The Philadelphia Plan – A Conflict of Working Classes

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Background

In 1967, the Johnson Administration attempted to institute racial quotas for racially restrictive building trade unions, but ran into an issue when Comptroller Elmer Staats declared the plan violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Johnson Administration opted not to challenge, as the president was facing greater political difficulties and chose to focus on fair housing for civil rights policy. The Philadelphia Plan would be up to the next administration.

In 1969, with the support of President Nixon, Secretary of Labor George Shultz and Assistant Secretary of Wage and Labor Standards Arthur Fletcher revived an altered Philadelphia Plan, which required federal contractors to set plans for hiring a certain percent of black workers in Philadelphia through good faith efforts, but failure to meet percentages would not be penalized. This plan attracted immense opposition from construction unions that wanted to retain control over hiring and continue their largely family-based hiring practices (which made it all white) as well as opposition from the white working class. In this case, the Nixon Administration sided with the black working class. The plan also attracted the opposition of Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.), who had been critical in supporting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, agreeing with a color-blind perspective. However, he died of lung cancer on September 7th, and the new Minority Leader, moderate Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania, was supportive. Attorney General John Mitchell declared the plan legal, while Staats continued to assert its illegality and challenged the Attorney General’s authority on the subject. Initially the Senate disapproved of the plan, but on December 22, 1969, Rep. George Mahon (D-Texas) proposed to defeat the Philadelphia Plan, which failed on a 156-208 (R 41-124, D 115-84) vote. The Senate followed up this action on the same day to retain the plan on a 39-29 (R 16-13, D 23-16) vote.

A few notable details in the votes:

Reelection did not appear to weigh heavily on the minds of senators who were running for reelection in 1970, nor did it play a significant role in the 1970 midterms.

The three Alabama Republican representatives voted to KEEP the Philadelphia Plan! All three had voted against the Voting Rights Act only four years earlier.

James B. Utt of California, an ultra-conservative Orange County Republican, voted to KEEP the Philadelphia Plan! He had the single most negative record on civil rights from California – Utt was the only Californian to vote against all four of the following measures: the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1960, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Southern Democrats were the most opposed group, as expected.

Northern Democrats faced something of a dilemma here…choose civil rights or unions. There is a distinct white working-class element to opposition to this plan…

All voting black representatives voted to keep the Philadelphia Plan.

Democrats from California and New York overwhelmingly voted to keep the Philadelphia Plan.

In Connecticut, three of the state’s four Democratic representatives opposed…only Emilio Daddario of Hartford voted to keep.

Cook County (Chicago), Illinois Democrats split evenly.

All of the white representatives from Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan, who voted opposed.

One of Maine’s two Democratic representatives opposed.

Four of seven voting Massachusetts Democrats opposed.

All of the white representatives from Missouri who cast votes opposed.

Eight of thirteen of Pennsylvania’s voting Democratic representatives opposed, of the three Republicans who opposed, two represented Pittsburgh. Only one Democrat outside of Philadelphia voted to keep the Philadelphia Plan.

Both of Rhode Island’s Democratic representatives opposed.

Three of West Virginia’s five Democratic representatives opposed, as did both the state’s senators.

Midwestern Republican voting on this subject seemed to be based more on strength of conservatism than anything else.

Senate Democrats from western states and the Northeast proved more supportive than in the House…they had larger constituencies to contend with. Conservative Republicans in the Senate more clearly aligned against the Philadelphia Plan than in the House.

Ultimately, this precursor to affirmative action was adopted by many other major cities and resulted in moderate increases in hiring of black workers on major construction projects. By the 1990s, George Shultz was against affirmative action, citing how the times had changed, while Arthur Fletcher supported.

I have provided the link to the vote below with MC-Index scores for the 91st Congress.

KEY

Republicans are in italics.

Democrats are in plain font.

Y – “Yea”

N – “Nay”

✓ – Paired for.

X – Paired against.

# – Announced for.

– – Announced against.

Philadelphia Plan

 

“Big Tim” Sullivan –  The Corrupt Reformer

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Timothy Sullivan (1862-1913) had a rough life, but this made him tough and prepared him for business and politics in New York City. He was one among ten children and lost his father at the age of five. His mother subsequently married an alcoholic who abandoned the family. Starting at the age of eight Sullivan worked as a shoe shiner and newspaper seller. By his mid-twenties, “Big Tim” (he was a large man) Sullivan owned multiple saloons and was well on his way up the Democratic Tammany Hall totem pole of power, as boss Richard Croker recognized his organizational abilities. Although married, he slept around with showgirls and had at minimum six illegitimate children. Sullivan’s one child with his wife, a daughter, died as an infant.

“Big Tim” Sullivan ran both legitimate businesses and rackets in Manhattan and served in the New York State Assembly from 1887 to 1893 and in the State Senate from 1894 to 1902. Due to New York’s status as a swing state in the late 19th century, his and Tammany Hall’s efforts were important for electing presidents. In 1902, Sullivan both became the head of the Tammany Hall machine and was elected to Congress, but he didn’t do much in his time there: he was a member of a minority party and had greater business in New York City than Washington. He stated his dissatisfaction with his role: “There’s nothing in this Congressman business. They know ‘em in Washington. The people down there use ‘em as hitchin’-posts. Every time they see a Congressman on the streets they tie their horses to him” (MacNeil, 120). He resigned in 1906 to devote his attention to state politics, returning to the state Senate.

In addition to his business and entertainment interests (building of theaters with William Fox…yes THAT Fox), Sullivan became quite wealthy off of graft, making roughly $100,000 a year off it as well as being part of a bipartisan group in the state Senate that could be bribed to kill legislation. He also received kickbacks and payments from illegal operations for permission to work in the city. Sullivan mentored Arnold Rothstein, the mobster mastermind of the rigging of the 1919 World Series, who ran the second floor of Sullivan’s casino. Sullivan’s forces were known for engaging in practically every dirty trick in the book. He had a way of turning one voter into four with voters he called “repeaters”: “When they vote with their whiskers on, you take ’em to a barber and scrape off the chin fringe. Then you vote ’em again with side lilacs and moustache, then to the barber again, off comes the sides and you vote ‘em a third time with just a moustache. If that ain’t enough, and the box can stand a few more ballots, clean off the moustache and vote ‘em plain face. That makes every one of them good for four votes” (Carlson). Sullivan also did not shy away from employing violence. He “employed street-level, physical intimidation at the ballot box both to control and to expand the suffrage” and was accused of “interfering with patrolmen assigned to maintain order at polling places and of physically beating Republican poll watchers who challenged voters’ credentials” (Mohl, 137-138). Sullivan also used gangsters to bully Republicans out of the polls. However, neither party was inclined to push the matter as both were involved in election chicanery. Sullivan was also closely affiliated with organized crime, being sure to get his cut for activity allowed in his area. With this corruption came benefits for his constituents: they were given jobs, coal in the winter, Christmas turkey dinners, and shoes. All Sullivan wanted in exchange was votes, and he got ‘em. He also at times embraced reform. Sullivan mentored social activist and later Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, supported limitations on hours for women in factories, supported women’s suffrage, and pushed the first gun control measure in New York called the Sullivan Law, “making it a felony to carry a concealed weapon and requiring the licensing and registration of small firearms” (Mohl, 145) . However, he was not above using the latter against his foes and to the benefit of himself and his lackeys.

