“When You’re Out of Schmitz, You’re Out of Gear!”: Orange County’s Outrageously Offensive Congressman

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Imagine if you will, a man is elected to Congress who openly spites the president who is a member of his party and a resident of his district, a man who is kicked out of the John Birch Society, a man whose primary point of contention with his also conservative opponent is on the subject of birth control, a man who makes his predecessor James B. Utt look moderate by comparison, and a man who sees fit to run for president after little more than a term in Congress. What you have, ladies and gentlemen, is the one and only John G. Schmitz (1930-2001).

Schmitz’s foray into politcs began during his time in the Marines, when as a lieutenant colonel he was teaching a course on communism. One night in 1962 he witnessed a woman being attacked with a knife on the side of the road and with the sheer command of his voice he disarmed the attacker. Although the woman died of her wounds, Schmitz was regarded as a hero and conservatives in Orange County were keen to recruit him to run for public office. In 1964, he won election to the state Senate representing the county. During this time, Schmitz was certainly the most right-wing figure in the California Senate. A prominent member of the John Birch Society, he claimed the Watts riots were a communist operation and spoke against the Mulford Gun Control Bill, which prohibited open carry and was at the time a consensus measure from both the right and left and had the endorsement of the National Rifle Association as well as the approval of Governor Ronald Reagan. To him, Reagan’s approval constituted a betrayal for conservatives. This placed Schmitz in the same camp as the Black Panthers, the group at which the legislation was aimed. Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed!

On March 1, 1970, Congressman Utt, who I have covered before, keeled over from a heart attack and who else but State Senator Schmitz was the candidate to succeed him? Schmitz, campaigning with the slogan, “When You’re Out of Schmitz, You’re Out of Gear!”, based on a Schlitz beer commercial of the time, won the election and proceeded to be among the most conservative members of Congress, supporting Nixon when he supported conservatism. Both his lifetime ACA and MC-Index scores are a whopping 99%. He wrote the introduction to Gary Allen’s and Larry Abraham’s None Dare Call It Conspiracy (1971), which alleges that there is a global world order conspiring to accomplish communism in many different countries with policies such as an income tax, a central bank, and explode the national debt through deficit spending. Like Schmitz, Allen and Abraham were prominent members of the John Birch Society. He became notorious for his offensive and at times hilarious remarks, which are at the bottom of this post. However, one remark that offended his most famous constituent was, “I have no objection to President Nixon going to China, I just object to his coming back” (Cannon). Nixon, who was between the moderate to liberal Republicans and the conservatives, was pissed, and he recruited Orange County assessor Andrew J. Hinshaw to defeat him for renomination. Hinshaw was successful, but unlike Schmitz he turned out to be a crook and would be sentenced to prison in 1976 for accepting bribes as assessor.

Presidential Bid

Having been defeated for renomination, he stood in place of George Wallace for the American Independent Party nomination after he had been shot and paralyzed from the waist down by would-be assassin Arthur Bremer. Although he was not the only Republican to challenge Nixon for president as Congressmen John Ashbrook of Ohio and Pete McCloskey of California ran for the Republican nomination from his right and left respectively, neither chose to challenge him in the general election. Schmitz got over a million votes, having his best performance in Idaho. He was not done with politics, however, and in 1978 he was again elected to the California Senate.

Feud with Gloria Allred and Downfall

Schmitz, who as a Catholic was staunchly pro-life, in 1981 held hearings on abortion, in which feminist attorney Gloria Allred testified for the pro-choice position and subsequently presented him with a chastity belt. Schmitz’s committee subsequently issued a press release written by aide Brad Evans under instructions from Schmitz to “blast Allred” with the following headline, “Senator Schmitz and His Committee Survive Attack of the Bulldykes”, in which his opponents were described as having “hard, Jewish and (arguably) female faces” and referred to Allred as a “slick, butch lawyeress” (Deutsch). The press release also denounced opposition witnesses as “imported lesbians from anti-male and pro-abortion queer groups in San Francisco and other centers of decadence” (Deutsch). Allred sued Schmitz for defamation and the case was settled for $20,000 and a public apology. This incident cost him both his committee chairmanship and his membership in the John Birch Society.

In 1982, Schmitz was invited by Yasser Arafat to meet in Beirut, because according to him “I used the word Jewish in a non-adulatory manner”, which he accepted and agreed to act as his messenger in the US (Macdonald). He subsequently held a press conference outlining Arafat’s peace plan, which was timed to happen during Passover. Allred was present and placed a box of frogs before Schmitz, shouting, “A plague on the house of Schmitz!” (Macdonald). That year he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the Senate, with Arafat at his side. However, Schmitz’s political career came to a catastrophic end that year, when it was exposed that he had fathered two children with Carla Stuckle, who had been a student of his when he was teaching political science at Santa Ana College. He refused to support the children. Schmitz had repeatedly stressed family values during his career and had proven a massive hypocrite, and that was just too much for early 1980s Orange County. Never again did he run for office, and by the 1990s he was running a trinkets stand in Washington D.C.

In that decade, his daughter, Mary Kay Letourneau, was charged with statutory rape for having a relationship with a 13-year old student. Although Schmitz tried to defend her with an archaic argument from Blackstone’s dictionary about statutory rape being only a crime that men can commit, she was convicted in 1997. He spent his last years living at a Virginia winery his children had bought him. On January 10, 2001, Schmitz died of prostate cancer at 70. He also may have been a Holocaust denier if his tribute from Mark Weber of The Journal for Historical Review, the publishing arm of the Institute For Historical Review is accurate. Weber stated he was a friend of the group, helped them secure a venue, was a subscriber, and attended two conferences. IHR was founded in 1978 by notorious white supremacist and anti-Semite Willis Carto as a pseudo-academic group to spread Holocaust denial. One can only speculate how Schmitz would have done on Twitter had he lived into the era of social media, but there’s one guarantee: it would be a wild ride!

