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Charles Evans Hughes

Charles Evans Hughes

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Chief justice of the U.S. In addition to serving as chief justice in 1930-1941, he was New York governor (1907-1910), Supreme Court justice (1910-1916), Republican presidential candidate (1916), secretary of state (1921-1925), and World Court judge (1928-1930). His rise in public life was due largely to his intelligence, sense of duty, capacity for hard work, and self-sufficiency.

A precocious child, Hughes learned to read at the age of three and a half. Before he was six, he was reading and reciting verses from the New Testament, doing mental arithmetic, and studying French and German. After only three and a half years of formal schooling, he graduated from high school at the age of thirteen. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University, Hughes went to Columbia Law School, where he ranked first in his class. When he took the New York bar examination in 1884, he received the highest grade given up to that time, 99 1/2 percent. He had a photographic memory and could read a paragraph at a glance, a treatise in an evening. These abilities made Hughes a formidable opponent at the bar-he practiced law for almost thirty years-and contributed to his success as a politician, judge, and negotiator.

To Hughes, duty meant doing worthy things and doing them well. He drove himself mercilessly. His sense of duty led him to public service and enabled him to excel in almost everything he undertook. Hughes had no personal or political advisers, no favorites, no confidants. Herbert Hoover once said that he was the most self-contained man he had ever known. He made his own judgments based on his own analyses. At work, he was organized, intense, and serious, and had little time for pleasantries. That side of him gave rise to an aloof, cool, and humorless public image. At home, however, he showed warmth and humor; he was a sensitive husband and a caring father of three children.

Hughes came close to being elected president in 1916. A shift of less than four thousand votes in California would have given him that state’s electoral votes and the presidency. If Hughes had not projected such an austere public image (or if he had secured the support of Governor Hiram W. Johnson), he would probably have been elected.

As secretary of state in the Harding and Coolidge administrations, Hughes negotiated a separate peace treaty with Germany when the Senate failed to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. He also chaired the Washington Disarmament Conference in 1921-1922, supported U.S. participation in the World Court, and withheld American recognition of the Soviet Union. Although he served two presidents who made political capital of rejecting Woodrow Wilson’s vision of internationalism, he conducted a foreign policy that recognized the international responsibilities of the United States. In Latin America he sought a means to reduce U.S. intervention while defending a traditional conception of the national interest. In Europe he asserted a constructive role for the United States while avoiding formal commitments that would have involved Congress or excited public opinion.

As chief justice, Hughes led the Supreme Court during one of its most difficult periods. He presided over the Court’s transformation of its basic role from defender of property rights to protector of civil liberties, writing the period’s landmark opinions on freedom of speech and press-Near v. Minnesota, Stromberg v. California, and DeJonge v. Oregon. He also successfully opposed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s plan to ‘pack’ the Supreme Court in 1937.

The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Charles Evans Hughes

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Charles Evans Hughes, (born April 11, 1862, Glens Falls, New York, U.S.—died August 27, 1948, Osterville, Massachusetts), jurist and statesman who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1910–16), U.S. secretary of state (1921–25), and 11th chief justice of the United States (1930–41). As chief justice he led the Supreme Court through the great controversy arising over the New Deal legislation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Dan Ernst: Charles Evans Hughes's Lifelong Respect for the Courts

As the debate over Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Court-packing plan raged seventy-five years ago, the President’s spokesmen made political hay by quoting from a speech Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes had delivered years earlier as governor of New York. “We are under a Constitution,” Hughes told an audience of 2,000 packed into a theater in Elmira, “but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.”

Ignore the original context, as FDR’s spokesmen did, and the quote fit easily into their argument in favor of the plan. Justices did not find or declare preexisting constitutional law they made it. In making theirs, the superannuated justices of the Hughes Court drew upon the values of a bygone era. America would be better served by justices whose values originated in modern times.

Had the spokesmen wanted to take the measure of the President’s principal judicial adversary, rather than score points, they would have done better to considered the quote’s context. Hughes was attempting to rally support for the Public Utilities Commissions Act of 1907, a landmark in the history of regulation. Business opposed the law unless it granted them the right to retry the decisions of the commission in an appeal to the judiciary. Hughes insisted on less intrusive judicial review:

Hughes was advocating judicial restraint in the review of orders of administrative agencies, not legislation still, I thought of his subtle understanding of judicial power and judicial legitimacy last weekend as I finished reading James F. Simon’s FDR and Chief Justice Hughes (Simon & Schuster, 2012). Simon’s book, which will be the subject of a symposium at the New York Law School this afternoon, alternates between FDR and Hughes. For me, at least, Simon’s treatment of Hughes is more compelling, because he shows that the jurist never foreswore the allegiance to the judiciary that he affirmed at Elmira. When a sharply divided Supreme Court and Roosevelt’s Court-packing plan jeopardized “the independence and esteem of the judiciary,” Hughes saw to it that his ideal of the judiciary as a repository of reason would survive. He preserved that ideal–and, as we might say today, “won”–by following his own advice: he extracted his Court from “questions which lie close to public impatience” by crafting decisions that upheld controversial legislation from constitutional challenge.

The Senate’s handling of Hughes nomination as Chief Justice in 1930 was unexpectedly bruising, nothing like the acclamation Hughes enjoyed when he was first named to the Supreme Court in 1910. Progressive Republicans and Democrats blasted him for leaving the Court to run for President in 1916. George Norris of Nebraska deplored Hughes’s clientele, “corporations of almost untold wealth.” But Justice Louis D. Brandeis, a progressive tribune, was happy to have him as his Chief. For some time Hughes’s predecessor William Howard Taft “had really lost his grip” on the Court, Brandeis told Felix Frankfurter. The associate justices Willis “V[an] D[evanter] and Pierce Butler were running him.” Hughes, in contrast, at once exerted the leadership the Court required. Although Hughes’s “strong feeling for the reputation of the Court” inclined him to distinguish precedents that Brandeis wanted overruled, it also led the Chief Justice to “soft-pedal” the Court’s right wing. “As a matter of fact,” Brandeis reported to Frankfurter, “the tail feathers of Butler and some of them have been completely plucked.”

They soon grew back. As a worsening economy drove state and federal governments to pass novel legislation, Hughes struggled to keep the division between the Court’s conservative and liberal wings from jeopardizing the authority of his Court. Simon thinks Hughes largely succeeded until 1936. To be sure, his opinions upholding a Congressional resolution preventing creditors from collecting their debts in gold provoked Justice James McReynolds to exclaim from the bench, “This is Nero at his worst. The Constitution is gone.” Still, Hughes united his Court behind an opinion striking down a legislative landmark of the Hundred Days, the National Industrial Recovery Act. Only in 1936, Simons argues, did Hughes lose control of his Court. In deciding the fate of the New Deal’s principal agricultural program and New York’s minimum wage law for women, Justice Owen Roberts rejected the compromises Hughes advanced and joined the conservatives Butler, McReynolds, Sutherland and Van Devanter.

