M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 3

Crafting the Law of the Sea: Elliot Richardson and the Search for Order on the Oceans (1977-1980)

Vivek Viswanathan



Between 1969 and 1980, Elliot Lee Richardson served in a succession of influential positions in American government: Under Secretary of State; Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare; Secretary of Defense; Attorney General; Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s in the United Kingdom; Secretary of Commerce; and Ambassador to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. He had served before in Massachusetts as the United States Attorney, the Attorney General, and the Lieutenant Governor. In his youth, he had participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, for which he received the Bronze Star; served as president of the Harvard Law Review; and clerked for two of the most eminent jurists in American history, Judge Learned Hand and Justice Felix Frankfurter. In old age, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In his prime, he played a pivotal role in the events that led to the only resignation of an American president.

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