A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from April 30, 2005
“The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government”
"The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government" is on top of all those Corinthian columns on the New York State Supreme Courthouse, in Foley Square (60 Centre Street, Manhattan).

The New York County Supreme Court (although "supreme," this is not to be confused with the highest state court, the Court of Appeals) is inside.

The words were intended to have been taken from George Washington's letter to Attorney General Edmund Randolph on September 28, 1789, but in 2009 it was discovered that Washington had used the word "due," not "true."

New York State Supreme Court - Civil Branch
On the front of the 60 Centre courthouse is this inscription, taken from a letter of George Washington to the Attorney General in 1789: "The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government." This remains both an inspiration and a challenge to the court, which continues to strive today, as it has for more than 300 years, to provide justice to the public of this great City and State.

American Memory (Library of Congress)
(Type in "firmest pillar" and see the actual September 28, 1789 letter -- ed.)

New York State Supreme Courthouse
60 Centre Street
New York, NY 10007

Date Built: 1919-1925
Architect: Guy Lowell

The Supreme Courthouse (New York County Court) overlooks Foley Square and is located between Worth and Pearl Streets. The building houses the Supreme Court and the Office of the County Clerk.

"In 1927 the New York County Court moved from the old Tweed Courthouse to this spacious granite-faced building. The Boston architect Guy Lowell won a competition in 1913 with a design for a round building. Construction was delayed and the design altered to a hexagonal form; work finally began in 1919. The Roman classical style chosen was popular for courthouse architecture in the first decades of the 20th century."

New York (NY) Post
February 16, 2009
Call it a misquote for the ages.

In a stunning slap at the Father of our Country, stone carvers got George Washington's words wrong on the landmark Manhattan Supreme Courthouse, The Post has learned.

"The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government," reads the inscription chiseled in granite above the fluted columns at 60 Centre St.

But the nation's first president actually penned the word "due" - not "true" - according to centuries-old documents on file at the Library of Congress and National Archives in Washington, DC.

The mangled motto adorns one of the world's most recognizable halls of justice, whose imposing Roman facade appears in the movies "The Godfather," "12 Angry Men" and "Miracle on 34th Street," as well as countless episodes of the various "Law & Order" TV series.

City and court officials were unaware of the outrageous rewrite until contacted by The Post.

Visual Thesaurus
When Typos are Set in Stone
February 18, 2009
By Ben Zimmer
Every writer knows the feeling: you've just released a carefully edited piece of prose into circulation, and when you take another look you cringe at the sight of a typo that you missed. With online writing, typos can very often be fixed without anyone even noticing. Printed errors usually require red-faced corrections. But don't feel too bad: imagine if your typos were etched in granite for all to see!

Just in time for the federal observation of George Washington's birthday (aka Presidents Day), the New York Post breathlessly reported on a typo in a quote from Washington chiseled in granite on the front of the New York State Supreme Courthouse in lower Manhattan. The inscription above the columns reads: "The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government."

These words have stood for more than eight decades without anyone noticing that the quote is just a wee bit off. If you go to the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress website, you can see a reproduction of the letter from which the quote was taken, written by Washington to Attorney General Edmund Randolph on September 28, 1789:

Impressed with a conviction that the due administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good Government, I have considered the first arrangement of the Judicial department as essential to the happiness of our Country, and to the stability of its political system; hence the selection of the fittest characters to expound the laws, and dispense justice, has been an invariable object of my anxious concern.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military/ Religion • (1) Comments • Saturday, April 30, 2005 • Permalink

The opening and closing shots of the movie 12 Angry Men.

The movie tells the story of 11 jurors changing their votes from guilty to not guilty in a case of murder. Some of them change gracefully, but it shows 3 of them showing a very ugly face before changing.

Since this is is no place to write an essay on the movie, the book it’s based upon, or human behavior in general, I won’t do it. But the words are a call to action.

George Washington’s words should stir us to be better stewards of our time on this earth. We need to act now in our daily lives to strive to hit the target of justice.

Justice isn’t something we find only in the courthouse. It’s something that can happen every day in all of our lives.

Posted by Jeff Holt  on  10/01  at  03:04 PM

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