Title: Support for reform among congressional democrats, 1897-1913
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00097879/00001
 Material Information
Title: Support for reform among congressional democrats, 1897-1913
Physical Description: v, 338 leaves. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Silbert, Edward Michael
Publication Date: 1966
Copyright Date: 1966
Subject: Politics and government -- United States   ( lcsh )
History thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- History -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis -- University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 327-337.
Additional Physical Form: Also available on World Wide Web
General Note: Manuscript copy.
General Note: Vita.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00097879
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000574239
oclc - 13842343
notis - ADA1602


This item has the following downloads:

PDF ( 14 MBs ) ( PDF )

Full Text







April, 1966

Copyright by
Edward M. Silbert


A love for education was one of the finest gifts

my parents gave to me. They have encouraged me unremit-

tingly to fulfill my scholarly ambitions. My sister,

Glenda, taught me early in life to enjoy books and, more-

over, to trust her as a constant source of good advice.

I have been most fortunate to have sat under and to have

been guided by many fine teachers in my academic career.

Professors Bailey Diffie and Stanley Page of the City

College of New York showed interest in my work and

directed me toward graduate school. At the University of

Florida, no man could have shown me more consideration and

have given of his time so freely to further my studies

than did the late Professor Arthur W. Thompson. Every

other professor that I have come into contact with at the

University of Florida has given me more than my proper

share of his time, interest, and advice. Most particularly,

I would like to thank the men who have sat on my doctoral

committee and who have supervised both my studies at the

University of Florida and this dissertation: Professors

John K. Mahon, Clifford K. Yearley, Lyle McAlister, Ashby

Hammond (Department of History); and Charles Farris and

Arnold J. Heidenheimer (Department of Political Science).

Finally, I wish to express my appreciation for the help

given me by the staff of the Main Library at the Univer-

sity of Florida.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .. ....... ......... 1ii

INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . 1








VII. LABOR LEGISLATION . . . . . . .. 233

VIII. CONCLUSIONS . . . . . . . . 295

APPENDIX I . . . . . . . . . ... 309

APPENDIX II . . . . . . . . . .. 313

APPENDIX III. .... . . . . . . . . 317

APPENDIX IV .................... . 321

APPENDIX V . . . . . . . . . ... 322

APPENDIX VI . . .. . . . . . .. 325

BIBLIOGRAPHY .... . . . . . . . 327

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . ... .338


Who were the "progressives"? That question con-

tinues to challenge the interest of historians in spite

of the seemingly definitive studies produced in response

to it. Obviously neither Hofstadter's broad sweeping

sociological explanation of the progressive movement nor

Nowry's tight analytical approach to the progressives of

California has closed the doors to continued historical

pursuit and inquiry.1 The recent works of Huthmacher,

Wiebe, Kolko, and Warner, in particular.are illustrations

of the continuing challenge presented in this field of

historical research and scholarship. Whereas Hofstadter

lRichard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform: From
Bryan to FDR (New York, 1955), Pb., pp. 131-73. George
E. Mowry, The California Progressives (Berkeley, 1951),

2j. Joseph Huthmacher, "Urban Liberalism and the
Age of Reform," Mississippi Valley Review (September,
1962), pp. 231-41. Robert I. Wiebe, Dusinessmen and
Reform: A Study of the Progressive Movement (Cambridge,
Mass., 1962). Gabriel Kolko, The Triumnh of Conserva-
tism: A Reinterpretation of Amrrican History. 1900-
Z1a1 (Mew York, 1963). Hoyt Landon Warner, Progressivism
in Ohio. 1897-1917 (Columbus, Ohio, 1964).

and Mowry stress the role of middleclass Americans in this

reform movement, Huthmacher calls attention to the voting

power and reform motivation of the eastern urban proletar-

iat in the first two decades of the twentieth century.

Both Wiebe and Kolko acknowledge the importance of business-

men's activities in the drive for governmental controls in

the economy. Warner asserts the strong role that Democrats

played in bringing about progressive reform in Ohio and,

thus, is the first to suggest that the image of the "pro-

gressive" as an insurgent Republican has been overstated.

Other reputable historians such as Hicks, Hechler,. and

Nye have clearly evidenced their understanding of the pro-

gressive movement in terms of reform-motivation within the

Republican party.3 Even Link, the leading student of

reform during the Democratic administration of Wilson, de-

means the importance of the Democrats in the movement before
1910. Link's criticism of the Democratic party in the

3Theodore Saloutos and John Hicks, Agricultural
Discontent in the Middle West, 1900-1939 (Madison, 1951),
p. 54. Kenneth W. Hechler, Insurgency: Personalities and
Politics of the Taft Era (New York, 1940). Russel B. Nye,
Midwestern Progressive Politics: A Historical Study of
Its Origins and Development. 1870-1950 (East Lansing, Mich.,
1951), pp. 197, 203-4.

4Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive
Era, 1910-1917 (New York, 1963) Pb., p. 2.

decade or so before Wilson is unnecessarily harsh and,

moreover, is based more on previous speculative studies

than historical inquiry. Nobody seems to know what the

Democrats were doing during 1897-1913; as Wiebe recently

pointed out, this period of Democratic party history is

one big "historical blur."5 A common shortcoming of books

written about the American nation during the presidencies

of William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard

Taft, even those most recently published, is the almost

total lack of interest in the Democratic party.6 True,

this period was one of Republican political domination and

these men were Republicans. It cannot be expected that

the accent in these works would be placed other than on

the dominant party. However, it seems equally valid that

the Democratic party has been a major political institution

in this country since 1800, and that any work on American

5Wiebe, op. cit., p. 211. J. Rogers Hollingsworth,
The Whirlaqiq of Politics: The Democracy of Cleveland and
Brvan (Chicago, 1963), has made a substantial contribution
to the understanding of the inner struggles for power
within the Democratic party, 1896-1904.
6Margaret Leech, In the Days of McKinley (New York,
1959). Howard W. Morgan, William McKinley and His America
(Syracuse, N. Y., 1963). George E. Mowry, The Era of
Theodore Roosevelt (New York, 1958). Henry F. Pringle, Theo-
dore Rooseveltt A Biography (New York, 1931). James Ford
Rhodes, The McKinley and Roosevelt Administrations: 1897-1909
(New York, 1923). Henry F. Pringle, The Life and Times of
William Howard Taft (2 vols., New York, 1939).

politics since that date must accord the Democrats a share

of coverage and study commensurate with its position in

American politics. To be sure, historians have been gra-

cious enough to trace the party's progress through national

conventions and presidential campaigns in those years,

while others have dutifully, if somewhat reluctantly,

acknowledged the importance of Democratic votes in Congress

for some few specific issues of interest. No historian

has until now taken the time to investigate systematically

the record of the Democratic party in Congress over these

sixteen years. What is most unfortunate, however, is

that most historians have implied by their silence that

the work of the Congressional Democrats was unimportant

and insignificant.

This study is an attempt to examine the workings

of the Democratic party in the Congress of the United

States during the years 1897-1913 -- to perceive if the

party had any direction, any significant consistencies, any

record of importance on the so-called issues of the day.

The major focus of the thesis is Congressional Democratic

support for progressive political and economic reforms as

reflected in roll-call voting on five key subjects. Analy-

sis of these roll calls is used to provide conclusive


evidence of progressive strength within the party. The

results show quite clearly that the Congressional Demo-

cratic party was predominantly a political organ for

reform. Democrats repeatedly forced reform issues to the

floor of Congress for debate, and demanded votes. A

minority party, they seemed to be calling out in the wil-




"Wandering in the wilderness" was the way Champ

Clark, Speaker of the United States House of Representa-

tives (1911-1917), described his party's plight in the

sixteen years between the administrations of Grover

Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson.1 In each of four presiden-

tial elections, the Democratic nominee had been decisively

defeated. For a decade and a half, the party remained

a minority in both chambers of the American Congress.

Year after year, Democrats in Congress and in national

convention appeared hopelessly faction-ridden. The party's

effectiveness, even as opposition, seemed to be negligible

its public image was a national joke and its ability to

govern if it should gain power was seriously questioned.

kChamp Clark, My Quarter-Centiry in American Poli-
tics (2 vols., Now York, 1920), I, 320.

2"Populism in the Saddle," Nation, 70 (1900), 372.
"Best Foot Forward," Vation, 91 (1910), 462. "Bryan and
the Would-be Wreckers of the Democratic Party," Arena, 39
(1908), 346-47. "Rehabilitation of the Democratic Party,"
Forum, 30 (1901), 644. Ray S. Baker, "What about the
Democratic Party?" The American Magazine, 70, No. 2

The Democrats were in serious trouble and were even

pictured by some political observers as heading for perma-

nent decline.3 Between the elections of 1896 and 1912, no

Democratic presidential ticket was able to increase the
percentage of total votes cast over that of 1896. Even

in 1912, the year of Woodrow Wilson's triumph, the party

continued downward in this respect. Percentage of elec-

toral votes for the party paralleled the downward trend of

the vote count with but one exception. Wilson, although

a "minority" president in the vote count, was a victor of

landslide proportions in the electoral college. As a

congressional party, the Democrats went into a state of

eclipse. Eight times between 1875 and 1895, Democrats

had held a majority in the House of Representatives; but

(June, 1910), 147, 159. Edward Stanwood, "Democratic Pre-
dicament,"Atlantic Monthly, 95 (1905), 150-53. Herbert
Croly, "Democratic Factions and Insurgent Republicans,"
North American Review, 191 (1910), 626-27, 629-30. R. M.
Harvey, "Will the Democratic Party Commit Suicide?" North
American Review, 193 (1911), 3, 8. "Next Presidential
Election," North American Review, 194 (1911), 185, 187.
Burton J. Hendrick, "Oscar Underwood," McClure's, 38 (1911-
12), 414. William E. lickell, "Future of the Democratic
Party," Sewanee Review, 10 (1902), 473, 476. M. Ostro-
gorski, Democracy and the Party System in the United States
(New York, 1910), pp. 100-1.
3Edgar Eugene Robinson, "The Decline of the Demo-
cratic Party," American Journal of Sociology, 20 (1914/
1915), 334. Ostrogorski, op. cit., 385-86.

4Robinson, op. cit., pp. 316, 322.

not until the elections of 1910 was this circumstance re-

peated. In the Senate, the party was consistently in a

minority position from 1897 to 1913.

The primary cause of this decline was deep-rooted

division within the organizational hierarchy of the party

and its public supporters. The national Democratic con-

vention of 1896 was the scene of a battle royal between

two intransigent forces, each determined to gain control

of the party. The leadership of one faction, the "con-

servative," was in the hands of the president of the

United States, Grover Cleveland.5 The other faction, rep-

resenting Democrats of a more "radical" disposition, had

several leaders, none of whom for the moment was clearly

the spokesman of the group.

Conservative Democracy had been in the driver's

seat since 1876. Then, and again in 1884, 1888, and 1892,

aware of the necessity of carrying New York State in order

to place a Democrat in the White House, party stalwarts

sanctioned the nominations of two moderate reformers from

the Empire State, Samuel Tilden and Grover Cleveland

Horace S. Merrill, Bourbon Leader; Grover Cleve-
land and the Democratic Party (Boston, 1957, passim).

