Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Thirty Years of International Copyright

The Chace Act of 1891 gave copyright to non-U.S. works in return for international copyright protections for American authors. On the law’s 30th anniversray, Brander Matthews wrote that he considered the law a smashing success.

It remains the least adequate [such law] now in force of any of the civilized nations; but, improvable as it may be, it marked a long stride in advance and it did what it was meant to do; it put an end to the despoiling of the foreign writer in the United States and of the American writer in foreign countries. In fact, it has accomplished its purpose so completely that the present generation of readers has no knowledge of the conditions which it terminated.

The law, nicknamed after Sen. Jonathan Chace (R-RI) and which had been lobbied by the likes of Mark Twain and Little Women author Louisa May Alcott, originally granted copyright to Great Britain and its colonies, plus France, Belgium and Switzerland. More than 10 other countries were added by 1921, including Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, the German Empire, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and Spain.

Today the U.S. has reciprocal copyright agreements in place with most, though not all, other countries. Here’s a complete list from the U.S. Copyright Office: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ38a.pdf

Prior to 1891, though, the situation was quite different, as Matthews explained.

Before July 1, 1891, a book published in London or Paris could be reprinted by anybody or by any number of bodies in New York without the permission of the British or French author and without any payment to him. The novels of Scott and Dickens, Thackeray and George Eliot, Hugo and Dumas, the essays of Macaulay and Taine, the scientific writings of Spencer and Huxley and Tyndall, the poems of Tennyson and Browning, passed out of the control of their authors as soon as they were put on sale in Europe.

It gets worse.

And the novels and lyrics of American writers were almost — although not quite — as unprotected in England. Hundreds of thousands of copies of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” were sold in Great Britain, for which Mrs. Stowe did not receive a penny. Thousands of copies of Longfellow’s poems were issued by English publishers; and I heard Lowell say once that all the reward Longfellow had reaped from them was the gift of a game pie, sent to him across the Atlantic by a kind-hearted and appreciative London published.

The effects of the law were immediate. According to The Development of the International Book Trade, 1870-1895:
Tangled Networks by Alison Rukavina, “Before 1891, 70 percent of the books published in the United States were of foreign origin; after 1891, the figure was reversed, and 70 percent were by native authors.”

 

Thirty Years of International Copyright (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 26, 1921

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Written by Jesse

June 27th, 2021 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Books,History,Politics

Enjoying the Presidency

A few months into office in 1921, Warren Harding had returned fun to the White House, resurrecting the Easter Egg Roll, the presidential tradition of throwing the baseball season’s opening pitch, and corresponding with letter writers on apolitical topics.

The Easter Egg Roll had been cancelled in 1918 due to wartime egg shortages, but President Woodrow Wilson hadn’t bring it back in 1919 or 1920 either.

It was characteristic, also, that [Harding] should order restored the ancient custom of staging an egg-rolling contest on the White House grounds on the Monday following Easter Sunday. He frankly enjoyed watching the children at play and observed the pleasure of the crowds obtained in the opportunity of viewing the White House at close range.

After William Howard Taft began the opening day ceremonial first pitch tradition in 1910, it continued every year through 1916, but Wilson again suspended the tradition from 1917-20.

And [Harding] enjoys a baseball game — in fact, he may be called a fan. He agreed to open the American League season at Washington by tossing the first ball out upon the diamond, not solely because it was a thing which he was expected to do, but because he wanted to have a good time at the game. He even kept a box score, following each play and joining in the applause. He didn’t just hurry to the ball park, look on for a few minutes, and then hurry away. He stayed to the bitter end.

Harding also corresponded with letters writers who wrote him on less-than-serious matters. 12-year-old John D. Wackerman wanted Harding to attend a ball that would raise money for a local swimming pool. Harding deemed this worthy of presidential attention.

My dear John:

I received your letter this morning, saying that the boys were very much disappointed because they had heard I could not attend the ball in the interest of your swimming pool fund. I am exceedingly glad you wrote to me about this, John, because I do not want the boys to think I am not interested in their getting a swimming pool. I have used swimming pools myself, in my time, and there are one or two swimming pools in the creek out near Caledonia, Ohio, that I would like to get into again right now, if it were possible.

You tell the boys that I hope the ball will raise all the money that is needed to provide the pool, and that if some of you will come around to the White House with some tickets, I will buy some, whether I can attend or not.

Yours for the Swimming Pool,

Warren G. Harding

Sure enough, Wackerman visited the White House and Harding gave him a $50 bill — plus Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon chipped in an extra $20.

Others among the more “fun” national leaders have continued the tradition of responding to children’s letters on barely-political subjects, from Ronald Reagan’s note to a seventh grader who requested FEMA assistance after his mom declared his bedroom a disaster area, to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s letter to an 11-year-old girl who requested funds for dragon research.

