Archive for the ‘Politics / Law’ Category

Outer Government Entrenched at Washington

How did Washington, D.C. become “the swamp”? Around 1900, the rise of lobbying organizations in the nation’s capitol caused great controversy. By 1919, it was considered normal.

When one side of a case is represented only, the reaction is likely to be one-sided. This situation, from the first, has been the great magnet in bringing new national organizations to Washington.

This movement began more than twenty years ago, when lobbying was becoming a national scandal, and has grown to its present proportion almost unnoticed by the country. In order that its side of any proposed legislation might be legitimately represented, one organization after another made Washington its headquarters.

That’s only become more true by 2019. In August, I wrote an article for GovTrack Insider about the SWEET Act, which would end the federal subsidy for the sugar industry. It was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA10), who represents the Pennsylvania district where Hershey is located. If the federal sugar subsidy was eliminated, smaller manufacturers would have a much harder time withstanding the blow — massive corporations like Hershey would survive.

Of course, perhaps the most famous lobbying organization is the one described by humor writer Dave Barry in his book Lessons From Lucy earlier this year:

AARP is a powerful lobbying group representing the interests of senior citizens. Like, if a member of Congress even thinks about cutting Social Security benefits, an elite AARP tactical assault lobbying squad will descend on the congressperson’s office at a slow rate of speed and wave their catheters around in a threatening manner until the congressperson sees the light.

This blog’s created and former lead writer David Friedman now works for the AARP, producing videos and documentaries for their website and social media channels.

 

Outer Government Entrenched at Washington: Organizations Which Encircle the Capitol Dome and Influence Legislation for the Special Classes and Interests They Represent (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 7, 1919

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Written by Jesse

December 4th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics / Law

Open Season Threatens the Extinction of Deer

A New York state hunter could only kill only one deer per season, which had to be a male buck with antlers. Starting in 1919, a hunter could kill two deer, including a male buck or a female doe. Would that decimate the animal’s population?

Even some hunters were opposed to the new law, for that very reason:

Most of the real sportsmen were opposed to allowing does to be shot, for they well knew that if the does were killed off, it would not be long before the last deer would be gathered in from the Adirondacks. But the demands of promiscuous hunters had sway. The law was passed.

Those fears didn’t come to pass. In fact, the opposite occurred.

In 1919, a census found there were “not more than 50,000 deer in New York State.” But by 2018, there were about 1 million. Hunters kill about a quarter-million deer in the state each year, including 227,787 in 2018. Yet the animal’s population has remained roughly steady.

As Oak Duke wrote for the Evening Tribune in upstate New York:

Long gone is the attitude of 50 years ago when there were few deer compared to now. A sighting, let alone a successful hunt, was more of a rarity. Now deer have become ubiquitous, a common sight, if not a serious bother to motorists, farmers, and outdoors recreationists worried about ticks.

 

Open Season Threatens the Extinction of Deer: Hunters Permitted by New Law to Kill Does as Well as Bucks–Quail Still Protected, but Fight for End of Restrictions Is in Prospect (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 16, 1919

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November 16th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

First Woman Magistrate Judges Fallen Sisters

In 1919, Jean H. Norris became the first female judge in New York City history. But her name isn’t celebrated today, because in 1931 she was disbarred and removed from the bench.

Upon first rising to the position, Norris’s promotion was trumpeted:

The first few rows of the courtroom were filled with women. A few of them had opened the morning session with congraulatory speeches, a thing as unheard of in the annals of the court as was the occasion which prompted it. A group of fashionable women sat beaming at the proceedings in the last few rows. Their attitude manifested complete satisfaction with the woman who represented them in this high capacity.

By 12 years later, quite the opposite reaction would have occurred. Judge Norris was found to have falsified court records, convicted a girl without evidence, and endorsed a product in violation of judicial ethics.

