Topics in the News
After the Great War: Isolationism and the Treaty of Versailles
The Stage Is Set.
As the 1920s began, the United States still struggled to bring World War I to an official end. Although the actual fighting had ceased in November 1918 and peace negotiations had been concluded during the spring of 1919, the U.S. Senate had not ratified the Treaty of Versailles—the peace agreement the Allies forced on a defeated Germany. The Senate's failure to ratify the treaty was testimony to bitter divisions over the controversial peace agreement. President Woodrow Wilson, who had negotiated the treaty, was paralyzed, having suffered two debilitating strokes in late 1919, and was unable to spearhead a campaign for its passage. The fate of the treaty rested with a divided Senate, which had failed to produce the two-thirds majority needed for ratification on its first vote, taken on 19 November 1919.
Wilson had supported the entry of the United States into the European war primarily in the hope of influencing the peace that followed. Yet in January 1919, when he faced his allies—Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Great Britain, Premier Georges Clemenceau of France, and Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando of Italy—at the peace conference in Paris, he learned that they had a vision of a peace radically different from his own. The European leaders planned to reap the traditional spoils of war and...
(The entire section is 1174 words.)
After the Great War: Antiradicalism and the Red Scare
The Palmer Raids.
The xenophobia that underlay immigration restrictions and the revitalization of the Ku Klux Klan was also apparent in the Red Scare of 1920. On 2 January 1920 federal agents under the direction of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer raided pool halls, restaurants, and private homes in thirty-three American cities, arresting more than four thousand alleged radicals or communists, often without proper warrants. Arrested radicals who lacked citizenship papers were held for de portation hearings. Known as the Palmer Raids, this onslaught against civil liberties marked the height of a government campaign begun in 1919 to fight a perceived "red menace" that many believed to be a threat to American democracy.
Fear of Communism.
After the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, an unprecedented fear of radicalism gripped the United States. In March 1919 news that the Third Communist International was encouraging its members to foment global revolution compounded Americans' fears. By 1920 there were three rival American Communist parties—the Proletarian Party and two opposing factions both calling themselves the Communist Labor Party. These parties remained small but vocal. Together, the widespread fear of communism and the mere existence of Communist parties in the United States provided ammunition for Americans who...
(The entire section is 596 words.)
After the Great War: Nativism
Fear and Resentment.
In the shaky peacetime economy that followed the Great War in Europe, Americans, especially organized labor, feared economic competition from immigrants, who willingly worked for low wages. White Protestants resented the flood of Catholics and Jews from southern and eastern Europe into the United States. Prohibitionists condemned the drinking habits of most immigrants. Many Americans distrusted foreigners in general, perceiving them as stereotypical anarchists bent on importing communism and destroying Americans' freedom. Although the United States already restricted Asian immigration, it had always had an open-door policy in regard to the European immigrants. In the 1920s, Americans' anxieties about foreigners resulted in the first European-immigration laws, designed to keep potential troublemakers out of the country.
Congress readily accommodated constituents who clamored for immigration restrictions. In 1921 Republican senators Hiram Johnson of California and Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts led congressional passage of an emergency immigration restriction act that established a limit of 355,000 European immigrants per year. Each nation was given a quota equal to 3 percent of the foreign-born persons from that country in the United States at the time of the 1910 census. This first...
(The entire section is 488 words.)
After the Great War: Nativism And The Ku Klux Klan
A Revitalized Klan.
Immigration restriction was not the only visible symptom of nativism during the 1920s. The decade also witnessed the revival of the long-dormant Ku Klux Klan, founded during Reconstruction to intimidate African Americans newly freed from slavery. In 1915 William J. Simmons reorganized the fraternal order in Atlanta, Georgia, and hailed its mission as the defense of "comprehensive Americanism." Following World War I the newly organized Klan spread across the United States. Membership increased rapidly, mushrooming to 4.5 million in 1924, when the organization reached it zenith. Unlike the nineteenth-century Ku Klux Klan, which targeted its violence primarily against African Americans and their scarce white allies in the South, the resurgent Klan of the 1920s broadened its geographical scope and expanded its list of enemies. The Anglo-Saxon-glorifying, white supremacist organization lashed out at immigrants, especially Catholics and Jews, and any group that conflicted with the Klan's cherished beliefs in nativism, white supremacy, and Protestantism.