In 1912, tragedy struck in Sullivan’s life again. In July, he began suffering serious mental illness, including paranoid delusions, hallucinations, and manic depression, the product of advanced syphilis he had caught from his years of sleeping around. Sullivan was under constant fear that his food was being poisoned and in September, his estranged wife died, which pushed him over the edge. He was institutionalized and although he won election to Congress, in January 1913 a jury declared him “a lunatic and incapable of managing himself or his affairs” and he was never sworn in (Mohl, 146). In April 1913, he moved in with his brother Patrick and was under the care of male nurses. On August 31st, he ran away and was run over by a train, his body being discovered two weeks later. In death, “Big Tim” Sullivan was still popular: 75,000 people attended his funeral procession.

References

Carlson, P. (October 2018). American Schemers: ‘Big Tim’ Sullivan, ‘King of the Bowery.’ Historynet.

Retrieved from

https://www.historynet.com/american-schemers-big-tim-sullivan-king-of-the-bowery.htm

MacNeil, N. (1963). Forge of democracy: The House of Representatives. Philadelphia, PA: David McKay Company.

Mohl, R.A. (1997). The making of urban America. Lanham, MD: SR Books.

Ezra Pound: Poetry and Politics

Ezra Pound - Wikipedia

Today my subject matter is going to be a bit unusual…but that’s kinda usual fare for this blog, now isn’t it? It’s just that this is the first time I’ve covered a poet…Ezra Pound (1885-1972) was one of the greatest American poets in history who was the foremost force in the modernist movement. He also carried with him a dark side, which came out in politics.

Although Ezra Pound hailed from the rural town of Hailey, Idaho, he traveled extensively as an adult and spent much of his life outside the United States. In college, he studied philosophy along with language and resolved to gain the greatest knowledge of poetry by age 30. In 1907, he began his teaching at Wabash University in Crawfordsville, Indiana, a town he despised for its socially conservative ways. After a year, he departed for London. In 1912, he began his career as a critic when he worked as London correspondent for the Chicago-based magazine Poetry. He befriended W.B. Yeats and was one of the first to recognize and promote Robert Frost, D.H. Lawrence, and Marianne Moore. Pound also assisted James Joyce and got his novels Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses published. He was, as Joyce put it, “A miracle of ebulliency, gusto, and help” (Menand).

Ezra Pound during this time was publishing his poetry. Some of his most notable works include Ripostes (1912), Lustra (1916), Homage to Sextus Propertius (1919), and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920). One of his best known poems, “In a Station of the Metro” (1913), reads:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

Petals on a wet, black bough. (Menand)

However, his most famous work would be the ongoing and ultimately unfinished The Cantos, a long poem (about 800 pages) which he worked on between 1915 and 1962. This work would have a profound influence on subsequent poets, including the beat generation. He also befriended and aided such figures as Ernest Hemingway and William Carlos Williams. Pound developed his own unique style of writing with unique choices for abbreviations and sometimes employed alternate spellings for words, thus making reading his writing a bit difficult. So far, I have only gone over his career as a man of letters, but this blog is called Fascinating Politics…so on with the politics!

Pound on Politics

Pound was profoundly affected by World War I…he saw its damage and devastation and wished for it never to be repeated again. He became a critic of the British, a major fan of Mussolini, was profoundly suspicious of big banks, and came to view interest as a great evil responsible for the world’s problems. In 1933, Pound got a personal audience with Mussolini, and gave him a copy of “A Draft of XXX Cantos”, which he accepted graciously, stating, “Ma questo è divertente” (“How amusing”)” (Menand).  He also viewed Alexander Hamilton as a historical villain for his ties with and advocacy for established business and banks, regarded Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri as a hero for his opposition to the Second Bank of the United States, and was a staunch opponent of the Federal Reserve. He saw the evils of the world to have been caused by financial manipulation. Pound also maintained correspondence with many people in government, but the people he wrote to the most were Senators William E. Borah of Idaho and Bronson Cutting of New Mexico as well as Representative George Tinkham of Boston. His correspondence with the latter is by far the lengthiest, having been from 1933 to 1941. Pound despised both the League of Nations and FDR, the latter he viewed as engaging in unconstitutional uses of executive power, a charge that is ironic considering what he would do during World War II.

I mentioned at the start of this post that his politics were his dark side, and this came in the form of his admiration for and support of dictators. Pound continued to support Mussolini during World War II and extended the same support to Adolf Hitler. He also wrote articles for publications owned by Sir Oswald Moseley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists. As you might have concluded at this point, he was also a staunch anti-Semite. From 1941 to 1943, Pound went on Italian radio to propagandize for Mussolini and condemn the United States and Britain and accuse Britain of being an Anglo-Jewish Empire. He also frequently employed the use of the slur “kike” in his broadcasts. These broadcasts were characterized by bizarre rambling and ultimately placed Pound in mortal danger after his arrest by U.S. forces. Other treasonous propagandists faced death sentences, notably William Joyce (“Lord Haw-Haw”), who was executed by the British government for his propaganda broadcasts for Nazi Germany. However, he appeared to suffer a mental breakdown after being kept outside in a 6 x 6 cage in isolation for three weeks and his friends in the literary world pushed for him to be institutionalized. A board of physicians agreed, and instead of facing a trial for his life Pound became a resident of St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital in Washington D.C.

He had not renounced his ways while in confinement, as he stated that “Hitler was a Joan of Arc, a martyr” (Blamires, 532). While in captivity, Pound wrote the Pisan Cantos, which was both critically acclaimed and unapologetically fascist and caused a controversy when he was awarded the Bollingen-Library of Congress Prize for poetry in 1948. Also troubling were some of the people he befriended while in confinement. In 1952, a young man named Eustace Mullins, who had come to admire Pound’s poetry and had engaged in correspondence with him, started visiting him. He, like Pound, was an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist and under the guidance of Pound wrote The Secrets of the Federal Reserve (1952), in which he claimed that a group of elite bankers wrote the Federal Reserve Act for their own profit. I have covered why this narrative is incorrect in my October 2019 post, “The Politics Behind the Federal Reserve”. Mullins, the only man to write an authorized biography of Pound, This Difficult Individual Ezra Pound (1961), also believed in such nonsense as the Jewish blood libel, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and 9/11 Trutherism. He was identified as a “neo-Fascist” by the House Un-American Activities Committee for his article that compared Hitler to Jesus in the sense that they were both, in Mullins’ view, victims of Jews.

Pound also befriended and mentored John Kasper, a KKK activist who was often in trouble with the law for said activism and shared Pound’s view that desegregation was a Jewish plot. He established a bookstore to sell works with viewpoints supported by Pound. Pound’s associations with both Mullins and Kasper proved troublesome for figures in the literary world who wanted to secure his release, which eventually happened in 1958. Although Pound in later years expressed public regret for his anti-Semitism, he never really dropped his views and this has been difficult for those who admire his impressive work to reconcile this with his politics. He lived the remainder of his life in Venice, Italy.

Whether Pound was mentally ill or not is a subject of great speculation, but it is likely that at worst he had Narcissistic Personality Disorder but was otherwise sane.

