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Joseph F. Guffey
U. S. Senator, Pa. [D] Over CBS, August 20,1937
On Tuesday, July 7th, in support of President Roosevelt's proposal for Supreme Court reform I presented on the floor of the Senate an historical picture of the functioning of this great Court of last resort which showed it to be something very different from the school-book conception of a great, impartial tribunal symbolized by the blind goddess with the evenly balanced scales of justice.
The historical brief which I presented was a compilation of recorded facts which proved beyond the possibility of refutation that this judicial institution, far from measuring up to its supposedly sacred traditions, has been practically, since its inception, under the domination of members who were bitter partisan politiciansthat many of its decisions, particularly those affecting the great mass of wage-earners and farmers, were deliberately written to reflect the political and economic philosophy of those who were piling up colossal fortunes through the exploitation of the people of this nation.
This record, which I presented, revealed many of these justices, not by their decisions alone, but also by their actions and their off-the-bench utterances, to be partisan politicians of the most extreme type, political partisans who carefully scrutinized all legislation so as to be sure that nothing would ever remain on our statute books which would in any manner ease the economic lot of our underprivileged or decrease the plunderings by the overprivileged.
It was to be expected by those supporting the President's proposal that the many champions of the Court in the Senate would have seen to it before now that this damning chronology would not be permitted to remain long in the record without challenge or some attempt to condone or explain the acts and utterances of these judicial partisans.
I have listened carefully and often to my friend, the senior Senator from Montana, Mr. Wheeler, in his unnatural role of champion of these judicial servants of our economic overlordsjudicial servants whose sycophantic servitude has destroyed respect for the Court as an institution and reduced its prestige to that of the least of its common political denominators.
Senator Wheeler's defense of his position was patterned after the strategy of all able generals, consisting for the most part of an offensivean uncalled for challenging of the motives of the man who proposed to reform this political Court.
But neither Senator Wheeler nor any other champion of this Court's Acts has as yet seen fit to challenge the historical facts contained in my speech of July 7th, which disclosed a consistent and continuous betrayal of the purposes and aims which its founders hoped and cherished for this institution when they established it.
Not only has the distinguished Senator from Montana failed to present any evidence disputing the historical record showing that this Court has degenerated into a partisan political government agency, but he has just as signally failed to explain or justify the prominent part he played in preventing reforms in this Court in the light of pledges he gave to the American people in the year 1924.
As recently as 1924, the Senator from Montana was the running mate of the late revered Bob LaFollette in the campaign for the Presidency. They ran as candidates of the Progressive Party, which at its Cleveland Convention on July 4, 1924, adopted a platform styled "A Declaration of Principles."
I would like to quote from that platform subscribed to by my friend, Senator Wheeler, to whom must go the major credit for preventing the adoption of the plan for Supreme Court reform. I quote from Senator Wheeler's platform of 1924....
"For a generation, the people have struggled patiently, in the face of repeated betrayals by successive administrations, to free themselves from this intolerable power which has been undermining representative government.
"In violation of law, monopoly has crushed competition, stifled private initiative and individual enterprise and, without fear of punishment, now exacts extortionate profits upon every necessity of life consumed by the public.
"The quality of opportunity, proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence and asserted and defended by Jefferson and Lincoln as the heritage of every American, has been displaced by special privilege for the few, wrested from the government of the many.
"That tyrannical power which the American people denied to a King, they will not endure from the monopoly system. The people know they cannot yield to any group the control of the economic life of the nation and preserve their liberties.
"They know monopoly has its representatives in the halls of Congress, on the Federal bench and in the executive departmentthat these servile servants barter away the nation's natural resources, nullify acts of the Congress by judicial veto, invade the people's rights by unlawful arrests and unconstitutional searches and seizures, direct our foreign policy in the interest of predatory wealth and make wars and conscript the sons of common people to fight them.
"The Federal Courts are given no authority under the Constitution to veto the Acts of a Congress. Since the Federal Courts have assumed to exercise such veto power, it is essential that the Constitution shall give to the Congress the right to override such judicial vetootherwise, the Court shall make itself master over the other coordinate branches of the government. The people themselves must approve or disapprove the present exercise of the legislative power of the Federal Courts."
