May 1, 2009
Re: Justice Jackson’s (pre-justiceship) Speech of December 1936.
Law Professor John Q. Barrett of St. John’s (firstname.lastname@example.org) is writing a biography of Justice Robert Jackson, perhaps the greatest writer ever to sit on the Supreme Court and the first American Chief Prosecutor at Nuremberg. Every few weeks or so, Professor Barrett sends an email about an event in or an aspect of Jackson’s life to persons on his Jackson List. His April 28th email is about a speech Jackson made in late 1936, after FDR’s massive electoral victory. The speech, as Barrett himself has said, is of great relevance to our contemporary situation. It is so pertinent that I’ve asked for and received Professor Barrett’s permission to post his email on my own site. It is appended below.
For the Jackson List:
On Wednesday evening, December 2, 1936, more than 400 people attended a Democratic Party victory dinner and celebration at the Hotel Jamestown in Jamestown, New York. The guest of honor was Robert H. Jackson, a former Jamestown resident, lawyer and leading Democrat who was serving under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States Department of Justice as Assistant Attorney General heading the Tax Division. At the time, press reports from Washington indicated that the newly-reelected President Roosevelt was about to appoint Attorney General Homer S. Cummings to a new position, and that Jackson was the leading candidate to succeed Cummings. (As events developed, Cummings continued as Attorney General for almost two more years. His successor was, for a year, Frank Murphy. In 1940, Jackson succeeded Murphy as Attorney General.)
At the Jamestown dinner, following musical entertainment and various addresses, including a principal speech by Francis M. Shea, the young Dean of the University of Buffalo School of Law, Jackson delivered these timely—then, and now—remarks:
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My friends and neighbors are generous as well as gracious in singling me out for honors tonight. Many of you could not be expected to enthuse over the political aspects of this occasion and your interest is deeply appreciated. Others are celebrating the event by which the Democratic Party became a majority party not only in state and nation but in this city as well. I share your joy at that achievement. It is a delight to have Dean Shea come to Jamestown for any reason and I feel honored that he should come now.
While I enjoy getting credit for achievements, whether earned or not, I must disclaim all except a very modest share in the victory. It was too general and too sweeping to be attributable to personal efforts. It was a result of a great many contributions.