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ROSCOE POUND 1870-1964


Deputy Grand Master, 1915


From TROWEL, Spring 1999, Page 10:

Right Worshipful Roscoe Pound
Deputy Grand Master, 1915
by Wor. William D. Hersey

R. W. Roscoe Pound at 90

How did this child born in Lincoln, NE on the Western Frontier of the United States in 1870, change not only the teaching of the Law in law schools but the interpretation of the law itself by practicing lawyers and judges through one speech to the American Bar Association in 1906?

Roscoe Pound had a natural perfect memory. He was too incorrigible for more than two weeks of public school so his mother taught him until he entered Latin School at Nebraska State University at age 12. His boyhood interest was in Botany. He entered the University at age 14 and specialized in the study of Botany and the Classics.

At age 19, he received his Master's Degree in Botany. The following year he studied law at Harvard. He practiced law in Lincoln at age 20. He received his Doctorate in Botany from the University at age 27, and was appointed a judge on the Supreme Court of Nebraska at age 33.

When 36, he addressed the American Bar Association on "Cause of Popular Dissatisfaction with the Administration of Justice." This was so challenging to the established practice of law that the convention refused to print it. (36 years later they gave him a gold medal!)

Pound saw the necessity for the law to face the challenge of the profound sociological changes of the twentieth century. His ideas were foundational to much of the New Deal legislation sponsored by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Pound was the chief advocate in the United States of adjusting the law to social conditions.

At 40, he became Storey Professor of Law at Harvard and continued in various professorships and as Dean until age 77.

Small in stature but physically and intellectually athletic, he could run the mile in five minutes at age 50. In 1933, as Dean at Harvard Law School, he became a vital influence in the establishment of The Fletcher School at Tufts University. In 1914. Austin Barclay Fletcher, a famous international lawyer, who graduated from Tufts College in 1876. provided in his will for $ 1,000,000 to be used to establish a school for International Law and Diplomacy. Fletcher died in 1923. The controversies over his will were not settled until 1933.

The school depended on borrowed professors from Harvard and this proved unsatisfactory. Tufts had not enough prestige or money to attract leading names. It was Pound who insisted there be such a school and that it should be independent of Harvard. It was Pound who saved the Fletcher School and set its successful course for the future.

His intellectual capacity, his zest for life, his exuberance of spirit, his vigor in pursuit of knowledge, his courage in the face of difficult decisions from pioneer days to the mid-twentieth century, remain a constructive inspiration worthy of emulation today.

His mighty memory was unique. You have the world' s knowledge at your fingertips giving unprecedented leverage to your minds and are free to build on his example.

Additional Mileposts in the Life of Roscoe Pound

  • Age 37: Professor of Law at Northwestern University
  • Age 39: Professor of Law at Chicago Law School
  • Age 40: Storey Professor of Law at Harvard
  • Age 42: Published "Scope and Purpose of Sociological Jurisprudence"
  • Age 45: Lectured on the Philosophy of Freemasonry
  • Age 47: Argued in Court supporting the constitutionality of child labor law
  • Age 50: Director, with Felix Frankfurter, of "Survey of Criminal Justice System in Cleveland"
  • Age 51: Published "Spirit of the Common Law" and "Theory of Social Interests"
  • Age 56: Published "Criminal Justice in America "
  • Age 57: Joined in appeal for clemency for Sacco and Vanzetti convicted of murder in 1920
  • Age 66: Left the Deanship and became Professor at Harvard
  • Age 68: Published "The Formative Era in America Law"
  • Age 70: Published "History and Systems of the Common Law "
  • Age 71: Awarded Ph.D. at Rutgers, his seventeenth honorary degree
  • Age 77: Left for China for service as adviser to the Ministry of Justice. After two summers he resigned his University professorship at Harvard
  • Age 94: Departed this life (1964) leaving his lengthening shadow on the law in this country and throughout the world.

Dean Erwin N. Griswold. who succeeded Roscoe Pound as Dean of Harvard Law School, stated at a memorial service in the Harvard Memorial Church, "Roscoe Pound came to Cambridge as a law student, not yet nineteen years old when he arrived. He stayed only a year in that capacity; and he never engaged in any other formal study of law. Yet he became one of the world's greatest legal scholars. He had a mind of prodigious capacity, and he was a man of tireless energy. The bibliography of his publications numbers close to a thousand titles, of which several hundred are books and major papers. He has the respect and gratitude of all men who are devoted to the law. and who have benefited from his devotion to the law. Pound's work is done, but its influence lives on."

Dean Roscoe Pound was considered to be the undisputed premier authority on Masonic Jurisprudence. His publications on the subject are held in highest esteem throughout the world.


From Proceedings, Page 1964-207:

On July 1, 1964 death came in his 94th year to Right Worshipful Roscoe Pound, our Senior Past Deputy Grand Master, and without doubt the most outstanding Masonic scholar of our day. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, October 27,1870, the son of Stephen Bosworth and Laura Biddlecombe Pound, he was a child of the Western frontier.

Although his father was a lawyer and a judge, it was from his mother that he acquired his early education, particularly in Latin and Science. He learned his Bible "at his mother's knee" from the Latin Vulgate version. Without further formal schooling he entered the University of Nebraska at the age of 15, graduating in 1888. He entered the Harvard Law School in 1889 before his 19th birthday, but one year at Harvard was his only formal legal education. Returning to Nebraska he entered the practice of law. He began his teaching career at the University of Nebraska in 1895, and he earned a Ph.D. in Botany in 1897. From 1900 to 1903 he served the Superior Court of Nebraska in a specially created capacity as Commissioner of Appeals to assist the Court to catch up on an accumulation of pending cases. The decisions he wrote during this assignment clearly demonstrated his scholarly capacity.

In 1903 he became Dean of the Law School at Nebraska. From there he became Professor of Law successively at Northwestern University in 1907, University of Chicago in 1909, and Harvard in 1910, becoming Dean of the Harvard Law School in 1916, a post which he held for 20 years. After retiring as Dean he continued to teach at Harvard for 11 more years, and in 1947 at the age of 77 he went to China where for 2 years he acted as advisor to the Minister of Justice of the Nationalist Government. Upon his return he helped establish a law school at the University of California at Los Angeles. In 1953 at the age of 83 he returned to Cambridge where he worked regularly at his famed circular desk at the Harvard Law School until after he had passed his 93rd birthday.

In addition to a number of other Honorary Degrees he received the Honorary Degree of Doctor o{ Laws from at least 14 Universities, including the University of Cambridge, England. He also was a member of various learned societies in Great Britain, France, Italy and Argentina, and was awarded the American Bar Association's Medal for conspicuous service in the cause of American Jurisprudence. His professional writings are so voluminous that they have been listed and classified in a book of 193 pages entirled Writings of Roscoe Pound. He was endowed with a phenomenal photographic mind which enabled him to reproduce in his mind as if by a photographic process seemingly everything he had ever read thus enabling him to quote verbatim passage after passage citing book and page.

Brother Pound was made a Mason in Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1901, and became its Master in 1905, affiliating with Evans Lodge No. 524 in Evanston, Illinois, in 1909, and Belmont Lodge, Belmont, Massachusetts, in 1912. In 1923 he became a Charter Member of Beaver Lodge in Belmont. In 1922 he played an active role in the founding of The Harvard Lodge at Harvard University, of which he became a Charter Member. It is significant that as soon as Brother Pound changed his residence he immediately transferred his Masonic affiliations.

While not a regular attendant at Lodge Meetings, during his latter years he participated many times in special events, notably the 50th Anniversary of The Harvard Lodge in 1962. No one who was present will ever forget the occasion in December 1962 when at the age of 92 he participated in the Installation of our present Grand Master by taking his place as our Senior Past Deputy Grand Master in the formal procession.

