Edward B. Burling’s Life-Long Friendship with Learned Hand

This series about the life of Edward B. (“Ned”) Burling commenced with a post about his connections with Katherine Graham, the owner and publisher of the Washington Post, and then retreated in time to a post about his birth and early years in Iowa, 1870-1890, followed by a post about his four years at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1890-1894, another post about his 22 years as a Chicago attorney, 1895-1917, a post about his two years as a federal government attorney in Washington, D.C., 1917-1918 and another about his 48 years as a prominent private attorney in Washington D.C., 1919-1966.[1]

Friendship with Learned Hand

Learned Hand

Burling and Learned Hand met for the first time in their first year at Harvard Law School in 1891 and thereafter developed a life-long friendship while Hand was an eminent federal judge. [2] Burling once said, Hand was “much more intelligent [than other people and] appreciates me and understands me. [He is] … the only worthy recipient of my most intimate confessions.” These confessions included the following:

  • “One of my present theories is that it doesn’t pay to be good.”
  • “I know [in 1925] I do not want to practice law. I know I do not want to be a judge. I know I want to have pleasant, amiable, witty, gay people around me. I know I am tired of politics . . . . I want poetry, love, wine, interesting books, wide, comfortable bed with fresh bed clothing, looking out into gardens with bloomi ng trees . . . . I want to be moderately rich and have nice food and a smooth running automobile. . . . Somehow I feel I am going to get what I want.”
  • In 1959, Burling lamented that he was “afflicted with what you call  ‘frivolousness’ ” and that “this human pilgrimage seems to me really more awful, more terrifying and more pathetic than it does to most other people. I cannot bear to admit how terrible it really is. Therefore, I act in a rather silly fashion. I do the inappropriate thing. I offend the earnest, godfearing company. What I am apt to say sounds in bad taste.”

In 1925, Burling and Hand exchanged comments about the good life that were prompted by questions from a young man who was thinking about applying for a Rhodes Scholarship. Burling, advising the young man not to apply and instead to go into business, said that he believed four things were good: (1) “Freedom from compulsion by others, whether economic, social or political.” (2) “An active mind that keeps being interested in the changing panorama and its own operation.” (3) “Direct contact with nature.” (4) “The society of the few people of whom you are really fond.” This list, Burling added, did not include “success, power, achievement, position, least of all ‘service to humanity.'”  Hand disagreed, saying that the man should apply for the Scholarship and that “the life of the mind offers the most permanent and lasting satisfactions.”

Burling also shared with Hand observations about the political events of the day, including the following:

  • After the end of World War I Burling criticized the League of Nations as proposed by President Woodrow Wilson because it was not like the league Teddy Roosevelt had proposed, i.e., it was “not an association between nations freely entered into for the purpose of preserving boundaries established by tradition and usage”and instead was “an alliance for the purpose of perpetuating a military ascendancy over defeated nations.”
  • After the 1928 Republican Party convention, Burling said, “Never was a man of God [Herbert Hoover] more ably assisted by gentlemen who are not unknown in more worldly haunts.” Hoover “will smother Al. Smith–He is an extraordinary phenomenon. He will dominate American affairs for 8 years and after that will be the arbiter. . . . [You] will also see Hoover playing the game very successfully. . . . It will be the most powerful administration in the memory of man–and he will be a good party man. He will run the party. A man of God who is practical–you cant [sic] beat that combination.” (Emphasis added.) Apparently Burling had forgotten his inability to get along with Hoover at the U.S. food Administration in 1917. Ned also did not anticipate the Great Depression and FDR.
  • Soon after the start of what became World War II, Ned observed that “the thing for old men to do is to be as gay as we can be and just recognize that all things are subject to change. . . . There is something in us that craves permanence, finality; and yet we should be able to see that it is and always has been an idle dream. I am not in the least an optimist. . . . I think it is quite possible that for centuries the world will get worse, and that the world will be ruled by murder, treachery, brute force, but if that is the kind of animal man is, the thing to do is to recognize it and made such adjustments to it as are necessary. We always knew that in the past civilization had fallen before inroads of vigorous barbarians. What we did not foresee was that barbarians may organize in our very midst. But if that is what it is, we must deal with it as it is. . . .” Burling continued, “Although . . . society may proceed downward for centuries, I am rather inclined to think that will not be true. I rather think that this is like the eruption of a violent disease, and that the disease will subside. I think there must be many many people in the world who would like to surpress the armed murderer [Hitler?], and I believe that sometime they will be able to assert their power and that there will be an armed force controlled in the interest of a peaceful world that will keep the law breakers down.”
  • In the Spring of 1950 while touring Europe, Ned thought it not apparent “why the U.S.A. is first power in the world. Europe as a whole seems to me to have a sturdier population with more dependable qualities, the soil is fertile and it has all the natural resources. In the long run it may be that Europe will maintain its primacy.”
  • In the summer of 1952 Ned reacted to the presidential nominations of Adlai Stevenson and Dwight D. (“Ike”) Eisenhower. Stevenson, he believed, “will be hard to beat. His two speeches before the [Democratic] Convention were different from most political addresses. In the contest with Ike, he is going to be on his own ground. Ike is a novice. But in any case we are fortunate in having two such candidates.”
  • Ike and Nixon, of course, won the 1952 election, and four years later, Ned reflected on a re-run of the 1952 election.  He was most pleased by “the way Truman fell on his face [at the Democratic Convention]. He seemed to me like a bouncy monkey on a stick” or “a very cheap little ward politician.” Ned added, “The charm that Eisenhower’s personality exerts is an extraordinary phenomenon. But the Republican Party is relying too much on that. . . . After all, since 1952 the Democrats have been winning about every election–local and national. And [Adlai] Stevenson is a much abler campaigner that he was four years ago. And many, many people will not vote Republican because of Nixon.”
  • During the 1964 presidential campaign, Ned supported Lyndon Johnson, the Democrat, against Barry Goldwater, the Republican. At a White House dinner, Burling told Johnson that as the sole survivor of the Bull Moose Party, Burling could assure Johnson that he had the unanimous support of that Party.
  • Just after the inauguration of Lyndon Johnson as President in January 1965, one of Burling’s friends reported that at the annual dinner of one of their clubs, Richard Nixon had given a very witty “acceptance” speech for their satirical nomination of him for President. Nixon described himself as “the most over-nominated and under-elected man in history.” Nixon continued by saying that  he was opposed to the impeachment of Chief Justice Earl Warren because at 73 the justice was an old man and instead should be retired by setting age 72 as a mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court Justices and that “Bobby Kennedy was engaged in the process of becoming the father of his country.”