References

Blamires, C.P. (2006). World Fascism: A-K. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Menand, L. (2008, June 2). The Pound Error. The New Yorker.

Retrieved from

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/06/09/the-pound-error

 

For some of his poetry:

https://poets.org/poems/ezra-pound

For some of his radio speeches…you can judge whether he was crazy or not:

https://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Pound-Speeches.php

 

“Fighting Bob” La Follette: The Ultimate Progressive Republican

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In 1884, Robert Marion La Follette (1855-1925) was elected to Congress from Wisconsin and although he wasn’t a conservative, he was not yet a man of the left either and was friendly with the GOP leadership. He closely collaborated with Representative William McKinley on the 1890 McKinley Tariff, which cost both men reelection. Both made their comebacks, with McKinley’s being the most famous, but La Follette’s was more lasting.

Over the next decade, Robert La Follette would change in his politics as well as rise in power, starting with his accusation in 1891 that GOP Senator Philetus Sawyer offered him a bribe. He became increasingly interested in reform politics and came to regard railroads as the ultimate malignant force in his state’s politics but still supported William McKinley for president in 1896 and opposed William Jennings Bryan as a radical. La Follette ran for the GOP nomination for governor that year, calling for more direct democracy, such as primaries instead of caucuses and conventions and claiming that the Republican Party had been taken over by corporations. After two defeats in the Republican primary for governor, he made a compromise with party conservatives in 1900, securing the nomination and the election. During his time as governor, La Follette grew more and more progressive as conservatives turned away from his proposals on primaries and an income tax. Governor La Follette vetoed as insufficient a modest bill that would permit primaries only in local elections and signed into law a bill that taxed railroads based on land owned rather than profits. He also managed to create a commission to regulate railroads, but was unable to get a bill passed to regulate railroad rates. Despite intensifying conservative and business opposition to La Follette, he managed to beat back challenges to his governorship and in 1906 with the aid of his ally Irvine Lenroot secured his election to the Senate, resigning the governorship.

Many of his colleagues disapproved of him as a senator, with Senator Nelson Aldrich (R-R.I.) finding him a dangerous demagogue and thus did his best to limit La Follette’s effectiveness in pushing for progressive causes. However, La Follette was not deterred and continued to call for measures such as the income tax, railroad regulation (he thought the Hepburn Act didn’t go far enough), and direct election of senators. For his relentless and at times pugnacious advocacy of progressive positions he became known as “Fighting Bob”. He even grew dissatisfied with President Roosevelt as he thought him insufficiently progressive, with Roosevelt himself finding La Follette too radical. Senator La Follette’s power was in his masterful oratory, in which if you listen to this speech of his below, you will surely find that he speaks every word with great conviction.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5plfw9dV24

In 1912, he angered Bull Moose Republicans with his refusal to back Roosevelt, which his supporters argue harmed the ticket. La Follette backed much of Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom, voting for the Clayton Act and being the only Republican senator to support the Underwood Tariff, which lowered tariffs and placed into law the first permanent national income tax. He opposed the Federal Reserve Act as he found it too supportive of big banks. La Follette didn’t lose all of his previous Republicanism…he continued to oppose pork barrel projects, believing them to be wasteful uses of taxpayer money. This opposition was shared by many of his fellow Wisconsin progressives.  In 1915, he won a great victory with Wilson signing his Seamen’s Act, which provided legal rights for sailors, including permitting them to quit at any port. He also opposed the push to war and in 1917 he was one of only six senators to vote against entering World War I. During the war, La Follette took a strong stance for civil liberties, opposing both the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act. President Wilson and many senators at this time wanted him expelled from the Senate for a speech he delivered in St. Paul, Minnesota, against the war. They thought he was pro-German, but it turns out a hostile press had distorted the reporting of the speech, including falsely claiming that he had defended the sinking of the Lusitania. La Follette delivered an impassioned speech in his defense to the Senate defending free speech in wartime, and his legal counsel submitted a brief that detailed other wars in which major American political figures of unquestioned patriotism spoke against, and concluded, “Whether. . . right or wrong in opposing the declaration of war . . is immaterial. He had a right to his views, and he had a right to express them” (U.S. Senate). As the war drew to a close and his critics proved unable to provide witnesses against him ultimately killed the effort. The Senate voted down his expulsion 50 to 21 on January 16, 1919, with mostly only Wilson loyalists in the Democratic Party continuing to back the effort. During this time, he also supported the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and opposed the Red Scare. La Follette also backed both the Prohibition amendment and the women’s suffrage amendment, but came to regret supporting the former. In 1919, he was one of the Irreconcilables on the Versailles Treaty debate, as he believed it would serve the interests of big business and imperialists. After the 1922 midterms, all federally elected Wisconsin officials save for fellow Senator Irvine Lenroot (who had moderated by this time) and Socialist Representative Victor Berger were progressive Republicans. In 1923, La Follette visited the USSR and was repulsed by the state of human rights and political freedom, thus changing his mind on the Bolsheviks. In 1924, he was highly dissatisfied with the Coolidge Administration and helped found the Conference for Progressive Political Action to push progressive issues. The Democrats didn’t look good to him either in this election as they had selected corporate attorney John W. Davis. Thus, La Follette ran for president under the Progressive Party banner, with Montana Democrat Senator Burton K. Wheeler as Vice President.

La Follette campaigned vigorously across the country, calling for nationalization of railroads and electric power, more labor protections, aid to farmers, a Constitutional amendment to end child labor (Coolidge was supportive of this one), an end to American imperialism south of the border, and a national referendum for war. This campaign attracted the support of labor groups, civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois, birth control activist Margaret Sanger, and Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs. Although he only won his home state, he won 16% of the vote and performed strongly in a number of Midwestern and Western states, coming in second in California, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota (which he came close to winning), Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming. The vigors of campaigning took a toll on La Follette’s health, and the next year he died of heart failure at the age of 70. Thousands of Americans paid their respects to the senator as his funeral train carried him home to Wisconsin. This tremendous boat rocker’s lifetime MC-Index score was 29%. In 1957, the Senate Kennedy Committee named him as one of the five greatest senators, listing him with Henry Clay of Kentucky, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, John Calhoun of South Carolina, and Robert Taft of Ohio.

References

Robert M. La Follette Expulsion Case. U.S. Senate.

Retrieved from

https://www.senate.gov/about/powers-procedures/expulsion/101RobertLaFollette_expulsion.htm

George Holden Tinkham: Boston’s Unabashed Eccentric

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The 1914 midterms were good for the GOP in the House: they won back 62 seats as the economy was doing well and voters attributed this to conservative policies of the previous administration. One of the more surprising gains was in Boston, in which George Holden Tinkham (1870-1956) won a seat held by Democrats for ten years. Although the voters of his district were largely Irish Democrats, he became so popular that during most campaign seasons he could go on safaris and bag big game instead of campaign: from 1918 until his retirement his share of the vote never fell below 56%. During the Wilson Administration, he backed the preparedness movement and was eager to counter the Central Powers. Tinkham was so eager, in fact, that he fired the first American shot in World War I: when he was visiting the Italian front, the commander invited him to fire a 149-millimeter gun, issuing forth a 110-lb shell that exploded in Austrian lines. He stated afterwards, “I did not go there with that particular idea in mind, but I could not resist the temptation” (U.S. House of Representatives, 2014).