The Quotable Schmitz, most of these quotes are from Coker (2001):

“I may not be Hispanic, but I’m close. I’m Catholic with a mustache.”

“I would have voted for a three-tier system – have one school that the blacks could go to, one school that all the whites could go to, and those who want to mix go to a third school.”

“A good military coup might be the best we could hope for if President Reagan’s policies are not successful. A lot of people can’t imagine anything like that happening in our country. These same people could never imagine themselves stealing to stay alive.”

“Hello, all you commies. I want to deny the rumors that I have been attending candidates’ school in Chile or Argentina.”

“I ought to get the Right to Life man-of-the-year award for this.” – In response to revelations about fathering illegitimate children.

“Jews are like everybody else, only more so.”

“I wished to identify with the moderate wing of the Republican Party in Orange County.” – On joining the John Birch Society.

“I didn’t know we were supposed to come in uniform” (Cannon). – In response to seeing two conservatives in brown suits at an Orange County conservative meeting.

“I lost the presidency by a mere 44 million votes.”

“Martin Luther King is a notorious liar.”

“Basically, an honest man who just didn’t realize the immensity of what he was up against. In a way, I’m sympathetic to him despite his mistakes because he was so easily caricatured, and I’ve seen myself caricatured. And if I were a more important figure, I’d be caricatured in history books, too.” – On Joseph McCarthy.


Cannon, C.M. (2021, February 19). Great American Stories: John G. Schmitz’s Quote. RealClearPublicAffairs.

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Coker, M. (2001, January 18). John G. Schmitz, In His Own Words. OC Weekly.

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Deutsch, L. (1986, August 22). Feminist Wins Apology From Ex-Legislator Over ‘Butch’ Comment. Associated Press.

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Macdonald, K. (1982, April 9). Schmitz, Plagued by Frogs, Recites Arafat Peace Plan. The Washington Post.

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Weber, M. (2001). John Schmitz, RIP. The Journal of Historical Review, 19(6).

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The Long Road to Abolishing the Poll Tax

poll tax | Definition, History, & Facts | Britannica

Universal ballot access for adult citizens in the United States has for much of its history not been a reality. At the very founding of the nation, you had to own real estate to qualify to vote. Property requirements were repealed over time but after the War of the Rebellion Southern states began looking at ways to restrict black voting. By the early 1900s, all Southern states had poll taxes in place. The poll tax negatively impacted people of lesser means, compromising the ability to vote of blacks, poor whites, women, and the elderly. However, for blacks, the poll tax was one of several legal means used to politically neuter them. However, in 1920, North Carolina became the first Southern state to repeal their poll tax, with Louisiana and Florida following suit in 1934 and 1937 respectively. In 1937, the Supreme Court in Breedlove v. Suttles unanimously upheld Georgia’s poll tax when challenged for granting women an exception and for making age exceptions. In 1941, Representative Lee Geyer (D-Calif.) sponsored a bill to ban the poll tax for federal elections. The bill passed the House on October 13, 1942 254-84 (D 124-80, R 126-4) after Geyer’s 1941 death, but the Senate wouldn’t proceed due to Southern obstruction. Rep. William Colmer (D-Miss.) had denounced the bill as a “force bill” that had as its purpose “to enfranchise the Negro in the South” (Jenkins and Peck, 150). Rep. Arthur Mitchell (D-Ill.), the House’s only black member at the time, wouldn’t accept that criticism of the bill. He responded, “if the Negro is good enough to…shed blood for the country, then he is entitled to vote in peacetime as well as wartime” (Jenkins and Peck, 150).

Given Geyer’s passing, the bill needed a new House sponsor for the 78th Congress, and in stepped Vito Marcantonio, the sole representative from the socialist American Labor Party of New York. He pushed a new version of the anti-poll tax bill previously proposed by Sen. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.) which prohibited the use of the poll tax for federal elections and primaries. This measure passed the House 265-110 (D 92-93, R 169-17) on May 25th, but again met with a Southern filibuster which killed the legislation. In 1945, Marcantonio tried again, the measure passing the House 251-105 (D 118-86, R 131-19) on June 12th but once again Southern senators successfully blocked it. Because Marcantonio, who was pro-communist, was the sponsor of the 1943 and 1945 bills, Southern Democrats used this to tag the bill as something that fulfilled a communist agenda despite far broader support as evidenced by roll call votes. As Rep. John Rankin (D-Miss.) charged, “communism…is responsible for bringing this measure to the floor of the House, when everyone knows it violates the Constitution of the United States” (Jenkins and Peck, 153). Others charged it was nothing more than political opportunism on the part of Northern politicians who had significant black constituencies. Most of the opposition to such measures came from Southern Democrats interested in preserving the Jim Crow system, but there were a few who genuinely thought that a poll tax ban by legislative means was unconstitutional. For instance, Rep. John W. Byrnes (R-Wis.), one of the GOP’s tax experts, opposed legislative efforts to ban the poll tax, but supported most other civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s.  

In the 1946 elections Republicans won control of Congress, and the conservative 80th Congress also passed a poll tax bill in the House, this one being sponsored by Rep. George Bender (R-Ohio), a protégé of Senator Robert Taft. This measure passed on July 21, 1947 on a vote of 290-112 (R 216-14, D 73-98). The bill met the same fate as the others in the Senate.

In 1949, one last legislative try in the House was attempted with Rep. Mary Norton (D-N.J.) being the sponsor instead of Marcantonio, but this didn’t impact how representatives voted, with it passing 273-116 (D 150-92; R 121-24) on July 26th. The bill met the same fate the last four had met in the Senate. However, an alternative proposal was gaining support: a constitutional amendment. In 1944, the Republican platform included support for a constitutional amendment banning the poll tax for federal elections and the proposal gained a significant supporter in Sen. Spessard Holland (D-Fla.). Although a segregationist, he represented a state that had already repealed its poll tax and he didn’t think a constitutional amendment constituted a precedent for passing civil rights legislation.

