An Observer of Men

This selection from around 65,000 pieces of correspondence, edited by Learned Hand’s granddaughter, a professor emerita of English at the Claremont Graduate School, could not have been better done.  Both Hand’s letters and the letters of his correspondents are included; some of the most notable exchanges are with Bernard Berenson, Philip Littell, Walter Lippmann, and Felix Frankfurter.

Hand’s opinions, standards, and career are a reproach to the judges of our time.  Only twice in nearly half a century did he declare a statute unconstitutional: in the Schechter case, under duress of superior authority; and in Baldwin v. Seelig, involving a clear discrimination against out-of-state producers.  He viewed the Due Process clauses of the federal Constitution in their substantive aspects with abhorrence and at one point proposed five different ways of repealing them.  “They contradict the very presupposition of a democratic state.”  For him, legislatures were the supreme organs to reconcile social differences.  They might make mistakes, but these were subject to swift self-correction.  Not so the judgments of courts.  “[L]awsuits, however large the jury, cannot be in the end a substitute for personal confidence in leaders.”  Nonetheless, “an enforced pause in revolutionary changes may be a condition upon the very...

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