(Cleveland, the latter three times), knowing them to be

safely conservative. In this age of booming industriali-

zation, conservatism was interpreted by its critics to

mean an increasing concern for the welfare of big busi-

ness at the expense of the public. Many felt that Demo-

crats of this ilk were little better than eastern Republi-

cans; that is, that they favored hard money, tight credit,

low taxation on corporate interests, protection of private

property (to the extent of breaking strikes with government

troops) and minimum governmental tampering with the national
economy. Although the party still maintained its position

of "tariff for revenue only" in direct contrast with the

high protective tariff advocated by the Republicans, several

important Democratic senators -- Gorman of Maryland, Payne

and Price of Ohio, to name a few -- were believed to have

sought the affections of the business community by promising

to work for higher tariffs for manufactured products and

subsidies for industries native to their states.7

The formation of radicalism in the party is harder

6bid., pp. 44-46 for a discussion of Bourbon

7Warner, op. cit., p. 6. Clark, op. cit., I, 336.
Hollingsworth, op. cit., 19-20.

to pinpoint. It would appear to be the result of agrarian

discontent rising out of the manifold problems farmers

seemed to be facing in a rapidly industrializing economy.8

The farmer felt he was receiving less for his crops while

prices for manufactured goods he needed were continually

increasing. If in the West he found it difficult to pay

off the mortgage on his farm, in the South he found it

almost impossible to get sufficient credit at reasonable

rates. The debtor farmer readily sympathized with the

Greenback and Silverite movements, both of which propa-

gandized for the expansion of the national currency, the

counterveiling of the deflationary trend, and the loosening

of credit. Since he suspected that railroads were charging

too much for freight service and that they were bribing

politicians to avoid fair taxation, the farmer also sup-

ported efforts to regulate interstate carriers. The

Granger movement of the 1870's represented an attempt by

midwestern farmers to bring railroads under governmental

control and regulation.

John D. Hicks, The Populist Revolt: A History of
the Farmers' Alliance and the People's Party (Lincoln, Neb.,
1961), pb., pp. 36-95. C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the
New South. 1877-1913 (Baton Rouge, 1951), pp. 175-204.

Discontented and determined to improve their eco-

nomic lot, southern and western farmers formed statewide

farmer-oriented organizations to discuss their problems

and formulate solutions. These organizations rapidly

proliferated and soon combined into regional alliances,

the two major ones being the Southern Alliance and the

(Old) Northwest Alliance. By 1890, the leaders of the

alliances were calling for political action in order to

force government, both state and federal, to be more

receptive to the demands of the farming communities of

the nation. In the western states of Kansas, Nebraska,

South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota, this political

activity led to the formation of "people's" parties while

in the South, it led to an attack on the establishment

within the Democratic party. In the South, where the pre-

ponderance of people still were engaged in the occupation

of agriculture, politicians now began to support "popu-

list" demands or suffer the wrath of the electorate.

Bourbon Redeemers (political leaders within the Democratic

party of the post-Reconstruction period who had urged

9Hicks,op. cit., pp. 96-185. Woodward, op. cit.,
pp. 235-90.

business expansion, industrialization, and widespread rail-

roading upon the South) who now resisted the farmer-oriented

programs were in many cases turned out of office. In some

southern states, the struggle for power was over quickly:

Ben Tillman, later known as "Pitchfork Ben," successfully

led an agrarian revolt within the Democratic party in South

Carolina in 1890.10 In others, success came later: Varde-

man carried out a similar movement in Mississippi just after

the turn of the century.1 If the supporters of the farmers'

cause did not prevail within the Democratic party, the party

soon found itself challenged by southern Populists. In

North Carolina, a Populist-Republican coalition overwhelmed

the Democratic "Bourbon" regime and retained power during

the mid-1890's.12

In the farm belt west of the Mississippi (the

"Middle Border"), the Democratic party, weakened by the

loss of vote-getting power among Civil War veterans who

10Francis B. Simkins, Pitchfork Ben Tillman. South
Carolinian (Baton Rouge, 1944), pp. 138-68. Francis B.
Simkins, A History of the South (New York, 1953), pp.
351-53, has the successes of the "farmer-oriented" in
southern state politics, 1890.

11I. Kirwan, Revolt of the Rednecks: Mississippi
Politics, 1876-1925 (Lexington, Ky., 1951), p. 148 ff.
12Woodward, op. cit., p. 277. Simkins, A History
of the South, p. 353.

remained devoted to the party of Lincoln and Union, and

eager to rebuild its strength, willingly allied itself

with groups of dissident farmer organizations.13 Western

Populists had devised a program of "radical" reform which

they believed, if adopted by the states and Congress,

would alleviate the economic disasters of industrializa-

tion. Western Democrats tended to adopt most of the Pop-

ulist program as they found it expedient to be Populist


In the elections of 1892, the Democratic party,

for the first time since 1856, succeeded in winning con-

trol of both the legislative and executive branches of

government. To the misfortune of the party, as it assumed

control of the government, the country fell into the grip

of the Depression of 1893. Disregarding the opinions of

the radically oriented elements in his party, President

Cleveland resolutely attempted to bind the party to his

will in mapping out a program to get the country out of

the depression. Although he had strong support among all

elements of the Democrats for tariff revision downward

13Waldo Lincoln Cook, "Present Political Tenden-
cies," Annals of the American Academy, 18 (1901), 192.

as a means of helping the masses and increasing federal

revenue, the president chose to have Congress act first

on the monetary question.14 To help restore a rapidly

depleting federal gold reserve, Cleveland urged Congress

to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890. His

adamant advocacy of the gold standard, in light of well-

intrenched sentiment for bimetalism among the bulk of his

party, did much to undermine his authority as titular

head. His cautious and rather conservative efforts to get

the country out of its economic doldrums lost him further

support among the advocates of "radical" reform. Unable

to modify the president's actions, the "radicals" began

to plan the capture of the party machinery and the impo-

sition of their own philosophy upon the Democracy. They

hoped that a platform of federally directed economic and

political reforms would attract all the discontented ele-

ments in the country to their banner and lead to a national

victory in 1896.15

The stage was set for a clash of will power at the

Democratic National Convention held in Chicago in the

14Clark, op. cit., I, 320. Hollingsworth, op. cit.,
pp. 10-12.

15Hollingsworth, op. cit., pp. 32-50.

summer of 1896. From the beginning, it was obvious that

the "radicals" had the necessary forces to impose their

will upon the convention. To insure their control of the

proceedings, theyelected John Warwick Daniel, senator from

Virginia and a free silver advocate as temporary chairman

of the convention over the nominee recommended by the

Program Committee, David Hill, senator from New York and

a known gold standard conservative. Moderation was soon

thrown aside, when riding roughshod over the feelings of

the conservative element in the party, the "radical"-

dominated convention adopted as planks in the Democratic

platform of 1896: sixteen-to-one free coinage of silver

without waiting for an international agreement on bimetal-

ism, and an outright repudiation of the second Cleveland

administration. All attempts to modify these divisive

party stands were voted down by the overconfident majority.

Then, in the midst of bedlam, the convention nominated one

of the "radicals'" own, the young former congressman from
Nebraska, William Jennings Bryan.1

Humiliated, outvoted, and outshouted, one group of

Conservative Democrats walked out of the convention and

16Ibid., pp. 52-68.

resumed their rump meetings in Indianapolis. These "Gold

Democrats" assumed the burden of offering Cleveland Democ-

racy to the American public. A second group of "conserva-

tives," perhaps less courageous but more politically astute,

remained with the majority in convention, but offered it

little support in the campaign. This element was prepared

to await patiently the day when their philosophy would re-

gain its hold over the Democracy. To their chagrin, the

withdrawal of support, whether official or undercover,

loosened the hold of the Conservatives on all important

posts of party machinery. Even though the "radical" candi-

date was defeated in 1896, they found it no easy task to

win back their old positions of power in the Democratic


The internal division between "conservatives" and

"radicals" plagued the party for the next sixteen years.

They were to be years of division and defeat. While the

struggle for control of the party continued, the Democracy

found it almost impossible to win national elections. Con-

gressional Democrats who attempted to develop a consistent

and attractive platform of issues upon which they could

rebuild the party's strength seemed unable for most nf the

period (1897-1913) to distract public attention from the

conservative-radical dispute. They could not cope effec-

tively with the twin-barreled propaganda of the Republi-

cans, who shrewdly claimed the prosperity of the country

as something totally of their making, and who questioned

the sanity of those who would put a faction-ridden Demo-

cratic party in control when everything was going so well.

Conservative Democrats, until 1904, were secure in

their belief that return of Tilden-Cleveland Democracy

would once again lead the party to national favor. Unable

to win the party standard away from the Nebraskan reformer

in 1900, they stood aside again and watched without dismay

the second consecutive national defeat of the party. In

1904, however, they were not to be denied. Confident of

victory with "safe" Judge Parker of New York as their can-

didate, and with "conservative" Democracy stamped all

over their platform, they were shaken by the overwhelming

victory of the Roosevelt-led Republicans. Conservative

Democrats began to search openly for new leaders of high

caliLer to take over the party. If reform was to be a

necessary part of the Democratic fabric, these men sin-

cerely believed that the party must first dispose of the

"radical" leadership of William Jennings Bryan, and crush

the determined drive for power of a newer "radical,"

William Randolph Hearst, Jr. Reform, if conceptualized,

engineered, and administered by men who were conservative

at heart, who were not likely to tamper with the basic

elements of American society, was not too fearful a pros-

pect. Eastern conservatives wooed men of like philosophy

from the South.17 Woodrow Wilson, then president of

Princeton University, was proposed early in the decade as

a likely candidate upon whom both eastern and southern

conservatives could agree as presidential timber. It

would seem that this element of the party was slowly drift-

ing to a position of compromise; it would accept moderate

reform if it had faith in the leadership of the party.

At the same time as the conservatives were casting

about for men of high caliber to lead the party, the "radi-

cal" wing of the Democracy began to find its position in

17"Need of Reorganization," Nation, 87 (1908),
455. Henry L. West, "The Future of the Democratic Party,"
Forum, 40 (1908), 516-17. Ray S. Baker, on. cit., pp.
149-50. "Whom Will the Democrats Next Nominate for
President?" North American Review, 182 (1906), 491t this
article featured the "call" for Woodrow Wilson. "Threaten-
ing Hearst Force," North American Review, 183 (1906),
817-20. "Has the Conservative South a Presidential Can-
didate?" North American Review, 185 (1907), 476-84. "Claims
of the Candidates; Symposium," North American Review, 187
(1908), 801-50. John Callan O'Laughlin, "The Next Presi-
dent: Democratic Possibilities," Outlook, 85 (1907),

the Midwest (and later in the Northeast) rapidly improving.

Democratic candidates of a reform-bent were emerging within

the ranks in these bastions of conservatism and finding

public support. To be sure, these new Democratic reformers

made a determined effort to moderate the sweep of radical-

ism and to concentrate on several specific reforms. More-

over, it appears that they made their greatest impact in

urban areas, and amongst the urban working class. Tom

Johnson and Brand Whitlock, Democratic mayors of Cleveland

and Toledo, respectively, made great progress in breaking
the groundwork for reform sentiment in Ohio.8 Other

northern Democrats were preparing to make the most of the

work done by certain Republicans to create a favorable

image and public demand for reform. Robert LaFollette of

Wisconsin and Albert Cummins of Iowa, elected in their

respective states as governors on platforms calling for

economic and political reform, did much in their guberna-

torial administrations to convince the American people

that government, operating in the public interest, could

19Warner, on. cit., pp. 78, 188-89. On the pages
cited, Warner noted the achievements of the men insofar as
the municipal reform movement was concerned. The book has
complete coverage of the background and political lives of
these men.

effectively cope with the railroads and the trusts. One

single factor, perhaps more than any other, helped to

change opinion among "middleclass" America on the subject

of reform. Theodore Roosevelt, who while president of the

United States (1901-1909) chose to put himself in spirit

if not always in action at the head of the drive for

progressive change, made the movement interesting, desir-
able, and perfectly acceptable. He helped to rip the tag

of "radical" from it, and to rend it respectable while

whetting the appetite of the American middle class for more.

Although not translated into additional votes for

the standard bearer of the party either in 1908 or in 1912,

this reform spirit in America definitely worked to the

benefit of Democratic candidates for Congress and for state

offices. With a sudden turn of the wheel of fortune, Demo-

crats once again found themselves in control of the lower

House as a result of the elections of 1910, and masters of

the legislative branch as a result of those in 1912. In

19Nye, op. cit., pp. 22-26.

20Georqe E. Mowry, Theodore Roosevelt and the
Progressive Movement (New York, 1960), p. 34.


these years, Democratic candidates were elected governors

upon reform platforms in many states of the Union.

It would appear then, that by 1912, the "radical"

element had managed not only to hold onto the reins of

power within the party, but to impose its philosophy, al-

beit somewhat modulated in pitch, upon the Democracy. It

had not eliminated its nore conservative brother, but it

had forced him to accept significant revision of his view-




If public demand for reform did indeed increase

during the period 1897-1913, what was the impact of

"radical" Democracy upon legislation passed by Congress?