A New York World exposé on the Klan's violence, corruption, and religious intolerance was the catalyst for a House investigation that began in October 1921 and lasted just over a week. The House Rules Committee hearings evolved into a forum...
(The entire section is 690 words.)
After the Great War: The "Noble Experiment" Of Prohibition
The cultural diversity of Americans in the rapidly changing society of the 1920s power- fully manifested itself in the political conflicts associated with Prohibition, which divided Americans according to their religious beliefs, cultural practices, and residential patterns. For almost a century reformers had longed for implementation of this "Noble Experiment," which officially began on 16 January 1920, according to the provisions of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Protestant moralists viewed this ban on the production, transportation, and sale of intoxicating liquor in the United States as a progressive reform that would root out the sins associated with alcohol consumption. The Volstead Act, passed by Congress in September 1919 to codify the newly ratified constitutional amendment, defined "intoxicating liquor" as any beverage that contained as much as 0.5 percent alcohol (thus including beer as well as hard liquor in the forbidden category). The law permitted consumption of existing supplies of liquor for religious and medicinal purposes.
The Cultural Divide.
Political debate surrounding Prohibition did not cease with ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment, however, as the ban on alcohol consumption remained a divisive issue in every election until the nation abandoned the failed experiment in...
(The entire section is 935 words.)
Government and Business
Immediately following World War I the United States experienced a postwar boom, but in 1920-1921 this brief economic surge was followed by the sharpest shortterm recession in American history. Inflation remained under control despite an unemployment rate of 3-4 percent. Between 1922 and 1927 the economy grew at a rate of 7 percent per year. As the national industrial and manufacturing base produced more consumer goods, prosperity increasingly depended on consumption.
The Revival of Conservative Economics.
Politicians and business leaders of the 1920s resurrected the conservative economic philosophy that dominated the late nineteenth century. Government took a backseat while business drove the nation. Successful businessmen commanded enormous respect and deference, and their reputations as leaders outpaced those of politicians. President Calvin Coolidge sounded the theme for the decade in 1925, when he declared: "The business of America is business. The man who builds a factory builds a temple. The man who works there worships there." Businessmen often espoused the belief that their material success confirmed their innate ability to lead the rest of society. Conversely, they maintained that poverty was the consequence of squandered opportunities. Therefore, business leaders reasoned, the government should not...
(The entire section is 539 words.)
Government and the Farmers
The Farmers' Economic Travail.
The 1920s afforded unprecedented economic opportunities for many Americans, but not for the nation's farmers. They had enjoyed unusual prosperity during World War I, owing to the increased demand for American agricultural products in war-torn Europe, but in the 1920s they were plagued by low prices for agricultural products, high costs for producing these goods, and heavy debt. Increases in the American farmers' productivity created surpluses that drove commodity prices down and lowered their income. While prices for agricultural products remained low, costs for land, machinery, equipment, labor, transportation, and taxes were rising, creating greater disparity between a farmer's costs and income.
An Inaccurate Diagnosis.
The pervasive "farm problem" of the 1920s was complex. The market compensated a farmer's increased productivity and efficiency with a lower standard of living. Collectively, Americans devoted too many resources—land, labor, and capital—to agriculture. Consequently, the supply of agricultural products far outstripped the demand for them. The problem, however, is much easier to diagnose in retrospect than it was during the 1920s. Arguing that the problem with American agriculture was overproduction seemed paradoxical to contemporaries who closely associated the independent farmer with...
(The entire section is 984 words.)
National Politics: The 1920 Republican Nomination Race
As the party controlling the executive branch in 1920, the Democrats suffered the fallout from postwar restlessness. Moreover, Democratic presidential hopefuls hesitated to launch their candidacies, awaiting President Wood row Wilson's decision about seeking a third term. Not only were Democrats on the defensive but Republicans enjoyed momentum because they had gained congressional seats in the midterm elections of 1918. Given these advantages Republicans seemed poised for victory in 1920, but which Republican would occupy the Oval Office? The choice was not obvious, especially after former president Theodore Roosevelt's death in January 1919. The list of prominent Republicans vying for the nomination included Gen. Leonard Wood of New Hampshire, Sen. Hiram Johnson of California (Roosevelt's Progressive Party running mate in 1912), Gov. Frank O. Lowden of Illinois, Sen. Warren G. Harding of Ohio, and Gov. Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts. These candidates and others competed for delegates during the preconvention selection process.
