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Earl Warren’s Address to the American Bar Association Meeting in London, & Appreciation of Winston Churchill, With a Lincoln Quote For Good Measure
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the man who has done more to subordinate brute force to the rule of law than any man of our time; -- Americas great friend in war and peace, Sir Winston Churchill. We feel honored, Sir, beyond our power of expression, that you who in the darkest days of history supplied the leadership which made the survival of free institutions on this continent possible, would now treat our profession and recognize it as a force for preserving those institutions.

EARL WARREN. Autograph Manuscript Speech, in Response to Address by Winston Churchill. July 31, 1957. Guildhall, London, England. 10 pp., 5 x 8 in., undated.

Inventory #23996       Price: $2,500

Complete Transcript

You have completely spoiled all of us for future conventions. We are not accustomed to such rousing receptions. In America, where every business and professional organization, large or small, holds a national convention, not necessarily because it is essential, but because it is the custom to do so, a convention is but a convention. There, we meet; we parade through the business district at the most traffic congested hours in order to have a captive crowd; in order that to attract the press might not overlook us we discuss violently some controversial public question; we pass resolutions in thunderous tones; we recommend ourselves most highly to the public and then adjourn to see the sights by night. The next day we return home, thoroughly exhausted and with barely the strength to make our deductions for income tax purposes. If this penchant of ours for conventions had existed in the time of Abraham Lincoln, I am sure in speaking of them he would have repeated,--and with great fervor,--his classic phrase; “The world <2> will little note nor long remember what we say here--.” But I am sure that if he were here in London tonight, he would speaking of yourselves, complete his sentence, “--but it will never forget what they did here.”

You have transformed what, at best would have been a workshop conference into a great legal, cultural and spiritual experience for all of us. You have literally showered hospitality on us. Every one has done so; -- from your gracious Queen, her First Ministers, and the Lord Chancellors to the little children we meet in your beautiful green belt. The great men of your nation have laid aside their problems of world-wide importance, not only to greet us, but to exchange views with us in brotherly fashion. You have opened <3> your great Houses of God to us; -- Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral; -- both of which were protected by His Grace during Englands darkest hours and preserved for greater use in these days when Christian brotherhood is so essential in the turbulent world.

You have opened your historic shrines to us; Westminster Hall in which was evolved the English and American concept of law; and your Houses of Parliament which have charted the course of Parliamentary government in all parts of the globe and which have contributed more to the stability of the world than any other legislative body in existence.

You have taken us into your homes. Even your gracious Queen has opened her palace to us, to <4> complete a cycle of hospitality that has not been excelled any place, at any time.

Even the much berated weather man has been most considerate of us. He has permitted the sun to shine upon us throughout all our proceedings. In frankness I should say that your weather man has not always been favorably advertised received favorable comment in our country, but there are now thousands of American lawyers who will never know how or why London every acquired a reputation for less than perfect weather.

Tonight through the generosity of the Lord Mayor, who is also well known <5> in our country, we are honored by our brothers of the Law Society in historic Guild Hall where for so many centuries great ceremonials have been held.

All of this would have sufficed far beyond either our needs or our deserts. But as though there are no limits to your consideration for us, you cause us to be greeted by the man who has done more to subordinate brute force to the rule of law than any man of our time; -- Americas great friend in war and peace, Sir Winston Churchill.

We feel honored, Sir, beyond our power of expression, that you who in the darkest days of history supplied the leadership which made the survival of free institutions on this continent possible, <6> would now treat our profession and recognize it as a force for preserving those institutions. You challenge us sharpely, Sir. We accept the challenge in the same spirit of comradeship that our boys in service accepted the friendly challenge of your soldier boys some years ago. When the United States entered the late World War, British soldiers sent the following message to our soldiers; “We welcome you as brothers in the struggle to make sure that the world shall be ruled by the force of law and not by the law of force.” That they did struggle together and did succeed is a matter of history. How we are measuring up to the responsibility of our new born opportunities, is yet to be recorded. But this much is certain. The struggle between force and <7> law is not over. In many places personal freedom is still the victim of personal government. The rule of law is not yet fully accepted between nations. While these conditions exist, complacency is a word to be scorned by the legal profession both here and in America. There can be no severance of your interests from ours. We must travel the same road together. And our comradeship must be the same as that of your Tommies and Our GI’s while they jointly manned foxholes around the world. Nothing less will suffice.

