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Edwin Montefiore Borchard papers

Call Number: MS 670

Scope and Contents

The Edwin M. Borchard Papers reflect Borchard's career as a lawyer, educator, scholar, legal reformer, and adviser to government and business. The papers contain important materials on a variety of subjects, including declaratory judgments, the conviction of innocent persons, American neutrality, the legal protection of foreign investments, codification of international law, international claims and arbitration (especially those resulting from World War I), and the eminent jurist John Bassett Moore. The papers should also be of interest to researchers interested in the relationship between government, big business, and academia.

The papers are arranged in six series: I. Selected Correspondence; II. General Correspondence; III. Subject Files: International Law & Foreign Affairs; IV. Subject Files: U.S. Law and Politics; V. Writings and Speeches; VI. Biographical Material and Memorabilia.

Series I, Selected Correspondence, contains approximately 6000 letters between Borchard and 225 important correspondents. Correspondents of note include: The America First Committee (10 from E.B./ 19 to E.B.), The American Civil Liberties Union (100/100), Charles Beard (53/60), William E. Borah (150/150), John H. Danaher (88/87), Hiram Johnson (75/75), John Bassett Moore (1000/1000), James A. Shanley (90/90), and George Holden Tinkham (60/60)*.

Borchard's correspondence with the America First Committee, Beard, Borah, Danaher, Johnson, Shanley, and Tinkham relates primarily to American neutrality, the attempt to appeal the neutrality bill, and American foreign policy. His correspondence with the American Civil Liberties Union involves advice on a variety of legal questions. The voluminous John Bassett Moore correspondence relates to practically every aspect of Borchard's career but is especially noteworthy for its discussion of American foreign policy and the neutrality question. (For further correspondence on specific topics, see Series II, III, and IV. Whenever correspondence of persons listed in Series I appears in other series, cross-references have been made.)

Series II, General Correspondence, contains approximately 25,000 leters to and from Borchard spanning the years 1910 to 1947. While much of the material is routine, the series contains large quantities of correspondence relating to virtually all of Borchard's major activities and interests.

Series III, Subject Files: International Law & Foreign Affairs, contains Professor Borchard's research notes, memoranda, and correspondence on a variety of international legal disputes, issues, and conferences. Notable topics include the status of property sequestrated during World War I (for example, the claims involving the Reidemann brothers, the Lewis Gun Co., and the S.S. Dacia); Standard Oil's claims against Mexico which resulted from Mexico's nationalization of the oil industry in 1938; the League of Nations Conference on the Codification of International Law, 1930; and the 1930, 1931, and 1932 sessions of the International Congress of Comparative Law.

*All letter counts are approximate.

Series IV, Subject Files: U.S. Law and Politics, contains research notes, memoranda, and correspondence. Included in the series are Borchard's research memoranda and notes for his studies on declaratory judgments, conviction of the innocent, and the Federal Torts Claim Bill. The series also contains the research notes, correspondence, and memoranda relating to Borchard's study of American neutrality (Neutrality for the U.S., 1937); memoranda and drafts of correspondence from the period in which he served as Assistant Solicitor for the Department of State (1913-1914); and a type-script draft of Walter Rotholz's study of mixed arbitral tribunals (c.1930-1938).

Series V, Writings and Speeches, is composed of typescripts and published copies of Borchard's essays, bibliographies, book reviews, and speeches. Especially noteworthy are his speeches supporting American neutrality.

Series VI, Biographical Material and Memorabilia, contains a series of newspaper clippings on Borchard's activities and materials relating to his private life, e.g., stamp collecting, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, and family real estate.

The Edwin M. Borchard Papers were transferred to Manuscripts and Archives from the Yale University Law School Library in 1974.


  • 1910-1950


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the Yale Law School in 1974 and 1994.


Arranged in six series and one addition: I. Selected Correspondence. II. General Correspondence. III. International Law and Foreign Affairs. IV. U.S. Law and Politics. V. Writings and Speeches. VI. Biographical Material and Memorabilia.