Tinkham was a conservative (MC-Index life score: 90%) who regarded himself as being true to the foundational principles of the United States and opposed three constitutional amendments his party supported: Prohibition, women’s suffrage, and child labor abolition. For the former, Tinkham was beloved by his constituents and day after day he would ridicule Wayne Wheeler and the Anti-Saloon League on the floor of the House. He regarded Prohibition as “unconstitutional, oppressive, and tyrannical” (U.S. House of Representatives, 2014). Tinkham also thought of himself as an individualist and non-conformist, and believed that others should be free to live so as well. According to Will Lang of Life, “Opposition is Tinkham’s favorite attitude. He is against internationalism, feminism, pacifism, and the New Deal. He abominates reform” (Lang, 71). In the 1920s, however, he stood, along with Hamilton Fish of New York, Leonidas C. Dyer of Missouri, and Fiorello LaGuardia of New York, as one of the few legislators who would frequently speak for civil rights. Tinkham declared Southern voting laws to be “the most colossal election fraud the world has ever known” and repeatedly pushed for investigations of Southern states for violations of the 14th and 15th Amendments (U.S. House of Representatives). In addition to voting for anti-lynching bills, he attempted to reduce representation from the South as a penalty for their disenfranchisement of black voters, per enforcement of the 14th Amendment. Leaders from both parties, eager to keep the peace, rejected this idea.

Aside from his political advocacy, Tinkham became known for his eccentricity, his bald head and bushy beard, his lifelong bachelorhood (to which he credited his accomplishments in life), and his massive collection of stuffed head trophies from his safaris in Kenya. His Congressional office was filled with these trophies, which he named after political opponents. Tinkham was admired by the Congressional pages, who wanted to run errands for him whenever possible so they could behold his office. He also collected works of fine art in his worldwide travels and had a special apartment for storing them as well as other trophies from his safaris. He would give tours to visitors with the only source of light being Tinkham’s flashlight, as he believed the pieces to be best observed individually. Tinkham’s appearance and mannerisms could be a bit off, however, according to Ezra Pound’s daughter Mary, “How his dirty fingernails and his smacking the waitress’s young fanny were compatible with being a great man and a friend of Babbo’s [Ezra Pound] I could not quite figure out” (Wilhelm, 112).

Although the district easily voted for FDR three times, they continued to elect Tinkham as well, despite his staunch opposition to the New Deal…the only New Deal law of significance he ever voted for was Social Security. In 1936, he won a greater majority than FDR! Tinkham also became a notable foe of FDR’s foreign policy and to the delight of his Irish constituents he would rail against the British on the floor of the House and voted against all of FDR’s bills to dismantle the Neutrality Acts. He also maintained a friendly correspondence with poet and literary critic Ezra Pound from 1933 to 1941, with both men sharing antipathy to the League of Nations and admiration for Benito Mussolini. Tinkham stated about him, “Mussolini certainly has had a great triumph and is a great man. Any man who can successfully defy England and the League of Nations is a man of strength and he has my admiration” (Wilhelm, 112). During World War II, Pound would go much further than admiration…he would later be imprisoned for propagandizing over the radio for Mussolini.

Unfortunately for Tinkham, in 1942 the Massachusetts GOP leadership tired of his non-interventionist politics and changed the composition of his district significantly, moving out Irish neighborhoods that voted for him and moving in suburban districts. At that point, he decided to retire, being succeeded by Christian Herter, a far more moderate internationalist Republican who would serve as Secretary of State under Eisenhower. In retirement, he moved to North Carolina to live with his sister, and died in her home in 1956.

References

Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007. (2008). Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives.

George H. Tinkham: The Subtitles Write Themselves. (2014, March 24). U.S. House of Representatives.

Retrieved from

https://history.house.gov/Blog/2014/March/3-24-tinkham/

Lang, W. (1940, December 16). Tinkham The Mighty Hunter: Boston’s Congressman Bags Votes Like Tigers But Never Campaigns. Life.

Retrieved from

https://books.google.com/books?id=QEoEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA69&lpg=PA69

Wilhelm, J.J. (2010). Ezra Pound: The tragic years, 1925-1972. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

For a photo of Tinkham with his trophies:

https://history.house.gov/Collection/Detail/15032416283

 

Legislators In Name Only

Although the term RINO (“Republican In Name Only”) is well known in American political lingo, I want to bring today another concept to mind….the Legislator in Name Only (LINO)! Although candidates for higher office get criticized for missing votes in their current station, especially those for president, the hard truth is that not by not doing so they guarantee loss. The case of the highly principled Representative Thomas B. Curtis of Missouri is demonstrative, as he lost his race for the Senate by two points in 1968 and may have pulled through had he not insisted on continuing to work full-time as a Congressman during campaign season. However, candidates for higher office aren’t legislators in name only as they get right back to work after the contest and it wouldn’t be fair to knock those absent on account of illness. We haven’t seen the like of the true LINO in many years but some of them were in fact highly influential! For these guys, Representative was merely another title. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (D-N.Y.) was criticized for absenteeism for missing 28% of votes throughout his time in Congress, but that’s nothing compared to these guys:

William Randolph Hearst

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/59/WilliamRandolphHearst.jpg/220px-WilliamRandolphHearst.jpg

Although William Randolph Hearst served two terms in Congress from New York City as a Democrat, he barely voted. Serving from 1903 to 1907, he didn’t vote enough to achieve an ideological score either from DW-Nominate or the MC-Index. By default, his absenteeism makes him one of the worst Congressmen in history. Hearst was too busy running his New York Journal and plotting a run for president to consider doing the job he was elected and paid to do. Hearst pretty much only proposed legislation to the left of the Square Deal with the full knowledge it didn’t stand a chance in Joe Cannon’s Congress. Hearst missed 196 of 223 votes, 88%.

Joseph Pulitzer

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That’s right! Hearst’s primary press rival was also an absentee Congressman. Joseph Pulitzer, who ran New York World, served for a total of one term as a Democrat from 1885 to 1886. Hearst and Pulitzer not only competed in the press, but also competed for spots on the worst list for members of Congress. He missed 51 of 57 votes, making his absentee rate a whopping 89%. He ultimately resigned mid-term to spend more time running the newspaper. In his short time in the House, Pulitzer was known as a critic of big business. In the contest of which of the great press magnates was worse in Congress, Pulitzer wins the prize!

Timothy Sullivan

Timothy “Big Tim” Sullivan may seem like an insignificant member at first glance, but he was in fact the boss of Tammany Hall! After the departure of Richard Croker in 1902, Sullivan headed the organization until his death. Serving from 1903 to 1906 as well as 1913 in the House, he was both corrupt and a backer of social reform. I could write much more about Sullivan, but given the material on him he warrants his own post, which I will write in the future. He missed 195 of 212 votes, 92%.

Others With Substantial Absentee Records:

Claude L’Engle (D-Fla., 1913-15) – 273 of 281 votes missed, 97%. Lost renomination.

Richmond Hobson (D-Ala., 1907-15) – 671 of 1054 votes missed, 64%.

