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Gerald Nye, the first of four children of Irwin Raymond Nye and Phoebe Ella Nye (née Prentice), was born in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, on 19th December, 1892. His father, the editor of a local newspaper, was a strong supporter of Robert M. La Follette, the leader of the left-wing in the Republican Party, and as a young boy he was taken to hear him speak.
Nye's mother died tuberculosis on 19th October, 1906. After leaving Wittenberg High School in 1911 he began work for his the Weekly Review in Hortonville. The following year he was appointed editor of the Times Plain Dealer in Iowa. A strong supporter of the temperance movement Nye constantly advocated prohibition in his newspaper.
In May 1916 Nye purchased the Fryburg Pioneer in Billings County, North Dakota. Two months later he married Anna M. Munch. Over the next few years the couple had three children (Marjorie, Robert and James). Nye joined the Republican Party and became a close associate of Iowa's progressive senator, Albert B. Cummins. In 1916 Nye used his newspaper to argue that Cummins should become the party's presidential candidate to take on Woodrow Wilson. The campaign failed and the party selected Charles E. Hughes instead.
In 1919 Nye was appointed editor of the Griggs County Sentinel-Courier . In his first editorial Nye promised he would be a "constant fighter" for the interests of Griggs County farmers. In the newspaper he repeatedly emphasized the need for farmers and local businessmen to join together in order the combat the growing power of "big business".
Nye was elected to Congress in 1926 and served on the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys. A member of the progressive wing of the party, he worked closely with William Borah, Henrik Shipstead, Hiram Johnson, Bronson Cutting, Lynn Frazier, Robert La Follette, Arthur R. Robinson, John Elmer Thomas, Burton K. Wheeler, George Norris in the Senate.
Nye strongly opposed the financial policies of Andrew Mellon, the secretary of the treasury under President Calvin Coolidge. He argued in May 1926 that Mellon's measures "provides great reductions in taxes to those who can best afford to pay taxes and causes the masses of the people to pay a greater proportion of the whole tax to be collected than was the case under the old bill." Instead Nye argued for higher tax rates for the rich and a inheritance tax. Nye was also a member of the Special Committee on Public Lands and Surveys that investigated the Teapot Dome Scandal. Although he endorsed the work of Thomas J. Walsh, the chairman of the committee, he also provided his own report that was highly critical of the role that the oil industry played in the scandal.
In 1929 Nye began to criticize the economic policies of President Herbert Hoover. In one speech he claimed that the greatest trouble "with Congress, with the Government, is that we fear new thoughts; we dread to depart from the beaten path; we withhold our support of things which are new and a departure from old ways. It is my hope that the next six months will have the effect of impressing upon Congress and the President the importance of accepting drastic means and new ways of righting wrongs of long standing."
Although he was not a pacifist, Nye shared some of their attitudes and his views on the munitions industry gained him the support of organizations such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. In one speech in 1930 he argued: "That government must respond to the wishes and interests of the masses of its people. That there is need for world leadership and example. That back of any successful war... there must be the motive looking to the well being of the people of every country instead of the motive to perpetuate the status quo. That in nearly every war it is the people who bear the burdens and that it is not the people who cause wars bringing them no advantage, but that they are caused by fear and jealousy coupled with the purpose of men and interests who expect to profit by them."
After the victory of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Nye criticized the New Deal for "not going far enough in grappling with the economic emergency". He also denounced Roosevelt's for favouring big business while neglecting farmers, small businessmen and workers. However, he did support some of Roosevelt's measures such as the National Labor Relations Act and the Social Security Act.
Nye was a close political associate of William Langer, a fellow member of the Nonpartisan League, who became Governor of North Dakota in January 1933. The following year Nye was told by Harold Ickes, the secretary of the interior, that Langer had been putting pressure on workers on federal relief to contribute to the Nonpartisan League newspaper, The Leader . Nye used this information to make a speech in Congress where he criticized Langer's actions. Nye was accused of betraying the Nonpartisan League and it marked the beginning of a long political feud with Langer.
Dorothy Detzer, executive secretary of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, approached Nye, George Norris and Robert La Follette and asked them to instigate a Senate investigation into the international munitions industry. On 8th February, 1934, Nye submitted a Senate Resolution calling for an investigation of the munitions industry by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Key Pittman of Nevada. Pittman disliked the idea and the resolution was referred to the Military Affairs Committee. It was eventually combined with one introduced earlier by Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan, who sought to take the profits out of war.
The Military Affairs Committee accepted the proposal and as well as Nye and Vandenberg, the Munitions Investigating Committee included James P. Pope of Idaho, Homer T. Bone of Washington, Joel B. Clark of Missouri, Walter F. George of Georgia and W. Warren Barbour of New Jersey. John T. Flynn, a writer with the New Republic magazine, was appointed as an advisor and Alger Hiss as the committee's legal assistant.
Alger Hiss worked for the legal department of the Munitions Investigating Committee. Walter Trohan accused Hiss of being a member of the American Communist Party and tried to persuade Nye to sack him: "He (Nye) summoned Hiss to his office, as he told me, and said that he was satisfied with the lawyer's work, but wouldn't stand for any Communist connections. Hiss looked Nye in the eye and solemnly swore he was no communist, but offered to resign in order to spare Nye, the committee and the investigation possible embarrassment. Nye said he would not sacrifice an innocent man and persuaded Hiss to remain."
Public hearings before the Munitions Investigating Committee began on 4th September, 1934. In the reports published by the committee it was claimed that there was a strong link between the American government's decision to enter the First World War and the lobbying of the munitions industry. The committee was also highly critical of the nation's bankers. In a speech Nye argued that "the record of facts makes it altogether fair to say that these bankers were in the heart and center of a system that made our going to war inevitable".
Several members of Congress, including Nye, Arthur H. Vandenberg, William Borah and Robert La Follette, pushed very hard for the passing of the 1935 Neutrality Act. President Franklin D. Roosevelt objected to this measure and lobbied for embargo provisions that would allow him to impose sanctions selectively. This was rejected by Congress and the act, signed on 31st August, imposed a general embargo on trading in arms and war materials with all parties in a war.
The 1936 Neutrality Act, passed in February of that year, renewed the provisions of the 1935 act for another 14 months. It also forbade all loans or credits to belligerents. However, this act did not cover "civil wars" or materials such as trucks and oil. During the Spanish Civil War some U.S. companies such as Texaco, Standard Oil, Ford Motor Company and General Motors sold such items to General Francisco Franco on credit.
Nye was a supporter of the Popular Front government and strongly opposed the support given to Franco's forces. In May, 1938, he introduced a Senate resolution that proposed the lifting of the embargo on shipment of arms to the Spanish government. Roosevelt made it clear he was opposed to this resolution and it was defeated in the Foreign Relations Committee by seventeen votes to one.
Nye's long-term enemy, William Langer, was his opponent for his seat in Congress in November 1938. Nye was re-elected for a third term by a margin of nearly 20,000 votes over Langer out of more than 263,000 votes cast in the Senate race.
Nye remained a staunch isolationist during the emergence of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Europe. On the outbreak of the Second World War Nye joined the America First Committee (AFC) other members included Robert E. Wood, John T. Flynn, Charles A. Lindbergh, Burton K. Wheeler, Robert R. McCormick, Hugh Johnson, Robert LaFollette Jr., Amos Pinchot, Harry Elmer Barnes and Hamilton Stuyvesan Fish. The AFC soon became the most powerful isolationist group in the United States. The AFC had four main principles: (1) The United States must build an impregnable defense for America; (2) No foreign power, nor group of powers, can successfully attack a prepared America; (3) American democracy can be preserved only by keeping out of the European War; (4) "Aid short of war" weakens national defense at home and threatens to involve America in war abroad.
On 15th April, 1940, Nye told a meeting in Pennsylvania that the European war was not "worthy of the sacrifice of one American mule, much less one American son." He also argued that "Russia, Stalin and communist ideology" would eventually win from the Second World War.
When Winston Churchill became prime minister in May 1940, he realised that it would be vitally important to enlist the Unoted States as Britain's ally. Churchill appointed William Stephenson as the head of the British Security Coordination (BSC). As William Boyd has pointed out: "The phrase is bland, almost defiantly ordinary, depicting perhaps some sub-committee of a minor department in a lowly Whitehall ministry. In fact BSC, as it was generally known, represented one of the largest covert operations in British spying history... With the US alongside Britain, Hitler would be defeated - eventually. Without the US (Russia was neutral at the time), the future looked unbearably bleak... polls in the US still showed that 80% of Americans were against joining the war in Europe. Anglophobia was widespread and the US Congress was violently opposed to any form of intervention." Stephenson was very concerned with the growth of the American First Committee and his agents estimated that there were 700 chapters and nearly a million members of isolationist groups.
Nye attacked President Franklin D. Roosevelt for giving the leaders of England and France "reason to believe that if they would declare war on Germany, help would be forthcoming." He went on to argue that the United States had "sold out, by deliberate falsification, the two European nations with which we had the closest ties. We sent France to her death and have brought England perilously close to it."
On 22nd August, 1940 William Stephenson reported to London that the destroyer deal was agreed upon. The agreement for transferring 50 aging American destroyers, in return for the rights to air and naval basis in Bermuda, Newfoundland, the Caribbean and British Guiana, was announced 3rd September, 1940. The bases were leased for 99 years and the destroyers were of great value as convey escorts. Nye led the campain to defeat the administration Lend Lease proposal. Although Nye persuaded Burton K. Wheeler, Hugh Johnson, Robert LaFollette Jr., Henrik Shipstead, Homer T. Bone, James B. Clark, William Langer, and Arthur Capper, to vote against the measure, it was passed by 60 votes to 31.
The British Security Coordination developed a policy of trying to undermine the leaders of the America First Committee (AFC). Leading isolationists were monitored, targeted and harassed. When Gerald Nye spoke in Boston in September 1941, thousands of handbills were handed out attacking him as an appeaser and Nazi lover. A BSC agent Donald Chase Downes was instructed to spy on the AFC. Bill Macdonald, the author of The True Intrepid: Sir William Stephenson and the Unknown Agents (2001), has pointed out: "Downes eventually discovered there was Nazi activity in New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Cleveland and Boston. In some cases they traced actual transfers of money from the Nazis to the America Firsters."
In a speech in August 1941, Nye claimed that the motion picture industry had "become the most gigantic engines of propaganda in existence to rouse the war fever in America and plunge this Nation to her destruction". He added that the movies were "not revealing the sons of mothers writhing in agony in trench, in mud, on barbed wire, amid scenes of battle or sons of mothers living legless, or lungless, or brainless, or sightless in hospitals." His commented that this approach was partly due to the large number of refugees and British actors working in the industry.
In a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, Charles A. Lindbergh claimed that the "three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration". Soon afterwards Nye gave his support to Lindbergh and argued "that the Jewish people are a large factor in our movement toward war." These speeches resulted in some people claiming that Nye was anti-Semitic.
The Japanese Air Force attacked Pearl Harbor on 7th December, 1941. The following day Nye voted in the Senate for war. He admitted: "The one thing an American can want to do - win the war and win it with the greatest possible dispatch and decisiveness. It is not time to quibble over what might have been done or how we got where we are. We know only that the enemy chose to make war against us. To give our Commander in Chief unqualified and unprejudicial backing in his prosecution of the war is an obligation which I shall gladly fulfill. Differences over matters of foreign policy up to this hour are abandoned and unity should be accorded in every particular."
Nye's known isolationist views became very unpopular after America entered the war and he lost his seat in Congress in November 1944. He became a lawyer in Washington and was special assistant for elderly housing, in the Federal Housing Administration (1960-64).
Gerald Nye died in Maryland on 17th July, 1971.
The Mellon tax revision legislation provides great reductions in taxes to those who can best afford to pay taxes and causes the masses of the people to pay a greater proportion of the whole tax to be collected than was the case under the old bill... Favors have been granted by Congress to the railroads, the bankers, and great industries time and again. Congress considers what it has done for them 'good business'; but when the same measure of aid is asked for the farmer, it immediately becomes paternalism and class legislation.
That government must respond to the wishes and interests of the masses of its people. That back of any successful war - outlawry program there must be the motive looking to the well being of the people of every country instead of the motive to perpetuate the status quo.
That in nearly every war it is the people who bear the burdens and that it is not the people who cause wars bringing them no advantage, but that they are caused by fear and jealousy coupled with the purpose of men and interests who expect to profit by them.
And finally, that more than we need any set-up of world machinery to judge and determine controversies, we need an abandonment of those causes which seek world control of money, of credit, and of trade, not in the name of a great people but in the name of selfish individuals and interests.
The greatest trouble with us, with Congress, with the Government, is that we fear new thoughts; we dread to depart from the beaten path; we withhold our support of things which are new and a departure from old ways. It is my hope that the next six months will have the effect of impressing upon Congress and the President the importance of accepting drastic means and new ways of righting wrongs of long standing.
In my first weeks in Washington, a corner of the rug was lifted on Communist infiltration into the New Deal. The disclosure came with a mysterious one-line that the legal staff of the AAA was being reorganized... The next day the list of enforced partings included Alger Hiss, then known as one of the zealots of planned economy. My story bluntly branded him as a Red, one spawned in the Harvard classrooms of Felix Frankfurter...
The firing of Hiss from the AAA didn't check his career the slightest. He was able to get a job with the staff of a Senate committee, headed by Gerald P. Nye of North Dakota, which was engaged in an inquiry into the activities of 'merchants of death', as those profiting from the sale and distribution of arms came to be known. Naturally communists favored the inquiry, supporting anything that would brand capitalists as warmongers. It wasn't long before rumours of Hiss's alleged communist connections reached Nye. He summoned Hiss to his office, as he told me, and said that he was satisfied with the lawyer's work, but wouldn't stand for any Communist connections.
Hiss looked Nye in the eye and solemnly swore he was no communist, but offered to resign in order to spare Nye, the committee and the investigation possible embarrassment. Nye said he would not sacrifice an innocent man and persuaded Hiss to remain.
Nye's young, he has inexhaustible energy, and he has courage. Those are all important assets. He may be rash in his judgments at times, but it's the rashness of enthusiasm. I think he would do a first-class job with an investigation. Besides, Nye doesn't come up for election again for another four years; by that time the investigation would be over. If it reveals what I am certain it will, such an investigation would help him politically, not harm him. And that would not be the case with many senators. For you see, there isn't a major industry in North Dakota closely allied to the munitions business.
Investigations serve a most healthy purpose in that they prevent many practices and serve as a caution against practices which might be considered proper and customary but for the development of a conscience by the existence of an investigating committee.
With economic and political influence coming into such concentrated control it is of greatest importance that legislative bodies be on closest guard against encroachment which further threatens a free government. Honest investigations, prosecuted by legislators determined to reach and develop the facts, and by legislators who in their work can and will abandon partisanship, are of greatest value to the government and its people. They afford necessary knowledge basic to helpful legislation. They educate people to practices unfriendly to their best interests. They throw fear into men an interests who would by any means at their command move governments to selfish purposes.
It would not be fair to say that the House of Morgan took us to war to save their investment in the Allies, but the record of facts makes it altogether fair to say that these bankers were in the heart and center of a system that made our going to war inevitable. We started in 1914 with a neutrality policy which permitted the sale of arms and munitions to belligerents, but which forbad loans to belligerents. Then, in the name of our own business welfare. President Wilson permitted the policy to be stretched to the extent of permitting the house of Morgan to supply the credit needs of the Allies. After this error of neutrality, the road to war was paved and greased for us.
Almost without exception, the American munitions companies investigated have at times resorted to such unusual approaches, questionable favors and commissions, and methods of 'doing the needful' as to constitute, in effect,
a form of bribery of foreign governmental officials or of their close friends in order to secure business. These business methods carried within themselves the seeds of disturbance to the peace and stability of those nations in which they take place.
While the evidence before this committee does not show that wars have been started solely because of the activities of munitions makers and their agents, it is also true that wars rarely have one single cause, and the committee finds it to be against the peace of the world for selfishly interested organizations to be left free to goad and frighten nations into military activity.
The Committee wishes to point out most definitely that its study of events resulting from the then existing neutrality legislation, or the lack of it, is in no way a criticism, direct or implied, of the sincere devotion of the then President, Woodrow Wilson, to the high causes of peace and democracy. Like other leaders in government, business and finance, he had watched the growth of militarism in the pre-war years. Militarism meant the alliance of the military with powerful economic groups to secure appropriations on the one hand for a constantly increasing military and naval establishment, and on the other hand, the constant threat of the use of that swollen military establishment in behalf of the economic interests at home and abroad of the industrialists supporting it. President Wilson was personally impelled by the highest motives and the most profound convictions as to the justice of the cause of our country and was devoted to peace. He was caught up in a situation created largely by the profit-making interests in the United States, and such interests spread to nearly everybody in the country. It seemed necessary to the prosperity of our people that their markets in Europe remain unimpaired. President Wilson, himself, stated that he realized that the economic rivalries of European nations had played their part in bringing on the war in 1914.
