It may not, after all, be difficult to be a nunc pro tunc prophet, but it takes real imagination to think of it. Hindsight is quite another matter; all of us are constantly explaining how a better decision years ago would have made for a happier world today. But to think in 1947 of assuming oneself to have been prophesying in 1897 as to what would be the state of affairs fifty years thence reveals an imaginative gift of some magnitude. Not only does it offer a sure-fire guaranty of accuracy of prediction, but also it dramatizes the fallibility of a genuine 1897 prophet who is operating in futuro and not nunc protunc. Elliott Cheatham, in a mischievous mood, made this all very clear over twenty years ago. Establishing himself at a point near the end of Queen Victoria's reign, he proved beyond any reasonable doubt how incredible then would have been any prediction of what became the actualities of 1947. Not only that, but as recently as 1963 he had the temerity, with a certain engaging complacency, to glory both in his achievement and his technique in attaining it. But even Achilles is said to have had a weakness, and so it is with Professor Cheatham's retroactive prophecies. Never, either in 1947 (as of 1897) or in 1963 (as of 1913), did he predict the position in esteem, admiration, and affection that he himself would occupy, come 1968.
Robert E. Mathews,
Elliott E. Cheatham: His Contributions to a Developing Sense of Professional Responsibility,
22 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol22/iss1/4