One method which could prove very useful in studying

congressional Democratic support for reform would be some

sort of roll call analysis based upon the voting records

of Congress. If devised properly, such an analysis could

expose not only the "progressive" strength within the

minority but also the comparative development of "progres-

sivism" within the Republican congressional party. In

this way, a means would be provided to test the relative

importance of reform-Democracy in the years before Wilson.

Most historians have designated the years 1900-1917

as the Progressive Era, and have divided the era into two

distinct phases: the Republican, 1900-1912, and the Demo-

cratic, 1913-1917. This arbitrary dichotomy has led to a

concentration of scholarly effort concerned with develop-

ments within the majority party, in each instance, to the

almost complete neglect of the minority. Thus, it is not

surprising that the development of the Democratic party

as a primary force for progressivism in the first decade

of the twentieth century has either been overlooked or


To study the congressional Democrats and their

impact upon reform, five key issues of the period were

selected. Each of these questions was of momentous and

continuous concern to the people and the politicos of the

United States in the years under consideration. Moreover,

for each of these, a significant number of roll calls were

found to be recorded for each house in the Congressional


The first issue, direct election of United States

senators by the people of the several states, was directly

tied to a growing fear that the upper chamber was controlled

by the corporate interests (the "trusts") of industrial

America. Senators were elected by the legislatures of the

individual states, and often in the years following the

industrial development of the nation, they appeared, to

those critical of them and sympathetic with agrarian dis-

content, to be more responsive to industrial interests

than the needs of farmers or laborers. Direct popular

election of senators, moreover, was seen by its advocates

as a method of democratizing the electoral system, and

of bringing government closer to the people.

The second issue, federal power to lay and collect

income taxes, was called for to alleviate the tax burden

upon the farmers of America and to shift a significant

proportion of it upon those who had recently or were in

the process of reaping huge profits from the industrializa-

tion of the economy. Under the existing system of taxation

(national as apart from local taxation), which was based

primarily on the tariff, it was argued by income tax ad-

vocates that the middle and working classes of America

provided the bulk of government, while the well-to-do es-

caped for the most part paying a share proportionate to

their wealth.

The third issue, antitrust legislation, was a call

to arms articulated by those in the country who saw the

development of huge unregulated concentrations of wealth

and industrial power in America as a direct threat to compe-

tition within the national economy, to democracy within

local, state and national politics, and to all other groups

within American society. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act,

passed by Congress in 1890, had not operated as an effec-

tive means of preventing the further consolidation of

industries in the first years of its operation. Recur-

rent demands were made for Congress to curb the trend

toward "trustification."

The fourth issue, effective federal regulation of

railroads, was brought before the public by those farmers

and merchants who used the interstate carriers to transport

their goods to the market places of the nation, and who

found railroad services and practices to be highly dis-

criminatory in favor of certain industrial trusts.1

These men believed that railroads, instead of operating

for the impartial good of all shippers, granted special

rates to some and charged all that the traffic could bear

to others whenever carrier competition was lacking. Since

state power to regulate railroad companies had been denied

by the Supreme Court (because of the interstate character

of railroads) in the mid-1880's, the best alternative for

1Lee Benson, Merchants. Farmers and Railroads:
Railroad Requlation and New York Politics, 1850-1877
(Cambridge, Mass., 1955), pp. 59-61. Solon J. Buck,
Granger Movement: A Study of Agricultural Organization and
Its Political, Economic and Social Manifestations. 1870-
1880 (Cambridge, Mass., 1913), passim.

transforming the railroads into public servants appeared

to be the development of the Interstate Commerce Comnission,

a federal regulatory agency created by Congress in 1887,

as an effective force with rate-fixing powers. They

hoped that the ICC would, if given rate-making powers,

establish them at levels beneficial to their needs.

Whereas farmers, merchants, and many industrialists sought

to strengthen the ICC's ability to bring freight rates

down and remove unfair practices, many railroad owners

and executives hoped to mold the federal agency into one

which would encourage pooling among carriers, thereby

eliminating cutthroat competition, and would not restrict

"fair" profit-taking by arbitrary rate-fixing.2 Moreover,

railroad owners also wanted an end to the rebate system,

as it cut into their profits. Thus, it would appear that

effective railroad legislation meant one thing to farmers

and merchants, and for the most part (with the exception of

rebates) quite another to the railroads.

The fifth issue, labor legislation, involved many

questions relating to the work forces of the nation. The

2Gabriel Kolko, Railroads and Requlation. 1877-
1916 [Princeton, 1965), pp. 3-6.

government, being an employer of hundreds of thousands,

could by its example set a national standard for maximum

number of hours and safe conditions for work. Congress,

by its powers over interstate commerce, could establish

similar standards for men operating the railroads of the

nation. It could also indirectly aid America's laborers

by recognizing labor unions as legitimate organizations

operating to improve working standards and wages and,

thus, distinctly outside the jurisdiction of the Sherman

Anti-Trust Act. In an industrialized country in which

"laissez-faire" had come to mean subsidies and aid to

industrialists, and very little help for any other group

(with perhaps the exception of war veterans), adjustment in

favor of labor was a point of great agitation. Demand

for congressional action upon labor's problems grew as the

American Federation of Labor and various railroad unions

developed extensive backing among the nation's working


The method of analysis that best seemed to suit the

purposes of this study was that suggested and used by

George Grassmuck in his work, Sectional Biases in Congress

on Foreign Policy.3 Grassmuck developed an index of party

3George Grassmuck, Sectional Biases in Congress on
Foreign Policy (Baltimore, 1951).

support within the Congresses of 1921-1941 for issues

relating to foreign policy. This index was found to be

quite adaptable to the study of reform in the congresses

of 1897-1913. Working with those roll calls pertaining

to the five issues noted above, a Grassmuck index was de-

rived for each of the parties in the House and/or Senate

for every Congress in which one of the five issues was

voted upon (and recorded in full roll call vote) as a pre-

cise indication of sentiment for that reform in a parti-

cular Congress.4 If the matter was voted upon several

times in the House (or in the Senate) in a Congress, the

index represented the total performance of the party in

the House for that Congress on the issue. In this way,

indices covering the period of eight Congresses were pro-

duced; once this was done, it was possible to perceive

"change over time." The index in series, then, was a key

to the development of support within a party for a

measure, and also a device by which comparisons could be

made between the parties (both for any specific Congress

or over a longer period of time). What was constructed,

therefore, was an index of party unity and affinity toward

4See Appendix I.


reform. Its utilization revealed to a large degree the

roles of the parties in the furtherance of "progressivism."

It provided a method of proving that Democrats in these

years were a vital force in the passage of reform legis-




The writers of the Constitution, in 1787, had

devised an electoral system for choosing federal office-

holders which limited direct popular election to the selec-

tion of the members of the House of Representatives. Sen-

ators, from the adoption of the Constitution to 1913,

were chosen not by the people but by the legislatures of

their respective states. Over the last quarter-century

of this period, however, a consistent attack was launched

among those who found the system anachronistic to change

it by letting the people choose, in direct election, their

representatives to the Senate of the United States Congress.1

Those who advocated direct election were able to

cite many faults in the existing system. To critics of the

post-Civil War Senate, it appeared that election of senators

1George H. Haynes, The Senate of the United States:
Its History and Practice (2 vols., New York, 1960), I,

by the legislatures had opened the way for widescale

bribery and corruption. In an age of great new wealth

created by rapid industrialization, there were many, they

thought, who sought political power by buying their way

into office. There were other office seekers, they be-

lieved, who sold their services to the large interests

in the country in exchange for the "purchase" of a seat

in the Senate. According to these critics, the Senate

had developed into a millionaires' club responsive to the

wishes of the corporate interests (the "trusts") of the

United States.3 Elections in which graft was so obvious

dishonored both the reputation of the senator involved

and the character of the Senate.

Critics of the prevailing system noted, moreover,

that because of the funds involved, the election of a

senator frequently provoked long struggles in the state

legislature. Delay of all other business until the matter

had been settled was not an unusual procedure; but when a

legislature was restricted by law to a three- or four-

month biannual or annual operating period, time for the

2bid., pp. 91, 93.

3Sidney Ratner, American Taxation: Its History as
a Social Force in Democracy (New York, 1942), p. 275.

people's business was cut short or even eliminated under

the circumstances.4 Deadlocks sometimes occurred which

carried over to the next session of the legislature. In

the meantime, they sadly observed, the state was without

the services of one of its two representatives to the

Senate.5 Ridiculous as it seemed, they reminded other

Americans, states had sometimes had no representation in

the Senate because of the inability of the state legisla-

ture to designate its choice for either of two posts. The

state legislatures would benefit mightily, they argued,

if the burden of selecting senators was taken off their

collective shoulders. A source of corruption could be

eliminated and the legislature could conduct its proper


Direct election of senators by the people would,

hoped its advocates, restore the upper chamber to a posi-

tion of being properly responsive to the wishes of the

electorate. Moreover, the suggested method of election

was, they felt, more in line with the true meaning of

democracy; were there true patriots in America, they asked,

4Haynes, op. cit., pp. 86-88, 93.

5Ibid., p. 92.

who seriously and openly distrusted the ability of the

American people to select men worthy of serving their

country and their states in the Senate?

Opponents of the reform rested the bulk of their

case upon the ideas supposedly underlying the Great

Compromise of the Constitutional Convention. Each

state, they claimed, was to have two senators irrespec-

tive of its size, as a symbol of its "sovereignty" within

the federal structure.6 These senators were representa-

tives of the state, not of the people of the state; they

were, in essence, ambassadors to the federal government

rather than mere representatives, as was evidenced by

their role in foreign affairs and executive matters. The

state, through its legislative branch, was the true agent

of election.

Another technique used by some senators to defend

the "status quo" was to cast the reform minded into the

position of being maligners of all senators formerly and

6Speech by George Vest (Democrat-Missouri) in
United States, 57th Congress, Congressional Record, Volume
35,6595. (Hereafter, citations from the Congressional
Record will be noted in the following forms 57 C.R., 35,
6595.) Speech by George Hoar (Republican-Massachusetts)
in 57 C.R., 35, 6589.

then in attendance in the Senate. Point to those senators,

the opponents of direct election said, whom the old system

had brought to office who have dishonored the Senate by

their presence.7 How can those who seek to change the

system, they asked, be so sure that direct election will

continue to produce the high caliber of men serving

presently in the upper chamber, and not lead to a multi-

tude of crowd-pleasing demagogues.

Thirdly, the defenders argued, if deadlock of a

legislature is the major problem, then change that part

of the procedure that will insure fairly rapid selection

of a legislature. Several senators proposed plans which

encompassed the adoption of a rule of election by plur-

ality in the individual legislatures, in the case of


Armed with these verbal weapons, elements of the

two groups fought each other for years on the floors of
Congress. As the adoption of direct election by the

7Speech by Weldon Heyburn (Republican-Idaho) in 61
C.R. 46, 2678i speech by Elihu Root (Republican-New York)
in 62 C.R., 47, 1485.
plan of George Hoar (Republican-Massachusetts) in
57 C.R., 35, 6593; plan of Julius Burrows (Republican-
Michigan) in 57 C.R., 35, 6594: plan of Elihu Root (Repub-
lican-New York) in 62 C.R., 47, 1485.
9For the reform, speeches made by John Corliss

people was a proposal to amend the Constitution, this

meant passage required two-thirds of each house of Con-

gress and the approval of the legislatures of three-

quarters of the states. None of its advocates seriously

presupposed an easy path for the measure.

