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Full text of "TANKEE FROM THE WEST"

Yankee 
horn the West 

Burton K. Wheeler 



"Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Mon 
tana, with refreshing candor and char 
acteristic courage inherited from his 
New England forebears, traces his life 
from birth to retirement. . . . Because 
of adherence to principle, Senator 
Wheeler cast aside the proffer of a Vice 
Presidential nomination, which he well 
knew would later make him President 
of our Republic." 

John L. Lewis 

President Emeritus, United Mine 
Workers of America 

"Senator Wheeler's work was extremely 
effective in the defeat of President 
Roosevelt's efforts to pack the Supreme 
Court, and it was my privilege to work 
with him in that endeavor. His chapter 
on this heroic fight is accurate and con 
tributes greatly to a full understanding 
by future historians . . " 

Harry F.Byrd 
United States Senator 

A native of Massachusetts and a gradu 
ate of the University of Michigan Law 
School, Mr, Wheeler settled in Butte, 
Montana, hung out his shingle and 

(Continued on back flap) 



YANKEE FROE 
THE WEST 



YANKEE FROM 
THE WEST 

Burton K. Wheeler with 
Paul F. Healy 

The candid, turbulent life story of the Yankee-born 
U. S. Senator from Montana 



DOUBLEDAY 6- COMPANY, INC, 

Garden City, New York 



Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 62-15909 
Copyright 1962 by Burton K. Wheeler and Paul F. Healy 

All Rights Reserved 
Printed in the United States of America 



Dedicated to ray 'beloved wife, Lulu M. Wheeler, without whose 
devotion, courage, and unwavering loyalty to me and to her convic 
tions, the career outlined in this book would not have been possible; 
and to my daughter, Frances, who, prior to her death in 2957, de 
voted long and patient hours to much of the research that underlies 
this book. 



CONTENTS 



Introduction vi 

One The President and the Plan 17 

Two Yankee, Go West 37 

Three A Friendly Game of Poker 58 

Four "You Can't Lick the Company" 83 

Five Mr. District Attorney 97 

Six Libel, Mayhem, and Murder 115 

Seven The D.A. in Trouble 135 

Eight "Boxcar Burt" 165 

Nine A Place in the Sun 185 

Ten Communists and Senators 198 

Eleven Roxy and the "Ohio Gang" 213 

Twelve "Prosecuting" Silent Cal 246 

Thirteen Inside the Senate 267 

Fourteen Life with FDR 294 

Fifteen Saving the Supreme Court 319 

Sixteen Reprisals and Reconciliation 341 

Seventeen Third Term and Fourth Term 353 

Eighteen Liberal with a New Label 378 

Nineteen Defeat and Renaissance 400 

Index 431 



6300113 



INTRODUCTION 



The career of former Senator Burton K. Wheeler is a fa 
vorite for analysis by the writers of Ph.D. theses. He was an 
influential protagonist in a great many of the most bitterly 
fought elections, investigations, and legislative battles of this 
century. As a giant in the age of giants in the Senate, Wheeler 
also attracted writers in general. Time magazine called him a 
"senator's senator." Hamilton Basso called him "Burton the 
Bronc." William Hard said Wheeler would have made "a great 
bucko mate quelling the crew of an old New England China 
clipper/' 

Since there are certain things a man cannot very well say in 
his autobiography, I am taking the opportunity as Wheeler's 
collaborator to set down a third person view. 

As one who has written magazine articles on scores of sena 
tors and other national personages, I find the Wheeler story 
irresistible. It has everything. Approaching a senator important 
enough to be profiled, I always hope he will be abundantly 
endowed as a subject with what I call the "three c's," that is, 
that he be as colorful, controversial, and candid as possible. 
These qualities are present in Wheeler more than in anyone I 
have ever studied. 

Wheeler is properly regarded as a prototype of the sturdy 
Western progressive, but what makes him more interesting to 
me are the many aspects of our national character he reflects. 



Introduction vii 

He has the moral indignation of his New England heritage; 
the self-reliance gained from working his way through law 
schooland successfully wooing a farmer's daughterin the 
Midwest; and the two-fisted and cunning recklessness he re 
fined on Montana's last frontier. It seems natural for Wheeler 
to have started his career by losing his shirt in a poker game 
in the tough town of Butte, Montana. Wheeler is a born gam 
bler, always willing to risk long odds and then go all-out to win. 

Except for Andrew Jackson, it is difficult to think of another 
Democrat in American history who succeeded for so long 
thirty-six years while being controversial. He has every ele 
ment of the successful American politician except one caution. 
I had never interviewed a first-rank senator or ex-senator who 
would let his hair down on the record. Surprisingly few senators 
write their memoirs and those who do are in a mellow mood 
which precludes handling old antagonists harshly. Wheeler 
himself was not eager to refight old political battles but when 
he did decide to tell his story he characteristically refused to 
short-change history. Nobody who should wear horns appears 
in these pages with a halo. 

In setting the record straight, Wheeler is not acting vindic 
tively. He names names but holds no grudges. Intolerant of in 
justice, he is tolerant of men. His only concern is that he may 
sound self-righteous. "I'm no paragon of virtue/' he frequently 
protests. 

One key to his success as a politician is a rare fusion of pug 
nacity and affability. In the Senate, he was at once greatly 
feared and greatly loved. President Kennedy, when he was a 
congressman, once said to Wheeler that President Roosevelt 
told his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, the only two men in the 
Senate he feared were Huey Long and Wheeler. Yet all the 
evidence available to me is that FDR liked Wheeler. The two 
were strong-minded men a "king" and a "baron" and it is per 
haps inevitable that they fell out, made up, and fell out again. 

A wealthy but much less successful Montanan once remarked 
to Wheeler: "If I could smile like you while calling someone an 
S.O.B., Td give a million dollars." All politicians profess to "like 
people/' and most of them probably do, but I have never before 



viii Yankee from the West 

met one who all but embraces friend, enemy, or interviewer on 
sight. Wheeler's shrewd light blue eyes glitter behind his oc 
tagonal spectacles and the crinkling grin which permanently 
wreathes his wide mouth grows even more disarming. 

This instinctive reaching-out which amounts to instant com 
municationwas vividly illustrated for me when I was working 
with Wheeler on this book at his summer cabin in Glacier Na 
tional Park. The local Democratic Party was holding a picnic 
one Sunday afternoon at Kalispell, thirty-five miles away, and 
the former senator had been invited to attend. Wheeler had 
given up active politics fifteen years before, and he feels no 
blind loyalty to his party. There was no reason for him, at age 
seventy-nine, to take the trouble to accept. But he could not 
resist a chance to pass the time of day with a group of Mon- 
tanans, most of whom would be strangers. 

It rained and we got a late start. Though Wheeler burned 
up the highways driving to Kalispell, we arrived just as the 
picnic was breaking up. The coffee was stale, the baked beans 
were cold, and the benches and the departing party members 
were soggy. Yet for nearly an hour Wheeler hung around, ex 
changing views and gossip with the party workhorses who were 
cleaning up. This was more than an old politician reminiscing; 
it was the picture of a man enjoying life. 

Having chatted with these Montanans and many persons in 
Washington who worked for and against Wheeler (and having 
seen him needle an opponent in the Senate in his later years), 
I could better understand the engaging masculine appeal which 
this man of action projected in his prime. 

He was a broad-shouldered six-footer in a comfortably rum 
pled suit. His trade-marks were a dented Stetson, a thin cigar 
clamped in his slash of mouth, expressive hands, and a sham 
bling, purposeful stride. He was about as easily cowed as a 
grizzly bear. He was never an orator or a polished speaker but 
Ms natural force and his gift of idiom made him a highly 
effective one. His straight-from-the-shoulder style apparently 
shot across from the platform as directly as it did to me in many 
hours of conversation. 

Effectiveness in a senator is a much more unusual quality 



Introduction ix 

than the public realizes; a senator can become famous in ways 
which have nothing to do with legislation through speeches, 
glamour, or even by accident. 

"Wheeler was a great legislator there was none better/' says 
Thomas G. (Tommy the Cork) Corcoran, the Washington law 
yer who was FDR's able lieutenant on Capitol Hill and has 
been in touch with it ever since. Corcoran says the keys to 
Wheeler's greatness were "a first-class inind" and an intuitive 
understanding of his colleagues. 

Wheeler's effectiveness was best described in a book about 
the Court-packing fight, The 168 Days, written by Joseph Alsop, 
the syndicated columnist, and Turner Catledge, now managing 
editor of The New York Times. 

"His great forte was legislative fighting," they wrote. "His 
suspicions gave him a peculiar prevision of the enemy's next 
moves. He was energetic and tireless. He knew every twist and 
turn of the legislative game, and he was not above using its 
brutal expedients if they promised to be helpful. Although he 
had his own good share of vanity, he knew how to soothe the 
vanities of others, and he worked well with his team." 

In accepting an invitation to lead the fight against the Presi 
dent's Court-packing bill, Wheeler had clearly risked his politi 
cal futureand ended up dealing FDR his only major defeat. 

Wheeler fought bigness, whether it took the form of a power- 
hungry President or the domineering Anaconda Copper Mining 
Company. His other principal fight was against those who 
would corrupt and weaken the democratic system. The embodi 
ment of this to him is still Harry M. Daugherty, President Har- 
ding's crony and Attorney General, whom a freshman Senator 
Wheeler drove from office. 

Wheeler's life is the stuff of which melodramas are made. 
I* 1 !939 the movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, starring 
James Stewart, was based on the script, The Man from Mon 
tana, which in turn was based on Wheeler's exposure of Daugh- 
erty's "Ohio Gang." 

Political scientists who insist on neatly classifying politicians 
are puzzled by Wheeler. The common conclusion is that he is a 
liberal who turned conservative. The confusion here is over the 



x "Yankee from the West 

fact that during the first two-thirds of his career Wheeler's 
fights ranged him alongside those called "liberal"; during the 
rest of it, he was generally lined up with the "conservatives/' 
Actually, while the times changed, the nature of the issues 
shifted, and the labels grew fuzzy, Wheeler stayed essentially 
the same. The wonder is not that he changed so much but that 
he changed so little. 

In 1939 Senator George W. Morris of Nebraska, the patron 
saint of modern liberals, wrote in a letter: "I have never lost 
faith in Senator Wheeler ... I think his courage and fearless 
ness in the work he has done commends him to all lovers of 
human liberty." In 1940, Norris endorsed him for the Demo 
cratic presidential nomination (in the event FDR did not run 
for a third term) with the words, "Wheeler is fully qualified to 
be President/' That was the year Wheeler spurned repeated 
overtures from White House emissaries seeking to make him 
Roosevelt's running mate. He rejected the opportunity with the 
simple explanation that he could not say he agreed with the 
President (on the war issue) when he did not agree. A different 
answer would probably have put Wheeler in the White House 
in 1945. It was an actual case of a politician saying, Td rather 
be right." 

Above all, Wheeler wanted to remain free and he did. He 
once told Democratic leaders who criticized him for having 
bolted the Democratic Party to run as Vice President on the 
National Independent Progressive ticket in 1924: "I will not 
bend my knee and I will not mend my ways." As a symbol of 
the individualist in politics, he may well be the last of a vanish 
ing breed. 

Here I want to express my deepest thanks to Mr. Wheeler 
for the pleasure of working with him and to the members of 
his family for their invaluable help. I owe a special debt of 
gratitude to Frances Wheeler (Mrs. Allen Saylor) who before 
her untimely death compiled the basic research for her father's 
story. 

Paul F. Healy 



Chapter One 

THE PRESIDENT 
AND THE PLAN 



Controversy has sparked my public life from start to finish. 
My opponents have ranged from the giant Anaconda Copper 
Mining Company to the leaders of both my own Democratic 
Party and the Republican Party. The names I've been called 
run the gamut from Communist to Fascist and include a great 
many other derogatory terms besides. I have been accused of 
almost everything but timidity. My opponents taught me self- 
reliance and that the best defense is a good offense. After all, 
they were not fighting according to Marquis of Queensberry 
rules. 

All the principal episodes of my career carried overtones of 
melodrama but in none of them was the stage as large as it was 
in my second and last battle with Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 
1937 1 had successfully led the Senate attack on his bill to pack 
the United States Supreme Court. Within two years this rup 
ture between two close political associates had largely healed 



i8 Yankee from the West 

but I was becoming uneasy about his attitude toward the war 
that had broken out in Europe. 

I knew little more than any senator could read in the news 
papers until one day late in May 1940 I was sitting at my desk 
in the Senate Office Building when my secretary told me an 
"Admiral Hooper*' was asking to see me. I was curious, since I 
was not a member of any Senate committee that would normally 
concern an admiral and I had never posed as a military 
authority. 

The admiral turned out to be a short, pudgy man wearing 
civilian clothes. He introduced himself as Rear Admiral Stan 
ford C. Hooper and mentioned a previous meeting with me 
which I did not recall. He said he had to talk to someone and 
knew he could talk confidentially to me. Then he came to the 
point. 

"The man at the other end of the Avenue is going to get us 
into the war," he said. 

I told him I didn't believe that about the President. 

"Senator, I know what I'm talking about," he went on ear 
nestly. I replied that I was not a military or naval expert and 
wanted to ask some questions. I pointed out first that FDR 
claimed to be much worried about the security of the United 
States. The Nazis were overrunning France and the President 
in his defense message to Congress on May 16 had warned of 
the dangers we faced if Hitler conquered all of Europe. He 
had pointed out that "the islands off the west coast of Africa 
are 1500 miles from Brazil. Modern planes starting from the 
Cape ^ Verde Islands can be over Brazil in seven hours/' Ger 
many's military effectiveness, the President had said, "surely 
. . . made clear to all our citizens ... the possibility of attack 
on vital American zones." He had talked about Hitler bombing 
New York, Philadelphia, and, as I now recall, he included New 
Orleans, St. Louis, and Denver. I asked the admiral, "What 
about Hitler's bombing of American cities, as suggested by 
Roosevelt?" 

He said, "The Germans haven't got a bomber that can fly 
more than a thousand miles-five hundred miles out and five 
hundred miles back." 



The President and the Plan ig 

"What about their going down to Dakar and then over to 
Brazil and cutting up to the United Statesr I asked. 

"When they're in Brazil/* he pointed out, "they're farther 
away from New York than they were in Berlin, and by the 
time they crossed the rivers and jungles and got up to Texas, 
what do you think we'd be doing?* 

As the conversation went on, the admiral convinced me that 
FDR was using the spectre of a Nazi invasion of the United 
States as a pretext for our joining the allies. I hated to see us 
slide into a war, as we had done in 1916-17. 1 asked the admiral 
what I could do about it. 

"You can stop it," he said. 

"How?" 

"You can't stop him by making one speech,*" Hooper replied. 
"YouVe got to go out and make a lot of speeches. You licked 
him on the Court issue and you can lick him again.** 

The admiral said he wasn't against getting into the war be 
cause of any fear on his part as he was too old to go. When I 
asked him how the rest of the officers in the Navy felt, he said, 
"Most of the older heads feel as I dothat we should keep out 
but a lot of the younger men who look forward to promotions 
think the President knows more about the Navy than we do.** 

I had already made a number of speeches against an admin 
istration program which I felt might entangle us in the war but 
I didn't believe that the President actually wanted to get us 
into war. I knew he was most friendly to England and like every 
good citizen hated what Hitler was doing. My position was the 
same as it had been in the first war. While I am of English an 
cestry and was always pro-ally, I felt that this was not our 
war. When I was U. S. District Attorney for Montana dur 
ing World War I, the hysteria over possible invasion even in 
that remote area was so great that I had to resist pressure to 
prosecute for sedition Montanans who were guilty of nothing 
more than having a foreign name. I wanted to see the American 
people keep their heads this time. 

I asked the admiral to give me some facts. He said lie would. 
He subsequently sent me a oue-p-age handwritten memo about 
the Nazis* capacity for launching an air invasion against us* 



20 Yankee from the West 

(Roosevelt's so-called "geography-lesson" speech of May 16 
was debunked in Hooper-like terms early in 1941 by Hanson 
Baldwin, military analyst of The New Jork Times, in his book, 
United We Stand. 

"The author does not know of a single responsible military or 
naval officer or government official who believes that this nation 
is threatened by direct invasion, even if Germany wins," Bald 
win wrote. Asserting that the United States Navy was capable 
of meeting the combined fleets of Germany, Italy, Russia, and 
Japan in its own waters, he added: "By air the problem is even 
more difficult. Colonel Lindbergh, as all military observers 
know, was perfectly correct when he said that the United States 
could not be invaded by air/') 

Soon after the admiral's visit, I began to make more vigorous 
and more frequent speeches and to warn more seriously against 
die policy of "all aid to the allies short of war." " 'Short of war' 
means war," I said. This was the opinion of many other senators 
and the majority of Americans. Whatever his intentions might 
be, I feared the steps the President was taking might lead us 
into war. And so I was plunged deeper and deeper into a bitter 
battle with the White House. 

Several years later, Admiral Hooper had me to dinner and 
wryly recalled that he was the one who had gotten me into 
"all this trouble," meaning vilification by the interventionists. 
Hooper (who died in 1945) subsequently was decorated for his 
pioneering work in radio, sonar, and radar. He had been the 
original fleet wireless officer in the Navy in 1912 and had won 
the Navy Cross for his combat service in World War I. Later, 
he had set up the Navy's first world- wide chain of land stations 
linked to the fleet. 

My first speech after the admiral's visit occurred on June 7, 
1940, before a massive rally of the peace-minded in Washing 
ton, D.C. That night the Nazi Panzer divisions were forty- 
eight miles from Paris. I said that "a mad hysteria grips many 
of our peoplea hysteria produced in New York and Washing 
ton." I urged my listeners not to be panicked by "bogey stories 
about air bases from which giant hordes of planes will bomb 
New York, St. Louis, and New Orleans." 



The President and the Plan 21 

The talk was carried over a radio network and brought a 
cascade of telegrams and letters asking me to speak in many 
parts of the country. It also inspired another visit by a military 
man. This one was to involve me in 1941 in the disclosure of a 
document which rocked the government with cries of disloyalty 
on the one hand and duplicity on the other. My key role in 
exposing the most secret plan in Washington at that time has 
not been revealed until this writing. 

The day after the Washington rally an Army Air Corps cap 
tain who was a stranger to me showed up in my office. He was 
in uniform, and clean-cut and intelligent-looking. (I will omit 
his name, inasmuch as he may well be a senior officer in the 
Air Force today.) 

The captain sat down and asked immediately: "Are you go 
ing to keep up this fight?" I said I certainly was. He asked me 
if I wanted some facts. I said yes. 

"We haven't got a single, solitary plane that's fit for overseas 
service," he told me. "You've got to have three thingsarmor 
plate, self -sealing fuel tanks, and fire power. We haven't got a 
single, solitary plane that has all three. Some of them have one 
of those essentials, some have two, but not one has all three." 

He said our aircraft were good enough to fight in Cuba or 
Mexico but not against the modern German Air Force. 

"What are you talking about?" I asked, "The administration 
says we have over four thousand planes ready for combat serv 
ice, twenty-six hundred of them in the Army Air Corps." 

The captain said that any official who gave out such a state 
ment either was misinformed or was "lying to the American 
people." 

Now I was persuaded that we were not only not in danger of 
being invaded by the Nazis but that we were in no condition 
to fight in Europe. I extended my speechmaking tour to the 
Midwest, On July i, I addressed the Keep America Out of 
War Congress in the Auditorium Theater in Chicago. After 
ward, a group of students from several universities came to my 
hotel room and said they wanted to organize a new group dedi 
cated to keeping the nation at peace. They asked me if I would 
head it up. 



22 "Yankee from the West 

I advised the students to choose someone outside government 
and politics. Among others, I suggested retired Brigadier Gen 
eral Robert E. Wood, the eminent chairman of the board of 
Sears Roebuck & Company in Chicago. I later learned I was 
not the only one to recommend General Wood. He became 
chairman of the America First Committee when it was or 
ganized on September i, 1940. 

The Democratic National Convention was due to open in 
Chicago on July 15 and the political pot was boiling over. Much 
as it may surprise some persons today, I had long been con 
sidered a leading possibility for the presidential nomination if 
FDR did not choose to run for a third term or as his running 
mate if he did. For six months I had received an extraordinary 
buildup by a variety of newspaper and magazine writers as the 
one proven Democratic liberal most likely to appeal to con 
servative voters. In February, Doris Fleeson, writing in the New 
York Daily News and Washington Times-Herald., had reported 
that I was "riding high" in the White House as the probable 
vice presidential nominee. 

The President knew me well. I had been the first prominent 
Democrat to come out for his nomination back in 1930, I had 
worked for his nomination at the 1932 convention, and, as chair 
man of the Senate Interstate Commerce Committee, I had done 
yeoman service for him on the Public Utility Holding Company 
bill of 1935 and the Transportation Act of 1940. Of course, I 
had not helped my chances by announcing on June 13, 1940, 
that I was prepared to bolt the Democratic Party if it was in 
fact becoming the "war party." But the President was con 
cerned about losing votes among the potent "peace groups" and 
so I continued to receive overtures behind the scenes about 
running for Vice President even after the convention was under 
way, as will be related in another chapter. 

My overriding concern as the convention approached was 
the framing of the foreign policy plank in the Democratic plat 
form. Along with several other non-interventionist senators, I 
wanted this direct pledge adopted: "We will not participate 'in 
foreign wars and we will not send our armies, navies, or air 
forces to fight on foreign lands outside the Americas." We got 



The President and the Plan 23 

this through the subcommittee, of which I was a member, but 
the full committee was a more difficult hurdle. 

I arrived at the first meeting of the full committee a few 
minutes late. Senator Matthew M. Neely of West Virginia was 
on his feet reading a long tract against dictators and saying 
that every farmer, working man, professional, and businessman 
and banker had to be fitted into his particular "niche" during 
the emergency. I had made a note "this means dictatorship" 
but before I could say a word Senator David L Walsh of Massa 
chusetts said "this means totalitarianism." I asked Neely who 
sent the paper in and he said, "the President" All members of 
the committee looked shocked. FDR wanted the statement as a 
plank in the platform but we took a vote and everyone on the 
committee, with the exception of Secretary of Agriculture 
Henry A. Wallace, voted against it. Leslie Biffle, secretary of 
the committee, promptly tore the paper into little bits. 

Later, it was suggested that we use the statement as a pre 
amble to the platform, but that too was thrown out. 

Spokesmen for William Allen White's interventionist citizens 
group were in the full committee and they wanted a virtual 
declaration of war written into the platform. The debate be 
hind locked doors got hot. At one point, Mayor Edward J. Kelly 
of Chicago said he had made a survey of the city wards and 
had found that the people were very anxious to stay out of the 
war. After a speech by Senator Claude D. Pepper of Florida, 
the arch-interventionist, I remarked that he didn't represent 
the Presidentthat the person closest to FDR politically was 
Kelly. The hard-fisted boss of Chicago blushed like a schoolgirl. 

Another time, Senator James F. Byrnes of South Carolina, 
whose job it was to protect the administration on the peace 
ulank, slipped over to me and asked in an aside if I couldn't 
soften our plank because Secretary of State Cordell Hull felt 
it would "interfere with his operations in the Orient." "What 
'operations'?" I asked suspiciously. Byrnes threw up his hands 
disgustedly and walked away. 

A few minutes later, I headed for the lavatory and found 
Byrnes, Pepper, and Kelly with their heads together in an ante 
room. I surmised that Kelly was being worked on. 



2 4 "Yankee from the West 

"What are you burglars up to?" I asked jocularly. Byrnes 
said he had just talked with the President and that he might 
not run unless we amended the foreign policy statement in the 
platform. 

"The President will not only run/' I told Byrnes, "but he 
wants to run and will run on any platform we draft. If you 
delete our language, I will walk out of the convention." 

"You wouldn't do that, would you?" Byrnes asked. 

"Certainly I would," I told him. He walked off. Kelly waited a 
minute and then reached over and shook my hand in con 
gratulation. 

Byrnes went directly to the telephone, I learned later, and 
put in another callhis third to the White House. The last 
thing the administration wanted was a fight on the convention 
floor over the peace issue. 

When Byrnes returned to the committee, he told us that if 
we agreed to add the phrase, "except in case of attack," FDR 
and Hull would go along with the wording of our plank. We 
had no objection to this proviso and the amended plank was 
ratified unanimously, first by the full committee and then by 
the convention. 

FDR was nominated according to plan and chose as his run 
ning mate to the surprise and distaste of a great many dele 
gatesSecretary of Agriculture Wallace, an interventionist. At 
their convention in Philadelphia in June, the Republicans had 
nominated Wendell Willkie and I had denounced him as a tool 
of Wall Street and an interventionist. 

The 1940 presidential campaign soon settled into a phony 
contest to see who could most reassure American fathers and 
mothers that their boys would not be sent off to fight a war. 
Willkie kept calling FDR a warmonger and the public reaction 
finally got under the President's skin. The late Robert E. Sher 
wood, a Roosevelt ghost writer, has written that on a trip 
through New England on October 30 FDR was flooded with 
telegrams "stating almost tearfully that if the President did not 
give his solemn promise to the mothers, he might as well start 
packing his belongings at the White House." 

For this reason, Sherwood explained, the President that night 



The President and the Plan 25 

in a speech in Boston spoke those unforgettable lines: "I have 
said this before, but I shall say it again and againand again 
your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign war." 

According to Sherwood, FDR rejected a suggestion by an 
other speechwriter, Samuel Rosenman, that he add the phrase 
that was so important to him in the platform "except in case 
of attack/' 

The President's campaign promises did not square with an 
impression I was getting from insiders. In October, Vice Presi 
dent John Nance Garner called me into his room off the Senate 
floor. He had just come from a Cabinet meeting. 

"Go pour yourself a drink and pour one for me," he said. 
After a while he said, "Go pour yourself another and pour one 
for me." He obviously had something on his mind. This time, 
when he held up his glass and sighted through it, he remarked, 
"You're a gambler." 

"What makes you think so?" I asked. 

"Oh, all you fellows from out West like to gamble," he said. 

"What's on your mind?" 

"I'll bet you a grand/' the Vice President went on, "that we're 
in the war by June first of next year." 

"Jack, I won't take you," I said. 

"I'll make it April first," he countered. 

"I still won't take you," I said. 

"Well," he said flatly, "we're going to be in the war after the 
election." 

Garner paused, ruminating, then added: "Hull is more anx 
ious to go to war with the Japs than the Chief is." I asked why. 

"Because he thinks we've got to go to war with them some 
time and we might as well do it now," the Vice President said. 

"That's a hell of a reason," I said. Garner agreed. Later, I 
mentioned Garner's report of Hull's attitude to Chairman Tom 
Connally of the Foreign Relations Committee and he grunted, 
"That's right." 

The evidence that Hull wanted to go to war with Japan is 
overwhelming. Senator George W. Norris, the great liberal in 
dependent, knew it and once innocently assured me we would 
not lose any soldiers in a war with Japan. 



2 g Yankee from the West 

In November 1940 my stand on the war was put to a popular 
test. I was up for re-election to my fourth term in the Senate. 
My opponent, E. K. Cheadle, a Shelby, Montana, lawyer, was 
commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the Army shortly after 
he was nominated on the Republican ticket and said he was 
too busy as a soldier to campaign. I met this clever political 
maneuver by saying that I wouldn't campaign either. I was 
busy in Congress, which stayed in session until the end of the 
year. 

I was re-elected by a majority of 114,000 votes, carrying 
every city and county in the state. It was the most lop-sided 
victory ever won by a candidate in Montana history, In con 
trast, FDR carried the state by only 54,000 votes. I made no 
speeches for the Roosevelt- Wallace ticket because I never sup 
ported hypocrisy. 

In the election, I voted for Norman Thomas, the Socialist 
candidate, for President because I thought he was the ablest 
candidate running and was genuinely interested in keeping us 
out of war. 

Immediately after the election, I took a restful trip to Hawaii. 
Pausing in San Francisco on my return, I read that Roosevelt 
would ask Congress for authority to lend-lease all sorts of aid 
to the allies. It would be a revolutionary law giving him tre 
mendous dictatorial powers to further our intervention some 
thing he would not have dared to broach before the election. 
I said at once that I would fight the bill. 

When I arrived in Washington, D.C., Senator Ed Johnson, 
a Colorado Democrat who shared my sentiments about the 
war, said he felt I could not prevent its passage, since the lead 
ers of both parties were supporting the bill. 

"The skids are all greased and the Republican and Demo 
cratic leaders are all for the bill," Johnson said. I told him I 
would fight it even if the only vote I mustered was my own. 

"When you pass this bill, it means war," I told my colleagues. 
All the Democrats speaking for the administration said the bill 
meant peace. 

"If it is our war," I said on January 4, 1941, "how can we 
justify lending them stuff and asking them to pay us back? If 



The President and the Plan 27 

it is our war, we ought to have the courage to go over and fight 
it, but it is not our war/ 5 

When the bill was before the Senate that month, I debated 
it on Theodore Granik's "American Forum of the Air" radio 
program. Among other things, I said: "The lend-lease program 
is the New Deal's triple-A foreign policy; it will plow under 
every fourth American boy/* 

When I had written these words in longhand that Sunday 
afternoon at home, I thought little about them. But when I 
spoke the phrase over the network that night, I must confess it 
did sound somewhat harsh. 

At his next press conference, FDR called it "the most un 
truthful, the most dastardly, unpatriotic thing that has been 
said in public life in my generation. Quote me on that." 

A few days later, Joseph P. Kennedy, the prewar Ambassa 
dor to the Court of St. James, invited me to his suite in the 
Carlton Hotel. As I walked in the door, he said, <C I told them 
[White House aides] that if the President hadn't criticized that 
speech of yours, there wouldn't be five thousand people who 
remembered it. Now five million people will remember it." 

When in other speeches I got carried away and warned that 
we would lose our cherished liberties if we got into the war, I 
was also suffering from an excess of zeal for my cause. 

Joe Kennedy, a friend since the early 19208, shared my con 
cern about our avoiding the war. He once told me that he 
liked Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain better than Winston 
Churchill because Chamberlain was interested in working out 
a peaceful solution. If this was so, I asked him, why did Britain 
let itself get involved in a war? Kennedy said it was "pressure 
from the United States." 

Early in February, while Congress was debating the lend- 
lease bill, I received another visit from the Army Air Corps cap 
tain. He gave me statistics to show that the country was little 
better equipped with air power than it was at the time of his 
first conversation with me. I changed the figures around slightly 
to discourage suspicions that I had an informant inside the Air 
Corps and then issued a statement. 

I called for an air force second to none as "the most effective 



28 Yankee from the West 

big stick" we could have but I asserted that none of the war 
planes on hand as of January i had all three requisites neces 
sary for combat: self -sealing tanks, armor plate, and fire power. 
Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson replied that my statement 
was "unfair," that I should have said that the materials were 
on hand to equip the planes with self-sealing tanks and that 
none would have been sent into combat without such improve 
ments. 

In a letter to Stimson, I challenged him to dispute my figures 
and I asked: "Don't you think, Mr. Secretary . . . that even 
those people who are insisting that we enter the European war 
now should be advised that we are not as well prepared as were 
England and France in September 1939?" Stimson did not an 
swer the letter. 

Congress approved the lend-lease bill early in March. The 
act permitted any country whose defense the President deemed 
vital to ours to receive arms and other equipment and supplies 
by sale, transfer, exchange, or lease. 

Immediately afterward, I began speaking often under the 
auspices of the America First Committee. Today it is perhaps 
forgotten that the list of distinguished citizens backing the com 
mittee included a number who, like myself, were progressives on 
domestic issues. One was Chester Bowles, who was to become 
a certified liberal in the Truman and Kennedy administrations. 

In the fall of 1941 my speaking tour extended to Los An 
geles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver, Portland, and Seattle. 
In Seattle, we were refused the use of the city auditorium and 
for a time it looked as if we might have no place to meet. How 
ever, the owner of a large theater volunteered to cancel his 
movie for the evening in order to let me speak there. 

I drew capacity crowds. Sometimes they included organized 
groups who came to heckle. Several times, eggs were thrown 
but missed me. They didn't bother me because I had learned in 
my thirty years of handling rough political audiences how to 
make the heckling boomerang. 

After Hitler broke his pact with Russia on June 22, 1941, I 
became the target for Communists at the America First meet 
ings. This was a salutary development. While the pact was in 



The President and the Plan 29 

effect, the Communists had supported me, as they had other 
non-interventionists. But it gave my enemies a chance to charge 
that "everyone knew" Burt Wheeler had been a Bolshevik in 
disguise back in his wild West days. 

I also was revolted by the professional hate-groups and other 
crackpots who for their own unwholesome reasons supported 
the America First movement. I publicly condemned the Nazis' 
racial and religious persecutions and stated that I wanted noth 
ing to do with organized prejudice. 

The haters were as hard as maggots to shake off. For exam 
ple, there was a letter from an openly anti-Semitic Kansan urg 
ing me to take out after the Jews. In my reply, which I placed 
in the Congressional Record, I told him I was not anti-Semitic 
and was trying to keep any such overtones out of our campaign. 

The theme of our campaign was that, step by step, our poli 
cies were taking us right into the middle of the war and would 
eventually help to make the world safe for communism. 

In September 1941 the United States Navy was ordered to 
do merchant convoy duty as far as Iceland and on October 9 
the President asked Congress to modify the Neutrality Act of 
1939 to permit arming of our merchantmen engaged in over 
seas commerce and sending them through combat zones. Six 
days later, the American destroyer, Kearny, was torpedoed and 
damaged by a German submarine west of Iceland. 

One night in October I had a telephone call from Max 
Lowenthal, a well-known liberal lawyer who had headed the 
railroad investigating staff of the Interstate Commerce Commit 
tee and was close to the "palace guard" of the New Deal. Low 
enthal said the President wanted to see me but suggested I first 
have a talk with Lowell Mellett, a White House aide. Mellett 
had been a good friend of mine ever since, as a newspaperman, 
he had covered my 1924 campaign when I ran as Senator Robert 
La Follette's running mate on the Independent Progressive 
ticket. I agreed to breakfast with Mellett at LowenthaFs home 
in Chevy Chase. 

There Mellett assured me that FDR wanted to be known 
above all as the man who kept us out of war and that he wanted 
to play the key role at a peace conference. 



30 'Yankee from the West 

"Woodrow Wilson had it in the palm of his hand at Ver 
sailles but he wasn't a politician and he let it slip through his 
fingers/' Mellett explained. "But Roosevelt is a politician and 
he can handle these people." 

"Lowell/' I told him, "that's hard to believe in the light of 
statements made by Knox [Secretary of the Navy] and others." 

"Will you believe me?" Mellett asked. 

"Yes," I said, "but I doubt that you correctly interpret what's 
in the President's mind." 

We spent five hours that morning analyzing Roosevelt's in 
tentions. Mellett kept insisting the President wanted me to 
come to the White House some evening and talk the whole 
thing over. 

"I'll be glad to go down and talk to him any time he wants," 
I said, "but you tell him I'm not seeking an invitation." 

I never heard from the President in connection with this 
overture. But it galled me to think that FDR was still posing 
as a would-be peacemaker. It was and still is my conviction 
that the President felt our entry into the war was inevitable. 
I knew there was an emotional tug working in him. Several 
times in past conversations with me he had revealed himself 
as an unabashed Anglophile. For example., when he called me 
in to discuss the Court-packing bill, he commented in passing, 
"Well, that's what they have over in England and we ought to 
have it." At other times, he had sought to bolster a point on 
another issue by pointing out, "Well, that's what England 
does." 

No doubt Roosevelt, both before and right after the war 
started in Europe, did aspire to be the great mediator at a great 
peace conference. But evidence has since come to light in 
dicating that his administration's refusal to make any conces 
sions at all to Germany's Lebensraum killed any chances for a 
peaceful settlement. 

In October 1939 I had publicly urged that the President take 
a more positive role as a mediator "before the forces of com 
munism have an opportunity to spread their doctrine through 
out the war-torn continent" Evil as Nazi imperialism was, I 



The President and the Plan 31 

suspected that Communist techniques might be even more dan 
gerous and far-reaching. 

Can anyone be certain now that the United States could 
have stayed out of World War II? Obviously not. What I am 
certain of is that FDR, from whatever motivations, never tried 
to keep us out of the war while deliberately misleading the 
people into thinking that he was. 

I believe we might have avoided an attack if the President 
had required Hull to negotiate seriously and realistically with 
the Japanese. Hull adamantly rejected and ridiculed all Japa 
nese claims that their policies were primarily motivated by the 
need to contain the spread of communism in China and the 
Far East. The continual tightening of the screws on Japan 
made that government feel that negotiations were feckless, that 
war was inevitable, and that they would do well to hit us first. 
This they did at Pearl Harbor, and a few days later we were 
forced into war with Germany. 

Once we were in the war, I never at any time favored mak 
ing a deal with Hitler. But in the spring of 1944 we h&d reports 
that there was a strong movement in Germany to oust Hitler. 
If FDR had followed the example of Woodrow Wilson and told 
the German people what the allies wanted instead of insisting 
on unconditional surrender, the German people might have 
overthrown their dictator. That might have saved the lives of 
tens of thousands of American boys and avoided tragic political 
consequences. Our leaders trusted and followed "good old Joe" 
Stalin, so today we are reaping the global whirlwind. 

Today our enemies of 1941-45 are our friends and our Rus 
sian and Chinese friends of that era are our enemies. War sim 
ply does not settle anything. I felt that it was World War I that 
brought about the collapse of the Czarist Russian government 
and alienated the Russian people from the West thereafter. 
We fought the first war to make the world safe for democracy 
and the world got dictators and less freedom. 

During the so-called "short of war" period in 1941, I shared 
the sentiments of Hanson Baldwin when he wrote in United 
We Stand: "To fight or not to fight should be the decision of the 
American people. 



32 Yankee from the West 

"We must have done with machinations behind Washing 
ton's political stage ... we must not be edged into war without 
understanding what we are doing," Baldwin warned. 

I was more concerned than less-informed Americans who 
shared my philosophy because I knew something about the 
machinations behind the political stage. I had had several more 
visits from the worried Army captain. In September 1941 he 
told me that the armed forces, at the direction of the President 
himself, had drawn up a master plan for a gigantic American 
Expeditionary Force. After Lowell Mellett tried to convince me 
FDR was sincere about the role of a peacemaker, I was eager 
to see how far the President was actually going in facing both 
ways at the same time. 

I asked the captain if I could see the plan. On December 3, 
he brought to my house a document as thick as an average 
novel, wrapped in brown paper and labeled the "Victory Pro 
gram." I asked him if he was afraid of delivering the most 
closely-guarded secret in Washington to a senator. 

"Congress is a branch of the government," he replied. "I 
think it has a right to know what's really going on in the execu 
tive branch when it concerns human lives." 

The captain left the document with me. As I scanned its 
contents, my blood pressure rose. I felt strongly that this was 
something tie people as well as a senator should know about. 
It would awaken the public to what was in store for them if 
we entered the warand the fact that we probably would. The 
document undercut the repeated statements of Roosevelt and 
his followers that repeal of the neutrality acts, lend-lease, the 
destroyer deal, and similar measures, would keep us out of the 
European conflict. From the fact that there were only five 
copies of the document in existence and all were numbered 
and registered it seemed probable to me that some top-rank 
ing officer or official must have ordered or authorized the dis 
closure. 

I was also satisfied that disclosure of the document involved 
no violation of existing law, and indeed no one ever suggested 
that the captain was guilty of an illegal act. The plan would 
not aid the Axis powers because it was not an operational war 



The President and the Plan 33 

plan and I would not have considered exposing it if it had been. 
Rather it was a prospectus a set of estimates of the manpower 
and production requirements we would need to win the war. 
And it was based on the conclusion that the United States 
would soon have to wage a global war if Germany and Japan 
were to be defeated. 

I could have taken the document to the Senate Foreign Re 
lations Committee, but I was sure that in view of its record of 
subservience to the administration the committee would bury 
it. So I showed it to Chesly Manly, a Washington correspond 
ent for the Chicago Tribune. I liked Manly and knew his paper 
would give the plan the kind of attention it deserved. 

Manly was as startled and fascinated as I was by the report. 
I arranged for him to come to my home that evening to make 
extracts, There for several hours we selected the most impor 
tant sections and had them copied in shorthand by one of my 
secretaries. The document had to be back in the hands of the 
Army officer by early morning so it could be returned to its 
niche in the War Department. 

The next morning the capital read Manly's account of the 
document in the Washington Times-Herald, a sister paper of 
the Chicago Tribune. Under a big banner headline, the story 
began: 

"A confidential report prepared by the joint Army and Navy 
high command by direction of President Roosevelt calls for an 
American Expeditionary Force aggregating five million men 
for a final land offensive against Germany and her satellites. 
It contemplates total armed forces of 10,045,658 men. It is a 
blueprint for total war on a scale unprecedented in at least two 
oceans and three continents, Europe, Africa, and Asia. 

"The report expresses the considered opinion of the Army 
and Navy strategists," the story continued, "that 'Germany and 
her European satellites cannot be defeated by the European 
powers now fighting against her/ Therefore, it concludes, 'if 
our European enemies are to be defeated it will be necessary 
for the United States to enter the war, and to employ a part 
of its armed forces offensively in the eastern Atlantic and in 
Europe and Africa.' July i, 1943, is fixed as the date for the 



3 4 Yankee from the West 

beginning of the final supreme effort by American land forces 
to defeat the mighty German army in Europe." 

In the meantime. Manly wrote, the plan proposed to step up 
participation by the United States in the war througji the 
"gradual encirclement of Germany by the establishment of 
military bases, an American air offensive against Germany 
from bases in the British Isles and in the Near East, and possi 
ble action by American expeditionary forces in Africa and the 
Near East," 

The story continued with facts and statistics from the report 
for several more columns. They vindicated an exclusive article 
Manly had written after FDR and Churchill had held their At 
lantic Charter meeting aboard warships off Newfoundland in 
August. After the President had filled in his congressional lead 
ers back in Washington, Manly wrote that the Roosevelt- 
Churchill agreement called for an ultimate land invasion of 
the continent of Europe as the only possible method of defeat 
ing Germany, and that such an invasion would depend upon 
the assistance of a vast American expeditionary force. Senate 
Democratic leader Alben W. Barkley had done his duty for the 
White House by denouncing the Manly story on the Senate 
floor as a "deliberate falsehood.** 

The December 4, 1941, issue of the Times-Herald was a sell 
out shortly after it hit the newsstands. Mass reading of the 
Manly story brought work to a standstill in many government 
departments and agencies and in the House of Representatives 
after it convened. The administration was too stunned to make 
any official comment for twenty-four hours. However, Secretary 
of the Navy Frank Knox, upon leaving a conference with the 
President, told newsmen that "all departments are investigat 
ing how they got that report." (Meanwhile, Colonel Robert R. 
McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, called it "per 
haps the greatest scoop in the history of journalism" in his 
congratulatory wire to Arthur Sears Henning, chief of the 
Tribune's Washington bureau. ) 

Interventionist senators and congressmen sought to minimize 
the importance of the document, insisting it was merely a high 
command plan, not a high level commitment But no one knew 



The President and the Plan 35 

its significance better than the officer who drew up the Army 
part of the report Major Albert C. Wedemeyer, who is now a 
retired general. 

Wedemeyer has since written in his book, Wedemeyer Re 
ports, published in 1958, that he was frankly appalled when he 
picked up the Times-Herald and saw his top-secret handiwork 
spread out in cold type. He called it "political dynamite/* 

"Here was irrefutable evidence/' Wedemeyer wrote, "that 
American intervention in the war was planned and imminent, 
and that President Roosevelt's promises to keep us out of the 
war were only campaign oratory." 

The brilliant Wedemeyer, then in the Army War Plans divi 
sion, had been assigned to carry out a July 9, 1941, directive 
from the President to the armed forces secretaries to draw up 
an estimate of "the over-all production requirements required 
to defeat our potential enemies." He supervised the gathering 
of facts and conclusions from Army and Air Force chiefs for 
what became known as the Victory Program. The over-all re 
port was approved by the joint Army and Navy board and de 
livered to FDR in September. 

At his press conference on December 5 the President silenced 
questions from reporters by saying he had nothing to say about 
the Manly story it would all be said by Stimson. The Secretary 
of War called a special press conference and read a prepared 
statement no questions were permitted denouncing those re 
sponsible for the article as guilty of a lack of Royalty and 
patriotism/' 

Stimson called the report a set of staff studies which "have 
never been constituted and authorized as a program of the 
government. While the publication will doubtless be of gratifi 
cation to our potential enemies . . . the chief evil of their 
publication is the revelation that there should be among us any 
group of persons . . . willing to take and publish such papers/' 

Stimson apparently did not realize that existence of the re 
port already had been leaked to the press more than a month 
before. In the October 20, 1941, issue of The Wall Street Jour 
nal, Eugene S. Duffield had disclosed that a vast "Victory Pro 
gram" was being drawn up to ''beat Hitler" and that "an 



36 Yankee from the West 

attacking army is contemplated." Duffield presumably had not 
seen the report itself and I myself did not learn of his article 
until years later. 

Stephen T. Early, the White House press secretary, did not 
join in Stimson's condemnation of publication of the report. He 
noted that American newspapers were "operating as a free 
press" and said that "the right to print the news is unchal 
lenged." 

I repeat we would not have exposed the contents of the re 
port if we had believed it would give information of value to 
the axis powers. It was not an operational war plan, but it bore 
out my charges against Roosevelt. Significantly, the United 
States government overseas radio blared Manl/s story for this 
reason. There were those in Washington who speculated that 
FDR himself might have leaked the report as a morale booster 
to the allies who were anxious for reassurance that "the Yanks 
are coining" once again. 

The FBI immediately began an examination of how the se 
curity breakdown had occurred. Wedemeyer was grilled and 
for three days Manly was called into the Justice Department 
for lengthy interrogations. He maintained that as a newspaper 
reporter he could not disclose his source. He admitted knowing 
me, along with many other senators. So far as I know, I was 
never investigated in connection with the leak. But Senator 
David L Walsh of Massachusetts, then chairman of the Naval 
Affairs Committee, told me he was tailed for several days. 

The hulkballoo over the document died as suddenly as it 
erupted. Three days after the story appeared, the Japanese at 
tacked Pearl Harbor. When I heard the tragic news over the 
radio, I gave this statement to the press: "Let's lick hell out of 
them." 



Chapter Two 



YANKEE, GO WEST 



While I was usually branded as a two-fisted Westerner, 
and sometimes as a natural product of Montana's brass-knuckle 
era, I was born and raised as a New England Yankee. To my 
mind there is nothing illogical in the fact that a symbol of the 
independent political tradition of the Northwest sprang origi 
nally from the hard-shelled heritage of the Northeast. The set 
tlers of Massachusetts had to be tough-spirited in more ways 
than one. My people were accustomed to plain living, plain 
speaking, and uncompromising principle-an inheritance which 
stood me in good stead when I hit the last frontier. 

Both sides of my family landed in the colonies well over 
three centuries ago. My great-great-great-great-great paternal 
grandfather was Obadiah Wheeler, a Quaker who fled from 
Odell, England, in 1635 to escape religious persecution. Oba 
diah and a good many other Wheelersit was one of the most 
common surnames in America prior to 1650 founded the town 
of Concord, Massachusetts. He had six children by his first 
wife and, after her death, two sons by a second wife. These 



3 Yankee from the West 

were Josiah, who was killed by Indians, and Obadiah, my 
progenitor. 

In 1672 Obadiah married Elizabeth White, whose grand 
father, William White, had been a passenger on the May 
flower. They inherited old Obadiah's house and extensive lands 
and had nine children. Their fifth son, Jonathan, was the great- 
great-grandfather of Asa Leonard Wheeler, who was my father. 

Father married Mary Elizabeth Tyler, a descendant of the 
Puritan Tylers who arrived in the Bay Colony in 1631. The 
Tyler family included a Lieutenant Dudley Tyler, who served 
as an Army chaplain in the Revolutionary War. (As far as I 
know, this is as close as any of my forbears came to distin 
guishing themselves as warriors; apparently, they hated war as 
much as I always have.) My maternal grandmother was a 
Kendall, another well-known family in Massachusetts history 
and one to which I owe my middle name. 

The turmoil and turbulence which whirled around me after 
I went West as a young man were missing from my early years, 
which were passed in a pleasant if somewhat austere atmos 
phere. I was born on February 27, 1882, at Hudson, Massachu 
setts, whence the Wheelers had long since moved. Hudson, 
twenty-three miles west of Boston, was then an industrial town 
of five or six thousand people and a typical New England town 
in the best sense of the word. My memories of it could be 
etched in a whole gallery of Currier & Ives prints. There were 
all the landmarks of the classic late Victorian setting-red brick 
town hall; prim white frame churches; sprawling white frame 
gingerbread houses; many with barns attached; rich green 
lawns; and spreading elm, maple, and fruit trees. 

Hudson's principal industry was shoe manufacturing and my 
father, Asa, was a cobbler by trade. I was the youngest of ten 
children but by the time I was growing up all had left home 
except my brother, Ernest, six years older, and my sister 
Maude, three years older. Father seldom earned more than $ 
a week but we were self-sufficient and never lacked for neces 
sities. We lived in an eight-room frame house, unmortgaged 
about a mile out from town. We kept a horse and cow and 
raised pigs and chickens. 



Yankee, Go West OQ 

In true Quaker tradition, father was a peaceable man, nota 
bly quiet and unassuming. Self-educated beyond grade school, 
he had a natural talent for mathematics and developed a love 
of reading. I recall him reading aloud to us about the Civil 
War and mispronouncing the word "Shenandoah" (he ac 
cented the second syllable). He even read widely of the works 
of Robert G. Ingersoll, whose attacks on the Bible were not well 
favored in our town. Father seldom got into arguments but one 
thing that did agitate him was intolerance. When I was a young 
boy, there was some activity by the notoriously anti-Catholic 
American Protective Association in Massachusetts. Father re 
called that the Quakers had been oppressed in England and 
pointed out that persecution could happen here too, not only 
to Catholics but to any minority. 

The Catholics in Hudson were the Irish immigrants and a 
cluster of French Canadians who were not popular because 
they undercut our wage scale. Incidentally, my close associa 
tion with Irish Catholics started early and continued at every 
turn right through my life. I always got along with these color 
ful people first rate, politically and every other way, and I trust 
our relations have been mutually satisfactory. 

Altogether, my father was easygoing, not what you would 
call a disciplinarian. Mother was the boss. She was short and 
stout, with black hair worn in curls. Her complexion was darker 
than the blond Wheelers, whom I took after. Mother never 
gossiped (nor did I ever hear Father say an ill word about 
anybody). In fact, she held herself somewhat aloof and never 
became intimate with the neighbors she would not even bor 
row a cup of sugar from them, though she was always friendly 
enough. 

Mother was a Methodist and had had the strictest kind of 
upbringing. As a girl, she was obliged to stay indoors on Sunday 
and do absolutely nothing. She recalled that during thunder 
storms the family had to sit perfectly still because Grandmother 
Kendall knew that "the people on this earth are very wicked 
and God has to speak to them in angry terms." 

Well, Mother was not that strict with us but she exacted 



40 Yankee from the West 

obedience and set the highest moral standards. Nothing both 
ered her more than a lie. 

Td rather have you steal than lie to me," she told us. "A liar 
can't be believed even when he's telling the truth. And if you 
tell one lie, you have to tell ten more." 

Mother kept handy a little rawhide whip. The end of it was 
about as thick as my finger is now. Maude insists Mother never 
used it on me. Maude and Ernest thought she favored me, 
partly because I was considered scholarly and partly because 
very early I was afflicted with asthma. I was very thin. When I 
grew to six feet in my teens, I was shaped like a stringbean. 

I seem to have inherited more characteristics from Mother's 
side of the family. The Tylers were willing to take a chance 
and risk a great deal. Mother was aggressive. If anything went 
wrong, she fought for us. For instance, J. C. Mackin, our ele 
mentary school principal, once decided that I was the cause of 
some horseplay (for once, I wasn't) while we were in line 
marching into school. He grabbed me by the collar so hard 
that he tore my shirt. This so infuriated Mother that she took 
me to Mackms home that evening and really laid him out," 
as the saying goes, for ripping my shirt. 

Mother loved to go driving in our buggy and usually took 
me along. As we rattled over the gravel roads, she would sing 
"Carry Me Back to Old Virginny* or some other favorite. She 
loved to sing and she sang a great deal. I felt very close to her. 

As far back as I can remember, Mother wanted me to aim 
for the study of kw, a profession which until then included 
none of our relatives. Probably even more of an influence on 
me was my grandfather Tyler. "Old Abe Tyler" was one of the 
shining ornaments of our region. Like most of the other Tylers 
and Wheelers, he was a farmer. But people often sought him 
out to consult on points of law, although what he knew on the 
subject he had picked up by himself. 

Abe Tyler was a very handsome man, with a well-built phy 
sique, sideburns, and a mustache. He was a powerful speaker. 
He would have scorned a microphone. His organ-like tones 
needed no amplifying. Nothing suited him better than the pure 
democracy of our town hall meetings. He would take any side 



Yankee, Go West ^ 

of any subject. Once, when lie was seventy years old and hard 
of hearing, a delegation came to him during a meeting and 
asked him to speak for them. Soon Grandfather was at the 
rostrum, making the rafters ring. When he sat down, the ap 
plause was explosive from everyone except those who had 
asked him to speak. They looked stunned. Their spokesman 
slipped over to Grandfather and said, "My God, Abe, you 
talked on the wrong side!" 

Unperturbed, Grandfather shot his cuffs and replied with a 
twinkle, "Well, wait awhile and I'll make another speech/' A 
little later., he again mounted the platform and this time stir 
ringly answered his first argument. Again he brought the house 
down. 

Abe Tyler had the kind of wit that made the Irish in Hudson 
kid him about having some Irish blood in his veins. On politics, 
he was regarded as a local sage, though he never ran for office. 
He discussed history and politics with the ease of a savant. 
Some of his ideas he undoubtedly absorbed from his close con 
tact with Ben Butler, the famous Civil War general, lawyer, 
and, for five terms, congressman from Lowell, Massachusetts. 
Like most everyone we knew, Butler had started out as a Re 
publican. But he didn't stay hitched. In 1882 he was elected 
Governor of Massachusetts on the combined Democratic and 
National (Greenback) tickets. In 1884 he was a candidate for 
President on the Greenback and Anti-Monopoly tickets. 

Father and Grandfather similarly developed their own think 
ing on politics. Father used to take me to the Republicans' 
torchlight parades in Hudson but I know that deep down he 
was as unorthodox about politics as he was about most things. 
As for Abe Tyler, he once attended a national convention of 
the Populist Party. 

Thus I had no compunctions when I found myself being car 
ried away by the radical economic gospel of William Jennings 
Bryan (though I never heard him speak until I was in college). 
In fact, I agreed to uphold Bryan's free silver policy in a high 
school debate with a preacher's son. It was my first public 
argument. 

When I became outspoken in espousing Bryan's low tariff 



42 Yankee from the West 

policies too, my brothers were disgusted. They pointed out how 
Massachusetts industries would suffer under free trade. All my 
brothers were hopelessly Republican. 

Persuaded by Mother and Grandfather Tyler that I should 
become a lawyer, I worked at anything I could find to save 
something for my education. I picked blueberries and huckle 
berries on our place and peddled them through town, at ten 
cents a quart. Grandfather paid me two cents a box to pick 
strawberries on his farm. 

We raised apples and potatoes and in addition I had my 
own pigs and chickens. I also had a lamb, which gave birth to 
twins annually. I raised the little lambs and then sold them to 
the local woolen mill. I had fun with those lambs but I can't 
say the same for our cow. Pasture was a mile away and this 
meant I had to escort her along the streetcar tracks running 
past our house to the nearby town of Marlboro. En route, I 
ran the gauntlet of catcalls from the town smart-alecks who 
liked to sit on the fence and poke fun at the country hick with 
the cow. 

Sometimes I earned forty cents for a whole afternoon of sell 
ing peanuts, popcorn, and lemonade at the trotting track which 
was hard by our back yard. I was fascinated by these races. I 
may be a born gambler, as some observers have concluded 
after close study of my career, but it was not the betting that 
attracted me. I was excited by the dashing panoply of the 
track the beautiful horses, the trainers, the jockeys, the sulkies. 
I chatted with the "swipes," as those who took care of the 
horses were called, and I believe that at one time I knew the 
record of every trotting horse in the country. 

Secretly, I pretended I was part of the track. In our barn I 
began to curry and "train" our horse as if he were a profes 
sional trotter, which he in no way resembled. I bathed his legs, 
soaked his feet, rubbed him down and talked to him encourag 
ingly. When the trainers learned this, they persuaded me to 
hitch our nag to a sulky and drive hi at his own cautious pace 
around the half-mile racing grounds while they sat on the 
rails and shouted us on. 

I was about eigjit years old at the time and Mother was not 



Yankee, Go West 43 

amused. She worried some about my swimming in the Assabet 
River in summer and ice-skating there in winter. The Assabet 
ran right through the town and had been the scene of some 
bad accidents. We also fished in its waters for perch and pick 
erel. 

Most of our excitement we created ourselves. But occasion 
ally there was a rousing local event, like the outdoor band 
concerts for which the whole town turned out. For me the 
climax of the year was the series of sham battles re-creating 
the early days of the Revolutionary War on the Fourth of 
July. They started in Lexington and went on through Concord 
and other towns. My friends and I followed along, yelling, as 
the costumed rebels and redcoats deployed and fired their 
blanks realistically. No colonist in 1775 ever cheered louder 
than I did when a redcoat bit the dust. We had been steeped 
in the lore of the Revolution and I still bore a grudge against 
John Bull. 

Another New England "game" which fascinated me was the 
ubiquitous horse-trading as practiced by those shrewd Yan 
kees. Inasmuch as I loved horses and enjoyed any battle of 
sharp wits, I got my father to take me to die horse marts as 
often as possible. Gypsies came through Boston, Bolton, and 
Worcester with horses to trade. The farmers tried to outsmart 
them. I liked to watch a farmer go over a horse inch by inch, 
trying to find out whether he had spasms, whether he kicked, 
how long his teeth were, and so forth. 

Once, my uncle Fred Tyler took me into Hudson with him 
to trade a horse. When the deal was about to be closed, I real 
ized there was a vital piece of information which my uncle had 
not seen fit to broach. I couldn't resist supplying it. I pointed 
at Uncle Fred's horse. 

"He kicks," I blurted. 

The other man laughed and the trade was off. It was a long 
time before Uncle Fred took me with him again. 

Several years later, I felt confident enough to invest some of 
my hard-earned savings in my knowledge of horseflesh. At an 
auction in Boston, I put in a successful bid of $25 on a splendid 
horse. The auctioneer told me to come back in a few days and 



44 Yankee from the West 

take delivery. When I returned, I got a shock. The horse they 
presented to me was the same color as the one I had bid on- 
gray but there the resemblance ended. This animal was sway- 
backed and looked old and tired enough to have pulled a char 
iot for Ben-Hur. I had been tricked but there was nothing I 
could do to prove it legally. I went home wiser but minus $25 
and minus a horse. 

Our family unit was strong and it centered around the home. 
There was no high or loose living, Mother, of course, opposed 
smoking and drinking out of her religious convictions. Father 
would take an occasional glass of wine, but if someone gave 
him a bottle of whisky it was likely to stand on the closet shelf 
for years. He never played cards and he never swore. The 
strongest term he ever used when he was really upset was 
"Godfrey!" Nor did he indulge in smokingwhich, of course, 
was forbidden to me. Once, a chum, Joe Hanion, and I found a 
cigar and sneaked around behind the barn to try it. I smoked 
it enough to get sick, and Mother demanded to know the cause 
of my illness. I told her I had been rolling down a big hill which 
was near our house. But Ernest, overhearing this, told Mother 
he was certain I had been smoking. When I stuck to my false 
hoodand Ernest stuck to his accusation Mother took her 
rawhide whip and gave Ernest a hiding, The outcome of this 
incident so upset me I never lied to her again. 

We attended the Baptist Sunday school because most of the 
neighborhood boys and girls drove there and gave us a ride. 
On Saturday nights we often went to dances at Hudson High 
School or at nearby Boone Lake. I recall with pleasure that 
there were some really nice girls and some really pretty ones 
in our crowd. Outside our immediate crowd there were a cou 
ple of Irish girls I was interested in, but their families were 
nothing less than appalled at them for smiling at a Protestant. 

One girl was Minnie McCarthy, a striking blonde. We tried 
to meet at her aunt's house because her stepmother pretended 
to faint every time she heard Minnie was planning to see me. 
Minnie had a sense of humor and she was resourceful. Once, 
when she had a date with me in midwinter and her stepmother 
went into her swoon on schedule, the girl took a bucket of snow 



Yankee, Go West 45 

and dumped it on the prostrate woman to revive her. The poor 
stepmother never "fainted*' again but I was still unwelcome. 

Mamie Cunningham, who sat in front of me at school, also 
was a charmer. Calling at her house became downright haz 
ardous. She lived on High Street, in an Irish enclave near the 
Catholic church. The second time I accompanied her home 
from school I was spotted as an alien. Rocks were thrown and 
I beat an ignominious retreat 

I played football and baseball with sandlot teams. Once, 
our football team went to Maynard, six miles from Hudson, and 
took on a team representing the woolen mill there. Those fac 
tory hands played rough. One big tackle simply picked me up 
I was a lightweight end and then hurled me to the ground, 
where I landed on my back. After that game, I lost interest in 
football. 

While I had no talent for languages, I inherited my father's 
gift for mathematics and altogether I did well in high school 
without trying too hard. I had a tendency to cut up in class 
and several times the principal notified my father about it, al 
though there were never any major charges preferred against 
me. The principal was a large, inept fellow from Maine whose 
name I have conveniently forgotten. He was a crackpot on 
bees. One question about bees would divert him from the sub 
ject at hand for the rest of the class period. We tried to make a 
fool of him in some ways. He suspected that I, at least, was 
succeeding. 

Once, he took me into the basement of the school, locked 
the door and said he was going to give me a "thrashing.* He out 
weighed me by about sixty pounds and I was sure he could do 
it. I summoned up all my forensic powers and managed to 
talk him out of it. 

Another time, the principal summoned me to his office and 
thundered that once again I had been guilty of upsetting class 
decorum. 

"Why pick on me?" I asked in a tone that millions of ag 
grieved students have used before and since. 

"Your voice was heard distinctly/' he said. 

I made the point that I was often the scapegoat simply be- 



46 Yankee from the West 

cause my voice carried almost as strongly as Grandfather 
Tyler's. 

"The trouble with you, Wheeler/' he replied, with a sad 
shake of his head, "is that you have no respect for your su 
periors." 

Much the same sort of accusation was leveled at me in later 
years whenever I bucked entrenched authority. The charge is 
true to the extent that I have always pointedly avoided kow 
towing to people of wealth, social position, or power. 

Fortunately, the beekeeper was succeeded during my high 
school years by a principal who was as good as his predecessor 
had been bad. This was Charles Williams, then a young man. 
Williams was so interesting as a teacher that he had no prob 
lems about discipline. 

Shortly before graduation, Williams told me he and the other 
teachers had been talking over what each of the graduates 
ought to do. They all agreed that I was fitted for the law. I 
explained that I had always intended to study law but that 
there was no money to send me to college. Besides, Mother had 
died two years before and it had seemed like the end of the 
world. My ambition had gone to the grave with her. I had given 
up Latin, among other subjects, which was a necessary credit 
for the regular hi^h school diploma. Now I would not be eligible 
for college. 

A few days later Williams took me aside again and made me 
a generous proposition. He had found out that I had done more 
work than anyone else in the class and that I had almost earned 
the regular diploma. He asked me whether, if the school 
awarded me one, I would give my word to study law. I told him 
I would. So on graduation night I became, as far as I know, the 
only Hudson High School graduate in history to walk off with 
two diplomas, one from the business course and one from the 
general course. 

But first I had to go to work. Through an employment agency 
I got a stenographer's job with Chandler and Farquhar, a 
wholesale hardware firm in Boston. My salary was $6 a week 
and it cost me $2 a week to commute from Hudson. When I 
jumped to the firm's competitor for $10 a week three months 



Yankee, Go West 47 

later, Farquhar shook his head. "A rolling stone gathers no 
moss/' he reminded me with a dreadfully straight face. 

I rolled from one job to another in swift succession, gathering 
no moss but a few dollars more per week with each shift, In 
May 1902 1 was working for the American Optical Company at 
Southbridge for $13 a week but switched unhesitatingly to the 
Draper Manufacturing Company at Hopedale for two dollars 
more, In September, I asked for a raise to $18 and was told I 
could have it in January. Many men were supporting families 
on $15 a week at the time and my terms must have sounded 
presumptuous. As a matter of fact, the highest paid man in the 
Draper office force was drawing $20 a week and there were 
other employees who had been there for twenty years making 
less than that. Nonetheless, I said I would have to have the 
three-dollar wage boost right away. 

My bosses countered with a guarantee to pay me as much as 
I could earn in Boston or Worcester. I replied that my next 
stop would be neither of those places; I intended to study law. 
They reminded me that the state was full of young lawyers 
starving to death, whereas if I remained with Draper as a ste 
nographer and bookkeeper I could look forward to financial 
security. This appeared to be a bleak future indeed for a young 
fellow who was not looking for security, financial or otherwise. 

When they finally refused the raise, I quit the Draper firm 
and headed for the University of Michigan Law School at Ana 
Arbor, Michigan. The school had an excellent reputation na 
tionally and in addition I had a report on it firsthand from a 
cousin, Walter Wheeler, who had been out there for a year. 
Walter, who was a Tufts College graduate, was the first law 
student I knew of in our Wheeler clan. He wrote me that he was 
sure I could work my way through the school, 

My savings at that point amounted to $750 but I was facing 
a three-year course and was determined to hang on to as much 
of it as I could. So I got two jobs on the Ann Arbor campus. Dur 
ing my first and second years I earned $15 a month working in 
the office of Dean Harry B. Hutchins, the eminent head of the 
Michigan Law School and later president of the university. I 
did stenography and kept track of his files and other matters. 



4 g Yankee from the West 

Meanwhile, I waited on tables at a students' boardinghouse 
three times a day. For this I got no pay but free board, which 
was worth $2.25 a week. 

Although I could eat all I could hold in this job, my six-foot 
frame still packed only 130 pounds. I felt so unhealthy by 
spring that I sought out one of the best doctors in Ann Arbor. 
"So you work in the deans officel" he exploded. "Well, the 
dean has killed one man already and he's got you well on the 
way. If you don t get outside and get some exercise and sun 
shine, you'll wind up in North Carolina or Colorado/' 

Obviously he considered me a ripe prospect for tuberculosis. 
Despite his warning, I stuck to my all-work-and-no-play routine 
throughout the semester. Then I accepted an offer from a medi 
cal student, Alexander Sanders De Witt, whom I had met at 
the boardinghouse. De Witt said he made $300 the pre 
vious summer peddling aluminum ware from door to door in 
Illinois, This summer he had a deal to sell books and he wanted 
me as his partner. 

The Job appealed to me because it would keep me out of 
doors, it would reveal the corn belt to a provincial Easterner, 
and it would let me try my hand at selling. The book to be 
disposed of was a remarkable all-purpose volume, Dr. Chase's 
Receipt Book, published by the F. B. Dickerson Company of 
Detroit, The preface explained that it contained "the Favorite 
Medical Receipts of Over One Hundred of the Best Physicians 
and Nurses of this and Foreign Countries. It also contains the 
Original, Genuine, Last and Complete Collection of Medical 
and Cooking Receipts and the Very Choicest Medical Receipts 
of the World Renowned Dr. A. W. Chase." 

Dr. Chase, a resident of Ann Arbor, supplied advice for fac 
ing the everyday hazards of farm life, including "Suffocation 
from Hanging/' Also listed were 500 cooking recipes, treatments 
for every known disease of humans and livestock, and 23 pages 
on "Midwifery-Nursing/' Although it seemed the book met 
every conceivable emergency, one of the first farm women I 
approached flabbergasted me by asking if it told what to do in 
case of "falling of the womb." I admitted I didn't knowand 
I still don't. 



Yankee, Go West 49 

The prescriptions included some amazing homemade tonics. 
The most formidable was Mrs, Chase's Magic Tonic for Weak 
and Debilitated Females. This brew was concocted of two 
quarts each of whisky and cider mixed with cloves and a few 
ounces each of four kinds of rare bark. You shook the jug daily 
for ten days, removed the dregs and helped yourself to a wine 
glass of the stuff after every meal. 

I am happy to report that Mrs. Wheeler never felt the need 
of so drastic a remedy but both Chases apparently valued it as 
a bracer. 

1 have made this for my wife several times and I did not 
fail to help her dispose of it occasionally myself/ 9 Dr. Chase 
wrote in a sly testimonial. "Her remark has often been, 'Oh! 
What an appetite it gives me/ etc. It is-very pleasant to take.* 

Thus with some justification the publisher claimed that "the 
old Doctor had a plain, simple and home-like style of writing 
never before or since attained by any other writer on similar 
subjects." 

The book, which is said to have sold several million copies in 
the United States and foreign countries over a long period of 
years, was offered in German and Norwegian editions as well 
as English. The leather-bound volume sold for $3.50 and the 
cloth-bound for $2.50. The salesman made a 50 per cent com 
mission on every sale. Ours was positively the "third and last 
edition," or so we were authorized to say, but it was hard to 
sell to someone who thought he had already purchased every 
thing there was to know in the first or second edition. 

Fortunately, we didn't have to tote the heavy book. We car 
ried brochures and order forms in a schoolbag but the customer 
didn't have to sign anything. All he had to do was agree orally 
to pay cash on delivery. It was up to us to make deliveries and 
collect the cash in another round of calls later on. 

Our first stop was at Union Grove, a railroad depot a few 
miles from Morrison, Illinois. It was a blistering day in June 
and the corn fields were shimmering. We headed for a two- 
story brick farmhouse a few hundred yards away and rapped 
on the door. It was opened by a woman with a heavy German 
accent. We asked her for lodgings. She said she and her hus- 



go Yankee from the West 

band-the name was Smaltz never took in boarders. De Witt 
explained to her in his smattering of German that he was of 
German descent and that we were working our way through 
college. Apparently this kind of ambition was new to Whiteside 
County, for she immediately said we could stay. 

For the rest of the summer this was our routine for wangling 
board and room at little cost in an area where there were no 
hotels anyway. My only complaint was that we usually wound 
up in an overstuffed feather bed, which set off my asthma. I 
spent many a night sitting up trying to catch my breath. 

We stayed at the Smaltzes for a week, working the territory 
for miles around during the day. We split up and proceeded 
alone on foot from one farm to another. I don't recall ever being 
as tired as I was after tramping the dusty Illinois roads and 
fields that first day. I was so fatigued that when I got back to 
the fence bordering the Smaltzes' farm I lay down on the 
ground and rolled under it instead of climbing over. 

Most of the farm families were polite to me but some were 
hostile. Once, I tracked down an unusually dour-looking man 
who was in his field harvesting. He told me unequivocally he 
would not even listen to my sales pitch. Undaunted, I paused 
in the yard behind the farmhouse as I left and tried my argu 
ments on his wife. While I was still talking, the farmer returned 
from the fields and saw us. Instantly, he sicked the dog on me. 
I was afraid of dogs and this one was a mean-looking German 
shepherd. I lit out for the picket fence bordering the road, 
stimulated by the sound of hungry panting behind, and hurdled 
the fence at full speed how I don t know. 

If this does not seem like a relaxing way to spend one's sum 
mer vacation, I can only say it proved invaluable to me. Selling 
books door-to-door is regarded in the trade as the hardest kind 
of selling. I had to develop an aggressive approach toward 
strangers under distinctly unfavorable circumstances and to 
retain my poise despite their reactions. If someone slammed a 
door in my face, Td go on down the road laughing to myself 
and thinking, Well, you're mad at me but I'm not mad at you. 
The day we hit our next way station turned out to be one of 
the luckiest of my life. We fanned out from Garden Plains, a 



Yankee, Go West 51 

whistlestop in the central part of the state not far from the 
Mississippi River. Close to noon, I kept an eye out for a place 
that might yield a meal as well as a sale. I knocked at a neat- 
looking house and the door was thrown open by a slender teen 
age girl with dark brown hair and lively dark gray eyes. While 
I can't honestly report that it was love at first sight, it was 
clearly the loveliest sight Illinois had displayed thus far. My 
impulse was to hold this maiden's attention as long as possible. 

But all I could do was to doff my straw hat and ask with 
what I hoped was Eastern charmif she were "the lady of the 
house." She shook her head with a little smile, asked me to wait, 
and vanished. A minute later, her mother appeared, introduced 
herself as Mrs. White and invited me inside. I soon discovered 
there would be no sale. Mrs. White owned a second edition 
volume of Dr. Chase, on which she was standing pat. But I 
stalled long enough to get an invitation to dinner, the regular 
noon-hour meal. 

During dinner the family impressed me as being industrious 
and educated. Mrs. White had a strong, sprightly personality 
and her husband, John, a quiet, wiry man, obviously was farm 
ing his 120 acres intelligently. As for their daughter, Lulu, 
well . . . 

We got along so well I finally asked the Whites if they could 
put up De Witt and myself for a few nights. Mrs. White said 
they never took boarders and pointed out that this would be 
a bad time to do so. They had no hired girl just then and Lulu 
was about to go away for a week to a Methodist camp meeting. 

On Sunday, three days later, De Witt and I attended church 
at Garden Plains. As we left the church, I was pleasantly sur 
prised to see Mrs. White and her daughter driving right past 
us in their snappy, two-horse phaeton. I stopped them to say 
hello. 

"I thought you were going to a camp meeting/' I said reprov 
ingly to Lulu. 

"Well, the other girl couldn't go at the last minute," she ex 
plained. "And so I didn't go." 

I introduced them to De Witt and renewed my request for 
lodgings. 



52 Yankee from the West 

Mrs. White hesitated briefly, then smiled and said, "Well, 
since you're working your way through college, you can come 
for a few days." It was sweet music to my ears. 

We stayed with the Whites a week. They turned out to have 
a heritage much like the Wheelers. John White's father had left 
England about 1840 because of discrimination by the estab 
lished church. Mrs. White was an Adams whose forbears had 
come to this country long before that. They were devout Meth 
odists who said grace before every meal. 

At dinner the first night Mrs. White asked De Witt to say 
grace, I knew my grace was rusty and that night I lay awake 
worrying whether she would ask me to do the honors at break 
fast. About four o'clock in the morning I woke up De Witt and 
asked him to coach me in grace-saying which he did, as we lay 
there in bed. But at breakfast De Witt again got the nod, as he 
did at every meal from then on. Now my feelings went to the 
other extreme. I felt slighted. 

"Why doesn't your mother ever ask me to say grace?" I de 
manded of Lulu one night after dinner. She explained that De 
Witt had told the Whites he was a talented lay preacher. De 
Witt was not noted for his modesty, but he did have quite a 
fund of knowledge that covered medicine, electricity, and lan 
guages. And I knew for a fact that he had once been paid $10 
for taking an absent preacher's place and delivering a sermon 
(which, by the way, his brother, a clergyman, had written for 
him). This greatly impressed the Whites, who boasted of sev 
eral lay preachers in their own families. 

De Witt loved to talk and he spent almost every evening 
spellbinding Mrs. White. This was all right with me because 
I was "making time," as they say nowadays, with Lulu. He 
may have felt out of the running the first night. The three of us 
had been sitting on the front porch when Lulu said, "Let's go 
for a walk." De Witt must have assumed the invitation was di 
rected at me alone, for he went right on rocking while we 
strolled down the road in the twilight. 

Suddenly, a buggy rumbled past carrying a man and a 
woman. The man was smoking a big cigar and trailing smoke. 

"My husband's never going to smoke a cigar like thatl" Lulu 



Yankee, Go West 53 

remarked. It didn't bother me at the time because marriage 
was not on my mind. But the observation seems the height of 
irony in view of the fact that an ever-present cigar became a 
trade-mark of my political career. 

Lulu and I hit it off so well we talked incessantly, as if we 
had known each other for years. We would slip out of the house 
right after the evening meal and run down the hill to the 
bridge over the creek on their place. 

We discussed my education and hers. Lulu's mind was keenly 
alive. She had attended Northern Illinois College at Fulton, 
Illinois, and planned to go on to Oberlin College in Ohio that 
fall. (Her education has continued to this day she still takes 
piano lessons at seventy-eight years of age. As the mother of six 
children, she took college courses in languages and political 
sciences in Butte, Montana, and Washington, D.C. where she 
was a classmate of our son, John.) 

Lulu was competent in the domestic arts too. She darned nay 
socks and shirts that week. My washing was taken care of by 
her mother who refused to take a cent from De Witt and me 
for all this hospitality. 

John White had little to say but he eloquently raised his eye 
brows when I disclosed that I was a Democrat. "Then you must 
be Irish/' he said quite seriously. 

Prolonging our stay at the Whites, De Witt and I later in the 
week extended our forays far into neighboring Rock Island 
County. When I found myself in a large Swedish settlement, I 
worked hard at peddling our Norwegian edition because I knew 
Swedes could understand and speak Norwegian to some extent. 
I did it so convincingly that one woman told me it was being 
rumored around that a "Swedish book agent" was abroad in the 
area. 

I sold quite a few Norwegian editions to those Swedes. Un 
fortunately, it never occurred to me or apparently to the 
Swedes either that being able to understand spoken Nor 
wegian did not necessarily mean they could read it. When I 
heard later about their fuming efforts to decipher Dr. Chase's 
recipes, I could easily imagine the uncomplimentary names 
they called the "Swedish book agent.* 



54 Yankee from the West 

After we had left the Whites', De Witt said, "Lulu's mother 
will never let you many her." I wrote to Lulu and told her 
what De Witt had said. She wrote back and denied her mother 
had ever said such a thing. (Later, I found out that, in some 
of his rambling conversations with Mrs. White, De Witt had 
taken pains, for reasons of his own, to paint me as something 
short of the ideal son-in-law. ) I had never said a word to him 
about my intentions toward Lulu and now I told him truthfully 
that marriage was farthest from my mind. 

Ironically, De Witfs premature attempt to discourage me got 
me thinking more seriously about Lulu. When I returned to 
Illinois in September to deliver the books to my customers, I 
hired a horse and buggy and took her with me on my rounds. 

Back on the Michigan campus in my second year, I was 
plunged into practical politics for the first time. Two students 
sought me out and argued that it was time to break the fra 
ternities' iron grip on all student offices. They asked me to run 
for class president against the fraternity candidate. I told them 
I was too busy. But next a large group of non-fraternity col 
leagues called on me and persuaded me to make the race. 

They may have selected me because I was well known 
through contact with most of the students at the dean's office. 
My opponents promptly circulated the false report that I was 
the "dean's candidate," the most damaging charge that could 
be made in a student election. The only thing Dean Hutchins 
had to do with my candidacy was the fact that he had publicly 
backed my position that all students should be allowed to vote 
regardless of whether they had paid up their class dues. The 
fraternities wanted to deny the ballot to non-paid-up class 
members, figuring it would help their own chances. 

We set up a committee and assigned each committee mem 
ber to interview certain members of the second-year class. 
Then, shortly before Election Day, each committee member re- 
checked the persons on his list to find out who was wavering 
and who was standing firm. 

As the campaign heated up, J. H. McClintock, my well-to-do 
roommate from Iowa, told me the fraternity crowd was offering 
some heavy bets against me-as high as $500 and that he was 



Yankee, Go West 55 

anxious to take some. The contest looked like a photofinish to 
me and I advised him against betting. I was right. I won by 
seventeen votes out of some three hundred cast. But McClintock 
never let me forget that he "would have won $500 from those 
so-and-so's if you'd have let me/' 

Emboldened, we went on to elect non-fraternity slates to run 
the Webster and Jefferson political societies on the campus. 
When we found evidence of mismanagement of funds by the 
fraternity representative in the Student Lecture Association, 
which extended into all branches of the university, we elected 
our own officers there too. 

As class president, I automatically became a steward of the 
students' boardinghouse and thereafter got my meals free. So 
I no longer had to wait table. But I decided not to run for presi 
dent in my third, or senior, year, so I helped to elect my non- 
fraternity friend, W. S. Nash. 

Much later an article in Life magazine* suggested that my 
career in championing the underdog had its genesis when I 
set out to overthrow the power of the fraternities. 

"Campus society at Michigan did not welcome the thread 
bare young Yankee," the article said. "Through the four [sic] 
years it took him to get his law degree, he remained an outcast 
"barbarian' (non-fraternity member). . . .* 

This is nonsense. The fact is that the social advantages of 
fraternities never enchanted me and I could not have afforded 
them if they did. And I certainly have no recollection of feeling 
like an embittered "outcast." I sensed no stigma because I was 
working my way through school; indeed, it was a badge of 
honor. 

As a matter of fact I believe I struck some classmates as 
having possibly the reverse of an inferiority complex. Much 
later, William L. Fitzgerald, then a successful lawyer in Kala- 
mazoo, Michigan, amusingly described in a letter his first reac 
tion to me on the campus. 

He remembered me as "a slim, flaxen-haired chap who very 
early disclosed he was from the East, and while I do not say that 

* May 19, 1941, issue. 



gg Yankee from the West 

he announced so at the time he gave at least the impression 
that he could have gone to Harvard but preferred to come West 
and take his chances in life in this "wild and woolly' region. I 
also recall that he seemed quite sure of himself; could operate 
a typewriter, so he said, and in his experience to date at home 
had encountered some intellectuals-from which experience he 
should have no difficulty in his dealings with the brains of the 
faculty" 

What I did gain from my fling at campus politics was the 
lesson that successful campaigns are based on intelligent or 
ganization and hard work. In fact, the strategy we used to check 
and recheck every student was the same technique I used in 
1937 when I led the Senate fight that defeated Franklin D. 
Roosevelt's Court-packing bill. 

But in law school I never thought of politics as a career; I 
was too preoccupied even to pay much attention to the 1904 
presidential campaign between Theodore Roosevelt and Alton 
B. Parker. What I was interested in was the study of law. What 
excited me most was the verbal cut and thrust in the arena of 
the courtroom. Courses in "agency" and "contracts" carried a 
lot less appeal but they were easy because of my experience in 
writing business letters for those firms back in Massachusetts. 
I made fairly high grades all three years but the members of our 
graduating class were not ranked as they are at many law 
schools. 

No member of my family was present for my graduation in 
June 1905, but Lulu was seated in a front row. She had de- 
toured to Ann Arbor on her way home from Oberlin. We were 
now engaged to be married. For two years we had written to 
each other almost daily. I had spent the last two Christmas 
vacations with the Whites and had seen Lulu often during my 
second summer of hawking Dr. Chase's remedies and recipes 
in Illinois (this time on a bicycle). It tickled me that the pub 
lisher's want-ad for salesmen for the next season pointed out 
that one of its book agents in a single summer had netted $300 
and a wife! 

Lulu and I went directly from the commencement exercise 
to her home to discuss our plans with her parents. My savings 



Yankee, Go West 57 

weren't much more than $500 because I had suffered a $300 
casualty. I had invested that sum in the Moline (Illinois) Build 
ing & Loan Association, which was headed by a University of 
Michigan graduate, but it had gone into receivership. We de 
cided to postpone the wedding until I was able to hang out my 
shingle. But where? Dean Hutchins had advised me to go East, 
on the theory that "if you want to practice law the place to go 
is where the money is." He said he could get me into one of the 
big New York law firms. 

But returning East seemed stultifying. I was anxious to go 
anywhere that was wide open with opportunity. Back in Illi 
nois, the Whites mentioned that Lulu once visited an uncle 
living in Telluride, Colorado, and it proved to be an exhilarating 
little gold-mining town in the mountains. I said that ever since 
I was a child I had dreamed of going West. In Hudson there 
had been a great deal of uninformed talk about the "wild 
West." Most of the notions about the Great Plains came from 
dime novels which I was forbidden to read for the simple rea 
son that they would send me straight to hell. But once I did 
smuggle in a paperback account of Jesse James Out West. I 
even read it to Mother. The funny thing was she didn't object I 
think she was as fascinated as I was. 

Soon I was to discover that Jesse James's fictional adventures 
were not so preposterous after all. 



Chapter Three 

A FRIENDLY GAME 
OF POKER 



On Sunday morning October 15, 1905, 1 stepped off a train 
at the Northern Pacific depot in Butte, Montana, and shivered. 
A sudden snowstorm had whipped out of the mountains and in 
my light summer suit and straw hat the air was bitter cold. All 
the rest of my worldly goods were carried in a small handgrip. 
Turning up my collar, I put my head into the wind and made 
for the downtown section of the city. There I settled in a 
rooming house on West Broadway and began to compile a list 
of the lawyers in Butte. 

My shivering may well have been due more to my bleak 
prospects than to the falling barometer. For three months I 
had been crisscrossing the Great Plains on a job hunt. When 
I kissed Lulu goodbye on the banks of the Mississippi, I had 
blithely set out to answer the advertisement of an elderly law 
yer in Eureka, California, who wanted to turn his practice over 



A Friendly Game of Poker 59 

to a young man. But in San Francisco, I had found that the 
only way to get to Eureka was by boat, and it no longer seemed 
worth the trouble. 

So I trekked from town to town, seeking out established law 
yers who might need a young associate. I invaded law offices 
in Los Angeles; Portland, Oregon; Tucson, Arizona; Telluride, 
Montrose, Ouray, Pueblo, and Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake 
City and Ogden, Utah; and Pocatello, Idaho, my last stop be 
fore entering Butte. True, I had seen more of the West than 
Lewis and Clark but unfortunately no one had snatched me up 
as a fledgling Clarence Darrow. 

Only two lawyers were willing to give me a chance in Ouray 
and Montrose. After staying long enough to look both places 
over, I decided that neither one offered much opportunity. Al 
most everywhere I was greatly in demand as a stenographer, 
and I worked as one for a while in Telluride to help finance my 
vagabond itinerary. My original savings of $500 was steadily 
melting, although I never slept in a Pullman or ate in a diner. 
Most of my meals consisted of apples and railroad lunch- 
counter doughnuts. 

One trouble was that I had to approach lawyers as a stranger. 
I had no letter of recommendation and no introduction. I sim 
ply walked in off the street, displayed my Michigan law degree 
and explained who I was. Maybe I was too late in heeding 
Horace Greeley's advice but I hated to give up on this fabled 
land. 

When I sniffed the atmosphere in Butte, I found it refresh 
ing. It was a mining town in boom time, friendly and gay 
what could be better for a young lawyer? Optimistically, I 
set out to interview every successful lawyer in the city. It took 
me the better part of a week and yielded exactly one offer. That 
came from John A. Shelton, who had a two-room office in the 
old Hirbour Building. But Shelton would pay me only $50 a 
month and he was reputedly a difficult man to work for. I 
turned him down. 

Depressed again, I decided to try Spokane, Washington, 
for the simple reason that I had never been there. I checked 
out of my rooming house and started down Oregon Avenue to 



60 Yankee from the West 

catch the four o'clock train. At the corner of Nevada Avenue 
and Front Street, there was a little yellow saloon. Standing in 
front of it were two men, respectably dressed and oozing with 
geniality. As the taller man beamed, the smaller one spoke to 
me. 

"Is the train always this late?" he asked. 

I said I didn't know it was late. He said he had just learned 
it wouldn't come through for two hours. He added that they 
were from Indiana and on their way to the Lewis & Clark Cen 
tennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon. He invited me to join 
them in a drink while we killed the time. When I said I didn't 
drink, he suggested we sit down and have a cigar. I accepted 
the cigar and followed them into the saloon. 

They headed directly to a table opposite the bar. Two men 
were sitting there as if waiting for someone. One had jet black 
hair with streaks of gray that made him distinguished looking. 
The other was a big, sloppy fellow who looked more like he be 
longed in the place. They addressed the man who had spoken 
to me outside as "Gladney." 

"How about a friendly game of cards?" Gladney asked me 
as we sat down. 

A lawyer in Denver had advised me as a newcomer to the 
West never to play cards with strangers. But everything about 
Gladney was so normal, ordinary, and average that you would 
never have suspected him of anything but stuffiness, while his 
companion was the kind of open-faced man you would have 
trusted with your last will and testament. I said I wouldn't mind 
a game of auction pitch, which I had played at a penny a point 
back in Massachusetts commuting between Hudson and Boston. 

"Oh, no, let's play poker," Gladney said. The big, sloppy fel 
low shuffled a deck of cards and the two began to play while 
the rest of us watched. When they had played two hands of 
stud, Gladney said it was a shame their guest had to be a spec 
tator. I then confessed I knew something about the game, 
having played it occasionally in college. Gladney asked his part 
ner if he could stake me to some chips so I could get into the 
game. The big fellow nodded and Gladney gave me nine dol 
lars' worth of chips. 



A Friendly Game of Poker 61 

I drew two jacks. One was face down. Since my face-up jack 
was high, it was up to me to open. I bet $5. The big fellow 
dealt the third hand, giving none of us much of anything. So 
I bet $10. The dealer promptly raised me $25. Gladney imme 
diately dropped out, but as he did so he leaned over and whis 
pered that if I lost he would pay all my losses while if I won 
we would split. Then he gave me a quick look at what purported 
to be a certified check for $2000 on a bank in Indiana. With 
a "what-can-I-lose?" feeling, I stayed in the game. 

But I was out of chips and when Gladney tried to push some 
more of his toward me, the big fellow said sharply, "You can't 
do that!" 

"Well, I can bet my own money," I said. I felt good about 
those two jacks he had nothing on the board to alarm me and 
since I am by nature a plunger I decided to go for broke. I had 
$65 in cash on me and on the fourth round, when the big fellow 
once again dealt himself nothing good, I bet $25. Again he 
raised me, this time $50. This nettled me some but I always 
prided myself on never falling for a bluff. I called the raise, 

On the fifth hand the dealer gave me a deuce and himself a 
trey. He already had one trey face up and now I began to worry 
a little. But I bet $50 and he raised me the same amount. By 
this time I was owing the pot and was obliged to write out a 
check on my bank account in Montrose, Colorado, for $ ISO- 
all the money I had left in the world. 

Sure enough, as we turned up our hole cards, the dealer pro 
duced still a third trey. Three treys beat my pair of jacks. He 
raked in the pot and I sat there dumfounded. Gladney made 
a show of tearing up a check presumably mine while the other 
two men simply pufied their cigars and stared at the table, as 
stony-faced as pallbearers. 

Gladney handed me $11 enough to cover my ticket to Spo 
kane. Without a word, he and his companion rose and started 
in the direction of the depot. I followed, speechless and misera 
ble. As we reached the end of the block, Gladney muttered that 
he had promised to meet his wife at the drugstore and abruptly 
disappeared. This sounded fishy, inasmuch as they had stressed 
that they were traveling alone. All at once it dawned on me 



62 Yankee from the West 

that the whole incident had been prearranged and that the 
poker game had not been on the up-and-up, Although I heard 
the whistle of the train as it steamed into the station, I angrily 
did an about-face and hurried back to the saloon. 

If I had known then what I know now about those unscrupu 
lous characters, I never would have gone back into that place. 
But I was swept along by the outrage of a young man who felt 
he had been tricked. I banged open the door of the saloon and 
walked in just in time to catch Gladney and the other two men 
dividing up my money. 

<e Here's three dollars for you," the black-haired man said 
swiftly as soon as he saw me. Nodding toward Gladney, he said, 
"He was fust claiming it." 

Well, of course, this was absurd on the face of it. I pocketed 
the three dollars and said brusquely, "All right, now come 
across with the rest of it." 

"If you'd won, wouldn't you have kept the money?" the black- 
haired man countered. 

"Yes, but Td have won it squarely and you people didn't," I 
said, my blood pressure at the boiling point, They didn't deny 
my accusation. Instead they stalled, asking me who I was. I 
told them I was a lawyer and warned that I would get my 
friend, Jimmy Healy, the local prosecutor, on their trail. This 
overconfident threat had an effect. They grudgingly handed me 
$30 and I figured I had gone about as far as I could go. I walked 
out and headed back toward the depot only to discover the train 
for Spokane had left. 

I was now in an acute state of frustration. I went to dinner 
at a nearby restaurant and turned my dilemma over in my mind. 
I concluded that since I couldn't do much more traveling on my 
shrunken resources I might as well give Butte a try. I sought 
out John A, Shelton that evening and told him I'd accept his 
job offer after aU. He told me I could share his apartment until 
I got my feet on the ground. 

Shelton was a short, heavy-set bachelor in his mid-fifties, 
with balding gray hair. He was a good lawyer but part of his 
income was due to his business of making collections for eastern 



A Friendly Game of Poker 63 

firms from people in Butte who owed them money. These oner 
ous non-legal chores fell to me. 

A few weeks later, Ed Lamb, the assistant district attorney 
for Butte, said that if I was in court the following Saturday he 
would get Judge Michael Donlan to appoint me to represent an 
impoverished defendant. The fee would be $50. I was eager to 
take advantage of both the money and the experience. 

On Saturday, Donlan assigned me to defend "Montana Slim'" 
I never knew his real nameagainst a charge of blowing up 
a safe in an Arizona Street saloon. An alleged confederate, Joe 
Spreich, was to be tried on the same charge and was being 
represented by another young lawyer. 

When I visited the jail to talk with my client, the jailer, Billy 
Hagerty, said, "Oh, you're the light-haired lad Gladney held 
up down at the Northern Pacific depot!" He told me Gladney 
was occupying a cell there at the moment and that I could see 
him. 

When Gladney was brought out at my request, I stared at 
him disgustedly. 

"I just wanted to see how you looked behind bars, you 
S.O.B.," I said. 

"Well, they never cashed that check, did they?" he asked. 
This raised my eyebrows. 

"I thought you tore it up," I said accusingly. 

"No, they promised they wouldn't cash it," he replied. I said 
I didn't know whether they had cashed it or not. Actually, I 
had been worried about whether that $150 check really had 
been torn up by Gladney. As it turned out, they never did cash 
it, probably for fear I'd have them prosecuted. 

The police were holding Gladney in the hope he might have 
some leads on a holdup at Hennessy's store in Centreville. 
Hagerty told me that whenever Gladney decided to work a new 
town he went first to the chief of police and unabashedly asked 
if he could be given a free hand in playing cards in return for 
supplying the chief with tips about the activities of local 
crooks. I gradually learned that I had had the dubious distinc 
tion of being taken by one of the most fabulous confidence men 
then practicing in the West. ("Gladney" was apparently not 



64 Yankee from the West 

his real name but it was the only one I heard him called.) 

One source of information about him was Mike Daly, a big, 
cold-blooded saloonkeeper, I met Daly when he was being de 
fended in 1910 by Matt Canning, then my law partner, after 
Daly had shot and killed one of his customers, a "Cousin Jack," 
the nickname for all immigrants from Cornwall. Daly told me 
that in laying poker traps Gladney had caught much bigger 
suckers than Burt Wheeler. Once, he reputedly had relieved 
two newly arrived Scots of their entire grubstake of $10,000 in 
a single all-night session of poker. 

After Daly had served an eighteen-month murder sentence, 
he stopped me on the street and said he had just run into "your 
friend, Gladney.'* 

"I said he ought to retain you because you'd become the best 
lawyer around," Daly continued with a chuckle. "But Gladney 
said, c No, I'm afraid he'd send me to the pen for keeping him in 
this damn town!'" 

Long before that, I would have thanked Gladney for strand 
ing me in Butte. I liked it. Butte for a half century now has 
been variously described by literary visitors as a Rabelaisian, 
unreal, and always pictorial town. It squats amid the Rockies 
and on top of what was called "the richest copper hill in the 
world." It is safe to say that no one who has ever been there 
has forgotten it. 

By the time I arrived, people had come to Butte from every 
where, and quite a few had made enormous fortunes. Butte 
department stores sent buyers to Paris for gowns and in the 
snooty Silver Bow Club millions of dollars' worth of jewels glit 
tered at every dance. 

Butte miners were then receiving $3.50 to $4 a day, which 
beat the prevailing wage scales of the eastern factories. There 
was a large proportion of single men in its population of 45,000 
and the downtown area shrieked with vitality. It boasted the 
"longest bar in the world" (a whole block long and manned by 
fifteen bartenders). In "Venus Alley," its three-block red-light 
district, more than seven hundred girls of all sizes, colors, and 
nationalities offered themselves. The concentrated bawdiness 



A Friendly Game of Poker 65 

was said by aficionados to compare favorably with that of the 
Barbary Coast in San Francisco. 

Butte was a good theater town, a regular stop for touring 
road companies of Broadway shows. Its citizens also supported 
an assortment of lusty sports, including horse racing and dog 
fighting. 

Butte is not a pretty town. It is a honeycombed hill throwing 
up a network of trestles, railroad tracks, bunkers, transmission 
lines, etc. The fiery smelters which shoot glowing abstractions 
into the big Montana sky also sometimes cover the entire city 
in winter with a soot that prevents you from seeing across the 
street. The arsenic smoke long ago killed all grass and trees in 
Butte. 

Yet there was something inspiring to me in the sight of the 
miners' neat one-story houses. Many of them did their own 
painting and plumbing and I was amazed at how clean and 
well furnished the houses were and how well dressed the wives 
and children were. 

Above all, it was a generous, democratic community. It 
didn't make any difference who you were, where you came 
from, or how much money you had. How you fared depended 
entirely on yourself. If people liked you, they liked you. If 
they didn't, well, they didn't, and it was just too bad. 

In 1930, when my family was in Washington and I was on a 
trip to Butte, I wrote to Mrs. Wheeler: "Butte looks rough, 
tough, and dirty, but I love the old place." Later on, back 
in Washington, my five-year-old daughter, Marion Montana 
Wheeler, greeted me with, "That's Daddy-rough, tough, and 
dirty." I asked her where she had heard such language and 
she told me that Mrs. Wheeler had read my letter to the family. 

Getting back to my first client, "Montana Slim," his case 
was dismissed without explanation before I got a chance to 
defend him. So I helped the other young attorney appointed 
by the court to represent his co-defendant, Spreich, a local 
youth. It was my first courtroom case, and Spreich was con 
victed largely because of the testimony of two city detectives. 
"Slim" later told me the detectives had lied. 

"If we'd used as much nitroglycerin as they said we had, we 



66 Yankee from the West 

would have blown up the whole damn town/' he said. As a 
"pro," he evidently hated to see a conviction based on inexpert 
testimony. 

