It was Taylor’s nature, even as a boy, to situate himself amid streams of experience that ultimately fed several great lives he would come to lead. Among them were: attorney, titan of industry, inventor, controversial pioneer of labor relations—and dashing diplomat, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s high-wire ambassador extraordinaire to Europe during World War II.
As industrialist and entrepreneur, Taylor earned two fortunes before reaching the age of thirty. Anticipating a greatly expanded role for international lawyers after World War II, Taylor gave millions of dollars to his alma mater, becoming the father of Cornell Law School’s modern-day global law portfolio: classroom instruction and clinics, overseas opportunities for students and scholars, conferences, and international human rights initiatives.
Taylor’s postwar vision provided foundation for three important additions to the portfolio: 1) the Berger International Legal Studies Program, involving an expansion abroad and renaming of the traditional Ithaca-based International Legal Studies Program; 2) the Clarke Center for International and Comparative Legal Studies, developing a geographical and cultural focus to include East Asia, the Middle East, and Northern Africa; and 3) the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution, housed essentially in Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR), but with important links to the Law School, and devoted in part to arbitration and mediation initiatives in emerging economies. But back to the eve of the twentieth century, and step one for young Taylor: leaving sleepy Lyons for Ithaca and Cornell Law School.
As a member of the class of 1894, Taylor earned his bachelor of laws degree at the notable age of twenty. Alas, this youth proved fatal to a short-lived, solo practice law office back home. He learned from that setback—and from two failures as a Democratic candidate for the New York legislature in Albany—and soon joined his older brother’s Wall Street law firm, with the family business in Lyons among his clients. Young Taylor quickly prospered as a lawyer and entrepreneur; among his profitable interests, he invented the window envelope.
In the course of litigation he handled for his father’s tannery, Taylor bid for and won a U.S. government contract to manufacture mail pouches and related products. As the company expanded rapidly beyond tannery products to cotton, Taylor began to acquire struggling mills, transforming their labor practices and modernizing their technology; this modus operandi later became known as the ‘Taylor Formula.’ Blessed with an uncanny sense of timing, able to apply the formula with great discipline, and demonstrating remarkable skills in corporate finance, Taylor soon consolidated and dominated the textile industry.
In an interview from his office at the New York firm Zuckerman Spaeder, where he is managing partner, Stewart related an episode of Taylor’s career that exemplifies the innovator’s deftness as a wartime attaché and his critical role as international lawyer and geopolitical negotiator.
Amid the Great Depression of the 1930s, Taylor rescued a profoundly troubled U.S. Steel, returning it to its status as the world’s largest corporation. During his tenure there, he refused to dismiss tens of thousands of factory workers during the worst of the depression years—earning him the contempt of fellow corporate executives—and became the first CEO of a major American manufacturer to invite and sign a labor union agreement. In 1942, Taylor was recruited by his friend, Roosevelt, for the delicate office of emissary to the Vatican. Myron Taylor held the free world in his hands.
In 1942, Stewart noted, the United States still reeled from Japan’s December ’41 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. For three long years prior, Britain had fought alone against the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany, which battered London with nightly bombing raids. Most of France was occupied by Nazis, the rest ruled by a Vichy puppet government. The Soviet Union—which, with Britain, France, and the United States, composed the Allied force that would eventually defeat the Axis nations of Germany, Italy, and Japan—seemed on the brink of defeat as Hitler’s army advanced through Russia. The United States, meanwhile, was still a largely rural nation, heavily dependent on an agrarian economy. In 1942, victory in the world war was anybody’s guess.
“So, there was Myron Taylor on a mission to the Vatican,” said Stewart. “Mind you, the U.S. was at war with Italy, and Taylor had to fly into the Rome airport, controlled by Mussolini’s soldiers. The Vatican, of course, is an independent state surrounded by Rome, and a Vatican car provided transportation for Taylor—but still, there were the jackboots.”
En route back to Washington from his visit, Taylor’s plane landed in Lisbon, Portugal. The plane was met by a representative of Generalíssimo Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator and head of the Hitler-friendly Falange movement. Taylor was duly summoned to Madrid where Franco, through several public pronouncements, seemed on the verge of aligning his nation’s military with the Axis enemy.