 

 

Enjoying the Presidency (PDF)

Published: Sunday, May 8, 1921

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Written by Jesse

May 9th, 2021 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Life,Politics

Martin Van Buren’s Autobiography

Martin van Buren’s autobiography wasn’t published until 1920: 60 years after his death and 80 years after he was last president. That’s like if FDR’s or Herbert Hoover’s memoirs were only published now.

80 years ago in 1941, FDR was president. Excluding JFK, the president who died closest to 60 years ago (of natural causes) was Herbert Hoover in 1964.

Van Buren’s autobiography, with the captivating title The Autobiography of Martin Van Buren, is now in the public domain and available to read in full here:

https://archive.org/details/cu31924024892709

This New York Times Magazine review in March 1921 gave the book a stirring review:

The story of the fight over the United States Bank was never so clearly told, and in Van Buren’s hands it becomes a matter of absorbing interest. But that may be said of everything he writes.

It is a most remarkable book, a great autobiography despite its incompleteness. It covers an immense amount of ground, including the early days of Tammany Hall, and is embellished with the shrewdest and most thought-provoking commentaries on life and politics. He had a great reputation for common sense when he was alive, and his memoir proves that if anything it was underestimated.

You be the judge.

Here (and copied below) is the actual final paragraph of the book. To be fair, death stopped van Buren from writing further, so perhaps this should not be judged among the great endings in literary history. Still, if you can make it through this entire paragraph, you deserve a prize.

This charge which was also submitted to in silence, was not specifically applied to in silence, was not specifically applied to the $10,000 debt at the mother bank; but the extreme probability that such an occurrence could have happened at the Boston branch; and its being so much in harmony with the other transactions by which the advance of the ten or fifteen thousand dollars, obtained from Mr. Biddle at his country seat was characterized leaves scarcely a doubt that such was their meaning — and if so, and if the statements were well founded, we have here the explanation of Mr. Biddle’s persistent silence upon the subject. But be that as it may, one thing is, I fear, morally certain, if the notes and professed securities of the bank were reserved from the sale to the manufacturers of its archives by the ton, as waste paper, before referred to, have been preserved, and but a tithe of the reports of the heavy losses which that institution sustained from its loans to Mr. Webster, on straw securities, so prevalent at the time of its total failure, and then generally credited, be true, the note that was given for those ten or fifteen thousand dollars, or its representative, equally worthless, will be found amongst them. If so, and without the slightest personal knowledge upon the point, I feel as confident of the fact as I do of my existence, farther explorations of the dusty labyrinth of a defunct bank parlor, to trace the real character of the principal transaction, would seem to be superfluous, and the reader will decide whether, in such an event, farther speculations in regard to the political ethics or official purity of Daniel Webster would be equally useless.

 

Martin Van Buren’s Autobiography (PDF)

Published: Sunday, March 13, 1921

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Written by Jesse

March 11th, 2021 at 10:31 am

Posted in Books,History,Politics

Woodrow Wilson’s Administration: Eight Years of the World’s Greatest History

During Wilson’s last week as president, his reputation was already trending upward, due to blunders by President-elect Harding. As this March 1921 New York Times Magazine article noted:

The President’s unpopularity had been so violently expressed by the election of Nov. 2 that it was bound to be mitigated soon after, and this natural reaction was aided by the failure of the Republican Congress to accomplish anything in the short session and by President-elect Harding’s slowness in deciding among candidates offered for the Cabinet and policies put forward for his attention. As President Wilson prepared to turn over the executive duties to his successor there was already evidence that the American public was returning to a greater appreciation of his services.

Indeed, in C-SPAN’S 2017 survey of historians, Wilson ranked as America’s #11 president; Harding only ranked #40 of 43.

Wilson has certainly slipped a bit, from #6 in 2000, down to #9 in 2009, down again to #11 in 2017. If the survey is ever conducted again, he will almost certainly fall further from that #11 spot, given increasing criticisms of his views on race in recent years. Last year, for example, Princeton University renamed their Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Still, it’s impossible to imagine Wilson ever ranking in the bottom half of presidents. No matter how much historical revisionism drops his rank, he’s in no danger of ranking anywhere close to Harding, whose standing has shifted a few spots over the years but perpetually remained among the bottom five presidents all time.

 

Woodrow Wilson’s Administration: Eight Years of the World’s Greatest History (PDF)

Published: Sunday, February 27, 2021

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Written by Jesse

February 28th, 2021 at 10:31 am

Posted in History,Politics

False Splendor of Past Inaugurals

Ah, the days before microphones. This 1921 article described how “not a dozen men have ever heard a Presidential inaugural address.” That same year, Warren Harding became the first president with loudspeakers at his inauguration.

