Thursday, April 07, 2011

Judicial activism

In this connection there is another anecdote of pleasant interest. The Hon. Josiah Quincy when a young man accompanied Judge Story to Washington and in his "Figures of the Past" relates that the judges of the Supreme Court usually dined together and their custom was to allow themselves wine only when it was raining. But "the Chief," said Story, "was brought up on Federalism and Madeira," and occasionally even on a sunshiny day would say "Brother Story, will you step to the window and see if there are signs of rain?" Story would be obliged reluctantly to report that he saw none, whereupon the Chief Justice would say cheerfully with a gleam of humor in his piercing eyes, "Well, this is a very large territory over which we have jurisdiction and I feel sure it is raining in some part of it. I think we may have a bottle to-day."
-- John Marshall: life, character and judicial services as portrayed in the centenary and memorial addresses and proceedings throughout the United States on Marshall day, 1901, and in the classic orations of Binney, Story, Phelps, Waite and Rawle, at 498.

... Madeira, a beverage of which I am innocent, was a great favorite of several of the Founders, perhaps in part for this reason:
Before the advent of artificial refrigeration, Madeira wine was particularly prized in areas where it was impractical to construct wine cellars (such as those in parts of the southern United States) because unlike many other fine wines it could survive being stored over hot summers without significant damage.
Marshall, a resident of Richmond, would buy it by the hogshead.


  1. It's fortified-- like port-- by adding distilled alcohol before all of the sugars in the juice have turned to alcohol, and thus naturally a bit sweeter. The added alcohol makes it more stable, just as it did with port, and far more easily able to survive unruined a rough sea-voyage to, say, England.

    I've only drunk a bit of it on its own. On the other hand, if you want to make the flavor of any dark gravy launch over the moon, add it and reduce it a bit before adding the liquid (stock, hopefully). It's an essential ingredient for turkey gravy on holidays at my house, something I picked up from French sauce recipes.

    It's startling how much wine-making has to do with the English market. Look at the names of shippers of port ("Taylor") and the practice of fortifying both to stand the boat trip to England. Then there's the long English occupation of Bordeaux, establishing a taste for wines from there that survives till the present in such odd places as Rumpole-the-lawyer's affinity for claret.

  2. It sounds unappealing straight-up, but apparently there are some dry vintages that might be drinkable. I may have to get some to enhance my understanding of Marshall's jurisprudence.

    Wine was one of the prime Roman products sought by the northern barbarians, so the Brits were simply keeping with the tradition. It's had consequences for foreign policy; look how long England and Portugal have been allies.

  3. If we were Facebook friends -- you should FB me, by the way -- you'd have seen my link to Sabin Willett's post in the Lawfare blog. I do not approve of this blog, but Sabin's piece is a truly awesome bit of writing.

  4. Will have to check that out. And I don't Facebook; tried it, but apparently pissed off an old friend in the process, and decided it was a net minus in my life.

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