Adam, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Oliver Wendell discussed on John Batchelor
Is the associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes because he will write the majority decision to one that permits. The Virginia courts to go ahead and sterilize someone who is not a moron who is not an embassy was not epilepsy. And is not feeble mind in any event homes as background is important. He shot three times in the civil war. Three times could have been dead the famous one he was wounded in the neck. That's when his father all of Wendell senior found him searching for the captain. But he's shot the third time in the foot and he gets home to Boston MRs Gettysburg most of the other officers in twentieth. Massachusetts are wounded or killed at Gettysburg. And there's the suggestion Adam in your presentation of him that he turns dark was he that weighs younger person. Something about being shot. I'm I'm told can affect your way of looking at the world. Just does he write about he doesn't write about so much? People did observe this. It was being shot. But also just imagine the things he saw in the civil war. Some of his closest friends were serving with him friends from Harvard. They all joined the same regiment, and he saw some of his best friends die in battled a very young age. So I think it did hardened him and make him very cynical about the world a rights. This is eighteen seventy two I am so far normal that I am glad I have no child. There's tragedy in a window home Oliver Wendell Holmes too because he has what you what you hint ad is a poor relationship with his father. He marries a woman who is sensitive sensitive to slights and to society he comes from or he believes himself to be of Brahmin. What does that mean to actually his father over window home senior who was the dean of Harvard Medical School and a great writer of the age coined this phrase, Boston Brahmin, and what they were alluding to was really the Hindu idea that there was a high caste was really above? All the other people and the Boston old families thought that they were that they were the old superior families. They believe that they had their wealth and their position in society 'cause I was sort of the right way for the world to be. So he was raised in that tradition. The Oliver's the windows and the homes were all old Boston Brahmin families and with that training when he encounters eugenics for the first time, it makes sense to him. He believes that people really are better than other people. He also has a sense of the law that I learned from you included deferring to the legislature in other words, the state, maybe not always right? But it's mostly right right today. We would say that he was believe judicial restraint, but back then the idea was he really thought that you know, we lived in a in a in a in a dangerous and jungle like world, maybe that was you. He picked up in part from the civil wars we mentioned, but he sort of thought let the world work itself out. He didn't believe that judges were supposed to jump in and solve all the world's problems. The Carrie buck case buck v bell arrives in the court. And they take it up in nineteen twenty seven think the oil arguments were able twenty second nineteen twenty seven Adams reporting is exacting, and we need to meet the the rest of the court because the decision will be eight to one the chief Justice since twenty one is the former president William Howard Taft who is a conservative or progressive. How is he viewed at this point he sort of pro business Republican and he had a little bit of involvement with eugenics before he got to the court Brandeis Justice Brandeis, whom I knew as a liberal. But you make me doubt. He's reported by Wilson in nineteen sixteen. What at this point nineteen twenty seven Brandeis goes along with Kerry with sterilization of Carrie duct. Does he write about it? He doesn't he was a great progressive. And he was a trust BUSTER. And he was known as the people's attorney before he got to the court, but on this issue. He was certainly not a champion of the little person. He did not vote to protect Kerry book Harlan Fiske stone another. A person who can be much admired reaching back to the early. Parts of the twentieth century, the Lochner case and all the Adam is very good to present all these cases. And I write them all down. So I can use them in common parlance, apparently law schools law schools, teach you all this that I didn't have an opportunity but Harlan stone appointed by Coolidge, regarded as benighted, and he goes along with James Clark mcreynolds what a villain does every court have a villain like him at him. No, he's really an extreme in just his sheer bigotry and Misanthrope. He he was quite a guy appointed by Wilson. Another revelation of the Wilson administration, George he's a Mormon from Utah appointed by Harding. He goes along with it. That's the prized. Yeah. But you know, we really need to put question marks next all these people because we wonder as you rent read, their names and talk weather biographies. We wonder what they were thinking. But sadly, they didn't write independent opinions. They didn't really talk about it much. So you do wonder what was a man likes other ones and divan tur- venture were too. The four horsemen that would block FDR. There's something about the time machine and Adams book and go back and forth with the court Edward Sanford. He goes along with it appointed by Harding. And the one dissenting voice. The Catholic seat you call a Pierce Butler from Minnesota did he write about it? He didn't he didn't. He didn't write a dissenting opinion. He never really explained his vote. But I think it really is significant because you