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RESPECT FOR LAW.
HARRY M. DAUGHERTY,
OF WASHINGTON, D. C.,
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES. You have, from time to time, had the privilege of hearing the ablest and most profound men of the Bench and Bar, not only of our own country, but also of the British Empire and other countries. They have presented to you, in masterly fashion, the profound problems of the law. I have set for myself a much humbler, though possibly a not less useful task—to lay before you a few problems which I face day to day as head of the Department of Justice, in order that you may understand, and through you, the American people, the principles upon which they are decided. Hence, it seems fitting to speak to you on the general subject of respect for law, or, rather, to enumerate to you, for your consideration, some of the things that tend to undermine respect for law.
This subject is not new—few vitally important subjects are new. It is, however, timely. By this I do not mean that we have been suddenly ushered into an era of lawlessness. No attempt will be made to prove by statistical or other means that lawlessness is increasing. My purpose will be mainly to call attention to certain theories of political philosophy advanced by those who either violate the law, or sympathize with law violators as a defense and justification of their course. Some of these theories are as old as constitutional government, and have been advanced from time to time by those who have sought to evade the penalties of the law.
Hence, my purpose is, first, to speak to you by way of background, upon the general subject of respect for law, and, second, to present some of the theories that have been advanced, or more vigorously revived, since the world war, which, if accepted into our constitutional and municipal law would seriously embarrass the rule of law and order in this country.
I cannot conceive of a more appropriate audience with which to discuss the problems and difficulties encountered in the vigorous enforcement of law than with the representatives of the Bar here assembled. Who could understand these problems better or play a more efficient part in their solution ?
The American Bar has had a glorious past. From its ranks have been drawn very many of the great names that stand out for useful service in the founding of our government, the making of the Constitution, in the expounding and development of this wonderful instrument of government, and in the growth of the nation under it. In all this work the Bar has contributed a leading part.
Napoleon, standing in the shadow of the pyramids of Egypt, having just received the news that France had given herself up to a drunken orgy of lawlessness and anarchy, exclaimed, as he departed immediately for France: “ The reign of the lawyers is over."
Whether Napoleon meant by this that the reign of law had yielded to anarchy and lawlessness, and conceived that anarchy needed not the lawyer but the armed rule which he intended to impose upon it, or whether he meant to express disgust and contempt at what he considered the reign of the lawyers, is not material. The fact remains that the imperial hand of Napoleonthe stern presence of military force—the glittering bayonet of steel, were all insufficient to furnish the permanent basis upon which a new civilization for France was to be builded. Napoleon failed in much that he undertook, but the Code Napoleon—the work of French jurists performed under his direction—furnished the basis for the civil law of modern Europe and stands today as his most enduring monument. The "Man of Destiny” held the lawyers in contempt, but he was forced to accept their services and counsel before France could be redeemed and placed on a basis of orderly government.
Respect for law is the one essential fact of our civilization. Without it, life, liberty and property are insecure. Without it, civilization falls back to the chaos and anarchy of primitive times. Under such conditions, each human being is compelled to attend primarily to his own safety and to the protection of his own
property, and has neither time nor opportunity for the intellectual, moral or spiritual development.
The history of civilization has been a continuous struggle for law and order. Through all the centuries men have striven for that protection of life, liberty and property that comes through well-ordered government. Mankind has paid allegiance to lords and over lords who were able to give this protection.
Our present civilization did not come by chance; it is the result of labor, toil and consecrated service of hand and mind and heart. The wealth of our day in all its forms, is but the surplus of what man has produced and saved over what he has consumed. By the term wealth in this connection I do not mean material wealth alone. It includes every product of mind as well. The mental, social, moral and spiritual achievements of the past are a part of the wealth of today. Every triumph of mind or spirit that makes for higher and better living today is a part of the world's wealth. This wealth, this stored-up savings of man constitutes the basis for and conditions all his other activities. A people without an accumulated store of wealth lack the first essential element in their civilization to make them able to accomplish spiritual things.
