Four Horsemen

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The Four Horsemen were four conservative Supreme Court Justices during the 1932-1937 terms of the Court, during the Administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. These four Justices were Pierce Butler, James McReynolds, George Sutherland and Willis Van Devanter. In the middle of the Court were Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Justice Owen J. Roberts. On the liberal side were Justices Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo, and Harlan Fiske Stone, Hughes often sided with the liberals, while Roberts often agreed with the Four Horsemen.

The Court unanimously invalidated the National Industrial Recovery Act in May 1935.[1] But the following fall, the liberal Justices moved in favor of upholding other aspects of the New Deal.

The Four Horsemen, together with Roberts and Hughes, invalidated key parts of the New Deal during the 1935 term. They struck down the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933,[2] regulations of the coal industry,[3] and the New York minimum wage law for women and children. and in, the Four together with Roberts voided legislation regulating the coal industry, and the same line-up voided a New York minimum wage law for women and children.[4]

The Four Horsemen were known to commute to the Court together as they worked out their arguments.

President Roosevelt's response was to propose his court-packing scheme, which Congress and the American public rejected. This cost Roosevelt much in the way of credibility. But the retirement of Van Devanter in June 1937 and President Roosevelt's replacement of him by the liberal Justice Hugo Black terminated the power of the Four Horsemen.

Other uses

Revelation 6:1-8 describes four horsemen who will ride a white, red, black, and "pale" horse respectively, and are often said to refer to pestilence, war, famine, and death. They are often referred to as "the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."

A popular movie of 1921, "The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse," which starred Rudolph Valentino, may have popularized this particular phrasing.

Four stars of the Notre Dame football team in the 1920s were referred to as the "Four Horsemen."

A 1984 song by American Thrash metal band Metallica is called "The Four Horsemen".


  1. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495 (1935)
  2. United States v. Butler, 297 U.S. 1 (1936)
  3. Carter v. Carter Coal, 298 U.S. 238 (1936)
  4. Morehead v. New York, 298 U.S. 587 (1936)