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March 07, 1937 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1937-03-07

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THE MICHIGAN DAILY

IN

THE

WORLD

OF

BOOKS

THE COURT
Its Privacies Invaded
With Anecdotes
And Gossip
THE NINE OLD MEN, by Pearson
and Allen. Doubleday Doran, $2.50.
(Reviewed in the light of the
President's proposal to increase
the membership of the Supreme
Court.)
CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES once
made the statement, which he
probably'has since regretted that "We
are living under a Constitution, but
the Constitution is what the judges
say it is." Accepting the Chief Jus-
tice at his own word, Drew Pearson
and Robert S. Allen, the enterprising
authors of The' Washington Merry-
Go-Round and The American Diplo-
matic Game, have made his observa-
tion their point of departure in their
latest effort, The Nine Old Men. This
book might be called an attempt to
explain recent interpretation of the
Constitution in terms of the person-
alities of the judges who "say" what
it is.
In this racy little volume on the
Court the reader should be warned
that the authors cannot claim either
authority as to interpretation of the
development of Constitutional the-
ory or infallibility as to statement
of historical fact. The chapters on
history and theory of the Court re-
veal inaccuracies and misunderstand-
ings which will make the scholar
writhe or regret, depending on his
own political beliefs.
Thus the authors speak of the
application of Section I of the Four-
teenth Amendment (by the Court)
"to block legislation which would pre-
serve wage standards . . . to continue
the employment of children . . . to
delay the adoption of an income tax
against representatives of wealth and
property, and to crush every impor-
tant social and economic reform at-
tempted by both Federal and State
governments in the last half century
(p. 62). A careful reading of the
Fourteenth Amendment should have
indicated to the writers that the re-
strictions of Section I do not apply to
the Federal government. Again they
speak of Taney's holding up the
Dred Scott decision until "after the
inauguration of James Polk, newly
elected Democratic president, in
March 1857." (p.57).
But such errors will not trouble
the general reader to whom the au-
thors have addressed themselves. He
will be movedto rage or amusement
at the breezy informal treatmenta
given this last refuge of American
political sanctity, the "Nine Old
Men." The authors have no awe be-
fore these "Lord High Executioners."
To them the Justices are nine indi-
viduals whose present status makes
their past life of great news value.
And so we are presented with details,
sordid, amhusing, tragic, and pitiful,
out oftheulives of the members of
the Court until the reader may wellI
wonder if the real value of such a
book is stressing the part personality
plays in Court decvisions is not likely
to be obscured by some of its more
platant irrelevant invasions of pri-
vacy. Thus we learn that Justice
Butler's brother had an illegitimate
daughter who practically blackmailed
the Justice into buying her off; that
Justice Cardozo's father had been a
member of the Tweed Ring; that
Hughes disregarded his son's career
in order to accept the Chief Justice-
ship.
But we are also told, and this is
not irrelevant, that Justice Roberts
wrote the Court opinion giving an
increase in rates to an affiliate of
the' Bell Telephone Company on
whose Board of Directors he once
had sat; that VanDevanter "once

held that two railroads running par-
allel for two thousand miles were not
competing lines, one of them being
the Union Pacific," that is, his former
client. Pierce Butler's activity as a
corporation lawyer is justifiably if in-
adequately described; Sutherland's
complete lack of understanding of so-
cial progress, however, deserves more

Little Saint
Dragon W

Goge

Wallops

COLERIDGE:

Disarms Literary Criticism By
Confessed Humility

Tith

LET ME LIVE, by Angelo Herndon.
Random House. $2.50.
WE PICKED up Angelo Herndon's
autobiography with high hopes.
Some day, some young communist
will write a really balanced account
of himself, and when that happens
he will provide the best reading of
the year, whatever the year may be.
And Herndon obviously is intelligent,
not perhaps a really strong charac-
ter, but a capable young man and
shrewd.
The high hopes fell with a bang.
The book is good reading, and is
than the cursory mention given it in
this book. But we are reminded that
he said in his opinion on the Min-
imum Wage Case of 1923 that it
was "an extraneous circumstance"
that "an employee needs to get a
prescribed sum of money to insure
her subsistence, health and morals."
The authors have not been inhib-
ited by any sense of the sacredness of
the Court in their description of the
members. To them the justices are
"nine black beetles in the Temple of
Karnak." The hesitant, now liberal,
now conservative Hughes is "the man
on the flying trapeze;" McReynolds,
"whom even his conservative friends
in the Court cannot bear," is labelled
"Scrooge." Whether this brashness
contributes to the aim of the book
may be left to the reader's judgment,
It is difficult to evaluate a book of
this sort. Much of the material is
gossip at second or third hand, and
is written close to the thin edge of
libel. It may also be wondered whe-
ther even a well-meant ridicule of
the Judges will in the long run ac-
complish any worthwhile end. It
might possibly help to effect a change
in the Court personnel. But as long
as the basic fact of judicial review
of political power exists in this coun-
try, nine wise men are as antithet-
ical to the democratic idea as nine
foolish, or nine vicious, or nine old
men. From this point of view the
liberals and radicals may well look
cynically uipon President Roosevelt's
typically middle-of-the-road proposal
for Supreme Court reform. If it is
enacted by Congress, we may confi-
dently await the publication at a
future date of some enterprising
young journalist's volume on "Fifteen
Old Men." Meanwhile we might profit
by this glimpse into the lives of the
present personnel of the of the court,
Americus.
BOO(
IHere areaofew of the n