In 1920 only twenty states held presidential preference primaries, and many of them did not bind delegates to the winner, but Republican Party primary voting still surpassed participation in the two previous presidential elections, The primary process yielded...
(The entire section is 1255 words.)
National Politics: The 1920 Democratic Nomination Race
The Democrats' greatest liability in 1920 was their two-term sitting president, Woodrow Wilson. Wilson's public support had dwindled with the conclusion of World War I and the ensuing chaos that enveloped Europe. The ongoing bitter struggle between Wilson and the Senate over the League of Nations heightened public dissatisfaction with the president and minimized the Democrats' opportunity for victory in November 1920. Furthermore, Wilson's ambivalence about seeking an unprecedented third term for himself complicated other candidates' decisions to pursue the office. Despite candid advice from close political friends who urged him not to seek reelection, Wilson refused to renounce the possibility. Thus, potential candidates, reluctant to challenge a sitting president from their own party, muddled through the nomination process, which produced little more than weak candidates with a small core of committed delegates.
Likely Democratic Contenders.
William Gibbs McAdoo, Wilson's son-in-law and secretary of the treasury, exemplified the hesitancy Wilson's indecision introduced to the campaign. While McAdoo neither entered primaries nor campaigned on the stump, he privately declared his intentions to run. As a "dry" southern liberal, McAdoo developed considerable support. Yet less than two weeks before the convention, McAdoo...
(The entire section is 997 words.)
National Politics: The 1920 Elections
Harding Campaigns on Image.
The Republicans' strategy reflected their growing confidence and the prevailing attitude that the 1920 election was theirs to lose. Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge conducted a low-risk campaign. Rather than center the campaign on debates over issues and jeopardize his front-runner status, Harding opted to campaign on his image, which was consistent with Americans' desires for peace and tranquillity. The major obstacle for Harding was his lack of a national reputation. Instead of taking to the time-honored stump to overcome this handicap, Harding campaigned from another favorite American icon—the front porch. He invited all interested Americans to his home in Marion, Ohio, and delegations of voters appeared there regularly. Drawing on his experience as a newspaper publisher, Harding successfully wooed the press. Nearly 90 percent of newspaper editors around the country supported him, and reporters regularly gave him favorable press.
Coolidge readily imitated Harding's campaign style, spending most of the campaign season conducting business as usual as governor of Massachusetts. In the fall he ventured briefly outside his home state. In late October, at the insistence of the Republican National Committee, Coolidge reluctantly made an eight-day tour through the South, where he sounded...
(The entire section is 505 words.)
National Politics: The 1922 Elections
Democratic Gains in Congress.
Following Harding's landslide victory in 1920, the Democrats' political future seemed bleak. But the Democrats rebounded in the next election. The postwar recession worsened in 1921 and 1922. Economic malaise, along with Harding's ineffectiveness and rifts between progressives and conservatives, weakened the Republicans' stronghold. Traditionally in midterm elections voters have favored the party out of power, and the 1922 election verified this generalization with a vengeance. Democrats retained all of their congressional seats and gained more than seventy seats formerly held by Republicans. No other midterm election had produced such a sizable victory for the party out of power. Republicans narrowly retained control of the House of Representatives.
Potential for the Future.
The 1922 gains foreshadowed future successes for Democrats, whose greatest support...
|Senate||67th Congress||68th Congress|
(The entire section is 285 words.)
National Politics: The 1924 Republican Nomination Race
Coolidge Meets the Progressive Challenge.
Calvin Coolidge had been president only a few months when the 1924 presidential campaign season began. Harding's unexpected death in August 1923 put Coolidge in the White House, but it did not earn him the confidence of the Republican old guard or the party's progressive senators. Coolidge used the presidential primaries as an opportunity to unite his party and solidify support for his nomination. Yet two Republican mavericks, Sen. Hiram Johnson of California and Sen. Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, complicated Coolidge's task. Both progressive senators challenged their party's incumbent president for the Republican nomination. Senator Johnson criticized the administration's tax-reduction plan, advised against involvement in the World Court, and advocated the termination of all immigration from Asia. Johnson's determined efforts, however, delivered him only one primary victory, in South Dakota. Coolidge even prevailed comfortably in Johnson's home state of California. While Johnson entered nearly every primary, La Follette selected his fights more judiciously. Running in only two states, La Follette defeated Coolidge in Wisconsin, La Follette's home state, and the progressive senator placed second among the three contenders in North Dakota. Besides the progressive challenge Coolidge also had to contend with repercussions from the Teapot Dome...
