Congressman Mosher’s Prescient Warning

In the 1960s and 1970s, the presence of moderate to liberal Republicans was far greater in the Republican Party than today, and one of these people had an important warning about our future.

https://bioguideretro.congress.gov/Static_Files/data/photo/M/M001031.jpg

Republican Charles Mosher (1906-1984) was elected to Congress from Ohio’s 13th district (southwest of Cleveland) in 1960. The district had a long history of Republican affiliation: from 1919 to 1977 Democrats only held the seat for six years, but Mosher’s record in the House is reflective of the change the district underwent during his time. He was in his first three terms moderately conservative. Mosher was notably both a member of the NAACP and the ACLU, uncommon for a Republican. In the late 1960s he began moving in a more liberal direction, becoming staunchly liberal on social issues, strongly opposed to Nixon’s Vietnam War policies, and moderately liberal on economic issues. In his first four terms (1961-69), Mosher had averaged a 65% on the MC-Index, whereas in his last four terms (1969-77), he averaged a 27%. The times were so different for the parties that he wasn’t even the most liberal Republican Congressman from Ohio – that was Charles Whalen. Mosher supported President Ford on more issues than Nixon as he was on good personal terms with the former. Overall, his lifetime MC-Index score was a 46%. Mosher was also the first Republican to vote against Vietnam War appropriations in 1967 and considered his greatest regret voting for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. However, what I find most notable about this man is what he said at the end of his career that carries a great deal of relevance today.

In 1976, Mosher opted to retire, not wanting to stay in office after the age of 70. Having served as the ranking Republican on the Science and Technology Committee, he came to realize what lay ahead in the future. Mosher found that Congress had more information at its disposal but was less and less able to make decisions. As he stated in his last interview as a representative, “Perhaps we are confused by the facts, perhaps we are so much more aware of the complexities of the world that it makes us indecisive – much more than we were a few years back when we flew by the seat of the pants” (The Washington Post). Mosher also issued a warning about the increased amount of information, stating that people find it difficult to process this increased flow of information that people would rather choose to look for simple answers than confront the complexities the information tells us. Although he observed this forty-four years ago and he has been dead for thirty-six years, the phenomenon he speaks of is truer than ever today. We see more and more polarization fueled by people using the vast pool of information and connection who seek out other like-minded people and views. It thus becomes harder to craft consensus policies.

Mosher was succeeded easily by liberal Democrat Don Pease, who won 66% of the vote. The district had changed substantially in its politics. In 1982, the 76-year old Mosher was awarded a master’s degree in government from Oberlin College, becoming the oldest person to be awarded a degree from the university. His thesis, in keeping with his thinking about the longer run future, was that representatives should be elected to four-year terms and senators eight so they can think more about policy than reelection.

References

Ex-Rep. Charles Mosher of Ohio. (1984, November 17). The New York Times.

Retrieved from

https://www.nytimes.com/1984/11/17/obituaries/ex-rep-charles-mosher-of-ohio.html

Smith, J.Y. (1984, November 18). Former Rep. Charles Mosher of Ohio Dies. The Washington Post.

Retrieved from

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1984/11/18/former-rep-charles-mosher-of-ohio-dies/3047446a-9ed2-4990-b200-ce8bf9e882c5/

 

Rebecca Latimer Felton: A First and a Last

U.S. Senate: Rebecca Latimer Felton (D-GA)

On September 26, 1922, Senator Thomas E. Watson of Georgia, a fiery populist and racial demagogue, died suddenly. Governor Thomas Hardwick was eager to return to the Senate, but there was a problem: he had voted against women’s suffrage as a senator and his state had been one of two to create rules that prevented women from voting in the 1920 election. He realized he needed to give a nod to the newly enfranchised white women of his state. On October 3rd, Hardwick appointed Rebecca Latimer Felton (1835-1930) to fill the vacancy. Felton was an 87-year old suffragist who had actively supported the career of her late husband, Congressman William H. Felton, and she was the most prominent female voice in Georgia politics.

During William Felton’s time in the state legislature and Congress from 1875 to 1881, she was his right hand…constituents bragged they were getting two Congressmen for the price of one as she would even draft legislation. In 1894, William Felton ran for Congress again as a Populist but lost. Rebecca Felton was outspoken in numerous reform causes of her day, including the end of the practice of convict leasing, which leased prisoners to private companies that in practice was indentured servitude with substandard conditions that at times were even worse than slavery. The practice was abolished in the state in 1908. Felton also succeeded in her advocacy for statewide prohibition as it was enacted in the same year and was a staunch advocate for public schooling.

While Rebecca Felton called for reform in a number of social areas for Georgia, she was also a staunch racist. Having been a slave owner before the Civil War, she believed in a strict order of social and legal control of the black population to be enforced with lynchings if necessary. Felton defended the barbaric 1899 lynching of Sam Hose, a black man who was tortured and mutilated before being burned at the stake. He had been accused of murdering his employer and raping his wife (the former was the product of an employment dispute and the latter was false), and Felton, shrugging the brutality of it off, thought the lynching justified given the nature of the accusations. She also would harbor no questioning of the Jim Crow system and ultimately was able through a public outrage campaign to force the resignation of Professor Andrew Sledd of Emory University for doing so.

Felton’s appointment was a first, but it was symbolic as she only served for a day when the Senate wasn’t in session and she regarded it as a joke. It was also, strangely enough, a last. She was the last member of either House to have owned slaves. The first female senator to be elected would be Hattie Caraway of Arkansas, who would vote and contribute to legislation. Hardwick’s symbolic move ultimately didn’t work as he was defeated by Walter George, the interim senator who succeeded Felton. He also lost reelection as Georgia’s governor due to his opposition to the KKK.

References

Arnold, E.T. (2009). What virtue there is in fire: cultural memory and the lynching of Sam Hose. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press.

Parker, D.P. (2003, May 14). Rebecca Latimer Felton (1835-1930). New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Retrieved from

https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/rebecca-latimer-felton-1835-1930

Rebecca Latimer Felton: Activist, Author, Journalist, Politician. Georgia Women of Achievement.