First Woman Magistrate Judges Fallen Sisters: Quality of Mercy Is Not Strained in Jefferson Market Court at Mrs. Norris’s First Session, but Eloquence of Mere Men Is Curtailed (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 9, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 7th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Our Unguarded Treasury

Lest you think wasteful or redundant government spending is a uniquely 20th century phenomenon, this example from 1919 is as bad as anything happening today.

An amusing example of needless expense continued after attention has been repeatedly called to it exists in connection with the Coast and Geodetic Survey. The building which this service occupies lies directly across the street from the House Office Building. A steam supply main from the Capitol power plant passes directly through the basement of the building of the Survey to the House Office Building. The Survey, however, is not permitted to use steam from this pipe, but is required to operate its own separate boilers, purchase coal, hire firemen and other help for operating an independent heating plant in the very basement through which an ample supply of Government steam passes to another building.

It got worse.

So, also, a local electric plant is working in the basement of the House Office Building, across the street, but the Coast Survey is obliged to purchase current from a commercial company and to employ a force of dynamo tenders throughout a twenty-four hour day. In this case, where the law requires a service to operate a light plant and a heating plant, where both light and heat are available from a central power plant maintained by the Government, the chief of the service estimates that $4,000 per annum is wasted. The change of a few words in the law would correct it. This has been asked, but has not been done.

A more recent attempt to cut down on redundant government spending is through the Duplication Scoring Act, a congressional bill which I wrote about for GovTrack Insider in September. But just like that aforementioned 1919 line — “The change of a few words in the law would correct it. This has been asked, but has not been done.” — the Duplication Scoring Act has similarly received neither a House nor Senate committe vote.

 

Our Unguarded Treasury: Haphazard Financial System Which Has Necessitated the New Budget System for Federal Government (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

November 2nd, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics / Law

If the Treaty is Rejected — What Then?

Although WWI fighting ended November 1918, the Treaty of Versailles to formally end the war was registered in late October 1919. Requiring territorial changes and reparations, enough U.S. senators opposed it to prevent 2/3 passage by Congress.

Here, two U.S. senators debated the pros and cons of the treaty: Nebraska Democrat Gilbert Hitchcock in favor and Idaho Republican William Borah against.

Sen. Hitchcock, in favor:

This treaty… was secured from Germany at the cannon’s mouth. They all represent concessions which Germany would not willingly grant.

We have withdrawn our armies from Europe except a few thousand men, and have practically completed demobilization. We are through fighting, and Germany knows it. If we fail to hold her to the bargain made at Versailles when the armies were in the field and when Germany was helpless, we will be compelled to negotiate as equals and lose a large part of all that was granted in the settlement.

Sen. Borah, against:

If the treaty is rejected, the United States will be relieved at once of all obligations, legal or moral, to take part in European affairs, and we will as a people be enabled to take up at once and devote our entire time and attention to the solution of impending domestic problems.

Whatever we should see fit or think proper to do in the way of friendly assistance, advice, or support for other peoples anywhere, we should be able to do of our own volition and in our own way, relieved entirely of the embarrassment of carrying forward the plans and schemes of other nations.

Two Senate votes were taken on November 19, 1919, exactly a month after this article’s publication. One vote rejected the treaty 41-51, the other vote later in the day rejected the treaty 39-55.

However, enough other nations signed the treaty that it went into effect regardless. This is similar to other international agreements during the Trump administration, such as the Paris climate accords, which remain in effect with almost every nation besides the U.S. still party to its provisions.

Also, clearly 1919 was an era when referring to “Hitchcock” by last name alone — as this article does — meant the Nebraska senator Gilbert, not the film director Alfred.

If the Treaty is Rejected — What Then?: The Question Answered by Hitchcock and Borah (PDF)

Published: October 19, 1919

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October 16th, 2019 at 12:43 pm

The Awakening Middle Class – by Thomas R. Marshall, Vice President

In 1919, as now, the vice president was a former Indiana governor. Though Mike Pence is Republican and Thomas R. Marshall was a Democrat, there were also some similarities.

