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The Last Time a Republican Reigned in Big Business - 1903

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Friday, January 23, 2009

VOTING REPUBLICAN

I would say that Bertrand Snell is a shinning example of the “Peter Principle”. Bertrand (above, with his ideological opponent, FDR) started out life as a bookkeeper. Then he successfully ran a cheese factory and a lumber company in upstate New York. He was well qualified to fill both of those jobs. For a while he was the president of a small college. This success led, in 1915, to Bertrand being elected to congress. In 1931 he became the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. That led, in 1932, to his being elected Minority Leader in the House of Representatives. And that made him the primary architect of the disaster that befell the Republican Party the first time they ran against the New Deal. In short, it was Bertrand Snell’s fault. Of course, he had some help.
Herbert Hoover not only lost the 1932 Presidential Election but he lost it by almost 18 percentage points. His ineffectualness at dealing with the Great Depression (the stock market crash occurred 6 months after he first took office) was so obvious that Herbert won only 6 states – Pennsylvania, Delaware, R.I., Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine. And yet Herbert still had hopes he could engineer a come back, even though FDR’s New Deal had created six million jobs, had doubled industrial production and sent corporate profits from a $2 billion loss under Hoover to a $5 billion profit under Roosevelt.On June ninth 1936 Herbert addressed the Republican Convention in the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio, and did his very best to rally the faithful to his cause. As Time Magazine detailed, “After 15 minutes (of) yelling, shrieking (and) hooting, (Hoover) was allowed to begin. …"Fundamental American liberties are at stake. Is the Republican Party ready…to cast your all upon the issue?" "Yes!" roared the crowd….".. have you determined to enter in a holy crusade for freedom which shall determine the future and the perpetuity of a nation of free men?" "Yes!" roared the crowd in ecstasy.” The faithful went on chanting “Hoo-ver, Hoo-ver, Hoo-ver,” long after Herbert had left the stage.Noted Time Magazine; “The demonstration could not be stopped for half an hour, even when Speaker Snell tried to introduce a little old lady, surprisingly pert for her 77 years, the widow of President Benjamin Harrison.” Finally Bertrand banged the big gavel and informed the crowd that Herbert had already boarded a train for New York. The floor demonstrations paused for a breath and quickly petered out. Except, Herbert had not even left the building yet; he was waiting off stage to be recalled by the carefully prepared demonstrations and proclaimed the nominee by acclamation. But Bertrand had already determined that the party nomine would be Governor Alf Landon, known affectionately to the faithful as “The Kansas Coolidge”.Alf, was the only Republican governor re-elected in 1934. He had a reputation as a fiscal conservative who cut taxes and balanced the state budget. That made him the Republican wonder-kid, the perfect man to oppose the “tax and spend” Roosevelt.
There were a few problems, of course; first, Landon balanced the Kansas budgets because he was required by law to balance them, and even that had been possible only because the New Deal had kicked in millions of dollars to offset the state deficits; second, Alf publicly supported parts of the New Deal, so many parts that he was at odds with the Republican party platform.; and third, Alf was a terrible public speaker. He mumbled. And like any good mid-westerner even when speaking clearly he didn’t blow his own horn very much. As H. L. Mencken noted, he "simply lacks the power to inflame the boobs."The party platform had been engineered by Bertrand and forty-four year old John Daniel Miller Hamilton, the “crinkly haired” “jut-jawed” G.O.P.’s general counsel who reeked of “animal vigor.” Hamilton was actually paid $15,000 a year to be the parties’ attack dog. He was described by one fellow Republican as having, “…a seven-devil lust to live and shine under the blessings of the rich”. Both Bertrand and Hamilton were front men for the party power brokers, even though, at the convention Hamilton was Alf’s front man, and made his nominating speech. And to seal the deal, Hamilton read a telegram from Governer Landon promising to support the anti-New Deal platform. Said the platform; “For three long years the New Deal Administration has dishonored American traditions…has been guilty of frightful waste and extravagance, …it has created a vast multitude of new offices, …set up a centralized bureaucracy, and sent out swarms of inspectors to harass our people. It has bred fear and hesitation in commerce and industry, thus discouraging new enterprises, preventing employment and prolonging the depression….We pledge ourselves: To preserve the American system of free enterprise, private competition, and equality of opportunity.. We advocate: Abandonment of all New Deal policies that raise production costs, increase the cost of living, and thereby restrict buying, reduce volume and prevent reemployment. …”. To read the Republican platform you would have thought the nation was in much worse shape after the New Deal, than before.
