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The Last Time a Republican Reigned in Big Business - 1903

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

TEMPEST IN A TEA POT

I am tempted to call his life a tempest in a tea pot. It was a “Tempest” worthy of William Shakespeare only because Albert Bacon Fall (above) was a scoundrel of operatic proportions, a self made legal sorcerer and a bombastic, selfish, fearless and vulgar cowboy Caliban. His villainous reputation was established by a mysterious double murder in the New Mexico desert. But the climax was staged on 9,480 rolling Wyoming acres along Salt Creek and adjacent to a subterranean anticline dome near an odd looking 75 foot tall sandstone butte (below). Some thought the butte resembled a tea pot, which gave its name to the scandal that finally brought our reprobate down. But the true scandal was Albert Fall's entire career.
You taught me language; and my profit on't Is, I know how to curse.”
Caliban - Shakespeare's “The Tempest” Act I, Scene 2
Near the low crest of Chalk Hill (above) the search party found a patch of blood soaked sand and some papers belonging to 57 year old Republican lawyer Albert.J. Fountain. A hundred yards further on, Mescalero Apache scouts found where a man had knelt in ambush, the casings ejected from his rifle, still in the dust. The buggy tracks led eastward 12 miles into the Jarillas Mountains (above, bg), where the search party found Fountain's carriage “plundered and abandoned.” Still in the buggy was a note reading, “If you drop this we will be your friends. If you go on with it you will never reach home alive.” And stuffed under the seat was a kerchief wrapped around some change, belonging to 8 year old Henry Fountain. Neither the father's nor the son's body was ever found.
The clouds methought would open and show riches, Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked, I cried to dream again.”
Caloban - Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act III, Scene 2
When he was accused of masterminding the 1896 Fountain double homicide, Albert Fall said it was just Republicans trying to “crucify innocent Democrats”. The criminal indictments Fountain had just secured against 23 clients and friends of Albert Fall were likewise dismissed as political. In a courthouse jammed with the alleged killer's allies, threatened and intimidated witnesses simply failed to show up. But Albert Fall still managed to be arrogant and offensive in his one sided victory. The Democrats were all found not guilty. And then, two years later, Albert Fall switched parties and became a Republican. And all his friends found it profitable to go with him.
I'll show thee every fertile inch o' th' island; And I will kiss thy foot: I prithee, be my god.”
Caloban - Shakespeare's “The Tempest” Act II, Scene 2
After having fought statehood for years as a Democrat, in 1912  when statehood came, newly minted Republican Albert Fall became one of New Mexico's first elected U.S. Senators.  In Washington, D.C.,  Albert became famous for two things - his alcohol fueled poker parties with Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding, and his unrelenting animosity toward Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. When Wilson suffered a stroke in 1919, Albert alleged he had been rendered mentally incompetent. At their October examination, Senator Fall hypocritically assured the bedridden Wilson, “I have been praying for you, Sir.” Looking up at his torturer, Wilson inquired, “Which way, Senator?” Albert joined in the laughter, but in November of 1920 it was Senator Fall's drinking buddy, Republican Warren G. Harding who was elected President over Wilson.
Ban, 'Ban, Cacaliban, Has a new master: get a new man. Freedom, hey-day! hey-day, freedom!”
Caloban - Shakespeare's “The Tempest” Act II, Scene 2
Harding wanted Albert Fall to be his Secretary of State, but party leaders insisted on someone more trustworthy. Said Harding, “If Albert Fall isn't an honest man, I'm not fit to be President of the United States.” When the party leaders refused to back down Harding named Albert his Secretary of the Department of the Interior, a branch of government Albert had been denouncing for decades. Almost the first thing after taking the oath in the spring of 1921 (above), Secretary Fall cajoled Harding into giving Interior control over the U.S. Naval Oil Reserves in California and Wyoming. Fall then quickly granted a no-bid lease for the two reserves in California to oilman Edward Doheny, and in December Albert did the same for oilman Harry Ford Sinclair, granting him sole access to the Tea Pot Dome field, also known as Naval Reserve Number Three.
Do that good mischief which may make this island Thine own for ever, and I, thy Caliban, For aye thy foot-licker.”
Caloban - Shakespeare's “The Tempest” Act IV, Scene 1
In the spring of 1922, the railroad town of Casper, Wyoming, 35 miles south of the dome, was abuzz with rumors of equipment bearing the name Mammoth Oil Company which had suddenly invaded the naval reserve. Competitors like New Yorker James Darden quickly pierced that deception, and certain the lease granted to Sinclair was not legal, Colonel Darden decided to become Sinclair's unofficial partner by drilling his own well sideways, into the same dome. As Fall himself explained, “Sir, if you have a milkshake and I have a milkshake and my straw reaches across the room, I’ll end up drinking your milkshake."
I will have none on't: we shall lose our time, And all be turn'd to barnacles, or to apes With foreheads villanous low.”
Caloban - Shakespeare's “The Tempest” Act IV Scene 1