know, this is a story with very few heroes. But one group that was fairly heroin throughout the entire eugenic era was the Catholic church, and when sterilization laws were introduced in legislatures around the country, the one group you would reliably show up to oppose them. We're Catholics nuns, priests Catholic lay people and the church was skeptical of eugenics sterilization, and we do think that Butler was probably motivated in part by his church's opposition to eugenics detail in the background surrounding. All this time is that you jenex was in magazines. Everywhere was being discussed everywhere, you have that wonderful detail that of FitzGerald wrote a ditty for the triangle club, which is the senior play at Princeton, eugenics lover, your genetics. Eugenics our love. He did he wrote a little ditty for his right? Princeton undergraduate musical theater, and then you read cosmopolitan magazine telling its readers about how great eugenics is going to be for the country. So it really was ingrained deeply in our culture. But it's creepy now. So let's use the language did the court when they went into conference they hear the oral arguments. Did they debate germplasm what was Djerma plaza? Yet germplasm was the thinking of the scientific Vicky of the time of how these terrible traits. Terrible in quotation marks were passed on. We don't know exactly what they talked about in conference. But we we do have a sense that certainly Alva window homes who had written favorably about eugenics before the buck. Fers Adele case comes along. He's the one who gets the the the the the. Simon Taff gives him a warning. What is it? Yeah. He does say that you know, to be to be careful because not all the justices are on his side. And he gives him some advice about things to emphasize, including the three generations aspect. So Taft is trying to get as close to full unanimous opinion as he can get. Now, we come to the five paragraph majority opinion written by Oliver Wendell, Holmes worl-, civil war hero Brahmin of Boston, which Adam calls, the highest injustice, personal per word of any of any opinion ever from the supreme court at the time. However, how was it regarded was it celebrated was it ignored knows largely celebrated. The the it got some presidential. The Catholic press was was very much opposed to it. And there were some scattered articles editorials opposing it. But by and large, this was a eugenic time and most of the media re-, regarded this as an acceptable. I come to a few quotes that Adam gives me from the decision. This is Oliver Wendell home. Junior riding in nineteen twenty seven experience the shown that heredity plays an important part in the transmission of insanity imbecilities, he had no science for that. He also writes to prevent are being swamped with incompetence are are who's this are who's he talking about. He this is an opinion that does not only decide carry bucks fate and the feet of his Virginia law Alvin homes takes the opportunity to address the entire nation and say, we as a nation need more of the sterilization, and then this line, and this one I take it you all learn law school three generations of imbeciles enough. Yes. That does come up a lot. And it's it's it's wrong on so many levels. But let me just flag one, which is that everything else carry in her mother were judged by the colony I mentioned that hierarchy to be morons not imbeciles imbeciles, one grade, low also Vivian the baby and Vivian and also that they said that this baby that there's nothing wrong with was was feeble minded wasn't. Imbecile, but none of them were imbeciles, and they weren't morons either. But he degraded them even down from moron. Imbecile homes calls upon the best citizens for their for their lives. It's exhausting and the danger. We know because we live in a time machine. The danger is how this will be perverted in the hands of the mass murderers of Europe, that's the danger. Yes. And fact, the Nazis were watching very closely the Nazis modeled, there eugenic sterilization law on the American laws, which came before Nazi Germany Himmler, the chicken farmer, which is surprising collision with the breeders association of Laughlin. Adam this is creepy for an amateur like me to read this. Well, and the first major eugenic organization, the United States was the American breeders association. Yes, it was a close tie actually between people who bred animals and people thought we need to start breeding people and the court passes this decision down and. It's done and afterwards. The various justices are question and home says it gave me pleasure. What's he talking? Yeah. Homes with someone who did not really have a lot of pleasure in his life. He didn't really like to go to parties. He didn't really get a lot of joy from his work. But he did write in the letter that this decision gave him pleasure. He really believe in eugenics. He thought he was doing something very good here. And you write that in the New York Times it was on page nineteen. So they weren't all sitting around waiting for this decision. This wasn't a this wasn't the Affordable Care Act decision of a few years pan, right banner. Headline actually took the time to look at some of the things that were on the front page that day and things like, you know, the the destruction of two hundred year old tree in New Haven. So there were a lot of things they considered much more minutes. I'm speaking with Adam Cohen, he is the author of the new book imbeciles, the supreme court American eugenics and sterilization of Carrie buck. The court has spoken eight to one carry Bach will be. Sterilized by the state of Virginia. And there is nothing. She can do to stop it. I'm John Batchelor. This is.