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Justice Holmes and His Hecklers, 60 YALE L.J. 620 (1951)


Westbrook Pegler, the only man who ever made a living out of the sort of stuff that small boys scrawl on back walls and fences, has recently turned his dirty-name attack against Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Holmes, of course, has been dead these sixteen years and so Pegler, with his customary gallantry and courage, feels free to spit at the Justice's memory some of the choicer epithets in his vocabulary of vulgar invective. As Pegler puts it, Holmes was a "cynical and senile brutalitarian"; he was "the God of an evil cult"; he was "a brutal old faker"; and he "had no more morals than a pig."

The owner of these lovable traits was responsible, according to the limpid Peglerian logic of guilt-by-association run backwards, for the subsequent sins of Alger Hiss, Lee Pressman, and scores of unnamed others who made up the "maze of perfidy which developed in the bureaucracy soon after Roosevelt came to power"—all this by direct pipe-line, through the Harvard Law Review and Felix Frankfurter, straight back to the arch-villain, Holmes. (Does Westbrook, I wonder, lie awake nights wishing Franklin Roosevelt had gone to Harvard Law School instead of Columbia?)

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