Bertrand had a master plan for victory, funded by a $14 million war chest ($207 ½ million in 2007 dollars), with over a million dollars of that coming from three families – DuPont, Pew and Rockefeller – and the rest almost entirely from business leaders anxious to prevent further Federal regulations of their business.
And then there was “The Liberty League,” described by one historian as “…the best-financed and the most professionally run…anti-big-government organization ever to come down the pike.” The League raised and spent as much cash as the two established parties combined (30% of it coming from the DuPont family alone). Its national headquarters occupied 31 rooms in the National Press Building and there were 20 state branches. Hamilton confessed later, "Without Liberty League money we wouldn't have had a national headquarters."The campaign that followed saw the constant repetition of attack. The New Deal became “The Raw Deal”. Franklyn Delano Roosevelt became “Stalin Delano Roosevelt”. William Randolph Hearst asserted in a pro-Landon editorial, “The Bolshevist tyranny in Russian has ordered all bolshevists, communists and revolutionaries in the Untied States to support Roosevelt!" It all sounds so familar in 2009.
In late October 1936 the Republican National Committee sent checks for $5.00 to 400 black pastors in Maryland, along with a letter, which began, “Dear Brother,” and then argued that the G.O.P. had always done more to help blacks than the Democrats had.
The Young Republicans organization was founded during this election to get out the youth vote. And fashion shows were staged to encourage women to support the party. Every show would start with a woman wearing a wooden barrel on suspenders, marked, “If The New Deal Wins”, followed by lovely models in Paris designs, marked “If Landon Wins." Women were expected to be swayed by such "fashion politics".However, it appears that most Americans saw all of this Republican effort in the same light as FDR did, as illustrated by a story Roosevelt wrote himself for a speech he delivered in Boston. “In the summer of 1933 a nice old gentleman fell off a pier. He was unable to swim. A friend ran down the pier, dived overboard and pulled him out. But his silk hat floated away with the tide. After the old gentleman was revived he was effusive in his thanks. He praised his friend for saving his life. Today, three years later, the old man is berating his friend because the silk hat was lost.”The election of November 3, 1936 was the most lopsided since James Monroe ran unopposed in 1820. Eighty-three percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls and Roosevelt won almost 61% of their vote. He carried every state in the union except Vermont and Maine, giving rise to the Democratic twist on the old adage, “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont”. Roosevelt won 532 electoral votes to Landon’s 8. Seventy-one percent of Black Americans voted Democratic, as well as 57% of women, 63% of men, 76% of low income voters, 80% of Catholics and 86% of Jewish voters. After the election the Democrats held the Senate, 75-16, and the House, 332 to just 88 Republicans. Things would get even worse for the Republicans in the next few years. John D. Hamilton would say after the election, "The Lord himself couldn't have beaten Roosevelt in 1936, much less the Liberty League." Maybe; but the election was the death knell of the Liberty League. They lingered into 1940, when the DuPont family finally pulled their funding, and the group then quietly died. Long before that John Hamilton had his own reactionary reckoning. In 1937 Hamilton's wife sued him for divorce, on the grounds of “gross neglect of duty, abandonment and extreme cruelty.” That same year Alf Landon had Hamilton removed as Party Chairman, as Landon rebuilt the party in his own Midwestern less reactionary less idelogical image.
Under Landon's non-red baiting non FDR hating guidance the party stopped trying to overturn the New Deal and began to climb its way back. The Republicans would gain strength until 1948 when it looked like they were certain to take regain the White House. But in that campaign they gloated too much about finally overturning the New Deal, and that public gloating handed Harry Truman his re-election. It was not until Ronald Reagan in his 1981 inaguration speech that the G.O.P again openly called for overturning the New Deal programs.
And Bertrand Snell, the Minority Leader of House of Represenatives? He had been one of the few Republicans re-elected in 1936. But he did not run again in 1938. Instead, he went into the newspaper business. He published the Potsdam, New York "Courier-Freeman" and ran it until 1949. He also became the owner of the New York State Oil Company. He was ably qualified for both of those jobs. He died in 1958, while a Republican occupied the White House, Dwight D. Eisenhower, but a Republican whom the right wing of his own party charged with running a "little New Deal".
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