Retrieved from

https://www.georgiawomen.org/rebecca-latimer-felton

 

The Rise and Fall of Rep. Marion Zioncheck

ZIONCHECK, Marion Anthony | US House of Representatives: History ...

In 1932, many young Democrats were elected to Congress with the spirit of change in their minds. One was Marion Zioncheck (1901-1936), a brilliant and charismatic young attorney who was the first Democrat to win the Seattle-based 1st district of Washington, defeating decisively the district’s former Congressman, John F. Miller. A spirited radical, he was a workhorse and his constituents were appreciative: he improved his share of the vote in 1934. Zioncheck played a leading role in the Washington Commonwealth Federation, a socialist pressure group within the Democratic Party that would eventually become communist-dominated. He was an enthusiastic backer of the New Deal but occasionally disagreed with the Roosevelt Administration: in 1935 he voted against extending the National Industrial Recovery Act likely on the grounds that it created cartels given his views. However, in his second term the positive perception of him among his constituency would change.

In that early morning of New Year’s Day 1936 his neighbors complained to the police about the noise of the party at Zioncheck’s home and they found him drunk making calls with the apartment building’s switchboard. He was not the same after that party and became “a maniac – what the newspapers of the day called a clown, a playboy, a “bad boy” – and a figure of scorn, hilarity and eventually pity” (Conroy). His behavior was bizarre in and out of the House.

While speaking before Congress, Zioncheck denounced James A. Farley, the Postmaster General of the United States, who oversaw the distribution of Democratic Party patronage, as incompetent and stupid. The Supreme Court was for him a collection of “old fossils” or “corporation lawyers” (Hill).

In May, Zioncheck married a 21-year old woman after knowing her for a week. When the couple went to Puerto Rico for their honeymoon, he caused trouble. Zioncheck, who had become notorious for getting speeding tickets, was involved in two car crashes. He was also the cause of an incident that led to a riot in which he was pelted with rocks by students and it had to be put down by the national guard. Zioncheck’s outlandish behavior also caused an irate man to challenge him to a duel. He was urged to leave for the Virgin Islands in which he lapped soup from his bowl like a dog, crafted a concoction of hair tonic and rum, and was involved in yet another crash…the cause was him biting his driver’s neck.

After returning from their honeymoon, Zioncheck continued to cause trouble: he threw a glass at a man in a Harlem nightclub and the next morning he served drinks to reporters at his apartment. He would later in the day remove his shoes and frolic in the Rockefeller Center’s fountain. He and his new wife, Rubye, had also done so in Washington D.C. On his return to Washington, Zioncheck got into a dispute with his elderly landlady over the awful state of his apartment which resulted in him dragging her out of her apartment and tossing her onto the street, resulting in her going to the hospital for a hip injury. He remained at his apartment, unperturbed, and speculated that his landlady was probably a communist.

On May 31st, Zioncheck desperately searched for his wife, who had walked out on him on the night of the 30th after a heated argument. In the process, he crashed into his friends’ homes, searched hotels, and knocked on doors of acquaintances. He sped around Washington, running red lights, and almost running over numerous pedestrians. On June 1st, he drove on the White House lawn and dropped off empty beer bottles and ping pong balls as gifts for President Roosevelt while seeking the arrest of Vice President John Nance Garner. He was shortly after finally arrested by the police for lunacy. Zioncheck was sent to Gallinger hospital where he escaped but was recaptured and transferred to a private hospital, from which he also escaped and got a ride to D.C. from a none-the-wiser motorist. Zioncheck then figured it best to return to Seattle to avoid another arrest. There, he vacillated as to whether he wanted to leave Congress given his deteriorating standing in his district and delivered a speech, “Who’s Crazy”, to address the media coverage of his escapades.

On August 7th, 1936, Zioncheck and his wife were to attend a banquet and as she waited in the car for him, his body plummeted to the street right before her eyes from the fifth floor window, and on his body was a note that read: “My only hope in life was to improve the condition of an unfair economic system that held no promise to those that all the wealth of even a decent chance to survive let alone live” (Corsicana Daily Sun). Although the cause of death was ruled a suicide, there were family members who believed he was pushed as they didn’t want to believe that he had intended to end his life. Zioncheck had been unable to cope with the stresses of his condition and the level of work that he had demanded of himself. His friend and successor, Warren Magnuson, gave a speech in his memory, describing him thusly, “He was the most brilliant of our young Democrats, passionately devoted to the idea of leadership. He felt the corporate structure must be made amenable to community spirit. He was opposed to the application of force by an armed minority. He believed the days of Cain and the exploitation of neighbors must give way to the Golden Rule. Marion felt too profoundly and too intensely, a heavy responsibility to his fellow man. These are my impressions and recollections of our dead comrade. I give them to you with only one hope – that we shall continue together where he left off” (Scates, 58). Magnuson would indeed carry on and prove far more successful: he would after four terms be elected to the Senate, where he would serve until 1981.

References

Conroy, S.B. (1989, January 29). The Hellion of Harvard. The Washington Post.

Retrieved from

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1989/01/29/the-hellion-of-harvard-hall/a8decc1c-e602-4758-a4d2-81953dd40a48/

Hill, R. (2015, April 26). The Congressman From Crazy Town: Marion Zioncheck of Washington. The Knoxville Focus.

Retrieved from

http://knoxfocus.com/archives/ray-hills-archives/congressman-crazy-town-marion-zioncheck-washington/

Rep. Zioncheck is Arrested on Lunacy Charge. (1936, June 1). The Evening Times (Sayre, Pennsylvania).

Retrieved from

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/8169782/rep-zioncheck-is-arrested-on-lunacy/

Rep. Zioncheck is Killed in Dive From Five-Story Window: Jumped Quickly. 1936, August 8). Corsicana Daily Sun (Corsicana, Texas).

Retrieved from

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/8168757/jumped-quickly/

Scates, S. (1997). Warren G. Magnuson and the shaping of twentieth-century America. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.

Students Stone U.S. Congressman. (1936, May 14). The Ottawa Journal.