The people around him do not hear him. The newspaper men have seats nearer than the other invited guests on the platform, but they catch only a detatched word or sentence here or there. Down at their feet, below the platform, they see men with their hands at their ears, straining to catch a word and then giving it up. Perhaps the Vice President and some of the foreign Ambassadors hear the speech, but nobody else does. Having attended every inauguration since and including that of McKinley, I feel sure of my ground in saying that not a dozen men have ever heard a Presidential inaugural address.

As opposed to today, when we can hear presidential inaugurations but often wish we hadn’t.

The 1921 article also noted that the vice president was inaugurated in the Senate chamber, not on the Capitol steps as occurs today. That changed in 1937, during the second inaugural of Franklin D. Roosevelt with Vice President John Nance Garner.

 

False Splendor of Past Inaugurals (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 23, 1921

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Written by Jesse

January 24th, 2021 at 8:01 am

Posted in History,Politics

Our Japanese Question

In 1921, a Harvard government professor warned that “There has never been a time of such uneasy and hostile feeling between the two nations” of the U.S. and Japan. 20 years later came Pearl Harbor.

Albert Bushnell Hart noted that the animosity was a relatively recent development:

Can two countries be found with a longer record of international friendship? For half a century Japan has welcomed Americans, while the United States has been a land of pilgrimage for Japanese. The two countries have also been bound together by eight successive commercial treaties, and the United States in 1804 was the first nation to accept Japan as a full member of the family of nations.

The tension in 1921 primarily related to certain U.S. states’ restrictions on Japanese immigrants’ rights:

California by statute, and also by a recent referendum, has prohibited aliens who are not capable of becoming citizens (that is, in effect, Chinese and Japanese) from holding land directly or through forms of trust. Whether a State may legally thus discriminate between aliens is not yet settled by the courts, though there are precedents.

Here then is the case in a nutshell. The National Government prohibits Chinese immigration but not Japanese. It restricts Japanese immigration by a roundabout and makeshift method which allows thousands to sift through. The Pacific States are powerless to shut these people out, but are alarmed at their acquirement of lands, as an evidence of intention to form a permanent settlement. The Japanese Government dislikes any restriction, and formally protests against treatment of Japanese which is not precisely the same as that of other immigrants.

The issue wouldn’t be resolved legally for 27 years, until 1948’s case Oyama v. California — and even then, it would only be partially resolved.

Kajiro Oyama, a Japanese citizen living in the U.S., became de facto owner of California land which had technically been purchased in the name of his six-year-old son Fred, a U.S. citizen through birthright citizenship. The California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the state’s law, declaring Oyama’s purchase an illegal evasive maneuver intended to circumvent the state’s ban on Japanese immigrants owning land. The Harry Truman administration disagreed and appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 6-3 in Oyama’s favor, finding that California’s law indeed violated the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause rights of six-year-old Fred, an American citizen.

However, there was a catch. The Court’s stances on issues related to the Japanese back then was firmly rooted in an antagonist World War II-era sentiment. Four years earlier, in 1944, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Japanese internment in Korematsu v. U.S., which the Court didn’t formally overrule until 2018. So in a sly bit of legal maneuvering, while the Court ruled in Oyama’s favor for this specific case, they declined to actually invalidate or overturn California’s law outright. That wouldn’t occur until the California Supreme Court — which, keep in mind, had found against Oyama back in 1946 — reversed itself and declared the state law unconstitutional in a subsequent unrelated 1952 case. The California government itself formally repealed the law in 1956.

On a federal level, it wasn’t until Congress enacted 1952’s McCarran-Walter Act that Japanese immigrants were allowed to become U.S. citizens. The law also simultaneously upheld America’s quotas for immigration based on nation of origin, which weren’t discontinued until the Immigration Act of 1965.

To be fair, while all this did contribute to escalating tensions between the U.S. and Japan, none of this directly caused the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor. Instead, the preemptive assault on a major U.S. naval base intended to hobble America’s potential deterrance capabilities in the Pacific, paving the way for Japan to carry out its planned aggressions against Pacific territories of the United Kingdom and Netherlands.

Still, these other tensions probably didn’t help matters. You don’t go to war against your friends.

 

Our Japanese Question (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 16, 1921

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Written by Jesse

January 17th, 2021 at 11:06 am

New Forest Chief on Saving Our Forests

In 1921, the U.S. Forest Service director said he wanted to protect America’s forests. He succeeded.

The 1920s were the first decade in American history where total forest acres increased (slightly). The number has remained roughly steady ever since.

This graph from ThoughtCo., using data from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, tells the tale.

In this 1921 interview, William B. Greeley warned that forests shouldn’t be depleted, because demand for wood and lumber would still remain. If anything, given population growth, it would likely increase.

“This use cannot be appreciably reduced without serious injury to our agriculture, home building and manufacturing. We cannot cut per capita consumption — amounting to about 300 board feet yearly — to the level of European countries, where lumber is a luxury, if our resources are to be developed and our industrial supremacy maintained.”

