Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Autobiography of a Good Pennsylvania Republican, a Philadelphia Lawyer

George Wharton Pepper. Philadelphia Lawyer: An Autobiography. Philadelphia, Pa: J.B. Lippincott Co, 1944.

The author attended the University of Pennsylvania where is uncle William Pepper was Provost. The author was elected Spoon man in college an award given to a well liked student. He became an attorney and worked at Biddle and Ward.

Pepper argued before the U.S. Supreme Court wearing a brown, instead of the traditional black, suit. Justice Horace Gray proclaimed “Who is the beas who dares to come here in a gray suit?” Pepper lost his case.

Pepper descries his political career as “I never dove into the political stream. At the outset I merely waded in when the water was still. Later, when I went off the deep end, it was as the result of a friendly push.”

Pepper was hired to write a legal brief before the U.S. Senate in support of an attorney who was arguing that Pennsylvania Governor Charles Stone should not be allowed to temporarily reappoint Matthew Quay to the U.S. Senate. The appointment was made during legislative adjournment. Pepper argued that the law required the vacancy to occur during the adjournment Quay’s vacancy happened during the legislative session. The U.S. Senate decided not to seat Quay according to that appointment.

Pepper notes hat Philadelphia’s corruption the was that “the truth is that influential Philadelphians have never been content with corruption; but they have generally been prosperous enough to be contented with their prosperity and too deficient in public spirit to make a substantial effort for good local government.”

There is a joke Pepper writes about a Philadelphia who received $10 from the Democrats to vote Democratic, $5 from the Republicans to vote Republican and $3 from the City Party to vote for the City Party, The voter chose to vote for the City Party as he then viewed them as the least corrupt.

The U.S. Forester Gifford Pinchot accused Agriculture Secretary Richard Ballinger of giving privileges of forest lands to power companies. Ballinger fired Pinchot. Pepper was hired as one of Pinchot’s lawyers in this dispute.

Pepper became Chairman of the Committee of Public Safety during World War I. 15,000 citizens joined in national defense and food supply operations.

In 1919, Governor William Sproul named Pepper to become on of the authors of what was to become 25 proposals of revising the State Constitution. The voters voted there was no need for a Constitutional Convention.

In 1921, Senator Boies Penrose died. The Governor nominated Pepper to take his seat, Opponents claimed Pepper was too closely involved with the Pennsylvania Railroad and other corporate interests. State Senator Edward Vare and his brother William Vare (who would defeat Pepper in a primary four years later) asked Pepper about patronage. Pepper stated he would consult with the county organizations except on Federal Judicial appointments, Edward Vare warned Pepper that “with our power over the organization we can send anybody we want to the United States Senate-anybody.” Pepper noted Vare was stating fact.

In the Senate, Pepper learned there were “Senators who went about their legislative labor as it no spectators were present and those who seemed to derive their greatest satisfaction from the present of a listening throng.”

Pepper voted against unseating Sen. Thomas Newberry of Michigan. Newberry had been charged with corrupt practices for spending $195,000 to win a primary when the law allowed $37,500 in contributions, Pepper believed the money had not been used fraudulently. Newberry later resigned under pressure.

Pepper personally opposed the Dye Anti-Lynching Bill as he believe it was a state concern, He voted for it because “all of the Negros vote back home.” Pepper also supported child labor regulations in keeping consistent with his arguing the Federal government could have “special guardianship” over children and African Americans. He discovered his support for these measures “found no favor with Pennsylvania industrialists.”

Pepper recalls hearing a story where Speaker Joe Cannon once told a constituent who was upset that Cannon did not remember who he was, that “if St. Peter doesn’t remember your name any better than I do you’ll go back to hell where you belong.”

Senator Robert LaFollette once stated he was the opposite of a Senator with convictions for he made it a rule to never vote for a tax measure or against an appropriation.

Pepper found Sen. John Sharp Williams of Mississippi he most eloquent Senator, Medill McCormack of Illinois as “politically experienced, mentally brilliant, and thoroughly equipped for the work of the Senate” and that Frank Brandegee of Connecticut had “one of the keenest minds in the Senate.”

Pepper and Congress dealt with tariff issues. Pennsylvania raw materials manufacturers  and tobacco growers wanted their products on the free list. Western U.S. producers wanted high tariffs.

Pepper won the Republican nomination to his Senate seat by 241,159 votes. Joseph Grundy, a Manufacturers Association and Republican leader and regular Republicans were favorable to Pepper. Pepper supported a candidate than did Grundy for Republican State Chairman This hurt their relations. The Vares tolerated Pepper.

David Reed was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor William Sproul when Senator Alexander Crum died Pepper agreed with this nomination.

Pepper received 300 to 500 letters daily and some days as many as 1,000. Pepper was the Senator who received the most mail.

Pepper observed “that the Senator was most effective who both understood his subject and refrained from wounding the susceptibilities of colleagues who differed from him.”

Pepper noted of Senators that “perhaps his most distinguishing characteristic is lack of perspective” and a “delusion of grandeur respecting the importance of the Senate.”

Pepper handled passage of the Isle of Pines Treaty on the Senate floor. Pepper believed he U.S. had stopped Spanish oppression and should not then impose U.S. oppression. The treaty gave up U.S. claims to the Isle of Pines, which was given to Cuba while Cuba cede a cooling station at Guantanamo to the U.S.

Pepper noted President Warren Harding “always tried in the presence of a controversy to generate an atmosphere which would make agreement possible.”

Pepper believes he could have been reelected if he asked for the Vare’s agreement. Yet he believes that “would have involved so great a sacrifice of independence that a Senate seat thus acquired would not be worth having.”

Gifford Pinchot entered the primary which split the ant-Vare organization vote and also split the Prohibition vote. Both Pinchot and Pepper were prohibitionists. Pepper accepted to be on a ticket supported by W.L. Mellon that slated John Foster for Governor. He realized this was a mistake as running with a state office seeking “multiplies their political liabilities and divides the political assets.”

The United Mine Workes supported Pincot. Pepper made 235 campaign speeches. William Vare won 596,000 vote to 515,000 for Pepper. Vare’s candidate for Governor, Edward Beidelman, lost to Fisher.

The Vares threatened likely Pepper voters with false claims they would be arrested if they voted. The Vare machine distributed circulars falsely claimed to Catholic voters that Pepper favored closing Catholic schools.

Pinchot charged Vare’s election was “partly bought and party stolen.”

Pepper spend his last days in the Senate getting William Kirkpatrick confirmed to a judicial vacancy. Pepper know Vare wanted someone else. Pepper got his appointee confirmed.

Pepper returned to law practice.

During the New Deal, Pepper argued against Congress giving the President law making powers. Pepper also argued that matters of commerce belonged in state legislatures.

Pepper saw labor-management relations and strikes as having “the quality of civil war.” 


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