Conclusion

The above tidbits were discovered in my rummaging through Judge Learned Hand’s file of correspondence with Ned that was part of the Hand Papers at the Harvard Law School Library. When I finished reading the file, I was disappointed that most of the letters discussed what seemed like trivial matters and did not engage in intelligent discussions of the important issues of the day. I had forgotten that they were dear friends who enjoyed staying in touch and looking forward to  being together again.

The next and penultimate chapter in this account of the life of Burling will discuss the character of the man.

=====================================

[1] Citations to the sources for this post are found in this blogger’s Edward Burnham Burling, The College’s Quiet Benefactor (April 2008)(18-page essay and bibliography; on file in Grinnell College’s Special Collections and Archives).

[2] The definitive biography of the judge, Learned Hand: The Man and the Judge (2d ed., Oxford University Press, 2011), was written by Gerald Gunther (1927-2002), a prominent constitutional law scholar and professor at Stanford Law School.

 

 

 

 

2011 Annual Report for dwkcommentaries

This blog started on April 4, 2011, and the blogger made 190 posts for the year plus 26 comments to previous posts.

WordPress reports there were 9,190 views for the year. The busiest day was October 25th with 131 views while December 27th had 113. Most of the viewers were from the U.S.A. with the United Kingdom and Canada not far behind.

Again according to WordPress the following were the most popular posts:

  • International Criminal Court: Four People Recommended for Election as ICC Prosecutor (Oct. 25, 2011)
  • My Grinnell College years (Aug. 27, 2011)
  • Celebrating the Rhodes Scholarships Centennial (June 21, 2011)
  • The Personal Jurisdiction Requirement for U.S. Civil Lawsuits (Aug. 8, 2011)
  • The IBM Antitrust Litigation (July 30, 2011)
  • My Years at the University of Chicago Law School (Dec. 27, 2011)

As indicated in detail on Page: Topical List of Posts and Comments to dwkcommentaries, the posts and comments for 2011 fell into the following categories:

  • Personal
  • Oxford
  • Religion/Christianity
  • Lawyering (practice of law)
  • U.S. Politics
  • Cuba
  • El Salvador
  • Human Rights Treaties
  • International Criminal Justice
  • International Criminal Court
  • Refugee and Asylum Law
  • Alien Tort Statute & Torture Victims Protection Act

The blogger would appreciate receiving substantive comments on his posts, including corrections and disagreements.

