By the end of the second world war he rose from being Solicitor General to briefly acting as Attorney General.
In this capacity he chaired the London Conference that established the Nuremberg Trials.
It was the Russians and then the Americans who believed in the trial,
but if the ongoing discussions between the allies took a practical shape anywhere
it was in the mind of Robert Jackson, the man appointed by Roosevelt to deal with the problem.
The stage of history is like no other drama in that the play is continuous without beginning or end.
Only some characters disappear or move out of the limelight in which new faces appear.
In many cases the names in the light of yesterday are found to be writ in water –
but not that of Bob Jackson. To some statesmen and soldiers our debt must always be unpaid.
I am glad to think that to one lawyer, at least, our indebtedness will also remain.
In the truest sense of an abused word he was a romantic of the law.
It caught the full wind of the tradition of natural justice, reason and human rights.
I count myself lucky to have ridden beside him on a crusade for the rule of law.
JUSTICE IS NOT AN OBVIOUS CHOICE IN THE FACE OF FEAR AND THE BOGEYMAN
Few leaders embraced of trials of German leaders.Anthony Eden, then foreign secretary wrote:
'The guilt of such individuals is so black that they fall outside and go beyond the scope of any judicial process. Moreover, the precedent of public trials of prominent statesmen shows that the procedure
is rarely advantageous to the prosecution’
Churchill promoted political and executive action
‘A list shall be compiled by the United Nations of all major war criminals
other than those provided for by local jurisdiction.
This list, which may be added to as the war continues should include the Hitler and Mussolini gangs,
the Japanese War Lords, and Quislings.
Thereafter the persons on the approved list will, by solemn decree of the 32 United Nations,
be declared world outlaws.
No penalty will be inflicted on anyone who puts them to death in any circumstances.’
‘It would seem that the method of trial conviction and judicial sentence is quite inappropriate
for notorious ringleaders such as Hitler, Himmler, Goering, and Ribbentrop.
Apart from the formidable difficulties of constituting the court,
formulating the charge and assembling the evidence,
the question of their fate is a political and not a judicial one’
And Britain’s senior law officer, the Lord Chancellor,could see no case for a trial
‘Mixed courts in such cases lead to complications about rival procedures which are better avoided.
It is impossible to imagine an elaborate list of detailed charges should be judicially investigated
with all the paraphenalia of cross-examination etc.’
No modern war has been free from accusations of atrocities allegedly committed by the other side,
and the lurid Allied propaganda of the First World War had undoubtedly created a certain amount of cynicism when these charges were being hurled against the Germans almost on the outbreak of the Second.
But the evidence of Nazi brutality which began to stream to the West after the occupation of Europe
was so overwhelming and appalling
that the demand for retribution upon those guilty of these outrages became widespread.
SONG - BLOW OUT YOU BUGLES
There are waters
Within a day or two of my appointment as Attorney-General on May 28th, 1945, I went to Claridge’s
to have my first conversation with Mr Justice Jackson,
who had been commissioned by President Truman to deal with the problem
of what to do with major war criminals on behalf of the United States.
There are waters blown
A number of choices were open to us – one was to select the defendants and give them a hearing.
In such event, natural justice demanded that we should inform them clearly what charges were against them, produce to them the evidence in which these charges were based,
and give them a full opportunity of answering them.
Blow out you bugles, over the rich dead!
Dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold
These laid the world away,
Laid the world away,
Gave up the years to be
Blow bugles blow! They brought us,
Holiness, for our dearth,
And Love, and Pain, that
Honour, may come back as King to earth
That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury,
stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law
is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.
Poured out the wine of youth,
The years to be,
To those who would have been, their sons,
They gave their immortality.
Blow bugles blow! For Honour
Paid with a royal wage;
Nobleness walks our ways again;
As we come to our heritage,
We have come to our heritage.
Jackson made a really superb speech, and the American case is beginning well with one or two dull patches.
CLICK ON IMAGE TO VIEW FILM EXTRACTS.