Retrieved from

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/8167207/students-stone-us-congressman/

 

The Criminalization and Re-Legalization of Gold Ownership

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a5/Gold_Bars.jpg

On November 8, 1932, the voters of the US voted for a change…and change they would get in spades. One of these was the beginning of the end of the US emphasis on gold.

The Criminalization of Gold Currency

The stated concern by the Roosevelt Administration was that economic recovery was being hindered by hoarding of gold by individual owners. Thus, on April 5, 1933, just a month after he had been sworn into office, FDR issued Executive Order 6102, which forbade “the hoarding of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States”, with penalties up to $10,000 in fines and up to ten years imprisonment. Exemptions were made for jewelry, gold fillings, coins totaling $100 in value, and recognized collections. Owners had until May 1st to give the federal government all but a small portion of their gold in exchange for $20.67 ($408 in 2019) per troy ounce. Although this was the official market rate, it was below what it was trading for at the time. Along with the order, two laws were passed further cementing the Roosevelt Administration’s policies on gold.

The first was the Gold Clause Resolution of 1933, which took the domestic United States off the gold standard by not only prohibiting gold clauses in future contracts but invalidating them in already existing contracts. Thus, creditors could no longer demand payment in gold. The second was the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, which required all gold held by the Federal Reserve to be transferred to the U.S. Treasury, barred the exchange of gold for currency by the Treasury, and gave the president the power to change the value of gold by proclamation. After passage of this act, Roosevelt increased the price of gold from $20.67 per troy ounce to $35 to stimulate inflation, a 69% increase in the value. The federal government profited while the private gold owners were forced to sell at a compromised price. Inflation also served to help many farmers who were in debt and their plight as well as the potential political consequences troubled FDR greatly, writing “if we continued a week or so longer without having made this move (Gold Reserve Act) on gold, we would have had an agrarian revolution in this country” (Dallek, 174). Indeed, the currency debates of old were fundamentally a conflict of creditors and debtors. However, Roosevelt’s critics as well as economist John Maynard Keynes were of the belief that his manipulation of gold prices was being done recklessly and not on an economic basis. This is confirmed by an account of his Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, when one morning Roosevelt told him that the price of gold would be increased by 21 cents. When he asked why, Roosevelt responded, “Because ‘three times seven’ is a lucky number” (Dallek, 174).

Prosecutions and Legal Battles

Executive Order 6102 didn’t last long itself as a legal challenge to it brought its defeat on a technicality: Judge John M. Woolsey ruled that the order was only signed by the president, and not the Secretary of the Treasury as legally required. Thus, two new orders, 6260 and 6261, were issued. Congress’s Gold Reserve Act of 1934 ratified them.

Numerous individuals and companies were prosecuted for their failure to give gold to the government at a loss. Among the prosecutions were of a diamond and jewelry merchant in San Francisco, the father and son owners of a refining company, and a resident of Sutter Creek, California, convicted of holding 78 ounces of gold. With several cases going before the Supreme Court, they were bundled into one as the Gold Clause Cases. Legal challenges to gold seizures ended in 1935 when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that they were all constitutional. Had the Supreme Court ruled against Roosevelt, he was prepared to defy it as Andrew Jackson had defied the Supreme Court on Indian removal.

The Legalization of Gold

In 1964, the first of a series of actions loosening the federal government’s control over gold was enacted with the legalization of private ownership of gold certificates, but they were not redeemable in gold. On August 15, 1971, President Nixon fully took the United States off the gold standard when he stopped pegging the dollar to the price of gold, which served to eliminate any obligation of the U.S. to pay its international obligations in gold. This finalized U.S. currency becoming completely fiat, but it also severely undercut the strength of the arguments for continuing making gold illegal to own and the prohibition of gold clauses in contracts. Some of the newer members of Congress thought it was time for this prohibition to end, most notably Phil Crane (R-Ill.). Crane was a rising star in the conservative movement and was often at the forefront of conservative initiatives in the 1970s. In 1973, his amendment to end the prohibition on gold ownership almost passed the House, losing by one vote. The next year, however, Crane managed to tack on a gold legalization resolution to a foreign aid bill, which was ultimately signed into law by President Ford intact, private ownership of gold becoming legal on December 31, 1974. Gold clauses, however, remained illegal. Enter Jesse Helms.

The battle for gold ownership had been won, but the battle for restoring gold clauses had begun. Although Crane worked on this one too in the House, the credit goes most to Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). He spearheaded this effort and again, it was achieved by tacking the legalization on as an amendment, authored by the senator himself. This time it was to an otherwise routine and non-controversial bill in 1977.

In 1980, legislation passed to create a committee to examine the idea of resuming the gold standard, but the committee ultimately demurred, instead seeking scrutiny and reform of the Federal Reserve. However, a minority report, with Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) as one of its authors, called for a complete return to the gold standard. Gold confiscation and the abrogation of gold clauses in contracts is unlikely to occur again given that the United States has maintained a fiat currency. However, should the gold standard be restored and another economic crisis befalls us, such policies could return under a Democratic administration.

References

Dallek, R. (2017). Franklin D. Roosevelt: a political life. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Ganz, D.L. (2011). The essential guide to investing in precious metals: how to begin, build and maintain a properly diversified portfolio. Iola, WI: Krause Publications.

Invalidation of the Gold Clause. CQ Researcher.

Retrieved from

https://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre1933052900

Ledbetter, J. (2017). One nation under gold: how one precious metal has dominated the American imagination for four centuries.  New York, NY: Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Magliocca, G.N. (2012, October 17). The gold clause cases and constitutional necessity. Florida Law Review, 64(5).

Hugh Scott: The Most Extreme Moderate

Hugh Scott - Wikipedia

The year is 1940, and Republicans have been struggling to win Congressional seats in traditionally Republican Philadelphia. The only Republican elected from Philadelphia that year was Hugh Doggett Scott Jr. (1900-1994), who with one exception kept the seat in Republican hands. He started his career in the House as a staunch critic of FDR’s domestic and foreign policy, but he began to moderate during World War II. Although Scott lost reelection in 1944, this would be the only time he lost. In 1946, he was returned to the House in the Republican wave that brought the GOP back in control of Congress for the first time since the Great Depression. Scott followed the party line during the 80th Congress, voting for the GOP’s domestic measures while cooperating with the Truman Administration on foreign policy. He ran the GOP’s election efforts in 1948 as head of the Republican National Committee, but his efforts fell short and they lost both Congress and the presidential election. The 80th Congress would be the last one in which the GOP held all the Philadelphia seats in Congress, and Scott was one of two Philadelphia Republicans reelected that year.