In lectures delivered as a private practitioner in the 1920s, Hughes chastised the nineteenth-century Supreme Court for three “self-inflicted wounds,” Dred Scott, the Legal Tender Cases, and Pollock v. Farmer’s Loan & Trust (which struck down a federal income tax). As the term ended in June 1936, Simon believes that Hughes was despondent over his failure to keep the conservative majority from inflicting “fresh wounds upon the prestige of the Court.” Throughout his career, Hughes had aimed to free law and government from the “blandishments and intrigues of politics” now he was being dismissed by one of FDR’s correspondents as “nothing more than a ‘Ward Politician.”

Simon thinks that during an overnight visit to Roberts’s Pennsylvania farm in the summer of 1936 Hughes urged his host to forsake the conservatives. If so, he acted to protect the Court well before FDR’s landslide reelection in November 1936 or FDR’s unveiling of his Court-packing plan in February 1937. Before the explosion of that bombshell, Roberts had already acquiesced by voting with Hughes and the liberals to uphold Washington State’s minimum-wage law for women he continued to vote with them in challenges to the National Labor Relations Act and the Social Security Act. As administration officials expounded upon the unavoidably political nature of judging and Roosevelt chastised the Supreme Court as a balky horse that would not pull together with the other branches of government, Hughes maintained a judicial calm. If society wished to be governed by “the processes of reason,” he declared before the American Law Institute, “it must maintain the institutions which embody those processes.”

As the Term ended, Felix Frankfurter thought Hughes ought to be castigated for his “political somersaults” instead, he received one encomium after another. The spectacle of “a synthetic halo . . . being fitted upon the head of the most politically calculating of men,” he wrote Stone, “makes me . . . ‘puke.’” Yet after his appointment to the Court in January 1939 even Frankfurter would laud Hughes’s leadership of the Brethren.

Simon concludes his treatment of Hughes with the following appreciation:

Yesterday, the journalists Robert Barnes and Scott Clemens reported the finding of a Washington Post ABC News poll that half the American public expects the Supreme Court justices to decide the challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act primarily upon the basis of their “partisan political views.” Charles Evans Hughes ended a comparable threat to the legitimacy of the judiciary with decisive and astute leadership of his Court. Will a Chief Justice who has also spent a professional life “conditioned upon respect for the courts” do so today?

Charles Evans Hughes and Constitutional War Powers

Matthew Waxman, the Liviu Librescu Professor of Law and chair of the Hertog Program on Law and National Security, had long known that the phrase was coined by Charles Evans Hughes, Sr., a brilliant legal mind who had served two separate tours of duty on the U.S. Supreme Court. But about four years ago, Waxman began wondering about the precise context in which it had arisen.

Hughes had been an associate justice from 1910 until 1916 when he resigned to run for president, and then had served again as chief justice, from 1930 to 1941, stepping down six months before Pearl Harbor. What intrigued Waxman was why Hughes (Class of 1884) had been addressing war powers when Hughes never sat on the Court while the country was at war.

This question ultimately led to Waxman’s fascinating piece of research, published as a 79-page Columbia Law Review article entitled, “The Power to Wage War Successfully.”

It turns out that Hughes didn’t write the words during either of his terms on the Supreme Court. Nor, for that matter, did he pen them during his stint as a judge on the Permanent Court of International Justice in The Hague (1928 to 1930). Nor while he was serving as governor of New York (1907 to 1910) or as U.S. secretary of state (1921 to 1925).

Rather, he authored the phrase as a private citizen. Those words—along with several other talismanic phrases now generally accorded the authority of Supreme Court pronouncements—were actually part of an address Hughes delivered at an American Bar Association conference on the evening of September 5, 1917, in Saratoga Springs, New York.

The speech was prompted by constitutional debates over a national draft and other issues that are now somewhat “anachronistic,” Waxman notes. Still, as Waxman’s research reveals, Hughes’s approach to tackling questions about constitutional war powers remains enlightening and relevant, even at a time when the U.S. grapples with wars against stateless terrorism.

A discovery in the archives

As Waxman dug into Hughes’s speech, he eventually sent his student research assistant, Ian MacDougall ’14, to the Columbia Rare Book and Manuscript Library, to which Hughes had donated his archives. There, MacDougall found a thick file labeled “War,” filled with the research Hughes had performed for the speech, scribbled with his handwritten notes.

“Those files were a great archeological tool for excavating what was really going on in Hughes’s mind,” says Waxman. “He wanted this to be an impactful speech. He wanted it to have staying power. Which it has.”

The backdrop for this speech was unusual. The previous November, Hughes, the Republican candidate, had lost a close presidential election to the incumbent Woodrow Wilson. “On election night,” Waxman says, “Hughes actually went to sleep being told by his advisers that he’d won.”

But back then it took several days for votes to be tallied, he continues. “Hughes ended up losing California by fewer than 4,000 votes, and that swung the Electoral College in Wilson’s favor.”

After Congress declared war in April 1917, President Wilson signed into law the Selective Service Act, creating a compulsory draft, as well as certain legislation designed to regulate the wartime economy. Though the constitutionality of such measures would be taken for granted today, Waxman explains, at the time they were considered radical, and their validity was hotly contested. (This was before the New Deal, when the Supreme Court broadened its interpretation of the Commerce Clause, giving Congress a much freer hand vis-à-vis economic regulation.)

A momentous speech

In his ABA speech, then, Hughes was mounting a vigorous constitutional defense of controversial actions undertaken by the opposing party’s president. Moreover, says Waxman, “I really have a hard time thinking of anybody today that could speak with the same kind of political, legal and intellectual authority that he had in 1917.”

The day after the speech, Hughes’s views were trumpeted on the front page of The New York Times in an article that also excerpted lengthy portions of the address itself. Soon thereafter, the ABA published the entire talk, with footnotes, as an 18-page article in its annual report. Hughes's speech was also entered into the congressional record.

In the address, Hughes argued that portions of the Constitution could, and had to be, read more leniently in wartime. On the other hand, government’s expansive powers would retract to normal scope as soon as the war ended.

“Ours is a fighting Constitution,” he argued, in another frequently cited passage, and it “marches,” meaning that it must evolve to meet changing needs. Hughes reasoned that Congress’s expansive wartime powers were implicit in the Constitution’s “Necessary and Proper Clause,” which gave Congress the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution…all other powers vested by this Constitution.”

