Living Bill of Rights

William O. DOUGLAS   |   William DOUGLAS

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Item#: 125763 price:$2,500.00 Currently On Reserve.

Living Bill of Rights
Living Bill of Rights


DOUGLAS, William O. A Living Bill of Rights. Garden City: Doubleday, 1961. Slim octavo, original gilt-stamped black cloth, original dust jacket. $2500.

First edition of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas' decisive work on the Constitution, an especially memorable presentation copy inscribed by him to his longtime correspondent, prominent South African attorney and activist, "For Hon. David H. Epstein from his friend and admirer W.O. Douglas," in original dust jacket.

Justice Douglas, "a fierce defender of civil rights, civil liberties and the right of dissent… sought to expand the frontiers of the law and to stimulate debate on what it should be." Nominated by FDR and appointed to the Supreme Court in 1939, he "had the longest tenure of any Justice, serving on the Supreme Court for 36 years" (Supreme Court Historical Society). At his death in 1980, Douglas was remembered by Justice Brennan as a figure who stood "with the very great of the court's history" and by Justice Thurgood Marshall as a man whose "every ounce of his boundless energy was directed to the protection of personal rights." In the Warren Court, Douglas "backed civil rights and civil liberties decisions… which broadened the rights of prisoners and suspects, struck down segregation laws and policies, widened the scope of freedom of speech, and nailed down the requirement of one-man one-vote. Later, in the more conservative Burger Court, he was often a champion dissenter. In his 36 years on the court he dissented more than 500 times… [and] wrote 1,279 opinions" (Washington Post).

In Living Bill of Rights, Douglas presents a "comprehensive view of recent Supreme Court doctrine." His crisp analysis of the Bill of Rights "comprehends not only certain provisions of the original text of the Constitution relating to civil liberties and the first ten amendments, which are a restraint on the federal power, but also the judicial interpretations that have grafted certain of the first ten amendments onto the states via the 14th amendment" (Lefkowitz, Fordham Law Review, 209). To Douglas, the "only safeguard for each of us lies in full enforcement of the constitutional command of equality under the law for all." As such, Living Bill of Rights not only expresses his view of "each freedom of the Bill of Rights," it also covers "legal doctrines constituting the Bill of Rights—those freedoms in the federal Constitution itself and in the amendments" (Clusserath, Notre Dame Law Review, 456). This presentation copy, inscribed by Douglas to noted South African attorney David Hyman Epstein, is accompanied by the copy of a unsigned carbon to a one-page typed letter from Douglas to Epstein, dated the year after publication of Living Bill of Rights. Of particular interest is Douglas' reference to Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in the Civil War, which generated debate over the Constitution in the rival authority of the legislature and judiciary. Douglas asks Epstein about recent South African laws that "closed the doors of courts to litigants who complained of violation of their civil rights," and wonders if this resembles issues contested in the U.S. Civil War over "depriving courts of jurisdiction." Penciled marginal notation stating: "William O. Douglas Papers, Library of Congress, box 418."

Book fine; lightest edge-wear to about-fine dust jacket.

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