My first real client turned up in the person of a grocer I 
called on in my capacity as collection agent for Shelton. He 
asked me to represent him against his deceased wife's relatives, 
who were charging him with misusing the funds of her estate. 
Between $30,000 and $40,000 was at stake and I finally man 
aged to get the suit thrown out of court. When the estate was 
settled a year later, I collected a fee of $2000. 

But I had trouble making ends meet that first year because 
I had quit Shelton after three months, having had a hard time 
collecting my $50 a month. T. M. Clowes, a well-to-do Butte 
resident and the father of Tim Clowes, a former law school 
mate of mine at Ann Arbor, said he would go good on the furni 
ture if I would set up a law office with Tim. With a desk, two 
chairs, and a set of the Montana statutes, we opened for busi 
ness on the second floor of the Lizzie Block at Park and Main 
streets. 

Business suffered because Tim was a day and night playboy, 
preferring the pool hall to the office. The problem was solved 
when he soon decided to go to Alaska. Dr. W. E. Dodd, an 
optometrist who had the next office, told me he would take 
over payment of the furniture if I would continue the practice 
on my own. 

The Lizzie Block (as a building was known in Butte) had 
stores on the first floor, offices on the second and a rooming 
house on the third. To reduce overhead, I rented another office 
which amounted to a room and a half. The main room was par 
titioned in two. One half of it became my office and the other 
half of the "suite" became my living quarters. I bought an old 
iron cot and the landlady on the third floor loaned me some 
bedding. I leased space in my office to a real estate man and 
the desk to a traveling salesman of calendars. Thus the net 
cost of the place was shaved to four dollars a month. 

Soon I was able to do a return favor for Dr. Dodd. As an 
optometrist, he advertised that he could correct cross-eyes and 
cure certain diseases. The late United States Senator James E. 



A Friendly Game of Poker 67 

Murray, then county attorney, charged him with practicing 
medicine without a license. The case was tried before a justice 
of the peace. I represented Dodd and won. The trouble was 
that the practice of optometry was not permitted in Montana. 
In 1912.5 Dodd and some other optometrists engaged me to 
lobby with the legislature in favor of an optometry bill. It was 
my first crack at lobbying and I was successfulthe bill became 
law. 

Needing a steady income to fall back on that first year on my 
own, I made the rounds of Butte merchants, asking if I could 
handle their collections. Credit was easy in bustling Butte at 
that time but the merchants prudently retained lawyers to 
collect the payments. The lawyers were allowed to keep 25 
per cent of what they collected. One merchant grumbled to 
me that he had more trouble collecting his share from the law 
yers than he did from the customers. I assured him I would 
subtract my 25 per cent after each collection and turn in the 
rest immediately which I did. 

I took my first clients where I could find them, and I found 
most of them in police and juvenile court. Once, I was sur 
prised to find camped on my office doorstep the proprietor of 
one of the fancier "parlor houses" in Butte. This prosperous 
madam wanted me to represent her in some litigation involving 
real estate. I pointed out that I had never patronized her place 
or indeed any other in the red-light district and asked why 
she didn't retain one of the lawyers who were her steady cus 
tomers. 

"When I want to play, that's one thing," she explained. 
"When I want someone to look after my business, that's some 
thing else." 

I took her case, which was entirely paperwork, and felt I 
had learned this lesson: when a person needs a lawyer, he 
wants the best one he can find. I have on occasion advised a 
young lawyer not to pass his time sitting around playing cards 
during the day with potential clients. No matter how friendly 
they are at the time, they will look for a lawyer who tends to 
his practice when they need legal help. 

In my second year on my own, my practice improved to the 



68 Yankee from the West 

point where I could make a down payment on a $4000 four- 
room brick house on Second Street near the heart of the town. 
It was one of the more substantially built houses in that area 
and, with additions made as our family grew, it was to prove 
large enough for the Wheeler family all the years we lived in 
Butte. 

The neighborhood was made up of railroad men, small mer 
chants, and workers with modest incomes; I was the only pro 
fessional among them. My choice of living there after I could 
afford an expensive residential section undoubtedly was worth 
extra votes every time I ran for office. But in truth this was not 
my motive in refusing to move. I simply enjoyed associating 
with these hard-working, fun-loving Irish, Welsh, and Cornish 
families. There was no pretension and there was plenty of mer 
riment. 

When I purchased the house I had no furniture and no 
plans for occupying it until I could bring Lulu there as my 
bride. Meanwhile, I began enjoying Butte. My asthma had 
not bothered me since my arrival and the dry climate as a 
whole charmed me. Three days of cold weather or one of 
those Butte-type sudden snowstorms would be followed by a 
quick thaw. Even when the temperature dropped to 15 or 20 
degrees below zero, I never felt the chill like I did during higher 
readings in Boston and Chicago. 

The Montana summers were perfect the nights always cool 
enough to require a blanket and the trout fishing in the moun 
tain streams became one of my favorite pastimes. 

My original disaster with poker in Butte left no trauma. I 
played the game every weekend with other young lawyers and 
doctors. We rented a hotel room and the games went on all 
night. It was not unusual for someone to lose $2500 or $3000 
by the time the sun came up, though luckily it never happened 
to me, 

I shared a room in a private home with another lawyer, 
Irving H. Whitehouse. When Lulu and I set Saturday, Septem 
ber 7, 1907, as our wedding date, Whitehouse agreed to be my 
best man. Early in September, we took the train to Clinton, 
Iowa, which is on the Mississippi, and there caught a river boat 



A Friendly Game of Poker 69 

for the short distance to Albany, Illinois, which was a mile and 
a half from the White farm. 

There were nearly a score of other passengers on the boat. 
I asked the pilot if he carried that many every morning. He 
said no, 

"What's going on?" I asked. 

"John White's daughter is getting married/' he told me. 

I asked him who was the fortunate bridegroom. 

"Oh, some damn book agent that was around here a few 
years ago," he answered, obviously unimpressed. I decided not 
to introduce myself. 

Lulu and I were married at the Methodist Church in Albany. 
On our honeymoon we observed the fashion of the time by 
inspecting Niagara Falls, then went on to Massachusetts to 
visit my folks. We also toured Lexington, Concord, and other 
historic places, and bought some furniture for our home. In 
Marlboro, we went to the theater to see a play with a wild 
West theme. In one scene, a fierce-looking fellow strode out on 
the stage, fired off a gun, and announced that he was from 
Butte, Montana. I was already concerned whether Lulu might 
be apprehensive about settling in so notorious a spot. But she 
told me she had read a book, The Perch of the Devil (meaning 
Butte), and was prepared to accommodate herself to perhaps 
the toughest town in the West. But she had always prided her 
self on being a tomboy on the farm, so she would not allow 
herself to be intimidated. Even so, the adjustment was some 
thing of a shock, and not an easy one to make. Some years later, 
she told one of the children that at first she felt as if she was 
living in hell but, like me, had come to like the place. 

The day after we set up housekeeping in Butte I was stopped 
on the street by the clerk in Judge Donlan's court. He con 
gratulated me and I thanked him, agreeing that "I've got a 
nice little wife." 

"Oh, I'm not congratulating you on your lovely bride/' he 
replied. "I'm congratulating you on your partnership/' 

I said I didn't know what he was talking about. He told me 
that Matt Canning was going to offer me a full partnership. I 
was flattered. Canning was a brilliant criminal lawyer, a tall, 



/o Yankee from the West 

black-haired man whose complexion was so dark he was called 
"the Nig." It was said he had studied for the priesthood in his 
native County Mayo, Ireland, but had run away to America 
and studied law. I had tried a few cases against him but I 
hardly knew him personally. I was well aware that he had a 
successful practice. 

When Canning sent for me, he explained that I was to look 
after the law while he looked after "the politics/* This was 
agreeable to me because I had never taken much interest in 
politics and was inclined to dismiss it as a "dirty business/' I 
accepted his proposition. 

Soon after joining Canning I had my first case in federal 
court. The employees of the telephone company had struck 
for higher wages and the company had won an injunction to 
keep the strikers from picketing. When the company brought 
in strikebreakers, the union chased them out of town. As a re 
sult, Joseph Shannon, state president of the Western Federa 
tion of Miners; William Cutts, president of the carpenters 
union; and a few other union officials were cited for contempt 
for allegedly driving the two non-union men out of Butte. The 
Miners union retained Canning and me to defend Shannon. I 
tried the case, which was before Judge William Hunt in 
Helena. 

Echoing the philosophy of the time, the judge lectured the 
defendants: "If this sort of thing is permitted to go on, it will 
only be a short time before a Mason may say to a Catholic, or 
a Catholic to a Mason, or a Christian to a Jew, 'You cannot 
work on this building/ or "You cannot work in this place/ " 
Then he found Shannon and two other defendants guilty. 
Shannon was over six feet tall and powerfully built. When the 
marshal took him by the arm to lead him off to jail, he pulled 
a full quart of whisky from his coat pocket and drained the 
contents without a stop. I was impressed. 

During the trial, the telephone company used a witness 
whom I suspected might be a labor spy. I took a chance in my 
cross-examination and asked him whether he was a detective. 
Somewhat to my surprise, he replied that he was. 

Several years later I was in Spokane trying a personal injury 



A Friendly Game of Poker 71 

case against the Bunker Hill Mining Company with the help 
of another Butte lawyer, H. Lowndes Maury. This same detec 
tive came to our hotel room and informed us he was to be a 
witness in a personal injury case I was soon to try in Butte 
against the streetcar company. He claimed that he was re 
luctant to testify against my client, a milkman who had been 
hit by a streetcar, because he was a "nice old fellow/' How 
ever, he said he would be forced to testify by the company 
unless we gave him some money to get out of the country and 
go to Canada. I refused. 

When he left, I said to Maury, "That man is a detective/' 
Maury scoffed but I was sure. I was not sure, though, that he 
had recognized me. When we got back to Butte, there was a 
letter from him saying: "I know that you recognized me and 
that's the reason I'm writing you. I was the detective that 
testified in the case before Judge Hunt in Helena." He again 
stated he would not testify if I would help "him, in some way. 
I ignored the second overture. 

The night before the case against the streetcar company was 
to be tried, Peter Breen, a counsel for the company, telephoned 
me a proposal to settle for $5000. I said I would not settle for 
less than $7500. He called back and agreed to $7500. 

Later, when the check was being turned over to me in the 
company's office, I remarked to the president, J. R. Wharton, 
who was a Sunday school teacher: "I want you to know that 
if it hadn't been for the fact that you sent a detective to me as 
a witness to try to get me to bribe him, I would have settled for 
$5000." Wharton remained glumly silent in the face of my 
accusation. 

I rode down on the elevator with George Shelton, chief 
counsel for the company and a lawyer of high integrity. He 
asked me if my charge against Wharton was true and I as 
sured him it was. "It sounds just like the old hypocrite/' Shelton 
commented. 

My first criminal case involved, in true Western tradition, 
a train robbery. Two young men about twenty years old had 
gone to the top of a mountain outside Butte and blockaded and 
held up the Northern Pacific's crack train, the North Coast 



72 Yankee from the West 

Limited. They bungled the job and killed the fireman and the 
engineer. 

John Towers, one of those charged with the murders, sent 
for me while he was lodged in the Butte jail and asked me to 
defend him. I never sought criminal cases because I found I 
was inclined to get too emotionally involved with the defend 
ants, I told Towers I was reluctant to take his case. 

But the next thing I knew Towers had been transferred for 
trial to the town of Boulder, about twenty-five miles away, and 
had informed Judge Lew Galloway there that I was his lawyer. 
This made me even more reluctant. The court would pay me 
$100 to defend Towers because he was penniless, but the ex 
penses connected with a trip to Boulder would exceed that 
amount. When I stalled, Galloway sent word that if I didn't 
come to Boulder in a hurry he would send a sheriff to bring me 
there. I went. 

The prosecutor was the county district attorney, Dan Kelly, 
later Montana state attorney general. Kelly started off by intro 
ducing evidence which I considered irrelevant and improper. 
But every time I objected Galloway peremptorily overruled me. 
The judge seemed determined that Towers should be found 
guilty. After I had objected a score or more of times, he called 
me into his chambers during a recess and warned me that a 
young lawyer ought not to invite trouble with the judges 
around the state. When I continued to object to Kelly's maneu 
vers, the judge went so far as to threaten me with contempt! 

Towers figured he had a perfect alibi. He said he had regis 
tered into a cheap boardinghouse in Butte about the time the 
crime was committed many miles outside of town. I produced 
the registration ledger of the boardinghouse and its proprietor 
swore to its accuracy on the witness stand. 

The morning after all the evidence was in for both sides, 
Towers rose in court without any advance consultation with 
meand changed his plea to guilty. I was astounded and angiy 
because he had always protested his innocence to me. Judge 
Galloway sentenced him to life imprisonment. 

Later that day Towers disclosed to me what had happened. 
Galloway and Kelly apparently had become concerned that 



A Friendly Game of Poker 73 

Galloway had handled me so unfairly that a higher court might 
reverse a conviction. So on the night before the case was due 
to go to the jury Kelly and a Northern Pacific detective had 
spirited the defendant out of his cell and had taken him to the 
judge in a hotel room. Towers was told that if he pleaded guilty 
he would get off with life whereas if he persisted in pleading 
innocent he would be hanged. 

The trial was like an electric shock to a young fellow just 
out of law school Judge Galloway's conduct was the most out 
rageously high-handed I have ever seen. I can only conclude 
that he was carried away by the sentiment in Boulder demand 
ing a conviction of the man involved in the murder of the two 
trainmen. Judge Galloway made up for it later. He became a 
highly respected member of the Montana State Supreme Court 
and was always friendly to me. 

In any event, I did not let this episode form my opinion of 
the bench as a whole. The judges in the state then were gener 
ally good and colorful. My favorites were the aforementioned 
Judge Donlan and Judge Jeremiah J. Lynch. Donlan's whimsi 
cal commentaries were legendary. 

In uninhibited Butte the defendants were often more than a 
match for him. Once, the authorities asked him to commit 
Timothy ("Google-Eye") Harrington, a Democratic precinct 
worker and noted alcoholic, to the state insane asylum because 
there were no facilities for alcoholics. 

"Tell me, Tim,'* inquired Donlan, peering over the bench, his 
eyes quizzical under his close-cropped gray hair, "are you 
really crazy?" 

"Well, I must be," Harrington shot back disgustedly, "if I've 
been stealin' elections for the likes of you for the past ten 
years." 

Another time, Donlan had an Irishman before him charged 
with stealing sheep. He lathered the culprit in his rich brogue, 
winding up with the declaration that if the defendant were 
being tried for sheep stealing in "the old country" he would 
be hanged. 

"Yes," the defendant acknowledged, "and if you were in the 
old country you'd be in the dock with me." 



74 Yankee from the West 

Donlan's droll dicta eventually undid him. A Finnish woman 
asked for a divorce on grounds that her husband had beaten 
her up, He granted the divorce but couldn't resist a dry ob 
servation. 

"Next time, marry one of those liarps' up in the Gulch and 
see how gently they treat you," he said. 

The Dublin Gulch, an Irish settlement in Butte, was in 
sulted by this public slur on the quality of its manhood. When 
the judge came up for re-election, the Gulch voters marched 
to the polls against him virtually en masse and Donlan was 
defeated. 

I enjoyed trial work. But in my case defending Spreich, the 
safe-blower, I was so nervous about being on my feet for the 
first time in District Court that when I finished my summation 
everything went blank. I hardly remembered where I was and 
could not have repeated one word I had said. I thought I had 
flopped. But the District Attorney, I. G. Denny, a native-born 
Southerner who was famous for his hearts-and-flowers style of 
oratory, walked over during the recess, put his arm around me 
and said, "Young man, if I had you in training for a while, I 
could make an orator out of you/' I thought: What an awful 
liar you are! 

After his career as D.A., Denny taught oratory and law to 
students. I never took his course, nor did I ever care to become 
an "orator" as such. It seemed to me that many criminal law 
yers wasted emotional flamboyance on a jury. What I strove 
for was a repetition of the basic facts in various ways because 
I discovered that many jurors did not get the facts or the law 
the first time around. I always looked the jurors directly in the 
eyes and even addressed some of them individually if I knew 
their names. 

I never got over being nervous when I set out to argue a case. 
I once confessed this to an old-time lawyer but he smiled and 
reassured me. 

"The lawyer who isn't nervous when he's about to face a 
jury will never make a good lawyer," he said. 

Canning and I each made an income of $5000 during our 
first year as partners good money for those days. But while I 



A Friendly Game of Poker 75 

enjoyed the law I could no more have avoided politics in Butte 
than I could have avoided people. It used to be said that "in 
Butte politics comes next to copper, and more than once the 
election of lionest, stalwart men* had taken priority over the 
red metal." In the city the Republican Party did not amount to 
much but the fights within the Democratic Party kept us all 
busy. 

Despite Canning's promise to handle all the politics himself, 
he asked me in the fall of 1908 to help out Johnny Doran, who 
was the boss of the seventh ward, where I lived. Canning him 
self was running for the nomination as county prosecutor 
against Tom Walker, brother of Frank C. Walker, who was to 
serve under Franklin D. Roosevelt as Postmaster General and 
Democratic National Chairman. Doran, running as a delegate 
to the county convention, was "in trouble," as the saying goes, 
and I called on my neighbors, Democratic and Republican 
alike, to vote for me and Doran's slate in the primary. Unlike 
primaries today, anyone registered in his precinct could vote 
in either party primary. You just wrote out your ballot and 
dropped it through a hole in an old hatbox. 

Walker defeated Canning by six votes. At almost the same 
time, my political career began. Doran, the ward boss, placed 
my name on the slate of delegates to the forthcoming Demo 
cratic county convention and I attended a convention for the 
first time. The convention authorized a committee to pick the 
ticket for the legislature. The committee, meeting in the offices 
of a wholesale liquor company nearby, sent for me and asked 
me to become a candidate on the slate. I turned it down, on 
the advice of Canning. He denounced it as the "Company 
ticket" and blamed the "Company" for engineering his defeat. 

The Company, as it was cryptically known to everyone in 
Montana, was both ruthless and resourceful. I was to do bat 
tle with it for many years. Here I had better explain briefly 
what it was and how it had been gobbling up large and small 
enemies long before I arrived on the scene. The massively cor 
rupt story of the Company begins with Copper King No. i, 
Marcus Daly, a native of Ireland, a man of wit and charm, and 
a shrewd prospector and businessman. In the i88os, Daly, a 



JQ Yankee from the West 

mining engineer, purchased the Anaconda, a Butte silver mine, 
for $30,000 on the hunch it contained copper, What it con 
tained was the world's richest vein of copper. 

In 1898 Daly negotiated with the Standard Oil Company and 
formed one of the largest trusts in financial history, the Amal 
gamated Copper Company. It controlled 75 per cent of the 
stock of the original Anaconda company as well as that of 
other companies. But it faced a worthy rival in another copper 
king, Frederick Augustus ("Fritz") Heinze, a gay, handsome 
German-Jewish-Irish mining engineer who was acknowledged 
to be one of the most ingenious industrial pirates of his time. 
Heinze had come to Montana in 1889 and made friends and 
money rapidly. Heinze fought Amalgamated with the corpora 
tion's own money, claiming that the ore in Amalgamated's 
richest mines "apexed"-reached their surface peaks-in his 
small plots of adjoining ground. By buying up certain judges, 
he was able to tie the hands of the giant-while he feverishly 
worked at mining copper from its mines. 

Heinze at the same time enlisted the support of the people of 
Butte by preaching against "the dangers of foreign combines 
and monopolies" and by raising wages and shortening hours 
in his mines. This ate into Daly's long-time popularity with the 
miners and forced Amalgamated to liberalize their wages and 
hours. 

Amalgamated's strategy was directed from its headquarters 
at 25 Broadway, New York City. Heinze fought it with one 
hundred lawsuits brought by his staff of thirty-seven lawyers. 
Simultaneously, he waged what was literally underground war 
fare; when his men occasionally broke through the Amalgam 
ated diggings, the miners from the rival companies battled one 
another with steam and hot water, dynamite and slaked lime, 
causing at least two deaths. 

Brought to a standstill by Heinze's nagging litigation, the 
Amalgamated on October 22, 1903, struck back with all its 
economic and political power. It closed down every one of its 
operations in Montana mines, smelters, copper refineries, lum 
ber mills, coal mines, company stores, railroads, etc. Twenty 
thousand men were thrown out of work. Amalgamated deliv- 



A Friendly Game of Poker 77 

ered this ultimatum: (i) Heinze must sell certain stocks that 
provided the grounds for most of his lawsuits, and (2) the 
governor must call a special session of the legislature to pass a 
law allowing a party to a lawsuit to take its case to another 
jurisdiction if it considered the judge corrupt or prejudiced. 
The second demand of course was designed to permit Amal 
gamated to shop around for a judge who had not been bribed 
by Heinze. 

Governor Joseph K. Toole, a Democrat, was anti-Amalgam 
ated but with the state in economic paralysis he had little 
choice. He called the legislature into session and it dutifully 
approved the bill demanded by the Company. A year later 
Heinze sold out to Amalgamated for the "nuisance value" sum 
of $10,000,000. 

Thus a few years before I arrived the lesson for Butte was 
clear: no matter how clever, unscrupulous, or spendthrift the 
opponent, you couldn't lick the Amalgamated. The Supreme 
Court's anti-trust decision in 1911 forced a paper reorganiza 
tion and Amalgamated, the holding company, subsequently 
dissolved itself into the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. 
(Interestingly, an anaconda is a man-killing python.) Re 
gardless of its shifting corporate entity, it was always referred 
to during my time in Montana as "the Company/' a simple yet 
awe-inspiring term. Eventually, it was selling one-third of all 
the copper output in the United States and one-fourth of the 
world supply. 

In the background of the Daly-Heinze struggle for power 
was a fascinating political feud between Daly and William 
Andrews Clark, a dour Scotch-Irish Presbyterian who had 
made millions in Montana in banking, real estate, smelting, 
refining, and silver and copper mining. Legend has it that 
Clark sneered at Daly and Daly sneered back. In any case, 
Clark had a passion to enter the United States Senate when 
Montana achieved statehood in 1889. Daly was determined 
that this would happen only over his dead body. And this was 
almost literally the way it happened. 

The fight lasted until the turn of the century and saw the 
theft of ballots, the murder of an election judge, and bribery 



78 Yankee from the West 

on a mass scale. In his book, The Devil Learns to Vote the 
Story of Montana, Christopher P. Connolly reports that Daly 
spent an estimated $2,500,000 of his profits from Amalgamated 
to try to keep Clark out of the "most exclusive club in the 
world." Clark's failure to make the club for twelve years may 
be explained by the fact that he spent somewhat less than that, 
and spent it clumsily. 

United States senators were then elected by the state legis 
lature instead of by popular vote. In 1899, Clark bought up 
members of the Montana legislature singly and in groups. 
Clark's two sons were quoted in the statehouse as quipping: 
"We'll either send the old man to the Senate or the poorhouse." 
While Clark was more or less secretly buying up GOP legisla 
tors, Daly, also a Democrat, was openly teamed up with the 
Republicans. 

Clark was declared elected in the 1899 session after eighteen 
tense days of balloting and after he had reportedly bought up 
all but fifteen Republican votes. However, twenty-seven Mon 
tana legislators petitioned Congress to bar him at the door, on 
grounds of corruption. Daly demanded, and got, an investiga 
tion of the charges by the Senate Committee on Privileges and 
Elections. 

Never was there a clearer case of the pot calling the kettle 
black. Both the Daly and Clark forces testified during the 
hearings and the three thick volumes embracing the testimony 
reveals a sordid picture. Clark was accused of having spent 
$431,000 to purchase forty-seven legislators' votes; he admitted 
spending $272,800 to get elected. The committee found him 
guilty beyond all reasonable doubt and voted to declare title 
to his seat void. But before the committee report could be 
filed on the Senate floor, Clark resigned. He had another trick 
up Ms sleeve. 

The Clark forces lured pro-Daly Governor Robert B. Smith 
out of Montana on a pretext and swiftly handed Clark's resig 
nation to pro-Clark Lieutenant Governor A. E. Spriggs. As 
acting governor, Spriggs accepted the resignation and immedi 
ately appointed Clark to the seat from which he had just been 
barred. Smith rushed back into the state and declared the ap- 



A Friendly Game of Poker 79 

pointment invalid because it was "tainted with fraud and 
collusion." The seat remained vacant until 1911, when Clark 
and Heinze joined forces, Daly died, and Clark at long last got 
himself elected to the Senate without leaving a smell in his 
wake. 

When I got into Butte politics, I could sense the bitterness 
over the Clark-Daly feud lingering in Silver Bow County, in 
which the city was located. The county delegation had played 
an unlovely role in the scandal and was still considered by 
many to be a salable commodity. It was of course dominated 
by "the Company." The saying was that if you wanted to run 
for office in the county you had to go hat in hand to the Com 
pany's suite on the sixth floor of the Hennessy Building and say, 
"Please, sir, may I run for anything from dog catcher to sheriff?" 

The Company had a powerful ally in its so-called "twin," 
the Montana Power Company, and in its satellites among the 
other big interests of the state, such as the railroads and the 
banks. The Company kept in close touch with Democratic 
Party politics down to the lowest levels. Most of its officials 
not only made substantial contributions but were active as 
delegates to city, county, and state conventions; and they ran 
for the legislature. 

In March 1909 I was elected to represent my seventh ward 
in the Democratic city convention. At the convention, Corne 
lius Kelley, then head of the Company's legal department and 
later the president and chairman of the board of the Company, 
nominated Phil Gillis, a loyal friend of the Company, for chair 
man. A motion was made to close the nomination when Paddy 
Duffy, ex-president of the Miners union, suggested that some 
one else be given a chance. He nominated me. Joe Griffin, a 
young lawyer friend of mine, slipped over and warned me not 
to let my name be put up against the Company candidate 
I'd be "murdered" in the balloting. 

"Listen," I replied. "I didn't have anything to do with this 
and didn't even know anything about it, so let it go. I don't 
care." 

The fact is I was so surprised I didn't know what to do. I 
heard the roll called and could hardly believe my ears when it 



8o Yankee from the West 

was announced that Wheeler had defeated Gillis, 30 to 24. 
Stunned, I didn't make the customary acceptance speech after 
ascending the rostrum. I simply went about my business as 
chairman which was mainly to make sure the votes were 
counted honestly. 

The contest was for the Democratic nomination for mayor. 
It was between Charley Kevin, the Company candidate, and 
Phil Goodwin, who was tied up with the old Clark henchmen. 
Nevin won the nomination and got elected. 

The principal contest at the county conventions was over 
the county officers. The jobs paid about as well as the state 
jobs and the Democratic nomination in Silver Bow County was 
tantamount to election, with little time or expense required. 
To win the Democratic nomination, it was best to claim nativity 
in County Cork and second best to claim birth in some county 
in Ireland with slightly lesser prestige in Montana. 

Butte was then predominantly Irish, though the Irish did not 
have a majority in the Miners union. An Immigration Commis 
sion study in 1912 revealed that the English made up the larg 
est single group among Butte's miners, with the Irish a close 
second and the French, Canadians, Finns, Germans, and Scan 
dinavians trailing in that order. The newer arrivals were south 
ern and eastern Europeans. The mixture of Irish, Welsh, and 
Cornish miners was said to have been the deliberate policy of 
Marcus Daly. It usually led to riots on the Fourth of July, when 
the Irish celebrated by baiting the English. The story is that 
some young Irish miners once complained to Daly, "Marcus, 
we don't understand you. You go over to Ireland and bring us 
here and then you go to Cornwall and bring those 'Cousin 
Jacks' in and we don't get along with them," Daly is reported 
to have answered: "When you Irish are fighting with the 
'Cousin Jacks,' you are laying off Marcus Daly." 

In selecting a twelve-man county slate for the legislature, 
the Company felt that an all-Catholic ticket was undesirable, 
even though every Irishman in Butte was an aspiring politician. 
Being neither Irish nor Catholic I had two points in my favor. 
At the Democratic county convention in 1910, the nominating 
committee asked me to stand for a seat in the legislature. One 



A Friendly Game of Poker 81 

committee member mumbled vaguely to me afterward that I 
would be expected to do "a few little things" for the Company 
but in my utter naivete I thought nothing of it. 

A fight was made against our slate on the convention floor. 
W. W. McDowell, a mining promoter who was on the slate 
but was not too popular, got worried about having his nomina 
tion ratified. He told me that if he were nominated and elected 
he expected to be re-elected Speaker of the House. If I would 
help ensure his nomination, he pledged he would appoint me 
chairman of the House Judiciary Committee after he became 
Speaker. I did what I could for McDowell and the convention 
nominated him. 

The party assigned me to campaign for election with John K. 
O'Rourke, the picturesque sheriff who flaunted gorgeous cra 
vats said to cost five dollars each. The prescription for a suc 
cessful campaign was simplicity itself: you planted a foot on 
the bar rail and bought "drinks for the house" in every saloon 
and casino in Silver Bow County and as often as possible. Since 
there was no paper money in Montana then, you tossed out a 
fistful of silver or, better yet, a five, ten, or twenty-dollar gold- 
piece. And if you expected change you could have stood there 
until doomsday without getting any. 

Every self-respecting drinker in Butte took his whisky 
straight, with a beer chaser. Debonaire "J a wn" O'Rourke never 
spent less than $40 in a saloon and often as much as $100. This 
was not extravagant, considering that the job of sheriff in 
wide-open Silver Bow County was reputed to be worth $40,000 
to $60,000 a year on the side. 

With a wife, a mortgaged house, and a moderate income, I 
had to try to get by as O'JRourke's frugal companion. At Demo 
cratic headquarters shortly before Election Day, "Guinane" 
Sullivan, a sometime saloonkeeper, asked me when I was com 
ing up to his place in the Gulch. I realized what the trip would 
cost me. I also knew that Sullivan was one of those who got a 
keg of beer and some cases of whisky and opened a bar thirty 
days before the election, just to reap the windfall from the 
candidates. 

"I don't believe I'll be able to make it," I told him. 



82 Yankee from the West 

"Well, if you don't get up there, you'll be badly beaten," 
Sullivan warned. 

Sullivan was wrong. I carried the Gulch. In fact, I got only 
one less vote there than Paddy Duffy, former president of the 
Miners union, and a Gulch resident. I placed fourth highest on 
our county ticket, getting only thirty-five votes less than the 
top man. Our twelve-man slate was elected save for John Mc- 
Ginnis, who was a one-time lieutenant of Heinze. 

It proved that you could be elected without a rain of gold 
across the bar. I had insisted on making a few speeches and 
discussing issues, and I didn't spend more than $20 altogether. 
A fourth of that was invested in Walkerville, an old mining 
town north of Butte. I had bided my time until all but ten per 
sons had left the bar, then casually tossed a five-dollar gold- 
piece on the counter. The bartender blandly rang it up, and I 
had to borrow a nickel to get a streetcar back to Butte. 



Chapter Four 

"YOU CAN'T LICK 
THE COMPANY" 



It sounds incredible now but when I went to Helena for 
the opening of the legislature in January 1911 I was na'ive 
enough to believe I would be allowed to act as a free agent. 
True, I had been on the Company slate and I knew its interests 
and its influence. But I assumed maybe out of my inherited 
idealismthat the corruption so rampant in the city council 
would not reach the state level or me. And while I had heard 
of the competitive vote-buying by Clark, Heinze and Daly I 
was optimistic enough to think that such contempt for the 
democratic process belonged to the past. 

Several decades later, I ran into Cornelius Kelley in a New 
York club. He was then chairman of the board of Anaconda 
and I was a United States senator. 

"You know, you educated me/* I joshed him. 

"Well, we didn't do a very good job of it," he replied with a 
laugh. 



84 Yankee from the West 

Helena (once called "Last Chance Gulch") is a beautiful 
capital, shimmering in pure air with snow-capped Rockies 
rearing as a dramatic backdrop in all directions. In 1911 Hel 
ena reflected the prosperity of the "Treasure State/' which was 
rich in gold and silver mining, cattle, sheep, and timber. The 
enormous stone capitol was one of the finest in the Northwest 
and the town was ornamented with elaborate mansions built 
by the stockmen and the mining barons. 

The life of the capital looked less admirable from the in 
side. It is not unusual for a state legislature to be dominated 
by big interests but I believe that in Helena at that time the 
lobbying was bolder and the big interests were fewer and big 
ger. The legislature met every two years and was paid $10 a 
day for sixty days. But the hospitality was unlimited and cease 
less in the suites kept by the Company in the Old Grandon and 
Helena hotels. Nor was there any scarcity of entertainment for 
the lawmakers. Shortly after I arrived, I was invited to join a 
party of my colleagues going down to Boulder Springs, where 
there was a resort hotel owned by James A. Murray, an old- 
time Butte gambler whose nephew had been prosecutor in the 
optometry case. Girls as well as transportation were supplied 
for that long lost weekend and I'm quite sure Anaconda picked 
up the check, though I can't prove it because I didn't go. 

In the 1911-12 legislature the Democrats controlled the 
House, the Republicans controlled the Senate, and the Com 
pany controlled the leaders of both. I was surprised to find 
myself immediately chosen to be secretary of the House Demo 
cratic caucus. After all, I was a novice in politics and the young 
est member of the House (just turning twenty-nine). In 
addition, McDowell, as soon as he was elected Speaker, ful 
filled his personal pledge by naming me chairman of the Ju 
diciary Committee. To put me in this powerful post, he had to 
bypass some veteran legislators and some prominent older 
lawyers. 

The primary task of that legislature was to 11 one of Mon 
tana's two seats in the United States Senate, since the term of 
the incumbent, Republican Thomas H. Carter, was expiring. 

The Democrats were confident of replacing him with one of 



"You Cant Lick the Company 9 85 

their own party because they outnumbered Republicans by 
56 to 45 in the legislature as a whole. 

The Company split the Democrats, however, by backing 
W. G. Conrad, a Great Falls banker and long-time Democratic 
wheelhorse. The favorite of the Democrats was Thomas J. 
Walsh, a brilliant Helena lawyer. The Company hated Walsh 
because he had tried and won mining and personal injury suits 
against it; some went so far as to call him an "ambulance 
chaser/' simply because he had clients who had been injured 
by the railroads. He also had defended labor leaders, another 
unforgivable sin in the eyes of the Company. 

The Company dominated the Silver Bow delegation but I 
felt impelled to support Walsh as much the better man, 
though I had met him only once. When I was working for 
Shelton, he had happened into the office late one night, found 
me working, and smilingly warned that this was a sure way 
to acquire gray hairs. 

Only two other members of our delegation refused to go 
along with the Company. One was Joseph Binnard, a young 
lawyer who also admired Walsh. The other was Paddy Moore, 
who was holding out with his tongue in his cheek for Tom 
McTague, an ex-owner of the state penitentiary. 

Once, when I spotted Moore in the bar at the Grandon, I 
said, "Paddy, why don't you get in line and vote for Walsh?" 

"Don't be a damned fool all your life," he replied with a wink. 
"W. A. Clark is coming out for the Senate next week and we'll 
all be able to make a piece of money." 

Clark had no intention of taking on another fight for the 
Senate. He owned the Butte Miner and was stringing along 
with his old enemies at Anaconda on almost everything. 

Moore, a member of the bartenders union, later shifted to 
Walsh. When he returned to Butte one weekend, some of his 
union cronies had stood him up against the wall and threatened 
him with bodily harm if he didn't get behind the candidate 
who had defended union leaders. 

But Walsh was opposed by virtually all the newspapers and 
by the interests who always truckled to the Company. I was so 
incensed at my anti-Walsh colleagues on our delegation that 



86 Yankee from the West 

at one meeting I lectured them that they should get behind this 
popular Irishman because he had campaigned to help put 
them into the legislature. This appeal got nowhere. Paddy Duffy 
got up and said he had been elected because he had been presi 
dent of the Miners union. Jim McNally insisted that he had 
been elected because he had carried a union card for thirty 
years. All this dismayed Paddy Moore, a short, heavy-set man 
who sounded as if he were a member of the Abbey Theatre 
company in Dublin. 

"You're all damn fools," he told us. "None of you would be 
here if I hadn't sung 'Where the River Shannon Flows' all dur 
ing the campaign/' 

Moore couldn't make a speech to save his life. His vote appeal 
rested on a much sounder foundation: he could render a senti 
mental Irish ballad in a way that made tears flow like the Shan 
non itself in every barroom in Butte, or at a public gathering. 

When the legislature took its first ballot, Walsh got only 
28 votes out of 102 cast. Eighteen went to Conrad and 31 to 
Carter. The other 25 votes were scattered. And 51 were neces 
sary to elect. 

The next vote was taken a month later. It showed: Carter, 
40; Walsh, 24; and Conrad, 24. The balloting dragged on in 
this inconclusive fashion from day to day, with the Republicans 
concentrating on Carter and the Democrats hopelessly split. I 
was told that the Company forces were supporting Conrad in 
an effort to deadlock the legislature and then select a dark- 
horse candidate of their own choosing in the last-minute back 
room dickering. 

Binnard and I kept stubbornly with Walsh. One day I was 
buttonholed by John McGinnis, the lone loser in our county 
delegation in the election. He asked if Binnard and I would 
represent a Frenchman who was anxious to block Mayor Nev- 
in s proposal to move Butte s red-light district from the center 
of town to the outlying "Flats." McGinnis said we could earn 
a fee of $2000 each. When I pointed out that nothing could be 
done in court because the bawdy houses were operating in 
violation of the law, he said, "All you have to do is ask John 
Moroney to call the mayor and tell him to do nothing about 



"Yow Cant Lick the Company' 87 

it" Moroney was president of the Daly Bank and Trust Com 
pany and top lobbyist for the Company at Helena. 

I asked McGinnis what Moroney would want in return for 
this favor. He replied: "Nothing. Moroney likes you/' 

"I've never met him/* I said. "Won't he want me to switch 
my vote from Walsh to Conrad?" 

McGinnis assured me I wouldn't have to be in any hurry 
about it I could switch later on. 

"What you're really asking me to do is sell my vote for 
$2000," I said. 

"What have you got in the back of your mind?" McGinnis 
exploded. "What do you really want? You can't lick the Com 
pany. You might as well join them," 

Next, Harry Gallwey, majority leader of the state senate and 
president of the Butte, Anaconda, and Pacific Railway, de 
manded to know when I would swing over to the Company's 
choice. I liked Gallwey he was a charming and decent fellow 
ordinarily but I tried to convince him I was for Walsh all the 
way. 

"We'll make you vote for Conrad," he said quietly. 

"You'll what?" I yelled. "Listen: you can take me out and 
string me up on a telephone pole but, by God, you can't make 
me vote for someone I don't want to vote for!" 

By now I was recognized as the leader of the diehard Walsh 
forces and the price on my vote was going up. A well-known 
Helena gambler approached my room and said he could get 
me $5000 if I would vote for Conrad. Despite my refusal, he 
returned several times, apparently assuming I was playing hard 
to get. Finally he said he would pay as high as $9000 if I would 
desert Walsh. When I again smilingly shook my head, he gave 
up, remarking that "you're the damnedest politician I ever met." 

With the senatorial election still up in the air, Moroney him 
self sent for me at his sumptuous private suite in the Helena 
Hotel. The long-time head of the Anaconda political machine, 
he was small and redheaded, with a pointed nose, a thin face 
and an exceptionally sharp mind. 

"What's the matter-why can't we get together?" Moroney 
asked me immediately. I told him I didn't know whether he 



88 Yankee from the West 

took me for a fool or a thief but that I was neither. He then 
told me that Walsh could not be elected. He asked me to sug 
gest a compromise possibility. I named several, including 
Walsh's law partner, the respected Colonel C. B. Nolan, who 
was a noted orator, but Moroney objected to all of them. 

Moroney said he liked Nolan and would walk barefooted 
from Butte to Helena for him but that Nolan couldn't be 
elected. He added that I knew very well he could get enough 
Democratic votes to elect Carter but that John D. Ryan, board 
chairman of the Company, and Carter wanted to avoid another 
scandal. 

Montana was anxious to avoid a repetition of the 1893 fiasco, 
when the legislature's inability to agree on a candidate for the 
Senate left the seat vacant for two years. Finally, after the ygth 
ballot, there was a movement from both sides toward Judge 
Henry L. Myers of the Fourth Judicial District. Walsh assured 
me that Myers would make an honest, independent senator. 
(As a member of the 1893 legislature, Myers had accepted a 
large sum of money from W. A. Clarkbut only to use it as evi 
dence to expose Clark.) So I went along in supporting Myers 
and he was elected on the 8oth ballot. 

The second major issue of the session was adoption of a 
direct primary law to which both parties had committed them 
selves in the last campaign. Early in the session, we in the Dem 
ocratic House put through a bill patterned on the philosophy 
of the wide-open Wisconsin law. The Republican-controlled 
Senate passed a bill restricting participation by the people and 
giving more control of primary machinery to the political 
parties. 

In a Senate-House conference, both bills were scrapped in 
favor of a compromise which provided for the nomination of 
United States senators by straight party convention. I was one 
of the nine House members who fought the compromise on the 
grounds it was "not the bill the people want/' 

This measure was enacted, but in the subsequent general 
election of 1912 the people took matters into their own hands 
and overwhelmingly adopted an initiative measure based on 
the Wisconsin law. Under this system, the primary voter re- 



"You Cant Lick the Company" 89 

ceives the ballots of all parties, votes the ballot of his choice, 
and discards the unused ballots in a box provided for the blanks. 

Most of the bills I sponsored concerned proposals long sought 
by the labor unions. Butte then had the reputation of being 
"the strongest union town on earth." Every job in town was 
organized. There was even a chimney sweeps union composed 
of two chimney sweeps. The Butte Miners union was already 
thirty years old, a member of the Western Federation of Miners 
which in turn was affiliated with the American Federation of 
Labor. It had won the eight-hour day in 1900, when Heinze 
set that pattern in his mines and forced Amalgamated to follow 
suit. Wages were higher than in any mining camp, although 
the cost of living in Butte was higher too. 

While the Company allowed the union to do all the hiring, it 
otherwise did not permit anything like the independence ex 
erted today by big unions protected by across-the-board con 
tracts and federal law. The miners had been used as pawns in 
the Heinze- Amalgamated struggle and the Company had played 
politics with the internal affairs of the union ever since. 

My No. i bill was based on a model measure drafted for the 
AFL by Judge Alton B. Parker, the Democratic nominee for 
President in 1904, to assist workmen in their personal injury 
suits. In those days, unless a lawyer represented the Anaconda 
interests or their affiliates, his most lucrative practice was in 
representing people with lawsuits against them. By now I had 
had enough direct experience in representing miners and rail 
road workers in personal injury cases to realize the crying need 
for a radical change in the legal concepts covering employee 
accident claims. 

It was taken for granted at that time that an employee 
assumed the normal risks of the industry in which he was em 
ployed. Also controlling was the ancient principle that the re 
sponsibility of a "fellow servant" for an accident relieved the 
employer of any damages. My bill abrogated the "fellow serv 
ant" doctrine completely. It also eliminated the assumption-of- 
risk defense by an employer. And it provided that contributory 
negligence did not bar a recovery but limited the liability of an 
employer in proportion to the extent of contributory negligence. 



go Yankee from the West 

The measure caused an immediate uproar when it was re 
ported to the House floor for debate. The Helena Independent 
in its issue of January 27, 1911, noted that it was the subject 
of "determined attack" and that the bill's opponents were aim 
ing at its "emasculation." Although it marched toward passage 
on a Friday, the Company marshaled its forces over the week 
end. On Monday it was referred back to the Judiciary Com 
mittee, where, according to the Independent two committee 
members "agreed that the bill was altogether too radical and 
sweeping." They promised to come up with a compromise which 
covered only the most hazardous jobs. But even this milk-and- 
water substitute failed to pass the Senate. 

However, I did see through to enactment my loan shark bill. 
It regulated assignment of wages as security for loans and fixed 
a rate of interest for such loans at 12 per cent. This may seem 
like little enough regulation, but it was an improvement. As a 
collection agent, I had seen far too many miners go deeply into 
debt over assignment of their wages. 

I also pushed hard for my bill requiring coal dealers to weigh 
coal on public scales. It slid through the House but was blocked 
by Chairman John Edwards of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 
One day Edwards, who was the Republican boss of eastern 
Montana, had the gall to put his arm around me and ask me to 
get my committee to approve his railroad bill. I told him I would 
not only have his bill reported unfavorably but I would give 
the same treatment to all his other bills until he had my coal 
bill passed by the Senate and signed by the governor. It did not 
take Edwards long to do precisely that, and my coal bill became 
law. 

I also used my power as chairman to block any bill that was 
obnoxious to me, simply by neglecting to call a committee meet 
ing to consider it or by postponing consideration until it was 
too late in the session to have it passed. For this reason some 
of my colleagues called me a "dictator," as they did later when 
I was chairman of the Interstate Commerce Committee of the 
United States Senate. 

In February I had a little fun with the Constitutional Amend 
ment to enfranchise women. Representative Jeannette Rankin 



"You Cant Lick the Company" gi 

of Montana, the first female in the United States to be elected 
to Congress, pleaded with the legislature to ratify the measure. 
I voted for it but I could not resist some prearranged byplay 
with Dan O'Hern, who was presiding. I proposed amending 
the Amendment so as to limit the right to vote to women with 
six children. O'Hern, with a straight face, ruled my proposal 
out of order. That night, after the bill had passed the House, 
O'Hern and I were having dinner at the Grandon. A couple of 
suffragettes who must have thought we were taking their cru 
sade lightly said in loud tones: "Look at those two crooks over 
there!" 

As a matter of fact, I strongly believe women should not only 
vote but also run for public office. None of the women who have 
been elected to the Senate or the House have shown up badly. 
The ones I have known were forthright and honest, and some 
showed tremendous courage. Take Jeannette Rankin, who stood 
up and voted against our entry into World War I in the face of 
contrary public sentiment and appeals from her family and 
friends. The late Representative Edith Nourse Rogers, a Repub 
lican from my old district in Massachusetts, was another out 
standing member of Congress. 

In the legislature, I was successful in pushing through the 
bill backed by the labor unions to ban the sale of prison-made 
goods. But I turned down the union leaders when they asked 
me to sponsor a bill to prohibit the use of prisoners on road 
gangs. I felt this was the only way Montana would get any 
highways built in that era. 

As a whole, the conduct of the labor leaders in Helena sur 
prised me. I expected them to line up one hundred per cent 
with the progressive legislators but they played along with the 
Company on all bills except those which affected labor directly. 
I thought one labor leader went to extremes of subservience 
when I saw him obsequiously holding the coat of a company 
official in a hotel lobby. 

On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised by my col 
leagues in the legal profession. Although lawyers are probably 
more criticized than any other class of men, it was a group of 
young lawyers in the Montana legislature who courageously 



92 Yankee from the West 

fought for liberal legislation, for Walsh's election, and against 
corporate control. 

Two of the most likeable lobbyists I became acquainted with 
in the capital were Frank Conley and Tom McTague. Conley 
and McTague were in the penitentiary business that is, they 
had built a prison, leased it to the state, and ran it themselves. 
The situation was, of course, ripe for abuse. It used to be said 
without proof that any big interests that wanted to get rid of 
someone who was a thorn in its side could get him shipped to 
the penitentiary without a court sentence. 

A previous legislature had purchased the state prison from 
Conley and McTague, paying a price set by a commission of 
outstanding citizens after a careful appraisal. Now, in 1911, 
came a bill to pay an additional $69,000 for property which 
Conley and McTague contended they had not been properly 
compensated for in the sale. When their case was presented to 
the Committee on Institutions, of which I was a member, it 
didn't impress me at all. A poll of other committee members 
made it obvious that a majority opposed the measure. 

After the committee meeting, Gus English, a Republican 
member and a Company man, buttonholed me and said, "Look, 
I can get you $50 for this if you'll switch. Conley and McTague 
are fine fellows, I've done business with them before/ 7 

"You get all the money you want, I'm out of it/' I told him. 

"Well, if you don't take it, I can't get it," English complained. 

"Well, then, as far as I'm concerned," I answered, "you're not 
going to get it." 

At the very next meeting of the committee there was a mi 
raculous change of sentiment and the bill was reported out 
favorably. Ironically, one member who switched was Eddie 
O'Flynn, a lawyer from Butte who had boasted to me on the 
way to Helena about how he was going to stand up against 
the Company, He afterward got a retainer from one of the 
Company's affiliates. The skillful lobbying by Conley and Mc 
Tague had paid off, in the literal sense of the word. I got a 
taste of it myself. Conley told me in the House lobby he had a 
lawsuit against him in Deer Lodge, where the prison was lo 
cated. He wanted to retain me as one of his attorneys for $500. 



"You Can't Lick the Company 3 93 

I told him bluntly that I was against his bill and that he was 
making a mistake if he thought I might change my vote. 

"I'm running the penitentiary and don't want to be in it/' 
Conley quipped, shrugging and walking away. I heard noth 
ing more about it until I was back in Butte later on. Conley 
left word at my office he wanted to see me in the Butte Hotel. 
When I arrived, he pulled out a roll of bills and said, "Here's 
the five hundred. The case has been settled and I want to pay 
you." 

I told him he didn't owe me a thing because I had done no 
work in the suit and had voted against his bill. Conley looked 
amazed. 

"I have been going to the legislature for twenty years or 
more," he said, leaning back in his chair. "You're the second 
man I've offered money to who wouldn't take it. The other 
was Albert Galen." 

(Galen was a former attorney general of Montana. As we 
shall see later, I was to have a run-in with him which demon 
strated that Galen either lost, or temporarily misplaced, the 
integrity he displayed to Conley.) 

Conley sent for a fifth of champagne after I declined his $500 
and we had a friendly drink, presumably to celebrate my re 
sistance to money. 

The Company lobbied loyally for all its friends, regardless 
of what they were pushing in the legislature. For example, 
Moroney once sought me out in the House lobby and mentioned 
that Dr. Joseph Scanlan, whose family owned the insane asylum 
then being leased to the state, was anxious for passage of the 
bill to buy the asylum for $750,000. I had opposed it because 
I thought the price should be set by a commission of reputable 
private citizens, as had been done in purchasing the prison. 
Moroney explained that Dr. Scanlan wanted to retain me to 
make a speech for his bill on the floor of the House. 

"If they're right on the proposition, they don't need me," I 
told Moroney. "And if they're wrong, there's not enough money 
to buy my vote." 

The asylum bill failed during that session. 

A state employee finally gave me a friendly tip that unless 



94 Yankee from the West 

I began lining up with the Company I couldn't expect to go 
back to Silver Bow County safely. There was a hint that I lit 
erally would not be permitted to live in the county. But the 
main point was that the Company never forgets or forgives its 
enemies. I told the employee that if I had to leave Butte I 
would at least be leaving with more money than I came with. 

Was I utterly disillusioned by the corruption in the capital? 
I was dismayed., of course, but not disheartened. I never claimed 
to be more honest than most people but bribery offended my 
conscience. Aside from that, I had sense enough to know that 
once you took their money you had to do as they said. You 
lost not only your integrity and self-respect but your independ 
ence in action if not in thought. 

Some of the bribe-takers used to say, "No one is going to 
know but the bribe-giver/' But I will never forget the time L, O. 
Evans, a Company lawyer, said to me: "You think your friend, 
Joe Kirschwing, is honest, Well, I have the list and I can show 
you he was paid." It astounded me that this friend, a stalwart, 
forthright liberal was supposed to be on the secret payroll 
and also that the information was being passed on. I was learn 
ing that the people who can buy you and thereafter have you 
in their pocket have no respect for you. 

Still, I did not look down my nose at my colleagues for doing 
what came naturally to them. We used to say that anyone who 
was a Company stooge was "wearing the copper collar." I was 
fond of most of these fellows and I enjoyed needling them 
about the chores they had to perform for the Company. This 
was to be my lasting attitude in a long career of political fights: 
I never carried the bitterness around in my soul because I knew 
it would not hurt the other fellow, only me. 

I want to make it absolutely clear that I did not feel the in 
tolerance for my opponents that many supposedly tolerant "lib 
erals" display today toward those who disagree with them. I 
did not assume that every member of the legislature who dis 
agreed with me or Walsh was crooked or in any way dishonest. 
There were many who honestly believed that because the 
Company employed more people and developed the state it 
should dominate the economy and political life of the state. 



"You Cant Lick the Company' 95 

They also seemed convinced that those of us who disagreed 
with their philosophy were not only liberals but wild-eyed radi 
cals! 

I also felt the Company had a right to employ lobbyists to 
protect their legitimate interests before the legislature. Unfor 
tunately, so much money had been thrown around dishonestly 
during the fights between Heinze, Clark, and the Company that 
all Montana had been corrupted and some politicians looked 
upon public office as a legitimate way of making fairly big 
money. 

All in all, I had a taste of politics and I liked it. I had started 
a fight against the Company and I intended to finish it. I have 
always relished a fight but in this one I knew I could look for 
little outside help, for I had by now confirmed my suspicion 
that I could trust few politicians. 

Why was I fighting the Company? It was definitely not be 
cause I considered myself any kind of "flaming liberal." I had 
not at this point worked out a philosophy of Progressivism 
even though 1911 saw the beginnings of Progressivism in the 
state. (Between 1911 and 1920, a total of 66 laws were passed 
which benefitted farmers and ranchers in Montana; 40 other 
laws passed by the legislature favored laborers.) What I was 
working and voting for was simple justice for the workingman 
who needed a great deal of legal help to get his rights in deal 
ing with management. 

There were other more emotional motivations. I had been 
outraged by the way the Company had undermined Walsh, a 
man of the highest ability and integrity, And I deeply resented 
being told what I had to do. I would not be pushed around. 

Back in Butte, I reopened my law office. Canning and I had 
dissolved our partnership after one year for personal reasons 
which in no way impaired our friendship and respect for each 
other. I had no trouble finding clients. My record of standing 
up to the Company brought me a steady flow of people who 
were suing the Company or one of the railroads. 

The year 1911 was a particularly bad one for mine accidents. 
One of the worst had involved "the nippers" school-age boys 
who before the restraint of the child labor laws were hired to 



96 Yankee from the West 

carry tools from place to place in the workings far below ground. 
On this occasion, the drilling steel which the boys loaded in 
the elevator cage with them got loose from its moorings and 
ripped into the shaft's timbers on ascent. The eight "nippers" 
were literally ground to pieces. 

My working day extended far into the evening because nearly 
all my clients were workingmen and this was the only time they 
could visit my office. The Anaconda attorneys began to com 
plain that they paid me more money than any attorney in town. 
I added insult to injury by blandly using the excellent law li 
brary in the Company's offices in the Hennessy Building to 
look up my cases. 

I also sought advice from the outstanding lawyers in Butte 
who were handling the same kinds of cases. Alec Mackel, of the 
firm of Mackel and Meyer, advised me never to leave an Eng 
lishman on a jury in suing a company for damages because the 
English were notoriously conservative. On the other hand, 
Mackel said, the Irish were the most desirable jurors on such 
cases because they were always very free with other people's 
money. He went on to warn me further never to leave an Irish 
man on a jury if you were prosecuting a case for the govern 
ment because ""the Irish are always against the government." 
MackeFs rule of thumb turned out to be reliable. 



Chapter Five 

MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY 



Even before I returned home from the legislature new 
political avenues were opening up. On March 7, 1911, 1 picked 
up the Anaconda Standard and to my surprise read this specula 
tion about the situation in Butte: 

"Down in the seventh ward they are talking of having B. K. 
Wheeler, representative in the legislature, get into the race for 
the Democratic nomination for mayor. The young attorney is 
well-liked down in his section and that section has been shy 
on mayors until Charley Nevin moved into the annexed district. 
In all his doings, BK has received credit for being actuated by 
the best of motives. He has some good hard will of his own and 
should he get into the race and win out it will be found that 
Butte has a mayor who knows things and can do things the way 
that strikes him as the right way ... he has not been consulted 
about the matter of placing him in the long list of candidates 
but some of his friends say he might be induced to get in the 
going and carry the banner of Democracy to victory." 

That was a flattering notice from a Company-owned paper. 



98 Yankee from the West 

For some reason the Company allowed a modest amount of 
editorial independence to be exercised by the Standard, which 
was printed in the little town of Anaconda but circulated all 
over Butte, twenty-six miles away, because of its excellence. 
The Company controlled directly or indirectly most weekly and 
daily newspapers in the state except the Great Falls Tribune, 
the strongly Republican Miles City Star., and a daily paper in 
Kalispell. 

The day after I read the story in the Standard some friends 
did prevail on me to let my name go up at the city convention. 
However, I ran a poor third and on the third ballot, along with 
the rest of the trailing candidates, I withdrew in favor of John 
Qninrt, a former sheriff of Silver Bow County and long-time 
Democratic politician. 

A few weeks later, the Reverend Lewis J. Duncan, a Uni 
tarian minister and Socialist Party secretary, was elected mayor 
by a landslide, winning more votes than his Democratic and 
Republican opponents combined. Quinn grumbled that he him 
self bought more votes than he got. In many areas, Quinn's 
organization paid from two to three dollars for votes. Appar 
ently, many of the persons presumably <c bought" had gone 
blithely ahead and voted the Socialist ticket. 

(Pressing money on voters was not the only way the Butte 
Democrats tried to keep control of elections. They had a habit 
of casting ballots for absent voters meaning voters who had 
not shown up at the polls by a certain hour. I always made it 
a point to vote early rather than run the risk of finding I al 
ready had been voted when I arrived at the polling place. ) 

The Socialists elected every one of their candidates for city 
office plus five of their nine candidates for aldermen. Financial 
scandals had played a big role in ending the Democrats' long 
tenure at city hall. For example, the outgoing city treasurer 
was said to be owing the city $12,000 which he had allegedly 
pocketed, and an audit of the books showed many shortages and 
a total debt of $1,500,000 built up for the city over a period of 
ten years. 

Duncan was inaugurated with an announcement that he 
would close all dance halls in the red-light district, ban the 



Mr. District Attorney 99 

sale of liquor in "any place where there is traffic between the 
sexes," and provide a regular system of physical examination 
for the women in the red-light district. He also established a 
substation in the district where men could check their valuables 
before patronizing the bawdy houses. But he eliminated the 
$10 license heretofore required from the prostitutes because he 
considered it a source of graft for the police. 

Other reforms announced by Duncan was a city purchasing 
department to check extravagance and to keep a close audit of 
city accounts. 

Duncan came to my office shortly after the election and of 
fered me the post of city attorney. I told him I would think it 
over. 

"Think it over but don't talk it over/* he said. He didn't want 
the word to get around that he was considering me. I was sur 
prised that he was, inasmuch as I had never had anything to 
do with the Socialist Party. But I never heard any more about 
the offer from the new mayor. The job went to H. Lowndes 
Maury, later a law partner of mine, reportedly because the So 
cialists had insisted on the job going to a party man. In my 
opinion, Duncan made the best mayor Butte has ever had, as 
far as honesty was concerned. It was generally admitted there 
was no graft or corruption during his term. 

In 1911 the only place the Socialists elected an alderman was 
in my own seventh ward. I was accused of being responsible for 
his election because I had refused to keep a Democratic can 
didate out of the race. There was a feeling the Republican can 
didate might have beaten the Socialist if the Democrat had not 
entered the race and split the anti-Socialist vote. 

This may have been one reason why I was defeated in the 
subsequent primary as a delegate to the county convention. It 
was my first defeat at the polls. I later learned that the Com 
pany had passed the word that anyone could go to the conven 
tion but me. The Company brought in a lot of people outside 
my ward to vote for my opponent, Billy Bawden, and I wasn't 
there to challenge them. I had expected that my election would 
be routine and was fishing, seventy miles away, on Election 
Day. Bawden was a friend and neighbor of mine and was a 



ioo Yankee from the West 

partner in an iron works which did most o its business with 
the Company. 

The county convention elected delegates to the state conven 
tion. The state convention held in the spring of 1912 in Butte 
was to select the delegates to the Democratic National Con 
vention to be held that summer in Baltimore. Walsh wanted 
to be a delegate-at-large to the national convention and the 
Silver Bow delegates led the drive for him at the state conven 
tion. He was one of the eight Montana delegates who were 
selected to go to Baltimore with instructions to support Repre 
sentative Champ Clark of Missouri, then Speaker of the House, 
for the presidential nomination. Of course, that marathon con 
vention finally chose Woodrow Wilson. 

After he was selected as a delegate, Walsh asked me to help 
him out in a suit he was handling against the Company. I went 
to see Con Kelley, its chief counsel, to serve some papers and I 
couldn't resist needling him. 

"Well, it looks like you fellows can't beat Walsh now," I said. 

"If it wasn't for you and your friends, Walsh never would 
have been heard of this year," Kelley complained. We left the 
building together and he seemed friendly enough. But later 
Tom Norton, a pro-Company member of the legislature, said 
Kelley told him that he, Kelley, should have "taken Wheeler by 
the seat of the pants and thrown him out of the office." 

Walsh had suggested earlier that I run for the nomination 
for state attorney general. I wasn't interested. But when the 
Company beat me as a delegate to the county convention, I 
changed my mind. I wrote to my friends around the state, tell 
ing them I would let my name go up for attorney general in 
the coming state convention at Great Falls, where the state 
ticket would be nominated. But I warned them that if they 
supported me they could expect an uphill fight, inasmuch as I 
was not even a delegate to the convention. 

At Great Falls, the convention chose Walsh as the Demo 
cratic Party nominee for the Senate by acclamation. Then the 
fireworks began. I had three opponents for the nomination. 
Among them was Dan Kelly, the prosecutor in the Towers 
case. 



Mr. District Attorney 101 

The Great Falls Tribune reported: "The big fight of the 
convention proved to be the contest over the nomination for at 
torney general, which started in a four-cornered contest, result 
ing in two withdrawals and a finish between the two leaders 
that, in a horse race, would be referred to as of the eye-lash 
variety . . . after McConnell of Helena made the nomination 
of Mr. Kelly there came one of the best things at the conven 
tion. It was Colonel Nolan's [Walsh's law partner] nomination 
of BK Wheeler of Butte. He referred to the fact that Wheeler 
had been denied a place on the delegation from Silver Bow 
County and that the candidate was a political orphan thereby, 
but the colonel bespoke fair consideration for him and declared 
that he was clean, capable and fearless. He said that it was 
true that he came from Silver Bow and that he was not one who 
believed it impossible to find a good man in Silver Bow County. 
He told of Wheeler's work in the legislature and the fact that 
he had made foes there because he was fearless. The colonel 
was at his best and his audience was with him when he spoke." 

The first ballot showed: Wheeler, 147; Kelly, 109; Wilson, 
106; Verge, 88. I maintained a comfortable lead but on the 
fifth ballot Verge withdrew and on the seventh ballot Wilson 
withdrew and asked his supporters to vote for Kelly. This shot 
Kelly slightly ahead of me 2Z&/2 votes to 223?^ votes and 
gave him the nomination. 

The Anaconda Standard referred to my "remarkable fight" 
and noted that "Silver Bow did not support him except with 
two votes that clung tenaciously from start to finish." Several 
delegates from Silver Bow insisted they had voted for me but 
that their votes were not counted. I had no evidence of skul 
duggery but I had not been overjoyed that the votes were 
counted by D. Gay Stivers, a lawyer who reputedly headed up 
the Company's goon squad. Kelly was elected in the Demo 
cratic victory that fall. Significantly, he resigned as attorney 
general in mid-term and joined the Company as a counsel. 

Back in Butte, the Democratic ticket for the legislature was 
again hand-picked by a committee dominated by the Company 
and as far as I knew I received no consideration at all for re- 
nomination. So within a brief time a quick one-two punch 



i02 Yankee from the West 

showed me what I was up against in fighting this octopus. 
During the hectic national election campaign that year, Mon 
tana received its usual lively working-over by major political 
figures. Theodore Roosevelt, the Bull Moose candidate, made 
a number of stops in his trip across the state. Clarence Darrow 
spoke in Butte for the Socialist candidates. William Jennings 
Bryan pulled large crowds in stumping the state for Woodrow 
Wilson. 

The Democrats needed all the speakers they could recruit for 
eastern Montana. Sentiment was strong for Roosevelt, who had 
lived on a ranch there and called Montana his second home. I 
was asked to go over there because they needed someone who 
wasn't identified with the Company to speak for the whole 
Democratic ticket. It was the first time I had ever spoken out 
side Butte. I traveled around with Judge John Hurley who had 
only one arm. Judge Hurley was a rough-hewn, tobacco-chew 
ing character and a great storyteller. Many of his stories were 
risque. At the meetings, the farmers would call out to Hurley 
and ask if he had any new stories. 

I recall speaking in Terry, a little town in Prairie County. 
The small hall in which I spoke had a stove near the entrance. 
There were no more than a dozen in the audience. Part way 
through my speech, a dog trotted up on the platform, sat down 
and watched me. I finally got a reaction from that cold audience 
by remarking that the dog was obviously the most intelligent 
one in the room because he was the only one listening. 

Hurley taught me a lot about campaigning in small towns. 
When we arrived in one, he would make the rounds of the 
saloons to drum up an audience for the meeting that night. I 
got acquainted with quite a few people who were very friendly 
to me when I ran for office later on. Thus this was an invaluable 
experience, even though the campaign was largely at my own 
expense. 

During the campaign, I heard Walsh speak for the first time. 
He asked me what I thought about it later. I told him it was a 
good speech for a bar association meeting but that he was 
speaking over the heads of the farmers. I suggested to Walsh 
that he tell a few stories but he said he didn't know how. That 



Mr. District Attorney 103 

was one of the reasons Walsh was always a complete enigma 
to his fellow Irishmen who dominated Montana political life. 

Unlike almost every other Irish politician of that time in Mon 
tana, Walsh was no back-slapper. He neither smoked nor drank, 
and his humor was very dry and rarely expressed. He was of 
medium height and always dignified, with black hair and a mag 
nificent black mustache which curled at the ends. He impressed 
the public with his sheer ability, integrity, and industry. 

I wound up the campaign by appearing at several rallies in 
Butte. Both Republicans and Democrats there were concen 
trating their fire on the Socialist ticket for county offices. 
Typically, a Republican advertisement warned that the "big 
mining companies of this district would be compelled to close 
up their properties for an indefinite period in consequence of 
the declared policy of Maury and other Socialists." Also typi 
cally, a Socialist official charged in an article in the Miners 
Magazine that "J en 7 Egan and Roy Alley, leader of the Amal 
gamated politics in Butte, led the mob of drunken Democratic 
hoodlums in an attack upon the city hall with threats to lynch 
and murder every damned Socialist in Butte.'" 

Wilson carried the state handily over Teddy Roosevelt, with 
President Taft running a poor third. The Democrats rode into 
state offices. Outside of South Butte township, where the So 
cialists elected two justices of the peace and two constables, 
the Democrats made a clean sweep in the county, although in 
several places their margin was sHm. 

The legislature convening in January 1913, acknowledged 
the unanimous endorsement of Walsh at the state Democratic 
convention in Great Falls by electing him to the United States 
Senate overwhelmingly. (Four months later came adoption 
of the Seventeenth Amendment, providing for direct election 
of Senators by the people.) The legislature also adopted an 
amendment to the state constitution providing for woman suf 
frage, but workmen's compensation legislation again failed to 
pass. 

After his election Walsh told me he would have me named 
as United States District Attorney when Wilson took office in 
March. I happened to be in Washington in March for the pur- 



Yankee from the West 

pose of being admitted to practice before the Supreme Court. 
Walsh then told me that the term of James Freeman, then the 
District Attorney for Montana, had not expired and he of 
fered me the position of solicitor in the Treasury Department. 
I had no idea what kind of position it was and told Walsh I 
would not take it unless I could have the D.A. job when Free 
man was out. He told me he could not very well do that. So I 
said I had no desire to move to Washington and would wait 
for the vacancy as D.A. 

It was not until October 1913 that Freeman resigned. The 
newspapers in Montana then announced that my appointment 
by Wilson as D.A. was satisfactory to the state's two senators 
and its two congressmen, Tom Stout and John M. Evans. The 
Anaconda Standard noted that "in the position of U.S.D.A., Mr. 
Wheeler will be in close touch with the administration and in 
a position to wield a wide influence politically in Butte and 
throughout Montana." 

The position paid $4000 a year plus expenses. The only way 
the government could expect to get a competent lawyer to take 
the D.A. post at that salary was to allow him to continue an 
outside practice. Thus I was able to continue my own thriving 
law business in Butte providing I was willing to keep long 
hours. I usually returned to my office after dinner and remained 
there until 10 or 11 o'clock. This schedule, together with my 
traveling around the state as D.A., left little time for family 
life. Mrs. Wheeler had to umpire and mediate the usual intra- 
family squabbles, and she managed to find time also to run the 
choir in the local Methodist Church and stay active in the 
Ladies' Aid Society. 

Sam Ford, a Republican who had been assistant to Free 
man, stayed on at my request for almost a year until I became 
familiar with the administrative work required in the D.A/s 
office. Some Democrats complained about my keeping a Re 
publican on for so long but I wanted all the help I could get. 
At thirty-one, I was the youngest federal D.A. in the country 
and anxious to prove myself. 

As my assistants I appointed three men who were older than 
I and who were good lawyers. They were Frank Woody of 



Mr. District Attorney 105 

Missoula, who had served in the legislature with me; Homer 
Murphy of Helena, a protege of Walsh; and James Baldwin of 
Butte. 

The job in Montana required a great deal of travel because 
federal court was held twice a year in five different places in 
the state-Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Missoula, and Billings. 
Billings in the eastern part of the state is about four hundred 
miles from Missoula in the western part. In addition to the ten 
regular terms of court, there were often special terms required 
by a heavy load of cases. 

When I took the job, I made up my mind to present all 
the cases to the grand jury myself and to personally try, or at 
least assist in trying, every one of my cases in court. I wanted 
to make the most of this opportunity to become a good trial 
lawyer. The experience turned out to be as good as I had hoped. 
For example, I learned early to present my strongest cases 
first in order to obtain the grand jurors* confidence. Once I 
had their confidence, I could get an indictment on any case 
I presented. Indeed, in the average case the grand jury would 
ask me whether an indictment should be returned. Care was 
required to prevent an indictment where the case was weak. 

This was particularly true in the case of Indians, who were 
wards of the government. Anti-Indian prejudice was strong in 
Montana then. The Western sentiment that "the only good In 
dian is a dead Indian*' was still widespread. A federal law at 
that time made it illegal to sell liquor to an Indian. I immedi 
ately discovered, to my disgust, that the government's Indian 
agents were using decoys to enforce the law. 

Here's the way it worked: the Indian agent would send a 
half-breed who couldn't be recognized as an Indian into a 
saloon and have him buy a drink. The saloonkeeper immedi 
ately would be arrested. There was a time when all the saloon 
keepers in Helena were under indictment simultaneously, all 
through the use of decoys. 

My first step was to call together all the saloonkeepers in 
each community and tell them I would not permit evidence to 
be gathered in this way because it was abhorrent. But I made 
it clear I would prosecute them to the limit if I caught them 



io6 Yankee from the West 

breaking the law. At the same time, I dismissed a number of 
cases in which the violations had been brought about by de 
coys, 

One Indian agent angrily told me he would report all this 
to Washington. I told him I would appreciate that because I 
had been trying to think of a way to call this despicable prac 
tice to the attention of my superiors. I never heard anything 
more about that threat. The situation in my opinion stemmed 
from the fact that the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Cato 
Sells, a Texan, was a fanatical prohibitionist. His main concep 
tion of his duties as "protector" of the Indians was to see to it 
that they did not come into contact with firewater. 

In trying these bootlegging cases, I found out how to tell 
when a full-blooded Indian was lying on the witness stand. If 
he talked with an expressive use of his hands, in the traditional 
fashion, he was sure to be telling the truth; if he held his hands 
in his lap and failed to get enthusiastic about what he was say 
ing, I could make up my mind that he was telling a lie. 

There was a good deal less federal regulation of commerce 
and industry then than there is today and bootlegging among 
Indians was one of only five categories of cases that commonly 
turned up. The others involved counterfeiting, white slavery, 
postal violations, and land fraud cases. Since I had practiced 
law by myself most of the time up to then, I was accustomed 
to rely on my own judgment in trial work. I was not used to 
seeking advice or accepting advice, much less dictation, from 
anyone. Now, when I went into court as D.A., I frequently 
found that witnesses had disappeared or died. I would inform 
the judge of this fact and he would dismiss the case. One agent 
sent out from Washington by the Justice Department told me 
I would get into trouble if I did not first get clearance in writ 
ing from the Attorney General before moving a dismissal after 
an indictment had been obtained. I explained there was actu 
ally no time for such communication back and forth and that 
I was willing to take the responsibility for all the dismissals in 
my district. That was the last I ever heard of that. 

At the same time, I managed to clean up a backlog of cases 
which had been gathering dust in the D,A.'s office. One of the 



Mr. District Attorney 107 

most interesting involved Ben Phillips, a prominent Montana 
Republican charged with land fraud. Phillips had been in 
dicted at least eight years previously but under two successive 
national Republican administrations there had been no urge to 
prosecute him. 

Phillips, like a good many others in the early days of the 
West, would employ people to move to unoccupied land, set 
up a shack (which was on wheels and could easily be re 
moved), and supposedly do enough work to qualify for 160 
acres under the Homestead Act. After this employee had ob 
tained his patent to the land, he would deed it over to his 
employer (Phillips), who paid all his expenses and let him 
keep a small piece of the tract. 

In this way, Phillips had obtained thousands of acres so 
many indeed that a county in northeastern Montana was 
named after him. (It was so large it later had to be subdivided 
into several counties.) Phillips was charged with defrauding 
the government but when I suggested prosecuting the case 
Attorney General Thomas W. Gregory asked me whether it 
would be worthwhile, since it was weak in evidence and weak 
in law, I pointed out that Tiere is a man who stole a whole 
county'* and said I wanted to give it a try. I went ahead and 
Phillips pleaded guilty. He was fined $500 by Judge George 
M. Bourquin, the federal judge for the district of Montana. I 
was not satisfied, but there was nothing I could do. Judge 
Bourquin never conferred with me about the sentences he 
would impose. 

Bourquin was handsome and distinguished looking, with an 
austere glint in his eye, and was one of the few men in Mon 
tana who carried a cane a gold-headed one. He had served as 
chairman of the Republican state convention in 1912 and had 
sat for one term as state district fudge in Butte. I had supported 
his Democratic opponent, Jimmy Healy, when he ran for that 
office and so we were not very friendly when we began our 
relationship. 

Judge Bourquin was a model of judicial integrity. He would 
never permit anyone to talk with him about a case. Rather than 
risk an ofihand conversation with anyone on his travels around 



io8 Yankee from the West 

the state, he went out of his way to keep strangers at more 
than arm's length. When he sat down to dinner in a hotel din 
ing room, he would insist that the other chairs at the table be 
turned up, to discourage anyone who might be tempted to 
join him. Immediately after dinner, he would retire to his 
room for the evening. He never allowed anyone to sit next to 
him on the train. He was a naturally very nervous and irritable 
person and had a reputation for dealing harshly with anyone 
who sought to influence him in the slightest. I never went near 
him but Homer Murphy used to go into his chambers and tell 
him risqu stories which made the judge laugh. 

The judge was conscientious and extremely hard working. 
As soon as my staff and I finished presenting a case, he would 
call for the next one without a recess, and we might have four 
or five cases tried in a single day. This kept us up late nearly 
every night preparing for the following day. 

In the summer of 1915 1 enjoyed my first real vacation. With 
Lulu and the children there were now threeI camped out at 
the foot of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park for several 
weeks. Up to then, I had had only a few days of fishing at a 
time down on the Madison River in southern Montana. Our 
vacation was virtually a court order from Bourquin. Near the 
end of a sixty-day session at Great Falls, in June 1915, he said 
to me: "When this term of court is over, you get out and go up 
in the mountains. You're getting nervous and irritable and the 
court is getting irritable and we might have a blow up and it 
won't do either of us any good to go on this way. I'm going 
away to the mountains for a rest and you should certainly do 
the same.** 

Judge Bourquin was always very lenient with a defendant. 
Sam Ford, my Republican holdover assistant, used to take a 
fellow who had pled guilty and dress him down roughly in 
court to try to impress the judge with the severity of the crime. 
When I objected to this, Ford told me I was "chicken-hearted." 
But I told Ford that his trouble was that he had never been on 
the other side defending anyone. I said he had been on the 
public payroll prosecuting people ever since he left college, 

I discovered that I got better results in dealing with Judge 



Mr. District Attorney 109 

Bourquin by relying on simple presentation of the facts rather 
than adopting the role of the relentless prosecutor. In October 
1914 I brought suit against the Great Northern Railway and 
the Winston Brothers for $250,000 for starting forest fires along 
their roadbeds in the Flathead and Lewis and Clark National 
Forests. William Wallace, then assistant United States Attor 
ney General, told me he didn't think I could win any case 
against the Great Northern, which had already carved out a 
tremendous empire along the northwestern part of the coun 
try. I told him I thought I could get a conviction and I did. 

However, the judgment awarded was a mere $50,000 and I 
suspected the companies had gotten to someone on the jury. 
They were represented by Tom Walker of Butte and a well- 
known corporation lawyer from Minneapolis. The out-of-state 
lawyer kept filling the record with a variety of extraneous 
matters. Murphy, my assistant, kept after me to object but I 
told him to be quiet I was biding my time. I watched Judge 
Bourquin get more and more restless. Finally, he could stand 
it no longer. 

"If the District Attorney won't object to these questions, I 
will," he said irritably. His objection to the defense's tactics 
was much more effective with the jury than my objections 
would have been. 

I was similarly suspicious of jury tampering in a bankruptcy 
case I tried against Bill O'Leary of Great Falls, one of the 
ablest criminal lawyers in Montana. Murphy tried it the first 
time and got a hung jury and so I tried it again. I managed to 
get a conviction. When I accused O'Leary informally of having 
had a man on the first jury, he told me he had never fixed a jury 
in his life. 

But he admitted to this practice: every time there was a 
wedding in town, he would send flowers or a little present. 
Whenever a baby was born in Great Falls, the parents would 
get a congratulatory note from O'Leary. When there was a 
funeral, he sent a wreath. So, O'Leary told me, he was always 
sure of having someone on a jury who remembered him grate 
fully. 

As D.A., I too used my knowledge of human nature in the 



no Yankee from the West 

selection of a jury. For example, I always excused Charley Rus 
sell, the famous painter of Montana cowboys and Indians, 
when he turned up on a panel of veniremen. Russell was the 
kind of person who would never vote to convict. 

My political future in Montana was at stake when I prose 
cuted the Northwestern Trustee Company case. This was a 
corporation organized, according to their literature, to engage 
in large-scale building of houses and apartment houses through 
out Montana and to lend money to fanners at six and eigjht per 
cent through a land bank to be established. A number of promi 
nent men in business and politics were involved. The company 
had been organized by William Rae, Democratic state treas 
urer; A. M. Alderson, Democratic secretary of state; D. G. 
Bertoglio, an important Democratic businessman in Butte; J. 
W. Spear, ex-mayor of Great Falls and a prominent attorney; 
and several Republican bankers. 

The picture of Democratic Governor Sam Stewart was printed 
on one of the fancy brochures and he was described as one of 
the leading stockholders, although he had not actually bought 
any stock in the company. Stock was issued at par value of $10 
a share. Two fiscal agents and real promoters, Robert M. Side- 
bothan, and J. G. Wilmont, sold a lot of the stock to fanners for 
a fee of 25 per cent on all sales. They optioned off the balance 
of the stock to the directors at five dollars and $7.50 a share on 
loans on property and then proceeded to raise the stock to $20 
and $30 a share without rhyme or reason. 

The case was first brought to my attention by the postal in 
spector, who charged the directors with using the mails to 
defraud. The inspector said he thought I might not want to 
prosecute the case because there were so many prominent 
Democratic politicians involved. I told him if he had the evi 
dence I would prosecute. Rae, who was a good friend of mine, 
came to me to find out if there wasn't some way he could be left 
out. I told him there was no way. He asked me if I would object 
if he took the matter to Washington. I told him not at all. I said 
if the Attorney General told me to drop the case I would do so. 

Rae took up the case with Attorney General Gregory, who 



Mr. District Attorney 111 

refused to interfere. I told Rae I had to either go ahead with 
the case or resign. 

Assistant Attorney General Wallace, who was a former at 
torney for the Northern Pacific Railway, told me later that if 
I had not gone ahead with the case he would have thought I 
was as guilty as the defendants were. Both Rae and Alderson 
had voted for my nomination for state attorney general at the 
1912 convention. 

Nonetheless, I got them all indicted in July 1916 for using 
the mails to defraud by falsely alleging that the concern was 
profitable and capable of paying a dividend of six per cent 
from the time of organization. I requested an early trial but it 
was put off until after the election that fall. The Democrats 
faced a hard fight to stay in the top offices of the state. 

Needless to say, the Democratic politicians were furious at 
me. I did issue a statement just before the election absolving 
Governor Stewart of official connection with the scheme. Cer 
tain Republican speakers had been insinuating that the gover 
nor was involved. At the same time, I recommended that the 
legislature pass a law forbidding all state officials from permit 
ting their names to be used in connection with any corporation 
selling stock to the public and making them ineligible to serve 
as directors or officers of any private corporation. 

Rae and Alderson were defeated in their races for re-election 
as state treasurer and secretary of state, respectively. Stewart 
was re-elected governor but by only 9000 votes; Wilson car 
ried the state by 35,000. 

The case finally came to trial in January 1917, in Helena, 
while the legislature was in session there. The Helena Inde 
pendent reported that the "cream of legal talent of the state 
was involved/' Colonel Nolan, Walsh's law partner, was one of 
the defense attorneys. Rae and Alderson were represented by 
Albert Galen, former Republican state attorney and brother-in- 
law of former U. S. Senator Thomas H. Carter; and by Dan 
Kelly, former Democratic state attorney general and now a 
Company lawyer. Sidebothan was represented by Henry C. 
Smith, a former judge of the Supreme Court of Montana, and 
James Hawley, a former governor of Idaho, 



Yankee from the West 

The principal charge was that the Northwestern Trustee 
Company had sold stock on the representation that the proceeds 
would go into the company's treasury when actually over 30 
per cent was used for promotional expenses. Most of the prose 
cution witnesses were farmers who testified that they bought 
stock because of the promise of big dividends which never ma 
terialized and because of the prominence of the names of the 
directors and officers. Kelly, inevitably, charged in his argument 
to the jury that the case had been instigated by me for the "po 
litical assassination of Rae and Alderson." 

During the trial I asked Judge Bourquin to lock up the jury 
because the defendants were prominent politicians who spent 
a lot of time around the hotel lobbies and in bars in Helena. I 
told the judge I had seen Kelly buying a drink for one of the 
jurors and talking to several of them in a hotel lobby. At the 
end of the session that day, Judge Bourquin noted my request 
about locking up the jurors. But he announced he would allow 
them to go their ways with the extra precaution of reminding 
them to do their duty as a jury. 

The trial lasted ten days and the judge then virtually in 
structed the jury to bring in a verdict of guilty for all the de 
fendants. The jury found only Sidebothan and Wilmont guilty, 
and on only one count. Judge Bourquin called me in and was 
very upset because the jury had ignored his instruction. 

TTou told me about those attorneys buying drinks for the 
jurors,*" he snapped. "I think you should cite them for contempt 
of court." 

I then told him that additionally one of the government 
agents from Washington Lad seen Galen and Kelly making 
signs to one of the jurors through a window in the jury room 
while the jury was deliberating. However, I reminded him I 
had asked to have the jury locked up during the trial and since 
he had refused it would now look like I was a poor loser and 
wanted to get even with these two attorneys by citing them for 
contempt. 

**The fact that youVe got a building in Butte that you haven't 
paid for shouldn't deter you from doing your duty," Judge 
Bourquin replied sternly. This was a reference to a hotel I had 



Mr. District Attorney 113 

recently built in Butte. The judge was throwing out the ri 
diculous hint that I was afraid my mortgage would be fore 
closed through the Company's influence if I cited Galen and 
Kelly. 

When I continued to do nothing about the contempt charges 
despite his prompting, Judge Bourquin asked my assistant, 
Homer Murphy, to get me to file them. That didn't work either 
so he finally sent for me and made out a court order directing 
me to file the charges. 

When they were tried, Kelly denied under oath he had 
bought a drink for a juror. Sitting in the audience was J. Wel 
lington Rankin, a prominent Republican lawyer and brother of 
Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana. Rankin had been 
with me and several others when we had all spotted Kelly in 
earnest conversation with the juror in the hotel lobby. We had 
watched them repair to the bar, where Kelly had stood the 
juror to at least one shot. Much to his amazement, I called 
Rankin to the stand, and he testified to the above facts. 

The juror who got the drink was a railway employee from 
Deer Lodge, Montana. He admitted on the stand that he had 
approached Galen and Kelly during the trial but only to discuss 
a piece of legislation in the legislature. He denied talking to 
them about the case. The aforementioned special agent from 
Washington testified that he had seen both Galen and Kelly 
signaling to a juror at the window while the verdict was being 
reached. Joe Kirschwing, a former colleague of mine in the 
legislature, also testified against the two attorneys on this 
charge. 

Judge Bourquin fined Galen and Kelly $500 each for their 
misconduct. Galen and Kelly appealed their convictions to the 
Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the fines. Galen then 
applied for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court for a 
hearing but was turned down. 

The newspapers reported that Galen beat up Kirschwing for 
testifying. Afterward, every time Galen got drunk, which was 
quite often, he went up and down the streets of Helena cursing 
"BK" (as I always was known in my Montana days). Kelly 
also nursed a grudge against me for the contempt conviction. 



ii4 Yankee from the West 

As for the Montana newspapers, my prosecution of the defense 
attorneys in the case and its aftermath only made them step 
up their akeady bitter attacks on me. 

I didn't forget these ugly events either. In 1929 President 
Herbert Hoover decided to appoint Galen to the Interstate 
Commerce Commission. When notification of this came to me 
as a Montana senator, I went to Hoover and told him I would 
oppose confirmation of Galen because he had tampered with a 
jury. The President told me he was aware of the incident but 
pointed out that Galen had since distinguished himself as a 
major in the Army in World War I and had been elected to 
the Montana State Supreme Court. 

I told Hoover I was familiar with Galen's entire recordin 
cluding the fact that he had voted on the side of the railroads 
in every railroad case that came before him on the Supreme 
Court I reiterated that I would fight the nomination. 

President Charles Donnelly of the Northern Pacific Railroad, 
a former Montana lawyer and friend of Galen, vainly tried to 
make me withdraw my opposition to Galen. So did Frank Kerr, 
president of the Montana Power Company. President Hoover 
finally nominated William E. Lee, from Idaho, a local attorney 
for the Northern Pacific, to the vacancy on the ICC. Galen 
later campaigned unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1930 against 
Walsh. He died afterward when he fell out of a boat and was 
drowned. 



Chapter Six 

LIBEL, MAYHEM, AND MURDER 



During the years iromediately preceding our entry into 
the First World War I took some interesting cases which were 
unconnected with my role as District Attorney. One resulted 
in my being challenged to a duel and another made me the 
unsympathetic prosecutor in a bizarre murder case. This pe 
riod further alienated me from the Company because it drama 
tized my sympathies for the rights of organized labor during 
a series of violent events in Butte. 

In June 1914 open rebellion broke out in the Miners union 
against its leadership on the ground that it was too conserva 
tive, despite the fact that some of its officers were Socialists and 
the Company felt its leaders were becoming too radical. 

An angry faction marched on the union's own hall on North 
Main Street in Butte, urged on by many mischief-minded 
strangers in the city. The demonstrators dissolved into a mob 
which gutted the hall, destroying furniture and records. A few 
of them carried off the burglarproof safe containing $1600, A 
new union was quickly organized. It claimed 4000 enrolled 



n6 Yankee from the West 

members immediately and refused to affiliate with the Western 
Federation of Miners. Its leaders, I subsequently learned, were 
members of the IWW and detectives hired by the Company 
to infiltrate the union and foment trouble. It was part of the 
Company's plan to break the strong Miners union. 

When President Charles Moyer of the WFM held a mem 
bership meeting in what was left of the union hall, a crowd of 
unhappy miners and the curious gathered outside. A union 
member entering the building to attend the meeting was shot 
in the head, apparently from the inside of the hall. Guns blazed 
immediately from the windows and in the street, killing one 
passer-by and wounding several others. After the hall was 
emptied, a group of men went to a nearby mine, stole a large 
quantity of dynamite, and proceeded to blow up the hall. It 
was completely leveled. 

The June week tensions became even worse in the later sum 
mer when the Company shut down seven of its Butte mines 
and laid off 2000 miners. 

There was a brief quiet period during which the new union 
claimed it had enrolled 8200 members, despite the Company's 
use of the layoff to weed out -militant workers who it said were 
responsible for the mass repudiation of the old union. Then, in 
late August, violence erupted again. At midnight, an office 
maintained by the Company at one of its mines was dyna 
mited. It was the office which issued "rustling cards," or permits 
without which a miner could not seek employment and which 
the miners considered an effective system for "black-listing" 
the dissidents. 

The union charged that the Company had blown up its own 
office to throw suspicion on the new union. It was noted earlier 
that day forty leading citizens of Butte had secured permits to 
carry guns and had organized a new-style vigilante group to 
protect "the business and homes of Butte." 

In early September, Governor Stewart was prevailed on to 
call out the state militia. Butte was suddenly under martial 
law. In charge of the National Guard was Major D. J. Donohue 
and Major Jesse B. Roote. Roote had served with me in the 
legislature and we used to kid him because he carried a gun 



Libel, Mayhem, and Murder 117 

during the sessions; now he was judge of the sum-maty court. 
Leaders of the new union were arrested and charged with in 
citing a riot by making speeches against military rule. Others 
were held in jail without bond on charges of carrying con 
cealed weapons. 

Once martial law was in force, the Company reopened its 
mines. It then announced it had reached an agreement with 
the other mine owners not to recognize either the new or the 
old union. Thus was abolished the closed shop which had 
prevailed for several score years in Butte. It was not until 1934 
that the Company again recognized any union of its miners. 

Next Socialist Mayor Duncan and Democratic Sheriff Tim 
Driscoll were impeached "for refusing and neglecting to per 
form their official duties" in connection with the disturbances. 
Among those supporting the proceedings was my old rival, Dan 
Kelly, now the state attorney general and soon to be a lawyer 
for the Company. Judge Roy Ayers of Lewistown was called in 
to preside over the impeachment. Ayers heard the testimony 
and on October 6 removed Duncan and Driscoll from office. 
The city council elected its president, Clarence Smith, another 
Socialist, to succeed Duncan and the comity commissioners ap 
pointed John Berkm, a foreman at a Company mine, to succeed 
Driscoll. 

Duncan said: 1 have not been ousted because I neglected 
to do my duty but because I had the courage to act by a higjier 
human principle than is approved by the capitalist class. I 
have regarded human life as of greater moment and value than 
property ... I did not issue an order which, if obeyed by the 
police of the city, would have cost hundreds of lives and would 
have settled nothing." Driscoll stated tersely: "If I had to kill a 
thousand men to hold the job, I don't want the job." 

The militia took its work seriously. Commandant Donohue 
warned H. Lowndes Maury, a Socialist and soon to be my law 
partner, to cease agitating or go to jail. As a member of the 
school board, Maury had introduced a resolution protesting the 
occupation of the school by the militia. Two weeks later Maury 
was barred from trying cases in military court because of in 
flammatory utterances.** 



n8 Yankee from the West 

However, the state Supreme Court on October 8, 1914, ruled 
out tibe use of military courts and ordered that all prosecutions 
be turned over to civil authorities in civil courts. It held that 
the writ of habeas corpus may not be abolished. The high court 
upheld the right of the governor to send troops but for all 
practical purposes the decision took the heart out of military 
rule and it ended a month later. 

Meanwhile, the Anaconda Standard was seeking to alarm 
the public with rumors of a coming invasion by the IWW. 
The story, fantastic as it sounds, was that a marauding band of 
IWWs, apparently 3000 strong and more bloodthirsty than 
any war party of Blackfeet Indians, was heading toward Butte 
out of northeast Montana. Nothing turned up to support the 
scare headlines. 

I was not in Butte when the violence began in June but along 
with many others in Butte I suspected the Company was re 
sponsible for it. It was common knowledge that the Company 
had brought in a good many Pinkerton and Thiele detectives 
who became leading members of the IWW and agitated in the 
new union after the leadership of the old one had been dis 
credited. Indeed, Major Donohue told me some time after he 
directed the military rule in Butte that from his personal knowl 
edge a big majority of the alleged labor leaders during the 
riots were detectives. 

In any event, the net result of the violence to the Company 
was achievement of two objectives to rid it of any contractual 
relationship with a union and to terminate the administration 
of Socialist Duncan. I went to the Company myself to try to 
set up a meeting with the union leaders looking toward a new 
relationship, but L. O. Evans, chief counsel for the Company, 
dismissed my efforts with the statement that I was obviously 
prejudiced in favor of the workingmen. 

Soon I became involved in an interesting case which came 
as an aftermath of military rule. Clarence Smith, who had 
succeeded Duncan as Socialist mayor of Butte, was arrested 
on a charge of criminal libel for an article in the Butte Socialist 
in which one Otto Pufahl was described as an "alcoholic de 
generate" in a story of a barroom incident. Pufahl had bought 



Libel, Mayhem, and Murder 119 

two of the occupation soldiers a drink and a bystander had 
struck him, remarking, "Take that, you soldier-loving S.O.B" 
Pufahl had the fellow arrested by the two soldiers. He later 
was released on the plea of his sweetheart after he had agreed 
to loss the American flag. 

Alec Mackel, who was city attorney and one of the older 
lawyers defending the Socialists and union leaders, asked me 
to look over the information in the case. I decided it was defec 
tive and convinced Mackel that it was. Mackel then asked me 
to argue the demurrer over in Bozeman, a farming community 
where the case had been transferred. I ended up arguing the 
whole case for the defense, with the assistance of a Republican 
judge, E. K. Cheadle, and a local attorney. I was severely criti 
cized in the newpapers for defending a man in the state courts 
while I was federal D.A. There was of course nothing im 
proper or unethical in doing this at the time. 

Smith's defense against the libel charge was that it was true. 
A number of witnesses from Butte testified that Pufahl was 
frequently drunk in public. Pufahl insisted that a periodic jag 
did not constitute degeneracy, and he won admission from 
some of the defense witnesses that they had observed other 
men in Butte just as drunk. 

I argued with Judge Benjamin Law over what constituted 
criminal libel. He contended that truth of the statement was not 
a valid defense to a criminal libel action. "Suppose a man ma 
liciously publishes something that is true?" he asked. I main 
tained that libel is malicious defamation and that in order to 
defame one must make a false statement. 

We insisted that the arrest of Smith was simply political 
persecution. Cheadle asked the jury of ranchers: 'Who be 
lieves that the defendant would be here if he were not mayor 
of Butte and he were not a Socialist?" 

Closing the argument for the defense, I said: "I came here 
not to defend Clarence Smith as a Socialist but to see justice. 
If the county attorney can send a man to jail because he is a 
Socialist, he can send you there because you are a Democrat 
or a Republican." I insisted the evidence showed that Pufahl 
had degraded himself. Referring to PufahTs complaint that 



120 Yankee from the West 

after publication of the article, the schoolteachers in Butte 
would not speak to him, I said publication of the article was a 
blessing to the schoolteachers of Butte. 

"I think the fair girls of Silver Bow County deserve to be 
saved from the likes of that man," I told the jury. "If the state 
ments in that article were not true, why did not Pufahl go back 
to the stand and deny them?" 

As for the testimony regarding PufahFs unsavory reputation, 
I said that if this testimony were not true the county attorney 
should prosecute the witnesses for perjury. 

The county prosecutor, Joseph McCaffery, told the jury that 
in deciding the case "y u will say to the newspapers, 'You 
shall not libel our citizens.'" 

To McCaff ery's obvious amazement, the jury acquitted Smith. 
Judge Law told me later that if the jury had not acquitted him, 
he would have had to throw the case out on the ground that the 
information was defectively drawn, as I had originally found. 

McCaffery by this time had been defeated for re-election by 
my former law partner, Matt Canning. When Canning took of 
fice in January, he immediately dismissed the libel case against 
the assistant editor of the Butte Socialist arising out of the 
same story about Pufahl. Cannings chief deputy, A. B. Melz- 
ner, also dismissed cases against a number of miners charged 
with destroying jail property during their detention. And thus 
the slate was wiped clean of the arrests made during the two 
months of military rule in Butte. 

In the spring of 1915 Charles Lane, a Democrat, was elected 
mayor of Butte along with nine Democratic candidates for 
aldermen. The Socialists were knocked out of all municipal 
offices and the four-year reign of the Socialists in Butte was 
ended, 

Dunag 1915-16 1 undertook two other important cases which 
had nothing to do with my job as D.A. In one I defended some 
labor leaders and in the other I prosecuted a murder case. 

In April 1915 the Empire Theatre in Butte dispensed with 
its union musicians and the musicians union promptly threw 
a picket line around not only the theater but also the property 
of every merchant who crossed the picket line to go to the thea- 



Libel, Mayhem, and Murder 121 

ter. The theater went into court and got a temporary injunction 
against the union and the Silver Bow Trades and Labor Council, 
restraining them from continuing the picketing. 

The unions asked me to serve as chief defense counsel dur 
ing the show-cause hearing. The hearing turned into a massive 
battle of witnesses and ksted seventeen days. The employers 
of Butte were out to attack the secondary boycott as a weapon 
of organized labor; it had been upheld as a constitutional exer 
cise of free speech by the Montana State Supreme Court. A 
total of eighty-eight businessmen paraded to the stand to tell 
the dire consequences of the boycott They were directed by 
attorney Jesse B. Roote, who had been judge of the summary 
courts during the period of martial law. I countered with 
seventy-eight witnesses who testified that they had not been 
threatened in any manner by the union representatives who 
carried the "unfair" banner in front of the theater. 

The Anaconda Standard reported one incident during the 
trial which reflected the bitterness that still existed over the 
stormy destruction of the Miners union and its closed shop. 

"During the examination of Charles Copenharve, city editor 
of the Standard" the article related, ^inharmony broke loose. 
Attorney Roote had been trying to introduce some testimony 
as to what took place during the *reign of terror* in Butte last 
summer. The court did not think it advisable to go into the 
matter but attorney Wheeler said he would have no objection 
if it were meant to go into the *reign of terror of the military 
courts' of which Major Roote has been a part. 