I know it is often said that this is the wealthiest and at the same time the most materialistic age of the world. That is true in a certain sense, but it is also true that the common wealth of the age as well as the sum total of individual wealth furnishes the opportunity for the achievements that have been accomplished. Our schools and colleges, our libraries, our homes of comfort, our means of transportation and communication, and all our means of enjoyment in life, are physical conditions necessary for spiritual as contrasted with material upbuilding.
The right of property, on the one hand, of life, of liberty, of the pursuit of happiness on the other, are not antagonistic and hostile, to be set off in terms of opposition. Material wealth is the hand-maid of spiritual achievement, that is, of an intellectual, social and moral achievement. To this extent, the right of property is the ally of the right of life, in its fullest enjoyment of liberty in its proper sense, and of the pursuit of happiness. The individual may not be wealthy himself, yet he is the beneficiary of the common and collective wealth in the civilization in which
he lives. He is the “captain of his soul” in that he can steer his course as he chooses and lay under tribute the accumulated wisdom and savings of all time, whether it is to be in the realm of matter or of spirit. Instead of perishing with its own age, this surplus wealth, both material and spiritual, handed down from one generation to another, remains to bless and nourish each succeeding generation.
All progress is conditioned on the principle of conservation. Conservation, or preservation as it is usually termed, of the wealth of the world, whether it be in the realm of the material or spiritual, is conditioned on the supremacy of the law. If there is one fact history teaches above another, it is that the rights incident to wealth and the rights furnishing the opportunity to enjoy spiritual, intellectual, moral and social things are conditioned upon the supremacy of the law.
I do not mean by what I have said to glorify property as the chief aim or end of government. Nothing could be further from my mind. Human life is the supreme object above everything else of all government.
Disrespect for law has manifested itself in the past mainly by large corporations or aggregations of wealth, commonly known as big business, and by labor organizations in relation to such business. At the present time among the forces that are undermining respect for law are the following:
The doctrine of so-called political offenses, erroneous conceptions of personal liberty, and false doctrines as to the rights of individuals and minorities. These may not be the only sources of disrespect for law, but they are deserving of attention at this time because their proponents have been especially active in asserting them since the world war.
Because of 100 years of practically uncontrolled freedom of conduct, large corporations and aggregations of persons and capital have in the past resented the interference of laws regulating them in the interest of the people as a whole. This has been a mistaken attitude. Law and order is the shield of business and its only security. The attitude of contempt for law, resulting in an effort to evade and violate it, is suicidal to business, for it removes its only support. Business should see that its security lies in obedience to law; that the whole doctrine of private prop
erty depends upon law; that law violation is contagious, and therefore that all other classes of society can adopt towards property and the persons who own it the same methods and the same attitude. It would be unreasonable, indeed, for any element of society to attempt to invoke the law for its security and protection which it has held in contempt and sought to break down. This, however, has not been the most immediately harmful effect of the disregard of law by business. Unscrupulous business methods in violation of law, an attitude that the power of wealth lifts its owners above the law so that they can defy it with impunity, arouses a spirit of resentment in society. A prejudice is created not only against immediate acts of law violation, but also against its very existence and lawful operations. In short, the conduct of business in violating law has often produced a reaction in society that has caused restrictions, limitations and the penalties to be placed upon it that are in some instances unsound from an economic, industrial or social point of view.
The attitude at times of big business, that it is above the law, has also stimulated the spirit in the public that lawlessness must be met by lawlessness; that one unlawful act by an element of society must be challenged, and met by another unlawful act. This, of course, breeds a growing disrespect for law. These acts of lawlessness are contagious, so that the law violator all along the line thinks that he is only following the example set for him by those agencies of business that were strong enough and well enough intrenched to violate the law with impunity. The holdup man is the counterpart of the profiteer. The lawlessness of labor is the counterpart of the lawlessness of capital. The lawless employee is always an apt pupil of a lawless employer.
As for labor organizations, many have opposed them in principle, especially the employer class. Whether economically wise or not, it is not material to discuss here. In passing, it may be said, however, that most fair-minded people feel that, in the absence of regulation by government for his protection, the man who toils is at an unfair advantage, dealing as an individual, with his more powerful employer, who often represents large aggregations of wealth. For this reason, society, as a whole, has not opposed these organizations for the protection of labor, the practical fact being that one combination of men have been