One of the heroes of American aviation was Charles Lindbergh for his non-stop flight across the Atlantic, which he performed with merely a sandwich and a cup of coffee for sustenance for the long flight. He was additionally famous for the tragic kidnapping and murder of his baby as well as his turn to politics in the years preceding America’s role in World War II. Lindbergh’s turn to politics and the way he went about it, if one knew of his family’s background, was not surprising. His father, Lindbergh Sr. (1859-1924), had served in Congress from Minnesota from 1907 to 1917.
Lindbergh was first elected to Congress from Minnesota’s 6th district in 1906 as a Republican. However, he was an insurgent progressive in a conservative party. Lindbergh was strongly opposed to the influence of big business, supporting investigations and dissolutions of trusts and wanted the United States to steer clear of foreign wars. He would vote against the Aldrich-Payne Tariff and vote with Nebraska’s George Norris in his successful bid to reduce the House Speaker’s powers in 1910. Lindbergh, however, would side with all Republicans in support of the Commerce Court Bill, which established a special court for reviewing orders from the Interstate Commerce Commission, which would be scrapped by the Wilson Administration. He would be friendlier than many Republicans to President Wilson’s New Freedom legislation. However, although he initially voted for the Federal Reserve Act in 1913, he sided with Senator Robert La Follette in voting against the final bill, warning “This [Federal Reserve Act] establishes the most gigantic trust on earth. When the President signs this bill, the invisible government of the monetary power will be legalized….the worst legislative crime of the ages is perpetrated by this banking and currency bill” (Russ). He would later file articles of impeachment against Federal Reserve Governors Paul Warburg and William P.G. Harding, claiming that they were conspiring to violate the Constitution and the law (Lindbergh). Lindbergh also, as did most Republicans, opposed the Underwood Tariff legislation in 1913 which lowered tariffs and instituted an income tax to make up for lost revenue. He still believed in the Republican tariff system.
Lindbergh on War
Congressman Lindbergh looked on with trepidation at the war brewing in Europe and once again broke from his party. Theodore Roosevelt and the dominant conservatives wanted a buildup of the navy, preparation of citizens for war, and ultimately intervention on the side of the Allies. On March 7, 1916, Lindbergh voted against tabling the Gore-McLemore Resolution, which would have been an official Congressional warning against Americans traveling on belligerent ships with armaments. That year, he chose to vacate his House seat to run for the Senate, which he lost to future Secretary of State Frank Kellogg. In 1918, Lindbergh made a run for governor, but again without success. Lindbergh’s successor, Harold Knutson, would follow in his footsteps by voting against U.S. entry into World War I. Lindbergh would blame the ultra-wealthy in his book Why Is Your Country At War for bringing the U.S. into war, which would be censored during the war.
Charles Lindbergh continued to make runs for public office, eventually opting to leave the GOP and join with the Farmer-Labor Party, a progressive Republican breakaway. In 1923, Lindbergh lost the Farmer-Labor nomination for senator to Magnus Johnson, who would win the election to finish the term of the late Knute Nelson. While campaigning in the gubernatorial primary of the Farmer-Labor Party for governor in 1924, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and died on May 24th. Three years later, his son would make his famous flight.
Congressional Record of Charles Lindbergh Sr., 1917, pp. 3126-3130.
Russ, B. Total Eclipse of Freedom. Lulu.com.
Gaut, G. (2018, June 8). Lindbergh, Charles A., Sr. MNopedia.
Parents and Sisters – Charles August (C.A.) Lindbergh. Minnesota Historical Society.