For the third time in the history of the House of

Representatives, the lower chamber started the mechanism

for adoption of a resolution on direct election. On May 11,

1898, John Corliss (Republican-Michigan) brought up for

consideration House Resolution 5 "proposing an amendment

to the Constitution providing for the election of senators

of the United States." The resolution, sponsored by the

House Committee on Elections and Privileges, suggested two

changes in Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution. The

major alteration was the elimination of the words "chosen

by the legislature thereof" and the substitution of the


These Senators shall be chosen by the legis-
latures of the several States, unless the
people of any State, either through their

(Republican-Michigan) in 56 C.R., 33, 4412: Robert Owen
(Democrat-Oklahoma) in 60 C.R., 42, 6803; and John A. M.
Adair (Democrat-Indiana) in 62 C.R., 47, 208 were parti-
cularly expressive about the many reasons compelling
action. Tho-e against the measures developed their ideas
most succinctly in a (Republican) Minority Resolution,
62 C.R., 47, 1428-29.

legislature or by the Constitution of the
State, shall provide for the election of
the United States Senators by direct vote
of the people. A plurality shall elect,
and the electors shall have the qualifica-
tions requisite for electors for the most
numerous branch of the State legislature.
[Italics nine.]

The second change was in the fourth paragraph of Section

3; it was amended "so as to permit the State to provide

for filling vacancies, either by election by the people

or temporary appointment by the executive."10

House Resolution 5, as it stood, was a proposal

embodhing an option for the state legislatures. They

could, if they so desired, give over the election of sen-

ators to the people of their states. They could, at their

discretion, completely disregard the spirit of the amend-

ment and retain the old procedure. The question arises as

to the purpose of the committee in writing an amendment

resolution with an option clause. Corliss claimed, and

probably honestly, that the previous attempts to get the

Senate to approve direct election of senators (without op-

tion on the part of the legislatures) had both failed;11

with option as a pacifier, perhaps, the Senate would

acquiesce to the reform.

1055 C.R., 31, 4809.

11Ibid., p. 4810.

Oscar W. Underwood (Democrat-Alabama), then at

the beginning of his career in Congress, would not accept

the strategy proposed by the congressman from Michigan.

He felt that the House should propose a measure that

called for uniform change throughout the nation, and ac-

cept modification of this view only if "it is the best we

can get.12 Underwood proposed an amendment to the resolu-

tion carrying his ideas into action. With his amendment,

the resolution would read simply: "These United States

Senators shall be elected at large by direct vote of the

people."13 The aspect of option would thereby be stricken

out and that of mandatory uniformity written in.

John F. Shafroth (Silver Party-Colorado, later

Democrat) proposed an additional amendment to House Resolu-

tion 5. His amendment would have changed the method of

ratification from approval by the legislatures of three-

quarters of the states to adoption by the conventions of

three-quarters of the states. He believed that the change

would greatly enhance the chances of the measure, when it

was sent to the states for ratification.14 The House,

12Ibid., p. 4811. 13Ibid.

14Ibid., pp. 4818-19.

unfortunately, was not given a chance to vote upon this


When Underwood, later that day, suggested to

Corliss that he call for the previous question (stoppage

of debate) and a vote on his amendment to the resolution,

the Republican immediately moved the previous question

not only on the Underwood amendment but "on the joint

resolution to its passage." This maneuver, if approved

by the House, would provide a parliamentary path bypassing

all other amendments, including the one proposed by the

congressman from Colorado. Shafroth called for a division

on the motion of previous question in an attempt to get

his amendment before the House. Corliss, however, had

the votes to force his motion through.15

The House adopted Underwood's amendment by a voice

vote and, moments later, in a recorded roll call vote,

overwhelmingly approved House Resolution 5 as amended and

15Ibid., p. 4825.

Party in No. in Vote on Direct Election
House Party For Against Nonvoting
Democratic 126 73 1 52
Republican 204 94 10 100

Note: Third parties are not included in vote charts.

sent it on its way to the Senate, where it died in commit-

tee. In the House, of those who voted for the Resolution,

73 were Democrats while 94 were Republicans. One Democrat

and 10 Republicans opposed.16

Led by members who felt that if necessary the

House should pass a resolution proposing direct election

of senators each and every Congress until the Senate acted

favorably on the measure, the House of Representatives

in the 56th Congress prepared to state its advocacy of the

reform. On April 12, 1900, during a call of the commit-

tees, Corliss (Republican-Michigan) "called up" House

Joint Resolution 28, which was word for word the resolution

on election of senators that he had sponsored in the pre-

ceding Congress. This resolution, therefore, provided for

an optional method of selecting senators; that is, the

state legislature if it so chose, could by legislation

or by amending the state constitution provide for direct

election of senators by the people.17

William Rucker (Democrat-Missouri) presented the

substitute resolution of the minority party. As did the

1756 C.R., 33, 4109.


Underwood amended resolution of 1898, the substitute pro-

posed direct election by the people uniformly throughout

the country, and deleted the optional aspect. Moreover,

the Democratic version of 1900 sought to eliminate the

power of the federal government (Article I, Section 4,

Paragraph 1) to "make or alter regulations as to the times

or manner of holding elections for senators" by granting

to the individual state legislatures sole power to pre-

scribe "the time, the place and the manner of holding

elections for Senators."18 The Democrats quickly scuttled

this latter revision when it brought forth an angry reac-

tion from a key supporter of the measure on the Republican

side of the chamber.19

After several hours of debate, the House accepted

the minority substitute to House Joint Resolution 28 by an

ayes-and-nays count of 135-30.20 The pertinent part of

the now amended resolution read: "The Senate of the United

States shall be composed of two Senators from each State,

1Ibid., p. 4110.

19Ibid., pp. 4112-13. The Republican was Powers
of Vermont.

20Ibid., p. 4127.

who shall be elected by a direct vote of the people thereof

for a term of six years, and each Senator shall have one

vote." It passed the House by a roll call vote of 242-15.2

A total of 122 Democrats joined 115 Republicans in support

of the Resolution, while 1 Democrat and 14 Republicans

formed the opposition. Once again direct election of

senators had received the overwhelming support of both

parties in the lower chamber of Congress. In the Senate,

the picture had not changed. On May 29, 1900, the Commit-

tee on Privileges and Elections killed House Joint Resolu-

tion 28 by reporting it "adversely" to the parent body.22

The House of the 57th Congress followed the path

of the two previous Congresses. It passed, on February 13,

1902, and sent along to the Senate, House Joint Resolu-

tion 41 proposing direct election.23 Senators favoring

the measure, after waiting for months for some report from

the Committee on Privileges and Elections, decided to

21Ibid., p. 4128.

Party in No. in Vote on Direct Election
House Party For Against Nonvoting
Democratic 159 122 1 36
Republican 185 115 14 56

22Ibid. p. 6189. 2357 C.R., 35, 1721.

attempt to discharge the resolution from committee. On

June 11, 1902, the Senate debated the motion of discharge.

Joseph Blackburn (Democrat-Kentucky) challenged

the chairman of the committee, Julius Burrows (Republican-

Michigan), to refute the contention that only a motion of

discharge would bring the resolution before the Senate.

He claimed that the majority of the committee just did not

want the Senate to have a chance to vote on any form of

the resolution.24

There were, in fact, several plans before the

Senate on the matter. George Hoar (Republican-Massachu-

setts), one of the greatest statesmen produced by his

commonwealth, had proposed a bill which called for a

plurality vote in a state legislature if after seven votes

a majority had not selected a senator.25 Burrows (Repub-

lican-Michigan) offered another bill which proposed direct

election of senators in the event that the legislature

failed to make a choice.6 Chauncey Depew (Republican-New

York) offered an amendment to House Joint Resolution 41

which called for uniform qualification of voters throughout

24Ibid., pp. 6593-94. 25bid., p. 6593.

261,'... p. 6594.

the country and which proposed giving Congress powers in

the fields of registration of voters, conduct of elections,

and certification of the results.27 This latter proposal

was a direct threat to southern white supremacy; if it was

attached to the joint resolution, the chances were excel-

lent that southern Democrats would help to defeat the

measure regardless of their opinions on direct election of


The whole problem, with all of its complications,

was deferred to a future congress when the Senate rejected

the motion of discharge, 21-35.28 Sixteen Democrats (nine

others expressed their approval) and 5 Republicans voted

for the motion, whereas 34 Republicans and a Democrat de-

feated it. In contrast to the House, where direct election

had drawn bipartisan support, in the Senate support came

primarily from the Democrats. Few Republican Senators

appeared to favor the direct election of senators at this

27Ibid., p. 3925.

28Ibid., pp. 6597-98.

Party in No. in Vote on Direct Election
Senate Party For Against Nonvoting

Democratic 32 (16+9) 25 (1+1) 2 5
Republican 55 5 (34+1) 35 15

time. The Committee on Privileges and Elections sat on

the resolution for the rest of the Congress.

It was obvious to all now, if it had not been long

before, that the major roadblock to the adoption of direct

election was the United States Senate. Leaders in the

House changed their tactics, and instead of bombarding

the upper chamber with resolutions Congress after Congress,

they awaited signs of change of sentiment. It turned out

to be a wait of eight years.

Robert Owen (Democrat-Oklahoma), a newcomer to

the Senate, tried the direct approach of calling for con-

sideration of the reform, on May 23, 1908.29 He did not

stand a chance against the likes of the experienced and

wily Eugene Hale (Republican-Maine), who asked his young

colleague to name those senators delinquent in their duty

of responding to public demand for direct election.30 The

Oklahoman knew better than to answer and in so doing to

malign his new compatriots. However, he drew blood when

he attacked the Depew amendment, which had been trotted

out again (as a device to break southern ranks in support

of direct election) as a means "to prevent action" and not

2960 CR., 42, 6804. 30Ibid.

to secure passage.31 Owen's day in the limelight was

brought to an abrupt halt when he specifically called

for a motion to consider Senate Resolution 91 proposing

a constitutional change in the method of electing senators.

Hale of Maine quickly moved to refer the matter to the

Committee on Privileges and Elections. The Senate fol-

lowed its Republican leadership and disregarded the plea

for immediate consideration, the vote was 33-20 in favor

of referral.32 Nine Democrats and 11 Republicans tried

to stop the motion, while 30 Republicans and 3 Democrats

put it across. The vote would seem to indicate that the

motion to consider Senate Resolution 91, although called

for by a Democrat, took the party by surprise. A majority

of Democrats were absent from the Senate on that day. Of

greater importance, the vote displayed an increase in

support of direct election among Republican senators. It

was indicative of the situation that the 60th Congress was

31Ibid. p. 6805.

32Ibid., p. 6806.

Party in No. in Vote on Direct Election
Senate Party For Against Nonvotinq
Democratic 31 9 (3+1) 4 18
Republican 61 (11+1) 12 30 19

to be the last in which the conservative Republican lead-

ership could turn aside the demand for this measure with-

out a vote on a resolution proposing it.

On January 13, 1911, William Borah (Republican-

Idaho) asked the Senate to consider Senate Joint Resolution

134 proposing an amendment to the Constitution providing

that senators shall be elected by the people of the several

states. It soon became obvious that this time matters

were to be different in the Senate; the issue was going

to be discussed and brought to a vote. Delay was not to

be sanctioned. The question arises why, after so many

years of delay of consideration of this measure, was the

Senate to put time and effort into drafting a resolution

on it in this, the last session of the 61st Congress.

Perhaps the most significant factor was the election of

1910, in which the political domination of Republicanism

had been shattered.33 Democrats were to control the House

of Representatives in the 62nd Congress, and were to form

33Haynes emphasizes the introduction of men, who
had won popular primaries and were selected by their
respective legislatures, into the Senate as key to the
change of heart. He notes that Senator Borah, as one such
elected, felt obligated to bring about the popular vote
system. Haynes, op. cit., pp. 107-8.

a large minority in the Senate. The Democratic minority

in the Senate, moreover, appeared to have a natural ally

for certain reforms in the "progressive" Republicans. With

the incentive of massive popular support as evidenced in

the recent election, the reform-minded in the Senate

chose to waste little time in carrying out their mandate.