Loans extended to the Allies in 1915 and 1916, led to a very considerable war boom and inflation. This boom extended beyond munitions to auxiliary supplies and equipment as well as to agricultural products. The nature of such a war-boom inflation is that, like all inflations, an administration is almost powerless to check it, once the movement is well started. Our foreign policy then is seriously affected by it, even to the extent of making impossible the alteration of our foreign policy in such a way as to protect our neutral rights.
No member of the Munitions Committee to my knowledge has ever contended that it was munitions makers who took us to war. But that committee and its members have said again and again, that it was war trade and the war boom, shared in by many more than munitions makers, that played the primary part in moving the United States into a war.
England and France reason to believe that if they would declare war on Germany, help would be forthcoming. Some day history will show, as one of the blackest marks of our time, that we sold out, by deliberate falsification, the two European nations with which we had the closest ties. We sent France to her death and have brought England perilously close to it. Had they stalled Hitler for a while, while they prepared to meet him, the story might have been different.
The one thing an American can want to do - win the war and win it with the greatest possible dispatch and decisiveness. Differences over matters of foreign policy up to this hour are abandoned and unity should be accorded in every particular.
If the Government had followed the policy we advocated, war could have been avoided and America and the world would have benefited. Your contribution was immense. Without your tireless energy and your wonderful courage, such a great fight could not have been made. I often marvelled at your stamina and the way in which you carried on night after night, meeting after meeting. Your rallies were political phenomena. It will be a long time before this country sees such crowds or such genuine enthusiasm.
The task before us is tremendous. We do not properly meet the challenge by raking through words of what might have been. I opposed the Roosevelt administration of foreign policy step by step because I believed it was leading us to war. I believed then, and I still believe, that the alternative policy which I and many others advocated was sounder and that it would have kept us out of this war. That alternate policy was in no sense or degree a policy of non-defense, however much some sources may try to confuse the question of non-intervention with the question of defense. But all of that need not now concern us. At war as we are, so far as I am concerned, there will be support of every measure and every purpose advanced which has as its purpose the successful prosecution of our great cause in the winning of the war.
If we can not isolate ourselves from these experiences of war, then at least we might try, with the hope of preventing them, cooperative undertakings with the rest of the world, but undertakings, mind you, that do not create some super-govemment that shall dictate our own destiny, undertakings that will not jeopardize our own sovereignty as a nation, undertakings of a purely cooperative nature that will not challenge our identity or our sovereignty any more than does cooperation with our allies in winning the war.
To me a just and honorable peace is one that will go further than merely to punish the leaders who have been responsible for the catastrophe that is upon the world. To me, a just and honorable peace means one that will -
Undertake seriously the elimination of the factors making for war;
Afford liberation and sovereignty to all the peoples of the world wanting it;
Deny to the victors the acquisition of any territory without the consent of the people of the proposed newly acquired territory;
Give every nation equal access to commercial lanes and ports;
Withhold aid and encouragement from imperialistic and world domination ambitions;
Deny undertakings to preserve unpopular monarchies or their reign over others;
Restore and maintain the identity and sovereignty of lands like Finland, Poland, Norway, and Sweden, unless the peoples of those lands find an association or a partitioning to their own liking;
Refrain from undertaking to force a race of people to live forever under foreign masters.
Deny extraterritorial rights for any power in other lands unwilling voluntarily to grant such rights.
Refrain from subjecting any people or their resources to the profit or advantage of any other power."
First, it showed that economic interests do lie at the bottom of modem war. Second, our inquiry also discovered that economic interests which stand to make money out of war cannot be trusted not to work for war. I do not say, mark you, that they always do, but I do say that they cannot be trusted not to. The third fact follows, namely, that the private armament industry stands at the top of the list of those which, because they stand to make money out of the arming of nations for war, cannot be trusted to work against the coming of war. The fourth fact brought out by our inquiry is that any portion of the banking industry which is engaged in financing the armament industry is just about as dangerous to peace, as the armament industry itself.
Gerald Nye - History
Correspondence in Mildred Hicks papers, 1917-1945. Finding aid.
Hagley Museum and Library
Information concerning the Nye Committee in E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company Public Affairs Department records, 1912-1975 2 linear feet in Pierre S. du Pont papers relating to Nye Committee investigation, 1917-1940 in Willis F. Harrington papers, 1882-1960 Walter Samuel Carpenter business papers, 1926-1975 Jasper E. Crane papers, 1924-1948 and Pierre S. du Pont papers relating to E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, 1800-1954.
Herbert Hoover Library
West Branch, IA
1919-1968. 47 feet. Senatorial papers including subject files, campaign files, clippings, papers, addresses, cartoons, and articles. Finding aid available online. Nye papers in other repositories include James John Davis Papers, Library of Congress Howard Y. Williams Papers, Minnesota Historical Society Bishop James Cannon Papers, Duke University Library Charles Linza McNary Papers, Library of Congress Thomas James Walsh Papers, Library of Congress James Kerr Pollock Papers, Michigan Historical Collections, Ann Arbor Gerhard Mennen Williams Papers, Michigan Historical Collections, John T. Flynn Papers, University of Oregon Library at Eugene, Oregon Edmund Bigelow Chaffee Papers, Syracuse University Library Frederick Hale Papers, Syracuse University Library.
Library of Congress
Correspondence in La Follette family papers, 1844-1973. Finding aid.
North Dakota State University Libraries
Institute for Regional Studies
1935-1973. 25 items. Correspondence, speeches, clippings, and articles. Also correspondence in Ole H. Olson papers, 1905-1952 and Sveinung Anundsen Olsness papers, 1883-1954.
State Historical Society of North Dakota
Correspondence in Wyndmere Commercial Club records, 1907-1945 and J. Dexter Pierce papers, 1795-1945.
In Hannah Clothier Hull papers, 1889-1958, available on 6 microfilm reels.
George Arents Research Library
Correspondence in Edmund Bigelow Chaffee papers, 1902-1937.
University of Michigan
Bentley Historical Library
Ann Arbor, MI
Correspondence in James Kerr Pollock papers, 1920-1968 and Gerald L. K. Smith papers, 1922-1976. Finding aid.
University of North Dakota
Chester Fritz Library
Grand Forks, ND
1924-1944. 3 feet. Miscellaneous copies of correspondence concerning his campaign and the Nonpartisan League. Originals at Herbert Hoover Library.
Correspondence in Donald Dike papers, 1912-1946 and Donald C. MacDonald papers, 1895-1969.
University of Pennsylvania
1 letter to Dreiser in Theodore Dreiser papers, ca. 1890-1965.
Yale University Libraries
Manuscripts and Archives
New Haven, CT
In Harry Weinberger papers, 1915-1942 Nye Committee records, 1935-1936, on 1 microfilm reel of originals in National Archives and Records Administration R.C Leffingwell papers, 1883-1979 Edwin Montefiore Borchard papers, 1910-1950 and Charles Parsons papers, 1880-1965.
Senator Nye: former Hortonville editor became Dakota Senator
Perhaps Hortonville's most famous citizen was Gerald Nye.
He was a former editor of the Hortonville Review who became a leading opponent of America's entry into World War II as a Republican senator from North Dakota.
Nye was born in 1892 in Hortonville but his family moved to Wittenberg when he was two.
He became editor of the Hortonville Weekly Review when he was 19 and stayed until 1913.
After leaving Hortonville he lived a short time in Iowa and then moved to North Dakota where he edited a country newspaper in Coopertown.
He was appointed to his first Senate seat in 1925 and gained fame as chairman of the Public Lands committee which investigated the Teapot Dome scandal.
As an isolationist he urged President Franklin Roosevelt to seek a negotiated peace in Europe before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.
After the attack, Nye voted to declare war with the rest of the Senate but said Roosevelt was responsible for maneuvering the country into conflict.
In 1944, Nye was defeated for re-election and failed to win renomination in 1946.
Later he formed Records Engineering Inc. and served as a Federal Housing Administration specialist on housing for the elderly.
Catholic Church built in 1861
(Taken from New London Buyers' Guide/Hortonville Centennial, August 16, 1994. Posted with permission from the Press-Star, New London/Hortonville, Wisconsin.)
Catholic families in Hortonville were visited by Oshkosh or Appleton priests and mass was held in private homes until 1861.
That year, a frame church was built on the corner of Nash and Cedar Streets.
Hortonville was attached to Greenville as a mission from 1870 to 1878.
From 1878 to 1897 a New London priest celebrated mass in Hortonville every other Sunday.
The present brick - Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church - was built by the Rev. P. L. Gasper in 1892. Five years later, Rev. Joseph Hemmer was the first resident pastor.
Gerald Nye - History
WHEN the World War came to an end, with its appalling waste of human life and of material resources as well, with its aftermath of depression from which we are still suffering, we were all resolved never to let it happen again. Today, every newspaper reader knows how close the world may be to another holocaust-completely fatal, perhaps, to civilization as we cherish it. Woodrow Wilson's charge to his countrymen to be "neutral in thought and deed" fell upon many unwilling ears. We were the witnesses of the violation of Belgium, involving the disregard of a solemn international undertaking we believed that we were called upon to act in defense of a civilization and a political theory more precious than life itself. Today, we in America are not so certain that we have a mission to perform in settling the quarrels of the Old World. We are not even sure that we are competent to decide in all cases as to the justice of the dispute: we are, however, profoundly convinced that the method of war is no way to bring about the establishment of justice, political freedom, or peace itself. The best place for us to exert our influence to establish these blessings is in our own country. Those of us who see in the strict application of the principle of neutrality a way by which America may save herself from being drawn into an impending conflict are used to meeting the bitter insinuation that we belong in the "peace-at-any-price" ranks, that we are "spineless pacifists," or "fatuous isolationists." But I should like to ask what possible shame can attach to America for taking advantage of both her geographical and historical position to keep out of the present chaos in Europe? What shame is there in trying to limit the area of conflict rather than extend it? What ethical obtuseness in attempting to keep one clear pool of sanity in the world?
There is little doubt in any one's mind today that the European situation means trouble for us in America. That it is a challenge is beyond debate. How we are to meet the challenge is a matter upon which there are divergent opinions. As between a so-called "collective security," the terms of which have never yet been clearly defined, and a policy of neutrality which will involve some sacrifice of profits and even of something superficially accepted as prestige, I prefer the policy of neutrality--the planned intention of keeping out of other people's wars.
One way to approach the subject of neutrality is to inquire closely what neutrality is not.
AMERICA IS AS AMERICA DOES
The United States has a way of saying to the nations of the world, "Oh, if only you were all as peace-loving as we are, we could get out from under the terrific burdens involved in preparing for war! If only other nations would follow our example!" Suppose we scrutinize for a moment our example. When Congress voted to spend billions of dollars in a gigantic national recovery program, what was the first use we made of this money? The very first allocation, for 231 million dollars was turned over by executive order to the United States Navy for the building of more ships. More ships, to get ready for another war, to be followed by another depression, and another spending program, including more ships! If only other nations would follow our example!
No one is more jealously interested in my country's maintaining adequate national defense than I am. But I am sick of the things that are being done in the name of the national defense. For ten years I have sat upon the Senate Appropriations Committee. For ten years, without a miss in any one year, I have listened to talk about the perils of war with Japan, and I am reporting the exact truth when I say that the annual war scare always comes just before the introduction of the annual appropriation bills for the army and navy. When those bills are enacted into law, there is an immediate improvement in the relations between Japan and the United States.
When President Roosevelt was assistant secretary of the navy, he wrote an article for Asia in which he remarked that there wasn't any likelihood of war between these two countries so long as five cents' worth of common sense remained in either of them. In the kind of war which Japan and America would have to fight, if they fought at all, he believed there would be no possibility of a decisive victory for either nation that such a war could end only when one or the other country bled to death through the pocketbook that "war" between Japan and the United States was nothing more than the result of an apprehensive habit of mind. But suppose relations between these two countries are really strained-as the proponents of a big shipbuilding program would lead us to infer-is it common sense for us to send our warships near Japanese waters-thousands of miles away from our shores, and right under the noses of the Japanese-for signal practice and maneuvering? A recent visit to Japan convinced me that the worst phase of this rivalry in shipbuilding, this exhibitionism, and the general policy of preparation for a war that is not national defense is the mutual distrust which it engenders. While so many of our citizens are made to fear Japan's intentions, the people of Japan are being agitated by their own military leaders, and by our own aggressiveness, into fear that the United States is preparing to attack Japan. Thus the way is cleared for increased appropriations for the "defense" of the Japanese. It is a game that has no end. Here, at least, is one nation that has followed our example.
Now, I am convinced that if Japan had a navy twenty times its present size she couldn't get within several hundred miles of our shore under conditions of modern warfare that depend upon the use of airplanes, submarines, and coast defenses. Nor could we get within striking distance of her coasts. The truth is that our military plans are not built up and financed on a reasonable basis of true national defense. If they were, we should have a different allocation of funds- more for coast defenses, for instance, and less for battleships. Even before the introduction of the President's national defense program for 1938, we were spending in the neighborhood of a billion dollars a year for our army and navy, of which fabulous sum the navy has been receiving about 600 million dollars. During this period the rise in appropriations for the army was 150 million dollars. To what astounding figures we shall aspire no man knows, but the present additional appropriation for the navy under the Vinson Act amounts to 200 million dollars.
What a pity it is that other nations are not as peace-minded as ourselves! And as little inclined to go in for armament races! And, make no mistake, these huge appropriations as at present allocated can by no stretch of the imagination be considered essential to the national defense, even if we include in that the defense of Alaska, the Panama Canal, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Our appropriations are built around blueprints that call for the transportation of three million men across thousands of ocean miles to fight, I presume, in the name of national defense, on somebody else's land, or in someone else's waters. It is largely for these outlays that the people of America are shouldering a load of taxation that is growing heavier every year. It is a burden that will cripple America as surely as it has already crippled nations of the Old World. It is a burden the only escape from which is to make the war machine pay for itself by wars of aggression carried on by ruthless dictatorships.
SOCIAL BENEFITS SACRIFICED TO WAR
But there is still another side to this outlay for war preparedness and the conduct of war. What alternative use could we have made, for instance, of the money that four years of war cost this world? Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler has made an inventory of what we could do for mankind if we had that money today. We could buy five-acre plots of land at $100 an acre, build homes upon the land costing $2,500, furnish them for $1,000, and give such a home scot-free to every family resident (in 1935) in Russia, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Every city of approximately 20,000 people in those countries could have a two million dollar hospital, a three million dollar library, and a ten million dollar university. With part of the balance invested at five per cent, we could pay salaries of a thousand dollars apiece to 125,000 teachers and 125,000 nurses, and then we would have enough money left to buy up every penny's worth of property in Belgium and in Germany. Think of the social benefits the world has sacrificed to pursue a war which brought us all only a depression and more war!
Or suppose we think only of what is actually happening in our own country every year. When the appropriation for the Office of Education comes before Congress, the legislators begin at once to quibble. They take out their knives and whet them, and then they proceed to cut those appropriations to the bone. The same thing happens with the appropriation for the state department. This department is maintained at the cost of something like a paltry thirteen million dollars a year. But suppose someone should have the temerity to propose an additional million in order that the secretary of state might enlarge the scope of his activities in the name of world peace. Such a proposal would be laughed out of court. Men would say, "What! Increase our budgets in times like these? The man is mad!"
But when the appropriations for the maintenance of the army and navy come before Congress, our economists in the House and the Senate are as silent as the grave. There isn't any fear then about increasing budgets. So well does the cry of "preparedness" do its work, that I once proposed to a body of teachers that they should learn to call education National Defense, and I presume a similar shibboleth could be invented for the advancement of the state department.
Now, what possible explanation can be found for this inconsistency and madness?
PROFITEERS IN WAR MATERIALS
Let me remind you of a few outstanding facts with regard to the methods of doing business in the materials of war. These facts were revealed in the course of the investigations by the Senate Munitions Committee.
I have already mentioned that the first money allocated under the national recovery program went by executive order for the building of warships. Before any member of Congress knew that shipbuilding was to be permitted under the public works program, the shipbuilders knew it. Less than two weeks after that program had been enacted into law, on March 14, 1933, to be exact, one of the lobbyists wrote to the shipbuilders that he thought it would be very wise if his employers would "come down to Washington and talk things over with the gang." When the Munitions Committee asked him to be a little more explicit as to his reference to "the gang," this lobbyist refused for more than an hour to answer our question. We reminded him that although counsel who advise a witness not to answer questions never go to jail, witnesses themselves, acting upon the advice of counsel, do go to jail. The witness thereupon named certain admirals and commanders in the United States Navy and certain officials in the navy department. There was a good deal of testimony bearing on the rather close relations that were maintained between the officials of our navy and the ship-builders. The president of one of the great shipbuilding companies wrote as follows to his board of directors:
I know from my talks with some of the representatives of the navy that they are desirous of finding substantial reason for awarding this work to the largest possible extent to our private yards rather than to the government's own ship-building yards. There was also expressed to us the desire that the builders themselves get together and agree, as far as we could, upon what each would bid, and then bid on nothing else.
So here is the spectacle of our own navy helping these shipbuilders to plunder Uncle Sam! The letter goes on to state that, according to the writer's understanding, "This would mean for Bethlehem twenty-eight million dollars, Newport News thirty million dollars, and for the New York Ship Building Company twenty-eight million dollars." When the bids were opened ten days later, it was revealed that this official had not missed his guess by a single ship. The pie had indeed been divided into precisely these nearly equal parts. Those who have learned to play this national defense racket know what they are doing at every turn of the road. And mark the fact that there are always two parties to a racket. Let me quote from a letter written by a member of Congress who had been of great assistance to the shipbuilders at the time of this public works episode:
As you perhaps know [he is addressing the shipbuilders], a Congressman must derive some of his income from other sources than being a member of the House of Representatives.
He then goes on to explain what kind of business he is in and just how the shipbuilders can put dollars in his pocket by buying from his company. Of course that is not bribery it is just good business, and besides it is in the name of national defense. I have used illustrations that happen to concern the shipbuilders, but I might equally as well have chosen testimony involving the ammunition makers and the makers of ordinance. These racketeers maintain a very expensive lobby in Washington. The record now on file contains overwhelming evidence of their activities, and the evidence is derived in great measure from their own letters. Some of the letters concern their attempt to prevent the passage of the Nye resolution calling for the munitions investigation. There is also evidence of their deliberate and methodical purpose to wreck disarmament conferences. It was the president of the Bethlehem Ship-building Company who testified to what a horror he had of war. He said he was sure that all businessmen in America would strenuously oppose these mad naval races if they could have their way. But that did not prevent his company from paying one-third of the cost of sending a representative to the Geneva Disarmament Conference in 1926. You may remember some of his testimony. He stated that it was the navy, the officials of the Navy Department, who gave him secret documents and instructed him go to go Geneva to accomplish the wrecking of any disarmament program there. The navy told him to go and the shipbuilders paid the bill. And then we wonder why these conferences prove, one after another, to be such tragic failures. They will continue to be failures so long as we and the other nations send to them men trained in naval and military schools, or men who are acting primarily in the interests of the stockholders of munitions companies. This racket is an international racket, the business of which is to build up hate and fear and suspicion in all the countries of the world. Peru, for example, got advice from a commission of our naval experts, and on the strength of that advice she ordered a fleet of submarines and destroyers. When Colombia heard about that, she too wanted advice from a commission of our naval experts, and she too ordered submarines, as a defense, of course, against Peru's submarines. These orders were placed with American firms and were a cause for great self-congratulation on the part of American business. But suppose we send our boys down to those troubled waters some day to straighten out a difficulty which we as neighbor and adviser have been chiefly responsible for promoting? Statistics of the Bureau of Commerce show that day by day and week by week huge cargoes of munitions leave our shores for nearly every nation on the globe-including the Japanese nation, about whom the war propagandists have so much to say. Our boys couldn't go to war anywhere without having our own munitions fired back at them. And yet decent American businessmen will say that to have a war is the only way in which business will "pick up." They will tell you that, if we are to have adequate production capacity at home to meet the possible emergencies of war, we must increase the foreign market for American-made ships and American-made munitions. In other words, we must sell now to countries who may some day be our foes, in order that we may have productive capacity if and when the rest of the world decides to use what we sold them against us. A good policy! Don't alter it. Don't rock the boat.
THE ARGUMENT FOR MANDATORY LEGISLATION
Enough has been said to make it plain to the reader what neutrality is not. These matters caused the country grave concern when they were revealed by the Munitions Inquiry familiarity with them must not lead us to view them with indifference. The serious danger to our peace, to say nothing about our standards of common honor and decency, is so obvious that a way out of the bog in which we find ourselves must be found. A policy of strict neutrality, to become mandatory as soon as the war infection manifests itself, appears to be such a way of escape. The advantages of such mandatory legislation are easily apparent. Valuable time is saved at a critical moment in world affairs when a situation involving the question of our neutrality is settled automatically and in advance of the crisis. It is then the choice of no single individual and is not directed against the interests of any particular nation or group of nations. It is simply the law of the land, a law familiar to every foreign power. Nations intent upon war are given notice and may weigh for themselves the effect of such a policy upon their ability to buy arms and other war supplies in our markets. These are very definite advantages which cannot be lightly dismissed. To such a mandatory embargo against the shipment of munitions was added, specifically for our own protection against involvement in war, the so-called cash and carry provision.
PRACTICAL AND THEORETICAL PROBLEMS OF NEUTRALITY
Experience has taught us much since the passage of the compromise measure signed by the President in August, 1935. It has become clear that the cash and carry principle may work out in practice to the advantage of one combatant and the disadvantage of another. This is not neutrality. The embargo on shipments to Spain, as instigated by the Administration in January, 1937, was not neutrality it was an effort at collective security, done in co-operation with England and France and their famous Non-Intervention Committee. It has become plain that certain commodities such as cotton and oil, which are legitimate and profitable exports upon which we rely for revenue in time of peace, become highly controversial and more than ever profitable in time of war. We cannot assume that public opinion today would support a mandatory embargo upon such exports, even though an embargo might be the means of checking war. We cannot assume that any executive would use his discretionary powers to list such exports as contraband in the face of strong popular dissent. We can, however, remind our people in season and out of the pitfalls that we fell into twenty years ago and we can use every effort to educate them to resist the selfish influences which sometimes warp and destroy their better judgment. Because of these selfish influences, neutrality in the strict sense of the word has never been tried.
Neutrality legislation as we have had it in America has been a makeshift imposed by conditions of haste and emergency and by a none too intelligent compromise between conflicting views-so much so that I moved recently for the repeal of the Neutrality Act. At the moment when its repeal seemed assured, it became the center of a whirlwind of activity from certain pressure groups among whom our Church groups were conspicuous because of their official sympathy with the Insurgent forces now fighting in Spain. It should also be plain to Americans that the passage of repeal would have acted as a checkmate upon the present policies of Great Britain.
NEUTRALITY AND FUTURE POLICY
The whole question of neutrality, both in principle and as it may be enacted into law, is one of such difficulty that much thought and research are needed before we can hope to arrive at an acceptable formula. We have made some gains. The creation of a Munitions Control Board, which is a provision for some degree of supervision over the manufacture, exportation, and importation of munitions is a move in the right direction. It must, in my opinion, lead ultimately to the government's becoming the manufacturer of its own national defense machinery and the court of last resort as to all questions involving the sale and export of munitions.
The discussion of the subject, which has been stimulated by the passage of the act and the important considerations which have developed as to its functioning, has exerted a wholesome influence upon American thought. Problems which had been confined to the consideration of diplomats and students of international law have been opened up for discussion among our citizens, and the bearing of such problems upon the all important question of the maintenance of peace is now becoming plain to everyone. When an American gunboat and Standard Oil tankers, huddled together in the waters of a nation at war, are torpedoed by military planes, the people are sobered, but they do not let the incident impel them to get into the war themselves. Their comments have a healthy skepticism:"What business had the gunboat to be there anyhow? I'll bet the gas that ran the motors in those bombing planes was delivered to Japan in the same tankers that were hit! And no doubt the shrapnel was made from some of the scrap iron we've been selling to Japan." There is no longer resentment against the doctrine that some degree of restriction must be laid upon the freedom of the individual to involve his country in any risks he may choose to take for his own profit or convenience in areas that are infected by war. Although the prohibition against loans to foreign countries engaged in war-which was one of the provisions of the original resolution-was never enacted into law, an informed public opinion has put bankers and governments on notice that such loans will not be tolerated, even if and when the present restriction against loans to debtor nations is canceled. These are signs of greater maturity and self control in our attitude toward the problems of war. They indicate that the American people will soon make an unmistakable demand to be consulted by means of a war referendum before war is declared.
The legislative problem of taking the profits out of war and out of war preparedness has hardly as yet been approached. There is a bill now under discussion before Congress which has unfortunately become known as a bill to take the profits out of war. Our people will do well to scrutinize severely all legislation that is presented with that ostensible purpose. The bill to which I refer has been fathered by the American Legion, and is known as the Shepherd-May bill it is a peculiarly wrong-headed and vicious example of "bargain" legislation, in which everybody gets something-except possibly the men who are to be killed on foreign battlefields in the next war. Perhaps the proponents of the measure do not expect to hear very much from them. At any rate, the bill undertakes to draft between two and three million men for "national defense"-an obvious smoke-screen for conscription for service overseas. There are other dangerous provisions against which we should be on our guard, as for example, the complete subjugation of our civil life to an undisguised dictatorship to be set up by the executive.
The drafting of labor under such a dictatorship would become a reality in everything but name, and organized labor would run the risk of dissolution.
As to the matter of war profits, there is a provision authorizing the President to freeze prices as of the date on which war is declared. This is supposed to be a threat to capital, giving it notice that there is no use trying to raise prices to make bigger profits. The experience of the country during the World War should be enough to show the futility of such an edict. At that time the steel companies refused to produce at certain prices, on the ground that some high-cost producers were making no profit. The increases they demanded were given them. But years later when the matter was investigated by the Senate, it was found that these very same high-cost producers had been making a profit of ninety per cent! History will repeat itself. The bill has a further provision for taking from the producer ninety-five per cent of profits above an average of the three years next preceding the year in which the United States becomes engaged in war. The immediate effect of that provision would be to put a premium on all sales of war material in peace time. Thus the bill would positively encourage war booms. Moreover, such firms as Carnegie Steel, the Du Pont interests, or the Sperry Gyroscope concern who are now under contract and are making big profits, would scarcely be disheartened by the prospect of "only" five per cent additional profit during war time.
Those persons who put human life above property are also offered something in this proposed legislation, but it is only a few fine phrases. The treatment to be accorded citizens generally, and labor in particular, would depend upon the emotional reactions of the President, but the treatment to be accorded capital is specifically provided for in the terms of the bill. Be assured, moreover, that the next war, as it is envisaged by the miliary and naval experts who force our appropriations, is a war to be fcught on foreign soil and in distant waters. It is for this reason that bills calling for unconditional power over the lives of men are being offered. In the event of invasion or attack by a foreign power, no conscription would be needed---men would flock to the defense of America unless, indeed, our war preparations burden us so heavily that education, health, housing, and social insurance of all kinds fall to so low a level that this country is no longer a country which men and women will spontaneously desire to save.
The truth is that unless a halt is called upon war preparations that are not for defense and upon the enactment of laws for the complete mobilization of our civil organization in wartime, America will succumb to war psychology and will be drawn inevitably into actual conflict. Neutrality, aided by the natural advantages of our physical so-called isolation, or neutrality, happily in co-operatioi
with other nations, if that can be safely accomplished, appears to be the solution. It is a problem that challenges the best minds.
NEUTRALITY OR "COLLECTIVE SECURITY"?
There is no machinery left for collective action among the nations of the world today, unless w
except the League of Nations, which has been called by its own adherents "futile and hopeless." There are certain nzilitary alliances. Is it proposed that we shall tack on to one or more of these to ensure our American security? There is something very puzzling about those alliances. It cannot have escaped your notice that England and France are demonstrating the amazing fact that there is something more precious to them than the saving of their own national existence, their own form of government-not to mention the independence of Austria, Spain, and Czechoslovakia. The thing that might actually ensure collective security in Europe is a firm military alliance with Russia, the most consistently peaceful of any of those three great powers. Such an alliance, however, would seem to be more abhorent to France and Great Britain than is the loss of their own power, more abhorent than the loss of peace itself.
When we are asked to underwrite a campaign for collective security, it is plain that we are not being invited to assist in the defense of powers, or to co-operate with powers that can properly be called democratic. The defense of the British and French empires, were we to lend ourselves to a policy of collective security with those countries, would involve the continued subjugation of hundreds of millions of black and brown peoples among whom the spirit of revolt is already manifest. With Britain as our associate in a pledge of collective security, we should derive some protection from the activities of the British navy in Pacific waters where American interests ought not to lie. But do we want to pledge ourselves to help Britain hang on to the spoils of the last war? Hongkong was Britain's toll from the unholy opium war. Do we want to help her to hold it? Collective effort is the way to win a hand in so doing.
It has been said that the leadership of the future lies with us that it is henceforth for us to tell Great Britain and France what the terms of collective action are to be. Let me remind you, not cynically, but only in the interests of historic realism rather than of wishful thinking, that such leadership precisely was President Wilson's dream.
For better or worse, we are part of a world order, and it is always possible that challenges may come which we cannot ignore and which will take us as a co-operator into another world war. But let us refrain from writing the ticket of procedure even before we know who our allies are to be, what the cause is to be, what the jeopardy is going to be, what the cost is going to be, and, above all, what the chances of winning the cause for which we may be willing to fight. If America lends herself to participation in another foreign cause, she would do well to ask to see all the cards face up on the table before she consents to being collected into another collective security program. In other words, our interest in world affairs does not extend to giving a blank check to all of Europe's confused and secretive diplomacy.
As to the inroads of fascism in South America, they can only be met by showing democracy to be preferable to anything that totalitarian dictators may have to offer. Scrupulous fairness in our trade and in our governmental relations with South America is the best form of insurance against the spread of fascist doctrine there.
Not long ago President Roosevelt said, "We shun political commitments which might entangle us in foreign wars." And again, "We are not isolationists, except in so far as we seek to isolate ourselves completely from wars." May we continue to hew to that line here in America, strengthening our written neutrality policy which is intended to deny us the taste of profit from the blood of other nations' wars, and so checking our growing appetite for more and more of that profit. If we will cease letting American corporations, assisted by our military establishment, arm all the world with instruments of warfare if we will stop financing other people's wars if we will make profit from any other war in which we may engage impossible, and destroy as far as possible the motive of profit in our mad armament races if we will learn to be content with a national defense that guarantees protection against attack if we will give to the people a voice in determining whether this country shall engage in foreign war if we will do these things, we shall not write off all danger of war, but we shall very definitely assure a fuller measure of security to the finest democracy to be found upon this earth.
Gerald Nye - History
A summary of the Teapot Dome scandal from the Brookings Institution with several quotes from the congressional inquiry, this provides a good background on the case in a fairly readable fashion.
by Leslie E. Bennett
Intern for the Independent Counsel Statute Project
Table of Contents
I. The Trail is Uncovered
A. The Leases
II. The Trail Widens: Congress Investigates the Teapot Dome Lease
A. A Call For Special Counsel
B. Appointment of Pomerene and Roberts
C. Loss of Confidence in the Justice Department
III. The Special Counsel Follow the Trail
A. The Cases
B. Roberts Seeks to Resign
C. Special Counsel Face Financial Difficulties
PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COUNSEL:
THE TEAPOT DOME MODEL
If Congress considers alternatives to a system of temporary, court appointed independent counsel, history provides an important model--the investigation and prosecution of the Teapot Dome scandal. In 1924, President Coolidge nominated two special counsel, one a Republican and one a Democrat, to investigate and pursue the civil and criminal cases arising from allegations that members of President Harding's cabinet had corruptly leased naval oil reserves to private oil firms. His appointees, Democrat Atlee Pomerene and Republican Owen Roberts, were confirmed by the Senate.
Deep concerns over the integrity of then Attorney General Harry Daugherty mobilized Congress and the President to look outside the Department of Justice for counsel who could be trusted to vigorously pursue the case. Once such counsel were appointed, Congress continued to play a critical role, aggressively pursuing the facts through a Senate committee and working cooperatively with special counsel to further their efforts. The President, for his part, offered counsel his assistance but then withdrew to permit them the necessary independence to pursue the wrongdoers. The investigation was fraught with difficulty and high drama, consuming more than six years and culminating in significant victories in civil litigation and a mixed bag of results in the criminal prosecutions. Special counsel suffered intermittent shortages of funds and for one of them, frustration with the impact of the job on his ability to maintain his law practice.
