The Reformer: How One Liberal Fought to Preempt the Russian Revolution

October 8, 2018
The Reformer book event poster

The Honorable Stephen F. Williams, Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. Commentator: Aurelian Craiutu *99, Professor of Political Science, Indiana University

Besides absolutists of the right (the tsar and his adherents) and left (Lenin and his fellow Bolsheviks), the Russian political landscape in 1917 featured moderates seeking liberal reform and a rapid evolution towards a constitutional monarchy. Vasily Maklakov, a lawyer, legislator and public intellectual, was among the most prominent of these, and the most articulate and sophisticated advocate of the rule of law, the linchpin of liberalism. 

The Reformer tells the story of his efforts and his analysis of the reasons for their ultimate failure. It is thus, in part, an example for movements seeking to liberalize authoritarian countries today―both as a warning and a guide. 

Judge Stephen F. Williams, Senior Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, practiced law in New York City (at the firm of Debevoise Plimpton and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney) and then taught law at the University of Colorado Law School from 1969 to 1986, with visiting years at UCLA, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Chicago (where he was also a fellow in law and economics).  He was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1986. Law and economics have been a theme of both his academic writing and his work as a judge. In Liberal Reform in an Illiberal Regime: The Creation of Private Property in Russia, 1906-1915 (Hoover, 2006), Judge Williams extends the basic insights of the law and economics movement to problems of governance, political change, and reform of property rights.  His most recent book, The Reformer: How One Liberal Fought to Preempt the Russian Revolution (Encounter Books, 2017), is a biography of Vasily Maklakov, a lawyer, legislator, and public intellectual active in advancing the rule of law in Russia. Judge Williams received his B.A. from Yale University in 1958 and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1961. 

Aurelian Craiutu *99 is Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington where he also directs the Tocqueville Program. Professor Craiutu’s publications include Liberalism under Siege: The Political Thought of the French Doctrinaires (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), Tocqueville on America after 1840 (Cambridge University Press, 2009; with Jeremy Jennings), America through European Eyes (Penn State University Press, 2009, with Jeffrey C. Isaac), A Virtue for Courageous Minds: Moderation in French Political Thought, 1748-1830 (Princeton University Press, 2012), and Faces of Moderation: The Art of Balance in an Age of Extremes (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017). Professor Craiutu also edited Madame de Staël’s Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution (Liberty Fund, 2008) and François Guizot’s History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe (Liberty Fund, 2002). Professor Craiutu earned his Ph.D. in Political Theory from Princeton in 1999.


The Reformer: How One Liberal Fought to Preempt the Russian Revolution


Bowen Hall 222

Photo Album:

  • Flyer on table
  • Audience at the Judge Williams event
  • Judge Stephen Williams and Aurelian Craiutu