He served the Grand Lodge of Nebraska as Grand Orator from 1906 to 1908, and in 1949 was elected Honorary Past Grand Master of Masons in Nebraska. In Massachusetts he first achieved Masonic prominence as a result of a series of Masonic lectures at the Acacia Fraternity at Harvard, which were attended by Most Worshipful Melvin M. Johnson. In March 1915 Most Worshipful Brother Johnson appointed him Deputy Grand Master to succeed Frederick W. Hamilton, who was elected Grand Secretary. In 1934 he received the Henry Price Medal, and in 1953 the Veteran's Medal. He was Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of Nebraska near our Grand Lodge from 1929 until his death. He served our Grand Lodge for many years as a member of the Committee on the Recognition of Foreign Grand Lodges. In 1939 he received the Annual Distinguished Achievement Award from the Grand Lodge of New York.

He received the Scottish Rite degrees in the Valley of Lincoln, Nebraska, Southern Jurisdiction in 1903. Affiliating with the Scottish Rite Bodies in the Valley of Boston in 1912, he received the Honorary 33° the following year. In 1952 he was the fifth recipient of the Gourgas Medal of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite which was conferred "in recognition of notably distinguished service in the cause of Freemasonry, humanity or country".

Right Worshipful Brother Pound was a universally recognized scholar of Masonic Jurisprudence and Philosophy. His research and mastery of Masonic Jurisprudence is vividly reflected in the 1918 revision of the Constitutions and Regulations of our Grand Lodge.

In 1953 the Supreme Council collected and published the Masonic Addresses and Writings of Brother Pound, including his Address on The Landmarks, at the Grand Masters Conference in 1952. In the introduction to this volume Most Worshipful Melvin M. Johnson wrote that his accomplishments "have demonstrated that no one, living or dead, excels him in learning and in the ability to correlate and apply learning to life".

After Brother Pound's first wife died in 1928, he married the widow of one of their close friends, but she also preceded him in death, leaving him with his scholarly pursuits as his consuming interest. No Memorial to Right Worshipful Brother Pound could be complete without giving recognition to the devoted and faithful service of his long time and indispensable secretary, "Miss McCarthy", as she was known to all his associates and friends.

Funeral services were private, attended only by a very small group of associates which included our Grand Master, who was included in recognition of Brother Pound's pre-eminent standing in the Masonic World. A public Memorial Service was held on July 7th at the Memorial Church in the Harvard Yard.

Fraternally submitted,
George A. Lincoln
Frederick M. Busby, Jr.
Whitfield W. Johnson, Chairman






From New England Craftsman, Vol. XXXIV, No. 5, January 1939, Page 351:


There is every reason why the Mason should revere the Constitution. It speaks from a people in tradition, lanaguage and institutions the same as the one that put Masonry on its modern basis. It speaks from that people in the era of Masonic revival. In consequence its fundamental ideas are those which took shape also in the Masonic lectures as Preston overhauled and rewrote them and put them in their modern form in Ithe same generation in which the Constitution was framed. It speaks from an era of faith in reason, of faith in law, i. e., a regime of orderly and equal adjustment of relations and ordering of conduct by judicial application of precepts expressing ideas of justice and framed in advance of controversy. It speaks from an era of faith in individual freedom. I need no more than remind vou that measurement of life by reason, faith in the creative power of the builder, respect for the legal ordering of society, and faith in individual iihertv, characteristic ideas of the time which drew up the Constitution, are also characteristic Masonic ideas, lut what requires chief emphasis at the moment is the idea of balance, the idea which is the' burden of Albert Pike's classical lectures.

In the government of today, at least in the English-speaking world, we must have a balance between stability and change, between the general security and the individual life, between society and the individual, between nation and state, between the central political organization of society and the locality, between legislative and executive and judiciary. It was the need of such balance in the bad political and economic conditions following the Revolution which compelled the drawing up and adoption of the Constitution. It is the achievement of these balances which has made it possible to govern a whole continent by one political organization for a century and a half, marked by expansion in area and in population beyond what the framers could have conceived, by internal conflict and civil war, and by profound changes both in the makeup of the population and in social and economic conditions.

