American Law Institute Statement of Essential Human Rights Project records
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Biddle Law Library [Contact Us]3460 Chestnut Street, Biddle Law Library, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3406
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Biddle Law Library. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
In the midst of World War II, the American Law Institute convened a committee in 1941 to study the international community's position regarding human rights law. The committee's charge was to develop a Statement of Essential Human Rights, whose goal was "to define the indispensable human rights in terms that would be acceptable to men of good will in all nations." William Draper Lewis, then acting director of the American Law Institute, was chair of the committee and the project's most outspoken advocate, touring the world to deliver speeches on the importance of a code of basic human rights. International in scope and in participation, the committee included representatives from Britain, Canada, China, France, pre-Nazi Germany, Italy, India, Latin America, Poland, Soviet Russia, Spain, and Syria.
A version of the Statement of Essential Human Rights was finalized in 1945. However, the document was not formally adopted by the American Law Institute because of disputes over some of the language in the document, particularly regarding the economic rights of individuals. However, the document proved to be lasting influence on the human rights movement that followed, especially in the drafting of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, promulgated in 1948.
The Statement of Essential Human Rights Records, 1929-1987 and undated, include research material, constitutions, letters, conference and meeting records, drafts, publications, the writings of William Draper Lewis, and other records related to the drafting of the Statement of Essential Human Rights, finalized in 1945. The bulk of the records spans the years 1941 to 1945.
- Research Material
- Fundraising Applications
- William Draper Lewis' Writings
- Conference and Meeting Records
- Drafting Records
- Final Versions
- Enrst Rabel Series
- Lucie Krassa Series
- Collateral Studies
- Other Records
First shipment received from the American Law Institute in 1995.
An item-level container list is available offline in spreadsheet form.
Preliminary container list prepared by Melissa Backes, 1995-2005.
Reprocessed by Jordon Steele, September 2007.
Encoded by Jordon Steele, May 2008.
- University of Pennsylvania: Biddle Law Library
- Finding Aid Author
- Jordon Steele
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
- Use Restrictions
The archives reserves the right to restrict access to material of sensitive nature. Please contact the department for further information.
Articles, letters, and other secondary material used by the committee members as background research for the drafting of the Statement of Essential Human Rights. The documents include information on international human rights initiatives occurring prior to the Statement of Essential Human Rights project, including the Atlantic Charter and the "Four Freedoms" address by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.General Physical Description note
About 20 items
Since the Statement of Essential Human Rights was an international effort, this series includes a sampling of constitutions from various countries, including those from Central America, Europe, and the United Soviet Socialist Republic ( USSR).General Physical Description note
About 30 items
Applications to fund the Statement of Essential Human Rights project, sent to the American Philosophical Society, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Commonwealth Fund.Physical Description
Speeches, public statements, and memoranda created by William Draper Lewis, committee chair and primary public advocate for the Statement of Essential Human Rights project.General Physical Description note
About 40 items
Letters and related records written to and from advisers, experts on international human rights, and organizations participating in the drafting or funding of the project.General Physical Description note
About 2000 items
Minutes, letters, and related records regarding outside conferences to which William Draper Lewis and others attended, and American Law Institute meetings in which the committee members participated during the drafting of Statement of Essential Human Rights.
Drafts, comments, reports to the American Law Institute Council, and related records reflecting the drafting process of the Statement of Essential Human Rights. Aspects represented include the document's Preamble, theDeclaration of Fundamental Individual Rights, free competition, personal rights, political rights, procedural rights, property rights, and social rights. General Physical Description note
About 50 items
Published versions of the final report submitted to the American Law Institute Council in February 1944, and a pamphlet entitled "Statement of Essential Human Rights," published in 1945. The Statement of Essential Human Rights was never formally adopted by the American Law Institute because of disputes over some of the language in the document, particularly regarding the economic rights of individuals.Physical Description
Chiefly correspondence between William Draper Lewis and other people regarding Ernst Rabel, who emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1939 and was considered an expert in comparative law.General Physical Description note
About 1000 items
Chiefly commentaries written by Krassa and correspondence between Krassa and William Draper Lewis. Lucie Krassa was a German emigre who performed editorial, translation, and other contract work for the American Law Institute while her husband was teaching at Yale University.General Physical Description note
About 40 items
Alphabetical by organization or name of publication.
Chiefly letters regarding other organizations that wrote human rights declarations around the time that the American Law Institute was working on its Statement of Essential Human Rights. The organizations represented in this series include the American Bar Association, the Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, theInternational Law of the Future, and the Twentieth Century Fund. The Commission to Study the Organization of Peace was commissioned by the American Bar Association Journal and was researched and written by Judge Manley O. Hudson. General Physical Description note
About 80 items
Memoranda, notes, translations, and other unclassified records surrounding the creation of the Statement of Essential Human Rights.General Physical Description note
About 20 items