That was a report of the state of the nation as viewed by Senator Wheeler, when a candidate for the Vice-Presidency in 1924. I must here agree with Senator Wheeler that the statement reflected very accurately the conditions as they then existedand in spite of many laws that have since been enacted by recent Congressesthe picture in many aspects remains unchanged.
As in 1924, the great issue before the American people today is control of government and industry by private monopoly. As in 1924, the people today are still struggling patiently, in the face of repeated betrayals, to free themselves from this intolerable power which has been undermining representative government.
Things are not quite so bad as they were in 1924 thanks to the fact that we have a liberal leader in the White House who not only points out great economic and social evils, but, who, unlike my liberal friend, Senator Wheeler of Montana, initiates practical plans and has the courage to fight for these plans which, if consummated, would go far to end the evils so well-catalogued in Senator Wheeler's platform of 1924.
Let us return to that platform and campaign. Let us see what Senator Wheeler proposed to do about this alleged usurpation of power by which the Federal Courts nullified the will of the people, when he was seeking votes for the Vice-Presidency. Here is what he proposed, and this is what he promised.
"We favor submitting to the people, for their considerate judgment, a constitutional amendment providing that Congress may, by reenacting a statute, make it effective over the judicial veto act. We favor such amendment of the Constitution as may be necessary to provide for the election of all Federal Judges for fixed terms, not exceeding ten years, by direct vote of the people."
History records that Senator Wheeler of Montana was not elected to the Vice-Presidency of the United States. Neither history nor the files of the Senate record that Senator Wheeler ever introduced any legislation on the floor of the Senate seeking to place before the people the suggested constitutional amendment which if adopted, would have forever put an end to that usurpation of government control by the Political Judges he complained of in 1924.
If securing a constitutional amendment were such a speedy and effective method of correcting the grievous wrongs complained of by Senator Wheeler in 1924, he should explain why, during the many years that have intervened since he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Vice-Presidency, he did not carry out his promise to the American people to seek such an amendment?
The Montana Senator, Mr. Wheeler, if and when he again seeks a high national office, will have to give to the people of the United States something more than academic argument in explanation of this broken promise.
They will want to know from Senator Wheeler why, when there arrived the first opportunity that has been given to the representatives of the people in generations to smash this autocracy of money and to substitute a real democracy for the sham democracy under which we have existedhe cast his lot with Wall Street instead of Washington.
In fact, that undertakingthe task of convincing those whose votes and support he will need, when next he is a candidate for public office, should take up so much of his time that he will have little left for testifying publicly to the loyalty of those men who, owing their places in the United States Senate to Franklin D. Roosevelt, not only forsook him in his great fight to establish a true democracy in this nation, but who went out of their way to denounce this greatest liberal of all time as "a violator of every sacred tradition of American democracy."
I have no doubt that Senator Wheeler will devote much time to seeking ways of establishing proof of his own liberalism and loyalty to his platform pledges, rather than to a defense of such Senators as O'Mahoney of Wyoming, Burke of Nebraska, and some other signers of that infamous adverse report of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
During the debate on the Court Bill, Senator Wheeler saw fit to defend the Senior Senator from Wyoming, Mr. O'Mahoney, against the charge of political ingratitude for opposing President Roosevelt on the Court Reorganization issue.
He even went further than that. In his studied generosity, he gave credit to the senior Senator from Wyoming for practically linking up the entire Northwest for Mr. Roosevelt in the Pre-Convention Fight of 1932. Let me quote Senator Wheeler, who said....
"Instead of the Administration being responsible for his election, he was responsible for the delegation to the Chicago Convention being instructed for the President of the United States. He was responsible not only for his own State going for the President, but for some of the other states in the Northwest going for the President of the United States."
Evidently, the Senator from Montana has completely forgotten what took place during the period to which he referred. I have not. And because I was as active in the fight for delegates as anyone, because I was in as close touch as anyone with the late Louis Howe and Chairman Farley, who were directing that campaign, I think I can speak with authority.
It is not my purpose to take away from the Senator from Wyoming any credit due him for helping to organize his own state, but it is absurd to state that he was the major factor in swinging the Northwest to Mr. Roosevelt.
The truth is that, in Montana, the burden of the battle was carried by the late Senator Walsh, by Senator Wheeler himself, by Mr. Frank Walker and others. In Idaho the work was done by Senator Pope, Governor Ross, Orr Chapman and Lester Dillingham.