James F. Burke (R-Penn., 1905-15) – 721 of 1190 votes missed, 61%.

William Ainey (R-Penn., 1911-15) – 313 of 517 votes missed, 61%.

Eben W. Martin (R-S.D., 1901-07, 1908-15) – 511 of 1192 votes missed, 43%..

Stephen Hoxworth (D-Ill., 1913-15) – 250 of 281 votes missed, 89%. Didn’t run for reelection in 1914.

The Townsend Plan and Its Failures of Math

https://historycms2.house.gov/uploadedImages/Collection/Listing/2007/2007_241_002-1.jpg

Although the “Green New Deal” is rather old news now, I’ve intended for some time to make a post about another impractical plan that caught the attention of many Americans when the nation was at its most economically troubled.

At the onset of the Great Depression, physician Francis Townsend (1867-1960) of Long Beach, California, was facing great financial burden: he had lost his job as a public health officer in June 1933 and was reliant on his wife’s work as a nurse for income. As historian William E. Leuchtenburg wrote, he “…had less than a hundred dollars in savings. Disturbed not only by his own plight but by that of others like him – elderly people from Iowa and Kansas who had gone west in the 1920’s and now faced the void of unemployment with slim resources” (Spartacus Educational). Shortly after losing his job, he crafted with real estate promoter Robert Earl Clements a plan that seemed to be a miracle cure for the poverty of the elderly and the Great Depression: impose a 2% national sales tax to fund a guaranteed $150 (later revised to $200) a month to every citizen 60 and older who didn’t have a criminal record (the average monthly wage in 1935 was $100 a month). This 2% tax would be applied to every transaction, thus it acted like a Value Added Tax. To receive the money, recipients would be subject to a few conditions: first, they would have to quit their jobs so younger workers could take their place, and second, they would have to spend all the money they received within the U.S. in a month. Beneficiaries didn’t have to pay into this system and there was no means testing for it, so anyone regardless of wealth could receive the payments provided the conditions were met. This would theoretically serve to not only solve the poverty problem among the elderly but also to stimulate the economy by requiring the benefits be spent. Advocacy for this plan skyrocketed with Townsend clubs sprouting up across the nation, within two years “there were over 7,000 “Townsend Clubs” with over 2.2 million members actively working to make the Townsend Plan the nation’s old-age pension system” (DeWitt). These clubs were complete with meetings with elaborate rituals and fans could be found of the plan from both the political left and right, despite nearly all mainstream economists dismissing the plan as a crackpot scheme. Its appeal to the right largely stemmed from the plan being an alternative to communism and Dr. Townsend himself pushing a socially conservative agenda, stating himself the movement was for people “who believe in the Bible, believe in God, cheer when the flag passes by, the Bible Belt solid Americans” (Spartacus Educational). Dr. Townsend gained an ardent supporter in the influential and demagogic Huey Long of Louisiana. By 1935, President Roosevelt was growing concerned with the growth of advocacy in the Townsend Plan as well as Huey Long’s obvious desires for his office: 56% of the public at the time supported the Townsend Plan. Roosevelt thus pushed Social Security, which paid between $10 and $85 a month. Notably, a significant number of House foes of Social Security were California Democrats, who preferred the more generous Townsend Plan.

Although many Americans were satisfied with Social Security as the substitute, advocacy for the Townsend Plan continued and many of FDR’s allies were keen on countering advocacy for this plan. Economists estimated that the plan would require federal expenditures one and a half times the size of all local, state, and federal spending in 1932. Future Senator Paul Howard Douglas determined that retail prices would have to increase by 75% and worker wages could be cut by up to 50% for the plan to be implemented. 40% of national income would ultimately be diverted to 9% of the population under the Townsend Plan. In 1936, Democratic Representative C. Jasper Bell of Missouri chaired hearings into the Townsend Plan that exposed that the plan was outrageously poorly thought out. Dr. Townsend performed poorly in the hearings, with his own economist admitting that the plan couldn’t be funded with a 2% transactions tax, with the total revenue under the most ideal conditions being between $4-9.6 billion, covering a mere third of what would be required for $200 monthly in benefits payments. Thus, the real transaction tax rate would be between 6-14%. Townsend walked out of the hearing despite threat for arrest for contempt. Although he was sentenced to thirty days in jail, President Roosevelt commuted the sentence to counter political opposition to him.

That year, Townsend turned against Roosevelt and the New Deal and asked his supporters to back either the Union Party candidate William Lemke (a progressive North Dakota Republican) or Republican candidate Alf Landon of Kansas. Like his plan, Townsend’s advocacy here failed. Townsend had a minor success in California in 1938 when Senator and former Secretary of the Treasury William G. McAdoo was defeated for renomination by Townsend Plan champion Sheridan Downey, who would serve two terms. In 1939, the House voted on his plan, but it failed miserably on a 97-302 (D 40-194; R 55-107) vote. Support for the plan proved strongest in the west, with representatives from these states voting 32-11 in favor. In 1940, Townsend endorsed Republican Wendell Willkie and in 1948 he backed Henry Wallace of the Progressive Party. Despite these setbacks and the existence of Social Security, Townsend clubs continued to exist until 1978, eighteen years after Dr. Townsend’s death.

Although the Townsend Plan was a conceptual failure, it did push public support for the establishment of national old-age insurance, resulting in Social Security. The same may prove true of the Green New Deal and climate legislation in the years to come.

References

DeWitt, L.W. (December 2001). The Townsend Plan’s Pension Scheme. Social Welfare History Project.

Retrieved from

https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/social-security/the-townsend-plan/

Francis Townsend. Spartacus Educational.

Retrieved from

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

Townsend Plan. Encyclopedia.com.

Retrieved from

https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/united-states-and-canada/us-history/townsend-plan

“To Pass H.R. 6466, “The Townsend Plan.”. Govtrack.

Retrieved from

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/76-1/h53

 

Bourke Cockran: The American Politician Who Mentored Churchill

Winston Churchill: The Irishman who taught him gift of the gab ...

On March 5, 1946, Winston Churchill was giving a speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri titled The Sinews of Peace, better known as the “Iron Curtain” speech. During this, one of his greatest speeches, he said, “I have often used words, which I learned fifty years ago from a great Irish-American orator, a friend of mine, Mr. Bourke Cockran: ‘There is enough for all. The earth is a generous mother; she will provide in plentiful abundance food for all her children if they will but cultivate her soil in justice and in peace” (Glueckstein). It was Irish-American politician William Bourke Cockran (1854-1923) who had taught him the skills he needed to become a leader on the world stage.

Born in Silgo, Ireland, Cockran proved tremendously intellectually gifted, excelling at memorizing and understanding information as well as becoming fluent in French, Greek, and Latin. In 1871, at the age of 17, Cockran visited New York City and loved the city so much he decided to stay there.