Although he fell into disfavor given the GOP’s election results and was almost ousted as RNC chair, he remained in Congress and grew more and more moderate. Scott would gain such a reputation for this that in his obituary, The New York Times would write that he was “known as the Senate’s most liberal conservative, its most conservative liberal, and its most extreme moderate” (Crass, 496). In 1952, Scott joined the efforts to recruit Dwight Eisenhower to run for president, and it was in his administration was most ideologically at home. In 1958, Republican Senator Edward Martin opted not to run for reelection, so Scott ran to succeed him. Scott succeeded despite it being a terrible Republican year…he managed to capitalize on his moderate reputation as well as his sense of humor, and this likely put him over the top. He commented upon the US’s U-2 spy program of the USSR being exposed in 1960, “We have violated the 11th Commandment – Thou Shalt Not Get Caught” (Beschloss, 218). Scott was also a collector of pipes and an expert on Chinese culture and art, having written books on the latter subject. As a senator, he didn’t necessarily back all of Eisenhower’s positions, having voted to override his vetoes on public housing legislation and an area redevelopment bill.

Scott frequently cooperated with Democratic administrations and voted for much of the Great Society, but he supported two conservative amendments to the Constitution: the school prayer amendment and the legislative apportionment amendment. He was also a strong supporter of civil rights legislation. Scott’s reelection bid in 1964 was tough as the nation wasn’t ready for a conservative like Barry Goldwater to run for president and he narrowly prevailed, despite President Johnson badly wanting him defeated for his dogged efforts at investigating the Bobby Baker scandal. In 1969, party moderates and liberals succeeded in electing him Minority Whip to replace the outgoing Thomas Kuchel, a fellow moderate. He was often at odds with Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.), who didn’t want him in this post and did his best to sideline him. However, his time on the sides wouldn’t last – Dirksen died of lung cancer later that year and the Senate Republicans had to choose a new leader. One of the candidates was Dirksen’s son-in-law, Howard Baker Jr. of Tennessee, while the other was Scott. Baker’s bid was audacious as he had not been in the Senate for even half a term, and he capitalized on his connection with Dirksen. Ultimately, Scott, having seniority and being better known, was elected.

Scott and Nixon

Scott did his best as the leader of the Senate Republicans to support President Nixon and he often voted to sustain his vetoes as well as back his efforts in Vietnam. He boasted to reporters in 1969 that “The conservatives get the rhetoric, and we get the action”, and this did seem to characterize Nixon’s actions that year on domestic policy (Byas). This didn’t, however, mean that Scott had become Nixon’s toady: he voted against the nomination of Clement Haynsworth to the Supreme Court in 1969 and opposed his efforts to amend the Voting Rights Act by applying it nationwide. He also never formed a comfortable working relationship with him. Nixon proved rather distant, and wouldn’t even let him address him on personal terms. Scott was sure to get assurances with his successor, Gerald Ford, that he could still call him “Jerry”. In December 1973, Scott, believing in Nixon’s innocence, urged him to release the tapes to clear the air on Watergate. The following year, he accompanied Senator Barry Goldwater and House Minority Leader John Rhodes to inform President Nixon that he had lost too much support to survive an impeachment vote upon the release of the Watergate tapes. In 1976, he opted not to run for reelection as he was under investigation for allegedly receiving an illegal campaign contribution from Gulf Oil Co.

Hugh Scott was in two ways a last. He was the last political survivor of the old Philadelphia Republican machine and the last moderate to lead the GOP in either legislative body, having a lifetime MC-Index score of 52%. In the Republican Senate of today, only Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska would be ideological kin for him, and they are the most liberal Republicans in the Senate. Scott was not even close to the most liberal one in his day. As I have remarked before, partisans who howl about party disloyalty today have no idea how good they actually have it.

References

Beschloss, M. (1986). Mayday: Eisenhower, Khrushchev, and the U-2 affair. Manhattan, NY: Harper and Row.

Byas, S. (2017, June 30). Nixon’s Populist Path. The New American.

Retrieved from

https://www.thenewamerican.com/print-magazine/item/26334-nixons-populist-path

Crass, S. (2015). Statesmen and mischief makers: officeholders who were footnotes in the developments of history from Kennedy to Reagan, Vol. I. Bloomington, IN: Xlibris.

Hugh Scott; Senate GOP Leader During Watergate. (1994, July 23). Los Angeles Times.

Retrieved from

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1994-07-23-mn-18844-story.html

Gerald L.K. Smith – “God Made Me a Rabble-Rouser”

Rev Gerald Lyman Kenneth Smith (1898-1976) - Find A Grave Memorial

As I have previously written, the Great Depression had a way of raising the public profile of some real characters. This included power-hungry and corrupt politicians and ministers. The most notorious religious figure of the time was Father Charles Coughlin, an anti-Semitic demagogue whose radio program reached millions of Americans. However, his public career ended abruptly in 1942 due to pressures in the Catholic Church as well as from the Roosevelt Administration. This was not the case for another religious demagogue, Reverend Gerald L.K. Smith (1898-1976).

Smith started out his time in politics in Louisiana where he befriended Governor Huey Long and ran his national Share Our Wealth campaign, which called for setting a national minimum and maximum of income. As a radio preacher, he used his platform to denounce utility companies, the rich, and to promote trade unions. In 1935, Smith lost his leader when Long was assassinated, and he officiated his funeral. Although he had initially supported FDR’s election in 1932, in 1936 he backed the Union Party and its nominee, populist Republican Congressman William Lemke, as FDR had refused to back the Townsend Plan. Smith increasingly throughout the 1930s took the Share Our Wealth organization in the direction of white supremacy and joined William Dudley Pelley’s Silver Shirts, a fascist paramilitary organization patterned after Mussolini’s blackshirts. The world of Smith was a world of shadowy conspiracies and troublesome minorities. His views on blacks were at best extremely patronizing, as he expressed a desire to protect the “good blacks”, which he defined as being humble and deferential to whites.