(The entire section is 678 words.)
National Politics: The 1924 Democratic Nomination Race
Trouble for the Democrats.
In the early months of the campaign season Democrats eagerly anticipated recapturing the presidency, especially since President Harding, a well-loved Republican, had died and the Teapot Dome scandal promised to taint the Republican Party. The Democrats' hopes waned as Coolidge successfully distanced himself from the scandal, and their leading candidate, William McAdoo—President Wilson's treasury secretary and son-in-law—became more closely associated with the scandal, as well as with the Ku Klux Klan. Democratic success in 1924 depended on party unity, but Democrats could not find a single issue that could bring together the party's disparate constituents. Prohibition loomed as one divisive issue. "Wets" and "dries" each had a candidate who shared their views. The increasingly prominent Ku Klux Klan attracted many Democrats but repelled many others. As was evident in the 1922 election, Democrats were gaining voters in large urban areas. These new urbanités, however, clashed with the party's established rural base.
(The entire section is 1440 words.)
National Politics: The Progressive Party, 1924
A Third-Party Challenge.
While Sen. Robert La Follette of Wisconsin lacked the political support to keep the Republican Party from nominating Coolidge, he had the support to challenge Coolidge and Davis in the general election as a third-party candidate. La Follette bolted the Republican Party and ran as the Progressive Party candidate with Sen. Burton K. Wheeler, a Democrat from Montana, as his running mate. Different from Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party of 1912, La Follette's Progressive Party, founded in 1924, was the out-growth of the progressive activism of the Committee of Forty-Eight, a political action group formed in 1919, and the Conference for Progressive Political Action. The new Progressive Party was a coalition of organized labor, farm groups, Socialists, and independent radicals, all of whom were dissatisfied with the two mainstream parties, which had both nominated conservative candidates. La Follette and the Progressives strove to unite workers from the factory and the farm.
The party platform reflected the Progressives' strident opposition to monopolies and embraced popular progressive causes such as public ownership of water power, nationalization of the railroads, direct election of the president, increased taxes on wealth, termination of child labor, and popular election of judges (because the...
(The entire section is 494 words.)
National Politics: The 1924 Elections
Coolidge's Quiet Campaign.
As in 1920 Coolidge stayed close to home and ran a low-key campaign. Rather than engage Davis and La Follette in debates on particular issues, Coolidge preferred to campaign on general principles such as economy in government. When Coolidge did not speak in generalities, he did not speak. Silence became a major part of his strategy, as he essentially ignored both the issues and his opponents. He left the hardcore campaigning to his running mate, Charles Dawes, whose direct and competitive style often led to conflict, especially with La Follette, who became Dawes's favorite target after early polls indicated La Follette was ahead of Davis in California and a Literary Digest postcard canvass, hardly an accurate poll, showed strong support for La Follette throughout the nation. Dawes willingly engaged in demagoguery, falsely associating La Follette with communism.
The Democrats' problems persisted into the fall campaign. Not only was the party divided, but its conservative compromise candidate, John Davis, had difficulty distinguishing himself from Coolidge. Davis endorsed "The American's Creed," which included Thomas Jefferson's maxim "that government is best which governs least," a sentiment popular with businessmen
(The entire section is 592 words.)
National Politics: The 1926 Elections
Minimal House Losses for the Republicans.
Even though Republicans emerged from the midterm elections with a smaller majority in the House of Representatives, President Calvin Coolidge insisted that he and his administration had not experienced a political setback. After all, midterm reverses for the party in power were common and expected, and the probusiness Republicans had suffered their fewest losses of the decade.
Significant Senate Losses.