For example, Marshall originally turned down Woodrow Wilson’s running mate offer, while Pence strongly considered stepping down as Donald Trump’s running mate in the wake of the “Access Hollywood” scandal. (The Republican National Committee also considered replacing Trump with Pence at the top of the ticket, and adding former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as running mate.)

In this September 1919 article, Marshall suggested that Americans should all come together despite their differences such as wealth gaps.

The old methods of legislation must stop, or the Republic must die. The war, ostensibly if not really, wiped out for us the political, hyphenated American; the war will have been in vain if it shall not also have wiped out for us the hyphenated, economic American, and has not taught us that, from him who has most to him who has least, as the days go by, individual right will grow less and invidual duty will grow larger.

The apocalyptic warning that the country must follow Marshall’s recommendation “or the Republic must die” is a hyperbolic phrasing very unlike the comparatively soft-spoken Pence — but very much like the bombastic rhetoric of Pence’s boss.

The most consequential — or depending on one’s view, least consequential — aspect of Marshall’s eight-year vice president took place the same week this article of his published. On October 2, 1919, President Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke. Wilson’s Secretary of State, as well as both the Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress, wanted Marshall to step in as acting president.

However, since Marshall disagreed with Wilson many policy issues, he was kept in the dark about the true extent of Wilson’s dire condition so that he would not assume any “acting president” responsibilities. Marshall himself never personally met with Wilson during his period of near-incapacitation. It is said that First Lady Edith Wilson in many ways essentially ran the White House and executive branch during this period.

Marshall had a sense of humor about the whole ordeal, sending his successor as vice president Calvin Coolidge a letter of “sincere condolences” for being elected to the position.

The Awakening Middle Class: By Thomas R. Marshall, Vice President of United States (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 5, 1919

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October 1st, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics / Law

Suffrage Index of Good and Bad Governors

Once women’s right to vote passed Congress, it still needed to pass 36 state legislatures. One Kentucky legislator only voted for it because “My wife is a strong suffragette and weighs 200 pounds” so “I am forced as a matter of self-defense.”

This is from a Kentucky member, who was asked to write to the Governor to call an extra session of the Legislature: “As my wife is a strong suffragette and weighs 200 pounds and being very clever with the rolling pin, I am forced as a matter of self-defense to answer in the affirmative.”

Progress in the states stalled for an interesting reason: after Congress passed it in June 1919, many state legislators — most not full-time professional politicians — had to tend to their farms.

Maud Younger, Chairman of the Lobby Committee of the National Woman’s Party: “You would be surprised at how many we have been held up by the farmers busy with their crops. We got nine states to ratify in June, but only four in July and only one in August. In the West so many of the members of the Legislatures are farmers. It used to be lawyers. In one Western state, I am told, all the members of the legislature are farmers or have important farm connections.”

It all worked out in the end. Less than a year later, in August 1920, Tennessee would become the 36th state to approve the constitutional amendment — making it official.

 

Suffrage Index of Good and Bad Governors: How the Card System Which Forced Congress Into Line Is Being Used to Expedite Ratification by States (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 7, 1919

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September 7th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Politics / Law

Lafayette, Citizen of America

Foreign male heirs of Marquis de Lafayette, the French military officer who led the colonies in Revolutionary War battles, were to be granted Maryland citizenship in perpetuity by a 1784 state law. Would that stand in the federal government’s eyes?

In 1919, when this New York Times article was written, the answer was still unclear — but it was clarified soon enough, based on two cases in 1936 and 1955.

The first was Count René de Chambrun, whose claim was rejected on an individual basis by the State Department. The second was Count Edward Perrone di San Martino, where the State Department officially ruled that any foreign male heir of Lafayette could be only granted honorary citizenship, which didn’t officially count for legal purposes.

Of course, modern audiences know Lafayette best from the insanely fast-rapping portrayal by Daveed Diggs in Hamilton:

Lafayette, Citizen of America: Maryland Legislature Conferred Franchise Upon Him and His Male Heirs Forever — He Rests in American Soil (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 7, 1919

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September 6th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Laboratory of Dry Law Enforcement

Government in 1919 began testing seized substances to determine if they violated Prohibition by containing too much alcohol. Medicines, after all, could contain some — but at a certain point the “medicine” would become illegal.

Many attempts are being made to evade the prohibition law by disguising alcoholic beverages as patent medicines. Some of those discovered are practically all alcohol, with only a little flavoring, like Jamaica ginger, as a disguise. Toilet waters [meaning perfumes and not literal toilet water] are also exmployed as a mask for intoxicating drinks, with a higher percentage of alcohol hidden from the detection of the inexpert by some strong perfume.

The ruling of the bureau is that all alcoholic mixtures sold as medicine must contain at least one drug of recognized therapeutic value; that only so much alcohol may be used as is required by the nature of the mixture as a medicine, and that it shall not be used as a beverage.

The bureau referenced was the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Internal Revenue, the precursor to today’s IRS. As much as you already hate the IRS for taking half your paycheck, imagine if they were still taking away your alcohol too.

 

Laboratory of Dry Law Enforcement: Washington Busy With Batteries of Test Tubes and Retorts Trying to Keep Track of New Ways of Camouflaging Alcohol as a Beverage (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 31, 1919

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August 27th, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Self-Determination for American Red Man

A 1919 bill approved by a House committee would have given Native Americans full citizenship rights. Alas, it took another five years to be enacted into law.

It is the position of those Indians who have attained citizenship after an arduous struggle for their rights that the shackles of paternalism have been on their race long enough. On the average, they say, the Indian is just as well equipped to look after himself as is the man of any other strain. Sometimes, they add, he is much better equipped than many of the aliens who have in recent years landed on these shores.

And needless to say, the 1919 headline referring to “the red man” is certainly anachronistic to modern ears.

The article also mentions that the Native American population at the time was 336,243, or about 0.3% of the U.S. population.

Since that time, the group’s percentage of the population has at minimum tripled. The 2010 Census had the “American Indian and Native Alaskan alone” population at 2.9 million, or 0.9% of the population. If including people who listed themselves as American Indian or Native Alaskan in combination with other races, the number rises to 5.2 million, or 1.7% of the population.

Rep. Charles D. Carter (D-OK3) introduced the 1919 bill, which passed the House Committee on Indian Affairs. But it would take another five years until the Indian Citizenship Act would become law, after being introduced by Rep. Homer P. Snyder (R-NY33) — hence the law’s colloquial name of the Snyder Act.

However, many states kept dragging their feet for decades afterwards. New Mexico became the last state to allow Native Americans to vote in 1962.

In fact, a number of racist federal laws dealing with Native Americans are still technically on the books today. These include laws which allow for forced labor of Native Americans and for the president to unilaterally declare any federal government treaty with a tribe as null and void.

Just this week, I wrote an article for GovTrack Insider about the RESPECT Act, which would repeal all or part of 11 such laws. It’s bipartisan legislation with the full title Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes (RESPECT) Act.

Self-Determination for American Red Man: Native Race Proposed for Full Citizenship in a Bill Now Before Congress (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 10, 1919

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August 7th, 2019 at 1:57 pm

Recalcitrant Rhode Island

Only three states didn’t ratify the 18th Amendment establishing Prohibition, before it went into effect: Connecticut, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. As Prohibition was about to take effect, Rhode Island considered disobeying it.

A few months after this June 1919 article, the state attempted to do just that. In December 1919, the state’s Attorney General Herbert Rice filed a lawsuit seeking to declare the 18th Amendment unconstitutional. Historian David Kyvig summarizes Rice’s argument before the U.S. Supreme Court:

Attorney General Rice began by arguing that the amendment invaded the sovereignty of Rhode Island and her people, an invasion not contemplated by the amending clause of the Constitution. Rhode Island had not ratified the Eighteenth Amendment. The amending power, Rice contended, was provided to allow for the correction of errors in the fundamental instrument of government. The first ten amendments were adopted to insure against the encroachment by the federal government upon state functions and powers. If the amending power were to be construed as to allow any type of amendment, the boundary between federal and state authority could be shifted at will, and the people of a state would be at the mercy of others in matters of political institutions and personal rights.

