Tuesday, January 25, 2011

* William H. Harbaugh

William H. Harbaugh
Professor of History
University of Virginia

I regarded The Rev. Dr. Douglas Clyde Macintosh so highly intellectually and deemed his law suit for the right of conscience so important constitutionally that I devoted a full in my biography of John W. Davis, Lawyer's Lawyer, to United States v. Macintosh.

What impressed me most at the time I was writing and what continues to impress me was Dr. Macintosh's personal and intellectual character.  The one was intertwined with the other. Had he not been a man of high purpose and exceptional integrity, he would have repressed his convictions in the interest of his original objective  - - - naturalization; had he not been also a man of extraordinary prescience, he could not have said:

           "I do not undertake to support 'my country right or wrong' . . . I am not willing to promise beforehand, and without knowing the cause which my country may go to war, either that I will or that I will not 'take up arms in the defense of this country,' however 'necessary the war may seem to the Government of the day.' " 

Although Dr. Macintosh lost his case by a five-four decision his struggle was not in vain.  Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes was prompted to say in dissent: "[In] the forum of conscience a, duty to a moral power higher than the State has always been maintained."  Subsequently, with Justice William O. Douglas writing for the majority, the Supreme Court overturned Macintosh. Finally, in an action which clearly reflected the continuing influence of Dr. Macintosh's moral moral contentions, President Carter pardoned many Vietnam War resisters whose comportment had been in Dr. Macintosh's tradition.


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