 

Chosen To Be a Rhodes Scholar

Cecil John Rhodes

The Rhodes Scholarships were established by the will of Cecil John Rhodes (1853-1902), an Englishman who made a fortune in diamonds and gold in South Africa in the late 19th century. His will established the Rhodes Scholarships for English-speaking men from the British Commonwealth and the U.S. A codicil to the will added five scholarships for Germany because its Emperor recently had made the teaching of English mandatory in German schools. Rhodes had a vision of promoting international understanding and peace by providing the common broadening experience of an Oxford education to future leaders who were motivated to serve their contemporaries. [1]

In the U.S. in 1960 an individual to be eligible for the Scholarship had to be (a) a male U.S. citizen with at least five years’ domicile in the U.S. and unmarried; [2] (b) between the ages of 18 and 24; and (c) at least a junior at a recognized U.S. degree-granting university or college. The criteria for selection, as established by the will of Cecil Rhodes, were the following:

  • Literary and scholastic ability and attainments;
  • Qualities of manhood, truthfulness, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship;
  • Exhibition of moral force of character and of instincts to lead and to take an interest in his fellows; and
  • Physical vigor, as shown by fondness for and success in sports.[3]

The Rhodes Trust in 1960 added the following commentary on these criteria. “Some definite quality of distinction, whether intellect or character, is the most important requirement . . . . The Rhodes Scholar should not be a one-sided man. Thus special distinction of intellect should be founded upon sound character and special quality of character upon sound intellect. . . . Cecil Rhodes evidently regarded leadership as consisting of moral courage and interest in one’s fellow-man quite as much as in the more aggressive qualities. Physical vigor is an essential qualification . . . but athletic prowess is of less importance than the moral qualities that can be developed in sports.”[4]

Those requirements should have been enough to scare away any young man, but many applied even though only 32 are chosen each year in the U.S. In 1960 there were selection committees in every state, and a candidate could apply in his state of residence or the state in which he had received at least two years of his college education.  Each state then nominated two candidates to go to one of eight districts for another round of competition with each district selecting four Scholars.

As I was a resident of Iowa and had gone to college in Iowa, I applied for the Scholarship in Iowa, which was in a District with Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas. The application consisted of a written endorsement from the individual’s college or university; your college transcript; a personal essay; and letters of recommendation. I received counsel on my application from George Drake, a former Grinnell Rhodes Scholar (1957-59) who was teaching history at the College in 1960-61 while he was working on his B.D. and M.A. from the University of Chicago. (Later he received those degrees plus a Ph.D. from Chicago. From 1979 to 1991 he was the President of the College.)

My essay reviewed my academic work and extracurricular activities at Grinnell and American University and stated my desire to devote my life to politics and government. “I believe that engagement in the decision-making processes of our nation’s government is a high purpose in life and that educated, intelligent men have a responsibility to society, to their fellow men.” Reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics or PPE at Oxford, I continued, “would contribute to my personal development and to my preparation for a possible future career in government and politics.” (The essay, when read today, is not very scintillating.)

In early December 1960, the Iowa Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee advised me that I was one of the candidates to be interviewed by the Committee on December 14th at an office in Des Moines. The Chairman of the Committee was Paul A. Thompson, who was a Des Moines businessman and not a former Rhodes Scholar. The other members of the Committee, however, were all former Scholars; they were R. B. Patrick, an insurance company executive; Virgil Hancher, the President of the University of Iowa; Dr. D. T. Nelson, Professor of English at Luther College; and Dr. Bille C. Carlson, Associate Professor of Physics at Iowa State University.

On December 14th I joined 10 or 11 other candidates for the interviews. I did not keep a journal of what happened that day, and I do not recall the details of the interview. I really regret this lacuna because this was an important piece of my life and because Rhodes interviews are often known for their off-beat questions. I only have a vague recollection of talking about my Washington Semester experience and learning about Impressionism at museums in Washington. At the end of the day the Committee met with all of the candidates and announced that Bill Hartmann from Iowa State University and I were nominated to go to the District competition.

Three days later Hartmann and I joined 10 other nominees from the other five states in the District for the final interviews. Again the interviews were held in Des Moines. The chairman of the committee and a non-former Rhodes Scholar was W. Harold Brenton, the founder of the Brenton Banks. The other members of the committee, all former Rhodes Scholars, were Mr. Patrick from the Iowa Committee, Professor Emory K. Lindquist of the University of Wichita, Professor Robert M. Muir of the University of Iowa, C. H. Riggs of Pierre, South Dakota, H. A. Gunderson of Fremont, Nebraska and Merrimon Cuninggim of St. Louis, Missouri. Again I do not recall the details of the interview other than the Committee’s announcement at the end of the day that David Ness from Minnesota and MIT,[5] Fred Morrison from Kansas and the University of Kansas,[6]Bill Hartmann[7] and I were chosen Rhodes Scholars.

Thereafter the other new Scholars and I advised the Warden of Rhodes House and Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, E.T. Williams, which Oxford colleges we wanted to attend. I believe I said I wanted to go to Balliol College, which was probably the most prestigious in Oxford. On February 20, 1961, Mr. Williams advised me that he failed to gain my admittance at my preferred college and instead had prevailed upon Worcester College to take me. Worcester, he assured me, would be a great place, and Virgil Hancher, then the President of the University of Iowa, had been there.