The current chief of the U.S. Forest Service is Vicki Christiansen. Today the service is best known for their mascot Smokey Bear and the iconic slogan “Only you can prevent wildfires!” (Before 2001, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”)

 

New Forest Chief on Saving Our Forests (PDF)

Published: Sunday, January 2, 1921

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Written by Jesse

January 2nd, 2021 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Nature,Politics

Cox or Harding?: Each Answers the Question for the New York Times

The Sunday before Election Day 1920, the New York Times asked both presidential candidates for a short essay explaining why they deserved the White House. Here’s what they each wrote, and how their promises stack up in 2020.

Democratic candidate and Ohio Gov. James M. Cox:

There has been no time in the history of the United States in which a political party presented more of a non-partisan appeal than does the Democratic Party in 1920.

That is definitely not true of the Democratic Party in 2020 — nor, to be fair, is it true of the Republicans. Which exact party/year combo had the most nonpartisan appeal in American history can be debated, but it’s surely in the past, rather than the present or future. Alas.

The election of one man or the other, the choice between one party and the other, is of little consequence except for the purpose of securing the earliest affirmative action.

Cox here did not use “affirmative action” to mean racial preferences, as the term is used today. According to Merriam-Webster, the phrase was first used in that context in 1961. Instead, Cox referred to the U.S. potentially entering the League of Nations, the international organization created in 1920 in hopes of preventing another world war. Although Democratic President Woodrow Wilson was one of the League’s architects, the Senate would never officially approve U.S. membership, fearing encorachment on American sovereignty.

Republican candidate and Ohio Sen. Warren G. Harding:

Most of their [the Democratic Party’s] attention has been spent upon an insolent suggestion that America shall accept without change of form a membership in a particular League of Nations, as to which Americans were not consulted, and which they have long ago rejected. The election of a Democratic President, provided he kept faith with his program, would mean four more years in which a President and the representatives of the people would each be able to block action upon the part of the other.

At the time, the idea that the Senate constituted “the representatives of the people” was a fairly new concept. Senators were only elected by the popular vote nationwide starting in 1914.

The American people, therefore, will turn to the Republican Party because it offers assurance of an end of wasteful, willful and inefficient government.

And government was never wasteful or inefficient ever again.

 

Cox or Harding – Each Answers the Question for The New York Times (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 31, 1920

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Written by Jesse

October 29th, 2020 at 8:01 am

Posted in Politics

Dead Letters Among the Laws

In 1920, it became illegal to drink alcohol. But during ancient Greek times, at certain celebrations it was illegal to be sober. How far we’d come.

From a 1920 New York Times article:

Laws which have been nominally enforced for decades have became dead letters, some of them without going through the form of repeal. Is it any wonder that the cynics among us are speculating whether prohibition will fall into this class?

Today, with the Volstead Act [the main law enforcing Prohibition] trying to be effective, it is refreshing to recall that at certain Bacchanalian festivals in pagan Greece it was a punishable offense not to be drunk, because a state of sobriety showed gross lack of reverence for the god of the grape.

Prohibition did “fall into this class” of largely unenforced laws, but it didn’t remain a dead letter permanently, getting repealed in 1933.

When a law is a dead letter, it can be funny. The real problem is when these troublesome vestigal laws are enforced.

In my home state of Virginia, a state law dating back decades still required couples to each fill out their race when applying for a marriage license — with the listed race options including such bygone terms as Aryan, quadroon, octoroon, and moor. In 2019, after three engaged Virginia couples filed a lawsuit against the state, the law was struck down as unconstitutional.

 

Dead Letters Among the Laws (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 24, 1920

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Written by Jesse

October 23rd, 2020 at 10:51 am

Posted in Life,Politics

How Woman Goes to Vote

When women could first vote in 1920, the resulting atmospheric changes at polling locations included no more fights, profanity, or smoking.

“And no trouble, never no trouble any more,” the Veteran regretted. “In the old days we could always run in a couple of guys, there was always rows. There’s nothing doing any more. Since the women’s been mixing in, politics ain’t the same.”

….

The proceedings everywhere had a most domestic flavor. Parenthetically it may be recorded that not a bit of profanity did [people] hear all evening, and in only one place did they see an election official smoking. “And he’s an old man — been with the party for years,” an official hastened to explain.

In 2020, you never really see physical fights or smoking at polling locations, and any profanity is surely murmured under one’s breath rather than shouted loud. Another change at polling locations from a century ago is the NRA-inspired prevalence in recent years and decades of open carry laws. According to an August article from the National Confederence of State Legislatures, 11 states explicitly ban guns and other weapons at polling places. That number is apparently now 12, since just yesterday Michigan joined their ranks.

In other words, 38 states have no such explicit ban — including a surprising number of blue states such as Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont, New York, Illinois, Washington, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut. And the list of states which have instituted such a ban includes such surprising red or red-adjacent states as Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas.

 

How Woman Goes to Vote: Her Ways at Polling Places, as Observed in the Recent Registration Lines (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 17, 1920

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Written by Jesse

October 17th, 2020 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Politics

Changing Fashions in Presidential Campaigns

At some point, the presidential “campaign biography” gave way to the “campaign autobiography.” 1920 fell between those two eras, with this contemporary article noting the demise of the former though the latter hadn’t yet become the norm.

From 1920:

At least four of these campaign biographies were written by authors of standing. No less a man of letters than Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote the campaign life of Franklin Pierce in 1852; William Dean Howells prepared in 1860 a campaign life of Lincoln, and in 1876 a campaign life of Hayes; and in 1888 Lew Wallace [a biography of Benjamin Harrison]. There were a host of others in other elections, [including] E.D. Mansfield’s Scott, W.A. Crafts’ Grant, James S. Brisbin’s Garfield, G.F. Parker’s Cleveland, B. Andrews’s McKinley, [and] R.L. Metcalf’s Bryan.

At some point, that morphed into the modern-day tradition of the campaign autobiography. At what point did this change?

While a few presidents before 1920 had written autobiographies, such as Ulysses S. Grant, they were generally written after their presidency had concluded. John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage was released in 1956, four years prior to his successful 1960 presidential run, but that book was about other people rather than himself. (And besides, it was actually primarily written by Kennedy’s speechwriter Ted Sorensen.)

It appears the autobiography trend may have started when Jimmy Carter released Why Not the Best? in 1975, in preparation for his successful 1976 run, as Carter hoped to boost his then-little-known national profile. Others followed suit: George W. Bush released A Charge to Keep in 1999, in preparation for his successful 2000 run, while Barack Obama released The Audacity of Hope in 2006, in preparation for his successful 2008 run.

In the past few years, though, the trend has become a full-scale onslaught.

Within two years prior to their 2016 runs, Hillary Clinton published Hard Choices, Bernie Sanders published Outsider in the White House, Donald Trump published not one but two books (Time to Get Tough and Crippled America), Ted Cruz published A Time for Truth, Marco Rubio published American Dreams, and Rand Paul published Taking a Stand, among others.

Same thing in 2020. Within two years prior to their 2020 runs, Joe Biden published Promise Me, Dad; Kamala Harris published The Truths We Hold, Bernie Sanders published Where We Go From Here, Elizabeth Warren published This Fight Is Our Fight, Cory Booker published United, Pete Buttigieg published Shortest Way Home, Amy Klobuchar published The Senator Next Door, and Andrew Yang published The War on Normal People.

And without books by presidential candidates, how else could we get such intellectual thought-provoking passages as this one from Donald Trump in The Art of the Deal: “I punched my music teacher because I didn’t think he knew anything about music.”

 

Changing Fashions in Presidential Campaigns (PDF)

Published: Sunday, October 10, 1920

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Written by Jesse

October 8th, 2020 at 11:01 am

Posted in Politics

The Anonymous Roosevelt

As an ex-president, Theodore Roosevelt wrote an anonymous monthly column for one of America’s biggest magazines, Ladies’ Home Journal, under the recurring column title “Men.”

His authorship wasn’t revealed until 1920, after Roosevelt’s death, by the 30-year editor of Ladies’ Home Journal Edward Bok in his autobiography The Americanization of Edward Bok: The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years After. The next year, the book would win the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.

As this book excerpt which ran in the New York Times Magazine told:

It was natural that the appearance of a department devoted to men in a woman’s magazine should attract immediate attention. The department took up the various interests of a man’s life, such as real efficiency; his duties as an employer and his usefulness to his employes [sic]; the employe’s attitude toward his employer; the relations of men and women; a father’s relation to his sons and daughters; a man’s duty to his community; the public school system; a man’s relation to his church, and kindred topics.

Reader speculation regarding the author’s identity centered on either popular minister Lyman Abbott or former 40-year Harvard President Charles William Eliot. According to Bok, “In not a single instance was his [Roosevelt’s] name connected.”

Roosevelt once said of Bok, “[He] is the only man I ever heard of who changed, for the better, the architecture of an entire nation.”

Now if only we could find out who wrote the anonymous New York Times op-ed “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”

 

The Anonymous Roosevelt (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 26, 1920

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Written by Jesse

September 23rd, 2020 at 10:21 am

Posted in Journalism,Politics

Party Allegiance as Good Citizenship

In 1920, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Robert von Moschzisker argued that America had become too big to govern effectively without political parties.