At the time, Waxman explains, Hughes was steering a middle path, between those who insisted that the Constitution imposed an inflexible straitjacket on government powers, and those who argued that it simply ceased to apply in the face of wartime exigencies.

Why the words live on

Later, when Hughes became chief justice, he incorporated certain lines from the speech, including the one about the “power to wage war successfully,” into the text of a 1934 ruling he published on a peacetime matter—one in which he was analogizing the emergency presented by the Great Depression to those presented by war.

Finally, in 1948—two months after Hughes’s death—Justice Harold Burton, in a wartime contracting case called Lichter v. United States, quoted long sections of Hughes’s ABA speech in his ruling.

“I’ve never seen another source document, let alone a piece written by a private citizen, quoted at such length in a Supreme Court opinion,” Waxman observes. “It’s almost as if [Burton] is trying to read Hughes’s speech officially into the Supreme Court record, giving it the imprimatur of precedent.”

In addition, he notes, Hughes had imagined that the expansive contours of the war powers would snap back to their normal dimensions as soon as peace was restored. In practice, however, that has seldom occurred. National security threats have been found to linger after armistices were signed and to loom prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Today, in the face of the ever-present threat of terrorism, the line between “peacetime” and “wartime” has become more blurred than ever.

But the central claims of the address, according to Waxman—that we have a “fighting constitution” which confers the flexibility required to “wage war successfully”—remain valid and timeless. “Our Constitution grew out of the Revolutionary War experience,” he says. “It was framed by great American theorists who knew that the long-term viability of the democratic republic would depend on its effectiveness in war.”

Read Matthew Waxman's Columbia Law Review article, "The Power to Wage War Successfully."

Welsh History Month: The man who nearly became President. and an extraordinary year for Welsh America

Tributes to Denis Healey following his recent death have occasionally called him the best prime minister we never had.

Charles Evans Hughes, a second generation Welsh American with roots in the South Wales Valleys and some knowledge of the Welsh language, can justifiably be listed among the best presidents America never had.

Many of those who knew and worked with him believed he would have been at the very least an excellent occupant of the West Wing of the White House.

A powerful physique and great mental and physical energy

In fact, Hughes almost did become president in 1916. In June that year, at the age of 54, he was adopted as the Republican candidate to fight Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, who was seeking a second term of office. Hughes’ nomination shows that by that time he had already made a substantial impact on his country.

From the time he began to achieve national prominence in America in the first decade of the twentieth century onwards, Hughes was the focus of much interest and respect.

Journalists and the public alike were fascinated by, in the words of the Welsh-American magazine the Cambrian, his “powerful physique and great mental and physical energy” and, not least, his iconic beard. Not surprisingly perhaps he was popularly known as “Whiskers”.

Hughes’ beard was much loved by the press and cartoonists, who turned it into a “national landmark”. This more quixotic instance of Welsh impact lives on.

The US Supreme Court is currently showing an exhibition entitled ‘The Power of Image: Charles Evans Hughes in Prints, Photographs, and Drawings’.

Hughes also possessed tremendous gifts that enabled him to be a brilliant lawyer and jurist. The sharpness of his intellectual powers was legendary, as was his photographic memory, superb command of detail, independence of judgement, honesty and incorruptibility.

In 1916 his party believed his ability and integrity would appeal very strongly to American voters. ‘In intellectual and moral force Hughes stood head and shoulders above the time-serving politicians who might have aspired to the nomination’, wrote Dexter Perkins in his 1956 book Charles Evans Hughes and American Democratic Statesmanship.

Hughes had reached such eminence through a potent combination of natural ability and massive capacity for work. He was born on 11 April 1862 in Glens Falls, New York, where his father, David Charles Evans, was a Baptist minister and his mother a teacher.

The young Charles Evans Hughes embarked on a career in the law

David was originally from Tredegar and had been a minister of religion there and elsewhere along the Heads of the Valleys, as well as a printer in Merthyr Tydfil, before he emigrated to America in the 1850s.

The young Charles Evans Hughes embarked on a career in the law and was admitted to the bar in 1884.

Between 1884 and 1906 he enjoyed a distinguished career as a legal practitioner and in 1888 founded the legal firm Hughes Hubbard, which is still thriving today as one of America’s top law firms. He was also Professor of Law in Cornell University for a brief period in the mid 1890s.

Hughes’ growing prominence and profile within the Republican Party was significantly enhanced in 1905 and 1906, when he very successfully acted as barrister for the New York state government in their efforts to eliminate abuses in the state’s gas and insurance businesses.

The following year he was elected, by a large majority, as Governor of New York, defeating the Democratic candidate, press magnate William Randolph Hearst (owner of St Donat’s Castle in the 1920s and 1930s). Hughes served two terms as governor.

In politics Hughes was a liberal Republican, or Progressive, to use the term of that time.

He was one of a number of state governors elected on reform platforms in the early years of the twentieth century who strove to control the excesses of capitalism, in the form of unregulated big business, and to stamp out corruption in industry and politics.

His election as governor is thus an important element in the history and fortunes of Progressivism.

Hughes was a reasonably successful governor. In 1910 he accepted an invitation to become an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

Here began a long and distinguished career as a jurist, over two separate periods, that ensured his standing as one of the greatest and most important figures in the history of the US Supreme Court.

Six years later he had to resign from the court because he was standing for president.

Beaten by a whisker

The 1916 election sparked a great deal of interest worldwide because at the time, the USA had not entered the First World War. The forthcoming election heightened speculation about whether the USA would eventually join the Allies, although both the two main candidates had adopted anti-war platforms.

That Hughes was the son of a Welsh Baptist minister understandably caused excitement in Wales and among Welsh Americans. Even the Western Mail’s renowned cartoonist
J M Staniforth got involved. In a characteristically witty and pointed cartoon that appeared on the day of the election, 7 November, Americans were strongly recommended to go for a “new brand” (Hughes) because “it comes from Wales”.

Had Hughes won, he would have completed a remarkable Welsh trio of world leaders who had contemporaneously attained the highest office in their respective countries. That was the time when Billy Hughes and David Lloyd George were Prime Minsters of Australia and Britain respectively.

On election night 1916 many Americans went to bed believing that Hughes had won. The following morning at least two New York newspapers, the Herald and the Tribune, and the (London) Times actually reported that he had been victorious. But by the time the final results were in a couple of days later, it was clear that the American voting public had gone with the “old brand”, electing Wilson by a very narrow margin. Hughes was defeated by 277 Electoral College votes to 254. He had missed out, “by a hair’s breadth”, as several commentators at the time put it. (Perhaps “by a whisker” would have been more apt given his famed hirsuteness.)

