Description

    Felix Frankfurter Archive of Correspondence to Arthur D. Hill, containing twenty letters dated between the early 1920s and 1941. Frankfurter met Hill while teaching at Harvard Law School, and the older Hill became a mentor; they remained close friends throughout their lives. The majority of the letters are written between 1920 and 1930, with many of those written on "Law School of Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass." letterhead. Eight letters, written between 1939 and 1941, are on "Supreme Court of the United States" letterhead. Frankfurter's letters reflect their common interests and preoccupations and cover such topics as the rise of Hitler, American involvement in the War, his thoughts on the practice of law and his admiration for Supreme Court Justices Holmes and Brandeis. In addition to Frankfurter's letters, this archive also includes five letters by his wife Marion, his mother Emma Frankfurter, a letter from Ellen Frankfurter, and an incomplete letter in an unknown hand which is annotated by Frankfurter.

    Felix Frankfurter (1881-1965) served as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1939 through 1962. After a short time practicing law, he followed his friend Henry Stimson to Washington to serve in the Taft administration. In 1913, he became a professor of law at Harvard Law School. During the course of his teaching career, he became involved in Zionism - the urging of Justice Brandeis - and helped found the A.C.L.U. As a reformer, he was an unofficial adviser to President Roosevelt about his New Deal. After Justice Benjamin Cardoza died in 1938, the president nominated Frankfurter to fill the vacancy.

    Reflected throughout the letters are their interests in contemporary politics and European events: "I still bet on my British and your French. As a matter of fact, the two days' debate in the House of Commons gives one new confidence in democracy and makes one realize what the new barbarism is challenging [May 9, 1940]." Since both were highly interested in Europe, Hitler's "new barbarism" is addressed throughout Frankfurters correspondence: "The Germans don't want war; they merely want the fruit of victory." In an undated later, ca. 1940, Frankfurter acknowledges, "Your comments on France - Your recognition that there was always an evil 'group of the extreme right', who nearly ruined France in the Dreyfus Affaire. . . . Its all very sad - but put France ... will be rehabilitated when Hitler is done in by the British... and as it now looks also by the Rooshians. I now bet on Russian morale... Churchill said that he is not much of a religious man but he truly believes that a special kind of providence must have placed so good & true a man & peculiarly fitted for these times, at the head of the American nation (No - I did not hear this from any connected with the White House)..."

    Frankfurter had earlier become close friends with both Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Justice Louis Brandeis. His unlikely friendship with Holmes (Holmes was seventy-one at the time) sparked an active correspondence between the two which lasted from 1912 through 1932, when Holmes was no longer able to write. Holmes had a great influence on the young reformer, who peppers these letters to Hill with references to the eminent justice: "Why do you talk such talk to the young? Remember Holmes' resolve, 'I shall never lie to the young' [September 23, 1940]." Earlier - likely 1921 - a joyful Frankfurter writes, "Holmes wrote Brandeis that he expects to take his seat again in October. Isn't that wonderful if it should turn out to be true. No one has ever made death seem more ruthless and incredible than the possibility of Holmes ceasing to be a member of the Court."

    All of the letters are in very good to near fine condition, although several have clean tears (no paper loss) at top.


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    February, 2010
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