"Later attorney Roote, in seeking the same kind of informa 
tion asked the witness if any committee called on Mm *at the 
time when Muckie McDonald and other anarchists were try 
ing to run the town with the assistance of the United States 
District Attorney/ 

"Attorney Wheeler, who holds the position of District Attor 
ney, was up on his feet in a minute, 1 suggest that Major Roote 
go on the stand!* he exclaimed. 

" If you want me to go on the stand, Til do it,' Roote replied, 
'and tell how he sent a telegram to Senator Walsh he was 



122 Yankee from the West 

ashamed to sign. I would not have referred to this but he 
insulted me when he made his reference to the military courts/ 

"1 know you are very touchy on the subject/ began Wheeler. 
*We cannot try this matter out here/ exclaimed Judge Clem 
ents." 

Roote was so furious at me that after the altercation in court 
he actually challenged me to a duel. He was a hot-headed 
Southerner and so I forgot about his silly challenge and he 
never mentioned it again. As for the wire he was referring to, 
I have no idea what he had in mind, inasmuch as I never sent 
any wire to Walsh during the military occupation or at any 
other time. 

Roote refrained from speaking to me throughout the trial, 
presumably considering it beneath his dignity. He did deign to 
speak with Jimmy Healy, who was assisting me in trying the 
case. Originally, he suggested to Healy that I name three 
judges for the hearing and he would select one of the three. 
I named the aforementioned John Hurley, with whom I had 
stumped during the 1912 campaign; Benjamin Law, who had 
presided over the Smith libel trial; and James M, Clements. 
Judge Clements was considered very close to the Company but 
he was also friendly to me because I had once done him a favor. 
Healy, not knowing this, had warned me not to name Clements 
because Roote would surely seize on that name. 

Roote did pick Clements and felt so good about his choice 
he acted extremely cocky throughout the trial, even to the ex 
tent of leaning cozily on the judge's bench while presenting his 
case. He dragged in every conceivable piece of evidence which 
he thought might prejudice the judge. Healy and I objected 
but Judge Clements overruled us and it began to look as if he 
were on the side of the plaintiff. 

In my summation argument, I stressed the importance of the 
case in the eyes of organized labor in Butte. The Standard re 
ported my argument as follows: 

"Attorney Wheeler followed for the defense. He said the de 
fendants were called on to defend an action not only of the 
Empire Theatre but every one of the charges the detectives 



Libel, Mayhem, and Murder 123 

of the employers* association could find after raking the city 
with a fine-tooth comb. Much of the testimony, he said, was 
hearsay ... he claimed he was not defending the Empire suit 
but one instituted and instigated by the so-called employers* 
association. 

"The two greatest weapons in the hands of labor are the 
strike and the boycott. There is no question but the strike is 
legal. Notwithstanding persons may be injured in their busi 
ness, courts have held so and public opinion has recognized this 
principle. 

". . . It is necessary to have labor organizations in the com 
munity/ he concluded. 'The plaintiff is merely a tool of capi 
tal to dominate the labor organizations which have done so 
much to build up this community. There is an effort to show 
the best citizens are trying to break up organized labor not 
only in this county but the state. 3 He described the testimony 
of some of the witnesses for the plaintiff as 'vilifying evidence* 
by men who had been opposed to organized labor for years. 
"The Supreme Court has held that if a man were clothed with 
a right he did not lose that right when he did the same thing 
in combination with others ... in the present case the pur 
pose was to get the public not to patronize the Empire."* 

Two weeks later Judge Clements denied the injunction in 
the Empire case. He scathingly denounced the unions for re 
sorting to such a weapon calling it "repugnant to my personal 
sense of justice" but held that under the law he could make 
no other ruling. He had struck a notable blow for that land of 
boycott at the time. The decision was appealed by the theater 
on up to the state Supreme Court, where the denial of the 
injunction was affirmed. 

My most exciting criminal case was offered to me by Wade 
Parks, the prosecutor in Sanders County at the extreme western 
end of the state. I knew Parks personally and had marveled 
at the wild-eyed proposals he had made at state Democratic 
conventions. He was a good talker but was an old Socialist who 
was more interested in philosophy than he was in the law. He 
was inexperienced in trial work and now he was faced with a 



124 'Yankee from the West 

murder case which was too much for him. He asked me to come 
in and handle it as a special prosecutor. 

The murder had occurred on September 28, 1916, in broad 
daylight on a main street of the picturesque little town of 
Thompson Falls, which is the county seat and close to the 
Idaho boundary. Miss Edith Colby, a newspaper reporter, 
had shot A. C. Thomas, owner of a rival paper and chairman of 
the Republican central committee of Sanders County. Miss 
Colby explained that Thomas had called her a whore. The in 
cident had grown out of some bitter political warfare. 

Until recently, Miss Colby for six years had resided in Spo 
kane, Washington. She was to be defended by John I. Mulli 
gan, a prominent Republican in Spokane and well-known as a 
clever criminal lawyer. Parks was scared to death of tangling 
with Mulligan, who had written a book on his profession. Parks 
also was well aware that sympathy in Thompson Falls was al 
most 100 per cent on the side of Miss Colby. After all, she had 
been subjected to the ultimate insult for a woman. I decided 
to take the case because it would be a supreme test in court 
room tactics. No woman had ever been convicted in Montana 
of more than manslaughter. 

The case came to trial early in December in the little Thomp 
son Falls courthouse. The room was jammed to the doorknobs 
with the press and public. The case had attracted headlines all 
over the country and the trial was being covered by special cor 
respondents from the Hearst syndicate and the major press as 
sociations. Once again, Judge Clements was presiding. 

The defense was insanity. Miss Colby was forty-three years 
old, a comely woman, tall, well dressed, and intelligent, exud 
ing the respectability of a clubwoman. Mulligan put her on the 
stand early. She explained quietly that she had been interested 
in politics in Spokane. She had served as assistant city labor 
agent and had been an unsuccessful candidate for city commis 
sioner in 1915. Parks and I had learned that she also had been 
a detective for a time in Spokane, working with the Pinkerton 
and Thiele agencies, but we didn't know the nature of her 
work. 



Libel, Mayhem, and Murder 125 

Miss Colby testified to having had some treatment for mental 
illness. During one stay in a sanitarium, she said, she had be 
come engaged to be married to the doctor who was in charge 
of the institution, but nothing had come of this. Ever since, she 
said she had had attacks of nervousness and had been troubled 
with insomnia. 

She related she had come to Thompson Falls during the sum 
mer of 1916 to work as a reporter on the Independent Enter 
prise, which was hotly opposed to Thomas* leadership of the 
Republican party there. While working on an assignment she 
had criticized Thomas to his face. He had replied by telling 
her she ought to be "down on 'the line"' (in the red-light dis 
trict) along with the other prostitutes. (Thomas obviously had 
used the term figuratively rather than literally; no one would 
ever mistake Miss Colby for a Jezebel. ) 

Infuriated, the defendant testified, she had borrowed a .32- 
calibre revolver and, at ten-thirty the next morning, had ac 
costed Thomas on the sidewalk as he was leaving a hotel. She 
demanded an apology. 

"He sneered at me and doubled up his fist like he was going 
to strike me," she continued. So she promptly opened fire. There 
were four shots. Two missed Thomas altogether but one struck 
him in the abdomen and the other in the right arm. He died 
some hours later. 

When I began my cross-examination, I ran into trouble as 
soon as I brought up the shooting. Miss Colby abruptly rose 
from the witness chair and ran to the open window, where she 
gulped some fresh air. Then she suddenly fell in a heap beside 
tibe jury box as if in a faint. She was quickly revived and I 
decided to postpone further questioning about the murder inci 
dent. I started asking her questions about Worcester, Massa 
chusetts, where she had been raised. 

Worcester is near my home town of Hudson and I had been 
there many times. I drew Miss Colby out about her home town 
and her early life. She responded fully and keenly. Mulligan 
got worried because her interest in my questions revealed Miss 
Colby to be quite alert and normal. 

"I object!'* he finally called out to Judge Clements. 



126 Yankee from the West 

'Well, what is the purpose of these questions?" the judge 
said, turning to me. 

"It ought to be very apparent to the Court why I am asking 
these questions, in view of the plea of insanity," I replied. The 
objection was overruled. 

I continued to ask Miss Colby about Worcester and she fi 
nally commented with a smile, "Apparently you know as much 
about Worcester as I do/' She was now perfectly relaxed and 
I thought it was safe to return to the circumstances of the mur 
der. I brought out that after she had been insulted by Thomas 
she had consulted a local attorney. This fellow had blandly 
suggested that she had three alternatives. She could slap 
Thomas* face, get a whip and horsewhip him, or get a gun and 
shoot him. This was about the most incredible advice I have 
ever heard of a lawyer giving a client. Miss Colby had forth 
with acted on Alternative No. 3. (Previously the defense had 
put on the stand Justice of the Peace W. E. Nippert, who testi 
fied that Miss Colby had consulted him after the insult and he 
had said he would applaud her not fine her if she slapped 
Thomas* face.) 

My next questions went as follows: 

WHEELER: When you tattfed to your lawyer and he told you 
to go and buy a gun, you intended to go and buy that gun? 

Miss COLBY: Yes. 

WHEELER: You went out with the intention of meeting 
Thomas, didn't you? 

Miss COLBY: Yes. 

WHEELER: When you met him you intended to ask him to 
apologize, didn't you? 

Miss COLBY: Yes. 

WHEELER: And when he wouldn't apologize you pulled out 
your gun and aimed at him-and you intended to aim at him, 
didn't you? 

Miss COLBY: Yes. 

WHEELER: And when you pulled the trigger you intended to 
pull it, didn't you? 

Miss COLBY: Yes. 



Libel, Mayhem, and Murder 127 

Now I had established premeditation. Winding up my cross- 
examination, I startled the witness and the courtroom audience 
by suddenly pointing my finger at a woman in the audience 
dressed in a black veil and deep mourning. She was Thomas' 
widow. 

"Did you know Mrs. Thomas?" I cried. "Did you know her 
when you fatally fired the shots?" 

Miss Colby's frame shook with sobs as she replied: "At that 
time, I did not even know there was a Mrs. Thomas." 

Mulligan interjected pompously; "This is the meanest trick 
I ever saw done in a courtroom." 

A key witness for the defense was to be Dr. E. L. Kimball of 
Spokane, a specialist in mental illness, or an "alienist," as they 
were called in those days. Dr. Kimball was to testify on Mon 
day. To be ready to tackle him, I called to Thompson Falls on 
Friday the former superintendent of the Montana State Hos 
pital for the Insane, Dr. A. C. Knight. Over the weekend Dr. 
Knight and I strolled around the town while he drilled me in 
the various types of mental illness, their symptoms and effects. 

On the witness stand, Dr. Kimball testified that Miss Colby 
was too ill at the time of the murder to be responsible for her 
act. He said she was suffering from "emotional melancholy." 
When I began the cross-examination, I was worried, as I had 
been all weekend, that I would be unable to keep straight in 
my mind all the ramifications of insanity on which I had been 
briefed by Dr. Knight. But luckily it all came back to me with 
crystal clearness. As I began to question the alienist, I placed 
before me on the table a soo-page volume whose title the wit 
ness could not see. It was a law book having nothing to do with 
the mind, but I kept referring to it as if it were the latest 
treatise on psychiatry. I bluffed my way through a long and 
involved discussion of the various types of mental disorders. 

The cross-examination lasted nearly three hours. The pur 
pose was to draw Dr. Kimball into such a detailed explanation 
of insanity that the jury and possibly the doctor himself 
would become confused. After the session, Dr. Kimball ap 
proached me mopping his brow. 



128 Yankee from the West 

"I've been on the witness stand a hundred times but that was 
the most grueling cross-examination I've ever had/' he said. 
"What school did you graduate from?" 

"Michigan/ 5 I said. 

<C I knew it/' he said, grinning. "I'm from Michigan. I gradu 
ated from Michigan/' 

The next day I summoned Dr. Knight, my weekend tutor, 
to the stand. In part, this dialogue took place: 

WHEELER: Would you say Miss Colby is insane medically or 
is she criminally insane? 

DR. KNIGHT: I would say in my opinion she is not criminally 
insane, is not medically insane in the light of the definitions I 
have given. . . . 

WHEELER: Is hysteria insanity? 

DR. KNIGHT: No. 

WHEELER: How do you come to the conclusion Miss Colby 
is not insane? 

DR. KNIGHT: From the education she received, her nervous 
attacks, her ability to hold various positions, her explanation 
of many of her acts ... she went and secured a gun and had 
it in her possession, that being a criminal act ... 

WHEELER: Does she come under any of the different classes 
of insanity considered? 

DR. KNIGHT: No. 

Under cross-examination by Mulligan, Dr. Knight said that 
disappointment in love, change of life, and other conditions 
could cause insanity. 

MULLIGAN: This girl not being able to sleep except with 
chloroform for a year after that second love affair, failing in 
business affairs, coming to Montana, having a man tell her she 
was a "red-light woman" and he would put her in the red-light 
district, you think all these conditions would not produce in 
sanity? 

DR. KNIGHT: Yes. 



Libel, Mayhem, and Murder 129 

MULLIGAN: You think these conditions could produce in 
sanity? 
DR. KNIGHT: Yes. 

Parks, who assisted me during the trial, turned out to be 
none too stable himself. He had an obsession about being spied 
on. He had been a detective himself at one time, working for 
the Western Federation of Miners and Clarence Darrow back 
in 1907 when Darrow defended "Big Bill" Haywood of the 
WFM in Boise, Idaho. One aspect of that case had amused me. 
Parks said they had brought in a pretty woman to get next 
to William E. Borah, who was prosecuting the union officials 
for the state, but that she had fallen in love with Borah and the 
union never could get a word of information out of her. I later 
became a great friend and admirer of Borah during our years 
of association in the Senate. 

Parks was upset when we discovered the defense had im 
ported a number of detectives from Spokane to try to find out 
what we were doing. One night we were out for a walk and 
heard what sounded like a gunshot. Parks jumped a couple of 
feet and said, "My God, they're shooting at us!" When he 
calmed down, he reminded me again of how careless it was for 
me to leave the door of my hotel room unlocked. I told him 
there was nothing the detectives could find in my room except 
some dirty shirts. Parks was so nervous that when we discussed 
the case in his county attorney's office he would keep his hand 
on top of the little wood-burning stove there. He was afraid it 
had been wired electronically to eavesdrop on us and he 
claimed he could jam the results in this fashion. 

Parks gave our opening summation of the case. He made a 
reference to testimony by Miss Colby's mother, who dramati 
cally sat beside her throughout the trial, frequently sobbing 
and wringing her hands. She had come from Worcester for the 
trial. 

"You know from the words of her aged mother that Miss 
Colby was a detective in Spokane," Parks said to the jury of 
farmers and ranchers. He had hardly uttered these words when 
the defendant sprang from her seat, peeled the cloak from her 



130 Yankee from the West 

shoulders and seized a chair as if to attack Parks. At the top of 
her voice, she shouted: "This is all a lie! I will not stand for 
this!" 

It took Mulligan, a stocky man, and two courtroom attend 
ants to remove Miss Colby forcibly to an anteroom. Her shrieks 
could be heard for several minutes through the door before they 
calmed her down. 

In his summation, Mulligan said that "this man, Wheeler, 
wants to send Edith Colby to be hung by the neck." He tried 
to pose a stark choice for the jury by demanding either acquit 
tal or hanging. He said that the United States District Attorney 
had come all the way to Thompson Falls, like Shylock, to get 
his "pound of flesh." 

"Wheeler wants the scalp of Edith Colby to take home, as 
the Indians did in the days of old," Mulligan cried, as he paced 
in front of the jury box. "God knows what bull sack is open 
over here. But I do know it is necessary to protect the citizens 
against the politicians and I do know that mental prostitution 
will turn heaven and earth to accomplish its ends . . . and I 
say the man who defends these stories against her is a cur unfit 
to live, and worthy to die. When Thomas hurled that insult, he 
drove into her heart the arrow that took away her reason! It 
was her duty to seek vindication ... I say to you, return her 
to the arms of her aged mother!" 

Rising for my summation, I decided to pick up Mulligan on 
that last heartrending phrase and turn it against him. Sitting 
next to Miss Colby with his arm all but around her was a 
secretary of the Spokane pressmen's union, one Al J. Germain. 
Germain had visited Miss Colby in her cell, testified to her char 
acter, and in general acted solicitous throughout the trial. He 
was pale, with a sallow complexion, and a poor specimen from 
any angle. 

I began by stressing that I didn't want to see Edith Colby 
hanged. 

"I just want to see her convicted and put in jail so she will 
not go out and shoot someone else," I told the jury. The feeling 
in Thompson Falls was running so high against the prosecution 
that the tension in the court was crackling as I continued: 



Libel, Mayhem, and Murder 131 

"I wish I could ask you to acquit her. I feel sorry for Edith 
Colby, for her poor old mother, for anyone so foolish as to 
commit a crime. I was born sixteen miles from her old home, in 
the old state of Massachusetts. But when women violate the 
laws, they place themselves in the same position as men who 
violate the laws. 

"If you were to agree with Mulligan, gentlemen of the jury/' 
I went on, my voice rising, "you would return to anarchy. Yet 
they ask you to place her in the bosom of her mother! If she 
were my daughter, I would rather have her go to jail than return 
to the arms of Al Germain!*' 

Instantly, I heard a commotion and scream. My back was to 
the defendant's table and as I whirled I saw Miss Colby topple 
to the bench beside her and lie there frothing at the mouth. 

Turning back to the jury, I remarked quickly: "This scene 
being enacted on the stage now was enacted this forenoon. 
And who but Mulligan is directing the acting?" 

"I presume she should die to satisfy you!" Mulligan shouted 
at me above the pandemonium that was erupting. The judge 
called a recess while they escorted the defendant out to calm 
her. As I pushed my way through the hostile audience, I 
brushed past a friend. 

'What do you think of it?" I asked him nervously, 

"What do I think of it?" he snapped. "I think you ought to 
be hungP 

I escaped from the muttering crowd to a nearby saloon where 
I could settle down. When the court resumed three hours later 
at seven o'clock, I leaned over the bench and told Judge Clem 
ents privately that I was worried about the temper of the crowd 
and the temperament of the defendant. He told me there was 
nothing I could do but continue. I tried to continue my sum 
mation as if nothing had happened, proceeding more carefully. 

"You have heard the denunciation of the county attorney and 
myself," I said. "As for myself, I care not, having heard talk 
from other Mulligans. I say to you, Mulligan, it was the most 
cowardly, nasty trick on your part I've ever heard of. Why 
does he, Mulligan, appeal to your passions and not to the facts? 
... I have been paid by the county commissioners and no one 



132 Yankee from the West 

else. What he wants to make you believe is that he is here to 
defend the down-trodden. If he is, where did he get his de 
tectives? . > . Remember that man out there on the hill, his 
face toward the sky, you citizens, because of four bullets fired 
by Edith Colby. She showed you how she opened the gun so 
skillfully and fired it as a cowboy would.'* 

At this point, I snapped the revolver four times and waved 
my hand in the direction of the defendant. A few minutes later 
my summation was concluded. 

The jury began to deliberate at eight o'clock. At four o'clock 
in the morning, after taking forty ballots, it found Miss Colby 
guilty of murder in the second degree an unprecedented con 
viction in Montana for a woman. Judge Clements sentenced 
her to ten to twelve years. The jurors later said they gave no 
weight to Miss Colby's histrionics in the courtroom. 

Miss Colby's face remained deadpan as the verdict was given. 
Before I left the courtroom, she came over and asked, <c Mr. 
Wheeler, would you have tried as hard to acquit me as you 
did to convict me?" 

Tf I had taken your case, I would have," I replied. This 
seemed to cheer her. Later, the sheriff told me that when she 
returned to her cell she had kicked up her heels and said, 'Well, 
Mr. Wheeler said that if he was defending me he would have 
tried fust as hard to defend me." 

Dr. Krmball confided to me that he had advised Mulligan 
not to put Miss Colby on the witness stand because she might 
appear too normal. Mulligan had been confident about it but 
he admitted ruefully to me after the trial that when she had 
played into my hands during the questioning about her home 
town he had whispered to her: "My God, what are you doing- 
falling in love with this fellow? Don't you know he's trying to 
hang you?" 

In exchanging post-mortem professional opinions about the 
trial, Mulligan and I discovered we had both sought advice 
from the same person Ed Donlan, a Montana state senator and 
local Republican leader. All the persons Donlan had advised 
each of us to leave on the jury panel in our own interest were 
identical! 



Libel, Mayhem, and Murder 133 

Actually, I felt sorry for Miss Colby. Although she obviously 
knew what she was doing when she committed murder, she 
was an emotionally disturbed woman and her outbursts in court 
might well have been genuine. Long before she had served ten 
years, I recommended a pardon and she got it. 

The very first night I was back in Butte after the Colby trial, 
Lewis Duncan, the mayor, asked if he could come to my office 
with a person he wanted me to talk to. He brought Mrs. Jack 
Adams, widow of a brilliant mitring engineer for the Company. 
She hated the Company and although her husband had died 
of natural causes she frequently charged in public that Con 
Kelley, then chief counsel for the Company, and John D. Ryan, 
chairman of the board, had somehow caused his death because 
they were jealous of his knowledge of mining operations. She 
told me a fantastic story and I was satisfied that she was men 
tally upset. She wanted to sue Kelley and Ryan and I convinced 
her she had no case. 

Afterward, she wanted me to collect about $40,000 she had 
on deposit with Heilbronner's, a brokerage firm in Butte. I 
collected it, with some difficultyafter telling Heilbronner that 
Mrs. Adams might do something violent to him if he failed to 
pay her promptly. He paid the money and shortly thereafter 
committed suicide. A number of Company officials lost money 
in the ensuing bankruptcy. Soon another broker also committed 
suicide, when a shortage of funds was uncovered. These brokers 
had been engaged in little more than a bucket-shop operation. 

Mrs. Adams went to Santa Barbara, California, and stayed 
at the palatial Mission Tnn T One day I received a telephone 
call from her informing me that she was arrested and charged 
with insanity. It seems that when the hotel had asked her to pay 
her huge bill she had whipped out a gun and refused to pay it. 
There was no doubt she was not in complete control of her 
faculties. I went to California and was confronted by the pro 
prietor of the Mission Inn and some high-powered corporation 
lawyers. They told me she had been talking around the hotel 
about how some agents of the Company had been shadowing 
her and trying to frame her arrest. They wanted me to agree 
to have her jailed for insanity. 



134 Yankee from the West 

I told them I would demand a jury trial and they would 
have a hard time getting a jury to convict so fine-looking a 
woman. Mrs. Adams was middle-aged, handsome, well dressed, 
aristocratic in bearing, and intelligent except for the obsession 
that her husband had met with foul play. The corporation law 
yers tried to laugh off the idea that a jury trial could be ob 
tained on an insanity charge. But I knew I was right, because 
the Montana statute code was patterned closely after California 
law. The result was that the case against her was dismissed. 

However, I was afraid Mrs. Adams might get into some seri 
ous trouble and I tried to persuade her family to have her com 
mitted to an institution. This effort was unsuccessful. Later, 
I heard that she had gone to a bank where she had an account 
and demanded that all her money be turned over to herat 
gun-point. 

After dealing with Edith Colby, Wade Parks, and Mrs. 
Adams in quick succession, I went home to Mrs. Wheeler and 
pointed out that all of them had been a little abnormal in their 
conduct. I said I was beginning to wonder whether it was I 
who was off the beam or everyone else. 



Chapter Seven 

THE D.A. IN TROUBLE 



Immediately after the United States declared war on Ger 
many in April 1917, I was confronted with mass hysteria over 
alleged spies and saboteurs, and it still saddens and angers me 
when I think about it. Up to then, Butte had been divided 
sharply between the interventionists and those who hated the 
English, The Irish miners, always the most vocal in the com 
munity, naturally had no sympathy for the British, the oppres 
sors of their homeland. Many other nationalities, such as the 
Finns, had strong Socialist leanings and opposed the war on 
ideological grounds. They maintained it would further enrich 
the capitalists at the expense of the working people of the world. 
The Anaconda Company officials and those dependent upon 
the Company generally supported all-out war. I myself had al 
ways been pro-ally. I used to have frequent arguments with 
some of my friends who were pro-German, Whenever we 
bogged down into disputes about English history, I called upon 
Charles Cooper, an English-born court reporter who was a real 
scholar on tie subject. Cooper, a non-practicing lawyer, was 



136 Yankee from the West 

eventually elected to tie Supreme Court of Montana. He was 
to become better known as the father of Gary Cooper, the late 
Hollywood star. 

My opponents in those "debates" kidded me about bringing 
in the "expert," Cooper, to settle points at issue. But, as sym 
pathetic as I was to the cause of England and France, I never 
favored our getting into the war and have always regarded 
it as a tragic mistake. On the other hand, Federal Judge 
George Bourquin, who was of French descent, frequently urged 
U.S. intervention and criticized President Wilson for delaying 
aid to the Allies. 

T hope to see the day when Berlin will be a cowpath and 
the Allied flag will be flying over the Krupp factory," the judge 
would say. 

After Congress declared war on April 6, my office became the 
busiest place in Butte. Montana was going crazy with reports 
of slackers and rumors of spies. As if this were not enough, 
Butte's Irish-organized as the Pearse-Connelly club staged a 
large anti-war parade and rally a week after the declaration of 
war. 

It was my duty as D.A. to enforce the first military con 
scription law, which provided for registration of all male citi 
zens from twenty-one years of age to thirty, and their possible 
subsequent draft into the armed forces. U. S. Attorney General 
Thomas W. Gregory ordered the federal district attorneys and 
marshals to do everything possible to arrest and prosecute all 
persons responsible for anti-draft agitation. 

The same day I issued this statement: "The office of the 
District Attorney will be active in gathering evidence in such 
cases of [draft] evasion, and registrars are duty bound to re 
port any that come under their observation. There will be no 
possibility of anyone being favored by this office." 

Shortly thereafter, I added this: "Complaints will be solicited. 
Any man within the draft age who is heard making the remark 
that he will not register will be warned during the day by the 
Attorney's force. If he has not registered by nine P.M., he will 
be taken promptly to jail. 9 * 

Soon James Trainor, secretary of the Pearse-Connelly club, 



The DA. in Trouble 137 

was arrested for distributing an anti-draft pamphlet and held 
under $20,000 bond on orders of myself and Edward J. Byrne, 
a Department of Justice investigator sent to Montana by Bruce 
Bielaski, then head of an organization which later became 
known as the FBI. 

On draft registration day, the papers reported that "Butte 
was on the verge of a serious riot for a moment" when many 
Finns, led to believe that registration meant immediate ship 
ment to the front lines, marched uptown shouting protests. 
Twenty men and one woman were arrested for leading the sign- 
carrying demonstration which, of course, numbered many Irish 
in its ranks. Nonetheless, 11,603 persons were registered for the 
draft in Silver Bow County that day. 

The draft riots were forgotten three days later when fire 
broke out in the shaft of the Speculator Mine and in the Granite 
Mountain Mine. One hundred seventy-five miners lost their 
lives in the explosion. The fire had started when an assistant 
foreman accidentally brought the flame of his carbide lamp in 
contact with an exposed inflammable cable between the 2400- 
and 28oo-foot level in the mine. Because the foreman had a 
German name it was widely believed this was an act of sabotage 
directed by the Kaiser. 

The dead miners were found piled up against bulkheads of 
solid cement, although the state law required that all bulkheads 
in the mines must have an iron door which can be opened. Al 
most immediately a new union was organized to demand 
improved safety regulations, better working conditions, a six- 
dollar-a-day wage irrespective of the price of copper, and aboli 
tion of the "rustling card" system (without this card issued to 
you by the Company you could not obtain employment in the 
mines). Governor Sam Stewart ordered troops of the National 
Guard, two hundred strong, rushed to Butte. They remained 
there throughout the war. 

The mine operators refused the new union demands, blaming 
the mine disaster on the influx of the IWW, a name which be 
came synonymous with "pro-German'' in the area. The miners' 
strike, called on June 15, was denounced by management as 
an enemy plot 



138 Yankee from the West 

When the federal court term was ended in mid- July, seventy 
informations had been filed for refusing or failing to register 
for the draft. Judge Bourquin sentenced thirty-six draft-evaders 
to jail for one day and the rest were given 30-60 day sentences. 
Military recruiting officers grumbled about Bourquin's leniency. 
The judge declined to be swayed by the hysteria. For example, 
John Korpi, a leader of the Finnish anti-draft riots, was in 
dicted by a grand jury for conspiring and confederating with 
others in overt acts. Several weeks later, Judge Bourquin found 
the defendant not guilty on a directed verdict of acquittal. 

Similarly, the same month he dismissed the conspiracy case 
against the Irish leaders in the Pearse-Connelly club. He found 
that the evidence was "not sufficient to prove the offense and 
hence the case should not be sent to the jury/' He said in his 
opinion "rights must be protected by the courts at all times 
but more zealously at a time like this . . . when passions are 
more or less aroused." I heartily concurred with this view, al 
though I did feel that the judge was wrong in finding that there 
was not sufficient evidence to submit the case to the jury. 

When the first draft cases were presented in court, I was 
taking a short vacation at Lake McDonald-a fact duly noted 
by the newspapers. In September, the newspapers began to 
register their dissatisfaction with the treatment of the alleged 
draft-dodgers. One headline in the Helena Independent read: 
WHEELER TOLD TO GO AFTER SLACKERS IN BUTTE. 
The story said I had been instructed by Attorney General Greg 
ory to make every effort to apprehend missing men and take all 
precautions against the escape of men called up for induction. 

Judge Bourquin issued the first decision of a federal court on 
the question of the draftability of aliens, and it had wide reper 
cussions. He found in the case of a man held for trial by a 
military court for evading the draft that aliens were not subject 
to the draft under the Selective Service Act. He granted a writ 
of habeas corpus to the defendant, holding that he could not 
be held for trial in a military court since he was not in the 
military service. Draft authorities were prepared for protests. 
After all, one-fourth of the men accepted for service in Butte 



The JD.A. in Trouble 139 

were aliens and many of them were already in military training 
at a distant Army camp. 

By his scrupulous attention to the law and refusal to be 
swayed by the hysteria, Judge Bourquin rendered ineffective 
efforts of the State Council of Defense to enforce its so-called 
"work-or-fight" orders issued later during the war. The Coun 
cil was a semi-official body of private citizens appointed by 
Governor Stewart to give what they regarded as a super- 
patriotic lift to the war effort. 

Investigation of draft cases took a great deal of time in the 
D.A/s office and the Independent began calling Butte a "slack 
er's paradise." This was a canard. Actually, Montana gave a 
larger percentage of its sons to fight in the First World War 
than any other state in the union. A report of the Adjutant 
General said in November 1917 that since war was declared, 
a total of 3049 Montanans were serving in the Regular Army 
though the state's quota was only 752. When the first draft 
contingent left for training at Camp Lewis, Washington, Butte 
staged a farewell demonstration described as the greatest in 
history. 

But events had meanwhile taken some ugly turns. In July, 
the militant Frank H. Little, an IWW agitator, told a rally in 
the ball park that soldiers sent to Ludlow, Colorado, in the 
coal strike there were "uniformed scabs" and "simply thugs in 
U.S. uniforms." In another speech, Little was reported to have 
attacked President Wilson, advising the miners that it would do 
no good to send resolutions to the President protesting the de 
portations of their fellow copper miners in Arizona. Another 
Little remark quoted by the Anaconda Standard and vigorously 
denounced by the newspapers was that "The IWW do not ob 
ject to the war but the way they want to fight it is to put the 
capitalists in the front trenches and if the Germans don't get 
them the IWW will. Then the IWW will clean the Germans." 

Immediately after Little's inflammatory speech in the ball 
park I was besieged with demands to prosecute him. I went to 
see L. (X Evans, chief counsel of the Company, with a copy of 
the espionage act I asked him to point out tinder what section 
I could prosecute Little. Evans' only reply was that district at- 



140 Yankee from the West 

torneys everywhere else in the country seemed to be able to 
find ample grounds for prosecution but he could not point 
to any provision of the law under which Little could be 
prosecuted. 

The next day, August i, 1917, Little was dragged from his 
room by six men and was hanged, in his underwear, from a 
railroad trestle on the outskirts of Butte, As soon as I got the 
news, I issued this statement: 

"The lynching of Frank H. Little, said to be an international 
officer of the IWW, is a damnable outrage, a blot on the state 
and county. There is no excuse for this murder. The murderers 
should be apprehended and given the severest penalty of the 
law. My office and every special agent in my jurisdiction will 
assist the state and county authorities to catch the men who 
committed the awful crime. Every good citizen should con 
demn this mob spirit as unpatriotic, lawless, and inhuman. 
Nothing worse could have happened at this time to handicap 
the government in its effort to raise an army by the draft. It 
is the worst thing that could have occurred to prevent a settle 
ment of the labor troubles here. Drastic action should be taken 
to bring the guilty to justice . . . 

"Personally I think any man who talks against the govern 
ment and the soldiers who will go to France should be con 
demned and he should not be attacked by a mob. If there is no 
kw to bring him into courts to answer for his statements and 
there is no lawno violence of any kind should be adminis 
tered to him. The espionage law does not apply to the state 
ments made by Little. The people should ask Congress to pass 
a kw that will bring men to justice who preach against the 
government but the law should take its course. 

"If there had been a law to prosecute Little my office would 
have done so. My department made a thorough investigation 
of the case and we could not by any stretch of the imagination 
have indicted Little." 

But my views on mob violence were not generally supported 
in the Montana press. For example, the Independent, in an 
editorial on the lynching, on August 2, 1917, said: "There was 
but one comment in Helena, 'Good work: Let them continue 



The D.A. in Trouble 141 

to hang every IWW in the state.' That seems strong language 
and a strong public opinion for as conservative a city as Helena. 
It might seem too strong under different circumstances . . . 
the Independent is convinced that unless the courts and mili 
tary authorities take a hand and end the IWW in the West 
there will be more night visits, more tugs at the rope and more 
IWW tongues will wag for the last time when the noose tight 
ens about the traitors' throats." 

This attitude sickened me but unfortunately it represented 
the sentiment among Butte businessmen and merchants as 
well. A coded Vigilante leaflet had been pinned on Little's 
body warning of other lynchings to come, after the practice of 
the Vigilantes during the Montana gold rush days and the 
letter "W" was among the letters separated by dashes. Thus: 
"L-C-D-C-S-S-W-T. 3-7-77." The numbers presumably re 
ferred to dimensions of a grave in the cryptic slogan so familiar 
to Montanans. A number of my friends told me the letter *W 
could stand only for Wheeler. Other initials were presumed to 
refer to union strike leaders. 

The Butte miners did not share the bloodthirsty philosophy 
of the Independent. Some 3500 of them, according to an esti 
mate by the Anaconda Standard, followed Little's body on the 
three-mile march to the cemetery, while another 10,000 or so 
crowded the streets to watch in silence. 

As might be expected, a coroner's jury rendered a verdict 
that Little was killed by unknown persons. Later that year it 
was reported that Vice President Thomas R. Marshall remarked 
on a return from a speaking trip out West that ^they hung an 
IWW leader in Butte and it had a very salutary effect The 
Governor of Montana had been too busy to issue the announce 
ment of a statutory reward for the apprehension of the men 
who did the hanging." 

United States Senator Thomas J. Walsh condemned the 
lynching and several times called for legislation *to curb the 
violence of agitators who oppose the constituted government 
of the country" and to ^suppress agitators who in the name of 
kbor, are treasonably trying to tie up industries of the country." 

I heard a novel theory of the reason for the lynching when 



142 Yankee from the West 

I conferred on business at the Justice Department in Wash 
ington several months later. Assistant Attorney General Wil 
liam C. Fitts asked me who had hung Little. I said I didn't 
know. Fitts advised me that he knew. He said Bill Haywood, 
general secretary of the IWW, had arranged for the hanging 
because Little was getting too powerful in the IWW and Hay- 
wood wanted him out of the way. 

"You may know more about it than I do but in my humble 
opinion he was hung by agents of some of the companies/' I 
told Fitts. Fitts' attitude may be partly explained by the fact 
that he had conducted the nation-wide raid on IWW head 
quarters by U.S. marshals in September 1917. 

John Lord O'Brian, then a special assistant to the Attorney 
General in charge of war work, told me not to pay any attention 
to Fitts because the Department did not consider him an expert 
on the IWW. 

But to me the most bizarre element of the war hysteria was 
the spy fever, which made many people completely lose then- 
sense of justice. All labor leaders, miners, and discontented 
farmers were regarded by these super-patriots as pacifists 
and ipso facto agents of the Kaiser. There were increasing re 
ports of enemy airplanes operating out of mountain hideaways 
south of Missoula in the Bitterroot Valley. Just how and why 
the German High Command expected to launch an invasion 
of the United States through western Montana, 6000 miles 
from Berlin, never made the slightest bit of sense to me, but 
the reports generated by this kind of emotion could not always 
be brushed aside. 

The fears of a bombing attack became so persistent that I 
tried to scotch them by sending Special Agent Byrne to in 
vestigate. Byrne went to Missoula and returned with a negative 
report. I wired Washington that there was nothing to the story, 
though our newspapers were full of "evidence" of enemy opera 
tions. Here is a typical example from the Helena Independent 
of October 17, 1917: 

"After the war started there were persistent stories in the 
Flathead reserve that airships were seen crossing the country 
and were always going south. A newspaperman put the story 



The DA. in Trouble 143 

on the wire that the Germans bad a haven in the wilds west of 
Missoula. Three months ago, two reputable women residing 
near Missoula said that they saw a burning airship fall into the 
forest near Hamilton. The sheriff of Ravalli County investi 
gated and came back looking very mysterious. What he learned 
he probably told the secret service only . . ." 

Later in October the Independent reported that another 
newspaper, the Missoulian, had unearthed evidence that Ger 
mans had a wireless pknt in the mountains and thought it was 
supplied by hostile aircraft. The evidence amounted to this: an 
old logger noticed the lights of a cabin on a mountain. He in 
vestigated and "found a tree had been trimmed, some pieces 
of copper wire and some other stuff that showed that someone 
had lived there." The logger instantly concluded that "this was 
the place where those fellows had been sending messages but 
they certainly did cover up their tracks when they left." He 
buttressed this tale with the fact that he had seen two strangers 
around that summer too. 

Because reports were coming in from very reliable people, 
the Department of Justice insisted that I continue the investi 
gation of possible infiltration by the Huns. I sent a federal 
marshal to Missoula and he came back with nothing at all to 
report. When the Department still demanded to know if there 
was an iota of truth behind the alarm, I went into the Bitter- 
root Valley myself. 

There I talked to an old railroad man who found a sensible 
explanation for the dreaded aircraft. He pointed out that if you 
looked overhead as you drove through a winding pass in the 
Bitterroots, the North Star appeared first on the right hand and 
then on the left hand. Since it appeared to be moving, it was 
taken for the taillight of a German bomber. Once the nervous 
patriots were convinced they could see the plane, it wasn't long 
before they also imagined they could hear the roar of its 
engines. 

It must be remembered that the airplane was an excitingly 
new and mysterious machine in the West. While Americans liv 
ing on the coastal areas feared submarine attack, inland West 
erners had no trouble at all worrying about invasion from the 



144 Yankee from the West 

air. As I have already indicated, the Montana newspapers at 
times even encouraged the panic. For example, the state capi 
tal at Helena once got into a serious alarm over fast-spreading 
rumors. The Helena Independent of October 18, 1917, offered 
a $100 reward in a front-page banner headline to anyone who 
could find the airplane that was said to be flying over the city. 

"Are the Germans about to bomb the capital of Montana?" 
the editorial asked. "Have they spies in the mountain fastnesses 
equipped with wireless station and aeroplanes? Do our enemies 
fly around over our high mountains where formerly only the 
shadow of the eagle swept?" 

This state of mind got utterly out of control two weeks later. 
The Independent reported seriously and proudly that Helena 
citizens unnamed had fired the first shots discharged in 
America at an airplane. 

"Incensed by recent visits," this incredible story continued, 
"citizens fired shots at it. ... Governor Stewart, informed of 
the attack, promises to follow it the next time in his auto and in 
timated that he would take an expert rifleman with him." 

The Independent reported that over in Butte people were not 
only sighting airships, "Mysterious autos began to skim about 
at night," this reporter noted darkly. "Several people declared 
that these autos carried small wireless apparatus." 

Literally hundreds of stories were brought to me about in 
dividuals who were alleged to be German spies. The trace of a 
German accent was almost enough to make one suspect in 
some areas. However, most of the reports were based on feuds 
among neighbors who seized on the spy scare to try to settle 
old scores. For example, one woman told me a neighbor was 
very pro-German and made no secret of his sympathies. I said 
I would have the Bureau of Investigation, as the FBI was origi 
nally called, look into it. Whereupon she commented: "I told 
that old German I'd get even with him." 

A man named Knute Simmons in Centerville reported that 
a group of men were drilling with guns in the basement of the 
Catholic Church there. I asked Byrne to check up on it. Byrne 
found the men had no guns, that it was just an athletic pro 
gram sponsored by a fraternal order. However, Simmons per- 



The D.A. in Trouble 145 

sisted in Ms demand that I do something to prevent the training 
program in the Catholic Church. Finally, I asked Simmons if 
his wife was German and he said she was. I told him that sev 
eral people had called me about some statements that she had 
made. I pointed out that if I prosecuted on the basis of every 
story brought to me I'd have to prosecute Mrs, Simmons. Sim 
mons left me alone after that. 

One of the most fantastic spy stories involved some of Mon 
tana's leading citizens. It broke first in the October 18, 1917, 
edition of the Butte Post, under the headline: FEDERAL OF 
FICIALS HINT AT SECRET GERMAN ACTIVITY IN 
BUTTE INTENDED TO INTERFERE WITH COPPER 
PRODUCTION. The implication was that the government had 
at last found evidence of German influence among the striking 
miners and the IWW in particular. If the reader carefully read 
through all of the story, he could learn factually only that the 
District Attorney had arrested an alleged German spy and had 
ordered him interned under a presidential warrant providing 
for internment of enemy aliens. 

The alien, Carl von Pohl, was working in the IWW but as 
an undercover employee of Oscar Rohn, president of the South 
Butte Mining Company and president of the Employers Asso 
ciation in Butte. Rohn eventually told the full story of his em 
ployment of von Pohl at a hearing before the State Council of 
Defense in June 1918. 

Rohn said von Pohl had come to him right after the war 
started with reports of IWW activities and volunteered the in 
formation that the IWW was planning to move into Butte to 
start trouble. Rohn decided to hire von Pohl, an alien, to go 
into German communities and "make the Germans loyal or 
neutral," Rohn knew that Thomas Marlow, president of the 
National Bank of Montana in Helena and a director of the Ana 
conda Company bank in Butte, was employing another German 
for the same purpose. 

Von Pohl agreed to the plan, according to Rohn, but on con 
dition that the dangerous characters he put the finger on would 
be allowed to get out of town. Men who are betrayed, von 



146 Yankee from the West 

Pohl was quoted as explaining, always "got the betrayer and 
I do not want to be found dead and called a suicide." 

Rolin testified that his stool pigeon fed him sensational in 
formation. One bit concerned a woman night-club entertainer. 
She and some Butte citizens were said to have been in the pay 
of the German government and were transferring intelligence 
via a wireless plant in Spokane, Washington, to Mexico and 
Uruguay, and from there to Germany. Rohn was so convinced 
of the authenticity of this plot that he obtained morphine for 
von Pohl to administer to the woman spy in order to give von 
Pohl an opportunity to search her trunk. Von Pohl later had to 
admit he found nothing to prove her connection with the 
enemy. And ultimately, with no evidence at all produced, he 
claimed that the spies he was trailing had escaped from Butte. 

Rohn went on to tell the Council he had paid von Pohl a 
total of $5085 for his expenses and those of his agents who 
operated out of a fake real estate office maintained by the East 
Butte Mining Company. Rohn insisted he had no reason to 
suspect von PohTs loyalty, despite the mass of activity he was 
furnishing about German activities because he was "doing good 
work weeding out undesirables from the mine workers." Von 
Pohl had kept an index card of Rohn's employees and reported 
that "ninety were ticketed as dangerous agitators out of the 
2000 miners," 

Rohns examiners on the Council were puzzled as to "why a 
man such as von Pohl with pro-German sympathies would fight 
the IWWT Rohn held that von Pohl was too intelligent to aid 
the IWW and, besides, he had a wife and four children to think 
of. Rohn went on to explain that he had employed another half 
score of persons to spy on his stool pigeon. 

"Spotters put on the lower level of the Pittsmount Mine by 
yon Pohl were spotted by other spotters and were reported 
'right/ * Rohn said. 

Roy Alley, who directed the Anaconda detective force, told 
the Council that reports of von Pohl and his men concerning 
the IWW corresponded substantially with those he received 
from his detectives "planted" in the same meetings. But he said 
that his own "large and more or less competent force of detec- 



The D.A. in Trouble 147 

tives had failed to set eyes on the couple that von Pohl was 
trailing as German spies." 

L. O. Evans, general counsel for Anaconda, told the Coun 
cil that he had advised Rohn against hiring von Pohl in his 
"makeup of a comic opera German spy" von Pohl sported a 
Vandyke beard and foreign-looking greenish-gray suits but 
that he gave Rohn credit for directing attention to the labor 
trouble that later developed. 

After the news broke that von Pohl was arrested because of 
his pro-German utterances, I received numerous complaints 
about the alleged pro-German sympathies of Rohn. The State 
Council of Defense, trying to untangle this curious situation, 
asked me if the rumors and reports inimical to Rohn had not 
come from the IWW. "On the contrary," I replied, "they ema 
nated from friends of Rohn, prominent men at Butte and these 
had expressed doubts of Rohn's innocence." 

Actually, these reports were coming from friends of W. A. 
Clark, Jr., the famous multimillionaire's son, who was jealous 
of Rohn because he was corresponding with Clark's former 
wife, who had divorced him. One day the Butte postmaster, 
who was opening Rohn's mail, brought me one of Rohn's letters 
and said it must be a code letter. I took one look at it and said 
it was no "code** at all just the letter of a man writing to his 
sweetheart. 

I told those people who were demanding prosecution of 
Rohn that I would act only if they brought me some legitimate 
evidence of his pro-German loyalty. Rohn himself came to me 
and asked me to issue some kind of statement clearing him of 
disloyalty insinuations. I said my job was to prosecute, if I un 
covered violations of the law, and that clearances were beyond 
my job. Rohn then demanded the hearing by the Council. It 
finally decided that while Rohn had been "indiscreet" there 
was no evidence that he was disloyal. 

Other Montanans suspected of disloyalty did not fare so well 
at the hands of busybody citizens. In the fall of 1917 so-called 
"Liberty Committees" were organized in most of the small 
towns of the state to deal directly with anyone accused of being 
pro-German or who refused to buy the number of Liberty bonds 



148 Yankee from the West 

that these communities would assess against an individual as 
his "quota." 

According to the Anaconda Standard, a so-called "third-de 
gree committee" in Billings rounded up "pro-Germans and fi 
nancial slackers" there in November 1917. A city council 
member was forced to resign his job and carry an American 
flag through the streets. The owner of a meat market who had 
torn up his Liberty loan subscription blank was forced to kiss 
the flag. In Red Lodge, a coal mining center, the Helena In 
dependent reported that "two Finnish IWW leaders were 
beaten and strung up by members of the Liberty Committee 
. . . the Finns in Red Lodge have prepared themselves for just 
what they got." 

Mickey McGlynn, an organizer of the radical Non-Partisan 
League, objected to a story circulated in Miles City that a train- 
load of Belgian children whose arms had been cut off by the 
Germans were to cross the state. McGlynn was charged with 
saying: "The Germans never done that; it was done in the fac 
tories in Chicago. They were sent through the country to cre 
ate feeling against the German nation." A mob took McGlynn 
to the basement of the Elks Club, beat him up severely, and 
drove him out of town. Prominent businessmen and lawyers 
were involved in the beating. 

State Attorney General Sam Ford, my former assistant, tried 
to initiate prosecution of the men who expelled McGlynn in a 
Miles City court but the Justice of the Peace refused to issue 
any warrants. Instead, McGlynn was arrested by local authori 
ties for sedition and was later convicted for his remarks under 
the state sedition act. But the state Supreme Court reversed 
the decision. 

I requested federal marshal Joseph Asbridge to investigate 
the instances of mob violence but we found that there was no 
federal law that could protect the victims. Asbridge, however, 
concluded that the mobs were becoming such a problem it 
might require the attention of Congress. He had found threats 
of lynchings against alleged disloyal persons in Livingston and 
said they could not be taken lightly. 

Non-Partisan League organizers were "deported" from town 



The D.A. in Trouble 149 

after town in eastern Montana when they attempted to con 
duct meetings. Attorney General Ford continued to try to stem 
the tide of hysteria. He publicly called on the State Council of 
Defense to take steps to prevent further interference with or 
ganizers and speakers of the NPL in the state. The Council 
refused to guarantee the right to free speech. 

R. B. Martin, the NPL organizer, came to me when I was in 
Missoula and told me he would be barred from speaking at a 
meeting at Montana State University in Missoula even though 
he had a certificate from Secretary of the Treasury William G. 
McAdoo accrediting him as a speaker for the Liberty Loan 
drive. I told Martin I was going to the theater and invited him 
to go with me. As we approached the theater, several men 
stepped out of the darkness and warned Martin that if he tried 
to go ahead with his speech he would be tarred and feathered. 
I told the spokesman that Martin had a certificate from Mc 
Adoo and should be allowed to speak. I said that if necessary 
I would call on the Army captain stationed at Fort Missoula to 
protect him, When the man repeated his warning, Martin 
changed his mind. I urged him to go ahead and speak because 
it would be "good publicity for the League." Martin replied 
that this was all very well but he would rather be a live organ 
izer than a "dead martyr." 

A representative from Scotland Yard who had traveled 
around the country came to see me in Butte, He said there was 
much more hysteria in Montana than there was in London, 
where the bombs were dropping. I was impressed when he told 
me that in England they let pacifist speakers hold public rallies 
in Hyde Park in London during the war to "get it out of then- 
system/' Yet Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a 
Republican who had voted against our declaration of war on 
Germany, had been denied permission to make an address for 
the Liberty Loan in Deer Lodge "because of her IWW and 
NPL leanings," to use the phrase of the secretary of the local 
businessmen's association. 

I was shocked that the American people could be so carried 
away and lose their sense of right and justice at so critical a 
time. It was a lesson I never forgot Twenty years later, when 



150 Yankee from the West 

I led the fight against the attempt to pack the United States 
Supreme Court, it was not because I agreed with the Court- 
indeed, I disagreed with many of their decisions. It was in large 
measure because I recalled how the local state judges, elected 
to office, were carried away by the World War I hysteria in 
their own communities when rendering decisions. It was the 
federal courts particularly the Supreme Court which in most 
instances upheld the right to freedom of speech guaranteed by 
the Constitution of the United States. 

President Franklin Roosevelt sent one of the top labor lead 
ers, Sidney Hillman of the CIO, to urge me not to fight the 
Court-packing bill. I explained to Hillman how I felt. 

"I went through the First World War hysteria and I wouldn't 
have believed the American people could so completely lose 
their sense of balance," I told Hillman, "Another hysteria might 
sweep this country and it might be against your people, or some 
other group, and when that time comes they will all be looking 
to the Supreme Court to preserve their rights and uphold the 
Constitution. This legislation of Roosevelt's would not reform 
the Court. It would destroy it." 

I told Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis what I had 
said to Sidney Hillman and Brandeis replied, "Good for you. 
A lot of people need to be told that/ 3 

There was little hysteria in the Second World War, com 
pared to the first one, except on the West Coast, where the 
United States confiscated Japanese property and interned 
American citizens just because they were of Japanese blood. 
This was a violation of the Constitution and violated the very 
principles of the Four Freedoms, for which the President said 
we were fighting. There was no law on the books to sanction 
this high-handed action. 

I protested to various high-level government officials, includ 
ing the late Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson. I had always 
had respect for Patterson as a very able lawyer, but when he 
defended the internment of American citizens as a necessary 
action under the circumstances, I was surprised and disillu 
sioned. 

So far as I know, there was no case of disloyalty ever brought 



The D.A. in Trouble 151 

against any of these people. If the federal government can get 
away with such treatment of citizens of Japanese descent, it 
can do the same to any minority. It should demonstrate to the 
American people that there is all too little difference between 
us and any other people when a war or hysteria, or both, grip 
the nation. 

Those of us who were called upon to enforce federal war 
time measures faced a severe problem. Most of the legislation 
passed in the first few weeks of our participation in the Fr*st 
World War was not well drafted and represented an entirely 
new body of law. It included an espionage act, the Selective 
Service act, and a presidential proclamation for the contro T of 
enemy aliens. The provision of the espionage act that sent other 
D.A/s off on a wave of arrests read as follows: 

'Whoever, when the U.S. is at war, shall wilfully make or 
convey false reports or false statements with intent to interf ~ e 
with the operation or success of the military or naval force c ^f 
the U.S. or to promote the success of its enemies and whoever, 
when the U.S. is at war, shall wilfully cause or attempt to cause 
insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal to duty in the 
military or naval forces of the U.S. or shall wilfully obstruct the 
recruiting or enlistment service of the U.S. to the injury of the 
service or of the U.S., shall be punished by a fine of not more 
than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 20 years or 
both." 

The public assumed, without any contradiction of federal au 
thorities, that this made criminal any expression of pacifist or 
pro-German opinions. 

The distinguished John Lord OTBrian, in a postwar discus 
sion, said this law was aimed solely to protect the work of ris 
ing and maintaining our Army and Navy and drew its authc ty 
solely from the provisions of the Constitution which empow 
ered Congress to raise and maintain armies. 

The presidential proclamation on the control of enemy aliens 
forbade the possession of firearms, prohibited approach to fr ts 
and arsenals, and provided for detention of offenders. The U S. 
Attorney General issued a circular to be publicized by Dis-t ict 
Attorneys which said to such aliens in brief: "Obey the law; 



152 Yankee from the West 

keep your mouth shut/' Later on, all enemy aliens were re 
quired to register with the government. 

Hundreds of cases of alleged disloyal persons were brought 
to my office for prosecution, many of them by local police offi 
cers. Like the report of spies, I found that most of them were 
inspired by old grudges, malicious gossip, barroom conversa 
tions, etc. Most of the cases looked ridiculous to me and I 
refused to bring indictments. After several months, the news 
papers began criticizing me for failure to act. But my careful 
study of the espionage act convinced me that there was not one 
word in it to make criminal the expression of pacifist or simple 
pro-German opinion. 

In view of the newspaper campaign against me, Federal 
Judge Bourquin, courageous and scrupulous as usual, told me 
to "send some of those sedition cases up to me and I'll take care 
of them. I'm in a stronger position than you are." 

No one could imply that stanchly Republican Bourquin was 
a Socialist, whereas the Helena Independent had gratuitously 
explained that "Mr. Wheeler is not a Socialist but lives in a 
more or less Socialist atmosphere." 

The Independent on October 19, 1917, said that "Mr. 
Wheeler, we fear, is too much given to looking for laws to re 
strain the activity of federal officials. The Independent would 
be much better pleased if, in the von Pohl case, he had grabbed 
the fellow, thrown him in jail, carried his papers to the office 
and gone through them thoroughly instead of going to court 
begging for a search warrant, only to be refused." 

That was the sort of statute-be-damned attitude which 
was second-guessing my every move. Soon the Independent 
launched a campaign demanding my resignation, with a threat 
to my sponsor, the esteemed United States Senator Walsh, who, 
like me, was a part-owner of this influential newspaper. 

"When T. J. Walsh is a candidate [in 1918]," the Independ 
ent warned, "the one issue he is going to face is Bert [sic] 
Wheeler." 

This kind of newspaper abuse had its effect. People avoided 
me on the street and nudged one another to point me out in 
hotel lobbies, muttering threats I could overhear. By now I 



The D.A. in Trouble 153 

had developed a hard protective covering and the criticism did 
not really bother me. Nonetheless, friends warned me that I had 
better be more careful, lest some terrible violence be visited on 
me. Laughing, I replied that I was probably the safest man in 
Montana because if anything happened to me people would 
immediately blame the Anaconda Companywhich its officials 
well knew. 

However, I was concerned about the reaction of the Depart 
ment of Justice in Washington to this drumfire of newspaper 
criticism in my state. I knew that John Berkin, a Company man 
who had been appointed sheriff of Silver Bow County after the 
ouster of the incumbent sheriff over the Miners union violence 
in 1914, had been assiduously clipping all the adverse com 
ments in the Independent and Butte Miner and sending it to my 
superiors, as well as to the Army and Navy Departments, in 
Washington. So on a trip to Washington in the winter of 1918 
I made it a point to call at the Department of Justice. 

Some of the officials clearly wanted a less restrained inter 
pretation of the sedition law from me. But not so Bruce Bielaski, 
director of the investigative division. Bielaski said he had read 
my lengthy reports of the situation in Butte and agreed that 
widespread prosecution would cure nothing. He said he had 
learned in the course of his investigations that most of the labor 
troubles in the big cities was caused by the miserable working 
conditions maintained by large corporations. Bielaski also said 
he had never been able to uncover any trace of German in 
fluence in the IWW in Butte. 

John Lord O'Brian, then special assistant to the Attorney 
General in charge of War Work, told me: "Our difficulty has 
not been with District Attorneys like you. Our troubles are 
caused by District Attorneys who try to prosecute everyone for 
treason when there is no evidence." 

However, things came to a head and exploded in nation 
wide repercussions in the case against Ves Hall, a stockman 
in Rosebud County, and A. J. Just, an Ashland, Montana, 
banker. They were charged with seditious utterances said to 
have included statements that Germany had a right to sink the 
Lusitania as a munitions carrier whether American citizens 



154 Yankee from the West 

were aboard or not, that the U.S. had no right to fight outside 
its boundaries., that the U.S. was fighting for "Wall Street mil 
lionaires/* etc. Falkner Haynes, a Rosebud County attorney 
functioning as special prosecutor during my absence in Wash 
ington, called me following the arrests and demanded author 
ity to proceed with the prosecution. 

Haynes complained that while he was waiting for my an 
swer, Just and Hall went to Butte to see me on the advice of a 
local judge, Charles L. Cram, who was acquainted with me. 
Haynes forwarded an affidavit on the case and I presented the 
case to a grand jury in Butte, where the two men were subse 
quently indicted. Judge Bourquin set the case for hearing in 
Helena. 

I was not anxious to proceed with what I considered a weak 
case but there was a lot of agitation in Rosebud County for 
immediate trial of the men, so I consented to let Haynes go 
ahead with the prosecution during my absence. It was the first 
case of an alleged violation of the espionage law to go to trial 
in Montana and therefore received considerable newspaper 
coverage. My former law partner, Matt Canning, was defend 
ing Hall, whose case came up first Hall claimed that most of 
his remarks were made in a joking manner in the course of a 
casual argument about the war effort. Judge Cram testified as 
a character witness for Hall. 

After hearing the evidence, Judge Bourquin directed acquit 
tal of Hall without referring the case to a jury. In his decision, 
he noted that "the declarations were made at a Montana village 
of some sixty people, sixty miles from the railway, and none of 
the armies or navies were within hundreds of miles so far as 
appears. The declarations were oral, some in badinage with 
the landlady in a hotel kitchen, some at a picnic, some on the 
street, some in hot and furious saloon argument." Therefore, 
the Judge concluded, the inference that the defendant was 
seeking to obstruct the armed forces appeared "unjustified, ab 
surd, and without support in evidence." 

In the course of the decision, Judge Bourquin again showed 
his concern for my problem in trying to carry out the intent of 
the law. He said that "U. S. Attorneys throughout the country 



The DA. In Trouble 155 

have been unjustly criticized because they do not prosecute 
where they cannot." 

Few other federal judges in the country were writing such 
decisions in the face of public clamor for suppression of all 
"disloyal" speech. Even Senator Walsh joined in the unfavorable 
comment on Judge Bourquin's opinion when the senator argued 
on the Senate floor for adoption of his amendment to the sedi 
tion law which was much broader in scope than the law at that 
time. 

After the trial of Hall, Defense Attorney Canning was at 
tacked in the lobby of the Placer Hotel by a deputy sheriff 
from Hall's home county. Special Prosecutor Haynes had an 
altercation with Judge Crum in the library of the State Attor 
ney General's office. Haynes claimed that Crum pulled a gun 
on him after Haynes called Crum pro-German. 

The trial put a final nail in Cram's professional coffin. He 
was asked to resign by a "Committee of One Hundred of Rose 
bud County" for alleged disloyalty and pro-German sentiments. 
Formal charges calling for his impeachment were drafted by 
Haynes when Crum refused to resign from the bench, and sent 
to a special session of the legislature called by Governor Sam 
Stewart. Crum then resigned apparently with the understand 
ing that the governor would accept his resignation and recom 
mend that impeachment proceedings be quashed. His letter 
said his resignation was "not a confession that I have been 
guilty of any crime" but only because he had reached a 'limit 
of human endurance." Crum said, "I feel that a trial of my 
case would simply provide an opportunity for certain people 
to pose before the public and the press as super-patriots." 

Despite Cram's resignation, and although public sentiment 
was by no means unanimous against him, the legislature went 
ahead and impeached the judge and the Senate found him 
guilty without a single dissent. I considered this a tragedy, for 
I thought Cram was a fine and honorable man. 

There was a more significant reaction to the Hall decision. 
Governor Stewart several days afterward called a special leg 
islative session asking for legislation to curb sedition and dis 
loyalty in Montana, in view of the failure of federal officials to 



x gg Yankee from the West 

take action. He also asked that the State Council of Defense, 
which he had appointed, be given legal status. 

The governor's message was flatly opposed at the Great Falls 
convention of the American Society of Equity, which was the 
largest fanners' cooperative organizationnumbering some 15,- 

000 members-and a forerunner of the Non-Partisan League. 

1 was invited to address the Equity and took advantage of the 
opportunity to rip into the big interests of the state and defend 
my record as D.A. 

When the legislature met in special session, there was criti 
cism of me for this speech and other actions which rankled 
the lawmakers. The newspapers also were unhappy about my 
Equity speech, which they reported in exaggerated fashion. 
They didn't dare attack Judge Bourquin for his decision in the 
Hall case because his reputation for dealing with any inter 
ference with the processes of his court through stiff contempt 
penalties was well established. Also, the mining companies had 
no desire to antagonize him because they had important claims 
cases pending before him. So the brunt of the protest about the 
Hall case fell on my head. 

On February 24, 1918, a House resolution demanding Bour- 
quin's resignation was tabled and a substitute resolution asking 
me to reinstitute proceedings against Just and all other persons 
who had violated the espionage act was unanimously adopted. 

Two days later the House voted on a resolution asking me to 
resign, on the grounds I had been derelict in my duty in prose 
cuting cases under the espionage law. The resolution lost by a 
vote of 30-29 but the Independent insisted it had actually car 
ried because the clerk of the House had erred in recording one 
member's vote. The paper noted darkly that, while I had es 
caped condemnation, the close vote "should tell those respon 
sible for his appointment that there is strong feeling against 
the young man from Butte." 

I was out of the state during consideration of the House reso 
lution. When I returned I issued this statement: 

"No deep surgery is required to determine the objectives of 
those who fostered and fathered this resolution. That the people 
may know I want to draw attention to certain facts. No one 



The DA. in Trouble 157 

urging the resolution found it convenient to state that more 
than 750 arrests have been made of slackers and more than 300 
tried all because of the activities of my office. ... It may be 
stated that while I do not agree with Judge Bourquin in his 
position in the Ves Hall case I was not in a position to charge 
him by affidavit with personal bias and prejudice, and I will go 
further that while I believe his view is erroneous in this case I 
certainly credit him with being honest in the view taken/' 

Had I publicly agreed with Bourquin's construction of the 
sedition laws, I would have been subject to attack for counsel 
ing disrespect of the law and refusal to do my duty. As long as 
I was D.A., my job was to enforce the laws as enacted by Con 
gress without question or interpretation. 

The state legislature adopted without dissent a state espio 
nage act which was later used successfully by Senator Walsh 
as a model for his 1918 amendments to the federal law. It pro 
vided penalties of $10,000 and imprisonment up to twenty 
years for anyone who uttered, printed, wrote, or published "any 
disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the 
form of government of the U.S. or the Constitution ... or the 
military or naval forces or the flag" or the uniform or "any 
language intended to bring the form of government, Constitu 
tion, flag, uniform, armed forces into contempt, scorn, con 
tumely or disrepute." 

When the federal law was made to conform to the Montana 
statute in May 1918, John Lord O'Brian said the difficulty was 
that it "covered all degrees of conduct and speech, serious and 
trifling alike, and in the popular mind gave the dignity of trea 
son to what were often neighborhood quarrels or barroom 
brawls/* Attorney General Gregory issued a circular to the 
DA.s asking us to administer the new law "with discretion" 
and not as a means of suppressing legitimate criticism of gov 
ernment policy. 

By April the Montana newspapers were reporting that the 
two Montana senators were split on the question of my reten 
tion as D.A. This was not exactly news. My term had expired 
on November i, 1917, after four years, and I had continued to 
hold office because of the failure of Thomas J. Walsh and Henry 



158 Yankee from the West 

L. Myers, both Democrats, to agree on a new appointment. 

Walsh, facing re-election in November 1918, issued a long 
statement explaining that he had long felt he should make his 
decision after investigating particular cases in which it was 
charged I had been derelict in my duty and not be influenced 
in the decision by the general denunciation of me. 

"I have interrogated the Attorney General concerning 
Wheeler's record/* the Walsh statement continued, "and am 
advised that it is good and that he is uninformed concerning 
any case in which Mr. Wheeler should have prosecuted when 
he did not prosecute or otherwise fail in discharge of his duties. 

"One newspaper charged him with responsibility for the 
lynching of Little at Butte because it asserted he had not 
caused the arrest of that troublesome agitator before he fell 
victim to the violence of the mob. I asked the Attorney General 
to inquire particularly into that accusation and am advised by 
him that no blameworthiness attached to Wheeler in connec 
tion with the incident. Some criticism has been directed against 
Wheeler because he had not taken appeal in the Ves Hall case 
but the Department of Justice advises me that no appeal or writ 
of error lies in that case." 

Walsh went on to note that the people of Montana were 
"intensely patriotic'* but that unfortunately the law "was not 
broad enough to include the case of many who, by their un 
patriotic comment, aroused resentment and were subjected to 
arrest by local authorities . . . many well-intentioned peo 
ple readily listened to general accusations made against Mr. 
Wheeler and assumed him to be in some way derelict." 

The senator concluded that refusal to reappoint me as D.A. 
under such circumstances would only further subject me to 
charges of disloyalty or sympathy with disloyalty. 

The Helena Independent insisted editorially that the only 
way to determine who was responsible for the failure of the 
prosecutions was to "let Wheeler go. The blame may be his . . . 
There are many patriotic lawyers in Montana ready and willing 
to take his place and if the blame is on the Judge it can be 
shown." 

Soon Senator Myers, apparently to force the issue, recom- 



The DA. in Trouble 159 

mended the appointment of Stephen J. Crowley of Great Falls 
to succeed me. 

"I have no word of disrespect for BKW but I don't believe 
that the majority of people of Montana want Mr. Wheeler re- 
appointed and I feel sure a majority of the Democrats of Mon 
tana do not/* 

However, after conferring with Attorney General Gregory in 
Washington, Myers for some reason withdrew Crowley's name 
and recommended E. C. Day for the position instead. The press 
promptly interpreted this to mean that the Department of Jus 
tice was disposed to get rid of me. 

When there were no developments at the White House on 
the Myers' recommendation, I was subpoenaed to testify before 
the State Council of Defense. But before I had an opportunity 
to be heard, the state and county Councils of Defense in joint 
meeting adopted a resolution protesting to President Wilson 
and the U. S. Senate against my reappointment as "inimical 
and injurious to the best interests of this state and the peace 
of its people." During the noon recess, the Councils apparently 
decided this was premature damnation of a man who was un 
der subpoena to testify before them in a few days and so the 
resolution was rescinded at the afternoon meeting. 

The first day of the hearing was held behind closed doors 
but the Council quickly decided it would be the better part of 
valor to open the hearings to the public. Among the witnesses 
against me were prominent Butte mine officials and Secret 
Service agents. 

W. A. Campbell, editor of the Independent whom I had 
once prosecuted for contempt of court, questioned me about 
why I had not participated in war activities in Butte. I replied 
that I had recently addressed the Masons on the Red Cross 
drive but that I had made no public addresses because I had not 
been advised to do so. My refusal to appeal the Hall acquittal 
was dwelt on at some length and I again described the legal 
difficulties involved and pointed out that I could not have 
charged Judge Bourquin with bias or prejudice. After several 
charges that I was friendly with NPL leaders, I was dismissed 



160 Yankee from the West 

and the Council turned its attention to Oscar Rolm and his 
fantastic employment of von Pohl. 

When my inquisition was concluded, the Council reaffirmed 
its earlier resolution against me and added: "The Council does 
not desire to impugn either the integrity or the professional 
ability of Mr. Wheeler but the Council is of the opinion that at 
this critical time in our nation's history ... all federal and 
state officials must not only possess honesty and ability but must 
be vigorous and enthusiastic in the suppression of internal dis 
orders." 

The controversy over my public record even got into the 
churches. After my hearing before the Council of Defense, a 
resolution was introduced at a meeting of the Council of Feder 
ated Churches of Butte in support of me. It provoked a lively 
debate. One objection to the resolution was that it would drag 
the Federated Churches into party politics. One speaker in 
sisted that the Council "had not defamed Mr. Wheeler's char 
acter." An amendment was offered expressing the Federated 
Churches 3 confidence in my integrity and character but express 
ing the belief that the matter was not properly before that body. 
However, the entire topic was finally laid on the table with only 
two negative votes. 

I was particularly upset by this miring of church with state 
because Lulu, my wife, had long been a tireless worker in the 
Methodist Church. Whenever she was not caring for our five 
children she was engaged in fund-raising campaigns for the 
church, assisting the choir and even, when necessary, scrubbing 
the church floor. 

Lulu's refusal to sign a pledge to participate in the "sugar 
less and wheatless days" conservation program, however, had 
caused widespread gossip in Butte. Always a strong-minded 
individual, she had informed those who solicited her signature 
that she would eliminate sugar and wheat from her table when 
grain was no longer being made into whisky and beer. 

In September 1918 the Miners union and the local of the 
IWW went on strike again after their demands for a six-dollar- 
a-day wage were refused by the Company. Con Kelley, now 
vice president of the Company, publicly stated it would never 



The D.A. in Trouble 161 

deal with the union. Butte police then staged a series of raids at 
the request of the county Council of Defense. The police were 
aided by troops commanded by Major Omar N. Bradley, who 
was to become one of the outstanding generals of World 
War II. The targets included the IWW headquarters, the Min 
ers union hall, and the offices of the Butte Bulletin. 

The entire staff of the Bulletin was arrested and hauled be 
fore the county Council of Defense and charged by the county 
attorney with sedition under the state law for urging curtail 
ment of the production of copper. 

"There was no disorder save by the raiders,'* Judge Bourquin 
commented on the raids later, in connection with the deporta 
tion case before him. "These armed [raiders] perpetrated an 
orgy of terror, violence, and crime against citizens and aliens in 
public assemblage, whose only offense seems to have been 
peaceable insistence upon an exercise of a clear legal right." 

I returned from a court term in Great Falls to find the mines 
shut down. I consulted with the union leaders and told them if 
they would go back to work I would try to obtain immediate 
consideration of the dispute by the War Labor Board. I told 
them the government needed copper. The union leaders agreed 
to go back and I made a public statement urging the miners to 
end the strike and submit their grievance to tie board. The 
union wanted to use a ball park on Second Street for a meeting 
to call off the strike but Roy Alley, a Company official, refused 
to let the miners use it. 

Disgusted, I called Alley and told him the Company would 
look ridiculous if the public found out it wouldn't make the 
park available for a meeting which might end the strike. The 
Company quickly agreed, and a mass meeting of the -miners 
took place at the park. 

At the meeting, "Big Bill" Dunn, editor of the Butte Bulletin, 
a labor sheet, urged the men to go back to the mines, as did 
my assistant, James H. Baldwin. 

"The office of the United States District Attorney wants to 
meet you halfway/* Baldwin said. 

But two men claiming to represent the IWW told the miners 



Yankee from the West 

that this was an IWW strike, not an AFL affair, and not to pay 
any attention to Dunn. 

I got both these representatives into my office, one at a time, 
and accused them of being detectives. One admitted it and the 
other denied it. Subsequently the second fellow was confiden 
tially described to me by the District Attorney in Spokane as 
"a Hnkerton man." At a second mass meeting of strikers, Dunn 
denounced the two phony IWW men as labor spies and the 
strikers, after some commotion, voted to return to work on the 
promise of getting their case considered by the Way Labor 
Board. 

Meanwhile, I became embroiled in a bitter exchange of let 
ters with my old rival, Dan Kelly, now a Company attorney, 
over a speech he made to the Rotary Club charging that f sjleral 
government officials appointed to guard men and property "are 
counseling every day with the men back of the movement to 
curtail production." I replied that the IWW was encouraged 
to call the miners strike by "paid agents" for the Company 
who were planted high in the IWW union. 

My letter to Kelly and his windy reply in which he accused 
me of just about every wrong under the sun were printed in 
full in the Anaconda Standard of October 3, 1918. Colonel 
C. B. Nolan, Walsh's law partner, telephoned me in some 
anxiety the next day and asked if I planned to issue any more 
statements like that. I said that as long as the Company kept up 
its attack on me I would hit back with all the ammunition I had. 

"Such statements won't help man, God, or devil," Nolan 
lamented. 

Nolan persuaded me to accompany him and Hugh Wells, 
Democratic state chairman, to Washington to take a new fed 
eral position. 

It was apparent that Wells and Colonel Nolan wanted to 
kick me upstairs. They warned Walsh that unless he got rid of 
me he would be defeated. Finally, Walsh came to see me alone 
at the Raleigh Hotel in Washington. The senator, whose wife 
had recently died, was sick, tired, and worried. 

"Well, I guess they will beat me for re-election if you con 
tinue as D.A.," he said. I replied that every enemy I had made 



The DA. in Trouble 163 

in Montana had been made because of my original fight for 
his election by the legislature. Tears sprang to Walsh's eyes. 
I tried to explain that the corporate interests who were attack 
ing me were also opposed to him. But I told him that if he felt 
my remaining would hurt him politically, I would resign. I 
said I had seen a letter written by Charles Kelly, president of 
the Daly Bank, to the effect that they thought they could beat 
Walsh except for the fact that President Wilson wanted him 
re-elected. 

Attorney General Gregory assured me I did not have to re 
sign as far as the Department of Justice was concerned seven 
of his men had been sent to Montana to investigate me and 
couldn't find a thing. He offered me a federal judgeship in 
Panama. 

"If you're going to deport me, you'd better make it Siberia," 
I told Gregory. "I understand people don't live very long down 
in Panama." 

Nolan and Wells were determined to get me a job so as not 
to antagonize my friends against Walsh. I was offered the rank 
of colonel if I would go to work in the office of the Judge Advo 
cate General, who at that time was Major General Enoch H. 
Crowder. I pointed out that if I wasn't patriotic enough for the 
District Attorney's office I certainly ought not to be patriotic 
enough for the Army, I added that I didn't intend to accept a 
position to save face for them. 

"You tried to talk Walsh into asking for my resignation and 
I owe you absolutely nothing," I said. Wells became equally 
frank. 

"If McAdoo resigned, I think they'd make you Secretary of 
the Treasury just to get rid of you," he said. 

Walsh urged me to issue a statement saying I was resigning 
for the good of the Democratic Party. I refused. I finally issued 
a simple statement that I wished to withdraw from the office of 
D.A. "in order to satisfy the friends of T. J. Walsh who believed 
my retention in office would mean his defeat as a candidate to 
succeed himself in the Senate." 

Walsh announced his intention of recommending E. C. Day 
as my successor, adding that "I feel impelled to say in justice 



164 Yankee from the West 

to Mr. Wheeler that he sought no other place in the public 
service and declined an offer made by the Attorney General 
whose confidence, despite anything that has transpired, he con 
tinued to hold/* 

I felt sorry for Walsh because I knew how distasteful to him 
this episode was. The Montana press, of course, was jubilant 
over my resignation. The Independent said that only those ele 
ments "which have had immunity for the last two years" would 
protest the passing of Wheeler from public office. 

My enemies really did assume my public career was ended. 



Chapter Eight 

"BOXCAR BURT" 



When I resigned as District Attorney on Walsh's sugges 
tion that my remaining in that office might defeat him, I vowed 
to do everything possible to wrest control of the Democratic 
Party from the Company. Within a year I was accused of "steal 
ing" the party and in so doing I became the focal point in one 
of the bitterest and roughest political campaigns in American 
history. More than once, in fact, I was very nearly lynched. 

But my first concern after resigning was to devote myself to 
my law practice. Fortunately, I was busier than ever. All the 
hullaballoo over my record as D.A. and my fight against the 
Company swelled my prestige with small farmers, workers, and 
businessmen. I took in as my new partner James Baldwin, my 
former assistant as D.A., after dissolving my partnership of 
several years with H. Lowndes Maury, one-time city attorney 
on appointment of Butte's Socialist Mayor Lewis Duncan. 
Maury was a brilliant, colorful, and witty little man from an 
old Virginia family. He had opinions on all subjects and loved 
to discourse on them at length. Maury was an indefatigable 



166 Yankee from the West 

letter writer, mailing off his thoughts almost daily to President 
Wilson, Governor Stewart of Montana, and newspaper editors. 
Perhaps fittingly, a son, Reuben Maury, has been chief editorial 
writer for the New York Daily News since 1926 and won the 
1941 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. 

My law cases during this period were never dull. One was 
an outgrowth of the war hysteria. J. E. Keeton, a railway shop 
machinist in Livingston, brought suit for damages of $100,000 
against six prominent local residents for "violating his liberty 
and bringing him shame and disgrace" in forcing him to kneel 
in the public square and kiss the American flag. 

The defendants all leading citizensincluded John A. Love 
lace, a wholesale groceryman, and two ranchers. They were 
represented by James F. O'Connor, Speaker of the Montana 
House. The defense claimed that Keeton had refused to sign 
a food pledge card when first approached and later signed un 
der pressure, declaring: "You can make me sign but you can't 
make me eat the damn stuff." 

When the Keeton case came up for trial in February 1920, I 
defended him without a fee. He had a wife and a son who was 
about to go to war when the incident occurred. He was helping 
his wife with the washing one morning when he was called to 
the door by several women whom he mistook for saleswomen. 
He told them he didn't want anything and shut the door. Only 
later, he learned they were working for the Loyalty League, 
seeking his pledge to abide by sugarless, meatless, and wheat- 
less days. Shortly afterward, Keeton was dragged into the street 
by a mob, along with two German saloonkeepers. The mob 
forced him to kneel and kiss the Stars and Stripes. 

The local judge disqualified himself because of the promi 
nence of the defendants and Judge Roy E. Ayers, who later 
became a congressman from Montana and then its governor, 
was called in to preside. To stir up feeling in the community, 
the Livingston Enterprise carried this headline every day in 
large type in a box on the front page: DUNN, DEBS, AND 
WHEELER. William ("Big Bill") Dunn was the brilliant and 
caustic editor of a radical labor paper, the Butte Bulletin, and 
a backer of mine. Debs was Eugene V. Debs, the pioneering 



"Boxcar BurF 167 

leader of organized labor in the United States. Both were 
anathema to the big interests and the press in the state. 

In his address to the jury, O'Connor violently attacked my 
patriotism in the war and raked up all the old charges about my 
allegedly being soft on seditionists. O'Connor also charged that 
Keeton had referred to the soldiers as "sons of bitches," em 
phasizing the slur on the good mothers of Livingston. 

In my reply I said to the jury: "The language that flowed 
from this man's mouth would indicate he is accustomed to as 
sociate with people from the underworld." 

The courtroom was jam-packed. I believe people had come 
to count on me to create some fireworks. During the recess, 
three women stepped up and asked how I had found out about 
O'Connor s unsavory reputation with the town's seamier set- 
female as well as male. I assured them it was an open secret. 

As the trial neared its climax, I persuaded Judge Ayers to 
agree to instruct the jury to bring in a favorable verdict for 
Keeton. The defendants had no defense and, while the judge 
was a friend of theirs, the case was so clear-cut he really had 
no choice. The court recessed for an evening session in which 
we were to make our final summations. 

Immediately after we recessed, Lovelace amazed me by in 
viting me to dinner. Lovelace was a prominent Democrat whom 
I had reason to think liked me. So I reluctantly accepted after 
warning Lovelace that the dinner would not sway my plan to 
attack him unmercifully in my final argument. 

There was nothing but small talk from Lovelace during the 
meal and I suddenly had a premonition that he was diverting 
me for some reason, I excused myself as quickly as I could and 
hurried to the courthouse, where I found Judge Ayers half 
drunk. I asked Trim where the instructions to the jury were and 
he said they were all right. When I looked on his desk, I dis 
covered that the instructions directing the jury to bring in a 
verdict for the plaintiff were missing. Apparently the defend 
ants or friends of theirs had stolen the instructions while plying 
the judge with liquor. 

I soon found a copy of the missing instructions in the waste- 
basket. Fortunately he judge was just sober enough to read 



168 Yankee from the West 

them to the jury. The jury then awarded token damages of one 
dollar to Keeton about what I expected. It was a moral victory 
and Lovelace wept openly in the courtroom. 

The principal hotel in Livingston, the Park, was owned by old 
Jim Murray, the uncle of the late United States Senator James 
E. Murray. Since all the defendants were staying there I pre 
ferred to stay at a "hotel" little more than a two-story wooden 
shack on the outskirts of town. As I was packing to leave the 
night after the trial ended, one of the defendants, a rancher 
named Kenniston, came to my room. He told me he had been 
with the other defendants and that they were drinking and 
threatening to beat me up before I got out of town. 

Kenniston said he felt ashamed of his role in the Keeton af 
fair, explaining that he had come into town the day of the 
incident and, after drinking too much, had joined the mob 
which manhandled Keeton. To clear his conscience, he es 
corted me to the train and made sure nothing untoward hap 
pened. 

In another case before Judge Ayers, in Lewistown, the op 
posing counsel was Colonel C. B. Nolan, law partner of Senator 
Walsh. I was still annoyed at Nolan for urging my resignation 
as District Attorney. He was a formidable opponent. He had a 
reputation as a great orator and an accomplished storyteller, 
both in and out of court. After Nolan concluded his stem- 
winding argument, I knew I had to do something to destroy it. 

"You think you have heard a masterful argument," I told the 
jury. ~You may think this is one of the colonel's great orations. 
Well, I have heard him on a great number of occasions and I 
can assure you this was a very poor example of Nolan's art. 
You know why? He cannot make an argument here because his 
heart isn't in this case. He knows his client is in the wrong." 

Nolan was furious and demanded that the judge stop this 
line of attack, but Ayers would not interfere. The result was 
that the jury brought in a verdict for my client. 

The next day, when I was about to take the train to Butte, 
two men approached me and asked how I liked the verdict. I 
said I was delighted with it. They then reminded me that they 
had served on the jury and said they had voted for my client 



"Boxcar Burt" -^ 

because "we wanted to show the Butte Miner and the Helena 
Independent and that whole crowd what we thought of them 
for forcing you out as district attorney/* 

I handled a number of lawsuits brought against "Horse 
Thief Kelly, a well-to-do moneylender in Plentywood, in 
northeastern Montana near the Canadian border. Kelly was 
cordially hated in his community and would have had no 
chance with a jury. I succeeded in proving there was not suf 
ficient legal evidence of crookedness to warrant Kelly's cases 
being submitted to a jury and got them dismissed. 

As often as I could I continued to make speeches all around 
the state. After I handed in my resignation as D.A., Joseph 
Asbridge, the IL S. Marshal, told me he had good news. 

"The newspapers are going to lay off you," Asbridge said. 

"My God, you don't call that good news, do you?" I ex 
claimed. Tm going to make them keep after me." 

I knew that if the papers suddenly stopped denouncing me 
the people might forget me, or what was worse assume I had 
gone over to the Company. So I devoted a major portion of 
every speech to attacking the majority of the Montana press. 
In Missoula, I pointed out that both papers, the Missoulian and 
the Sentinel, were owned by the Company. The morning paper 
would flay the Democrats and the evening sheet would rip into 
the Republicans. There was no difference in the quality of the 
writing because all the editorials on both papers were written 
by the same man. The next morning the Missoulian had only 
a squib saying I spoke there but a two column editorial de 
nouncing me. The head waitress handed me the paper as I 
went in to breakfast, saying, "Us girls do not agree with the 
Missoulian" The rest of the Company papers then did what I 
had hoped for; they all carried editorials attacking me. 

What bothered the Company officials was this: while they 
had blocked me from becoming Attorney General of Montana 
and had gotten me ousted as United States District Attorney, 
they were unable to keep me from capitalizing on these defeats 
by conducting a prosperous law practice and carrying on my 
fight against them through every available channel. 

It seemed to me the best instrument for taking control of 



170 Yankee from the West 

the Democratic Party in Montana away from the Company 
was the Non-Partisan League. The League had been organized 
in 1915 by ex-Socialist Arthur C. Townley in North Dakota. 
By 1918 die League was reported to have had some 50,000 
members in Minnesota, 40,000 in North Dakota, 25,000 in South 
Dakota, 21,000 in Montana, 30,000 in Wisconsin, and some 56,- 
ooo more scattered through nine other states. The League, al 
most completely composed of farmers, was working for a 
comprehensive reform of social and economic conditions. The 
fanners had been more or less at the mercy of the local banks, 
absentee railroad owners, and grain operators. 

In North Dakota, the NPL had carried its entire slate into 
office by winning the Republican Party primary in 1918. In 
Montana, two NPL candidates were elected to the state senate 
on the GOP ticket. The NPL in 1919 claimed thirteen mem 
bers of both parties in the House. Four eastern Montana coun 
ties were considered so strongly NPL that the Helena Inde 
pendent suggested they ought to secede and join the state of 
North Dakota. An important NPL victory was the election of 
court reporter Charles Cooper, a friend of mine, as associate 
justice of the state Supreme Court on the Republican ticket. 

So great was the fear that the NPL would capture the Demo 
cratic and Republican primary machinery that both parties got 
the 1919 legislature to abolish the direct primary system in the 
state. Montana's six-year-old law, adopted by initiative, pro 
vided that a voter was given the ballots of all parties on entering 
the polling place. Of these he selected the ballot of the party 
he wished to vote for and discarded the others in a box provided 
for the blank ballots. 

Wisconsin was the only other state at that time which had so 
wide-open a primary. The Montana legislature junked this and 
returned to the old convention system. 

But the new primary law had to be submitted to the voters. 
Its sponsors wanted a special referendum election in September 

1919 so the party convention could select the candidates for the 

1920 election. The NPL was violently opposed to a special elec 
tion in September, pointing out that the harvest period would 
permit only a small turnout of fanners and play into the hands 



"Boxcar Burt" 171 

of the politicians. I enthusiastically joined the NPL campaign to 
invoke the referendum provisions of the state constitution and 
hold up the proposed law until the general election of 1920. I 
spoke in virtually every county of the state in the spring and 
summer of 1919, denouncing the amendment to steal the direct 
primary from the people. 

At the end of June 1919, 1 helped set up a permanent organi 
zation to fight the amendment. We issued a statement urging 
every citizen to meet this attack on popular government. I was 
a member of the organization's executive committee, which 
numbered both Republicans and Democrats. The group was 
set up independently of the NPL because the League was being 
stigmatized in the press as "red socialist." 

However, it was the NPL which went out and rounded up 
27,500 signatures on petition enough to force postponement of 
the referendum on the new primary law until the regular elec 
tion in November 1920. This was a remarkable undertaking in 
the short space of a few months, considering that the total 
population of Montana was approximately 500,000, widely scat 
tered over a tremendous area. 

Following this success, the NPL had jubilant hopes of nomi 
nating the gubernatorial candidate in both major parties. Their 
plan was to nominate me in the Democratic primary and Sam 
Ford, my former assistant and now state attorney general, in 
the Republican primary. But the labor people in Butte argued 
that such an ambitious plan would only serve to split the op 
position to the Company by dividing the political forces of 
farmers and workers. 

When the NPL held its convention in Great Falls in June 
1920, I was in Butte packing to go to Helena to argue a case 
before the Supreme Court. When the telephone rang, I was not 
surprised to hear the voice of Larry Duggan, sheriff of Silver 
Bow County. Duggan was at the convention and asked me if 
I would run for governor with NPL endorsement on the Re 
publican ticket. I said no and hung up. 

I had anticipated something of this sort. After I had delivered 
my rousing speech to the Equity convention (thickly populated 



172 Yankee from the West 

with NPL supporters) in 1918, 1 was approached by Townley, 
the League founder. 

Townley told me the NPL probably would want to run me 
for governor in 1920 and asked for my reaction. 

"No," I told him. "I understand you're really the governor of 
North Dakota, that you go in and pound the table and tell the 
governor what to do. You couldn't do that to me. If you did, 
one of us would be thrown out of the office and I don't know 
which one it would be." 

"I don't want to be governor of Montana, I want you to 
be governor,** Townley replied. He added this amusing ex 
planation: 

"Don't tell me about these ^honest farmers/ I elected the gov 
ernor and the state officers and the members of the state legisla 
ture in North Dakota. But big interests came here with their 
whisky and their women and took them away from me like 
Grant took Richmond. I had to build a corral around them to 
keep the booze and whores away from those fellows. Some of 
them acted as if they'd never been off the farm before." 

What he was saying was that, on the basis of my Equity 
speech, he realized I knew the score and would not be taken 
over by the Company. He preferred me as a candidate to a 
naive farmer. 

Thus, when the NPL convention was getting underway in 
Great Falls, I told Mrs. Wheeler I would probably be asked to 
run for governor on the Republican, Democratic, or an inde 
pendent ticket. I asked her what she thought I should do. She 
replied that I ought to run. She was still sizzling over the way 
the Company had mistreated me and wanted me to strike back. 

Duggan called me a second time the same day and asked if I 
would run with NPL endorsement on an independent ticket. He 
called me back a third time and suggested the Democratic 
ticket. This time I said I was willing to run for governor in 
my own party. 

It is true I had dashed off a letter to Walsh after my disillu 
sioning departure from the D.A.'s office that I hoped to be "en 
dowed with good judgment enough to remain out of politics in 
the future." But later I determined I would get back at the 



"Boxcar Burt" 173 

Company if it was the last titling I ever did. So here was my 
chance to win back control of the Democratic Party for the 
people. 

The NPL convention at Great Falls endorsed me as the gu 
bernatorial candidate overwhelmingly, the five other candi 
dates receiving only a few scattered votes. In my acceptance 
speech, I warned that a political defeat would destroy the NPL. 
I also urged adoption of an appropriate party label. The next 
day the convention selected the Democratic label. 

I had warned Mrs. Wheeler that if I got into it, the guberna 
torial race would be a "mean, dirty campaign." 

"If you can stand it, I can," was her only comment 

The press immediately went after me in full cry as I began 
my campaign for the Democratic nomination. The Butte Miner 
started referring to me derisively as "Butte's leading farmer 7 * 
and said there was "no apparent obligation upon the part of a 
lawyer to study farming or know anything about that useful 
occupation in order to become the standard-bearer of those 
Townley tillers of the soil." 

My first campaign stop after the NPL convention was Dillon, 
in the center of the ranching country south of Butte. I was 
scheduled to address a rally but the Dillon city council hastily 
passed an ordinance which prohibited speeches in the city hall 
without permission from the local Democratic or Republican 
county chairmen. Knowing full well the violent feelings of both 
chairmen against the League, I didn't even bother to ask per 
mission. Instead, I said I would speak on a street corner, but 
the chief of police warned me that if I did he would have to 
arrest me. 

We adjourned to a ranch about a half mile from the city 
limits. F. A. Buzell, a farmer from Conrad, used a Ford truck 
as a platform to try to get the meeting underway. Immediately, 
a phalanx of men, apparently white-collared professional fel 
lows, marched on the scene. They began catcalling and heck 
ling Buzell, shouting, "When did you ever run a farm?" 

They were under the impression that Buzell, who was speak 
ing, was me. I was out in the crowd, so I walked over to the 
hecklers and asked them to let Buzell speak. When they figured 



174 Yankee from the West 

out who I was, some of them said: "This isn't the man we want 
it's Wheeler we're after!" Quickly there were cries of "Get a 
rope!" and I began to feel uncomfortable. A group made a rush 
for me and would have dragged me off to God-knows-what fate 
when a local barber who was not even connected with the NPL 
pulled out a penknife and stabbed one of the ringleaders. This 
threw the crowd into confusion and in the melee I managed 
to slip away. 

As we escaped from the ranch in an auto, my local NPL 
friends warned me that if I went back to Dillon to spend the 
night I would surely be assaulted. Instead, a farm hand drove 
me to the nearby small town of Bond, where I would be able 
to catch a train for Butte that night. The railroad station turned 
out to be a boxcar parked on a siding, since the station served 
only as a loading point for cattle. There was no town within 
driving distance and only one farmhouse nearby. 

The ranch hand, an overseas veteran of the World War, left 
Buzell and me to wait for the train which was to come through 
late that night. But soon he came back armed with a rifle. He 
said several automobiles full of men had come to the ranch 
looking for me. He stationed himself near the door. When the 
posse drove up and started to open the door of the boxcar, our 
protector cocked his gun. 

"Ill shoot anyone full of lead who opens that door!" he called 
out 

There was no doubt he meant what he said and efforts to 
open the door halted. But quite a few of the mob hung around 
until the train pulled in around midnight, so Buzell and I didn't 
dare risk capture by trying to hop aboard. We spent the night 
in the "station" and in the morning Sheriff Duggan of Silver 
Bow County arrived and drove us back to Butte. 

I was dismayed when one of our escorts told Mrs. Wheeler 
that the enemies of the NPL would surely kill me before Elec 
tion Day. I pooh-poohed this warning and told her I was not 
worried. She took my word for it and made no objection. If I 
had been married to a nervous or timorous woman, I would 
never have been able to conduct that campaign or many others 
later on. 



"Boxcar Burt" 175 

After our rescue by the sheriff, Buzell told me he had been 
sure he was going to die in the boxcar because his mouth was 
so dry from fear he couldn't swallow the strychnine pill he took 
for his heart condition. I admit I wasn't very relaxed that night 
myself. 

The barber who saved my life with a penknife was indicted 
for assault. I went back to Dillon to testify for him. Every time 
I was asked a question on the witness stand, I seized the oppor 
tunity to make a speech to the jury about how our meeting was 
broken up. I kept this up in the face of angry and repeated 
admonitions from the judge, who happened to be Democratic 
county chairman. The jury finally acquitted the barber. 

The Butte Bulletin, the state's only labor paper, charged that 
the mob action had been organized by "interests connected 
with the First National Bank of Dillon." The Butte Miner coun 
tered with a half column of statements from individuals who 
were quoted as holding that mob action was justified if that 
was what it took to silence Wheeler. 

And the Helena Independent commented: "The people of 
Dillon may have dealt wrongly with their problem but the fact 
that Wheeler has reached down to levels so low that any num 
ber of people . . . could be prevailed on to run him out of town 
like a cheap mountebank and dangerous citizen shows what 
people all over the state think of Wheeler." 

The episode prompted the opposition press to start referring 
to me as "Boxcar Burt." More violence was threatened when I 
addressed a crowd in the county courthouse in Choteau, in 
north central Montana. A half dozen or more ferociously anti- 
NPL Republicans moved up out of the audience onto the stage 
shouting that I deserved to be hanged. Dr. Harry McGregor, 
a Great Falls physician and a stanch backer of mine, got up 
from his seat on the platform and barred the way. The doctor 
stood only five feet, six inches, but was a scrappy i/o-pounder 
who had learned to box during his student days at the Univer 
sity of Iowa. 

"If any one of you touch this man, 111 knock hell out of you!" 
McGregor cried out. The little doctor's pugnacity sent the pack 
of would-be lynchers back into the audience muttering to them- 



176 Yankee from the West 

selves. Near the end of the meeting they moved toward the 
auditorium exits, obviously waiting for me to try to leave the 
hall. Dr. McGregor immediately stationed himself at one of 
the doors and successfully stood guard long enough for me to 
depart. 

Press reports of the kind of crowds I was drawing panicked 
the anti-Wheeler Democrats. They called a meeting to select a 
single slate of Democrats for endorsement by the Democratic 
Central Committee, so that I would have to face one opponent 
rather than four or five and thus presumably stand a better 
chance of taking a licking. All the other candidates were per 
suaded to step aside and make way for the committee's so- 
called "solid front" slate to "preserve the integrity of the party/' 
W. W. McDowell, the lieutenant governor and my former 
friend and colleague in the Montana legislature, was picked 
to oppose me for the gubernatorial nomination. 

In my campaign I never mentioned McDowell's name. But 
I was worried about the potent Irish vote in Butte. James E. 
Murray later U. S. Senator was carrying on a campaign in 
Montana for the freedom of Ireland and held large rallies in 
Butte in which McDowell was always a principal speaker. 
When Eamon de Valera of Ireland came to Butte, he was given 
a big breakfast at the Silver Bow Club and the elite of Butte 
flacked to hear him. McDowell, introducing the distinguished 
visitor, concluded his remarks by saying that as lieutenant gov 
ernor he was turning over the key to Montana to de Valera. The 
Irishman was given a standing ovation. 

Soon a delegation called on me to ask my view on the free 
dom of Ireland. I told them frankly that I didn't know enough 
about the question to issue a statement. I pointed out that the 
Irish themselves seemed to be badly split on the various pro 
posals. And I added that I was sure I was as well informed as 
my opponent on that score. 

All the Democratic press supported McDowell. The Mon 
tana Development Association, a group of self-appointed super- 
patriots similar in nature to the wartime Council of Defense, is 
sued a bulletin describing the primary race as "a straight fight 
between the reds and the Americans." The Butte Miner told 



"Boxcar Burt" 

its readers that "no man can sit quietly by and see his state 
virtually made an annex to Bolshevik Russia." "Bolshevik BiurT 
became the way much of the Montana press liked to refer to 
me. 