The Western Mail described his as the man who nearly became president

From then on Hughes was destined to be remembered primarily as the man who nearly became president of the USA. That’s exactly how the Western Mail described him while reporting his death in August 1948.

But Hughes made more of an impact on America during his 86-year long life than just that. An eulogy to him in the New York Times maintained that after his defeat thirty-two years earlier, “he might well have retired from public life, assured of a respected niche in American history”. Instead, it continued, “during the next troubled 25 years, he responded to call after call for further distinguished service that established him as one of the great Americans of his time’.

Hughes remained at the forefront of American life. He was a much respected Secretary of State, one of the four most important positions in presidential cabinets, for two terms between 1921 and 1925. In 1930 he returned to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice. In this office, he secured, in Mark Drakeford’s words, “a reputation as the most distinguished jurist of his generation with a mastery unparalleled in the history of the court”.

An extraordinary year for Welsh America

Hughes’ long and exceptional career is worthy of an article all to itself in this series on what Wales has done for the world. But in order to emphasise and symbolise what Welsh emigrants and their descendants have done for America, it is worth remembering that Hughes was one of several Welsh Americans who achieved substantial prominence in American life in the 1930s. Their impact was brought very sharply into focus in one year in particular, 1937.

That year was in many ways the acme of a lifetime of high peaks of achievement for Hughes. (Perhaps he would have appreciated the metaphor for in his younger days he was an avid walker and mountaineer who made frequent visits to the Swiss Alps.)

In the first half of 1937, in the so-called Supreme Court Controversy or “constitutional crisis”, he saw off what most historians now regard as President Franklin D Roosevelt’s misguided plan to “pack” the court with justices who would be more favourable to his reforming New Deal programme.

The Supreme Court was dominated by two Welshmen in the 1930s

The court had declared as unconstitutional some of the legislation Roosevelt had introduced to alleviate the mass unemployment and widespread poverty and distress brought on by the economic depression of the 1930s. It was Roosevelt’s greatest defeat during his 12 years as president.

In a recent article in Click on Wales Mark Drakeford tells the story of ‘the greatest-ever tussle between a president and the Supreme Court’ and has reminded us that Hughes was not the only Welshman involved. His closest ally in this immensely significant constitutional crisis was another Supreme Court justice, Owen J. Roberts.

While reporting Roberts’ death in May 1955, the Western Mail looked back to the 1930s as the time when the Supreme Court was dominated by two Welshmen.

“For the whole of 1937,” writes Drakeford, “the Constitution of the United States was what these two Welshmen said it was.”

The fighting Welshman

Associate Justice Owen Josephus Roberts was often known as the “fighting Welshman”. Like Hughes, he had been appointed to the Supreme Court in 1930. He was born in Germantown, Philadelphia, on 2 May 1875. His grandfather, William Owen Roberts, emigrated from the Llanbedrog area to Pennsylvania in 1808.

A third generation Welsh American, Roberts was always proud of his Welsh ancestry and keenly interested in Wales and Welsh causes in America. He named his farm in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania “Bryn Coed”.

He was noted for opening his home to visiting Welsh people, and for being an ever-willing and generous host.

Roberts served as a justice of the Supreme Court until 1945 and was president of the American Philosophical Society in 1952. Handsome and dignified in appearance, during 1935 and 1936 he was being widely talked of as Republican candidate to fight Roosevelt in the 1936 presidential election but he was regarded as being more useful in the Supreme Court.

The most hated man in America

Another son of Welsh emigrants who was also massively in the news in America – and much further afield – in 1937, but for different reasons, was John Llewellyn Lewis. He is one of the most important labor leaders in American history and the most obvious example of the substantial Welsh contribution to the American labor movement. His life is also an American rags-to-riches story.

From lowly origins, he rose to achieve not just adulation, fame and notoriety but also wealth, power, and influence. Many of his contemporaries and historians have considered him one of the most powerful people in the USA in the middle decades of the twentieth century.

Much has been written about Lewis and his career, achievements and legacy, both positive and negative. He was a complex, charismatic, even contradictory figure. Like Charles Evans Hughes, Lewis’ physical presence was the source of endless comment. One observer described him in 1936 as “perhaps the most colourful personality in American affairs today” and as “a huge man, with a shock of black hair, bushy eyebrows, fists like hams — which he has frequently used on hecklers and “no-goods”.

Lewis grew up in a Welsh-speaking cultural milieu

Lewis was born in Lucas County, Iowa, in 1880. His parents were Welsh emigrants, his father a miner and farm labourer. Lewis grew up in a Welsh-speaking cultural milieu seeped in the mining and union traditions his family brought over from Wales but it’s not clear to what extent these remained an influence on him. He seems not to have made much of his Welshness but he was certainly aware of his roots, as his frequent visits to Wales show. Occasionally he expressed pride in his Welsh heritage. Some contemporaries even associated his fighting spirit and championing of labour as proof that he was “a chip off the old Cymric block.”

In the late 1890s and early 1900s Lewis worked in local coal mines in Lucas and in mining and construction in the Western states. In 1908 he and his family moved to the new mining town of Panama, in south-central Illinois. Lewis had already gained minor office with the United Mine Workers of America in 1901, and at Panama he began a career in unionism.

From 1911 onwards, Lewis’ rise was rapid, culminating in his becoming President of the UMWA in 1920. He held that office for the next 40 years, eventually retiring from the UMWA in 1960. He died nine years later having spent the last years of his life in relative obscurity.

Moving labour from the fringe of the economy to its core

The UMWA struggled in the 1920s and early 1930s. During the savage depression years of the 1930s and after Franklin D. Roosevelt became President, the political climate became far more favourable to labour. A great orator, negotiator and strike tactician, Lewis built the UMWA into a powerful, financially secure union that succeeded in winning increased wages for miners and improving their conditions.

He also devoted his considerable energies to successfully establishing permanent unions among workers in the hitherto unorganised mass production industries, notably steel and automobiles, who were being ignored by the craft union dominated American Federation of Labor.

Between 1935 and 1940 Lewis served as President of the newly formed Committee of Industrial Organization (as it was initially known) which was expelled by the AFL in March 1937. Lewis was the architect of the CIO’s dramatic growth in the late 1930s. Lewis, according to his biographers Melvyn Dubovsky and Warren Van Tyne, succeeded in moving labour “from the fringe of the economy to its core”.