To my mind, the maintenance of the present system and the development of party fealty are matters of prime importance at this time in America. How, with our vast electorate, scattered over a wide domain, can any issue of general interest be determined other than by a systematic method of educating, and registering the will of, the people? If democratic government, by majority rule under constitutional restrictions, is accepted as right, then it is almost incomprehensible how the scheme can be carried out in any really big and intelligent way other than through party sponsorships. If we abandon that system, and divide into political groups according to special interests, or our liking for or antipathy to candidates, on our acceptance or rejection of their personal views on minor issues, it will become practically impossible for a multitudinous people like ourselves intelligently to determine at the polls any issue which requires consideration by the whole electorate.

One wonders whether he would still agree in 2020. The political parties have become polarized and uncooperative at an unprecedented level, perhaps irreparably. (Not to mention untethered from reality — on both sides.) In 1998 almost every Republican voted to impeach Bill Clinton while almost every Democrat voted not to, then in 2019 almost every Democrat voted to impeach Donald Trump while literally every Republican voted not to. Political parties increasingly seem less a force for “good” and more a force for just “cohesion.”

Maybe the answer is to keep the party system, but just have more parties to choose from. A 2018 Gallup poll found 57 percent of respondents say a major third party is needed, including 72 percent of independents and a record high 54 percent of Democrats, though only 38 percent of Republicans.

Line graph. Independents are consistently the most likely partisan group to support a third major political party.

 

Party Allegiance as Good Citizenship (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 19, 1920

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Written by Jesse

September 18th, 2020 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Politics

The First Woman President

Weeks after women gained the right to vote, a satirical column predicted a future female president since “Millions of us men will be compelled to vote for her with the threat of losing our home-brewed meals if we don’t.”

In 1920, the country was still 12 years away from its first elected female senator, Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas, and a full 54 years away from its first elected female governor, Ella Grasso of Connecticut. With such concepts laughable at the time, this column suggested a female president “will commemorate the triumph of the soprano over the baritone.”

The column also suggests that a female president would care little for any policies beyond “women’s issues,” with the leader taking “the oath in which she will promise on her sacred impulses to love, honor, and obey the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution and the rest of the document if the plot suits her.”

After all:

Nothing is too fantastic or improbable for the mind of woman. This constitutes her grandeur. She is a poet. She waves facts aside with the same disdain that a male Congressman waves aside intellectual honesty.

What she feels constitutes the truth. Historical facts are of no more importance to her than last year’s hat bill. Justice is getting what she wants. Logic is a mere instrument to prove the invulnerability of her prejudices.

The author also implies that men would vote for the first female presidential nominee against their will because “Millions of us men will be compelled to vote for her with the threat of losing our home-brewed meals and other things if we don’t.” In fact, the opposite occurred. In 2016, when the first major-party female presidential nominee ran in the form of Hillary Clinton, the gender gap in candidate preference was the widest in the history of the polling dating back to 1972, at 24 percent. Men, clearly, didn’t care about the possibility of losing their home-brewed meals.

 

The First Woman President (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 5, 1920

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Written by Jesse

September 6th, 2020 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Future,Politics

Harding, Baseball Fan

Future President Warren Harding’s “front porch campaign” of 1920 rendered him unable to attend a Major League Baseball game, as he usually did each summer. So on September 2, they brought a game to him.

The Chicago Cubs came to Harding’s hometown of Marion, Ohio to play an exhibition game against a semi-pro local team, the Kerrigan Tailors. With 5,000 in attendance, Harding pitched for the Tailors against the first (and only the first) opposing batter, including a first pitch strike as determined by “a charitable umpire.” The Cubs won 3-1.

A few weeks prior, Harding explained his love of the sport in this New York Times article:

“Baseball is one of our finest institutions… No other sport of which I know so well expresses the genius of our land. It affords every opportunity to express the individual merit of particular stars, and yet it does not glorify the individual unduly at the expense of the community. The dominant motive is teamwork. It affords an apotheosis for the get-together and pull-together spirit. It is a wonderful curative for the ills that come from the overdevelopment of the ego.”

He also invested in more than half a dozen baseball teams:

“In former years when Marion had a ball club I was always interested in it financially, although we never made any money and from the mere standpoint of the ledger it might have been called a loss. Although I never got back directly any of the money that I invested in Marion ball clubs, I never considered the money lost. I always considered it a finer investment than I might have made in some other enterprises which would have paid a more tangible profit.”

Harding also recalled his own personal best baseball play:

Then along late in the game I had the misfortune to knock a two-bagger. At least the coaches along the sidelines insisted it was a two-bagger, and even yet I can hear the yells that greeted me as I started to run. It was made very plain to me that the fate of Marion and perhaps even my own future right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness depended upon my reaching second base. I did reach second base, but at what a cost! I felt the effects of that slide for two weeks.”

The incumbent president has an interesting history with the sport.

Donald Trump claimed that in high school he was the best baseball player in New York state and was scouted by the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, but Slate investigation of contemporary box scores and interviews with former teammates found most of Trump’s claims false. Trump wasbooed by fans at Nationals Park when attending a World Series game in 2019. And he is currently the first president not to throw out a first pitch at a Major League Baseball game since William Howard Taft in 1910. (Although Trump did throw out an honorary first pitch pre-presidency, at a 2006 Yankees vs. Red Sox game at Fenway Park.)