“In his meeting with Franco, Taylor explained exactly how the United States would win the war, exactly how the Axis would be badly defeated,” said Stewart. “Maybe not so soon, but ultimately. Taylor rattled off the number of factories turning out tanks and planes and steel and weaponry.”
As America’s leading industrialist, Taylor had what would now be called street cred. Accordingly, the generalíssimo made no further noises about joining the cause of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
That “almost accidental” negotiation, as Stewart characterized Taylor’s facedown with Franco, was terribly significant for the Allies. Spain controlled Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. Had Franco not been convinced by Taylor of the potential U.S. bombardment of his country, the British-American naval invasion of French North Africa—Operation Torch, November 8, 1942—would not have made possible the successful invasion of southern Europe, which forced Germany to fight on two fronts.
Although Taylor never sought publicity for this exploit and many others, and published no memoir—hence the title of Stewart’s article: “The Man Nobody Knew”—he undoubtedly had rousing conversations about such adventures with friends, and with his wife, Anabel, his frequent companion on international missions. Certainly such conversations occurred at home in Manhattan, or at Taylor’s mansion in Locust Valley, Long Island, or while in residence as scudiero of Tuscany’s Villa Schifanola (Italian for “avoiding boredom”).
“The founding of the international program at Cornell Law, as we know it today, began in 1948 with Myron Taylor,” said Professor John J. Barceló, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of International and Comparative Law and Arthur Reich Director of the school’s Berger International Legal Studies Program as it became known in 1992 in honor of alumnus Leo Vladimir Berger ‘56 and his wife, Arvilla.
With the United States emergent as the world’s most powerful economy in the early postwar years, Taylor saw an urgent need to expand international law studies in the American legal academy—his own campus at Ithaca included. Until 1948, said Barceló, only three campuses besides Cornell offered substantial curricula in global jurisprudence: Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, later joined by New York University. Accordingly, Taylor provided initial funds for increased international programs at Cornell Law (now led by Barceló) along with a conference series that continues to this day.
Taylor had long endowed his alma mater. In 1929, the year of the stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression, he provided $1.5 million for a new classroom building, which finally in 1937 became Myron Taylor Hall. Along with its Peace Tower, Taylor’s namesake building is the architectural focus of Cornell Law School. In 1958, he built a $1 million campus residence center.
Bookending Taylor’s philanthropy was the world-class scholarship of the late Professor Rudolf Berthold Schlesinger, who joined the Cornell Law faculty in 1948. As European-born Jews, both Schlesinger and philanthropist Berger fled Germany and Hungary, respectively, during the Holocaust.
In a July telephone interview from France, where in 1994 he founded the Paris Summer Institute of International and Comparative Law, Barceló fondly recollected Berger (1921–1999) and Schlesinger (1909–1996).
“Leo was a wonderfully direct, blunt-spoken man,” he said of Berger, who grew up in New York City orphanages, becoming a Columbia Law School-trained attorney and one of America’s foremost shipping magnates as founder of Apex Marine Corporation. “At a dinner in Florida after then President Rhodes eloquently explained the importance of the international program and its budget needs, Leo simply said, ‘How Much?’” As for Schlesinger, who left Cornell Law as professor emeritus in 1975 and retired from academia in 1995 as a professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, Barceló said of his writings, “They’re read today, at law schools throughout the country.”
Schlesinger’s book on civil procedure, contracts, and international business transactions in the realms of European and U.S. legal systems—Comparative Law: Cases, Text, Materials—was first published in 1950 and remains a staple of American legal study. His 1955 monograph, “Problems of Codification of Commercial Law,” was influential in strengthening the U.S. Uniform Commercial Code, with importance decades later in domestic and international commerce.
In 1995, the American Journal of Comparative Law said of Schlesinger’s trans-Atlantic influence: “Today’s serious efforts to find and develop a unitary European private law is, consciously or unconsciously, a continuation of Schlesinger’s effort.”
Schlesinger and his wife, Ruth Hirschland Schlesinger, both died in November 1996 in San Francisco, at the respective ages of 87 and 76. According to local newspapers, they lay together in bed as double suicides, for reasons of Mrs. Schlesinger’s failing health.