Those difficulties notwithstanding, history has largely judged the Teapot Dome investigation a success. The tale of corruption was told, the fraudulent leases were set aside and the oil leases returned to the government, and at least some of the perpetrators were successfully prosecuted. Consequently, when allegations of high-level wrongdoing in the government again arose, Teapot Dome has served as a call to action. See, e.g., Watergate: Clean-Up Precedent, Chr. Sci. Monitor, reprinted in 119 Cong. Rec. 13721 (1973) (Watergate) Byron York, How Congress Can Break Through the Reno Stonewall, Wall St. J., Dec. 16, 1997, at A18 (Campaign finance).
Should the Teapot Dome model of presidentially appointed and Senate confirmed prosecutors be considered for any future investigation that has significant political implications?
I. The Trail is Uncovered
[TABLE OF CONTENTS]
It started with rumors that members of the Harding Administration had leased a rich naval oil reserve in Wyoming to private interests in return for bribes. It resulted in numerous investigations, the resignation of several cabinet members and civil and criminal prosecutions spanning more than six years. Teapot Dome became the nomenclature for what North Dakota Senator Gerald Nye called "the slimiest of slimy trails beaten by privilege." S. Rep. No. 70-1326, Part 2, at 3 (1928). Seventy-five years later, it remains an important chapter in the ongoing debate over how best to investigate and prosecute alleged criminal activity by high-level government officials. (1)
The naval oil reserves were three oil-rich tracts of land set aside by the Taft Administration to provide naval ships with fuel in case of a national emergency. Congress gave the Secretary of the Navy control over the reserves through the naval appropriation bill approved on June 4, 1920. It provided that the Secretary of the Navy would have the power "to conserve, develop, use and operate the same in his discretion, directly or by contract, lease, or otherwise, and to use, store, exchange, or sell the oil and gas products thereof, and those from all royalty oil from lands in the naval reserves, for the benefit of the United States." 41 Stat. chap. 228 (1920).
The reserves consisted of three pieces of property: Naval Reserve Number One, in Elk Hills, California Naval Reserve Number Two, in Buena Vista, California and Naval Reserve Number Three, in Salt Creek, Wyoming, better known as Teapot Dome because of the shape of a formation on the land.
The protection of the naval reserves was short-lived, however, as private interests found a receptive ear in members of the Harding administration. Soon after Albert B. Fall was appointed Secretary of the Interior, he sought to have jurisdiction over the naval reserve lands transferred to the Department of the Interior. Fall convinced Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby that he should support transferring authority to Fall because he had more experience with such matters. President Harding agreed and with the signing of Executive Order 3474, authority over the lands shifted from the Secretary of the Navy to Secretary of the Interior. Executive Order No. 3474. (2)
Critics were skeptical that Fall would adequately protect the resource, since his record favoring commercial development was well known from his participation on the Senate Public Lands and Surveys Committee. That skepticism was well founded.
The first of the oil reserves surrendered to private interests were in California. Edward L. Doheny was an "old prospecting pal" of Fall's and the owner of the Pan-American Petroleum and Transport Company. During 1921 Fall and Doheny began making preliminary arrangements for a lease of part of the Navy's oil reserves.
In November of that year, Doheny made what he and Fall would later characterize as a loan to Fall. Doheny had his son draw $100,000 in cash from the son's account, wrap the bills up in paper, put them in a little black bag and bring the bag to Fall in Fall's apartment. In later testimony some thought implausible, Doheny claimed that he had received a note from Fall for the money, eventually producing a note whose signature had been torn off. Busch, Enemies of the State at 112-13.
During 1922, Doheny's company leased portions of California Naval Reserve Number One (Elk Hills) and Number Two (Buena Vista). Doheny was obliged to build storage tanks at Pearl Harbor, fill them with oil, erect a refinery in California and build a pipe line from the naval reserves to the refinery. In return, Doheny received exclusive rights to exploit about 30,000 acres of proven oil lands, with a profit estimated by him at one hundred million dollars. Two other companies had expressed interest but had insisted that Congress approve the proposed contract before it was executed, a condition rejected by Fall and Navy officers. Werner and Starr, Teapot Dome, at 42, 54-57, 84-86.
During the same period, Fall was secretly negotiating away Wyoming's Teapot Dome, believed to be the richest of the remaining oil reserves. See 62 Cong. Rec. 6042 (1922). Harry F. Sinclair was head of the Mammoth Oil Company. In December, 1921, Fall entertained Sinclair, his attorney, Colonel J.W. Zevely, their wives, and several others at his ranch at Three Rivers, New Mexico: "[i]n the evenings, Sinclair and Zevely sat before Fall's ranch-house fire and discussed a lease to Sinclair of the entire naval reserve at Teapot Dome." Werner and Starr, Teapot Dome at 56. They also discussed Fall's cattle needs. After Sinclair returned home, Fall received six heifers, a yearling bull, two six-months-old boars, four sows and for his foreman, an English thoroughbred horse. Id. at 57.
On February 3, 1922, Sinclair, Fall, Admiral John Robison (Chief of the Navy's Bureau of Engineering and at one time in charge of the administration of the Naval Petroleum Reserves), and others met in Fall's office to outline the terms of an agreement. Teapot Dome would be leased in its entirety, Sinclair would build a pipe line with adequate capacity from the Teapot Dome oil fields, and the proceeds from the Navy's share of oil from the reserve were to be used by Sinclair to build storage tanks on the Atlantic coast and fill them with fuel oil. Under their arrangement, the Navy would not receive any cash, as cash would have to be turned over to the United States Treasury and the Navy could then only benefit in the ordinary way, through congressional appropriations. Id. at 59.
During these discussions, the participants considered whether they should obtain an opinion from Attorney General Daugherty on the legality of the exchange, but Fall rejected the idea:
[W]hen questioned later about his failure . . . [to ask Daugherty for a legal opinion] he said that he himself had been a lawyer for many years and neither needed nor wanted outside legal opinions. In this way, Fall protected himself from cutting Daugherty in on his profit and Daugherty was glad to be able to say later, when he was in trouble for shady deals of his own, that at least he had had nothing to do with Teapot Dome.
Id. at 60-61. Fall, (Secretary of the Navy) Denby and Sinclair secretly signed a lease for the entire tract on April 7, 1922, and Fall locked it in his desk drawer.
One month later (after a Senate inquiry into the leases had already begun), Fall sent his son-in-law, M.T. Everhart, to see Sinclair in Sinclair's private railroad car. Sinclair gave Everhart $198,000 in Liberty Bonds. Shortly thereafter, Sinclair gave Everhart another $35,000 worth of the same issue of bonds. Everhart in turn gave Sinclair a check for $1100, to pay for the livestock shipped from Sinclair's farm to Fall (presumably because congressmen were now asking questions about those gifts), and then advised Sinclair that Fall would like a loan. Sinclair obliged with $36,000 in cash. Id. at 69-70.
As one historian wrote: "By the time he was finished leasing the navy's reserves, Fall had given his two benefactors reserves which each of them estimated roughly to be worth $100,000,000, and he had collected from them $409,000 in cash and bonds." Id. at 86. With respect to Teapot Dome, an oil man would later testify that it was so valuable that the government could have easily gotten "a bonus of at least $10,000,000, and possibly as much as $50,000,000, over and above the royalties Sinclair was obligated to pay, if the lease had been awarded after competitive bidding instead of in the privacy of Fall's ranch house." Id. at 79.
Despite Fall's efforts to keep the Teapot Dome lease secret, the news began to spread: "[s]ome men in New Mexico became suspicious when they noticed Fall buying more land and improving his property there, and oil men in Wyoming and Colorado began to wire their Congressmen in protest and for information." Werner and Starr, Teapot Dome at 64. On April 14, 1922, the front page of the Wall Street Journal reported that Fall had leased Teapot Dome to Sinclair. Noggle, Teapot Dome: Oil and Politics in the 1920's, at 36.
On April 15, 1922 the Senate passed Resolution 277, requesting the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the Interior to inform the Senate whether negotiations were in fact pending to lease naval oil reserves and if so, the parties involved, the terms and conditions of any such proposed agreements and "whether opportunity will be given the public for competitive bidding for the operation of these lands . . . ." See Senate Resolution 277 (3) and S. Res. 277, 67th Cong. (1922) (enacted).
Responding to Senate Resolution 277, the first defenders of the lease were Denby and since Fall was out of town, Acting Secretary of the Interior Edward Finney. Denby and Finney provided the Senate with a copy of the lease. See S. Doc. No. 67-196 (1922). They rationalized in a letter to the Senate that the lease had been executed in the public interest because crude oil in the reserves was unsuitable as fuel for naval ships so it was necessary to exchange it for fuel oil and provide for the construction of storage tanks to minimize evaporation. S. Doc. No. 67-191, at 1 (1922).
They also argued that drilling was necessary because millions of barrels of oil had already been lost from the California reserves due to drilling from adjacent lands and that Teapot Dome faced a similar fate. Id. at 1-2. Finally, they asserted that the lease did not contradict the administration's policies as "[t]he Interior Department and the Navy Department have been in close cooperation and have been endeavoring, as they saw it, to carry out the purposes for which these naval reserves were created, i.e., not the sale of oil for commercial or other purposes but the securing of a reserve of fuel oil for Navy purposes." Id. at 3.
After the Senate received a copy of the lease, it unanimously passed Senate Resolution 282 on April 29, 1922, providing for the Committee of Public Lands and Surveys to conduct an investigation. Senate Resolution 282 (draft version) (4) and S. Res. 282, 67th Cong. (1922) (enacted). Senator Miles Poindexter, a Republican from Washington, defined the two issues needing resolution:
In the first place, was it necessary for the Government to sink wells or to have wells sunk upon its reserve in order to meet an attack upon the oil underneath its own property by which it was being drained? In the second place, are the means which have been adopted by the Government for doing that the proper ones, the best ones, to the greatest advantage of the Government, which could be obtained?
In response to Senate Resolution 282, Harding sent a presidential message to the Senate, asserting that "the policy which has been adopted by the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the Interior in dealing with these matters was submitted to me prior to the adoption thereof, and the policy decided upon and the subsequent acts have at all times had my entire approval." S. Doc. No. 67-210, 67th Cong., 2d Sess., at III (1922). The message included a report from Fall, but Harding made clear that Fall's explanation "[was] not to be construed as a defense of either specific acts or the general policies followed in dealing with the problems incident to the handling of the naval reserves." Id. at 3.
Fall too declared that the report was not "written in the slightest degree as an attempt at defense of actions or of policies" since "[t]he writer recognizes no necessity for such defense." Id. at 26. Closely following the President's message, Fall, in a letter to the Senate, again insisted that he was in compliance with President Harding's Executive Order of May 31, 1921, giving him permission to administer the naval reserves for the Secretary of the Navy and thus, the lease was proper. H.R. Rep. No. 67-1079, at 9 (1922). Fall also insisted that he had discussed the Teapot Dome lease with Denby. In his words, "[t]he Secretary of the Interior has proceeded under this order in constant communication and consultation and cooperation with the Secretary of the Navy, and is so continuing at the present time." Id.
In the face of continuing reports that Fall's personal fortunes had mysteriously improved, these assurances were not enough to quell growing suspicion of wrongdoing. Members of the oil industry expressed their outrage to Wisconsin Republican Senator Robert La Follette, who presented their point by point letter of protest on the Senate floor on May 13, 1922:
First. Against the policy of the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of the Navy in opening the naval reserves at this time for exploitation.
Second. Against the method of leasing public lands without competitive bidding, as exemplified in the recent contract entered into between Secretary Fall of the Interior and Secretary Denby of the Navy and the Standard Oil-Sinclair-Doheny interest.
Third. Against the policy of any department of the Government of the United States entering into a contract of any character whatsoever, whether competitive or not, which would tend to continue or perpetuate a monopolistic control of the oil industry of the United States or create a monopoly on the sale of fuel oil or refined oil to the Navy or any other department of the Government.
For the following reasons:
There exists no emergency or necessity which would warrant the opening of the naval reserves at this time for exploitation in order that the Navy might be supplied with the various grades of oil required by it, there being already above ground and in storage in the United States the greatest amount of oil that has been in storage in the history of all times.
The prices of fuel oil at the seaboard are lower than they have been in years, and there is an abundant supply.
The oil industry of the United States is just now convalescing from the greatest depression it has ever suffered, the daily production now being the largest in its history, and therefore, the turning over of Government lands to the large pipe-line interests for exploitation will have the direct result of depressing the price of crude oil without in any way relieving the people of the onerous and burdensome high prices of refined products.
News of the scandal was not only gaining the attention of Congress and the press, but also weighed heavily on the mind of President Harding, who commented while traveling across the country: "I have no trouble with my enemies, I can take care of them. It is my . . . friends that are giving me trouble." Noggle, supra at 56. Harding died suddenly on August 2, 1922 while he was in San Francisco. Calvin Coolidge assumed the presidency the next day.
II. The Trail Widens: Congress Investigates
the Teapot Dome Lease
[TABLE OF CONTENTS]
Hearings on the Teapot Dome oil lease began on October 15, 1923 before the Senate Committee on Public Lands and Surveys. Only three members were in attendance at the first meeting. Since they lacked a quorum, the meeting was adjourned until the following week. Senate Public Lands and Surveys Committee, 67th Congress 3rd Session - 68th Congress, 1st Session: Minutes (October 15, 1923 and October 22, 1923). (5) That would be the first and only time the Senate Committee on Public Lands and Surveys adjourned for want of a quorum during these Teapot Dome hearings.
As the steady stream of witnesses appeared before the committee, starting on October 23, 1923 and continuing through May 14, 1924, each name was penned in a small green notebook now housed at the National Archives. Id. (October 23-25, 1923). Senator Thomas Walsh, a Democrat from Montana, led the committee's investigation. The committee's first witness was former Secretary of the Interior Fall, who had resigned from his post effective March 4, 1923. Id. (October 23, 1923). Fall was followed on the witness stand by Secretary of the Navy Denby. Id. (October 25, 1923).
Over the next few months, dozens of witnesses testified before the committee. As the weeks passed, however, the investigation appeared to lose momentum and was largely forgotten by the public. That changed in January 1924, when a tortured account of Fall's finances began to emerge. On January 24, 1924, Edward Doheny conceded in a statement that he read to the Senate committee that he had lent Fall $100,000, and Doheny's son had carried the cash to Fall. Walsh's next step was to call for appointment of special counsel.
At an executive session of the Public Lands Committee on January 26, 1924, a Saturday, Walsh proposed that he introduce on Monday a Senate Resolution calling on President Coolidge to annul the leases of Teapot Dome and Elk Hills and to appoint a special counsel to investigate and prosecute those involved. The Committee unanimously agreed. Before Walsh could present the resolution to the full Senate, however, Coolidge beat him to the punch. Coolidge issued a statement at midnight that appeared in the newspaper the next day, on Sunday, announcing his intention to nominate two special counsel:
It is not for the President to determine criminal guilt or render judgment in civil causes. That is the function of the courts. It is not for him to prejudge. I shall do neither but when facts are revealed to me that require action for the purpose of insuring the enforcement of either civil or criminal liability, such action will be taken. That is the province of the Executive.
Acting under my direction the Department of Justice has been observing the course of the evidence which has been revealed at the hearings conducted by the senatorial committee investigating certain oil leases made on naval reserves, which I believe warrants action for the purpose of enforcing the law and protecting the rights of the public. This is confirmed by reports made to me from the committee. If there has been any crime, it must be prosecuted. If there has been any property of the United States illegally transferred or leased, it must be recovered.
I feel the public is entitled to know that in the conduct of such action no one is shielded for any party, political or other reason. As I understand, men are involved who belong to both political parties, and having been advised by the Department of Justice that it is in accord with the former precedents, I propose to employ special counsel of high rank drawn from both political parties to bring such action for the enforcement of the law. Counsel will be instructed to prosecute these cases in the courts so that if there is any guilt it will be punished if there is civil liability it will be enforced if there is any fraud it will be revealed and if there are any contracts which are illegal they will be canceled.
65 Cong. Rec. 1520 (1924) (as reported by The New York Herald, January 27, 1924).
At the last minute, Attorney General Harry Daugherty, who had theretofore demonstrated little interest in the matter, positioned himself as supportive of the appointments. Daugherty's 11:25 p.m. telegram to Coolidge read:
May I again urge the desirability you immediately appoint two outstanding lawyers who as such shall at once take up all phases of the oil leases under investigation of the Senate or others and advise you as to the facts and law justifying legal proceedings of any kind. As you know, I do not desire to evade any responsibility in this or other matters but considering that Mr. Fall and I served in the Cabinet together, this would be fair to you, to Mr. Fall, and the American people, as well as to the Attorney General, the Department of Justice, and my associates and assistants therein. I do not desire to be consulted as to whom you shall appoint. The only suggestion I have to make in that regard is that those appointed shall be lawyers whom the public will at once recognize as worthy of confidence and who will command the respect of the people by not practicing politics or permitting others to do so in connection with this important public business. Their work can be done with or without the cooperation of the Department of Justice or anybody connected therewith as you and they may desire. The Department of Justice is at all times in this or any other matters at your service and at the service of your appointees in this connection.
