Felix Frankfurter


American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice

Author Quotes

A phrase begins life as a literary expression; its felicity leads to its lazy repetition; and repetition soon establishes it as a legal formula, undiscriminatingly used to express different and sometimes contradictory ideas.

It must never be forgotten, however, that the Bill of Rights was the child of the Enlightenment. Back of the guarantee of free speech lay faith in the power of an appeal to reason by all the peaceful means for gaining access to the mind. It was in order to avert force and explosions due to restrictions upon rational modes of communication that the guarantee of free speech was given a generous scope. But utterance in a context of violence can lose its significance as an appeal to reason and become part of an instrument of force. Such utterance was not meant to be sheltered by the Constitution.

Old age and sickness bring out the essential characteristics of a man.

The mark of a truly civilized man is confidence in the strength and security derived from the inquiring mind.

The dynamo of our economic system is self-interest which may range from mere petty greed to admirable types of self-expression.

Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.

The mode by which the inevitable is reached is effort.

The history of liberty has largely been the history of the observance of procedural safeguards.

It simply is not true that war never settles anything.

It must take account of what it decrees for today in order that today may not paralyze tomorrow.

It is a wise man who said that there is no greater inequality than the equal treatment of unequals.

Anybody can decide a question if only a single principle is in controversy.

Answers are not obtained by putting the wrong question and thereby begging the real one.

All our work, our whole life is a matter of semantics, because words are the tools with which we work, the material out of which laws are made, out of which the Constitution was written. Everything depends on our understanding of them.

If nowhere else, in the relation between Church and State, “good fences make good neighbors.”

Freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of a free society.

Government... is neither business, nor technology, nor applied science. It is the art of making men live together in peace and with reasonable happiness.

If facts are changing, law cannot be static.

To be a success, devote three or four hours a day to being an executive and the rest of the time to thinking.

There can be no security where there is fear.

To regard teachers - in our entire educational system from the primary grades to the university - as priests of our democracy is therefore not to indulge in hyperbole. It is the special task of teachers to foster those habits of open-mindedness and critical inquiry which alone make for responsible citizens, who in turn, make possible an enlightened and effective public opinion.

Civil liberties mean liberties for those we like and those we don't like, or even detest.

Democracy is always a beckoning goal, not a safe harbor. For freedom is an unremitting endeavor, never a final achievement.

Gratitude is one of the least articulate of the emotions, especially when it is deep.

If err we must, let us err on the side of tolerance.

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American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice