On the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Saturday Night Massacre
by The Honorable Laurence H. Silberman1
I was recently asked to speak on my personal recollections of the latter Watergate
period, and I thought to give that talk again today. Some of the matters I will describe have been
reported on–at least in part. But I dare say I will provide some fresh information and certainly
some added context. You should be warned, however, I have concluded, after reading
innumerable memoirs, that the author invariably portrays him or herself in an overly favorable
It is 25 years last October that the so-called Saturday Night Massacre occurred.
Elliot Richardson, the Attorney General, was obliged to resign; Bill Ruckelshaus, the Deputy
Attorney General, was fired; and the then third-ranking Solicitor General, Bob Bork, as Acting
Attorney General, discharged Archibald Cox, the Watergate Special Prosecutor. The events that
weekend in terms of dramatic impact rank with the fall of the Soviet Empire, the start of the Gulf
War, and the recent impeachment proceedings. Still, we all tend to think of such events in
personal terms. When I was asked for my reaction at a dinner that Saturday night, I responded
that we knew that President Richard Nixon disliked and distrusted Harvard graduates, but this
seemed a bit extreme. In a few months, however, I would replace Bill Ruckelshaus, who was a
class ahead of me.
1 Of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This speech
was delivered to the Federalist Society, Los Angeles Lawyers Division, Los Angeles, California,
June 24, 1999.