University Archives


Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo, Scarce ALS During His Term Under FDR

Two page ALS scripted on personal letterhead of "BNC", 5" x 6.5". Signed and dated by Benjamin Cardozo "Sept 8, 1937", and signed by him as "Benjamin N. Cardozo". Paper lightly toned, with faded handling marks. Expected folds and trivial creasing.

Cardozo, as the second Jew appointed to the Supreme Court,  is remembered for his significant influence on the development of American common law in the 20th century, in addition to his philosophy and vivid prose style. He served on the bench for six years, supporting much of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal initiatives, including Social Security programs, and helping shape the direction of criminal law.  Cardozo was also considered a member of the Three Musketeers along with Brandeis and Stone, which were considered to be the liberal faction of the Supreme Court. His letter was penned to Harold Roland Shapiro (active 1930-1970), who was admitted to the New York bar in 1927. Shapiro served for many years as an Assistant District Attorney dealing with mainly criminal cases. Shapiro's scholarly interests were diverse: he published monographs on topics ranging from labor law to twentieth-century warfare. Shapiro also contributed to the "New York Times" and wrote book reviews.

Cardozo's lovely letter is shown below, which most likely referred to Shapiro's recently published book, "What Every Young Man Should Know About War," published in 1937. His book was written as a strong plea for staying out of war. Question and answer, topically arranged, with source material from medical annals, war time records, recent experiences.  Covers such things as enlistment, requirements, effect and cost on the country, results in human toll. His wrote of the war from a raw state -- deliberately so. A book for list of anti-war propaganda for the young:

"White Plains

Sept 8, 1937

Dear Harold Shapiro,

Thanks for your thought of me-

 I have no doubt that the book will be interesting. It has not reached me yet, but will be awaiting me on my return to Washington, if it is not forwarded to me here. Your …..

I have had a good summer and have been both indolent and idle.

With cordial greetings to Mrs. Shapiro and to you.

I am faithfully yours,

Benjamin N. Cardozo'

In late 1937, Cardozo had suffered a heart attack and within a half year had died. This response to Shapiro was most likely during that period of his life due to his note of being "indolent and idle."

A fantastic example of this important member of the Supreme Court.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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