as he writes in a first chapter Takeway, daily reading of good material is both a pleasure and wise—I plan to write more about it.

I’m writing now about a Chapter One nugget because it’s striking and timely.

As Harold Burson recounts, he was an important adviser and friend to President Ronald Reagan, especially in his post-presidency years.

October 10, 1984:  Hugh Downs, Harold Burson, Jack Anderson, and President Reagan, at the White House launch of the Young Astronauts program

In 1989, Harold advised President Reagan, newly-retired and beginning to give talks to various audiences, to include in his speeches some bipartisan messages.

Reagan liked the advice.  He then described two issues that had concerned him for a long time.

One was the Twenty-Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Since the 1950s, it has limited presidents to two terms.  Reagan, having been there, thought it was terrible that the Constitution makes every reelected president a lame duck.  He preferred to trust the possibility of third terms to presidents’ sound personal decision making, and also to voters.  He noted that he was glad that President Franklin Roosevelt had been able to run for a third term in 1940.  (Reagan voted for him then, as he had in 1932 and 1936 and would again in 1944—F.D.R. was one of Reagan’s great heroes.)

The second concern that President Reagan voiced to Harold Burson was about the politicized methods that State legislative majorities use to draw the boundaries of Congressional districts.  Reagan said, in substance—Burson is careful to note that he puts in quotation marks the substance, reconstructed from documents and memory, of what a person said, not his verbatim words—that

“[r]ather than leaving it to the politics of whichever party controls a state’s legislature, each state should have an independent nonpartisan commission whose sole responsibility is redistricting based on census results.”  [Reagan] condemned gerrymandering; there should be geographic integrity in setting the boundaries of congressional districts. (p. 22)

Harold Burson agreed with the logic of President Reagan’s bipartisan—which is to say, really, his nonpartisan—position, and obviously I do too.

The U.S. Supreme Court currently is deciding the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering in state legislative districts.  The case, Gill v. Whitford, was argued last week, and the Court’s decision is expected in coming months.  For information on the case, including briefs and a link to oral argument audio, visit this SCOTUSblog page:

Gill v. Whitford

The issue that concerned President Reagan, partisan gerrymandering of Congressional districts, is formally different from Gill v. Whitford’s focus on partisan gerrymandering of state legislative districts.  But the issues raise substantively the same question—the district line-drawers are one and the same state legislators, holding majority power, legislating boundaries so as to maximize their party’s advantage beyond its candidates’ abilities to win votes at the polls.

As the Supreme Court considers Gill v. Whitford, I hope that it will heed President Reagan’s wisdom—if it’s not too late to “file” another “amicus brief” in the case, maybe this can count as his.

I’m grateful to Harold Burson for bringing it to our attention.

And you should buy and read his book!

Jackson List: Nuremberg & Eichmann

By the time Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally in May 1945, the victorious Allied nations had been committed officially, for more than two years, to hold defeated Nazi leaders accountable for their war-making aggression and related international crimes.  President Truman had, a few weeks earlier, recruited U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson to head the U.S. effort and he had begun to organize his staff and plans.  The United Kingdom, the U.S.S.R., and France were commencing parallel efforts.  The Allies soon would begin to negotiate and plan together.  Their occupation armies captured Nazis and voluminous documentary evidence.  The Allies soon began to name Nazi perpetrators who were potential defendants in what would become, starting in November at Nuremberg, the world’s first international criminal trial.

Adolf Eichmann was not one of those names.  We know now through detailed evidence, especially from Israel’s 1961 prosecution and conviction of Eichmann, that he was a Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) officer who played a pivotal role in the deportations and murders of Europe’s Jews.  Eichmann, as director from 1941 forward of the Reich Main Security Office’s Jewish Affairs section (IVb4), accomplished the deportation of over 1.5 million Jews from all over Europe to extermination camps and killing sites in Nazi-occupied lands to the east.

In Spring 1945, Eichmann was not well known, much less a target of high interest, to would-be Allied prosecutors.  In early June, for example, the War Crimes Office in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps circulated to Jackson’s staff an intelligence report, “Biographies of Certain Potential War Criminals.”  This document, more than thirty pages in length, described dozens of prominent, legally culpable Nazis—and it did not mention Eichmann.  The Office of Strategic Services, the U.S. intelligence agency that by then was working very closely with Jackson, also was highlighting potential defendants, but most were familiar names from wartime press reporting, and none was Eichmann.

