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Alexander Mordecai Bickel papers

Call Number: MS 762

Scope and Contents

The Alexander M. Bickel Papers consist of eighty-four archives boxes of letters, notes, drafts, and printed and near-print matter related to his work in scholarship, journalism, teaching, politics, government, and law. All phases of his career are well represented from his editing of Brandeis'sUnpublished Opinionsto the posthumous publication ofThe Morality of Consentexcept that few items document his classroom work. His earlier activities in law and diplomacy are represented thinly or not at all, and there is nothing antedating his clerkship with Judge Magruder.


  • 1916-1987
  • Majority of material found within 1930 - 1975


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Original audiovisual materials, as well as preservation and duplicating masters, may not be played. Researchers must consult use copies, or if none exist must pay for a use copy, which is retained by the repository. Researchers wishing to obtain an additional copy for their personal use should consult Copying Services information on the Manuscripts and Archives web site.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator of this collection is retained by his heirs. Copyright status for other 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

Gift of Joanne Bickel and Jeannette Hopkins, 1976; Elias Clark, 1982; Boris Bittker, 1984; Joanne Bickel, 1995; and Jeannette Hopkins, 1996. Transfer from Yale Law Library, 1989. All material except Accession 1995-M-136 have been incorporated into the series arrangement of the collection.


Arranged in thirteen series and one addition: I. Correspondence, 1950-1975. II. Books, 1956-1977. III. Shorter Writings, 1954-1974. IV. Public Speaking, 1956-1974. V. Senate Judiciary, 1967-1974. VI. Legislation, 1958-1974. VII. Politics, 1967-1969. VIII. Committees, 1966-1974. IX. Conferences, 1967-1972. X. Legal Practice, 1950-1974. XI. Teaching, 1956-1975. XII. State Department, 1950-1954. XIII. Memorabilia, 1941-1976.


47.13 Linear Feet (109 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers of Alexander M. Bickel include correspondence; writings, both published and unpublished; memoranda on legislation and government policy; papers from his legal practice; papers relating to his teaching at the Yale Law School; and personal papers and photographs. Bickel's writings as well as his legal cases reflect his general political position as a classical liberal, and revolve around such issues as segregation in the schools, racial discrimination, the role of the Supreme Court in American life and politics, separation of powers, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. From 1958 until his death, Bickel often assisted in drafting social legislation. As the papers document, most prominent among these efforts was his share in the school desegregation legislation (1970-1974). His interest in the reform of the Democratic Party is shown in such materials as drafts of testimony before the Credentials Committee of the Party (1968). His active support for Charles H. Percy in 1967 and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 is shown by substantive correspondence and memoranda from these years. As an editor of The New Republic he wrote on legal and political issues, contributing many signed and unsigned editorials and articles. His extensive writing and reviewing for other popular magazines and in monograph form are supported in the papers with correspondence and drafts. His service in the U. S. Army during World War II and his work with the High Commissioner for Germany and the State Department in the early 1950s are also documented.

Biographical / Historical

Alexander Mordecai Bickel, professor in Yale Law School and contributing editor of The New Republic, was a pre-eminent scholarly and popular authority on the Constitution, the Supreme Court, and the roles of the several branches of government in shaping public policy. Speaking and writing as teacher, scholar, lawyer, journalist, Democrat, and adviser to government officials, he was in the 1960s and early 1970s an important contributor to national discussion of such legal and political subjects as school desegregation, reapportionment, the Electoral College, the interpretation of the First Amendment, the powers of the President, the significance of the Warren Court, and the meaning of the liberal tradition. These are among the principal events in his personal and professional life:

born in Bucharest, Rumania, to Shlomo and Yetta Bickel.
immigrated with family to New York City, where his father became a journalist in the Yiddish-language press.
served in the U.S Army.
received the B.S. in Social Science from the City College of New York.
received the LL.B. from Harvard Law School,
served as law clerk to Chief Judge Calvert Magruder, U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit.
employed in the Office of the U.S. High Commissioner in Germany.
belonged to the U.S. Observer Delegation to the European Defense Community Conference in Paris.
served as law clerk to Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter, U.S. Supreme Court.
employed as special assistant to Director Robert R. Bowie, Policy Planning Staff, U.S. State Department.
employed as research associate, Harvard Law School.
appointed associate professor, Yale Law School.
chosen by the Permanent Committee for the Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise to write "Responsible Government and the Judiciary, 1910-1930," a segment of its projected Supreme Court history.
published The Unpublished Opinions of Mr. Justice Brandeis.
lived in Washington, D.C., during most of sabbatical year.
married Josephine Ann (Joanne) Napolino.
appointed professor, Yale Law School.
first child born, Francesca Ann.
second child born, Claudia Rose.
published The Least Dangerous Branch: The Supreme Court at the Bar of Politics.
published Politics and the Warren Court.
appointed Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and Legal History in Yale Law School and Yale University.
taught in summer session, Stanford Law School.
appointed consultant to the Subcommittee on the Separation of Powers, U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
served on the Democratic Party's Commission on the Democratic Selection of Presidential Nominees (Hughes Commission).
published The New Age of Political Reform: The Electoral College, the Convention, and the Party System.
appointed consultant to the Democratic Party's Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection (McGovern Commission).
delivered Holmes Lectures at Harvard Law School.
collaborated with U.S. Representative Richardson Preyer on legislation related to school desegregation.
published The Supreme Court and the Idea of Progress
appointed William C. DeVane Professor, Yale University, for a three-year term (1971-1974).
held a fellowship in the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavorial Sciences, Palo Alto, California,
published Reform and Continuity: The Electoral College, the Convention, and the Party System, a revision of The New Age of Political Reform.
argued for the defense in New York Times Co. v. United States (the Pentagon papers case).
participated in the Study Group of the Federal Judicial Center on the Caseload of the Supreme Court.
published The Caseload of the Supreme Court: And What, If Anything, to Do About It.
1973 Dec
underwent surgery.
1974 Feb
returned to professional activity.
1974 Jul
appointed Sterling Professor of Law, Yale Law School.
1974 Jul
suffered relapse.
1974 Oct
completed manuscript of The Morality of Consent.
1974 Nov
Guide to the Alexander Mordecai Bickel Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Susan Grigg and Akiba J. Covitz
May 1999
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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