The resolution which Borah presented was the

product of the Judiciary Committee. It was in substance

the same as the House Democratic minority substitute resolu-

tion, as originally proposed in 1900. Besides direct elec-

tion of senators by the people, it included the substitu-

tion of state control for federal in the prescription of

"the times, places and manner of holding elections for

Senators."34 This latter provision was immediately attacked

by George Sutherland (Republican-Utah) who offered an

amendment which knocked out the state control clause of the

resolution, and left ultimate control of federal elections

in federal hands.35

Some diehard senators were evidently still hopeful

that they had the votes to keep the Senate from further

consideration of the joint resolution. A motion to adjourn

3461 C.R., 46, 487. 35Ibid., p. 848.

was called for, but was brushed aside by a crushing vote

of 17-43.36 Nineteen Democrats and 24 Republicans voted

to keep the Senate in session; 16 Republicans and 2

Democrats favored the delaying tactic.

Senator Borah then asked unanimous consent of the

Senate to name January 24, 1911, as the day for voting on

all amendments to the resolution and a final vote on the

resolution itself. The fortnight delay was primarily to

allow senators to familiarize themselves with the amend-

ments; in particular, the Sutherland amendment. When

Weldon Heyburn (Republican-Idaho) objected, Borah resolutely

told his comrades that he would again ask the Senate, within

a week, to name a day for consideration of the resolution

to its passage- he threatened a filibuster delaying all

other Senate business if a definite time was not then

agreed upon.37

It was not until February 3rd that Borah was


Party in No. in Vote on Adjournment
Senate Party Against For Nonvoting
Democratic 32 (19+1) 20 2 10
Republican 59 (24+1) 25 (15+1) 16 18

3Ibid., p. 852.

successful in getting the resolution placed before the

Senate on its way to passage. The method chosen for doing

this was to have the joint resolution established as the

unfinished business of the Senate. As such, it would be-

come the first order of business at two o'clock in the

afternoon of each and every Senate business day. In order

to get the measure up for consideration before the Senate,

and to establish as unfinished business, the alliance for

direct election had to withstand a motion to send the

Senate into executive session. They did so; the vote was

36-40.38 Twenty-four Democrats and 16 Republicans kept the

Senate on the issue of direct election all 36 votes for

delay (through the motion to go into executive session)

came from the Republican side of the chamber.

With the joint resolution established as the un-

finished business of the Senate, debate on the measure and

the Sutherland amendment was carried on day after day. To

bring the matter to a climax, Borah proposed on February

38Ibid., p. 1898.

Party in No. in Vote on Executive Session
Senate Party Against For Nonvotinq
Democratic 32 24 0 8
Republican 59 16 36 7

17th that the following Wednesday be set as the day the

Senate would vote on all amendments and the resolution.

Borah's suggestion, being in the form of unanimous consent,

was denied when his compatriot from Idaho offered objection.

Jacob Gallinger (Republican-New Hampshire) now threatened

to bring the debate for the day to a close by offering a

motion of adjournment. The alliance succeeded in turning

back this anti-resolution strategy by a vote of 37-44.39

Twenty-six Democrats and 18 Republicans joined to block the

motion, while 35 Republicans and 2 Democrats supported the

delay. The situation flip-flopped when Borah refused to

allow Knute Nelson (Republican-Minnesota) to hold his speech

over until the next day, and Henry Cabot Lodge (Republican-

Massachusetts), who stated his opposition to forcing a

senator to speak at so late an hour, made a motion to send

the Senate into executive session. Lodge's motion carried

39Ibid., p. 2776.

Party in No. in Vote on Adjournment
Senate Party Against For Nonvotinq
Democratic 32 26 2 4
Republican 59 18 35 6

by a vote of 46-34.40 Seven Democrats deserted their com-

rades and joined 39 Republicans in support of the motion

ending debate on direct election for the day: 20 Democrats

and 14 Republicans sought in vain to keep the Senate on the


On February 24, 1911, the Senate finally prepared

to vote on the Sutherland amendment. If it was adopted,

the resolution would leave the power of supervision regard-

ing the election of senators to Congress. At the same time,

the then amended resolution would also be in dire jeopardy,

for southern senators felt very strongly about removing

federal jurisdiction regarding local elections in their

states. Whereas sympathy with the Negro cause was a factor

in senatorial support of the Sutherland amendment, it is

not to be denied that some senators saw it as the means by

which direct election of senators could be defeated. The

Senate by a vote of 50-37 adopted the Sutherland amend-

40Ibid., p. 2777.

Party in No. in Vote on Executive Session
Senate Party Against For Nonvotinq
Democratic 32 20 7 5
Republican 39 14 (39+1) 40 5

ment.41 Forty-nine Republicans and James P. Clarke (Demo-

crat-Arkansas) voted for it, while 26 Democrats and 8

Republicans (Borah of Idaho, Bourne of Oregon, Bristow of

Kansas, Brown of Nebraska, Clapp of Minnesota, Cummins of

Iowa, Gronna of North Dakota, and LaFollette of Wisconsin)

voted against it. All of the Republicans who took the

Democratic position were representatives of western states.

With the Sutherland amendment tagged onto Senate

Joint Resolution 134, the big question was whether southern

senators would join the opposition and bring down the resolu-

tion. On February 28, 1911, the question was resolved in

the affirmative as the joint resolution went down to defeat

by four votes, 54-33.42 Being an amendment to the Consti-

41bid., p. 3307. This roll call was not included
in the development of the index for this Congress, because
it was felt that the Sutherland amendment involved a dimen-
sion other than that of direct election of senators. For
the southern Democratic viewpoint on Sutherland's revision,
see the speech given by Augustus Bacon of Georgia, 61 C.R.,
46, 3527-36.

42Ibid., p. 3639.

Party in No. in Vote on Adoption
Senate Party For Against Nonvotinq
Democratic 32 (21+1) 22 (9+1) 10 0
Republican 59 (33+1) 34 24 1

tution, it needed two-thirds majority approval; in this case,

a minimum vote for passage would have been 58-29. Twenty-

one Democrats and 33 Republicans supported the resolution,

but 9 Democrats and 24 Republicans produced the necessary

votes to defeat it. An analysis of this vote indicates

that Deep South Democrats and New England-Middle Atlantic

Republicans were responsible for most of the votes bringing

down the proposal. Both senators from Alabama, Mississippi,

Georgia, and Florida as well as a senator each from Louisi-

ana and South Carolina favored rejection. One of the Demo-

crats was paired against. Among the Republicans were both

senators from Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massa-

chusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania, and a senator each

from New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maine, Delaware, and West

Virginia. The other votes against the resolution came from

Republicans, one senator each from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois,

Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and California.

Defeated in the 61st Congress, advocates for a

direct election were ready to try again in the new Congress.

The make-up of the 62nd was a promising one. The House had

never been a stumbling block and, with a majority of Demo-

crats, prospects for passage of an amendment resolution

seemed assured. In the Senate, the Democratic minority

had been increased by nine, and those from non-South

states. In fact, five lameduck Republicans who had voted

against Senate Joint Resolution 134 in February, 1911,

were replaced by Democrats (one each from Maine, New

Jersey, New York, West Virginia, and Ohio). If the new

Democrats voted in line with past party policy, prospects

for passage in the upper chamber seemed very good.

During the special session of the 62nd Congress

called by President William Howard Taft, the revived

Democratic party quickly brought the direct election

issue before the House. The session had begun on April 4,

1911, and by the 13th the party leadership was prepared

to bring House Joint Resolution 39 up for consideration,

debate, and a vote to passage.43 Joint Resolution 39,

drawn up by the Committee on Elections of the President,

Vice President, and Representatives in Congress, which

was dominated by Democrats, proposed state control of

senatorial elections along with direct election of senators
by the people of the several states. It was the same

measure which had been before the Senate in the third

4362 CR., 47, 203-43. 44Ibid., p. 203.

session of the 61st Congress, a few months before. As did

Senator Sutherland upon that occasion, H. Olin Young (Re-

publican-Michigan) offered an amendment to the resolution,
proposing to knock out the state control clause.45 Follow-

ing a few hours of debate, the House rejected the Young

amemenment by a vote of 123-89.46 It was a straight party

division with only James T. McDermott (Democrat-Illinois)

crossing over to vote with the 122 Republicans favoring

the revision. Immediately thereafter, the lower chamber

approved the resolution in an almost unanimous manner,
296-16. One hundred and ninety-two Democrats and 103

Republicans sponsored direct election, while 15 Republicans

and 1 Democrat registered opposition.

45bid., p. 207.

46rbid., p. 241.

Party in No. in Voting on Young Amendment
House Party Against For Nonvotinq
Democratic 227 189 1 37
Republican 161 0 121 40

47Ibid., p. 242.

Vote on Direct Election
Party in No. in Constitutional Amendment
House Party For Against Nonvotinq

Democratic 227
Republican 161

1 34
15 43

In the Senate, a minor tussle developed over whether

the Committee on the Judiciary or the Committee on Privileges

should receive the House-approved measure. Both Texas

Democrats, Charles Culberson and Josephus Bailey, on April

20th urged the Senate to refer it to the Judiciary Commit-

tee, the committee that had favorably reported a similar

resolution in the last Congress. The upper chamber then

approved their views by adopting a motion changing the dis-

position of the resolution from the Committee on Privileges

and Elections to the Judiciary Committee.48

On May 8th, the forces for the reform attempted

to place House Resolution 39 on the Senate calendar as

unfinished business. To do this, a motion of consideration

was offered during afternoon business; it passed 66-5,

drawing bipartisan support from 31 Democrats and 35 Repub-

licans and opposition from only 5 Republicans.49 This

action meant that every day at the opening of afternoon

48Ibid., p. 440.

49Ibid. p. 1075.

Party in No. in Vote on Consideration
Senate Party For Against Nonvotinq
Democratic 41 (31+2) 33 0 8
Republican 50 (35+1) 36 5 0

business, the resolution would be brought up for debate

at the discretion of its backers. It assured the resolu-

tion of continuous consideration, and for all probability,

a vote.

A week later, on the 15th, Senator Bristow of

Kansas (Republican) offered an important amendment in the

nature of a substitute to the joint resolution. Bristow,

it will be remembered, was one of the eight Republican

senators who broke with their party and voted against the

Sutherland amendment the past February. Now, however,

the Kansan proposed an amendment which duplicated the

Sutherland proposition; in essence, it eliminated the

clause establishing state control of senatorial elections.50

Bristow claimed that in each instance he had acted in

accord with what he judged to be best for passing the mea-

sure. Now, he felt that direct election of senators

should not be complicated by any side issues.51

On May 25th, the Senate gave unanimous consent to

the motion to dispose of the resolution and all amendments

June 25, 1911.52 As had occurred in the 61st Congress, the

bulk of the debate centered on the issue of state control

501bid., p. 1205. 51Ibid., pp.1483-84.

52Ibid., pp. 1592-94.

of elections as adverse to federal control, and not on

the issue of direct election. On June 12th, Augustus

Bacon (Democrat-Georgia) representing the viewpoint of

the Deep-South senators, offered an alternative amendment

to the resolution. State control was to be retained in

the resolution, but a new clause gave to Congress the

power "to alter such regulations in any State whenever

the legislature thereof shall neglect or refuse to make

such regulations, or from any circumstances be incapable

of making the same."53 Just before the vote on his amend-

ment, however, Bacon withdrew it, stating that it had

failed to bridge the gap between the two positions on

control of of elections.54

The vote on Bristow's amendment striking the state

control clause came amidst supreme drama as the Senate

tied, 44-44.55 Thirty-nine Democrats and 5 Republicans

sought to block its adoption; 43 Republicans and 1 Demo-

crat voted for it. The matter at this moment rested upon

53Ibid., p. 1883. 54Ibid., p. 1922.

55Ibid., p. 1923.

Party in No. in Vote on Bristow Amendment
Senate Party Against For Nonvotinq
Democratic 41 (39+1) 40 1 0
Republican 50 5 (43+1) 44 1
Note: This roll call was not included in the index;
see footnote 41.

the will of the vice-president, John Sherman. If Sherman

abstained from voting, the tie vote meant defeat for the

Bristow amendment. If he cast a negative vote, the same

would result. However, if as was more likely, he voted

affirmatively, the amendment was carried. The vice-presi-

dent chose the third alternative, voted "aye," and thus

brought about the elimination of state control from the


On the vote for the adoption of the Bristow, five

of the eight Republicans who had previously voted against

the Sutherland amendment shifted. Only Borah of Idaho,

Gronna of North Dakota, and LaFollette of Wisconsin re-

mained constant. They were joined in the effort to block

the Bristow amendment by two new members of their party,

Poindexter of Washington and Works of California. As he

had in February, Clarke of Arkansas (Democrat) voted with

the Republican majority on this matter. Was the shift of

the five western "progressive" Republicans significant?

