Harlan F. Stone

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Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone photograph circa 1927-1932.jpg

Harlan Fiske Stone (October 11, 1872 – April 22, 1946) was an American lawyer and jurist. A native of New Hampshire, he served as the dean of Columbia Law School, his alma mater, in the early 20th century. As a member of the Republican Party, he was appointed as the 52nd Attorney General of the United States before becoming an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1925. In 1941, Stone became the 12th Chief Justice of the court, serving until his death in 1946.


  • Thus viewed, law as it exists in the modern community may be conveniently, although perhaps not comprehensively, defined as the sum total of all those rules of conduct for which there is state sanction.
  • Just what instrumentalities of either a state or the federal government are exempt from taxation by the other cannot be stated in terms of universal application.
    • Metcalf & Eddy v. Mitchell, 269 U.S. 514., 522 (1926).
  • To say that only those businesses affected with a public interest may be regulated is but another way of stating that all those businesses which may be regulated are affected with a public interest.
    • Tyson and Brother v. Banton, 273 U.S. 418, 451 (1927).
  • There is grim irony in speaking of the freedom of contract of those who, because of their economic necessities, give their service for less than is needful to keep body and soul together.
    • Morehead v. N.Y. ex rel. Tipaldo, 298 U.S. 587, 632 (1936).
  • History teaches us that there have been but few infringements of personal liberty by the state which have not been justified, as they are here, in the name of righteousness and the public good, and few which have not been directed, as they are now, at politically helpless minorities.
    • Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586 (1940).
  • The guarantees of civil liberty are but guarantees of freedom of the human mind and spirit and of reasonable freedom and opportunity to express them...The very essence of the liberty which they guarantee is the freedom of the individual from compulsion as to what he shall think and what he shall say...
    • Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586, 604 (1940).
  • Words, especially those of a constitution, are not to be read with such stultifying narrowness.
    • United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 316 (1941).
  • The right to participate in the choice of representatives for Congress includes, as we have said, the right to cast a ballot and to have it counted at the general election whether for the successful candidate or not.
    • United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 318 (1941).
  • Distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.
    • Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81, 100 (1943).
  • Democracy cannot survive without the guidance of a creative minority.
    • Reported in Alpheus Thomas Mason, Harlan Fiske Stone, Pillar of the Law (1956), p. 95.


  • The law itself is on trial in every case as well as the cause before it.
    • Reported variously, including in Harris v. State, 632 So. 2d 503, 543 (Ala. Crim. App. 1992), Judge Mark Montiel, dissenting. Original source not found.
  • The horse and mule live thirty years
    And nothing know of wines and beers;
    The goat and sheep at twenty die,
    With never a taste of scotch or rye;
    The cow drinks water by the ton,
    And at eighteen is mostly done.
    Without the aid of rum or gin
    The dog at fifteen cashes in;
    The cat in milk and water soaks,
    And then at twelve years old it croaks;
    The modest, sober, bone-dry hen
    Lays eggs for nogs and dies at ten;
    All animals are strictly dry;
    They sinless live and swiftly die,
    While sinful, gleeful, rum-soaked men
    Survive for three score years and ten.
    And some of us - a mighty few -
    Stay pickled 'till we're ninety-two.
    • Reported in Alpheus Thomas Mason, Harlan Fiske Stone, Pillar of the Law (1956), p. 731; Mason reports this as a toast Stone was fond of reciting, but does not settle authorship with Stone. Various other sources following Mason attribute authorship to Stone, but without citing an original source.

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