The most significant change resulting from the midterm elections came in the Senate, where Democrats gained seven seats. The most embarrassing for Coolidge was the defeat in Massachusetts of Sen. William Butler by Democrat David Walsh, Butler, from Coolidge's home state, was the only candidate for whom the president campaigned personally. Yet Coolidge argued that personal and local concerns, rather than national issues, determined the outcome of this and the other Senate races in which Republicans fared poorly. Despite their gains the Democrats were still short of the majority they needed to take control of the Senate, but the increased Democratic presence effectively neutralized the Republicans' ability to push their legislative agenda. An opposition coalition of Democrats, Farmer-Laborite Henrik Shipstead of Minnesota, and a half-dozen Republican insurgents presented potential trouble for...
(The entire section is 237 words.)
National Politics: The 1928 Republican Nomination Race
Coolidge Rules Out Renomination.
"I do not choose to run for President in 1928," President Coolidge announced in a statement issued in August 1927. His decision was hard to understand given the popularity of the
|Senate||69th Congress||70th Congress||Net Gain/Loss|
(The entire section is 595 words.)
National Politics: The 1928 Democratic Nomination Race
The Obvious Candidate.
As Democrats prepared for the 1928 presidential campaign, divisions within their party were as deep as they had been in the previous presidential election. Once again the party was divided into rural versus urban, wet versus dry, and Catholic versus Protestant. Increasingly Democrats depended on the recent ethnic voters who resided primarily in large urban areas. The necessity of maintaining the loyalty of these voters made New York a must-win state for the Democrats, and this reality boosted the candidacy of Alfred E. "Al" Smith, the governor of that state. A leading contender in 1924, Smith used the recognition he had gained in that loss to launch a four-year campaign for the 1928 nomination. Smith organized his urban, wet, liberal forces early, working to avoid another 103-ballot, dead-locked convention. Smith was not unchallenged, but the opposing rural, dry, conservative forces lacked leadership. Many drys hoped William McAdoo would run, but the
(The entire section is 527 words.)
National Politics: The 1928 Elections
Besides needing to unite his own fractured party, Smith had the unenviable task of convincing Americans that in an era of unprecedented prosperity they should put a different party in control of the White House. Both of these challenges were complicated by Smith's background, religion, and opposition to Prohibition. Smith's wife, Katie, attracted considerable criticism for her lack of social grace and excessive talking, which tended to cause political trouble for her husband. For many voters, especially rural Democrats, Smith embodied the essence of what they perceived as a threat to America and its future: he was an Irish Catholic New Yorker with connections to the corrupt Tammany Hall political machine that ran New York City, and he favored the termination of Prohibition. For Americans who feared radicalism, sympathized with the anti-Catholicism of the Ku Klux Klan, supported immigration restrictions, and agreed with the "100 percent American" philosophy, Smith's credentials as a loyal, lifelong Democrat did little to win their support.
Campaigning on the Issues.
Smith conducted an issues-oriented campaign, and his stands worked against him. He endorsed open immigration at a time when the majority of Americans wanted the nation's doors closed, especially to non-Anglo-Saxon ethnic groups. The most promising tactic for...
(The entire section is 749 words.)
Rural and Urban Conflict: Congressional Reapportionment
Population Shift to the Cities.
The 1920 national census revealed that the population of the United States had increased by 14 million and that—for the first time in American history—the majority of Americans resided in urban rather than rural areas. The population of New York City had passed 7 million, and the population of Los Angeles had doubled since 1910, reaching more than 1.2 million. By 1929 ninety-three cities in the United States had populations exceeding 100,000. Approximately 6 million Americans moved from farms to urban areas during the 1920s. In that number were many African Americans, who left the segregated South in search of greater economic, personal, and political freedom in northern cities.
This population shift represented more than a demographic change. Economic, social, and political changes accompanied Americans' migration to cities. As urban areas grew and promoted their interests in the political arena, rural Americans, who had long considered themselves the custodians of traditional values, arose to defend their way of life against the perceived urban onslaught. Many of the political conflicts of the 1920s—over Prohibition, immigration restriction, the Ku Klux Klan, and agricultural subsidies—were framed by a rural/urban tension. For rural Americans the city symbolized all that...
(The entire section is 655 words.)