The cosmopolitan tradition of Cornell Law School was set in 1887 with required courses in Roman and international law. George Washington Fields, one of the nation’s first African American law students, graduated in 1890, as did Matsugi Takemura and Gitaro Narukawa, two Japanese students.
In that final decade of the century, one of young Taylor’s professors and mentors was Charles Evans Hughes, who went on to become governor of New York from 1907 through 1910. Subsequently, Hughes was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for president in 1916 (losing to the incumbent, Woodrow Wilson), U.S. secretary of state during the 1920s, a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice in The Hague from 1928 through 1930, and finally chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1930 through 1941.
Other notable alumni are Michael W. Punke ‘89; William J. vanden Heuvel ‘52; Sang-Hyun Song, J.S.D. ‘70 of Korea; Juan Carlos Esguerra, LL.M. ‘73 of Colombia; Tsai Ing-Wen, LL.M. ‘80 of Taiwan; and Kittipong Kittayarek, LL.M. ’83 and Virada Somswasdi, LL.M. ’74, both of Thailand. Those who have died include Secretaries of State William P. Rogers and Edmund S. Muskie, Paul Szasz of the United Nations, and Ambassador Sol M. Linowitz.
The endowment from the Bergers in 1992 created the present-day Berger International Legal Studies Program and came shortly after the dissolution of America’s World War II ally, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The demise of the Soviet Union meant the triumph of market capitalism and international trade over the economic stagnation of world communism led by Moscow and Beijing, capital of the Peoples Republic of China and under the communist rule of Mao Tse-tung from 1949 until his death in 1976.
Deng Xiaoping, who succeeded Mao, instituted a new capitalist-inclined system in 1978 that began opening his long insular country to foreign trade and investment, prompting internal market forces that today see China as the world’s second greatest economic power. But it was the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992 that produced a clear end to the Cold War, which from 1945 onward was characterized by a seemingly permanent state of political and industrial espionage, the threat of nuclear annihilation due to U.S.-Soviet competition for atomic weaponry, and endless proxy wars in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Establishment of the Berger International Legal Studies Program, coming as it did at the Cold War’s sunset, constitutes what Barceló calls the “second founding” of Cornell Law’s global program.
“We now had a world in which everyone was involved in market integration,” said Barceló. “And that meant that lawyers and legal educators had to keep up with the developments.”
The global economic integration Barceló speaks of has come, at times, as a great surprise in the context of a lingering Cold War memory: the Iron Curtain hostility between the world’s two great economic systems—communism in China and the Moscow-controlled eastern bloc nations and the western-style capitalism of North America, Europe, and Japan.
Barceló asked, rhetorically, “Did I see it coming? The east-west cooperation we have today? No one did. I remember when Khrushchev said, ‘We will bury you.’ I remember being at a conference on international trade, at Cornell, and it being said that one of the world’s fundamental problems was that the starkly different Soviet and American systems of production and employment could never interact. If someone had said the USSR would collapse, I’d have said they were crazy.”
Having studied under Professor Schlesinger while earning his juris doctorate at Cornell Law and under Kingman Brewster, Jr., an American diplomat, and the future president of Yale University, while earning his masters in law at Harvard, Jack G. Clarke ’52 nurtured his longstanding interest in other countries and societies. “Professor Schlesinger was my all-time favorite teacher, always inspiring and encouraging,” said Clarke. Much of his career in international business law with Exxon Corp. took him to South America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and he stated, “it was clear that Asia was becoming more and more important to the work.” When he attended Harvard, he found an international program with substantial depth in Soviet and European law. “I wanted to encourage Cornell’s international law programs to broaden to include East Asian and Middle Eastern law.”
In 2000, he and his wife, Dorothea, made a series of gifts and commitments to the Law School that expanded the overall reach and scope of the international legal studies program in the direction primarily of East Asia and the Middle East. These gifts launched the Clarke Center for International and Comparative Legal Studies. The Clarkes also endowed three professorial chairs.
Mitchel Lasser, the Jack G. Clarke Professor of Law, is director of Graduate Studies at Cornell Law School, and co-directs the Cornell Summer Institute of International and Comparative Law in Paris. Annelise Riles is the Jack G. Clarke Professor of Far East Legal Studies and Professor of Anthropology. She also serves as director of the Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture. And, Cynthia Grant Bowman is the Dorothea S. Clarke Professor of Feminist Jurisprudence and teaches Family Law, Feminist Jurisprudence, and Torts. In addition to the Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture led by Riles, the Clarkes have provided program funding for the Clarke Initiative for Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa, directed by Professor Chantal Thomas, the Cornell Law Library for the acquisition of international and comparative law materials, and the Clarke Business Law Institute (see Forum, Spring 2011, Vol. 37, No. 1).
Building on the Clarkes’ commitment to East Asian legal studies, Anthony Wang ‘68 and his wife, Lulu, have made commitments to fund an annual visiting professor, as well as a new permanent chair in Chinese Law. In January 2012, Cornell Law School welcomes Xingzhong Yu as the Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Professor of Chinese Law.
Larry S. Bush left Mississippi for Ithaca in 2001 to become executive director of the newly established Clarke Center and to coordinate and administer all aspects of the greatly expanded international and comparative law program at the Law School. With reference to the world’s two great legal systems—civil law, as established by France and Germany, and British Common Law—Bush said, “When you talk about international law, you’re in some ways talking about a vastly complex third system.”
Bush, who is a codirector of the Paris Summer Institute and professor emeritus at the University of Mississippi School of Law, defined the components of this third system: international human rights and criminal law, private corporate law governed by commercial arbitration, “thousands” of international treaties, and global resources such as the World Trade Organization.
“International law is actually thousands of years old, certainly dating to the Treaty of Westphalia,” he said, referring to peace agreements in 1648 that ended the Thirty Years War in the Holy Roman Empire and four decades of armed conflict between Spain and what was then known as the Dutch Republic. “It’s a very rich system that most [American] lawyers, up until the twentieth century, didn’t have to deal with—until the explosion of need for involvement came with the end of World War II.”
Bush suggested that more explosion is in store, indicated by the increase in dual degree programs at Cornell and the Summer Institute in Paris—along with a newer companion offering, which operated for several years as the Summer Law Institute in Suzhou, China. In addition, Cornell Law offers twenty foreign study programs in fourteen countries. “In terms of international legal practice,” said Bush, “the Americans and British have been the most aggressive, with big firms that most Cornell Law graduates would join having branch offices in cities throughout the world.”
The ranks of globalists educated by Cornell Law, or foreign attorneys benefiting from its programs, are further destined to swell through efforts by the Scheinman Institute, part of Cornell’s ILR School.
Founded in 1996 with an endowment by ILR alumnus Martin F. Scheinman, who has served as a neutral arbitrator in more than ten thousand private and public contract disputes, the institute works in close cooperation with the Law School.
Rocco M. Scanza, the institute’s executive director, announced a pair of new initiatives he expects to see finalized by year’s end: a workplace arbitration center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in cooperation with a corporate association; and an arbitration and mediation training program in Hanoi, sponsored by the Vietnamese government. In both countries, he said, up to thirty practicing attorneys would receive ILR instruction in the processes of cross-border arbitration.
In Ithaca, meanwhile, ILR and Law School students enjoy an especially beneficial aspect of the collaboration between the Scheinman Institute and the Law School. “Not to minimize the classroom experience, but one of the most attractive elements of our program is the opportunity to work with practicing professionals in arbitration and mediation,” said Scanza.
One such practitioner, Richard D. Fincher, a Phoenix-based attorney and labor arbitrator, secured the Vietnam agreement during the two-year effort he made under the Rule of Law Project, an initiative of the State Department’s United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The arbitration center to be established in Hanoi will be the first of its kind in Vietnam, which Fincher said “has had arbitration in law as an aspiration, but not in actual practice.”
The story of world market integration, and its surprising depth of penetration, is perhaps best told by Larry Bush.
In 1999, while still at Mississippi, Bush received a phone call from a lawyer in Tupelo—population 36,336 according to the 2010 Census report, and birthplace of Elvis Presley. The Tupelo lawyer consulted Bush on the matter of a dispute between his client, a local chair factory owner, and a fabric supply company in Russia. Where on earth, the lawyer asked, could a Mississippian go file a claim against a crooked Russian?
Bush provided the requested information, later realizing, “If a lawyer in Tupelo needs to make use of international law, then everyone does.”