Author: Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841–1935) served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court for thirty years. A Civil War veteran, he was appointed to the court by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902, where he would stay until 1932, when he retired at the age of ninety. His time on the court made him one of the most influential American judges, famously authoring the opinion in Schenck v. United States (1919, in which the Court created the “clear and present danger” test). His most famous book, The Common Law (1881), was a compilation of lectures articulating his signature judicial philosophy: “The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience.”

In Our Youth Our Hearts Were Touched with Fire

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

As personal memories of past wars fade, people—especially young people, and especially in times of peace—may wonder why Memorial Day matters. Just such a question is the point of departure for this Memorial Day address that Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841–1935) delivered on May 30, 1884, in Keene, New Hampshire, before John Sedgwick Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic.