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Robert H. Jackson

Robert Houghwout Jackson (February 13, 1892 - October 9, 1954) was United States Attorney General (1940 - 1941) and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1941 - 1954). He was also the chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.

Born in Spring Creek Township, Warren County, Pennsylvania, Jackson studied law at Albany Law School[?] in Albany, New York, passing his bar exam in 1913 without having attained a degree, and afterwards setting up practice in Jamestown.

Jackson became active in the federal government during the FDR administration, serving as general counsel of the Internal Revenue Service beginning in 1934. He went on to become an Assistant Attorney General from 1936 to 1938, during which time he was noted for successfully prosecuting several antitrust cases.

After a term as United States Solicitor General (1938-39) Jackson was appointed Attorney General by Roosevelt in 1940, replacing Frank Murphy[?]. When Harlan Fiske Stone[?] replaced the retiring Charles Evans Hughes as Chief Justice in 1941, Roosevelt appointed Jackson to the resulting vacant Associate's seat.

Jackson was granted a leave of absence from the Court in 1945 and traveled to Germany to act as the United States' chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials. Jackson pursued his prosecutorial role with a great deal of vigor (for instance, referring in arguments to Hermann Göring as being "half militarist, half gangster"), but resigned his position as prosecutor after the first trial and returned to the U.S. in the midst of controversy.

Jackson had informally been promised the Chief Justiceship by Roosevelt; however, the seat came open while Jackson was in Germany, and FDR was no longer alive. President Truman was faced with two factions, one recommending Jackson for the seat, the other advocating Hugo Black. In an attempt to avoid controversy, Truman appointed Fred Vinson[?]. Jackson blamed machinations by Black for his being passed over for the seat, and began a long feud with Black, which was heavily covered in the press and cast the New Deal Court in a negative light.

Jackson died in Washington, D.C. at the age of 62 and was interred in Frewsburg, New York.

Quotes

  • "We can afford no liberties with liberty itself."
  • "Men are more often bribed by their loyalties and ambitions than by money."
  • "If we can cultivate in the world the idea that aggressive war-making is the way to the prisoner's dock rather than the way to honors, we will have accomplished something toward making the peace more secure."
  • "We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy."
  • "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."
  • "When the [United States Supreme] Court moved to Washington in 1800, it was provided with no books, which probably accounts for the high quality of early opinions.
  • "It is not the function of the government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error."

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