Eichmann’s name, and early comprehension of his criminally culpable conduct, did begin to surface that summer.  In July, Jacob Robinson, director of the World Jewish Congress’s Institute of Jewish Affairs, a lawyer and an important adviser to Justice Jackson, wrote to him, concerned about lists, which Robinson had seen in newspapers, of prospective defendants.  Robinson expressed his “great disappointment not to find in these lists the name of a man who is probably more directly responsible for the destruction of the Jews than any single Nazi”:  Eichmann.  (Click here to see Robinson’s carbon copy of this letter.)

In early August 1945, the War Department in Washington sent to Jackson’s staff in London a message identifying Eichmann as the Nazi section leader with “primary responsibility for the extermination and transportation of Jews,” and then a dossier with detailed information.

But Eichmann was not known then to be an Allied prisoner or even suspected to be living.  In late August, the Allies thus named dozens of their prisoners who would be prosecuted.  In October, they were charged.  In November, their trial commenced at Nuremberg before the International Military Tribunal.  Eichmann was not one of the Nuremberg defendants.

At Nuremberg, in both the 1945-1946 international trial and in the twelve subsequent U.S. trials, the prosecutors presented considerable evidence of Nazi planning and implementation of what we today know as the Holocaust.  Much of that evidence, both documents and witnesses, named Adolf Eichmann and explained his role.  But witnesses—his former Nazi colleagues—also testified that he had committed suicide at the end of the War.

The world did not learn otherwise until May 23, 1960, when Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion made this brief announcement to the Knesset:

A short time ago, one of the greatest of Nazi war criminals, Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible, together with the Nazi leaders, for what they called the “Final solution of the Jewish question”—that is, the extermination of 6,000,000 Jews of Europe—was found by the Israel security services. Adolf Eichmann is already under arrest in Israel, and will shortly be placed on trial in Israel under terms of the law for the trial of Nazis and their collaborators.

(It soon became known, of course, that Israeli agents had “found” Eichmann in Argentina and transported him forcibly to Israel.)

Eichmann’s 1961 trial in Jerusalem, televised to the world, included significant evidence from the Nuremberg trial record.

Veterans of Nuremberg trials were involved at the Eichmann trial as witnesses and advisors, and others were present as observers and commentators.

Jacob Robinson, formerly Jackson’s Nuremberg advisor, was involved as an assistant prosecutor of Eichmann.

Adolph Eichmann was found guilty of crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and membership in a hostile organization.  He was sentenced to death.  In 1962, he was hanged.

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For those in New York City or inclined to visit, I strongly recommend seeing the powerful exhibition on Eichmann’s conduct, capture, and case, “Operation Finale,” that now is on display at the Museum of Jewish Heritage:

Operation Finale: The Capture & Trial of Adolf Eichmann

I also had the great privilege recently, in connection with the International March of the Living, to interview retired Israeli Supreme Court justice Gabriel Bach.  In 1961, Gabriel Bach was deputy prosecutor of Eichmann.  Today, Justice Bach is the last surviving Eichmann prosecutor—and a powerful speaker, and a great hero.  To watch the interview:

Prosecuting Eichmann: An Interview with Israeli Supreme Court Justice Gabriel Bach

Finally, on October 19th I will be lecturing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan on “From Nuremberg to Eichmann,” expanding on some of the information contained in this Jackson List post.  Please attend if you are interested.  For information and to order tickets:

From Nuremberg to Eichmann

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Remembering, Studying, and Living Up to Barnette

On June 14, 2018, people in the United States—many, and indeed most, people, I hope—will mark and celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.  In that landmark decision, the Court struck down as unconstitutional the State’s requirement that all public school teachers and students participate in a salute to the American flag and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The case was brought on behalf of students who were Jehovah’s Witnesses.  In deference to their belief that the Bible forbade them to bow down to graven images, they refused to salute the flag.  For that refusal, they were expelled from school.  Expulsion made the children unlawfully absent, subjecting them to delinquency proceedings and their parents to criminal prosecution.

The Barnette decision was announced in Justice Robert H. Jackson’s opinion for Court.  He explained that the flag salute requirement violated the children’s constitutional rights, which exist to strengthen “individual freedom of mind in preference to officially disciplined uniformity…”

Although all of Justice Jackson’s Barnette opinion bears rereading, some particularly wise words to consider are his closing paragraphs:

The case is made difficult not because the principles of its decision are obscure, but because the flag involved is our own.  Nevertheless, we apply the limitations of the Constitution with no fear that freedom to be intellectually and spiritually diverse or even contrary will disintegrate the social organization.  To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous, instead of a compulsory routine, is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds.  We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes.  When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great.  But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much.  That would be a mere shadow of freedom.  The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.  If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power, and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.