The Teapot Dome Scandal
Scandals in the Harding
Administration. Late in his presidency Warren G. Harding commented to journalist William Allen White that his enemies were not a problem, "but my damned friends … they're the ones that keep me walking the floor nights!" During the early 1920s Harding's cronies were involved in one scandal after another. Attorney General Harry Daugherty was caught accepting bribes from former clients to protect them from federal prosecution, and the Veterans' Bureau director, Charles Forbes, was jailed for fraud. The most sensational case of public corruption during the Harding administration was the Teapot Dome scandal, Contemporaries believed that this scandal, which involved public officials making secret deals for personal profit at public expense, epitomized politics of the 1920s. Many historians have blamed the flurry of public corruption in the 1920s on the excessive privileges granted to business by its friends in government.
What eventually mushroomed into a scandal of national proportion began as a conservation policy struggle within the Republican Party. During the prewar Progressive Era, reformers and conservationists, fearing the reduction of domestic oil supplies, tightened federal oil-leasing policies. Republican president William Howard Taft created two naval petroleum reserves in California...
(The entire section is 870 words.)
Coolidge, Calvin 1872-1933
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 1923-1929
Over the course of a quarter-century Calvin Coolidge successfully climbed the political ladder. Beginning in 1898 as city councilman of Northampton Massachusetts, he proceeded through local and state offices, finally reaching the White House in 1923. As governor of Massachusetts, Coolidge attracted national attention in 1919, when he called in the National Guard to end the Boston police strike, which had turned violent. Although it made him unpopular with Samuel Gompers and organized labor, Coolidge's strikebreaking endeared him to Americans who considered labor protests a radical threat to public safety.
Balancing the Ticket in 1920.
Coolidge's dramatic termination of the Boston police strike earned him national attention and sparked rumors about a presidential bid. He did not campaign vigorously in 1920, but his name was placed in nomination at the 1920 Republican National Convention that year, and he received thirty-four votes on the first ballot. The old-guard Republicans who helped to secure the presidential nomination for Warren G....
(The entire section is 367 words.)
Harding, Warren Gamaliel 1865-1923
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 1921-1923
Image Pop-UpWarren Gamaliel Harding
A Lovable President.
A former journalist and senator from Ohio, Warren G. Harding ushered in a decade of Republican ascendancy with his landslide election to the presidency in 1920. Republican hegemony lasted until 1932, when Americans finally rejected the laissez-faire Republican policies that had thrust them into the Great Depression, Unlike his Democratic predecessor, Woodrow Wilson, Harding was popular, personable, approachable, and loved by the American people. His down-home image was familiar to millions. Harding's popularity persisted despite attempts to arouse racist sentiment against him with accusations that his great-grandmother Elizabeth Madison was black and that his great-grandfather had African American ancestors. While these claims were never definitively verified, they were widely accepted in the South.
Politics of Normalcy.
Harding's 1920 presidential campaign popularized the term normalcy. In defining this concept Harding explained, "I don't mean the old order, but a regular steady order of things. I mean normal procedure, the...
(The entire section is 576 words.)
Hoover, Herbert 1874-1964
SECRETARY OF COMMERCE, 1921-1929
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 1929-1933
From Rags to Riches.
Herbert Hoover was one of the most admired public figures in the United States before his reputation was tarnished by the onset of the Great Depression during his presidency. Hoover's life seemed like that of a Horatio Alger hero. Son of an Iowa farmer and orphaned at age ten, Herbert Clark Hoover earned a degree from Stanford University, became a mining engineer, and was a self-made millionaire before he reached forty. During World War I he directed the Belgian Relief Commission and headed the U.S. Food Administration, an arm of Woodrow Wilson's war mobilization effort. Hoover spent most of the 1920s as secretary of commerce under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.
Secretary of Commerce.
Known to insiders as "Secretary of Commerce and Under Secretary of Everything Else," Hoover made Commerce one of the most active cabinet departments. Not a doctrinaire conservative like many other Republican cabinet officers of the decade, Hoover championed progressive...
(The entire section is 411 words.)
La Follette, Robert M. 1855-1925
UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM WISCONSIN, 19O6-1925
PROGRESSIVE PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, 1924
In 1906 Robert La Follette moved from the governor's office in Wisconsin, where he had served three two-year terms, to the United States Senate, where he served as an active member of the progressive wing of the Republican Party until his death in 1925. Resented by fellow Republican senators, La Follette constantly fought against privilege, corruption, and political bossism to produce a more viable and equitable democracy. Invariably defending unpopular positions, La Follette was often resented, even by those whose cause the senator believed he championed.