Wanting to be influential in New York City as an attorney, he joined the Tammany Hall machine in 1883 only to leave the following year over policy disagreements. As Tammany district boss George Washington Plunkitt said of him, “…I’ll admit he’s a grand gentleman and the greatest orator in the land, but take it from me, he’s not a dependable politician. He calls himself a Democrat but his heart was never in Tammany Hall. One look at him will tell you that he’s as much of an aristocrat as old Lord Salisbury himself. He wouldn’t lower his dignity to mix with the boys who work late and early to keep the organization going; and while he was in Congress he never darkened the door of a Tammany clubhouse” (Stovall, 17). He could best be described as a Bourbon Democrat in his politics, sometimes conservative and sometimes liberal. Indeed, his lifetime MC-Index score is 54%. In 1886 he won election to Congress but didn’t stay long as he found he couldn’t run his law firm while effectively serving his constituents. After growing his practice, he returned to Congress, serving from 1891 to 1895. Cockran became renowned as the most impressive orator of his day. An example of his style comes from his speech to the Liberal Club in London on July 15, 1903: “As I speak, men are tending flocks on Australian fields and shearing wool which will clothe you during the coming winter. On western lands, men are reaping grain to supply your daily bread. In mines deep underground, men are swinging pickaxes and shovels to wrest from the bosom of the Earth the ores essential to the efficiency of your industry. Under tropical skies, hands are gathering, from bending boughs, luscious fruits which in a few days will be offered for your consumption in the streets of London” (Leggett, 5). Although Cockran had spoken against nominating Grover Cleveland a third time in 1892, he nonetheless proved supportive of his policies, particularly the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act.

In 1895, he traveled to Paris in mourning over the death of his second wife and in the process, met and started a relationship with the recently widowed Jennie Churchill, and through her met her son Winston. He saw great potential in young Winston, who he mentored in the art of oration as well as politics. He advised him,  “One should avoid scurrility, affections and cant, what people want to hear is the truth—it is the exciting thing…speak the simple truth” (Glueckstein). Cockran would have many discussions over brandy and cigars with Churchill on politics and all sorts of other matters. In 1896, Cockran was unable to stomach Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan’s support of free silver and thus he supported William McKinley. During the McKinley era he backed intervention to free Cuba from Spanish rule, but disapproved of the imperialist acquisitions resulting from the war. Cockran also supported freeing the Boers of South Africa from British rule.

In 1900 he returned to the Democratic fold, backing Bryan as he opposed American imperialism. That year, Cockran delivered a speech before the Race Conference in Montgomery, Alabama, in which he called for the repeal of the Fifteenth Amendment as he regarded it as unenforceable and “lauded the Southern people in their generosity to the colored race” (Louisiana House of Representatives, 302). Yet, he also supported women’s suffrage. Although on some issues, such as his support for the gold standard and his staunch opposition to socialism, Cockran was conservative, he proved liberal on others, such as his lifelong opposition to the death penalty, his support for limiting campaign contributions to $50 (not adjusted for inflation), and his opposition to compulsory arbitration in labor disputes, the latter he viewed as too favorable to business in practice. In 1904, he returned to Congress, serving until 1909. In 1912, Cockran again declined to endorse the Democrat, instead backing Theodore Roosevelt as he supported his type of moderate progressivism. Like Roosevelt, he also backed military preparedness as war raged in Europe despite his pacifistic views. In 1918, Cockran managed to appeal a death sentence for Tom Mooney, a socialist labor activist accused of murdering five people with a bomb on a July 22, 1916 Preparedness Day Parade, resulting in President Wilson commuting it to life imprisonment. His trial had been conducted in a lynch mob atmosphere and there were allegations that the San Francisco District Attorney, Charles Fickert, had coached witnesses.

In 1920, Cockran again was elected to Congress, where he largely opposed the Harding Administration. In 1922, he notably changed his tune on race, speaking in favor of and voting for the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. Although Cockran had won reelection in 1922, he died of a stroke on March 1, 1923, three days before the next Congress. Former Speaker Joe Cannon (R-Ill.) eulogized him, regarding him as “…one of the most brilliant ornaments of statesmanship. His great speeches made us think of Burke, Sheridan and Fox in England and of our own Webster, Clay and Calhoun” (Stovall, 22). Winston Churchill wrote of his mentor in the 1930s that he was “A pacifist, individualist, democrat, capitalist, and a ‘Gold-bug’…He was equally opposed to socialists, inflationists, and Protectionists, and he resisted them on all occasions” (Roberts, 35). Cockran never reached the political heights of Churchill as he was far too independent in thought to even think of running for president, but that a seemingly obscure representative could bear so much influence on one of history’s greatest leaders its nothing short of astonishing to me.

References

Glueckstein, F. (2016, February 24). Great Contemporaries: William Bourke Cockran. The Churchill Project.

Retrieved from

Great Contemporaries: William Bourke Cockran

Leggett, B. (2011, September 30). Bourke Cockran: a model for Winston Churchill’s Wartime Oratory. IESE Business School University of Navarra.

Retrieved from

https://blog.iese.edu/leggett/files/2011/09/B-Cockran-2.pdf

Official Journal of the Proceedings of the House of Representatives of the State of Louisiana. (1900).

Retrieved from

https://books.google.com/books?id=modFAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA302&lpg=PA302&dq

Roberts, A. (2018). Churchill: Walking with destiny. New York, NY: Viking Books.

Stovall, R.L. (1975). The Rhetoric of Bourke Cockran: A Contextual Analysis Dissertation. Ohio State University.

Retrieved from

https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=osu1486993219479198&disposition=inline

 

Versailles Treaty, in Six Key Votes

https://cdn.britannica.com/48/71448-050-4C5EB186/Big-Four-David-Lloyd-George-architects-Italy.jpg

I don’t have much to write about right now, but I felt like posting a bit more detail about the crucial votes of the Versailles Treaty that demonstrate ideological differences. Adoption of the treaty with reservations doesn’t fit the bill as the irreconcilables voted against it, and their position is the most extreme. This does mean that the strong reservationists and irreconcilables are pretty much in the same boat, but I haven’t found a vote that singles out irreconcilables and strong reservationists aside from one that puts internationalists with the former.

Key Senate Votes

1. Johnson Reservation – US Equal in Power as UK in League of Nations

Adoption of the Johnson (R-Calif.) reservation that makes the US equal in power to the UK in the League of Nations, the UK’s colonies are counted as individual countries.

Defeated 43-46: R 37-9; D 6-37, 11/18/19.

2. Lodge Reservation – US Autonomy in Deciding Questions of Honor

Adoption of the Lodge (R-Mass.) reservation that allows the US to decide questions of interest and honor and that those questions shall not be submitted to the League of Nations for arbitration.

Defeated 36-56: R 33-15; D 3-41, 11/18/19.

3. Lodge Reservation – Armed Forces

Adoption of the Lodge (R-Mass.) reservation to the Versailles Treaty, requiring Congress to vote on the use of armed forces.

Adopted 46-33: R 42-0; D 4-33, 11/13/19.

4. Gore Reservation – No Interference in Domestic Affairs

Adoption of the Gore (D-Okla.) reservation to the Versailles Treaty that states the treaty will not be interpreted to require the United States to depart from its traditional policy of not getting involved in the domestic affairs of other nations.

Defeated 28-50: R 24-16; D 4-34, 11/18/19.

5. Walsh Reservation – Free Speech & Freedom of the Press

Adoption of the Walsh (D-Mass.) reservation to the Versailles Treaty that states the treaty shall in no way be construed to restrict freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and advocacy for the national independence of any people.

