FACING DOWN THE RULERS OF WALL STREET A HUNDRED YEARS AGO. THEY ARE BACK.
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Tuesday, November 02, 2010
1920 - MAY FLOWERS
I feel sorry for Michael “Leaping Mike” Manosky (above). He was the man who stepped into Babe Ruth’s shoes for the Boston Red Sox in 1920. He played 142 games for the Bean Town boys that year, with 532 at bats, getting 152 hits, 23 doubles and nine triples, for a .297 batting average. It was a record that most major leaguers would have envied. And when New York came to Boston for their first four game series beginning on April 19, the Sox swept all four games, scoring a total of 20 runs to an anemic seven for the Yankees. The Red Sox closed April with 9 wins and just 2 losses.
With the next four game series beginning on May 1st at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan (above), the results were reversed, with New York scoring 20 runs and Boston just 5, but the Red Sox managed to take at least one game, on May 3rd. The Sox record now stood at 11 wins and 5 losses. But the tide had turned. The Yankees swept all four games of the next series in Boston, beginning on May 27, the infamous Bob Shawkey outburst game. The Sox ended May with a record of 22 and 14.
Like the Red Sox season, in April Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer’s fortunes seemed on the rise. There was just one bump on Palmer’s ride to the White House. Beginning in January, Under Secretary of Labor Louis Freeland Post had had freed over 3,000 of J. Edgar Hoover’s 4,000 radical detainees. Palmer called it an insurrection, and demanded that President Wilson fire Post. And when Wilson refused, Palmer had gone public, complaining to his allies in Congress about Post’s “tender solicitude” for revolutionaries.
In the words of one historian, “Palmer and Hoover cast Post as an arbitrary, untrustworthy administrator whose aim was to undo the law. They claimed, by contrast, to be law’s servants, operating in adherence to the requirements of the Sedition Act and the will of the legislators who passed it.” In that vein the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization issued a “sensational” report of Post's “liberal” deportation decisions. The press chimed in, displaying what Post later called “deportations delirium.” And then on April 15, 1920, Kansas Congressman Homer Hoch called for Post’s impeachment.
The call for impeachment triggered hearings before the Congressional Committee on Rules (above), and immediately Post requested the opportunity to testify before that committee. And on Friday, May 7, 1920 he took the oath.
Immediately Post was attacked by the chairman (and eugenics supporter) Congressman Albert Johnson (above) from Washington state. “We have given you time to empty the jails as far as you could” said Johnson. In response Secretary Post said he was simply following the rules. It was an argument that infuriated the reactionaries. Said Congressman Hoch, “You realize, of course, Mr. Secretary, that all of these rules you have laid down – or the deposing of these deportation regulations – that every one of them operates to make it more difficult to deport an alien.”
To which Post (above) replied, “Every rule in the interest of personal liberty makes it more difficult to take personal liberty away from a man who is entitled to his liberty.” In other words, Post was reminding the members of the committee that the orders of deportation were based on accusations, and that there had been no finding of fact in any of the cases. In one specific case a Mexican had admitted to investigators that he was an anarchist. But, argued Post, “I found on reading further, his meaning of the word did not tally with the definitions of anarchism….I came to the conclusion he…was not an anarchist within the meaning of the law.” In other words, you may think of yourself as a thief, but that by itself does not make you guilty of embezzlement.
To New York Congressman Garret, the Secretary’s actions were an affront to Congress. Referring to the Sedition Act, he pointed out, “I would say that it was a fair presumption that Congress intended, in the passage of that act, irrespective of the differences between the rights of aliens and the rights of citizens under the Constitution of the United States, to eliminate the rules that would be applicable in court.”
But Post was not afraid of facing that argument, either. “In other words," he suggested, "…when a complaint is made against a man under this law and the case comes before the Secretary of Labor, he must deport the man, whether the man is innocent or guilty?...The issue is: Not whether those who violate the law shall be deported, for we are deporting them . . . but whether those who have not violated the law shall be deported”. He again reminded the Congressmen that the arrest warrants issued by Palmer and Hoover were merely accusations, not verdicts of guilt. Such a judgment could only be made by a judge or a jury. And in this case, Louis Post, in his role as Under Secretary of Labor, was effectively the judge. Expecting a "bleeding heart liberal", the committee found itself faced with a man who saw himself as the defender of law and order, and stuck to that arguement. Public opinion shifted to support for Post.
After his testimony, one New York newspaper wrote that “…Louis F. Post deserves the gratitude of every American for his courageous and determined stand in behalf of our fundamental rights. It is too bad that in making this stand he found himself at cross-purposes with the Attorney General, but Mr. Palmer's complaint lies against the Constitution and not against Mr. Post.”
It did not hurt that Hoover’s sweep of 4,000 radicals had turned up no bombs and just four pistols.