For two weeks before the primary the Butte Bulletin, the 
only newspaper supporting me, carried a banner headline quot 
ing my pledge: "IF ELECTED I WILL NOT PUT THE ACM 
OUT OF BUSINESS BUT I WILL PUT IT OUT OF POLI 
TICS" The ACM was of course the Anaconda Copper Mining 
Company. The slogan of the NPL candidates was: "We are 
opposed to private ownership of public officials." The Anaconda 
Standard countered with the threat that an NPL victory might 
convince the Company that it should transfer its operations 
from Montana to Arizona, Mexico, or South Americalocalities 
where it already had begun operations. 

I wound up my campaign speaking from the balcony of the 
Butte Hotel (also referred to as Liberty Hall), promising that 
if the citizens voted the straight labor ticket the lynchings, mur 
ders, and crimes against the workers would be stopped. The 
Bulletin reported that "never since the old Heinze days has so 
large an assemblage gathered to hear campaign issues dis 
cussed." The crowd numbered some 5000. 

I won the nomination of August 26, 1920, with a majority of 
14,000 over McDowell out of the 50,000 total vote, carrying 
Butte with a majority of 2000. The NPL carried every post on 
the ballot and won most of the county positions. Nominated 
with me on the Democratic ticket were Roland C. Arnold, a 
well-to-do fanner, running for lieutenant governor; Louis S. 
Irvin, a suave, handsome lawyer who was a half-breed Indian 
and married to a Blackfoot Indian, for attorney general; and 
Richard Haste, brilliant publisher of a farm paper, for secretary 
of state. 

After taking a two-week rest at my cabin on Lake McDonald 
in Glacier National Park, I returned in time to greet James M. 
Cox, the Ohio governor who was the Democratic presidential 
candidate, when he arrived in Great Falls. I rode with him to 
Helena as part of a reception committee that included promi 
nent Democratic officials who were some of my bitterest ene- 



178 Yankee from the West 

mies in the Company. I was pleased when Cox, upon his 
departure, issued this statement to the Montana Democrats: 
"You have in this man Wheeler a splendid and courageous 
man." 

Senator Walsh also endorsed me, declaring that no Demo 
crat could justify a refusal to support me because I had won the 
nomination "by perfectly lawful means'* and "by a most de 
cisive vote." 

I selected as the new Democratic state chairman Judge John 
E, Erickson, one of the few state district judges who had with 
stood the war hysteria with me when I was D.A. 

The Democratic State Central Committee met in Helena on 
September 10 and a group of old-line party regulars intro 
duced a resolution repudiating all the men who had won in the 
primary with NPL support, and appointing new candidates. 
As soon as I could get the floor, I rose and said: 

"Gentlemen, we stand only to place humanity above the dol 
lar. I challenge anyone to point out one act of mine that does 
not square with Jeffersonian principles . . . I'm going to be 
elected, gentlemen, without the assistance of the big interests 
or the profiteers* league." 

I went on to pledge unequivocal support for the national 
ticket of James M. Cox and Franklin D* Roosevelt for President 
and Vice President, explaining: 

"After I talked over the situation in North Dakota and what 
led to the NPL movement there, Governor Cox told me he 
would have been for a state-owned elevator and a state-owned 
iour mill . . . the Montana Development Association says they 
are the only Americans they are the profiteers* league and they 
captured the Republican ticket, and if you will have it that 
way, the NPL captured the Democratic ticket. Which do you 
prefer?" 

The convention adopted a platform incorporating many of 
the NPL*s demands, including equal taxation, state hail in 
surance, grain inspection and grading to give farmers full value 
for their produce, exemption of homestead improvements from 
taxation, and support for cooperative marketing. In addition, 
the convention pledged to reclaim the vast arid lands and op- 



"Boxcar Bur? 179 

pose a monopoly control of natural resources. Of more concern 
to the labor unions were pledges to outlaw blacklisting, guar 
antee free speech, and increase workmen's benefits. Today these 
proposals hardly seem wild-eyed and radical but in 1920 they 
alarmed the well-entrenched reactionaries. 

The GOP convention adopted a platform which denounced 
state socialism and appealed for support by the Democrats to 
preserve the American way of life. It nominated Joseph M. 
Dixon, a former United States senator and the manager of 
Teddy Roosevelt's 1912 "Bull Moose" campaign, to oppose me. 
Dixon was about as liberal as I was and the Company ulti 
mately and reluctantly decided to back him as the lesser of two 
evils. 

For a time the Democratic (Company-controlled) papers 
didn't know what to do. The Butte Miner, referring to the fact 
that Dixon had sought NPL endorsement, stated that "there is 
[no] lesser evil offered in this case." 

I started right off with a slam-bang campaign, speaking three 
or four times a day in town after town across the big state of 
Montana, which is more than 600 miles by auto lengthwise. I 
insisted that the real issue was whether the fanners and labor 
ers were going to get a square deal against the profiteers. 

"Public ownership of grain elevators and flour mills is no 
more socialistic than public ownership of the public schools," 
I told my audiences. I would describe the miserable housing 
conditions in the Dublin Gulch section of Butte and ask if there 
was anything wrong with aiding home construction with the 
loan of state moneys. 

I often pointed out that I had been "born in the shadow of 
Bunker Hill and know no other form of government than the 
American system and want to know no other." 

By the end of October, the old Democratic bosses with few 
exceptions had re-formed their political lines to support the 
national ticket and oppose our state ticket. They called then- 
organization the Montana Democratic Club. Senator Henry L. 
Myers came out from Washington to lead the fight, complete 
with brass bands and torchlight parades. He asked for repudia- 



180 Yankee from the West 

tion of "this theft of our party name ... by a coterie of hybrids, 
Bolsheviks, and radicals. 95 

I in turn denounced Myers as a tool of the copper interests, 
banks, and profiteers. Thereafter there was no more hesitation 
by the Democratic press. All but two of the newspapers in the 
state took up the cry against Wheeler as "red socialist 7 * and 
tried to connect my campaign somehow with stories of Russian 
labor camps, nationalization of children and the bomb plots 
that were an aftermath of the Communist revolution. Not a line 
was carried about the large crowds I attracted, or the content 
of my speeches. Posters were splashed all across billboards 
showing a huge red hand dripping blood. 

Senator Myers predicted *riots, insurrections, and murders 
in every industrial community of the state** if I were elected. 
Indeed, there was nothingliterally nothing we were not 
accused of. Some of the papers began charging that the NPL 
was anxious to try to popularize "free love" in America. The 
sole basis for this and of course no basis at all was the fact 
that some books discussing free love had been found in the 
state libraries of North Dakota. Since the NPL was in power in 
the state, the alarmists charged that it had planted them there. 
In Billings, I decided to have some fun with the Tree love* 
rumor, I brought up the name of Charles Bair, a Republican, a 
wealthy sheepman, and part owner of the Billings Gazette. 

~You afl know Charley Bair," I said to the crowd. "Now let 
me ask you something: If there was free love in North Dakota, 
do you think Charley Bair would still be in Montana?** 

My Jab at Bair got a laugh because it was well founded. 
When I was District Attorney, some of the citizens of Billings 
had got me to indict Bair under the white slave act. It was no 
secret that he had taken a woman to Washington, D.C., and 
other cities outside Montana without the marriage sanction. 
When I brought the case before the grand jury, the woman 
refused to testify, obviously because Bair must have made a 
settlement with her. So I tried to indict both of them for con 
spiracy but the grand jury balked. It was easy enough for a 
prominent citizen in a small town to intimidate a grand jury 
in those days and I am sure Bair took care of this one. 



"Boxcar Burt" 

Bair was just as carefree as he sounds and he enjoyed my 
public crack at his penchant for illicit amour. However, I pro 
voked a more sensitive reaction when I singled out Richard 
Kilroy, editor of the Anaconda Standard, for similar effect on 
Election Eve. Addressing a crowd massed in the streets before 
the Butte Hotel, I said: 

"You all know Dick Kitroy. You know the kind of life he has 
led. If there was free love in North Dakota, do you think he'd 
still be in Butte?" 

The day after the election, Kilroy cussed me out when he 
was being shaved by Harry Thompson, a Butte barber. Thomp 
son told me he replied to Kilroy: 

"Well, you told lies about Wheeler [in the Standard] and he 
told the truth about you." 

Thompson related that Kilroy, who had watched my Election 
Eve speech from a nearby building, looked aggrieved and said, 
"But I had my daughter with me!" 

The campaign was so nasty that even the religious issue was 
raised against me from both ends. A story was circulated 
among the Lutherans that I was a Catholic and another rumor 
was planted among the Catholics that I was a member of the 
violently anti-Catholic American Protective Association. Nei 
ther charge contained a shred of truth. 

However, I like to get off a good quip whenever possible. So 
when a persistent heckler at one of my meetings insisted that 
I state my religion, hoping the answer would alienate some 
of my supporters, I replied, "My mother was a Methodist, my 
father was a Quaker, I attended the Baptist Sunday school as 
a child, I am married to a Methodist and like most of you men 
most of my religion is in my wife's name/* After that statement, 
some of the preachers in Montana began praying for the salva 
tion of my soul. 

Soon B. K. Wheeler loomed as the biggest bogeyman in 
Montana to hear my opponents tell it. The well-to-do women 
of Butte organized themselves into the "Home Guards" to de 
fend their homes and their churches from the sinister influence 
of the NPL-Democratic leader. They warned other women that 



Yankee from the West 

if I were elected their children would be taken away from them 
and raised in institutions in Russia. 

The super-patriots who made up the Montana Development 
Association circulated a letter among employees of their mem 
bers urging them to "vote against the so-called Democratic 
state ticket nominated by the NPL at Great Falls, not for your 
employer's sake but for your own sake." The Butte Miner car 
ried this editorial, unsigned, in big black type: DON'T LET 
THE RED HAND STRANGLE BUTTE. VOTE THE REPUB 
LICAN TICKET. It was accompanied by a picture of a 
large hairy fist 

Senator Walsh returned near the end of the campaign to 
speak for our ticket but fell ill and couldn't carry out his sched 
ule. However, on Election Eve he told a rally in his home town 
of Helena that "I am not half-hearted in my support of Mr. 
Wheeler. He has been tried by fire. He risked his future, po 
litically and professionally, rather than compromise with wrong 
and injustice when he was a member of the legislature ten 
years ago and he has been hounded ever since with an im 
possible fury and rancor that knew no bounds." 

As for fears of an NPL administration in Montana, the sena 
tor said: *I haven't become alarmed lest a movement with 
which Governor Frazier and Dr. Ladd have identified them 
selves is going to culminate in the nationalization of women 
or the confiscation of private property . . . [or] is the deluded 
victim of Bolshevists or anarchists." 

Four days before the election I was badly injured when an 
automobile in which I was riding ran across an embankment 
and overturned near Philipsburg. I suffered three broken ribs 
but managed to deliver my speech on schedule at Anaconda 
that night Because there were rumors that the Company had 
done this to me, I assured my listeners that "it was an accident 
pure and simple and nobody was responsible." 

In my Election Eve appeal from the balcony of the Butte 
Hotel, I admitted stealing the Democratic Party but asserted 
I stole it from *the Standard Oil Company and intend giving 
it back to the people." (Standard Oil Company organized and 



"Boxcar Burf* 183 

controlled Amalgamated Copper Company which in turn con 
trolled Anaconda for many years. ) 

But the fear campaign had its effect. Montana voters appar 
ently were afraid my election would end the prosperity the 
state had been enjoying. They were swept by the same yearn 
ing for "normalcy" expressed by the American people as a 
whole when they put Warren G, Harding in the White House 
by a landslide. Also, I believe the Democratic plea for partici 
pation in the League of Nations found little appeal in Montana, 

Harding and Dixon, the Republican ca&didate for governor, 
received almost exactly the same number of votes, 109,430 to 
111,113, respectively. Though I led Cox, the Democratic candi 
date for President, 74,875 to 57,330, my vote nevertheless made 
me the worst-defeated gubernatorial candidate in Montana 
history. Several other NPL candidates and I did manage to 
carry Silver Bow County by the slim majority of 138 votes 
despite the threat of a ghost town. But I carried only one other 
industrial town the railroad center of Three Forks and two 
counties, Sanders and Mineral. My analysis convinced me that 
if the labor vote had stayed with me in Butte, Great Falls, and 
Helena, I might have won in the face of the nation-wide Re 
publican sweep. But of course I had no basic political "ma 
chine" to fall back on, and the labor vote was subject to the 
same influences as other elements. 

Naturally, the Montana press was almost unanimously ex 
ultant. Once again, my political obituary was in print. The 
Anaconda Standard crowed about the "eclipse of Wheeler* and 
drew the lesson that "a candidate cannot be expected to climb 
into power in this city by attacking one of its leading indus 
tries. Mr. Wheeler, an accident in politics, chewing the cud of 
bitter reflection today, has found this lesson an expensive one 
. . . Butte spat him out of her mouth with all the noisome 
crew of reds and wobblies who followed him." The election 
headline in the Standard editorialized even more than its edi 
torial. It screamed; BUTTE KICKS OUT THE RED AND 
ELECTS AMERICANS TO OFFICE. 

A rough election post-mortem was yet to come. One day in 
December, as I was standing on a street corner in Butte talking 



184 Yankee from the West 

to ex-Governor A. E. Spriggs, I noticed out of the corner of my 
eye that D. Gay Stivers, head of the Company's goon squad, 
was approaching. I had a hunch Stivers was looking for trouble 
and told Spriggs I was going to move on. Before I took more 
than one step, Stivers was alongside me and had clouted me on 
the left temple, blacking my eye and knocking me to the 
ground, I was sensible enough not to rush back at Stivers, for 
I knew he was a gunman and that something worse might 
happen. Passers-by were outraged and summoned a policeman 
to arrest Stivers. He collared both of us and hauled us into 
police court 

When the Stivers case came up, he defended his action, say 
ing I was a Tiar and character assassin** in some of my remarks 
at the outdoor Election Eve rally. Stivers cited my rhetorical 
question to the crowd: <t< Who hanged Little?* Ask Colonel 
Stivers he knows." 

(Frank Little, an IWW organizer, had been yanked out of 
his bed by a mob and hanged from a railroad trestle during 
the recent war because of his open contempt for the war ef 
fort,) 

The judge dismissed the case against Stivers with the remark 
that "any man with red blood in his veins would have done the 
same thing.** 

When I protested this highly unjudicial opinion, the judge 
retorted: *lt is not necessary for me to offer any excuse to you 
... I said to him [Stivers] that his actions were justified under 
the circumstances and I do not care to hear any criticism from 
you." 

There was tremendous resentment over the judge's com 
ments and the incident only served to increase the general 
hatred for the Company. 



Chapter Nine 

A PLACE IN THE SUN 



The winter of 1920-21 turned into a classic example of 
political irony: the economic disaster which my opponents said 
would result from a Wheeler victory in the 1920 gubernatorial 
race followed swiftly after my smashing defeat. 

The Anaconda Copper Mining Company closed down three 
mines just twelve days after the election, reducing operations 
to 50 per cent of normal. By mid-December, a wage cut of one 
dollar a day was announced to "avert a complete shutdown," 
according to the Helena Independent. Despite the cut, the 
Company suspended all its mining operations on April i, 1921, 
because of the depression in the metals market, where copper 
was down to eleven and a half cents a pound. Some 4500 em 
ployees were directly affected in Butte, 1300 in Anaconda, 200 
in Great Falls, and more than 2000 were laid off in the Com 
pany's auxiliary industries coal mining, lumber, railroading, 
and so forth. 

Immediately after the election, I took a trip to Massachusetts 
to visit my relatives. By the time I returned to Montana the 



i86 Yankee from the West 

economic collapse had reached panic proportions. Attending a 
Masonic banquet in Butte, I was asked to say a few words. 
I told the audience I must be in the wrong place. 

"When I read in the papers that the mines are closed, farm 
prices are falling and farms foreclosed/* I continued, "I said to 
myself, 1 am sure I must have been elected governor and that 
I should be living in Helena/** 

In my campaign for the Senate in 1922 I developed this into 
a story which quickly circulated all over the state. It went like 
this: A young man was applying for United States citizenship. 
He was asked by the examining judge to name the governor of 
the state. The applicant replied without hesitation-'Wheeler." 
When he was corrected, he said, "All I know is that all the pa 
pers, the bankers and the politicians said that if Wheeler was 
elected all the mines would close, the banks would foreclose 
the mortgages on the farms and everybody and everything 
would go broke. Now, Judge, the mines have closed, the farm 
ers are losing their farms and it looks as if everybody is going 
broke so I think Wheeler must be governor.** 

Even before the collapse helped ease my feeling of defeat I 
had accepted it without bitterness or rancor. I told people 
truthfully that I didn't think of it as a disaster because I had 
never really expected to be elected. Nor had the position of 
governor, with its executive and administrative duties, very 
much appeal for me. I felt I was more naturally suited to the 
role of legislator. 

In Governor Dixon s message to the legislature in January 
1921 he dwelt on the state's serious financial situation and 
asked for a tax on the state's new oil industry, a license tax on 
all metal production and an income and inheritance tax to 
meet the large government deficit. The mine operators ac 
cepted the challenge and called a meeting at the state capitol 
to fight any tax on mines. The press followed up with a plea 
to let business alone and cut state expenditures rather than 
increase iiicome. The legislature adjourned without enacting 
one of Dixon's tax proposals. 

Undismayed, the governor called the lawmakers back into 
special session and repeated his request for increased revenues 



A Place in the Sun X 8 7 

and a tax commission to study revision of the entire tax burden 
of the state, declaring that the people's desire for equitable 
taxes had been thwarted by a vicious lobby. 

In the special session, Dixon was finally able to win a small 
tax on oil production and an additional license tax of 1.5 per 
cent on the "net proceeds'* of the mines along with a "bachelor" 
inheritance tax. However the "net proceeds'* license tax meant 
little because in addition to permitting deduction of all over 
head and improvements costs, the mines could show that they 
had no "net proceeds" in the year of 1921. Farmers and ranch 
ers had no "net proceeds" either but they paid their property 
taxes on full valuation, good season or bad. 

I missed no opportunities to jibe at the Company officials 
about "their governor" and what a shame it was he had stolen 
my alleged "Bolshevik" program of 1920 and even went to 
Helena and spoke before the legislature and urged the mem 
bers to vote for much of Dixon's program. Wfren Governor 
Dixon vetoed a loyalty oath bill for teachers on the ground it 
was unconstitutional and would lead to political "heresy hunt 
ing," it further angered his sponsors. Despite the veto, Professor 
Arthur Fisher was suspended from the kw department of the 
University of Montana following charges preferred by the 
American Legion for his activities in my gubernatorial cam 
paign and for editing a liberal newspaper, the New Northwest. 

In January 1922 the Anaconda Copper Mining Company an 
nounced that with its purchase of the American Brass Com 
pany in Connecticut to manufacture finished copper products 
it would reopen the mines again. The acquisition of the world's 
largest brass firm, giving the Company a completely integrated 
operation, was portrayed in the Company papers as a magnani 
mous gift to the people of the state to assure continuous opera 
tion of the mines. 

But while the reopening of the mines after nine months gave 
employment to 23,000 men in Montana, it did not alleviate the 
depressed price of farm products or prevent the foreclosure of 
mortgages. 

In April 1922 the late Cordell Hull, then Democratic Na 
tional Chairman, came to Montana for a meeting of the party 



i88 Yankee from the West 

leaders. As part of Ms aim to unify the state organization, he 
sought me out before the session. He said he had been told I 
could name and elect the Democratic candidate for the Senate. 
I denied I had that much influence but told Hull I had decided 
to go after the Senate seat myself. Hull said it would be better 
if I stepped aside so a "unity candidate** could be selected. I 
replied that as far as I was concerned there was a more impor 
tant consideration than party unity. I said I would insist on 
making sure the Democratic Party was not controlled by the 
copper and oil interests and was pledged to progressive ideals. 

Right after my defeat for the governorship, I announced that 
if Democratic Senator Myers ran for re-election I would op 
pose him. I had voted for Myers when I was a member of the 
legislature in 1912 (senators were then elected by the legisla 
tures) but notwithstanding he had come to Montana and made 
vicious speeches against the people supporting me. 

It was not too long thereafter that he announced he would 
not seek re-election. However, three other candidates of some 
stature in the state opposed me for the nomination. They were 
Judge J. F. O'Connor, former Speaker of the House who had 
the support of a number of prominent party leaders and the 
Democratic press; Hugh Wells, former Democratic state chair 
man who had sought my removal as District Attorney; and Tom 
Stout, a liberal independent newspaper publisher and former 
congressman. Wells, a stockman and banker, was distinguished 
by his tour of the state in his private airplane surely one of 
the first politicians to campaign in this fashion. 

In the formal announcement of my candidacy on June i, 
1922, I emphasized the plight of the farmers and promised to 
seek safeguards "against exploitation by unscrupulous finan 
ciers." I also pledged to work for repeal of the "nefarious Esch- 
Cummins law which has permitted looting of the people of the 
nation by excessive freight rates, guaranteeing 6 per cent on 
billians of dollars of watered stock." The Esch-Cummins Trans 
portation Act of 1920 provided for the return of the railroads 
to private control and widened the powers of the Interstate 
Commerce Commission to include, among others, the initiation 
or establishment of rates that would yield to the railroads as 



A Place in the Sun 189 

a whole 5^ to 6 per cent on the aggregate value of their 
property. 

My program for labor was to "give to labor its just propor 
tion of the products of its toil and granting its just demands 
concerning the right to organize, hours of labor, and working 
conditions." I supported a soldier's bonus to be paid from 
excess profits accumulated during the war and proposed that 
the tariff be taken out of politics and placed in the hands of a 
commission of expert economists. On the prohibition issue, I 
came out for strict enforcement of the law. 

In the summer of 1921 some Non-Partisan League leaders 
had come to my summer camp in Glacier National Park and 
urged me to run for the Senate. I made no promises, since I 
doubted at that time I could win and I knew that many of the 
leaders of labor and the League had been bought off during 
the election in 1920. 

Later on I was urged by many of my friends to enter the 
primaries and decided to do so. But I told the League leaders 
that I would only run if they did not endorse me, that while I 
wanted the support of the farmers I did not want the League's 
endorsement. I took the trouble to go to their convention at 
Great Falls in May 1922 and urge my friends to vote against 
such an endorsement 

A radical group in the League endorsed State Senator John 
Anderson to run in the Republican primaries for the Senate. 
Anderson had been one of the outstanding members of the 
League and had campaigned with me when I ran for governor. 
It was thought he would divide the League vote and hurt my 
chances for the Democratic nomination, particularly since most 
of the farmers had formerly been Republicans. 

Very early in 1922 I had a lucky break. A party came to my 
office and wanted to bring suit for damages against Roy Alley, 
one-time secretary to Company president John D. Ryan and 
now a part of the Company's political and intelligence opera 
tion (which included the hiring of Burns and Ihiele detec 
tives). I called Alley into my office and offered him a chance to 
settle. 

Alley so appreciated the fact that I didn't drag him into 



190 Yankee from the West 

court tinder what would have been embarrassing circum 
stances he disclosed his troubles with his employers. He related 
that he and some other employees had obtained a patent but 
were having difficulty getting the Company to compensate 
them adequately or make a royalty arrangement. 

Seemingly relieved at the opportunity to unburden himself, 
Alley went on to reveal to me the names of all the daily and 
weekly Montana newspapers the Company controlled finan 
cially. What was more interesting, he ticked off the names of 
the leading individuals of the state who were manipulated like 
puppets by the Company, One of them was Harry Hudson of 
the machinists union. I had always figured Hudson as a good 
labor man and I was shocked when Alley told me Hudson was 
a Pinkerton detective in disguise. He also identified the vari 
ous leading Democratic politicians of the state who were 
"Company men." Some of these names surprised me too. 

"We've done everything we could to destroy you in a politi 
cal way and in an economic way," Alley told me. 'We could 
take the political leaders away from you, the farm leaders and 
the kbor leaders, but we couldn't take the people away from 
you." 

In the spring of 1922, after visiting the Company's New 
York office in connection with his patent problem, Alley said 
he had told Cornelius Kelley, then Company president, that I 
would be elected to the Senate. 

"Kelley asked me if this was my judgment or my prejudice," 
Alley told me, "and I said it was my judgment/' 

Alley's prediction began to come true late in August when I 
won the primary nomination after an exhaustive speaking tour. 
I polled 20,914 votes, more than the combined total for my 
three opponents. The Republican nomination for the Senate 
was won by Congressman Carl W. Riddick after a close contest 
with J. Wellington Rankin, a successful Helena lawyer who 
later became United States District Attorney in Montana. An 
derson, the pro-League candidate, came in fourth in the GOP 
primary and promptly announced he would take the stump 
for me because of Riddick's reactionary record in Congress. 

During the primary campaign Sam Goodman of Helena 



A Place in the Sun 191 

came to me and asked wliat I thought of my chances. I asked 
him if he wanted to make some money and told him to bet that 
I would get more votes than any two of the other candidates. 
He said, "You can t do that." When I went to Butte, a gambler 
asked the same question. I repeated what I had told Sam Good 
man in Helena and then told him to post $1000 to $2000 that 
I would get more votes than all three. He said, "You couldn't 
do that." "Well," I said, "it will be my money/' He posted the 
$1000 against $2000. I beat all three, and won the bet. 

The sun was indeed beginning to shine when at the Demo 
cratic convention in Helena called after the primary ex-Gov 
ernor Sam Stewart, who had previously fought me at every 
turn, introduced me as the hero of the lost battle of 1920. 

Enjoying complete acceptance by the party for the first time 
in my political career I commented on the fact that the Com 
pany representatives were seated in the same room with Non- 
Partisan Leaguers and concluded that "the war is over." I 
pledged myself to support all candidates that had been nomi 
nated "whether I liked him or not,'* 

My victory also forced my erstwhile critics, the Democratic 
press of the state, to do an about-face and soft-pedal opposition 
to me. The Company strategists realized they could not expect 
to openly attack me and at the same time hope to achieve the 
Company's goal of electing a Democratic Legislature which 
would defeat Governor Dixon's tax program. 

James Hobbins, assistant to the president of the Company, 
had sought me out at the convention. I asked him what the 
Company was going to do about my candidacy and he replied 
that they planned to pursue a hands-off policy. That's all I 
want," I told him. "But the first time you make a break I'm going 
to kick hell out of you, and 111 know when you do because I 
know every one of your stool pigeons around the state." 

They wanted Carl Riddick, conservative Republican, elected. 
They brought into the state many prominent Republican speak 
ers. Senator James E. Watson of Indiana, Republican leader 
in the Senate, gave out a strong statement for Riddick who had 
at one time in his career been a fellow Hoosier. 

For a change, my speech to the convention was quoted in 



192 Yankee from the West 

full by the Helena Independent. Since I was running for the 
Senate, I devoted most of it to national and international affairs. 
I dwelt on the growing economic chaos and privation in coun 
try after country and attributed it to the impoverishment of 
peoples by their autocratic governments during the preceding 
one hundred years. I rejected the idea that we should let Europe 
alone to work out her own problems. Referring to the sacrifices 
made by American doughboys of World War I, I said: "They 
fought to make the world a better place in which to live. Can 
we drop the challenge now? Can we turn our back on Europe 
when she is sinking fast? We cannot play the part of a selfish 
rich man." (These lines may surprise those pundits who have 
classified me as an isolationist.) 

I also gave considerable attention in my speech to the eco 
nomic tragedy of the farmers and the failure of the Harding 
Administration's temporizing schemes to offer any relief. I 
traced the history of the railway labor dispute over wages and 
vigorously attacked Harry M. Daugherty, the Attorney Gen 
eral in Harding's Cabinet, for seeking an "unwarranted injunc 
tion, asking that the employees not be allowed to present their 
side of the case to the public." I concluded by pointing out 
that the Democratic Party could win by fighting for the cause 
of the masses and "if we don't, we will lose because we ought 
to lose.** 

Senator Thomas J. Walsh paid me a gracious tribute in his 
address to the convention. He said I was "no political accident 
coming to the surface amid the troubled waters of political 
unrest 

"He has never had the patronage of the wealthy and power 
ful corporate interests that have so largely influenced public 
affairs," Walsh said. "On the contrary, he has encountered their 
stubborn and . . , their vindictive opposition. Nevertheless, he 
has prospered . . . and may with safety be entrusted with a 
part in the business affairs of this, the foremost nation on earth." 
Stumping across the state, I attacked Riddick's voting record 
IB Congress in support of the Harding program. Among other 
things, I castigated him for voting against an investigation of 
Daugherty a project which was to become a turning point in 



A Place in the Sun 193 

my career a little over a year later. I repeatedly denounced the 
Republicans' national tax program as a ^elp-the-rich" device. 
When I largely ignored the local tax situation, one editorial 
writer commented that Tie took us to Russia and the battlefields 
of Europe and Asia but had nothing of import to say about 
Montana.** 

W. W. McDowell, the Democratic campaign manager, fi 
nally telephoned me and asked why I wasn't speaking for the 
party candidates for the legislature. I replied that I was busy 
with my own campaign. 

"Welt they don't like it," McDowell grumbled 

*Who do you mean by 'they'?" I demanded. 

"The people across the Hill," he replied, referring in accepted 
terms to the Company and its so-called "richest hill on earth," 
a vast mound of copper in Butte. 

"They* can go to hell and you can tell them I said so," I re 
plied. 

McDowell pleaded with me to let Lester Loble or Andy Mc- 
Connell, leaders of the 1920 secession movement of the Demo 
cratic Party, tour with me to speak for the local candidates. I 
said I would not permit them on the same platform with me. 

The editors of the Butte Btittetin, the radical labor sheet, 
warned its readers not to be confused because the "copper press 
is mildly supporting Wheeler." It explained: They conjecture 
that they probably wanted to send him to Washington because 
they know he can't hurt them there." A vote for Wheeler was a 
vote against Hardingism, the paper added. This was a theory 
frequently advanced during the campaign to explain the incon 
gruities presented between the national and state issues. 

I felt I should look after myself. I saw no obligation to pull the 
Company's chestnuts out of the fire after the way they had 
elected Dixon over me in 1920. Openly in the campaign the 
Company was saying and doing nothing. They knew that if 
they hurt me they would be hurting the chances of the Demo 
cratic legislative ticket And while they had no desire to see me 
get up in the world, they could think of more worrisome places 
for me to go than the Senate. After all, one man in 96 in Wash- 



194 Yankee from the West 

ington, D.C., couldn't do them nearly so much harm as one 
man disposing of their state-wide interests as governor. 

Actually, the Company foresaw little chance of my being 
victorious in 1922 after I had taken such a bad beating only 
two years before. I encouraged this notion. I kept telling one 
of my campaign colleagues whom I knew to be secretly re 
porting on me to the Company that I didn't think I had a 
chance. I knew that if the Company didn't think I had a chance 
it wouldn't spend so much money to try to defeat me. 

My opponent, Riddick attacked me on both flanks, accusing 
me in one breath of having sold out to the "big interests" and 
in the other of being the candidate of the NFL. Citing my sup 
port by the Helena Independent and the Butte Miner ? Riddick 
said this was proof I had made a "deal" to sell out. Shortly after 
ward, his organization published full-page ads entitled LEST 
WE FORGET, reminding the voters I had been the NPL candi 
date just two years before. 

This advertisement also said Montana Wants Service Not 
Shame, and reprinted the resolution presented to the state leg 
islature in 1918 calling for my resignation or removal for failure 
to prosecute seditionists wholesale. 

The Democratic State Central Committee publicized a let 
ter to me from Federal Judge George Bourquin, a Republican, 
defending my record on sedition prosecutions as being "in 
furtherance of sound public policy and in vindication of your 
official oath . . . and duty to yourself, to the court and to so 
ciety." Judge Bourquin concluded his letter by writing that 
"you will remember you declined a like statement by me in the 
fall of 1918 and I make it now with no object but simple justice 
to an able, diligent, and conscientious prosecutor in a most 
trying period of our country's history." 

J. Bruce Kremer, Democratic national committeeman for 
Montana who had opposed me in 1920, assured audiences in 
the senatorial campaign that the attempt to link me with red 
radicalism "is without foundation in fact. His Americanism is 
declared to be unquestioned." The Republicans replied with 
full page ads picturing Wheeler, Kremer, and "Big Bill" Dunn, 



A Place In the Sun 195 

editor of the radical Butte Bulletin in bed together. The caption 
naturally was that politics makes strange bedfellows. 

For the first time, Mrs. Wheeler took an active part in my 
campaign. She toured the state, speaking to women's clubs, 
emphasizing that the Democratic platform had a Txme dry 
plank" and discussing the Harding tariff and Daugherty injunc 
tions. 

To enliven the campaign I challenged Riddick to a debate 
but he had no desire to try to outtalk me. He proposed that 
the debate be conducted in the columns of the newspapers. I 
scorned a "letter-writing fray," adding in my reply to Rid 
dick: "Some people have been unkind enough to suggest that 
you do not write all the letters and speeches bearing your 
name, and in justice to yourself the people should have an op 
portunity to see and hear you.** 

Apparently, Riddick's attack failed to stir the populace. On 
Election Eve, betting odds in Butte started out at even money 
but swung to 2-1 in my favor two hours later when all betting 
pools closed and gamblers refused to take any more money at 
any odds on me. 

The returns in Butte by nine o'clock showed that I was carry 
ing Butte by 6500. That was a large majority in those days. 
The aforementioned Bobbins and John Templeton, a lawyer, 
were walking up the street when Templeton said, It looks like 
Wheeler is going to be elected." Bobbins said, "Oh no! Wait 
until the 'cow counties' come in." Itey bet $50. When the 
so-called *cow counties'* came in, I carried most of them and 
was elected. I realized then that the story I had told for their 
benefit that I didn't have a chance had been effective. 

Far from being submerged in the rural areas, I got an addi 
tional 12,000 majority outside the cities enough to win by 
88,205 votes to 69,464. In the other state-wide contest, the Re 
publican candidate, Lew Galloway, for Chief Justice of the 
state Supreme Court, received almost the same vote as I did in 
winning. My victory was not shared by my party. The Demo- 
carats won one of the congressional districts but the Republicans 
won all the other positions, including a majority in the legisla- 



ig6 Yankee from the West 

ture. Governor Dixon also won approval for a permanent tax 
commission to study revision of the tax structure. 

I issued a statement attributing my victory to "a repudiation 
of the reactionary policies of the Harding Administration. Mon 
tana people are progressive and want to join with progressives 
of other states in waging the battle for some constructive legis 
lation in the interest of the average citizen." I noted the elec 
tion of other progressives Smith W. Brookhart of Iowa, Robert 
B. Howell of Nebraska, Clarence C. Dill of Washington, and 
Lynn J. Frazier of North Dakota as indicating a national 
swing away from Hardingism. 

Senator Robert M. La Follette, the Wisconsin Republican, 
was so heartened by the election that he issued a call for a 
meeting in Washington, D.C., in December to organize a pro 
gressive bloc in the next Congress and a national Council of 
Progressives to work with the bloc. The specific purpose was to 
defeat the ship subsidy bill, anti-strike legislation, and the pro 
posed transfer of federal forests to the Department of Interior 
under Secretary Albert B. Fall. 

I hurried to Washington to attend the conference along with 
three other Democratic senators, Henry F. Ashurst of Arizona., 
Robert L. Owen of Oklahoma, and Morris Sheppard of Texas. 
We were joined by eight Republicans, including William E. 
Borah and George W. Norris besides La Follette. The senators 
were bolstered by a delegation of 19 Republican and seven 
Democratic members of the House. The conference agreed to 
try to "drive special privilege out of control of the government 
and restore it to the people." 

I addressed the progressive conference banquet, attended 
by some 800 delegates and discussed a serious problem in 
Montana-high freight rates and a shortage of boxcars to move 
the first good crop harvested in several years. I said also that 
I heartily approved of the conference's demand for the release 
of "free speech" prisoners still languishing in jail for World 
War I prosecutions. In this context, I called myself a true con 
servative, explaining that I believed in returning to the Declara 
tion of Independence and the Constitution-"from which we 
have wandered in recent times." 



A Place in the Sun 197 

Although I was associated with politicos generally labeled 
'liberal'* and "progressive" throughout most of my career, I 
have always thought of myself as basically conservative, inas 
much as I fought for preserving what is best in our American 
heritage. 

I was so impressed by the non-partisan unity achieved by the 
progressives of both parties at their convention that when I 
returned to Montana I predicted the "elimination of party lines 
in national affairs." However, I had no reason to suspect how 
often partisan lines would become entangled in my career 
after I took my seat in the Senate for the opening of the new 
session three months hence. 



Chapter Ten 

COMMUNISTS AND SENATORS 



Itching to try out my toga, I departed Butte for Washing 
ton on March i, 1923, with high hopes for legislative action. 
However, in the national capital I discovered that this was the 
last thing the Senate wanted. The opening of the new session 
of Congress was a mere formality. As soon as the new members 
were sworn in, Congress adjourned until December. The law 
makers had little to do during the Warren G, Harding era of 
complacency. 

Many senators were planning trips to Europe during the 
long recess, and when I learned that fares were cheap on 
government-owned shipping lines, I decided to go too. I had a 
great curiosity about postwar Europe, though little realizing 
what a "liberal" education this journey would bring me. 

Impulsively, I wired Mrs. Wheeler on Friday to meet me in 
New York on Monday. 

"We re going to Europe," I explained in the other ten words 
of the telegram. This startled her, to say the least, but she had 
long since learned to enjoy taking my impulses in stride. She 



Communists and Senators -mo 

arranged for a neighbor in Butte to stay with the children and 
caught the first train for New York, arriving Friday morning, 
March 16. (We now had five children-John, Elizabeth, Ed 
ward, Frances, and Richard, in that order-and had decided 
not to move the family to Washington until the fall school 
term.) 

We sailed away to England with no thought of anything 
but enjoying a vacation-our first real one and incidentally 
learning what we could. After stops in Paris, Rome, and Ven 
ice, we broached the main object of our interest-that vast, 
somewhat sinister shadowland of Russia. We asked James 
Causey, a banker and head of the American Relief Association 
in Vienna, what our chances were of getting there. Like other 
Americans we met in Europe, Causey expressed concern for 
our personal safety. These alarms only heightened our deter 
mination to see the Soviets. 

In Germany we saw heartrending instances of the struggle 
against galloping inflation. As in Austria, the aristocrats, un 
trained for work, were peddling anything they could sell to 
survive in a revolutionary society. In discussing the financial 
crisis in Germany and Austria, we heard the rumblings of anti- 
Semitism of a defeated people seeking a scapegoat. The plunder 
of art treasures flooding the market and usury in loans by the 
banks were always attributed to the Jews. 

Altogether, my encounters with the poverty of begging chil 
dren in France and Italy, the devastating inflation of Austria 
and Germany and the cynicism everywhere about American 
idealism in the writing of the peace, strengthened my convic 
tion about the futility of war. 

In Berlin we were entertained by Colonel and Mrs. Benja 
min D. Foulois (he later was to be promoted to general and 
become head of the Army Air Corps ) , and Norman Hapgood, 
former United States Ambassador to Norway, and Mrs. Hap- 
good. They were waiting for visas to get into Russia and urged 
us to go there too. When we applied for such visas in Berlin, 
they were granted immediately. 

We got into Russia via Lithuania and Latvia. I was impressed 
with the large number of British freighters doing business in 



2oo Yankee from the West 

the harbor at Leningrad. In Moscow, we were lodged in the 
Sugar Palace, home of the head of the Russian Sugar Trust 
before the 1917 revolution. It was a magnificent residence, 
taken over by the government and used by a number of Soviet 
officials, including Maxim Litvinov and Lenin's doctors from 
Germany. We were the only foreigners there. In fact, I was the 
first, or at least among the very first, United States Senator to 
visit red Russia. I was promptly besieged by newspaper re 
porters. I refused to comment, explaining that I was on an 
unofficial inspection tour. 

Moscow throbbed with life. The spacious Moscow Art Gal 
lery was crowded with visitors. We discovered that the ballet 
and theater were equally popular. One Sunday morning we 
went to the "Living Church," formerly the Church of the Sav 
ior, for a four-hour service which included a two-hour concert 
of sacred music. We were amazed to find that 10,000 people 
had paid admission to stand throughout the long service. 

Litvinov, then in the Foreign Office, granted me an inter 
view and I questioned him closely about the Soviets' rigorous 
censorship of the press and speech. He replied that such re 
straint would be necessary for perhaps 50 years of re-education 
and thereafter the people would accept the communist way of 
life without question. At the time, under Lenin's New Economic 
Policy, a few small business and service industries were being 
restored to private ownership. This retreat convinced me that 
capitalism eventually would be restored, with the exception of 
government-owned and operated manufacturing trusts, rail 
roads, public utilities, and the farmers' co-op. 

Later Mrs, Wheeler met Mrs. Litvinov and they talked mostly 
about their children. When Mrs. Wheeler said our children 
were attending public schools, Mrs. Litvinov looked aston 
ished and exclaimed: "You dont send your children to public 
schools!" 

In a conference with Foreign Minister Tchitcherin, he asked 
me when the United States would recognize Communist Rus 
sia. I asked: "When are you going to pay your bills?" Tchit 
cherin replied that his government did not assume any obliga 
tions of the Czarist regime. He said, "This is a new world." I 



Communists and Senators 201 

told him it might be a new world to him but not to Americans. 
He asked me about Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes. 
He said he had attended a conference with him during the 
Czar s regime and liked him. He said Hughes was in favor of 
Russia having a warm water port then but not now. 

Tchitcherin added that Russia's debts to the United States 
did not amount to much and he pointed out that the United 
States owed Russia reparations in connection with the Siberian 
occupation. He suggested that a commission could study the 
whole situation and strike a balance between the respective 
claims. 

Next, I told Tchitcherin that Bishop Edgar Blake of the 
Methodist Church, then visiting in Russia, had tried in vain to 
get an audience with the foreign minister to discuss the im 
pending trial of an Orthodox bishop for treason. Tchitcherin 
sent for Bishop Blake at once. He explained to the bishop that 
they had letters written by the Orthodox bishop to the head of 
the Catholic Church in Poland asking to borrow money and 
stating that while he couldn't pay it back now he would do so 
as soon as the counterrevolution was successful. Bishop Blake 
and I argued that any such trial, regardless of the Soviet claim 
that it had nothing to do with religion, would only further in 
flame public opinion in the United States. 

The trial, which had been scheduled for the following day, 
was postponed and the priest never was tried on the charge, 
although several other clergymen were executed on similar 
charges. 

We were escorted through many industrial plants in Russia 
and were impressed over and over by the hunger for American 
machinery and factory methods expressed by everyone we 
talked with. 

We met a number of enthusiastic American radicals in Mos 
cow, including Max Eastman and Anna Louise Strong. I passed 
up an opportunity to be introduced to "Big Bill" Haywood, 
former secretary of the IWW whose name had been a byword 
in Butte. I felt that such a meeting would be misrepresented 
by the newspaper correspondents following me around. It was 
bad enough that I was always identified in the Russian press 



202 Yankee from the West 

as a former counsel for Bill Dunn, editor of the radical Butte 
Bulletin and subsequently an editor of the official New York 
Communist organ, the Daily Worker. I had once defended 
Dunn in court. 

On May Day in Leningrad, we watched a parade of 20,000 
persons marching in a procession that took six hours to pass a 
given point. When I noticed that most of these obedient dem 
onstrators made the sign of the cross as they passed the cathe 
dral, I felt the Communists would have a hard time in their 
attempt to stamp out religion. But when I returned to Russia 
in 1930 with Senator Alben Barkley and Senator Bronson Cut 
ting, I found I had been wrong. 

In a newspaper interview after I returned from Russia, I 
proposed recognition of the Soviet regime solely in the eco 
nomic self-interest of the United States. I said I had discovered 
on my trip that Britain and France were buying cotton from 
us and reselling it to the Russians at a profit. I argued that it 
was silly for us not to recognize the Soviets when doing busi 
ness with them might help pull us out of a growing depression. 

A weekly paper in Red Lodge, Montana, said I ought to be 
deported for urging recognition of a Communist government. 
My comment was: "Where would you deport me back to 
Massachusetts?" 

In speeches all over Montana during the summer of 1923, 
I continued to denounce the economic blockade of famine- 
stricken Russia as "stupid and inhumane** in the face of the 
tremendous surpluses of wheat piled up in America. I noted 
that the British never let differences in political ideology stand 
in the way of doing business. 

For that viewpoint I was harshly attacked by the National 
Civic Federation. My reply, as carried in The New York Times, 
was this: 

"I have more faith in the wisdom and judgment of the Ameri 
can people than have the men who appear to make up the 
personnel of your organization ... I believe this government 
of ours, as well as the Christian religion, is able to withstand 
all attacks from whatever source, because they are founded on 
truth, faith and justice. ... I shall continue, therefore, to ad- 



Communists and Senators 203 

vocate the recognition of Soviet Russia by the U.S. and other 
nations, believing that is the only correct position for an intel 
ligent American to take." 

Over the following decade I stated this position before many 
forums. I also spoke on other aspects of foreign policy as seen 
through my European journey. I criticized the Versailles 
Treaty for its arbitrary division of European countries. 

"I do not believe the United States should enter any alliance 
... to guarantee the provisions of any treaty made or to be 
made/' I said. I also denounced "commercial wars [to make] 
. . . countries safe for selfish rulers" and pledged that I would 
oppose "foreign expeditions as long as I am Senator," 

While I was in Butte, "Big BilT Dunn, the editor, came to 
see me and asked how things were in Russia. I told him that a 
friend of mine had quoted Bill Haywood to the effect that he 
would rather live in jail in America than out of jail in the Soviet 
Union, Haywood had made a career of criticizing the govern 
ment and felt he was in a strait-jacket in Russia. 

"Bill," I said to Dunn, "what you ought to do is go to Russia 
for two years. When you came back, you'd get down on your 
knees when you passed the Statue of Liberty and thank God 
for this country." 

"Bad as that?" Dunn asked me dubiously. 

I said it was. 

That summer the progressives had an opportunity to pick 
up another seat in the Senate in a special election by choosing 
a successor to Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota, who had 
died. I enthusiastically accepted an invitation to speak for 
Magnus Johnson, a Fanner-Labor candidate, against the nomi 
nee of both the Republicans and Democrats. 

When I arrived in Minneapolis, a banker whom I asked to 
cash a check warned that "this fellow Johnson is a wild man 
and a Bolshevik." I told the banker that I myself had been 
called worse names than that. I said I didn't know Johnson and 
had never heard him speak but that I was willing to help elect 
a man who would rouse the East about the plight of the farmer 
before the banks went under with him. 

During the final weeks of the campaign, I stumped with 



204 Yankee from the West 

Senator Henrik Shipstead of Minnesota and Senator Lynn J. 
Frazder of North Dakota. The Washington Post called the spe 
cial election a "choice between the policies of Harding and 
the policies of La Follette." The Minnesota press tried to con 
jure up the spectre of a revolution following Johnson's election 
just as the Montana press had done to me in 1920. Even so, 
Johnson won by over 90,000 votes. Three years earlier, Har 
ding had carried the state by 360,000. 

When he arrived in Washington, Johnson walked into the 
trap that awaited all those "insurgents" who had the temerity 
to invade the gentlemen's club that is the Senate. Looking for 
feature angles, the press was ever-ready to picture the West 
ern progressives as a bunch of horny-handed rubes who were 
attempting to wrest control of Congress from the sophisticated 
"Old Guard" in both major parties. Johnson was persuaded to 
pose for photographs milking a cow, while his wife swept the 
sidewalks of the capital in a calico dress. A United States sena 
tor's constituents never like to see him act the buffoon; Johnson 
was defeated two years later. Senator Smith W. Brookhart of 
Iowa fell into the same snare when he obligingly assumed 
the role of a country bumpkin dedicated to cleaning up the 
"wicked" city of Washington by campaigning against "wild 
parties.'* 

Due to the long recess that followed after the convening of 
Congress in March, I never served dining the administration 
of President Harding, who died in San Francisco on August 2, 
1923, although I had been elected nine months before his death. 
When I came to Washington that fall, I was surprised to re 
ceive a telephone call from a stranger who said he was a news 
paperman and asked if I would like to see President Calvin 
Coolidge. He said he would make the appointment. I suspected 
he was a staff member of the White House trying to find out 
if I would accept before issuing an invitation. I said I would 
accept 

When I sat down in the White House with Coolidge, he 
opened the conversation by saying he understood I had been 
to "Roosia," as he pronounced the word. He added at once that 
he understood the Russians had no religion. I assured frim the 



Communists and Senators 205 

Russian people were very religious, despite the Communists' 
efforts to wipe out their beliefs, and I cited some religious dem 
onstrations I had witnessed. 

"But they don't pay their bills," Coolidge grumbled. I then 
told him of my conversation on that subject with Tchitcherin. 
He was noncommittal and shifted over to the farm problem. 
I told him the plight of the farmer in the Northwest was serious. 

"When a man can't make any money in a business, what 
does he do?" Coolidge asked. 

"Like you, Mr. President, I was born and raised in Mas 
sachusetts," I replied. "When the cotton and woolen manu 
facturers can't make any money because of the competition 
from England and Japan, they come to Congress asking for a 
tariff." 

Coolidge again abruptly changed the subject, noting that 
Senator Francis E. Warren of Wyoming had come from Mas 
sachusetts and a number of other Easterners had gone West 
and become successful in politics and business. 

Thereafter I took every occasion to condemn the Coolidge 
nostrum to the fanners to "diversify your crops, work hard and 
don't expect any help from Washington." In an article in The 
New "York Times, I wrote: 

"When the manufacturing interests . . . come here to Wash 
ington and inform Congress that they can no longer make a 
profit in manufacturing of boots and shoes or cotton and woolen 
goods because of economic conditions in the world, they are 
not told to go back and start diversified manufacturing. When 
they ask Congress to stabilize the price of products and com 
pel the American public to pay exorbitant prices for the articles 
they manufacture, they are not told that it is economically un 
sound to place a tariff on their products. Nor are they told that 
they should shut up their factories and go into some other busi 
ness . . . that they are Bolshevists and even Socialists." 

I argued that the government must assume some responsi 
bility for the farmers' plight. The wheat farmers had gone into 
debt in answer to the government demand to expand their 
acreage during the war to provide grain for the allies. Then, 
plagued by several years of drought, they had to borrow money 



206 Yankee from the West 

to keep their farms. Now they were forced by deflationary 
policies of the Federal Reserve Board to pay off debts incurred 
during a period of inflation with money obtained during a 
government-created deflation. As a result, the farmer was 
forced to sell two bushels of wheat to pay back the price of one 
bushel he had borrowed. 

I proposed that the government assume the role of middle 
man, to purchase wheat and sell it "with regard to the require 
ments of both the producer and the consumer . . . there are 
today millions of men, women and children throughout central 
Europe and even England, who would gladly consume our 
surplus wheat if they were able to buy it" 

While I denounced Republican indifference, I recognized 
that the Democrats had no solution. I announced I would not 
be bound by any action of the Democratic caucus or follow the 
advice of its Senate leadership. The Democrats, I said, were 
"sitting back . . . and hoping to be elected not by their own 
methods but by reason of someone else's mistakes/' 

This attitude, plainly expressed, was enough to mark me off 
as an atypical new senator. In addition, my behavior immedi 
ately after the Senate reconvened in December 1923 broke a 
rule and a tradition. The rule was broken inadvertently. On 
the very first day, I strolled onto the Senate floor with a cigar 
characteristically clamped in my mouth. I took a puff or two 
and was instantly called to order by the President pro tempore, 
Senator Albert B. Cummins of Iowa. He tartly called out that 
no smoking was permitted. I hadn't even thought about it, 
since smoking had been permitted during sessions of the Mon 
tana legislature. 

The United States Senate welcomes newcomers but doesn't 
care to hear a peep out of them for a long time afterward. A 
freshman is expected to take his seat in the last row, silently 
learn proper senatorial decorum from the veterans, and in time 
perhaps come to be accepted as a member of the "club" within 
the club that is the heart of the Senate. My bright greenness, 
coupled with my natural lack of caution, caused me to violate 
this tradition almost at once. In my anxiety to take the pro- 



Communists and Senators 207 

gressive bloc's aims in deadly earnest, I stalled the Senate 
machinery for over four weeks. 

The 1923-24 session of the Senate was made up of 51 Repub 
licans, 43 Democrats, and two Fanner-Laborites. But because 
there were eight progressives among them the Republicans 
were not sure of re-electing Cummins as President pro tern, 
the Senate officer who presides in the Vice President's absence, 
which is usually frequent. But Cummins was out of favor with 
the progressives and he was due by seniority to be the next 
chairman of the important Interstate and Foreign Commerce 
Committee. The progressives announced they would support 
Cummins for presiding officer only if he would forego the chair 
manship. La Follette, the leader of the progressives, was the 
Republican next in line for the chairmanship. 

Recognizing that Cummins was vulnerable in seeking to 
hold on to both posts, Senate majority leader Henry Cabot 
Lodge and other GOP leaders tried to persuade him to give 
up tie Senate presidency in favor of running the committee. 
Cummins refused. The Republicans then struck a bargain with 
the Democratic leaders by offering them increased representa 
tion on important committees in exchange for supporting Cum 
mins for both positions. 

Meanwhile, I had learned that my major committee assign 
ment was Agriculture. I went immediately to Senator Walsh, 
a member of the Democratic group which controlled commit 
tee assignments. I pointed out that my primary goal was to 
launch a campaign for lower freight rates for the West and 
that I needed to be on Interstate Commerce. If I wasn't ap 
pointed to that committee, I said I wanted to be left off all com 
mittees. The ultimatum worked. I got my preference. 

Customarily, the majority party names the committees and 
their chairmen and the Senate confirms them by "unanimous 
consent." This means tacit approvalno vote is taken. On De 
cember 10, 1923, Lodge went through the routine motion of 
offering the resolutions on committees and asking for unani 
mous consent. The resolution on the committee chairmen had 
to be considered separately from that naming the committee 
members, Realizing that Cummins was likely to be approved 



208 Yankee from the West 

as chairman of Interstate Commerce by default, so to speak, I 
felt in no way bound by the "deal" the Democratic leadership 
had made. I whispered to Clarence Dill, of the state of Wash 
ington, sitting at the next desk, that I wanted to fight the Cum 
mins nomination. Dill said all I had to do was object to Lodge's 
request for unanimous consent. 

"I object!" I called out, startling myself as well as everyone 
else. I was immediately aware of the breach of etiquette I had 
committed when senatorial heads swiveled toward my desk in 
the last row. Now I was looking into a mass of raised, tufted 
eyebrows. With two words I had shattered a hardy tradition. 
Down in the well of the Senate, several senators began talking 
at once in an effort to clarify the situation. The confusion 
caused by my brashness is evident from the following excerpt 
from the Congressional Record: 

MR, BRANDEGEE: Who objected? 

THE PRESIDENT: The senator from Arkansas. 

MR. ROBINSON: I have not objected. I merely stated that any 
senator has the right to object. 

THE PRESIDENT: The junior senator from Montana objected. 

MR. BRANDEGEE: Did the senator from Montana object to the 
resolution? 

MR. WHEELER: I objected. 

MR. BRANDEGEE: Very well. 

Joseph T. Robinson of Arkansas, the Democratic leader, 
thereupon suggested a separate roll call on Cummins and a 
little later the roll was called. My theory was that the progres 
sive Republicans could never vote for Cummins and that the 
Democrats would be obliged to vote for their senior member 
on the Interstate Commerce Committee, the colorful Ellison D. 
("Cotton Ed") Smith of South Carolina. I made it clear that 
this was not a personal fight against Cummins but an ideologi 
cal one. 

The people of my state and other states in the West made 
the issue of freight rates and the Esch-Ciimmins law an im 
portant issue in the election," I explained. "Those who cham- 



Communists and Senators 209 

pioned the law were defeated . , . the people do not want the 
man who championed the cause of the railroads as chairman 
of the committee which regulates them . , ." 

Smith had opposed the Esch-Cummios law, which among 
other things guaranteed the railroads six per cent despite the 
fact that La Follette and the progressives had claimed there 
was a tremendous amount of watered stock in the railroads and 
had demanded an investigation of their capital structure. 

On the first ballot, Cummins got 41 votes, Smith 39, and La 
Follette got seven. (Progressive Republicans William E. Borah 
and James Couzens supported La Follette. Dill, a progressive 
Democratic, and I voted for Smith. ) Since a majority of the 
number of senators voting was required, Cummins was not 
elected chairman. 

The leaders of my party clustered around, urging me to 
withdraw my objection and allow the Senate to proceed as it 
always had. 

"You got the committee you wanted, so what are you fighting 
for?" demanded Senator Claude A. Swanson of Virginia. 
"Why don't you follow the leadership?'' 

I laughed and asked him, "Who's leading?" 

There were rumors that enough Democrats might absent 
themselves to make a possible majority for Cummins. I served 
notice that if any such maneuver was tried I would take the 
floor and brand the absentees as "allies of the Old Guard." 

"That would simply prove that there is no real difference be 
tween a reactionary Republican and a reactionary Democrat 
except that some of them live in one section of the country and 
the others in another section," I said to some of my colleagues. 

Word got around that Joe Robinson, the Democratic leader, 
had told the GOP leadership that he deeply regretted the dead 
lock which might end in the election of "Cotton Ed" Smith. 
At one point the deadlock came within one vote of being ended 
when five progressives switched from La Follette to Smith- 
enough to elect him. However, a Democrat, William C. Bruce 
of Maryland, then switched his vote from Smith to Cummins to 
prevent an election which, he argued, "would have been tanta 
mount to a victory for La Follette." Bruce denounced me for 



210 Yankee front the West 

refusing to abide by the Democratic agreement. I retorted that 
any Democrat who voted for Cummins was "a traitor to the 
fanners and thousands of other men and women who had in 
1922 voted against the Esch-Cummins law." 

With the Senate still deadlocked near the end of December, 
Senator James A. Reed, the articulate Democrat from Missouri, 
took the floor and argued that the chairmanship was an hon 
orary position carrying no special authority. The time had 
come, he told the Senate, to quit the "boy's play" over the issue. 

I replied that in my limited experience in the Montana leg 
islature I had learned the hard way what powers a chairman 
could wield. After all, I had been a committee chairman my 
self. 

"If the chairmanship doesn't amount to anything/' I con 
tinued, "why do the Republicans object to Senator La Follette, 
who should rightfully be the chairman?'* 

The issue, I stressed, was whether the spokesman for the rail 
roads should hold the reins of this particular committee. It could 
scarcely be dismissed as "child's play." 

The chamber began to fill up with senators looking forward 
to watching the upstart from Montana slapped down by Reed, 
who was famous for his vitriol. The Missourian disappointed 
his audience. He simply took out a cigar, angrily bit it in two, 
and stalked from the chamber. Later, as I left the floor, Reed 
came up to me and said, "Where are you going, boy?" We took 
a walk together, talked most of the evening, and struck up a 
lasting friendship. 

Midway through the long series of inconclusive roll calls, 
Senator La Follette issued from his sickbed a statement that 
the election of Smith would be a "clear-cut victory" for the 
progressives, as long as the Old Guard refused to support either 
James Couzens of Michigan or Robert B. Howell of Nebraska, 
both liberal Republican members of Interstate Commerce. But 
the Republican leadership preferred to see a Democrat elected 
rather than vote for a progressive. It turned down name after 
name from the ranks of the insurgents. 

On January 9, ig^-thirty days after I had sounded off-the 
stalemate ended. La Follette, back in the Senate, persuaded 



Communists and Senators 211 

five other progressives to vote for Smith on the thirty-fifth bal 
lot, This elected a Democratic committee chairman in a Re 
publican-controlled Senate, an extraordinary occurrence. The 
railroad brotherhoods rejoiced at the defeat of their arch-en 
emy, Cummins. La Follette wrote in their paper Labor that 
Cummins' defeat was a substantial victory for the people, add 
ing: "Senator Wheeler, who objected to the election . . . when 
confirmation was sought without a record vote . . . deserves a 
large share of credit for the successful issue of the Progressive 



There were flattering notices in other quarters. William Jen 
nings Bryan, the veteran leader of the agrarian Democrats, said, 
"It is inspiring to know that men like Senator Wheeler have 
the courage and ability to challenge the aristocracy of money 
in the legislative halls." Clinton W. Gilbert, Washington cor 
respondent of the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, wrote 
that "if I were to pick the best fighter in the U. S. Senate, I 
should lay my money on Bint Wheeler, the new Senator from 
Montana." 

From then on I had many graphic examples at hand to use 
in speeches to Eastern audiences to prove my contention that 
party labels are meaningless a truism in Midwestern and 
Western politics. For example, I told an audience at Ford Hall 
Forum in Boston that it was becoming "more and more diffi 
cult to distinguish a Republican from a Democrat by what he 
advocates." I saw Congress as divided between reactionaries 
and progressives, with the division cutting across party lines. 
I hit back in this speech at the charge of Senator Irvine L. Len- 
root, a Wisconsin Republican, that "the tendency toward blocs 
was a tendency toward the Sovietism of Russia." There were 
always blocs in Congress, I explained, pointing to the "financial 
bloc" and the "railroad bloc" as two that were never idle. 

When I first came to Washington, I thought I had all the 
answers on how to settle the economic ills of the country. I was 
eager to help the farmer and the laborer and couldn't wait to 
get started. Gradually I had to change my ideas on some spe 
cific remedies. For example, I had thought government owner 
ship of the railroads would help reduce the freight rates. But 



Yankee from the West 

when I saw the clumsy and wasteful manner in which many 
departments and agencies administered their programs, I 
changed my mind about government ownership. 

As for the Senate itself, I was no more awed or intimidated 
than my tradition-busting debut suggests. One of the first bits 
of advice I got was realistic. The courtly and acidly eloquent 
Senator Henry F. Ashurst, whom I had known on the campus 
of the University of Michigan, told me: "This is the most selfish 
body of men in the world. Don't do anything for anybody here 
and expect him to do something for you in return. They won't 
take that attitude toward you." 

Senator Walsh, a scholarly man, took a different view. 
When I complained to him that the Senate wasn't providing me 
with the action I was accustomed to in Montana, he counseled 
patience. He said the Senate was "like a great university if 
you pay attention you can learn a great deal.** In time I was 
to discover that Walsh was right. I found that there were some 
very able men on both sides of the aisle and I learned much 
from them. 

But my first glimpse of the Senate as it operated from the 
inside was not inspiring. Not long after I took my seat, a friend 
asked me my opinion of the "greatest deliberative body in the 
world." 

"It reminds me of the city council in Butte," I said facetiously. 

This quip got back to the Senate Democratic leadership and 
didn't do me any good. 



Chapter Eleven 

ROXY AND THE "OHIO GANG" 



On February 20, 1924 while still a brand new freshman 
I rose nervously in the Senate to deliver what proved to be 
the most important speech of my career. 

I had introduced a resolution to create a select committee 
to investigate Harry M. Daugherty, the Attorney General of 
the United States and the former number one crony of the late 
President Harding. The resolution directed an inquiry into 
the "alleged neglect and failure** of Daugherty to prosecute 
those accused in the newly exposed Teapot Dome scandal as 
well as "many others for violation of other federal statutes." 

My speech reviewed Daugherty's many questionable associ 
ations and the fact that a cloud of rumored corruption had 
hung over the Justice Department since Harding had been in 
augurated. 

"Here the Congress of the United States had appropriated 
one million dollars for the detection and prosecution of crime," 
I told my colleagues, "and ... we find the Department of 
Justice, instead of trying to detect the greatest crooks and those 



214 Yankee from the West 

guilty of the greatest crimes against the nation that have ever 
been perpetrated, we find the Department of Justice protecting 
them all during this time; we find them protecting them to 
night, because I am reliably informed that only last Sunday 
night the Attorney General of the United States held a con 
ference with Ed McLean." (Edward B. McLean, multimil 
lionaire publisher of the Washington Post and playboy member 
of the Harding coterie, was involved in the Teapot Dome con 
spiracy.) 

"Mr. President," I continued, "the evidence in this case, if it 
be true, would warrant one in thinking that the Attorney Gen 
eral of the United States, now occupying the highest legal po 
sition in the government, is guilty of many crimes." 

Senator Frank B. Willis, an Ohio Republican who was filling 
Harding's old seat in the Senate, jumped to his feet protesting 
that "if one-tenth of the charges that have been made here by 
the Senator from Montana are true, then instead of there being 
an investigation the Attorney General of the United States 
ought to be impeached, removed from office, disqualified to hold 
office, and be subjected to criminal proceedings besides." 

I noted that there had been a move in the House to impeach 
Daugherty more than a year before but that, instead of investi 
gating the Attorney General, the House leadership "tried the 
Representative who had the temerity to stand up and file those 
charges." 

(Representative Oscar E. Keller, an Independent Republican 
from Minnesota, had moved the impeachment of Daugherty, 
but the House Judiciary Committee had allowed the Attorney 
General to submit his defense in writing and thus avoid ques 
tioning. The committee promptly absolved him of guiltin 
handling war fraud cases and of bias against labor and then 
sought to smear Keller.) 

The New York Times called my indictment of Daugherty 
"the most sensational speech of the present Congress." The late 
Paul Y. Anderson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described it 
as "an attack so savage that even the Senate flinched." The 
United States Senate was not accustomed to hearing a cabinet 
officer so bluntly arraigned. Nothing at that point had been 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang" 215 

nailed down about Daugherty's reported malfeasance and it 
was apparent tibat many senators wondered if I had blundered 
far out on a shaky limb. 

My speech had put Daugherty's fat in the Senate fire and 
placed a question mark over my future in that body. Vaguely 
I sensed that this step would make me or break me one of us 
would win. But I had been in bare-knuckle fights before; I as 
sumed there was nothing the opposition could do to me that 
hadn't been tried in Montana. I was mistaken. I did not an 
ticipate the fantastic tactics and personalities that would cross 
my path. Harry Daugherty was a defiant and vengeful man 
who was ready to strike back with all the considerable re 
sources of the Department of Justice. 

If the Republican leaders were skeptical of some of my 
charges, they took no chances. After my speech, Senator Henry 
Cabot Lodge, the venerable GOP leader, led a group of senators 
to the White House and advised President Coolidge to get rid of 
his holdover Attorney General. Coolidge refused. 

According to William Allen White, the famous Kansas editor, 
the President later explained to a friend: "I ask you if there 
were any man in the Cabinet for whom ... if they were still 
living . . . President Harding would more surely demand his 
day in court, would more surely not dismiss because of popular 
clamor than the man who was his closest personal and political 
friend?" 

The original resolution I had drawn up earlier in February 
had called upon Coolidge to request Daugherty's resignation. 
Pending in the Senate at the time was a resolution calling 
for the ouster of Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby for hav 
ing turned over the Navy's oil reserves to the Department of the 
Interior where they were soon leased secretly to the oil com 
panies. 

I agreed to line up the progressive Republicans for the 
Denby resolution in return for the promise of Senate Demo 
cratic leader Joe Robinson to have the Democrats support mine. 
Robinson a little later persuaded me to rewrite my resolution 
so as to call for an investigation of Daugherty, instead of his 



216 Yankee from the West 

resignation, because the Attorney General was loudly demand 
ing his "day in court." 

My revised resolution also called for creation of a select in 
vestigating committee, since Senator Frank B. Brandegee, the 
Old Guard Connecticut Republican who was chairman of the 
Judiciary Committee, had no desire to handle this hot potato. 
Bolstered by the company of Senator Robert La Follette, the 
distinguished Republican progressive leader, I next called on 
the Senate's presiding officer, Senator Albert B. Cummins. We 
asked if he would follow our recommendations in naming the 
members of the special committee. Cummins stalled, pleading 
he would first have to check with Willis and Lodge. This an 
noyed La Follette. He pounded the table and surprised me by 
saying somewhat roughly to Cummins: "Albert, we'll make 
you do it!" 

When we heard nothing further from Cummins, I incorpo 
rated into the resolution the names of the committee members. 
Besides myself, they were: Republicans Smith W. Brookhart, of 
Iowa; George H. Moses, of New Hampshire; and Wesley L. 
Jones, of Washington; and Democrat Henry F. Ashurst, of 
Arizona. I picked Brookhart as chairman because he was a lib 
eral and because I found in a talk with him that he shared my 
desire for an objective but thorough investigation. 

Hus, though the Senate was GOP-controlled, I felt I had a 
committee that would lean 3-2 in my favor. When the reso 
lution came up for action on the floor, there was a good deal 
of grumbling by Republicans over the fact that I had the ef 
frontery to name the members of the committee I was propos 
ing. Lodge called this an "insult" to Cummins, since lie pre 
siding officer traditionally has the prerogative of selecting the 
members of a select panel. However, the Senate finally ap 
proved my resolution on a roll call vote of 66-1. Then the mem 
bers of the new committee elected me to present the case 
against Daugherty. 

For the Republicans, the new probe was adding weal on 
woe. My Montana colleague, Senator Thomas J. Walsh, was 
already giving them fits by pressing his investigation of the 
smelly Teapot Dome affair through the Interior Committee. 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang" 217 

I had also played a role in the origins of his probe which was to 
continue, with historic results, for five years. 

En route to Washington, D.C., after my election to the Sen 
ate in November 1922, 1 had paused at Billings, Montana, and 
run into an old friend, Tom Arthur. Arthur was the represent 
ative in Montana of the Texas Company and was one of the 
leading Democrats in the state. He brought up the subject of 
Teapot Dome, which was still in the rumor stage. He told me he 
knew it was a "crooked deal" and deserved a complete public 
airing. 

In Washington I attended a conference of progressives called 
by Senator La Follette, who had introduced a resolution for a 
Teapot Dome investigation in the previous session but had 
gotten nowhere. La Follette broached the subject to me and 
said there was only one member of the Interior Committee 
capable of handling it the patient, scholarly, upright Walsh, 
He asked me to get Walsh to take over the job, 

I mentioned the request to Walsh and he replied, 'Well, I 
can't do everything." 

"Senator," I said, "I don't know anything about this except 
that when I passed through Billings, Tom Arthur said he 
thought Teapot Dome was a scandal and ought to be exposed." 

"Did Tom Arthur say that?" Walsh asked. He was impressed 
that a man who represented an oil company thought the Tea 
pot Dome deal reeked. This bore out information he had re 
ceived from Democratic Senator John B. Kendrick of Wyo 
ming, where the Teapot Dome reserve was located. 

Meanwhile, I began hearing reports about Daugherty. A 
member of the Federal Trade Commission told me the Attorney 
General had not prosecuted numerous cases recommended by 
the FTC. There were also much more sensational rumors float 
ing about. But my first interest was to find out if he really was 
ignoring the trusts and other big combinations that were in 
restraint of trade. As soon as I announced I would introduce a 
resolution, tips came to me in bunches that Daugherty was up 
to his neck in massive graft 

The Senate Republicans' anxiety about my proposed investi- 



218 Yankee from the West 

gation did not stem from any love of Daugherty. Much as I 
disagreed on issues with Lodge and the other conservative 
Republicans, I respected them as dignified, able, and honest 
senators. Daugherty was not their type but, more than that, 
they had a distaste for crooks in high office. They had looked 
upon Harding as a good fellow but a weak President who had 
surrounded himself with an inferior and unsavory clique of pol 
iticians. Now the "Ohio Gang" as it soon came to be known 
during our hearings was posthumously ruining the dead 
President's reputation and the senior GOP senators hoped to 
make the developing scandal as light a burden as possible for 
Coolidge in the 1924 presidential election. 

The hard-boiled Daugherty himself was not panicked. 
Shortly after my resolution was passed, he confidently informed 
a group of worried Republican senators that he would take 
care of "this upstart from the sagebrush" in his own fashion. 
It was said that no one, not even a President of the United 
States, could intimidate Harry Mijacah Daugherty. He was a 
poor boy from Washington Court House, a small town in Fay- 
ette County in southern Ohio, who had worked his way to a 
law degree at the University of Michigan, my alma mater, in 
1881, the year before I was born. He soon discovered that he 
was far more successful at running a political machine than he 
was at running for office. In the summer of 1920 he hit the 
jackpot; in the now famous "smoke-filled room" in Chicago, 
Daugherty manipulated the dark-horse nomination of Warren 
G. Harding to be President of the United States and his meal 
ticket 

As Attorney General, Daugherty looked the part of a pros 
perous Scotch-Irish politician of his day; gregarious and self- 
assured, sporting a derby, a high stiff collar and a diamond 
stickpin, he was obviously and always for his friends all the 
way. 

Taking on this Midwestern Mikado, our special committee 
was treated like a poor relation by the Senate. Our hearings had 
to be lield not in the spacious marble-walled caucus room 
scene of so many major investigations but around a large table 
in Room 410 of the Senate Office Building. This virtually put 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang" 219 

us in one another's laps and restricted the size of the public 
audience. For my work space, I was assigned a small outer 
office of Room 410 and eventually I was "evicted" even from 
those cramped quarters. 

For an investigator I had only a young Montana lawyer, Ar 
thur B. Melzner, to start with, plus a couple of staff members 
from my own office. But soon I was offered auxiliary help 
from an unexpected source. Charley Michelson, then a reporter 
for the New York World and later the astute publicity director 
of the Democratic National Committee during the New Deal, 
introduced me to Frank A. Vanderlip, a prominent retired presi 
dent of the National City Bank in New York and a Republican. 
Vanderlip somewhat earlier had charged that Harding had sold 
his Ohio newspaper, the Marion Star, for more than twice what 
it was worth. As retribution, Vanderlip had been forced to re 
sign from the many institutions of which he was a director. 
Now he wanted to expose the Harding Administration. He put 
at my disposal all the investigators and resources of the Citi 
zens Federal Research Bureau, which he had set up and fi 
nanced to "ferret out corruption in Washington." Vanderlip 
and his private bureau proved to be invaluable to the Daugh- 
erty investigating committee. 

Now some of the people who had sent me tips of the Attorney 
General's venality refused to come forward and testify. But a 
steady flow of new allegations arrived in the mail. Several let 
ters urged me to contact a Miss Roxy Stinson, divorced wife of 
Jess Smith, Daugherty's close friend who had committed suicide 
in 1923. Before I had time to look into this tip, two men from 
Buffalo, New York, showed up in the committee office. One was 
Henry Stern, a lawyer, and the other was one A. L. Fink. When 
I came upon them, they had just about talked Brookhart into 
issuing a subpoena which they promised to deliver to Miss 
Stinson in Columbus, Ohio. 

"You mustn't do thatdo you know these people?" I asked 
the chairman, who was inclined to be too trusting. Brookhart 
explained that the two strangers had been sent by Senator 
James W. Wadsworth of New York, and Colonel William 
("Wild Bill") Donovan, then a United States District Attorney 



22O 'Yankee from the West 

in upstate New York. Wadswortih and Donovan were Republi 
cans and I suspected this was a sly attempt by the GOP to 
find out how much Miss Stinson knew before we could get to 
her. I told Brookhart I would take the subpoena and deliver it 
myself. A few hours later I boarded a train for Columbus. I 
allowed Stern and Fink to tag along. They had kept insisting 
they only wanted to do a public service and, besides, Fink said 
he knew Miss Stinson. 

Fink introduced me to her in the living room of her home in 
Columbus. Roxy Stinson was then approximately forty years 
old, a statuesque redhead, with the figure of a showgirl. When 
I told her the committee needed her testimony, she balked. I 
promised her national publicity but she said that was one thing 
she wanted to avoid. I then promised we would keep her from 
getting publicity. When she still demurred, I flashed the Senate 
subpoena calling for her appearance "forthwith." I said she had 
to come with us immediately. She gave in, but asked if she could 
caD someone first, I said no. 

Miss Stinson packed a bag and soon the four of us were 
headed back to Washington. On the train, I got Roxy alone 
for a short time and questioned her about what she knew in 
a very general way. It was enough to convince me she could 
blow the case against the Attorney General wide open. Also, 
she agreed to tell everything she knew and only what she 
knew. I realized it was urgent to get her on the stand before 
Daugherty's friends could scare her into silence. 

When we arrived in the capital, Miss Stinson begged me to 
let her telephone Ned M cLean, the Washington Post publisher 
and Harding crony who was a friend of hers. I said it was out 
of the question. I put her up in the Washington Hotel under 
the "protection" of my sister, Mrs. Maude Mitchell, who was my 
secretary. Maude took all the phone calls and kept Roxy in the 
room and all the would-be visitors out. 

I hastily set the opening hearing for two o'clock the follow 
ing afternoon, twenty-four hours earlier than I had scheduled. 
Then, on March 12, 1924, 1 sprang my glamorous surprise wit 
ness. I could hardly have found anyone more ideal to get the 
hearings rolling full tilt. The press-which was scribbling fun- 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang* 2,2,1 

ously from the opening gavel noted that Miss Stinson was fash 
ionably dressed and attractive. Sitting with a sealskin coat 
draped over her shoulders, she talked in a low voice. Though she 
was obviously under tension, I believe she came through as an 
utterly credible witness. She told of a curious relationship with 
Jess Smith, and how it made her privy to high-level intrigue. 

Miss Stinson testified that she had married Smith, who was 
twelve years her senior, when both were living in Washington 
Court House, Ohio, in 1908. There was an amicable divorce 
eighteen months later. Since then, she explained, Smith had 
danced attendance on her regularly, become her confidant, and 
generously shared with her the fruits of his profitable deals with 
Daugherty. She indignantly denied that she and Smith had 
lived as man and wife after their divorce. She obviously had a 
sisterly affection for her ex-husband. He, a weak character, must 
have depended on her for emotional support. 

Smith was an oddball in the gaggle of amoral opportunists 
who joyously trailed Harding from Ohio to the White House. 
Miss Stinson described him as Daugherty's "bumper," which in 
her lexicon meant "intimate friend." 

A foppish small-town merchant who yearned to mingle with 
Very Important People, Smith had attached himself to Daugh 
erty like a faithful puppy. Daugherty rewarded this fealty with 
companionship and power. They shared Daugherty's apartment 
in the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington and Smith was as 
signed his own office in the Justice Department. Though never 
on the government payroll, Smith traveled free on a Depart 
ment pass and was widely accepted as the unofficial "deputy 
Attorney General." He accompanied Harding, who also counted 
him a friend, on presidential junkets and he roistered with 
Daugherty and his fellows at the notorious "Little Green House 
on K Street," the nerve center for their shady transactions. 

When the high-flying "drugstore sport" blew his brains out 
early one morning in the Wardman Park suite, all Washington 
was shocked and not a little curious. Daugherty was quoted to 
the effect that coincidently with Smith's death all their records 
somehow had gotten burned. There were demands for an in 
vestigation to determine whether Smith was murdered. 



Yankee from the West 

Miss Sttnson said on the witness stand that she got acquainted 
with Harding during the presidential campaign. The following 
questioning ensued: 

SEN. WHEELER: Did you afterward visit at his home? 

Miss SimsoN: Yes, sir. 

SEN. WHEELER: Whereabouts was that? 

Miss STINSON: At Marion, Ohio. 

SEN. WHEELER: And who with? 

Miss STINSON: Mr. Jess Smith. 

SEN. WHEELER: And what have you to say about whether you 
subsequently met the President; and if so, where? 

Miss STINSON: We called at their home, and went from their 
home to dinner at Dr. Sawyer's sanitarium, where Mr. Harding 
had me as a dinner partner. He sat by my side and he was 
very attentive. 

Just prior to his coming to Harding's inauguration, Miss 
Stmson testified Smith was worth "between $150,000 and $175,- 
ooo." When he died, she said, his estate was appraised at "ap 
proximately $250,000." But for six months before his death 
Smith had been excitable and jumpy. 

"He was in constant fear," Miss Stinson continued. "He asked 
me to bolster him up, to cheer him up ... he was home for 
two weeks prior to his passing away. The last evening he spent 
cautioning me what not to tell, what not to do, and what to 
destroy, and I said finally, 'Well, I will either tdl or I won't, so 
let's don't talk about it any longer.'" 

T haven't told anyone," she added. "I have been approached 
many times in the last seven months from angles, all angles, 
but I am here to defend him ... Jess Smith gave his life for 
Harry Daugherty; he absolutely adored him." 

Miss Stinson said "tortures of pressure" were brought on 
Smith from sources she did not know "to try to betray Harry 
Daugherty, which he would not do." She quoted Smith as say 
ing to her in desperation, "I am not made for this. This intrigue 
is driving me crazy. If I could just come home, but I am in now 
and I have to stand by Harry." Roxy charged that Daugherty 






1> 2, 3. Yankee Boyhood. Burton K, Wheeler, youngest of ten children, grew 
to early manhood in Hudson, Massachusetts. 




4. Midwest Wedding. Aimed with a law degree from the University of 
Michigan, Wheeler was married to Lulu M. White in September 1907, in 
Albany, Illinois. 




5. Western Lawmaker. 
Wheeler launched his career o 
political independence by talcing 
a seat in the Montana House of 
Representatives at the age of 
twenty-eight 




6. Lawyer for the Underdog. Wheeler won Ms reputation defending labor 
leaders and, as Montana's District Attorney (1913-18), keeping a cool head amid 
war hysteria. 



7. Crusading Senator. As a brash freshman, Wheeler became nationally con 
troversial in 1924 by ousting Attorney General Harry M. Daugherfy. Shown here 
are members of the select investigating committee: (1. to r.) Senators Wheeler, 
George H. Moses, Smith W Brookhart, Wesley L. Jones, Henry F. Asburst. 

Underwood 6- Underwood 





John M. Baer 

8. Vindicated. This cartoon in the weekly newspaper, 
Labor, followed the 1925 trial in which Wheeler was 
acquitted of a "frame-up 7 * charge of conflict-of-interest. 




Underwood 6- Underwood 

9. Family Man. The Wheelers* sixth child (a daughter) was born on the day 
Be was exonerated in his trial. Preceding her were five brothers and sisters': 
(I to r.) Edward, Richard, Frances, Elizabeth, John. 



10. Maverick. Frequently car 
tooned, the Senator was por 
trayed this way by R. G. List 
for the book Sam of the Wild 
Jackass by Ray Tucker. 





Harm 6- Ewing 

11. Party Bolter, Wheeler temporarily deserted the Democratic party in 1924 
to rim as Vice President on the national Independent Progressive ticket headed 
by Senator Robert M. La Toilette (left), They drew the biggest third-party 
popular presidential. % ? ote in history. 




12. Triumphant Lawmaker. Wheeler played the key role in passage of 

Roosevelt's controversial Public Utilities Holding Company Act of 1935. Here 
he watches FDR present one of the signing pens to Thomas G. ("Tommy the 
Cork"') Corcoran, the President's legislative aide. Shown (L to r.) are Senator 
Alben Barldey; Senator Wheeler; Senator Fred H. Brown; Dozier A. DeVane, 
Federal Power Commission solicitor; Representative Sam Haybura. 




13. Two "Gnvbqys." The Senator, with daughter Marion and son Edward 

(second from right), calls on Gary Cooper on Hollywood movie lot. Montana- 
bom Cooper was the son of a close friend of Wheeler's. At far right is movie 
"czar"WfflHavs. 



lT*5 awt THRE.E CHEERS, 

H*0* SEEMS Ib BE !M TtfE 
TO STAY* 




Berryman, Washington Evening Star 

14, The Third Term. The entry of Roosevelt's name in 
the Illinois primary of 1940 was considered bad news to 
three leading possibilities for the presidential nomination 
Wheeler, Farley, -and McNutt 




Rockford Register-Republic 

15. Horeemanship. The Wheelers raised all their cMIdren to ride. Here they 
set out on a morning canter with daughter Elizabeth. 




Time, Inc. 

16, Man of the Week, Time magazine carried this portrait of Wheeler on the 
cow of its April 15, 1940, issue over the caption; "The Democratic party has a 
future.* J 




Acme 



17. Non-interventionist The Senator joined Charles A. 
Lindbergh at an America First rally before 20,000 persons 
in Madison Square Garden on October 80, 1941. 




Pam&k, The Chicago Tribune 

18. FDR's No. 1 Antagonist. Wheeler, an original 
backer of Roosevelt, angered the President by de 
feating Mm on Ms court-packing bill 'in 1937 and by 
opposing liis Interventionist war policies in 1940-41. 




19. Crony of Cactus Jack. Vice-President John N. Gamer once saluted Wheeler 

as having the most important senatorial attribute guts. 



20. Wheeler on Wheels. The Father of many transportation laws launched the 
test ma of the B&O National Limited with decorative assistance. 





21, 22. Mountain Man. Now a prominent Washington kwyer, Wheeler spends 
his summers at his lodge on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park Here he 
exhibits trout catch with son Dick and Filipino houseman Simeon Arboleda and 
(below) plays cards with Mrs. Wheeler (striped dress), Arboleda, and Mr. and 
Mrs. Gene Sullivan. 





23. Life with Father. Having reared a family as independent-minded as 
themselves, the Wheelers have learned to take a ribbing from their sons and 
daughters: (I. to r.) Edward, his father's law partner; Elizabeth (Mrs. Edwin A, 
CO'Imaii}, Milwaukee, Wis.; Richard, a Denver radio executive; Marion (Mrs. 
Robert Scott), Betbesda, Md.; John, a corporation vice president of Pasadena, 
Calif. 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang" 223 

was "morally responsible" for the dealt of his closest friend. 

The witness said her ex-husband kept telling her about the 
"deals" he and the Attorney General were making. Smith, him 
self expected to clean up about $180,000 through the nation 
wide exhibition of a film of the 1921 championship fight 
between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier. Interstate 
shipment of the fight film was illegal but the imaginative 
Daugherty clique found a loophole. 

Since the movie's interstate shipment but not its showing- 
was banned, a "scapegoat" would be found in each state who 
would pay the relatively small fine that would be levied for the 
violation. The film could then be shown as often as the exhibitor 
wished in that particular state. 

To keep the scapegoat from being jailed as wel as fined, how 
ever, the case had to be steered to a judge who could be fixed. 
Jess Smith claimed that he and Daugherty were able to fix fed 
eral judges in twenty states. The scheme had been hatched in 
the cunning brain of "Jap" Muma, who was general manager of 
Ned McLean's newspapers. (Despite his queer name, Muma 
was no more Oriental than any of his fellow Ohioans. ) 

Daugherty was directly implicated in the fight film con 
spiracy through the testimony of two former secret agents of 
the Justice Department. They said they were told the details 
by Minna. 

On occasion, Miss Siinson testified, her suddenly influential 
ex-husband brought back to Washington Court House ^grips 
full of whisky." The witness said **he drank a part of it* 7 and di 
vided the rest with her and Mai Daugherty, Harry Daugherty's 
brother. Sometimes he would bring a '"great weekend case" of 
liquor which she said was as large as a table in the committee 
room. 

Smith, apparently had ready access to whisky during Pro 
hibition. Miss StinsGB explained: **. . , he would make reference 
to permits that would let people get liquor. That was when they 
were first in office, you understand. But that did not last very 
long because they were afraid of it/' 

{Subsequently the butler at the "Little Green House on K 
Street" testified that twice he saw a Wells Fargo wagon de- 



224 Yankee from the West 

liver twenty cases of liquor there. He said each load was 
"guarded" by a man he assumed to be a revenue agent because 
he was armed and wore a badge.) 

She and Smith spent a week in New York City at the time 
of the Dempsey-Carpentier fight, Miss Stinson related. They 
saw a good deal of Joe Weber, of the famous theatrical team 
of Weber & Fields. Weber took them to dress rehearsals and 
got them theater tickets. All Weber wanted was a parole for 
his wife's brother who was in the penitentiary. 

"It was Mr. Daugherty that was the one to get the parole, or 
see that it was gotten," Miss Stinson recalled from overhear 
ing the conversations between Weber and Smith. Later, she 
said, Smith complained to her of Weber that, "I don't know 
whether we are going to bother with him or not. He is awful 
cheap and wants something for nothing." 

Smith shared with Miss Stinson the stock that he and the 
Attorney General had mysteriously acquired. She couldn't re 
call how many shares she got, but she said they were in the 
White Motors and Pure Oil Companies. 

Alert as they were, even Daugherty and Smith apparently 
could miss a good thing during the Washington gold rush un 
der Harding. Miss Stinson testified that her ex-husband once 
told her that five friends of theirs had cleaned up no less than 
833,000,000 in a Sinclair oil deal in just five days. She contin 
ued: "I said . . . *Were you and Harry in on it?' He said, 'No, 
that is what we are sore about."' 

Miss Stinson charged that Daugherty was back of many at 
tempts to "intimidate" her into keeping her mouth shut. Only 
a month previously, she related, the aforementioned A. L. Fink, 
whom she had known for some time, persuaded her to meet 
with him at the Hotel Hollenden in Cleveland on the pretext 
of explaining a business deal. She occupied a separate room 
that night, she explained, but discovered too late that Fink, 
who had taken care of the reservations and registration, had 
listed them as man and wife. Miss Stinson asserted that this 
"frame-up" was an attempt to compromise her in connection 
with Fink's demand that she withhold her story from the com- 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang" 2,2,5 

mittee. Her voice broke in describing this incident and several 
times she seemed on the verge of hysterical tears. 

Miss Stinson was in the witness chair for five days. Her testi 
mony of course drew overflow audiences. A reporter for the 
Washington Times wrote that these sessions "had all the at 
mosphere of a murder trial, combined with the bated breath 
excitement of the opening of King Tut's tomb the King Tut 
in this instance being poor Jess Smith/' 

Daugherty countered with a violent attack on the character 
of our witness. He sneered at Miss Stinson as a "disappointed 
woman," an "angry woman," and a "malicious woman." Along 
with many newspaper editorialists, he tried to dismiss her testi 
mony as "hearsay." But in a conspiracy, which is what I was 
charging, evidence is admissible which might otherwise be 
deemed hearsay, to establish the terms and conditions under 
which the conspirators acted. 

Significantly, virtually all the important statements made by 
Miss Stinson under oath were subsequently corroborated by 
other witnesses. We invited Daugherty's two defense counsel- 
former Senator George E. Chamberlain and former Congress 
man L. Paul Rowland to cross-examine her but they aban 
doned the questioning after only five minutes. 

My second witness was one of the most incredible figures in 
the annals of cloak-and-dagger work in this country Gaston B, 
Means. Means had been a German government agent in 1916 
and also a close associate of William J. Burns in Burns' famous 
detective agency. He followed Burns into the government when 
the latter was made head of the Bureau of Investigation later 
the FBI-by Daugherty. 

Means was then fiftyish, a powerful-looking, heavy-set man 
with a large head and a legendary reputation as a confidence 
man. When a newspaper correspondent brought us together, 
he was under suspension by Daugherty, but I was suspicious. 
My suspicion was well founded, for it turned out later that he 
was still a paid informant for Burns, and apparently sent to us 
to find out what we had on Daugherty. 

At this time Means told me he was a friend of Burns but 
would give me all the information he could to hang Daugherty. 



Jankee from the West 

He assured me he could throw some light on an aircraft case 
that was puzzling us and so I put hun on the stand. He made 
sensational headlines by testifying that, in February 1922, he 
had received one hundred $1000 bills from a Japanese repre 
sentative of Mitsui and Company and, on instruction, turned 
the bills over to Jess Smith. 

The Mitsuis controlled the Standard Aircraft Company, 
which in 1921-22 was under investigation for wartime fraud 
by the United States government. One of the charges brought 
against Daugherty in the House was that he had failed to press 
the case against the company. 

We were unable to produce direct corroboration for Means* 
story but we concluded that some sizable payoff must have 
been made after we heard the testimony of Captain H. L. Scaife, 
a bearded former Justice Department investigator. Scaife's 
study of the records showed that Standard Aircraft had over 
charged the government by $2,267,342 on its war contracts 
(while failing to deliver a single fighting plane to France). 
Oddly, Scaife testified, his report and all its copies had gotten 
"lost" and then the whole case was "blocked" on a higher level. 
Scaife quit the Department in disgust. 

Another possible corroboration of the reported $100,000 pay 
off was testimony by Miss Stinson that Jess Smith once returned 
from Washington proudly wearing a money belt stuffed with 
seventy-five f 1000 bills. 

Means turned over to the committee ten little black books 
which he claimed were "minute-by-minute diaries" filled with 
damaging evidence of his spying for Smith, Burns, and Daugh 
erty. However, when I asked the committee staff for the books 
later on to examine them I was told they had been turned back 
to Means. He had presented a committee employee with an 
order for the books purportedly signed by Brookhart I found 
that the signature was a forgery and I never again saw the 
little black books. 

The rascally Means was more trouble to us than he was 
worth. During the hearings, he turned up frequently at my 
home in the evening and warned Mrs. Wheeler that my life 
was in danger. This psychological warfare included advising 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang" 227 

her against buying candy peddled in the neighborhood, for 
fear my enemies would try to poison the children. He also ex 
plained that assassins might try to kill me by forcing my car off 
the road. The idea that my enemies would try to harm me was 
as silly as it had been in my Montana days; from a public re 
action standpoint, it would be the worst thing they could do. 

However, Mrs. Wheeler and I knew there were men hiding 
behind our own shrubbery day and night watching to see who 
came and went. As a precaution, Vanderlip had his chauffeur 
drive me to Capitol Hill every morning and bring me back in 
the evening. 

At one point, when our hearings were temporarily off the 
front pages, Means offered to blow up our sun porch to get me 
publicity as the victim of a bomb plot. He also told me fantastic 
storiesentirely uncorroborated about how he had collected 
money for crooked officials in the Harding Administration; 
sometimes, he said, he buried it in the ground. He also told me 
he had been hired by Mrs. Harding to spy on the President's 
girl friend, Nan Britton. 

Means had a brilliant mind and could have distinguished 
himself if he had used it in constructive channels. But you 
never knew when he was lying. 

The Justice Department eventually used an old charge to 
get Means sent to the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta. He died 
in 1937 in another prison after being convicted of providing 
fake clues in the Lindbergh kidnaping. 

Domestic spying offered almost unlimited job opportunities 
in Washington in the spring of 1924. The New Jork Times 
reported that the city was a "detectives' paradise,** estimating 
that some five hundred sleuths were playing "hide and seek" in 
the capital The government's operatives joined in the game. 
Members of Congress who had complained of surveillance by 
the Bureau of Investigation had their suspicions confirmed by 
our investigation. We took testimony that Department of Jus 
tice agents had ransacked the offices of senators Thaddeus H. 
Caraway and Robert M. La Follette and Representative Roy O. 
Woodruff, a progressive Michigan Republican, 

My own office was rifled during the hearings on several 



228 "Yankee from the West 

occasions. Government-hired detectives hung around the com 
mittee's offices constantly. (Thanks to my experience in Mon 
tana, I had long since learned to spot a detective at fifty paces. ) 
Some of our witnesses were approached to find out what testi 
mony they would give. Others were shadowed. J. Edgar Hoo 
ver, then assistant chief of the Bureau of Investigation, sat 
next to Daugherty's defense counsels throughout the hearings. 

John S. Glenn, a certified public accountant, testified about 
a direct approach made to him to try to pin something on me. 
Glenn had known me when I was District Attorney in Mon 
tana and he served there as a special agent for the Department 
of the Interior. He related that on March 6, six days before 
the hearings opened, he was contacted in Nashville, Tennessee, 
where he was then living, by one C. F. Hateley, an agent for 
Bureau of Investigation chief Burns. 

Glenn said he met the agent in a hotel and that "Mr. Hateley 
stated to me that he was there on a strictly personal mission, 
and he asked me if I knew Senator Burton K. Wheeler ... he 
further asked me what kind of fellow Wheeler was, to which 
statement I replied that Wheeler was as square a man as any 
one I ever met. He asked me about Senator Wheeler's morals, 
to which I stated to him that Senator Wheeler's morals were 
beyond reproach . . . 

"He stated to me that he wanted me to try to pull Wheeler 
off Daugherty," Glenn testified. He said Hateley offered to pay 
his expenses if he would come to Washington. Glenn said it was 
impossible for him to go then and that anyway "I didn't think 
it was possible to do anything/' 

Senator Ashurst, a member of our committee, finally ex 
ploded verbally on the Senate fioor. "Illegal plots, counterplots, 
espionage, decoys, dictographs, thousand-dollar bills, and the 
exploring of senators* offices come and go in the pages of this 
testimony," Ashurst told the Senate. "And these devices, these 
plots, counterplots, spies, thousand-dollar bills and ubiquitous 
detectives were not employed ... to detect and prosecute 
crime, but were frequently employed to shield profiteers, bribe 
takers, and favorites. The spying upon senators, the attempt to 
intimidate them . . . are disclosed by this Record." 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang* 229 

Parading to our witness chair were bootleggers, promoters, 
and influence peddlers who had swarmed to Washington in the 
wake of the "Ohio Gang/' (As far as I know, I was the first to 
use this phrase. In a statement on April 23, 1924, I referred to 
the "Ohio Gang, known as 'Us Boys' and numbering about a 
dozen high officials in the Justice Department.") We filled the 
record with evidence of the illegal sale of liquor permits and 
paroles to bootleggers, and of Daugherty's participation in 
stock market pools as well as the illegal distribution of the 
Dempsey-Carpentier film. 

Less colorful witnesses charged Daugherty with failure to 
prosecute the numerous war fraud cases exposed in House 
committee investigations. Federal Trade Commission officials 
complained that Daugherty had ignored their requests for 
prosecution of tobacco and lumber companies, the Interna 
tional Harvester and General Electric corporations as illegal 
monopolies. Several lawyers told of his manipulation of court 
decrees in monopoly cases against the Boston & Maine Rail 
road and the New York, New Haven & Hartford. Still others 
accused Daugherty of defrauding Indians in Oklahoma, and of 
failure to prosecute several nation-wide lotteries. 

Small wonder that the Department of Justice was nick 
named the "Department of Easy Virtue." However, ours was 
by no means the only congressional inquiry then rattling the 
skeletons in Washington closets. Walsh's Teapot Dome hear 
ings were running simultaneously and there were five other 
investigations in full swing looking into the Internal Revenue 
Bureau, the Shipping Board, the aircraft trust, alleged knd 
frauds, and evidence that members of Congress had "sold their 
influence" in liquor and pardon deals. The stock greeting be 
tween government officials, according to the current wisecrack, 
was: "Good morning, have you been subpoenaed yet?** 

Two weeks of our hearings were enough for President Coo- 
lidge. He asked for Daugherty's resignation. While the Presi 
dent did not say he asked for his resignation because of 
Daugherty's refusal to turn over certain files requested by the 
committee, the ouster of Daugherty followed immediately after 



230 Yankee from the West 

his refusal. It would have been "treason to do so" was Daugh- 
erty's defense of his rejection of our committee's demand. 