Defeated 36-42: R 30-9; D 6-33, 11/18/19.

6. Adopt Versailles Treaty, No Reservations

Adoption of the Versailles Treaty with no reservations, as negotiated by President Wilson.

Rejected 38-53: R 1-46; D 37-7, 11/18/19.

I have applied lifetime MC-Index scores to the senators voting.

ALABAMA 1 2 3 4 5 6 MCI
Bankhead D N N ? ? ? Y 27%
Underwood D N N N N N Y 23%
ARIZONA
Ashurst D N N N ? ? Y 12%
Smith D N N X N N Y 16%
ARKANSAS
Kirby D Y N N ? N Y 6%
Robinson D N N N N N Y 7%
CALIFORNIA
Johnson R Y Y Y Y Y N 60%
Phelan D Y N N N Y Y 21%
COLORADO
Phipps R Y Y Y N Y N 95%
Thomas D N N N N N N 35%
CONNECTICUT
Brandegee R Y Y Y Y Y N 92%
McLean R Y Y Y Y Y N 89%
DELAWARE
Ball R Y Y Y Y Y N 93%
Wolcott D N N N ? ? Y 26%
FLORIDA
Fletcher D N N N N N Y 18%
Trammell D N N N N N N 16%
GEORGIA
Harris D N N N N N Y 4%
Smith D N N Y N Y N 28%
IDAHO
Borah R Y Y Y Y Y N 48%
Nugent D N N N N N Y 13%
ILLINOIS
McCormick R Y Y ? Y Y N 78%
Sherman R Y Y Y Y Y N 95%
INDIANA
New R Y Y Y Y Y N 96%
Watson R Y Y Y ? N 90%
IOWA
Cummins R Y N Y Y ? N 64%
Kenyon R Y N Y ? Y N 46%
KANSAS
Capper R Y Y Y Y Y N 58%
Curtis R ? Y Y ? Y N 80%
KENTUCKY
Beckham D N N N N N Y 11%
Stanley D N ? N N N Y 4%
LOUISIANA
Gay D N N N N N Y 7%
Ransdell D N N N N N Y 35%
MAINE
Fernald R Y Y Y ? Y N 94%
Hale R N N Y N N N 91%
MARYLAND
France R Y Y Y Y Y N 76%
Smith D N N N ? N Y 25%
MASSACHUSETTS
Lodge R Y Y Y Y Y N 91%
Walsh D Y N Y Y Y N 38%
MICHIGAN
Newberry R Y Y N Y N 91%
Townsend R Y N Y N ? N 78%
MINNESOTA
Kellogg R N N N N N 74%
Nelson R N N ? N ? ? 61%
MISSISSIPPI
Harrison D N N N N N Y 12%
Williams D N N N N N Y 23%
MISSOURI
Spencer R Y Y Y N Y N 79%
Reed D Y Y Y Y Y N 18%
MONTANA
Myers D ? N N N N Y 16%
Walsh D N N N N N Y 15%
NEBRASKA
Norris R Y Y Y Y Y N 29%
Hitchcock D N N N N N Y 22%
NEVADA
Henderson D N N N N N Y 9%
Pittman D N N N N N Y 12%
NEW HAMPSHIRE
Keyes R N N Y N N N 91%
Moses R Y Y Y ? Y N 95%
NEW JERSEY
Edge R ? N Y N N N 88%
Frelinghuysen R Y Y Y Y Y N 88%
NEW MEXICO
Fall R ? ? Y ? ? X 70%
Jones D N N N N N Y 20%
NEW YORK
Calder R Y Y Y ? ? N 88%
Wadsworth R Y Y Y ? N 92%
NORTH CAROLINA
Overman D N N N N N Y 17%
Simmons D N N X ? ? Y 15%
NORTH DAKOTA
Gronna R Y Y Y Y Y N 45%
McCumber R N N Y N N Y 69%
OHIO
Harding R Y Y Y Y ? N 95%
Pomerene D N N X N N Y 22%
OKLAHOMA
Gore D Y Y Y Y Y N 33%
Owen D N N N N ? Y 17%
OREGON
McNary R N N Y N N N 60%
Chamberlain D N N ? N N Y 28%
PENNSYLVANIA
Knox R Y Y Y Y N 93%
Penrose R Y Y Y Y Y N 91%
RHODE ISLAND
Colt R N N Y N N N 85%
Gerry D ? N N N ? Y 49%
SOUTH CAROLINA
Dial D N N N N N Y 33%
Smith D N N N N N Y 23%
SOUTH DAKOTA
Sterling R N N Y N N N 71%
Johnson D N N N ? N Y 10%
TENNESSEE
McKellar D N N N N N Y 19%
Shields D Y Y Y Y N 32%
TEXAS
Culberson D ? ? ? ? ? ? 4%
Sheppard D N N N N N Y 6%
UTAH
Smoot R Y N Y N Y N 90%
King D N N X N N Y 47%
VERMONT
Dillingham R Y Y Y ? Y N 96%
Page R Y Y Y ? ? N 84%
VIRGINIA
Swanson D N N ? N N Y 20%
Vacant
WASHINGTON
Jones R Y Y Y Y N 69%
Poindexter R Y Y Y Y ? N 47%
WEST VIRGINIA
Elkins R Y Y Y Y Y N 84%
Sutherland R Y Y Y Y Y N 73%
WISCONSIN
La Follette R Y Y Y Y Y N 29%
Lenroot R N N Y N N N 54%
WYOMING
Warren R Y N Y N Y N 90%
Kendrick D N N N N N 27%

Harry Elmer Barnes: When Good Historians Go Bad

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn%3AANd9GcRMAqTSnX2X2z1CHpcaPzMgqIpyc4S3bS3AailLliItykim56wq&usqp=CAU

If you were to examine the field of historians in the 1920s and 1930s for the most prominent and respected people you would find Harry Elmer Barnes (1889-1968). Barnes studied history under William Archibald Dunning, a history professor whose views on Reconstruction were, to say the least, highly negative. In 1918, Barnes became a professor and taught history at Columbia University until 1929. He founded, along with other prominent progressive historians of his day such as Charles A. Beard, James Harvey Robinson, and Carl L. Becker, the movement of “New History”. This combined history with sociology to form a history aimed at being relevant to people of the time. He also during this time pioneered historical revisionism, which was aimed at disputing the telling of history by governments and dominant politicians, which he dubbed “court history”. An atheist, Barnes applied this to traditional religions as well, “There is no such thing as sin, scientifically speaking, and hence it disappears into the limbo of ancient superstition. The Bible deserves no reverential law, the ten commandments no obedience, except so far as they conform to modern science” (U.S. Senate, 129). During World War I, he was a strong supporter of the war effort and his anti-German propaganda was even considered “too violent” by the American government. However, after the war, Barnes changed his tune as he came to strongly oppose the Versailles Treaty and viewed the Germans much more favorably.

