University of Pennsylvania Law Review
In his final years, United States Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson worked on a number of autobiographical writing projects. The previously unknown Jackson text that follows this Introduction is one such writing. Justice Jackson wrote this essay in longhand on thirteen yellow legal pad pages in the early 1950s. It is Jackson’s writing about religion in his life.
After Justice Jackson’s death in 1954, his secretary Elsie L. Douglas found the thirteen pages among his papers. She concluded that the pages were “undoubtedly prepared as part of his autobiography,” typed them up, and gave a file folder containing the original pages plus her typescript to Jackson’s son William Eldred Jackson, then a young partner in the Milbank, Tweed, Hope, and Hadley law firm in New York City. Bill Jackson preserved this material carefully for decades but never shared it. Much later, the folder and its contents were entrusted to me. I will be donating it soon to the Library of Congress, for addition to Jackson’s papers there.
Justice Jackson’s essay on religion, the material that follows, covers two topics: (1) his religious beliefs and practices plus those of his ancestors, who were farmers in Warren County, Pennsylvania, where young Robert Jackson lived for his first five or so years before moving to and then growing up in adjacent Chautauqua County, New York; and (2) some history on Spiritualist movements in that western Pennsylvania and western New York State region. Unfortunately, Jackson did not explain in his draft how his views on religion were shaped by growing up in a landscape of such varied religious beliefs and practices, including Spiritualism. But the gist of his thinking seems clear enough: there are all kinds of people, religions, and beliefs, and the proper way to live is to give people space and to tolerate what they are and what they choose to believe and to practice in their spaces, so long as they do not intrude unduly on one’s own.