"The files I refused to deliver," he cried, "were demanded by 
Brookhart and Wheeler, two United States senators who spent 
last summer in Russia with their Soviet friends/' 

"Daugherty has taken refuge behind the last resort of mod 
ern knaves," I retorted, "striving desperately to divert the public 
mind from their own corruption. When all else fails, they trot 
out the old Ved peril' bugaboo." 

Daugherty felt that my trip to Russia was his best weapon 
against me, and my image as a Bolshevik grew in his mind 
with time. When he wrote a book in his own defense some 
years later, he said the man "who came to the Senate with the 
determination to drive me from the office of the Attorney Gen 
eral [was] the communist leader of the Senate . . . Wheeler 
is no more a Democrat than Stalin, his comrade in Moscow . . ." 
Daugherty pictured himself a martyr, no less than "the first 
public official that was thrown to the wolves by orders of the 
red borers of America," 

Daugherty's resignation was followed a month later by that 
of Bureau of Investigation chief Bums. Burns quit immediately 
after Harlan Fiske Stone, the newly appointed Attorney Gen 
eral, requested information on his predecessor. It was said that 
Burns sacrificed himself rather than become an informer on 
Daugherty and the operations of the Justice Department. 

Stone, who was destined to become Chief Justice of the 
United States, ordered the files of the Department turned over 
to the committee but they appeared to have been already 
emasculated Stone promised that the system of espionage and 
the use of the Bureau of Investigation for political and personal 
ends would cease. Hoover, who became acting chief of the 
bureau, gave similar assurances. 

Meanwhile, we were checking up on the assertion by Daugh 
erty's friends that whatever grafting may have been done by 
the Attorney General's cronies he himself had not profited 
personally. Vanderlip urged us to examine the records of the 
Midland National Bank of Washington Court House, owned by 
Daugherty's brother, Mai. I dispatched to the Midland Bank, 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang" 231 

John L. Phelon, formerly a bank examiner for the Second Fed 
eral Reserve District. 

Phelon shrewdly went straight to the certificates of deposit 
and discovered $74,000 in deposit slips bearing the signature 
of H. M. Daugherty. Daugherty's tax returns showed that he 
had listed $27,000 in debts for 1920 (against assets of $10,000) 
but no debts at all for 1921. His salary as Attorney General in 
1921 was $12,000. 

Phelon pored over the deposit slips until the bank closed 
that afternoon but when he returned to finish the job the next 
morning he was barred at the door by Mai Daugherty. (During 
the trial of the American Metals Company in an alien property 
case in 1925, it was disclosed that Harry Daugherty had gone 
to his brother's bank after Phelon's visit and burned the ledger 
sheets covering his own account, his brother's, and another ac 
count known as "Jess Smith extra." 

On April 11 Brookhart and I held a public hearing in Wash 
ington Court House to put Phelon's findings on the record and 
question Mai Daugherty. After checking into a hotel there the 
previous evening, I was approached by Philip Kinsley, a Wash 
ington correspondent for the Chicago Tribune who was cover 
ing our hearings. Like most of the Republican newspapers, the 
Tribune had attacked the investigation of the Attorney General 
but Kinsley must have liked me. He tipped me off that there 
would be an attempt to plant a woman in my hotel room for 
blackmail purposes that very night. 

Only an hour later I was standing in the lobby when a good- 
looking bleached blonde warmly introduced herself and struck 
up a conversation. She said she was a beauty parlor operator 
who was thinking of opening a shop in Washington, D.C. She 
wanted to know if I thought this was a good idea and if I 
might be of assistance. I told her beauty shops were out of my 
field. When this didn't discourage her ploy, I made an excuse 
and walked away. 

At our hearings the next day Phelon testified that the Mid 
land Bank had some amazingly large deposits for a bank capi 
talized at only 8100,000. The deposit slips he had a chance to 
examine before being barred from the bank totaled $274,027.86, 



232 Yankee from the West 

including the $74,000 deposited in the name of H. M. Daugh- 
erty. Some of lie other large deposit slips turned out to bear 
fictitious signatures when we checked out the names. 

We had subpoenaed Mai Daugherty to appear at this hearing 
with his bank records but he sent word that the committee 
had neither the power nor the jurisdiction to make him do so. 
At our request, the Senate quickly cited him for contempt. He 
applied for an injunction against the committee and in June 
his legal position was upheld by Federal Judge A. N. J. Coch- 
ran, sitting in southern Ohio. 

His brother's "out" was all the excuse Harry Daugherty 
needed. For his repeated claim that he was eager to testify he 
now substituted the assertion that the whole proceeding was 
illegal and that it would be improper for him to appear. 

Daugherty was attacked on the Senate floor for seizing on a 
technicality to avoid questioning, and the angry Senate voted 
to take the highly unusual step of itself employing counsel to 
appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. The Court did not 
act on the appeal until January 1927, two and a half years 
later, but The New York Times noted that its decision was 
"one of the most sweeping ever handed down by the tribunal.*' 

The decision reversed the lower court ruling, holding that 
our investigation was ordered by Congress for a legitimate ob 
ject and that the bank records were pertinent to our inquiry. 

"The power of inquiry with the process to enforce it is an 
essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function," 
the Supreme Court explained in part. (A Supreme Court deci 
sion in 1880 in Kilbourn c. Thompson had left this enforcement 
power in doubt for forty-seven years.) 

Our investigation by this time had long since ended and the 
Daugherty bank records had been destroyed. But the decision 
affected immediately a number of the other investigations still 
underway. And it has supplied firm legal underpinnings for 
every congressional investigation since then. 

One of the most important scandals we brought out was the 
handling of funds by the Alien Property Custodian. The APC 
is charged with seizing and operating the holdings of enemy 
aliens in this country during wartime. The holdings amounted 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang" 233 

to hundreds of millions of dollars after both world wars and the 
former owners maneuvered through the courts and Congress 
to try to get them back. Some 49 per cent of the internationally 
owned American Metals Company had been taken over by the 
APC in World War I on the ground that it belonged to the 
Germans. In 1921 an agent of the company presented a claim 
of $7,000,000 to the United States government on behalf of the 
Swiss owners. 

The $7,000,000 claim was approved by Daugherty two days 
later, after the agent paid $441,000 in Liberty bonds to John T. 
King, Republican national committeeman from Connecticut, 
for "services*" which consisted of introducing the agent to the 
Alien Property Custodian, Thomas W. Miller, a close friend of 
Daugherty, and Jess Smith. It was brought out during the trial 
which followed the hearings that at least $200,000 of this sum 
was paid over to Jess Smith "for expediting the claim in Wash 
ington," that Mai Daugherty sold at least $40,000 worth of 
these bonds and deposited the cash in his brothers account, 
and that Miller himself received $50,000. Miller was convicted 
in 1927 and sentenced to eighteen months in prison. Smith and 
King died before standing trial. 

Harry Daugherty, however, escaped conviction when two 
juries were unable to agree after listening to his attorney plead 
that Daugherty would risk martyrdom to protect the name of 
his friend, the late President Harding. 

Unfortunately, the evidence of corruption and malfeasance 
unfolded by the Daugherty and Teapot Dome investigations 
were a little too rich for the blood of the Republican newspaper 
publishers. Their papers largely ignored the detailed testimony 
of the economic questions involved in anti-trust cases and the 
testimony of a Daugherty assistant on his inability to secure 
action on war fraud cases. 

The New York Herald Tribune called Walsh and Wheeler 
"the Montana scandalmongers'* and the Cincinnati Times Star 
said my committee was an example of "Bolshevik justice." 

The principal criticism of our committee was that the testi 
mony came largely from "ex-convicts, divorcees, discharged 
government employees, and men under indictment." 



234 Yankee from the West 

"Daugherty did not associate with preachers," I replied to 
this charge. "The witnesses were not friends of the committee. 
They were called because they had dealings with Daugherty 
and his close associates. The character of the witnesses in a 
hearing of this kind is determined largely by the character of 
the central figure." 

Felix Frankfurter, then a professor of law at Harvard and 
later a Supreme Court Justice, wrote in the May 21, 1924, issue 
of The Nation: 

"It is safe to say that never in the history of this country have 
congressional investigators [Walsh and Wheeler] had to con 
tend with such powerful odds, never have they so quickly re 
vealed wrongdoing, incompetence, and low public standards 
on such a wide scale and never have such investigations re 
sulted so effectively in compelling correction through the dis 
missal of derelict officials. . . . There is no substantial basis for 
criticism of the investigations of Senators Walsh and Wheeler." 

As for the charge that I used the "dragnet method" of spread 
ing on the record a mass of undigested testimony, the fact is 
I was swamped with so many reports of wrongdoing it would 
have taken years to sift them. Knowing how Daugherty had 
dodged scrutiny in the abortive House investigation, I felt I 
had to strike quickly before the inquiry could be undermined. 

Even so, we were thwarted by our inability to obtain many 
of the witnesses we needed. As in the Teapot Dome probe, 
many of them fled the country or simply disappeared. Some 
witnesses who cooperated with the committee were notified 
that their employment with the government was terminated. 

Of the minority of newspapers which gave full coverage to 
our hearings, one of the most generous with space was the 
chain owned by William Randolph Hearst. The Hearst edito 
rials sometimes took a dirn view of our charges but the hear 
ings were played heavily on the front page. Therefore, I was 
surprised and puzzled when a Hearst reporter I knew well 
came to me and said, THearst isn't going along with you arty 
n>ore on the publicity." I asked why not. 

"Burns has gotten after Hearst and is threatening hfm with 
something," he replied. 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang" 235 

After some prodding, the correspondent explained: "Well, 
they have a case against Hearst for taking Marion Davies across 
the state line. They've told him they*!! prosecute unless he lays 
off your investigation." 

I surmised he was telling me this to find out whether I would 
continue the hearings if my chief source of publicity was cut 
off. I assured the reporter that I would go ahead even if there 
was a total blackout of news coverage. The Hearst man said 
this was what he expected I would say. 

Whether Hearst was ever swayed by this alleged blackmail 
attempt or if it was ever seriously threatened I don't know. 
News stories in the Hearst press did decline to some extent 
after that but it could have been due to a tapering off of sensa 
tional testimony rather than to any outside pressures. But the 
report if true indicated how far the Justice Department would 
stoop to try to curtail publicity about the hearings. 

The major reprisal against the investigation occurred less 
than four weeks after the hearings began. On April 8, I was 
indicted by a federal grand jury in Great Falls, Montana, on the 
charge that I had unlawfully accepted a retainer from Gordon 
Campbell, an oil man, to use my influence in obtaining oil and 
gas permits from the Secretary of the Interior. 

The action did not come as a complete surprise. Vanderlip 
had gotten a tip from one of his friends on the Republican 
National Committee that there would be an indictment, and 
I had heard that government agents were out in Montana 
combing my past. 

Nonetheless, I was upset Even though I knew the charge 
to be false, it was the first time in my life that I had been ac 
cused of doing something illegal. Luckily, I was bucked up at 
that point from an inspiring source Supreme Court Justice 
Louis D. Brandeis. The Justice was a new and valued friend. 
After my election to the Senate in November 1922 he had writ 
ten me suggesting that we get acquainted when I came to 
Washington. I was flattered that I had attracted the attention 
of the eminent liberal jurist. 

On the night after my indictment, Justice and Mrs. Brandeis 
invited Mrs. Wheeler and me to dinner at their apartment 



236 Yankee from the West 

After the dinner, Brandeis took me into another room and asked, 
"Are you worried?" I confessed that I was a little shaken be 
cause I had never before been called a crook, not even by my 
bitterest enemies in Montana. 

'They're trying to stop you," Brandeis said. "Don't let them 
stop you, because that's all they're trying to do!'* 

Nothing could have boosted my morale more than this en 
couragement from a Supreme Court Justice whose dissenting 
opinions were making legal history. The nqi<lay I took the 
Senate floor and made an emotional speech in which I de 
nounced the indictment as a "political frame-up." 

"I am going on with this investigation and I am not going to 
be stopped by threats," I told my colleagues. 

The Senate on a unanimous vote appointed a special com 
mittee of three Republicans and two Democrats to investigate 
the charges against me. Senator William E. Borah was chair 
man. The other members were Republicans Charles L. Mc- 
Nary of Oregon and Thomas Sterling of South Dakota. The 
Democrats were Claude A. Swanson of Virginia and Thaddeus 
H. Caraway of Arkansas. 

After holding extensive hearings, this special committee is 
sued a report which "wholly exonerated" me from "any and 
all violations" charged in the indictment. 

"The committee further states," the report said, "that in its 
opinion Senator Wheeler was careful to have it known and 
understood from the beginning that his services as an attorney 
for Gordon Campbell, or his interests, were to be confined ex 
clusively to matters of litigation in the state courts of Montana, 
and that he observed at all times not only the letter but the 
spirit of the law." 

The only dissenter was Sterling, who contended that the 
committee had no business delving into a case which was be 
fore another branch of the government. 

Having been familiar with the law when I was United States 
District Attorney in Montana, I had been careful to avoid fall 
ing into a conflict-of-interest situation. This is what happened: 
After I was elected to the Senate, Campbell, a geologist, asked 
my kw firm to represent hmi in the state courts of Montana in 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang 31 237 

eighteen cases brought for and against his companies. The 
most important was a receivership case against his company 
involving properties worth several millions of dollars. I agreed 
to defend him in the receivership case, as a lawyer, but I 
warned that under no circumstances could I, as a Senator, 
represent him for compensation in any matters pending before 
the federal government. 

I tried and won the receivership case before I left for Wash 
ington, while tim other cases were tried by my partner, James 
H. Baldwin, who later became a federal judge. A few months 
later on Mardb 14, 1923, Campbell sent me a telegram in the 
Senate Office Building asking me to arrange a meeting with 
the solicitor of the Interior Department. When the wire ar 
rived, I was out of the office preparing to go to Europe. My 
secretary, Richard A. Haste, made the appointment for Camp 
bell to meet the solicitor, Edwin S. Booth. (The meeting oc 
curred while I was abroad. ) This is what he knew I would do 
routinely for any constituent 

However, Justice Department operatives on my trail entered 
Campbell's office in Great Falls without a search warrant and 
seized all his letters, telegrams, and files. They used the tele 
grams to make it appear that I had interceded at the Interior 
Department for Campbell in return for a fee of $2000. Camp 
bell had paid me a $2000 fee in January solely for handling 
his litigation. 

As Campbell testified before the Borah committee, there was 
no relation between the fee and his visit to the Interior Depart 
ment Also, Booth told the committee that I had never appeared 
at the Department in connection with Campbell. 

Our committee brought out through the testimony of Bureau 
of Investigation chief Burns that even before our hearings be 
gan Daugherty had sent three agents to Montana with instruc 
tions to dig up some dirt on me. A. A. Grorud, a Republican 
former assistant attorney general in Montana, testified that he 
was buttonholed by still a fourth investigator, one Blair Coan, 
who was unabashedly in the employ of the Republican Na 
tional Committee. Coan had come to Montana with twin tar 
getsWalsh and Wheeler. 



238 Yankee from the West 

". . . he wanted something on Walsh so that he could smear 

Mm, because he wanted to stop him in the oil investigations 
here in Washington," Grorud testified. ". . . he had already 
smeared Wheeler in such a shape that he had him sewed up, 

he said.*' 

I learned that the grand jury proceedings had been odd. No 
minutes were kept in my case, although they were kept in an 
other case heard by the same grand jury. And the grand jury 
balloted seven or eight times before they voted to indict me. 

The Senate adopted the majority report of the Borah com 
mittee by 56-5. Senators Borah, Norris, Walsh,, and Reed, the 
articulate Democrat from Missouri, immediately offered to de 
fend me when the case came to trial. 

I wanted an immediate trial but it was set for hearing on 
September i. By that time I was campaigning for Vice President 
on the Independent Progressive ticket and so I requested a 
delay. The trial was put over until April 15, 1925, a full year 
after the Indictment had been returned. 

Before thatin January 1925 I learned the Justice Depart 
ment had a new indictment in store for me. This one was sought 
before a grand jury in Washington, D.C., and alleged con 
spiracy in connection with the transaction alleged in the other 
indictment 

At this time Attorney General Stone's nomination to the Su 
preme Court was pending before the Senate. It was immediately 
sent back to the Judiciary Committee for questioning about 
the new indictment of me. Stone explained that testimony could 
not be taken about the oil transaction without indicating that 
I was in some way involved in it He said, c l therefore came to 
the conclusion that in fairness to Mm ... an opportunity 
should be given him to explain his connection with the trans 
action to the grand jury/* 

Stone was then confirmed by the Senate, but only after a 
of senators condemned Mm for seeking a second 
Wheeler indictment. Walsh insisted that this indictment, like 
the first, a plain case of political reprisal. He maintained 
that Stone, contrary to popular opinion, had kept all the 
Daugherty appointees in the Justice Department Senator 



Roxy and the Ohio Gang** 239 

Walsh also argued that the second indictment was brought 
because the government was afraid of losing the long-delayed 
first case. 

The Washington grand jury heard numerous witnesses but 
failed to return an Indictment It was then recessed for four 
weeks. Meantime, a so-called "mystery witness* was brought in 
all the way from Cuba, and this time the grand Jury indicted 
me. 

When the' opened in Great Falls, Montana, it looked 

like a Justice Department convention. My friends counted 
some 25-30 agents OB the main streets. 

I discovered "1 had many loyal friends in Great Falls. One 
night I received a telephone call in my hotel room from a stran 
ger asking me if I would be interested in reports of the nightly 
telephone conversations between the Justice Department in 
Washington and the special prosecutor in the case. Naturally* I 
was. The caller said that if I was in the room at a certain time 
every night he would give me a fill-in. The long-distance tele 
phone calls turned out to be routine progress reports to 
J. Edgar Hoover; they proved only the Bureau cMef was 
keeping close tabs on the trial. 

I also had friends at the Western Union office. They offered 
to let me read the telegrams passing between Washington 
the Department of Justice men assigned to the case. 

The point in the came when the government sprang 
another "mystery witness.** This tamed out to be George B. 
Hayes, a New York lawyer. Hayes between the 

hours of five o'clock in the evening on March i6 5 

1923, he me at Peacock Aley in the old Waldorf- 

Astoria in New York, the arranged by 

by Booth, the solicitor of the Interior Depart 

ment. He I proposed he represent me in connection 
oil in I could not appear in be- 

1 a senator. According to Hayes, I told the fee 
would run at a would be 

50-50. 

When Hayes was sworn in 5 I did not recognize Mm. How 
ever, A. B. Melzner, who secretary to our invest!- 



240 Jankee from the West 

gating committee, happened to hear the news while he was 
driving West. He hurried to Great Falls and testified that he 
had introduced Hayes to me in the committee's office a year 

after the alleged meeting in the Waldorf. Melzner said Hayes 
had told him he had never met Senator Wheeler previously. 

Now I did recal Hayes. A witness appearing before us in 
connection with Hayes' involvement in a bootlegging case had 
said that Hayes "would kill his own mother for five, cents." . 

I testified in the trial that I had never except 

jf' isfWi.*. ' * 

during the hearings. Further, I informed^fe e f^ : ,tfet on the 
day of the alleged Waldorf conference -YPfageier and 'I 

had been busy until late in the for clothes; 

we were due to sail for Europe the nem morning. Then we 
rushed back to the hotel to dress for dimner'and attend a per 
formance at the Metropolitan Opera House 'with the famous 
Colonel E. W, House, who had. been President Wilson's right- 
hand man, Mrs. J. Borden Hammart, and *a. party of their" 
friends, t - * - 

In New York, the newspaper revealed that-H|yes had four 
judgments against him totaling over $300,000 fof federal in 
come tax violations at the time the Jiistice. Department asked 
him to testify against me. They also uncovered three com 
plaints in the hands of the. District Attorney in New York 
charging him with withholding funds from clients! 

Senator Thomas J. Walsh/ my chief defense counsel, tolcj 
the jury in his closing argument f 4 *There is nothing wtatqyer 
in this evidence on which you would hang a dog.*; 1 William 
OTLeary, an outstanding criminal lawyer in Montana who had^ 
also volunteered his services, was equally contemptuous. 

W I wonder what they in the East think we "are made of,^' 
OTLeaiy said to the jury. "I wonder if they realy .expecffcto 
bring a witness from New York to Montana "with" a tale lie 
that and expect a sane jury to beleve it." *. 

H. L. Mencken went even further in his column in4he Balti 
more Sun, , v 

"After filling the newspapers with fulminations fp weeks on 
end/* Mencken wrote, "all the Daugherty gang could produce 
at Great Falls was a lot of testimony so palpably nonsensical 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang 9 241 

and perjured that the jury laughed at it. Hayes was the star 
witness. He lied boldly, but to no effect. The others either 
lied in the same way, or lost their courage and gave evidence 
for Wheeler." 

The jury took two votes. The first was to go to dinner at the 

expense of the government. The second was to acquit me. At 

the -very moment the verdict was being announced, I was 

handed anpther bit of good news. Mis. Wheeler had just given 

birth to .tfep^tih child in Washington, D.C. 

I musfSJ "that while the government's case had fallen 

apart itsj^&hptto time the trial with the human gestation 
period had feeeM almost perfect. Seven months previously, the 
* late Eleanor ( C Cissie^ Patterson, a leading Washington host 
ess, had tipped me off that Colonel Donovan, then an assistant 
Attorney General, knew Mrs. Wheeler was pregnant and sched 
uled* the trial so as to coincide with the expected date of the 
birth. She said the idea was that I would probably ask for a 
continuance and the government could drag the case out. 
But I didn't do so. . 

We named the baby Marion Montana Wheeler, in honor of 
a great progressive, Robert Marion La Foflette, and the great 
state where I had Just been acquitted. 

A Sew York Times reporter wrote that "no trial . . . has 
created so much interest or engendered so much bitter feeling/' 
He was right Immediately afterward, I was approached by 
Ham 7 Thompson, <a one-time Butte butcher an old friend 
who had come all the way from Seattle to watch every minute 
of the trial 

, *Tve got who'll throw Hayes the Missouri River 

- no one will ever know about it,*' Thompson said. I hesitated 
_ a moment then' said, "Xo." 

' ,. "Well, you out what his haunts are In New York and ITU 
liave someone take care of there," Thompson urged. I 

my 

OiLinyjreturn to Washington, 1 went to see La Toilette and 
found^hini seriously ill. Earlier, sick as lie was, he had offered 
to go to" "Great" Falls and defend me in the trial, "shout from 
the housetops, or do anything eke you want me to do." Now, as 



242 Yankee from the West 

he lay in bed, I told Mm about Thompson's offer to have Hayes 
murdered and I confessed that I had hesitated before turning 
down the temptation to vengeance. 

To my surprise. La Follette, never a man of violence, com 
mented harshly, < Why did you hesitate? It's the only kind of 
language men like Hayes understand/ 9 Two weeks later, on 
June 18, 1925, the progressive leader died. 

I had one more trial to face. Already a Wheeler Defense 
Committee had been formed to help defray -my mounting legal 
expenses. The committee was headed by/Norman Hapgood, ed 
itor and columnist, and included, amdng otherr"Charles W. 
Eliot, president emeritus of Harvard; Pelir'^lFrankfurter, of 
Harvard Law School; Josephus Daniels, former Secretary of the 
Navy; and William Allen White, the distinguished Kansas edi 
tor. Some 1900 persons contributed a total of $15,000 to the 
fund, 

The Washington, D.C., indictment charged that Gordon 
Campbell, Senator Wheeler, and others had conspired to secure 
more permits to prospect for oil in Montana than any or aH 
of us could lawfully hold. My attorneys Walsh, Charles A. 
Douglas of Washington, and Arthur Garfield Hays of New 
York iled objections that the double jeopardy protection of the 
Constitution had been violated because I had been acquitted 
on similar charges in Montana. Further, they said the indict 
ment showed no violation of any federal law. 

Justice Bailey of the Supreme Court of the District of Co 
lumbia heard the arguments and quashed the indictment. He 
found that we had been indicted for a crime which did not 
exist, since there was no limit on the number of permits for 
prospecting intended by Congress. The Justice Department did 
not appeal the decision. 

Senator Walsh however refused to let the matter drop. In a 
resolution adopted by the Senate, he demanded an accounting 
of the expenses incurred by the Department in the Wheeler 
cases plus an explanation of its failure to proceed against 
Hayes for perjury. (The Treasury Department had quietly dis- 
Hayes on charges growing out of his tax frauds. ) The 
Justice Department admitted that my trial had cost over 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang" 243 

000 but John G. Sargent, the new Attorney General, upheld 
his assistant, Donovan, in refusing any data on the status of 
Hayes. 

That was the final official action resulting from my speech 
against Harry Daugherty on February 20, 1924, but echoes of 
our investigation were heard for years. In January 1929 the 
press reported that Donovan was heading the list for appoint 
ment as Attorney General in the Hoover Cabinet. Senator Borah 
told me he went to President-elect Hoover and warned that he 
and Walsh would fight a Donovan nomination because of his 
prominent role in the Wheeler prosecution. Borah told me that 
Supreme Court Justice Stone also went to Hoover and strenu 
ously objected to Donovan as Attorney General. Donovan was 
then passed over and William D. Mitchell was nominated for 
the post 

Why had Stone, a man of the highest character, allowed 
the first indictment to proceed against me after he became At 
torney General? Shortly after he took over, I heard through a 
mutual friend that Stone wanted to see me. When I called on 
him, he made it clear that the indictment would never have 
been initiated if he had been in charge at the time. The reason 
he proceeded with the case was clearer to me later on when 
Senator Kendrick informed me he had asked Stone point-blank 
why he had done so. "They lied to me," Stone said to Kendrick. 

1 took this to mean that he was referring to Donovan. Stone 
and I became very good friends but I never had anything to do 
with Donovan, who went on to fame as chief of the super-se 
cret Office of Strategic Services in World War II. 

In another sequel, some Democrats suggested after Franklin 
D. Roosevelt was elected in 1932 that if I objected to J. Edgar 
Hoover he would be replaced as director of the Bureau of In 
vestigation because of his role at the Justice Department in 
1924-25. Hoover got wind of this talk and came to see me. He 
insisted he played no part in the reprisals against me. I had no 
desire to ask for Hoover's head on a platter and I'm glad I 
didn't. 

Our investigation of the Attorney General was one of the 
shortest and least expensive in history. The hearings lasted 



244 Jankee from the West 

slightly more than three months and cost approximately $13,- 

ooo. (No self-respecting congressional probe committee today 
would get less than $200,000 to operate.) 

Yet we questioned 115 witnesses whose testimony and ex 
hibits covered 3338 printed pages. The consequences were far- 
flung. Driven from office, as noted, were Harry 7 M. Daughterly 

and William J. Bums. Daugherty was indicted and escaped 
conviction, as explained, but his friend. Alien Property Custo 
dian Miller, went to jail, and so did a Daugherty partner in a 
scandalous pardon case. 

Mai Daugherty was indicted on five counts and convicted 
for the free and easy way he ran his bank. The verdict was re 
versed on appeal, but the bank crashed, owing $2,600,000 and 
causing tragedy to many innocent Ohioans. There were many 
other personal tragedies resulting from exposure of the Daugh 
erty ring. 

However, the final echo of the case that I personally heard 
was a happy one. In 1954 I received a telephone call from Rosy 
Stinson. She told me she had been married after the hearings 
and had been living happily in Oklahoma with her husband 
ever since. 

Had it not been for the inquiries into the Justice Department 
and the Teapot Dome deal, the American people might not 
yet have known that the Harding Administration was responsi 
ble for the most cynical gang of looters that ever descended on 
the national capital Since then, numerous other congressional 
committees have acted as c *watchdogs w over our ever-growing 
bureaucracy. 1 consider them to be absolutely essential to our 
system of checks and balances and in the best tradition of a 
truly democratic republic. Federal office holders today wield 
vast power and allocate millions, even billons of dollars; all 
of are as human as the rest of us, and inevitably a per 

centage of them are inefficient or crooked. Only surveillance by 
experts in another branch of the government can keep crooked- 
laxity to a minimum. 

We continually hear about the menace of communism and 
it K a real menace but there is no greater menace to free gov 
ernment than corrupt officials and those who would cor- 



Roxy and the "Ohio Gang* 245 

rupt them. Corruption in government destroys the faith of the 
people in a republican form of government to such an extent 
that it is eventually overthrown by a Fascist or Communist 
dictator and freedom is at an end. There are countless exam 
ples of this. 

True, investigating committees are susceptible to abuse. They 
must lay down and observe rules of fairnessas most of them 
have. The Brookhart- Wheeler committee went further than the 
average committee does even today because we permitted 
Daugherty 's pair of defense counsels to sit with us at the com 
mittee table and cross-examine witnesses. This is a rule that 
should be adopted by every investigating committee, in my 
judgment. Yet, possibly because we were breaking new ground 
in delving sweepingly into the actions of executive departments, 
Walsh and I were accused of being "scandalmongers." I know 
of no one whose name was despoiled unjustly during our 
hearings. 

No doubt the most important effect of the Daugherty investi 
gating committee w y as that it set in motion the Supreme 
Court decision in the Mai Daugherty case wilich has given the 
necessary authority and scope to successor committees. In ret 
rospect, maybe the brothers Daugherty made a contribution to 
their country after all 



Chapter Twelve 

TROSECUTING" SILENT GAL 



An immediate effect of our well-publicized investigation of 
Attorney General Daugherty was my being thrust into the 1924 
presidential campaign as an extremely controversial partici 
pant. It constituted my first major break with the Democratic 
Party. 

I gave ample warning during the spring of the year that I 
would not go along with the party leaders unless they went to 
the country with a progressive program. I felt the leaders were 
sitting back and counting too much on the Justice Department 
and Teapot Dome scandals to sweep them back into office. 

The Republican National Convention met in Cleveland in 
June and routinely nominated President Calvin Coolidge for 
re-election, with the Chicago banker, Charles G. Dawes, as his 
running mate. This made the Democrats even more overconfi- 
dent-they happily noted that the GOP platform declared that 
business would be given a free hand without any government 
interference. The New Jork Times commented that "the only 
discordant note was sounded by Burton K. Wheeler, who served 



"Prosecuting* Silent Cd 247 

notice . . . that unless the New York Democratic convention 
nominated a progressive candidate on a progressive platform 
a third party was certain and would sweep the Middle West 
and Northwest." 

When the Democrats met in convention in New York, the 
major contenders for the nomination were Al Smith, the color 
ful New York governor, and William G. McAdoo, who had been 
Secretary of the Treasury under Wilson and was very popular 
in the West. McAdoo was regarded as a progressive and I was 
for him, although I was not a delegate. I had contracted with 
Hearst to write a series of twelve articles on the convention 
for his syndicate. Frank Vanderlip, the retired New York 
Republican banker who had assisted me in the Daugherty in 
vestigation, gave me his suite in the Hotel Plaza and also 
arranged for interviews for me there with such would-be presi 
dential candidates as McAdoo, Smith, William Jennings Bryan, 
and Representative Cordell Hull, then Democratic National 
Chairman. 

Vanderlip told me flatly that John W. Davis would wind up 
with the nomination. When I expressed disbelief, Vanderlip 
explained that the Morgan banking interests would play off 
McAdoo against Smith until the exhausted delegates would be 
ready to take Davis. I knew that Davis was attorney for both 
Va^de^ip and J. P. Morgan and that Vanderlip wasn't inclined 
to talk through his hat. 

Vanderlip at the same time asked me if I would be inter 
ested in running with Davis as the vice presidential nominee. 
I said no. 

In one of my convention articles for Hearst, I predicted that 
Davis would be the Democratic nominee, thereby scooping the 
professional journalists (although they didn't realize it until 
later). The day this article appeared, I met William Randolph 
Hearst in his suite at the Waldorf. As I walked in, he greeted 
me with: "Where did you get the idea that John W. Davis will 
be nominated? The Democrats will never nominate Davis." I 
disagreed with him. While Hearst didn't say so, I got the im 
pression he thought it was a crazy idea. 

At that time, a two-thirds majority was required to win the 



248 Yankee from the West 

Democratic nomination, and in the steamy marathon session 
at the old Madison Square Garden neither Smith nor McAdoo 
could muster even a simple majority. On the 103d ballot, the 
exhausted and exasperated delegates turned to Davis as a com 
promise. 

Previously, Senator Thomas J. Walsh, who was chairman of 
the convention, had asked me if I would consider running with 
either Davis or Senator Carter Glass, another prominent dark 
horse. I said no, because both were ultraconservatives. After 
Davis was nominated, Walsh left a note for me at my hotel 
saying he wanted to see me. I went to tibe apartment of a friend 
of his with whom he was staying, and there I found Senator 
Key Pittman of Nevada, former Secretary of the Navy Josephus 
Daniels, and several other influential Democrats. Walsh was 
sitting back in his chair, very tired. 

"Burt, these people think I should accept the nomination for 
Vice President, what do you think?" he asked immediately. 

"What would you rather be a defeated candidate for Vice 
President or a re-elected Senator?" I shot back. Walsh had a 
problem, in that he was up for re-election to the Senate and 
could not run for two offices at the same time. 

"Of course, I would rather be elected to the Senate," he 
replied. 

"Well, then," I said, "that ought to answer your question." 

Walsh then expressed doubt that he could be re-elected if 
Davis were defeated for President. I assured him that he was 
popular enough to surmount a Davis defeat which I felt was 
certain because of the party-splitting fight between Smith and 
McAdoo. 

Walsh then turned to the circle of Democrats and said, "That 
ends it" If looks could kill, I would have been a dead man. 
These party chiefs had hoped to get Walsh on the ticket to 
take the curse of Wall Street off of it. Reluctantly, they picked 
up their hats and departed. 

Walsh asked me to remain and shortly afterward Mrs. J. 
Borden Harriman, a prominent Washingtonian and a good 
friend of his, arrived at the apartment. She urged him to take 



"Prosecuting 9 Silent Cd 

the vice presidential spot-as did Davis himself, on the tele 
phone. Walsh would not be budged in his decision. 

When we got back to the convention floor for the balloting 
that evening, Walsh asked me to remain on the platform. He 
had had to adjourn the last session until 6 P.M. because the 
delegates were roaring their demand from the floor that he be 
nominated. He had presided over the convention with immense 
dignity and patience and it was obvious that his presence on 
the ticket would do much to heal the wounds of the party. He 
seemed worried that if a stampede for his nomination started 
he would need all my moral support nearby to resist it. 

However, the delegates were prevailed on to nominate as 
Davis* running mate, the little known Charles W. Bryan, the 
governor of Nebraska and brother of William Jennings Bryan. 
This was the best they could do as a sop to the populist vote of 
the West 

I promptly announced I could not support the Democratic 
ticket. 

"When the Democratic Party goes to Wall Street for a can 
didate, I must refuse to go with it/* I explained. ". . .the nomi 
nation of Mr. Davis was brought about in the hope it would 
make possible a big campaign fund ... as a result of this nomi 
nation the Democratic Party, in my opinion, has forfeited any 
right it may have had to the support of the progressive Demo 
crats . . . between Davis and Coolidge there is only a choice 
for the conservatives to make. The uncontrolled, liberal, and 
progressive forces must look elsewhere for leadership." 

Commented the New York Herald Tribune, a Republican 
mouthpiece; "As for Senator Wheeler, while his statement re 
garding Davis is chiefly claptrap and buncombe, his desertion 
of the ticket is a serious portent. For a number of months Demo 
cratic newspapers all over the country have been seeking to 
make a hero of him because of his conduct of the Daugherty 
investigation. Their fulsome praise of him which doubtless they 
now bitterly regret must have given hi a certain prestige with 
the party." 

In Cleveland the newly formed Independent Progressive 
Party had adjourned its convention after nominating Senator 



250 Yankee from the West 

Robert M. La Follette for President The selection of La Fol- 
lette's running mate was left in the hands of an executive com 
mittee. My name immediately turned up in the press in specu 
lation over a choice for this spot, along with the names of 
Supreme Court Justice Brandeis and others. 

The following Sunday I received a visit at my home from 
La Follette, his son, Robert Jr., and son-in-law Ralph Sucher. 
La Follette asked me to run for Vice President with him, add 
ing: "Either you or I will be elected President of the United 
States." What he meant was that the election would be dead 
locked in the electoral college and thrown into the House of 
Representatives, where we would have an excellent chance- 
but that because he was sixty-nine years old and not in robust 
health he might not survive very long. 

I refused. I felt I couldn't make a good national campaign; 
I had never spoken in large cities like New York, Boston, and 
Chicago, where audiences were far different than they were out 
West. La Follette assured me that I could make a good cam 
paign and went on to try to convince me that we could carry 
many of the large industrial states in the East. 

"Senator," I said, "you think of the laboring people in the 
East as being like those in the West, but I was born and raised 
in Massachusetts and I think I know them better. The political 
bosses in those states will take the laboring people away from 
you like taking candy from a baby." 

La Follette insisted that the Progressive ticket could get 
nine or ten million votes but I argued that it didn't have a 
chance of doing so. I said he would be lucky to get 5,000,000 
votes. 

A story was circulated at the Democratic convention that I 
was to undergo a second indictment as related in the preceeding 
chapter. It was another reprisal for my investigation of Daugh- 
erty. I asked Ray Baker, who had been director of the United 
States Mint in Wilson's Administration to check this out 
through his Republican connections. Baker reported back that 
the administration would not indict me if I did not run with La 
Follette. (There were a great many progressive Republicans that 
year, especially in the West, and the Republicans thought a La 



"Prosecuting" Silent Cd 251 

Follette-Wheeler ticket would hurt them worse than it would 
hurt the Democrats.) Immediately after Baker left, I went to 
see La Follette in his office in the Capitol. I told him Td 
changed my mind and would run for Vice President with him. 

I changed my mind because I refused to let Daugherty and 
his crowd blackmail me the rest of my life. I determined not 
only to run but to make a major issue out of what I knew 
personally of the crookedness and general corruption in the 
Justice Department the very thing, apparently, that the GOP 
feared. I admired La Follette but he never knew that I changed 
my mind only because of Baker's report. 

In accepting the nomination which was formally tendered 
by the Progressive Party's executive committee I made it clear 
in a statement that I was not renouncing my affiliation with the 
Democratic Party. 

"I am a Democrat but not a Wall Street Democrat," I ex 
plained. "I shall give my support and whatever influence I may 
possess to those candidates for office who have proven their 
fidelity to the interests of the people, wherever they may be 
found, but I shall oppose every man on whatever ticket he may 
appear who bears the brand of the dollar sign." 

I announced my unqualified support for Senator Walsh for 
re-election and got La Follette to endorse him too. 

The executive council of the American Federation of Labor, 
in an unprecedented action, gave us its "personal and non- 
partisan endorsement for election." It declared that "it is no fan 
tastic thing to look for the success of Senator La Follette in the 
coming election. America is seething with protest against the 
machinations of big business, the betrayal of the public trust 
and the lack of patriotic, constructive statesmanship in the two 
major parties/* 

La Follette and I issued a strong denunciation of the Ku Hbx 
KlflT^ then at the peak of its influence with a membership es 
timated at 5,000,000 in the North, South, and Midwest. The 
Democratic National Convention had refused, on a hairline 
vote, to denounce the Klan by name. But Davis followed our 
lead and denounced the Klan a week later, Coolidge chose to 
preserve his silence on the question. The Elian thereupon an- 



252 Yankee pom the West 

nounced it would devote all its energies to defeating the Pro 
gressive ticket. 

La Follette thought Davis was the man to beat because the 
Wall Street money was behind him. He wanted me to launch 
my campaign by attacking him. I disagreed. I felt that Coolidge 
was the man to beat and, anyway, he and I were New Eng- 
landers and I wanted to open against him in Boston which I 
did. 

A tremendous crowd of 5000 or so gathered at Boston Com 
mon after a heavy rainstorm to hear me. The late James Mi 
chael Curley, then the golden-throated mayor of the city, intro 
duced me. The crush was so great that the police had to carry 
me on their shoulders to get me off the platform and out on to 
Tremont Street. 

My next destination was Portland, Maine, with speaking 
stops in all the Massachusetts cities en route. After the Boston 
speech, Joseph P. Kennedy's right-hand man, Eddie Moore, 
came to my hotel and asked me how I was traveling to Maine. 
I told him I didn't know. The upshot was that Kennedy, the 
multimillionaire financier, furnished me with his elegant Ste- 
vens-Duryea and chauffeur for the trip. When I returned and 
campaigned from Boston to New York, Kennedy supplied me 
with his Rolls-Royce and chauffeur. Kennedy enjoyed the irony 
of the spectacle: in swanky Newport, Rhode Island, and in all 
the principal towns from there to New York, I denounced Wall 
Street often from the back seat of a Rolls-Royce owned by a 
Wall Street operator. It occurred to me later on that Kennedy 
actually might have been trying to undermine me in this 
fashion. 

Kennedy and I had become quite friendly that summer. I 
had taken my family for our vacation to Gape Cod. Not far 
away was the Kennedy place on Nantucket Sound which is 
still a gathering place for President Kennedy and Joe Kennedy's 
other sons and daughters. 

Joe Kennedy anonymously contributed $1000 to my cam 
paign. Later on in Washington, D.C., he informed me that after 
the Democrats saw the crowds I drew to Boston Common and 
other cities throughout New England, they were afraid La 



"Prosecuting* Silent Cal 253 

Follette might carry Massachusetts. I asked him what they did 
to try to hold their normal Democratic vote. 

"We scared hell out of them," Kennedy said with a laugh. 
"We told them that a Progressive Party victory would close all 
the mills and factories. And in South Boston we told the Irish 
that the La Follette program would destroy their Church." 

In New York I spoke first at the famous Cooper Union, where 
Abraham Lincoln in 1860 had impressed Easterners that he had 
the makings of a President. The hall was filled a half hour 
before the meeting was to start and loudspeakers were set up 
outside. I was dismayed at the idea of facing this sophisticated 
audience, especially since I was following such experienced ora 
tors as Sidney Hillman and Morris Hillquit I was so nervous 
I misplaced my glasses and had to borrow a pair so I could read 
my speech. 

The New York Times reported that I was "clearly tired out" 
and faltered several times. However, the heartwarming response 
by the audience erased my fears. By the time I was hitting the 
upstate New York towns I was back in stride. I was cheered 
when Oswald G. Villard, editor of The Nation who was ac 
companying me, wrote; "He is doing extremely good work, 
quiet, modest, and unassuming, yet dramatic to a remarkable 
degree by his simple straightforward narrative of Teapot Dome 
and the Daugherty scandals." 

After my speech in Syracuse, the Syracuse Journal called on 
all Democrats to support Coolidge because the presidential bat 
tle was now clearly between Coolidge and La Follette. 

After I drew an overflow crowd in Philadelphia, I was called 
back to New York to speak at a special fund-raising banquet 
It raised $10,000. The money promised by the labor unions 
was slow in coming in and up to this point the campaign was 
being financed with the cash collections taken up at our public 
meetings. 

By mid-September, GOP campaign strategy became clear. 
The Republicans saw the capacity crowds at the Progressive 
meetings and the AFL endorsement as evidence that a fanner- 
labor coalition had finally been effected on a national scale. I 
kept hearing rumors that "Wall Street'* had abandoned Davis 



254 Yankee from the West 

and was putting its money on Coolidge. Then Frank Kent, the 
Baltimore Sun correspondent, wrote that Coolidge and Dawes 
had adopted the line of ignoring the Democratic candidates 
and of warning of the danger to the country if La Follette 
won. 

"Credit for it," Kent continued, ""belongs to neither Coolidge 
nor Dawes but to certain Old Guard Republican leaders who 
reason . . . [that] every state La Follette carries cuts the elec 
toral votes out of the Coolidge column. He cannot be elected 
but if he carries more than five states it means either the elec 
tion of Davis or an election by Congress. The only way to elect 
Coolidge is to keep the La Follette vote down. The only way 
to do that is to attack Tim* as a Hed' and frighten the conserva 
tive forces back of Coolidge ... it avoids a lot of embarrassing 
subjects such as *oiT ... it is good politics if they can get away 
with it but it is pure humbug." 

Republican National Committee Chairman William M. But 
ler of Massachusetts set the tone of the attack by declaring, 
"The struggle is not over the methods of government but the 
abolition of government The issue is to save the country ." 
Dawes, nicknamed "Hell V Maria" because of his salty tongue, 
was given the task of carrying the oif ensive against the Pro 
gressives. Coolidge of course kept cool and silent in the White 
House. 

Dawes launched the Republican campaign., posing the issue 
as a fight between those who "favor the constitution of the 
U.S. and those who would destroy its essential parts." He pic 
tured La Follette as the "master demagogue" and the "leader 
of a mob of extreme radicals of which the largest part, the So 
cialists, fly the red flag.** 

The fear of an inconclusive election in which Congress 
would choose the chief executive became another principal 
theme of all Republican campaign orators and leading editorial 
writers. A much-publicized and widely reprinted article in The 
Saturday Evening Post in the final weeks of the campaign en 
titled "Let X Equal La Follette" expounded this theme. It noted 
that if the Republican ticket were to receive less than a majority 
of the electoral votes, the choice of a President would then 



"Prosecuting 9 Silent Col 255 

go to Congress. It was argued that La Follette could and would 
prevent an election in the House, where the balance of power 
was held by the Progressives. The contest would then be re 
ferred to the Senate, which was limited in choice to the two 
vice presidential candidates highest on the list. As between 
Dawes and Bryan, the Democratic-Progressive coalition would 
choose the man whose brother was thrice denied the presidency 
by popular vote. 

Time magazine summed up the GOP argument: "A vote for 
La Follette is a vote for Bryan. A vote for Davis is a vote for 
Bryan. A vote for Coolidge is a vote for Coolidge." 

Similarly, the Progressive effort to make the question of 
monopoly control over the economic life of the country the 
principal issue was twisted by the Republican spokesmen into 
a threat to destroy industry and jobs for American working- 
men. Coolidge's dictum, "The business of America is business,** 
was shortened simply to "Coolidge or chaos/* as the campaign 
wore on, 

As I stumped west to Chicago, I drew heavily on the Teapot 
Dome and Daugherty investigations for an endless fund of sto 
ries on Republican corruption. 

"Let's see who is destroying this government of ours," I would 
ask. "Is it the fanner, the laborers, or the merchants of the 
country? Or is it the Daughertys, the Falls, and the Dohenys?" 

My solution was: "Stop government by special privilege and 
you stop government by corruption." 

While I was in my third day of campaigning in Ohio on the 
record of the "Ohio Gang,** Daugherty released from his home 
an affidavit from Gaston B. Means, the one-time investigator in 
the Justice Department, repudiating his damaging testimony 
before our committee and stating that he, Means, had engaged 
in a conspiracy with myself, La Follette, and Walsh to frame 
the Attorney General and the administration. By the time I 
replied to the effect that Means was trying to curry favor with 
the administration in the face of pending prosecution, Means 
repudiated the repudiation, 

Davis also made good use of our record of the Daugherty 
hearings and stated that "common honesty" in government was 



Yankee from the West 

the issue between the Republicans and the Democrats. In the 
course of his speeches, Davis also called my indictment by the 
Justice Department "as black and dastardly a crime as could 
be committed by any man who held in his control great power 
over the liberty and honor and reputations of fellow men." 
I welcomed Davis' sudden concern about my indictment but 
noted that in the absence of a clear-cut economic issue between 
the two old parties mere condemnation of GOP corruption was 
not enough. 

"All the corruption that was unearthed and exposed . . . had 
its beginnings in the abnormal greed of the interlocking finan 
cial interests that controlled the Republican convention of 1920, 
as they controlled the conventions of both old parties this year," 
I said. Winning economic freedom for the masses of the people, 
I argued, was the only guarantee of uncorrupted administration 
of the law. 

To stay on the offensive in the face of the heavy Republican 
fire, I always bearded the lion in his den. In Massachusetts I 
had ripped into the myth of Coolidge as a "strong, silent man/* 
In Pittsburgh, I had concentrated on the "help-the-rich tax pro 
gram" of Andrew Mellon, and in Ohio my target was the "Ohio 
Gang." In Chicago, I went after Coolidge's running mate 
Dawes, an Illinois resident. The text was one of my favorite 
quotations; "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." I de 
scribed the famous "Dawes Plan" for the settlement of the inter 
national debt problem as nothing less than a bonanza for 
the international banking house of J. P. Morgan. I charged that 
Dawes had once helped another banker-politician, William Lor- 
imer, open a bank with worthless paper and that as a result 4000 
Chicago citizens had been robbed of their savings. And I dis 
cussed "General Dawes* gallant service as commander of the 
'Minute Men of the Constitution* in his war on organized labor." 
Even before this speech, the Baltimore Evening Sun had com 
mented that Dawes and myself as campaigners were easily over 
shadowing the other four candidates. "It was a mean fate which 
put Dawes and Wheeler in opposing camps," this editorial con 
cluded. "Together they would sweep the country." 
Dawes and I kept up our running battle. To his charges that 



"Prosecuting* Silent Cal 257 

La Follette and I were dangerous radicals, I said: "His idea 
is that during a campaign the people should listen to one set of 
men call another set demagogues, anarchists, and Communists 
and then should march to the polls and vote the way their fa 
thers did. After the campaign is over then the economic prob 
lems of the farmer could be taken up by the bankers and the 
bankers* lawyers sitting as a commission." 

I was still not a polished oratorand never became one 
but my style kept my audiences awake. The Chicago Tribune 
reported: "John W. Davis spoke here a few days ago. He used 
meticulous English but didn't hold the crowd. Senator Wheeler 
spoke here last evening. He murdered the King's English but 
got the crowd." 

Mrs. Wheeler joined the party in late September after getting 
our five children settled in schooL She took over any chores 
that might relieve the strain on me. To her surprise, in Pitts 
burgh, she was called on to make the first political speech of 
her life. After that, she became a scheduled attraction and 
made a hit at every stopping point. Everywhere she called on 
women to take an active part in politics in carder to be of real 
service to their families. Her speeches were concerned prima 
rily with the question of world peace and the need to abolish 
war and win a higher standard of living. She discussed par 
ticularly the proposed Progressive platform plank calling for 
a referendum prior to a declaration of war. She also noted 
that many well-known women such as Jane Addams who had 
fought successfully for woman suffrage were among those ac 
tively campaigning for La Follette. 

Up to Chicago, our entourage had been obliged to travel by 
auto and other passengers on the trains. But there, in early 
October, we boarded a private railroad car, the Republic, 
which was fitted out luxuriously. I enjoyed teasing the staff 
about their new-found *T>ed of roses.** Some newspapers con 
sidered it unseemly for the poor man's candidate to travel in 
a private railroad car, like other candidates. 

WHEELER LIVES IN PRIVATE CAR LIKE POTEN 
TATE, ran the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle. PULL 
MAN PALACE ON WHEELS BRINGS LA FOLLETTE 



Yankee from the West 
RUNNING MATE. In the accompanying two-column story, 
the car was said to be "fitted with that luxury which Wheeler- 
sneers at ... all it lacks to resemble the Hotel Del Monte is 
the Roman pool . . . there's a luxurious lounge at the rear end 
where the vice presidential candidate may loll at ease when 
the campaigning gets tough." Even the chef assigned to our 
train was attacked as a "money-spending fool." 

Railroad workers all over the country, however, seemed to 
take pleasure in ensuring my comfort and safety, doubtless be 
cause I had championed their cause since my early Montana 
days. One night I got a chuckle while lying awake in my berth 
during a brief stop in Texas. I heard the train crews tapping 
the wheels of the car. 

^ "This is Senator Wheeler's car," one worker said to another. 
"Be sure you check these wheels carefully and to hell with the 
rest" 

Everywhere, members of our entourage noted, the locomo 
tive engineers were extraordinarily solicitous in picking up our 
car in such a way that there was only an imperceptible jolt 
when we were being pushed, pulled, and hooked on. One news 
paperman who had just boarded the train told me that, in con 
trast, it was worth one's life to travel on Dawes' car. 

We were heartened by the size and enthusiasm of the crowds 
in Minnesota and Iowa. A total of more than 25,000 turned 
out for seven meetings in one day in the Twin Cities. 

In Des Moines, Iowa, I hit on an original showmanship gim 
mick. 

^ The hall was jammed to the rafters. A minute before I was 
introduced, I whispered to Mrs. Wheeler not to let anyone 
take my chair when I went to the rostrum. (That had hap 
pened often when some of the overflow audience stood on the 
stage.) After I made a few opening remarks, I said, "You peo 
ple have a right to know how a candidate for President stands 
on issues, and so far President Coolidge has not told you where 
he stands on anything ... so Im going to call him before you 
tonight and ask him to take this chair and tell me where he 
stands." 

People in the audience began to crane their necks to see if 



"Prosecuting 9 ' Silent Cal 259 

Coolidge really was somewhere on the premises. I pulled the 
vacant chair out in the center of the stage and addressed it as 
though it had an occupant. 

"President Coolidge," 1 began, "tell us where you stand on 
Prohibition." After a pause, I continued: "Mr. President, why 
was it necessary for Congress to act before you dismissed the 
Secretary of Navy who had allowed the Navy's oil reserves to 
be turned over to the Secretary of the Interior, knowing this 
Secretary of the Interior was frankly in favor of turning over all 
the nation's natural resources to private exploiters? Tell me, Mr. 
President, why is it you stood behind Harry Daugherty?" 

I went on with rhetorical questions in this vein, pausing 
after each for a short period. Then I wound up: "There, my 
friends, is the usual silence that emanates from the White 
House.** The crowd roared in appreciation. Afterward, quite 
a few members of the audience came up on the platform to 
talk to me. The president of one of the big banks in Des Moines 
congratulated me and added, "The only thing is, I wish you 
were making that speech for John W. Davis." The Denver Post 
described my stunt as "an excellent bit of comedy, and it 
knocked them out of their seats." The New York Times flatter 
ingly described it as a "technique that would have done credit 
to an actor." That was one term I never expected to hear ap 
plied to me. 

In my stump speeches, I tried to strengthen the progressive 
bloc in Congress. In Nebraska, for example, I called for all-out 
support of Senator George W. Norris, the great independent 
Republican, on the ground that he was "one of the really big 
men in the United States Senate. Norris," I said, "has all the 
attributes of greatness honesty, courage, ability, and deter 
mination.** Norris, however, made no endorsement in the three- 
way presidential race. 

La Follette had vigorously opposed any third party tickets 
for state and local office because it might endanger the election 
of progressives running on the Republican or Democratic tick 
ets. But we found that in many Western states third-party 
candidates were entered in some cases, I suspected, at the 
instigation of the Republicans. 



260 "Yankee from the West 

In Montana, for example, Walsh was opposed by a Republi 
can candidate with acknowledged Ku Klux Klan sympathies. 
But a local Fanner-Labor party, in defiance of advice from La 
Follette headquarters, had entered a third candidate as well 
as a separate slate of La Follette presidential electors. In three 
major speeches, I told my audiences that "the defeat of Walsh 
would be looked upon by the country as a repudiation of his 
magnificent fight against corruption in Washington." In Butte, 
where the Farmer-Labor ticket would win the most support, I 
said that Walsh "has aligned himself with the progressives on 
almost every issue during the last session of Congress." 

Walsh did no campaigning for the Davis-Bryan ticket, in 
contrast to the two previous presidential campaigns in which 
he had undertaken major responsibilities for the Democrats. 
As chief prosecutor in the Teapot Dome scandal, he would of 
course have made an invaluable contribution to his party's 
ticket. 

Elsewhere in the Northwest, I dealt primarily with the burn 
ing issue of public power and conservation of natural re 
sources, charging that Dawes, on his record, would abolish all 
reclamation in the West and hand the power in the Columbia 
Basin over to private companies. At the same time, Dawes was 
attacking me as "a smoke screen behind which socialism would 
advance on the American government." 

At most stops, I used examples of Coolidge and Dawes deals 
to illustrate my point that the Republican candidates "regarded 
the government of the United States as an instrument for ex 
ploiting the peoplenot an instrument for serving the people," 
I had many hecklers but I enjoyed jousting with them, and I 
believe they enlivened our meetings. 

Paul Mallon, a United Press correspondent who covered my 
campaign, wrote from Seattle that I was "a two-fisted fighter 
... at his best when he has someone fighting against him. 
During his campaign trip across the country his speeches were 
best when they were delivered to an antagonistic crowd. He 
was most brilliant when he was heckled. When he met no op 
position he lost his fire and his speeches sounded common- 
place." 



"Prosecuting" Silent Cd 261 

Unfortunately, Coolidge remained as silent as a monk de 
spite my constant needling, and Dawes refused to meet me in 
debate. 

At a luncheon meeting in San Francisco, a man stood up and 
identified himself as a captain in the British Army and asked 
me to comment on La Follette's war record. He waved a copy 
of the resolution passed by the Wisconsin legislature denounc 
ing La Follette in this connection. 

After commenting that "we have had too much British inter 
ference in our national affairs," I replied that I had no apology 
to make for La Follette > s vote against our entry into the war. 
I said he had voted with the sentiment of the American people 
when they elected Woodrow Wilson on the slogan, "He kept 
us out of war.** I said we were not asking for English, Japanese, 
or any foreigners to vote, but just Americans who believed in 
America, 

This answer met with such wild cheering that I used the story 
again at an evening meeting and any other place I could fig 
ure out a way to drag it in. 

In Los Angeles, the Progressives were unable to get a hall 
in the city large enough to accommodate the expected crowd 
and so the Hollywood Bowl was chosen for the major area 
meeting. Although the Bowl is seven miles from the center of 
the city and transportation in those days was difficult, 10,000 
tickets were sold before the meeting at prices ranging from 
25 cents to 5.00 each. The Los Angeles Examiner estimated 
the audience at 20,000 and reported: "No prima donna, no 
golden throated tenor, no orchestra leader with a magic wand 
has ever known the depths of applause that reverberated 
through the Hollywood Hills about the Bowl when Senator 
Wheeler had finished." The Los Angeles Record said I was 
given "the greatest demonstration received by a candidate in 
the history of California." 

B. B. Martin, an ex-preacher and former Non-Partisan 
League organizer who collected contributions for us, reported 
that $7500 was taken in when the tin plates were passed in the 
Bowl to "keep the Wheeler show on the road." 

The New York Times reported accurately that the main 



262 Yankee from the West 

problem in California at this time was that the La Follette 
ticket lacked organization to capitalize on the sentiment of 
the people "Wheeler's charges against Dawes and Coo- 
lidge are going unanswered." Another problem in California 
was that the state Supreme Court had barred Independent 
Progressive electors from the ballot. As a result, La FoDette's 
state committee reluctantly had been forced to accept the offer 
of the Socialist party to use that place on the ballot. This natu 
rally was widely used by Dawes to bolster his charge that we 
were socialists in slight disguise. 

We rolled on to San Diego and Long Beach, then swung 
back eastward through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. One 
of my staff members, A. B. Melzner, noted in his diary that on 
October 16 I made six speeches in New Mexico to crowds 
running from 150 to 1000 persons. "No notice except a few 
hours was given," says his diary entry, "and crowds came as 
far as 30 miles in autos. Some of the towns had only a half 
dozen houses . . /* 

In Omaha, I got word from La Follette announcing his de 
cision to abandon his projected trip to the West Coast and 
return East. A letter from Mrs. La Follette explained there 
were predictions that her husband would carry six Western 
states anyway and that he had been persuaded that if he con 
centrated on the East it would dramatically emphasize that he 
was out to win the election, not merely throw the decision into 
the House of Representatives. "Also there was little money in 
the till/" Mrs. La Follette wrote. 

Several political analysts felt this was a serious mistake in 
strategy, that La Follette should have concentrated on the 
states from Iowa west where he could have been assured of 
120 electoral votes. 

Throughout the Southwest I was persistently heckled by 
bigots. State organizers took great precautions for my safety 
because of constant E2an threats against the Progressives. At 
Enid, Oklahoma, the local committee was even afraid to let 
Mrs. Wheeler and me attend church but I ignored their warn 
ings. 

At Kansas City, I cited the lavish funds available to the 



"Prosecuting" Silent Cd 263 

Republicans as revealed by the Borah committee. The Republi 
can National Committee treasurer had told Senate investiga 
tors that $1,171,317 had been spent up to October 10, 1924, 
over ten times the amount spent by the La Follette campaign. 
A few weeks later the GOP figures were raised to over $3,100,- 
ooo. I used to tell my audiences, "If you're not getting the 
money, someone is holding out on you." 

(According to the final report of the Borah committee, the 
Republicans raised $4,360,378 against the Democrats' $821,037 
and the Progressives' $221,977.) 

In one fund-raising letter, Joseph R. Grundy, president of 
the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, warned: **We 
are confronted by the possibilities of a violent social and in 
dustrial revolution. We have in La Follette and Wheeler a 
Lenin and Trotsky with a formidable band of followers made 
up of the vicious, ignorant and discontented element, openly 
organized for battle." T. V. O'Connor, chairman of the Ship 
ping Board, charged that "a large amount of money has been 
sent from Russia through Mexico to aid the campaign of Sena 
tor La Follette.** Asked by the Borah committee for the source 
of his statement, O'Connor replied: 1 believe it in my own 
heart, though I have no way to prove it* 

Back in Chicago to address several rallies, I was informed 
by David K. Niles, then director of our campaign speakers bu 
reau and later an aide to President Roosevelt, that his main 
problem was how to operate on a budget of $5000 instead of 
the $50,000 that had been promised. 

Arriving in New York City for four meetings, I was greeted 
with the announcement that the New York City executive com 
mittee of the Trades and Labor Council, AFL, had urged its 
members to switch from La Follette to Davis because **La Fol 
lette has no chance to be elected." The widely heralded defec 
tion in labor's rankscoupled with the fact that the AFL had 
been able to collect only $25,000 for La Follette was a bitter 
foretaste of what would happen in the election booths. 

I wound up my tour on November 3 in Baltimore, after eight 
weeks of campaigning that covered 17,000 miles in twenty-six 
states. Mrs. Wheeler brought our five children over from Wash- 



284 "Yankee from the West 

ington, D.Q, to watch me hurl my questions at the empty chair 
in the manner they had been reading about. 

When the ballots were counted Coolidge had polled 15,725,- 
016 to 8,385,586 for Davis and 4,822,586 for La Follette. La 
Follette carried only Wisconsin, a disappointing electoral show 
ing, but he ran ahead of Davis in 12 Western states. In Mon 
tana, the Progressive ticket received 39 per cent of the vote to 
42.5 per cent for Coolidge. ( Walsh was re-elected by a plural 
ity of 17,000.) In California, despite the fact we had to run 
under the Socialist insignia, we polled 33 per cent of the vote 
to the Democrats' 8 per cent. In the East the only bright 
spot was the fact that La Follette carried Cleveland, Ohio, due 
largely to the work of the railroad brotherhoods. 

As for the huge crowds I drew, I had long since learned not 
to be misled by that. In the gubernatorial contest of 1920 I 
had pulled large crowds too, but I became the worst-defeated 
candidate in Montana's history. People often come to see and 
hear a speaker out of curiosity. In 1924, I believe, they came 
out to see the man who had driven Harry Daugherty from 
office, who had been indicted by the Justice Department in 
return, and who had been attacked violently in newspaper 
editorials. 

Despite superficial appearances, it was not a Coolidge land 
slide. The President received a clear majority only in states 
with a total electoral vote of 382. He failed to obtain a majority 
in 26 states. 

I felt the greatest factor in the Coolidge vote was the rising 
tide of prosperity in late 1924, carefully exploited by the Re 
publicans with the slogans, "Coolidge or Chaos" and "A Vote 
for La Follette Is a Vote for Hard Times." It is always hard to 
beat the pocketbook as an election issue. 

A schoolteacher was one of many who told me after the elec 
tion that he had fully intended to vote for La Follette up until 
the last minute, when he began to think that maybe he would 
lose his job and his home. "If they could scare me that way," 
he commented, "think what they could do to so many others." 

The New Jork Times commented that the Progressives had 



"Prosecuting* Silent Cal 265 

"appealed to the ideals of the American people without money 
or organization." 

I echoed La Follette's view when I said that, in view of the 
various economic issues posed, "the wonder is not that so many 
millions were intimidated and voted for Coolidge but that so 
many millions stood by their convictions and voted the Inde 
pendent ticket" 

Actually, our popular vote of 4,822,586 still stands as nothing 
to be ashamed of. No third party in America before or since 
has polled as many votes. Our trouble was that we were ahead 
of the times. The Progressive Party platform of 1924 became 
the ideological basis for the New Deal in 1933 and much of it 
found its way to the statute books by 1935. Unfortunately La 
Follette never had the satisfaction of knowing this, for he died 
eight months after the 1924 election. 

La Follette and I had known we were taking risks in chal 
lenging the regular nominees of our respective parties. After 
the election, the Republican Party caucus formally ousted La 
Follette, Smith W. Brookhart, and others who had aligned them 
selves with the Progressives. (Brookhart, chairman of our 
Daugherty investigating committee, was re-elected in Iowa 
although he was repudiated by the entire Republican organi 
zation. ) This meant they would go to the bottom of the senior 
ity list in the next Congress. La Follette thus lost his position 
as ranking Republican on the Interstate Commerce Committee. 

There was speculation as to how the Democrats would dis 
cipline their one rebel. Senator Claude Swanson told me some 
of the Democrats were talking of throwing me out of the party 
and stripping me of my committee rank. I replied that it would 
make little difference, since I was already at the foot of the list 
as a first-termer. Swanson told me not to pay any attention to 
these rumors but to keep my mouth shut and keep on smiling. 
In two years, he predicted, they would be asking me to cam 
paign for them. 

I issued a statement that I was returning to my party as 
Senator Swanson had suggested but without remorse or apol 
ogy. I never for an instant had regretted my temporary deser- 



266 'Yankee from the West 

tion. I enjoyed the campaign and considered it an unparalleled 
opportunity for a man so young in national politics. 

I had never considered it a permanent break with the Demo 
crats. I had seized on what I thought was the most effective 
method of protest "against the reactionary control of the Demo 
cratic Party/* I saw in my candidacy an opportunity to try to 
force a realignment in the old parties with all the conservative 
Democrats and Republicans on one side and on the other side 
an amalgamation of all progressive, forward-looking people of 
whatever political faith. 

Once the election was history, I determined to carry on the 
fight from within to try to revamp my party along liberal lines. 
Otherwise, as I warned, it would soon be a sectional party rep 
resenting only the solid South. 



Chapter Thirteen 

INSIDE THE SENATE 



Shortly after I was sworn into the Senate, Senator Borali 
took me to lunch and gave me some Dutch uncle advice. He 
said I could make a reputation. I asked how. 

"If you're honest, have ordinary intelligence, and are willing 
to work," he answered. He explained that most senators were 
honest but that many wouldn't work. 

Senators in the 19205 didn't have the workload that is im 
posed on them today. The issues, by and large, weren't so com 
plex, and there weren't so many of them. The pressure groups 
had not yet achieved their great power through ingenious or 
ganization. A senator could loaf and get by; from thinly popu 
lated Montana I didn't get more than 10 to 13 letters a day. 

Yet, this was the era of "giants" in the Senate. It still 
harbored a large number of rugged individualists and they 
helped to make the Senate a more interesting and exciting 
arena than I believe it is today. Debate on the floor was a vital 
part of the legislative process. The ability to articulate was im 
portant. And there were quite a few very able men. 



268 Yankee from the West 

Besides Borah, there were such classic progressives as old 
Bob La Toilette, George Norris, and Hiram Johnson. There 
was Henry Cabot Lodge; Henry Ashurst of Arizona; Jim Wat 
son of Indiana; Jim Reed of Missouri; Carter Glass and Claude 
Swanson of Virginia; George Moses of New Hampshire; Henrik 
Shipstead of Minnesota; Joe Robinson, the Democratic leader; 
and my Montana colleague, Thomas J. Walsh. There were 
many others. 

The senators of that period were impressive physically as 
well. Most of them were tall (at an even six feet, I qualified 
in this respect), and immaculate dressers. And they had a 
senatorial air about them. Some, like Borah, wore string ties. 
Some, like Tom Heflin of Alabama, wore frock coats. In the 
humid, non-air-conditioned chamber during a Washington 
summer, the Southerners would blossom out in white suits and 
saunter around like plantation owners. 

One of the most skillful and vitriolic debaters at that time 
was Jim Reed. He was tall and handsome, with steel-gray hair 
and a rich baritone. Reed had a fine mind but was not given 
to study. As his words flowed, he seemed to pick things out of 
the atmosphere. Once, when he was orating in favor of a piece 
of anti-labor legislation, I slipped over to the seat next to him 
and said in an aside, "Jim, the Supreme Court has held a simi 
lar bill to be unconstitutional." Almost in mid-sentence, Reed 
glided smoothly into a totally different subject. Afterward, he 
came over to my desk and asked, "Where did you find that 
damned decision?" 

Old-fashioned oratory, full-blown and gaudily purple, dis 
tinguished the "world's greatest deliberative body." Even then, 
there was talk of putting limits on it. When Congress con 
vened after the election of Coolidge, the first ringing speech 
caine from none other than his running mate, Charles G. Dawes 
and it was a crashing failure. No sooner had Dawes been 
sworn in than he was proving the reason for his nickname, 
"Hell V Maria." He launched into a lecture on the "outmoded" 
Senate rules which permit a senator to talk as long as he can 
stand on his feet. 

The new Vice President waved his arms and literally shouted 



Inside the Senate 269 

from the chair. His own party leaders, seated directly in front 
of him in the well of the chamber, went into a slow burn. From 
a man who had never been a member of the club, such an at 
tack was unforgivable. The Senate found it easy to ignore 
Dawes' gratuitous advice to change the rules so that a simple 
majority of those voting could put a time limit on debate. A 
majority of two-thirds of those voting was required to shut off 
talk on a specific bill, as it still is today. 

Dawes was a conservative. His view on limiting debate is a 
perfect example of how political thinking shifts, depending on 
whose ox is being gored. Since World War II, it has been the 
liberals who have wanted to make it easier to curb a filibuster; 
their objective is to circumvent filibustering conservatives who 
want to block civil rights legislation. 

But after World War I it was the progressives, the model 
liberals of their day, who fought to preserve the right to unlim 
ited debate. Old Bob La Follette, the master of the use of the 
filibuster to arouse public opinion, warned me never to vote for 
cloture (which sets a time limit on a debate), arguing that it 
would destroy the most useful weapon a liberal minority pos 
sesses against a conservative coalition. He insisted that cloture 
must be opposed as a matter of principle; he pointed out that 
if I voted for it once I could hardly oppose it another time. 
Actually, cloture was imposed twice during Dawes' four-year 
term evidence enough to support the progressives' claims that 
there was no need to change the rules. 

Dawes and I had fiercely assailed each other during the 
1924 presidential campaign. Shortly after he became Vice 
President, I passed Tifm as he was leaving the senators' lavatory. 
He stopped, stuck out his hand, and said, "Hell, I can get along 
with anybody." We became good friends. I admired his forth 
right honesty. 

He apparently valued my opinion of him. Not long before 
his term ended, he called me into the Vice President's room off 
the Senate floor and locked the door. He recalled that during 
the 1924 campaign I had questioned the ethics of a business 
transaction he had had with an Illinois lawyer, William Lari 
mer. I tried to pass it off but he would not drop the matter. 



2/c Yankee from the West 

Even if everyone else had forgotten the charge, Dawes ex 
plained, he wanted to satisfy himself that I didn't believe he 
had done anything wrong. He made me sit there while he dug 
out an Illinois appellate court decision. Then he put his under- 
slung pipe aside long enough to read aloud the entire lengthy 
decision in the case. This took over an hour and I was fidgeting 
to get away. 

The decision did convince me the deal had been legal and 
Dawes was relieved when I said so. The allegation had been 
passed on to me by Lowell Mellett, a high-class newspaper 
correspondent covering my campaign. It was an example of 
the "new material" he said I should provide continually in order 
to stay on the front pages. 

The Senate majority leader during the latter part of the 
19205 was James E. Watson of Indiana, a large, good-looking, 
Old Guard Republican. Watson was an effective orator and 
an accomplished after-dinner speaker who enjoyed telling sto 
ries on himself. He worked hard at politics but not at anything 
eke. He once admitted to me he had signed his name as author 
of a book that had been ghost-written. When he went to Anti- 
och College on one occasion to deliver an address, the president 
of the college said, "I read your book and I certainly enjoyed 
it" Watson told me he replied, "Well, I'm glad to hear that 
because I never read it." 

Watson and I were both on the Interstate Commerce Com 
mittee when I was a freshmanbut at opposite ends of the 
seniority list. There was no need for him to pay much attention 
to me until 1926, when Watson was chairman and Coolidge 
nominated Thomas Woodlock to be a member of the Interstate 
Commerce Commission. 

Woodlock, who wrote articles for the New York Sun and 
other papers, had been one of the best propagandists for the 
railroads before he went into the brokerage and investment 
business. The law said a director or officer of a railroad could 
not be appointed to the ICC, so Woodlock resigned as a direc 
tor of two railroads just before he was appointed. 

The ICC was then in the midst of a controversy over the 
method of determining the capital value of the railroads for 



Inside the Senate 271 

rate-making purposes, an issue involving several billions of 
dollars. I cross-examined Woodlock in our committee hearings 
for several weeks on his views regarding this subject and con 
cluded that he would not be fair in his decisions as a commis 
sioner. 

I was well armed with WoodlocFs public pronouncements 
and I inserted them in the committee record as evidence of his 
bias toward high freight rates and his prejudice against labor. 
When his nomination came to the voting stage in the commit 
tee, I knew I had it licked by one vote. * 

Under a committee rule, no member could be voted by proxy. 
Aware that he was facing defeat by a narrow margin, chair 
man Watson hemmed and hawed. Old Jim looked around the 
committee table and said, "Now, boys, I know we've got a rule 
on the committee that no one can vote except by being present 
but, you know, boys, Simeon Fess asked me I had forgotten 
all about it he asked me as a special favor if the committee 
wouldn't let him cast his vote because he's been called out of 
town by an illness." 

"Well, if you can do that," I spoke up, "then everybody else 
who is absent can have their votes cast." 

"Well, 111 vote Simeon Fess," Watson insisted. 

I noticed that Clarence Dill of Washington was absent. I 
said, "Well, I'll vote Dill." Watson drummed on the table and 
then said, "Oh, I forgot all about it, but Guy Goff also asked 
ine to vote him, so FU vote Goff." 

"All right," I rejoined, "111 vote HowelF 

I hadn't previously arranged for these proxy votes but I knew 
the sentiments of these men and I felt I had as much right as 
Watson to claim proxies. We kept on voting proxies for other 
absent members and ended up the way we had started out I 
still had the chairman beaten by one vote. The committee re 
ported the Woodlock nomination to the floor adversely. 

After the session, Watson put his arm around me and said 
privately that he could get Woodlock confirmed in the Senate 
because the minority leadership would support him, but that 
"CaT President Coolidge would never understand how he 
was beaten in his own committee. 



272 Yankee from the West 

T[ hope you 11 go to the floor, 9 * Watson said, "and give me the 
very devil and say that I resorted to every political trick there 
is to get this man appointed.** 

"Jim," I said, "that won't be very hard to do." 

I made a thunderous speech in which I ripped into Watson 
for being ruthless in committee. Watson sat at his desk, tap 
ping his fingers as he did when he was nervous. 

When I sat down, Watson rose and pointed at me. 

"This young man gave the nominee one of the most gruel 
ling cross-examinations that anybody has ever had in this com 
mittee,** he told the Senate. Then, slapping his leg as he always 
did for emphasis, he added solemnly, "But he was wrong.** 

Woodlock was confirmed and afterward Watson put his 
hand on my arm in the cloakroom and said with a grateful 
smile, "Wei, you squared me with old Cal all right.** 

On the committee at that time only three of us were regarded 
as progressives. Soon Watson discovered that some of the most 
conservative members could be swayed. Senator Hiram John 
son introduced a resolution for an investigation of the pro 
longed coal miners* strike in Pennsylvania and John L. Lewis 
came before us to plead for its approval 

In contrast to tie status they enjoy today, labor union lead 
ers were the underdogs in those days, but Lewis, always at his 
best before congressional committees, outdid himself. The com 
mittee was literally spellbound by his eloquently emotional 
force. They asked him only a couple of questions and then 
quickly voted for the resolution. I was dumfounded because 
I had never before seen anyone representing the liberal point 
of view bowl over the reactionaries on our committee. 

Watson selected a special committee for the investigation 
with great cunning. As chairman, he named Frank R. Gooding, 
an English-born former governor of Idaho and a millionaire 
sheepman regarded as anti-labor. The other two Republican 
members were Jesse H. Metcalf of Rhode Island, a millionaire 
manufacturer of textiles, and William B. Pine of Oklahoma, an 
oil millionaire. The Democratic members were myself and 
Robert F. Wagner of New York, who in his pre-New Deal 



Inside the Senate 273 

days was looked upon as a conservative. I was the only conces 
sion to the cause of labor. 

Lowell Limpus, a reporter for the New York Daily News who 
was covering the strike, offered to take me to the scene before 
the subcommittee got around to making the trip. We went to 
the Pittsburgh area and Limpus pointed out some of the things 
the mine owners would be loath to mention. Among other 
things, they had brought in Negroes in tremendous numbers 
from the South and had built corrals around them. The Negro 
miners were forced to sleep in barracks three or four deep. 

While I was there, a colored man broke from the barracks 
in desperation and tried to flee. As he came mining down the 
road, I stopped him. The company police immediately hurried 
up and told me to move on. I said I wouldn't because I wanted 
to talk with this miner. When I convinced them I meant it, 
they moved off. I questioned the runaway and then went to 
the local police station and began asking questions of several 
more who were incarcerated there. I did not tell them I was a 
senator but my manner of questioning made them suspicious 
and soon no one would talk. 

When our subcommittee went to the scene soon after, the 
owners invited us to go through the mines. I proposed that we 
be accompanied by a representative of labor, such as Philip 
Murray. Murray, who had testified before us in Washington, 
was later to become head of the steelworkers union and the 
whole CIO. The owners said they wouldn't let Murray into 
their mines. 

"Well, if you won't let Murray or another labor leader go in 
with us, we won't go," Chairman Gooding told them. Murray 
was then allowed to go with us under the ground. 

The mine owners controlled the stores where the miners had 
to buy their food and the houses they had to live in. When the 
strike began, the owners had the miners* furniture thrown into 
the street. The Miners union had to erect tents to house the 
strikers and their families. 

We held a hearing and Gooding became infuriated at the 
mine owners' attitude. 



274 Yankee from the West 

"What you re doing is breeding communism," lie told them 
to their faces. 

One newspaperman complained that Gooding was too inex 
perienced to cross-examine witnesses. He urged me to take 
over. I said I would follow up on Gooding's questioning but 
would not try to supplant him. I urged the newspaperman to 
pat the chairman on the back and tell Tiim what a good job he 
was doing. 

The union presented miners and their wives, priests, and 
community leaders. The union and company attorneys were 
given the opportunity to question one another's witnesses. This 
arrangement did uot improve the case for the coal operators, 
many of whom were arrogant or uninformed or both. 

Typically, when I urged the coal company officials to re 
sume bargaining with the union and come to some working 
agreement, an official replied: ~We are running an open shop. 
We have nothing to discuss with them.* 

I suggested to Richard B. Mellon, brother of Andrew Mellon, 
that he go in person into the mines and see the conditions for 
himself. I was just as harsh with John D. Rockefeller, Jr., when 
he pleaded ignorance of the problems of the coal industry, in 
which he was a large investor. 

The subcommittee filed a unanimous report in which, among 
other things, we observed that one coal company president "was 
surprised to learn the committee was shocked by conditions 
they found on some property where men were housed in build 
ings that were filthy, poorly ventilated and not fit for human 
beings . , " The subcommittee likewise reported it was "im 
pressed with the courage and determination of the miners to 
stand up for what they believed was their due-an American 
wage making possible an American standard of living.** 

Even before our report was drafted, Watson knew what was 
coming. He came to me and said, *What the hell did you do to 
Gooding?" 

T didn't do anything to Gooding,** I replied. 
Shaking his head, Watson continued: *I appointed a mil 
lionaire sheepman, a millionaire textile industrialist, a million- 
aire oilman* I appointed Wagner who, being a Tammany man, 



Inside the Senate 275 

I thought would be all right. And I had to appoint you. But 
Gooding was worse than you were!" 

On another occasion, Watson said: "Why is it you're always 
in here fighting for the proletariat?" 

"Jim,*' I said, "there's plenty of men on this committee look 
ing after the interests of the big fellows, who also have their 
lawyers coming down here. Somebody's got to try to at least 
present the side of the ordinary man and woman who can't af 
ford lawyers." 

"You know, Wheeler," he said wryly, *T represent the big in 
terests but sometimes they're damn selfish." 

Many of the Old Guard Republicans had no use for President 
Herbert Hoover. At times, I felt sorry for the President because 
they actually sabotaged him. Hoover was a very able individual 
and could have made a great President had he possessed more 
ability as a politician. Few people seem to recognize that to be 
a successful President one has to be a politician to understand 
the political arts and to get along with the politicians who make 
up the House and Senate. 

After he left office, Hoover seemed to interpret public senti 
ment much better than he did in the White House, and love 
and respect for him have grown. Before he became President, 
his engineering business had kept him out of the country and 
out of touch with the American people. 

Once I came away from a talk with Hoover very angry. I 
complained to Watson that virtually all through my conversa 
tion the President had gazed at the ceiling instead of me. 

"I don't talk to the President, I talk at him," Watson said 
with a laugh. 

Unlike Hoover, Coolidge was a smart politician. I was very 
much amused at the way he handled Walsh and me when we 
called on hi to try to get the federal government behind a 
proposed road from Red Lodge, Montana, into Yellowstone Na 
tional Park. O. H. P. Shelley, then Republican national com- 
mitteeman in Montana, lived in Red Lodge and was going all 
out to line up support. Shelley got Watson interested in the 
project; soon Watson had a friend who wanted to get the con 
tract to build the road Coolidge got wind of this, and of course 



276 Yankee from the West 

he was only too well aware that it was Walsh and I who had 
embarrassed the Republicans by our twin revelations of the 
Harding scandals. 

So when we went to the White House to discuss the matter, 
Coolidge didn't pay much attention to Walsh as he talked ear 
nestly about the merits of a new road. The President gazed 
thoughtfully out the window into the rose garden. When 
Walsh finished, all Coolidge said, in his extra-dry manner, was: 
"Well, I don't want to see any scandal about it." 

Walsh left the White House with me muttering and fuming. 

"Did you hear what that fellow said?" he kept asking. 

Personally, I thought it was very clever of Coolidge to take 
a kick at us that way. 

A charming and lovable colleague in the Senate was that 
Virginia gentleman, Claude A. Swanson. Swanson had been 
governor of his state and he was to become FDR's first Secre 
tary of the Navy. Swanson was no orator and he seldom spoke 
on the floor, but he was one of the best men to have on your 
side in a fight. Privately, he could persuade more reluctant 
senators to go along on a vote than anyone else. 

Swanson was a pragmatic political philosopher, or at least 
he enjoyed pretending to be one. For instance, when I ran for 
the Senate in 1922 I didn't favor prohibition, but Senator 
Walsh and Governor Stewart were ardent drys and insisted on 
a dry platform, even though the Anti-Saloon League had op 
posed me in the primary. A couple of years later becoming 
more aware of the bootlegging and other rackets spawned by 
prohibition and feeling somewhat hypocritical about my posi 
tion, I came out in favor of repeal of the Eighteenth Amend 
ment. 

The day after I came out for repeal, Swanson sat down next 
to me in the Senate. 

"I see the people in Montana have changed their views about 
prohibition," he remarked. 

"How's thatr I asked. 

"Well, I see that youVe changed your view on prohibition,* 
he said with a chuckle. ""You know, the people of Virginia can't 
change their views any quicker than I can.** 



Inside the Senate 277 

I loved to needle George Moses, a charming, sharp-tongued 
Old Guard Republican leader from New Hampshire. Moses in 
advertently left himself wide open during the long debate that 
followed Hoover's calling of a special session to "do something 
about agriculture" by increasing the tariff on agricultural 
products. 

The President suggested a "limited revision" of industrial 
rates. This split the Senate Republicans by uniting the GOP 
progressives with the Democrats. What eventually resulted was 
the Smoot-Hawley tariff law, which increased duties on almost 
all manufactured goods but left wheat and other agricultural 
products on the free list. 

The progressives felt that the tariff aided manufacturers at 
the expense of the fanner, who sold in a free market and had to 
buy in a "protected" one. As the bill progressed through the 
Finance Committee under the chairmanship of the reactionary 
Reed Smoot of Utah, I issued a stream of statements denounc 
ing various aspects of it. For example, I charged that the power 
ful producers of an industry were absenting themselves from 
the hearings and putting forward the least prosperous members 
"to enter tearful pleas for higher rates to protect them from the 
old bogey, 'foreign competition/" 

In particular I tried to disprove the hoary argument that the 
tariff was an act of charity to workingmen. I pointed out that in 
reality the only connection wage earners had with the tariff 
was burdensome prices. 

The Old Guard grew increasingly exasperated at the pro 
gressives* drumfire. 

One day I noticed a three-paragraph news item about a din 
ner speech Senator Moses had made in Boston before the New 
England Export Club and Commerce Department. Moses had 
said that the coalition dominating the tariff debate was led by 
the "sons of the wild jackass." I produced the clipping on the 
Senate floor the next day while Moses was presiding and read 
it into the record. It was a violent attack on the opponents of 
the bill and I discussed the implications of it as though Moses 
had been talking solely of the Western progressives in his own 
party, although obviously he had been referring to the liberal 



278 Yankee from the West 

Democrats as well. Senator Thaddeus H. Caraway, the Arkansas 
master of wit and sarcasm, joined in the sport. 

The angry Moses was obliged to recognize senator after 
senator as they rose to speculate on who he had had in 
mind. What gave an extra-sharp point to our needle was the 
fact that Moses was due to leave that very evening for Chicago 
for a conference of Western Republicans on how to win the 
fall elections. News reports of the debate would go out over 
the country, we knew, and cause Moses some discomfort at his 
GOP conference. 

When the debate was over, Moses left the rostrum and strode 
up to my desk. 

""God damn you!" he rasped. **You know I meant you not 
those Republicans!** 

Hie airing we gave Moses* speech on the floor gave his "sons 
of the wild jackass 9 * quip nation-wide attention and the phrase 
gained a place in the lexicon of American politics. Among the 
progressives, it became a password and a badge of honor. 

The tariff debate had just about everything in it including 
Lady Chatterleys Lover. The customs bureau long had had 
authority to bar the importation of any book, printed matter, 
or picture which it considered obscene. Senator Bronson M. 
Cutting, a liberal Republican from New Mexico, proposed to 
strike out the whole section of the bill granting this power. He 
revealed that in 1928 the customs bureau had blacklisted 739 
books, all but 114 of which were in foreign languages. He said 
a point of absurdity was reached in the fact that some books 
were admissible in one foreign language but not in another! 

When Cutting argued that damming the flow of books was 
arbitrary and unnecessary, he was eagerly joined by Borah, 
Caraway, myself, and some other progressives. 

Tit is a question of whether the Congress of the United States 
thinks the morals of the people of the country are going to be 
corrupted because a few pieces of literature come in that, in 
many instances, are classics,** I said. Tf the morals of the peo 
ple of the United States are so easily corrupted, then surely the 
keeping out of a few volumes of classics and works of that kind 
is not going to save them." 



Inside the Senate 279 

It reminded me of when I ran for governor of Montana in 
1920 on the Non-Partisan League ticket, I said, when my op 
ponents spread the canard that the NPL would promote the 
practice of "free love" if it got into power. 

There was a great deal of kidding in the debate about 
whether the government employed one customs inspector to do 
nothing but read salacious books. The dignified Smoot, author 
of the bill, thought the matter of protecting the people from 
sexy passages was no laughing matter. To try to impress the 
Senate with what was at stake, Smoot proposed to read to the 
Senate in secret sessionchoice passages from D. H. Law 
rence's new novel, Lady Chatterleys Lover. Cutting feigned 
horror at the prospect of the august Senate being exposed to the 
titillating details of what the kdy did with the gamekeeper. 

"I tremble to think of the effect of my colleague's proposed 
performance on the senators' morals," he said. 

Unable to get the Senate to vote for a secret session, Smoot 
showed up in the Senate with an armful of "dangerous** vol 
umes, all helpfully marked for their lascivious passages. 

"The reading of these books," he began, "would so disgust 
senators that they would never dream of agreeing to the amend 
ment of the senator from New Mexico. You need only read a 
page or two to know how damnable they are!" 

Senator after senator marched to the desk and returned to 
their seats with the blacklisted books and-as the galleries tit 
teredobviously read more than "a page or two.** Cutting riled 
Smoot by asserting that the Utah senator had talked so much 
about Lady Chatterleys Lover that he had "made a classic out 
of it." The book at that moment was receiving the rapt attention 
of Senator Royal S. Copeland, the New York Democrat 

However, Cutting's amendment to wipe out the section of 
the bill failed by nine votes. It was nearly thirty years before 
the customs bureau felt the American public was mature 
enough to have Lady Chatterley's Lover imported. 

In the days of the giants, senators generally prided them 
selves on their courtliness. The colorful Robert R. Reynolds of 
North Carolina was continually testing his power to dazzle 



Yankee from the West 

women, but he also was confident he could ingratiate himself 
with men. One man he couldn't impress was Huey P. Long. 

I was standing in the cloakroom with Long in early 1933, 
shortly after Reynolds had been sworn in as a new senator. 
Reynolds hurried over, stuck out his hand and, ignoring me, 
said to Huey: Tm Senator Reynolds of North Carolina." 

Long never batted an eye. 

T knew you when you ran an ice-skating rink in New Or 
leans," he replied. This took the wind out of Reynolds' galleon- 
like sailsmomentarily. 

There was only one Huey Long. I first met hm> when I 
stopped over in Shreveport, Louisiana, with the Indian Affairs 
Committee in 1929. Huey, then the thirty-five-year-old gover 
nor of the state, was sitting at another table in tie hotel dining 
room. He immediately came over to chat with us. He bragged 
about how he was going to supplant Senator Joseph E. Rans- 
dell, a conservative who had been in the Senate since 1913, with 
John H. Overton and kter go to the Senate himself. Both these 
predictions came true. 

Huey got himself elected to the Senate for the term starting 
March 4, 1931, but he preferred to remain as governor for an 
other year before taking his seat in the Senate. I liked him. I 
think he was sincere in espousing welfare programs some of 
them admittedly pretty radicalto do something for the land 
of poor people he sprang from. Perhaps he fancied himself a 
kind of Robin Hood of the bayous. 

Also there lurked in Huey a well-concealed sense of chivalry, 
judging from one episode I happen to know about It oc 
curred after Senator Caraway died in 1931. His widow, Hattie, 
was appointed to succeed him. She was the first woman to 
become a United States senator. She was assigned to a seat in 
the bade row, next to Long. Huey knew she soon had to run in 
a special election and he asked her about her chances. She said 
she was worried. Huey volunteered to check into the situation 
in Arkansas for her. 

Long sent some of his men down there and they came back 
with bad news. In the Senate chamber, he reluctantly told the 
widow, 'Toud better not run because you haven't got a 



Inside the Senate 

chance/' The distressed woman broke down and wept quietly 
at her desk. Later on, Huey related this to me: 

"I went home that night to my hotel and I couldn't sleep. I 
got thinking about it and the more I thought about it the more 
I said, Hell, we'll go out there and elect her!' So the next morn 
ing I said to her, 1 told you yesterday you didn't have a chance, 
but here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to raise the money 
and go out there and campaign for you. Youll be elected/ 

"I went down to New Orleans," Huey continued. "I got hold 
of our gang down there and I told them I wanted to raise some 
money to help Mrs. Caraway. They looked at me and said, 
Huey, you're crazy-it can't be done, and if you go in there and 
try to elect her, you'll only hurt the whole crowd down here/ 
I turned to one of them and said, Tfou re a lawyer, aren't youF 
and he said, 'Yes/ I said Well, you don't need a state job, you 
can make a living/ 1 turned to a doctor and said the same thing, 
and to an engineer. I argued with them and they finely said, 
'Let's take a vote/ 

" 'All right/ 1 told them, let's take a vote. I'm the chairman, I 
vote "aye" and the motion is carried. Now go out and raise some 
money.' And they did. I went over to Arkansas and sent a van 
on ahead with a loudspeaker and a sign reading, 'Huey Long 
will be here!' As we started out Campaigning^ I said to Mrs. 
Caraway, c Now, Mrs. Caraway, you know tonight you haven't 
got a chance, don't you? But before we wind up this campaign 
you're going to be elected/ As we went along, the crowds got 
bigger and bigger and I knew by the time we were pulling into 
Little Rock she was going to win. And I said to her, 1 want to 
tell you you will be elected because of the money raised for you 
by the so-called "notorious New Orleans ring" but you're going 
to be the freest member of the Senate because this so-called 
notorious New Orleans ring is never going to ask you to vote for 
anything anytime/" 

Huey was at the peak of his influence all through the South 
that year and Mrs. Caraway was elected Afterward, she told 
Mrs. Wheeler and me the substance of this story and called it 
non-political generosity. She was never for Huey Long or his 
program, but he kept his promise not to expect her vote. 



282 Yankee from the West 

Huey never lied to me and I had no evidence that he was a 
crook. Of course, there were a lot of stories about him. But 
after the way I had been maligned in Montana I knew enough 
not to believe the worst about a politician just because it was 
being passed around. One day I said to him, "Huey, if you're 
crooked and doing all these things, I'd like to know it because 
I'm not going to have anything to do with you if you are." 

"When we raise money we do exactly what the Democratic 
and the Republican national committees do," he told me. 

Once, when I told President Roosevelt he wasn't treating 
Huey right, FDR said he thought Huey was a crook. 

"Well, I don't think so," I replied, "but if he is a crook, he's 
too smart for you to catch him." 

George Morris liked Huey. So did young Bob La Follette. 
Most of the Southerners didn't like him. Incidentally, Long had 
far less racial prejudice in him than any other Southerner in 
the Senate. 

Huey was not a debater in a class with Jim Reed; neverthe 
less no one wanted to take him on. He would talk forever and 
sometimes would resort to a form of backwoods vilification that 
would make any victim blanch. The galleries filled up quickly 
when word got around that he was to take the floor. But if he 
talked brutally and always put on a good show, he had no wish 
for physical encounter. 

There was a lot of bluff in the TSngfish." When he intro 
duced his resolution to investigate James A. Farley, then Post 
master General, every senator was outraged, I knew he didn't 
have a thing on Farley and so I urged Robinson, the majority 
leader, to let the resolution go through because the ensuing 
investigation would show up Huey. If the resolution was killed, 
I argued, it would only make people wonder if Farley had some 
thing to conceal. Robinson couldn't see it that way and I was 
the only senator besides Long who voted for his resolution. I 
don't believe Farley ever forgave me for that. 

Huey's mind was so brilliant he could discourse endlessly 
on everything from the silver issue to the dunking of cornpone 
in podikker. He scorned preparation. When I advised birn to 
study up on the complexities of silver, he cracked: "No, you 



Inside the Senate 

study it, you tell me about it, and 111 make a better speech than 
you will/* 

He had a genius for illustrating a point in vivid barnyard 
metaphor. On one occasion, a group of visiting Montanans 
asked him in my presence what he thought of my colleague, 
Senator Thomas J. Walsh. 
Huey startled his listeners by replying: 
"You know, Walsh is like a guinea hen. Do you know the 
habits of a guinea hen? It's a very peculiar bird. If you take a 
long-handled rake, and rake the eggs out from under the guinea 
hen's nest, she'll keep on laying eggs. But if you reach your 
hand in and take the eggs, shell never lay in that nest again. 
Now Walsh is like the guinea hen. He lays the ideas, and Joe 
Robinson takes a long-handled rake and rakes the ideas out 
And so Walsh keeps giving Robinson the ideas * 

Despite this incisive analysis, Huey respected and liked 
Walsh. 

Huey was never an alcoholic but he gave up drinking be 
cause he found he couldn't handle it when he imbibed freely. 
During a night session, I once saw Jim Watson and George 
Moses taking Huey into the cloakroom and I suspected they 
were trying to get him tight After he had visited their private 
spa two or three times, I got hnrt aside in the cloakroom and 
warned him that the two Republicans were out to get him 
drunk so he'd make a fool of himself. The galleries were filled 
that night and Huey could never resist a crowd 

Tm all right," he insisted. 

TListen, you re tight right now," I told him roughly. *Go out 
and get some coffee and dougjhnuts and get sobered up.* 

"Don't talk to me like that!" Huey muttered threateningly. 

T will talk to you like this!" I said. "You're just making a 
jackass of yourself.* 

""Well, III let you talk to me like that but I won't let any of 
those other S.Q.B. s in there talk to me like that," he grumbled. 

Huey followed my advice about coffee and doughnuts and 
afterward sat down next to me in the Senate. 

Tm so sober Tm ashamed of myself,** he reported. 

Huey dressed gaudily but got away with it because he was, 



Yankee from the West 

altogether, a very flashy personality. He loved to swagger. No 
body could strut around like he could. 

Joe Robinson and Pat Harrison hated Huey like no one was 
hated in the Senate in my time. They couldn't stand his dema- 
goguery and his clowning, nor the fact that he was one of the 
most liberal Southerners and opposed them on many issues. His 
following throughout the South was extensive and had Harrison 
worried. The fact that Long showed his contempt for these two 
Democratic elders didn't increase his popularity in the Senate. 

FDR feared Huey Long as a dangerous type of liberal. It 
must be remembered that in the first year of the New Deal 
Roosevelt was proceeding according to conservative theories. 
Huey, for his part, openly distrusted Roosevelt and never had 
any use for him from the start. They were, of course, polar 
opposites in background, manners, taste, etc. 

One day in 1934 Huey was strutting nervously around my 
office. 

Tin going to beat that S.O.B. at the other end of the Ave 
nue," he said. 

I told him he was talking through his hat. 

"YouVe never seen the crowds I get," he told me. 

'That's right," I replied, "but, Huey, they come out to see you 
as a curiosity." 