Yes, for it endangered the passage of the resolution. If

the resolution was left as the House had sent it to the

Senate, and if the Senate had approved it in that fashion,

which was quite possible, then the resolution would have

been sent on its way immediately to ratification by the

states. Because of the adoption of the Bristow amendment,

even if the Senate adopted the amended resolution, further

delay was necessary before final congressional action.

The House and the Senate would have to work through confer-

ence committees in order to arrive at a solution. This

certainly provided an uncertain future for direct election.

The Senate, after adopting the Bristow amendment,

passed the amended resolution by more than the required

two-thirds vote, 64-24.56 Thirty-one Democrats and 33

Republicans joined in this victory, while 8 Democrats and

16 Republicans resisted in vain. Once again, senators

from the Deep South (with heavy Negro population) and the

New England-Middle Atlantic areas voted against the resolu-

tion. It could be said that the Democratic senators from

the Deep South (with few exceptions) would have voted for

the measure if it had but included the state control

clause; whereas those Republicans who voted against the

resolution represented the hard core opposition to the

56Ibid., p. 1924.

Party in No. in Vote on Direct Election Amendment
Senate Party For Against Nonvotinq
Democratic 41 (31+1) 32 (8+1) 9 0
Republican 50 (33+1) 34 16 0

reform itself. Other Republicans were quite open as to

their lukewarm support for the measure; Warren of Wyoming

and McCumber of North Dakota gave their approval more to

satisfy the public cry for direct election than because

of any deep-seated opinion that the measure was necessary

and desirable.57

Since the vote passing the resolution had been

taken while the Senate was in Committee of the Whole, the

Democrats had another chance, narrow though it might be,

to re-amend the resolution when it appeared before the

Senate. At this point, Senator Bacon of Georgia (Democrat)

offered his amendment establishing state control of sena-

torial elections, but reserving to the federal government

the right to make regulations in a state "whenever the

legislature thereof shall neglect or refuse to make such

regulations, or from any circumstances be incapable of

making the same." This time the reserve vote of the vice-

president was not necessary to turn back the Democratic

tide. The vote read 43 for Bacon's amendment to 46

57Ibid., pp. 1950, 1956.

against.58 Thirty-nine Democrats and 4 Republicans

failed to overcome the will of 45 Republicans and 1 Demo-

crat. The difference in the votes between the roll call

on the Bristow amendment and that on the Bacon amendment

is accounted for by the shift of Gronna of North Dakota

back to the Republican position, and by the vote cast by

Dillingham of Vermont (Republican), who shifted pairs in

order to vote. The Senate, having turned aside state

control again, proceeded to pass the joint resolution by

precisely the same vote as it had passed the measure while

it was in the Committee of the Whole, 62-24.59

The next day, June 13, 1911, Senator Bacon (Demo-

crat-Georgia) disputed the right of the vice-president to

cast the tie-breaking vote on the Bristow amendment. He

reasoned that the matter was "extraordinary" and was one

concerning the Senate alone.60 He felt that only senators

58tbid., p. 1927.

Party in No. in Vote on Bacon Amendment
Senate Party For Against Nonvoting
Democratic 41 39 1 1
Republican 50 4 45 1
Note: This roll call not included in index; see
footnote 41 above.

59Ibid., see footnote 56.

60Ibid., pp. 1950, 1956.

should have been permitted to vote. James A. Reed (Democrat-

Missouri) who had voiced his doubt about the right of the

vice-president to vote almost as soon as Sherman had taken

the privilege to break the tie61 now on the 13th offered

a motion to reconsider the vote on the final passage of

the resolution. As quite a few members of the Senate had

departed the capital following the strategic voting of the

night before, the vote to reconsider involved far fewer
senators. A tie of 33-33 defeated the motion.6 Twenty-

eight Democrats and 5 Republicans declared for reconsidera-

tion, while 32 Republicans and 1 Democrat were adverse to

that point of view. Interestingly, there was a shift of

alliances on this vote; five die-hard opponents to direct

election joined the state-control-minded Democrats; four

of the five "progressive" Republicans, who had voted with

the Democrats against the Bristow amendment, shifted and

voted against reconsideration.

61Ibid. p. 1924.

62Ibid., p. 1966.
Party in No. in Vote on Reconsideration
Senate Party For Acainst Nonvoting
Democratic 41 28 1 12
Republican 50 5 32 13
Notes This roll call not included in index.

The joint resolution as amended by the Senate was

sent to the House for concurrence in the changes made.

On June 21, 1911, the House took up the motion to concur

in the Senate amendment. After a short debate, the matter

was brought to a vote. Party lines held and the motion was
defeated, 111-171.63 One Democrat and one Republican voted

with their opposites. The Democratic leadership was ob-

viously willing to take the chance that a conference be-

tween the two houses would result in victory for their

version of the resolution.

The House sent the resolution back to the Senate

with its vote of nonconcurrence in the Senate amendment,

and asked the upper chamber to recede from its amendment.64

To nobody's surprise, the Senate, on June 27th, insisted

upon the Bristow amendment and asked for a conference

between the two houses. Clark (Republican-Wyoming), Nelson

63Ibid., p. 2433.

Party in No. in Vote on Concurrence
House Party Against For Nonvotinq
Democratic 226 170 1 55
Republican 161 1 109 51

Note: This roll call not included in index.

64Ibid., p. 2434.

(Republican-Minnesota) and Bacon (Democrat-Georgia) were

appointed as conferees representing the Senate.5 On

July 5th, the House approved a motion to insist on its

disagreement to the Senate amendment and agreed to a

conference. William Rucker (Democrat-Missouri), Michael

Conry (Democrat-New York) and Marlin Olmsted (Republican-

Pannsylvania) were appointed as conferees of the House.66

Ten months later, on April 17, 1912, Senator

Clark reported to the Senate that the conference committees

had failed to come to any agreement; they had met a total
of sixteen times. The Senator from Wyoming asked the

Senate to approve his motion to insist upon the Senate

amendment; it was a test of strength for the Republican

position on the issue. The motion carried by a vote of

42-36 as only one Republican, Borah of Idaho, remained

with the Democrats in opposition to the Bristow amendment.

651bid., p. 2549. 6Ibid., p. 2650.

6762 C.R., 48, 5169.

68Ibid., p. 5172.

Party in No. in Vote on Motion to Insist
Senate Party Against For Nonvotinq
Democratic 43 (35+4) 39 1 3
Republican 52 1 (41+6) 47 4

The logjam was about to be broken, however, as the

above vote in the Senate had immediate impact on the House.

William Rucker (Democrat-Missouri) informed the House on

April 26th that the combination of the failure to crack

Republican resistance in yearlong confrontation in confer-

ence, and the vote of the Senate, by which that body "by

a larger vote than before insisted on the Bristow amendment,

forced a change of strategy upon the Democrats. He an-

nounced that the next day he would call for the House to

recede from its disagreement to the Senate amendment and

to concur in the amended joint resolution.69 Rucker was

not able to carry out his plan with such speed. It was

not until the 13th of May, 1912, that the Ho-se acted.

First, it turned aside a new attempt to force the Senate

to adopt some form of state control by defeating an amend-

ment offered by Charles Bartlett (Democrat-Georgia); the

vote was 87-189.70 Ninety Democrats broke with their

69bid., p. 5433.

70Ibid., p. 6366.

Party in No. in Vote on Bartlett Amendment
House Party Against For Nonvoting
Democratic 230 90 86 3
Republican 161 99 3 59

Notes This roll call not included in index.

cohorts to join 99 Republicans to bring down Bartlett's

suggestion; 86 Democrats and 3 Republicans remained

steadfast in support of state control. Then, finishing

the matter, the House approved a motion of concurrence

in the Senate amendment by a vote of 238-39.71 One hun-

dred and thirty-five Democrats and 103 Republicans voted

for concurrence, while 39 Democrats refused to sanction

what they considered a sell-out.

A breakdown of state delegation voting in the

House on the Bartlett motion and on the motion of concur-

rence indicates that southern Democratic representatives

preferred state control. Only Democrats from Arizona,

Missouri, New Mexico, and West Virginia (and the "southern-

ness" of these is debatable) represented southern areas

and voted against state control and for the motion of con-

currence. The majority of Democrats from Alabama, Ken-

tucky, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South

7Ibid., p. 6367.

Party in No. in Vote on Concurrence
House Party For Against Nonvotinq
Democratic 230 135 39 56
Republican 161 103 0 58

Carolina, Tennessee and Texas favored the Bartlett motion,

but then agreed upon concurrence. Die-hard support for

state control on both votes came primarily from Democrats

representing Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Virginia.

Democrats from the North and West (California, Colorado,

Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massa-

chusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio,

Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) supported the leadership of

Rucker on both occasions.

The ratification of the resolution proposing an

amendment to the Constitution regarding directelection of

senators was complete in just over a year. On May 31,

1913, Secretary of State Bryan proclaimed the measure the

law of the land. It is interesting to note that among the

twelve states that did not act to ratify were ten from the

border area and the South. The issue of state control of

elections was a real one for these states: Alabama, Dela-

ware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland,

Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia.72

72U.S. Congress, Senate, Senate Manual (Washing-
ton, D.C., 1915), pp. 254-55.



The fight to establish the federal power to lay

and collect income taxes was one of the most significant

political battles in the first decade of the twentieth

century. During the rapid industrialization of the

United States in the nineteenth century, huge financial

empires and massive personal fortunes had been created.

This wealth remained untapped as a source of revenue for

the federal government because of the pressure these

financial giants could exert on Congress. As a result,

the basic source of revenue for the United States govern-

ment continued to be tariff duties. Although under Repub-

lican guidance, tariff schedules had been continually

raised since the Civil War, it appeared to contemporary

critics that the GOP would sacrifice possible revenue for

the government in their efforts to increase protection

for certain industries. The McKinley Tariff of 1890 had

just this effect after its enactment. Moreover, a high

tariff schedule not only forced the American public to

bear the brunt of the tax burden, but allowed the indus-

trial empires of the country to keep prices high at home

while still competing here with goods from abroad.

By the 1890's, with the country in the midst of

depression, pressure built up in the South and West for

the adoption of a federal income tax. Income tax was

seen as a device to make the wealthy carry more of the

tax laod, and thus to alleviate the burden of the laborer

and the farmer. It was also an excellent means of shift-

ing the revenue base from the agrarian areas of the

United States to the industrial Northeast.

In 1894, a Democratic Congress passed an income

tax provision as part of the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act;

it provided for a tax of 2 percent on "all 'gains, profits,

and income' over $4,000 'derived from any kind of property,

rents, interest, dividends, or salaries, or from any pro-

fession, trade, employment, or vocation.'"1 It was not

the first time that the federal government was directed

to lay and collect income taxes; during the Civil War, in

order to reduce a skyrocketing deficit, Congress had

1Ratner, op. cit., p. 191.

enacted such a tax. Collected from 1863 to 1872, it was

terminated because of intensive pressure put on the Con-

gress by the business community of the Northeast.2 With

the passage of the 1894 law, the anti-income tax campaign

was whipped again. To the astonishment of its advocates

and the delight of its opponents, the income tax provision

of 1894 was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court

in the following year.3 Perhaps reacting to a fear that

socialistic revolution was almost upon the country, and

that the income tax was only the first of many devices to

destroy the rights of private property, the High Court

(by a five to four decision) chose to break with precedent

by defining income tax as a "direct tax," and thus, to
doom it for all practical purposes.

Two courses remained open for the proponents of

income tax. Congress could pass another bill encompassing

it, and await another hearing before the Supreme Court.

By the time the new tax bill was before the tribunal, per-

haps public sentiment for the measure and the fact that


3Pollack vs. Farmers Loan and Trust Company, 157
U.S. 429, as cited in Carl B. Swisher, American Constitu-
tional Development (2nd ed.; Cambridge, Mass., 1954), p.
4Ratner, op. cit., p. 197. Swisher, op. cit., pp.

