Robert Edward Edmondson and Louis D. Brandeis

31Jul14

We are always on the lookout here at the University of Louisville Law Library for items to add to our collection of Brandeis papers. We get the occasional stray letter or pamphlet but for the most part since our collection is already so large, there aren’t many significant items left to acquire. So there are times when we add items to the collection that are somewhat peripherally related to the collection. As is the case with our latest acquisition, an item that I am frankly somewhat conflicted about.

It is a broadsheet published by a man named Robert Edward Edmondson in 1935 titled Justice Brandeis Unfit?. It is a nasty piece of work. It is a piece of anti-Roosevelt and NRA propaganda with an emphasis on Brandeis’ position on the Supreme Court and his alleged role as the architect of the NRA. But it is primarily a piece of anti-Semitic propaganda. There was, according to Edmondson, a Jewish conspiracy to overthrow the government and hand it to the Communists. To support his thesis, Edmondson uses newspaper editorials, out of context quotes from Brandeis’s writings and, of course, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But it wasn’t just Brandeis who gets vilified. Seemingly every Jewish intellectual of the day was part of the conspiracy: Harold Laski, Felix Frankfurter, Benjamin Cardozo, Albert Einstein and Stephen Wise all get name-checked. Even Brandeis’ daughter Susan is dragged through the mud. Among her crimes were the facts that she was a member of the ACLU and that she kept her maiden name after she got married!

I had never heard of Edmondson before we purchased this broadsheet, so I had to look him up in Wikipedia. He was journalist, and naturally a Nazi-sympathizer, who published many of these pamphlets that “exposed” the Jewish/Communist conspiracy to take over America. He believed that fluoridation of drinking water was part of the plot and he also published works that “proved” that Roosevelt and Churchill were Jewish.

I feel a little uncomfortable adding this man’s ravings into our collection, but there is value in having it. It helps researchers to know what Brandeis’ critics were saying about him, even when some of those critics were full on crazy. And the collection already has other pieces of this nature that had been collected by Brandeis himself. And, unpleasant as it is to look on it occasionally, it serves as a good example of the type of attitude that Brandeis probably had to deal with every day.

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