The Washington Post on Monday ran a statement by Senator Walsh, recounting his intention to present a resolution to the Senate "authorizing and directing the President to institute suit to annul the leases and to employ special counsel who should have charge of the litigation." 65 Cong. Rec. at 1520. Walsh, skeptical of the coincidence that the committee would unanimously call for the appointment of special counsel and the same day the President would announce the same desire, related his belief that his plan was leaked to Coolidge. "It was agreed that the action of the committee should be regarded as confidential. But in the view of the statement from the White House, to which so obviously the information was conveyed, I give you this statement." Id.
In the Senate on Monday, offense was taken at Coolidge's observation that special counsel from each party was needed because members of both parties were involved. Representative Hatton Sumners, a Texas Democrat, protested:
This reservation of the American Nation against the day of its need was surrendered by a Republican Secretary of the Navy it was bartered away by a Republican Secretary of the Interior. The transfer and the lease were approved by a Republican Cabinet. I do not prejudge. But why try to dodge responsibility and talk about parties? There happens to be but one party involved and some dastardly thieves who ought to be in the penitentiary. But, gentlemen, it does not make any difference whether it were the Republican or Democratic Party. It is the business of the party in power to face the American Nation, stand responsible for the conduct of its administration, and to give the people of this Nation a prosecution in this case that will restore the confidence of the people not in the party in power merely, or any party, but in their Government, in the integrity of their public officials.
65 Cong. Rec. at 1582. Tennessee Representative Finis Garrett, a Democrat, said "we upon this side of the aisle are not objecting to the employment of special counsel" but he vehemently objected to what he saw as the President's politicization of the scandal:
[W]hy did the President of the United States, the President of the whole people, for the first time, so far as I know anywhere, any place, that this matter has been considered or discussed, suggest the idea of political parties in connection therewith. You know, of course, that it was an effort to try to stem the tide of suspicion running against so large a part of this administration.
The idea of appointing two special counsel was well received by Congress, in part because there were serious doubts as to whether the Department of Justice and Attorney General Daugherty should conduct the investigation.
Senator William King, a Utah Democrat, was among those who questioned whether "the President long before had decided that he had no confidence in the Attorney General or in any of the officials of the Department of Justice, and therefore, he felt that somebody outside of the department ought to be selected?" 65 Cong. Rec. at 1537. Representative Garrett suggested that the President was not the only one who had lost confidence in the Department of Justice:
[I]n view of the fact that we can not confide in the Department of Justice, in view of the fact that the public can not confide in the Department of Justice, in view of the fact that the President can not confide in his own Department of Justice, we feel that the time has come to give him special counsel.
Accordingly, the Senate unanimously passed Joint Resolution 54 on January 31, 1924, stating that the leases to the Mammoth Oil Company and the Pan American Petroleum Company "were executed under circumstances indicating fraud and corruption" and "were entered into without authority" and "in violation of the laws of Congress." 65 Cong. Rec. 1728-1729 (1924). It directed the President to institute suit to cancel the leases "and to prosecute such other actions or proceedings, civil and criminal, as may be warranted by the facts in relation to the making of said leases and contract." Id. at 1729. The President was authorized "to appoint, by and with the consent of the Senate, special counsel who shall have charge and control of the prosecution of such litigation, anything in the statutes touching the powers of the Attorney General of the Department of Justice to the contrary notwithstanding." Id. The joint resolution authorizing special counsel was signed into law on February 8, 1924. 43 Stat. chap. 16 (1924). The funding mechanism, a joint resolution for $100,000 to cover the special counsel's expenses, was approved by the President on February 27, 1924. 43 Stat. chap. 42 (1924).
B. The Appointment of Atlee Pomerene and Owen Roberts
[TABLE OF CONTENTS]
The Senate was acutely aware that public attention had focused on the scandal and that the best legal talent was needed to prosecute the case. Washington's Senator Clarence Dill, a Democrat, spoke:
They think a great national scandal has been unearthed. The case demands the biggest men that the country has in its legal profession.
. . . May I pause for a moment to remind Senators of the kind of a case that is. It is a big case. Nobody knows the exact value of the properties involved. It is estimated at probably a billion dollars. Mr. Doheny, Mr. Sinclair, and Mr. Fall will have the best attorneys their millions can employ. The United States Government needs the biggest and best prosecutors that can be had to meet those attorneys in the courtroom and carry the criminal prosecution to conviction.
The President's first two nominees, Republican Silas Strawn and Democrat Thomas Gregory, both had connections with the oil industry. Their nominations were withdrawn when it became clear that the Senate would not approve their appointment.
Pennsylvania's Republican Senator, George Pepper, thought a Republican attorney from Philadelphia, Owen Roberts, would make an excellent candidate, and he suggested Roberts' name to Coolidge. Pepper then summoned Roberts to Washington. Before meeting Coolidge, Pepper asked Roberts if he would be interested in "a very delicate piece of businessone which might make him a national figure, and one which might ruin him because he would be stepping on the toes of some mighty big people." Werner and Starr, Teapot Dome at 153.
Roberts responded "that he had never been overly impressed by some mighty big people and asked what his friend had in mind." Id. Pepper revealed that "he had recommended him to President Coolidge as one of the two special counsels to try the oil cases and that they had an appointment with the President for that afternoon at 2:30." Id. An historian described the meeting among Coolidge, Roberts and Pepper this way:
After Roberts and Senator Pepper entered the President's office, Coolidge waited until they were seated and then said, "I understand you're a farmer, Mr. Roberts." He got up from his desk and pointed out a picture of his own farm in Vermont. Roberts, who operated a farm at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, in which he took some pride, said "Guernseys are my money crop, and I've never shown a loss."
Coolidge considered this statement gravely for a moment and then abruptly launched into the reason for the visit. He asked Roberts what he knew about public-land laws.
"Nothing whatever," Roberts replied. Senator Pepper tried to explain away this frankness. The President turned to him and said, "When I want an interpreter, I'll call on you." Roberts then went on to say that he had been a professor of the law of property at the University of Pennsylvania Law School for some years, and that he did not think that he would have much difficulty studying the public-land laws.
The President walked over to the window and stood gazing for a while out at the White House lawn. There was a rather long silence. "Pepper," the President finally said, "I can see no reason why I should not appoint this man." Then he turned to Roberts and said, "If you are confirmed, there is one thing you must bear in mind. You will be working for the government of the United statesnot for the Republican Party, and not for me. Let this fact guide you, no matter what ugly matters come to light. You may call on me for whatever assistance you may need. Don't hesitate to ask."
Even though Roberts thus had Coolidge's seal of approval, he needed Senate confirmation. Pepper highly recommended Roberts on the floor of the Senate:
For 25 years he has been engaged in the active practice of his profession at a bar which is not without men of ability. He has emerged from the struggles of the forum with a character unimpaired, a reputation unsmirched. He has stood the fire test of professional life. He is recognized by his entire community as a gentleman of integrity and honor.
Senators, the man is in the prime of life. He is 49 years of age and a tower of physical strength. He is a ceaseless and tireless worker. When he is not in court he will be found in his office early and late. He has recognized that the law is a jealous mistress and has given but little time to activities outside the scope of his profession.
. . . He began his experiences in active practice as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia and for several years prosecuted with effect criminals at the bar of the courts. In the meantime he was building up a civil practice which has attained proportions second to none in our community. He has been in court continuously for 20 years. Day after day, week after week, term after term, he has tried all kinds of cases and has acquired equal facility in the trial of all of them. He is an admirable jury lawyer. He has the courage, the thoroughness of preparation, the resourcefulness, and the personality necessary for success in that difficult branch of professional work. And he has attained it.
Coolidge paired Roberts with former Senator Atlee Pomerene, an Ohio Democrat. Pomerene was highly recommended by the man who had taken his seat in the Senate in 1922, Republican Simeon Fess:
I simply desire to say this much about the man with whom I had a contest in Ohio. I have known him for many years professionally I have known him politically, not much socially but I know Atlee Pomerene as a man of unusual ability as a lawyer, which must have been clearly manifested in the remarkable manner in which he conducted the many investigations that were conducted by order of the Senate. I knew him as a witness once in one of the investigations. I recognized that no person who knows ability would question his ability and power as a cross-examiner. As a lawyer it would appear to me that he would fill the position and meet the requirements contemplated by the pending investigation.
I knew him very well politically. I do not believe that there is a more upstanding, honorable, and courageous man in either party in my State than Senator Atlee Pomerene.
. . . As a man of courage, I know no superior. As a man of probity, there certainly can be no question about him. With my knowledge of this former opponent of mine, I am free to say that I stated to the authorities here that it appeared to me that Mr. Pomerene would be a very good representative of one of the political parties to carry on the investigation. I have never known his Democracy to be questioned, and certainly I did not think it was questioned when I was in a contest with him two years ago.
However, some in the Senate, like Washington Democratic Senator Clarence Dill, believed the two nominees fell short of the mark:
[I]n the appointment of Mr. Pomerene the President has chosen a man who has had no experience at all in public land law, a man who has had no practice in equity cases in the Federal courts, with the exception of one case, since he left the Senate. And this is the attorney who is to have charge of the prosecution of these cases as the attorney in chief.
Mr. Roberts, the other man suggested, so far as I can learn, is a reputable trial lawyer at the bar in Philadelphia, but he, too, knows nothing about public land law. He, too, has no national reputation. He is a stranger to the public mind. Thus the Senate is asked to confirm the nomination of two attorneys neither of whom has ever made a national reputation as lawyers, neither of whom is fitted to handle the cases as compared with the men whom they must necessarily oppose.
Id. at 2548. Dill stressed the importance of the Senate's role:
I recognize fully, I hope, that ordinarily the power of confirmation in the Senate is more or less a perfunctory power in most cases and seldom goes further than the consideration of the reputation and general ability and character of a man. The ordinary appointee of the President is selected to carry out his particular policies as his agent, and, as such, is purely an administrative officer but in this case there is a vast difference. The attorneys in this case will not be the representatives of the President to carry out his administrative policy. These attorneys are not to act under the Attorney General these attorneys are to represent not merely the President, but all the Senate and the American people.
Id. Senator David Walsh, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Dill continued:
Mr. Walsh:I suppose the Senator will agree with me that these attorneys will become more or less the agents of the Chief Executive, that they will be in touch with him, and have to make reports to him from time to time that their industry and their enthusiasm will be measured somewhat by his interest and enthusiasm in the successful prosecution of these cases. I suppose the Senator will agree with that. I ask this question, has the Senator, as a member of the committee, or has any other member of the committee, any reason to believe that for the sake of politics or for the sake of covering up the facts there is any disposition on the part of the Chief Executive or the executive branch of this Government not to prosecute these oil-scandal cases with enthusiasm and with zeal and with vigor to a successful completion?
Mr. Dill: Mr. President I do not want to go into the motives of the President of the United States. There may be justification for the suggestion of the Senator
Mr. Walsh: I do not mean to make any suggestion. I have heard it suggested that the committee have received no cooperation whatever from the executive department
Mr. Dill: Certainly not
Mr. Walsh I want to know if the Senator is convinced, the resolution having been passed, the people of this country may reasonably expect that the executive departments, all of them, are going to get behind this prosecution and manifest an interest in the successful prosecution of these cases?
Mr. Dill: I can only say to the Senator that I hope the President is anxious and enthusiastic to prosecute these cases. There is a phase of that question which does require consideration for a moment, and that is that when the President picks men who are ordinary lawyers, considered from a national standpoint, and who have corporate connections of which the people are suspicious, there is a probability that the public will believe that the cases are not being prosecuted with the vigor with which they should be prosecuted, with which the Senate desires to have them prosecuted. The danger is that the people will think, because the President selects as attorneys men who are not the great outstanding members of the profession, that he is not desirous of having these cases prosecuted to their fullest success, and if the Senate permits this confirmation to go through the Senate must share the responsibility. As one Senator, I refuse to have any part in the responsibility. Such a selection will arouse suspicion in the public mind, and if the cases fail, as they may fail, it will cause a revulsion of feeling in this country that will endanger the very Government itself.
I want to say, Mr. President, that with the state of the public mind as it is to-day, this is no time to do things which encourage public suspicion. The American people everywhere are doubtful about the men here in Washington unearthing all the facts. They are questioning the sincerity of many of us and the selection of counsel who do not command public confidence when the counsel are so extremely important as they are in this case will but add to the public suspicion, already too great.
Nonetheless, Pomerene was approved by a vote of 59 to 13 on February 16, 1924. Two days later, Roberts was approved by a vote of 68 to 8. That same day, Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby sent his resignation to Coolidge.
Offices were assigned to the special counsel in the Transportation Building at 17th and H Streets. On their first day of work, Roberts and Pomerene had an interview with Coolidge. Roberts reported to the President on his interview with Walsh and the senator's warning about the uselessness of the Department of Justice under the circumstances [see following section]. Coolidge listened to this account in silence and then decided that the only solution was to turn over to special counsel Treasury Department Secret Service men, who had a long tradition of quiet effectiveness and were known to be incorruptible. As they were leaving, the President reiterated his invitation to call upon him whenever help was needed, and he added that he had no doubt that they would need it. "And stop by the way," Coolidge said to Roberts with a faint smile, "stop back sometime and tell me more about those Guernseys."
Werner and Starr, Teapot Dome at 160.
Within a month of the Senate's approval of Roberts and Pomerene as special counsel, the two sought indictments against Fall, Doheny, and Sinclair.
C. Loss of Confidence in the Justice Department
[TABLE OF CONTENTS]
Shortly after his confirmation as special counsel, Roberts met with Senator Walsh who gave him this advice about Attorney General Daugherty:
I wouldn't depend on the Justice Department for investigative purposes, nor would I approach the Attorney General's office for information if I were you. . .. It is my conviction that the man would go to any lengths to protect himself and his friendsand make no mistake about it, the people we are after are friends of the Attorney General. Harry Daugherty has had a hand in every dirty piece of business which has come out of the Harding administration. There is every reason to believe that, at the very least, Daugherty is one of the men who knows the whole sordid story of the oil leasesand there is enough evidence to warrant the suspicion that he himself might have profited from them. In addition, the Department of Justice and its Bureau of Investigation are hand-picked by Daugherty and rotten to the core.
The Senate immediately moved to address the acute loss of confidence in the Department of Justice that had necessitated the appointment of special counsel. Amid calls for Daugherty's resignation, Montana Senator Burton Wheeler, a Democrat, introduced Senate Resolution 157, providing for an investigation of the Department. Wheeler articulated the reasons for investigating Daugherty and the Department of Justice on the Senate floor:
Ever since the Attorney General has occupied the important position which he now holds various charges have been made against him in the newspapers and by individuals from one end of the country to the other. Recently when the oil scandal first developed it appears that the Attorney General's name was mixed in it. It appeared, if you please, that he was the friend of Ned McLean. Everybody knows that he was the friend of Sinclair. Everybody knows that he was the friend of Doheny. Everybody knows that those three men met in the apartment of the Attorney General from time to time . . . .
The newspapers in New York carried the details of how the Attorney General's former partner and friend, Mr. Felder, was collecting money for the purpose of selling offices, appointments, and for the dismissal of whisky (sic) cases in the city of New York. Everybody who knows anything about the history of the matter knows that other friends and confidential advisors of the Attorney General of the United States were collecting money and were giving as their reasons for collecting it that they could use influence with the Attorney General of the United States of America . . . .
Not only that, but when the startling testimony came out in the oil investigation that McLean had given money to Fall there was not any prosecution. Then when McLean subsequently testified that he did not give the money and when the testimony was produced that Mr. Fall got the money from Doheny, that the money was sent in a sack by Doheny's son, and taken in connection with the other testimony given by Doheny upon a subsequent occasion, what effort was made on the part of the Attorney General or the Department of Justice to arrest or prosecute Fall? On the contrary he was allowed to be at large. He was allowed to stay in the house of Sinclair's lawyer. Throughout the entire investigation not one scintilla of evidence has been offered to the committee by all or any of the investigators of the Department of Justice.
65 Cong. Rec. at 2769-2770. Wheeler would have gone further, but was persuaded to remove the following two clauses from his resolution:
Whereas it appears that said Harry M. Daugherty has lost the confidence of the President of the United States, as exemplified by the President's statement that he intends to employ, at great expense to the Government, special attorneys not connected officially with the Department of Justice, indicating that this department can not be trusted with the prosecution of the cases which have arisen by reason of the disclosures before the Senate Committee on Public Lands and Surveys and the United States Veteran's Bureau and
Whereas said Harry M. Daugherty has lost the confidence of the Congress of the United States and of the people of the country, and the Department of Justice has fallen into disrepute.