 

Harding, Baseball Fan: Republican Nominee Has Played First Base on the Marion Team, and Helped Support It Later — He Loves the Partisanship of the Diamond (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 8, 1920

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Written by Jesse

August 13th, 2020 at 7:01 am

Posted in Politics,Sports

Campaigning from Porch and Stump

1920 Republican presidential candidate Warren Harding was accused of holding few true political beliefs:

When one speaks of Harding, of course, one means the unincorporated syndicate that goes by that name, headed by Senator Lodge and consisting of perhaps a dozen members of the Senate, including the one from Ohio, Mr. Harding… When Harding speaks one can see the vocal cords moving in the throat of the Senate, as happens sometimes with amateur ventriloquists. So, it may be, would be the case if Senator Harding became President Harding. It is what he means and they mean by “plural government,” though, of course, the President would have a voice in the caucus, as, indeed, he has now.

Harding won in a landslide, one of only four presidential elections in the past century in which the winner received at least 60 percent of the popular vote. Maybe it was that very vagueness which helped him. As another New York Times article that year said of Harding:

“It is complained that the President is too verbose and too vague. But this is … to miss entirely the point of popular acceptance. In the President’s misty language the great majority see a reflection of their own indeterminate thoughts.”

Clearly, the American public felt differently with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s version of Alexander Hamilton, who in the song The Election of 1800 declared his preference for a presidential candidate with concrete opinions, even ones he vehemently disagreed with, rather than a blank slate:

The people are asking to hear my voice

The country is facing a difficult choice

And if you were to ask me who I’d promote

Jefferson has my vote

I have never agreed with Jefferson once

We have fought on like seventy-five different fronts

But when all is said and all is done

Jefferson has beliefs… Burr has none

 

 

Campaigning from Porch and Stump (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 1, 1920

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Written by Jesse

July 30th, 2020 at 10:23 am

Posted in Politics

The Party of Discontent

Would a third party candidate spoil the 1920 presidential election?

At least three presidential elections in the past three decades alone were very likely altered by third-party candidates:

  1. 1992: Independent candidate Ross Perot earned 19.7 million votes, mostly from Republican George H.W. Bush, likely tipping the election to Democrat Bill Clinton.
  2. 2000: Green Party candidate Ralph Nader earned 2.8 million votes, mostly from Democrat Al Gore, likely tipping the election (particularly the results in Florida) to Republican George W. Bush.
  3. 2016: Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein jointly combined for 5.9 million votes, primarily from Democrat Hillary Clinton (particularly in Stein’s case). Shifting a combined 80,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin would have lost Republican Donald Trump the election.

This 1920 New York Times Magazine article considered the possibility that Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs could throw the election. They drew a comparison to the at-the-time-well-recalled 1892 race:

In one memorable year, 1892, the discontented were chiefly Republicans, and in the West they voted for the Populist candidate, James B. Weaver, while in the East they stayed home in such large numbers as to elect a Democratic President [Grover Cleveland]. In recent years they have voted for Debs, without the slightest regard to his principles and solely by way of protest. This year, thanks to [Farmer–Labor Party presidential nominee Parley] Christensen’s nomination, neither party will be hurt more than the other.

Indeed, neither major party was disproportionately hurt that year. Harding won the election with a commanding 404-127 Electoral College margin and 60.3 percent of the popular vote, while Debs won 3.4 percent and Christensen won 1.0 percent of the popular vote – and neither won any electoral votes. It’s hard to claim that either Debs or Christensen changed the election result.

However, neither Perot, Nader, Johnson, nor Stein won a single electoral vote either, yet are widely considered to have changed the election result. What’s the difference? The close margins of those elections. Since this article was published in 1920, only three different third-party candidates have won so much as a single electoral vote, yet the margins were decisive enough among the two main candidates that none of them proved to be spoilers.

  1. 1924: Progressive Party candidate Robert La Follette won 13 electoral votes, though Calvin Coolidge won a commanding 382-136 Electoral College victory over John W. Davis.
  2. 1948: States’ Rights Democrat (Dixiecrat) candidate Strom Thurmond won 39 electoral votes, though Harry Truman won a commanding 308-139 Electoral College victory over Thomas Dewey. Thurmond likely took more votes away from Truman, meaning Thurmond’s candidacy didn’t change the election result so much as prevent Truman from winning by an even larger margin.
  3. 1968: American Independent Party candidate George Wallace won 46 electoral votes, but in an echo of two decades prior, Wallace’s candidacy didn’t change the election result so much as prevent Richard Nixon from winning by even more than his actual 301-191 Electoral College margin.

