Biography and History

Edward S. Corwin was born to Frank Adelbert and Dora Lyndon Corwin in Plymouth, Michigan on January 19, 1878. He was president of his class and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Michigan in 1900. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1905. He married Mildred Sutcliffe Smith on June 28, 1909.

Corwin was a renowned authority on United States constitutional law and theory, administrative law, international law, and jurisprudence. One of the original group of preceptors hired at Princeton University by Woodrow Wilson in 1905, Corwin became a full professor in 1911 and assumed Wilson's McCormick Professorship in Jurisprudence in 1918. Corwin was also the first chairman of Princeton's Department of Politics, which he headed from 1924 to 1935.

A prolific author, Corwin wrote more than 20 books, including The Constitution and What It Means Today (1928). His other books include John Marshall and the Constitution (1919); The Twilight of The Supreme Court (1935); The Commerce Power Versus States Rights--Back to the Constitution (1936); Court Over Constitution (1938); The President--Office and Powers (1940); Constitutional Revolution (1941); The Constitution and World Organization (1944); Total War and the Constitution (1947); Liberty Against Government (1948); and A Constitution of Powers in a Secular State (1951). Corwin was also co-editor of The War Cyclopedia (1917).

In addition to teaching and writing, Corwin was an advisor to the Public Works Administration in 1935, and in 1936 and 1937 he served under the U.S. Attorney General as a special assistant and consultant on constitutional questions. In 1937 he gave full support to President Roosevelt's Supreme Court reorganization plan. In 1954 he served as chairman of a national committee which opposed the Bricker Amendment to restrict the treaty-making powers of the President.

Corwin was a president of the American Political Science Association and a member of the American Philosophical Society. He was also a member of the American Historical Association, the Southern Political Science Association and the Institut International de Droit Public.

Corwin retired from Princeton in 1946 as McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Emeritus. Following his retirement, he taught at Columbia University, the University of Virginia, New York University School of Law, Emory University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Washington though he continued to live in Princeton. He died on April 29, 1963.

Source: From the finding aid for MC012

  • Department of Politics Records. 1921-1978 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC166

    The Department of Politics at Princeton University is one of the University's largest academic departments, offering undergraduate and graduate courses touching on nearly every aspect of the discipline of political science. The Department of Politics records document the activities of the Department of Politics and its faculty from the time of its founding in 1924 until the mid-1960s, and contain correspondence, course syllabi and notes, examinations, and subject files.

  • Edward S. Corwin Papers. circa 1860-1961 (inclusive), 1920-1958 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC012

    This collection contains correspondence, speeches, lecture notes, writings, and photographs of Edward S. Corwin, a noted constitutional scholar who taught at Princeton University for much of his academic career. Nationally-known and widely published, Corwin consulted with many other academics as well as politicians involved with constitutional issues, most notably when he publicly supported Franklin D. Roosevelt's Supreme Court reorganization ("court packing") plan.