Congress had re-enacted it would foment more favorable

response among the justices. There was always the chance

that the Court's feeling on the matter would change with

the seating of new judges. A second method of attack was

to pass an amendment resolution through the Congress, and

send it to the states for ratification. An amendment to

the Constitution would effectively bypass the Court's

judgment. At the same time, the route of any amendment

to the Constitution, and particularly this one, was

strewn with pitfalls. To pass the Congress, the resolu-

tion needed a two-thirds vote in each house, and the

Senate -- country club of millionaires in this period --

was almost certain to be an insurmountable obstacle. If,

by chance, the resolution did leave Congress, it faced

the prospect of having to be approved by majority vote in

each of the legislatures of three-quarters of the states

of the Union. If twelve state legislatures in fact if

one house of the legislature in each of twelve states --

refused to ratify the resolution, the amendment could not

be adopted. (After Arizona and New Mexico were admitted

as states to the Union in 1912, the number of states that

could block adoption became thirteen.) The fact of the

matter was that the center of sentiment antagonistic to

the income tax, the Northeast, by itself had almost the

number of states needed to kill the resolution. At the

time, chances of success along the amendment route did

not appear to be good. However, there was always one

hope upon which the proponents for this reform could pin

their dreams, and that was that the voters in the North-

east would tire of conservative rule. If reform elements

could win popular support nationwide, and gain control of

the national and state legislatures, the die would be

cast in favor of the income tax.

Democrats in Congress were ready to use whichever

method appeared to have the best chance of success at any

given moment. The major question that remained was timing.

Under what circumstances would the passage of an income

tax, either as a rider to a bill or a resolution proposing

an amendment to the Constitution, draw its greatest sup-


The first two attempts in the years 1897-1913 to

secure passage of the measure came while the United States

was engaged in war with Spain. Wartime usually meant huge

federal expenditures and a subsequent strain on the treasury.

To reduce deficits in a similar wartime situation, the

American government had utilized the income tax before.

Why should it now now, in 1898 -- the decision of the

Supreme Court notwithstanding -- do the same?

Roger Quarles Mills (Democrat-Texas) on May 4,

1898, in the Senate of the United States, called for an

amendment to a joint resolution (proposing an amendment

to the Constitution regarding presidential succession)

which gave the government the right to lay and collect

income taxes without apportionment among the states. A

motion to table Mills' amendment carried 32-29.5 Tabling

meant defeat for the income tax provision. Thirty-one

Republicans and 1 Democrat supported tabling, while 23

Democrats joined independents who took the position favor-

able to the reform.

One month later, while the Senate was considering

H.R. 10100, the War Revenue Bill, John Tyler Morgan (Demo-

crat-Alabama) proposed an amendment to the bill which

555 C.R., 31, 4572.

Party in No. in Vote on Tabling
Senate Party Against For Nonvotinq
Democratic 36 (23+5) 28 1 7
Republican 43 0 (31+5) 36 7

required the secretary of the treasury to collect all

taxes as specified by the "Act to reduce taxation --

August 1894," otherwise known as the Wilson-Gorman Tariff

Act. It was clear that Morgan aimed at the reestablish-

ment of the income tax. This time the Republican leader-

ship allowed a direct vote on the issue; Morgan's proposi-

tion was defeated, nonetheless, by the close vote of 35-

38.6 Twenty-nine Democrats and 6 independents favored its

adoption, while 2 Democrats joined 36 Republicans in

bringing about its defeat. Once again, the Republican

party had voted solidly against the utilization of income

tax collection by the federal government Democrats, on

the other hand, with only a slight break in ranks, had

maintained strong support for it.7

By December, 1900, the McKinley administration

felt that the emergency revenue legislation passed during

6Ibid., p. 5516.

Party in No. in Vote on Income Tax
Senate Party For Against Nonvotinq
Democratic 36 (29+2) 31 2 4
Republican 43 0 36 7

7The indices of party support in the Senate of the
55th Congress for the income tax were 88 for the Democrats
and 8 for the Republicans.

the Spanish-American War could be somewhat reduced. H.R.

12394, a War Revenue Reduction Bill providing for a cutback

of $40,000,000 in taxation, was introduced into the House

by Sereno Payne (Republican-New York). On December 15th,

the Democratic leaders in the House proposed a resolution

to recommit the majority's bill with the following instruc-

tions: (1) taxation as provided by the Revenue Act of 1898

was to be reduced by $70,000,000 (not $40,000,000); (2)

priority of tax reduction was to be given to those items

"most nearly the necessities of life"; (3) an income tax

provision was to be included so worded as to escape the

decision of the Supreme Court. The Democratic resolution

along with its income tax proviso was voted down 131-157.8

One hundred and twenty-six Democrats and 5 independents

voted for it, while 156 Republicans and a lone Democrat

rejected it.

When the War Revenue Reduction Bill reached the

Senate, Morgan of Alabama (Democrat) was ready once again

to test the sentiment of the upper chamber on the matter

856 C.R., 34, 346-47.

Party in No. in Vote on Income Tax
House Party For Against Nonvoting
Democratic 161 126 1 32
Republican 169 0 156 33

of income tax. On February 6, 1900, he proposed an amend-

ment to the bill establishing an income tax of 2 percent

on individuals earning over $4,000 per year. The tax was

to have an initial life of twenty years. Because of de-

pletion of the Democratic ranks resulting from the elec-

tions of 1898, the vote was not even close. Proponents

of the reform were turned back 21-38.9 Seventeen Democrats

and 4 independents stood against 37 Republicans and an

independent ally.

Eight years passed before Congress again registered

a clear sampling of its sentiment toward the income tax.

In those years, the spark of reformism leaped the gap

between the parties and found haven among certain Republi-

cans, particularly those in the "middle border" west.10

An alliance between "progressive" Republicans and Democrats

was in the making. At last, there were Republicans in the

9Ibid. p. 2004.

Party in No. in Vote on Income Tax
Senate Party For Aaianst Nonvoting
Democratic 28 (17+6) 23 0 5
Republican 53 0 (37+ 3) 40 13

10Hechler, pp._~ -., p. 146.

Congress willing to incur the wrath of the conservative

leadership of their party in the espousal of their reform-

minded feelings!

In the special session called by President Taft

for revision of the tariff laws, in 1909, the Democrats

and their allies among the Republicans set out to get a

proviso establishing the income tax adopted by the Congress.

In a private meeting on May 18, 1909, leaders of these

two Senate groups ironed out most of their differences and

produced a proposal satisfactory to both.11 On May 27,

1909, Josephus Bailey (Democrat-Texas) led the charge

against the bastions of Senate conservatism; he proposed

an amendment to the tariff bill, which called for an

income tax of 3 percent on individuals earning $5,000 or

more a year.12

Sensing the rising tide in the Senate for such a

proposal and not quite sure as to whether he had the votes

to defeat it, Nelson A. Aldrich (Republican-Rhode Island),

kingpin of the Republican forces in the Senate, asked for

a postponement of a vote on Bailey's amendment until June

11Ratner, o. cit., p. 284. Hechler, op. cit.,
p. 148.

1261 C.R., 44, 2443-45.

10th. His motion calling for delay was approved by the

Senate, 50-33.13 Twenty-seven Democrats and 6 Republicans

fought the postponement 49 Republicans and 1 Democrat

easily pushed it through. The 33 senators who voted against

the motion represented that element in the upper chamber

that desired an immediate vote on the income tax question.

There is no reason to believe that an opponent of the re-

form would have voted with this group.

Two weeks later, Aldrich evidently was still not

sure that he was in command of the situation. On June 11,

1909, he asked the Senate to delay the vote on the Bailey

amendment (as now amended by Albert Cummins, Republican

from Iowa, to include a 2 percent tax on corporation and
individual incomes over $5,000 yearly)1 once again to

June 18th. The bulk of his party pushed through a motion

of postponement for the second time by a vote of 45-34.15

13Ibid., p. 2457.

Party in No. in Vote on Postponement
Senate Party Against For Nonvoting
Democratic 32 (27+1) 28 1 3
Republican 59 6 (49+1) 50 3

14Ibid. p. 3137.

15Ibid., p. 3138.
Party in No. in Vote on Postponement
Senate Party Against For Nonvoting
Democratic 32 (27+3) 30 0 2
Republican 59 (7+1) 8 (45+2) 47 4

All 45 votes for delay came from the Republican side of the

aisle; 7 others joined with 27 Democrats opposing the motion.

On July 2, a somewhat disheartened Aldrich was ready

to do battle. He was prepared to substitute a tax on

corporation income for the income tax if that was necessary

to block the more "radical" measure.16 The alliance for

the income tax held its own, but it could not win further

support from among the Republicans to defeat the Rhode

Islander's strategy. The vote to substitute Aldrich's

corporation tax amendment for the Bailey-Cummins income tax

amendment was quite similar to those on the motions of

postponement, 45-31.17 All votes for the substitution were

produced by Republicans: 7 Republicans and 24 Democrats

registered their disapproval.

Aldrich's concessions were not over. A bloc of

Republicans, who had followed his every lead to this point,

but who felt it politically expedient to record themselves

in some manner as favoring the income tax, now forced his

hand. The income tax, in the form of a joint resolution

16Hechler, o. cit., p. 148.
1761 CSR., 44, 4061.
Party in No. in Vote on Substitution
Senate Party Against For Nonvoting
Democratic 32 (24+3) 27 0 5
Republican 60 7 (45+1) 46 7

proposing an amendment to the Constitution, was to be con-

sidered by the Senate and voted upon directly. How was

this maneuver to act as a saving grace for the lukewarm

advocates of income tax, some might ask. None but the

most optimistic would actually hold that such a resolution

had a fighting chance to be ratified by the requisite num-

ber of state legislatures. Thus, the concession did not

seem overly obnoxious to Aldrich, and the resolution did

not pose an immediate danger to those who were its weakest

supporters. When the joint resolution was brought before

the Senate on July 5, 1909, Bailey of Texas (Democrat)

sought to improve its chances for ratification. He offered

an amendment to the resolution which would replace ratifica-

tion by state legislatures with ratification by state con-

vention. Since delegates to a state convention would be

elected by the people of the state, and their points of

view would be known to the populace, there was a much better

chance that the convention, rather than the legislature,

would properly reflect the opinions of the people. The

underlying assumption to this was the belief that income

tax was a popular program in the public mind. Bailey's

amendment was turned down by the Senate, 30-46.18 Twenty-

four Democrats and 6 Republicans supported the Texan's

proposal, but 44 Republicans and 2 Democrats joined to

turn it aside. Obviously, lukewarm supporters did not

desire to improve the odds and possibly bring about the

resolution's adoption by the states.

Passage of the resolution proposing the federal

income tax as an amendment to the Constitution was by

unanimous vote of the Senate, 77-0.19

With the joint resolution secured, the fight for

affixing an income tax provision onto the tariff bill

started anew in the Senate. It was the question of method

once again: as long as the adoption of the resolution by

the states was in doubt, it appeared that the other route

18itiid., p. 4120.

Party in No. in Vote on State Convention
Senate Party For Against Nonvotinq
Democratic 32 (24+5) 29 2 1
Republican 60 6 (44+1) 45 6

19Ibid. p. 4121.

Party in No. in Vote on Adoption
Senate Party For Against Nonvotinq
Democratic 32 (27+4) 31 0 1
Republican 60 (50+4) 54 0 6

should not be abandoned prematurely. The alternative avenue

was to place the dispute once more before the Supreme Court.

The personnel of the Court had changed the circumstances

of the country had improved since 1895. It was possible

that the Court was ready to overturn its decision and up-

hold the constitutionality of a federal income tax. Bailey

of Texas introduced a modified version of his original

proposal, a 2 percent tax on individual income over $5,000

annually, as an amendment in the nature of a substitute for

the sixth section of the tariff bill.20 The Senate refused

the amendment, 28-47.21 Twenty-three Democrats and 5

Republicans voted for it; 47 Republicans rejected it.