We need have no difficulty in travelling that road together, different as our institutions are in many respects. It is our common devotion to law, our belief in equality under it and our insistence upon personal freedom that make it possible for us to travel the same road, narrow and rough though it may be at times. <8> Two centuries ago, before our nation was formed, your bard Alexander Pope gave us cue, when he wrote

“For forms of government let fools contest;

Whate’er is best administered is best.”

We have one federal system of 48 states,-- each with its own constitution. You have your Commonwealth of sovereign nations. Yet we all can and do pursue the same legal ideals.

            The United States is a young nation in years of existence, but it is an old country in light of the heritage and tradition that it shares principally with with [sic] your great nation.

            We acknowledge this debt we owe to those who preceded us perhaps most graphically in our Supreme Court. There, on the frieze of our Court Room are medallions of the great law-givers of history. <9>

            On one wall are those who lived before Christ; Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius and Augustus. On the opposite wall are Justinian, Mohammed, Charlemagne, King John, St Louis, Hugo Grotius, Blackstone, Napoleon and John Marshall our third Chief Justice. Only John Marshall our great Chief Justice is one of us.

            This visit to London increases our understanding of the debt we owe to those of all ages who have contributed to our way of life. It is perhaps the largest pilgrimage of lawyers ever made to another land. We would like to believe it is also the most successful. We leave here, refreshed and with strengthened bonds of friendship.

            We are interested <10>
            We are however interested in another visit; one that is soon to to be be made to our country. Our people are awaiting looking forward to it with the greatest interest pleasure. I am sure you know that I am speaking of the proposed visit of your gracious Queen and Prince Philip to the United States in October. Then you will witness the depth of our feeling as a nation for your lovely sovereign and our friendship for the people of England.

Historical Background

In July 1957, the American Bar Association held its 80th annual meeting in New York and then in London, England. More than three thousand American lawyers and judges made the trip to Great Britain for an eight-day conference. The opening ceremonies were held in Westminster Hall, including joint meetings with British colleagues, and tours of the Inns of Court, the Houses of Parliament, and other historic sites. While there, the American Bar Association also dedicated a memorial at Runnymede, where King John ratified Magna Carta in 1215. More than eight thousand members of the American bar had donated to the memorial. Later, Queen Elizabeth II and members of the royal family gave an afternoon garden party at Buckingham Palace.

On the last night of the conference, July 31, 1957, the Law Society hosted a farewell dinner in the Guildhall. Originally built in 1440, but partly destroyed in the great London fire of 1666 and damaged in the German blitz of 1940, the Guildhall was the ancient seat of London city government. Only about four hundred persons were able to attend the dinner. At 7:30 p.m., when Sir Winston Churchill walked into the great hall at the head of the speakers’ table guests, applause and cheers spontaneously erupted from the guests. At age 82, a living legend, Churchill rarely made public appearances.

Later in the evening, Churchill delivered a twenty-minute oration in the form of a “Toast to the Legal Profession.” In it, he paid a glowing tribute to the United States Supreme Court as the “guardian and upholder of American liberty before all the world. Long may it continue to thrive.” In concluding, Churchill said, “I have the honour to propose to you the Toast of The Legal Profession which, in its far-reaching way, has steadily woven forward and upward all those principles which we have in mind and which I have ventured to touch upon tonight.”

Chief Justice Earl Warren was the first to respond, from the manuscript offered here. Viscount Kilmuir (1900-1967), the Lord Chancellor, responded on behalf of the British Bar.

Earl Warren (1891-1974) was born in Los Angeles, California, to a Norwegian immigrant father and a Swedish immigrant mother.  Warren graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1912 and from the law school there in 1914. In 1917 and 1918, he served in the U.S. Army. As district attorney of Alameda County from 1925 to 1939, he was tough on crime and professionalized the office. He served as attorney general for California from 1939 to 1943, and then as governor of California from 1943 to 1953. Appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, he became the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1953 and served until his resignation in 1969. He headed the governmental commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and 1964.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was born to a British father and American mother. He served as an army officer in India and Africa and became an accomplished writer. Over a political career that spanned fifty years, he held many political and cabinet positions, including First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911 to 1915 and 1939 to 1940. During the 1930s, he took the lead in warning against Nazi Germany’s hostile ambitions. He served as Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. His speeches inspired British resistance to Nazi Germany, especially in 1940 to 1941, when the United Kingdom stood almost alone against Adolf Hitler. After suffering a serious stroke in 1953, he retired from political office in 1955. In 1963, he became the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.

Full Text of Churchill’s Speech at the Guildhall

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