This idea of balance is inseparable from a well ordered society. It is a mistake to think it an obsolete idea of the eighteenth century. It is a mistake to think it something belonging only to a past era of Ismail, simple things. The bigger, the more complex In society, the more and more complex the relations of groups and associations calling for a weighing and balancing their claims, the more complicated becomes the task of adjusting their conflicting and overlapping interests and clashing activities. Hence men are driven to an omnicompetent state, to a superman leader, to an administrative absolutism, unless they can maintain a system of balance. Otherwise there is an anarchy of struggling interests in which the offhand adjustments for the time being take the form of giving in to the more ruthless or more insistent or unreasonable.

If a shifting from agriculture to industry, from country to city, along with economic unification, business transcending political lines, and interdependence of localities, have greatly increased the task of the central government and have made new demands upon federal administration, there is more, not less, need for checks upon the central authority to safeguard local interests in so vast a domain in which these charges have come and are going on at such varying rates. The Constitution affords a permanent machinery for these balances demanded by the varying conditions of time and place. It is a Constitution for times, not for any one time. It is one for a whole continent, a land of the most diverse local, geographical, economic, social and even racial conditions. We are not a homogeneous people fitting a small area under uniform geographical, economic and social conditions. Hence we are not comparable to the states of Western Europe from which too many ideas currently urged upon us are being borrowed.

A great and diversified domain, diversified in geographical and economic conditions as well as in conditions of racial origins, has never been ruled under one political organization otherwise than as an autocracy except under a federal Constitution.

Government succeeds as it succeeds in attaining and maintaining balance between extreme of arbitrary authority and extreme of limited and hampered authority. This is the teaching of Masonry as to individual life as applied to political life. It is no less the teaching of political history. The Mason, at any rate, will not be led astray by Marx's idea of the disappearance of law, or a society in which there is but one rule of law, "that there are no laws but only administrative orders"; nor by the fascist idea of a superman in whose hands we may put all the powers of politically organized society, abdicating our individual reasons and the freedom that belongs to a human personality worthy of and endowed with immortality.


From Proceedings, Page 1971-158:

At Mount Sinai Lodge March 6, 1956

Worshipful Master, Brethren, I feel a good deal of diffidence in trying to speak up to that magnificent introduction. When I am introduced now-a-days I sometime, as I listen to the introduction that my friends are good enough to recite, feel that it sounds something like an obituary; but trying to speak up to such an introduction reminds me of the first time that I ever tried to speak in public without a manuscript.

I had been admitted to the bar just six days, and I am afraid, like the product of any first class law school today, was profoundly ignorant of a good many of the minutiae of practice, but I was sent to a little county seat twenty miles down the road to perform an arduous undertaking known as taking a default. I looked very carefully at the code of procedure. I could find out when one could take a default, but they didn't tell one how to io it, and the only thing that could be done was sit in the courtroom in the hopes that somebody would take a default and uen I would follow his example.

But, before I could get to observe someone take a default, it happened that a committee of colored brethren had just built a temple in the town and felt that oratory was necessary in dedicating it, and of course it is well known that on such occasions the bar are the best reservoir of oratory. Any ordinary good lawyer is supposed to be able to speak on any subject, whether he has anything to say about it or not. So application was made to the presiding judge to appoint a member of the bar to speak on that occasion. The presiding judge looked about the courtroom and picked out two of us who were the most recently admitted members of the bar, because it is a well known fact that those jobs which involve glory but no pay are the prerogatives of the junior members of the profession; so I and a young fellow who was two days my senior were appointed.

My colleague took a freight train in the opposite direction at once, and I was left alone to go with the colored clergyman to speak on this occasion. I couldn't think of anything I could possibly say, and I explained to him that anything that I said would have to be entirely extemporaneous, that I hadn't any preparation for such an occasion. He explained to me that he would take care of that, and he did. And when the proper time was reached in the ceremonies, he said, "Brethren and Sisters, through the courtesy of the presiding judge of the circuit court the Honorable Roscoe Pound has kindly consented to deliver to us some promiscuous and edificationary remarks of a strictly extemporaneous character."

I want to make the guaranty that my remarks will be extemporaneous and as to its edification, you will have to run the risk of that. Now, seriously, I ought to have something more to say to you than this sort of thing, and what I had in mind was to tell you something about an experience which I had two years ago — three years ago nearly it is now — that opened my eyes very much to something that I think we have got to be thinking about, the world being as it is today.

While I was in India as a Professor at the University of Calcutta, I had occasion to see something of Masonic Lodge in Bengal; and I learned a good deal from that experience. It was something inspiring to see a Hindu man six-feet tall, with a great blue turban on his head and a Mohammedan with his red turban and tarboosh; this one American and a sprinkling of what they call the baboos — the educated civil servants in Bengal — in the Lodge performing the work of the Lodge with delicacy, smoothness, perfect accord. Men who out in the street would probably almost be at each other's throats, but in the Lodge conducting themselves as brother Masons and as civilized beings, well-conducted, everyday, tall men.

It was very inspiring to me and it taught me something. I have said several times in the course of speeches that the significant thing in the world, after all, is civilization — that is, the raising of human powers to their highest possibilities; and that has two sides. On the one side, of course, there is the utmost development of man's control of external nature. We have done wonders in that respect. I suppose we have achieved the impossible when we divided the atom, because the very word atom means indivisible, and dividing the indivisible is no mean achievement. We have just begun to utilize the possibilities of that achievement. We have done wonders in the control of external nature. But the control of external nature would achieve nothing if it were not for a control of internal or human nature that makes it possible.

Mark Twain says that The Leatherstocking Tales by James Fennimore Cooper ought to be called the Broken Twig Tales because he tells us at the crisis of every one of those stories, somebody steps on a broken twig, and then the Iroquois is coming. And it is perfectly true with the non-civilized society. They can't go about their everyday undertakings with assurance. There can't be any division of labor. There can't be any investigation and study and research because every man has to be careful not to show up over the skyline and not to step on the broken twig. He may be assassinated.

So it is the control of human nature that has made it possible for us to achieve that control of external nature that enables man, in the language of the Bible, to inherit the earth.

Now, are we achieving that control of internal nature? Of course, the difficulty with that is that, in common speech, everybody wants the earth. There is only one earth. To put it another way: Everyone is seeking to achieve what he expects in civilized society. And that's no mean task to satisfy the reasonable expectations of everybody in the world, where expectations are unlimited, and means of satisfying them sometimes are more or less, and sometimes a little less, limited.

Under such circumstances, then, we have to consider means of supporting that control over human nature, which is the job of civilization. And we commonly think that there are three agencies by which that is achieved: Religion, Morals and Law. We know behind religion stands the church. Behind the law stands the State. Behind morals — well, Masonic philosophers like Krause and Fichte in the past thought that was the task of the Masonic Order.

But, at any rate, what seems to me more important is to have that climate of human mind and human aspiration that will enable these agencies to achieve something for civilization, because you can have the best of political organization, the most perfect of moral instruction and yet men aren't in the way of thinking tolerantly, behaving themselves tolerantly, getting along with their fellow man. If there is no understanding of their fellow man, very little can be achieved by these agencies by promoting civilization.

Now, today, of course, we are thinking of some sort of universal world organization. That's not a new idea. The Greeks, after they waged the Peloponnesian War, and almost wrecked ancient Greece, got up an assemble and thought they could unite all Greece under an organization of peace and of getting along one state with another. I don't need to tell you it failed.

After each great war, you have one or two things happen. Either there has been an autocracy, as happened in the Roman Empire after the great civil wars and the beginning of the Christian era; as happened in Europe after the thirty years war when they tried the grand design of Henry the Fourth. After the war of the French Revolution, when Napoleon came very near creating an empire over nearly all of the continent, and after our two world wars in the present generation, we have had attempts again at a universal organization.

What I suspect, Brethren, is that the organization can't come first and the climate of human opinion and human tolerance afterwards, but that climate must come first and then the organization can achieve something. That at least is a thought that I would like to leave with you.

And out of that comes the question: How can we as Masons do something to achieve that climate of opinion and behavior that will enable political organizations of the world to achieve something?

Now, there I am brought back to the philosophy of one of the greatest Masonic thinkers — Johann Gottlieb Fichte. He saw a problem of today.

What I suppose is chiefly at the bottom of difficulties today is the bigness of everything. Everything is so much bigger than it was. I can remember having been born in the place where there were fifty-five inhabitants, and going back now and seeing one hundred and fifty thousand there. There are more people in the world. They are brought in contact with each other. The radio, the television, and transportation are making a great community, the next door neighbor of every other.

It is a crowded world and being a crowded world it is a highly specialized world. Every sort of undertaking or activity is highly specialized. The consequence is that the orbit in which most of us move is circumscribed. It isn't like the pioneer community where every man was probably a small farmer and knew pretty much what his neighbor was doing, what he was. But in a highly specialized community we don't know much about our neighbor's lives and we appreciate less and less what his problems and his difficulties are.

One of the things that men rely on to overcome that is education. But education is getting so specialized that I suspect it makes things worse. Instead of bringing men up to be all-round men it brings them up to be highly specialized men, and consequently there is little appreciation of the surroundings and difficulties and problems and modes of thought of their neighbors.

It was of these things that Johann Gottlieb Fichte spoke when he gave the various lectures to Masons. In the first place, looking at these agencies of civilization he spoke of, he perceived at once that the Church was hopelessly split into sections suspicious of each other, almost warring with each other. It wasn't simply that there were Catholics and Protestants. The Protestants were split into any number of divisions and organizations suspicious of each other. Not only that, but the Masons of his time were hopelessly divided in the same way. There were the Ancients and the Moderns in England. On the continent, there were the strict observants — there were all manner of other rites, each claiming to be the one Masonic organization, and most of them not really legitimate. So what he had to preach, and did preach, was bringing up men through the Masonic Lodges to be all-round men, able to work with understanding and tolerating their fellow man. And if in some way the world can get where the different races and peoples and creeds can understand each other, not be suspicious of each other, work with each other, through being made up of all-round men, men capable of working with their fellow men, then certainly these political organizations may achieve something.

Now I don't claim that Masonry is going to be a universal panacea, that it can do what religion and education and political organizations haven't been able to do, but I believe it is doing and can do a great deal to advance the condition of things in which a universal organization may achieve its purposes. That's why I look forward with interest as I get about over the world to see the progress that Masonry has made and is making. I can't help suspecting that if the English Masonic organization that I saw in India can hold out against the national politics that are there, it may do something to help in that part of the East. And I can't help thinking that if the Mohammedan and the Jew and the Greek in the Near East could be brought to understand each other and work with each other in some fashion, it would do a great deal more than any United Nations can ever achieve.

That's a mere hope, but in that hope I put a good deal of faith in Masonry as a universal organization. And what seems to me to be the thing upon which we must pin our faith and to which we must devote our efforts is to make each Mason an all-round man, a man able and willing and anxious to understand his fellow man, work with his fellow man to bring about in that way the harmony which after all we preach is the significant thing in human relations.

Now, I thank you Brethren for the attention with which you have listened to me. Unfortunately, it is not the easiest thing for me to stand up for this length of time and I am sorry to have to apologize.

But I leave you this message: It is not merely that we are seeking light. Light is something that men have been seeking from the time of Socrates, who believed that the cause of all evil was due to ignorance, that men wouldn't do wrong if they knew enough to know how to do right.

Men have had that idea in one form or another ever since. But, after all, education hasn't succeeded in bringing about that understanding among men that will obviate a great deal of evil, whether they have the knowledge of right or wrong exactly, or not. In other words it isn't light in the sense of training, teaching, learning; it is light in the sense of that inner light that leads a man to believe in, to work with, and to understand and get along with his fellow man. That I hope is the light that we are trying to spread in the Craft.

Distinguished Brothers