La Follette opposed entry into World War I, and after Wilson negotiated the peace, he led the hardcore resisters—known as "irreconcilables"—in opposition to ratification of the Treaty of Versailles, Sounding isolationist themes, La Follette argued that the treaty betrayed the powerless and served only as preparation for a future bloodbath. The document omitted Wilson's Fourteen Points, which had been the basis for American entry into the war. The treaty failed to liberate the victors' colonies, La Follette insisted, making a mockery of "self-determination." Moreover, La Follette completely distrusted...
(The entire section is 542 words.)
Mcadoo, William Gibbs 1863-1941
CANDIDATE FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION, 1920, 1924
Secretary of the Treasury.
Born in Georgia during the Civil War, William G. McAdoo received his college education at the University of Tennessee, became a lawyer, and left his native South, at age twenty-nine, for opportunities in New York, where he developed considerable experience as an attorney of high finance. Although never elected to public office, McAdoo's political activism began when he worked in Woodrow Wilson's 1910 campaign for governor of New Jersey and continued through Wilson's successful presidential bid in 1912. After winning the presidency Wilson appointed McAdoo as secretary of the treasury because the New York lawyer had financial expertise but was not tainted by Wall Street connections. McAdoo's most important responsibility was financing the war, a duty that ultimately made the treasury secretary unpopular with progressives when he endorsed a tax plan that drew heavily upon middle- and lower-class incomes. Overburdened by the stresses associated with his wartime responsibilities, McAdoo resigned his cabinet office when the European conflict ended.
Presidential Aspirations, 1920.
Since McAdoo was Woodrow Wilson's son-in-law and secretary of the treasury, many anticipated that he would become Wilson's political successor. But...
(The entire section is 641 words.)
Mellon, Andrew W. 1855-1937
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, 1921-1932
Millionaire Cabinet Secretary.
As President Warren Harding's secretary of the treasury, Andrew Mellon, a Pittsburgh multimillionaire, molded the relationship between government and business during the 1920s, a relationship that influenced politics throughout the decade. Before entering government service, Mellon had an exceptionally successful career as a financier in various businesses, including oil and aluminum. Harding appointed Mellon as treasury secretary on the advice of Philander Knox, a prominent Republican senator from Pennsylvania and a longtime friend of Mellon. Mellon's age, wealth, career banking experience, and conservative Republican connections suggested he would probably endorse traditional, old-line conservative policies, and he did.
Mellon's Economic Philosophy.
Committed to retrenchment and economy in government, Secretary of the Treasury Mellon reduced federal spending vigorously. He consistently opposed the veterans' bonus bill and the McNary-Haugen farm bills. But even more central to Mellon's financial vision than spending reduction was tax reduction, especially for the rich. Mellon rejected the progressive philosophy of taxation that insisted those Americans most able to pay should pay more taxes. Instead the he articulated a philosophy later known as...
(The entire section is 430 words.)
Smith, Alfred E. 1873-1944
NEW YORK GOVERNOR, 1919-1921, 1923-1929
DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT, 1928
Smith's Early Career.
With only an eighth-grade education, Alfred E. Smith, an Irish Catholic New Yorker raised in the Fourth Ward of the city's Lower East Side, entered the rough-and-tumble world of New York City politics as a Tammany Hall loyalist. He began his political career in 1903 as a representative in New York's state assembly. During his legislative career Smith earned a reputation as a hardworking, progressive legislator. In 1918 New York elected the aggressive politician as its governor. In 1920 Smith lost his reelection bid when the rising conservative, xenophobic tide swept Republicans into office in New York, as well as across the nation. But Smith easily recaptured the governorship in 1922 and served three consecutive terms following that victory.
While governor, Smith developed a reputation as a progressive reformer, Consistent with national progressive reform efforts to increase governmental efficiency, Smith reorganized New York's state...
(The entire section is 518 words.)
People in the News
On 15 January 1929 Sen. John J. B laine of Wisconsin, a progressive Republican, cast the only dissenting vote against the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which renounced war as a national policy. Blaine argued, "This pact commits our Nation to an impossible peace, unworthy of the traditions of America, and forgetful of that which made this Republic possible."