In the 1950s, the civil rights emphasis became more about voting rights generally in the South, and two watered-down civil rights bills became law, thus progress on the poll tax amendment was delayed. However, in 1962, the proposal came to the floor of the Senate. By this point, only five states, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia, had poll taxes on the books and of those states Alabama and Mississippi were reported by the Civil Rights Commission at the time to have continued providing active barriers to black voting. As Charles Goodell (R-N.Y.), who opposed the measure because he thought it too weak, noted, “It will apparently have no significant effect upon Negro rights anywhere except in Alabama and Mississippi and its effect in those two States is questionable” (Congressional Record, 17664). Although President Kennedy and Congressional liberals would have preferred a legislative repeal of the poll tax, they supported the constitutional amendment and it passed the Senate on March 27th 77-16 (D 47-15, R 30-1). The House followed suit on August 27th 295-86 (D 163-71, R 132-15). The amendment was ratified two years later. Although in 1965 a ban on state poll taxes was debated for inclusion in the Voting Rights Act, it was rejected in favor of it being resolved in the courts. The following year, the Supreme Court in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections found poll taxes unconstitutional at state level on a 6-3 vote. Justice Hugo Black, the only member of the court who also voted on the Breedlove decision, was one of the three dissenters. With that decision ended the usage of poll taxes for any elections in the United States.


Breedlove v. Suttles, 302 U.S. 277 (1937).

Harper v. Virginia Bd. of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966).

Jenkins, J.A. and Peck, J. (2013, February). Building Toward Major Policy Change: Congressional Action on Civil Rights, 1941-1950. Law and History Review, 31(1).

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HR 7. Making Unlawful the Requirement for the Payment of a Poll Tax as a Prerequisite for Voting in a Primary or Other Election for National Officers. On Passage. Govtrack.

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HR 29. Make Unlawful the Requirements for the Payment of a Poll Tax as a Prerequisite to Voting in a Primary or Other Election for National Officers. Motion to Suspend Rules and Pass. Govtrack.

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HR 3199. Passage. Govtrack.

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To Pass H.R. 7, a Bill to Make Unlawful the Requirement for Payment of a Poll Tax as a Prerequisite for Voting in a Primary or Other Election of National Office-Holders. Govtrack.

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Representative Goodell (NY). “Qualifications of Electors.” Congressional Record 108: 13 (August 27, 1962) p. H17664.

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S.J. Res. 29. Approval of Resolution Banning the Poll Tax as Prerequisite for Voting in Federal Elections. Govtrack.

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S.J. Res. 29. Constitutional Amendment to Ban the Use of Poll Tax as a Requirement for Voting in Federal Elections. Govtrack.

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To Pass H.R. 1024 Which Declares Illegal the Requirement of a Poll Tax as a Prerequisite for Voting or Registering to Vote for President, Vice President, or U.S. Representative. Govtrack.

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Phil Landrum: Architect of Anti-Poverty Law and Conflicted Democrat

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In 1960, John F. Kennedy had his second best performance in the state of Georgia, winning over 62% of the vote, exceeding his support in his home state of Massachusetts. Although Georgia politicians had grown more conservative since the New Deal, this change being best represented by the rightward shift of Senator Walter F. George, they were still strongly wed to the Democratic Party. One of the Democrats that represented Georgia politics’ conundrum between party loyalty and ideology quite well in the 1960s and 1970s was Representative Phil Landrum (1907-1990). Elected to Congress in 1952 representing Jasper, he gained a bit of a conservative reputation, but he could support a surprising number of Democratic initiatives.

Interest rating groups couldn’t seem to agree on what Landrum was ideologically. Americans for Democratic Action didn’t care for him much, with his adjusted scores ranging from 0% to 67%. Americans for Constitutional Action, on the other hand, gave him scores, adjusted for counting for pairs, between 19% and 85%. The 1950s and 1960s had some discrepancies, which can be accounted for in part by ADA’s stronger emphasis on social and foreign policy and ACA’s stronger emphasis on fiscal and agriculture policy. Landrum was quite conservative on the subject of foreign aid and was mostly so on social issues, while he was more amenable to the Democratic platform on fiscal and agriculture issues. Thus, during the Eisenhower years Landrum comes off as solidly conservative by ADA standards but moderate by ACA standards. Likewise, with the Kennedy and Johnson years, Landrum comes off as moderately liberal by ACA standards while he is moderate to moderately conservative by ADA standards. Their ratings seemed more in accord with his record in the 1970s, which was his most conservative period. In 1959, Landrum attracted opposition from labor unions for his collaboration with Rep. Robert Griffin (R-Mich.) in the Landrum-Griffin Act, a measure backed by President Eisenhower which was aimed at combating organized labor corruption and racketeering and was harsher on them than the union-backed reform measure, the Kennedy-Ives Bill.

Perhaps partly as a result of Kennedy’s impressive performance in Georgia, Landrum grew more and more committed to major Democratic programs in the 1960s as did other Democrats in the state including the more hardline John J. Flynt of Griffin, but like most other Georgia politicians, he remained a through-and-through segregationist. He headed the subcommittee on education, which wrote the Library Services Act. Landrum, most importantly, proved key to winning sufficient support for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty”, contained largely in the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which he drafted and sponsored. A key provision that Landrum included that helped win sufficient Southern Democratic support was that governors could veto community action projects in their states. Indeed, five other members of the Georgia delegation voted for the bill. There is a strange contrast in the fact that President Johnson relied for one of his signature achievements an intractable opponent of one of his other signature achievements, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, that year, the state for the very first time in its history voted for the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater. The state in four years went from the second best performing state for Democrats to the fifth worst, and this contributed to the pushing of Democrats to the right. In 1964 and 1966, Landrum faced difficult primaries, possibly due to his cooperation with LBJ.