In an article in Wales and Monmouthshire in August 1936, Glyn Roberts predicted that Lewis “will be heard of more and more in the next few years”. Roberts didn’t have to wait long before being proven right for it was in 1937 that Lewis truly acquired national prominence for the first time and, in some circles became “the most hated man in America”. In that year the New York Times alone devoted 99,816 column inches to his activities.

There was a vital link between Hughes, Roberts and Lewis in the historic events of 1937

He played a crucial role in many strike victories, both for his own union and the CIO, during the explosion of militant action, unofficial industrial unrest and often violent confrontations with employers that occurred in the USA from the mid 1930s onwards.

Non-unionised workers adopted a new and dramatic weapon, the sit-down (later called sit-in) strike, as they sought to force big corporations in steel and manufacturing to recognise unions. The most tumultuous of these was the General Motors sit-down strike at Flint, Michigan in February 1937. By the end of that year, the sit-down strike had enabled the United Automobile Workers to win union recognition from every car manufacturing company except Ford.

There was a vital link between Hughes, Roberts and Lewis in the historic events of 1937, even though they occupied markedly different positions on the left-right political spectrum. In 1937 the Supreme Court ruled that the National Labor Relations, or Wagner, Act, originally passed in 1935, was constitutional.

Most historians agree that the Act made a tangible contribution to labour gains in the USA in the 1930s. It gave unions much greater protection against recession and a counter attack by employers while more than ever before in America, the government was brought into industrial conflicts between workers and their employers, with the federal power being generally on the side of the unions.

In his 1936 article on Welsh people in contemporary America, Glyn Roberts declared that there had never been a time in the history of the USA when people of Welsh birth, or born of immigrant parents, had held so many prominent and key positions in the political and economic life of the USA.

‘You cannot blind yourself to the fact that Welsh blood, Welsh ingenuity, energy and drive are making themselves felt in the currents of American life to-day as never before’, he wrote.

In their own ways Charles Evans Hughes, Owen J Roberts and John L Lewis significantly channelled and steered some of the most important of the those American currents.

Throughout their careers “Whiskers Hughes”, the “Fighting Welshman” and the “most hated man in America” made a profound and lasting impact on American history.

In 1937 they were at the forefront of perhaps the most momentous episodes and struggles their country witnessed that year and they often dominated that year’s headlines. It was a truly extraordinary year for Welsh America.


I am Professor of Welsh History at Cardiff University and Co-director of the Cardiff Centre for Welsh American Studies.

I teach and research the cultural, economic, political and social history of Wales in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

My research specialism is the history of Welsh migration and of the Welsh overseas.

If you could go back to one period of history, when would that be?

I’m fascinated by how Wales changed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period of great hardships and tragedies yet also of immense dynamism and possibilities.

Being in the crowd at the 1905 Wales v All Blacks game and during the Tonypandy riots in 1910 (in a safe spot!), being present at an Evan Roberts revival meeting in 1904-05, and singing with the South Wales Welsh Choral Union at the Crystal Palace in 1872 are all very tempting.

On balance, though, I think I’d rather stay in early 21st century Wales!

What do you think is the best thing Wales has given the world?

More specifically, it has increased global stocks of passion, humour, imagination, faith, music and determination.

Welsh History Month is in association with The National Trust, Cadw, the National Museum of Wales and the National Library of Wales

The Early Years

Hughes leads successful investigations, particularly the Armstrong investigation of the insurance industry and gains a political reputation. President Theodore Roosevelt encourages Hughes to run for Governor of New York.

Hughes is elected Governor of New York.

After two terms as Governor, Hughes is appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States by President William Howard Taft.

Hughes resigns from the Court to run for President against Woodrow Wilson. After a narrow defeat for the Presidency, Hughes rejoins his old partners.

Allen Hubbard, a law school classmate of Hughes’ son, Charles Evan Hughes Jr., joins the firm and apprentices under the elder Hughes. He would lead the firm as senior partner three decades later.

Charles Evans Hughes Sr. serves as Secretary of State under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

Hughes rejoins the firm as a partner.

Francis Reed, a renowned corporate lawyer who also took his early paces under the elder Hughes, joins the firm. He would lead the firm from 1959 to 1974 and have an enduring influence on the firm’s culture, encouraging lawyers to keep their doors open and use each other’s first names.

Charles Evans Hughes Jr., who is also a partner in the firm, resigns to become Solicitor General of the United States.

The elder Hughes is appointed as Chief Justice of the United States, and his son resigns from his position of Solicitor General to rejoin the firm as a partner. Learned Hand, one of the great judges of the 20th century, is said to have once observed that the greatest lawyer he had ever known was Charles Evans Hughes, except that Hughes’ son was even greater.

During the Great Depression, business failures and financial difficulties gave rise to major litigation and corporate reorganization. While most Wall Street firms suffered along with the economy, Hughes’ consistent emphasis on litigation paid off, and the firm grew. During that same period, the Fox Film Corporation and its nationwide chain of theaters retained the firm to handle its corporate reorganization.

The Autobiographical Notes of Charles Evans Hughes

Harvard University Press has partnered with De Gruyter to make available for sale worldwide virtually all in-copyright HUP books that had become unavailable since their original publication. The 2,800 titles in the &ldquoe-ditions&rdquo program can be purchased individually as PDF eBooks or as hardcover reprint (&ldquoprint-on-demand&rdquo) editions via the &ldquoAvailable from De Gruyter&rdquo link above. They are also available to institutions in ten separate subject-area packages that reflect the entire spectrum of the Press&rsquos catalog. More about the E-ditions Program »

Charles Evans Hughes (1862&ndash1948) was lawyer, governor of New York, Supreme Court Justice, presidential candidate in 1916, Secretary of State in the Harding and Coolidge administrations, a member of the World Court, and Chief Justice of the United States from 1930 until his retirement in 1941. To some, Hughes appeared larger than life. Robert H. Jackson once said of him, &ldquo[He] looks like God and talks like God.&rdquo But to those who knew him well, he was quite human, extraordinarily gifted, but human nonetheless. His Autobiographical Notes portray him as no biography could and provide comment on almost a century of American history as seen by one who played a part in shaping its course.

Hughes&rsquos notes reveal two sides of his personality&mdasha serious side when he was at work, and a genial, sometimes humorous, side when he was relaxing or with friends and family. When he writes of unofficial lifeespecially his boyhood, college years, and early years at the bar&mdashhe is raconteur telling his story with a certain amount of humor when he writes of his official life he tends to be matter-of-fact. The early chapters describe the formative influence which shaped his character: his loving but intellectually demanding parents and deeply religious training his unusual early education, which took place mostly at home and gave full scope to his precocity. Hughes&rsquos accounts of college life in the 1870s at Madison (now Colgate) and Brown University and of his career as a young lawyer in the New York City of the 1880s and 1890s are valuable portraits of an era.

