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In a recent radio address in the current Alumni Bulletin, and from which excerpts are reprinted on the opposite page, Mr. Charles C. Burlingham, former President of the Harvard Alumni Association, has taken issue with another great Harvard graduate on the matter of the Supreme Court change. Perhaps it is repetitious and futile to continue arguing a subject on which most people have already made up their minds, but when a liberal leader of the bar, who has fought for the cause of good government in a Tammany-ridden New York for over a generation, speaks out against the reorganization proposal, his comments can hardly go unnoticed.
What particularly impresses one on reading the Burlingham speech is not just the fact that here is a liberal Democratic lawyer standing in the way of a liberal Democratic president on the issue of whether the Supreme Court should be compelled at the point of a gun to conform to the liberal doctrines of the current majority in power. For the country seems pretty well agreed at the moment that the tribunal could shift a long way to she left and still sit on the right of the Administration's political philosophy. Rather what takes one's eye is the insistence that packing the Supreme Court will undermine the country's confidence in the new interpretations which will be handed down from time to time by the enlarged Court, and also in the new judges that aid in making those decisions. For "the appointment of a body of judges chosen for a specific purpose will not only lessen the confidence of the people in the Court, but will inevitably result in putting a stigma on these new judges themselves and make them objects of contempt, however conscientious or independent they may prove to be. They would be King's men". A sombre warning for any one with ambitions to sit on the new bench!
Another phase of Mr. Burlingham's attack on the proposal appears in the scorn which he heaps on the "docile Attorney General", a man who a few years back was able to write in defense of maintaining an independent judiciary, but who, after losing a few cases before that august body, grew tired of it all and decided that doing away with it was the easiest way out. But somehow to change color like a chameleon is not unusual in public life today. Senator Harrison, for instance, can be counted on for a new tax measure shortly after he predicts that no new taxes will be needed. Governor Eccles will go out and create huge bank deposits and excess reserves and then have the temerity to issue a statement denying that monetary influences have anything to do with the present tendency toward rising prices. President Roosevelt himself can be confidently expected not to balance the budget when he says he will. Indeed one of the few men in public life who knows what he's talking about is General Farley.
And General Farley has given the Senate, out of the kindness of his patronizing heart, the privilege of talking as long as it wants, but when the votes are mustered the reorganization will go through. It is impossible to contest the judgment of so clairvoyant a political prophet. The reorganization probably will go through. But meanwhile it is significant that there are liberals left like Mr. Burlingham who are willing to get up and contest the proposal to do away with the independent judiciary, a proposal which after all is the most reactionary idea that has yet sprung from the fertile imagination of the President of the United States.
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