Felix Frankfurter’s remarkable rise and his enduring legacy in American law and politics.
Felix Frankfurter’s tenure on the Supreme Court from 1939 to 1962 coincided with the Court’s willful expansion of its powers and its full-throated rejection of the Constitution’s language and logic. His uneasy relationship with this jurisprudential progressivism, as well as his outsized role in creating the nation’s modern “liberal establishment,” are the subjects of a new book by Georgetown law professor Brad Snyder. Snyder offers a carefully researched and richly detailed account of Frankfurter’s remarkable rise in his adopted country and his enduring legacy in its law and politics.
Frankfurter arrived in America on Ellis Island as a 12-year-old German-speaking Austrian Jew who knew not a word of English. He nevertheless managed, in less than 20 years, to go from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to Harvard Law School, and then to the political salons of Washington. From there it was back to Harvard, where he became a law school professor and friend to generations of America’s progressive elites and an intimate advisor to presidents. His students included Dean Acheson, Alger Hiss, and many others who would shape American domestic and foreign policy at the highest levels, from the New Deal through the Great Society and beyond. He was a friend or acquaintance of almost every president from Theodore Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson. In his early midlife, he turned
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