Daugherty responded to Wheeler's charges by writing a letter to Ohio Republican Senator Frank Willis:
It is interesting to remind you that before the introduction of this resolution I requested the President to relieve me of the responsibility of prosecuting Albert B. Fall, and those with whom he is alleged to have been acting in collusion, because of the fact that Mr. Fall had been a member of the Cabinet in which I also served, and that the country might be better satisfied to have the conduct of the prosecution in control of lawyers in no way connected with the Government. You know that the President, approving this suggestion, did place this whole matter in the hands of two of the ablest lawyers in this country, Hon. Atlee Pomerene and Hon. Owen J. Roberts, whose appointments have been confirmed by the Senate, and who are now in full charge of the particular matters referred to in this resolution.
. . . .
. . . I desire to say further that since I have been Attorney General I have never acted upon any information received as Attorney General which resulted in my personal profit. I was not called upon by Secretary Fall or anyone else for an opinion, written or oral, in regard to the wisdom or legality of the oil leases, and I never volunteered an opinion either written or oral, to Secretary Fall or anyone else. I had no part of any kind of character, directly or indirectly, in the negotiations leading up to the execution of the oil leases no information ever came to me in connection therewith, and the leases were executed without my knowledge and without any official requirement or opportunity on my part to know of their execution.
Senate resolution 157, directing a Senate committee to investigate Daugherty's failure to prosecute, among others, the cases arising from the Teapot Dome scandal passed by a vote of 66 to 1. 65 Cong. Rec. at 3410. The investigation also included "numerous charges of illegality, graft, and influence-peddling in the Justice Department." Hasia Diner, Congress Investigates -- A Documented History 1792-1974 15 (1983).
After much pressure from Coolidge and under protestations of innocence, Daugherty resigned on March 28, 1924. Daugherty was replaced as Attorney General by Harlan Stone, who was succeeded by John Sargent when Stone was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1925.
With the change in Justice Department leadership, the need to maintain separation between the two special counsel and the Department evidently diminished. Roberts and Pomerene "were 'specially retained' by the Attorney General of the United States, to serve as special assistants to the Attorney General," and in prosecuting Fall, worked with the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and another counsel retained by the Attorney General. See United States v. Fall, 10 F.2d 648, 649 (D.C. Ct. App. 1925).
III. The Special Counsel Follow the Trail
[TABLE OF CONTENTS]
Roberts and Pomerene began their investigation by studying the Senate record, briefing the law and drafting complaints against the Pan American and Mammoth Oil companies. Then they investigated the records of the Navy and Interior Departments and sent out private detectives to gather evidence in California, New Mexico, Texas and New York. Within six months, the two were managing a complicated and diverse web of civil and criminal cases that would reach witnesses in Canada, France and Cuba. A chronological list located in the Department of Justice Government Oil Case Files memorializes the intensity of their effort during the first three years of their investigation. Chronological Index of Activities of Special Counsel. (6)
Their investigation was not without dramatic incident. Secret Service Agent Thomas B. Foster was detailed to the investigation and proceeded to examine Fall's financial transactions. On his trail were both agents of the Department of Justice's Bureau of Investigation and private detectives, assigned to follow him and find out what he was discovering. On the trail in Colorado, he found his hotel room ransacked. Werner and Starr, Teapot Dome at 171-73.
Atlee Pomerene's notes from 1925 reveal his thoughts on the investigation:
The issues involved in the pending litigation are far-reaching . . . Can the Naval Oil Reserves of such great value be bargained away in secret by public officials to their favorites? Can millions of barrels of royalty crude oil be delivered to these same favorites, without competitive bidding, for the construction of steel tankage and for fuel oil? Can duel depots be thus established by the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of the Navy, when this power never was lodged in the Secretary of the Navy by the repeal legislation of 1913? Can the public business be thus transacted and in secret? Shall men be permitted to make alleged "loans", (not to use an uglier term), to public officials with whom they are dealing for the public domain? Shall these officials be justified in representing to the public that the Naval Oil Reserves are not to be leased while they are privately negotiating with and executing leases to others? Shall an Admiral's course be approved, when he says: "It was the intention that the public and Congress should not get knowledge of what was being done until it had been in fact done"? These questions are involved in the pending litigation.
AP-TO dated 4/29/1925. (7) Pomerene's questions would receive a variety of responses from the courts in the coming years.
Pomerene and Roberts brought numerous civil and criminal actions against those involved in the fraudulent leasing of Teapot Dome and the Elk Hills reserves. Two civil trials and six criminal trials ensued. Ultimately, these cases restored the naval reserves to the United States, put Sinclair in jail for nine months for contempt of Congress, and landed Fall in prison. Francis Busch, an historian, writes:
Today these cases have a dual significance. For lawyers they record a highly complex and bitterly contested litigation in which both sides were represented by some of the most brilliant advocates of their generation. For laymen these cases demonstrate democracy's boast that no man, rich or poor, of high or low estate, is above the law.
Busch, Enemies of the State 91. (8)
|a. United States v. Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company, Pan American Petroleum Company: Elk Hills Leases Voided|
A civil complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California in Los Angeles against the Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company and the Pan American Petroleum Company to cancel the two contracts and leases of the Elk Hills reserve. The bench trial opened October 21, 1924. Roberts and Pomerene represented the United States Frank J. Hogan headed a team of nine lawyers for the Pan American companies. Neither Fall nor Denby took the stand instead, their testimony and statements before the Senate Lands Committee were introduced into evidence. Busch, Enemies of the State, at 118-19. On May 28, 1925, Judge Paul J. McCormick ruled that the contracts and leases were void and ordered them canceled. See United States v. Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company, 6 F.2d 43 (D. Cal. 1925).
Both parties appealed that decision to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In January 1926, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the cancellation of the leases and contracts and dealt a financial blow to Pan American. Instead of affirming the district court's decision to credit the company for the money spent on building storage containers pursuant to the contract, the appeals court held that the company was not entitled to any such credit. See Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company v. United States, 9 F.2d 761 (9th Cir. 1926). Pan American applied for a writ of certiorari that was granted on March 22, 1926, but on February 28, 1927 the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision. See Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company v. United States, 273 U.S. 456 (1927).
|b. United States v. Mammoth Oil Company, the Sinclair Crude Oil Purchasing Company and the Sinclair Pipe Line Company: Teapot Dome Leases First Held Valid, then Voided On Appeal|
On March 13, 1924, a civil complaint was filed in the United States District Court for Wyoming against Mammoth Oil, Sinclair Crude Oil Purchasing and Sinclair Pipe to cancel and annul the Teapot Dome lease. In March 1925, the trial got underway. It too was tried before a judge. Roberts and Pomerene again represented the United States. Martin W. Littleton led a group of eight lawyers who represented Sinclair's companies. Sinclair, Fall and Denby did not testify. Busch, Enemies of the State, at 119.
Special counsel faced considerable difficulty in obtaining the testimony of important witnesses. Evidence had emerged that a short-lived Canadian shell corporation had served as a vehicle to produce profits to oil interests in the form of United States Liberty bonds. Some of those bonds had eventually found their way from Sinclair to Fall. At this juncture, however, the government was unable to develop this evidence. Several participants who testified had failed memories. A key Canadian witness, H. F. Osler, refused to testify on grounds of the attorney-client privilege. The highest court in Canada would eventually rule against that claim, but not until the Wyoming trial was over. Two other witnesses, James O'Neil and Harry M. Blackmer fled for France before they could be served with a subpoena. Letters rogatory were served, but they refused to testify. Id. at 119-21.
Mahlon T. Everhart, Fall's son-in-law who had carried the Liberty bonds from Sinclair to Fall, refused to testify on the grounds of self-incrimination:
I have never been an employee of the United States Government. I have never been in any way connected officially with the Mammoth Oil Company or with Harry F. Sinclair. I had nothing at all to do with the transaction of the making of the lease of Teapot Dome. I decline to answer on the ground aforesaid whether if I had anything to do with any property for Mr. Fall I did it merely as his agent or his messenger.
I am asked the question "If you had anything to do with any property for Mr. Fall you did it merely as his agent or messenger, did you not?" My reply to that question is "No." I desire to state to this court that I did have in my possession certain bonds, about which Government Counsel has interrogated me I had them in my own right as a principal, and to give further evidence concerning same will, I believe, tend to incriminate me . . . .
The trial ended in March 1925. In June 1925, U.S. District Court Judge Kennedy ruled that the contract with Mammoth Oil was valid and dismissed the suit. See United States v. Mammoth Oil Company, the Sinclair Crude Oil Purchasing Company and the Sinclair Pipe Line Company, 5 F.2d 330 (D. Wyo. 1925). Kennedy's decision sparked considerable controversy. Letter from Albert D. Walton, United States Attorney, to Atlee Pomerene, Special Counsel, 1-2 (December 13, 1930). (10)
The government appealed the decision. In September 1926, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit unanimously reversed the district court and ordered it to cancel the lease and subsequent contracts. See United States v. Mammoth Oil Company, the Sinclair Crude Oil Purchasing Company and the Sinclair Pipe Line Company, 14 F.2d 705 (8th Cir. 1926). Pan American appealed to the Supreme Court. In October 1927, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision, holding that the lease and contracts should be declared void because of the conspiracy between Fall and Sinclair. See Mammoth Oil Company, the Sinclair Crude Oil Purchasing Company and the Sinclair Pipe Line Company v. United States, 275 U.S. 13 (1927).
|a. United States v. Harry F. Sinclair: Sinclair Convicted of Contempt of Congress|
When the Senate Public Lands and Surveys Committee called upon Harry Sinclair to answer questions, he refused to testify, claiming that the committee lacked jurisdiction. On March 31, 1924, a grand jury of the District of Columbia returned a criminal indictment charging Sinclair with contempt of Congress.
The Supreme Court of the District of Columbia trial judge found Sinclair guilty of contempt. On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and held that Congress has the power to investigate and compel witnesses to testify. See Sinclair v. United States, 279 U.S. 263 (1929).
|b. United States v. Edward L. Doheny, Edward L. Doheny, Jr. and Albert B. Fall: Defendants Acquitted of Conspiracy to Defraud the United States|
On June 30, 1924, a criminal indictment was filed in the District of Columbia charging Edward L. Doheny, his son Edward L. Doheny, Jr. and Secretary Fall with conspiracy to defraud the United States. On November 22, 1926, the trial began. After extensive testimony from witnesses, hundreds of exhibits and nineteen hours of deliberation, the jury found the defendants not guilty. Alabama Senator James Heflin, a Democrat, expressed his dismay at the result. Especially disturbing to him were reports that the jury broke into song before announcing the verdicts:
Mr. President, all law-abiding citizens will hang their heads in shame and humiliation as they read about this farcical court proceeding in the Capital of the Nation. God help us as the trusted representatives of the people to wake up to the dangers that threaten our country. Think of it one of these men, Fall, occupied a place in a President's Cabinet. He held a high and responsible position in the controlling force of the greatest government of the globe and now, after the testimony shows him to be guilty of betraying this trust and betraying his country, his criminal conduct is condoned and sanctioned by a rollicking, singing jury in the District of Columbia, here in the Capital of the Nation.
|c. United States v. Albert B. Fall and Harry F. Sinclair: Conspiracy to Defraud Case Ends in Mistrial and Sinclair Convicted of Criminal Contempt of Court|
On June 30, 1924, a criminal indictment was filed in the District of Columbia charging Albert B. Fall and Harry F. Sinclair with conspiracy to defraud the United States. The trial began on October 17, 1927 but ended prematurely two weeks later when the government presented evidence that Sinclair had hired a detective agency to shadow the jury. The judge declared a mistrial. Sinclair was tried for criminal contempt of court. More than a hundred witnesses were called. The trial judge found Sinclair and his associates guilty. Sinclair was sentenced to six months.
|d. United States v. Harry F. Sinclair: Sinclair Acquitted of Conspiracy to Defraud|
After several continuances necessitated by Fall's deteriorating health, special counsel chose to pursue the conspiracy to defraud charge against Sinclair alone. In April 1928, the conspiracy to defraud trial against Sinclair got underway in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. Much of the testimony was the same as was heard in the civil trial involving Sinclair and Fall, where Sinclair had refused to testify on grounds of self-incrimination. The notable exception was the testimony of M.T. Everhart, who for the first time gave details of how he had carried a package of bonds from Sinclair to Fall.
Obtaining Everhart's testimony was a coordinated effort by special counsel, the Department of Justice and Congress, spurred by a suggestion from Senator Alva Adams, a Colorado Democrat:
I am not able to give you accurate information as to the motives which led Mr. Everhart to persist in refusing to testify, but am disposed to think from what I have heard that he has been impressed with the idea that having taken the position which he did in Cheyenne that it was his duty as a matter of loyalty and consistency to persist in the same course. His family and close associates feel greatly outraged that Secretary Fall should put Mr. Everhart in this position and apparently insist on him continuing in a course so damaging to him. Mr. Everhart reported on his return that he received the utmost consideration and courtesy from you and Mr. Roberts but that his treatment from those whom he was befriending and protecting was discourteous and a little short of shameful. I believe that Mr. Everhart will welcome the passage of legislation to force him to testify. The service of subpoena upon Mr. Everhart for his appearance at the next hearing should be made upon him at as early a date as possible. Such early service, I am permitted to say to you, will not be unwelcome and may be advisable.
The strategy used to elicit Everhart's testimony was a change to the statute of limitations for fraud against the United States and its agencies. Several witnesses had used the then-existing six year limitation as a reason not to testify still subject to prosecution, they claimed they would incriminate themselves. By reducing the limitation to three years, Everhart and others would not face charges. Pomerene requested that the Assistant to the Attorney General William Donovan consider the idea and "have some of your experts draw this proposed amendment" since they were "most anxious to have some legislation bearing upon this subject." Letter from Atlee Pomerene, Special Counsel, to William Donovan, Assistant to the Attorney General (November 14, 1927). (12)
Roberts was hesitant to support special legislation and suggested that the same goal could be accomplished by providing immunity for Everhart "giving the right to the district attorney or prosecuting officer to insist upon the testimony, conditioned upon the statement that the witness shall not be prosecuted by reason of any matter or thing connected with his testimony." Letter from Owen Roberts, Special Counsel, to Atlee Pomerene, Special Counsel, 1-2 (December 8, 1927). (13) Further, Roberts speculated that calling Everhart to the stand and having him refuse to answer the questions could be as effective as his actual testimony. After Everhart had refused to answer questions posed to him at the Sinclair trial, Roberts had heard that the jurors were of the opinion "that in view of his performance there could be very little doubt that there was something radically wrong and crooked about the deal." Id. Nevertheless, Pomerene pursued the idea of reducing the statute of limitations.
An assistant to Attorney General Donovan had an amendment drafted that changed the six year limitation to three years. Letter from William Donovan, Assistant to the Attorney General, to Atlee Pomerene, Special Counsel, 1 (December 7, 1927). (14) Pomerene then met with Senator Walsh who was "rather disposed to favor the repeal of the section extending the statute of limitations to six years, so as to leave the old exemption stand at three years." Letter from Atlee Pomerene, Special Counsel, to Owen Roberts, Special Counsel, 1 (December 10, 1927). (15) Roberts responded to Pomerene, with a measure of reserve:
It seems to me that you have acted promptly and taken all the steps that it is necessary special counsel should take in the premises. After all, it is not our business to press legislation affecting the cases in which we are concerned. It does seem to be our duty to call to the attention of the proper parties any situation where it may be deemed proper to get additional legislation. When this has been done we have done our duty as it seems to me, and perhaps we ought not to be in the position of pressing for legislation.
Thereafter, when asked by the Attorney General for his opinion on whether the President should sign the legislation reducing the statute of limitations, Roberts expressed his support: "[t]he old six year statute has stood greatly in our way in the oil prosecutions for the reasons that witnesses have been enabled to allege that they might be in some way connected with the oil transactions which constitute a fraud on the Government, and that therefore they are liable to self incrimination, and have therefore refused to testify." Letter from Owen Roberts, Special Counsel to John Sargent, Attorney General (December 23, 1927). (17)
Everhart first tried to avoid testifying at Fall's trial. He called Senator Adams and asked "what he could do in regard to a subpoena just served on him" because he believed "there [was] nothing which he can contribute to the present trial." Letter from Alva Adams, Senator, to Atlee Pomerene, Special Counsel (September 19, 1929). (18) Adams suggested that Everhart "communicate directly with [Pomerene]." Id.
