Owen J. Roberts

Owen Roberts S. C. Justice regarding his early predecessor Roger Taney

1p bifold TLS on watermarked paper with "Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, DC" letterhead, signed by then Supreme Court Associate Justice Owen Roberts (1875-1955) as "Owen Roberts" at bottom right. In near fine condition with expected paper folds and overall light toning. Remaining three pages are blank. Page measures 5.875" x 7.75".

Owen Roberts wrote this TLS on November 22, 1935 from Washington, DC, thanking Harold Roland Shapiro for sending him a book review of Carl Brent Swisher's biography of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney (1777-1864). Swisher, a Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, urged historians to reconsider Taney's Supreme Court legacy. Rather than view Taney as a Jacksonian puppet whose rulings on slavery (notably the Dred Scott case and the Missouri Compromise reversal) plunged the nation into Civil War, Swisher advocated for a more objective assessment.

Roberts was "interested in Taney's life and ha[d] read both of the previous biographies". Yet perhaps Roberts was interested in Taney for a more personal reason. Washington University academic Harry Willmer Jones, who also wrote a book review of Swisher's biography, thought the biography was timely, as he saw a parallel between Taney's era and the 1930s. During both time periods, the Supreme Court was perceived as being too big and powerful for its own good. Would Associate Justice Roberts sympathize with Chief Justice Taney?

Harold Roland Shapiro (active 1930-1970) was admitted to the New York bar in 1927. Shapiro served for many years as a New York City Assistant District Attorney dealing mainly with criminal cases. He was also a writer. His What Every Young Man Should Know About War (1937) shocked many with its gruesome descriptions of modern warfare. Shapiro's scholarly interests were diverse: he also published monographs on topics ranging from labor law to Lincoln biography. Shapiro also contributed to the New York Times.

Owen Roberts was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by 32nd U.S. President Herbert Hoover. Roberts served on the bench from 1930 until retirement in 1945. He was often seen as a swing voter, firmly wedged between the left-leaning “Three Musketeers” Harlan Fiske Stone, Benjamin Cardozo, and Louis Brandeis, and the “Four Horsemen”, as conservative justices George Sutherland, Willis Van Devanter, James Clark McReynolds, and Pierce Butler were called.



Item: 63524

Price: $400.00
Owen J. RobertsOwen J. Roberts
Owen J. Roberts
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