Barnes was, you could say, an old-school progressive who was strongly anti-war and anti-imperialism. During the 1920s he wrote scholarly articles that were increasingly favorable to the Germans and Central Powers. Initially, Barnes argued that the Allies and Central Powers bore equal responsibility. In 1924, he argued that the order of responsibility was: Austria, Russia/France, and Germany. By 1926, Barnes argued in his book The Genesis of the World War, “In estimating the order of guilt of the various countries we may safely say that the only direct and immediate responsibility for the World War falls upon Serbia, France and Russia, with the guilt about equally distributed. Next in order—far below France and Russia—would come Austria, though she never desired a general European war. Finally, we place Germany and England as tied for last place, both being opposed to war in the 1914 crisis. Probably the German public was somewhat more favorable to military activity than the English people, but … the Kaiser made much more strenuous efforts to preserve the peace of Europe in 1914 than did Sir Edward Grey” (Mombauer, 88). That year, he met with the in-exile Kaiser Wilhelm II at his home in the Netherlands, who praised Barnes for his views on German war guilt. However, Barnes reported that instead of Russia and France, the Kaiser “held that the villains of 1914 were the international Jews and Free Masons, who, he alleged, desired to destroy national states and the Christian religion (Lipstadt, 68)”.  His academic work on this subject received substantial funding from the German Foreign Ministry, eager to push a counter-narrative to fight the war guilt clause of the Versailles Treaty, in which the Allies forced Germany to admit sole responsibility for the war, which was both unfair and false (Germany wasn’t solely responsible) and served as the basis for war reparations. Barnes’ view was highly revisionist on World War I, but it was far more scholarly and credible than some of his later work would be. In 1927, he was elected to the national committee of the American Civil Liberties Union. Barnes’s prominence only rose with time and his two volume series, The History of Western Civilization, was used by major educational institutions throughout the United States.

In the 1930s, Barnes gained a national audience for his column for Howard-Scripps newspapers, being read by millions. While he supported the New Deal, he stood as a strong opponent of intervention in Europe, getting involved with the America First Committee. As economist Murray N. Rothbard wrote of his opposition, “…in terms of worldly eminence, Harry made one fatal mistake: he insisted, for ever and always, on being true to his convictions and principles, let the chips fall where they may. Hence, when liberal opinion, shortly before America’s entry into World War II, began to flip-flop en masse from its previous devotion to neutrality and non-intervention, and beat the drums for war, Harry Barnes, like his fellow liberals John T. Flynn and Charles A. Beard, stood steadfast” (Rothbard, 4). As a consequence of his opposition as well as a libel lawsuit for alleging a British diplomat, Sir Robert Vansittart, conspired to start war with Germany, his column for Howard-Scripps was ended in 1940. Barnes would erroneously claim in a letter to fellow non-interventionist and friend Oswald Garrison Villard that the lawsuit was a “plot of the Jews and the Anti-Defamation League to intimidate any American historians who propose to tell the truth about the causes of the war” (Lipstadt, 80).

After World War II, Barnes continued to oppose the use of American military might, both in Korea and Vietnam. He also blamed the Cold War on Truman and Churchill, their motives being to score domestic political points. Barnes applied his revisionism to World War II and was particularly influenced by the work of Paul Rassinier, a pacifist and socialist who had been imprisoned at Buchenwald and whose belief in Holocaust denial stemmed from the fact that there were no gas chambers at that camp. The problem with that view is that Buchenwald, as terrible as conditions were there, wasn’t a death camp. Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec were death camps in which gas chambers were used. Barnes, as with his World War I revisionism, gradually escalated his views in contrariness. He first argued that atrocity stories of the Germans were exaggerated as they indeed had been of the Germans in World War I and were being used by Israel to extract reparations from Germany. With this perspective, Barnes wrongly perceived that history was repeating itself. He eventually claimed there were no gas chambers and that they were a “post-war invention”. Barnes also asserted that the suffering of German families forcibly removed from Poland and Czechoslovakia after World War II was “obviously far more hideous and prolonged than those of the Jews said to have been exterminated in great numbers by the Nazis” (Dawidowicz, 33). There was no way as a historian that he was unaware of testimony surrounding the Holocaust and the existence of the Wannsee Protocols, the conference of senior Nazi government officials to secure cooperation between departments in the implementation of the “Final Solution”.

Barnes greatly influenced a young historian, David L. Hoggan, whose original Harvard dissertation was critical of British and Polish policies for the outbreak of the war, but not beyond reason. However, after he befriended Barnes, Barnes urged him to publish his dissertation as a book. The book, The Forced War (1961), had major input from Barnes and was substantially different, in which Hitler was portrayed as a victim of Allied scheming. Worse yet, Hoggan justified anti-Semitic laws as deterrents to mass Jewish immigration, defended the cruel $1 billion Reichsmark fine imposed by Reich Marshal Hermann Goering upon the Jewish population after the horrific Kristallnacht pogrom and alleged that no Jews died in the event (91 died). He would be a Holocaust denier with ties to neo-Nazi organizations for the rest of his life.

Barnes would continue to the end to hold the Allies more responsible for World War II than Germany and that Hitler was reasonable and never wanted war. He also dug in to his claim that the Holocaust was no more than a gross exaggeration of German crimes and that evidence for gas chambers was “manufactured”. Barnes thus frequently expressed bewilderment that West Germany apologized for the Holocaust and paid reparations. He was not limited to denying gas chambers, he also denied that the Einsatzgruppen (the original SS units carrying out the Holocaust in Eastern Europe and Russia) were mass murder units, rather that they were fighting against guerillas. In 1962, he denounced a speech by West German President Heinrich Lübke in Israel asking for forgiveness of the Germans for the Holocaust, regarding it as “almost incredible grovelling” and “subservience” to the Jews (Lipstadt, 79). Although his revisionism is consistent with his World War I perspective, his Holocaust denial and efforts at minimizing the guilt of the Nazis makes it impossible to not conclude antisemitism among Barnes’ motives.

Barnes died in 1968, and his last words, according to his son Robert, were to damn Richard Nixon. Although he had some fans like paleo-libertarian Murray Rothbard and anti-war left historian William Appleman Williams, his name primarily lives on in Holocaust denial circles and in 1994 Willis Carto founded The Barnes Review, a magazine that to this day promotes Holocaust denial, antisemitism, denying the evils of slavery, and white nationalism. Like Revilo P. Oliver, Harry Elmer Barnes was one of those people who once was respected and in Barnes’ case the fall was even greater as he at one time could be counted as a titan in the field of history and counted among his friends prominent intellectuals such as H.L. Mencken, Oswald Garrison Villard, Charles A. Beard, and Norman Thomas. The concept of historical revisionism itself is not discredited, but as its foremost champion, Barnes demonstrated its limits.

References

Conditions in Coal Fields in Harlan and Bell Counties, Kentucky. (May 1932).  U.S. Senate.

Retrieved from

https://books.google.com/books?id=62FPjDsYsS0C&pg=PA129&lpg=PA129

Dawidowicz, L. (1992). What is the use of Jewish history?: Essays. New York, NY: Schocken Books.

Lipstadt, D. (1993). Denying the Holocaust: The growing assault on truth and memory. New York, NY: Free Press

Mombauer, A. (2002). The origins of the First World War. London, England: Pearson.

Rothbard, M.N. (1968). Harry Elmer Barnes, RIP. Left and Right 4(1): pp. 3-8.

Retrieved from

https://mises.org/library/harry-elmer-barnes-rip-0