1939-1941: The Peak of Smith’s Prominence

Americans feared getting involved in another World War, and Smith was one of the most outspoken opponents of FDR’s foreign policy and spoke at length against communism. Given his strong public speaking abilities, his efforts and petitions attracted support from major politicians such as Senators Arthur Vandenberg and Gerald Nye. The former submitted his petition to the Senate floor to outlaw the Communist Party and to stay out of the war and praised his movement. In 1941, Smith testified before Congress for an hour against Lend-Lease, but his testimony didn’t change the debate. However, even at this juncture, there were people cautious about him: the America First Committee denied him membership.

World War II and Postwar Bigotry

In 1942, Smith founded the Christian Nationalist Crusade, an organization that spread The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, was anti-Communist, and opposed desegregation and miscegenation. He also published his own magazine, The Cross and the Flag, which pushed his positions. During World War II, he used this magazine to publish propaganda critical of the war effort. In 1942, Smith badly lost the Republican primary for the Senate in Michigan. That year, he founded the America First Party, which was openly anti-Semitic and had no backing from the leadership of the original America First Committee. Smith was sympathetic to Hitler and thought of him as a good Christian. He described himself thusly, “I’m an isolationist. I’m the organizer and leader of the America First party. Oh, I’m a rabble‐rouser. Put that down—a rabble‐rouser. God made me a rabble‐rouser . . . of and for the right” (New York Times). His closest friends in Congress were Sen. Robert Reynolds (D-N.C.) (who chose in 1944 to retire rather than face the electorate) and Rep. Clare Hoffman (R-Mich.), the latter whom was troubled by Smith’s anti-black racism and Smith falsely attributed his introducing an anti-discrimination bill in 1949 to “senility”, resulting in their break. In 1944, Smith ran for president on its ticket and made no real impact, winning less than 2,000 votes. He did even worse in the 1948 election on his successor party, the Christian Nationalist Party, which won a total of 48 votes. Smith doubled down on his antisemitism after World War II, calling for the release of all Nazi war criminals and in 1959 he wrote in The Cross and the Flag that the Holocaust didn’t happen and that the missing Jews had immigrated to the United States.  He also supported deporting all blacks, criminalizing what he referred to as “Jewish Gestapo organizations”, and ending the United Nations (The New York Times). During the Truman Era he campaigned against the nomination of Anna M. Rosenberg as Assistant Secretary of Defense because he feared she would wield an inordinate amount of power…and she was Jewish. In 1952, Smith attempted to prove that Dwight Eisenhower was a “Swedish Jew”, which of course he thought disqualified him for public office.

Postwar Ideological Leper

Although Smith did all he could to make himself relevant and would brag about his ties with politicians and other public figures, such as Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, the truth is that no one interested in maintaining a public career wanted to associate themselves with him anymore, and many of these people he hadn’t been that close to from the start. All the major politicians who had supported him as a non-interventionist were out of office or had cut ties.  Although Smith wrote passionately for Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist investigations and tried to reach out to him, McCarthy avoided him and called him an anti-Semite. Although Smith spoke forcefully against civil rights legislation, Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrats shunned him. Although Smith frequently denounced communism, wanted the US to leave the UN, and called for the impeachment of Chief Justice Earl Warren, John Birch Society founder and head Robert W. Welch explicitly barred him from joining. In 1956, he lobbied against the Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act, claiming it communist scheme to set up an arctic gulag when it just aimed to construct a mental institution in the Alaska territory. However, this measure received the support of Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) and was passed easily.

The Twilight Years and Christ of the Ozarks

In 1964, Smith moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and raised $1 million for what was planned to be a religious theme park. He managed to have constructed the Christ of the Ozarks statue in 1966 and started the tradition of holding Passion plays at this place. Smith died in 1976, the park unrealized and his hatreds unsatisfied. The only marker that really remains of Smith and his influence is the statue.

References

Gerald L.K. Smith. Spartacus Educational.

Retrieved from

https://spartacus-educational.com/USAsmithGLK.htm

Gerald L.K. Smith Dead; Anti-Communist Crusader. (1976, April 16). The New York Times.

Retrieved from

Holocaust Denial Timeline. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

https://web.archive.org/web/20150412131846/http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10008003

Jeannsone, G. (1988). Gerald L.K. Smith: minister of hate. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press.

 

 

 

“Fire Alarm Joe” Foraker – Presidential Mentor and Fighter for Racial Justice

Joseph B. Foraker - Wikipedia

Joseph Foraker’s passion for Republican politics began early: in 1862 he enlisted in the Union Army and from his experience, including participating in General Sherman’s March to the Sea, he became a vehement defender of the legacy of the Republican Party during the Civil War and Reconstruction. In 1883, Foraker ran for governor, but wouldn’t be elected until his second go, in 1885. During this time President Grover Cleveland issued an executive order for states to return captured battle flags to their home states as an appeal to the South. This provoked fury from Union veterans, and especially notable was Foraker’s reaction. He stated, “No rebel flags will be surrendered while I am Governor” and furiously denounced President Cleveland over the order (Walnut Hills Historical Society). This gained him the nickname “Fire Alarm Joe”, and Cleveland rescinded the order after resistance from him and other governors proved too strong. He would on numerous occasions be strong, even over-the-top, in his opinions and in his denunciations. Foraker won a second term in 1887 and managed to enact anti-corruption measures, desegregated schools, and establish a state board of health. He also kicked off William Howard Taft’s career in the judiciary by appointing him to the Superior Court of Cincinnati. However, his administration alienated ethnic German voters by its vigorous enforcement of prohibitions on sale of alcohol on Sundays. This combined with the feuding of Republican Party factions cost him a third term.

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Foraker’s reaction to Cleveland’s order, caricatured.