"Yes," he agreed, "but when they get there I get 'em!" 

"You know, Huey," I told him, "what Joe Robinson says about 
you is true you disgust your own friends with your boasting." 

He stopped in his tracks. 

"Well, I don't care anything about society," he explained 
slowly. "I don't care anything about golf. I don't care anything 
about cards. The only pleasure I get out of life is boasting, and 
you want to take that away from me! When you stop to think 
of where IVe come from and what I've got to do don't you 
think IVe got a right to boast?" 

Now how could I answer a rationalization like that? 

Huey was assassinated about a year after that conversation. 
He must not have been too surprised when the gun was fired 
at him in the Louisiana State Capitol He always had had a 



Inside the Senate 285 

bodyguard in Washington and many times I heard him remark, 
^They'll kill me, they'll kill me * 

Roosevelt would never have won the Democratic nomination 
in 1932, in my opinion, but for Huey Long. And Huey probably 
would not have backed FDR but for me. Here's what happened. 

Early in 1932, after Long took his seat in the Senate, I was 
determined to line up his potent support in my campaign to get 
Roosevelt nominated. Huey was then living at the Congres 
sional Country Club, which is several miles outside Washing 
ton. I went out there and had dinner with him and talked up 
Roosevelt. Huey greatly admired George Morris and the only 
question was how Norris stood on Roosevelt Norris hadn't told 
me, but I was sure he would prefer Roosevelt to the other 
Democrats in the running because he favored public power. So 
I said I was sure Norris was for the New York governor. 

"Well, if Norris will tell me he's for him, 111 be for him" 
Huey said. He was returning to Louisiana that night and said 
he would drive me into town. Driving us down a hill on River 
Road in Maryland, Huey's chauffeur struck a bump and my 
head hit the roof. Huey asked me if I was hurt and I said no. 
But he yelled at the chauffeur to stop the car. Then he ordered 
the man out. 

"You can't do this," I protested. 

"Listen," Huey replied, "when they bump me, I walk them,** 

He took the wheel, forced the chauffeur into dark and lonely 
River Road, and we sped away. The next day I saw the poor 
fellow in Long's office. He laughed it off, saying, "Oh well, he 
does those things and afterward he's sorry.** 

As I suspected, I didn't have to *se!T Roosevelt to Norris. I 
asked him to let Long know his choice. Later on, Huey came to 
me and said, T don't like your , but HI be for him,* 

Just before the national convention, Huey telephoned me 
that he had hand-picked his delegates and told them to be for 
Roosevelt, without bothering with the formality of a state 
convention. But, he continued, another group, headed by ex- 
Governor J. Y. Sanders, had held a rump convention and se 
lected another set of delegates who were anti-Long. 

"What should I do about itF he asked me. I told him the 



286 Yankee from the West 

national convention would frown on his unorthodox methods. 
So he decided to hold his own state convention and selected 
still a third set of delegates. 

Three sets of Louisiana delegates rode into Chicago for a con 
test before the convention Credentials Committee. Sanders 
made a magnolia-and-molasses speech and got a big hand. 
Huey took the platform and jeered at it as "a lot of fakery." 
He launched into as coarse a speech as he could make which 
was very coarse indeed. The committee was appalled. It recom 
mended that Sanders' slate be seated. The pro-Roosevelt faction 
immediately appealed to the convention as a whole to override 
the recommendation and seat the Long delegates. 

I heard that John W. Davis, the high-powered Wall Street 
lawyer and 1924 Democratic presidential nominee, was plan 
ning to talk against Huey on the convention floor. I urged the 
New Orleans people to substitute a smoother speaker for Huey. 
They told me not to worry that Huey could make as fine a 
legal argument as Davis. Unconvinced, I tried to reason with 
the Kingfish, but he assured me he would make a noble- 
sounding argument 

When Long took the dais in the noisy, crowded Chicago 
Stadium, feeling against him was running high and booing 
started at once. Huey put his mouth to the microphone and 
pleaded: "Don't applaud me! Don't applaud me! My time is 
limited and I don't want applause!" 

He plunged into his speech. Gradually the crowd quieted, 
and eventually it did applaud him. The convention voted to 
seat Long's second set of delegates. Later, Huey came over to 
me with a grin and said, "You thought I thought they were 
applauding me when they were actually booing me, didn't 
you?" I confessed this was true. 

"Well, 5 * Long explained, "I knew they were booing but I also 
knew the people down in Louisiana, hearing all that noise over 
the radio would take my word for it that it was applause." 

During the long night of the balloting, the delegations for 
John Nance Garner held firm and the Roosevelt drive bogged 
down. When the Mississippi and Arkansas delegations rest 
lessly threatened to break their lines and jump to Garner, 



Inside the Senate 287 

FDR's manager feared it might start a stampede away from 
their candidate. They ran for help to the single most influential 
man in the South Huey Long. Several times in the months 
since I had wangled his pledge for Roosevelt, Long had begged 
me to release him. He actually favored Garner. But now he did 
more than keep his word. He worked over the two state delega 
tions with all his red-necked eloquence. As a result, Mississippi 
and Arkansas held fast for FDR. William Randolph Hearst 
then persuaded Garner to throw his delegates to Roosevelt to 
keep Al Smith or some other contender like Governor Albert C. 
Ritchie of Maryland or Newton D. Baker from capitalizing 
on the deadlock. From this deal Gamer emerged as the vice 
presidential candidate. 

During the election campaign, Huey Long continued to work 
effectively for Roosevelt I myself labored for him in the North 
west. 

In the last day before the election, President Hoover was due 
to speak in Salt Lake City in behalf of the re-election of Senator 
Smoot I was assigned to climax my stumping for Western sena 
tors by counteracting Hoover in Salt Lake City later in the day. 

Hoover spoke at noon before a tremendous crowd and re 
lated "what Smoot has done for Utah." At first, it seemed foolish 
for me to think I could help bring about the defeat of the well- 
known Smoot. Then I got talking with a Utah businessman 
who owned some iron works and had put up money for Smoot's 
opponent, Elbert Thomas, a schoolteacher. This nnan urged me 
to take the bide off Smoot and nail it to the barn wall I didn't 
need much urging, 

I twisted Hoovers text on Smoot to my own uses: 

Tm here to tell you not what Smoot has done for Utah but 
what he has done to Utah." I reviewed how the senator had 
voted for a high tariff on manufactured articles when Utah had 
wanted a high tariff on raw materials, and how he had played 
with the big interests in the East instead of looking to the prob 
lems of his own state. I spoke from radio station KSL to virtually 
the whole Northwest, having been allotted radio time bought 
by the Democratic National Committee for Election Eve. 

Mrs. Wheeler and I began driving east on Election Night, 



288 Yankee from the West 

stopping to buy a few gallons of gasoline so we would hear the 
returns often. Several filling station attendants asked if I had 
"heard that fellow Wheeler last night." I finally said to one of 
them that I was Wheeler. He looked over our little Chevrolet 
runabout a car our sons normally used and replied, "The hell 
you are!" The next day we had the satisfaction of hearing that 
Roosevelt had been elected, and that Elbert Thomas had beaten 
Smoot. 

Mrs. Wheeler left me at Albuquerque and took the train to 
Washington. I continued on, by way of the South, with a friend, 
A. A. Grorud. One midafternoon we arrived in Shreveport, 
Louisiana, tired, dusty, and without lunch. I told Grorud I felt 
like calling Huey Long, which I did from the public telephone 
in a restaurant. 

"How are you traveling?" Huey asked when I got him on the 
phone. He urged me to come to New Orleans immediately. 
When I said that was impossible, he replied that he would 
have someone drive me there. I pointed out that it was com 
pletely out of my way to go to New Orleans and, besides, 
President-elect Roosevelt was expecting me at his retreat in 
Warm Springs, Georgia. 

I hung up and we started to eat lunch. In about fifteen min 
utes two state policemen came to our table and asked me if I 
was Senator Wheeler. 

"We have orders to take you to New Orleans," they said. I 
laughed and told them I couldn't go. They looked grim and 
said, "Senator, we don't know anything about it but we've got 
to take you to New Orleans." 

When I asked them what I was charged with, they repeated 
their orders. I tried to reason but it was no use. I suspected 
they were acting on instructions from Huey. 

We climbed into their police car and they drove us due south 
in a drenching rain. Another policeman drove our Chevrolet. 
We kept driving through the evening and arrived at the Roose 
velt Hotel in New Orleans at one o'clock in the morning. There 
the room clerk said Senator Long had waited up for us until 
midnight and then had left word that he would call me the 
first thing in the morning, 



Inside the Senate 289 

Before I was awake the next day, tihe telephone rang at eight 
o'clock and I heard a familiar voice announce, This is the 
Kingfish. Come on over and have breakfast with me. 9 * 

Huey met me in green pajamas in his comfortable hut not 
extravagant-lookinghome and ordered our breakfasts. Soon 
two men came in. Huey didn't introduce them but it was ap 
parent they were newspapermen. One of them asked what I 
was going to do about the remonetizing of silver now that we 
had a Democratic President. I said, *Tm still for it." When 
Huey was asked for his comment, he said, "I don't know a 
damn thing about it, but if Wheeler's for it, I'm for it** 

A few minutes later, two more men came in. One turned out 
to be Seymour Weiss, the manager of the Roosevelt Hotel and 
a member of the Long machine. They pleaded with him to 
stop an investigation of the vote on the newest bond issue. Huey 
mentioned that the Long group had won and seemed surprised 
there was an investigation. Weiss said the trouble was that in 
some of the parishes (counties) they didn't even bother to 
count the votes. Huey chuckled and said that if they didn't 
bother to count the votes "they ought to go to jail/* 

Turning to me, Long added: The trouble is: some of these 
people down here are too lazy to count the votes any more." He 
remained adamant in the face of the pleas of Weiss and his 
friend that he halt the investigation. Then they left. I noticed 
in the evening papers that the state attorney general had been 
substituted for the local prosecutor in the conduct of the in 
vestigation. 

Huey wanted to talk with me alone. 

'You're going to see the President Roosevelt," he pointed 
out. T wish you'd talk to him about stopping some of these 
investigators from Washington they've got down here in 
Louisiana. 3 * 

I asked him what investigators were on the scene. 

~Oh, the Treasury Department has quite a few down here," 
he explained. They're asking for affidavits from some of our 
friends about contributions, and things like that. But there's 
nothing wrong with it We've taken contributions from people 
contractors and others* who had big contracts with the state 



290 Yankee from the West 

and others who are friendly with the state administration and 
we put it in a fund to help elect our candidates to the legislature 
and statehouse. And that's exactly what the Republicans and 
Democrats have done. As a matter of fact, some of the money 
was used to help the election of Roosevelt himself. We donated 
it" 

I told Huey I didn't think it would be appropriate for me to 
bring up his problem in my visit with FDR. 

I said nothing to anyone about the Long investigation but 
when Huey returned to the Senate for the next session I asked 
him if anything had come of it. 

He laughed, "Oh, that's all forgotten about.** Then he gave 
me the interesting explanation of why it was called off. He said 
that Ernest Lee Jahncke, the top Assistant Secretary of the 
Navy under Hoover, had owed a New Orleans bank, I think he 
said, $250,000, and that the bank suddenly called the loan. Soon 
Huey got a long-distance call from Washington from Harvey 
Couch. Harvey was now a director of the new RFC and was 
very important in the South because he was formerly president 
of the powerful Arkansas Power and Light Company. 

"What about calling this loan on Jahncke?** Huey told me 
Couch asked him. Huey said he insisted he knew nothing 
about it 

"Oh, yes, you do," Couch replied. When Huey pointed out 
that the bank examiner had called the loan, Couch reminded 
hint that Governor O. K. Allen was Huey's man and that the 
bank examiner was Allen's man. 

Tasten, Harvey," Huey said he replied, "I don't have any 
thing more to do with that bank examiner than the Assistant 
Secretary of the Navy has to do with the Treasury De 
partment" 

^Oh, is that it?** Couch replied, the light beginning to dawn. 

"That's exactly it,** Huey told him. 

Huey told me the Treasury Department promptly pulled 
their tax investigators off the Long gang and the bank didn't 
call Jahncke's loan. I kter heard the same explanation from 
another source, Frank Vanderlip, the retired president of the 



Inside the Senate 291 

National City Bank in New York. Vanderlip said he heard the 
substance of the story from Herbert Hoover himself. 

(The story adds depth to the explanation given by Elmer T. 
Irey, chief of the Treasury Department's Intelligence Unit dur 
ing this period, in his book, The Tax Dodgers. Irey said that 
Secretary Ogden L. Mills called him in after the 1932 election 
and ordered him to suspend his investigation of Long and 
write a full report. The report. Mills said, would be left on the 
doorstep of his successor when the Democrats took over in 
March 1933. After all, Mills was quoted as saying, Huey was 
one of the Democrats* "babies" so the GOP would "let them de 
cide what to do with him/* 

(As Irey explained, the Roosevelt Administration did not 
order him to resume his investigation of the Long gang until 
nearly a year after it took office. This was the period in which 
FDR, hating Huey but fearing his power, tried to play along 
with him. Irey wrote that he was just getting ready to try to 
indict Huey when he was assassinated in September 1935. The 
government never did convict the Long clique of tax evasion. ) 

Another cantankerous but likeable character in the Senate 
was J. Hamilton Lewis, the pink whiskered, conservative-voting 
Illinois Democrat. He was visibly upset when Hoover in 
1932 proposed the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which 
would have wide powers to extend credit to banks and railroads. 
So was I. Many of the old conservatives were going along with 
the President on the idea it would cure the depression. Some 
senators orated that if the RFC lent money to the railroads and 
banks and insurance companies, smoke would pour from the 
chimneys and the farmers and workers would regain prosperity. 

"When you pass this bill,** I argued, "everybody wfll be down 
here in Washington wanting money out of the Treasury.* 

Senator Lewis came over to my desk and said in an aside: 
"Boy, you're right Give "em hell.** I turned to him, still holding 
the floor, and asked him if he would speak against the bill. 
When he shook his head, I asked him if he would at least vote 
with me. 

*No," Lewis said in a low, intense voice. T can't, because I 
represent a damn bunch of thieves thieves, I tell you! who 



292 Yankee from the West 

want to reach their hands into the public coffers and purloin 
the money. My God, if I were a free man, Yd tear this thing 
limb from limb." 

The RFC bill passed the Senate, with the liberal vote split 
I asked young Bob La Follette why he supported the bill. He 
said he was afraid there would be a crash. I said, "Yes, and the 
sooner it's over the better. This will only prolong the de 
pression." 

After the vote, I went downstairs to the Senate restaurant 
and asked Joe Robinson if he thought the bill would solve our 
economic crisis. He assured me it would. 

"After you loan money to railroads and insurance companies 
and banks," I told hrni and several others, "the pressure on 
Congress is going to be too great. Our constituents will say, 
Why can't you loan money to the farmers and everybody 
else?"* 

In my judgment, that was the first step toward a welfare 
state. 

I enjoyed being in a minority party in the Senate, with the 
opposition party in the White House. It's more fun when you 
can get up and attack the administration, if you feel like it, and 
not be charged with disloyalty for doing so. And when con 
stituents write to you for jobs, you can reply truthfully that 
you haven't any patronage and can't do a thing. 

Of course, I had started off by flouting a tradition of the 
Senate itself. Demanding a roll call on a committee chairman 
and my own investigation of the Attorney General were the 
bad manners of an upstart. If I had stubbed my toe, I might 
have been dismissed as a nuisance and shunted into obscurity. 
Luckily, my brand of aggressiveness had achieved results and 
therefore won me not only attention but respect. 

Not long after I was in the Senate, my good friend Henry 
Ashurst took me aside. He said there was a senator whom he 
preferred to keep anonymous who had told him he was going 
to "take on this brash upstart from Montana and take him 
apart on the floor." 

"Don't try it! Don't try it!" Ashurst told me he replied. He 
said he pointed out to the senator that he had been a classmate 



Inside the Senate 293 

of mine at Michigan Law School and also knew I had survived 
some lusty battles with powerful enemies in primitive Mon 
tana. "Hell cut you to ribbons," Ashurst told me he advised 
the bloodthirsty senator. 

Ashurst then said to me with a wink: "So if you notice some 
senator being extra nice to you, youll know who I'm talking 
about/' 

Several years later, Ashurst met me on the street with my 
son, Edward, and repeated the story. Then he disclosed: "The 
senator was Henry Cabot Lodge." 

Vice Presidents Dawes and Garner admired a senator who 
would stand up and fight for a principle. I believe both many 
times wished they were down in the well of the chamber where 
they could sound off. Garner knew, for example, that many 
senators who agreed completely with me on a bill in the cloak 
room went right out on the floor and voted according to the 
dictates of a popular President. 

Shortly before he ended his second and last term, Garner 
called me into his office and asked me to pour us a drink. Sight 
ing through his glass, he said, "You know, the longer I've lived 
and the more Tve seen of Washington, the more convinced I 
am that in the Senate it's more important to have guts than 
brains. And youVe got guts." 

"You mean I don't have brains?" I asked. 

Gamer's eyes twinkled beneath his tufted white eyebrows. 

"I said 'you've g* g 11 ^/** & e replied. 



Chapter Fourteen 

LIFE WITH FDR 



My long and bumpy political relationship with Franklin 
D. Roosevelt began in the Hotel Commodore in New York City 
in April 1930. 1 was one of the main speakers at the Democratic 
Party's Jefferson Day dinner. I had been reluctant to accept 
the invitation because the dinner was under the auspices of 
Tammany Hall, which I despised. Senator Robert F. Wagner 
of New York and Jouett Shouse, executive chairman of the 
Democratic National Committee, talked me into it. 

Wagner warned me that long-winded speeches were not ap 
preciated by the bibulous diners. When I saw the bottles on the 
massed tables and the rapidly liquefying politicians crowded 
into the ballroom, I was glad I planned to speak for only fif 
teen minutes. Also I took the precaution of issuing a press 
release before the dinner began. I had a serious message I was 
coming out for Roosevelt for President. Our speeches were to be 
carried over the NBC Blue Network and I did not want my 
message lost in the loo-proof din enveloping the ballroom. 

Immediately after I sat down on the speakers' platform, I 



Life with FDR 295 

was approached by James W. Gerard, who was also seated 
there. Gerard had been Woodrow Wilson's Ambassador to Ger 
many and was married to the daughter of Marcus Daly, one 
of Montana's famous "copper barons" before the turn of the 
century. He asked me if it was true I was about to propose the 
New York governor for President. I said I had already given 
such a statement to the press. 

"Go to it and God bless you," Gerard commented warmly. 

Having been tipped off by Gerard that I would toss his hat 
into the ring, Roosevelt tactfully left the hall before I spoke. 

In my speech, I said: "As I look around for a general to lead 
the Democratic Party on these two issues, the tariff and control 
of power and public utilities, I ask to whom can we go? I say 
that, if the Democratic Party of New York will elect Franklin D. 
Roosevelt governor, the West will demand his nomination for 
President and the whole country will elect him." 

Political historians have since recorded that I was the first 
nationally known Democrat to publicly back Roosevelt for the 
1932 nomination. The New ~York Times reported the next day 
that I had 'launched a boom for the governor." 

My statement helped the governor, for he was fighting 
Tammany while seeking re-election. When I got back to Wash 
ington, I attended a small dinner where Shouse and other 
Democratic leaders were present. They said I had upset the 
applecart by mentioning Roosevelt. They thought the nomina 
tion should go to Owen D. Young, then head of General Elec 
tric, or Myron C. Taylor, then president of United States Steel 
(and later FDR's envoy to the Vatican). 

I was for Roosevelt because I figured he could be elected 
President; also I wanted to head off another race by Al Smith. 
I was an admirer of Al and felt he had made a great governor 
of New York. In 1928 I had been anxious to see him elected 
and, for a while, I thought he could be. It was unthinkable that 
Montana would not vote for a Catholic for President. We had 
elected Tom Walsh, a Catholic, to the Senate three times. 

But when I had campaigned for Smith in Montana I got a 
shock. I was running for re-election. We had a sign on our car 
reading, WE'RE ALL FOR AL. Some Democrats asked me to take 



296 Yankee from the West 

the sign down. Others said, "I've voted for you before, but never 
again!" In Scobey, I found our meeting place locked, so I went 
around the town until I located the key, opened the door of 
the hall, ushered in the small audience, and introduced myself 
at the dais. 

While I was speaking, I received word that I was billed for 
a speech at the same hour in Plentywood, fifty miles away. It 
was then eight o'clock. I sent word to keep the meeting going 
and that I would get to Plentywood by ten o'clock. I arrived 
there an hour later than that but found a fair portion of the 
audience patiently waiting for me. 

The botched speaking schedule and the lack of advertising 
continued the next day and convinced me that my campaign 
was being sabotaged. Finally, in another little town, I walked 
into the local telephone exchange and presented the operator 
with a box of candy. I persuaded her to put in a general call 
to Froid, twenty-five miles away, announcing that I would 
make a speech there at 7:30 P.M. This meant that all the sub 
scribers in Froid would get my announcement simultaneously. 

A good-sized crowd was waiting for me in Froid and I de 
voted my entire talk to intolerance. 

"You wouldn't be against me because my father was a 
Quaker/' I told my audience. "You wouldn't vote against me 
because I went to Baptist Sunday school. You wouldn't vote 
against me because I married a Methodist." 

My listeners sat on their hands and grudgingly gave me a 
smattering of applause when I finished. They gathered in omi 
nous knots of ten or twelve after the meeting while eying 
us. My driver, "Doc" Cronin, nervously and disgustedly said, 
"Let's get out of here," although we had planned to spend the 
night. 

I campaigned all over the state for Smith and devoted most 
of my speeches to plugging him. The Ku Klux Elan, which was 
very strong in eastern Montana, attacked him and on the Sun 
day before the election a scurrilous sheet attacking me was 
circulated through the state by the KKK. Smith lost Montana 
by 34,800 votes and I carried it by only 12,470 the smallest 
majority of my senatorial victories. My opponent was Joe 



Life with FDR 297 

Dixon, a liberal Republican, who had beaten me for the gov 
ernorship in 1920. 

Roosevelt, playing the game cautiously in 1930, did not 
thank me for my early endorsement for President until June. 
Then, he wrote: 

"I was made very happy by your reference to me at the 
Democratic club dinner, for the very good reason that I have 
always thought of you as one of the real leaders of progressive 
thought and action in this country. Therefore, to be considered 
as [a] real progressive by you means something to me." 

Nonetheless, FDR continued carefully, he had "no personal 
desire" for the presidency. Then he put this disclaimer in per 
spective by concluding; "... I hope you will keep in touch 
with the general thought of the mountain states on the power 
question." 

I replied to Roosevelt: "You more nearly typify the progres 
sive thought of this nation than anyone else." 

I lined up support for Roosevelt's candidacy before and dur 
ing the 1932 convention. In the spring of that year Senator 
David I. Walsh of Massachusetts gave a dinner for me in Boston 
to which he invited financier Joseph P. Kennedy, whom I had 
known since 1924. Kennedy came late and said he couldn't 
stay but asked me to meet him at the Harvard Club before I 
went back. During an evening with Kennedy at the club and 
the theater, he asked me who I favored for President. I said, 
"Roosevelt." He wanted to know if John J. Raskob, then chair 
man of the Democratic National Committee, was for him and 
I said no. Kennedy said that "if that so-and-so Raskob is against 
Roosevelt, III be for him." 

Later in the spring, Frank C. Walker, whom I had known 
when he practiced law in Montana, was raising funds for 
Roosevelt and asked me if I knew anyone who might put up 
money. I told him about my conversation with Kennedy. He 
went to Kennedy and got a 5000 contribution to the Roosevelt 
pre-convention campaign, at a time when it was vital. During 
the election campaign, Kennedy kicked in $37,500 and I heard 
that he also loaned the Democratic Party $50,000. As is well 
known, Kennedy joined the Roosevelt Administration and in 



298 Yankee from the West 

3-937 became FDR's Ambassador to the Court of St. James's. 

Meanwhile, besides pointing Huey Long toward his support 
of FDR (as related in the preceding chapter), I traveled all 
over the West before the Chicago convention advocating the 
candidacy of Roosevelt. In California, I worked for delegates 
with Roosevelt's son, Jimmy. I insisted that Montana's dele 
gates go for Roosevelt and I also got half of Minnesota's dele 
gates for him after an intra-party struggle there. Later I 
stumped the West for Roosevelt during the election campaign. 

Right after the election, I met with FDR at his retreat in 
Warm Springs, Georgia. I told him that my Montana colleague, 
Senator Walsh, and I wanted him to appoint Ed Keating, editor 
of Labor, as Secretary of Labor. Roosevelt hesitated and then 
said that he wanted to appoint Walsh as Attorney General, 
adding: "I've got to appoint Jim Farley as Postmaster General 
and I can't very well have more than two Catholics in my cabi 
net" (Keating was also a Catholic). At the same time, he dis 
closed that he wanted to make George Norris Secretary of 
Agriculture and Hiram Johnson Secretary of Interior (both 
these independent Republicans had supported him in the elec 
tion). I told him I was sure that Norris, Johnson, and Walsh 
would prefer to remain in the Senate. 

The President-elect asked me to talk to Walsh about taking 
the Attorney Generalship. He didn't know I had already sug 
gested to Walsh he could probably get the post if he wanted it. 
Walsh had said he wouldn't take it but that I should get it. I 
told him I wasn't interested for the simple reason that the 
Roosevelt Administration undoubtedly would want me to do 
certain things politically as Attorney General that I would not 
do. 

When I returned from Warm Springs, I relayed to Walsh 
FDR's desire that he take the job. He repeated that he would 
refuse it. Shortly after, the President-elect visited the May 
flower Hotel in Washington and was holding court there. I 
went to him and reported that Walsh wouldn't budge. Roose 
velt called in Walsh. Aware of the senator's ambition to go on 
the Supreme Court, he promised him an appointment to the 
first vacancy there if he took the post of Attorney General first. 



Life with FDR 299 

(Considering that Walsh was seventy-four years old, it is worth 
pointing out that only a few years later FDR was arguing that 
the "old fogies" on the Supreme Court those in their sixties 
and seventies must be either retired or assisted with extra 
justices. ) 

Walsh told me he decided to accept the President's propo 
sition. He was anxious to know who I thought would be 
appointed by Montana Governor John E. Erickson as his suc 
cessor in the Senate. I told him I thought the appointment 
would go to Bruce Kremer, the well-known and well-connected 
Democratic national committeeman from Montana. 

"You can't permit that to be done!" Walsh exclaimed ani 
matedly. I told him I couldn't prevent it. I added that I also 
thought that if he became Attorney General he would be tak 
ing on too strenuous a job for a man of his age. ( During the 
preceding summer Walsh and I had ridden horseback on a fish 
ing trip in the Rockies and I could see that he was mentally 
not as sharp as he had been.) I also pointed out that the prob 
lems of the Justice Department might result in a dim anticlimax 
to his illustrious Senate career. 

"You can turn down one appointment but not two," Walsh 
replied. 

Walsh, who hated very few people, hated Kremer. Kremer, 
a reactionary and a lobbyist for the Anaconda Copper Mining 
Company, had opposed both of us politically and I didn't like 
him any better than Walsh did, Walsh now asked me to tele 
phone the governor and tell him not to appoint Kremer. I 
refused. I felt it was Walsh's place, not mine, to call the gov 
ernor. 

Shortly afterward, Kremer dropped into my office and 
smugly told me he expected to be appointed senator. He even 
suggested that we could work together. I replied that our dif 
ferences were fundamental and bluntly informed Trim that I 
was opposed to his being appointed. 

After Congress convened in March, a newspaper reporter 
told me he heard that Walsh was about to be married. I told 
him he would be foolish to believe that. Walsh had been a 
widower for fourteen years. It is true that in the twenties he 



300 Yankee from the West 

had gone about town with the socially prominent widow, Mrs. 
J. Borden Harriman who had reputedly persuaded him to clip 
his black handlebar mustache. But he hardly seemed the type 
to become a late-blooming bridegroom and I was sure he would 
have told Mrs. Wheeler or me if he planned to do so. 

After talking with the reporter, I walked into the Senate 
chamber and saw Walsh, who instantly motioned me into the 
cloakroom. There he confided that he was leaving town for a 
few days and asked me to protect him on any important legis 
lation by "pairing" him in the vote with another absent senator. 
I told him I had heard a rumor about his getting married but 
got no reply. 

That night I mentioned the rumor to Mrs. Wheeler and she 
dismissed it as being preposterous. She and the senator long 
had been good friends and mutual admirers. 

A few mornings later we picked up the newspaper and read 
that Walsh had been married in Cuba to a Cuban widow, 
Senora P. C. Truffin. The morning after that a news syndicate 
correspondent telephoned me and said: "Walsh died last 
night" He had suffered a heart attack aboard the train bringing 
him back to Washington for the Roosevelt inaugural and his 
own swearing-in as Attorney General 

I found the news hard to believe. Walsh's personal and po 
litical life had been intertwined with mine ever since 1911. My 
heavy sorrow was expressed in this statement I gave to the 
press: 

"I am grieved beyond words. He has been almost a father to 
me. Senator Walsh's passing is a real loss to the country. His 
advice and counsel was so much needed in this time of stress. 
He was one of America's really great statesmen intelligent, 
honest, and courageous. He was devoted to Montana and her 
people and was ever ready to fight for what he believed to be 
in the interests of the underprivileged men and women of the 
country. 7 * 

As his first Attorney General, Roosevelt then decided to ap 
point the Democratic national committeeman from Connecti 
cut, Homer S. Cummings, a close friend of Kremer. 

On the funeral train en route to Montana, Walsh's daughter, 



Life with FDR 301 

Mrs. Genevieve Gudger, said almost tearfully: "Burt, you've 
got to stop the governor from appointing Bruce Kremer." I 
promised to do what I could. 

I went to Erickson with Senator Ed Kendrick of Wyoming. 
Kendrick said the members of the Senate didn't want Kremer 
as a colleague; he was not only a corporation lobbyist but the 
obnoxious land who slapped them on the back and called them 
by their first names. The governor said nothing. 

After Walsh was buried, Mrs. Gudger went to see Erickson 
in the statehouse. She was dressed from head to toe in black. 
Suddenly, she raised the veil above her bereaved face. 

*Tm speaking for my dead father," she said in a hushed 
tone. "He doesn't want Bruce Kremer appointed to the United 
States Senate." 

Describing the scene to me later, Erickson said it was one 
of the eeriest experiences he ever had. 

I next met Frank Kerr, president of the Montana Power 
Company, in a hotel lobby and told him I understood he was 
there to get Kremer appointed. 

"We have a lot of power in this state," Kerr replied. 

"That's right, 7 * I said, "and when you have Kremer appointed 
you'll be serving notice on me that you want a fight I'm com 
ing up for election in two years and that'd be a good time to 
test just how much power you really have." 

The ultimatum went back to the New York offices of the 
Anaconda Copper Mining Company, which then worked hand 
in glove with the power company. The next day representatives 
of Anaconda informed me it had withdrawn its support for 
Kremer. I got the two representatives together in my hotel 
room with Erickson and had them repeat the news, just to 
make sure he knew about it, That ended Kremer's chances. I 
then persuaded Erickson to resign as governor and let the lieu 
tenant governor, Frank Cooney, appoint Mm as Walsh's suc 
cessor in the Senate. 

Speculation by political writers has persisted over the years 
that I had wanted FDR to appoint me Attorney General after 
Walsh died and that this led to animosity on my part toward 
the President There is no truth in this theory. As explained 



302 Yankee from the West 

previously, I had no wish to head up a politically potent de 
partment in the Roosevelt Administration. Also, being in line 
for the chairmanship of the Interstate Commerce Committee, 
I had much more to gain by remaining in the Senate. 

My first rift with the new President was over the question of 
silver. Most of my early legislative activity under the New Deal 
was directed toward the coinage of silver at 16 ounces of silver 
to one of gold. My interest in the subject went all the way back 
to a debate in Hudson, Massachusetts, High School during the 
McKinley-Bryan campaign of 1896. I took the side of William 
Jennings Bryan and it converted me to the Democratic Party. 
I had been for the remonetization of silver ever since. Since 
we were in a depression in 1933, I felt the remonetization of 
silver would be far better than cutting the gold content of the 
dollar, or going to paper money, as some were advocating. 

True, Montana was a silver-producing state. But its produc 
tion amounted to only 16 per cent of the entire United States' 
output and silver was only a by-product in the copper industry. 
My interest in silver was to add it to our monetary system to 
offset the severe deflation that was continuing to depress the 
national economy and to inflict unwarranted hardship on all 
who owed money. 

I offered my 16-1 proposal in the form of an amendment to 
the Agricultural Adjustment Act. During the roll call, the out 
come looked as if it could go either way. Finally, Senator 
Borah rose and asked majority leader Robinson how the Presi 
dent stood on the issue. Robinson replied that FDR would veto 
the AAA bill if my amendment was included. Borah promptly 
announced he would vote against it, although he had always 
favored the remonetization of silver. My amendment was then 
defeated 45-43. 

After that, Vice President Garner reportedly warned FDR 
that unless he acted in some way on the money issue, my 16-1 
proposal would eventually pass. The President called in Sena 
tors Jimmy Byrnes, Key Kttman, and a number of others to 
discuss possible legislation on money. I was conspicuously not 
invited. 

While the White House conference was in progress, I was 



Life with FDR 303 

standing in the Mayflower Hotel lobby. A friend asked me if I 
would like to meet Father Coughlin and we went upstairs. 

The Reverend Charles Edward Coughlin, the famous "radio 
priest" who was then at the height of his popularity, was pac 
ing up and down his room. As he walked, he told me about the 
money conference. I asked him if the group planned to include 
the remonetization of silver in the proposed legislation and he 
said no. Father Coughlin, who had been attacking the money 
system every Sunday over the radio to an audience of many 
millions, was quite well informed. He was at that time very 
close to Joe Kennedy, Postmaster General Jim Farley, White 
House aide Tommy Corcoran, and the President himself. I told 
the priest that unless the administration did something about 
the remonetization of silver I would offer my amendment to any 
bill that came up. I was quite critical of Roosevelt. 

The next morning, Frank Walker, then assistant Democratic 
chairman and an old Montana friend, telephoned me and said 
he understood I was on the warpath. I acknowledged that I 
was. 

"You can't break with the President,** he said. 

"Oh, yes, I can," I replied. 

Walker said the President wanted to see me on the silver 
question. I told him I wouldn't see the President. A little later, 
Marvin H. Mclntyre, Roosevelt's appointments secretary, tele 
phoned me and persuaded me to go to the White House. 

(FDR's ability to seduce a caller with his special blend of 
charm and blarney was formidable. Once 3 at a time when Wil 
liam Randolph Hearst was editorially blasting Roosevelt, I was 
visiting him in California. I urged him to have a talk with the 
President. Hearst admitted frankly that he was "afraid to** 
because he might be taken in.) 

When I walked into the Oval Room of the White House, 
FDR greeted me with a wave of his hand and an airy: "Hello, 
Burt, I want to talk to you about silver." 

"Mr. President," I said, "I don't deserve this land of treat 
ment from you, and I'm not going to take it. You called in all 
these people, none of whom was sincerely interested in the 
fight Tm making to remonetize silver.** 



304 Yankee from the West 

TBurt," he replied smoothly, TBryan HUed the remonetiza- 
tion of silver in 1896.** 

"Mr. President," I responded, "if this situation keeps up, 
you're going to take a lot worse remedies to solve our monetary 
problem than the remonetization of silver." 

At this point, Senator William H. King of Utah arrived and 
proved to be more tractable in listening to Roosevelt's views. 
Finally, to ward off my offering my amendment again, the 
President persuaded King and me to step outside and draft a 
compromise proposal. We devised one which gave the Presi 
dent the right to remonetize silver at 16-1 but did not make it 
mandatory. I offered the amendment in the Senate and it was 
made part of the administration bill which reduced the gold 
content of the dollar. 

While FDR never remonetized silver, he did inflate our cur 
rency by cutting the gold content of the dollar and he started 
a program of buying silver above the market price. The silver 
purchase program was all the mining companies were inter 
ested in. Sometimes the President would call me at my home 
or at my office and tell me he was buying silver. But I was not 
interested in raising the price. I was convinced that remoneti 
zation would help the people as a whole, but all the big bank 
ing houses in New York were against it, on the ground that it 
would be inflationary. I realized it would be somewhat infla 
tionary. Other countries had inflated their currencies by going 
off the gold standard. I reasoned that it would be much better 
to use silver to counter the serious deflation that had taken 
place than some of the other measures that were being pro 
posed, I felt there wasn't gold enough to form an adequate base 
for our money. 

I believe FDR invited ine to the White House on that occa 
sion because he felt guilty for having left me out of the con 
ference on silver. He knew what Td done to get Tim? nominated 
and how I had campaigned for Trim and with him in the North 
west. Indeed, I was considered to be so close to the President 
in the early days of the New Deal that Senator Tom Connally 
called me "teacher' s pet." 

Roosevelt sought to square himself with me in typical fash- 



Life with FDR 305 

ion. A delegation from Nebraska told me they were anxious to 
get the government to build a dam for flood control and navi 
gation at the old Fort Peck dam site in Valley County, Mon 
tana. I asked if such a dam could produce cheap power and 
also provide a lake where tlie people of eastern Montana could 
at least take a bath. We had had a drought in Montana for 
seven years; the crops had been so poor many of the farmers 
had gone bankrupt and couldn't even afford overalls for their 
boys and girls so they could attend school. 

The Nebraskans said the lake could be included in the proj 
ect and so I took them to the White House. I told FDR the 
dam would furnish navigation, flood control, and cheap power. 
He asked me what it would cost I said, "around seventy-five 
million dollars." We had been with hnn only fifteen or twenty 
minutes when he told me the dam would be built. 

The Nebraskans, of course, were overjoyed but they told me 
afterward they couldn't understand how the President could 
agree so quickly to spend $75,000,000. (The project cost a lot 
more than that by the time it was completed in 1940. It is 250 
feet high and has the fourth largest storage capacity in the 
world. ) Secretary of Interior Harold L. Ickes told me he never 
would have approved the Fort Peck dam but that there was 
nothing he could do about it because "you went over my 
head." The simple fact was that when FDR wanted to help a 
senator he built a dam for him. He built one on the Columbia 
River in Oregon for Republican Senate leader Charles McNary 
because he needed his support. He did the same thing in the 
State of Washington for Senator Clarence Dill, a Democrat 

In ordinary times, a senator pushing a dam project must go 
through the tortuous process of maneuvering it through the 
authorizing committees of the House and Senate and then, if 
he gets that far, of wangling funds from the appropriations 
committees of both houses. If he is successful, it usually takes 
a couple of congressional sessions. But in the depression, all 
Roosevelt had to do, if he felt like wooing a legislator, was to 
dip into the federal treasury on his own and allocate some of 
the millions granted to him under the Public Works Adminis 
tration. I'm sure most of these projects have been very useful 



306 Yankee from the West 

to the economy of the country. Fort Peck was useful to the 
people of Montana as well as to me politically. 

For example, when I ran for re-election in 1934 my Re 
publican opponent was none other than former Federal Judge 
George M. Bourquin, who had backed me from the bench dur 
ing World War I when I had refused to prosecute sedition 
cases without evidence. Bourquin was a man of considerable 
intellect and character and highly respected. But in the cam 
paign he made a speech in Gallatin County in which he re 
ferred to the lake created by Fort Peck dam as a "mud pond." 
All the people along the Great Northern Railroad in northern 
and eastern Montana were outraged. That one crack finished 
Bourquin. On Election Day, the voters of Montana gave me the 
greatest victory ever won in Montana politics. I polled 142,823 
votes to Bourquin's 58,519. This was a bigger margin than 
Walsh won by in 1930 and exceeded Roosevelt's majority in 
Montana in 1932. 

Starting my third six-year term in January 1935, 1 ascended, 
through the seniority system, to the chairmanship of the Inter 
state Commerce Committee. My power as chairman was of 
vital importance to the President. He knew my sympathies 
were with the New Deal. I had voted for his liquor repeal law, 
the AAA, the gold reserve act, the Tydings-McDuffie Act for 
Philippine independence, the Securities and Exchange Act, the 
Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, and the Frazier-Lemke Act. 
Now my influence and ability was about to be tested in the 
exceedingly fine art of legislating. No test could have been 
more severe than the administration's bill to regulate the utility 
holding companies. The lobby that fought this bill was the big 
gest, bitterest, and most extravagant during my time in the 
Senate, 

I had been interested in doing something about the holding 
companies ever since Walsh had introduced a bill to investi 
gate them in 1928. The utility heads feared a Walsh probe 
because they recalled all too vividly what he had done with 
the Teapot Dome scandal. I worked for his resolution in our 
committee but at that time the Republicans were in the ma- 



Life with FDR 307 

jority and they kicked the investigation over to the Federal 
Trade Commission, as the utility people had urged. 

The irony of this supposed sidetracking was that the FTC 
did a much better job of investigating the holding companies 
than any congressional committee could have done. The FTC 
had the facilities, the experts and the time to inquire into the 
situation thoroughly. 

Its report condemned the utilities and the holding companies 
and aroused the progressives. The holding companies were pic 
tured as parasites. I asked Frank Kerr, president of the Mon 
tana Power Company, why he should be paying an enormous 
sum to Electric Bond and Share, and his parent holding com 
pany. 

"Well, if you want to raise money," Kerr explained, "youVe 
got to go to New York and join one of them. They re like a lot 
of damn pawnbrokers." 

Later, I said publicly that "the only difference between Jesse 
James and some of these utility men is that Jesse James had a 
horse." 

The National Power Policy Committee reported that thirteen 
holding company groups controlled three-quarters of the pri 
vately owned electric utility industry and that the three largest 
Electric Bond and Share, United Corporation, and Insull 
controlled some 40 per cent themselves. I felt that this kind of 
bloodsucker not only drained the investor but through fraudu 
lent overcapitalization of public utilities also fastened out 
rageous prices on the light, gas, water, and power consumers. 
I called the holding groups "unsound scalping operations'* 
which easily became highly detrimental to the operating com 
panies they fed upon. 

I had gotten up a bill to regulate the holding companies but 
a day before I planned to introduce it the President called a 
conference to discuss a promise in his State of the Union mes 
sage to abolish their evils. Present with me were the late Sam 
Rayburn, then chairman of the House Interstate Commerce 
Committee; Senators Norris and Borah; Tommy Corcoran, and 
one or two others. 

FDR announced at the meeting that Rayburn would intro- 



308 Yankee from the West 

duce the bill I said, "Well, I've got a little bill I'm going to in 
troduced He was deliberately turning the job over to Sam and 
ignoring me. I forget why, but I was not in too good grace with 
FDR at the time. 

However, as soon as I got back to my office, Corcoran and 
Ben Cohen, the White House bill-drafting specialist, arrived. 
They urged me to introduce the administration bill instead of 
my own. They said I wouldn't have to do anything until after 
the bill passed the House. I agreed to go along; their bill was 
more carefully drafted than mine. 

But over in the House, Rayburn couldn't seem to get started. 
I felt that Sam himself was a little tepid about the so-called 
"death sentence** a provision which was tougher than any 
thing I had had in my own bill, It required all holding com 
panies which were not parts of geographically or economically 
integrated systems to dissolve or reorganize themselves by 
January i, 1938. (As a whole, the ultimate object of the ex 
tremely complex bill was to bring reduced rates to consumers 
by eliminating padded valuations, various schemes for milking 
subsidiaries by the holding companies, and irregularities in se 
curities corporations.) 

The utility lobby rushed to Capitol Hill and threw all its 
giant resources into defending itself; it also applied pressure 
in the legislators* home districts. The immediate result was to 
stall all action in the House. 

Corcoran appealed to me to get the bill moving on the Sen 
ate side. So I scheduled hearings. I was promptly visited by 
Bowie Chipman, a well-known representative of Laidlaw and 
Company, a brokerage firm, Chipman pointed out that we had 
pkyed bridge together and were friends. Then he continued: 

"These utility people feel you're putting a gun at their heads 
and they're going to destroy anybody that gets in their way." 

u Did they tell you to give me that message?" I asked. 

"Not exactly,** Chipman replied. I asked him to take a mes 
sage back to them. 

"You tell them," I said, "that a lot of experts have tried to 
destroy me and haven't been able to get away with it. If these 



Life with FDR 309 

people know any new ways, I hope theyTl bring them on I'd 
like to see what they are.** 

A few days later, I was visited by the president of UGI, a 
big utility in Philadelphia, accompanied by a former state sen 
ator of New Jersey who represented a public service corpora 
tion in his state. I facetiously asked if they had any guns on 
them and they smilingly said no, that they had been searched 
by my assistant. Then they got down to serious business. They 
asked me what I was going to do about the "death sentence." 
I said I was going to keep it if I could. 

"Suppose the committee doesn't go along with you?** they 
asked. 

"Maybe it won't, but I think it will, 9 * I said 

They wanted to know how much time the utilities would 
have to present their case in the hearings. I said I would give 
them one week and the government another week. 

"Oh, we've got to have thirty or forty days.** 

"Well," I said, "if your lawyers can't tell what's wrong with a 
bill in a week's time, it's just too bad, because that's all you're 
going to get . . . and if you come over here and act like gentle 
men you'll be treated like gentlemen. But if you try to pull any 
of the rough stuff you pulled in the House 111 throw you out.** 

"You're pretty cocky this morning," one of my visitors com 
mented. I concluded the conversation by advising them not to 
send any of their crooked lobbyists or newspapermen around 
to see me "because if you do, I won't tell them anything!" 

The holding companies did send all kinds of people to me 
to try to exert pressure and propaganda including, of course, 
citizens of niy home state. I agreed on one occasion to go to 
dinner with Cornelius Kelley, chairman of the board of the 
Anaconda Copper Mining Company; James Bobbins, president 
of Anaconda; and Ned Grossbeck, head of Electric Bond and 
Share. Grossbeck talked about the schoolteachers in Montana 
who were stockholders in his firm and also mentioned that I 
was believed to be prejudiced against his company. I finally 
exploded and told them they were wasting their time. 

*The President of the United States asked me to handle this 
bill and I told him Td do it," I explained Tm not going to 



310 Yankee from the West 

double-cross the President of the United States and you 
wouldn't have any respect for me if I did, and I wouldn't have 
any respect for myself." 
That ended the conversation. 

In April the lobbying intensified and the fight began to have 
a national impact. Will Rogers wisecracked that "a holding 
company is something where you hand an accomplice the goods 
while the policeman searches you/* The big interests brought 
pressure to bear on the inimitable humorist. Here's the way he 
"retracted" in his newspaper column: 

"Well, I didn't figure that little half-witted remark would up 
set the whole holding company business. But I forgot that a 
remark generally hurts in proportion to the truth." 

I used Rogers* two quotes to help make my point about the 
utility lobby in a radio speech over the NBC network on April 3. 
"I hope the good people of Philadelphia are listening to 
night," I began. "You know, I have an ever-growing warm spot 
in my heart for Philadelphia. More letters have come out of 
that metropolis with my name on them in the last month than 
I have received from my home state of Montana during the 
last two years . * . nice, chummy letters too. They call me ev 
erything from such high class terms as 'rogue' and 'rascal' on 
down the scale. Most of them show the fine hand of the United 
Gas Improvement Company. The best of them must have come 
from Gertrude Stein. It consists of this: It makes me sick to 
think how sick I get when I think about you,* 

"There has been more lying propaganda about this bill, and 
on a larger scale, than about any other bill I have ever seen," 
I said. "The power trust has tried to make investors believe 
that the holding company bill imposes what they call a death 
sentence on all the private companies in the electric light and 
power industry. That's bunk.** 

I got the bill approved by my committee without much trou 
ble and it reached the Senate floor late in May. One night 
early in June I was attending a big party given by Joe Ken 
nedy at his Potomac, Maryland, mansion (which had a gold 
bathroom on the second floor). Quite a few senators were there. 
About midnight, Jimmy Byrnes pulled me aside. Like the other 



Life with FDR 311 

Southerners, lie was under heavy pressure from the utilities. 

"Burt, you're putting the President on the spot with that 
so-called 'death sentence/ " he said. I pointed out that I was 
not putting FDR on the spot because the death sentence was 
his idea, not mine. 

"Well, I've talked with the President and had him talked out 
of it but he said he was standing behind you," Byrnes replied. 

"He isn't standing behind me I'm standing behind him/' I 
corrected Byrnes. This so annoyed me that I telephoned the 
President a few days later, said I wanted to see him, and re 
peated Byrnes' remarks. 

"Jimmy didn't have any right to say that/* he told me. 

"Well, Mr. President," I said, "don't give the impression 
you're willing to change because this is your bill." 

He said he didn't want to change it, but somehow the im 
pression was out that he was being put on the spot. Senator 
John H. Bankhead of Alabama echoed Byrnes' line to me, and 
so did a few other Southerners. 

This time I went to the White House. FDR was sitting in 
bed, propped up by pillows, his cigarette and holder jutting 
up out of his mouth and cigarette ashes dropping on the bed 
spread. I started right off saying I'd change the bill any way 
he wanted it changed, but that I was tired of being button 
holed by senators. He turned on the charm and reassured me 
that he was standing pat. I suggested that he make a public 
statement to clear the air. The President had no stomach for 
going that far. He called for a pencil and paper and scrawled a 
short statement. 

"You can show this to them," he said, giving the sheet of 
paper to me. I don't think he intended for me to make it public 
because, I suspected, he was being very careful in what he 
was saying to the utility people privately. 

As the debate in the Senate got hot, Senator William H. 
Dieterich of Illinois rose and insisted that Roosevelt was really 
willing to amend the bill by striking out the "death sentence" 
provision in Section 11. This is what I had been waiting for. 
I drew the President's note from my pocket, where I had been 
keeping it handy, and read it to the Senate. 



Yankee from the West 

"Dear Burt" it ran, "to verify my talk with you this mo-rning, 

I am very clear in my own mind that while clarifying or minor 
amendments to Sec. 11 cannot be objected to, nevertheless any 
amendment which goes to the heart of major objectives of Sec. 

II would strike at the heart of the bill itself and is wholly con 
trary to the recommendations of myself. Sincerely, Franklin 
D. Roosevelt" 

That knocked the wind out of the opposition. Section 11 was 
retained by the hairline margin of 45-44 and the bill itself then 
easily passed the Senate 56-32. The President telephoned me 
from Hyde Park to congratulate me, sounding very happy 
about the way the bill had been handled. 

It was one of the most difficult assignments I have ever had. 
The bill was very hard to understand, and harder to explain. 
Borah was frank about it. When I heard the utility people had 
gotten him to agree to attack it as being unconstitutional, I 
asked if this were true. 

"How the hell can I make a speech about it?" Borah asked. 
"There isn't anyone on the Senate floor who understands it 
but you." 

He didn't attack the bill. I was able to learn the bill backward 
and forward only because every night for one week during the 
hearings I bad been tutored at my home by Corcoran and 
Cohen, who had done a masterful job of drafting it. During 
the Senate debate, I had Cohen sit next to me, in case highly 
technical questions arose. 

On the House side, meanwhile, the Commerce Committee 
struck out the mandatory death sentence, giving the SEC dis 
cretionary power to order dissolution instead. When the bill 
hit the House floor, Rayburn was unable to muster enough 
strength even to get a roll call on the death sentence. It was 
rejected on an unrecorded vote. 

When the two versions of the bill went into a Senate-House 
conference for the showdown, a deadlock resulted. After a 
week of stalemate, the President called me in along with Alben 
Barkley, another Senate conferee. He told us that Joe Robin 
son and House Speaker Joe Byrns had reported to him that no 
compromise was possible in the conference, and that I would 



Life with FDR 313 

have to take the bill back to the Senate for another vote. 

I suggested that FDR let the bill die in conference and take 
the case against the utilities to the people. He said he didn't 
want to do that he wanted something to come out of confer 
ence. I believed he was weakening under the terrific pressure. 
I told him I would not take the bill back to the Senate. I 
pointed out that I had gotten the death sentence provision 
through by the margin of a single vote and that now the oppo 
sition could use the conference deadlock to pick up votes and 
Mil the death sentence outright. I felt the President knew I 
could not get a vote of confidence out of the Senate but that 
the bill's fate there would provide him with an escape hatch. 

"What should I do?** he asked. I advised him to call in some 
of the House leaders who professed to be such great friends of 
his and tell them to make the House conferees go along with 
us. I also suggested that he write a letter to Rayburn telling 
him flatly that he wanted the Senate version passed. Roosevelt 
asked me to compose such a letter. Baikley and I went back 
to my office and sent for Tommy Corcoran. The three of us 
drafted the note and the President signed it and had it deliv 
ered to Rayburn. 

Rayburn must have shown the letter to the House Demo 
cratic leaders, who presumably then put the pressure on the 
House conferees. In any event, shortly after the letter was de 
livered, the administration's bill emerged from the conference 
and the President signed it on August 26, 1935. 

Until the very last day of the conference, the lobbying never 
stopped. Senator Hugo L. Black, heading a committee investi 
gating the lobby, reported that on the basis of still incomplete 
returns the utilities had spent at least $1,500,000 to create a 
protest against the bill He estimated they paid for a total of 
250,000 telegrams and stimulated 5,000,000 letters that inun 
dated Capitol Hill while the bill was being considered. The 
Scripps-Howard newspaper chain reported that the utilities 
had 660 agents busily lobbying the 527 members of Congress, 

Apart from the legislative lessons I had learned, I discovered 
that the only way to deal with Roosevelt was to stand up to 
him. Ickes once remaned that it was impossible to come to 



314 Yankee from the West 

grips with FDR but now I made this note that you could come 
to grips with him if you insisted on your point of view. It 
wasn't easy. In the early days of the new administration, I saw 
FDR frequently in the White House. He used to invite me 
there in the evening with Borah, Norris, Hiram Johnson, and 
young Bob La Follette. He was currying favor with the pro 
gressives. But he not only dominated the conversation, he did 
practically all the talking. Finally, Louis Howe, his alert little 
aide, began to interrupt him. 

"Franklin/* Howe would say, "why don't you let some of 
these men talk and see what they've got to say." 

Having passed a great many bills in my time, I have been 
asked for the secret of being a successful legislator. There is no 
secret as such. You must acquire experience and skill in the 
art of timing and maneuvering, of course, but the fundamental 
rule is still a basic one: you must believe in your bill and then 
study it until you're prepared for any eventuality when it's up 
for action on the floor. If someone takes you by surprise with 
an amendment and you can't discuss its effect on your bill, 
you may lose the battle right there. 

When FDR first came into office and the depression was on, 
the only question when a bill came before a committee was: 
What does the President say? If he wanted it, the committee 
would approve the bill without even finding out what was in it. 
When I became chairman of the Commerce Committee, I put 
a stop to that Even if it was my own bill, I would appoint a 
subcommittee with a 3-2 Democratic majority and direct it to 
pick the measure to pieces before reporting back to the full 
committee. If I considered it a bad bill, though, I admit I 
would take the precaution of putting it in the hands of a sub 
committee chairman I was sure would sink it 

After the fight over the Holding Company bill, Joe Robinson 
called a meeting of all the committee chairmen and told them 
to take a leaf from my book. He lectured them on the necessity 
for knowing their bills inside out before taking them to the 
floor. 

I must confess that there was one bill I was not proud of 
having enacted. It was drafted under the supervision of John 



Life with FDR 315 

Collier., the new Commissioner of Indian Affairs, immediately 
after FDR became President. Roosevelt had wanted to appoint 
an Indian as commissioner but I convinced him it would be a 
mistake because I knew of no Indian at that time who was 
competent to handle the job. So he had appointed Collier, who 
had headed up an Indian rights organization and had carried 
on propaganda against the Indian department. 

I was then chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee 
and Collier asked me to introduce the bill in the Senate. ( Rep 
resentative Edgar Howard of Nebraska introduced a com 
panion measure in the House.) I did so without even having 
read the bill, which was being given a big publicity buildup. 
Its purpose was to let the Indians govern themselves and it 
became known as the Wheeler-Howard Indian Rights Act. But 
when I began looking over the original draft, there were many 
provisions I didn't like. It set up a special judicial system for the 
Indians, with a federal judge to try only Indian cases. I thought 
it was a crazy idea and had it thrown out in committee. 

One day Steve Early, the White House press secretary, called 
me and said the President wanted me to push the bill along. 

"Has he read the bill?" I asked, feeling sure he had not. 

"Well, I don't suppose he has, 7 * Early replied. 

"You tell him he ought to read it," I said, "bef ore he puts his 
stamp of approval on it because there are some things in it I'm 
sure he wouldn't favor.** 

The result was that we modified it considerably. Even so, it 
was not a good bill. It authorized the Indian tribes to elect a 
group of people as executive officers, instead of relying on the 
old tribal council. 

Many Indians complain it has been a detriment to them 
rather than a help. The way the Act is administered a small 
group of mixed-blood Indians elect officers who then com 
pletely ignore the older full bloods. The officers can spend the 
money they control recklessly, pay themselves large salaries 
for doing little or nothing, and even loan money to their fa 
vorites and to themselves. Several of the tribes never put the Act 
into effect. 

There were other things I tried to do for the Indians w T hich 



316 Yankee from the West 

I am proud of. For example, one of the most worthwhile electric 
power sites in the United States existed at the foot of Flathead 
Lake in Montana, on the Flathead Indian reservation. The 
Montana Power Company wanted to build a dam there to 
produce electric power. Some white settlers and the company 
maintained that they did not need a license from the Indians, 
that they could file on it under state law. I insisted that the 
site belonged to the reservation. Senator Walsh agreed with 
me, and we obtained an agreement, first executed with the Coo- 
lidge Administration, under which the company was required 
to pay royalties to the Indians. This was the first time in the 
history of the United States that Indians were indemnified 
with royalties. The agreement is based on a sliding scale; since 
1954, the annual rate paid to the Confederated Salish and 
Kootenai tribes on the Flathead reservation amounts to $238,- 

375- 

Although as District Attorney in Montana, I had had to 
prosecute Indians for taking whisky to the reservation, they 
were among my strongest supporters whenever I ran for office. 
At times, many of them marked the ballot for me and no one 
else. As soon as I was in the Senate, I introduced and got ap 
proved a bill giving Indians the right to sue the government 
in the Court of Claims, but it was vetoed by Coolidge. 

I introduced and got passed many bills to build hospitals on 
the reservations. I also insisted the Indian children be sent to 
public schools, instead of sending them to government-sup 
ported boardingschools hundreds of miles away. I felt that if 
the Indian children were to adjust to the outside world, they 
should learn to associate with the white children in their com 
munities. At first, the white people objected, but they gradually 
got used to the integration and many of the Indian children 
became excellent students. 

After I was chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee in 1933, 
delegations of Blackfeet visited me regularly at ray summer 
cabin on the shore of Lake McDonald in Glacier National 
Park. The old chiefs were great orators. They would stand for 
hours, telling me their troubles, while gesturing flamboyantly. 



Life with FDR 317 

Whole speeches, lasting an hour or more, would have to be 
translated into English, and then I would reply in land. 

One morning about forty of them came and stayed on until 
it was close to noon. Mrs. Wheeler called me into the kitchen 
and worriedly reported that she didn't have enough to feed the 
tribe. I asked her if she had any spaghetti and she said she'd 
mix up a big batch. Then it turned out the Indians had brought 
their own food. They built a big fire on the shore of the lake 
and did their own cooking, using the spaghetti as a side dish. 
The mixture of Roman and redskin menus proved a happy 
one. 

The Indian name given to me by the Blaekfeet, Assiniboines, 
and Sioux translates into "Chief Bearshirt" 

Once, while our Indian Affairs Committee was taking testi 
mony on a reservation in Montana, an old long-haired chief 
who was speaking in Indian dialect began whinnying like a 
horse. I interrupted him long enough to ask the interpreter 
what he had said. The answer was: "The federal Indian agent 
has been feeding us horse meat and horse meat until I whinny 
in my sleep." 

When I came to a town near a reservation to investigate 
conditions, a delegation would immediately call on me. Know 
ing the long-winded nature of the Indians, I would tell them 
at the beginning of the day that I could not talk with them 
until kte in the afternoon. I would then proceed to complete 
the appointments I had made in the town. The entire delega 
tion would follow me throughout the day. As I walked down 
the streets of a town like Havre, Montana, I would be followed 
by twenty or thirty Indians. When I stopped, they would stop 
about twenty or thirty feet behind me. When I went into the 
office of a friend of mine, they would stand or sit patiently and 
stoically on the sidewalk outside. When I returned to my hotel 
in the late afternoon, I would then ask them if they had chosen 
a spokesman. The designated spokesman then would take up 
various matters with me. Usually the agenda included their 
requests for legislation, irrigation matters, the application of 
the various Indian acts to their particular problems, complaints 
against the Indian Bureau in Washington, complaints against 



318 Yankee from the West 

the local Indian agent and then, equally important in their 
eyes, the settlement of disputes arising on the reservation. 

The latter included not only matters involving the election 
of the tribal council and its chief but disputes of all kinds, 
including affairs of the heart. One stands out in my mind. I 
had had a long day at Havre, and had returned to the hotel 
in the late afternoon. The hotel had loaned me a room just 
off the lobby and the Indians were seated in front of me. 
After discussing various matters through their spokesman, an 
Indian brave arose in the back of the room and started shouting 
at another Indian. 

When the hubbub quieted down, it became apparent that 
this Indian was married to a good-looking squaw named Minny 
Small Calf. It seems that Minny had deserted her husband 
and was living with another young Indian. When the irate 
husband finished his harangue, I asked him if Minny hadn't 
been previously married to another brave of the tribe and 
whether he hadn't in fact stolen Minny from her first husband 
and subsequently married her. Having this pointed out to him 
and realizing that my memory was correct, he lapsed into si 
lence. I then gave Minny a long lecture on marital fidelity and 
followed it with a lecture to the brave she was then living with, 
pointing out that if he were successful in the long run he would 
just be adding his scalp to Minny's collection. I told Minny 
that if she didn't stop stirring up trouble on the reservation 
serious punishment would be forthcoming on my next visit 
These lectures and judgments were accompanied by the nod 
ding of the heads of most of the Indians present and I passed 
on to the next problem. 



Chapter Fifteen 

SAVING THE SUPREME COURT 



While I had earlier disagreed with FDR on his veto of the 
soldiers' bonus, on the silver question, and on the KRA, my first 
real break with him began on February 5, 1937. In New York 
on a mission for the Interstate Commerce Committee, I read in 
a newspaper that FDR had dropped a political bombshell in 
Washington. He was asking Congress for a revolutionary and 
sweeping "reorganization of the judiciary," under which he 
could, among other things, appoint one new Supreme Court 
justice for every justice who refused to retire after his seventieth 
birthday. Since there were then six septuagenarians on the 
Court, FDR would be in a position to pack the Court with six 
more justices. 

I was flabbergasted (as were the President's congressional 
leaders, none of whom he had bothered to take into his con 
fidence). Here was an unsubtle and anti-Constitution grab for 
power which would destroy the Court as an institution. I felt I 
would have to do everything I could to fight the plan. 

That the President for some time had been fuming at the 



320 Yankee from the West 

High Court for reversing much of his New Deal legislation was 
widely known. I was one of the very few persons who knew the 
administration had toyed with the idea of doing something 
drastic about it as far back as early 1936. Tommy Corcoran 
and Ben Cohen, the White House's legislative liaison team, 
had come to the office of the Senate Interstate Commerce Com 
mittee, of which I was chairman, with a speech which they 
hoped I would deliver. They left the speech with Joe Wright, 
who was secretary of the committee (and is now president of 
the Zenith Radio Corporation) because I was out of town. The 
speech criticized and by implication warned the Court to 
watch its step. When Wright showed it to me, I told him I was 
not interested in delivering such a speech. 

In May, Corcoran came to me and urged me to introduce 
a bill which would add three members to the Supreme Court. 
I told Tom, who was one of FDR's closest advisers, that if he 
wanted to defeat the President in the 1936 election a proposal 
to tamper with the Court would be the surest way to do it. I 
argued that the Court was like a religion to the American peo 
ple. I recalled to him that when I ran for Vice President on old 
Bob La Follette's Independent Progressive ticket in 1924 our 
platform had proposed a limitation on the high bench (I found 
out about the platform only after I accepted a bid to bolt the 
Democratic ticket and run). It had been used devastatingly 
against us from one end of the country to the other. Joe Ken 
nedy, for one, had told me how it had been used successfully 
to take votes away from us in South Boston. 

Our 1924 platform plank called for a Constitutional Amend 
ment providing that if the Supreme Court held a kw to be un 
constitutional Congress could after the voters had expressed 
their will at the next electionoverride the decision on a two- 
thirds majority vote. And now here was the Roosevelt Adminis 
tration contemplating a Court "reform" plan which did not even 
have the virtue of being a Constitutional Amendment! I heard 
nothing more officially on the subject until I learned of Roose 
velt's packing plan that February day in New York. 

Back in Washington, I informed Mrs. Wheeler that I in 
tended to oppose the President on the Court-packing and that 



Saving the Supreme Court 321 

it would no doubt mean my elimination from politics. I said I 
was telling her that because it was she who had advised me not 
to accept an appointment to the Ninth Circuit Court of Ap 
peals when it was offered to me shortly after Roosevelf s elec 
tion. I recalled she had also dissuaded me when I had the idea 
of not running for re-election in 1934. I had pointed out that if 
I started a law firm it would help our two sons who were study 
ing law to get a start in life after college. 

Mrs. Wheeler, who was darning socks that afternoon, went 
right on darning. She said, "Well educate our sons but after 
that they must look after themselves." She also said I owed it to 
the people of Montana to stay in the Senate after the way they 
had valiantly stood by me in all my fights in the state. I suspect 
she also felt I would never really be happy outside politics. 
Then she said: "Do you think you are right?" 

I said I was never more right in my life. 

"If you feel that way, you should go ahead,** she replied. 

I was not exaggerating when I told her the risk I would be 
running in fighting FDR on this issue. He had won a landslide 
victory only a few months before and was at the height of his 
popularity. With his overwhelming majorities in the Senate 
and House he should have a good chance of getting his bill 
adopted. If he did, it would leave me out in left field, politically. 

The next day I got a telephone call from Charley Michelson, 
publicity director of the Democratic National Committee and 
an old friend. Michelson was a key man in the lobbying strat 
egy for the Court bill and I didn't want to see him just yet 
because I suspected why he wanted to see me. I stalled off an 
appointment with him while I worked over a statement on the 
bill for the press. 

I released the statement and then had Michelson come to my 
office. He said the President wanted to have dinner with me 
to discuss the Court issue, 

"Charley," I said, *Tve just given out a statement opposing 
the packing of the Court, so the President ought to save the 
plate for someone who persuades more easily. He should get 
some of those weak-kneed boys and go after them because he 
can't do anything with me." 



322 Yankee from the West 

I heard no more about dinner at the White House. 

Once my statement was in the press, however, Corcoran 
asked me to lunch with Trim at the old Grace Dodge Hotel on 
E Street at the foot of Capitol Hill. Tommy opened the conver 
sation by saying the President wanted to see me to give me 
some background on the Court issue. 

"He doesn't care about those Tories being against it," he 
explained, ^ut he doesn't want you to be against it." 

Corcoran then made it plain that if I went along with the 
Court plan I could sit in on the naming of some of the new jus 
tices. Pressing his case, he said: "You want to see a liberal 
Court, don't you?" 

"Of course/* I said. 

Tf you don't go along," Corcoran continued, TieTl make a 
deal with Tammany and the Southerners and hell put their 
people on the Court" I replied that Corcoran was probably 
right about that but I wasn't going along. When Corcoran an 
grily warned me that the bill would pass, I pounded the table 
and replied just as angrily, "Well, Tommy, he imt going to get 

itr 

The bill split the Senate into hostile camps. The conservative 
Democrats, opposing it to a man, decided it would be wisest to 
have the opposition led by a Democrat whose liberal creden 
tials were impeccable. They chose me. I was officially recog 
nized as their leader at a dinner at the home of Senator Millard 
E. Tydings of Maryland. Present, among others, were Harry F. 
Byrd of Virginia, Walter F. George of Georgia, Kenneth D. 
McKellar of Tennessee, Royal S. Copeland of New York, and 
Edward R, Burke of Nebraska. 

TJurt, we can't lick it but well fight it," Byrd remarked. 

*Harry, why are you against it?" I asked him. 

^Because it's wrong in principle," he said. 

'"'Well," I replied, "most of the members of the Senate are 
lawyers. Deep down, they agree with you and me, but they're 
like a lot of mercenaries. They want patronage. A small army 
that believes in principle can lick a bunch of mercenaries, and 
well lick them!" 

Byrd said he was glad I felt that way. 



Saving the Supreme Court 323 

We selected a steering committee composed of Frederick 
Van Nuys of Indiana, Peter G. Gerry of Rhode Island, Josiah 
W. Bailey of North Carolina, Bennett Champ Clark of Mis 
souri, Tom Connally of Texas, Byrd, Burke, Tydings, and my 
self. We devised a plan for intensive lobbying of our fellow 
senators. Our bloc then numbered 18 but it grew to 30 as time 
went on. 

Each member of the bloc was assigned to keep after certain 
senators who were either for the bill or uncommitted; he was 
assigned on the basis of his personal acquaintance with those 
senators. Each day news about waverers was reported back to 
Gerry, our whip, and each waverer was pursued thereafter by 
members of the bloc in the Senate chamber, the cloakroom, 
the Office Building, or at social gatherings. 

Our steering committee met secretly every day in a Capitol 
hideaway to alter strategy in the light of shifting events. Our 
intelligence network was unexpectedly reinforced by reports 
from inside the administration forces. Leslie Biffle, an officer 
of the Senate who was ostensibly working for the other side, 
informed me nightly by telephone who was weak on their side 
and who seemed to be weakening on our side. I never knew for 
certain why he chose to tip us off. It could even have been 
done with the approval of Senator Joe Robinson, the majority 
leader, in the hope that building up the opposition to the bill 
would force the President to back down and compromise. Ac 
tually, Robinson had no more stomach for the Court-packing 
scheme than we did; he dutifully led the fight for it because he 
was Senate Democratic leader and it was believedFDR had 
promised him a seat on the Supreme Court. Many of us seri 
ously doubted that the President would appoint Robinson to 
the Court even if he won. He was a conservative. 

One of my problems was trying to keep people on our 
side from making statements that would play into Roosevelt's 
hands. When the fight was just getting underway, I was in 
vited to New York to meet with the president of the New York 
Bar Association. When I arrived at his office, I found lawyers 
from eight or ten of the top New York law firms there, including 
John W. Davis, the 1924 Democratic presidential nominee. 



324 Yankee from the West 

They asked me what they could do to help defeat the Court- 
packing bill. 

"Do you really want to help?" I asked. They assured me they 
would do whatever they could. 

"Have you any influence with any farm organizations?" I 
asked. 

They didn't think so. 

"Have you any influence with any labor organizations?" 

Definitely not. 

"Have you any influence with church organizations?" 

Perhaps some. 

"Women's organizations?" 

They thought they might be able to do some good with wom 
en's clubs. 

"There's one other way you can help," I added. "That is, to 
keep your clients out of this. I think we can win but only if 
you keep your clients out* 

Once, when I returned to Washington from a trip in which I 
made speeches against the bill, Mrs. Wheeler told me that 
Orman Ewing, the former Democratic national cominitteeman 
from Utah, was telling people in New York he represented me. 
She said he had announced that I would address a large lunch 
eon group in Pine Street, in the very heart of the Wall Street 
financial center. 

"I'm not going," I said immediately. She pointed out that the 
meeting already had been scheduled. The more I thought 
about it, the more I felt I should go to New York and find out 
what representation had been made on my behalf. I met the 
group at one of the downtown hotels. They explained that the 
luncheon meeting was all set up at some place in Pine Street. I 
told them flatly I would not go. They said many prominent 
people would be present. I repeated that I would not go. 

"Roosevelt would like nothing better than to have me speak 
to a Wall Street crowd," I explained. 

Then they told me they were getting up a group of young 
people who would organize in the various states. I asked if they 
intended to organize in Montana. They said yes. I told them I 
could guess who they would organize the Anaconda Copper 



Saving the Supreme Court 325 

Mining Company, the Montana Power Company, the bank 
ers, etc. I said, "I want you to keep out of Montana, or any 
other state ... if we have to convince those people that the 
packing of the Court is wrong, then we are really in for a fight" 

When it became obvious that the bill would have to be 
"sold" to the country, FDR himself opened up on the airwaves, 
On March 14, he plugged his Court scheme in an address to the 
Democratic Party's $ioo-a-plate "Victory Dinner" at the May 
flower Hotel in Washington. His words were carried over the 
radio to 1100 other such dinners all over the United States. 
Five days later he pleaded for his bill again in a "fireside chat." 

In his dinner speech the President made a direct appeal to 
all those groups which could expect to get something from the 
New Deal if the Court was packed. FDR, impassioned, spoke 
these now famous words: 

"Here is one third of a nation ill nourished, ill clad, ill housed 
now! ... if we keep faith with those who had faith in us, 
if we would make democracy succeed, I say we must act now!" 
Etc. 

I had heard a good many demagogic speeches, and had un 
doubtedly made some myself that were looked on as such, but 
I thought this was the most demagogic I had ever heard, and it 
was coming from the President of the United States! 

Replying to the speech, I warned in a radio address: 

"Create now a political Court to echo the ideas of the execu 
tive and you have created a weapon; a weapon which in the 
hands of another President could well be the instrument of 
destruction; a weapon that can cut down those guarantees of 
liberty written into your great doctrine by the blood of your 
forefathers and that can extinguish your right of liberty of 
speech, or thought, or action, or of religion; a weapon whose 
use is only dictated by the conscience of the wielder." 

In the "fireside chat," FDR, in his rich, ringing, aristocratic 
voice, pleaded with the American people to trust him as their 
old friend and leader. This line was echoed to me by that great 
independent liberal, Senator George Morris. Norris had been 
instinctively opposed to the administration's approach to re- 



326 Yankee from the West 

forming the Court but lie had succumbed to the blandishments 
of Roosevelt and his emissaries on Capitol Hill. 

"You don't trust the President," Norris said reprovingly to 
me. 

I told him that, like Thomas Jefferson, I put my trust in laws 
rather than in men. 

In his magical ability to rally the nation over the airwaves, 
FDR was truly masterful and nobody admired this quality of 
leadership in him more than I did. Yet his two addresses on the 
Court issue failed to bring as much support from the people as 
the administration had hoped for. 

Not only did FDR "go to the people" but he directed most of 
his cabinet members to do likewise. When they took to the air, 
the broadcasting networks saw to it that their voices went into 
every home in America with a radio. It was a "must" for every 
affiliate of the chains to carry the speeches. 

After the Democrats chose me as the leader of the opposition 
it was soon ratified by the Republican senators I insisted that 
the networks give us air time to answer. The networks ac 
ceded and I picked out the senators who would carry the radio 
speaking load with me. Soon, however, I discovered that we 
were not being given a national audience. For example, a ra 
dio debate I had in Chicago with Dean James M. Landis was 
blacked out everywhere but in Washington, D.C., and my home 
state. The network officials doubtless figured I would never 
know the difference. 

Fortunately, I was then chairman of the Interstate Com 
merce Committee, which has jurisdiction over laws affecting 
the communications industry. I made it plain to the heads of 
the networks that we expected the same treatment as the ad 
ministration, and I demanded that they furnish me with a list 
of the stations that carried our speeches to make certain of it. 
Even so, we did not receive equal treatment because all net 
works carried the President's speeches simultaneously as they 
did some of the cabinet members*. 

The President forced into line farm leaders and kbor leaders 
and brought to bear every other pressure he could think of to 
influence senators in favor of the Court bill. I have never seen 



Saving the Supreme Court 327 

such pressure put on legislators. Even some of my good friends 
in Montana, including men I had gotten appointed to federal 
office, wrote me letters protesting my stand. Labor and farm 
leaders in Montana were 100 per cent against me; they threat 
ened me with political oblivion if I didn't switch and go along 
with the President. 

On March 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee opened hear 
ings on S. 1392, "a bill to reorganize the judicial branch of the 
government." The first witness was Attorney General Homer 
S. Cummings, the man who had dreamed up the scheme to 
pack the Court via the old-age excuse. Cummings bore down 
on FDR's original argumentthat the bill was necessary be 
cause of the crowded conditions of the dockets and because 
there were so many "aged and infirm judges'* in our federal 
courts. 

FDR's covert argument, gradually forced into the open, was 
that more justices should be added to put the Court in tune 
with the times. This argument was cogently advanced by the 
second witness, Assistant Attorney General Robert H. Jackson. 
Jackson cited the long history of the Supreme Court in usurp 
ing or frustrating legislative functions. 

Years later, when he was a member of the Supreme Court, 
Jackson told me he did not agree with the bill, but pointed out 
that he was part of the administration and felt he had to go 
along with it. 

I was scheduled to be the first witness in opposition to the 
bill and I wanted an opinion from some of the justices so as to 
start off with a resounding bang for our side, I knew they would 
be reluctant to testify on a matter affecting their own integrity; 
I was trying to figure out some way to get round this problem. 
Then, on Saturday, March 20, just two days before I was due 
to appear, I got some encouragement 

Mrs. Brandeis, wife of my good friend, Justice Louis Bran- 
deis, drove across the Potomac and into Virginia to see the 
new baby born to my daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Cohnan. I was 
surprised she did this until Elizabeth told me on the telephone 
that when Mrs. Brandeis was departing, she had remarked: 
"Tell your father I think he's right about the Court bilL* 



328 Yankee from the West 

I interpreted this as a tipoff that Brandeis was strongly 
against the bill and that I should do something about it. I 
telephoned him for an appointment and he suggested I come 
to see him at once* 

The Brandeises and the Wheelers had been warm friends 
since the justice had sought my acquaintance immediately 
after I came to the Senate in March 1923. Our relationship 
began with an amusing misunderstanding. The first time we 
were invited to dinner at the Brandeis" apartment, we arrived 
in dinner clothes, only to discover that our hosts were dressed 
informally. Perhaps they assumed that people in the wild and 
woolly West didn't maintain a formal wardrobe. Then, the sec 
ond time we went to the Brandeis' for dinner, we were infor 
mal while they were attired formallyl 

After I hastened to the Brandeis* apartment about the Court 
bill, I said I hoped he and the Chief Justice would testify 
against the claims by Roosevelt and Cummings that the federal 
courts were behind in their work, as well as the other charges. 
Brandeis said he would not appear and would not advise the 
Chief Justice to appear. He said it was his practice not to write 
or speak publicly about the Court, that all his disagreements 
were contained in his dissenting opinions. 

But, the justice continued, "You call up the Chief Justice and 
hell give you a letter." This took me by surprise. I was not 
eager to take so bold a step, nor could I be sure that Brandeis 
had already paved the way. 

T[ won't call him up," I demurred. "I don't know him." 

"Well, he knows you," Brandeis said. 

Well, the Chief Justice certainly must have been aware that 
I was outspoken in opposing his appointment as Chief Justice 
by President Hoover back in 1930. 1 had taken this position be 
cause Hughes had left the Supreme Court in 1916 to run for 
President. I felt that reappointing him might encourage other 
justices to mix into politics. 

When I again refused to telephone Hughes, Brandeis led me 
by the hand to the phone and called the Chief Justice himself. 
He told Hughes I wanted to see him, Hughes suggested I come 
to his house immediately. 



Saving the Supreme Court 329 

The imposingly bearded Chief Justice greeted me warmly 
when I arrived. I told him Brandeis said he would give me a 
letter. 

He said, "Did Brandeis tell you that?" I said yes. 

"When do you want it?" he asked. 

"Monday morning/' I replied. He asked why. 

"They've circulated a story that I will not testify after all," 
I explained. "If I put it off Monday, they'll say I never will take 
the stand." 

The Chief Justice looked at his watch. 

"It is now five-thirty/' he said. "The library is closed, my 
secretary is gone. I won't have to call Brandeis or Stone and I 
won't have to call some other justices, but I will have to call 
some. Can you come by early Monday morning?" 

"Certainly," I said. 

Then he asked what I was doing Sunday afternoon. I said, 
"Nothing." 

On Sunday afternoon Hughes telephoned my home and 
asked me to drop by his house. As I walked in, he handed me 
the letter and said solemnly, "The baby is born." I read the 
letter and he asked, "Does that answer your question?" 

"Yes, it does," I said happily. "It certainly does." 

I thanked him and started to leave, when he said, "Sit down." 

"I think I am as disinterested in this matterfrom a political 
standpoint as anyone in the United States," the Chief Justice 
began when we were seated, "because the people of the United 
States have been far more generous to me than I deserve. I am 
not interested in who are to be the members of the Court. I am 
interested in the Court as an institution. And this proposed bill 
would destroy the Court as an institution." 

"If we had had an Attorney General in whom the President 
had confidence," he continued, "and in whom the Court had 
confidence, and in whom the people had confidence, the story 
might have been different. But the laws have been poorly 
drafted, the briefs have been badly drawn and the arguments 
have been poorly presented. WeVe had to be not only the 
Court but we've had to do the work that should have been done 
by the Attorney General. 



330 Yankee from the West 

I thought to myself, '"What a condemnation of Attorney Gen 
eral Cummingsr 

Hughes went on: "I could have brought down lawyers from 
Wall Street who would have been glad to come here out of 
patriotic motives and correct some of the abuses that have been 
complained of. They would have been able to do it, because 
they would know what their clients had been doing. When I 
was a young governor of New York and I was in a fight with 
Wall Street and the insurance groups, Elihu Root, who repre 
sented many of the Wall Street interests, wrote me a note in 
longhand which said, 'Keep up the fight. You are right/ Think 
of what that meant to a young governor! 

"You know," Hughes also disclosed, "when Roosevelt was 
first elected, he called me down to the White House and told 
me he would like to cooperate with the Supreme Court. I said 
to him, "Mr. President, the Supreme Court is an independent 
branch of the government.' He replied that he had always co 
operated with the courts in New York and I said, "Well, that 
may be, but this is an independent branch of the government.'" 

When I left, the Chief Justice said, "I hope you'll see that this 
gets wide publicity." I almost laughed. 

"You don't need to worry about that," I assured him. 

At 10:30 nert morning I took the stand as the first opposition 
witness before the committee in the famous marble-walled, 
ornate caucus room of the Senate Office Building where so 
many historic hearings have been staged. The room was 
packed. The chairman of the committee was my good friend, 
the courtly and humorously eloquent Henry Ashurst of Arizona, 
who was opposed to the bill at heart but had been dragooned 
into going along with the White House because he was chair 
man. As I seated myself in the witness chair, Ashurst told me 
later, he noticed the smug look on the face of Mrs. Wheeler, 
sitting in the overflow audience. 

"I don't know what he's going to spring but it'll blow us out 
of the water," Ashurst said he whispered to the senator next to 
him. 

Ashurst was even more graciously grandiose than usual in 
introducing me. He said: "Senators, we are signally honored 



Saving the Supreme Court 

this morning. We have before us one of the most, if not the 
most distinguished member of the United States Senate, Sena 
tor Burton K. Wheeler of Montana." 

"Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee on the Ju 
diciary/' I began, "it is with some reluctance that I appear here 
this morning. I have only appeared because of the insistence of 
many of my colleagues who are opposed to the bill which is 
pending before you to increase the Supreme Court membership 
by six. I want it to be understood at the outset that anything I 
may say is not because of the fact that I have any unfriendly 
feeling toward the President. On the contrary, my relations with 
the President of the United States during his term of office have 
been exceedingly friendly, perhaps more friendly than those of 
some other members of this committee. I supported him when 
he was first a candidate. I supported him in his preprimary 
campaign. I was one of the first members of the United States 
Senate to openly come out for his nomination. I traveled from 
one end of the country to the other making speeches for him in 
his preprimary campaign. I went to the city of Chicago ten 
days in advance of the convention and worked for his nomina 
tion. There has never at any time been anything but the most 
cordial relations between us/' 

I then noted the several instances in which I had disagreed 
with FDR on issues since he came into office. But I added: 
"Notwithstanding these disagreements, I have always had and 
have at the present time a very high regard for the President." 

(Every word of that statement was true. Over the years, 
political observers and writers have sought to find some cause 
for personal bitterness in my motivation. They would not con 
cede me the motivation of principle. Perhaps they expected 
that as a long-time liberal I should have followed the President 
blindly because he claimed that his Court plan was a liberal 
move. But to me the bill was illiberal in its very essence. If a 
President could make both branches of government subservient, 
I feared totalitarianism could happen here as well as anywhere 
else. I was by no means the only liberal who felt this way. 
Many of them said so only privately and went along publicly, 
so as not to offend the administration. One who did take a 



332 Yankee from the West 

strong stand against the Court plan was that apostle of liberal 
ism, then Governor Herbert EL Lehman of New York.) 

In my testimony before the Judiciary Committee, I said I was 
opposed to this type of tinkering on principle and I was sure 
"the American people would never stand for it" 

I noted that I disagreed with the Supreme Court on many of 
its decisions on New Deal legislation. But, I said, "I do not 
believe that age has anything to do with liberalism." Also, I 
said it was a serious reflection on the Court to say it was behind 
in its work. 

Senator William H. Dieterich, a committee member and a 
supporter of the Kelly-Nash Democratic machine in Chicago, 
was dutifully defending the administration bill. I knew how 
much he detested me and so at the start, I said, "I know the 
Senator from Illinois will not agree with me." I said it again in 
connection with two other statements about the work of the 
Court. The third time Dieterich replied, "Of course not." He 
finally came through with what I wanted. 

"Well," I said, "I have a statement from a man who knows 
more about the Court than the President of the United States, 
than the Attorney General, than I do or any member of this 
committee." 

Slowly drawing the letter from my inside coat pocket, I con 
tinued: "I have a letter by the Chief Justice of the Supreme 
Court, Mr. Charles Evans Hughes, dated March 21, 1937, writ 
ten by him and approved by Mr, Justice Brandeis and Mr. 
Justice Van Devanter," 

You could have heard a comma drop in the caucus room 
while I read the letter aloud. It struck down, one by one, every 
point raised by Roosevelt and Cummings in maintaining that 
the Court had been unable to keep up with its workload. 

After demolishing the administration's position with a mas 
terful marshaling of fact and argument, the Hughes letter con 
cluded: 1 understand that it has been suggested that with more 
justices the Court could hear cases in divisions. It is believed 
that such a plan would be impracticable ... I may also call 
attention to the provisions of Article III, Section i, of the Con 
stitution that the judicial power of the United States shall be 



Saving the Supreme Court 333 

vested m one Supreme Court* and in such inferior courts as the 
Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Con 
stitution does not appear to authorize two or more Supreme 
Courts functioning in effect as separate courts." 

The letter had a sensational effect. The newsreels photo 
graphed it, newspaper reporters clamored for copies, and it was 
all I could do to keep it from being snatched from my hands 
when the session was recessed. The administration and its sup 
porters were disconcerted by the unexpected counterattack 
from the eminent leader of the so-called "nine old men." We 
heard with amusement that FDR and his strategists were furi 
ous at the Chief Justice for "playing politics/' The letter put 
the bill's backers on the defensive. 

Assistant Attorney General Jackson's opinion afterward was 
that the Hughes letter "did more than any one thing to turn the 
tide in the Court struggle." Secretary Ickes commented later: 
"The whole world knows that, while at first it appeared that 
the President would be strong enough to carry his reform 
through Congress, he was outmaneuvered in the end, largely 
by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes/' 

It was said that after I produced the letter, Vice President 
Garner telephoned FDR, who was in Warm Springs, and re 
ported, "We're licked." But the President put up a show of 
serene confidence. For one thing, he still thought he could win 
me over. He sent labor leaders to try to influence me. Among 
them was Sidney Hillman of the Amalgamated Clothing Work 
ers, who had always been friendly to me, but was never an 
intimate, 

During the height of the Court fight I got an amusing White 
House reaction relayed through the late Frank Walker who was 
then treasurer of the Democratic National Committee and close 
to Roosevelt. 

"The President says you and a lot of others on 'the Hill' are 
prima donnas," Walker said. 

"Of course we're prima donnas," I replied with a laugh, 
"that's the reason we're here. He wants to be the only prima 
donna but we're going to show him there are three branches of 
government and he can't be the only one." 



Yankee from the West 

On May 18 the Judiciary Committee voted, 10-8, to report 
his bill unfavorably. The stinging report to which I contributed 
material, though I was not a member of the committee con 
cluded with this sentence: 

"It is a measure which should be so emphatically rejected 
that its parallel will never again be presented to the free repre 
sentatives of the free people of America." 

On the mnming before debate on the bill was to open in the 
Senate, I took a phone call from Senator Homer T. Bone of 
Washington, who was in the White House at the time. He 
asked me if I would come down to see the President at noon. 
I pointed out that Joe Robinson, the majority leader, was sched 
uled to begin the debate after the Senate convened at noon and 
that I planned to be on hand to answer him. Bone apparently 
was in the room with FDR. "Well, can you jump in a cab and 
come right now?** pursued Bone. I said, "Certainly," and hung 
up. I was at the White House in a few minutes. 

"Burt, I just want to give you a little background on the 
Court matter," the President said as I was ushered in. He con 
tinued: 

"There was a justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri who 
was visiting in London and was invited to sit on the Appellate 
Court as a guest. A case was presented where two boys were 
convicted of a crime in the lower court and had not been per 
mitted to put in the defense of an alibi. When the argument 
was over, the presiding justice turned to the Missouri judge 
and said, 'What do you think we ought to do about the caseF 
The Missouri judge said he thought it ought to be reversed. 
Whereupon the presiding judge said, 'We do/ and reversed the 
case and turned the boys loose." 

FDR looked at me keenly and said, "This is the sort of thing 
we ought to have over here.** 

"That's what weVe got here," I told him. "It is so elementary 
in our jurisprudence that if it is necessary for a party to be 
present at the time of the commission of the crime that no jus 
tice of the peace, state judge, or federal judge would think of 
not allowing the defendant to put in the defense of an alibi" 

The President shifted his ground. 



Saving the Supreme Court 335 

"Look at all those delays in these criminal cases/' he said. 

"That's not the fault of the judges/' I told him, speaking from 
firsthand experience. "That's the fault of your district attorneys. 
It's always the defense that wants to delay the case as long as 
possible, hoping that some of the witnesses may die or leave 
town, or public sentiment will die down. You get the files of the 
time when I was district attorney in Montana and you'll find 
no delays in criminal cases." 

"Why didn't the Chief Justice tell the judge in Pittsburgh 
that he shouldn't issue an injunction against the judge in New 
York in the Mellon case?" he next asked. 

"Mr. President," I said, "the Chief Justice has no right to tell 
the judge in advance how he should decide a case. The only 
thing he can do is decide questions of law when they're ap 
pealed to the Supreme Court.** 

FDR asked me to let the Republicans lead the fight I told 
him I had been selected and I would carry on as leader. 

"Well, let's keep the bitterness out," the President urged, 

"The Supreme Court and the Constitution are a religion with 
a great many people in this country/' I told him, "and you 
can't keep bitterness out of a religious fight." 

Roosevelt turned the conversation to the liberals who were 
supporting him. I mentioned that the bill was opposed by 
octogenarian Justice Brandeis, who was a liberal before the 
President and I had ever heard the word. 

"Justice Brandeis was all in favor of it, at first," FDR replied 
wryly, "but the old lady the nice old lady kept dropping little 
drops of water on his head until he changed his mind." 

"Whoever told you that was mistaken," I insisted. Mrs. 
Brandeis dominated the justice in some ways but I was positive 
that on questions of law and legislation he certainly made up 
his own mind. The President was very suspicious about the in 
fluence of wives. He was reported to have called Mrs. Wheeler 
the "Lady Macbeth of the Court fight/' There was no basis for 
that crack. But I believe he sensed correctly that Mrs. Wheeler 
distrusted him. 

I told the President that if he dropped the Court bill he could 
have at least two resignations on the Court, 



33*> Yankee from the West 

"How can I be sure?" he asked, showing a flicker of interest. 

"You can be just as sure as Senator Borah and I giving our 
word/* I replied. I had never talked with any of the justices on 
this question but I understood Borah had done so. 

Roosevelt insisted that he wanted the bill passed, and I re 
peated that I was sorry but I couldn't go along with him. We 
parted without hostility on either side. 

I returned to the Senate chamber at noon and found Robin 
son in his seat waiting to start the debate. 

"How did you get along down there?'' he asked. 

"Not very well," I replied. 

"You keep after him, I can't do anything with him," said the 
majority leader, plainly unhappy about his lieutenant's chore. 
"You know, you and I could settle this thing in no time," he 
added. By the end of May, our steering committee had con 
cluded that, as a result of its incessant wheedling, threatening, 
cajoling, we commanded an absolute majority of the Senate. 
Robinson, who had his own spies, must have known this. 

By now, ironically enough, the Court was voting along the 
liberal lines FDR had been seeking to bring about by other 
means. While the fight had raged all spring, the Court had 
handed down a series of decisions sustaining important New 
Deal measures; only recently it had upheld the far-reaching 
Wagner Labor Relations Act. Everyone but the President ad 
mitted privately that this seriously weakened his argument. 
Never having lost a major battle with Congress, he was de 
termined to bend it to his will. But he did finally and reluctantly 
concede that it might be better to try to do that with a softer 
bill A bill sponsored by Senator Carl A. Hatch of New Mexico 
was selected for the compromise. It would have authorized the 
President to appoint a coadjutor justice for any justice who had 
passed the age of seventy-five and failed to retire, but the Presi 
dent was forbidden to make more than one such appointment 
in one year. Robinson was hard pressed to muster a majority in 
its favor. On top of this, he well knew, we had more than a 
score of senators ready to filibuster the bill to death if it became 
necessary. 

When the majority leader rose to open the debate, he could 



Saving the Supreme Court 337 

see every seat in the gallery filled; there were senators' wives, 
diplomats, shirt-sleeved sightseers, and whole platoons of Boy 
Scouts on hand for a forthcoming jamboree. He gave them a 
good show from his leader's seat on the corner of the front row. 
Nine years before, Robinson had been Al Smith's running mate 
in the presidential race. He was always impressive a large, 
heavy-set, fine-looking man, sawing the air with his right hand, 
his voice loud, angry and threatening. 

But Robinson was also sixty-five years old, and he had a 
touchy temper and a heart condition. For many weeks, he had 
been laboring day and night for the President. As he thundered 
for the Court bill, he grew so red in the face that Senator Royal 
S. Copeland of New York, who was a physician, became 
alarmed and moved over to the seat next to him. 

"Joe, the cause you're fighting for isn't worth your lif el" Cope- 
land whispered. "For God's sake, slow down!" 

"The doctor tells me I should be careful but fm in just as 
good health as Burt Wheeler!" Robinson said, turning around 
and looking directly at me. I was sitting behind him. 

"I'm in training," I said, just loud enough for him to hear me. 

"Oh," Robinson went on testily, "he's in training, he's in 
training!" 

As a matter of fact, I was in training during the Court fight. 
Every morning Mrs. Wheeler and I got up at six o'clock. We 
went straight to the golf course and played seven holes, after 
which we went home, where I showered, breakfasted, and set 
out for my daily battle on the Hill. Every night Borah would 
telephone me to say, "Old man, how are you feeling?" (I was 
fifty-five years old. ) Hiram Johnson also called me up occasion 
ally to remind me to be sure to take care of my health. 

The ordeal proved too much for Robinson. On July 14, five 
days after I fired the first broadside for us, Robinson was found 
dead in his apartment near the Senate Office Building. 

I was so emotionally upset by this development I urged that 
the President withdraw the bill "lest he appear to be fighting 
God." I was widely criticized for this remark but the fact was 
that the impossible burden placed on the majority leader by 
FDR undoubtedly hastened his demise. 



338 Yankee from the West 

With their forceful old leader dead, the President's reluctant 
army was thrown into confusion. Returning on the train from 
the Robinson funeral in Little Rock, Arkansas, Vice President 
Garner learned this fact quickly in chats with senators. Back 
in the Capitol, Garner came to me. 

"Will you give us two?" he asked, meaning a compromise that 
would allow the President to appoint two new justices instead 
of six. An erroneous impression had gone around that I would 
settle for two. It was absurd, because we knew we had the votes 
to win. 

"Jack," I said, "I won't give you two, I won't give you one." 

"Well, that* s out," Garner said philosophically. "What about 
this idea of a roving judge?" 

"You don't want a roving judge, Jack," I told him. "If the De 
partment of Justice wanted to convict someone and they had a 
roving judge they could depend on, they'd send him out to hear 
the case and he'd hear only one side. Harry Daugherty would 
have loved to have a roving judge of that kind, and if he had 
one he would have sent him out to Montana to try me." 

"That's out," Garner went on. "What about a proctor?" 

When I told hfm he wouldn't want that, he asked me what 
a proctor was. I said in old English law a proctor was one who 
managed or administered the handling of cases; that he would 
be used to go out and check into cases before the court decided 
to hear them. 

"Well," the Vice President finally said, "go to it and God 
bless you. Write your own ticket." 

My opposition colleagues and I thereupon worked out the 
interment rites for the dying bill. Senator Marvel M. Logan of 
Kentucky, an administration wheelhorse, agreed to move that 
the Senate send the bill back to the Judiciary Committee. The 
motion would include instructions to the committee to report 
back a substitute bill making innocuous procedural changes in 
the lower courts only. 

Hiram Johnson rose to make dramatically clear what the 
recommittal motion signified. 

"The Supreme Court is out of the way?" he asked. 

"The Supreme Court is out of the way," Logan responded. 



Saving the Supreme Court 339 

"Glory be to God!" exclaimed Johnson. The galleries burst 
into applause and Garner made no attempt to gavel them into 
order. The bill was then consigned to its mercy death on a vote 
of 70-20, 

And thus ended the fiercest battle in American history be 
tween two branches of our government over a third. If it seemed 
unnecessary and unfortunate, it also had some wholesome ef 
fects, in my judgment. Several lessons had been learned. The 
President found out that the mandate given him by the people 
in November was not something to pky with as he pleased. 
The Democratic Party itself had been educated to the will of 
the people. And the independence of our judiciary had been 
reaffirmed. 

"All in all/* I said in an interview published in The New York 
Times, "the Court bill fight has been a wonderful thing. The 
agitation brought the people to a study of the fundamentals of 
their government, gave them a veritable lesson in elemental 
civics. The fight has done the judiciary good too. Courts had 
become arrogant, and sometimes disrespectful to the rights of 
the public particularly the federal courts. Can anyone look 
at the record already available and say that what has happened 
recently has not been beneficial to the courts themselves?" 