Brought up to a high sense of duty, Hughes, from the start of his career, felt bound to take worthy legal cases and it was his reputation for integrity and thoroughness that led to his selection as counsel in the gas and insurance investigations of 1905&ndash1906. This was the turn of events that precipitated him into the public eye and, subsequently, into politics. The culmination of his career came in 1937 when he led the Supreme Court through a constitutional crisis and confronted Franklin Roosevelt in the Court packing battle. In the intervening thirty years, Hughes was a major figure in American political and legal circles. His Notes record his impressions of presidents, statesmen, and justices. His reflections on the diplomacy of the 1920s and on the causes leading up to the Second World War are of immense historical importance.

The editors have supplied an introduction to the Notes, commenting on Hughes&rsquos personality and public image, his political style and rise to fame. They have remained unobtrusive throughout, intervening only to clarify references and provide necessary details. For the rest, they let Hughes speak for himself in the crisp and clear style that reveals his unusual intelligence and the retentive and analytical mind that distinguished his conduct of affairs.

Roosevelt, Hughes, and the Battle over the New Deal: Interview with James Simon

/>This spring may see the issuance of one of the most significant U.S. Supreme Court decisions in decades as the Court weighs in on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, President Obama’s major legislative achievement. A politically polarized Supreme Court, controlled by conservatives led by Chief Justice John Roberts, will determine the fate of the controversial new law by June. The decision may well go beyond the health care act itself and alter the course of the modern federal administrative state.

Seventy-five years ago, the nation witnessed another conflict that pitted the Court against the chief executive. Then Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, a Republican, faced off against a popular Democratic president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who derided the Court for striking down several key New Deal laws including the National Industrial Recovery Act and the Agricultural Adjustment Act.

Arguing that the elderly justices of the Court were overworked, Roosevelt proposed expanding the Court from nine to fifteen members by adding a new member for every justice over age 70. Hughes responded that the Court was efficient and up to date with its work while critics blasted FDR’s thinly veiled effort to pack the Court with his political allies. The Court-packing plan fizzled in 1937. After that, however, the Court upheld every New Deal law that came before it as appropriate exercises of congressional authority on social and economic issues.

In his timely new dual biography, FDR and Chief Justice Hughes: The President, the Supreme Court and the Battle Over the New Deal (Simon & Schuster), law professor and historian James F. Simon tells the story of these two dynamic, visionary American leaders from opposing political parties.

Prof. Simon places each man in the context of the time and sets the scene for their collision on the Court’s role. Before he became president, the deft politician FDR honed his skills as a lawyer, state legislator, assistant secretary of the Navy, and governor of New York. Hughes, a Republican progressive and brilliant legal thinker, had also served as governor of New York, as well as U.S. secretary of state and associate justice of the Supreme Court before his appointment as chief justice. He also was nearly elected president in 1916. As Prof. Simon writes, both FDR and Hughes continued to respect one another even at the height of the Court-packing controversy.

Prof. Simon is Martin Professor of Law Emeritus at New York Law School. He is the author of seven previous books on American history, law and politics, including two other books on American presidents and chief justices: Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession, and the President’s War Powers and What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States. He lives with his wife in West Nyack, New York.

Dean Simon recently talked by telephone from New York about his new book and its resonance for issues now faced by the president and the Court.

What inspired you to write a dual biography of Franklin Roosevelt and Charles Evans Hughes? Did it grow out of your past work?

It did. About fifteen years ago, I had decided to do books on American presidents and chief justices at critical times in American history. I did the research, and I limited my studies to Jefferson and Chief Justice Marshall, Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney, and FDR and Chief Justice Hughes. I wrote about Jefferson and Marshall in What Kind of Nation, which came out in 2002 and was very well received. That encouraged me to do the second book on Lincoln and Taney. And finally, I got around to FDR and Hughes, which is the most dramatic of the three.

How did you decide to cast the book as a dual biography?

I did a previous dual biography, The Antagonists, about Justices Hugo Black and Felix Frankfurter, before my three books on the presidents and the chief justices. First, I think it’s dramatic to juxtapose the lives and conflicts of two American leaders. Second, with a dual biography, you’re more prone to be objective. You don’t tend to attach yourself to one life, to become enamored of your subject as biographers of a single subject tend to do. It is more difficult to do that with a dual biography.

You point out many similarities between FDR and Hughes. Hughes, a Republican, shared many of FDR’s progressive views.

They were both progressive politicians even though they were in different parties. And both were reform governors of New York. Hughes had a progressive agenda as governor. First, he was a very strong civil libertarian. Second, he did believe in government regulation of private utilities. He also was willing to challenge the entrenched bosses in the state legislature by promoting his reforms. And FDR essentially followed in Hughes footsteps when he was governor of New York.

They also had in common their personal background in the sense that they were both only children of doting parents and both were Ivy League-educated.

But the differences were also quite interesting. Roosevelt grew up in a gilded existence in Hyde Park on a beautiful estate, and he had tutors and servants. He went to Groton, a rich boy’s prep school. He and his family vacationed in Europe most summers. So it was a luxurious childhood, whereas Hughes was the son of an itinerant Baptist preacher in upstate New York and [his family] was of modest means. He was a prodigy and had a photographic memory. He was tutored by his parents and self-educated. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Brown in his junior year, graduated at the top of his class at Columbia Law School, and recorded the highest grade on the New York bar exam. He then became a brilliant lawyer and investigator of corruption and mismanagement in the utilities and insurance industries.

In contrast, Roosevelt was an indifferent student at Harvard and Columbia Law School. After passing the New York bar, he was an uninspired young lawyer. He had not yet found his true calling, which was politics. He ran for the state legislature at the age of 28 and showed even then the talent of one of the greatest politicians in our history. Even though he came from a very wealthy background, he demonstrated an extraordinary ability to communicate with ordinary people.

Roosevelt was sworn in as president in 1933, and immediately took bold steps to lift the country out of the Great Depression. That’s where the clash came. Hughes was by then chief justice, and he had to deal with a polarized Court, not unlike the Court today, and that Court struck down a number of New Deal statutes, which infuriated Roosevelt.

Some readers will be surprised by Hughes’ political accomplishments. He not only ran for president as a Republican in 1916, but he was almost elected over Woodrow Wilson.

Yes. With four thousand more votes in California, he would have been president. In that campaign, he showed that he was not a natural politician. He was very stiff on the stump, in contrast to Roosevelt who excelled in public speaking and was a natural campaigner.