(Libertarian Party presidential candidate John Hospers technically won a single electoral vote in 1972, but that was Virginia faithless elector Roger MacBride, who was supposed to vote for Richard Nixon as his state had.)

As for 2020, neither Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgensen nor Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins appear to be making as much of a splash as their 2016 predecessors, at least so far. And no other candidate has announced who plausibly seems like they could even attain 1 percent of the vote, for now.

 

The Party of Discontent (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 25, 1920

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Written by Jesse

July 25th, 2020 at 9:01 am

Posted in History,Politics

Harding and the Front Porch Plot

In 1920, Warren Harding ran the last true “front porch campaign,” a major party presidential candidate campaigning primarily from home… until Joe Biden for several months in 2020.

This 1920 New York Times article explains the rationale for Harding, the Republican nominee, in trying to replicate the successful 1896 front porch campaign of fellow Ohio Republican William McKinley. Many voters wanted a change after the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic and World War I both killed millions.

The determination to have Harding make a front porch campaign was deliberate and calculated. It was made because that kind of campaign would continually suggest McKinley. It was not because front porch campaigning is necessarily better than stump speaking. It was to emphasize as sharply as possible the break with the recent past and the return to the past of McKinley’s time.

Around 600,000 would gather on Harding’s property in Marion, Ohio to hear him speak during the campaign, in a town of only 30,000 residents. And it worked. While Harding did make occasional speeches elsewhere, he didn’t travel nearly as widely as Democratic challenger James Cox, who visited 36 of the 48 states at the time.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and associated shutdown, Democratic nominee Joe Biden didn’t make an in-person public appearance between March 15 and May 25. But appearing on camera from home, he reached audience numbers that Harding a century earlier could only dream of. 600,000 people is small compared to the millions who watched Biden’s virtual appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

This 1920 editorial cartoon by Clifford K. Berryman — not published in the New York Times — depicts that year’s Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs, who was imprisoned at the time for urging Americans to resist the draft into World War I. (That was a criminal offense thanks to the Sedition Act of 1918, but would be legal today.) Debs won 3.4% of the popular vote, though no electoral votes. His sentence was commuted in 1921 by — who else? — President Harding, who met with Debs on his way home from jail.

File:EugeneDebs.gif

Harding and the Front Porch Plot (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 18, 1920

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Written by Jesse

July 16th, 2020 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Politics

The Vice Presidency Comes to the Fore

“The two parties in 1920… have both nominated men of Presidential stature for Vice President,” a New York Times article that summer read. Those two men were FDR and Calvin Coolidge, who would both become president. In fact, 1920 is the only year in American history when both major-party vice presidential nominees later became president.

In fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of only two losing vice presidential nominees of a major party to later ascend to the presidency. The other: John Tyler, who lost in 1836 as a Whig Party running mate for Hugh Lawson White, but would later be elected vice president in 1840 on the Whig Party ticket behind William Henry Harrison.

The article also stated: “To find a parallel to the present-day interest in both Roosevelt and Coolidge, one would have to hark back to 1884, when Logan and Hendricks ran for the same office.” Wait, who?

Former Indiana Senator and Governor Thomas Hendricks had previously been the 1876 Democratic vice presidential nominee behind New York Governor Samuel Tilden. The ticket won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College. Hendricks was nominated for vice president again in 1884 behind another New York governor, Grover Cleveland. Winning the White House this time, Hendricks only served about eight months before dying unexpectedly of natural causes. The vice presidency remained vacant for the remainder of Cleveland’s term.

Illinois Senator and former Civil War Union Army General John Logan ran as the Republican vice presidential nominee, behind former Maine Senator and former Secretary of State James G. Blaine.

Both Hendricks and Logan are largely forgotten today, neither having served as president — although Washington, D.C. residents know the latter as the namesake of the city’s neighborhood Logan Circle.

 

The Vice Presidency Comes to the Fore: Both Parties Have Broken With Tradition to the Extent of Picking Men of Positive Achievement Well Qualified for High Office (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 11, 1920

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Written by Jesse

July 11th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in History,Politics

That Ideal Campaign Front Porch

On the 1920 campaign trail, future President Warren G. Harding revealed his perfect formula for eating waffles:

You eat the first fourteen waffles without syrup, but with lots of butter. Then you put syrup on the next nine, and the last half-dozen you eat just simply swimming in syrup. Eaten that way, waffles never hurt anybody.

Actually, it did hurt somebody: Harding. His formula for the best way to eat 29 straight waffles may have contributed to his death by cardiac arrest three years later, as one of four presidents to die in office of natural causes.

 

That Ideal Campaign Front Porch: Candidate to Follow Example of McKinley, One of His Political Heroes – Mrs. Harding, “The Duchess,” as a Waffle-Maker (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 20, 1920

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Written by Jesse

June 18th, 2020 at 10:19 am

Posted in Food,Life,Politics