On 19 July 1928 Bishop James Cannon Jr. of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, pledged at the Southern Dry Democratic Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, to vote against and work against his party's presidential nominee, Alfred E. Smith, who took a "wet" stance on Prohibition.
On 28 March 1924 Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty, who had been indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government, resigned at President Coolidge's request.
On 14 June 1929 former vice president Charles G. Dawes arrived in London to begin his new position as American ambassador to Great Britain.
On 18 February 1924 Edwin Denby resigned as secretary of the navy under pressure from the Senate's investigation into the Teapot Dome scandal.
On 30 January 1925 Col. Charles R. Forbes, director of the Veterans' Bureau, was convicted of conspiracy to loot the funds of that agency. A Federal District Court judge fined him...
(The entire section is 977 words.)
Elias Milton Ammons, 64, governor (D) of Colorado (1913-1915), 20 May 1925.
Simeon Eben Baldwin, 86, governor (D) of Connecticut (1911-1915), associate justice (1893-1907) and chief justice (1907-1910) of Connecticut's Supreme Court, 30 January 1927.
Richard Achilles Ballinger, 63, secretary of the interior (1909-1911) under President William Howard Taft, 6 June 1922.
Thomas Walter Bickett, 42, governor (D) of North Carolina (1917-1921), 29 December 1921.
Horace Boies, 95, governor (D) of Iowa (1890-1894), 4 April 1923.
William Jennings Bryan, 65, representative (D) from Nebraska (1891—1895), Democratic presidential candidate (1896, 1900, 1908), 26 July 1925.
Joseph Gurney "Uncle Joe" Cannon, 90, representative (R) from Illinois (1873-1891, 1893-1913, 1915-1923), Speaker of the House (1903-1911), ousted as speaker for using autocratic methods to control House procedure, 12 November 1926.
Joseph Maull Carey, 79, senator (R) from Wyoming (1890-1895), governor (D) of Wyoming (1911-1915), 5 February 1924.
George Earle Chamberlain, 74, governor (D) of Oregon (1903-1909), senator (1909-1921), 9 July 1928.
James Beauchamp "Champ" Clark,...
(The entire section is 1255 words.)
Hayes Baker-Crothers, Problems of Citizenship (New York: Holt, 1924);
Nan Britton, The President's Daughter (New York: Elizabeth Ann Guild, 1927);
Nicholas Murray Butler, Faith of a Liberal: Essays and Addresses on Political Principles and Public Policies (New York: Scribners, 1924);
William Seal Carpenter, Democracy and Representation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1925);
Carrie Chapman Catt, Woman Suffrage and Politics: the Inner Story of the Suffrage Movement (New York: Scribners, 1923);
Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, 1929);
Albert Russell Ellingwood, Government and Labor (Chicago: A. W. Shaw, 1926);
Charles Norman Fay, Business in Politics: Suggestions for Leaders in American Business (Cambridge, Mass.: Cosmos Press, 1926);
Charles Grove Haines, Principles and Problems of Government (New York: Harper, 1926);
Florence Jaffray Harriman, From Pinafores to Politics (New York: Holt, 1923);
Frederic J. Haskin, American Government (Washington, D.C.:F.J. Haskin, 1924);
Frederick Emory Haynes, Social Politics in the...
(The entire section is 545 words.)
Important Events in Government and Politics, 1920–1929
- The 1920 census reports that 105,710,620 people live in the United States and that for the first time urban residents outnumber rural residents. The center of population is 8.3 miles southeast of Spencer, Indiana.
- On January 16, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages, goes into effect.
- On March 19, the United States Senate rejects the Treaty of Versailles.
- From May 8 to May 14, the Socialist Nationalist Convention meeting in New York City again nominates Eugene V. Debs for President and Seymour Stedman for Vice-President. Since 1918, Debs has been serving a ten-year prison sentence for violating the Espionage Act.
- From June 8 to June 12, the National Republican Convention meeting in Chicago nominates Senator Warren G. Harding from Ohio for President on the tenth ballot. Governor Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts is nominated for Vice-President.
- From June 28 to July 5, the National Democratic Convention meeting in San Francisco nominates Governor James M. Cox of Ohio for President and former Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt for Vice-President.
- On November 2, with his campaign slogan "back to normalcy," Warren G. Harding receives 404 electoral votes and...
(The entire section is 1873 words.)