A few days later, on July 12, 1909, the joint resolu-

tion as approved by the Senate was considered by the House

of Representatives. The Democrats in the lower chamber

tried to get what their comrades in the upper chamber had

failed to get adopted into the resolution. Robert L. Henry

20bid., pp. 4426-48.

21Ibid., p. 4428.

Party in No. in Vote on Bailey Amendment
Senate Party For Against Nonvotinq
Democratic 32 (23+5) 28 0 4
Republican 60 5 (47+5) 52 3

(Democrat-Texas) offered an amendment to the joint resolu-

tion which would have changed the ratifying bodies from

state legislatures to state conventions. The House was

denied a direct vote on the issue when Speaker Cannon up-

held a point of order which called for an immediate vote

on the resolution itself. An appeal from the decision

of the Chair was called for by the Democrats, and countered

by a motion to lay the appeal on the table. A vote for

tabling was an indirect vote against the convention method

of ratification; a vote against tabling, on the other hand,

was indirectly a preference for the substitute. Party dis-

cipline operated as the vote came out 186-144 for tabling

the appeal; Republicans supported tabling, Democrats hoped

to block it.22

The vote on the joint resolution, which followed

immediately, was overwhelmingly in favor, 318-14; it did,

however, reveal a small pocket of die-hard Republican

22Ibid., p. 4439.

Party in No. in Vote on Tabling Appeal
House Party Against For Nonvoting
Democratic 171 144 0 27
Republican 216 0 186 30

opposition to the reform.23 The income tax resolution was

supported by 146 Democrats and 172 Republicans, and denied

support by 14 Republicans.

The indices of party support for the income tax

during the 61st Congress substantiate the high level of

agreement in favor of the proposal among Democrats in both

houses of Congress. Democrats in the Senate rated 94,

while those in the House produced a similarly high score

of 92. The indices also confirm the mild interest of the

Republican party in the reform as of 1909. House Republi-

cans reached 47, whereas those in the Senate only got up

to 28.

To the delight and surprise of its proponents, the

joint resolution embodying the income tax moved methodically

toward adoption. Alabama's legislature ratified quickly

after congressional action, in August, 1909. The legisla-

tures of eight other states followed suit during 1910.

Seven of these were border or southern states. But the big

23Ibid., p. 4440.

Party in No. in Vote on Income Tax Resolution
House Party For Against Nonvoting

Democratic 171 146 0 25
Republican 217 172 14 31

concerted effort came in 19111 twenty-one state legisla-

tures voted their approval in that year. Most of these

were trans-Mississippi states. Four state legislatures

were added to the list of ratifiers in 1912. As of August,

1912, only two additional state legislatures needed to

note their approval in order for the resolution to be


Meanwhile in March, 1912, the Democratic-dominated

House of Representatives passed H.R. 21214, a bill de-

signed to create additional revenue for the government.

Party leaders felt that $50,000,000 in tax money would be

needed if another bill placing sugar on the free list was

to be adopted.25 The measure was officially labeled as an

excise tax bill to "extend the special excise tax (of 1909)

with respect to doing business by corporations to copart-
nerships and persons. It provided for a tax of 1 percent

on incomes derived from business activities by individuals

earning over $5,000 annually. It was in essence "an income

tax disguised as an excise bill."27 H.R. 21214 passed the

24Senate Manual, op. cit., pp. 252-54.
262 C.R.,48, 3636 (Heyburn) 9707 (Newlands).

26Ibid., p. 3627.

27Ratner, op. cit., p. 321.

House on March llth by the large vote of 253-40. It

received support from 173 Democrats and 80 Republicans,

but was rejected by 40 Republicans.

The special excise bill was considered in the

Senate in August, 1912. William Borah (Republican-Idrho)

put the Democrats in an awkward position by proposing an

amendment in the nature of a substitute embodying a gradu-

ated income tax to replace the first nine sections of

H.R. 21214. Heretofore, the Democrats had consistently

supported efforts to legislate an income tax proviso into

law. At that time, August, 1912, with ratification of an

amendment to the Constitution giving the federal government

the necessary powers so very near, the Democratic leadership

wondered whether it was wise to force the issue before the

Courts. Francis Newlands (Democrat-Nevada) made it clear

to the Senate that his fellow Democrats, having met in

caucus,did not think so.29 This explains why Borah's

2862 CR., 48, 3637.

Party in No. in Vote cn Excise Bill
House Party For Against Nonvoting
Democratic 230 173 0 57
Republican 165 80 40 45

29Ibid., p. 9708.

amendment was rejected 23-33 with only 4 Democrats joining

19 Republicans in favor of the income tax proposal.30

Twenty-one Democrats and 12 Republicans voted to reject it.

The alliance between Democrats and "progressive"

Republicans in favor of income tax was coordinated once

again as the Senate passed its version of the "income tax

disguised as an excise tax." The vote was 37-18; 24

Democrats and 13 Republicans pushed it through over the

opposition of 18 Republicans.31

The excise bill, H.R. 21214, ran into difficulties

in the conference committee representing the two houses,

and was never enacted. Victory for income tax advocates

was but around the corner. The joint resolution was rati-

fied by Delaware and Wyoming on February 3, 1913, bringing

30Ibid., p. 9709.

Party in No. in Vote on Borah Amendment
Senate Party For Against Nonvoting
Democratic 43 4 (21+4) 25 14
Republican 51 (19+1) 20 (12+2) 14 17


Party in No. in Vote on Excise Bill
Senate Party For Against Nonvoting
Democratic 43 (24+6) 30 0 13
Republican 51 13 (18+5) 23 15

the number of state legislatures which had approved to the

required number of thirty-six. For good measure, two

additional states recorded their favorable vote on the

fifth of February. Twenty days later, Secretary of State

Philander Knox officially proclaimed the amendment duly

ratified and the law of the land.32

32Senate Manual, op. cit., 252-54.



In 1890, Congress passed the Sherman Anti-Trust

Act in response to nationwide pressure to cope with the

development of massive industrial complexes which ap-

peared to be heading toward monopolies. Designed as a

measure to appease the American voter and yet not hurt

the "captains of industry," the law of 1890 in applica-

tion put little brake upon the consolidating tendencies

in the national economy. In this respect, federal legis-

lation seemed to have made little improvement over the

1Pressure for antitrust legislative action was
particularly intense in the South and in the West. Samuel
Hays, The Response to Industrialism: 1885-1914 (Chicago,
1957), pb., p. 137.

2Harry J. Carman, Harold C. Syrett, and Bernard
W. Wishy, A History of the American People (2nd ed.t New
York, 1961), II, 127-29. Thomas C. Cochran and William
Miller, Age of Enterprise: A Social History of Industrial
America (Rev.; New York, 1961), pp. 171-72.

antitrust acts passed by many of the states in the 1880's.3

As the ineffectiveness of the federal act became obvious

to both public and legislature, demand for new legislation

which would effectively curb the propensity toward monopoly

arose. Democrats and Populists were in the forefront of

those in Congress who desired further antitrust action.

Even the defeat of their joint candidate in the presidential

election of 1896, William Jennings Bryan, who vigorously

attacked the "plutocracy" being created by the trust build-

ers, did not divert their attention from the question.

Several motions were proposed as means for striking

at trusts during the consideration of tariff revision in

the special session of 1897 called by the newly elected

William McKinley. All of these were in the Senate, as

debate in the lower house was severely curtailed by Speaker

Thomas Reed (Republican-Maine). Senator Richard Pettigrew

(Republican and Independent-South Dakota) asked the upper

chamber to adopt his amendment to the tariff bill, which

called for the removal of goods from the duty table which

3Carman, et al., op. cit., p. 127. Gilbert C.
Fite and Jim E. Reese, An Economic History of the United
States (2nd ed.? Boston, 1965), p. 381.

were produced domestically by "a trust or combination

to increase their cost." A motion was made to table

Pettigrew's amendment, thereby killing it. In the roll

call that followed, it was clear that a vote against

tabling was favorable to a-titrust legislation. The motion,

however, carried by a vote of 35-32.4 Thirty-two Republi-

cans, 2 Democrats,and an independent supported the motion,

whereas 28 Democrats and 4 independents tried to block

its adoption. Two major industries in which consolidation

had taken rapid strides by the last decade of the nine-

teenth century were metal manufacturing and sugar refining.

On July 5, 1897, Senator Roger Mills (Democrat-Texas)

proposed an amendment to the tariff bill which would have

put a tax of 5 percent upon domestic metal manufactures.

This suggestion was turned aside 19-38. Sixteen Democrats

55 C.R., 30, 1745.

Party in No. in Vote on Tabling
Senate Party Against For Nonvotinq
Democratic 37 (28+2) 30 2 5
Republican 43 0 (32+1) 33 10

5Ibid., 2303.

Party in No. in Vote on Mills Amendment
Senate Party For Against Nonvotinq
Democratic 37 (16+1) 17 4 16
Republican 43 0 (30+2) 32 11

and 3 independents could not overcome the combined will of

32 Republicans, 4 Democrats, and 2 independents. John

Tyler Morgan (Democrat-Alabama) then called up an amend-

ment which would have placed all sugar imported by the

Sugar Trust "in restraint of trade" in danger of being

confiscated by the federal government. Morgan's measure

was defeated also, the vote being 26-33.6 Twenty-four

Democrats and 2 independents supported it, but 30 Repub-

licans, 2 Democrats, and an independent brought it down.

Senator Horace Chilton (Democrat-Texas) who sought to

strengthen the Sherman Act of 1890, got into the act by

offering an amendment to the tariff bill calling for a

punishment of three years in jail for anyone convicted of

"restraint of trade." His amendment failed to carry,
although the vote was close, 28-31. Twenty-four Democrats


Party in No. in Vote on Morgan Amendment
cSen t lie P rt F A i t N t&

Democratic 37 (24+4) 28 2 7
Republican 43 0 (30+1) 31 12
Ibid., p. 2387.

Party in No. in Vote on Chilton Amendment
Senate Party For Against Nonvoting

Democratic 37
Republican 43

(24+2) 26 0 11
0 (30+3) 33 10

and 5 independents voted for it; 30 Republicans and an

independent voted against. Sentiment for antitrust action,

insofar as it was to be included in the tariff bill, was

tested for the last time on July 7th. Morgan of Alabama

(Democrat) struck at the practices of the meat packing

industry in an amendment which proposed a fine of $500 to

$10,000 and a term of thirty days to a year in jail for

anyone convicted of "restraint of trade" in the industry.
This idea was defeated, 26-31. Twenty-two Democrats and

4 independents registered their votes for it, while 29

Republicans, 1 Democrat, and 1 independent joined to deny

it. William Allen (Populist-Nebraska) then suggested an

amendment declaring all manufactured goods produced in

"restraint of trade" subject to a tax of 15 percent of value.

Moreover, it called for a fine of from $1,000 to $5,000

and a term of one to five years in prison for nonpayment

of the tax. The Allen measure was defeated by a vote of

Ibid., p. 2428.

Party in No. in Vote on Morgan Amendment
Senate Party For Against Nonvotinq
Democratic 37 (22+3) 25 1 11
Republican 43 0 (29+3) 32 11

25-36.9 Twenty-one Democrats and 4 independents were for

it; 33 Republicans, 2 Democrats, and an independent were

not. The senator from Nebraska offered another proposal

pertinent to this matter. His second amendment ordered

the secretary of the treasury to submit an annual report

on manufactures produced by trusts and monopolies in the

country; an appropriation of $20,000 was included. This

measure lost by a vote of 25-37.10 Twenty-one Democrats

and 4 independents fell before 34 Republicans, 2 Democrats,

and an independent. Turned back at every attempt, Demo-

crats nevertheless kept the pressure on the GOP to enact

antitrust legislation.

In the second session of the 55th Congress, Senator

9bid., p. 24

Party in No. in
Senate Party
Democratic 37
Republican 43


Party in No. in
Senate Party
Democratic 37
Republican 43


Vote on Allen Amendment
For Against Nonvotinq
21 2 14
0 (33+2) 35 8

Vote on Second Allen Amendment
For Acainst Nonvotinq
(21+1) 22 2 13
0 (34+2) 36 7

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs