History In Ink®  Historical Autographs


George Sutherland

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From the personal collection of Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark

Bold closing and signature by Justice Sutherland

George Sutherland, 1862–1942.  Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court, 1922–1938; Representative, 1901–1903, and Senator, 1905–1917, from Utah.  Closing and signature, Geo. Sutherland, 1½” x 5¼”.

This is evidently the closing from a handwritten note by Justice Sutherland.  He has written “with warm regard – / Sincerely, / Geo. Sutherland.” in black fountain pen. 

Sutherland, a Republican, was a staunch conservative who strongly believed that individuals had natural rights with which the state could not interfere.  For example, Sutherland wrote the Supreme Court’s opinion in Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, 261 U.S. 525 (1923), which held unconstitutional a District of Columbia law that established a minimum wage for women on the theory that the workers had the freedom to contract with employers on their own.  Sutherland was not entirely consistent, but by the 1930s he led the block of four conservative Justices who influenced the Court’s invalidation of much of President Franklin D. Rooseveltʼs New Deal legislation.  Frustration with the Court led to Roosevelt’s infamous plan to pack the Court with justices favorable to the administration.

Sutherland was born in England but moved to Utah with his parents, who were converted Mormons, the year after he was born.  He studied law at the University of Michigan and was admitted to practice in 1883.  He became active in Republican politics and served in the Utah Senate before being elected to Congress.  He served one term in the House of Representatives before serving two terms in the United States Senate.  While in the Senate he served as president of the American Bar Association.  President Warren G. Harding appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1922.

This piece is in fine condition.  It is irregularly trimmed, as the scan below shows, and has a corner crease and a paperclip impression in the blank area at left.

Provenance:  This item comes from the personal collection of Justice Tom C. Clark, who served on the Supreme Court from 1949 until 1967. Justice Clark collected the autographs of other Supreme Court Justices dating back into the 19th Century.  We are privileged to offer a number of items from the collection.  This one comes with the backing page, which bears the federal eagle watermark and Justice Sutherlandʼs typed name, that Justice Clark inserted behind the item in the page protector used to house this letter his collection.  This piece is not laid down to the backing sheet.  The backing sheet has a pencil note with a third personʼs name.



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