In Oregon, it was Carl Donough and other members of the Democratic Organization. In Washington, it was former Senator C. C. Dill, the late Scott Bullitt, and the present great Senators, Messrs. Bone and Schwellenbach.
In Colorado, it was Senator Costigan, John Barnett, William Walker, the State Chairman, and George A. Collins. In South Dakota, it was the Honorable William W. Howes, then Democratic National Committeeman, Senators Bulow and Hitchcock.
In Iowa, it was the late Senator Murphy, John Sullivan, Ed Dunn and others. In Utah, it was Senator Thomas, Delbert Draper, and the entire Democratic State Organization, including the late Secretary of War, George Dern.
The roll of honor which I have just read is only partially complete. There were many others, both men and women, who played a great and honorable part in helping bring the northwestern States under the banner of Mr. Roosevelt in 1932.
On the contrary, the almost unanimous support given Mr. Roosevelt suggests that in the Northwest at least, the leaders followed the people rather than the other way round. The facts indicate if Mr. O'Mahoney or anyone else had chosen to oppose the President instead of supporting him, he would have found himself in great disfavor with the voters of his own State.
As I recall it, in 1932, the late great Senator John B. Kendrick, represented the State of Wyoming in the Senate. He gave excellent service to the Roosevelt causein fact, it was usually said at the time that he was the determining factor in directing the course of Democratic politics in his State.
His successor, the present Senator, Mr. O'Mahoney, first came into national prominence when he was appointed first Assistant Postmaster-General by President Roosevelt. Later, he was appointed Senator and in 1934 he was elected Senator with full and active support of the Chief-Executive and the present administration.
He linked his own political fate very wisely with the fate of the administration, and posters were spread over Wyoming urging support for President Roosevelt and Senator O'Mahoney. The State was flooded with postcards bearing his picture and the slogan: "He stands with the President."
Another Senator, Burke of Nebraska, very wisely linked himself with the President in 1934 when he was a candidate for election to the Senate. At that time, he was a staunch supporter of the New Deal and defined the term in the following language....
"The New Deal is an Old Dealas old as the earliest aspirations of humanity for liberty and justice and good life. It is old as Christian ethics, for basically its ethics are the same. It is new as the Declaration of Independence was new, and the Constitution of the United States.
"Its motives are the sameit voices the deathless cry of good men and good women for the opportunity to live and work in freedom, the right to be secure in their homes and in the fruits of their labor, the power to protect themselves against the ruthless and the cunning.
Senator Burke ran for the Senate on the definition of the New Deal and boldly used the name of President Roosevelt in his own behalf because he knew that by doing so he very probably would be elected. Once he was elected, however, he almost immediately cut his ties with the New Deal and the President and as a matter of fact, his record, as a Member of the United States Senate, will disclose that at least ninety per cent of his votes have been cast against important and needed New Deal legislation. During the Supreme Court fight he was the most bitter, the most unjust, and the most unfair of all critics of the President and the New Deal. He was unfair again when he made a base personal attack on Senator Black when the latter's nomination for service on the Supreme Court was under consideration by the Senate after having been submitted by President Roosevelt. Some of the things he said were absolutely uncalled for and he knew, when he made them, that they would not affect in the least the vote on the nomination.
When it comes to a pronouncement of what constitutes political ingratitude or what does not, every man must decide for himself, but, to my mind, there is no greater mistake in public life than for a man to be disloyal to those who helped bring success to his career. In fact, political ingratitude is of such a character that it carries with it its own punishment, both swift and effective.
It is my purpose to defend the President of the United States against the unjust and unfounded charges which were leveled against him during the course of the debate by Senators, who, until recently, at least, were assumed to be his political allies and associates.
There has never been a Chief Executive in the history of this country who has been more straightforward in setting his program before the people. He has said time and again that his program is to eliminate old economic wrongs and abuses, and to destroy the control of concentrated wealth over the lives and fortunes of the American people.
The President proposed his judicial reform bill in good faith. He sought to correct a condition which had been denounced for decades by liberal leaders in this country. He thought the time had come to do something about it.
While the measure was before the Senate, he was vigorously assailed by Senators who, it was assumed, would be in favor of the bill. But they were not satisfied to oppose the bill on its merits or to confine themselves to a discussion of what it proposed to do. Time and again, these Senators questioned the motives of the President of the United States. They made it a personal fight. They did everything in their power to question the good faith of those who supported judicial reform.