Foraker managed to make a comeback in 1897, defeating Democrat Calvin Brice for reelection to the Senate. As a senator, he backed the policies of President William McKinley and was an enthusiastic war hawk. He sponsored the Foraker Act, which provided for a civil government for Puerto Rico, and he supported the annexation of Hawaii. Foraker also conflicted with Ohio’s other senator, Mark Hanna, over patronage. Hanna had a distinct advantage as McKinley’s campaign manager and friend and was given veto power over Foraker’s candidates. During this time, he befriended and mentored a budding Ohio politician: Warren G. Harding, who with his support was elected Lieutenant Governor of Ohio. After McKinley’s assassination by an anarchist, Theodore Roosevelt succeeded him and pledged to continue his policies. Although in his first term, he largely did so, Roosevelt’s push “Square Deal” policies in his second term disturbed Foraker. He tacked increasingly to the right in response, being solidly in the “standpatter” camp and was one of only three senators to vote against the Hepburn Act regulating railroad rates. However, the clash that would bring matters to a head involved not economic policy, but race.

Foraker had generally been supportive of civil rights and he had publicly defended Theodore Roosevelt’s White House dinner with Booker T. Washington, but the Brownsville Raid would have the two men on opposite sides. On July 28, 1906, the black Buffalo Soldiers began their time stationed at Fort Brown in Brownsville, Texas. The white residents of the area were unhappy with their presence and tensions rose throughout the next two weeks as black soldiers faced discrimination by local businesses and even multiple instances of physical abuse by federal customs officers. Matters came to a head on August 12th, when a white woman was attacked and the townsfolk became enraged. The following night, a bartender was shot dead and a policeman was shot and wounded. The locals immediately cast blame on the troops, even though their white commanders testified that they were in their barracks all night. Some locals planted spent cartridge shells to implicate the soldiers and the townspeople and the Mayor believed this evidence.

After a military investigation ultimately turned up no culprits as no one reported knowing who had been responsible, on November 5th, Roosevelt dishonorably discharged all 167 soldiers of the unit for what he alleged to be a “conspiracy of silence” to protect the guilty party. His act was not publicized until after Election Day. Senator Foraker condemned Roosevelt’s action and initiated a Senate investigation. On January 26, 1907, he confronted Roosevelt at the Gridiron Club and both men traded insults and barbs while making their cases for their positions on the Brownsville Affair. This encounter made headlines and brought further attention to the case. In 1908, the committee formed at Foraker’s behest backed the Roosevelt Administration, but there was a minority report of four Republicans who found the evidence was inconclusive while another one, written by Foraker and Morgan Bulkeley (R-Conn.), argued for their innocence. Of the men discharged, only fourteen would be offered reenlistment. History would vindicate the soldiers as a renewed investigation in 1972 ruled them innocent and President Nixon pardoned all the soldiers, awarding honorable discharges with no back pay. Only two of the soldiers were still alive and one of them had managed to reenlist and get a pension, so the other one was granted a $25,000 tax free pension.

Theodore Roosevelt was now determined to end Foraker’s career, pushing for his defeat for renomination. His push was aided critically by William Randolph Hearst, whose newspapers revealed that Foraker had been paid by Standard Oil for providing legal advice while senator. Although this was not illegal, it was viewed as a conflict of interest and it sunk his bid for a third term. Foraker’s lifetime MC-Index score is an 85%.

After five years out, Foraker attempted a comeback, but a complication arose: his old protege, Warren G. Harding, was also seeking the post. Ultimately, the Republican voters of Ohio were seeking someone fresh and Harding won the nomination by 12,000 votes and went on to win the election. Foraker’s career was over and although he published his memoirs, Notes of a Busy Life, in 1916 he didn’t live to see his protege elected president.

References

Christian, G.L. The Brownsville Raid. Texas State Historical Association.

Retrieved from

https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/pkb06

Gould, L.L.(2005). The most exclusive club: a history of the modern United States Senate. Cambridge, MA: Basic Books.

Joseph B. Foraker. Ohio History Central.

Retrieved from

https://ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Joseph_B._Foraker

Joseph B. Foraker, Reconstruction and Civil Rights. Walnut Hills Historical Society.

Retrieved from

http://www.walnuthillsstories.org/stories/joseph-foraker/

When Mussolini Was Popular in America

Benito Mussolini

 

Since World War II, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini has been regarded as one of history’s villains. However, for quite a time many admired him and thought that he, as the saying goes, “made the trains run on time”. Mussolini managed to get fans on both the right and left of the spectrum before his alliance with Hitler. Indeed, he cultivated such views by regarding his policies as both “state capitalism” and “state socialism”. Mussolini himself was the son of a socialist blacksmith and was, up until the 1920s, a dyed-in-the-wool socialist. His departure from socialism was when he backed World War I, and their opposition to the conflict Mussolini found to be an abandonment of nationalism. His reputation in America was helped by the masculine image Mussolini put forth, his projection of confidence, and the perception he cultivated that he had saved Italy from communism. Here are some quotes from prominent Americans praising him, all are from wiki quotes:

“One hears murmurs against Mussolini on the ground that he is a desperado: the real objection to him is that he is a politician. Indeed, he is probably the most perfect specimen of the genus politician on view in the world today. His career has been impeccably classical. Beginning life as a ranting Socialist of the worst type, he abjured Socialism the moment he saw better opportunities for himself on the other side, and ever since then he has devoted himself gaudily to clapping Socialists in jail, filling them with castor oil, sending blacklegs to burn down their houses, and otherwise roughing them. Modern politics has produced no more adept practitioner.” – H.L. Mencken, 1931

“You protest, and with justice, each time Hitler jails an opponent; but you forget that Stalin and company have jailed and murdered a thousand times as many. It seems to me, and indeed the evidence is plain, that compared to the Moscow brigands and assassins, Hitler is hardly more than a common Ku Kluxer and Mussolini almost a philanthropist.” – H.L. Mencken to Upton Sinclair, 1936

“I don’t mind telling you in confidence that I am keeping in fairly close touch with that admirable Italian gentleman.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

“There seems to be no question that [Mussolini] is really interested in what we are doing and I am much interested and deeply impressed by what he has accomplished and by his evidenced honest purpose of restoring Italy.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt, to Breckinridge Long.