I advised President Hancher that I too would be a Worcester man, and he was delighted to receive that news. As I later discovered, I was also pleased to be at Worcester.[8]


[1] Philip Ziegler, Legacy: Cecil Rhodes, the Rhodes Trust and Rhodes Scholarships (New Haven; Yale Univ. Press 2008)[“Legacy“]; Anthony Kenny (ed.), The History of the Rhodes Trust 1902-1999 (Oxford; Oxford Univ. Press 2001)[“Kenny“]; Office of the American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, http://www.rhodesscholar.org/home.

[2] In 1965 the Rhodes Trustees eliminated the ban on marriage for Scholars in their second year at Oxford, and in 1994, the marriage ban was eliminated altogether. (Legacy at 217-19, 222-23; Kenny at 58-60.) In 1975 the Rhodes Trustees prevailed upon Parliament to include a provision in the new Equal Opportunities Act that would allow the Rhodes Trustees to eliminate any discrimination against women. Immediately thereafter the Trustees asked the U.K. Secretary of State for Education for permission to do just that. The next year, 1976, permission was granted, and women became eligible for the Scholarships. (Legacy at 217-23; Kenny at 66-69.) Before 1975, I was a member of the Minnesota Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee that held an informal interview with a female candidate and that thereafter wrote to the Trustees urging them to seek Parliamentary relief from the terms of the will regarding gender.

[3] Rhodes Trust, The Rhodes Scholarships–The United States of America, 1960 (April 1960).

[4] Id.

[5] David Ness obtained a B.A. (Oxon) in PPE in 1963. He then returned to MIT where he earned a Ph.D. and taught at its Sloan School of Management. While at MIT he worked on Project MAC, the pioneering research project that significantly advanced the development of computer operating systems. In 1973 he joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance as a professor of management and later also of decision sciences. He retired from Wharton in the late 1980s and worked as a consultant until 1993. He was the author of books and articles about computer software. In 2006 he died of complications following surgery. (Rhodes Trust, Register of Rhodes Scholars 1903-1985, at 257 (1996)[“Register“]; Obituary:  David Ness, , U. Penn. Almanac (Feb. 28, 2006), http://www.upenn.edu/almanac/volumes/v52/n24/obit.html#dn.)

[6] Fred Morrison obtained a B.A. (Oxon) in Jurisprudence in 1963, a M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Princeton University and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. He is a Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School after teaching at the University of Iowa School of Law. (Register at 256; Univ. Minnesota Law School, Fred L. Morrison, http://www.law.umn.edu/facultyprofiles/morrisonf.html. )

[7] Bill Hartmann obtained a D. Phil. (Oxon) in Physics in 1965. After being a Research Physicist at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, he joined the faculty at Michigan State University, where he is a Professor. Hartmann is a noted physicist, psychoacoustician, author, and former president of the Acoustical Society of America. His major contributions in psychoacoustics are in pitch perception,  binaural hearing, and sound localization. (Register at 255; Wikipedia, William M. Hartmann, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_M._Hartmann.)

[8] See Post: Sailing to Oxford (Aug. 29, 2011); Post: Reading PPE at Oxford (June 6, 2011); Post: PPE Examinations at Oxford (June 10, 2011); Post: Oxford’s Lord Franks (June 20, 2011); Post: Celebrating Oxford’s Worcester College’s 700th Anniversary (May 29, 2011); Post: Oxford in New York City (May 17, 2011); Post: Dinner at an Oxford High Table (May 18, 2011).

My Oxford University Years

Worcester College

As a Rhodes Scholar, I was a student at the University of Oxford’s Worcester College for two years, 1961-1963. I studied or “read” Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE).[1]

The University traces its beginnings to the late 12th century after foreign-born students were expelled from Paris and Britian’s King Henry II prohibited British students from leaving the country. Many of their teachers congregated in the city of Oxford. Halls like Gloucester Hall (Worcester’s predecessor) and colleges arose from the need for board and lodging for the students. The distinction of being the oldest Oxford college is usually given to Balliol College, which traces its history to 1263, when John Balliol, one of King Henry III’s most loyal Lords, rented a house in Oxford for poor students.

In the early 1960’s when I was there, the University was comprised of over 20 separate colleges. Each has its own history and endowment. Each has its own head and fellows or dons who instructed its students in tutorials. Worcester, for example, had a claim to a 700-year history.[2] Some colleges were wealthy; Christ Church College was, and still is, reputed to be the wealthiest. Others were not so well endowed. These colleges are spread out all over the city of Oxford, and their buildings are used for various university events.

Oxford’s academic calendar is very different from those for U.S. colleges and universities. Oxford has three academic terms, each eight weeks long: Michaelmas in the Fall; Hilary in the winter; and Trinity in the Spring. There are six-week vacations or “vacs” between Michaelmas and Hilary and between Hilary and Trinity Terms plus a 16-week vacation or “long vac” in the summer.