Although Landrum had been the House architect of the anti-poverty law, by the late 1960s he was starting to back budget cuts for it and by the Nixon Administration, he was backing turning the anti-poverty program entirely to the states and voting against its extension. He also voted against the Family Assistance Plan, the Nixon Administration proposal for guaranteed minimum income for families. However, even during this time, he parted with conservatives in some ways. Landrum joined the doves in backing a fixed timetable for pulling out of Vietnam and his vote against a school prayer amendment didn’t please social conservatives.

By his last term in Congress, from 1975 to 1977, he was voting as a solid conservative. His lifetime MC-Index score stands at a 52%, reflecting both his more liberal and more conservative periods.


Cook, J. (1990, November 22). Phil Landrum, 83, Former Lawmaker From Georgia, Dies. The New York Times.

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Phil Landrum, 83, Former Lawmaker From Georgia, Dies – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Landrum, Phillip M. Our Campaigns.

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Our Campaigns – Candidate – Phillip M. Landrum

The Consequences of Northern Republican Opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964

The 1964 election was in many ways a watershed event in American politics. Although it was a landslide win for President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 itself was a year of some monumental changes in policy. The Economic Opportunity Act was passed that year, launching the War on Poverty, and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, setting the United States on the policy of tackling employment discrimination as well as ending segregation. As it might be predicted, the vote was largely regional, with most of the North voting for and most of the South against. There was strong pressure to vote against the bill in the South, but there was strong pressure to vote for the bill in the North. In the House, the Civil Rights Act on final vote passed 289-126. The Republican vote on it was 136-35, with 14 of the “nay” votes coming from the South (the former Confederacy plus Kentucky and Oklahoma). There were also two Northern Republicans who cast a “pair” against.

August E. Johansen - Wikipedia
Rep. August Johansen of Michigan, one of the most consistent Northern Republican foes of civil rights legislation. He was defeated in 1964 after ten years in Congress.

Of the 23 Northern House Republicans who voted or paired against on the final vote, this is what happened to them:

H. Allen Smith, California – Reelected.

Del Clawson, California – Reelected.

Glen Lipscomb, California – Reelected.

James B. Utt, California – Reelected.

Bob Wilson, California – Reelected.

Patrick Martin, California – Defeated.

Charlotte Reid, Illinois – Reelected.

Earl Wilson, Indiana – Defeated.

H.R. Gross, Iowa – Reelected.

Ben F. Jensen, Iowa – Defeated.

George Meader, Michigan – Defeated.

August Johansen, Michigan – Defeated.

Victor Knox, Michigan – Defeated.

Durward G. Hall, Missouri – Reelected.

James F. Battin, Montana – Reelected.

Ralph Beerman, Nebraska – Defeated.

Louis Wyman, New Hampshire – Defeated.

Clarence E. Kilburn, New York – Retired.

Don Short, North Dakota – Defeated.

John Ashbrook, Ohio – Reelected.

E.Y. Berry, South Dakota – Reelected.

William Van Pelt, Wisconsin – Defeated.

William Henry Harrison, Wyoming – Defeated.

Of the 22 who were up for reelection in the North, half were defeated! In the Senate, the only Republican who had voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was seeking to be elected was Edwin Mechem of New Mexico, who lost. This is, of course, on top of Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona being the Republican nominee, who voted against the Civil Rights Act and only won his home state and the Deep South. Incidentally, nearly everywhere Republicans gained in this election in the House was in the Deep South.

26 Northern Republicans who had voted for the act lost, and three Southern Republicans who had voted against lost. 21% of Northern Republicans who had voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and were up for reelection lost reelection as opposed to 50% of Northern Republicans who had voted against and were up for reelection. I’d say that’s a significant difference.


H.R. 7152. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964.

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William S. Mailliard: San Francisco’s Last Republican Congressman

William S. Mailliard.jpg

San Francisco today is known as a hotbed of left-wing politics and it seems to only continue to be moving that direction. The election of Chesa Boudin, a far leftist who once worked for Hugo Chavez as District Attorney as well as the renaming of schools named after Abraham Lincoln and Dianne Feinstein of all people stand as some of the latest far left advancements in the city. However, San Francisco was not always such a lefty place. In the 1950s, their assemblyman was none other than Ronald Reagan’s future Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, and one of their two representatives was William S. Mailliard (1917-1992), who had defeated liberal Democrat Franck Havenner in 1952 through anti-communist campaigning.

Mailliard’s district didn’t entirely consist of San Francisco, rather it consisted of the areas that connected the Golden Gate Bridge. The suburbs of Marin County and the western middle-class areas of San Francisco made up his district, making it the type of district that would elect Republicans back in the day. Despite his anti-communist campaigning, Mailliard was a moderate: his lifetime MC-Index score stands at a 54%, lifetime ACA score is also a 54%, while his adjusted lifetime ADA score stands at 45%. He was socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and a through-and-through internationalist. This translated to him being a strong supporter of civil rights legislation, voting frequently for domestic budget cuts, opposing a school prayer amendment, and voting against the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964. Another apt descriptor of him is “Eisenhower Republican”.

Although Mailliard won reelection easily in 1968, the Nixon Administration was not proving popular in San Francisco. In 1970, for the first time, he won reelection by eight points, the first time in his Congressional career he won by single digits. In 1972, Mailliard won by only four points in a good year for the GOP. His support for Nixon’s approach to the Vietnam War may have contributed to his declining popularity in the district and by 1974, a court-ordered redistricting added black and university neighborhoods, making reelection unlikely for him. He resigned his post to be ambassador to the Organization of American States, before the “smoking gun” evidence was released in the Watergate scandal. Mailliard left the post with the end of the Ford Administration in 1977. He suffered a heart attack on his 75th birthday at Dulles International Airport in 1992 and died at the hospital. Mailliard served in a different time, in which San Francisco had a vibrant middle class who could vote Republican. However, even the areas he represented in San Francisco are now about as liberal as anywhere else in the city and even those voters at that time, like Mailliard, possessed socially liberal sensibilities.


Lydon, C. (1974, June 3). Democrat Favored to Win House Seat in San Francisco Area in Special Election Tuesday. The New York Times.

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William Mailliard Dies. (1992, June 12). The Washington Post.

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Paul Findley: Ideological Changeling and Israel Critic

In 1960, a number of significant freshmen from the Republican side of the aisle were elected to Congress: Bob Dole of Kansas, John Anderson of Illinois, Charles Mathias of Maryland, John Ashbrook of Ohio, William Scranton of Pennsylvania, and Robert Stafford of Vermont. Of these, Mathias, Scranton, and Stafford represented the moderate to liberal wing of the party while Dole, Anderson, and Ashbrook were of the conservative wing. Anderson would shift to the former camp by the Nixon Administration. One of the most interesting ones, however, was Paul Findley (1921-2019) of Illinois.

In his first four years of Congress, Findley was almost indistinguishable from the most conservative of Republicans. In 1962, he managed to put a major dent in the Kennedy program when he successfully killed the administration’s feed grain proposal, which was recommitted by ten votes. In 1963, Findley pushed against the Kennedy Administration giving food for peace funds to Yugoslavia while it was providing food aid to North Vietnam. He opposed the space program on cost grounds, voted against the Peace Corps, and voted against Medicare. Findley even voted against educational television, which got the vote of the notorious penny-pincher H.R. Gross of Iowa. As he noted in 2013 about his record back then, “I believe I voted against everything. My voting record the first two years in the House showed…Well, one of the professors at Illinois College, Joe Patterson Smith, said to his friends that I was a Neanderthal, and I was. I was; there’s no doubt about it” (DePue, 81). Findley’s Americans for Constitutional Action (ACA) score for 1961-1962 was a 100%, the same as John Birch Society members John Rousselot and Edgar Hiestand of California and exceeding that of Orange County’s resident arch-conservative James B. Utt, who scored a 96%. His first vote in which he diverged from conservatism by ACA was his vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Race never seemed to be an issue for Findley, as he noted, “I shared a desk with a black girl in first grade. It didn’t strike me as strange that we had blacks. I accepted them” (DePue, 13). In 1965, he appointed Frank Mitchell, the first black House page, with the cooperation of Minority Leader Gerald Ford and Minority Whip Leslie Arends.

Findley’s support for civil rights extended to fair housing legislation and by the 1970s he was opposing many proposals to curb busing. Although his conservatism persisted throughout the Johnson Administration, his record took a turn for the moderate during the Nixon Administration and there it stayed. Findley backed Nixon’s proposal for guaranteed minimum income for working families and at times he was critical of the Nixon Administration’s approach on Vietnam. In 1973, he was the central author of the War Powers Resolution, which was an attempt by Congress to reassert power over the use of the military. Findley also proved to be pro-choice and regularly voted against abortion restrictions. His position on the minimum wage also underwent a change as he backed a minimum wage increase over President Nixon’s veto in 1973 while he had opposed significant minimum wage increases in 1961 and 1966. Although by the 1970s he was a moderate, he still did push some conservative proposals, such as work requirements for food stamps and limiting Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration coverage. Findley met Yasser Arafat on a trip to Damascus, Syria as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee in 1978 and he walked away so impressed by what he thought was his commitment to peace in the region that he became a critic of Israel on the Israel-Palestine conflict. His criticisms grew with time, including calling for stopping aid to Israel. Findley even called himself “Arafat’s best friend in Congress” (Schnazer).

He was not particularly gung-ho about President Ronald Reagan and he was one of the last Republican representatives to be persuaded to vote for the Reagan tax cuts. Findley’s MC-Index score in the 97th Congress was a 42%, a stark contrast to his first term score of 100%. In 1982, he faced a strong challenger in Democrat Dick Durbin, who hit him on his support for the Palestinian side of the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, stating “He is totally out of step on the issue. What President Reagan recognizes–what everybody but Paul Findley recognizes–is that the PLO is a force for instability in that region, not a liberation group” (Bohlen). Findley indeed thought differently. He stated before a class of college students that year, “Arafat is, I think, a very practical man who can adjust to reality if it is the only way to get a Palestinian homeland under way” (Bohlen). Redistricting wasn’t helpful for him nor was the recession, and he lost reelection by less than a point. Durbin today serves as Senate Majority Whip. Findley subsequently wrote They Dare to Speak Out (1985), in which he critiqued what he saw as the excessive influence of Israel on U.S. foreign policy and blamed Israel’s lobby for his 1982 defeat. A second edition was published in 1989 and a third in 2003. Much of Findley’s post-Congressional political activities centered on criticism of Israel. In 2002, he came out against the Iraq War and attributed 9/11 to the US’s continued support of Israel in the Israel-Palestine conflict, stating “Nine-eleven would not have occurred if the U.S. government had refused to help Israel humiliate and destroy Palestinian society” (Schnazer). Findley also attributed the invasion of Iraq to Israel’s influence. He died on August 9, 2019 at the age of 98. Findley’s overall MC-Index score was a 69%, with his average score for his first four terms being a 93% and for his subsequent terms the average was a 56%. Former Representative John Napier (R-S.C.) said of him, “We did not always agree. But he was a thoughtful person, and I admired his independence. When we disagreed, we did so agreeably, never in a disagreeable way. That, I believe, is the hallmark of statesmanship. He was a wonderful congressman who represented his constituency in an honorable manner” (Gizzi).


Bohlen, C. (1982, October 31). The 1982 Elections: The Illinois 20th District Race. The Washington Post.

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DePue, M. (2013, January 15). Interview with Paul Findley. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

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Click to access Findley_Pau_4FNL.pdf

Gizzi, J. (2019, August 16). Remembering Ex-GOP Rep. Paul Findley, Friend of Arafat. Newsmax.

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Remembering Ex-GOP Rep. Paul Findley, Friend of Arafat | Newsmax.com

Schnazer, J. (2019, September). The Congressman Who Hated Israel. Commentary Magazine.

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The Congressman Who Hated Israel

Seelye, K.Q. (2019, August 14). Paul Findley, Congressman Behind War Powers Act, Dies at 98. The New York Times.

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Walter Baring: Nevada’s Dissident Democrat

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In 1936, 25-year old Walter Baring (1911-1975) was elected to the Nevada Assembly as a New Deal Democrat. Despite his support for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he would in the very next year speak out against his “court packing plan” early, which initially landed him in some hot water. Although this would be his first significant dissent from liberal Democrats, it would portend his antagonism towards the ideology of his own party later in life.

Baring’s first election to Congress was in 1948, riding President Truman’s shock election wave and defeating Republican incumbent Charles Russell by 761 votes. He was for the most part a supporter of President Truman and the Fair Deal during this time. However, once again there were some signs of future trouble for his adherence to liberalism. In 1952, Baring began to oppose foreign aid and that year he voted to override President Truman’s veto of the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act. That year, he narrowly lost reelection to Republican Cliff Young as Dwight Eisenhower won the presidency in a landslide. Baring was not one to give up though, in 1954 he tried again only to lose by a greater margin. But after Young decided to give up his House seat to run for the Senate, Baring tried once again and won, and this time he would stay.

Baring remained a staunch anti-communist domestic liberal but had taken to consistently voting against foreign aid. He appealed greatly to rural Nevadans who saw no direct benefits of foreign aid and appreciated his frankness as well as his commitment to constituent service. Although Baring initially supported President Kennedy and his New Frontier programs, by 1962 he was having second thoughts and by the next year he was a full-fledged opponent of him and liberal Democrats generally. Baring’s shift also appeared in his words when he said before the Reno Chamber of Commerce in 1962, “I am seriously concerned over the foreign aid give-away programs and the constant spirit of defeatism which has existed over the last 10 years…The constantly increasing federal controls through centralization of government activities are extremely detrimental to the American way of life” (Evans). Nevada’s delegation was all-Democratic in the 1960s, with Senators Alan Bible and Howard Cannon, while not being rubber stamps for Democratic presidents, backing them on many significant issues, but with Baring his hostility to the national Democratic platform was all too apparent. His shift also came about on civil rights. Baring had previously backed a mandatory Fair Employment Practices Committee during the Truman Administration and had supported the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, but he became a foe of most such measures, voting against the comprehensive Civil Rights Act of 1964 and opposing other measures to combat racial discrimination in employment and housing. That vote nearly cost him renomination. Baring was not above using racial appeals in his campaigning, and in the 1964 primary, he distributed leaflets of his opponent, Ralph Denton, pictured next to Dr. Charles I. West, a black physician and civil rights activist. His campaign also distributed a flyer in white neighborhoods that read, “The colored people are calling for the defeat of your congressman, Walter Baring, because he has the courage to stand up and vote against the unconstitutional civil rights bill. He warned that if the bill were passed, there would be riots and unrest in this country. Congressman Baring stood up for us, now let’s stand up for him” (Nevada Public Radio). Baring even opposed a measure protecting minorities from violent interference in the exercise of their civil rights in 1967 and hinted his support for George Wallace’s candidacy in 1968 when he stated, “Wallace is the only candidate on the presidential level who is talking Americanism” (Evans). Although he believed that the civil rights movement had been inspired by communism and thought Martin Luther King Jr. was in league with subversives, he made exceptions to this opposition to civil rights in his support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Jury Selection and Service Act of 1968. In 1965, Baring voted against the Immigration and Nationality Act, which ended the national origins quota system.

Baring clashed with both the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations as well as Senators Bible and Cannon. In 1962, he fought a proposed establishment of the Great Basin National Park as it would reduce land for grazing for Nevada’s ranchers and seemingly because of an announced increase in grazing fees by Interior Secretary Stewart Udall. Baring supported his own plan which gave much more leeway to ranchers as well as mining interests and would be inconsistent with standards for national parks. According to Gary Elliott (254), as a consequence of Baring’s antagonism as well as the subsequent Sagebrush Rebellion, “In 1985 Nevada was the only state that had failed to pass a wilderness bill as provided for in the national Wilderness Act of 1964. In 1986, more than a decade after Baring’s death and Bible’s retirement, Nevada finally secured the Great Basin National Park. It consists of 72,000 acres with guaranteed mining and grazing rights”. Baring’s antagonism of President Johnson also caused a delay in the southern Nevada water project in 1965 and although Johnson made it seem like he might kill the project the truth was that Senators Bible and Cannon remained his supporters so he signed it. His antagonism wasn’t limited to political figures, calling east coast liberals “egg-headed atheists” and denouncing left-wing anti-war activists, supporting the idea that “beatniks, pacifists, and draft-dodgers be sent to Moscow” (Elliott, 248). However, Baring would keep winning renomination and reelection by appealing to rural areas and gaining significant Republican crossover support. His personal motto was, “Nobody likes Walter Baring but the voters” (Evans). He also backed federal money for Nevada and was a consistent supporter of increased funding for highways.

By 1972, Baring had become increasingly vulnerable. Majorities in Clark (Las Vegas) and Washoe (Reno) County would vote against him in his primary elections and those areas were growing. Worse yet for him, his health problems were growing too. Baring weighed 250 pounds and he was a heavy smoker. Rumors of his ill health sprung from a hospitalization during the campaign and contributed to his primary defeat by James Bilbray, who was considerably more liberal. Baring, however, had the last laugh. He endorsed Bilbray’s Republican opponent, David Towell, who went on to win a single term. He had ideas to run for governor in 1974, but these were dashed with his emphysema diagnosis and his weakening heart. On July 13, 1975, Walter Baring died during an operation for surgery on his hip as his heart and lungs gave out under the stress. His lifetime MC-Index score is 55%, with his score before 1963 being 22%, while 1963 until his renomination loss is 88%.


1964 Election, Part 1. (2015, January 17). Nevada Public Radio.

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Elliott, G.E. (1991). Whose Land Is It? The Battle For the Great Basin National Park, 1957-1967. Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, 34(1).

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Evans, K.J. (1999, February 7). Walter Baring. Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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Walter Baring

The Speech That Delayed Free Trade Between the US and Canada for a Lifetime

Speaker of the House Champ Clark, D-Mo.

The idea of reciprocal trade between the US and Canada was nothing new: the nations had it with the Reciprocity Treaty between 1855 and 1866, when the US Congress voted to cancel it. After the Canadian confederation in 1867, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald tried to resurrect the agreement to no avail, and Canadian politics in turn grew more protectionist.

Although President William Howard Taft was a Republican and Republicans were the protectionist party that had successfully with the Payne-Aldrich Tariff only slightly reduced tariffs, he thought that free trade between America’s neighbor to the north would be good for both nations, thus he and his administration tried to negotiate an agreement with Canada. This proposal was well-received at the time, and in the House the proposal passed by a commanding margin of 268-89 on April 21, 1911. The vote split Republicans and received all but ten Democratic votes. The Senate passed the bill 53-27 on July 22, 1911 again splitting Republicans and all but three Democratic senators voted for. Despite overwhelming Democratic support, it was the speech of the Democratic Speaker of the House, Champ Clark of Missouri, which brought this proposal’s doom. Speaking in support before the House, Clark rejoiced, “I look forward to the time when the American flag will fly over every square foot of British North America up to the North Pole. The people of Canada are of our blood and language” (Allan, 17). Clark proceeded to suggest that this measure was the first step to the eventual annexation of Canada, which met with applause in the House. This didn’t sit well with Canadians, who had no wish to be subject to Manifest Destiny and in the 1911 election voted to oust the government of Liberal Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier, widely regarded as Canada’s greatest, for Conservative Robert Borden, who had used Clark’s speech to great effect during his campaign and pulled Canada out of the agreement. Canada in that day and age had a patriotism that was tied with sticking with Britain rather than independent identity. Clark would remain speaker until 1919, helping President Woodrow Wilson pass his New Freedom policies but opposing American entry into World War I. He would after losing reelection in 1920 die two days before he was to leave office in 1921.

Despite Democratic emphasis on lower tariffs during the Roosevelt and Truman Administrations and Eisenhower’s support of continuing presidential powers under the Reciprocal Trade Act, an agreement between the US and Canada remained dead. However, trade barriers did start to lower between the nations starting in 1935 with a number of bilateral agreements. It would be up to an American born in 1911 to at last fulfill reciprocal trade with Canada: Ronald Reagan.

In 1982, Canada ended the power of British parliament to amend the Constitution, making Canada a sovereign nation. Patriotism was no longer tied to affinity with Britain yet was tied to an independent Canadian identity. This time, both governments were run by conservative politicians: in Canada Brian Mulroney and in America Ronald Reagan. In May 1986, Canada initiated negotiations with the United States and this time it was Liberal politicians who brought up the specter of American domination. Liberal leader John Turner strongly opposed the agreement and New Democratic Party leader Ed Broadbent held that Canada would become in all but name the “51st state” of the US (Blake, 22).
In the US, the debate was far less controversial than in 1911, and on October 4, 1987, the US and Canada reached an agreement and on January 2, 1988 it was signed. In the House the proposal passed 366-40 on August 9, 1988 and in the Senate 83-9 on September 19, 1988, with the votes not breaking along liberal-conservative lines. This agreement would stick until it was replaced with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), negotiated by George Bush, Mulroney, and Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico.


Allan, C. (2009). Bomb Canada: And other unkind remarks in the American media. Athabasca, AB: Athabasca University Press.

Blake, R.B. (2007). Transforming the nation: Canada and Brian Mulroney. Montreal, QC: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

The Radical Singing Cowboy: Senator Glen H. Taylor


What if I told you the most radical left senator in American history came from the state of Idaho? By one measurement, this is true.

In 1944, Democratic Senator D. Worth Clark of Idaho was having political problems. He was not satisfactory to many of the state’s Democrats as he had been a strong opponent of FDR’s foreign policy before World War II and he was increasingly unreliable in supporting him on domestic issues. That year, a challenger stepped forth against him: Glen H. Taylor (1904-1984).

Taylor was, among other things, a country singer who had twice before tried for the Senate, but both times lost to incumbent Republican John W. Thomas. One thing that harmed him on the campaign trail was his premature baldness, which made him appear significantly older than he was. What convinced him that he needed to wear a toupee was when a man mistook him for his wife’s father. Taylor was also often characterized as a socialist or communist by his detractors. In his 1944 run, Taylor not only wore the toupee but opted to talk about issues that related to the common voter. He beat Clark despite him having a political machine to help him and he narrowly won the Senate election itself. Taylor became known at the beginning of his term for singing on the steps of the Capitol about his difficulties finding lodging giving the housing shortage, “Oh give me a home, near the Capitol dome, with a yard where little children can play / Just one room or two, any old thing will do / Oh we can’t find a pla-a-a-ce to stay!” (Langeveld) This actually worked, and Taylor was contacted with multiple offers.

As he assumed his Senate duties, he quickly gained a reputation as both a disruptor and an eccentric. In 1946, Taylor joined Progressive Citizens of America, an organization which included prominent progressives, socialists, and communists. In 1946, he got into an altercation with Idaho Republican chair Ray McKaig, in which he broke his jaw. McKaig claimed that Taylor had blindsided him and proceeded to kick him in the face when he was down. Taylor denied that he kicked him and claimed that McKaig had insulted him and he had thrown a punch but pulled back before he could harm him but then McKaig bloodied his nose, and then he threw the jaw-breaking punch. The following year, he was prominent in the push to exclude Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi from the Senate for inciting voter intimidation of blacks. He also was arrested in 1948 in Birmingham, Alabama for using the “colored” entrance to a hall in defiance of segregation laws. Taylor was sentenced to pay a $50 fine and had a 180-day suspended jail sentence.

On domestic issues, he had a flawless left-wing record, defending strong price controls and supporting continuing and expanding New Deal measures. Taylor was opposed to anti-communist politicking and in 1950 voted against the McCarran Internal Security Act. Taylor declined to criticize the USSR strongly and rationalized that ninety senators already did so. He became a strong critic, however, of President Truman’s anti-communist foreign policies, voting against the Greek-Turkish Aid Act and the Marshall Plan. Taylor toured the country, part of the way riding his horses Nugget and Chuck, speaking out against Truman’s foreign policies as he thought them too antagonistic to the USSR. This combined with his hard-left stances on domestic policy put him in alliance with the Progressive Party and in 1948 he was nominated for vice president on the ticket. Taylor’s presence in the Senate, it could be argued, was part of the rationale for the creation of Americans for Democratic Action, a lobbying organization which both fought for New Deal liberalism and opposed communism.

In 1950, Clark capitalized on Taylor’s reputation as a radical against him and defeated him for renomination. However, Clark himself would lose the election badly to Republican Herman Welker, who would become one of Joseph McCarthy’s most loyal allies. Taylor was subsequently head of the Coryell Construction Company but in 1952 he was forced to resign as apparently the government didn’t want to make contracts with the company given his political past. Taylor, however, didn’t give up easily on politics and tried twice to regain his seat in the Senate. In 1954, he was trounced by Republican incumbent Henry Dworshak and in 1956 he lost the Democratic nomination to 32-year old Frank Church, who went on to unseat Welker, whose reputation had sunk with McCarthy’s. Taylor quit politics after this and moved to Millbrae, California, where he lived the rest of his life and founded the Taylor Topper Company, the purpose of which was to provide quality toupees. The business still exists today, now known as Taylormade. He died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1984.

Taylor’s MC-Index score is a 5% on account of his votes against the Greek-Turkish Act and the Marshall Plan while his DW-Nominate score is a ludicrously low -0.999, making him the most left-wing senator in American history by that standard.


Collier, P. (April 1977). Remembering Glen Taylor: The Singing Cowboy Who Went to the Senate and Came Home to Sell Toupees… Mother Jones. 42-53.

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Flint, P.B. (1984, May 5). Glen H. Taylor of Idaho Dies; Wallace Running Mate in ’48. The New York Times.

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Langeveld, D. (2016, December 29). Glen H. Taylor: Civil Rights Cowboy. The Downfall Dictionary.  

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Simkin, J. (1997). Glen H. Taylor. Spartacus Educational.

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The Hartford Convention…Or the Death of America’s First Party

George Washington was the nation’s first and only president without a party affiliation. Although he officially eschewed parties and warned of the dangers of them, on policy he frequently sided with the Federalist Party, which had been formed in 1789. Among the members of the Federalist Party were Vice President John Adams and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. In 1796, Adams ran for president with Washington’s support and won decisively. However, the Alien and Sedition Acts as well as the administration’s pro-British policies proved unpopular and he was both the first president to lose reelection and the last Federalist president.

Thomas Jefferson proved a popular president for most of his time in office despite Federalist Party propaganda claiming he was a radical. After all, Jefferson had engaged in the most dramatic purchase of land in American history, the Louisiana Purchase. The voters happily elected James Madison, or the Father of the Constitution, to the presidency in 1808 with 64.7% of the vote, with Federalist Charles Pinckney only winning New England states and Delaware. The Federalist Party seemed to continue to decline and its members made the fateful decision to oppose the War of 1812. This time, the Federalist Party did better on the popular vote, albeit not through the Federalist candidate, but rather DeWitt Clinton, a Democratic-Republican who had courted the support of Federalists and came within three points of defeating Madison. Although the Federalists were at a distinct disadvantage, it was still possible for them to have a chance and some relevance, that is until December 1814.

On December 15, 1814, twenty-six Federalists met in Hartford, Connecticut to discuss their concerns with the current state of the United States. It was presided over by George Cabot, who had been a senator from Massachusetts. At the start of the convention it wasn’t necessarily clear that the War of 1812 was coming to an end and what’s more, the New England Federalists didn’t want to be taxed for a war they didn’t support to pay off war debt. Thus far, only one president had not been from Virginia (John Adams) and this New England centered party thought their region’s interests were not being best served. Worse yet, the system at this time seemed to benefit the South and Jeffersonian Republicans as the 12th Amendment had prevented the possibility of the candidate with the most votes being elected president while the one with the second was vice president and made it less likely Congress would decide who was president. Gouverneur Morris, the author of the final draft of the Constitution, was now calling for the creation of a New England Confederacy to avoid taxes from war debt. Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts, who had served as Secretary of State and Secretary of War under Washington, called for secession in order to negotiate New England’s reentry into the union under more favorable terms. However, cooler heads prevailed and the convention rejected secession. By the end of the convention on January 5, 1815, they had written seven constitutional amendments designed to further states’ rights. Despite the secrecy of the meeting, which itself was regarded as suspicious, the press got wind that Morris, Pickering, and other Federalists had voiced support for secession. This brought terrible press on the Federalists and led many people who might otherwise vote for them to move to the Democratic-Republicans out of a sense of patriotism.  The convention was also the victim of bad timing as the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, had been ratified during the convention.

Cartoon lambasting the Hartford Convention as disloyal to the United States and favorable to Britain.

In 1816, the Federalist Party tried one last time to run a presidential candidate, but the reputation of the party had largely been wrecked nationwide due to the entertaining of secession by the Hartford Convention. The Federalist Party candidate, Senator Rufus King of New York, only won 30.9% of the vote and the states of Delaware, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. From that point the party’s presence in Congress shrank until 1825, when the Federalist Party was no longer a presence. The party lingered on until 1834. At the time of its demise it was irrelevant and overshadowed by other opposition parties that could fulfill the aims of the Federalists minus the baggage of a convention that entertained secession.


Bailey, J.D. The Hartford Convention. Bill of Rights Institute.

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Hartford Convention. Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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Janis, M. (2014, December 14). The Hartford Convention and the Specter of Secession. UConn Today.

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