Freund, Paul A. (1908–1992)

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FREUND, PAUL A. (1908–1992)

Paul A. Freund was the leading constitutional scholar in the United States in the generation following world war ii. Born in St. Louis in 1908, he graduated from Washington University and the Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review. In the 1930s, he was successively law clerk to Justice louis d. brandeis of the Supreme Court, attorney for various government agencies, and then a lawyer in the office of the solicitor general for ten years, with a brief stint in the middle of his service as a faculty member at Harvard Law School. Returning to Harvard in 1946, he quickly established himself as a constitutional scholar in a remarkable series of essays on a wide variety of constitutional law subjects. He remained at Harvard for the rest of his life, declining an offer from President john f. kennedy to become Solicitor General and, many people thought, thereby forfeiting his chance of appointment to the Supreme Court.

Although felix frankfurter was Freund's teacher and mentor, Freund more resembled benjamin n. cardozo in both personality and constitutional philosophy. Like Cardozo, Freund was a shy bachelor, who had a zest for learning in all fields of human knowledge, and a photographic memory for stories and apt quotation that made him a popular speaker on all occasions. Like Cardozo, Freund sought to understand and accommodate the contending principles in all legal disputes. Freund taught that "[i]f the first requisite of a constitutional judge is that he be a philosopher, the second requisite is that he be not too philosophical. Success in the undertaking requires absorption in the facts rather than deduction from large and rigidly held abstractions.… In the familiar phrase, judgment from speculation should yield to judgment from experience."

Freund was no less eloquent in his vision of law: "in a larger sense all law resembles art, for the mission of each is to impose a measure of order on the disorder of experience without stifling the underlying diversity, spontaneity, and disarray.… In neither discipline will the craftsman succeed unless he sees that proportion and balance are both essential, that order and disorder are both virtues when held in a proper tension … new vistas give a false light unless there are cross-lights. There are, I am afraid, no absolutes in law or art except intelligence."

Freund's wit, grace, and style made him one of the foremost essayists of his time on subjects legal and nonlegal, but particularly on topics of constitutional law. He was a commanding presence and taught the virtues of tolerance, accommodation, and learning for its own sake to a whole generation of students, lawyers, and judges.

Andrew L. Kaufman


Freund, Paul A. 1961 The Supreme Court of the United States. Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Co.

——1968 On Law and Justice. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.