Radcliffe Camera

During the three academic terms, I was focused on preparing for, and attending, two tutorials per week. This meant spending a lot of time in some of Oxford’s many libraries. Most of my time was spent in the ugly New Bodleian Library which was built in the 1930’s and which had the collections focusing on the PPE syllabus. I also spent some time in the library in the beautiful mid-18th century Radcliffe Camera and Worcester College’s own library.

Christ Church Hall

I also went to some of the lectures on PPE subjects. These were held all over the city in different University and college buildings. I especially remember attending a lecture in the dining hall of the majestic Christ Church College or “The House” (The House of Christ). The portrait over the High Table at the end of the hall, where the lecturer stood, was of the College’s founder, King Henry VIII. On the side walls I noticed portraits of some of The House’s many famous “Old Members”(alumni): John Wesley, Charles Wesley, John Locke, William Gladstone and Anthony Eden.

Worcester College Dining Hall
Worcester College Dining Hall

My meals were in the Worcester’s Dining Hall. The food was not very creative or delectable English food. For dinner we were required to wear coat and tie and our academic gowns. When the Provost and dons marched into the hall to have their meal at the High Table, we all stood. Then one of the College’s Classics scholars said grace in Latin. There was a custom that if you talked too much about your work at dinner, you could be challenged or “sconced.” In response, you either had to give an oration in Latin or drink a pint of bitter beer in one gulping or pay for beers for everyone at your table. At most I observed this once in two years, and I was not the subject of the “sconce.” Once a week before I got to the hall for breakfast, I could smell kippers (smoked herring); I turned around and went back to my room.

Life at Oxford clearly centered around life in your college. But there were occasional social events for Rhodes Scholars at Rhodes House, and each Scholar had several one-on-one conversations each year with the Warden of Rhodes House, E.T. Williams. We would discuss how our studies were going and any particular problems we were encountering. The Warden obviously would dispense advice when needed. I often wondered what he noted in his file on me.

Turf Tavern
Trout Inn

Oxford is famous too for its many pubs, and I visited them on occasion. The Turf Tavern on Bath Street was my favorite; I went here for lunch when I was taking PPE Schools. Others in the City were the Mitre on High Street and the Bear near Merton College. Occasionally I went to the bar of the posh Randolph Hotel, which was close to Worcester. (Many years later when my wife and I returned to Oxford and stayed at the hotel, we noticed photographs in the bar of actor John Thaw who played Inspector Morse in the TV mystery series set in Oxford.) North of Oxford was The Trout Inn with views of the spires of the city from its gardens on the Isis River.

Oxford has an active sporting life during the three terms.

For the University teams, the most important accomplishment is playing against its main rival, the University of Cambridge, and earning an Oxford “Blue.” In December it was rugby with the match against Cambridge played at the 82,000-seat Twickenham Stadium in London. In the winter it is basketball. In the spring it is track, cricket and rowing. The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race is on the Thames River in London in April. The big cricket match against Cambridge is played at Lord’s Cricket Ground near London in July. I am not sure about track, but the first ever four-minute mile was run by Oxford University’s Roger Bannister at the track in Oxford in 1954.

Each college also has its own athletic teams. In Michaelmas Term 1961 I played prop forward for Worcester’s second rugby team; this position is similar to an offensive/defensive lineman in U.S. football. I was not very good.

In Trinity Term 1962 I played cricket for Worcester’s casual team that played teams from nearby villages. I was not very good at cricket either. My most vivid cricket memory concerns driving to a match in an antique and, I am sure, very expensive sports car owned by a Scottish nobleman at the College. As he was turning from the High Street (a major street of Oxford) into a side street (Marsh Lane), a pedestrian who was obviously not a university student was hesitating on crossing the street. The driver stared at the pedestrian and disdainfully said, “Are you going to cross or not?” I cringed to witness this British class snobbery.

Punting on Cherwell River

Another quasi-athletic activity was punting on the Cherwell River before it empties into the Thames River in Oxford. A rather flat boat is propelled by manual use of a long pole, somewhat like the gondoliers in Venice. The punter stands at the back of the punt, half-facing to the side (probably the right). He holds the pole vertically against the side of the punt and lets the pole run through his hands until it touches the riverbed. The pole then is pushed downwards and backwards, gently at first, then more forcefully towards the end of the stroke (because, as your stroke “flattens” and the pole becomes closer to horizontal, less of your energy is going into pushing down into the riverbed, and more into pushing the punt forwards). After Mary Alyce arrived in Oxford in the Fall of 1962, we occasionally went punting.

During the three “vacs,” Oxford students were expected to continue their studies on their own, and I certainly did that. But the “vacs” also provided time to travel. I did that as well as will be discussed in future posts.