“The greatest genius of the modern age.” – Thomas Edison

“I feel like turning to my American friends and asking them whether they don’t think we too need a man like Mussolini.” – Elbert Henry Gary, U.S. Steel

“Mussolini is a great executive, a true leader of men, and the great works he has accomplished are his genuine fortifications to a high place in history and in the hearts of his people.” – Millicent Hearst

Praise From Figures of Other Nations:

“What a man! I have lost my heart!… Fascism has rendered a service to the entire world… If I were Italian, I am sure I would have been with you entirely from the beginning of your victorious struggle against the bestial appetites and passion of Leninism.” – Winston Churchill, 1927.

“What a waste that we lost Mussolini. He is a first-rate man who would have led our party to power in Italy.” – Vladimir Lenin, 1922.

“A modern man may disapprove of some of his sweeping reforms, and approve others; but finds it difficult not to admire even where he does not approve.” – G.K. Chesterton

“Some of the things Mussolini has done, and some that he is threatening to do go further in the direction of Socialism than the English Labour Party could yet venture if they were in power.” – George Bernard Shaw

American newspapers either regarded Mussolini with praise, amusement, or neutrality. From the right, The New York Tribune and the Chicago Tribune credited him with saving Italy from communism and reinvigorating its economy. The New York Times often praised him, especially Herbert Matthews, who would favorably report on his invasion of Ethiopia and would do the same for the Cuban revolution later in life. In 1926, the Coolidge Administration gave Italy a lenient debt settlement, but this was for the purposes of expanding commerce with the nation and based on ability to pay. It was not regarded by most of its proponents as anything more than a business proposition. There were exceptions, however. Sen. David Reed (R-Penn.) defended him as did Rep. Sol Bloom (D-N.Y.), the latter who counted Mussolini as a personal friend. Bloom would later chair the House Foreign Relations Committee as a 100% advocate of FDR’s foreign policies. There were, however, Americans critical of Mussolini even in this time, and most of the debt settlement’s opponents considered the measure an endorsement of Italian fascism. American politicians who represented large Italian constituencies, even those privately against Mussolini, refrained from criticizing him as he and fascism were deeply popular among these populations. Official policy only grew more favorable to Mussolini: by 1930 Italy was only second to Britain in favor among European nations. In 1931, President Herbert Hoover reassured Italy’s foreign minister that the small group of anti-fascists in America “…do not exist for us Americans, and neither should they exist for you” (Tooze, 4). Among the politicians who were Mussolini’s critics in this time were not necessarily concentrated in their political views or affiliations: the leading ones were Senators Tom Heflin (D-Ala.) and William Borah (R-Idaho) and Representative Hamilton Fish III (R-N.Y.). Heflin was a Southern progressive and a racist and anti-Catholic demagogue, Borah was fiercely independent and moderately progressive, and Fish was a conservative non-interventionist who led the first House investigation of Communism in 1930.

American Opinion Begins to Shift: Mussolini’s Invasion of Ethiopia and Allegiance with Hitler

On October 3, 1935, Italian forces began invading Ethiopia without a declaration of war from Eritrea and Somalia, both Italian imperial possessions. Mussolini authorized the use of mustard gas on Ethiopian troops, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, of which Italy was a signatory. The League of Nations proved powerless to stop his invasion and when they voted to place sanctions on Italy, he took Italy out of the League. Although both sides committed war crimes in the conflict, Mussolini was the aggressor, and this began his alienation with western democracies. Britain and France had previously thought of Mussolini as a good buffer against Germany, but Mussolini saw eye to eye with Hitler considerably more than he did Britain or France. He eventually signed the Pact of Steel in 1939, bringing Italy in alliance with Germany, and then in 1940 the Tripartite Pact formed the Axis. Mussolini still had some fans, particularly among critics of the League of Nations, but his part in the Axis sealed his public reputation in the United States and the west.

References

Broich, J. (2016, December 13). How Journalists Covered the Rise of Mussolini and Hitler. Smithsonian Magazine.

Retrieved from

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-journalists-covered-rise-mussolini-hitler-180961407/

Diggins, J.P. (1972). Mussolini and fascism: The view from America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Quotes about Mussolini. Wikiquote.

Retrieved from

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Benito_Mussolini#Quotes_about_Mussolini

Tooze, A. (2016, August 18). When We Loved Mussolini [Review of the book The United States and Fascist Italy: The rise of American finance in Europe]. The New York Review of Books.

Retrieved from

 

Click to access NYRB_081816_When_We_Loved_Mussolini_by_Adam_Tooze.pdf

John Hall Buchanan Jr.: A Deep South Republican Who Went Moderate

The 1964 election was overall a loss for the Republican Party. Barry Goldwater only won six states in the presidential election and the GOP sustained significant losses in the House and minor losses in the Senate. However, it didn’t go badly everywhere for them. For the first time since Reconstruction the Republican candidate won in Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina and did so for the first time ever in Georgia. This was due almost exclusively to Goldwater’s vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and President Johnson’s signing of it. Believe it or not, Goldwater had coattails in the region, with the GOP picking up a seat in Mississippi and Georgia as well has having a Senate party flip in South Carolina, which would be followed by a House flip in 1965. However, in no state was the impact greater than in Alabama, which went from a House delegation that was 8-0 Democrat to 5-3 Republican. This election didn’t win the GOP the Deep South, but it made them a realistic option. One of the new Congressmen was John Hall Buchanan Jr. (1928-2018), a pastor from Birmingham, one of the most segregated cities in the nation and a hotbed of civil rights activism. Although he would start as a conservative opposed to civil rights legislation, he would not stay this way.

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Buchanan proved one of the staunchest opponents of the Johnson Administration and opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Medicare but even in his first term he proved committed to ending KKK violence in the South: as a member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities he successfully pushed with Democrat Charles Weltner of Atlanta, Georgia, an investigation of the Klan. The FBI credited this investigation for the plummeting of Klan membership. In 1966, he was one of three Alabama Republicans reelected. His MC-Index score for the Johnson years was a 98%. Buchanan’s attitude on federal civil rights legislation began to change during the Nixon Administration, with him voting to retain the Philadelphia Plan and for anti-discrimination legislation. He also became more open to voting for liberal domestic legislation and became known as the most favorable Alabama representative to foreign aid, holding that the choice was between feeding people and not feeding them. Buchanan supported Soviet dissidents as well as opposed Ian Smith’s regime in Rhodesia.

