On this day in 1958, President Eisenhower proclaims Law Day to honor the role of law in the creation of the United States of America. Three years later, Congress followed suit by passing a joint resolution establishing May 1 as Law Day.
The idea of a Law Day had first been proposed by the American Bar Association in 1957. The desire to suppress the celebration of May 1, or May Day, as International Workers’ Day aided in Law Day’s creation. May Day had communist overtones in the minds of many Americans, because of its celebration of working people as a governing class in the Soviet Union and elsewhere.
The American Bar Association defines Law Day as: “A national day set aside to celebrate the rule of law. Law Day underscores how law and the legal process have contributed to the freedoms that all Americans share.” The language of the statute ordaining May 1 calls it “a special day of celebration by the American people in appreciation of their liberties and? rededication to the ideals of equality and justice under law.”
On a day that, in many parts of the world, inspires devotion to the rights of the working classes to participate in government, Law Day asks Americans to focus upon every American’s rights as laid out in the fundamental documents of American democracy: the Declaration of Independence and the federal Constitution. The declaration insists that Americans “find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and guarantees the rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The Bill of Rights amended to the Constitution codifies the rights of free speech, free press and fair trial.
Law Day celebrates the legal construct for the determination of rights that the revolutionary leaders of the 1770s, hoping to prevent the sort of class warfare that went on to rack Europe from 1789 to 1917, were so eager to create.