University of Oxford
University of Oxford

After learning my way around the city of Oxford, I took special delight in just walking or biking in the midst of these glorious historic buildings and knowing how to get to different places in the lanes and byways. For two short years, I joined the thousands who can claim that they were privileged to have been students at the University of Oxford.


[1] See Post: Reading PPE at Oxford (June 6, 2011); Post: PPE Examinations at Oxford (June 10, 2011); Post: Oxford’s Lord Franks (June 20, 2011). See also Post: Oxford in New York City (May 17, 2011); Post: Dinner at an Oxford High Table (May 18, 2011); Post: Celebrating Oxford’s Worcester College’s 700th Anniversary (May 29, 2011); Post: Celebrating 80th Anniversary of Rhodes Scholarships (May 30, 2011); Post: Celebrating the Rhodes Scholarships Centennial (June 21, 2011).

[2] See Post: Celebrating Oxford’s Worcester College’s 700th Anniversary (May 29, 2011).

Sailing to Oxford

On September 27, 1961, almost all of the 31 other new American Rhodes Scholars and I gathered for a sailing luncheon at the University Club on 54th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Our host was Courtney Smith, the American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust and the President of Swarthmore College. Mr. Smith wished us all well on this next stage of our journey, and we all met one another, most for the first time. (The only one of us who subsequently became well-known was David Souter as Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.)

S.S. United States
Duane Krohnke on S.S. United States

The next day we all boarded the S.S. United States for our voyage to the United Kingdom. For the next five days we met one another one-on-one and in group social occasions and enjoyed the ocean-liner experience.

After a short call at Le Havre, France, we disembarked at Southampton on the south coast of England. We were met by E.T. Williams, the Secretary of the Rhodes Trust and the Warden of Rhodes House in Oxford. He directed us to the motor coach that took us to Oxford where we were dropped off at our respective colleges. Bob Orrill, a Rhodes Scholar from Purdue University, and I were the only ones for Worcester College.

On a beautiful moonlit night the College porter escorted me to my room in the Nuffield Building. He proudly said that Worcester was one of the oldest colleges in the University. This was my introduction to the Oxford and English respect for (and worship of?) antiquity, real or imagined.

Worcester College's 13th century cottages

I was amused by the porter’s comment because I knew from books that Worcester was not one of the oldest colleges. Yes, it still used 13th century Dominican monk cottages, but they were from Gloucester Hall, which was dissolved by King Henry VIII, and only later incorporated into Worcester College when it was founded in 1714.[1]

In Nuffield Building, which was built in 1950, I had a small room on the third floor. The next morning I met my “scout,” the college servant assigned to the men in the rooms on one of the staircases of the building. I now was situated in my home for the first academic year at the University of Oxford.


[1] See Post: Celebrating Oxford’s Worcester College’s 700th Anniversary (May 29, 2011).

A “Virtual” Constitutional Convention

In 1996 eleven other former Rhodes Scholars and I were “delegates” to a virtual U.S. constitutional convention.[1]

The other delegates were far more accomplished than I: (1) Samuel Beer, a distinguished author and political science professor at Harvard University;[2] (2) John Brademas, former Member of Congress and President of New York University;[3] (3) Jack Justice, a Philadelphia lawyer;[4] (4) Philip Kaiser, a former U.S. diplomat;[5]  (5) Jonathan Kozol, author, educator and activist about children;[6] (6) Jason McManus, a journalist and executive with Time/Life;[7] (7) Larry Sabato, author and professor of government, University of Virginia, and Director of its Center for Politics;[8] (8) Frank Sieverts, a specialist in refugee and relief issues at the State Department for 25 years and later an executive in the Washington office of the International Committee of the Red Cross; [9] (9) Reginald Stanton, a New Jersey lawyer and former state court judge; [10] (10) Lester Thurow, author and professor of management and economics, MIT;[11] and (11) Edwin Yoder, journalist and professor of journalism and humanities, Washington and Lee University .[12]

We first were asked to state in writing what, if any, constitutional changes we would propose in a contemporary constitutional convention. Then we were asked to comment in writing on the others’ suggestions. (This was before the advent of electronic, interactive communications technology with which we are familiar today.)[13]

I made two suggested constitutional changes. One was a federal campaign finance amendment that would assign individual financial contributions to a federal election fund that, in turn, would provide financing to federal election candidates. Such an amendment would overturn the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment as protecting money as speech, an amendment needed even more now after the Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The other suggested constitutional amendment was to increase the term of office of members of the House of Representatives from two to four years with their election the same time as the president. This should result, I said in 1996, in less divided and stalemated government.[14] We could have benefited from such an amendment in 2010.

