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Letter to Judge Learned Hand on His Retirement From Active Service.

May 23, 1951

Dear Judge Hand:

Your impending retirement fills me with regret, which I know is shared by the American people. It is hard to accept the fact that, after forty-two years of most distinguished service to our Nation, your activities are now to be narrowed.

It is always difficult for me to express a sentiment of deep regret; what makes my present task so overwhelming is the compulsion I feel to attempt, on behalf of the American people, to give in words some inkling of the place you have held and will always hold in the life and spirit of our country.

Your profession has long since recognized the magnitude of your contribution to the law. There has never been any question about your preeminent place among American jurists--indeed among the nations of the world. In your writings, in your day to day work for almost half a century, you have added purpose and hope to man's quest for justice through the process of law.

As judge and philosopher, you have expressed the spirit of America and the highest in civilization which man has achieved. America, and the American people, are the richer because of the vigor and fullness of your contribution to our way of life.

We are compensated in part by the fact that you are casting off only a part of the burdens which you have borne for us these many years, and by our knowledge that you will continue actively to influence our life and society for years to come. May you enjoy many happy years of retirement, secure in the knowledge that no man, whatever his walk of life, has ever been more deserving of the admiration and the gratitude of his country, and, indeed, of the entire free world.

Very sincerely yours,


[Honorable Learned Hand, United States Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit, New York, N.Y.]

Note: Judge Hand served as Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York from 1909 to 1924, and as Judge of the United States Circuit Court, Second Circuit, from December 20, 1924, to June 1, 1951. His letter, dated May 15, announcing his retirement, was released with the President's reply.

Harry S. Truman, Letter to Judge Learned Hand on His Retirement From Active Service. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231107

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