And Hughes served as an effective secretary of state under President Harding with many accomplishments, including the Disarmament Conference of 1921.

Hughes convened the Disarmament Conference in 1921 with the great naval powers -- the United States, Great Britain and Japan -- and he was able to negotiate a treaty in which all three nations dramatically reduced the tonnage of their warships. That had never been done, and it was a great triumph for him. He was a excellent secretary of state.

Even in the most tense periods of their relationship—when the Court struck down New Deal laws and FDR was openly angry—it seems FDR and Hughes always respected one another.

It’s very clear that Roosevelt respected Hughes. When Roosevelt first ran for the New York legislature, he declared that Hughes’s progressive record as governor was outstanding. Before Hughes administered the presidential oath to Roosevelt in 1933, the two men exchanged letters expressing their respect for each other. Roosevelt told Hughes that he had long admired his public service. Hughes responded graciously and said he looked forward to their association “in the great American enterprise.”

Why did the Court strike down various New Deal statutes and what was Chief Justice Hughes role?

The first major anti-New Deal decision was in 1935 when the Hughes’ Court struck down the National Industrial Recovery Act, basically the foundational legislation to spur the industrial economy. Hughes wrote the opinion for a unanimous Court, which is often forgotten. He brought together the four ideological conservatives known as “The Four Horsemen,” as well as the liberal justices: Brandeis, Cardozo and Stone. He wrote that the Congress had delegated too much authority to the president, and that in promulgating this law, they had exceeded their power to regulate interstate commerce.

In a second major decision, the Court struck down the Agricultural Adjustment Act which, like the National Industrial Recovery Act, was a pillar of the New Deal. The AAA was passed to spur the agricultural economy. This time the Court was divided. In a 6-3 decision, The Court struck down the AAA, and [the majority] included Hughes and Justice Owen Roberts, who were considered non-ideological centrists. The majority ruled that the Congress had exceeded its power to spend for the general welfare, declaring that the regulation of agricultural production resided with the states. The liberal dissenters were very critical of this decision.

Can you talk about Roosevelt’s reaction to the anti-New Deal decisions and his thoughts on reforming the Supreme Court?

Roosevelt had been eyeing the Court warily since these anti-New Deal decisions in 1935 and 1936. He had been privately brooding and trying to find a way to persuade the Court not to thwart the popular will. He thought the American people were clearly in favor of this legislation.

When he was re-elected by a landslide in 1936, he decided to act. He proposed what he called a “Judicial Reform Bill” that he said would give new energy to the Court. It would have allowed him to appoint a new justice for each sitting justice over seventy years old. It turned out that six justices, including Chief Justice Hughes, were over seventy. Had the bill passed, Roosevelt would have been able to add six justices, making a total of 15.

Hughes wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee and said that the Court was abreast of its calendar. The justices knew how to do their work, Hughes said, and were doing it very well. After that letter was made public before the Committee, the air came out of Roosevelt’s plan, and it was defeated. Most people gave the Hughes’ letter great credit for the rejection of what was then termed Roosevelt’s Court-packing plan.

It seems that Hughes’ letter was a watershed moment in American legal history.

Roosevelt said he lost the battle but won the war. Hughes, I think, not only won the battle over the Court-packing plan, but he also won the war by protecting the integrity of the Court from a powerful and popular president. It was true that within three years, Roosevelt was able to appoint five new members to the Court, which then rejected every challenge to New Deal legislation. But that would have been true even had he not proposed his Court-packing scheme.

After the Court-packing plan failed, the Court sustained the New Deal measures that came before it -- yet it didn’t overrule the earlier anti-New Deal decisions. How were the later acts found constitutional in the face of the earlier cases?

Beginning in 1937, the Court gave broader authority to Congress than the conservative majority was willing to do in the anti-New Deal decisions. Hughes wrote an extremely important decision in 1937 which gave broad authority to regulate interstate commerce as long as there was a close and substantial relation of the activity within a state to interstate commerce. Hughes led the Court into the modern constitutional era in which the Court was deferential to Congress on economic and social legislation but was much more careful in protecting individual civil rights and liberties. Those are the hallmarks of the modern Supreme Court since 1937.

Although not overruled, isn’t the precedential value of the anti-New Deal decisions very limited now?

Yes, and it’s particularly relevant today as the Court deliberates over the Affordable Care Act and is looking at Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce.

Even though the Court did not overrule those earlier decisions, they nonetheless from 1937 to 1995 were deferential to Congress in finding economic and social legislation constitutional. In a couple of cases, one in 1995 and one in 2000, the Court found that the Congress had exceeded its authority under the commerce clause. But both of those cases, as pointed out in Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion, involved noneconomic activities and were within the prerogative of the locality or the state. One had to do with the possession of guns around a public school and the other dealt with the effect of the Violence Against Women Act. Both congressional actions were struck down.

But the Affordable Care Act is more in line with the precedents going back to 1937 with an activity which is clearly economic and clearly dealing with a national economic problem. I think the precedents are very much in favor of the Roberts Court sustaining this statute. That doesn’t mean the Court will do so. You could tell that the questioning [during oral argument] by the most conservative members of the Court was very hostile to the Solicitor General’s argument they aggressively challenged him. Certainly, if they strike down the health care law and it’s five to four with the five Republican appointees voting to strike it down and the four Democratic appointees voting to uphold it, we won’t have seen anything like that since the New Deal days.

We haven’t seen such a partisan division of the Court since 1937. There were truly four ideological conservatives on the Court in the early 1930s, as there are today, [but] the difference is that the chief justices are different. Chief Justice Hughes was a centrist who came from a progressive background, and, although a Republican, he came out of the progressive wing of the Republican Party, whereas Chief Justice Roberts is an ideological conservative fully embedded in the conservative wing of the Republican Party. And whereas Hughes tried to bring the two sides together and sometimes successfully, Roberts has consistently aligned himself with the most conservative members of the Court on the most polarizing issues of the day, such as campaign finance reform in Citizens United. He has not been shy about voting with the ideological conservatives.

Hughes looked to the Court to be above partisan politics, and he went out of his way to make it so. He discouraged decisions that would appear to be politically partisan. We’ll have to see what happens with the Roberts Court and the health care law.

President Obama recently said that, if the Court finds the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, that would be the result of judicial activism. And then a federal judge in Texas has asked the Department of Justice to submit a memo to the president that states that the federal courts have the authority to declare congressional acts unconstitutional.

I suspect that judge was doing a bit of grandstanding. It’s not a major judicial development. He cannot demand a response from the Justice Department to the president of the United States. He might get one, but the president doesn’t have to respond to him. He’s just playing to the gallery.

