The two-handed saw is a foresters’ instrument that two men use, one at each end, sawing in reciprocating rhythm. The blade of the best two-handed saws balances a sharpened stiffness with a shimmering flexion; its use requires individual strength and skill at cooperation. Because Gene Rostow too combined these opposing qualities – indeed had them in abundance – it is especially noteworthy that one day, using such a saw as a young man in New England, he severely injured his back, keeping him out of active service in World War II and causing recurrent difficulties throughout his gallant life.
Was he unyielding for just a moment when giving in would have spared him? Did the other man pull too hard, throwing Gene off balance despite his strength, or push to an extreme that was unnatural for Gene?
You see, it takes a certain unyieldingness to insist that Japanese Americans not be interned after the devastating military and psychological blow at Pearl Harbor. Only someone with a strong frame could possibly resist the near-universal pull of public and governmental opinion. There was a certain fierce dignity in Gene’s contempt for racism, not unlike that of the colleagues he recruited to Yale – Charles L. Black, Jr., of course, but also Grant Gilmore, Boris Bittker, Myres McDougal, and the young Guido Calabresi – who made the Yale Law School a strong redoubt for civil rights.
Philip C. Bobbitt,
For Eugene Rostow,
Yale L. J.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/228