For my part, I retained no bitterness against the President 
or those who had followed his lead. This attitude was not al 
ways reciprocated. I was puzzled when some senators stopped 
speaking to me after our victory. I finally approached one and 
said, "Say, what's the matter with you, anyway? These fights 
are just like lawyers trying a case. When it's over we shake 
hands and forget about it." 

Senator Hugo Black, who was one of the most ardent sup 
porters of the President on nearly all issues, as a reward for his 
loyalty, was appointed to the first vacancy on the Court after 
the fight when Justice Willis Van Devanter retired that same 
year. Senator Sherman Minton of Indiana later was rewarded 
in the same fashion and for the same reason. 

As for me the so-called "man who whipped Roosevelt" I 
was showered with a new spate of national publicity. For ex- 



340 Yankee from the West 

ample. The Saturday Evening Tost ran an article on me titled 
"President-Tamer." 

If I had alienated some devout New Dealers by my stand, I 
had made some converts in highly unlikely quarters. Conserva 
tives who had previously seen horns sprouting from my head 
now saw me crowned with a hero's laurel instead. This reversal 
of attitude was summed up very frankly by one good lady who 
represented that citadel of patriotism, the Daughters of the 
American Revolution. 

"Oh, Senator Wheeled" she gushed. "I used to think you 
were a dangerous radical, but now I believe you love our coun 
try the same as I do!" 

I thought that was mighty handsome of her. 

My own feeling was that the Charles Evans Hughes letter 
had broken the back of the administration plan but that the 
senators who fought so hard with me were not given enough 
credit. The group I have mentioned that met first at Senator 
Tydings* house, as well as others who joined us later, were 
gallant men. Without the combined efforts of those who be 
lieved in three independent branches of government and in 
Constitutional government, the fight would have failed. Had 
we lost, it is hard to tell how far FDR would have taken us 
down the road overriding the Constitution. That he wanted 
power, and more power, even his friends cannot gainsay. 



Chapter Sixteen 

REPRISALS AND RECONCILIATION 



Would there be reprisals against those of us who had 
fought the President on his Court bill? Alben Barkley, elected 
Senate majority leader after the death of Joe Robinson, said he 
wanted none. However, his hope was not shared by Senator 
Joseph F. Guffey of Pennsylvania, who followed Roosevelt one 
hundred per cent. 

Guffey, then chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Cam 
paign Committee, castigated some of the principal opponents 
of the Court plan as "ingrates". He predicted political doom 
for two of them Joe O'Mahoney and Ed Burke for fighting the 
bill. The next day I opened an attack on Guffey, joined in by 
Burke and O'Mahoney. As The New York Times reported it in 
its lead story, the three of us "struck back at the Pennsylvanian 
on the floor . . . with a fury seldom witnessed in the Senate." 

I started the attack immediately after the roll was called. In 
part, I said: "I am glad that the senator did not include me 
among those who he said were ingrates to the President of the 
United States, because I am sure that no matter how much I 



342 Yankee from the West 

have disagreed with the President he would never for a moment 
suggest that I had been ungrateful to him or that he was re 
sponsible for my election or that he ever contributed anything 
to my election or that the Democratic National Committee ever 
contributed anything to my election either directly or in 
directly. 

"I think likewise everyone knows that I did not need any 
contribution from them and that I did not need any help and 
that I did not need to ride in on the coattails of the President 
of the United States." 

I then expressed the hope that if I ran for re-election in 1940 
Guffey would come into Montana with his Senatorial Cam 
paign Committee fund and back my opponent. If Guffey ran 
for governor of Pennsylvania, I added, "I shall go there at my 
own expense and with my own money and I shall make some 
speeches in Pennsylvania." 

The Times reported the conclusion of my remarks as follows: 

"If you want to wash any dirty linen, you may wash it, 
either upon this floor or upon the public platform,' Mr. Wheeler 
shouted, shaking his long finger at Senator Guffey. 'And I say 
to you: "Lay on Macduff, and damned be he that first cries, 
Hold! Enough!"'" 

Guffey sat in the last row, red in the face and with a half- 
smile, throughout the long tongue-lashing we administered. He 
made no reply. 

With respect to O'Mahoney and me, the President restricted 
himself almost wholly to that negative political slap, the royal 
snub. In September, after Congress adjourned, he was scheduled 
to make a swing through the West, home grounds of some of 
his recent opponents. Customarily on such occasions, the flower 
of the local Democracy was invited to ride with him through 
each state. O'Mahoney was in Chicago to make a speech when 
he got word that his name was not on the invitation list for the 
ride through Wyoming. In a you-can't-do-this-to-me mood, Joe 
canceled the speech and drove fast enough to catch up with 
the train when it reached his home town of Cheyenne. He 
climbed aboard the train with his hand outstretched and a 
hopeful smile. 



Reprisals and Reconciliation 343 

I had no desire to hop aboard a train where I was not wel 
come. I had been tipped off by Harry Butcher, then with the 
Columbia Broadcasting System and later an aide to General 
Eisenhower in Europe, that when his entourage arrived in Mon 
tana, FDR planned to invite my colleague, Senator James E. 
Murray, and Montana's two Democratic congressmen, Jerry J. 
O'Connell and James F. O'Connor but not me to join him. 
I decided to have some fun by making a game of it. I had just 
had a long-distance telephone call from an attorney for Norman 
Church, a retired industrialist and owner of a racing stable in 
Los Angeles, asking me to try a case for him there. With this 
excuse, I shot off a tongue-in-cheek telegram to FDR in Wash 
ington, telling him that, very regretfully, I would be unable to 
be in the state to greet him but that I hoped he would stop at 
Billings, Butte, and Great Falls, I gave a copy of the wire to the 
press. 

Later, while I was handling the case in California, I learned 
that the President was to return from the West Coast also via 
Montana and would stop at the Fort Peck dam. I sent him an 
other needling wire, which I also made public, saying I hoped 
that at the dam site he would tell the people he intended to put 
a power plant there to give them cheap electricity. I knew this 
would irritate him just a bit, I was putting him on the spot in 
regard to the long-delayed electric power project which he had 
promised me when Fort Peck dam was built. 

On my way back home, I stopped off in Tacoma, Washing 
ton, and heard that my first telegram had hit the mark. Senator 
Homer T. Bone of Washington told me that when FDR had 
paused in Seattle he had remarked to him with a chuckle: "I 
got a kind of mushy wire from Burt about not being able to be 
in Montana." Bone said the President then had asked him seri 
ously what he thought might be the political effect in Montana 
of his visiting the state without me at his side. 

The President didn't seem to appreciate my second telegram. 
I heard that he got it while he was on the train at Great Falls 
and showed it to a friend of mine who was aboard without 
making any comment. Then, at Fort Peck dam which was built 



344 Yankee from the West 

at my request, before Murray was even in the Senate he 
praised Murray and did not mention my name. 

(In the primaries of 1938, Roosevelt went far beyond snub 
punishment by openly attempting to purge four stalwart but 
generally conservative Democrats who had opposed him on the 
Court bill Walter George of Georgia, Millard Tydings of 
Maryland, Pat McCarran of Nevada, and "Cotton Ed" Smith 
of South Carolina. All four senators were renominated easily. ) 

The California trip in 1937 involved me in gubernatorial poli 
tics there. The millionaire Church had been in a long battle 
with the owners of the Santa Anita race track; the controversy 
stemmed primarily from Church's agitation for a second track 
in Los Angeles County (it ended with the building of the Holly 
wood Park track). In the winter of 1936, the stewards at Santa 
Anita had claimed that one of Church's horses had been arti 
ficially "stimulated" before a race he had won. 

Church's assistant trainer, Tom Carroll, was suspended. The 
stewards said they had established the "stimulation" through a 
saliva test, but Church hired a chemist from the California In 
stitute of Technology to examine the remainder of the saliva 
and he found no evidence of a stimulant. No hearing was 
granted to Church and he thus had no opportunity to examine 
any of the reports or present his evidence. 

Church asked the racing board to overrule the stewards but 
it refused. Strong-minded and outspoken, he told me he was 
convinced he had been framed. When I arrived there in late 
August, he was trying to have the matter handled politically 
through Republican Governor Frank Merriam. Church was a 
long-time Republican and had contributed to Merriam's elec 
tion campaign. 

I called on the governor, in Church's behalf, but he declined 
to intervene with the racing board. Church complained that he 
could not get his side of the story into the newspapers, so I 
next went to see William Randolph Hearst, who had been a 
friend of mine for some years. He was then living at the home he 
had built for Marion Davies. Hearst said he would give us all 
the publicity we wanted to get our side before the public, and 
he did give us some. 



Reprisals and Reconciliation 345 

Church meanwhile filed an action against the racing board 
in the Superior Court in Sacramento asking that the suspension 
of his trainer be set aside. My son, John, a lawyer practicing in 
Los Angeles, and I argued the case in Sacramento and the Su 
perior Court threw out the suspension. The California Supreme 
Court later upheld this decision, on the ground that the racing 
board had acted improperly in not granting Church a hearing. 

During my visits with Church, he asked what he could do to 
change the racing board. I suggested that the surest way would 
be to bring about a change in the state administration. I urged 
him to do what he could to defeat the governor who had been 
so ungrateful about his support. Church doubted that any 
Democrat could beat Merriam in the 1938 election but I said 
I would see for myself. 

After scouting the political prospects in the Democratic pri 
mary, I told Church that I felt Cuthbert Olson, a Los Angeles 
lawyer, would wind up with the Democratic nomination for 
governor. 

"What do you know about California politics?" Church 
asked. 

"I don't know much about it," I replied, <f but when there are 
five Irishmen and one Swede running in a primary, the Swede 
will be nominated." 

Church said he had heard Olson was a "wild man" but I 
suggested that nothing could be lost by having a talk with him. 
We arranged a meeting with Olson and afterward Church asked 
me what I thought. <c He looks like a governor," I replied. 

Church backed Olson, worked for him, took part in the fund- 
raising, and contributed personally around $40,000. My son, 
John, helped in the Olson campaign and I was able to get some 
help from Tom Corcoran of the White House and some other 
influential Democrats in Washington. Olson was nominated 
and elected. 

I'm sorry to say that Olson did not make as good a governor 
as I had hoped. 

Back in Montana, I was feeling some further slights for hav 
ing fought the President on the Court bill. He tried to discipline 
me by routing patronage through Montana's two Democratic 



346 Yankee from the West 

congressmen, O'Connell and O'Connor, The effect on me was 
minor. The Roosevelt Administration had never made any se 
cret of its policy of rewarding its friends and punishing its 
enemies. 

Right after the first election of FDR, in fact, Jim Farley gave 
out a statement that unless members of Congress went along 
with the New Deal they could expect no patronage. I told Jim 
that he shouldn't say things like that; I reminded him that he 
was dealing with United States Senators, not members of a 
city council. If he ever threatened me like that, I said I would 
tell him what he could do with his patronage. Farley said he 
wouldn't do that to me but that patronage meant a lot to some 
senators. 

Soon there was plenty of evidence that he was right. It was 
not that the legislators wanted to succumb to what almost 
amounted to taking a bribe. They were well aware that con 
stituents unfortunately too often judge their senators and con 
gressmen on their ability to wangle federal "pork" for their 
state, or to have a say in the appointment of a federal marshal, 
district attorney, customs collector, etc. 

Therefore, in the years after the Court fight the people of 
Montana stopped coming to me looking for favors, assuming 
that I was getting none from Roosevelt. 

However, one day in the spring of 1942 1 was visited by three 
leading citizens of Great Falls, Montana the mayor, the secre 
tary of the chamber of commerce, and the head of the American 
Legion. An Army air base was to be built in the Northwest and 
they were anxious to have Great Falls selected as the site. They 
had been buttonholing officials in Washington for nearly two 
weeks and had got nowhere. Among others, they had seen the 
other members of the Montana delegation; Wayne Johnson, a 
former Montanan who was then treasurer of the Democratic 
National Committee; and a colonel and a major at the War 
Department. 

I asked them if they would like to talk with Major General 
Henry H. (Hap) Arnold, head of the U. S. Army Air Corps. 
They asked whether that could be arranged. I picked up the 



Reprisals and Reconciliation 347 

phone and put in a call to Arnold whom I had met only once 
and made an appointment for them. 

I escorted the Great Falls civic leaders to Arnold's office and 
introduced them. 

"General/' I began, "they think the Army will do nothing 
for me because I disagree with the President on the war issue." 

"That's silly," Arnold said. He pressed a button and called 
in two generals, explained the situation, and asked them to look 
into the matter. 

Within a few weeks, there was an announcement that the new 
air base would be located at Great Falls, in preference to the 
numerous other cities which had been actively in competition. 
Of course, this was a tremendous break for the development of 
Great Falls, which now ranks first in size in Montana. The Great 
Falls Air Force Base at the same time proved to be a strategic 
way station for the Air Force during the war and since. 

This incident is a good illustration of another point: that, 
regardless of the attitude of the White House, a department 
usually is anxious to go out of its way to help an influential sena 
tor, for obvious reasons. It doesn't matter whether the senator 
represents the party then in power, as long as he is an effective 
friend to have on "the Hill." The department quite properly is 
willing to accommodate a good fighter; if it thinks he has a 
good case, it will insist that his constituents get fair treatment. 

Despite Farley's pragmatic attitude, I have reason to know 
that FDR himself had little respect for senators he could lead 
around by the nose simply by holding out the favor of patron 
age. Knowing he could keep them in his hip pocket, he concen 
trated on wooing the support of the independents. 

Actually, my relations with Roosevelt beginning in 1938 were 
much better than was generally supposed. He needed my help. 
Something had to be done to prevent more of the railroads from 
going into bankruptcy, and I was chairman of the Interstate 
Commerce Committee, which had jurisdiction over railroad leg 
islation. 

The President appointed a committee of six men to work out 
legislative remedies and told them he would go along with their 
ideas. They were Carl R. Gray, president of the Union Pacific; 



348 Yankee from the West 

Martin W. Clement, president of the Pennsylvania; Ernest Nor- 
ris, of the Southern; George Harrison, president of the railway 
clerks union; Dave Robertson, of the firemen's union; and Bert 
Jewell, president of the International Brotherhood of Boiler 
makers. They came up with their recommendations, FDR ap 
proved them, and they then discussed who should introduce 
the bill. 

Harrison and Gray asked me to dinner in their suite at the 
Carlton Hotel. They read their proposals to me and asked for 
my opinion. Some months earlier, I had started to work on some 
legislative ideas of my own on the subject. I told Harrison and 
Gray I liked some of their ideas and couldn't go along with 
others. One proposal I agreed with was their idea of putting the 
water carriers under the Interstate Commerce Commission. Un 
less all forms of transportation were brought under the same 
agency, there would be a conflict in decisions which would be 
bad for the carriers and bad for the public. 

But I told Harrison and Gray that their recommendations 
would mean the rewriting of the entire Interstate Commerce 
Act, together with all the amendments that had been added 
since its adoption in 1887. Bringing the water carriers under 
the act would mean the inclusion of 24 chapters covering a com 
plete set of rules and regulations for them, 

I wanted to stress the dimensions of what they were getting 
into because I recalled vividly the long, bitter fight I had led 
*& 1935 to bg buses and trucks under the ICC. Most of the 
truckers had opposed any substantial regulation and when that 
was inevitable they had fought being placed under the ICC, 
which they felt was raikoad-minded. The teamsters union also 
had threatened to fight the amendment unless it included a 
provision protecting its interests. Remembering my troubles 
at that time, I was not eager to take on another one that prom 
ised to be even bigger. 

Gray stressed to me that both the railroad executives and the 
railroad brotherhoods wanted me to handle the bill. When I 
refused, Gray and Harrison said, The President wants you to 
do it" I still refused, explaining that ever since the Court-pack 
ing fight I didn t think the President had any confidence in me 



Reprisals and Reconciliation 349 

and that I would not handle the legislation. Gray looked sur 
prised and asked me what he should tell FDR. 

"Tell him what I said/' I told Gray, "and say he can give it 
to Truman, Minton, or Schwellenbach" all of whom were one 
hundred per cent New Dealers "to handle. I won't put any 
thing in their way." 

In a few days, Gray came to my office, reported that he had 
relayed my message to the President and had "made it good 
and strong," and that the President was going to send for me. 

When Roosevelt sent for me, and I walked into his office, he 
said, "Hello," waving his arm as usual, and asked, "How's the 
missus?" Then he said he wanted to talk to me about railroads. 
I interrupted and said, "Before you go any further, let me tell 
you what I told Carl Gray and George Harrison, so you can get 
it straight." I repeated what I had said to them, with a little 
emphasis. 

"Burt," he began, when I had finished, "you and I disagreed 
on the Court issue we agreed in principle but disagreed on the 
method. Now that's water over the dam and I want you to 
handle this legislation." 

I immediately said no, but in his most persuasive way, with 
a little flattery thrown in, he kept on talking. I finally said, 
"This is tough legislation there's no glory in this for anyone, 
but if you have someone from the ICC, the RFC, the SEC, or 
if there is anyone else in whom you have confidence, I'll sit 
down with them and see what we can work out." 

Roosevelt hesitated for what seemed like several minutes. 

"Isn't there someone you have confidence in?" I prompted. 

"To be frank with you, I haven't anyone," he answered. 

I felt sorry for him when he said that. After all he had been 
President for seven years, and confidence begets confidence. 

TU tell you what I'll do," I finally said. Til undertake this 
under one condition that whatever I work out you'll go along 
with, since I don't agree with the railroads on some of their 
suggestions." 

"I'll do anything you want me to," he replied. 

I worked on the railroad bill to the exclusion of almost every 
thing else. Senator Harry Truman was a member of the com- 



35 Yankee from the West 

mittee and welcomed my offer to list him as a co-sponsor of the 
bill. I knew that Senator Joe Guffey and some other New Deal 
senators would oppose anything I sponsored because of the 
Court fight, but they were friends of Truman. Truman was con 
scientious and loyal in working for the passage of the bill. 

The groups that would be affected by the legislation could 
not get together on the remedies, the hearings soon revealed. 
The owners of freight-carrying ships known in the industry as 
"water carriers'' organized an extensive lobby which lined up 
most of the senators along the Mississippi River against my 
proposals. The mail was full of letters every day insisting that 
the water carriers be left out of the bill. I went on a nation 
wide radio hookup to defend the bill by debating my opponents. 

Soon the bill was opposed by Secretary of Agriculture Henry 
A. Wallace, Secretary of War Harry H. Woodring, and Ad 
miral Emory S. Land, chairman of the Maritime Commission. 
The pro-New Deal newspaper columnists didn't help either. 
They said the President had gotten me out on a limb on this 
bill, just to embarrass me. Many of these pundits were mad at 
me because of the Court fight. 

Suspicious about the growing opposition, I telephoned the 
President and asked if he had lost interest in the legislation. 
"If you have,*" I said bluntly, "I won t go ahead with it. I under 
took it at your urging/* 

I pointed out that the two cabinet members, Admiral Land, 
and his pet columnists were lambasting the bill. I said he ought 
to put a stop to that. He said he had been in Warm Springs 
and so was not familiar with what they had done, but he prom 
ised to put a stop to it. He did. There was no more opposition 
from these quarters, though the lobbying by the water carriers 
continued. 

Some of the representatives of the railroads tried to get Roose 
velt to make changes in the bill. He called them to the White 
House one evening with me present. We went over their com 
plaints and he asked me for my opinion. I told him I didn't 
agree with their ideas. 

"Well, gentlemen," Roosevelt told the executives, "I told Burt 
Wheeler I'd go along with him." 



Reprisals and Reconciliation 351 

That ended this type of pressure. 

When I was just about ready to have the bill reported out of 
committee, I was visited by a representative of the railroad 
brotherhoods and Carter Fort, an attorney for the Association 
of American Railroads. They said if I didn't make certain 
changes, the brotherhoods would fight the bill when it reached 
the Senate floor. 

I had worked hard to get the warring factions together, with 
the exception of the water carriers, and I was getting tired. So 
I told the union leader angrily that if the brotherhoods fought 
it on the floor by as much as one raised eyebrow, I'd throw 
the bill into the wastebasket I turned to the association's at 
torney and added, "That goes for you too/* 

They didn't fight the bill on the floor and Roosevelt kept his 
word with me. However, when the fight waxed hot in the 
Senate, some senators grew weak in the knees. The President 
apparently became worried and he sent for me. 

"Burt, I don't think you can get that bill through the Senate/' 
he said. 

I told him I was pretty sure I could, and I subsequently did 
so, by a ly-vote majority. But it was one of the most exasperat 
ing and wearying victories of my career. I never at any time had 
a great deal of strong support and in the final debate I had 
to stand on my feet for five and a half hours explaining the 
complex provisions of the bill repeatedly to my doubting and 
confused colleagues. Some of the most able debaters in the 
Senate were on the other side, including Arthur H. Vanden- 
berg, Bennett Champ Clark, and Henrik Shipstead. 

The bill was finally passed by the Senate in August 1940 
three years after I had begun work on it and it was soon passed 
by the House in slightly different form. The resulting compro 
mise bill as signed by the President was called the Transporta 
tion Act of 1940. 

Writing legislation to regulate industry necessarily must be 
rather broad, giving the regulatory agency wide latitude in in 
terpreting it, and also giving it the power to make rules of its 
own. It is impossible for Congress to lay out all the rules in 
detail. As a result, the commissions and the courts sometimes 



352 Yankee from the West 

construe the legislation in a way never intended by the author 
of the bill or by Congress. Too often, the commissions forget 
that they are arms of Congress, set up to carry out the will of 
Congress, and not instruments of the executive branch (from 
whence they receive their appointments, and reappointments). 

Another problem is that the President too often appoints to 
the commissions men who serve a purely political purpose and 
are lacking in the knowledge, training, ability, and industry 
which make first-class commission members. 

The regulatory agencies have been investigated a great deal 
by Congress in recent years and some have had scandals 
but there is nothing wrong with the commissions that can't be 
cured by the appointment of honest, intelligent, and efficient 
commissioners . 

I don't always agree with the Interstate Commerce Commis 
sion but it has a fine tradition of competence and independence, 
and has had a number of outstanding members. Joseph B. East 
man, a commissioner from Boston who had been appointed by 
President Wilson in 1919 and served for twenty-five years and 
was looked upon as one of the great authorities on transporta 
tion of all times, is just one example of a fine public servant. 
Eastman told me that Roosevelt once called him to the White 
House and made a suggestion regarding a decision in a certain 
case. Eastman said he replied to the President that the ICC 
was an arm of Congress and not of the executive branch. East 
man's appointment to a new term was afterward held up for 
some time but was finally made by the President after many 
persons, including myself, wrote strong letters in his behalf. 



Chapter Seventeen 

THIRD TERM 

AND FOURTH TERM 



In the summer of 1939, speculation over whether FDR 
would run for a third term was already rife. On August 4, 
when Congress was preparing to adjourn, I had a long chat 
with him in the Oval Room of the White House. The Court 
fight was two years past and our relations, despite what most 
people thought, had become friendly again because of our 
frequent discussions about the railroad legislation. 

Our talk on August 4 covered railroads and a good many 
other topics, including politics and candidates, past and future. 
As soon as I returned to my office I dictated a memorandum 
of what was said, so I have an accurate record of the conver 
sation. 

I said to the President I wanted to talk with him before I 
went back to Montana, and that I knew he had been very, very 
busy, as I had been also. I remarked that columnists and others 



"Yankee from the West 

might say various things about my attitude toward him, and 
so I wanted "him to know firsthand just exactly how I felt. 

I told Tmn that Senator George Norris had come to me re 
cently and said he had a question to ask. Making it clear that 
he was speaking entirely for himself, Norris had asked, "Would 
you run for Vice President with President Roosevelt?" I said 
my response to Norris was, "No, I wouldn't run for Vice Presi 
dent with anyone," adding that he should not encourage the 
President to run in 1940. 

I then told FDR I thought it would be a mistake for him to 
seek a third term. He immediately interrupted me by saying 
casually, "Of course, it would be a mistake.'' I explained that 
it would be a mistake for him personally, and for the Demo 
cratic Party as well; that all the New Deal legislation would be 
jeopardized by his fight over the third-term issue because if 
he lost his defeat would be interpreted as a repudiation of the 
New Deal legislation which he had put on the statute books. 

I added, "Mr. President, I am worried about the future of this 
country, and I am worried for fear some reactionary Republi 
can, or some reactionary Democrat will come into power. 

**While I feel you would make a mistake running for a third 
term, nevertheless, if you are nominated, I will take off my coat 
and work for your re-election/* 

I also told him that I would not be a stooge for the reaction 
aries or for the big interests. 

"Many of them believe because I was against you on the 
Court issue, I will be against you on everything else. Of course, 
that is not so,** I said. 

"I am for seeing the Democratic Party nominate a liberal 
candidate, and it is the only way we can win,'* I added. 

The President replied, "I don't want to see a reactionary 
Democrat nominated. I love Jack Garner personally. He is a lov 
able man. But he couldn't get the Negro vote, and he couldn't 
get the labor vote." 

I expressed my fondness for Jack Garner but I doubted he 
could get the Irish vote. I called attention to the fact that a 
friend of mine from Boston, when I suggested to him that Gar 
ner might be nominated, had said, "It would be a mistake." I 



Third Term and Fourth Term 355 

had asked him if Garner could carry Boston, and he answered 
by saying that even if the Pope came over here and made a 
speech for him, "I doubt that he could carry Massachusetts." 

Then Roosevelt remarked that Jim Cox, the 1920 Democratic 
presidential nominee on whose ticket he had run for Vice Presi 
dent, had "played with reactionaries." He next mentioned John 
W. Davis, conservative 1924 Democratic presidential nominee, 
and said he didn't want anyone of that type to be nominated 
or to get control of the Democratic Party. Tm getting too old 
to go out and fight for a ticket that cannot win, and I want to 
see a ticket that can win," FDR mused. 

"I supported Bryan," he went on reminiscently. *1 was young 
and got into the Bryan campaign for the experience. I sup 
ported Wilson, and he won. After Wilson, I ran with Cox. I 
said to Cox, *Of course, we've got to go along with Wilson's 
League of Nations. We've got to be good sports. If we do go 
along with it, the anti-Leaguers are going to be sore, and if we 
don't go along with it, all the Wilson forces are going to be 
sore.' So I said to Cox, We'll go along and be good sports, and 
after it's over, youTl go back to Ohio, and IT1 go back and 
practice law in New York, because we cannot win/" 

When I pointed out during this talk with Roosevelt that I 
had gone along with him on all of his legislation that I con 
sidered "liberal," he interrupted me by saying, "Burt, I would 
like to have you do one thing for me. I'd like to have you make 
a speech or a statement and say that while you disagreed with 
me on the method of reforming the Supreme Court, you agreed 
with me on the objective and that the Court has now been lib 
eralized and that I have won my objective." I was somewhat 
shocked at how deeply he felt about his defeat. I told him I 
had made a speech I think it was in Baltimore in which I 
said I had agreed with him that some of the decisions of the 
Court had been wrong, but had disagreed on the way he 
wanted to correct the situation. 

The President said, This will help you and it would help me." 

(He had previously asked Secretary of Agriculture Wallace 
to ask me to make the same statement. Secretary Wallace had 
written down what the President wanted him to ask me and had 



356 Yankee from the West 

seen me a few days kter in his office to tell me the President's 
wishes. I had refused to make the speech.) 

FDR and I then discussed the political situation. He said, 
"Burt, I think we can win and I want to win in 1940." He 
added: "We will go along until January, February, or March. 
We will get together then. We will sit around and take up 
different combinations, and try and pick out one that will 
win." 

He talked about labor and John L. Lewis. He said John was 
an able fellow, and that if he would do something (I forget the 
language he used) he would be an excellent labor leader. He 
said, "If Sidney Hillman was the leader of the CIO, I could set 
tle all differences in the labor movement in a very short time, 
but we took $600,000 from Lewis in 1936, and he has never 
gotten through boasting about it. We made a mistake. We never 
should have taken the money. 

"Now,** he said, "Lewis made a mistake. It was a mistake for 
him to say what he did about Garner." Lewis had called Gar 
ner a "labor-baiting, poker-playing, whisky-drinking evil old 
man." ( I later told John Lewis what he had said about him and 
the $600,000 campaign contribution; Johns only comment was 
that the Democrats had kept asking for the money and the 
President knew it. ) 

The President continued: "You are strong in eastern Mon 
tana, and the endorsement of you by Lewis would not help 
you in eastern Montana because there are no strong labor 
unions over there." (This bore out what I already knew that 
after the Court fight he had someone make a very careful check 
on Montana to find out whether I could be beaten in the 1940 
election. One congressman from Washington interviewed the 
postmaster in Billings and at least one or two other places and 
was told that while the people would vote for the President, 
they would also vote for me.) 

The President next told me he planned to be in Montana 
around October 12 and hoped I would be there at the time. I 
told him I had a long-standing engagement to be in Hudson, 
Massachusetts, at that time; my home town folks, reinforced 
by leading Massachusetts politicos, were planning a big cele- 



Third Term and Fourth Term 357 

bration in my honor. Roosevelt asked me to see if I could have 
the date changed. (I couldn't.) 

In our conversation I also told FDR that Jim Farley, the last 
time I talked with him, "never mentioned a third term, nor 
did he say anything which was in the slightest disrespectful 
of you." I related that Farley did say the one person who would 
not get the 1940 nomination if he had anything to say about it 
was Paul V. McNutt, then Federal Security Administrator, and 
that Farley had also complained about Tom (Tommy the Cork) 
Corcoran, the President's able agent on Capitol Hill. 

"I know that Jim is very bitter against McNutt," the President 
commented, "and I know he doesn't like Tommy Corcoran. But 
I never see Corcoran more than once a month, and I told him 
that a lot of things Tommy might say I didn't know anything 
about, and that lite newspapers gave Tommy credit for a lot 
of things that were not so.'* 

(I knew for a fact that FDR was not being candid here. He 
saw Corcoran quite often and to my knowledge Tommy's key 
role in the President's legislative program was not exaggerated 
in the newspapers.) 

"I had a very fine talk with Jim," Roosevelt continued, in re 
gard to Farley. "He wants to run for Vice President, and because 
of his large acquaintance over the country he feels he could 
have the nomination. But a Hull-Farley ticket could not be 
elected," (The supposition here was that Farley might conceiv 
ably be the running mate of Cordell Hull, in the event that the 
Secretary of State ever achieved his ambition to be nominated 
for President.) 

Roosevelt then quoted his good friend, George Cardinal Mun- 
delein, of the Archdiocese of Chicago, as saying that "some day 
we're going to have a Catholic President; but he should not 
come in the back door. They could not nominate Farley or 
Frank Muiphy" then the Attorney General "for Vice Presi 
dent with the idea that either could become President that way. 
The Catholic they would elect would have to come out of the 
West and not from the sidewalks of New York." 

Roosevelt added his own thought that if there were an out 
standing Catholic Democrat available someone like my Mon- 



358 Yankee from the West 

tana colleague, the late Thomas J. Walsh, when he was "a young 
man and vigorous" he could possibly be elected in 1940. 

When I left, the President remarked, "Well, I'll see you in 
October." 

FDR was no doubt sincere when he said that seeking a third 
term was a mistake under ordinary conditions. (Corcoran has 
since told me the President had him put out feelers on his own 
on the third-term issue; he believes that FDR never really 
put the idea out of his mind. ) The war that erupted in Europe 
three weeks after our conversation upset all calculations and 
gave Roosevelt the excuse that lie needed to break the two- 
term tradition. 

Nonetheless, no one for the next ten months could be abso 
lutely sure that he would not run, for the President delighted 
in keeping his own counsel. Into this vacuum eagerly stepped 
Farley, McNutt, and Vice President Jack Garner. Also Hull did 
nothing to discourage his supporters. 

None of them looked like a winner to the powerful liberal- 
labor groups which dominate Democratic conventions. Soon I 
began to get a buildup in the newspapers and national maga 
zines as "the man to watch." I was pictured as a fighting cam 
paigner and as a liberal of long-standing who could swing 
many conservative votes. 

I refused to think I had a chance for the nomination but I 
had a keen interest in who the nominee might be. In the fall 
of 1939, 1 raised the question of FDR's intentions while lunch 
ing at the Capitol with David K. Niles, the White House assist 
ant in charge of minority groups and a friend of mine since he 
had worked for the La Follette-Wheeler ticket in 1924. 

"He doesn't want to run and he won't if he can find someone 
to succeed him who will look upon him as the elder statesman 
and send him to the peace conference," Niles told me. 

"WhoVe you got?" was my next question. 

"Nobody," said Niles. When I mentioned Senator James F. 
Byrnes of South Carolina, an FDR favorite, Niles replied that 
Byrnes couldn't be elected because he was an ex-Catholic. 
When I named Farley, McNutt, and Senate majority leader 
Barkley, Niles said none of them would do. 



Third Term and Fourth Term 359 

Then he said, "You could be elected." I replied that the big 
city basses in the party would never stand for me because of 
my independence. He pointed out that the bosses wanted to 
win. When I said Roosevelt would never stand for me because 
I had broken with him on the Court fight, Miles answered: "I've 
never heard him say anything against you cross my heart." 

A little later, when I was in Boston, Governor Charles F. 
Hurley remarked that he was sure I could have second place 
on a Roosevelt ticket if I wanted it. Hurley, a friend of mine, 
urged me to take it. 

My relations with the White House staff continued to be 
close* When I was writing my address for the National Associa 
tion of Manufacturers dinner in New York in early December, 
Niles asked me for a copy of the speech and carried it back to 
the White House for study. He returned it with some sugges 
tions for changes made by whom he did not say. 

The theme of my speech was that big business must learn to 
cooperate with both labor and government or face more regu 
lation and less profit. My correspondence file, as I review it now, 
shows that this advice was surprisingly well received by the 
NAM tycoons; many of them dropped me laudatory notes. This 
reaction encouraged those who were chafing to get a go-ahead 
from me to work for my nomination in 1940. 

Press comment on my chances stepped up in January, after 
John L. Lewis, by that time violently anti-Roosevelt, gave me 
an unsolicited endorsement, and George Norris said I was his 
choice in the event FDR did not choose to run. Columnist Er 
nest K. Lindley wrote that Lewis' support put me **on the left 
of Roosevelt* 

The theory of my double-edged appeal as a candidate was 
summed up this way in the Washington Star by Charles G. 
Ross, who later became President Truman's press secretary: 

"Senator Wheeler will be offered as a liberal who appeals to 
the conservative wing of the party, with whom he fought shoul 
der to shoulder in the Court fight, and who at the same time, 
because of his progressive record, can be counted on to hold in 
line the labor vote which the party must have to win/' 

During the following five months virtually every national 



360 Yankee from the West 

magazine took a crack at analyzing my assets and liabilities. 
Assessing the developing situation, Robert Moses, the tart- 
tongued New Yorker, concluded in The Saturday Evening 
Post that if FDR would give his blessing to a ticket composed 
of Wheeler for President and Senator Harry Byrd for Vice Presi 
dent "it would be no easy ticket to beat." 

My record for being an independent-minded Democrat led 
to contradictory conclusions on the same page in the March 
1940 issue of Current History. Robert S. Allen, the syndicated 
columnist, theorized that if I had "remained true" to the lib 
erals on the Court-packing bill I would by 1940 have been 
either a Supreme Court justice or the "undeniable successor to 
Franklin D. Roosevelt . . . today, neither the liberals nor the 
conservatives trust him." 

However, Ludwell Denny, New York World-Telegram col 
umnist, wrote: "The reason for Burt Wheeler's growing 
strength as a compromise candidate (if the third term is out) 
is not money or organization he has neither. It is because he 
is trusted by both liberals and conservatives, labor and capital" 

I was "Man of the Week" on the cover of the April 15, 1940, 
issue of Time magazine over the caption, "The Democratic 
Party Has a Great Future." The Christian Science Monitor 
called me a "left-wing Coolidge." Even the American Astrology 
magazine got into the act; its crystal ball disclosed that if Roose 
velt did not run, Wheeler would be the Democratic nominee! 

My relations with the Roosevelts were friendly* Mrs. Eleanor 
Roosevelt wrote asking me to come to the White House on Feb 
ruary 5 for a discussion with some young people who she said 
were planning a Citizenship Institute of the American Youth 
Congress: 

T suggested you might be willing to come here and hold a 
meeting at which everyone present would have an opportunity 
to find out about the purposes and objectives which they hope 
to achieve by holding this institute in Washington ... I hope 
very much you will be able to make this sacrifice of your time." 

I attended the meeting and talked to quite a few youngsters, 
some of whom I felt were obviously under the influence of the 
Communists as the American Youth Congress was later proved 



Third Term and Fourth Term 361 

to be. I have had an instinct for spotting red sympathizers ever 
since I associated with radical labor leaders and the IWW in 
Montana. 

I have two amusing recollections of Eleanor Roosevelt, and 
I will digress to relate them here, After the 1932 Democratic 
convention, I had been summoned to the Roosevelt home at 
Hyde Park to discuss campaign strategy. We sat up until after 
midnight talking over possible appointees, Roosevelt said he 
wasn't interested in big names for his Cabinet, because most 
of them had been built up by the newspapers. We went over 
various issues to be discussed in the campaign. The next morn 
ing, breakfasting with Mrs. Roosevelt, she confided ruefully that 
"they won t let me campaign because I'm considered too lib 
eral." (I left Hyde Park somewhat disillusioned. When I got 
back to our summer camp in the Rockies, Mrs. Wheeler asked 
me what I thought of FDR. I said I was disappointed, that I 
didn't believe he had any deep-seated convictions about any 
thing.) 

In 1934, 1 was aboard the Roosevelt train when the President 
returned through Montana from a trip to Hawaii. Mrs. Roose 
velt was sitting with us one day when we were discussing the 
drought. 

"Franklin, what are you going to do about unemployment?" 
she suddenly asked. FDR went right on talking about some 
thing else. 

"Franklin, what are you going to do about unemployment?" 
she persisted. Still her husband ignored her. Finally, when she 
repeated the question a third time, FDR replied: "My dear, if 
I knew I would have told you a long time ago. I'm going to try 
a little of this and a little of that and see what we come out 
with." 

In 1937 I related this conversation to a White House aide 
and his comment surprised me, TDid it ever occur to you that 
there is no unemployment in wartime?" he asked. 

Late in April 1940 the newspapers carried a press association 
report that the President was about to invite me to the White 
House to offer me the vice presidential nomination. The story 
was not true and when I scotched the rumor I could not help 



362 Yankee from the West 

quipping: "Anyhow, I'm not old enough to be Vice President* * 
I was fifty-eight. "A man ought to be sixty to hold that office." 

One evening in June 1940 Mrs. Wheeler and I were invited 
to dinner at the home of Robert E. Kintner, then a columnist 
partner of Joseph Alsop and later successively the president of 
the American Broadcasting Company and the National Broad 
casting Company. Kintner was close to the White House and 
the other guests were practicing New Dealers Leon Hender 
son, head of the Office of Price Stabilization; Ben Cohen, FDR's 
able legal draftsman; and Edward Foley, general counsel for 
the Treasury Department. 

After dinner, Henderson leaned back in his chair, removed 
a big cigar from his mouth, and said, "The convention is going 
to nominate you for Vice President and you're going to have to 
take it" 

A hush fell over the Kintner living room. The four couples 
waited to hear my reaction. 

"No," I said. 

"Why not?" Henderson asked. 

"Because the President is going to get us into the war and I 
won't go out and campaign and say he won't," I explained. 
This was not long after I had been visited, as related in Chap 
ter One, by an admiral and an Army officer, both of whom 
warned me that Roosevelt would finagle us into the war. 

When Henderson frowned, I continued: "He shouldn't want 
me, anyway. I couldn't be a Vice President like Garner. When 
ever I disagreed with him, I'd come right out and say so. You 
know me well enough to know that." 

Henderson said that I ought to take the vice presidency 
under the condition that when the emergency was over, FDR 
would resign and I would become President. I thought it was a 
joke. 

"Will he let me decide when the emergency is over?" I 
asked, beginning to enjoy myself. 

At this point, it was pointed out to Mrs. Wheeler-in a typi 
cally Washington gambit-that "you'd be the Vice President's 
wife" 



Third Term and Fourth Term 363 

"I'd rather have my husband in the Senate/* replied Mrs. 
Wheeler truthfully. 

Henderson said: "Here is Bob Kintner, here is Ben Cohen, 
here is Ed Foley, Tom Corcoran's friend, and you know how 
we stand/' intimating that they were speaking with the au 
thority of the White House. 

Before the party broke up at about eleven o'clock, the other 
three men present joined in urging me not to close my mind to 
the vice presidential candidacy. 

The President played the sphinx on the third-term question. 
In November 1939 I had allowed a Wheeler-for-President or 
ganization to be set up, while making it clear at that time I 
would support FDR if he should choose to run. The organiza 
tion was a modest one, relatively small in funds and extending 
into few states outside Montana. But a number of volunteers 
worked enthusiastically in my interest. One of them was the 
late Senator Richard Neuberger, then a free-lance writer. His 
extensive correspondence with my supporters shows that he 
unsuccessfully tried to get the liberals in Oregon to withdraw 
the President's name in the Oregon primary and substitute my 
own. 

In December 1939 1 had received a letter from Roy Howard, 
head of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, asking if he 
could set up a luncheon in New York so that I could meet "a 
dozen or so people in key positions , , . whose acquaintance 
with you might be worth while." Howard went on to say that 
"on firsthand acquaintance you're a rather pleasant surprise to 
a lot of people whose impressions are based, conscientiously or 
otherwise, on the efforts of individuals who have done a rather 
artistic job of presenting you in a false light." 

There was nothing back of the invitation, Howard wrote 
slyly, except that *I know of no man I'd rather see as the next 
occupant of the White House than yourself/' He added that he 
had no illusions that he and I would always see "eye to eye" 
on every subject. 

Thanking Howard, I replied: 

"The charge was made against me that when I disagreed 
with the President, that I disliked hrm personally. No one who 



364 Yankee from the West 

knows him can dislike him personally. I said to an audience in 
Montana that I disagreed with my wife sometimes, and she 
sometimes violently disgrees with me, because she is Scotch, 
but that does not mean that we are not one of the most con 
genial married couples in the United States. If you cannot dis 
agree with a party and still be friends, he really was not much 
of a friend in the first place." 

The Democratic National Convention was due to open in 
Chicago on July 15, 1940. On the train bound for the Windy 
City, my son, Edward, was buttonholed in the vestibule of a 
Pullman by David Niles. 

"Don't let your father get in a fight with Roosevelt before 
the voting starts/* he urged. It was not clear to Edward whether 
Niles was thinking of first or second place on the ticket. No 
body professed to know Roosevelt's intentions, and so I had 
consented to let my name be placed in nomination. While 
Montana had only eight delegates, the assumption was that I 
would start as the candidate of the West and, if FDR didn't 
run, my Supreme Court and anti-war fights plus my general 
liberalism would appeal to the delegations from most states. 
Edward and the others working for my nomination never pre 
tended to have more than a handful of delegates committed to 
me but no other candidate could count on many delegates 
either. Almost every delegate was waiting for the word on FDR 
before sticking his neck out. 

I still didn't take my candidacy very seriously. If FDR didn't 
choose to run, he could just about name his successor and I 
felt he must have been irked at my recent attacks on his war 
policies. 

The suspense evaporated on July 9, with the arrival in Chi 
cago of Secretary of Commerce Harry Hopkins, FDR's con 
fidant who lived right in the White House; and Senator Byrnes, 
FDR's right-hand man in the Senate. They were there to stage- 
manage the President's nomination. 

Hopkins logically set himself up in the Blackstone Hotel 
suite that included the notorious "smoke-filled room" where 
Warren G. Harding's nomination had been master-minded in 
1920 by my old friend, Harry Daugherty. There Hopkins began 



Third Term and Fourth Term 365 

dealing with the city bosses and the labor leaders. Across the 
street in the Stevens Hotel, Byrnes began passing the word 
among key politicians that the President was "available/' Hop 
kins and Byrnes made no bones about wanting to avoid the 
traditional poky roll call nomination by acclamation would 
look better. 

Having spent time and money to build themselves up, Far 
ley and Garner refused to be blocked off. They wanted a roll 
call. Senator Barkley, the convention's permanent chairman and 
an agent of the White House group, tried to outsmart them by 
stimulating the apathetic delegates* He read a message from 
the President to the effect that while he "never had any de 
sire" to run again "all the delegates are free to vote for any 
candidate/' obviously including a man named Roosevelt. Some 
of the delegates did not immediately get the significance of 
the clever wording. But the leaders did it was clearly an 
"invitation to the draft/' as they put it. 

The reading of the President's message touched off a pan 
demonium that could only have been manufactured by the 
efficient organization of Chicago Mayor Edward J. Kelly. The 
key instrument since famous in political annals was a micro 
phone in the basement of the Chicago Stadium hooked into the 
loudspeaker system. Pressed close to the microphone was the 
mouth of Tom Garry, Superintendent of Sewers. 

"We want Roosevelt!" Garry bellowed, and the amplified 
words re-echoed around the huge hall like thunderclaps of 
doom for the avowed candidates. In the galleries as well as on 
the floor, thousands of the mayor's ward heelers took up the 
chant. There followed a screaming demonstration for FDR 
which, under Garry's invisible chant-prompting, continued for 
53 minutes. To the radio listeners, it must have sounded as if 
the delegates couldn't wait until the balloting session to nomi 
nate the President. Actually, as has been written elsewhere, 
the delegates were far from enthusiastic about having traveled 
all the way to Chicago to be cast in the role of puppets. 

Just off the convention floor, my sons John and Edward were 
trying to organize the Wheeler-for-President standard bearers 
for the time when my name would be placed in nomination. 



3 66 Yankee from the West 

But once the commanding "voice from the sewers'' gushed forth, 
Kelly's goons snatched the placards away from my sons' group 
and broke them. Standard bearers for other candidates suf 
fered a similar fate-and were roughly handled if they resisted. 

Once the word got around that FDR would run, it was all 
over. The steamroller began to move. A roll call was ordered 
but I decided not to let my name go before the convention. I 
told Senator D. Worth Clark of Idaho, who was scheduled to 
offer my name, that I would not subject him to the catcalling 
punishment on the floor that was the lot of those who were 
nominating candidates other than FDR. Clark wanted to nomi 
nate me anyway but I wouldn't let him. 

Roosevelt got 946 out of a total of 1100 delegates' votes, Far 
ley got 72 and Garner got 61, with Senator Tydings and Cordell 
Hull sharing the handful that remained. 

Within 24 hours, it became known that FDR's choice for 
running mate was Henry A. Wallace, his Secretary of Agricul 
ture. In Chicago, I had been sounded out for second place 
twice, in a roundabout way, and both times I had rejected the 
idea. 

Before the convention opened, Mose Cohen, a Los Angeles 
lawyer originally from my own town of Butte, Montana, had 
come to my suite in the Congress Hotel. He breathlessly an 
nounced that he had just come from a session with Hopkins; 
Frank Walker, then treasurer of the Democratic National Com 
mittee and later its chairman; and Edward J. Flynn, the boss 
from the Bronx. 

"You can have the nomination for Vice President," Cohen 
said. 

'They re not serious," I assured him. When he insisted that 
they were serious, I told him I would accept the offer "only if 
the President calls and asks me." I heard no more from Cohen. 

On the opening day of the convention, I had decided to pass 
up the routine formalities at the Chicago Stadium and take a 
nap in my suite. I left word that I didn't want to be disturbed. 
Shortly afterward, Edward, who was standing guard outside 
my door, was brushed aside roughly by William H. Hutchin- 



Third Term and Fourth Term 367 

son, the large and colorful Washington bureau chief of the 
International News Service and a good friend of mine. 

"Hutch" barged into my room and told me he had been talk 
ing long-distance with Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy. 

"Murphy has just left the White House and says that if you 
will agree to take the vice presidential nomination, the Presi 
dent will call you and ask you to," he said. 

"I can't do it," I told Hutch. "He's going to get us into the 
war and I can't tell the people he's going to keep us out," 

"You're the biggest damn fool in the world!" Hutch ex 
ploded. "You'll be President of the United States if you agree 
to this!" 

I added that Mrs. Wheeler would divorce me if I became 
FDR's running mate. After further upbraiding me for what he 
called shortsighted stubbornness, Hutchinson stomped out of 
my suite. During the next several years, he kidded me pub 
licly about passing up a chance to be President. He expected 
Roosevelt to die in office, though perhaps sooner than it hap 
pened. 

I could well believe that Murphy had discussed the matter 
at the White House, for he had told me much earlier I was his 
choice for Vice President. I had known him well when he was 
governor of Michigan and United States Attorney General 

Despite what the public may think about the remoteness of 
the Supreme Court, the justices in my time were frequently 
consulted by the President of the United States on non-judicial 
matters, such as executive appointments and party candidates. 
Men like Murphy and former Senators Sherman Minton, Hugo 
Black and Harold Burton were politicians to begin with and 
did not completely lose their taste for or interest in politics just 
because they were elevated to the high bench, 

Those who remember me now primarily as "the man who 
fought Roosevelt," may be surprised that I was within reach 
of second place on the ticket in 1940. Tom Corcoran has since 
confirmed to me that this was indeed the situation as viewed 
from the inside. He explains that FDR ever since the Court 
fight considered me an opponent to be reckoned with a^d 
doubtless felt that relegating me to vice presidential "limbo" 



368 Yankee from the West 

would neutralize me, so to speak. I can well imagine he would 
like to have shut me up on the red-hot intervention issue, and 
this is precisely why I could not in good conscience run with 
him, as I have said. Corcoran also points out that in picking a 
running mate FDR didn't really think he was choosing a suc 
cessorhe simply could not imagine himself dying! 

Surprising as it may be to many, again in 1944 White House 
aides talked all around the edges of the question of my being a 
possible vice presidential candidate, although the situation was 
not clear-cut as it was in 1940. 

Early in 1944, Dave Niles asked my son, Edward, to have 
dinner with him at the Carlton Hotel. Edward reported back 
to me that Niles had said that if I would call on the President 
and try to patch up our old differences Roosevelt would "throw 
up his hands with glee." The President was represented as be 
lieving that Mrs. Wheeler hated him and influenced me against 
him. (I believe Roosevelt's feeling about Mrs. Wheeler's atti 
tude dated from the day in 1934 when he invited us and a few 
others for a cruise down the Potomac on the presidential yacht. 
The President and Mrs. Wheeler rode alone together to the 
dock in his limousine, while the rest of us followed. FDR tried 
several times to engage her in conversation but she all but ig 
nored him. She had a strong antipathy to Roosevelt from this 
date. ) Then the conversation went around, in Niles' circuitous 
fashion, to the question of FDR's running mate. 

Niles gave Edward the impression that he and other liberals 
either didn't want Vice President Wallace renominated or 
knew FDR wouldn't take him again; also that as a substitute 
for Wallace their choice boiled down to Senator Harry Truman 
and me. They were mainly concerned with getting a "true 
liberal." Niles knew I was a vigorous campaigner. Truman 
passed the test for liberalism but his ability to wage a fighting 
campaign was not known (ironical as this may seem now in 
view of his "give 'em hell" campaign in 1948) . The forcefulness 
of the vice presidential candidate was important because none 
of the White House insiders could be sure how much cam 
paigning FDR's alarming decline in health would permit. 

Thus, as Edward reported his impression to me, the group of 



Third Term and Fourth Term 369 

liberals for which Niles spoke preferred me but weren't sure 
they could "sell" me to the President unless there was a recon 
ciliation first. They knew that Truman was acceptable to Roose 
velt and also to the potent CIO group. 

I called Niles the next day and said that Edward had told 
me of their talk. I told him that I was not sore at the President 
but did not want to embarrass him (Niles), otherwise I would 
talk to him. He said it wouldn't embarrass him but might help 
him. I said, "If you feel that way, come up and have lunch." He 
did and again said the President didn't want to run but felt he 
might have to. Niles did not offer me the vice presidency but 
did say that the President would rather have me as a successor 
than some of those "tories." I told him if I ever had any desire 
to run for President I didn't have any more, as I felt the man 
who followed the President might be shot and I didn't want to 
be a dead hero. 

He then asked me about Senator Truman. He said, "Can he 
make a speech?" I told him he could, though he had not made 
many in the Senate. 

He then said, "If the President doesn't run, it will probably 
be Truman." 

In the spring of 1944 Judge Sam Rosenman, who was FDR's 
confidant and speech writer, called me up and then came to 
the Interstate Commerce Committee room at the Capitol. Sam 
had always been on friendly terms with me and I considered 
him one of the able men around the President. He not only 
wrote the speeches for FDR but a good many of Truman's after 
he became President. He said he wanted to bring about better 
relations between the President and me. We spent three hours 
together discussing various possibilities for the national ticket. 
He mentioned that if the President ran for a fourth term they 
were having difficulty in finding the right person for Vice Presi 
dent. He said that people were going to the President carrying 
tales of what I said about him and people were coming to me 
telling me what the President said about me. I then told him I 
understood that when the Court fight was going on the Presi 
dent had said, "Wheeler's all right but that wife of his is Lady 
Macbeth." The next day he called me on the phone and 



370 Yankee from the West 

said the President "vehemently denies that Shakespearean 
quotation." 

Sam came to see me again at my office later and we spent 
over an hour talking generally about legislation. Again he said 
he wanted me and the President to get along better. 

I did have a long visit with FDR in the White House in the 
spring of 1944 ^ ut & e e presidency was not mentioned. 
Nevertheless, the story was circulated that this meant I was 
going to run for Vice President. Constantine Brown, columnist 
for the Washington Star, was one of several who told me he had 
heard the story, 

Frank Walker, Postmaster General and an old friend of mine 
from Butte, Montana, called my house one morning and asked 
me to pick him up on the way to the office. He wanted to discuss 
the political situation and especially vice presidential candi 
dates. He sought my opinion of Truman, Byrnes, and Supreme 
Court Justice William O. Douglas, He wanted to know if I 
thought the Catholics would fight Byrnes because he had left 
the Church as a younger man. I told him that he ought to know 
more about that than I did, since he was a good and prominent 
Catholic. 

I told Walker with a chuckle what happened after I had 
been to the White House and the story got started that I had 
been offered the number two spot on the ticket. Taking a ta 
ble in the Senate restaurant, I was immediately approached 
by Gregory, a veteran waiter I had known for years. 

"If you're going to ride a horse," Gregory advised me, "ride 
him yourself/' Then, shifting to another metaphor, he had 
added seriously, "Don't play second fiddle." 

"All right," I told Walker I had replied to Gregory, "if you 
don't want me to run for Vice President I won't do it." 

This caused Walker to comment "You're just as ornery as 
ever." 

"As I grow older, I get more mellow," I replied with a laugh. 

Alighting at the Post Office Building, Walker grunted, "Just 
on the surface." 

Another who came to me with worries about the choice of 
FDR's 1944 running mate was James V. Forrestal, then Secre- 



Third Term and Fourth Term 371 

tary of the Navy and privy to many White House matters. At 
lunch, Forrestal remarked that if Wallace were renominated 
many influential persons would refuse to support the ticket. 
He was wondering if Douglas would do. 

In September 1944 Tommy Corcoran was visiting me in my 
office and we discussed the Democratic convention of that 
summer. 

"Why didn't you take the vice presidential nomination?" he 
asked. 

"It wasn't offered to me/' I replied. 

"Didn't Dave Miles offer it to you?" Corcoran said. "He was 
supposed to." 

Corcoran, who was no longer in the government, had worked 
to get the vice presidential nomination for Douglas and he had 
no use for Niles. 

Whether I was ever considered for second place by the 
President in 1944 I do not know, but I could hardly help feel 
ing that the talks I had with Niles, Rosenman, Walker, and 
Forrestal were attempts to sound me out on the idea. At any 
rate, I couldn't have accepted if it had been offered because 
in supporting the President in the campaign I would have had 
to repudiate much of what I had said previously about his 
foreign policies. Besides, the job of Vice President never ap 
pealed to me. It had been a terrible bore for me to sit in the 
presiding officer's chair whenever I had been "drafted" for it. I 
ducked it whenever I could. There is no excitement wielding a 
gavel. 

I liked it down on the floor of the Senate. You can have a 
real debate there. I also liked the committee work, particularly 
the investigations, where a man could show his initiative and 
imagination. Altogether, I felt then and I feel now that the 
office of United States Senator is the finest there isif you are a 
free man. By this I mean free from dictation by political bosses 
and control by corporations, labor or other pressure groups. 
A senator as fortunately situated as I was in Montana could 
disagree with a President who was in his own party when he 
believed the President was wrong. To be beholden to any in- 



372 Yankee from the West 

dividual or group would have made the Senate a stultifying 
experience for me. 

Of course, there was a time in Montana, as in many other 
Western states, when the large corporations and their retainers 
completely dominated both political parties. As I have related 
in an earlier chapter, Montana politics had been corrupted by 
the lavish outlays of money during the fight of the "copper 
barons." That day has long passed. My erstwhile enemies, the 
Anaconda Copper Mining Company, while still interested in 
legislation in Washington that affects them and their relations 
with organized labor, have long since abandoned the political 
tactics they once practiced. 

I didn't realize how free I was in the Senate until I had a few 
words one day in the 19205 with Senator Edward I. Edwards, 
a Democrat from New Jersey. Edwards was a former governor 
of his state and very likeable. One morning he came to me and 
said he was going to vote with me and the elder La Follette on 
a bill. In the afternoon, he said he was sorry but that he 
couldn't go along. When I asked why, he said his "boss," Frank 
Hague of Jersey City, had called him up and told him not to. 

"Do you have someone call you up and tell you what to do?" 
I asked, perhaps naively. 

"You have to do what the boss says or you don't get re- 
elected," he replied. "Who's your boss?" 

I said I had none. 

Edwards didn't believe this. He suggested that Tom Walsh 
must be my boss. I was a great admirer of Walsh's ability and 
integrity, and we generally agreed on our votes, but neither of 
us ever tried to tell the other how to vote. 

Even my good friend, Harry Truman, remarked once that he 
had to go along with Roosevelt on a vote because he had ridden 
in on FDR's coattails. "You're in a different position," he noted. 

When Truman was tapped for the vice presidential nomina 
tion at the 1944 convention in Chicago, it angered Byrnes, 
Alben Barkley, and a few others who had been led to believe in 
one way or another that they had had FDR's blessing. I heart 
ily approved. I felt I had a special interest in Truman's career, 
having played a role in his rise in the Senate. 



Third Term and Fourth Term 373 

Truman acknowledged this fact in a letter he wrote me from 
the winter White House at Key West, Florida, on November 17, 



Thanking me for a note I had dropped on another subject, 
the President went on to say: "I think you and I have always 
understood each other. I've always believed in your honesty 
and integrity, and your statements about my reputation and 
truthfulness are highly appreciated. People do not always have 
to see exactly eye to eye to be good friends. As far as I'm con 
cerned, you and I will continue to understand each other. Til 
never forget the fact that you recognized the junior senator 
from Missouri and gave him something to do when he came to 
the Senate in 1935." 

Truman's reference to my help went back to the time when 
he was a new appointee to the Interstate Commerce Commit 
tee which I headed. One day after I opened hearings on an 
important investigation of railroad financing, I noticed Truman 
had slipped into the audience and was paying close attention 
to the testimony. Later, I asked him if he was interested in the 
subject. He said he was. I appointed him to the subcommittee. 
When the Utility Holding Company bill came up, my time 
was wholly occupied with that and I made Truman the acting 
chairman of the railroad financing subcommittee. He proved 
to be very diligent and capable. 

When the Democratic boss of Kansas City, Tom Pendergast, 
was convicted of defrauding the federal government of income 
taxes in 1939, Truman asked me whether I thought the senators 
would feel he should resign from the Senate. He said he owed 
his election to Pendergast. I asked him if he was involved in 
any way in the scandal. Truman said he was not. I said there 
was no reason for him to resign and advised him to go about 
his business as if nothing had happened. 

Early in World War II, I introduced a resolution to investi 
gate reports of scandalous transactions in munitions contracts. 
I had reports of inexcusable wasting if not worse of govern 
ment funds by businessmen who were on cost-plus contracts 
and didn't care how much they spent. 

My resolution was recommended for passage by my com- 



374 Yankee from the West 

mittee but I knew that even if I got the Senate to approve it I 
would have trouble getting money from the Rules Committee 
to conduct a thorough probe. The Roosevelt Administration 
would block me there by passing the word that I was out to 
discredit the war effort. Anticipating this, I had intended to 
appoint Truinan as chairman of the committee if my resolution 
went through. The administration took no chances on my tak 
ing the chairmanship myself. They asked Truman to introduce 
a similar resolution. I did not press my resolution and Truman's 
passed. Over several years, Truman did an excellent job with 
his special committee and it did more than anything else to 
propel him into nation-wide prominence and the vice presi 
dency. 

During the campaign in 1944, Truman came through Butte 
and stopped to make a speech. I was not notified of his appear 
ance, although I was at my summer home on Lake McDonald. 
In that speech he berated the isolationists. I read about it and 
was ready to issue a blast against Truman when friends of mine 
talked me out of it. 

I was still angry about it after the election and I did not con 
gratulate Tiim on the victory. Shortly after he had taken his seat 
as Vice President, he dropped into a seat in the Senate next to 
mine. I told him I didn't like the speech and had no notice of 
it, and I recalled that I had made speeches in Missouri and 
praised him when he needed it. He told me that he at first had 
refused to go into Montana, because the Democratic National 
Committee had wanted him to talk against me. But he said 
they had pleaded with him on his way back from Seattle and he 
finally agreed to make that one stop. 

He then said to me: "If you ever see me doing anything 
wrong, I hope you'll come and tell me." 

I always felt that Harry Truman was honest and that he 
wanted to do the right thing, notwithstanding that I didn't al 
ways agree with him. 

Not long after our conversation a picture appeared on the 
front pages showing a beaming Vice President tinkling the 
piano at the National Press Club with a movie star sitting on 



Third Term and Fourth Term 375 

top of the piano displaying her lovely legs. I went into the 
Vice President's room off the Senate floor. 

"You told me to tell you whenever I saw you doing something 
wrong/' I said to Truman. "Now don't have your picture taken 
playing the piano with some girl sitting on the piano. You are 
going to be President of the United States and the people 
want someone whom they can look up to; they don't want a 
professor in a sporting house for President." 

Truman laughed heartily and replied, "Don't worry, that 
won't happen again." He explained that "some of my friends 
asked me to go there and I didn't think there was to be any 
publicity/' 

I then said, "Now that you're Vice President some friends 
will want to use you, and so remember you can protect your 
self against your enemies but you can't always protect yourself 
against your friends." He seemed to be very grateful for our 
talk. He was a sincere friend and I always wanted to help him. 

On April 11, 1945, the day before President Roosevelt died, 
Senator Bennett Champ Clark and Vice President Truman 
gave a luncheon for Robert E. Hannegan, the new Chairman 
of the Democratic National Committee, in the office of Leslie 
Biffle, Secretary of the Senate. There were fourteen or fifteen 
Democrats present. As the luncheon was breaking up, I went 
up to Truman and told him I didn't think he ought to attend 
a dinner we had all been invited to that was being given for 
the labor delegates from England, Russia, and several other 
countries. The delegates were on their way to San Francisco to 
attend the meeting of the group working on the formation of 
what became the United Nations. 

"They're friends of yours and mine," Truman said. 

"I am afraid there's a bunch of Communists among them 
and something might occur that would embarrass you later," 
I advised. "You're going to be President." 

He said he had already accepted and I said, "Tell them you 
had forgotten you had another engagement." Just then Bob 
Hannegan came up and I told him what I had said. Hannegan 
agreed with me. 

The next day President Roosevelt died and Truman was 



376 Yankee from the West 

sworn in as President. The day after that Lowell Mason, a friend 
of Truman's and afterward a member of the Federal Trade 
Commission, called Matt Connelly at the White House from 
my office in the Senate Office Building. Matt, who was Tru 
man's appointments secretary, was not there but in a short 
time he telephoned me. Truman got on the phone, and said he 
was coming up for lunch at the Secretary of the Senate's office 
and wanted me to be there. One of my assistants called up 
Biffle's office and was told they knew nothing of the luncheon. 
I then called Biffle and told him I knew nothing about it but 
that the President wanted me there. He said they would be 
glad to have me. 

It was a non-partisan affair. Senators Warren R. Austin of 
Vermont, Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan, Claude D. Pep 
per of Florida, Barkley all of them internationally minded 
were present. They told Truman what they thought about the 
international picture. After listening to them, he turned to me 
and asked what I thought about it. For once I felt it was no 
time to get into an argument and said I didn't know. 

The President then told them that a day and a half previ 
ously I had said he was going to be President and he didn't 
believe it. I told him I thought I had more knowledge of FDR's 
failing health than some otherswhich was true. 

It was not long afterward that President Truman asked me 
to come over and see him. He paid me a fine compliment by 
saying he wanted my advice which incidentally he never fol 
lowed on foreign policy. At this meeting in the White House, 
I told him I wanted to see him make a good President first 
because it was so necessary for the country and secondly be 
cause I liked him. 

I told him he should pick out a Cabinet that owed its al 
legiance to him that the present Cabinet owed its allegiance 
to FDR. "Give me time," he replied. Til pick out a Democratic 
Cabinet but they'll be Truman Democrats." He added that he 
was going to get rid of Attorney General Francis Biddle for 
one. I advised Truman during our talk not to try to take on all 
of FDR's enemies because not all of FDR's friends would stay 
with him. I pointed out that some of FDR's newspaper ene- 



Third Term and Fourth Term 377 

mies hated FDR, but they didn't hate him. He then paid his 
respects to Robert R. McConnick, publisher of the Chicago 
Tribune and William Randolph Hearst in his usual colorful 
four-letter language. 



Chapter Eighteen 



LIBERAL WITH A NEW LABEL 



Long ago I learned not to take political labeling seriously. 
Because every shade of political tag was hung on me (while 
I knew I had not changed my basic thinking), the phrases be 
came meaningless. Thus, by the time I was assailed as an 
"isolationist," I didn't care one way or the other. But I will say 
now that I think the term was inaccurate or at least misleading 
if it was meant to describe me as one who felt Uncle Sam should 
have the very minimum of relations with the rest of the world. 

While I have always advocated doing everything possible 
to stay out of a war in which we were not attacked, I have al 
ways believed my country should do everything possible to 
promote peace and I went abroad as often as possible, at my 
own expense, to learn conditions. 

My journeys took me to Europe and Latin America a number 
of times, to the Orient twice, and around the world once. On 
the trip Mrs. Wheeler and I took to Europe in 1923, I got ac 
quainted in Vienna with Adolph Igra, an Austrian-born Ameri 
can representative of an American firm. Igra knew European 



Liberal with a New Label 379 

history better than almost anyone I have known. He intro 
duced me to Arthur Kuffler, a Viennese textile manufacturer. 
I told Kuffler I could not understand why the Austrians, Ger 
mans, French, Italians, Irish, Norwegians, and Russians could 
get along together in the United States while in Europe they 
constantly quarreled among themselves. 

"It isn't the people, it's the politicians," Kuffler explained. 
"Whether they're kings or czars or emperors, or whatever they 
are, for political reasons they appeal to the prejudice of the 
people in their particular communities, states, or nations. They 
stir up old hatreds along racial lines against other countries. 
And that brings on war." 

"Do you realize what your people have done to Europe?" 
Kuffler continued. "We used to have factories in Hungary, 
Austria, and what is now Czechoslovakia, but today if you 
want to ship a piece of machinery from Austria or Czechoslova 
kia over to Hungary, you have to pay tariffs and have all sorts 
of border difficulties. They have destroyed the economy of 
Europe that's what you did at Versailles. In addition, by di 
viding up Europe you have created more jealousies that can 
only cause more wars/' 

I felt at the time that Kuffler was right about the pernicious 
effects of the Versailles Treaty. It was almost forty years before 
the western European nations got around to forming the sen 
sible common market, which eliminates the irksome tariff bar 
riers. 

Though I had been opposed to getting into the First World 
War, I admired Woodrow Wilson. Many other young Progres 
sives also would have been glad to support Theodore Roosevelt 
for President on his Progressive ticket of 1912 if Wilson had 
not been nominated. But Wilson was looked upon in the West 
as a true Progressive and we supported him. Like most of my 
friends in Montana, I was for Wilson s League of Nations be 
fore I went to Europe. After talking with a great number of 
people on my European trip, I became convinced that the 
League would have to maintain the status quo of a divided 
central Europe and a wholly unsound economic situation 
which could only result in a collapse and war. 



380 Yankee from the West 

It was then I came to favor a United States of Europewhich 
I later found had first been suggested by George Washington. 
When I returned from Europe in 1923, I gave out a statement 
that unless such a federation was created there would be an 
other war. 

I injected myself into Senate debates on foreign affairs for 
the first time in 1926. I favored Uncle Sam's participating in 
peace conferences and arms-limitation agreements but strongly 
opposed what we then called "dollar diplomacy." A dramatic 
example of this policy was Calvin Coolidge's decision to send 
the United States Marines into Nicaragua in late 1926. The 
Leathernecks landed to protect the forcible overthrow of the 
U.S. -backed Nicaraguan government and thus retain control 
for some New York bankers of that little country's national 
bank and railroad. 

I attacked our Nicaraguan policy as "a war waged privately 
by President Coolidge in defiance of the Constitution, without 
the consent of Congress or the approval of the American 
people." 

I introduced a resolution calling on Coolidge to withdraw 
the Marines and I requested an investigation into the entire 
field of concessions held by American citizens and corporations 
abroad. I said these concessions "produce tension which fre 
quently has led to armed intervention and may lead to war." 
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee rejected the resolu 
tion, on the ground that their presence in Nicaragua was neces 
sary to enforce an agreement made by then Secretary of State 
Henry L. Stimson in the world war that Uncle Sam would be 
the final arbiter of any dispute arising there. 

However, the opposition led by myself and others did bear 
some fruit. Coolidge sent Stimson to Nicaragua as a special 
representative and he worked out another agreement which 
disarmed both sides pending another election to be held the 
next year, with the United States Marines acting as poll 
watchers. 

The Constitutional provision giving Congress the right to de 
clare war has become almost meaningless today because of the 
foreign policy moves of Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisen- 



Liberal with a New Label 381 

tower, and Kennedy. Sending military missions all over the 
world, and taking sides in internal controversies is war by what 
ever name you call it. The President's right to do this has be 
come so much a part of our "one world" philosophy that he 
does not even have to justify it by saying we are over there to 
protect American property or citizens. 

An election was held in Nicaragua in 1928 and the so-called 
"progressive" group won. In March 1929, I went to Nicaragua 
to see for myself how things were working out. I was lavishly 
entertained by General Jose Maria Moncada., the new "liberal" 
President. On the basis of statements made about the President 
by our American Ambassador at a dinner in my honor I began 
to worry about the kind of crowd I had supported. 

I was even more worried when Moncada told me blandly he 
would like the U. S. Marines to stay down there to prevent a 
coup d'etat by the defeated party. I told Moncada that if the 
Marines were left down there very long there would be a grad 
ual change in the color of the population. The President replied 
that that might not be such a bad idea. 

I was disillusioned with the party leaders in general in Nica 
ragua. They were quite obviously more concerned with power 
and jobs than with the welfare of the people. I found that the 
word "liberal" in Latin America had no similarity to its mean 
ing in the United States. At the same time, my visit made 
it clear to me that the people of Nicaragua were being exploited 
by American financial interests who collected their profits and 
taxes while using the Marines as a club. I came home more 
than ever unhappy about "dollar diplomacy." 

There was no justification to my mind for our interfering in 
the affairs of another nation. In 1927 I violently disagreed with 
Senator Jim Reed of Missouri and others who wanted us to go to 
war with Mexico when its left-wing government expropriated 
some American oil properties and some property belonging to 
the Catholic Church. Catholic organizations were supporting 
a congressional resolution to sever relations with Mexico and 
I was strongly criticized for my stand by some of my good Cath 
olic friends in Butte and Great Falls. My position was that 
every country had to work out its church-state relationship in 



382 Yankee from the West 

its own way, without outside intervention. If we went to war 
because some country was persecuting a religious group, I ar 
gued, we would be at war with every country in the world 
sooner or later. I pointed out that we had mistreated our own 
Indians but we would have resented it if England or any other 
country had tried to tell us what to do. 

In 1927 I became concerned about our policies in the Far 
East, The question of Philippine independence was being hotly 
debated in Congress and there was a civil war going on in 
China, a country which Congress knew little about. The British 
had dispatched a division of troops and additional naval forces 
to Shanghai to protect its nationals against further outbreaks 
of anti-foreign rioting. While U. S. Marines and gunboats were 
stationed at numerous points in China, American business in 
terests were seeking active intervention on our part. 

To learn something about the Orient, I sailed in March 
1927 with Mrs. Wheeler and our three oldest children, John, 
Elizabeth, and Edward, on a trip that was to last four months. 
We were royally entertained by the Filipinos, who were well 
aware of my stand in favor of their independence. 

We brought back with us from the Philippines a seventeen- 
year-old boy, Simeon Arboleda, who was working on a wealthy 
estate. He was anxious to join us as a servant and we picked 
him up on our return from China. All his worldly possessions 
were on his back a silk shirt and duck trousers. Back in the 
United States, we sent him to public school and ever since he 
has been our indispensable cook, handyman, and devoted 
friend. He has one of the finest characters I have ever known. 

In Hong Kong, I began to hear some interesting things about 
the Chinese Kuomintang leader, Generalissimo Chiang Kai- 
shek. In the United States, Chiang had been portrayed as a 
Communist but, by March 1927, I found he had broken with 
the leftist forces and I heard in Hong Kong more and more 
about his new base of power in south China. Some American 
business concerns were supporting Chiang by paying their taxes 
in advance. 

With mv oldest son, John, I traveled up to Nanking, seat of 
Chiang's government. Chiang and his foreign minister, C. C. 



Liberal with a 'New Label 383 

Wu, assured me they were willing to accept responsibility and 
make reparations for damage suffered by the Americans in the 
Nanking disorders of a few months past. In a series I was doing 
for the North American Newspaper Alliance, I wrote that 
Chiang "did not seem big enough for the stupendous tasks he 
had before him." 

We sailed on the American troop transport Henderson to 
Tientsin with Major General Smedley D. Butler and were fas 
cinated by that famous Marine veteran's personal stories of 
international trouble-shooting by the Leathernecks. General 
Butler took a very materialistic view of American foreign policy 
and was cynical about its fine phrases and idealism. I could 
understand this feeling by a man with his experience. 

From Tientsin we drove with General Butler to Peking, armed 
for the journey with $300 in gold, and a gun, just in case we 
were waylaid by bandits. Our car was the only one on the 
road all the way to the capital but we ran into no difficulty. 

In the course of our visit to Peking, the U.S. minister took 
me to meet Chang Tso-lin, the wealthy Manchurian war lord 
who ruled north China. As I wrote in an article, he reminded 
me of a Western "tin-horn gambler slick, suave, cunning, and 
insincere." He appealed for support from the United States 
government on the ground that he alone could save China from 
the Bolsheviks. I suggested, by way of reply, that he stop fight 
ing with the Nationalists and spend the time, money, and en 
ergy building roads, schools, etc. His reply was: "Who are you 
to tell us what to do about China we had a civilization over 
here when your ancestors were roving the plains of Europe clad 
only in the skins of wild animals." 

After a trip through Japan, we sailed for home. In my series 
for NANA, I vigorously opposed American military intervention 
in Shanghai as suggested by American business interests there. 

"England's strong-armed policy in the Orient has failed," 
I wrote. "If the United States follows the advice of some of her 
pro-British citizens in the Orient, she will also fail. The issue is 
militarism, graft, and special privilege against national sover 
eignty and democracy." 

I argued that the United States should help the Chinese help 



384 Yankee from the West 

themselves to become educated and to raise their standard 
of living, I pointed out that the Russians worked with them and 
talked with them. Occidentals only spoke to the Chinese when 
they wanted something; more usually they cursed them. I pre 
dicted that Chiang's "new democratic movement will go 
on . . r 

"Take your choice," I summed up, 'Tielp a Chinese moderate 
government in China or be forced to take a Bolshevik China." 

In 1930, I took another trip to Russia. Seeing the Soviets 
in action seven years after my first Russian trip was an eye- 
opener. This time my companions were Senators Alben Barkley 
and Bronson Cutting. Barkley was the likeable, storytelling 
Kentuckian who became Truman's Vice President. Cutting was 
a promising newcomer to the Senate, a handsome, polished 
young liberal from New Mexico who sprang from a socially 
prominent New York family. He was tragically killed in an air 
plane crash in Missouri in 1935. 

We accompanied a group which was touring England, 
France, and Germany as well as the Soviet Union, and we came 
in contact with the leaders of all those countries. 

In the seven years since I had been there, new office build 
ings and apartment houses had risen in Moscow. But we dis 
covered that the farmers were farming in exactly the same way 
they had been before cutting their grain with a sickle and 
threshing it by pounding it the way they had for hundreds of 
years. True, we saw some cooperative farms where there was 
more up-to-date machinery, but nothing comparable in the 
slightest to what we had in America. 

We had lunch with the head of what would be our Depart 
ment of Commerce. He stressed the Soviets' desire to trade 
with the United States. He talked about competition and said 
it would be fifty years before they would be capable of making 
steel knives and forks enough for the peoplethe vast majority 
of whom had never seen such implements. 

When we interviewed the heads of the Soviet Foreign Office, 
they told us they could take over China any time they wanted 
to. But, they added: "Why should we want to? China would be 



Liberal with a New Label 385 

a liability to us, not an asset, because of the uncounted millions 
of people and the economic conditions there." 

In a town about seventy miles outside Moscow, once an old 
religious center, there were two magnificent churches and a 
great cathedral. We persuaded a Russian to take us through 
the abandoned cathedral. He took us into a section of it made 
up solely of crypts. Opening up one crypt, he let out a hideous 
yell. Inside was a mummified man. I asked him if he thought 
it was a Communist. "Nyet! Nyet! Nyet!" he cried, literally 
shaking in his boots. 

Our nights in Russia were less enjoyable for me. I was ex 
tremely allergic to bedbugs. In the town where we visited the 
cathedral, our landlady assured us the bedbugs had been 
cleaned out of the room only two days before but asked us how 
I thought a Russian bedbug would like the taste of an American 
senator! This is a sample of how informally friendly all the Rus 
sians were toward us. 

As soon as I climbed into one of the iron cots assigned to us, 
I found that the bedbugs had returned in force. Cutting had a 
can of bedbug powder in his grip and I shook it all over my 
bed. The powder failed to discourage them from biting and 
when I opened my eyes in die morning literally thousands of 
bedbugs were marching up the wall. Barkley said it reminded 
him of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. 

In another city, I was amazed to run into an American who 
had built the wire mill for the Anaconda Copper Mining Com 
pany in Great Falls, Montana. He was an adviser and con 
sultant to the Soviet government. He introduced us to a group 
of Russian workers, who promptly plied us with questions. 
During the discussion, I got a chance to ask the interpreter: 
"Why are you just building heavy machinery why not have 
light machinery, so you could furnish shoes and clothes and 
things that your people need so badly?" 

"We're building it for war for defense/' he replied. 

When I said nobody wanted to attack Russia, he said they 
feared attack by "the capitalist nations and the Pope." I pointed 
out that the Pope had nothing to attack Russia with and I asked 
why the capitalist nations should want to do so. 



Yankee from the West 

"Because this has become an industrial nation/* he answered. 

When I stressed that my country certainly had no aggressive 
designs on the Soviet Union, he asked why we had built so 
many big battleships and why we had attacked Nicaragua 
and Haiti. In the small towns and small cities, there were no 
newspapers and the citizens depended for news on the govern 
ment propaganda emanating from loudspeakers. In these towns, 
our entourage was usually surrounded by gaping crowds. I was 
told they had never seen either an American or an automobile 
before. 

In the 19305 I became increasingly concerned about both 
the totalitarian evils rising in Europe. I first saw the blackshirts 
marching in Italy in 1923. Back in the United States in 1937, 1 
attacked Hitler and Nazism in a speech in Butte, Montana; 
again, in a Constitution Day speech before an audience of 
20,000 in the Chicago Stadium, I assailed the philosophy of the 
totalitarian, whether red, brown, or black. 

"In Germany/* I said in my Chicago speech, "the power was 
first given to a man well meaning and sympathetic with the 
people [von Hindenburg] but it was wrested from his hands by 
a leader who, it would seem, owes allegiance not even to his 
God." 

By June of 1940, as I related in the first chapter, my inside 
information from Admiral Hooper led me to warn publicly that 
if Roosevelt were allowed to continue on his present course it 
would surely involve us in the war. I was immediately assailed 
on grounds that I was not sufficiently anti-Nazi and was even 
a questionable Democrat. In a statement issued on June 26, I 
replied that "unlike some, I was a Democrat before 1933, and 
I am a Democrat in 1940. 1 have voted for every appropriation 
for defense of this country, and have agreed with nearly all 
of President Roosevelt's reform measures." 

I went on to say that "everyone in this nation has been 
shocked by the aggressor nations in Europe and Asia, and our 
sympathies are wholeheartedly with those nations that have 
been attacked. We want to see this nation fully prepared to 
defend our shores against any nation, but the people of this 



Liberal tvith a New Label 387 

country are overwhelmingly opposed to our entering into the 
European conflict." 

I also stated that "I am opposed to this administration bring 
ing into key positions in this government two of the most active 
proponents of intervention*' Henry L. Stimson, the new Secre 
tary of War, and Frank Knox, the new Secretary of the Navy. 

My statement continued: "President Roosevelt in his message 
to Congress on September 21, 1939, in speaking of his attempt 
to avert war in Europe, said: 'Having thus striven and failed, 
this government must lose no time or effort to keep this nation 
from being drawn into the war. Our acts must be guided by a 
single hardheaded thought keeping America out of this warl' 

"I agree with what the President said in this message to 
Congress . . ." 

I wound up with the hope that both parlies at their national 
conventions would nominate candidates who were not captives 
of that 'little handful of international bankers in New York 
who seemingly want to get us into the war." 

Once the Democratic convention and Roosevelt's re-election 
in November were out of the way, we non-interventionists were 
fighting an uphill battle. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, 
when I said "Let's lick hell out of 'em," I supported the war 
effort. Like many other senators, I also reserved the right to 
criticize specific policies in the conduct of the war when I felt 
such criticism was justified. 

Of course, I was denounced in some quarters for exercising 
my right to free speech but by this time I was used to such 
reactions. For example, before we were at war officially, I was 
castigated for having said in the early summer of 1941 that we 
were sending American boys to Iceland to relieve some 15,000 
British soldiers garrisoned there. As a result of the furor, Roose 
velt notified Congress of the troop movement but made it ap 
pear to be a matter of defense for the Western Hemisphere! 

Stimson some time afterward said in all candor that this was 
considered "a more palatable argument to the people." It also 
came out later that immediately after the troop movement to 
Iceland Admiral Harold R. Stark, chief of naval operations, 
wrote in a letter to Captain (later Admiral) Charles M. Cooke 



388 Jankee from the West 

Jr.: "The Iceland situation may produce an incident . . . 
whether or not we will get such an incident I do not know. 
Only Hitler can answer/' 

Since such supporting evidence was unknown to the public 
at the time, it was easy for some persons to condemn me for 
intimating that the President was consciously flirting with hos 
tilities. 

Throughout the war, I felt that our biggest mistake was in 
helping to build up one totalitarian menace communism in 
order to conquer the other, Nazism. I had said that if Hitler 
and Stalin fought it out, one would end in his grave, the other 
in the hospital, and the United States and the world would be 
rid of two menacing tyrants. The passage of the lend-lease bill 
in March 1941 was followed swiftly by aid to the Soviet Union 
on a scale probably not dreamed of even by Soviet dictator 
Joseph Stalin. 

While we non-interventionists realized that our cause was 
probably a lost one, I did not think this was any reason to 
keep quiet about what I felt was the shape of things to come. In 
1940, 1 said at one point: "The United States will undoubtedly 
enter the war against Germany and win. But mark my word, 
within ten years we will be asking Germany to assist the West 
in controlling Russia." 

In no sense do I wish to present myself as a rare prophet. 
All one had to do was to take the openly announced program 
of the Communist International at face value. It boasted that 
its intention was to subjugate the world. Many, many others, 
including specialists in history, read the signs as I did and spoke 
out. To cite just one, Professor Nicholas J. Spyfcman of Yale 
warned in a book shortly before Pearl Harbor: "We must not 
annihilate either Germany or Japan, lest we leave Europe or 
the Far East open to domination by Russia/* 

The Roosevelt policy foolishly closed its eyes to this ancient 
balance-of -power concept, as well as to the stated aims of Rus 
sian communism. An overconfident President, aided by a Rus- 
sophile agent~in-charge, Harry Hopkins, lavished supplies and 
equipment on Stalin and followed his wishes in the strategy 
of invading Europe through France rather than the Balkans. 



Liberal with a New Label 389 

(Hopkins* influence can hardly be overestimated. By playing up 
to Stalin and Churchill and by making trips to the Soviet Union 
and England, he became the eyes and ears of the President and 
thus the most important person around him. He lived right in 
the White House and even boasted to one of FDR's advisers 
that every evening he was the last man to see the lonely Presi 
dentin other words, in a position to undo what others had 
done. ) 

In his postwar writings, the wise and far-seeing Churchill 
reveals how astonished he was that FDR was eager to get into 
the war and at the same time was blind to Stalin's plans for 
empire. 

Like many of my colleagues, I was sickened and frustrated 
during the war by the fawning of some prominent Ameri 
cans on the Russians, who overnight had become advocates of 
peace and friendship. Today, liberals of all shades vie with 
one another to denounce the Kremlin as a colossal threat to 
world peace. But some of us can share the attitude of the New 
York Daily News when it noted in a postwar editorial: "Beg 
ging nobody's pardon, this newspaper never did get suckered 
into believing that Bloody Joe was fighting for anything but 
eventual Communist domination of the world/' 

During World War II, the practice of pasting on political 
labels became ridiculous. To the 'liberals/' it didn't matter 
how reactionary you were on domestic issues. If you were an 
"interventionist," that is, pro-war, you were automatically wel 
comed with open arms as a 'liberal/' And if you were anti- 
interventionist, you were ipso facto considered a reactionary, 
and probably pro-Hitler or a Nazi or Fascist as well. 

Some of the most conservative senators embraced FDR's pol 
iciesand immediately were called liberals. Then there was 
Wendell Willkie, the Wall Street private power advocate, who 
had fought against the Utility Holding Company Act of 1935; 
he joined Roosevelt when he couldn't lick him, and was hailed 
for his 'liberal" views. On the other hand, when lifelong pro 
gressives like myself opposed intervention, as we always had 
previously, we were denounced for having deserted liberalism. 
It was the great liberals like Norris, La Follette, and Congress- 



390 Yankee from the West 

woman Jeannette Rankin of Montana, to mention only a few, 
who fought against our involvement in the First World War. 
La Follette at the time was hung in effigy in his own state. But 
on his death his state placed his statue in the Hall of Fame at 
the Capitol. 

Never before had the question of whether one was a liberal 
or conservative turned on his view of foreign policy. 

FDR and Secretary of War Stimson denounced me many 
times in extreme language for criticizing their war policies. 
Yet, once again, my break with the President was not irreconcil 
able. We had a long conversation on May 16, 1944. Congress 
planned to celebrate the centennial of Samuel F. B. Morse's 
invention of the telegraph and, as chairman of the Senate In 
terstate Commerce Committee, I called at the White House to 
invite the President to make the anniversary address. 

Roosevelt said he had known Morse but that he didn't want 
to make a joint address to Congress soon. He seemed to want 
to chat with me about other matters and so I decided to bring 
up some things that were on my mind. 

In the course of our disjointed conversation, I asked, "How 
are you going to keep Europe from going Communist?" FDR 
replied that he didn't think Stalin wanted to take over Europe. 
I asked if it had ever occurred to him that "he doesn't need 
to 'take it over' it will fall into his hands because of the eco 
nomic chaos and near starvation?" 

"Burt," he said with a smile, by way of reply, "you'd like 
Stalin." 

"Do you trust him?" I asked. 

FDR hesitated a moment and then said, "Up to this time, 
yes." 

"Let me tell you, Mr. President," I replied earnestly, "when 
I was a young man in a fight with the Anaconda Company in 
Montana I defended the American Federation of Labor, the 
railroad brotherhoods, the Socialists, and the IWW's because 
every time they got into a mess they came to me. Now I think 
I know the Communists. They want to channel your mind and 
unless they can do so, one hundred per cent, they'll cut your 
heart out!" 



Liberal with a New Label 391 

"Well, Burt," lie replied casually, "as long as we know them." 

He didn't know them. But he was not alone in this as many 
other experienced politicians and businessmen agreed with him 
at the time. 

I was there for about forty-five minutes, far longer than the 
time ordinarily allotted a presidential caller. During the first 
fifteen minutes Roosevelt's mind seemed perfectly clear but dur 
ing the last fifteen minutes he seemed very tired and his mind 
drifted from subject to subject. 

During the conversation I told FDR that feeling in the 
United States was better toward Russia than it had ever been 
since the Communist revolution. But, I added that "if they keep 
part of Finland and part of Poland and the Baltic and Balkan 
states, the public sentiment in this country will change very 
rapidly. 

"Why don't you tell those Germans what you want?" I asked. 
"Tell them to get rid of Hitler and all his gang and set up a 
United States of Europe?" 

I recalled that when I came back from Europe in 1923 I had 
advocated a United States of Europe to avoid another war and 
that I had been naive enough to think it was an original idea. 

I mentioned to the President the idea of negotiating with the 
anti-Hitler Germans because I was worried about the casualties 
in an invasion of Nazi-held France. 

"Jimmy Byrnes has said that if we cross the Channel we'll 
lose half a million men," I remarked, of the man who was then 
War Mobilizer. 

"Jim hasn't any right to say that," Roosevelt answered. 

"Well," I continued, "why don't you tell the Germans what 
you want before you cross the Channel. They undoubtedly 
won't accept it, but youTl have placed yourself in a much 
stronger position with the people of the world for having tried." 

I told him I felt that Woodrow Wilson, by offering his Four 
teen Points to the Germans in the First World War, had made 
a very good impression on world opinion. 

At this point, the President astounded me by remarking cas 
ually: 'We're going to cross the Channel on June 5, depending 
upon the weather." This was of course the most secret date in 



392 Yankee from the West 

the world at the time. I was disturbed he had told me because 
I assumed it meant he had told others. 

During the latter part of our talk, Roosevelt rambled on 
about a Hanseatic state and other extraneous ideas in a way 
that convinced me his mind was wandering. His appointments 
secretary, Marvin Mclntyre, came in twice to remind him that 
the Chinese Ambassador was waiting. Another time, Mclntyre 
popped in to announce that "the Governor of Mississippi is 
here." 

Each time, FDR would wave him away with, "Three min 
utes more! Three minutes more!" Several times I tried to ex 
cuse myself. 

I left the White House worried most about the fact that the 
President had told me the date for D-Day. (Weather was to 
force postponement of the invasion for twenty-four hours so 
D-Day actually turned out to be June 6, 1944.) I decided not 
to breathe the secret even to my wife, for I was well aware 
that if it leaked my enemies would blame me and not the Presi 
dent. While I was flattered at his faith in my integrity, implied 
by the disclosure, I still couldn't get over the fact that during 
wartime Roosevelt had revealed a date which was of crucial 
importance to the Germans. 

My forty-five-minute meeting with FDR gave me great 
concern about his alarming physical decline. To me he seemed 
a very sick man who was in no condition to carry on as Presi 
dent Some of his friends indicated to me that they were equally 
worried. 

In January 1945, when Roosevelt returned from the Yalta 
conference and addressed a joint session of Congress, his fail 
ing health could no longer be kept secret from Congress. He 
was a proud man and preferred to walk with the aid of canes 
and leg braces. This time he walked into the House chamber on 
the arm of his son, Jimmy, after being wheeled to the entrance 
in a chair. Then, for the first time, he sat in a chair in the 
well of the House instead of standing at the rostrum in front 
of the Vice President and Speaker. When he left the House 
after the speech in a wheel chair, he looked like he was in a 
state of collapse. 



Liberal with a New Label 393 

The President's appearance deeply shocked his friends and 
critics alike and was the subject of much private discussion 
among the senators. Everyone realized that the end could 
not be far off. To me it was a tragedy indeed that a person in 
this critical condition had attempted to cope with a creature 
like Stalin at Yalta. 

After Truman was inaugurated as President, James V, For- 
restal, then Secretary of the Navy, wrote me that it would be 
helpful to the armed forces if the Senate Interstate Commerce 
Committee made an on-the-spot study of international com 
munications problems in Europe. Four members of the com 
mittee made the trip: Republicans Homer E. Capehart of 
Indiana and Albert W. Hawkes of New Jersey; Democrat Er 
nest W. McFarland of Arizona, later the Senate majority leader; 
and myself. 

We went first to England, where Prime Minister Winston 
Churchill invited us to meet him at No. 10 Downing Street. 
Previously, I had had one introduction to Churchill at a recep 
tion in the Capitol after he addressed a joint session of Con 
gress in 1941. At the risk of sounding immodest, I will relate 
how he flattered me at that time. 

Our meeting was described as follows in a column by Drew 
Pearson and Robert S. Allen, who were not exactly admirers of 
mine: 

". . . when Wheeler was presented, Churchill stopped him, 
shook his hand warmly, and said, This is a genuine pleasure 
to me, sir. I've long wanted to meet you. This is one of the 
pleasantest moments of this very happy occasion/ 

"Smiling broadly, Wheeler thanked Churchill cordially and 
moved on. Later, during the congressional luncheon at which 
Wheeler was not present, the Prime Minister again referred to 
his delight in meeting the Montana senator. 

" 1 liked him/ Churchill said. 'He is a fighting man. I have 
been in 14 political fights, won eight and lost six. Once I was 
beaten three times in 18 months. I respect and admire fighting 
men even if they are against me. In these troubled times we 
should welcome good fighters, regardless of the differences of 
the past/" 



394 Yankee from the West 

Charley McNary, the Senate Republican leader who at 
tended the luncheon, later told me Churchill had brought up 
my name substantially as Pearson and Allen had reported it. 
I had not been invited to attend this luncheon some of the 
senators gave Churchill, apparently for fear I might sound an 
inharmonious note. 

At that time nobody wanted to hurt the ragged old British 
leader's feelings. For example, the night before Churchill was 
to address the joint session, Bernard Baruch telephoned me to 
put in a plug for him. 

*Tve never been a warmonger and I haven't stood too well 
at the White House," he told me, *but the Prime Minister is a 
great fellow and a good friend of mine.*' 

Although Mrs. Wheeler and I had been guests of Baruch at 
his North Carolina estate and I knew him well, he had never 
telephoned me before. I was puzzled about this call until I 
learned that there was some nervousness that the isolationist 
senators might boycott the chamber when he addressed the 
joint session. None of us had any thought of doing that. 

I realize that in praising me Churchill may have simply been 
trying to line up all the senatorial help he could get for his 
country. But I liked and admired him as a fighter and espe 
cially because he was not fooled for one minute about what the 
Communists were up to. When we sat down with him on our 
stop in London in 1945, 1 asked him how he liked Stalin. Paus 
ing to puff on his cigar, he replied: "When I'm with him, I like 
him/' I then asked how he could keep Europe from going Com 
munist He puffed hard a couple of times and replied thought 
fully, "Mr. Senator, that is a very serious question. 9 ' 

We next met the members of Churchill's cabinet. Several 
came around the table to shake hands with me, but some point 
edly did not. Slightly miffed, I left the other senators and went 
outside to the car. Churchill came out as we were leaving and 
said he understood we were going to Germany, Italy, Greece, 
and Egypt. He said he hoped we would come back through 
London and report on what we found. 

The following day, the newspaper publisher, Lord Beaver- 
brook, came to my suite at the Dorchester Hotel while Senator 



Liberal with a New Label 395 

Hawkes was there. Beaverbrook said "the PM" meaning the 
Prime Minister "had said some nice things about me to the 
cabinet members/' and then added: "You better look out he'll 
take you over!" I told Beaverbrook he need not worry about 
that. 

As for being "taken over," it seemed to me that whereas FDR 
thought he was using Churchill and he did to some extent be 
cause he was in a position of power he never for one minute 
fooled Churchill, and Churchill, after all, got what he wanted: 
United States intervention in the war. 

From England, we went to France, Germany, Italy, and 
Greece. In Greece I said I wanted to go to Malta because I'd 
never been there. We sent word ahead, but the Malta author 
ities replied they didn't have any accommodations fit for sena 
tors. I said at the time I had campaigned in Montana many 
years before and put up with anything. 

When we got there, the governor general of Malta put us up 
at his palace. We had heard that the island was one of the 
most bombed places in the world but we found that only in the 
port had there been any serious bombing. 

While we stopped in Malta, the daughter of the governor 
general remarked to Senator Hawkes that "Senator Wheeler 
is anti-British." 

"No," Hawkes told her, "he's not anti-British, he's just pro- 
American." 

Paul Porter, then chairman of the Federal Communications 
Commission, accompanied us on the trip. In Paris and in Rome, 
he suggested that we ought to meet the heads of the Communist 
Party in those countries. I told Porter we would talk to them 
if they wanted to come and see us but that I had no intention 
of looking them up. 

The four of us senators were greatly concerned about the 
spread of Communist forces in Europe. At Rheims, in a conver 
sation with General Dwight D. Eisenhower, then Supreme Al 
lied Commander, we voiced that concern, and warned of the 
danger of getting too intimately involved with the reds. 

Eisenhower surprised us by commenting, "Well, gentlemen, 
there are Communists and there are Communists. For instance, 



Yankee from the West 

I have a very dear friendship with General Zhukov* Marshal 
Georgi Zhukov, the Soviet commander ''and I would trust him 
as far as I would trust any friend in America or elsewhere.** 

TBut, General, he is a Communist, isn't he?" I asked. 