As an example of what I say, it is only necessary to refer to the adverse report of the Judiciary Committee on the original Judiciary Reorganization Bill. Although that report was signed by several members of his own party, it was gleefully hailed by the Tory press of this country as a severe personal rebuke to the President of the United States, a fact which was pointed out in succinct fashion by the able Senator from Indiana, Mr. Minton. The report was more than a report on the billit was a political diatribe which sought to impugn the motives and the purposes of the President.
Of course, that part of the press which opposes, tooth and nail, every reform measure sponsored by the administration hailed the Judiciary Committee report as an historic document, especially those parts which by implication assailed the motives of the President.
But let me add that as far as the American people are concerned, this so-called historic document has already been forgottenand so will any other document which seeks to question the loyalty and the patriotism of the President of the United States.
I venture to say that some Senators, who heaped this withering fire upon the President, will be talking a different language the next time they go before the voters. They will then discover in Mr. Roosevelt a host of political virtues which they were unable to see at that particular time.
Let me say at this juncture that the people supported Mr. Roosevelt in 1932 because they wanted him for President. The history of events since then proves that the people were right. The political leaders who supported him did not confer any favor upon the President. They merely conferred a favor upon themselves.
One of my colleagues, the Senior Senator from Wyoming, Mr. O'Mahoney, said to me recently that I had discharged my debt to Mr. Roosevelt at the Chicago Convention in 1932 because I was instrumental in swinging the Pennsylvania Delegation to his standard. This Senator pointed out that Mr. Roosevelt got more delegate votes from Pennsylvania than he did from his own State of New York.
That is not my idea of political loyalty. I was elected to the United States Senate in 1934 because I assured the voters of Pennsylvania that it was my intention to support loyally and without wavering the program of the Chief Executive.
That has been my course since and that will continue to be my course until my term expires. There is no feeling of indignation on my part when some one makes the obvious statement that I owe my presence in the Senate to the fact that I am a Roosevelt supporter. On the contrary, I am proud of the fact.
Men who have amassed fortunes in the service of special privilege and who have demonstrated that when the occasion required, they were willing and eager to return to the highly remunerative employ of special privilege, do not ever become liberals.
Only recently in a speech to the Amherst College Alumni, which was political in its tone, he made what the New York Times described as a "thinly veiled" reference to the Supreme Court fight. In that speech he said . . .
That is the only inference that can be taken, unless the Chief Justice means the temporary majority of Hughes and Roberts, which in the past few years has so whimsically toyed with the Constitution, now taking it to mean one thing, now taking it to mean exactly the opposite.
If Mr. Hughes does mean that majority of 27,000,000 Americans which the economic royalists hope is temporary, and which they are striving mightily to make temporary, then certainly Mr. Hughes' reference is nothing more than gigantic judicial impertinence.
Does he mean by "Temporary Majority" the votes of 27,000,000 American citizens who want Social Security, who want decent hours and wages, who want a fair price for the products of their soil and toil, who want jobs, who want a Democratic America to hand down to their children?
Those of us who supported this Court reform measure must go before the people and stand or fall on the record we have made. We are perfectly willing to face the testwe are perfectly willing to let the American electorate decide what constitutes political gratitude and what does not.
And we are perfectly willing to let the voters decide whether President Roosevelt owes his political success to these Senators, as they claim, or whether they owe their political success to him. I, for one, have no doubt, about the verdict.
On the day before our brilliant, able and distinguished leader of the Senate, Joseph T. Robinson, the Senior Senator from Arkansas, died, we lunched together. After we had finished eating, he looked across the table at me and said"Senator Joe, there are just two acts in my more than a quarter of century service in the Senate that I regret. You are responsible for onethe seating of Rush Holt. The other was that when I attended the funeral of the late Senator Kendrick of Wyoming, I visited Governor Miller of that State and urged upon him the appointment of Joseph C. O'Mahoney to the then existing senatorial vacancy. I did that at the request of the Roosevelt Administration."
I now predict that when the voters of Wyoming next cast their ballots in the Democratic primaries of 1940, the now senior Senator from Wyoming will be returned to "His Home on the Range where the Deer and the Antelope Roam."
I believe that the 27 millions who voted for Mr. Roosevelt likewise dislike ingrates and ingratitude and that they will bury in the oblivion of defeat those now public men who come within these classifications.