IN THE NAME OF FANNY ADAMS

I am not surprised the killer apologized. And on that Christmas Eve morning, when “short drop” Calcraft slipped the noose around his neck, twenty-four year old Frederick Baker probably took comfort from having made the apology. He should not have. The hangman, Mr. William Calcraft, had ushered some 450 souls to their final reward over his fifty year career, and Frederick would be far from his last job, although he would be one of the last public ones. But Calcraft’s technique of dropping his subjects no more than 18 inches insured that Frederick, like all the others, would take three to four minutes to slowly strangle to death, kicking and writhing in full view of the 5,000 people (mostly women) gathered to witness his well earned demise. And the confession he had made and the denial it included was simply final proof that Fredrick Baker was a liar to the very last moment of his life.
On Tan House Lane in the “…pleasant little market town…” of Alton, stood the modest home of bricklayer George Adams, his wife Harriet (above) and their seven children. You can see the hardness of their lives on their worn faces. And perhaps the inexplicable grief, too.
Tan House Lane was a back street off the main road (the High Street) which led north to London, 45 miles distant. The Lane was just 400 yards long and terminated in a flood meadow owned by a man named Hobbs who used to grow leeks there. Beyond, crisscrossing foot paths bisected the hops fields that supported Alton's half dozen breweries and their pubs. One of those footpaths, known as the Hollow, led across fields and farms to the even smaller village of Shalden, some three miles away.On that Saturday afternoon, August 24, 1867, sometime after one thirty, seven year old Lizzie Adams and her year older sister Fanny were playing with their neighbor, eight year old Minnie Warner, in the flood meadow when a man appeared. He was dressed in a black frock coat, light colored waistcoat and trousers and wore a top hat. The girls immediately realized he had been drinking. Still the man seemed pleasant enough, and offered Minnie and Lizzie a half penny each if they would run a race to The Hollow, while he and Fanny followed. The two girls agreed and scampered off. When they were all rejoined at the Hollow the man congratulated the girls and paid them.
He then offered them a full penny if they would go into a nearby field with him and eat some berries. Again, the offer of a penny was strong inducement and the three girls followed. They spent some time eating berries before the man offered Fanny a half penny if she would walk with him to Shalden. Fanny took the coin, but something made her refuse to take the man’s hand. He paid the other two girls their last penny and told them to go home. Then he swept up little Fanny and carried her away.We have gained some insight into the fate of "Sweet" Fanny Adams (above) in the 150 years since her ordeal, lessons paid for by the thousands of those innocents who have followed her. According to a 2006 study released by the Washington State Attorney General, 44 % of child victims were killed by strangers and 42% by family or acquaintances. Two thirds of the perpetrators had prior arrests for violent crimes, but just half had prior arrests for crimes against children. In 76% of homicide cases involving child abduction, the child was dead within three hours. And in 74% of the cases, the victim was a female under the age of 11. Of course none of this insight explains why Frederick Baker sexually assaulted 8 year old Fanny Adams and then butchered her corpse. The crime itself may be beyond explanation or understanding. And that may be the saddest thing of all about Fanny's brutal death; the idea that there is little we can do to prevent it from happening again.
Later testimony from his office-mates suggested that Fredrick Baker caved in Fanny’s head with a stone, and by three o’clock had returned to his job as a clerk in the office of Mr. William Clement. Later, around five o’clock, Frederick allegedly walked back to the murder scene and butchered and dismembered the little girl’s corpse. It was done quickly and clumsily. She was decapitated. Her legs and internal organs were scattered in the tall grass haphazardly. And for some reason Frederick carried her eyes all the way to the River Wye before throwing them in. Did he really think hiding her eyes was going to keep anyone from seeing what he had done?
At the inquest at the Alton Old Town Hall (above) Minnie Warner and Lizzie Adams identified Frederick as the man who had carried Fanny off. Harriet Adams and their neighbor, Mrs. Gardner, testified they had met Frederick coming out of the meadow when they first went to look for Fanny, sometime after five. When Alton Police arrested him the next day at his workplace, Frederick’s wristbands were still spotted with blood. It was noted that his pant legs and socks had been wet when he had returned after lunch the day of the murder. And a diary entry found in his desk, read, “24th August, Saturday; killed a young girl. It was fine and hot.”
The Alton Police (standing in front of their station on the High Street, above) knew Frederick from pervious arrests for drunkeness and fighting. It would be testified in his defense that Frederick’s father had “shown an inclination to assault even to kill, his children.” It was also alleged that Frederick had recently attempted suicide after a girl had rejected him, that his sister had died of a “brain fever”, and that a cousin had been in mental asylums on four separate occasions. None of it made a difference. The jury convicted Frederick in just fifteen minutes.The night before his execution, Christmas eve,eve, Frederick Baker wrote to George and Harriet Adams. He wrote that he was sorry for murdering Fanny and had done it in “an unguarded hour” only because she would not stop crying. It was done, he insisted without “malice aforethought” and without “…pain or struggle”. Frederick assured the grieving parents he had not molested Fanny, but he offered no other explanation as to why she had been crying when he had murdered her. The execution of Frederick Baker, as gruesome as any parent of a murdered child might wish for, did nothing to save the lives of the uncounted children who have followed Fanny. But every child saved by an Amber (Hagerman) Alert (below) must thank her parents, Donna and Jimmy Hagerman, who in 1996 pushed to change the way police respond to child abductions. And those children saved by Amber's sacrifice can also thank those who ask questions about these monsters in our midst, rather than simply calling for their blood.

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