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FDR and Chief Justice Hughes: The President, the Supreme Court, and the Epic Battle Over the New Deal Hardcover – February 7, 2012
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“Franklin Roosevelt once called Charles Evans Hughes the finest politician in the United States. In this marvelously written, meticulously researched study, James F. Simon demonstrates why that was so. He also shows that except for their brief confrontation in 1937, in which Hughes prevailed, these two former governors of New York shared a deep affection for one another. Together they led the United States into the modern era.”
—Jean Edward Smith, author of FDR and John Marshall: Definer of a Nation
“The story of this relationship, as historically significant as any between a President and Chief Justice, is brilliantly unfurled by James Simon. Fresh, often moving, and hugely readable, it's a textbook case of statesmanship - and politics - at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue."
—Richard N. Smith, author of The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., on Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney:
“James F. Simon has written an exciting and notable book where Abraham Lincoln and Roger B. Taney, the president and the chief justice, two men of the highest intelligence and passionate judgment, argued the future of this democratic republic.”
Joseph J. Ellis, The New York Times Book Review on What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall:
“A study of the political and legal struggle between these icons of American history….A major contribution….A model of the narrative history written by someone who knows the law.”
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Top Customer Reviews
Most other studies of court packing (and I have reviewed a number on Amazon) focus on Congressional developments and FDR's maneuvering. One of the great virtues of this book is that focuses extensively on Chief Justice Hughes as the key opponent of the plan, not Congress. It is generally recognized that a letter drafted by Hughes (with help from Justices Brandeis and Van Devanter) sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, powerfully refuting FDR's claim that the Court was behind in its work and needed more Justices, really was crucial in defeating the proposal. The author is correct to make this episode the centerpiece of the book, and to examine it in depth. Hence the juxtaposition of FDR v. Hughes. This approach has both strengths and limitations.
Its principal benefit is that it introduces this remarkable Chief Justice to newer generations who might never even have heard of him before. The last major biography of Hughes I recall appeared in 1952, shortly after his death in 1948.Read more ›
Simon tries to do too much with his book. Whereas Supreme Power focused on FDR's struggle with the Supreme Court and Scorpions dealt with the justices that FDR appointed to the Supreme Court, Simon essentially tries to combine Supreme Power, a brief biography of FDR and a brief biography of Chief Justice Hughes. Because he splits the narrative between Hughes and FDR, he is unable to give adequate attention to both. It is very choppy in its narrative (although more substantive discussion can be found in those other books).
The book implies that it will focus on the Supreme Court battle (similar to Supreme Power) and the relationship between the Chief Justice and the President. However, the author's attempt at comprehensiveness results in a dreadfully slow narrative that undermines the book's title. Chief Justice Hughes isn't even confirmed until p. 180. Then it's another 33 pages before FDR is even nominated and 7 more after that before he is elected president. FDR doesn't get sworn in as the President until p. 232 and FDR and the Court don't butt heads until Justice Roberts strikes down the Railroad Retirement Act of 1933 on p. 257 and the NRA on p. 262. And it's not until p. 308 that Roosevelt's court packing plans are described in any real detail. It takes the author more than 3/4 of his book to get to the point. The "Epic Battle Over the New Deal" that the book jacket advertises takes up only the last 3 chapters.Read more ›
Simon starts with sketch biographies of Hughes and FDR and begins interweaving their stories as they both enter public life. He then turns his attention to the big battles between the Court and the president, with particular focus on each man.
Hughes served as governor of New York, Associate Justice on the Supreme Court, Secretary of State, judge on the International Court of Justice, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was also the Republican nominee for president in 1916. The son of a Welsh immigrant, Hughes went on to graduate in the top of his class from Columbia Law, briefly teach law at Cornell, and become one of NY's leading lawyers. He made his reputation largely on the strength of his performance as counsel for two state senate investigative committees. FDR's bio is likely familiar to most readers. What most struck me is how poorly FDR compared to Hughes. Hughes came from modest circumstances, excelled as a student, built a successful professional career with talent and hard work, and added integrity and a zeal for reform to make his political career. FDR was a member of one of NYC's leading old-money families, had a distant cousin in the Whitehouse, and rose through the New York political world primarily by affability and canny political skills.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very interesting and easy to read. I found the information fascinating. I learned a great deal. Highly recommend itPublished 18 months ago by Jim Mullen
I was raised in a neighborhood who thought FDR was a Saint- this book brings out the more human side and exposes his political side as not being altruisticPublished 21 months ago by Joel
Teriffic book for the analysis of the two men and the way their lives came together at a crucial point. Also, good explanation of what drove Roosevelt to try to add to the Court. Read morePublished on February 1, 2013 by Stan Kravit
This is simply a wonderful read for anyone with any interest in the New Deal, or the war waged over the legal principles underpinning the massive legislative changes wrought by the... Read morePublished on December 23, 2012 by Reckless Reader
James Simon, Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus at New York Law School, has written about constitutional confrontations between presidents and chief justices, including Jackson... Read morePublished on July 19, 2012 by Robin Friedman
This book took me quite sometime too read, but I did enjoy the book. I do not want to make any political statement but if people think the nonsense we have going on today in... Read morePublished on June 14, 2012 by H. F. Miglino
Most people, other than history buffs, have probably never heard of Charles Evans Hughes. After reading this book, you will know how important he was in US History, and have an... Read morePublished on May 4, 2012 by Howard J. Sussman