In my rebuttal, I observed that nearly everyone objected to the idea of holding a real constitutional convention in the late 1990’s, that no one had proposed a radically new concept of a constitution and that everyone had offered ideas for incremental change.[15]

Our most important proposals, I thought, all were designed to facilitate the people’s voice being heard through the electoral process. Three others joined me in suggesting campaign finance amendments. No one suggested term limits for members of the House or Senate, and several wanted repeal of the XXII Amendment that imposed a two-term limit on the president. A number of proposals were made to make changes in the electoral college for the election of the president and vice president. Larry Sabato wanted to make voting in the presidential election mandatory. Two other delegates proposed increasing the Representatives’ term to four years as did I. Some noted the increasing anti-majoritarian nature of the U.S. Senate and suggested reallocating Senate seats from smaller to larger states to remedy that problem, and one “delegate” proposed making ex-presidents ex-officio members of the Senate.[16]

In my rebuttal I disagreed with Jonathan Kozol’s desire for children’s rights amendments. His comments, reminded us, however, I said, of the profound need to counter-balance the voting ranks of the retired people. I, therefore, offered for debate the idea of extending the voting franchise to children of all ages. There were obvious administrative problems that would have to be solved to make that possible.[17]

Interestingly in terms of the political debates of 2011, no one suggested there be a balanced budget amendment. Moreover, John Brademas reiterated his public opposition to such an amendment as “dangerous to national security and the nation’s economy.” This idea and others like it, he said, “attempt to decide current political controversies outside the regular give-and-take of the legislative process. The effect of such proposals is to trivialize the Constitution and diminish respect for its central, fundamental place in the American system of governing.”[18]


[1] A “Virtual” Constitutional Convention, American Oxonian, Fall 1996, at 232.

[2] Samuel Hutchison Beer, Harvard Scholar of British and American Politics, Dies at 97, ces/news/press-releases/beer-04102009.shtml.

[3] Wikipedia, John Brademas, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Brademas.

[4] Register of Rhodes Scholars 1903-1005 at 183.

[5] Wikipedia, Philip Mayer Kaiser, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Mayer_Kaiser.

[6] Wikipedia, Jonathan Kozol, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Kozol; Jonathan Kozol, http://www.learntoquestion.com/seevak/groups/2002/sites/kozol/Seevak02/                                                                          ineedtogoHOMEPAGE/homepage.htm.

[7] Wikipedia, Jason McManus, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_McManus.

[8] University of Virginia, Larry J. Sabato, http://www.centerforpolitics.org/staff_sabato.html; Larry Sabato, http://www.larrysabato.com.

[9]  Stout,  Frank A. Sieverts, 70, Specialist In Refugee Issues at State Dept., N.Y. Times (April 7, 2004).

[10] Walker Research, Reginald Stanton, eprofile/R/Reginald__Stanton_400170555.html.

[13]  American Oxonian, Fall 1996, at 232.

[14]  Id. at 235-36.

[15]  Id. at 259-61.

[16]  Id.

[17]  Id.

[18]  Id. at 244-45.

Celebrating the Rhodes Scholarships’ Centennial

In July 2003 the Rhodes Trust[1] hosted gala celebrations of the centennial of the Rhodes Scholarships. My wife and I were privileged to be there.

Westminster Hall

Westminster Hall
Palace of Westminster

The main event was held in London’s Westminster Hall, which is part of the Palace of Westminster. Other parts of the Palace are the Chambers for the House of Commons and the House of Lords. When it was built in 1097, the Hall at 240 feet by 68 feet was the largest hall in Europe; in the reign of King Richard II it obtained a clear-span wood-beam roof. Here were held the trials of King Charles I, Sir William Wallace, Sir Thomas More, Guy Fawkes and the Earl of Strafford, all of whom were condemned to death. The Rhodes event in 2003 was the first (and, I think, still the only) time it had ever been used for a non-state occasion.[2]

As we were standing in a queue to go through security to enter the Hall, a BBC reporter quizzed me about the significance of the relatively few Rhodes Scholars who were in the George W. Bush Administration. I, however, declined to see any significance to that fact other than to note that Scholars usually were interested in trying to improve people’s lives through government programs.

The audience of over 1,000 Rhodes Scholars and their spouses were treated to interesting speeches from Lord Waldegrave, the Chairman of the Rhodes Trustees;[3] “Nicky” Oppenheimer, the Chairman of DeBeers, the diamond mining company started by Cecil Rhodes in South Africa in the 19th century;[4] Bill Clinton, the former U.S. President; Tony Blair, then the Prime Minister of the U.K.; and Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa.[5]

Lord Waldegrave commented on the recent creation of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, a joint venture of the Rhodes Trustees and the Nelson Mandela Foundation to support aid and education in South Africa. An overarching theme of the centennial was the closing of the circle by joining together the controversial 19th century white entrepreneur (Rhodes) and the 20th century post-apartheid black South African leader (Mandela).[6]

Oppenheimer drew chuckles from the audience when he said that he was confident that the Founder (Cecil Rhodes), looking down from above, or perhaps looking up from below, would be proud of the accomplishments of his Scholars.