The problem for Secretary Fall was the “low down son-of-a-bitch” Darden “was an old friend of President Harding. So on a Saturday afternoon, while the Secretary of the Navy was out of the office, Fall told the the Acting Secretary that Harding wanted “squatters” thrown off the dome. Fall added there was ample legal precedent for using U.S. Marines for this duty. There was none, but Fall never showed reluctance in lying to make a profit. Within the week Captain George K. Shuler and four enlisted marines were slapping “No Trespassing” signs and padlocks on Colonel Darden's well. And because this was done in front of reporters, Albert Fall had finally taken one step too far.
I shall laugh myself to death at this puppy-headed monster. A most scurvy monster! I could find in my heart to beat him
Caloban - Shakespeare's “The Tempest” Act II Scene 2
Long annoyed by Fall's arrogance, the Senate majority Republicans allowed a Democrat from Montana, Senator Thomas Walsh (below), to investigate the oil leases. And when Walsh issued his first subpoena for documents, Fall responded by burying Walsh in a literal truck load of paper. It slowed Walsh, but Darden's complaints finally caused Harding to separate himself from his old drinking buddy. In March of 1923, Albert Fall was forced to resign from the cabinet, first going to work for Harry Sinclair and then returning to his own 750,000 acre southern New Mexico ranch, "Three Rivers".  And then, in August of 1923, President Harding dropped dead of a heart attack. The new President, Calvin Coolidge, decided to treat Albert (below) as the fall guy, sacrificing him to the growing public outcry over fraud in the Harding administration.
How does thy honor? Let me lick thy shoe.”
Caloban - Shakespeare's “The Tempest” Act III Scene 2
The truck load of documents supplied to Senator Walsh provided enough heat to keep the scandal simmering for two years. Called before the committee three times Albert swore under oath - once in writing - that he had done nothing illegal. But late in 1925 questions began to be asked about the number of improvements to Fall's Three Rivers ranch. When put under oath Albert's own son-in-law, M.T. Everhard, was forced to admit he had accepted $198,000 in federal bonds from Harry Sinclair's own hand, and delivered them to Secretary Fall's own hand. There was also a no interest “loan” of $36,000 from Sinclair, and one of $100,000 in cash from Edward Doheny, the little black bag delivered to "Three Rivers Ranch"  by Edward Doheny's son Ned, and his friend and body guard Hugh Plunket. In 1927 the Supreme Court ruled the leases on all three naval oil reserves were invalid, and control went back to the U.S. Navy.
Having first seiz'd his books; or with a log, Batter his skull, or paunch him with a stake, Or cut his wezand with thy knife. Remember, First to possess his books; for without them He's but a sot, as I am, nor hath not One spirit to command: they all do hate him, As rootedly as I — burn but his books.”
Caloban - Shakespeare's “The Tempest” Act III, Scene 2
When the federal case went to trial in Los Angeles in 1930. humorist Will Rodgers cracked that Doney's defense team took up three full Pullman railroad cars. The first car was “Just for the little lawyers...to carry the brief cases.” In the third car, said Rodgers, were “the big ones that were in real touch with Mr. Doheny.”  Harry Sinclair's defense team in his Cheyenne, Wyoming trial, took up at least four Pullman cars, according to Rodgers.
Thou liest, thou jesting monkey, thou: I would my valiant monster would destroy thee: I do not lie.
Caloban - Shakespeare's “The Tempest” Act III Scene 2
Edward Doheny paid a high price for his involvement with Albert Fall. In 1929, under pressure by prosecutors for one of them to turn on their fellow conspirators, Ned Doheny and Hugh Plunket died in what appeared to be a murder/suicide. The next year, Edward was not only found not guilty of bribery, but the jury broke into song after rendering their decision. But the old oil man did not have the heart to celebrate. One disgusted U.S. Senator was prompted to observe, “It is impossible to convict a million dollars in the United States“   Edward Doheny served just 3 months for contempt of Congress, but never recovered from the death of his only son. He died in September of 1935, still one of the richest men in Southern California. The mansion built for the young Doheny and where the murder/suicide occurred, still stands empty in Beverly Hills, often used for filming movies. 
I'll not serve him, he is not valiant.”
Caloban - Shakespeare's “The Tempest” Act III Scene 2
In Wyoming, Harry Sinclair (above) received a mistrial after it was discovered his private detectives had been shadowing members of the jury. He was never retried for the bribery, but he was sentenced to six months for contempt, which he served in the District of Columbia city jail. He also died one of the richest men in Southern California, in January of 1949
What a thrice-double ass Was I, to take this drunkard for a god And worship this dull fool!”
Caloban - Shakespeare's “The Tempest” Act V Scene 1
Albert Bacon Fall was the only member of an administration awash in bribes, arrogant enough and clumsy enough to be convicted of accepting a bribe. He remains the only cabinet member in American History sentenced to prison for crimes committed while in office. He served nine months. When he was released in May of 1932 (above), Doheny repossessed Fall's beloved Three Rivers ranch for not repaying the bribe, for which Doheny had been found “not guilty” of paying him. Fall died a broke, sick old man, at the end of November, 1944, arguing to the last that his conviction was just political payback. I doubt that Albert and Henry Fountain, still lying alone somewhere out there in the New Mexico desert, would agree.
Flout 'em and scout 'em, And scout 'em and flout 'em, Thought is free.”
Caloban - Shakespeare's “The Tempest” Act V Scene 1
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