LETTERS OF HARTLEY COLE-t
RIDGE. Edited by Grace Evelyn ters were worthy of publication, not qu
--- Griggs and Earl Leslie Griggs. only for their informative value, but gr
London and New York: Oxford as delightful specimens of the art In
written somewhat better than one University Press. 1936. $5.00. of letter writing. The volume of H
might expect, although one cannot ( these now published has been before
but feel thatgHerndon did not do ( By PROF. LOUIS I. BREDVOLD the public in England for three tili
al (Ote itin t (of the English Department) months, and has been extensively
It was with Hartley Coleridge that reviewed. The concensus of opinion dis
It is all here, the hackneyed for- Professor Griggs began his studies is that Mr. and Mrs. Griggs have ce
mula. Herndon presents himself as of the Coleridges, and he published here added a figure to the group of ou
the hero, the little St. George wal- in 1929 the first authoritative biogra- major letter writers in English, and in
loping the dragon, the tortured de- phy of Hartley. At that time he that Hartley Coleridge may be placed lik
fender of a tortured race and creed. made use of unpublished letters, as just a little below Charles Lamb. ps
Allied against him are not human well as of other manuscript mater- Hartley shared certain personal ha
beings at all-hardly ever does he ials, and determined that these let- _
grant the opposition even normal hu-
man attributes, and he never allows beauty. The story of his father's
them sincerity. Herndon fights beasts. death is affecting in the extreme. His
His oppressors always are contemptu- suffering in the mines, and his effort
ous, often ravening. They never offer to find a footing in Alabama have
him help, these white people, but poignancy. Then Angelo, at 16, be-
always the point of a dagger. The comes a communist and that horrid
negroes who do not hold with Hern- blight of the movement descends
don and the communist ideology upon him. Humor departs. He fails
are all stupid or the tools of the op- to see that his single-mindedness is
pressors. The world is organized only just as ridiculous as that of the foot-
one way-those who believe with washing negro Baptists he most prob- it'sD iffe
Herndon vs. those who hold against ably holds in contempt.
him. Herndon was jailed, perhaps un-
This department cannot give a justly, under an old Georgia statute
hoot about all that. It is only con- intended to keep down slave insur-
cerned with the effect of such mon- rections. He has taken his case to
key-business on the book itself, as a the Supreme Court. The other day
book. When the book began, show- he saw the President. He is uniquely
ing little Angelo barefoot in an Ohio in a position to write an informed
mining town, poor and hungry some- and balanced account of himself.
times, there were moments of great And his book is not that.
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__I I L.PF

alities of Lamb, and of that other
eat letter writer, William Cowper.
the language of practical life,
artley was a weakling and a fu-
.ty. But his failure in life taught
m one of the highest and most en-
ging of virtues, humility, and he
arms criticism by his honest and
nfessed helplessness. He has other
alities, also, more than can be
dicated in a brief review. His case,
e his father's offers interest to the
ychiatrist and the physician, per-
ps to the religious adviser; but

CLIPPER SHIP
A customer wanted to know how
soon a copy of the Columbia En-
cyclopedia could be got to Manila.
The air-minded salesman didn't
hesitate; he merely looked up the
rates on the Clipper Planes and re-
ported that a copy could be rushed
from New York to Manila by air-mail
for $240, plus, of course, $17.50 for
the book shelf. The day awaits
when the Clipper will fly a set of 12,
at a total cost of $1,680.
this volume of letters, which is edited
with both sympathy and judgment,
will be most enjoyed by the old-
fashioned lover of literature and
humanity.,

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