His argument fell on deaf ears, with the Supreme Court upholding Prohibition unanimously.

Recalcitrant Rhode Island (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 29, 1919

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June 30th, 2019 at 10:23 am

Posted in Politics / Law

Women as ‘Permanent Peacemakers’

Paris issued 3.125 million bonds to help pay off its WWI debt, and they were dispensed by random through a giant wheel — a wheel of fortune. No word on whether Pat Sajak announced the results.

The Civil Governor of Paris at the time explained to a local engineer:

“Now, we want you to make for us, as quickly as possible, a vessel or receptacle in which all these 3,125,000 numbers, sealed up in small brass cases, can be placed. We want the machine so fixed that at every drawing the vessel shall revolve so as to mix up the numbers thoroughly inside, and then discharge from the urn or vessel by electric means as many of the numbers as are required at each redemption drawing.

“Furthermore, we want this machine so constructed that when once the numbers have been introduced into the urn it will be impossible for anybody to fool with them. A child must not even be able to put his hand into the vessel or touch the numbers within.”

This “wheel of fortune” wasn’t as exciting as your humble author’s own appearance on the show a few weeks ago:

Women as ‘Permanent Peacemakers’: An Account by One of Them of the International Gathering in Switzerland Which Denounced the Allies’ Treaty Terms (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 22, 1919

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June 19th, 2019 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Politics / Law

Why Suffrage Fight Took 50 Years

If the constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote was first introduced in 1878, why didn’t it pass Congress until 1919? Four major reasons: women’s minds had to be changed, so did men’s, politics, and money.

1.) Women’s minds had to be changed.

In the beginning of the movement the entire world, including women, believed confidently that women were mentally, physically, morally, spiritually inferior to men, with minds incapable of education, capacities too rudimentary to permit of their even looking after their own property, bodies too feeble to perform the simplest tasks for which men earned wages.

2.) Men’s minds had to be changed.

The illerate, undeveloped man held the view of the cave man that the woman belonged to him to do with as he pleased. She existed for him to dominate. In the refined, educated man this primitive instinct developed into a chivalrous, high-minded spirit of protection.

To ask for a vote was equivalent to declaring the government of men a failure, because it connoted that a dependent class was so dissatisfied with it as to demand a share in remaking it.

3.) Politics.

It is necessary that the members of a Legislature or Congress voting to submit an amendment which aims to enfranchise a class are obliged to pass the amendment on to the electors before the class to be enfranchised has received its vote. Legislators are deprived thus of the support of grateful voters, newly enfranchised, while forced to meet the condemnation of that part of the existing electorate which does not approve an extension of the suffrage.

4.) Money.

Individuals, corporations, or groups with unscrupulous intention have found it to be a certain protection to their selfish interests, when threatened by legislation, to be on good terms with the parties in power and with leading men of Legislatures and Congresses. To this end they have made large contributions to political campaigns.

Where their special interests, as in the case of the liquor business, have become a powerful issue their contributions have gone to both parties. All such interests have unfailingly opposed woman suffrage and have prevented in consequence the normal movement within the political parties toward the recognition of woman suffrage as a great and growing issue.

What naturally follows is the opposite question: how did it eventually pass Congress in 1919?

The first two factors — misogyny among both men and women — was ameliorated because of the states which passed suffrage first proving the naysayers wrong, beginning with Wyoming in 1890.

The greatest educator in the removal of prejudice proved to be woman suffrage in operation. Although the whole world scorned the little pioneer border settlement of Wyoming in its brave endeavor to do justice to women, it nevertheless carried a greater influence than it is now possible to measure. Year after year the women voted. The testimony continued that they voted wisely and well; that they were independent; that they were high-minded and recognized the necessity of continued improvement in political methods.

The third factor — political logistics, like how only men who were often hostile to the cause could decide whether to give women the right to vote — changed by the aforementioned trends in public opinion.

In the long run, popular sentiment controls in this country. Votes may be bought and evil influences may round up such voters to defeat a question now and then, but in the long run sentiment will not tolerate that sort of thing. Our business, therefore, has been to arouse popular sentiment, to tell the real truth to the people, wherever there were ears to hear or eyes to read.

The fourth factor — moneyed interests being opposed — fell in large part once Prohibition had passed a few months earlier, in January 1919.

 The most hostile and effective opponent of woman suffrage has been the liquor interests of the country… The liquor dealers reasoned that, since women were not the manufacturers of liquor or the consumers of liquor, but were the greatest sufferers from its evils, a larger proportionate number could be depended upon to vote for prohibition than men.

Once Prohibition passed anyway, on the basis of men’s votes, the moneyed interests no longer had nearly the zeal towards preventing women from voting.

Why Suffrage Fight Took 50 Years: Leader Tells of Hindenburg Line of Germans Broken in West, Gives Political Sidelights, and Finds Causes for Victory’s Delay Why Suffrage Fight Took 50 Years (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 15, 1919

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Written by Jesse

June 14th, 2019 at 1:31 pm

Investigating the War

A century ago, House committees were heavily investigating the executive branch, while the president’s own party (in the House minority) accused the committees of partisan warfare. Sound familiar?

None of the investigations, the Republican leader said, would be inquisitorial, but they would be undertaken and conducted only so far as the interests of the country demanded. Democratic leaders scoff at such assertions. Visibly they are disturbed at the prospect… because the Republicans, being in charge, can guide the investigations and explode whatever is collected at the right psychological times from a political standpoint.

“What they are going to do,” said one Democrat, “is to keep these investigations boiling along, or some of them, clear into the Presidential campaign, and release their stuff at the time when the voters are beginning to think of the coming Presidential election. And they are not only going to tear everything wide open; they are going to pull up the flooring besides.”

Investigating the War: Chairman Graham of House of Representatives’ Special Committee Outlines Scope of Inquiry Into Expenditures (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 15, 1919

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June 13th, 2019 at 10:54 am

If Germany Doesn’t Sign — Starvation

Germany surrendered November 1918, ending WWI in practice, as all countries agreed to cease hostilities while peace terms were negotiated. But the peacce terms weren’t finalized until June 1919. That month, the world asked: would Germany sign?

This article from the time described just how horrendous it would be for Germany if they didn’t sign the Treaty of Versailles, with the operative word in the headline being “starvation.” As it happened, Germany would indeed sign the treaty mere weeks later.

However, Hitler disobeyed more and more elements of the treaty, until he declared it null and void entirely in 1935. Some historians have suggested that a more lenient treaty would have rendered Germany a more prosperous and able nation post-WWI, potentially preventing the rise of a strongman leader like Hitler — and maybe avoiding WWII entirely.

If Germany Doesn’t Sign — Starvation: Allies Are Ready to Enforce a Blockade More Rigorous Than Ever Before, Should Enemy Balk at Peace Terms — Suggestion of Marching to Berlin Overruled (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 8, 1919

 

Germany made their final WWI-related reparation payment in 2010!

http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2023140,00.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-11442892

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June 6th, 2019 at 9:47 am

Magna Charta of Childhood

World War I changed how many governments viewed their responsibilities toward children. While previously they had largely kept their hands off, the war took a huge toll on children’s health, child labor, and education. Governments felt more of a need to step in.

In the U.S., what did the government do around this time?

Congress passed a laws restricting child labor, though it was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the 5-4 decision Hammer v. Dagenhart. Congress then passed a constitutional amendment banning child labor in 1924, but it was only ratified by 28 of the required 36 states.

This May 1919 article explains why:

Before the war it seemed possible for statesmen to ignore the existence of children. What happened to the millions of young people of every great nation was, prior to August 1914, of slight interest to governments. Before the great war, it is perhaps safe to say that no Cabinet meeting of any great power had at any time devoted its full attention to the national problems raised by the very existence of children.

