Harvard Commencement Speech, Signed By Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

  • Oliver Wendell Holmes Signed Harvard University Commencement Speech.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Signed Harvard University Commencement Speech.

Item Number: 51004


Speech delivered by “Mr. Justice Holmes at Commencement, Harvard University, June 28, 1911,” fifty years after he graduated from the university, three pages on two adjoining sheets.  Inscribed by the author, “Mrs. Bradley, from O. W. Holmes, July 8, 1911.” The speech, in part states, “Life is a roar of bargain and battle, but in the very heart of it there rises a mystic spiritual tone that gives meaning to the whole. It transmutes the dull details into romance. It reminds us that our only but wholly adequate significance is as parts of the unimaginable whole. It suggests that even while we think that we are egoists we are living to ends outside ourselves.” In his own hand, Holmes adds the word “that” to the final sentence. Rare and desirable.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932, and as Acting Chief Justice of the United States January–February 1930. Noted for his long service, his concise and pithy opinions and his deference to the decisions of elected legislatures, he is one of the most widely cited United States Supreme Court justices in history, particularly for his "clear and present danger" opinion for a unanimous Court in the 1919 case of Schenck v. United States, and is one of the most influential American common law judges, honored during his lifetime in Great Britain as well as the United States. Holmes retired from the Court at the age 90, making him the oldest Justice in the Supreme Court's history. He also served as an Associate Justice and as Chief Justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and was Weld Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School, of which he was an alumnus.