The History of the American Bar Association

“Law is force, and that consequently the domain of the law cannot properly extend beyond the domain of force…when law and force keep a man within the bounds of justice, they impose nothing upon him but a mere negation. They only oblige him to abstain from doing harm…but when the law, through the medium of its necessary agent – force – imposes a form of labor, a method or a subject of instruction, a creed, or a worship, it is no longer negative; it acts positively upon men.”

                                                            – Frédéric Bastiat



Many libertarians are intimately familiar with the history of central banking, but how many of them can say the same when it comes to the history of the government’s monopoly on the law? As one scholar said back in 1962:


“There is, unfortunately, no general history of the American Bar Association.”


Doesn’t this strike anybody as being uncomfortably odd? Wouldn’t you think that if Harvey Silverglate was willing to criticize the Department of Justice by taking up the American Bar Association’s side, then there should be a general history of the ABA somewhere, right? Alas, all the author can afford to give us is a patchwork quilt of bibliographic references in addition to his brief observations; fortunately, that alone is rather eye-opening.

Early last century, the ABA began lobbying the government on a variety of political issues. For instance, they lobbied against recall elections and lobbied on behalf of federal “regulations” against the commercial airline industry (even going so far as to draft the Air Commerce Act of 1926). Brockman goes onto say that:


“Major post-war activities were in two areas: professional problems, such as bar federation and legal education, and social issues. As early as 1916 organizational changes were attempted that would bring about closer collaboration between the A.B.A. and state and local bar associations.”


What, pray tell, would this “closer collaboration” entail, exactly? As I’ve written about before, the Texas Board of Law Examiners requires all applicants to first earn a J.D. degree from an “approved” law school before even registering to take the Texas Bar Examination. According to the Texas Government Code §§ 82.021, 82.022, & 82.024, only the Texas Supreme Court may issue licenses to practice law in Texas; yet, to acquire said license, an applicant is required to first satisfy the law study requirements by completing the prescribed study in an approved law school. Rule I (a)(3) of the rules governing admission to the Bar of Texas defines an “approved law school” to mean a law school approved by none other than the ABA.

Remember how Nelson Aldrich, Henry Davidson, Abraham Andrew, Frank Vanderlip, Benjamin Strong, and Paul Warburg were the 6 men who originally used pseudonyms when they attended the infamous Jeckyll Island meeting in order to draft the Federal Reserve Act under the guise of the National Monetary Commission? In light of the fourth branch of government, I thought the following admission by Brockman to be particularly enlightening:


“The concern with the administrative process continued into the present era of the Association’s history…[t]he report for the Committee on Administrative Law for 1938 is an excellent presentation of the views of the Association at this time. It concerns itself not only with policy questions, but also with questions of administrative theory, and sets forth arguments for the A.B.A.’s most insistent point, the need for greater judicialization of administrative procedure…[t]he A.B.A. was also the source of the Administrative Procedures Act, the first draft of which the Association began discussing in 1944, see ‘Fair Administrative Procedure for Administrative Agencies is Offered in Improved Draft of a Proposed Bill,’ 30 ABAJ 7 (1944). The excellent debate on the draft, really almost a discussion is reported loc. Cit., pp. 185 – 193.”


So, less than two years before Senator Pat McCarran admitted on the Congressional Record that the United States Congress was establishing a totally new branch of government by way of the Administrative Procedures Act, the ABA had already wrote and debated on the legislation. Unfortunately, I was unable to access by Internet the record of that debate from the Vol. 30, No. 7, July 1944 issue of the American Bar Association Journal (perhaps someone else could fair better if they were able to get a hard copy of that issue, or even make photocopies of it at a law library). Needless to say, the ABA’s “official” reason for being involved in the first place was that:


“The Association’s interest in the administrative process is matched by an intense concern for the quality of the judicial process, which has expressed itself in a comprehensive program aimed at bringing the most competent personnel to the courts.”


Oh, really? Doesn’t this sound awfully a lot like the “official” reason given by the Federal Reserve that its chief purpose was to stabilize the banking industry? Is it just me, or did I just miss the evidence conclusively demonstrating that the “administrative process” has brought the “most competent personnel to the courts?” As if that wasn’t bad enough, consider also Brockman’s following statement:


“Having been a long-time supporter of the World Court idea, the Association opposed the Connolly Reservation, the American self-judging declaration attached to U.S. ratification of the Statute of the International Court of Justice…[r]epeal of the Connolly Reservation is only one of a series of proposals to strengthen international legal order, being advocated by the A.B.A.’s Committee on World Peace through Law. It has just held the first of a series of international regional conferences of lawyers to promote its recommendations.”


Wow, don’t international tribunals make you feel just peachy inside? I mean, it’s not like the World Court was an attempted expression at dangerously centralizing political power, was it? Hell, if you also consider the World Bank, there would never be even a slight possibility for absolute power to corrupt absolutely, now would there?

Norbert Brockman’s The History of the American Bar Association: A Bibliographic Essay provides an important clue in the story about the incremental development of America’s contemporary police state. I find it rather interesting that a national bar association, founded a decade after the ratification of the 14th Amendment, drafted the legislative statute which established the Administrative Agencies. Brockman concludes that:


“This bibliographical essay has necessarily been selective. Certain aspects of the A.B.A.’s history have been left out either because they were regarded as being of minor importance, or else because the sources are too incomplete and scattered. Where there were several available sources, the most complete or most representative were chosen.”


Again, this concerns me to no end, for why would most of the alternative media prefer to focus on the central bankers while totally ignoring those who are primarily responsible for the massive bureaucracies who often give legitimacy (or color of law) to those socialized mercenaries hell bent on infringing upon our Liberties? What I would like to see more of are citizen journalists and pro bono researchers digging up those missing aspects of the ABA’s history, and publishing their findings for all to see, just so that we know whom we’re really dealing with here. If it can be done with the Federal Reserve, it can certainly be done with the American Bar Association.

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