62 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, research notes, memoranda, writings, speeches, newspaper clippings, and memorabilia of Edwin Borchard, professor of law at Yale University, specialist in international law, adviser to government and business, and controversial advocate of American neutrality in both world wars. The correspondence reflects both his political and legal interests. Most important among his correspondents is John Bassett Moore, with whom he exchanged over 2,000 letters between 1917 and 1947. Other political figures and organizations include the America First Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, Charles Beard, William E. Borah, John H. Danaher, Hiram Johnson, James A. Shanley, and George Holden Tinkham. Extensive subject files in the papers relate to Borchard's work as a member of various international commissions as well as in United States law and politics. The files contain research notes, memoranda, minutes of meetings, and related correspondence. The section on his writings, which are preserved in both typescript draft and printed form, includes books, articles, speeches, pamphlets, book reviews, and a draft for an unpublished book on enemy property. Only a small part of the papers relate to Borchard's work as a professor of law at Yale University and there is no family correspondence.

Biographical / Historical

Edwin Montefiore Borchard was born in New York City on October 17, 1884. Borchard's father, Michaelis, had emigrated from Prussia in 1859 and settled in New York City where he established an importing business. After completing his preliminary education in. the New York City public school system, Borchard attended the College of the City of New York from 1898 to 1902. He received his LL.B. from New York Law School in 1905 and his B.A. (1908) and Ph.D. (1913) from Columbia.

In 1910 Borchard, an expert in international law, was appointed to the agency representing America during the Hague Tribunal's North Atlantic fisheries arbitration. While in Europe he traveled extensively for the Library of Congress, investigating and collecting literature on continental law.

From 1911 to 1916, Borchard was employed as the Law Librarian of Congress, except for a period during 1913-1914 when he served as Assistant Solicitor for the Department of State. In 1915 he traveled through South America investigating legal literature for the Library of Congress and studying commercial law for the Department of Commerce.

After a brief period as an attorney for the National City Bank of New York, Borchard was appointed Professor of Law at Yale University Law School in 1917. In 1927 he was appointed to the Justus H. Hotchkiss Chair of Law at Yale, a position he held until his retirement in 1950. While on leave from Yale, Professor Borchard served as a member and lecturer at the International Academy of Law at The Hague in 1923, and in 1925 he became the first American professor to lecture at the University of Berlin since the beginning of World War I.

Throughout his academic career Professor Borchard served as a legal adviser to a number of government agencies, including the State and Treasury Departments, the Office of Civilian Defense, and the Maritime Commission. In 1929 he was appointed chief consul for Peru when the United States arbitrated the Tacna-Arica boundry dispute between Peru and Chile. During 1930 he was a technical adviser to the Conference on the Codification of International Law at The Hague. He was also a member of the Committee of Experts for American Codification of International Law.

One of the most important aspects of Professor Borchard's career was his effort on behalf of legal reform. Two of his major studies, The Declaratory Judgment and Convicting the Innocent, were concerned with this phase of his work.

In a series of articles and studies, beginning with "Declaratory Judgments" in 1918 and ending with The Declaratory Judgment in 1934, Borchard persuasively argued for the utilization of declaratory judgments in state and federal courts. Essentially, a declaratory judgment is a declaration by a court of the rights, duties, or legal status of any interested party to a case before that court; it may or may not be accompanied by a grant of further relief by the court, e.g., an injunction, damages, etc. The device has its roots in the law of the Middle Ages and by the end of the nineteenth century was frequently used in the court systems of Western and Central Europe. Borchard's campaign for the use of this device in American courts resulted in its widespread acceptance in state court systems by the early 1930s. In 1934 the Seventy-Third Congress passed the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act, co-drafted by Borchard, allowing the use of the device in federal courts. In the opinion of Charles E. Clark, Borchard's campaign for the acceptance of the declaratory judgment was "…the greatest one-man job of legal reform to occur in this country."

Convicting the Innocent, published in 1932, was a study of miscarriages of justice in which innocent persons had been wrongly convicted of crimes. As a result of the revelations set forth in this work, Congress, in 1938, passed an act granting relief to individuals who had been erroneously convicted in United States courts.

Professor Borchard's interests were not confined solely to the law. He was the author of a number of popular articles publicizing political issues and was well known in the national press as an exponent of American neutrality who opposed the United States' entry into both World Wars I and II. He also acted as an adviser on foreign affairs to a number of eminent statesmen, including Senators William E. Borah, John A. Danaher, and Hiram W. Johnson, as well as Congressmen James A. Shanley (3rd district, Connecticut) and George Holden Tinkham (11th district, Massachusetts).

Professor Borchard died on July 22, 1951.

Guide to the Edwin Montefiore Borchard Papers
Under Revision
compiled by John Dojka
December 1975
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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