In the views of many, Barnette is a high point in U.S. Supreme Court history and constitutional law and one of Justice Jackson’s very finest judicial opinions.  His words in Barnette continue to ring, loudly and true, to people who think them through.

One example came from the Supreme Court itself in June 2013, Barnette’s 70th anniversary year and month.  In Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc., the Court struck down as unconstitutional the part of an international program to combat HIV/AIDS that required grant recipients to “pledge allegiance to the Government’s policy of eradicating prostitution”.

With regard to that government effort to compel a pledge, Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the Supreme Court that “we cannot improve upon what Justice Jackson wrote for the Court 70 years ago:  ‘If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.’”

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Some links—

  • West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)—click here;
  • the published version of a 2006 roundtable discussion featuring the case-winning litigants, sisters Gathie and Marie Barnett (whose surname got misspelled at some point in the litigation) and related commentary—click here and then download;
  • a Jackson List post from 2013, “Barnette at 70”—click here;
  • another 2013 Jackson List post, “Arguing Barnette, et al.”—click here; and
  • a 2010 Jackson List post, “The Newest Barnette Sister”—click here.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Video of Jackson Center conference on Immigration, June 23, 2017

On June 23, 2017, the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, New York, hosted a conference, “How ‘Far Gone’ Are We Now?:  Immigration, Security & American Values, from Justice Jackson’s Time to Our Own.”

The conference title asked a timely question.  It incorporates a phrase from this concluding passage of Justice Jackson’s dissenting opinion in Shaughnessy, District Director of Immigration & Naturalization v. United States ex rel. Ignatz Mezei, a 1953 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding as constitutional the broad statutory powers of the government to deport a non-citizen:

“Congress has ample power to determine whom we will admit to our shores and by what means it will effectuate its exclusion policy. The only limitation is that it may not do so by authorizing United States officers to take without due process of law the life, the liberty or the property of an alien who has come within our jurisdiction; and that means he must meet a fair hearing with fair notice of the charges.  It is inconceivable to me that this measure of simple justice and fair dealing would menace the security of this country. No one can make me believe that we are that far gone.”

The conference video now is posted on YouTube, in the following segments–

Three morning session lectures:

John Q. Barrett delivering the inaugural Alan Y. Cole Memorial Lecture, “Robert H. Jackson on Immigrants, Citizens, Power & Liberty”

Lucas Guttentag, Professor of the Practice of Law, Stanford Law School, and Distinguished Senior Fellow & Lecturer, Yale Law School, and former Senior Counselor to the Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and founder and former director ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, lecturing on “Sweeping Power & Shallow Rights: A Historical Perspective on Immigration Regulation and Constitutional Protections”

Rick Su, Professor of Law, University at Buffalo School of Law, lecturing on “Sanctuary or Force Multiplier?: Local Involvement in Federal Immigration Enforcement”

The lunchtime Keynote lecture:

Theodore M. Shaw, Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law & Director of the Center for Civil Rights, University of North Carolina School of Law, and former Director-Counsel & President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., lecturing on “Uncharted Territory: The Existential Threat to the American Republic”

Two afternoon session lectures:

Joyce White Vance, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law, University of Alabama School of Law, and former United States Attorney, Northern District of Alabama (2009-2017), delivering a lecture, “The Role of the Prosecutor in Protecting Civil Rights & Keeping Communities Safe”

Margo Schlanger, Henry M. Butzel Professor of Law, University of Michigan, and former U.S. Department of Homeland Security Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, lecturing on “Civil Rights at the Border: National Security, Border Screening, & the Muslim Ban”

In addition, the entire morning session (welcoming remarks from Susan Moran Murphy, Jackson Center president & CEO; lectures by John Barrett, Lucas Guttentag, and Rick Su; audience-speaker Q&A; and me adjourning the session) is here:

And the entire afternoon session (introductions; lectures by Joyce White Vance and Margo Schlanger; audience-speaker Q&A; and concluding remarks) is here:

Please view these important, expert, challenging discussions on topics that matter to each of us, and please share this information and these links widely.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.