Tony Blair & Bill Clinton

Clinton joked that it was a sign of progress that all of the politicians that day felt safe in the Hall where King Charles I and Sir Thomas More had been tried and condemned to death. He and the other Scholars, he said, had been “enriched, enlarged and changed” by their time at the University of Oxford, and many of them had made “great contributions across the globe in public service, the arts, the sciences, business, the military, religion and other fields.” Clinton also applauded the new Mandela Rhodes Foundation to “bring some of Rhodes’ wealth back to its origins to help build a new South Africa.”[7]

Blair, putting his glasses into his breast pocket, said that President Mandela had just told him that he never reads a speech so Blair reciprocated by saying he would not read the speech that the Foreign Office had written for him. Blair recalled that when he was a student at Oxford, an Australian or New Zealand Rhodes Scholar had encouraged Blair to go into politics. Blair said that Mandela “is a person who, probably more than any other political figure, certainly in my lifetime, establishes the triumph of hope over injustice.” Blair also challenged the international community to do more to tackle the scourge of HIV and AIDS in Africa and the developed world to lift tariffs to help African exports.

Nelson Mandela

Mandela gave the concluding speech. He noted that Rhodes had made his fortune in South Africa and imagined that he would endorse the “decision to develop human capacity in modern-day South Africa, enabling that country to continue being a competitive presence in the world as it was in those fields within which he operated during his times.” Indeed, Mandela said, he was “certain, Cecil John Rhodes and I would have made common cause.”[8]

When all the speeches were finished, everyone on the speakers’ stage walked the over 200-feet length of the hall through the audience. Mandela, then nearly 85 years old, was frail, and to help him make the long walk, his right arm was held by Tony Blair; his left, by Bill Clinton. They brought tears to our eyes as they passed six feet from us on their journey through the Hall.

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery, London

My wife and I then joined many others walking down Whitehall to the National Portrait Gallery on Trafalgar Square. In the Gallery’s Tudor Rooms Rhodes Scholars from the early 1960’s gathered for conversation, drinks and music from a string quartet.

Other groups of Scholars met in other parts of the Gallery and in the Banqueting Hall on Whitehall.

Dinner at Worcester College

We then went by train to Oxford, where each college held special black-tie dinners honoring their Rhodes Scholars.

Worcester College put out all the college silver and crystal for its Rhodes Scholar dinner. Everyone had an assigned place for the main courses and a different place for dessert. For the main course I was seated across the table from Julian Ogilvie Thompson, a South African Rhodes Scholar who was a director and former executive of DeBeers and the Anglo American gold and diamond mining company.[9]

After dinner I talked with David Kendall, who was at Worcester, 1966-68, and who in 1993 began legal representation of President and Mrs. Clinton in various matters, including the 1998-99 impeachment proceedings against Mr. Clinton.[10] David and I had met in the Spring of 1966, just after he had been elected as a Rhodes Scholar from Indiana’s Wabash College. Illinois Governor Otto Kerner had studied at Cambridge University and that Spring hosted a Cambridge-Oxford Boat Race Dinner at the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield. I joined a group that bused to Springfield from Chicago for the dinner, and David was a special guest on the bus and at the dinner.

Conclusion

These spectacular events reminded me of how fortunate I was to have been selected as a Rhodes Scholar and to have had the amazing experience of an Oxford education. Thank you, Cecil Rhodes.


[2] Wikipedia, Palace of Westminster, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_of_Westminster.

[3] Wikipedia, William Waldegrave, Baron Waldegrave of North Hill, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Waldegrave,_Baron_Waldegrave_of_North_Hill.

[4]  Wikipedia, Nicky Oppenheimer, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicky_Oppenheimer; Wikipedia, DeBeers, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Beers.

[5] Russell, Mandela celebrates 100 years of Rhodes, (July 3, 2003), http://www.independent.co.uk; Johnson, Mandela, Clinton Celebrate with new Rhodes-Mandela Foundation (July 6, 2003), http://africanamerica.org.

[6] Earlier the Rhodes Trust had held centenary celebrations in South Africa.

[7] Bill Clinton, Speech: Rhodes Trust Centenary Celebration (July 2, 2003), http://www.clintonfoundation.org. I previously noted Clinton’s acknowledging his family’s embarrassment that he had not earned an Oxford degree in his two years at Oxford while congratulating his daughter Chelsea’s Oxford degree that summer. (See Post: Reading PPE at Oxford (June 6, 2011).

[8] Nelson Mandela, The Patron’s Founding Speech (July 2, 2003), http://db.nelsonmandela.org/speeches/pub_view.asp?pg=item&ItemID=NMS1073&txtstr=westminster.

[10]  David Kendall Biography, http://www.wc.com/dkendall