That same day, Everhart sent Pomerene a letter suggesting that he be "relieve[d] . . . of making a trip to Washington at this time" because of his livestock business. Everhart explained that he had no information regarding Doheny and Fall: "inasmuch as I did not participate in any way in these transactions and have no knowledge whatever concerning them other than newspaper reports and hearsay, it has occurred to me that I will be unable to be of any benefit to the Special Counsel as a witness in the case." Letter from M.T. Everhart to Atlee Pomerene, Special Counsel (September 18, 1929). (19)
Pomerene wrote back to Everhart, apologizing for the inconvenience but said it was "impossible for us to excuse you" because "[t]he testimony which you have in the Sinclair case is competent in the present case." Letter from Atlee Pomerene, Special Counsel, to M.T. Everhart (September 24, 1929). (20) In Pomerene's response to Senator Adams, written on the same day, he further illuminates the need for Everhart's testimony:
Our contention is that in the bribery case evidence of similar transactions is competent for the purpose of showing the intent in other words to characterize the end. It will be contended on the part of the defendant that the $100,000 was a loan. You and I feel confident that it was never intended that it should be repaid. Similarly, the Sinclair-Fall transaction in the form it took was a mere ruse.
Of course, we do not for a moment think that Mr. Everhart was in the real confidence of either of them.
I am writing you this confidentially.
Everhart's testimony at Fall's criminal trial did not disappoint. For the first time, the financial connection between Sinclair and Fall was confirmed. Everhart admitted that he had received the bonds from Sinclair in May 1922 and delivered them to Fall:
Q:When you got to Mr. Sinclair's private car, what if anything, did Mr. Sinclair give you?
A: He gave me a package of bonds.
Q: A package of bonds.
Q: What kind of bonds?
A: They were three and one half percent Liberty Bonds.
Q: Were they counted there in your presence, in his car?
A: No, sir.
Q: Did you open them?
A: No, sir.
Q: Where did you take them?
A: I took them to the Wardman Park Hotel.
Q: Who lived there?
A: Secretary Fall.
Q: To whom did you deliver them?
A: To him.
Everhart's testimony would later prove pivotal to Fall's conviction, but here the jury found Sinclair not guilty. Pomerene speculated that "if the oil cases could have been tried in other jurisdictions the result would have been different." Letter from Atlee Pomerene, Special Counsel, to George Norris, Senator (April 24, 1928). (23)
|e. United States v. Albert B. Fall: Fall Convicted of Accepting a Bribe from Doheny|
On June 30, 1924, a criminal indictment was filed in the District of Columbia charging Albert B. Fall with accepting a bribe from Doheny. On October 7, 1928 the trial got underway in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, despite Fall's deteriorating health. Even though the trial concerned Fall accepting money from Doheny, the judge allowed Everhart's testimony showing the financial relationship between Sinclair and Fall. That testimony was used to show that Fall had lied to the Senate committee when he declared that he had not accepted any money.
The trial transcript shows that on October 25, 1929, when the judge called the jurors by name to report their verdict they each said "guilty." Perhaps responding to Fall's ill health, they then each asked for "mercy of the Court." U.S. v. Fall, Trial Transcript, Vol. 16 (October 24, 25 1929). (24) Fall moved for a new trial on the grounds that admitting the Everhart testimony was improper. That motion was overruled. Fall was sentenced to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Fall appealed the decision. On April 7, 1931, the Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. The court identified Everhart's testimony as pivotal:
[These are] evidentiary facts tending to establish the relations between Fall and Sinclair. Considering the close relation of the parties, that, in the handling of the bonds between Sinclair and Fall, Everhart had been the intermediate agent, we think that all these transactions were evidentially relevant to the general issue of conveying to the jury the full Sinclair-Fall transactions as evidence of the motive and intent that Fall had in receiving the money from Doheny in the present case.
Albert B. Fall v. United States, 49 F.2d. 506, 513 (D.C. Ct. App.) cert. denied, 283 U.S. 867 (1931). Fall's application for a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court was denied on June 6, 1931. His application for an executive pardon likewise was refused. Fall was incarcerated at the New Mexico State Penitentiary in Santa Fe and served a little more than nine months.
|f. United States v. Edward L. Doheny and Edward L. Doheny, Jr.: Defendants Acquitted of Offering that Bribe to Fall|
On June 30, 1924, a criminal indictment was filed in the District of Columbia charging Doheny and his son with offering a bribe to Fall -- the same bribe which Fall had been convicted of receiving from the Dohenys. The evidence "was practically identical" in the two cases, with "one important difference -- [at the Dohenys' trial] no testimony was offered on Fall's financial transactions with Sinclair. Werner and Starr, Teapot Dome at 167. The Dohenys were acquitted by a jury.
Roberts had a successful law practice before he became special counsel, one to which he attempted to return in the waning days of the prosecutions. However, it was Attorney General John Sargent's opinion that since Roberts was appointed by the President, with the "advise and consent of the Senate" that Roberts was an officer prohibited from practicing before different departments of the federal government. H.R. Rep. No. 70-1959, at 2-3 (1928). He contended that Roberts' representation of a client before the Board of Tax Appeals, would violate the law that prohibited United States officers from representing parties against the United States.
Roberts grew increasingly frustrated with the limitations thus imposed on his practice. When Pomerene requested advice from Roberts concerning the case involving the Elk Hills tract, Roberts responded "I note that you have advised the parties that you will not agree to anything without conferring with me. As I have heretofore advised you that I cannot take any part in this trial I think that you should do exactly what you want about the matter without any reference to me." Letter from Owen Roberts, Special Counsel to Atlee Pomerene, Special Counsel (September 20, 1928). (25)
The following day Roberts again wrote to Pomerene distancing himself from the litigation and expressing his intention to resign:
I am going to Washington next week to see the Attorney General and to ask him to permit me to formally resign from all of my appointments other than the appointment of President Coolidge in the oil cases. I am doing this preliminarily prior to going to the Treasury Department and trying to get straightened out the question of my right to practice before the Treasury. I have spoken to you about this matter before, that the Treasury's attitude up to date has been one that has caused me a great deal of inconvenience and loss.
Senator Walsh then sent Roberts a letter disagreeing with the Attorney General's position and expressing his hope that Roberts would reconsider his decision:
I notice by the press that you have apparently severed your connection with the work that devolved on you in connection with the lease of the oil reserves. I hope there is some mistake about this. I understood your employment was "for the duration of the war," and if so I am sure you will feel, as I do that you ought to stay with the fight to the end.
. . . .
The intimation has reached me in some way that you quit because of the loss to which you are subject in consequence of a supposed inability to represent clients before the departments or Government boards or commissions. I can not believe that you are subject to any such inhibition. The place you fill is one of employment, rather than an official situation, I would say without giving study to the subject.
Walsh suggested that the matter be resolved by Congressional action and proposed to "undertake to get through an appropriate joint resolution, relieving you from the operation of the law." Id. Roberts welcomed the suggestion and commented that President Coolidge had made a similar proposal. See id. at 2-3. As Roberts characterized it, the Attorney General's position forced him "to sit here and twiddle my thumbs for 18 months or 2 years to come while the Senator and I finished up the few matters that remain in the oil cases and practically stay out of all business." Id. at 2.
The joint resolution met with little opposition in the Senate. There was one lone voice raised in opposition in the House, that of New York Republican Representative Fiorello La Guardia:
It simply singles out one man and sets aside wise, sound, and necessary provisions of the law in order to obtain the legal services of one particular lawyer . . . .
I do not believe and can not agree that there is only one man in the United States who can prepare the briefs and argue the particular case for the Government in this particular instance . . . .
But assuming that . . . a lawyer has the government, so to speak, by the throat, assuming that he is the only man who can prepare these briefs and argue the case, then I submit it is manifestly unfair for him to say, "I will not continue. I will resign unless you amend the law especially for me so that I can come in and practice before the departments of the Government in matters against the United States, even though I am retained as special counsel for the same United States."
70 Cong. Rec. 830 (1928). La Guardia observed that the Teapot Dome investigation had become a sacred cow:
When the oil cases are mentioned, it seems everybody is afraid to speak. . . . [i]f you are going to annul the law prohibiting a Government official from appearing against the Government, you are going to destroy a great protection for the government and Government resources.
I will state frankly that considerable pressure has been brought for the passage of this resolution. This matter was mentioned in the message from the President of the United States. He recommends the passage of the resolution. It has passed the Senate and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House has reported it out without a dissenting vote except my own but if I am the only Member of this House to-day to take this position, I am going to take it and stand here and oppose it, because I conscientiously consider it unwise and dangerous.
Id. The resolution passed both the House and Senate and was signed by the President on December 21, 1928. See 45 Stat. chap. 45 (1928).
C. Special Counsel Face Financial Difficulties
[TABLE OF CONTENTS]
Congress made a number of $100,000 appropriations for the work of the special counsel. The first $100,000 appropriation was signed on February 27, 1924. See 43 Stat. chap. 42 (1924).
Even though appropriations for expenses of the special counsel went smoothly from 1924-1927, problems arose in 1928. In a meeting with Coolidge, Pomerene told him that since February 3, 1928, no payments had been made for "ourselves, or assistants, or clerks, or expenses." Memorandum from Atlee Pomerene In Re: Naval Oil Litigation - Special Counsel, Conferences with President and Attorney General, 1 (May 27, 1930). (27)
On the same day, May 26, 1930, Pomerene so advised the Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations. He explained that the special counsel had received no money for more than two years and asked for a reappropriation of $149,707.51, the balance of the appropriation that had been made the year prior. Pomerene suggested that "[n]ot much of that appropriation has been expended, due perhaps to our negligence in presenting bills, I guess." Second Deficiency Appropriation Bill, 1930: Hearings Before the Subcomm. of House Committee on Appropriations, 71st Cong. 826 (1930). (28) Pomerene explained, "Mr. Roberts has paid the assistants in his office, and my firm of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey have paid my assistants. We have paid our own hotel and other expenses-except, of course, our railroad fares and Pullman fares were paid by travel vouchers, also telegraph and telephone charges were largely paid by the Government." Id. at 831. Pomerene told the committee "all that money is subject to disbursement by the President." Id. By Executive Proclamation, the President extended the balance of the available appropriations to June 30, 1932 to enable Roberts and Pomerene to conclude their work.
IV. The Trail Ends
[TABLE OF CONTENTS]
In the wake of the Teapot Dome investigation tumbled the resignations of Secretary of the Interior Fall, Secretary of the Navy Denby and Attorney General Daugherty. The scandal would forever cast a shadow on the Harding administration. On February 25, 1928, the President returned the administration of the oil and gas naval reserves to the Secretary of the Navy. 45 Stat. chap. 104 (1928). The "slimy trail" finally ended, as North Dakota Senator Gerald Nye observed:
The investigation has shown, let us hope, privilege at its worst. The trail is one of dishonesty, greed, violation of law, secrecy, concealment, evasion, falsehood, and cunning. It is a trail of betrayals by trusted and presumably honorable men--betrayals of a government, of certain business interests and the people who trusted and honored them it is a trail showing a flagrant degree of the exercise of political power and influence, and the power and influence of great wealth upon individuals and political parties it is the trail of despoilers and schemers, far more dangerous to the well-being of our Nation and our democracy than all those who have been deported from our shores in all time as undesirable citizens. And in the end the story is one of the crushing of brilliant careers when finally the light was played upon those who schemed those unhealthy schemes born in darkness.
Owen Roberts ceased his work as special counsel when he was appointed as a Justice to the Supreme Court in 1930.
Atlee Pomerene saw the litigation to the end. Among his last acts as special counsel was to pursue compensation from companies that had bought Teapot Dome oil from Mammoth Oil Company when Mammoth's bankruptcy meant recovery was impossible. Pomerene recovered more than $26,000 from Sinclair Pipe Line Company and Midwest Refining Company. Pomerene was later appointed by President Hoover to head the Reconstructionist Finance Corporation but was replaced when Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office.
The two were widely praised, even though some of their prosecutions were unsuccessful:
[They] left no stone unturned to win their case. No avenue of evidence was left unexplored, and no pains or expense were spared in preparing for trial. The government's side could not have been in more able hands. The skill with which the evidence was amassed and arranged, and the ability with which it was presented to the jury, left no possible room for adverse criticism. Messrs. Roberts and Pomerene adhered to the finest traditions of American jurisprudence throughout the preparatory and trial stages of this celebrated case and no one who followed the case could doubt that if a verdict of guilty had been forthcoming it would have been due to the extraordinary efforts and ability of the government's counsel.
Note: The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and should not be attributed to the staff, officers or trustees of the Brookings Institution.
About Gerald P. Nye, U.S. Senator
Gerald Prentice Nye (December 19, 1892 – July 17, 1971) was a United States politician, representing North Dakota in the U.S. Senate from 1925. He was a Republican and supporter of WWII-era isolationism, chairing the Nye Committee which studied the causes of United States' involvement in World War I.
Gerald Nye (whose first name was pronounced with a hard "G"), was born in Hortonville, Wisconsin to Irwin Raymond Nye and Phoebe Ella Nye (nພ Prentice). Both of his grandfathers had served in the Civil War: Freeman James Nye in the 43rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment and George Washington Prentice in the 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Cavalry Regiment.
He was the first of four children. In his first year he and his parents moved to Wittenberg, Wisconsin, where his father became owner and editor of a small newspaper. Three more children were born there: Clair Irwin, Donald Oscar, and Marjorie Ella. Nye's father was a staunch supporter of Progressive Robert M. La Follette, and Nye personally remembered his father's taking him to hear Senator La Follette speak and then meet the Senator afterwards. (Years later, Gerald Nye and Robert LaFollette the younger would serve in the U.S. Senate together.) His uncle, Wallace G. Nye, was Mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota when Gerald was in his teens.
His mother, Ella, had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Family history indicates that she may have been asthmatic. She made trips to the South for recuperation, but on October 19, 1906 she died. He was thirteen his brothers, ten and eight and his baby sister, six. He was comforted by the presence of his four grandparents at the funeral. Nye graduated from Wittenberg High School in 1911, at age 18, and moved back to his grandparents' town of Hortonville, Wisconsin.
Gerald and his brother Clair had grown up helping around their father's newspaper business and learned the trade. Gerald took the editing end and Clair operated the presses. In 1911, after graduation, Nye became editor of The Hortonville Review. Three years later, he was the editor of the Creston Daily Plain Dealer in Iowa. In May 1916, he bought a weekly paper in Fryburg, North Dakota, The Fryburg Pioneer.
Nye was a supporter of the agrarian reform movement. His editorials lambasted big government and big business. He took the side of the struggling farmers. In 1924, Nye unsuccessfully sought election as a progressive Republican to the U.S. House. When U.S. Senator Edwin F. Ladd died on June 22, 1925, he and others gathered in the office of North Dakota Governor A.G. Sorlie, who told the group that he had decided to appoint "Jerry over here" to fill the seat.
He is famous for being in a Dr. Seuss political cartoon with Gerald L. K. Smith and Senator Robert Rice Reynolds.
Nye and his young family moved to Washington in 1925. Nye's youth and lack of sophistication were the talk of the town. He had a bowl haircut that was ridiculed. But he became a very active, popular and outspoken Senator, and North Dakotans elected him to three full terms, in 1926, 1932, and 1938. He served on the Foreign Relations Committee, the Appropriations Committee, the Defense Committee and the Public Lands Committee. As Chairman of Public Lands, he dealt with the Teapot Dome investigations and the formation of Grand Teton National Park. He was instrumental in passing legislation to protect public access to the sea coasts. He initially supported Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal. He supported the political positions of Robert M. La Follette, and legislation for agricultural price supports.
In the 1920s, as Chairman of the Public Lands Committee, Nye uncovered the fact that Warren G. Harding's interior secretary Albert B. Fall had uncompetitively leased a government oil field to Mammoth Oil Company, in return for contributions to the Republican National Committee. The resulting scandal gave Nye the nickname of "Gerald the Giant-Killer".
Between 1934 and 1936, Nye headed an investigation of the munitions industry. The Special Committee on Investigation of the Munitions Industry investigated profiteering in the munitions and banking industry and the possibility that greed was a significant factor in leading us into World War I. The Nye Committee as it was commonly known, drew national and international attention. Nye's appointment to the chairmanship of this committee came from Senator George Norris. According to peace activist, Dorothy Detzer, Norris said, "Nye's young, he has inexhaustible energy and he has courage. Those are all important assets. He may be rash in his judgments at times, but it's the rashness of enthusiasm." Senator Norris proposed Nye as ". the only one out of the 96 whom he deemed to have the competence, independence and stature for the task."
Nye created headlines by drawing connections between the wartime profits of the banking and munitions industries to America's involvement in World War I. Many Americans felt betrayed: perhaps the war hadn't been an epic battle between the forces of good (democracy) and evil (autocracy). This investigation of these "merchants of death" helped to bolster sentiments for isolationism. A leading member of the Nye Committee staff was Alger Hiss.
According to the United States Senate website:
The investigation came to an abrupt end early in 1936. The Senate cut off committee funding after Chairman Nye blundered into an attack on the late Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. Nye suggested that Wilson had withheld essential information from Congress as it considered a declaration of war. Democratic leaders, including Appropriations Committee Chairman Carter Glass of Virginia, unleashed a furious response against Nye for 'dirtdaubing the sepulcher of Woodrow Wilson.' Standing before cheering colleagues in a packed Senate Chamber, Glass slammed his fist onto his desk until blood dripped from his knuckles.
Nye was instrumental in the development and adoption of the Neutrality Acts that were passed between 1935 and 1937. To mobilize antiwar sentiments, he helped establish the America First Committee. In 1941, Nye accused Hollywood of attempting to 𠇍rug the reason of the American people,“ and “rouse war fever.“ He was particularly hostile to Warner Brothers.
The day of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Nye attended an America First meeting in Pittsburgh. Before his speech a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette told him about the attack, but Nye was skeptical and did not mention the news to the audience. The reporter passed him a note during the speech stating that Japan had declared war Nye read it but continued speaking. He only announced the attack at the end of his one-hour speech, stating that he had received "the worst news that I have encountered in the last 20 years". However, the next day Nye joined the rest of the Senate in voting for a unanimous declaration of war.
Post-Senate years in Washington
In November 1944, Nye was defeated in his re-election attempt by Governor John Moses, a Democrat. Nye chose to remain in the Washington area. He and his wife had purchased 3 acres (12,000 m2) of pasture land in Chevy Chase, part of a farm on a hill above Rock Creek Park. Their two sons had been born in 1943 and 1944.
Nye organized and became president of Records Engineering, Inc., in Washington, D.C. The pre-computer age firm created, organized, and managed records of industrial and government clients. In 1960 he was appointed to the Federal Housing Administration as Assistant to the Commissioner and in charge of housing for the elderly. In 1963, he accepted an appointment to the professional staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging. 1966 saw his grand retirement party at the U.S. Capitol. It was attended by the Senators Robert Kennedy and Ted Kennedy and hosted by Senator Everett Dirksen, who presented Nye with a typewriter and desk lamp and orders to begin his memoirs. Nye became a consultant to churches and private groups desiring government funds for the building of retirement housing.
Nye was a Freemason and attended Grace Lutheran Church in Washington, D.C.
On August 16, 1916, he married Anna Margaret Johnson in Iowa where she lived with her maternal grandparents and had taken their name, Munch. In 1919, they moved to Cooperstown where Gerald was the editor and publisher of the Sentinel Courier. Anna and Gerald had three children: Marjorie (born 1917), Robert (born 1921), and James (born 1923). His eldest three children grew up on Grosvenor Street in Washington, D.C. and attended high school there. Every summer, Gerald would take the children to Yellowstone National Park where Marjorie and a young Gerald Ford were teenage friends.
In March 1940, Nye divorced his first wife, and on December 14, 1940, he remarried, to an Iowa schoolteacher, A. Marguerite Johnson. They had three children, all born in Washington, D.C. – Gerald Jr. (born 1943), Richard (born 1944), and Marguerite (born 1950).
A life-long smoker, Nye had arterial disease the arteries in his legs were surgically replaced with plastic arteries, then state-of-the-art. Close to the end of his life, a blood clot went to his lung. He was 78 years old, recovering from that experience but still weak, when a doctor mistakenly prescribed a drug containing penicillin to which he was known to be allergic he died on July 17, 1971.
US Senator. He was appointed as a Republican Senator from North Dakota to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator Edwin F. Ladd. He served from 1925 until 1945.
What did Gerald Nye believe about getting involved in ww1?
The committee investigated the financial and banking interests that underlay the United States' involvement in World War I and the operations and profits of the industrial and commercial firms supplying munitions to the Allies and to the United States.
Beside above, what two groups were called the merchants of death? Merchants of death was an epithet used in the U.S. in the 1930s to attack industries and banks that supplied and funded World War I (then called the Great War).
Herein, who did the Nye Committee blame for US involvement in ww1?
While interrogating Morgan, Nye accused President Woodrow Wilson of falsifying knowledge of Allied secret tactics during World War I&mdashand was denounced by Senate Democrats for his attacks on Wilson. In all, the Nye committee issued seven reports.
How did the US go from isolationism to involvement in ww2?
During the 1930s, the combination of the Great Depression and the memory of tragic losses in World War I contributed to pushing American public opinion and policy toward isolationism. Isolationists advocated non-involvement in European and Asian conflicts and non-entanglement in international politics.
Top 10 books about fake news
W e all lie. But some of us are better at it than others. Then there are people who are so good at lying that they are paid to change the minds of millions, using techniques few of us will ever understand.
It is often said that we live in an age of fake news, but this has been going on for years, and so have attempts to describe, analyse and anticipate its impact on our political lives. Books about fake news have an unsettling and dystopian undertone, and they force us to question the headlines. At the same time, the scale of the subject and the very idea of unseen forces trying to manipulate our minds gives many of these books the compulsive energy of a cold-war thriller.
My book Our Man in New York is an account of the largest influence campaign ever run by a foreign nation inside the US, and arguably the most significant use of fake news in American history. But it had nothing to do with Donald Trump or Moscow. This campaign was run by the British out of a vast office inside the Rockefeller Center in New York in the months leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The British operation had two objectives: to swing American public opinion towards the war, and to provoke Hitler into declaring war on the US.
As recently declassified files show, often in vivid detail, undercover British agents infiltrated US pressure groups, subverted opinion polls, hacked correspondence, tapped telephone lines and repeatedly fed lies, exaggerations and rumours to the news cycle. In the weeks leading up to Pearl Harbor, we now know that the White House, the senior MI6 officer in the US, and the head of the precursor of the CIA also worked together to confect misleading news.
American opinion did indeed swing, which allowed Roosevelt to concentrate on Germany before Japan, and Hitler declared war on the US, despite having no obligation to do so (and against the wishes of his senior military officers).
Here are 10 books to shed some light into such crepuscular operations.
1. Propaganda by Edward Bernays (1928)
At the heart of this book are two radical ideas: that there’s an “invisible government” manipulating the way millions of Americans think, and that this might not be such a bad thing. Bernays urged his readers to think of propaganda in the broadest terms, including advertisements and sermons alongside political messaging. This was also the first book to explore a more Freudian approach to fake news (Freud was Bernays’s uncle twice over), and the power of focusing less on what we say we want and more on our hidden fears and desires.
2. Propaganda in the Next War by Sidney Rogerson (1938)
At times this reads like a how-to guide in the dark arts of covert propaganda. “Never tell a lie,” Rogerson begins, “if you can possibly help it”. On publication, anti-war US politicians seized on this book as proof that perfidious Albion was trying to drag the country into another war. One of them, Senator Gerald Nye, excoriated this book in the Senate. Few realised that Nye was then working on a Nazi influence campaign, or that German propagandists would distribute copies of the senator’s speech to hundreds of thousands of Americans, all at US taxpayers’ expense.
3. Broadcast Hysteria by A Brad Schwartz (2015)
A captivating look at the best known hoax of the 20th century: Orson Welles’s 1938 radio dramatisation of The War of the Worlds. Schwartz skewers the myths surrounding this broadcast. It turns out there was little panic about an alien invasion, but in the months that followed there was real panic surrounding radio’s capacity for subversion and fakery. Welles’s broadcast ended the “golden age of radio”, leaving millions with a new – and necessary – scepticism towards what they heard on the airwaves.
4. British Security Coordination by Roald Dahl, Gilbert Highet et al (1998)
Never intended to be published, this is a flawed but fascinating book. It is a sanctioned insiders’ account of the British influence campaign in the US, and was only meant to be read by a handful of civil servants with the right security clearance. It is full of revelations, and at the same time littered with mistakes and exaggerations. A book about disinformation that is riddled with, well, disinformation.
Based on a true fake news story … Hayley Atwell and Lucas Romer in the 2012 TV adaptation of Restless. Photograph: Ilse Kitshoff/BBC/Endor Productions
5. Restless by William Boyd (2006)
Our narrator, Ruth, learns that her mother is not everything she seems. Via a stream of flashbacks we learn about her time working for “British Security Coordination”, the cover name used for the real British influence campaign in 1941. This is not so much a spy thriller as a novel about spies, that is thrilling as well as taut, emotionally rich, brilliantly researched and ultimately a powerful examination of the burden of espionage.
6. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)
In the days after Donald Trump was sworn in as US president, a member of his team described Trump’s inauguration as better attended than any other in history, later defending this claim as an “alternative fact”. In the following days, sales of Orwell’s dystopia shot up by almost 10,000%. This book remains an iconic and frequently terrifying vision of a world in which truth is relative and language is a political weapon.
7. Voodoo Histories by David Aaronovitch (2009)
As we learn more about its manipulation, we become more sceptical of the news. Aaronovitch’s analysis of conspiracy theories is provocative, compelling and thoughtful. He is particularly good about conveying our underlying need to latch on to a narrative – often any will do – when confronted with an event that appears to make little sense.
8. Cyberwar by Kathleen Hall Jamieson (2018)
Although we can never measure with precision the impact of the Russian influence campaign on the 2016 US presidential election, this detailed study by renowned political communication academic Jamieson is easily the best analysis we have. She argues persuasively that given the tiny margins in the poll results, the Russian influence campaign probably delivered the presidency to Trump.
Senators who Made an Impact, Despite First being Appointed (not Elected)
Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, 2015). A paperback edition is now available.
The US Senate, since the beginning of the 117 th Congress this January, has seen a grand total of 1,994 members in its 232-year history.
Among those, there have been a total of 202 appointed Senators since the adoption of the 17 th Amendment in 1913, which provided for direct popular election of Senators.
Therefore, it is common to think of appointed Senators as just temporary replacements, waiting for the next regularly scheduled election for that Senate seat, or until the next even-year election. This has often been true.
But several have ended up being major historical figures in Senate and political history.
This article is the first of two to examine the historical significance of twelve US Senators who, despite being originally appointed rather than elected, made a difference in American history.
Charles McNary (R-Oregon) was appointed in May 1917, and then was elected to the Senate in November 1918, serving until his death in February 1944. He was chosen by the Oregon Governor for the vacancy due to his support of women&rsquos suffrage and Prohibition, two policies that were established by constitutional amendments ratified before the 1920 national election. He was Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee from 1926-1933, and held the position of Senate Minority Leader during Franklin D. Roosevelt&rsquos New Deal from 1933 until 1944, longer than any Republican has held that post.
He was perceived as a &ldquoprogressive&rdquo Republican who supported much of the New Deal and defense measures as World War II came closer, including the Selective Service military conscription in 1940 and the Lend Lease Act in 1941. A westerner, he supported the development of hydroelectric power, including the Grand Coulee and Bonneville Dams, as public works projects. He was the primary promoter of the proposed McNary-Haugen Farm Relief Bill, twice vetoed by Republican President Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s, which might have staved off or alleviated the effects of the Depression on agriculture. McNary was the Vice Presidential running mate of Wendell Willkie in 1940. In an odd footnote, had the duo been elected over FDR and Henry Wallace, they might have become the first president and vice president to both die in office, as McNary did in February 1944 of a brain tumor, and Willkie of a heart attack in October 1944. My book, Twilight of Progressivism: The Western Republican Senators and the New Deal (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), has McNary as a leading figure in that group, which cooperated with FDR on many New Deal initiatives.
Carter Glass (D-Virginia) was appointed in November 1919, and then was elected to the Senate in November 1920, serving until his death in May 1946. Glass had earlier served in the House of Representatives from 1902-1918, chairing the House Banking Committee from 1913-1918, and was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson for 14 months as Secretary of the Treasury from December 1918 until his appointment to the Senate.
He served as Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman from 1933 until his death in 1946, and was also President Pro Tempore of the US Senate from 1941-1945. He also helped to establish the Federal Reserve Banking System under Wilson, and was the author of the Glass-Steagall Act that set up the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation under FDR&rsquos New Deal in 1933. However, as a staunch supporter of States Rights, he opposed much of the New Deal, and advocated disenfranchisement of African Americans in his state and nationally, and Jim Crow segregation laws.
Gerald Nye (R-North Dakota) was appointed to the Senate in November 1925, and was elected to three full terms before he was defeated in 1944. He was termed a &ldquoprogressive&rdquo Republican, and my book on the subject included an interview with Nye conducted in March 1971, his last interview with a historian before his death a few months later.
Nye became noted for his investigation of the Teapot Dome scandal, and helping to create Grand Teton National Park. He supported much of the New Deal until later breaking with the President, but became most controversial as a leading isolationist spokesman. This included heading the Nye Committee in 1934-1935, which investigated the munitions industry, and promoting the view that America could have avoided entrance into World War I. He was a leading advocate of the neutrality laws passed by Congress in the mid-1930s. Nye was accusatory toward Jews in the film industry, leading to charges of antisemitism, and was a major critic of both Great Britain and of the Republican Presidential nominee Wendell Willkie in 1940. He was also an active speaker on radio at rallies of the America First Committee in 1940-1941, the leading organization attempting to keep America out of World War II. Nye told me, thirty years after Pearl Harbor, that he believed Roosevelt had plotted to get America into that war. Nye was even ridiculed by Dr. Seuss for his isolationist views and his vehement rhetoric and oratorical manner.
Arthur Vandenberg (R-Michigan) was appointed to the senate in March 1928, after a career in journalism as an editor and publisher in Grand Rapids, and was then elected for four terms, dying in office in April, 1951. Originally supportive of President Herbert Hoover, he would support much of the early New Deal of FDR, but then became part of the conservative coalition that opposed the 1937 Supreme Court &ldquopacking&rdquo plan and the pro-labor Wagner Act, and was an isolationist in foreign policy until after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
His position on foreign policy changed radically as a result, and he became an internationalist, making a well-hailed transformation in a speech in the Senate in January, 1945. He became a promoter of the United Nations, and cooperated in a bipartisan fashion with President Harry Truman on the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1947-1949. Vandenberg was President Pro Tempore of the Senate during the 80 th Congress (1947-1949), so two heartbeats away from the Presidency, and was a &ldquofavorite son&rdquo candidate for the White House in 1940 and 1948. The Senate Reception Room has a portrait of Vandenberg, part of a very select group of seven legislators rated by the Senate as the most prominent in its history.
Harry F. Byrd, Sr. (D-Virginia) was appointed to the Senate in 1933, and served 32 years. Previously, he had been Virginia Governor from 1926-1930 after a career as a newspaper publisher and two stints in the Virginia State Senate. His state political machine dominated Virginia politics for a half century, enforcing literacy tests and poll taxes to deny the franchise to African Americans. He became a leader in the conservative coalition against the New Deal, and opposed as Governor and in the Senate against any racial desegregation, advocating &ldquomassive resistance&rdquo to the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
But in foreign policy, Byrd was an internationalist and supported FDR&rsquos foreign policy as a leader on the Senate Armed Services Committee after World War II. He later became the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Byrd refused to endorse President Truman in 1948 or Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson in 1952, and was always a thorn in the side of Dwight D. Eisenhower&mdashrefusing to support the Interstate Highway System&mdashand of Lyndon B. Johnson&mdashopposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Byrd received 15 electoral votes in 1960, from Mississippi, Alabama, and Oklahoma, in the election that made John F. Kennedy President. His greatest legacy was the creation of the Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Virginia state park system.
Ralph Flanders (R-Vermont) was appointed to the Senate in November 1946, and then was elected to two full terms, serving until the first days of 1959. He had a career as a mechanical engineer and industrialist, and was President of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank for two years before his Senate career. He served on the Joint Economic Committee in an investigatory and advisory committee, and on the Finance Committee and Armed Services Committee. He promoted public housing, higher education spending, and the Civil Rights Act of 1957 under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
He promoted arms control in foreign policy, and became noticed when he became the major critic of Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, who was pursuing what Flanders saw as reckless rhetoric and behavior in his Red Scare tactics from 1950-1954. He was an early and strong critic of McCarthy, saying on March 9, 1954 that he was misdirecting America&rsquos efforts at fighting communism overseas, and causing a loss of respect for America in the world community. His Senate address was a scathing criticism of McCarthy, hailed by many, but attacked by critics as supporting the Communist cause. Flanders introduced a resolution on June 11, 1954, condemning the conduct of McCarthy and calling for his censure for flagrant abuse of power. The US Senate would censure McCarthy on December 2, 1954. Republicans split evenly on the motion, but the total vote was a landside of 67-22, and McCarthy never recovered from the censure. Flanders became a national hero, and a profile in courage to many millions of Americans.