Eisenhower hesitated for a few seconds and then said to us, 
"Yes, he is, but what I said goes anyway " 

Although Senator Hawkes has since confirmed the accuracy 
of what was said in this conversation (which he had taken the 
trouble to record in a memo for his files ), I do not for one 
moment want to leave an impression from this chat that Ike 
was pro-Communist or pro-Russian. He had come in contact 
with Zhukov near the end of the war, they had become friends 
as well as brothers-in-arms, and I am sure Eisenhower came to 
admire him. As Eisenhower said in a television interview in 
1962, Zhukov was too independent-minded for the Communists 
and eventually was demoted into obscurity. 

We flew from SHAPE headquarters with General Eisenhower 
to inspect a camp where our boys who had been German pris 
oners of war were being maintained before being sent home. 
There had been complaints about the food being served there. 
Flying back to SHAPE in Ike's private plane, I had become 
airsick and so went immediately to the unoccupied quarters of 
Lieutenant General Walter Bedell ("Beedle") Smith and lay 
down on his couch. 

Smith, who was Ike's Chief of Staff (and later his Undersec 
retary of State), soon turned up and I had a chat with him. 
When I asked \\irn how strong the Russians were, he said: "They 
haven't anything except what weVe given them. We could go 
through them like a dose of salts/' 

I heard substantially the same thing from other American 
generals in Germany. At Augsburg, Lieutenant General Alexan 
der M. Patch, who had commanded the U. S. Seventh Army, 
was so frank that he finally told us: "If you tell" back in the 
states "what I've told you, they could court-martial me." 

Like other generals, Patch was frustrated by the fact that 
his forces had been inexplicably ordered not to cross the Rhine 
and continue on to Berlin. He said SHAPE had taken two di 
visions away from him at the crucial timebefore the Battle 



Liberal with a New Label 397 

of the Bulge and "turned me around the other way." Patch 
said the Germans knew what was being done and couldn't 
understand why we didn't go right through to the capital. 

Patch now realized that we had deliberately held back in 
order to allow the Soviet Army to get to Berlin. His anger 
obviously has proved justifiable. There is hardly need to recall 
the many serious international crises caused afterward by the 
joint occupation of that city. 

Incidentally, Patch also expressed himself as being disgusted 
with the lack of fighting spirit of the French. 

As soon as our subcommittee returned to Washington, we 
called on President Truman. He was due to leave the next day 
for the important Potsdam conference with Stalin and we were 
eager to report on the conditions we had found in Europe. 

"Mr. President," I told him, speaking for the four of us, "you'd 
better stand up to Russia." 

Truman replied that he wasn't afraid of Russia, that he was 
more afraid of England and France. I was shocked. I told him 
to get out his little memorandum book and write this down: 
<c You'd better stand up to Russia." 

When the President returned from Potsdam, where he had 
sat across the bargaining table from Stalin, I had another talk 
with him. His feeling was that Stalin was "all right," that the 
problem for us was the Politboro. There was an echo of this 
later when Truman, on a trip through the Far West, astounded 
virtually everyone by off-handedly referring to the Russian 
dictator as "good old Joe." 

This is not intended to try to embarrass Eisenhower or Tru 
man. Both are honest, patriotic men. But we are all human 
beings and as such we sometimes misjudge people. Truman 
soon became well aware of the imperialist aims of Russian 
Communism and he reacted by getting Congress to put through 
some bold anti-Communist programs, first the Greek-Turkish 
aid bill and then the Marshall Plan. As President, Ike too moved 
to checkmate Communist advances. 

I have cited these firsthand experiences merely to underline 
how skillfully the Communists were able to sell themselves as 
peace-lovers to intelligent Americans before the red leaders be- 



398 Yankee from the West 

gan to show their hand boldly. And it was not only Roosevelt, 
Truinan, and Eisenhower who trusted the Communists during 
World War II but a great many other influential Americans as 
well. 

I have been called an isolationist because I opposed getting 
into World War I and World War II and because I voiced skep 
ticism of Russia's aims and that the United Nations or foreign 
aid would solve all international problems. If such positions 
warrant the badge of isolationist, I wear it proudly. I still be 
lieve America would have been better off by remaining out of 
the two world-wide holocausts. We went to war twice to save 
democracy. At the end of both wars there was less democracy 
in the world, millions of Americans were killed or wounded, 
the peace ^settlements" created far more serious problems for 
the United States and the world than had existed before, and 
our national debt was skyrocketing. 

No one will gainsay that the Communist menace we face 
today is the most critical in our history. Our aid to Russia dur 
ing and after the war and our commitments to her at Teheran, 
Yalta, and Potsdam are responsible for the postwar challenge 
to us. Our moral, economic, and political influence in the world 
has never been less in this century. We try to "buy** with for 
eign aid the friendship of nations we seek as allies, and like all 
friendships that are bought they are ephemeral. I think most 
of the money we spend in the vain pursuit of friends is wasted. 
To a high degree it goes into the pockets of the dictators, 
princes, ruling families, or generals that control the countries 
we seek to aid. The plain people never see it and never benefit 
from our gifts of millions of dollars. We continue to pay exces 
sive taxes and to lose our national supply of gold to line the 
pockets of corrupt foreign officials. I abhor this as much as I 
abhorred the corruption of Harry M. Daugherty and the "Ohio 
Gang." I would rather see Uncle Sam rely less on dollars that 
often corrupt, and more on his moral influence that uplifts. 

Just as Winston Churchill's first concern was for England 
and Stalin's first concern was for Russia, so I have no regrets or 
apologies to make for placing the welfare of America ahead of 
that of any other country. This does not mean that I think we 



Liberal with a New Label 

should crawl into our shell like a turtle and ignore what is go 
ing on in the rest of the world. There is no easy panacea. The 
"preventive war'* urged by the "radical right" recommends it 
self to me even less than intervention in prior wars. In the 
conduct of our foreign relations in the future, I would urge 
that it should be a "must" to consider first and foremost the 
effect of every proposal on the United States and its people. 
We must be realistic in the conduct of our foreign affairs, as 
all other major powers are. Intervention in foreign wars, civil 
or otherwise, is fraught with grave danger. It should not be 
undertaken unless a serious threat to the security of our coun 
try is involved. Similarly, the maintenance of U.S. military 
forces in foreign countries is a serious mistake in most in 
stances. 

While we may not be able to extricate ourselves immedi 
ately from our heavy military and financial global commit 
ments, we should make a beginning at once, if we are to avoid 
an atomic or economic catastrophe. 

Also I think the Congress and the people should be kept 
better informed on the activities of the President and the 
Department of State in the field of foreign affairs. And the guid 
ing light of our policy should be, '"What's best for America?" 



Chapter Nineteen 

DEFEAT AND RENAISSANCE 



One warm morning in early June of 1946 I arrived in the 
little village of Fairview, Montana, to deliver the major kick-off 
speech of my campaign to be renominated in the Democratic 
primary. Fairview, which is located in the far eastern part of 
the state, was celebrating the installation of a new electrical 
cooperative. As a long-time champion of public power, I had 
been invited to make the dedicatory address. 

Several thousand farmers and their wives were on hand 
early to inspect the exhibits and enjoy the picnic spirit of the 
occasion. At noon, I started circulating among them. I shook 
hands and chatted briefly with several hundred persons in the 
course of about two hours. Then Edward Cooper, a campaign 
aide who had accompanied me from Washington, suggested I 
take a nap in order to be fresh for my speech late in the after 
noon. We repaired to a friend's home where I could lie down. 

When I stretched out, Cooper drew the blinds and began to 
leave the room, but I asked him to sit down for a minute. 

"Ed," I said, "we've got a tough fight on our hands." 



Defeat and Renaissance 401 

Cooper scoffed. He asked what in the world I was talking 
about. 

"We're in deep trouble/' I went on. The worst I've ever had 
in a campaign.'* 

Perhaps to conceal his own apprehension. Cooper insisted 
that things were "going well." 

"I know better/' I told him quietly. "I've been around a lot 
longer than you have." 

I explained that during the noon period I realized that some 
thing was wrong. The old outgoing enthusiasm the people had 
always demonstrated was missing. Those who took my hand 
had been politely pleasant but that was all. I had absolute 
confidence in my sixth sense which detects that shade of 
warmth which makes all the difference to a candidate. In a 
few hours of talking to people in Butte, I could gauge slight 
shifts in voter sentiment and predict the outcome of an election 
within a very few thousand votes, even when I was not in 
volved in the race myself. Now there was no reason my politi 
cal antenna shouldn't work just as accurately in agricultural 
eastern Montana, where I had always run well. 

After delivering my speech in Fairview, I drove westward 
with Cooper, pausing in small towns along the way to speak 
from the stump. Within twenty-four hours Cooper too was 
picking up some of the danger signals. With the primary facing 
us on July 16 little more than five weeks off we buckled 
down to plans for making the belated campaign a whirlwind 
effort. 

The situation was even worse when we got to Butte, my 
home town and traditional stronghold. The wives of copper 
miners who had always volunteered to help out in my cam 
paignsby tacking up signs and doing other chores now 
asked Cooper how much they would be paid for their work! 

I felt discouraged but far from licked. After all, I had been 
elected to the Senate four times, the last two times by record- 
breaking majorities which carried every city and county in the 
state. 

But a primary presents special problems. A Democratic pri 
mary in a state with a population as small as Montana's is 



Yankee from the West 

usually dominated by the number of voters shepherded to the 
polls by the labor unions and the Farmers Union. These or 
ganizations had worked hard for me in the past, but now their 
leadership was opposing me in favor of their hand-picked can 
didate, Leif Erickson, a Sidney, Montana, lawyer and a former 
member of the state Supreme Court who had been defeated as 
a candidate for governor in 1944. 

Fighting my renomination was not only the Fanners Union 
but the Mine, Mill and Smelter Union which was now Commu 
nist-controlled (as congressional committees later revealed) 
and some of the Montana locals of the railroad brotherhoods, 
which had previously been my most loyal supporters. I had 
had trouble with Alvanly Whitney, national president of the 
Railway Trainmen, because I had blocked his choice for an 
appointment to the Railway Mediation Board. I told him I 
opposed his nominee because I felt the man would be a parti 
san for the brotherhoods; I had helped pass the legislation 
which set up the board and was anxious to have impartial 
members appointed to it. Whitney made no secret of the fact 
that he was bitter about this. 

But aside from Whitney, why had the labor leaders turned 
against me? It was easy to see why the Communists did. They 
had hailed me when I had opposed our intervention in the war 
up to the time Hitler attacked Russia. Then, according to 
the upside down doctrines of Stalin, it became a "people's war." 
Bill Mason, a leader of the Mine, Mill and Smelter Union, had 
wired me from Butte to change my views about the war. I 
replied that I was just as much opposed to our getting into it 
after the attack on the Soviet Union as I was before. 

Since then, I had warned that while Russia was fighting on 
our side at the moment it would never abandon the Stalin- 
Lenin aims for world domination. The stand I took on the 
United Nations in 1945 had further alienated me from the 
Communists, fellow travelers, and even many well-meaning 
liberals. I had voted for the UN charter because a lot of inter 
nationalists had said the reason the League of Nations was 
unsuccessful was because the United States had not joined. I 
didn't want them to have the same alibi about the UN. So I 



Defeat and Renaissance 403 

voted for it but made a Senate speech in which I warned that 
the UN wouldn't work because Russia wouldn't permit it to 
work. I believe that Russia's actions in the UN have vindicated 
my prediction. The UN has practically become a debating so 
ciety. Most important international disputes are handled by the 
major powers at meetings outside the UN, by regional groups 
such as the Organization of American States, conferences called 
by interested nations to resolve specific problems through tra 
ditional diplomatic channels. My stand on the UN was unpopu 
lar at the time. Most people saw the UN as the last hope of the 
world to prevent another terrible war and many people still 
had very friendly feelings toward Communist Russia. 

A barber in Butte an old-country Irish-Catholic, of all peo 
plegave me a friendly tip. He said if I would get up at just 
one meeting and say something nice about Russia it would 
help my campaign. Of course, I couldn't do that. 

The noisy liberals and the Montana labor leaders most of 
whom were certainly not Communists harbored a grudge 
against me not only because of what I said about the UN and 
Russia but also because I had broken with Roosevelt twice on 
major issues. True, both breaks had come before the 1940 
election, in which I was re-elected overwhelmingly. But after 
we were in the war, and the people rallied around their Presi 
dent, my independence was construed by some as disloyalty. 

In time of war, as I had discovered in 1916-18, the feelings 
of the citizens are whipped to such a pitch that they are ready 
to believe almost anything. The image of the isolationist in 
World War II was distorted into something sinister. For exam 
ple, I found that many members of the Fanners Union believed 
a charge on the radio that we non-interventionist senators 
had voted against the fortification of Guam in the late 19308. 
I explained that we never had a chance to vote on the issue 
because the President and the State Department were against 
the fortification of Guam and so it had never come up in the 
Senate. Although this was a simple, indisputable fact, it is hard 
to counteract the effects of a big lie once it has been widely 
planted. 

I had been painted as a symbol of isolationism and as such 



404 Yankee from the West 

I was the target nationally. A Senate committee which in 
vestigated the 1946 Montana primary found that substantial 
funds were funneled into the state for Erickson from well- 
heeled internationalists in New York and Hollywood. Even my 
Democratic colleague, the late Senator Murray, worked with 
"interventionists" in the Montana primary. He collected $2000 
from Albert Lasker, the advertising magnate, for Erickson. 
Bernard Baruch told me that someone from the Murray group 
solicited an anti-Wheeler contribution from him, on the 
ground that I was anti-Semitic. Baruch said he told the emis 
sary that this charge was false. That was the kind of campaign 
I was up against. 

Billboards and radio time advertising Erickson and castigat 
ing Wheeler saturated the state. My own campaign did not 
kck contributions in fact, I had more than I ever had before 
but obviously much more was being spent for Erickson who 
needed an expensive buildup because he was less well known. 

Even before the campaign began, I had not been overcon 
fident. Anyone who has been a senator for twenty-four years 
would be a fool to take renomination and re-election for 
granted. The longer one stays in the Senate the more enemies 
one makes. If the senator acquires a national reputation, the 
risks become even greater. Many constituents assume the pub 
licized senator has become more preoccupied with national or 
international affairs, to the detriment of his state. 

In 1946 my opposition successfully planted the big lie that 
my break with Roosevelt made it impossible for me to win any 
favors for Montana. When I moved Montana projects along in 
the Senate, many people were ready to believe that some other 
legislator deserved the credit for it. 

Take the case of Hungry Horse Dam. Ever since I had en 
tered the Senate, I had urged construction of a dam on the 
south fork of the Flathead River, which flows into the Colum 
bia. The project was opposed by the Montana Power Company 
and for two decades it got nowhere. But in 1946 it got through 
the House, after I and others had testified for it there, and I 
was determined to get it through the Senate. 

Early in the year, Senator Carl Hayden, a highly influential 



Defeat and Renaissance 405 

senior member of the Appropriations Committee, advised me 
that the bill's future was dim because all the Republicans and 
some of the southern Democrats on the committee were against 
it. I asked which Republicans, and he named Senators Styles 
Bridges and Wayland Brooks. Well, ever since the Court fight, 
I felt I had as many friends among the Republicans as among 
the Democrats. I went to Brooks and he told me to see Bridges, 
the ranking Republican on the committee. 

By working hard behind closed doors, Senator Bridges had 
become one of the most effective men in the Senate. Many of 
his fellow Republicans felt they were too busy to sit through 
the "marking-up" (the actual voting of a bill in committee, sec 
tion by section) of an appropriations bill. They gave Bridges 
their proxies and he used them shrewdly. When he had first 
come to the Senate in 1937, he was continually on his feet, 
popping off. I gave him this advice: <e You can kill yourself off 
quicker by talking too much than in any other way." Whether 
or not it was because of this tip, Bridges soon concentrated 
his time and energy behind-the-scenes, where most of the real 
work of the Senate is done. Bridges and I became good friends; 
also, the fact that I had relatives in his home state of New 
Hampshire didn't hurt our relationship. 

When I approached Bridges on the Hungry Horse project, I 
said simply, "Styles, I've got to have it." 

"What is the minimum you need?" he asked. I mentioned 
the sum and he said, "Well, I'll do it for you but I won't do it 
for that colleague of yours." (The colleague he meant, of 
course, was Senator Murray.) 

The next time the committee met it voted the appropriation 
I requested for the dam and the funds in time were voted by 
Congress. Nonetheless, the credit for the project somehow ac 
crued to Murray. 

The hardest obstacle for me to cope with was the feeling by 
rank and file union members that when I won friends among 
the conservatives in bucking Roosevelt I also changed my 
political philosophy. Cooper, who had worked in the mines of 
Butte as a young man, was appalled to hear his old buddies in 
the mines in 1946 telling him I was no longer fighting for 



406 Yankee from the West 

them. Most damning to my cause was the fact that I was being 
given a break for the first time in the pages of the Montana 
Standard, the paper which dominates the Butte area and is 
owned by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. Every 
politician needs newspaper space, but in this case it was em 
barrassing. When I was running for governor back in 1920 
against Company-picked candidates, I had quipped that if my 
photograph ever appeared in a Company-owned newspaper I 
would search my pockets to see if I had picked them overnight. 

After I filed for the 1946 primary, the Standard not only 
ran my picture but carried a front-page story lauding me for 
my service on some of the "most important Senate committees" 
and for my "vigorous sponsorship of measures for the welfare 
of Montanans and Americans from every other state." 

Whether the Company was trying to help or hurt me by this 
sudden attention is still unclear; it did not endorse a candidate 
in the senatorial primary. But this publicity was used to full 
advantage by the Erickson forces to try to bolster the charge 
that I had become a "Company man*' the worst canard that 
could be circulated among the workingmen of Butte,, Ana 
conda, and Great Falls. 

For decades I had been anathema to the Company because 
I had refused to take orders as a state legislator and afterward 
had acted contrary to their concept of a conservative. In 1946, 
however, they obviously would have preferred me to a left- 
winger Erickson. At the same time, it must have been appar 
ent to the Company that in the fall election I would stand a 
much better chance than a left-winger of whipping Zales N. 
Ecton, a rancher who was their hand-picked Republican can 
didate. Several Republicans told me that "the word has gone out 
to nominate Erickson and elect Ecton." But I had no evidence 
that the Company was working actively to defeat me in the 
primary. 

While an issue was made of my "disloyalty*' to the President, 
there was no attempt to make an issue of the fact that I had 
always been independent of party discipline. Party loyalty 
doesn't mean very much in the Western states. It meant some 
thing to the first settlers of Montana because many of them 



Defeat and Renaissance 407 

were stanch Democrats from Virginia and Missouri. But with 
the influx of homesteaders from the Midwest, the emergence 
of the Non-Partisan League, and the depressions in the farm 
areas, the Montana farmers came to believe that both parties 
were dominated by the same groups. 

I made a number of mistakes in the 1946 primary. Instead 
of tending to legislation in the Senate, I should have gone out 
to Montana several times early in the year to campaign. I had 
heard the first disquieting notes sounded in 1945. Friends 
wrote to report that they had seen people in the post offices 
throwing to the floor speeches I had mailed to Montana on 
lend-lease and other controversial issues. They were angry at 
me for speaking out against the Roosevelt Administration in 
wartime. 

Whether to go back home and campaign early or stay on the 
job in Washington always poses a dilemma for a senator in an 
election year. If you go home, you are subject to criticism for 
neglecting your senatorial duties. If you tend to your knitting 
in the Senate, you may be criticized for not showing yourself 
to your constituents and meeting the charges of your oppo 
nent My decision was to remain in Washington. It was a year 
of many bitter fights over postwar legislation and there was 
plenty for me to do as chairman of Interstate Commerce and 
as a senior member of the Agriculture, Judiciary, and Interior 
committees. I was very much interested in amending the bill 
to extend the OPA; the Montana stockmen, meat packers, and 
others were fiercely opposed to some of its provisions. There 
was also a railroad retirement bill which I was pushing in Inter 
state Commerce. 

Some of my friends urged me to forget about lawmaking 
and go home and campaign. When I finally did go to Mon 
tana, I spent too much of my time stumping sparsely popu 
lated eastern Montana and too little time in densely populated 
Butte, Great Falls, and Anaconda. But I had made those dates 
in eastern Montana early when I was being assured by many 
persons back home that "everything's all right." 

I am making no complaints about the quantity or quality of 
the work by my diligent campaign staff headed by the late 



408 Yankee from the West 

Bailey Stortz. They were loyal workers-perhaps too loyal to 
believe the trouble that was brewing. 

President Truman wrote a letter of endorsement, and that 
was a help. Normally a President stays out of a primary fight 
in his own party, but Truman is a man of intense loyalty and 
he not only came out for me but defended my labor record 
which for the first time in my career was questioned. 

I felt right up to the end that the race would be close and 
could go either way. Non-Montanans were laboring feverishly 
and expensively to beat me. The left-wing Independent Citi 
zens Committee for the Arts, Sciences, and Professions had 
Jimmy Roosevelt make a radio speech from Southern Cali 
fornia that was broadcast across Montana. He insisted he 
knew his dead father wanted me defeated. 

Not long before primary day, a book was thrown into the 
offensive against me, Even by the low standards of campaign 
books, this was an incredible volume. The title was: The Plot 
Against America; Senator Wheeler and the Forces Behind 
Him. The author was David George Kin, alias Plotkin, a New 
Yorker. This 394-page, hard-cover diatribe was published in 
Missoula, Montana, by John E. Kennedy, a former secretary 
of former Congressman Jerry O'Connell, the left-wing Mon 
tana Democrat who had contributed to the Communist New 
Masses. Who coughed up the funds to underwrite this project 
is anybody's guess; it could have come from a number of 
sources which were furnishing anti-Wheeler money for the 
primary. 

Two samples suffice to indicate its style and political out 
look. The preface said: "The workers and farmers and the 
middle-class of America must rally round Russia, for the de 
fense of America and the preservation of our democratic way 
of life, which our fascists in Washington are about to choke to 
death through an all-out atomic war against the Soviet Union." 
Here is another Plotkin sentence: "Truman and Wheeler see 
eye to eyethey are leading the American retreat from Reason, 
into the safe, ventilated hell of Nazi-Fascism." 

Senator Edwin C. Johnson of Colorado, a member of the com 
mittee which investigated this campaign, said both the author 



Defeat and Renaissance 409 

and publisher should be "publicly horsewhipped." The chief 
counsel of the committee, Robert E. Barker, called the book 
"a mixture of smear, of Marxism, communism, and sex." The 
book was so laughably trashy I doubt if it could have done me 
any harm. In any event, it was introduced too late in the cam 
paign for us to counteract it. 

On the eve of the primary, the gamblers in Butte were giv 
ing 3-1 odds against Erickson winning. On the basis of form 
displayed over the preceding twenty-four years, they simply 
could not believe that Wheeler could be beaten in Montana. 
I was afraid my campaign staff felt the same way. Stortz gave 
out a statement that the next day's balloting would be "one of 
the closest in the senator's career** I would win by only 15,000 
votes! 

Erickson took an early lead and held it. I swept small towns 
of eastern Montana but for the first time in my life I lost my 
home town of Butte. Erickson carried the state by 6000 votes 
out of some 92,000 cast. 

People have asked if this was the biggest blow of my life. It 
was not. The only time I was on the ropes temporarily was 
when I was indicted in 1924 after my investigation of Attorney 
General Harry M. Daugherty. This was because, as I mentioned 
earlier, I had never before been accused of breaking the law 
and while I was entirely innocent of the "conflict-of-interest" 
charge I could not be certain I could survive a frame-up ar 
ranged by the powerful United States Department of Justice. 

Earlier, I had had a number of political disappointments, 
but all of them had turned out to be blessings in disguise. Each 
setback led to another step forward in my career. If I had been 
elected Attorney General of the state of Montana in 1911, I 
would not have been appointed United States District Attor 
ney by Senator Walsh in 1913 and involved in attention- 
winning cases for five years. If I had not resigned as District 
Attorney in 1918 to avoid hampering Walsh's re-election, I 
would not have delivered an angry speech before the Non- 
Partisan League and gained invaluable political experience by 
becoming the League's candidate for governor in 1920. If I 
had not lost the gubernatorial race, I would have become gov- 



410 Yankee from the West 

ernor just in time for the 1920 panic which would have fin 
ished me politically. This chain of events made me the logical 
Democratic candidate for the Senate in 1922. The defeat of the 
La Follette-Wheeler Independent Progressive ticket in 1924 
helped establish me as a national political figure in 1924. 

In 1929 I was also shaken when I lost rather heavily in the 
stock market crash. This put me in debt at a time when sena 
tors earned only $7500 a year, and at a time when I was paying 
for the education of our six children. We faced years of paying 
off the debt by living at a reduced standard of living. Mrs. 
Wheeler was quite worried about the future but I assured her 
that, come what may politically and financially, "I'll earn you 
a living as Senator, practicing law, or as a railroad section 
hand." 

But I hate to lose and, in July 1946, I was not happy about 
losing or of the tactics used by the anti-Wheeler forces to de 
feat me. Still, I certainly did not see this as the end of my world 
and I was not bitter toward the people of Montana. When 
George Norris was at last defeated in the 1942 election in Ne 
braska, he complained that the voters were "ungrateful" after 
his lifetime of service and had repudiated his great fight for 
progressive causes. I didn't feel that way. It always has seemed 
to me that the person who is elected to public office owes an 
obligation to his constituents, rather than vice versa. I made it 
clear to the voters that it was their privilege to kick me out of 
office if they believed I was doing a poor job. When I received 
a letter complaining about a vote I had cast or a statement I 
had made, I never tried to placate the complainer. I would 
reply by telling the writer to "go ahead and elect someone 
else if you feel he can represent you better." 

After my defeat in the 1946 primary, I said in a statement 
that while I felt the voters had been misled by propaganda I 
wanted to thank them for having been so good to me for so 
long. I felt strongly about that. Forty-one years before, I had 
been stranded in Butte, owning little more than the clothes on 
my back. Montana and I took to each other and its people 
had elected me four times to the highest office within their 
power to bestow. 



Defeat and Renaissance 411 

My statement also noted that my constituents had relieved 
me of some "heavy responsibilities." In place of public duty 
there was now private opportunity. I had always boasted that 
I didn't need public office to make a living. 

Falling into this mood immediately, Mrs. Wheeler and the 
six children joked about my being jobless. Actually, they sus 
pected that a new life at sixty-four would be stimulating for 
me. And possibly they looked forward to a change of pace for 
themselves too. The demands of a politician's life had not made 
their home life easy. But if it bothered them to have to live in 
two places and have a father who was away much of the time, 
they never showed it. Quite the contrary. They had plunged 
into the complexities of politics and government the same way 
they jumped into the cool waters of Lake McDonald, where 
we built our summer cabins, and climbed the snowcapped 
Rockies of Glacier Park which surrounds it. After each day in 
the Senate, I made it a point to have dinner with members of 
my family. Sometimes they proved to be tougher debaters than 
senators. The burning issues of any particular day passed 
around the table faster than the meat and potatoes. Mrs. 
Wheeler was always outspoken and the children were encour 
aged to form and express opinions of their own. 

Priding myself on being independent, I am likewise proud 
of the integrity of my children. They have all been "free- 
Wheelers." Our youngest child, Marion, began to speak her 
mind at age six. Huey Long came to dinner with the family 
one Sunday and insisted on pushing all the flowers back into 
the corners because they distracted his vision from the person 
he was talking to. At the Aimm table, he told our servant to 
take the floral centerpiece to the kitchen because it kept him 
from having a full view of me across the table. Little Marion's 
mouth fell open and her eyes stared in astonishment. She 
asked the much-feared "Kingfish" if he did that at home. Huey 
replied that he always made Mrs. Long take the flowers away. 

"Welir exclaimed Marion. Td sure hate to be your wife!" 

For once in his life, Huey was speechless. 

In 1932 my brilliant and aggressive daughter Elizabeth 
(now Mrs. Edwin W. Coleman of Milwaukee) became the 



Yankee from the West 

"moving spirit," as one newspaper put it, in a drive to organize 
a national organization of Young Democrats. In November, 
they held a national convention at which Tyre Taylor of North 
Carolina was elected president, Elizabeth was elected secre 
tary and Jimmy Roosevelt was elected treasurer. (Jimmy was 
elected out of deference to his father and did not bother to at 
tend the convention. ) A constitution was drafted for proposed 
ratification at a convention to be held in Kansas City, Missouri, 
in September 1933. 

Jim Farley, the Democratic National Chairman, wanted the 
constitution changed in such a way as to put it under the con 
trol of his national committee. The prospect of turning the 
Young Democrats into errand boys and girls for Farley did not 
appeal to Elizabeth. She got busy (without of course consult 
ing me) and circularized the delegates, urging them to vote 
against Farleyism at the convention. In August, when we were 
resting at Lake McDonald, she asked me for the car so she 
could drive to Kansas City for the convention with Frances, 
another headstrong daughter who was a fervent Young Demo 
crat. I demurred at the thought of these two girls motoring 
across the plains by themselves but Elizabeth said they would 
hitchhike to Kansas City if the answer was no. Knowing that 
Elizabeth could be taken at her word, I gave them the car. 

The two sisters picked up fellow convention delegates at stops 
in Salt Lake City and Denver, and in both cities they made 
headlines. They were interviewed by reporters on their opin 
ion of Farley, and they replied in unequivocal language. The 
idea of Senator Wheeler's daughters leading an anti-Farley 
offensive into Kansas City seemed to tickle editors generally. 

Of course, Farley, being Farley, adroitly whipped the young 
party members into line at the convention. Elizabeth and a 
fellow delegate immediately called on the national chairman 
in his hotel room to let him know what they felt he was doing 
to their organization. Someone telephoned me at Lake Mc 
Donald to report on what Elizabeth was up to, and I phoned 
her to ask her if she was acting too hastily. We ended the con 
versation with my advising her to stand by her principles and 
disregard any possible political effects it might have on me. 



Defeat and Renaissance 413 

Elizabeth did stick to her guns but it was a disillusioning 
experience. One by one, she saw her fellow delegates called 
into Farley's room and told to vote his way under threat of "no 
federal patronage." One by one, the delegates agreed to vote 
for the change in the constitution as Farley demanded. The 
result was that the Young Democrats never became the vital, 
creative group Elizabeth had visualized; later she married a 
Republican and became one herself! 

In 1937 Frances again was news. When I took my stand 
against Roosevelt on the Court-packing bill, she was attending 
Connecticut College for Women. Asked by a reporter where 
she stood, she said she sided with the President and thus 
made the newspapers. 

After the 1946 primary, quite a few friends urged me to run 
as an independent against Ecton and Erickson in the fall elec 
tion. Senator Clyde M. Reed, a Kansas Republican, offered to 
put up $1000 for my campaign if I would run. Senator John G. 
Townsend, Jr., of Delaware, the money-raiser for the Republi 
can Party, told me he would raise funds for me and none for 
Ecton if I would run. 

I never gave a thought to running as an independent. To 
me an election in one sense is like a lawsuit once the verdict is 
in, you've either won or lost, and that's that. In the election, 
Erickson ran poorly and Ecton, an extreme conservative, was 
sent to my seat in the Senate. In 1952 he was defeated by 
Democratic Representative Mike Mansfield, who later became 
Senate majority leader. 

The late Mrs. Eleanor ("Cissie") Patterson, publisher of the 
Washington Times-Herald, wanted me to enter the 1952 Mon 
tana primary against Mansfield. I sought to put her off by 
pointing out that it would cost some money; she asked "how 
much?" "About $50,000," I told her. She said that while she 
had never before financed a candidate she would be willing 
to put up that sum. I was abashed at this generosity and it wa*> 
not easy for me to turn "Cissie" down. 

She had been a loyal friend ever since 1924, when I was a 
bumptious freshman senator and she was one of Washington's 
leading hostesses. I will never forget the fact that immediately 



414 Yankee from the West 

after I was indicted by the Daugherty clique she invited me to 
a big dinner party at her mansion. Nicholas Longworth, soon- 
to-be Republican Speaker of the House, and other reigning 
Washington big shots were present, but "Cissie" seated me in 
the place of honor at her right. She enjoyed flaunting her loy 
alty to the controversial upstart, and it gave me a big lift when 
I needed it most. 

In 1958 1 was again asked to run for the Senate against Mans 
field, this time by J. Wellington Rankin, the Republican na 
tional comrnitteeman from Montana, who personally called on 
me at my office in Washington to ask me to run on the Re 
publican ticket. His request was followed by calls from GOP 
Governor J. Hugo Aronson of Montana, the Republican state 
chairman, and several other GOP leaders in the state. While 
I felt a deep sense of gratitude to these men who, although of 
the opposite party, "wanted me back in the Senate to serve 
Montana/* I declined to resume an active political life. 

Enjoying a successful law practice, I was content to remain 
in the role of a highly interested political observer. In 1946, de 
feat had again turned out to be a blessing in disguise. At first, 
I had considered returning to Montana to hang out my shingle; 
it had been so long since I'd closed my office there in the early 
ig^os that I wondered if I would be successful in my home 
bailiwick. But Mrs. Wheeler pointed out that most of my con 
temporaries had either died or left Montana. I took the sug 
gestion of Edward, my son, a Harvard Law graduate, and 
opened a law office in Washington. 

At about this time, I was offered a job by Herbert Bayard 
Swope. He said the liquor industry wanted to retain me as its 
"czar" at $75,000 a year. When I said no, the offer was raised 
to $100,000. But I had no interest in the position at any price 
because I felt the liquor interests wanted me for whatever in 
fluence my name carried. 

Early in 1948 the executive council of the American Federa 
tion of Labor offered me $20,000 a year to direct its campaign 
against congressional supporters of the Taft-Hartley Act. I 
rejected the offer because it would have required me to work 



Defeat and Renaissance 415 

for the defeat of many of my old colleagues who had voted 
against the law passed the year before. 

I have done very little lobbying. Most of the work in my law 
practice has been with the regulatory agencies, or arguing cases 
before the Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. 

After I began to practice law with Edward, I determined not 
to tie myself to one client. Fortunately, we soon had many and 
diverse clients. Some were powerful industrialists who had been 
on the other side of issues from me during my Senate career. 
Now they wanted the advice and knowledge of one who had 
helped write many of the transportation acts and many of the 
other regulatory statutes. Our clients have included both large 
and small companies in the radio, television and communica 
tions industries, railroads, trucking firms, unions, Indian tribes, 
and trade associations. Within ten years after my defeat in the 
Montana primary, I had earned more money than I had in the 
entire previous period of my life. 

After my defeat, President Truman asked me if there was 
anything I wanted. I said no, that I was "out of politics for 
good." 

"Burt," the President replied with a laugh, "you wouldn't be 
out of politics even if you could make a million dollars." 

While Truman and I disagreed on foreign policy, it made 
no difference in our friendship. I have been told he won't let 
anyone criticize me in his presence. 

In 1948 Truman asked me why I didn't jump into the Mon 
tana senatorial primary against my old Democratic colleague, 
Jim Murray, who had worked for my defeat in 1946. Truman 
said I was needed in the Senate. 

There were rumors in Washington in 1947 and again in 
1952 that President Truman would appoint me as Attorney 
General. In 1947 Tom C. Clark, his Attorney General, was 
under attack for alleged laxity in prosecuting the Democratic 
vote frauds in Kansas City. Mrs. Patterson's Times-Herald came 
out with a ringing editorial in favor of my succeeding Clark, but 
at no time did Truman ever make the suggestion to me. 

When Truman later elevated Clark to the Supreme Court, 
he replaced him with Senator J. Howard McGrath. When Me- 



416 Yankee from the West 

Grath resigned in 1952 during a furor over new evidence of 
corruption in the executive branch, reports again circulated 
that Truman wanted me as a "clean-up" Attorney General. 
Quite a few people telephoned me to find out if it was true. 
Truman never mentioned it to me and I never entertained the 
idea seriously. I knew there would be a great deal of opposi 
tion to my appointmentnot from the Senate but from those 
editors, columnists, and professional liberals who had never got 
over their bitterness toward me on the war-intervention issue. 

As for my many encounters with corrupted office holders and 
their corrupters, I must add that I have not become discour 
aged. There are always plenty of good men on the scene too 
and I believe our system in the long run triumphs over human 
weakness. I am certain that most members of the Senate, for 
example, are honest, as are most of our government servants. If 
most of our lawmakers could be bought, Uncle Sam's democracy 
would have been finished long ago and we would have a 
dictatorship. 

Often members of Congress are sold down the river by their 
"friends" and lobbyists who earn their living by purported "in 
fluence/' For example, I once introduced a resolution to have 
the Federal Communications Commission investigate the long 
distance charges of the American Telephone & Telegraph Com 
pany. Later that day I was followed into my office by two men. 
One of them, a hanger-on and some-time lobbyist around town, 
introduced the other to me as a lawyer from Chicago. 

"This man knows all about the telephone business and can 
give you facts that would let you make a speech tearing the 
companies to pieces," the lobbyist explained. 

I replied that if I needed him I would get in touch with him, 
but that I didn't think I would need his help. A few days later, 
some representatives of the telephone company came to see me 
and wanted to know whether I intended to make a speech on 
the resolution. I said I didn't see any need for it, unless they 
fought the resolution. A few days after that, Bowie Chipman, a 
Washington businessman who was in touch with the utilities, 
asked Mrs. Wheeler and me to dinner. During dinner, Chip 
man told me that the two men who called on me had gone to 



Defeat and Renaissance 417 

the telephone companies and told them I was going to make a 
"vicious speech" against them on the Senate floor. They said 
they could stop me from making the speech for $5000. 

Later, the two men came back to my office at the Interstate 
Commerce Committee and it was all I could do to contain 
myself. I told them if they didn't get out immediately I'd kick 
them down the stairs. 

(This is not the only case I know of where large sums were 
asked for "stopping" something on Capitol Hill which was not 
going to happen anyway. A member of Congress never knows 
what sins are being committed in his name.) 

The resolution passed and the FCC investigation resulted in 
cutting the long-distance rates. 

For me this book will be worthwhile if it serves no other 
purpose than to make the reader appreciate more fully that the 
bulwark of our freedom is Congress, In recent years, it has 
become fashionable to make fun of Congress and to decry its 
inability to act expeditiously. In fact, many of those who style 
themselves 'liberals" are loudest in their demands that we vest 
ever more power in the executive branch. Indeed, these scoffers 
give only lip service to our tradition of separation of powers be 
tween three branches. 

Like Presidents Lincoln, Jackson, and Theodore Roosevelt 
before him, Franklin Roosevelt greatly expanded the power of 
the presidency at the expense of Congress. The defeat of the 
Court-packing bill and the administrative reorganization bill 
which followed it stopped the trend toward autocratic presi 
dential power, but the Second World War gave it new momen 
tum. I greatly fear this trend; it could all too easily lead to 
dictatorship. We must have as much faith in Congress and the 
courts as we do in the President. 

Everyone agrees that one-man government is more efficient 
than a democracy, but the price in terms of individual liberty 
is excessive. Don't forget it when you read an editorial or hear 
a commentator ridicule Congress. Congress is an essential part 
of our tradition and it alone can keep us free. If you don't ap 
prove of your senator or congressman, do something about it 
by working in a party or simply by voting, but don't undermine 



418 Yankee from the West 

Congress and don't countenance anyone else doing such a 
wrecking job, whether it is your neighbor, the smart aleck, 
know-it-all magazine editor, or the President of the United 
States. If you do so, you may well lose your freedom. 

Another word about tradition. A very wise and well-informed 
friend of mine who was formerly high in the Foreign Service 
of a Latin American country told me in 1962 that the basic 
difference between our government and those of Latin Amer 
ica is tradition. 

"Never scoff at your traditions/* he urged me. "Never do the 
slightest thing to undermine them. Do everything to build them 
up." 

He continued: "The reason many of the Latin American 
countries have dictatorships is the lack of tradition which de 
mands that when a President ends his four-year term he stands 
for re-election, and if he's defeated, he steps aside. In South 
America they have what is called the caudttto tradition. Cau- 
dillo means leader. They look to the man rather than to the 
office of the presidency. Once a man is elected, he immediately 
starts building himself up with the various factions and tries 
to solidify his position with the Army so he can either suspend 
elections or, if he is not re-elected, set aside the constitution 
and remain in office by force. 

Tn your country such a thing is unthinkable," my friend 
said. "No President would entertain the idea of not holding an 
election or attempting to get the Army to maintain him in of 
fice if he were defeated. But, even more important, if he tried 
to do so, I am sure the Army officers would laugh at him be 
cause they would not expect to be, and would not permit them 
selves to be, used for such a purpose." 

Similarly, he pointed out that in the United States if Con 
gress fails to pass legislation requested by the President, the 
President does not call out the Army and disband Congress 
and force its leaders into exile or worse. This is not because 
many Presidents may not sometimes feel like doing that but 
because our tradition prevents it. 

So when you hear or read statements debunking our tradi 
tions or the great men in our history who established them or 



Defeat and Renaissance 419 

helped uphold them, don't fall for it. Such statements are usu 
ally made by someone who wants to appear either learned or 
clever. Acceptance of them would undermine our greatest 
heritage. 

It is a chronic complaint of the latter-day 'liberals" that 
Congress is not "carrying out" the President's program. What 
they really want is for Congress to be a rubber stamp, although 
they use the term, "party discipline." Too strict party discipline 
is not compatible with our democratic system; it cannot be 
enforced without intellectual or financial dishonesty. On the 
presidential train in 1934, Eleanor Roosevelt brought up the 
subject of party discipline and the President said he would like 
to see a great deal more of it in the Democratic Party. My com 
ment was: "Show me an efficient, disciplined party organiza 
tion in any big city and I will show you a corrupt organization/' 

I certainly never felt I had to touch my forelock to the execu 
tive branch. My zest for making full use of a senator's powers 
plunged me into most of the major issues of my time and made 
me a principal protagonist in such blazing episodes as the Har 
ding Administration scandals, the Court-packing fight, and oui 
fateful tumble into World War II. When one survives in the 
Senate for twenty-four years, his seniority usually makes him 
someone to be reckoned with. If he uses that power responsi 
bly, he can have the satisfaction of playing a constructive role 
in his country's history. 

As chairman of a major committee, I felt I could make my 
contribution by blocking bad bills as well as pushing good ones. 
Twice during my chairmanship the House approved bills to 
legalize wire-tapping, under certain conditions. Twice I saw 
to it that the House-passed bill was referred to our Interstate 
Commerce Committee-rather than to Judiciary, where it might 
have gone and twice I sat on the bill, that is, never let it come 
up for a vote. 

At first hand, I had seen how the "dirty business" of listening 
in on a person's privacy could lead to blackmail back in Mon 
tana, and so I did everything I could to keep it from being con 
doned in any fashion by the federal government. To me such 
spying is indefensible and I felt that it would set a very bad 



420 Yankee from the West 

example for the country if the highest officials of the govern 
ment officially resorted to it. 

On other occasions, I would refer what I regarded as a bad 
bill to a hand-picked subcommittee, and the bill would be held 
there. This earned me the term, "dictator," and there was some 
justification for it. But I knew that if certain bills ever came 
up for a vote in the full committee the powerful lobbies behind 
them would fall on the committee members and the bills would 
be voted out. Perhaps this was high-handed on my part, but 
there is no necessity for voting on every bill introduced and, 
rightly or wrongly, I felt in those cases I was doing what was 
best for my country. 

On the positive side, the most satisfaction I got as a commit- 
tee chairman came from helping to shape not only railroad 
legislation, which I have already mentioned, but in using my 
influence in the exciting new field of communications. 

Some of the uproar over quality and competition in radio 
and television in the ig6os are almost reruns of my experience 
with the two industries during their birth and formative years. 
Even before I became chairman of the Interstate Commerce 
Committee in 1934, 1 was concerned about the future of radio, 
as were other members of the committee. Incredible as it now 
seems, some people were blind to the potential of broadcasting 
and were unconcerned about how it was developing. 

Like a few of my colleagues on the committee, I felt that 
since the air space was owned by the public those who used it 
had responsibilities to the public and should not look upon it 
as a private preserve to be exploited solely for profit. 

The National Broadcasting Company originally had two net 
works, the Red and the Blue. David Sarnoff, head of RCA, the 
parent company of NBC, wanted a radio monopoly, as he later 
did in TV. Senator Clarence Dill, my predecessor as chairman 
of the committee, and I believed competition would be healthy 
and we encouraged the development of the Columbia Broad 
casting System. 

As chairman, I repeatedly warned the network heads at pub 
lic hearings that they were indulging themselves in too many 
"soap operas" and too much jazz music. The excuse was always 



Defeat and Renaissance 421 

the same: "We're giving the public what it wants." In private 
interviews and public hearings, I warned them that they should 
use the airwaves for which they had been licensed to elevate 
the taste of the public, not to degrade it. 

What I said about radio in its developing years goes double 
for TV. The pandering to the lowest common denominator of 
a mass audience of many millions is what led to the rigged 
quiz shows and payola scandals. Today television is making 
heroes out of gunmen and lighting the picture tubes of a na 
tion night after night with sexy and glamorous murder-detec 
tive stories which I feel certain have a bad effect on many 
youngsters. It is undoubtedly part of the cause of the teen-age 
crime waves that crop up periodically. 

When in 1961 Newton Minow, the new chairman of the 
Federal Communications Commission, decried the overdose of 
violence in what he called TV's "vast wasteland/' I congratu 
lated him. He was trying to alert the industry, as I had done 
two decades earlier. Unless the industry improves the quality 
of its programing, the people of the United States will demand 
censorship of both radio and television. 

When TV was ripe for launching, the Radio Corporation of 
America wanted the FCC to adopt standards which would 
compel the use of equipment blanketed by RCA patents. Had 
this been done, RCA would have commanded a virtual monop 
oly in the manufacture of sets. FCCs refusal to adopt the 
standards urged by RCA kicked off a furor with charges that 
the federal agency was needlessly delaying the bringing of 
television to the American public. On our committee fell the 
burden of investigating the charges and countercharges. 

At the hearings, one of the witnesses was Sarnoff. I was op 
posed to giving a monopoly to RCA in this field and I told Sar 
noff that if it had the best system RCA would get the most 
business anyway. After the hearings Sarnoff asked me to lunch 
with him. 

Tm in trouble," he told me as we sat down. He related that 
when James Lawrence Fly was appointed chairman of the 
FCC in 1939 he had told Sarnoff that he understood that RCA 
had the best television engineers. This was something Sarnoff 



Yankee from the West 

said he had never heard from an FCC chairman before; he 
was delighted to learn that Fly felt so kindly toward RCA. He 
explained that he had also been assured by certain people 
"close to the President'* that "everything was all right" for his 
firm. 

Samoff lamented, "I called Sam Rosenman [FDR's counsel] 
and Anna Rosenberg [also close to the President], They told 
me everything was all right. But it's not all right. Fly has 
changed his mind about using the RCA TV standards. 

"You know who's keeping Fly on as chairman of the commis 
sion?" Sarnoff asked me. I said no and he replied: "Burton K. 
Wheeler." I asked where he got that idea and he explained that 
Roosevelt told him he was keeping Fly there "because Fly 
knows how to handle Wheeler." This was news to me. I hadn't 
known that Fly could "handle" Wheeler. (Actually, I sus 
pected that FDR, typically, was using this as an alibi to Sarnoff, 
who was pressing him to get rid of Fly.) 

This struggle over television standards was one of two very 
severe struggles which the controversial and able Fly had with 
the dominant figures in broadcasting, principally RCA. This 
second controversy involved charges that a few powerful net 
works, centered in New York, were unduly dominating all 
broadcasting throughout the country. We then had only radio 
broadcasting in which three reasonably strong networks were 
engagedwith Mutual a struggling fourth. Of these three the 
RCA's subsidiary, the National Broadcasting Company, op 
erated two, its so-called Red and Blue networks. It is obviously 
unhealthy in a democracy to have two out of three such pow 
erful opinion-forming organizations in the hands of a single 
company. 

There were other complaints about undue monopolization 
in broadcasting. The networks occupied positions of great 
power and they would serve local stations only if the local sta 
tions agreed to submit themselves almost fully to network con 
trol Thus, a network could command all the time of its 
affiliated stations. It could compel a local station to carry a 
network soap opera or dance band even though the local sta- 



Defeat and Renaissance 423 

tion might prefer to broadcast an event of great local impor 
tance or interest. 

FCC, at my prodding, had undertaken a study of the prob 
lems involved. In 1941, it announced a series of rules which 
were designed to introduce more competition into broadcasting 
and to free local stations from the degree of dominance exer 
cised over them. Most importantly it would have compelled 
RCA to yield up one of the two networks which it was operat 
ing. These rules kicked off another great uproar, with both RCA 
and CBS asserting that irresponsible bureaucrats in Washing 
ton were destroying the basis for all network broadcasting. The 
inevitable forum for such a controversy is the congressional 
committee, and hearings on the subject were held before the 
Senate Interstate Commerce Committee. The broadcasting in 
dustry has always been able to command very powerful 
lobbies in Washington since senators and congressmen neces 
sarily pay great attention to the complaints of those who con 
trol access to the microphones of the country. The affiliates of 
RCA and Columbia constituted the most powerful lobby for 
the networks. The networks always called upon them to inter 
cede with their senators and congressmen. 

Again I backed Fly fully and FCC's rules, with some minor 
modifications, became effective. Despite the calamitous pre 
dictions, they have not destroyed network broadcasting and 
the country has undoubtedly benefited from their adoption. 
RCA was finally forced to give up its Blue Network, which be 
came the American Broadcasting Company. 

When Fly began his term in 1939, he told me he was in favor 
of granting licenses for ten or twelve "super-power" radio sta 
tions, carrying some 500,000 watts each. I opposed the idea. I 
pointed out that the super-power stations would have all the 
best programs and thus get all the business. A little station 
serving a community could not compete. I also told Fly that 
only a rich political candidate could afford to buy time on a 
super-power station. 

I introduced and got passed a resolution stating it was the 
"sense of the Senate" that a radio station should be limited to 
50,000 watts. Though the resolution has never had the force of 



424 Yankee from the West 

law, or even become a stated FCC policy, the FCC lias fol 
lowed its intent ever since. In my judgment, it is one of the 
reasons we have so many thriving radio stations serving small 
communities today. 

The networks had first intended to broadcast only from the 
populous areas of the East and Midwest. When they decided to 
go West, they planned to accept as affiliates only stations in 
Denver and Salt Lake City. I told M. H. (Deke) Aylesworth, 
then president of NBC: "You just can't skim off the cream in 
the West." Later, Aylesworth informed me: "We're going east 
from Spokane to St. Paul, and we'll connect the stations in 
Montana with our network/ 5 I subsequently convinced Wil 
liam S. Paley, then CBS president (later chairman of the board) 
that his network had to follow suit in offering their programs 
and services to smaller stations throughout the West. 

I also made clear my concern about "equal time" in a con 
versation with Aylesworth and Ed Craney, owner of a Butte, 
Montana, station. I said a station which gave free time to one 
political candidate should give the same amount of time to all 
his rivals who had legally qualified themselves as candidates. 
This posed the question of whether a Communist was entitled 
to the same degree of fairness. Aylesworth recalled that in 1932 
NBC had broadcast both the Republican and Democratic con 
ventions. The Communist Party then demanded that its con 
vention should be aired. Aylesworth said they solved the 
problem by broadcasting the speech of William Z. Foster, one 
of the better-known Commie leaders, but not those of all his 
comrades. I agreed with this decision. 

Aylesworth turned to Craney and remarked that while he 
didn't always agree with me he felt all station owners should 
abide by this practice or face government ownership. When 
the basic act setting up the FCC was written and passed in 
1934, the "equal time 3 * concept was incorporated and it has 
been in the law ever since. 

Another provision I worked into the basic FCC act required 
any company convicted of violating the anti-trust laws to for 
feit its radio license. After I left the Senate, this provision was 
repealed. 



Defeat and Renaissance 425 

In most countries, broadcasting is a government function 
and of course has an unlimited potential for disseminating 
propaganda. I want to avoid that in the United States and 
that's why I am so anxious for the chosen few who are licensed 
to operate our airwaves to live up to their responsibilities to the 
public. It is the only way to preserve private ownership. 

The achievement which gave me the most satisfaction in my 
career was being selected by both Republicans and Democrats 
to lead the fight against the Court bill. It also was the most 
significant in relation to our governmental system of checks 
and balances. I must confess it gave me quite a thrill when we 
defeated the President. We could not have had a smarter or 
more powerful antagonist. Roosevelt was a fighter and for this 
and other reasons I liked him as a personality. Some people 
find this hard to believe. But, as I said in an earlier chapter, 
I harbored no bitterness after a scrap was over. Bitterness only 
hurts the person who indulges in it. I attribute much of my 
success in politics to this philosophy. 

Roosevelt was a great personality, a man whose charm you 
couldn't help enjoy even when you knew it was being used 
against you. Oliver Wendell Holmes said that FDR had "a 
second-class intellect but a first-class temperament." I agree 
with that. Roosevelt was not well read and he had no profound 
knowledge of any subject. But he had a superficial knowledge 
of a great many things, and he supplemented it with inexhausti 
ble brain-picking. He understood people, and he admired peo 
ple who disagreed with him if he felt they were honest. 

I used to be amused by the way the President revealed his 
feeling toward me. Before the Court fight, he always began 
his letters to me with "Dear Burt " During the Court fight it 
was always, "My dear senator/' When I handled the railroad 
legislation for him, he went back to "Dear Burt," but it was 
"My dear senator" again when we broke on the war issue. In 
May 1944 he returned to the "Dear Burt" salutation and it 
remained that way until he died. 

His finest talent was his superlative use of the radio to reach 
the masses. The "country squire" with the upper-class upstate 
New York accent was able to make the people feel he was 



426 Yankee from the West 

against the rich and for the poor. In my time, no other person 
could influence public opinion as effectively as he could. He 
was the first but not the last President to make separate and 
special pleas to all the minorities, racial, religious, farm, labor, 
etc. I always doubted his sincerity when he played on the feel 
ings of the minorities like a musician fingers the keys of a piano. 
But it gave him the aura of being a strong and truly national 
leader. 

I doubt whether Roosevelt could have been elected to a third 
term if the radio had not been invented. The newspapers were 
virtually unanimous in their opposition to him. True, in Mon 
tana I had been able to overcome a hostile press which had 
amounted to a news blackout. I did this by literally covering a 
state which is 600 miles wide and speaking directly to the vot 
ers, sometimes to groups as small as ten or fifteen persons. But 
a President cannot cover forty-eight or fifty states unless he 
has electronic help. People will believe what they read in the 
papers, in the absence of contrary information. 

I admired FDR as you admire a clever magician or show 
man. He had such great personal magnetism and warmth that 
it projected immediately to his audience when he mounted a 
platform or spoke his first sentence over the radio. Even vigor 
ous opponents were at least momentarily swept along by his 
dynamism. This is an indispensable quality of leadership. It is 
also a gift. FDR reminded me, on a larger scale, of Arthur 
Townley, the dynamic leader of the old Non-Partisan League. 
All Townley had to do was stand on a soapbox and smile at 
the farmers; before he uttered a word, he had them in his hip 
pocket 

Showmanship in a politician is not to be scorned. It is the 
means through which he can reach the voter and educate Trim 
in the important issues. It is not easy to capture and hold the 
public's attention, but it must be done before education can 
begin. When I made speeches about the corruption of the 
Daugherty crowd, I used to suggest the dimensions and the 
drama of the scandal by saying that it had "reached right up 
to the White House door. 3 * You could have heard a pin drop in 
the hall following this statement. 



Defeat and Renaissance 

FDR's showmanship sometimes slid into demagoguery, of 
course. I was furious when he went on the radio in the Court 
fight and talked about "one third of the nation" being "ill 
nourished, ill clad, and ill housed/' This had nothing to do with 
the merits of the issue. But I had to admit to myself that on oc 
casion I myself had used these arts to make a point in Montana 
when I was in a heated fight against the powerful companies 
ranged against me. 

Roosevelt relied on rhetoric and was constantly searching 
for vivid metaphors that stick in the mind. When I campaigned 
with him through the West in 1936, 1 occasionally helped him 
play with words. In Denver, he asked me for some ideas on 
water resources, and I told him to repeat what he had said on 
the subject in Montana in 19345 on ^ta site of the Fort Peck 
dam project. Although I had made a great many talks myself 
on irrigation, I had never heard that dull subject so lyrically 
and inspiringly extolled as it was on that occasion. That audi 
ence in 1934 must have felt they were looking at a latter-day 
Moses, ready to strike a rock and make the waters gush forth. 

When we reached Colorado Springs in that 1936 campaign, 
Roosevelt again asked me for a speech and idea. I proposed the 
kind of simple image that appealed to Trim. I suggested he re 
mind his listeners that when he had first campaigned for Presi 
dent in 1932 they were wearing overalls and traveling in 
freight cars. But now, after four years of the New Deal, they 
were wearing good clothes and riding in Cadillacs. FDR pulled 
out all the stops with this comparison at Colorado Springs and 
it was effective. He liked it so much that I heard Trim using it 
later in Pittsburgh when I caught his speech over the radio. 

Of course, some of Roosevelt's best lines were contributed 
by Sam Rosenman, the adroit ghost writer. When speech 
drafts were discussed, you could never be sure what Sam had 
contributed. When we were on the train en route to St. Paul, 
Minnesota, in the 1936 campaign, Sam read the draft of a 
speech FDR was to deliver there on farm cooperatives. I told 
him it was "terrible." It was a dull explanation of co-ops with 
which his audience would be much more familiar than the 



428 Yankee from the West 

President. I didn't learn until later tliat Rosenman had written 
the text! 

Roosevelt's extreme popularity actually was an extra source 
of satisfaction to me. For I never used or needed the benefit of 
his coattails to ride into office and therefore I was not afraid 
to stand up to him. That my refusal to go along with the Roose 
velt Administration on every issue eventually contributed to 
my defeat only underscored the fact that I had followed what 
I believed to be principle rather than expediency. 

My refusal to go along with my party's leadership when I 
felt it was wrong has confused some observers about my politi 
cal philosophy. One pundit had concluded that in the course 
of my Senate career I made the "classic swing from left to 
right." My own feeling is that while the times, the issues, and 
the leaders have changed, my basic outlook has remained the 
same. I don't know if there is a label for this philosophy; I 
never felt one was necessary. In the generally accepted group 
ings today, I agree with the "liberals" when they are on the 
side of justice for the individual and against the concentration 
of economic power. I agree with the "conservatives" in their 
opposition to the buildup of centralized power in the federal 
government. 

What bothers me about today's "liberals" is this: through the 
ages, those called liberal fought to take the power away from 
the kings and the emperors and to give it to the parliaments; 
now it is the "liberals" who are anxious to give more and more 
power to the executive, at the expense of the legislative branch. 
We must not forget that Hitler was able to become a dic 
tator because he persuaded the Reichstag to vote away their 
powers "temporarily," so they thought! 

Too, the modern "liberals" preach tolerance but in some 
ways are extremely intolerant themselves. They would cast into 
outer darkness anyone who does not go along with them one 
hundred per cent. And some of our labor leaders have become 
so powerful they try to tell legislators how to vote not only on 
union legislation but on foreign policy and civil rights issues as 
well. 

On May 24, 1941, Joe Kennedy delivered a commencement 



Defeat and Renaissance 429 

address at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia. The for 
mer Ambassador to Great Britain counseled the graduates 
against slogans and words that have been "counterfeited." 

"For example/' he told them, "the word liberal* has become 
entirely suspect because of the grossest sins committed in its 
name. Today many so-called leaders are professional liberals. 
They would rather be known as liberal than to be right. They 
have tortured a great word to cover a false philosophy, to wit, 
that the end justifies the means. Liberalism, your studies here 
at Oglethorpe have taught you, has never meant a slavish de 
votion to a program, but rather did liberalism connote a state 
of the spirit, a tolerance for the views of others, an attitude of 
respect for others and a willingness to learn by experience, no 
less in social fields than in the physical sciences. Basically, lib 
eralism predicates that man is a spirit and out of Godlike quali 
ties can come the triumph over the basic instincts that have 
made him so many times 'vile/*' 

I agree with that statement. 

If my career has brought me more than one man's share of 
fights, I regret none of diem. Incessant conflict made me live 
life more deeply. On my 8oth birthday, February 27, 1962, I 
realized just how fully I had lived. My children gave me a huge 
reception which 450 of my friends attended. They included 
many busy persons Chief Justice Warren and a majority of 
the Supreme Court plus many prominent members of Con 
gress. The affection evident in that turnout brought tears to my 
eyes, and a flood of memories. The party stirred other persons' 
memories too. Accepting the invitation, Supreme Court Justice 
Felix Frankfurter had dashed off this note in longhand: What! 
Eighty? Old Time is indeed a liar. Why, ifs only yesterday 
so vivid is my recollection of it since you first swam into my 
ken as the fearless 17. S. Attorney in Judge Bourquins court 
(a judge deserving to be remembered) and then those glorious 
battles in the Senate . . . was all that 40 years ago? 

A wealthy industrialist once told me that I was a "very rich 
man" because, regardless of what happened to my politics or 
my pocketbook, I had a wonderful wife and family. There is no 
greater reward than seeing all your children turn out well, as 



430 Yankee from the West 

mine have. Frances, wlio for years devotedly did much of the 
research in preparation for this book, died in 1957 but the other 
five are well, successful, and happily married. John, the oldest, 
went West and became general counsel for Sears Roebuck in 
the Far Western states. Edward is my law partner. Richard runs, 
and is part owner of, radio stations in Denver and Phoenix. 
Marion, our youngest, is married to Robert Scott, a Washing 
ton lawyer. Elizabeth, as I have noted, lives in Milwaukee with 
her husband, Edwin, a successful businessman. The main credit 
for rearing these sons and daughters goes to Mrs. Wheeler, who 
has been a sensible, farsighted, and strong-minded mother. 

Growing up in the West and being educated in the East, 
our children have had the advantage of getting to know and 
therefore, better love their country. After being elected to the 
Senate, I bought a house in Washington but we always spent 
our summers in Montana. The hunting lodge I acquired back 
in 1912 on the wooded shores of Lake McDonald (in what 
has since become Glacier National Park) was expanded to 
three cabins, with the help of my strong sons. There three gen 
erations of Wheelers go boating, fishing, horseback riding, and 
swimming together. 

Life for me in Washington is as full as I could wish it. Every 
morning I go to my law office and then lunch at my club with 
old friends or clients. When I feel like it, I play cards after 
lunch at the club, or take the afternoon off and play eighteen 
holes of golf. 

The skinny, towheaded young fellow who headed West, 
without friends or money, certainly never dreamed of a future 
with such excitement and rewards as were in store for him. 
If I seem to have done everything the hard way, I have no 
regrets I would do it the same way again. As Mrs. Wheeler 
says, our life has never been very simple and never dull. What 
more can a man ask? 



INDEX 



Adams, Mrs. Jack, 133-34 
Addams, Jane, 257 

Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) , 302, 306 
Alderson, Secretary of State A. M., 110-12 
Allen, Governor O. K., 290 
Allen, Robert S., 360, 393-94 
Alley, Roy, 181, 189 
Alsop, Joseph (journalist), 362 
Amalgamated Copper Company. See Ana 
conda Copper Mining Company 
America First Committee, 28-29 
American Astrology, 360 
American Brass Company, 187 
American Broadcasting Company (ABC) , 368 
American Federation of Labor (AFL), 89, 

162, 251, 263, 390 
American Metals Company, 233 
American Society of Equity, 156 
American Telephone & Telegraph Company, 

416 
Anaconda Copper Mining Company, 17, 75- 

102 vassim, 153, 160 ff, 324-25, 372, 385, 

390, 406 
Anaconda (Montana) Standard,, 97-98, 101, 

104, 118, 121-22, 139, 141, 148, 162, 177, 181, 

183, 406 
Anderson, John, State Senator (Montana), 

189 

Anderson, Paul Y., 214 
Arboleda, Simeon, 382 
Arnold, Major General Henry H. (Hap) , 346- 

47 

Arnold, Roland C., 177 
Aronson, Governor J. Hugo, 414 
Arthur, Tom, 217 

Asbridge, Federal Marshal Joseph, 148, 169 
Ashurst, Senator Henry P., 196, 212, 216, 228, 

268, 292-93, 330-31 

Association of American Railroads, 351 
Auditorium Theater (Chicago) , 21 
Austin, Senator Warren B., 376 
Ayers, Judge Roy E., 117, 166-68 
Aylesworth, M. H., 424 

Bailey, Senator Josiah W., 323 

Bair, Charles, 180 

Baker, Ray, 250-51 

Baldwin, Hanson, 20, 31-32 

Baldwin, James H. (attorney) , 105, 161, 237 

Baltimore Sun, 240, 254, 256 

Bankhead, Senator John H., 311 

Barker, Robert E., 409 

Barkley, Vice President Alben W., 202, 312, 

341, 372, 376, 384 
Baruch, Bernard, 394, 404 
Basso, Hamilton, 9 
Bawden, Billy (attorney), 99-100 
Beaverbrook, William, Lord, 394 
Berkin, John, 153 
Bertoglio, D. G., 110 
Biddle, Attorney General Francis, 376 
Bielaski, Bruce, 137 
Biffle, Senator Leslie, 323, 375 



Billings (Montana) Gazette, 180 

Binnard, Joseph, 85-86 

Black, Justice Hugo L., 313, 339, 367 

Blue Network. See National Broadcasting 

Company 

Bone, Senator Homer T., 334. 343 
Booth, Edwin S., 237, 239 
Borah, Senator William E., 196, 209, 236, 

238, 243, 263, 267, 312, 336-37 
Bourquin, Judge George M,, 107-9, 112-13, 

136, 138-39, 152, 154-57, 159, 161, 194, 306 
Bradley, General Omar N., 161 
Brandegee, Senator Frank B,, 208, 405 
Brookhart, Senator Smith W., 196, 204, 216, 

Brooks, Senator* Wayland, 405 

Brown, Constautlne, 370 

Bryan, Governor Charles W,, 249 

Bryan, William Jennings, 41-42 102 211 
302, 355; and La FoUette-Wheeler cam 
paign, 247, 255, 260 

Bunker TTHI Mining Company, 71 

Bureau of Investigation. See Federal Bureau 
of Investigation 

Burke, Senator Edward R., 322, 341 

Burns, William J., 228, 230, 244 

Burton, Senator Harold, 367 

Butcher, Harry, 343 

Butler, Major General Smedley D., 383 

Butler, William M., 254 

Butte (Montana) Bulletin, 161, 166, 175, 177, 
193, 195 

Butte (Montana) Miner, 153, 169, 175-77, 
179, 182, 194 

Butte (Montana) Post, 145 

Butte (Montana) Socialist, 118, 120 

Buzell, F. A., 173-74 

Byrd, Senator Harry F,, 322 

Byrne, Edward J., 137, 142 

Byrnes, Senator James F., 23-24, 302, 310-11, 
358, 365, 370, 372, 391 

Byrns, Joe (Speaker), 312 

California Institute of Technology, 344 

Galloway, Judge Lew, 72-73, 195 

Campbell, Gordon, 235-37, 242 

Campbell, W. A., 159 

Canning, Matt (attorney), 64, 69-70, 74-75, 

120, 154-55 

Capeharfc, Senator Homer E., 393 
Caraway, Hattie (Mrs. Thaddeus H.), 280-81 
Caraway, Senator Thaddeus H., 227, 236, 278, 

280 

Carpentier, Georges, 223 ff 
Carroll, Tom, 344 

Carter, Senator Thomas H., 84, 86, 88, 111 
Catledge, Turner (journalist), 12 
Causey, James, 199 
Chamberlain, Senator George E., 225 
Chamberlain, Prime Minister Neville, 27 
Chase, Dr. A. W., 48-49, 51 
Cheadle, E. K. (attorney) , 26, 119 
Chiang Kai-shek, Generalissimo, 382-84 



432 

Chicago Stadium, 386 

Chicago Tribune, 33 f, 231, 377 

Chipman, Bowie, 308, 417 

Christian Science Monitor, The, 360 

Church, Norman, 343-45 

Chuxchill, Sir Winston, 27, 34, 389, 393-95 

Cincinnati Times Star, 233 

CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations), 
150, 273, 356, 369 

Citizens Federal Research Bureau, 219 

Citizenship Institute of the American Youth 
Congress, 360 

Clark, Senator Bennett Champ, 323, 351, 375 

Clark, Senator D. Worth, 366 

Clark, Attorney General Tom C , 415 

Clark, William Andrews, 77-79, 85 

Clark, William Andrews, Jr., 147 

Clement, Martin W. s 348 

Clements, Judge James M , 122-26, 131-32 

Clowes, Tim (attorney), 66 

Coan, Blair, 237 

Coehran, Judge A. N. J., 232 

Cohen, Ben, 312, 320, 362-63 

Cohen, Mose (attorney) , 366 

Colby, Edith, 124-34. See also under Wheeler, 
Burton K. 

Coleman, Elizabeth Wheeler. See Wheeler, 
Elizabeth 

Collier, John, 314-15 

Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) , 420 3 

Conley, Prank, 92-93 
Connally, Senator Tom, 304 
Connelly, Matt, 376 
Connolly, Christopher P., 78 
Conrad, W. G., 85-87 
Cooke, Admiral Charles M., 388-89 
Coolidge, Calvin, President, 204-5, 215, 218, 
229, 246, 275-76, 316, 380; and campaign for 
presidency (1924) , 252-56, 258-61, 264 
Cooney, Prank, 301 
Cooper, Charles, 135-36, 170 
Cooper, Edward, 400-1, 405 
Copeland, Senator Eoyal S., 322, 337 
Copenharve, Charles, 121 
Corcoran, Thomas G , 303, 312-13, 320, 322, 

345, 357-58, 367-68, 371 
Couch, Survey, 290 

Coughlin, Reverend Charles Edward, 303 
Council of Federated Churches (Butte, Mon 
tana), 160 

Couzens, Senator James, 209-10 
Cox, Governor James M , 177-78, 183, 355 
Crowder, Major Enoch H , 163 
Crowley, Stephen J. (attorney) , 159 
Crum, Judge Charles L., 154-55 
Cummings, Attorney General Homer S., 300, 

327, 329-30, 332-33 

Cummins. Senator Albert B., 206-11, 216 
Curley, Mayor James Michael, 252 
Current History, 360 

Cutting, Senator Bronson M., 202. 278-79. 
384-85 

Daly, Marcus, 75-80, 295 

Daniels, Josephus (Secretary of the Navy), 

242, 248 

Darrow, Clarence (attorney) , 102, 129 
Daugherty, Attorney General Harry M., 192- 

93, 250, 253, 255, 258, 338, 364, 409, 426; 

and "Ohio Gang," 213-45 
Daugherty, Mai, 231 ff 
Davis, John W. (attorney) , 247-^9, 286, 323, 

355; and La Follette- Wheeler campaign. 

252-57, 259-60, 264 
Dawes, Charles G., Vice President, 246, 268- 

70; and campaign for vice presidency 

{1924) , 254, 256-57, 260, 262 
Day, E. C (attorney) , 159, 163 
Debs, Eugene V. (political leader) , 166-67 
Democratic State Central Committee (Mon 
tana), 176-78 
Democratic National Committee 287 297 

321, 333, 346, 366, 375 ' 



Yankee from the West 

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Commit 
tee, 341 

Dempsey, Jack, 223 ff 

Denby, Edwin (Secretary of the Navy) 215 

Denny, I G. (U. S District Attorney), 73 

Denny, Ludwell (columnist) , 360 

Denver (Colorado) Post, 259 

Devil Learns to Vote The Story of Montana 
The, 78 

De Witt, Alexander Sanders, 48, 50-54 

Dieterich, Senator William H., 311, 332 

Dill, Senator Clarence C , 196, 209, 305, 420 

Dixon, Governor Joseph M , 179, 183, 186-87 
196, 296-97 

Dr. Chase's Receipt Book, 48-49 

Dodd, Dr W. E., 66-67 

Donlan, Judge Michael, 63, 73-74 

Donnelly, Charles, 114 

Donohue, Major D. J , 116-18 

Donovan, Colonel William ("Wild Bill") 
219-20, 241, 243 

Doran, Johnny (attorney), 75 

Douglas, Charles A. (attorney), 242 

Douglas, Justice William O., 370-71 

Driscoll, Tim, 117 

Duffield, Eugene S., 35-36 

Duffy, Paddy, 82, 86 

Duggan, Larry, 171, 174 

Duncan, Mayor Lewis J. (Butte, Montana), 
98-99, 133, 165 

Dunn, William ("Big Bill"), 161-62, 166, 203 

Early, Stephen T. (presidential secretary), 
36, 315 

Eastman, Max, 201 

Ecton, Senator Zales N., 406, 413 

Edith Colby Trial. See under Wheeler, Bur 
ton K. 

Edwards, Senator Edward L, 372 

Edwards, John, 90 

Eisenhower, Dwight D., President, 343, 380- 
81, 395-98 

Electric Bond and Share, 307 

Eliot, Charles W. (educator) , 242 

Empire Theater {Butte, Montana) , 120-23 

English, Gils, 92 

Erickson, Governor John E , 178, 299, 301 

Erickjson, Leif (attorney) , 402-4, 406, 409, 413 

Evans, John M., Representative, 104 

Evans, L. O. (attorney) , 94, 118, 139 

Ewing, Orman, 324 

Examiner (Los Angeles) , 261 

Fall, Albert B, (Secretary of the Interior), 
196 

Farley, James A. (Postmaster General) 282 
298, 303, 346-47, 357-58, 365-66, 412-13 

Farmers Union, 402 

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) , 137 
155, 228 

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 
395, 417, 421-24 

Federal Trade Commission (PTC) , 307 

Fess, Simeon, 271 

Fink, A. L. (attorney) , 219-20 

Pitts, Attorney General William C., 142 

Ply, James Lawrence, 422-23 

Flynn, Edward J., 366 

Foley, Edward, 362 

Ford, Sam, State Attorney General (Mon 
tana), 108, 149, 171 

Forrestal, James V. (Secretary of the Navy) , 
370-71, 393 

Fort, Carter (attorney) , 351 

Foster, William Z. (political leader) , 424 

Foulois, General Benjamin D., 199 

Frankfurter, Justice Felix, 234, 242 429 

Fraizier, Senator Lynn J., 196, 204, 306 

Prazier-Lemke Act, 306 

Freeman, James (attorney), 104 

Galen, Albert, State Attorney General (Mon 
tana), 93, 112-14 



Index 

Gallwey, Harry, 87 

Garner, John Nance, Vice President, 25, 286- 

87, 293, 333, 338-39, 354-55, 358, 365-65 
Garry, Tom, 365 

George, Senator Walter P., 322, 344 
Gerard, James W., 295 
Germain, A. L., 130-31 
Gerry, Senator Peter G., 323 
Gilbert, Clinton W., 211 
Gillis, Phil, 79-80 
Glass, Senator Carter, 268 
Glenn, John S,, 228 
Gooding, Senator Frank B , 272-75 
Goodman, Sam, 190-91 
Goodwin, Phil, 80 
Gray, Carl B., 347-49 

Great Palls (Montana) Air Force Base, 347 
Great Palls (Montana) Tribune, 98, 101 
Great Northern Railway, 109 
Gregory, Attorney General Thomas W., 107, 

110-11, 136, 157, 159, 163 
Grossbeck, Ned, 309 
Grundy, Joseph, 263 
Gudger, Genevieve, 301 
Guffey, Senator Joseph P., 341-42, 350 

Hague, Prank, 372 

Hall, Ves, 153-58 

Hannegan, Robert E. (politician) , 375 

Hapgood, Norman, 199, 242 

Hard, William, 9 

Harding, Warren G., President, 183, 192, 196, 

198, 204, 364: and "Ohio Gang," 213-15, 

218-19, 221-22, 224, 227, 233 
Harriman, J. Borden, Mrs., 240 
Harrison, George, 348-49 
Harrison, Senator Pat, 284 
Haste, Richard, 177 
Hatch, Senator Carl A., 336 
Hateley, C. P., 228 
Hawkes, Senator Albert W., 393-96 
Hawley, Governor James, 111 
Hayden, Senator Carl, 404-5 
Hayes, George B. (attorney) , 239-43 
Haynes, Falkner (attorney) , 154-55 
Hays, Arthur Garfield (attorney) , 242 
Eaywood, "Big Bill," 201 
Healy, Jimmy (attorney) , 62, 107, 122 
Hearst, William Randolph, 234-35, 247, 287, 

303, 344, 377 
Heflin, Senator Tom, 268 
Heinz, Frederick Augustus ("Fritz"), 76-77, 

79, 82-83, 89 
Helena (Montana) Independent, 90, 111, 138- 

44, 148, 152-53, 158-59, 164, 169-70, 175, 

185, 192, 194 
Henderson, Leon, 362-63 
Henning, Arthur Sears, 34 
Hillman, Sidney (labor leader) , 150, 253, 333, 

356 

Bobbins, James, 191, 309 
Hollywood Bowl, 261 
Holmes, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell, 425 
Hooper, Rear Admiral Stanford C., 18-20, 386 
Hoover, Herbert C., President, 114, 243, 275, 

287, 291, 828 

Hoover, J. Edgar, 228, 239, 243 
Hopkins, Harry (presidential assistant) , 364- 

66, 388-89 

House, Colonel E. W., 240 
House Judiciary Committee, 81 
Howard, Roy W. (editor) , 363 
Howe, Louis, 314 
Howell, Senator Robert B., 196, 210 
Howland, Representative L, Paul, 225 
Hudson, Harry, 190 
Hughes, Chief Justice Charles Evans, 201, 

328-30, 332-33, 335 
Hull, Cordell (Secretary of State) , 23-25, 31, 

187-88, 247, 357-58, 366 
168 Days, The, 12 
Hungry Horse Dam, 404-5 
Hunt, Judge William, 70-71 



433 

Hurley, Governor Charles P., 359 
Hurley, Judge Jonn, 102, 122 
HutcMns, Dean Harry B,, 47, 54, 57 
Hutchinson, William H., 366-67 

Ickes, Harold L. (Secretary of the Interior) , 

305, 333 

Igra, Adolph, 378-79 
Immigration Commission, 80 
Independent Enterprise, 125 
Independent Progressive Party. See under 

Wheeler, Burton K. 
Indian Affairs Committee. See under 

Wheeler, Burton K. 
Insull, 307 

International News Service, 367 
Interstate Commerce Committee. See under 

Wheeler, Burton K. 
Irey, Elmer T., 291 
Irvin, Louis S, (attorney) , 177 
IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), 

116, 118, 139-42, 145-48, 160-62, 184, 201, 
361, 390 

Jackson, Justice Robert H., S27, 333 
Jahncke, Ernest L. (Assistant Secretary of 

the Navy), 290 
Jewell, Bert, S48 

Johnson, Senator Edwin C., 26, 408-9 
Johnson, Senator Hiram W., 268, 272, 298, 

337-39 

Johnson, Senator Magnus, 203-4 
Johnson, Colonel Wayne, 346 
Jones, Senator Wesley Lu, 216 
Just, A. J. f 153-56 

Keating, Ed, 298 

Keep America Out of War Congress. 21 

Keeton, J. E., 166-68 

Keller, Representative Oscar E., 214 

KeUey, Cornelius (Con) , 79, 83, 100, 133, 160- 

61, 190, 309 
Kelly, Dan (attorney), 72-73, 100-1, 111-13, 

117, 162 

Kelly, Mayor Edward J., 23-24, 365-66 

Kendrick, Senator Ed, 301 

Kendrick, Senator John B., 217, 243 

Kennedy, John E., 408 

Kennedy, John P., President, 381 

Kennedy, Joseph P., 10, 27, 252-53, 297, 303, 

310, 320, 428-29 
Kent, Prank, 254 
Kerr, Prank, 114, 301, 307 
Kilroy, Richard, 181 
Kimball, Dr. E. L., 127-28, 132 
T^T), David George, 408 
King, John T., 233 
King, Senator William H., 304 
Kinsley, Philip, 231 
Kintner, Robert E., 362-63 
Knight, Dr. A. C., 127-29 
Knox, Prank (Secretary of the Navy), 34, 

387 

Kremer, J. Bruce, 194-95, 299, 301 
Kuffler, Arthur, 379 
Ku Klux Klan, 251-52, 260, 296 

Labor. 298 

La PoUette, Senator Robert M., 196, 204, 207, 

209-11, 216-17, 227, 241-42, 292, 320, 389-90; 

and campaign for Presidency, 250-65 
Lamb, Ed (attorney), 63 
Land, Admiral Emory S., 350 
Landls, Dean James M., 325 
Lane, Charles, 120 
Lasker, Albert, 404 
Law, Judge Benjamin, 119-20, 122 
League of Nations, 183, S55, 402 
Lee, William E. (attorney), 114 
Lehman, Governor Herbert BL, 332 
Lenroot, Senator Irvine L., 211 
Lewis, Senator J. Hamilton, 291 
Lewis, John L, (labor leader) , 356, 359 



434 

"Liberty Committees" (Montana), 147 

Life, 55 

Limpus, Lowell, 273 

Lindley, Ernest K. (columnist) , 359 

Little, Prank H,, 139-42, 158, 184 

Litvinov, Maxim (statesman) , 200 

Livingston (Montana) Enterprise, 166 

Lodge, Henry Cabot (statesman), 207-8, 

215-16, 268, 293 
Logan, Senator Marvel M., 339 
Long, Senator Euey P., 10, 280-84, 288-91, 

298, 411; and Court-packing controversy, 

12, 56, 150, 425; in presidential campaign 

(1932), 285-87 

Longworth., Nicholas (Speaker), 414 
Lorimer, William (attorney), 269 
Los Angeles Record, 261 
Lowenthal, Max (attorney) , 29 
Lynch, Judge Jeremiah J., 73 

McAdoo, William G. (Secretary of the Treas 
ury) , 149, 163, 247-48 

McCaffery, Joseph, 120 

McCarran, Senator Pat, 344 

McCormick, Colonel Robert B., 34, 377 

McDowell, W. W., 81, 84, 176, 193 

McParland, Ernest W. (Senate Majority 
Leader), 393 

McGinnls, John, 82, 86-87 

McGlynn, Mickey, 148 

McGrath, Senator J Howard, 415-16 

McGregor, Dr. Harry, 175 

Mclntyre, Marvin H., 303, 392 

Mackel, Alec (attorney) , 119 

McKellar, Kenneth D., 322 

McLean, Edward B., 214 

McLean, Ned, 220, 223 

McNally, Jim, 86 

McNary, Senator Charles L., 236, 305, 394 

McNutt, Paul V. (political administrator), 
357-58 

McTague, Tom, 85, 92 

Mam Railroad, 229 

Mallon, Paul, 260 

Man From Montana, The (screenplay) , 12 

Manly, Chesly (correspondent) , 33-34, 36 

Mansfield, Mike (Senate Majority Leader), 
413-14 

Marion (Ohio) Star, 219 

Marlow, Thomas, 145 

Marshall, Thomas B , Vice President, 141 

Martin, R. B., 149, 261 

Mason, Bill (union leader) , 402 

Maury, H. Lowndes (attorney), 71, 99, 103, 
117, 165-66 

Maury, Reuben (journalist) , 166 

Means, Gaston B , 225-27, 255 

Mellett, Lowell, 29-30, 32, 270 

Melzner, Arthur B. (attorney), 219, 239-40, 
262 

Mencken, H. L., 240-41 

Merriam, Governor Prank, 344-45 

Metcalf, Senator Jesse H., 272 

Micfcelson, Charley, 219, 321 

Miles City (Montana) Star, 98 

Miller, Thomas W. (Allen Property Cus 
todian), 232-33, 244 

Mills, Ogden L. (Secretary of the Treas 
ury), 291 

Mine, Mill and Smelter "Onion, 402 

Miner's Magazine, 103 

Minow, Newton, 421 

Minton, Senator Sherman, 339, 349, 367 

Missoulia (Montana) Missoulian, 143, 169 

Missoulia (Montana) Sentinel, 169 

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (film) , 12 

Mitchell, Maude, 22t) 

MitcheE, Judge William D , 243 

Mitsui and Company, 226 

Moncada, General Jose Maria, 381 

Montana Democratic Club, 179 

Montana Development Association, 182 

Montana Power Company, 79, 114, 301, 307, 



Yankee from the West 

325, 404 

Moore, Paddy, 85-86 
Morgan, J. P., 247, 256 
Moroney, John, 86-88 
Morse, Samuel P B., 390 
Moses, Senator George H , 216, 268, 277-78 
Moses, Robert (public official) , 360 
Moyer, Charles, 116 
Mulligan, John I (attorney) , 124, 127-32 
Muma, "Jap," 223 
Mundelein, George W. Cardinal, 357 
Murphy, Justice Prank, 367 
Murphy, Homer (attorney) , 105, 107, 109 
Murray, Senator James E., 66-67, 168, 176 

343-44, 404-5, 415 
Murray, Philip, 273 
Myers, Senator Henry L., 88-89, 157-59, 179- 

80, 188 

Nation, The, 234, 253 

National Association of Manufacturers, 359 

National Broadcasting Company (NBC) , 294, 

362, 420 ff 

National Power Policy Committee, 307 
Naval Affairs Committee, 36 
Neely, Senator Matthew M., 23 
Nelson, Senator Knute, 203 
Neuberger, Senator Bichard, 363 
Neutrality Act of 1939, 29 
Nevln, Charley, 80, 97 
New Masses, 408 
New Northwest, 187 
New York Daily News, 166, 389 
New York Herald Tribune, 233, 249 
New York Times, The, 12, 202, 205, 214, 227, 

232, 246, 253, 259, 261, 264-65, 295, 339, 341 
New York World-Telegram, 360 
New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, 

229 

Niles, David K , 263, 358-59, 364, 368-69, 371 
Nippert, W. E., 126 

Nolan, Colonel C B., 88, 111, 162-63, 168 
Non-Partisan League (NPL), 148-49, 159, 

170-71, 189, 279, 410; and Burton K 

Wheeler campaign for Governor, 172-84 
Norris, Ernest, 348 
Norris, Senator George W., 13, 25, 196, 238, 

259, 268, 285, 325-26, 354, 359, 389, 410 
Northern Illinois College, 53 
Northern Pacific Railroad, 114 
Northwestern Trustee Company, 110, 112 
Norton, Tom, 100 
NPL. See Non-Partisan League 

O'Brian, John Lord, 142, 151, 153, 157 
O'Connell, Representative Jerry J., 343, 346 
O'Conner, Judge James F., 166-67, 188, 343, 

346 

O'Connor, T. V., 263 
O'Plynn, Eddie (attorney) , 92 
O'Hern, Dan, 91 
"Ohio Gang," 213-45, 255, 426 
O'Leary, William (attorney) , 109, 240 
Olson, Cuthbert (attorney) , 345 
O'Mahoney, Joe, 341-42 
O'Rourke, John K., 81 
Overton, Senator John H., 280 
Owen, Senator Robert L., 196 

Paley, William 8., 424 

Parker, Judge Alton B , 56, 89 

Parks, Wade (attorney) , 123-24, 129-30 

Patch, General Alexander M , 396-97 

Patterson, Eleanor, 413-14 

Patterson, Robert P. (Secretary of War) , 150 

Pearson, Drew (columnist) , 393-94 

Pendergast, Tom, 373 

Pepper, Senator Claude D., 23-24, 376 

Perch of the Devil, The, 69 

Phelon, John L., 231 

Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, 211 

Phillips, Ben, 107 

Pine, Senator William B., 272 



Index 



Pittman, Senator Key, 248, 302 
Plot AgaiTist America, The, 408 
Pohl, Carl von, 145-47, 160 
Porter, Paul, 395 

Quinn, John, 98 

Radio Corporation of America (RCA) , 420 fl 

Rae, William, 110-12 

Railway Mediation Board, 402 

Rankin, J. Wellington (attorney), 113, 190, 
414 

Rankin, Representative Jeanette, 90-91, 113, 
149, 390 

Ransdell, Senator Joseph E., 280 

Raskob, John J., 297 

Rayburn, Samuel T. (Speaker) , 307-8, 312-13 

Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, 306 

Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) , 
291-92 

Reed, Senator Clyde M., 413 

Reed, Senator James A., 210, 238, 268, 381 

Republican National Committee, 263 

Reynolds, Senator Robert R., 279-80 

Riddlck, Representative Carl W., 190-91, 194- 
95 

Ritchie, Governor Albert C., 287 

Robertson, Dave, 348 

Robinson, Senator Joseph T., 208-9, 215-16, 
268, 282-84, 292, 302, 312-14, 323, 334, 336- 
38, 341 

Rogers, Representative Edith Nourse, 91 

Rogers, Will (entertainer) , 310 

Rohn, Oscar, 145-47, 160 

Roosevelt, Eleanor (Mrs, Franklin D.) , 360- 
61, 419 

Roosevelt, Franklin D., President, 10, 121, 
17-20, 22-36, 150, 178, 282, 284, 288-91, 294- 
315 passim, 341-46, 352, 380, 386-98, 403-7, 
422-28; in presidential campaign (1932), 
285-87, 297-98; in presidential campaign 
(1940), 353-67; in presidential campaign 
(1944), 368 ff; in Court-packing contro 
versy, 56, 150, 319-39, 360, 413, 417, 419; 
and Transportation Act of 1940, 347-51 

Roosevelt, James, 392-93, 408, 412 

Roosevelt, Theodore, President, 102-3, 179, 
379 

Root, Elihu (statesman), 330 

Roote, Major Jesse B., 116-17, 122 

Rosenberg, Anna, 422 

Rosenman, Judge Sam, 369-71, 422, 427-28 

Ross, Charles G. (presidential secretary) , 359 

Ryan, John D., 88, 189 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 214 

Sanders, Governor J. T., 285-86 

San Francisco Chronicle, 257 

Sargent, Attorney General John G., 243 

Sarnoff, David, 420-22 

Saturday Evening Post, The, 254, 360 

Saylor, Mrs. Allen. See Wheeler, Frances 

Scalf e, Captain EL L., 226 

Scanlan, Dr. Joseph, 93 

Securities and Exchange Act, 306 

Selective Service Act, 138 ff 

Sells, Cato, 106 

Shannon, Joseph, 70 

SHAPE, 396-97 

Shelley, O. BL P., 275 

Shelton, George (attorney) , 71 

Shelton, John A. (attorney) , 59, 62-63, 85 

Sheppard, Senator Morris, 196 

Sherwood, Robert, 24-25 

Shipstead, Senator Henrik, 204, 268, 351 

Shouse, Jouett, 294 

Sidebothan, Robert M., 110-11 

Smith, Governor Al, 247-48, 287, 295-96, 337 

Smith, Mayor Clarence (Butte, Montana), 

117-20 
Smith, Senator Ellison D. ("Cotton Ed"), 

208-11, 344 
Smith, Judge Henry C., Ill 



435 

Smith, Jess, 221-27, 231, 233 

Smith, Governor Robert B., 78-79 

Smith, General Walter Bedell, 396 

Smoot, Senator Reed, 277, 279, 287-88 

South Butte Mining Company 145 

Spear, Mayor J.W., 110 

Spriggs, Governor A. E., 184 

Spykman, Professor Nicholas J., 388 

Standard Aircraft Company, 226 

Standard Oil Company, 182-83 

Stark, Admiral Harold R., 387 

Sterling, Senator Thomas, 236 

Stern, Henry (attorney) , 219-20 

Stewart, Governor Sam, 110-11, 116, 139, 144, 

S S, &o L " (Secretary f war) ' 28 ' 

Stinson, Rosy, 219-27, 244. See also "Ohio 

Gang" 

Stivers, D. Gay (attorney) , 101 
Stone, Chief Justice Harlan Fiske, 230, 238, 

243, 329 

Stortz, Bailey, 408 
Stout, Representative Tom, 104, 188 
Strong, Anna Louise, 201 
Swanson, Claude A. (Secretary of the Navy) , 

209,236,265,268,276 
Swope, Herbert Bayard, 414 

Taft, William H., President, 103 

Taft-Eartley Act, 414 

Taylor, Tyre, 412 

Taylor, Myron C. (statesman) , 295 

Tax Do&gers, The, 291 

Teapot Dome. See "Ohio Gang" 

Templeton, John (attorney) , 195 

Texas Company, 217 

Thomas, A. C., 124-27, 130 

Thomas, Senator Elbert, 287-88 

Thomas, Norman, 26 

Time, 9, 255, 360 

Toole, Governor Joseph K., 77 

Towers, John, 72 

Townley, Arthur C., 170, 172, 426 

Townsend, Senator John G., 413 

Trainer, James, 136-37 

Transportation Act of 1940, 347-51 

Truman, Harry S., President, 349-50, 359, 

368-70, 372-76, 384, 388, 393, 397-98, 408, 

415-16 

Tso-lin, Chang, 383 
Tydings, Senator Millard E., 306, 322-23, 344, 

366 

Tydings-McDuffie Act, 306 
Tyler, Abe, 40-42 
Tyler, Fred, 43 
Tyler, Mary Elizabeth. See Wheeler, Mary 

Tyler 

United Corporation, 307 

United Gas Improvement Company, 310 

United We Stand, 20, 31-32 

University of Michigan Law School, 47 

Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, 373, 



Vandenberg, Senator Arthur H., 351, 376 
Vanderlip, Frank A., 219, 227, 230, 235, 247, 

290-91 

Van Devanter, Justice Willis, 339 
Van Nuys, Senator Frederick, 323 
Victory Program (Roosevelt) , 32-33, 35 
"Venus Alley," 64 
Villard, Oswald G. (journalist), 253 
Von Pohl, CarL See Pohl, Carl von 

Wadsworth, Senator James W., 219-20 
Wagner, Senator Robert P., 272-73, 294 
Wagner Labor Relations Act, 336 
Walker, Frank C. (Postmaster General), 75, 

297, 303, 333, 366, 371 
Walker, Tom (attorney) , 75, 109 
Wall Street Journal, 35 



436 



Wallace, Henry A., Vice President, 23-24, 350, 
355-56, 366, 368 

Wallace, William, 109 

Walsh, Senator David I., 23, 36, 297 

Walsh, Senator Thomas J., 85-88, 102-4, 114, 
141 fi, 192, 212, 283, 298-301, 306, 372, 409; 
and Wheeler campaign for Governor, 178, 
182; and "Ohio Gang," 216-17, 234, 237-40, 
242-43, 245, and La Follette-Wheeler cam 
paign, 248-49, 251, 260, 264 

Warren, Senator Francis E., 205 

Washington, D C , Post, 204, 214, 220 

Washington, D C., Star, 359 

Washington, D C., Times, 225 

Washington, D C., Times-Herald, 33-35, 413, 
415 

Watson, Senator James E , 191, 268, 270-72, 
274-75 

Wedemeyer, General Albert C , 35 

Weiss, Seymour, 289 

Wells, Hugh, 162-63, 188 

Western Federation of Miners (WFM), 70, 
116, 129 

Wheeler, Asa Leonard, 38-39, 41, 44 

Wheeler, Burton K., early Montana career 
of, 58-80; marriage of (1907), 68-69; in 
Montana State Legislature, 67, 80-96; in 
campaign for Mayor (Butte, Montana) , 97- 
98; as U. S. District Attorney (Montana) , 
104-64 passim; and Edith Colby Trial, 123- 
34; in campaign for Governor (Montana) , 
172-84, 279; in campaign for U. S. Senate, 
26, 186-95: elected U. S Senator, 196; and 
"Ohio Gang," 213-45, 255, 426; in cam 
paign for vice presidency (Independent 
Progressive Party of 1924), 29, 250-65, 320; 
and ght for remonetization of silver, 302- 
5; as chairman of Senate Interstate Com 
merce Committee, 22, 90, 114, 207-8, 306, 
314, 319-20, 326, 347-48, 352, 373, 390, 407, 



Yankee from the West 

419-20, 423; as chairman of Indian Affairs 
Committee, 280, 315-18; in Court-packing 
controversy, 319-39, 360, 413, 417, 419, 425- 
and Transportation Act of 1940, 347-51- 
in last campaign for IT. S. Senate 400-15 

Wheeler, Edward, 199, 364, 365, 368-69, 414- 
15, 430 

Wheeler Elizabeth, 199, 411-13, 430 



Wheeler 
Wheeler 
Wheeler 
Wheeler 



Ernest, 38, 40, 44 

Frances, 13, 413, 430 

John, 199, 345, 365, 430 

Lulu White (Mrs. Burton K ) , 51- 



54, 56-57, 68-69, 104, 160, 195, 241, 257, 335 
362-63 430 

Marion Montana, 65, 241, 411, 430 

Mary Tyler, 38-40, 42, 44 

Maude, 38, 40 

Richard, 199 



Wheeler 

Wheeler 

Wheeler-Howard Indian Rights Act, 315 

White, Lulu. See Wheeler, Lulu White 

White, William Allen (journalist) , 215, 242 

Whitehouse, Irving H (attorney) , 68 

Whitney, Alvanly, 402 

Williams, Charles, 46 

Willis, Senator Frank B , 214, 216 

Willkie, Governor Wendell L., 24, 389 

Wilmont, J. G., 110-11 

Wilson, Woodrow, President, 100, 102-4, 111, 

139, 159, 163, 166, 240, 261, 355, 379, 391 
Woodlock, Senator Thomas, 270-72 
Woodring, Harry H. (Secretary of War) , 350 
Woodruff, Representative Roy O , 227 
Woody, Frank (attorney) , 104 
Wright, Joe, 320 
Wu, C. C., 382-83 

Yalta Conference, 392-93 
Young, Owen D. (attorney) , 295 

Zhukov, General Georgi, 396 



P49 



(Continued from front flap) 

plunged into politics, setting out to de 
feat the powerful Anaconda Copper 
interests. In 1923 he was elected to the 
U.S. Senate and served there until 
1947. For half his career in the Senate, 
Wheeler was chairman of the Inter 
state and Foreign Commerce Com 
mittee. In 1940 he refused a chance to 
be FDR's running mate because he op 
posed the President's interventionist 
policies. 

Wheeler's memoirs are full of anec 
dotes about Presidents from Coolidge 
to Kennedy. It is characteristic of a 
man who acted straight from the shoul 
der throughout his long political career 
that, in finally putting down his story, 
he honors history by telling the un 
varnished truth. 

PAUL F. HEALY, author of many 
profiles of political figures for the Sat 
urday Evening Post, is with the New 
York Daily News bureau in Washing 
ton. He "has given Wheeler that very 
special land of sympathetic and pen 
etrating assist that has become his hall 
mark." 

Maurice B. Mitchell 

President, Encyclopaedia Eritarmica 



JACKET DESIGN BY HARVEY GABOR 

Printed in the U.S.A. 




OD < 

m 



1 02 568 



V)