Every government knows now that such neglect is no longer compatible with national safety either in war or in peace. Military mobilization and the great test of industrial efficiency during the war revealed weaknesses appallingly vast. Neglect, it was perceived, was silently doing damage hardly less great than enemy invasion. Because of this realization, and not because of any newfound tenderness for children, governments generally have begun to give serious thought to childhood.

 

Child labor would only be banned in America in 1938 under FDR, with the Fair Labor Standards Act. And this time, the law was never struck down by the Supreme Court.

Magna Charta of Childhood: Representative of Great Britain, France, Belgium, Serbia, Italy, and Japan Are Joined With Americans in Evolving an International System of Child Welfare (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 25, 1919

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May 23rd, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Pressure For Suffrage

In late May 1919, “The political pilots of the movement now assert that they have converted a sufficient number of statesmen to assure a suffrage victory.” Indeed, the House would pass it that week, followed by the Senate two weeks later.

But many may have gone along unwillingly, because of extreme public pressure:

A Senator, who had been a leader in the fight against the suffrage movement, said just before the adjournment of the last Congress:

“Three-fourths of the Senators who have come out in favor of the amendment are against it in their hearts. They have been politically sandbagged.”

This was an extreme statement from a heated partisan, but it is probably no exaggeration to say that no fewer than one-third of the Senators were swung over when, if they had followed their own individual opinions, they would have remained in the column of the antis. Never before had they been brought into contact with such a political machine as was shoving them along. The impact of the three pressures gave them a push from behind and from each side.

How did this work in practice? Alice Paul, Chair of the National Woman’s Party, explained.

“Senator McCumber was opposed to suffrage, and, I understand, still is, but when, following our efforts in his home state, the Legislature passed a resolution in favor of it, he took that as a mandate, and we won his vote. Senator Culbertson is another instance; we got two-thirds of the members of the Legislature in his State to sign a petition in favor of the amendment, and that results in the addition of the Texas Senator to our list. We have a strong organization in South Carolina, and when Senator Pollock was elected we turned on him a body of opinion, and Senator Pollock is now for suffrage.”

One wonders if, in these politically polarized times of 2019, the same phenomenon could potentially occur for the most important issues of today, in which public opinion is against Congress’s opinion. For example, 90% of Americans support universal background checks on guns, yet the plan seems dead on arrival in the current Congress.

“Pressure” For Suffrage: Three Interlocking Systems of Political Machinery Used by Women in Converting the Members of Congress (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 25, 1919

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May 23rd, 2019 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Politics / Law

Cellars and Attics for Archives

In 1919, America’s most important governmental and historical papers were stored haphazardly and dangerously.

[There are] a hundred different places in Washington in which valuable Government papers are stored. In this situation Washington stands alone among the capitals of the world. All other countries of importance have their archives concentrated in a special building furnished with every possible protection against loss by fire or deterioration.

 

There appeared little appetite for something similar in the U.S., though.

The agitation for a national archive building began in the seventies of the last century [1870s]. Fifty different archives bills have been introduced. Two got by the Senate, but not one past the House. Meantime a site was authorized and purchased, but on account of the long delay — while pork-barrel measures were attended to regularly — the site was used for another building.

It wasn’t that people were opposed, per se, but rather that it was low on the list of importance.

On the whole no other Congressional neglect furnishes a parallel to this one, for there never has been any organized opposition to the idea; it was generally admitted to be a sound one, even by members who did not apprehend its high importance, but after all it was a rather vague need.

But World War I drastically increased the need.

The war, it is estimated, will double all the papers that had been accumulated by the country up to 1917. Records include not only those of the army and navy and other regular departments, but of special activities, such as the Food Administration, the Fuel Administration, the Railroad Administration, and War Industries Board.

After all, the physical conditions were subject to great risk.

At present the greater part of the Government’s archives are stores in the two worst places to prevent them from deterioration: in attics and in cellars. To preserve papers under the best conditions requires an even temperature, light, and an absence of excessive moisture. In the attics the papers are subjected to a terrific heat in the Summer time, so great that spontaneous combustion has been feared.

The National Archives would be created by Congress 15 years after this article, in 1934. The actually transfer of records to the new National Archives building began in 1936.

And what a collection it is. From their website:

There are approximately 10 billion pages of textual records; 12 million maps, charts, and architectural and engineering drawings; 25 million still photographs and graphics; 24 million aerial photographs; 300,000 reels of motion picture film; 400,000 video and sound recordings; and 133 terabytes of electronic data.

Cellars and Attics for Archives: These and Rented Non-Fireproof Buildings House Many of the Most Valuable Records in Washington (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 4, 1919

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Written by Jesse

May 1st, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Politics / Law

Future of the Democratic Party

Politics in 1919 was similar to 2019: a president had just suffered a devastating setback as his opposing party regained control of the House of Representatives. But the chair of the president’s party in 1919 aimed for a spirit of more bipartisanship, while it’s hard to think of any olive branches Trump has extended to House Democrats thus far.

The big looming issue in 1919, in the immediate aftermath of World War I, was whether the newly-Republican Congress would approve Democratic President Woodrow Wilson’s plan to enter the U.S. in the League of Nations. Democratic Party Chair Homer S. Cummings advocated for why Republicans should support it across the aisle:

“I have been an advocate of the League for many years, long before the war began. I think it is the greatest thing in the world today — the most important. It is inconceivable that anybody who is familiar with the real conditions in Europe can think that there is any chance for permanent peace without a League of Nations. It is idle to talk of merely concluding a proper peace and then letting the world drift again.”

“If this world war taught us anything it is that, if one great nation gets into war with another, other great nations are drawn into it also. I would be much distressed to see this great idea made the subject of partisan appeal, for it is bigger than any party — too important to the world to be treated as a mere party issue. If I have anything to say as to the course of the Democratic organization, the League of Nations will be treated as a nonpartisan question, as nonpolitical, and will be discussed on the basis of what is best for America.”

It was not to be. Eight months after this article, in November 1919, the Senate would vote overall in favor of the treaty by 55-39, but at 58% support that felt a bit shy of the 2/3 support required. Democrats almost completely backed their own President Wilson by 42-4, but the opposition Republican majority mostly opposed it by 35-13.

Future of the Democratic Party: New National Chairman Discusses League of Nations and Labor Question as Possible Issues — Dismisses Defeat Last November as Temporary “Reaction” (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 9, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 8th, 2019 at 3:22 am

Posted in Politics / Law

Her Pressure On Congress

How were the top lobbyists for a woman’s right to vote trying to convince recalcitrant politicians in 1919? One method was by convincing the politicians’ mothers, explained the chair of the Lobby Committee of the National Woman’s Party:

It is important to know all about the mother, and that explains why a whole card is devoted to her. Mothers continue to have strong influence over their sons. Some married men listen to their mothers more than to their wives. You will hear a man telling his wife how his mother used to do it, and then we know from his frequent reference to his mother that if we can make of her a strong advocate for suffrage we have the best of chances of winning the son.

Little did she know how prescient that prediction would become. A year and five months later, the constitutional amendment had passed Congress and needed to be ratified by 35 states. 34 had, when it came to Tennessee. A 24-year-old state House member named Harry Burn had originally voted to table the amendment, until his mother changed his mind.

“I knew that a mother’s advice is always safest for a boy to follow and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification,” Burn later said. “I appreciated the fact that an opportunity such as seldom comes to a mortal man to free 17 million women from political slavery was mine.”

 

Her Pressure On Congress: Suffrage Lobbyist’s Card Index Keeps Tab on Members’ Home Influences, Financial Backers, and Even Golf Partners (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 2, 1919

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Written by Jesse

March 1st, 2019 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Politics / Law