Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hidden Harms

The prose is restrained in Leonie Star's biography JULIUS STONE: An Intellectual Life (Oxford University Press and Sydney University Press, 1992). But at times it is almost heartbreaking to read the story of Stone's life. For example, in 1941 there was a major public controversy about the appointment of Julius Stone and James Williams to two chairs at the University of Sydney's Faculty of Law. Part of the opposition to Stone was fueled by anti-Semitism. After the university's senate narrowly (and publicly) voted to rescind the offers of the chairs to Stone and Williams, Stone wrote to Williams suggesting that both of them should withdraw their candidatures for the chairs. Williams rebuffed Stone's suggestion. After the university senate reversed itself again and reinstated its earlier approval of the offer of the chairs to Stone and Williams, Stone cabled Williams suggesting that the two men now should both accept the offers. Leonie Star writes (id. at p. 65):
Williams wrote to Stone on 10 November [1941]. He did not agree that decisions by either one would so affect the other that neither could act independently; he was not sure there were not factors which affected only one of them. It is clear that he had still not decided whether to accept; his indecision seems not to have been based on principle but on dislike of Stone. He asked a colleague by letter on 12 November whether he thought Stone's letter of 7 November was hostile and 'a declaration of war without any rules'. Williams seems to have believed that the main question was whether it would be worth his while trying to work with Stone, for he elsewhere expressed concern that a position which could be regarded as superior to a New Zealand Supreme Court judgeship [Williams held an academic position in New Zealand] could be lost for no better reason than 'I don't want to be plagued by a Hebrew for the rest of my life'.
It should be noted that in the end Stone was awarded the chair. Furthermore, the support for Stone among the faculty and students of the University of Sydney was very strong from the beginning. The times they were already a'changin'. Furthermore, Stone apparently vowed, on this occasion and others, only to work harder, believing that this was the way forward for him. But one naturally wonders how deep were the wounds. (Perhaps I will find out the answer as I read on.)
Post a Comment