As the 1970s progressed, Buchanan’s record moderated more and more and this coincided with the growth in the power of the black vote in Birmingham. He supported Title IX and in 1975, he voted to extend the Voting Rights Act. By the Carter Administration, he had become a centrist with socially liberal positions, including supporting the use of busing to achieve desegregation, support for government funding of abortion, and the Equal Rights Amendment. During the Nixon Administration, he had opposed busing. His social liberalism rubbed party conservatives the wrong way, and they tried to oust him without success in 1978. In the Carter era, his MC-Index score was a 48%, a whopping fifty-point drop from the last time he served with a Democratic president.

In 1980, conservatives recruited Albert Lee Smith Jr., a former member of the John Birch Society, to run against Buchanan in the Republican primary. Buchanan lost the contest in good part due to his support for giving away the Panama Canal. His lifetime MC-Index score was a 77%. Although Smith was elected in 1980, it was by a much narrower margin than Buchanan had received in the past and the district proved too Democratic for him as he lost reelection in 1982. The district’s support for Democrats would harden throughout the 1980s and the 6th district wouldn’t be won back by Republicans until the 1992 election, when many of the black neighborhoods were carved out for a new majority-black 7th district and more white suburbs around Birmingham and Tuscaloosa were brought in. Buchanan did end up serving in the Reagan Administration as a delegate to the UN Human Rights Committee but also served on the board of directors for People for the American Way, a liberal organization meant to counter the political efforts of Christian conservatives. This was another shift in a liberal direction from his record in Congress, as in 1971 he had voted for a school prayer amendment. In 2006, Buchanan lobbied Congress to once again extend the Voting Rights Act.

References

Derbes, B.J. John Buchanan Jr. Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Retrieved from

http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-3286

Former Alabama congressman, Baptist minister dies. (2018, March 9). Birmingham Real-Time News.

Retrieved from

https://www.al.com/news/birmingham/2018/03/former_alabama_congressman_ex-.html

 

The Fall of Bunker Hunt

Famed Texas Oil Tycoon Nelson Bunker Hunt Dies at 88

The show Dallas, which aired from 1978 to 1991, portrayed a wealthy oil family with its womanizing and scheming patriarch, J.R. Ewing, at the helm. This series was based on the Hunt family of Texas, which was prosperous and a political force of its own. The family patriarch, Haroldson Lafayette “H.L.” Hunt (1889-1974), was a mathematical prodigy, a cotton plantation owner, and a good gambler. He used his poker winnings to purchase his first oil well and his enterprise grew into the greatest ownership of oil properties in the world and by 1925 he was one of the wealthiest men in the nation. His interest in politics was lifelong: the first presidential candidate he supported was Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 and as an oilman he absolutely loved Calvin Coolidge. Hunt had also assisted the career of Lyndon B. Johnson, a man he eventually came to bitterly oppose. Controversies surrounded the large family, and like the Kennedys, one their children, H.L. “Hassie” Hunt III, his first son, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1942 and was later lobotomized to try to cure it. As a man of great power and influence, H.L. Hunt was able to get around: he fathered fifteen children with three different women, the first two he was married to at the same time without the other knowing. Thus, he was a bigamist.

Hunt’s politics in his later life were extremely conservative. He was a prominent member of the John Birch Society and financially backed George Wallace for president in 1968. He used his wealth to fund Facts Forum and Life Line, two conservative radio programs. By the end of his life, H.L. Hunt was one of the three wealthiest men in the world, the other two being J. Paul Getty and Howard Hughes. Due to Hassie Hunt’s mental illness, the next in power and influence was his second son, Nelson Bunker Hunt (1926-2014), who shared his father’s politics and was also a key financial backer of the Wallace campaign.

Bunker Hunt was a successful oilman in his own right, as he managed to discover and secure the largest oil fields in Africa with Hunt Oil’s expansion into Libya in 1961. The profits from these fields made Hunt one of the wealthiest men in the world. He was also interested in racehorses and owned 1,000 of them at his peak of wealth. Hunt also was an evangelical Christian closely connected with Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and contributed to such causes, including the worldwide distribution of the film Jesus (1979). Although the 1960s were a decade of profit for him, the 1970s would prove more troublesome. In 1969, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi and his forces overthrew the Libyan monarchy in a coup and in 1973 he nationalized the Libyan oil fields. Although this was a bad blow, it wasn’t the worst of it. Throughout the decade, Bunker and his brothers William Herbert and Lamar were buying tremendous amounts of silver to corner the market to diversify their holdings, to counter inflation, and out of a fear of economic apocalypse.

By 1980, the brothers owned approximately a third of the world’s silver supply and used their leverage to jack up the price of silver from $6 to $48.70 per ounce, or a 713% increase from 1979’s price. A public backlash grew against the brothers, and in response federal regulators placed heavy restrictions on commodity purchases on the margin. Silver dealers in response released massive amounts of silver into the market and on March 27, 1980, the price of silver fell to $10.80 an ounce. The Hunt brothers lost over $1 billion as a consequence. Worse yet, they had borrowed to fund their purchases of silver, which resulted in creditors coming after them throughout the 1980s. By 1988, their wealth had declined from $5 billion to under $1 billion as the price of oil declined during the decade and they were forced to file for bankruptcy that year and liquidate their assets, including household items. However, they were still wealthy as H.L. Hunt had provided trust funds for each of his children. Bunker Hunt never quite regained his level of wealth and lived modestly in his last years. However, his brother, William Herbert, who is still around, has since regained his wealth.

References

Nelson Bunker Hunt – obituary. (2014, October 22). The Telegraph.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11180661/Nelson-Bunker-Hunt-obituary.html

Porterfield, B. (1975, March). H.L. Hunt’s Long Goodbye. Texas Monthly.

https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/h-l-hunts-long-goodbye/