It’s a very polarizing issue and the president invited it to some extent by calling out the Court before its decision by saying, if the justices strike down this law or even a part of it, they’re going to be categorized as an activist Court, and I think he’s right. Usually presidents, even FDR, wait for the decision to come down before they attack the Court, but President Obama anticipated a decision, and that’s very unusual. That’s probably what got that judge in Texas riled up.

The president has made statements publicly when he thinks the Court has been out of line. You will recall his State of the Union address in 2010 with the justices in front of him when he criticized the Citizens United decision for opening the floodgates to special interests, and it turns out he’s right. That doesn’t necessarily mean the decision was wrong, but it’s changed the political environment.

This may not be a fair question, but if you can speculate, where do you think Charles Evans Hughes would come down on Citizens United and the Affordable Care Act cases?

I can’t answer on Citizens United, because the Hughes Court did not deal with any issue like campaign finance reform.

On the health care law, I think Hughes would find the law constitutional based on his opinions and votes in challenges to Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce from 1937 until his retirement in 1941. Beginning with his opinion in the 1937 decision, NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin, he took a very broad of Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce and he consistently voted in favor of upholding congressional economic and social legislation from 1937 and until his retirement in 1941. I would say, to be consistent with his opinion and his votes, he would uphold the Affordable Care Act.

And Hughes cared about projecting an image of the Court as being impartial and above politics. I think he would have hesitated before voting with the four most conservative members of the Court, which would project political partisanship. So I think Hughes would be in favor of upholding the Act.

What did you learn about the last meeting between Hughes and FDR in June 1941 upon Hughes’s retirement?

They were primarily talking about Hughes’s successor. Hughes told FDR that he should nominate Associate Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, a Republican, to be chief justice. Roosevelt agreed with him. This was just before [the American entry into] World War II, and the idea of bipartisanship was certainly on Roosevelt’s mind.

When Hughes retired, Roosevelt wrote him a heartfelt letter truly regretting that Hughes was retiring. He respected Hughes greatly, and their friendship endured after Hughes’ challenge to the Court-packing plan. I don’t think they saw each other again after Hughes retired.

Hughes was at Roosevelt’s funeral as shown in the last photograph in my book. It shows Hughes very distraught over the death of Roosevelt, which suggests both respect and affection for the man he had challenged in 1937.

Hughes should rank among the greatest chief justices in history, after John Marshall and Earl Warren. He was not only a great judicial craftsman and a great lawyer, but also an effective leader of a polarized Court. He survived the Court-packing battle and remained leader of the Court even after Roosevelt appointed five new justices to the Court who were loyal New Dealers. That’s quite a tribute to Hughes’ leadership.

You’re a renowned law professor and you’ve written narrative histories that have been praised for their storytelling and readability. How did you decide to write history in addition to your work as a law professor?

I was a writer before I became a law professor. I was a journalist and wrote the law section for Time Magazine. And I worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before that. That may have helped me in writing about law for a general reader, all before I became a law professor.

And I’ve always been interested in history. I majored in history in college and I teach constitutional law and history. It was natural for me, after I became a constitutional law professor, to look to subjects for books that involved constitutional history and politics. I’m also interested in the human dynamics in how justices decide cases. This book on FDR and Chief Justice Hughes gave me a wonderful opportunity to delve into all three: law, politics and the human dynamic in making our constitutional law.

Do you have any other thoughts on what you hope readers will take away from this story of FDR and Charles Evans Hughes?

There are clearly lessons to be learned for today as we await the decision on the health care law, but I think the FDR-Hughes story is important in itself as a great story about two remarkable American leaders.

Collection inventory

Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948) was an American lawyer and politician who served as Governor of New York, U.S. Secretary of State, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Charles Evans Hughes was born in Glen Falls, New York on April 11, 1862. His parents David Charles Hughes, a Methodist preacher, and Mary Connelly, a Baptist minister's daughter, were deeply religious. An intelligent child, Hughes began attending Madison College (presently Colgate University) at the age of fourteen before transferring to Brown University. He graduated first in his class from Columbia Law School and began practicing law in 1884. While working at the firm Chamberlin, Carter, and Hornblower, Hughes met his future wife, Antoinette Carter, the daughter of Walter S. Carter, a senior partner in the firm.

Hughes established himself politically by leading investigations into corporate corruption and the insurance industry. In 1906 he was elected Governor of New York. Four years later, President William Howard Taft appointed Hughes to the United States Supreme Court. Hughes left his Associate Justice position to run on the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 1916, but lost to Woodrow Wilson. After a few years in private practice, Hughes served as Secretary of State from 1921 to 1925 under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. During his tenure, Hughes focused on various international efforts to avert another great war.

In 1930, President Herbert Hoover named Hughes the eleventh Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Hughes court faced the Great Depression and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's court-packing plan. While in this position Hughes also oversaw the opening of the Supreme Court building in 1935. He resigned his post in 1941. Hughes died in Cape Cod, Massachusetts on August 27, 1948.

Works Written by Hughes

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Charles Evans Hughes Letters are a collection of 65 outgoing and two incoming items written between 1894 and 1934. As a lawyer, New York State Governor, Secretary of State under Warren G. Harding, and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Hughes answered letters from constituents, politicians (Martin H. Glynn, George B. McClellan), editors (Hamilton Holt, Louis Wiley), and clergymen (S. Parkes Cadman, Samuel Cavert, Smith T. Ford, Paul Hickok, Charles MacFarland, Robert E. Speer). Most of the letters are responses to recommendations for various appointments (Joseph Buffington, Joseph Carlino, Edward H. Fallows, McClellan, Wiley) as well as social and speaking invitations (G. Lennox Curtis, Ford, D. W. Hakes, Roy F. Fitzgerald, Winfield Jones, Mrs. J. E. Norcross, Clarence J. Owens, Amasa Parker, D. H. Pierson, Palmer C. Ricketts). In addition to a number of letters of introduction (Princess Bibesco, Diplomatic and Consular Office), there are also several responses to congratulatory messages received upon Lodge's assumption of various appointments (John Barrett, Ford, Lilla Day Monroe, William R. Rose).

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection contains one series, Correspondence, which is arranged chronologically. There is also an alphabetical Index to the Correspondence located at the end of the finding aid.


Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

The following boxes are located off-site: Boxes 6-57. You will need to request this material from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item Date (if known) Charles Evans Hughes papers Box and Folder Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Watch the video: What the discovery of gravitational waves means. Allan Adams (June 2022).


  1. Maxfield

    Same, infinitely

  2. Verney

    Wonderful phrase and timely

  3. Tujinn

    How long has this blog been launched?

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