1928 Presidential Election

1928 Presidential Election



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President Calvin Coolidge announced in August 1927 that he would not seek a second full term of office. Coolidge was unwilling to nominate Herbert Hoover as his successor. The two men had a poor relationship on one occasion he remarked that "for six years that man has given me unsolicited advice - all of it bad. I was particularly offended by his comment to 'shit or get off the pot'." (1)

Coolidge was not alone in thinking that Hoover might be a bad candidate. Republican leaders cast about for an alternative candidate such as Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon and the former Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, Despite these reservations, Hoover won the presidential nomination on the first ballot of the convention. Senator Charles Curtis of Kansas was selected as his running-mate. One newspaper reported: "Hoover brings character and promise to the Republican ticket. He is a new kind of candidate in a day surfeited with old forms and old habits in politics." (2)

Senator George H. Moses, chairman of the Republican national convention, sent a letter congratulating Hoover on his nomination. He replied: "You convey too great a compliment when you say that I have earned the right to the presidential nomination. No man can establish such an obligation upon any part of the American people. My country owes me no debt. It gave me, as it gives every boy and girl, a chance. It gave me schooling, independence of action, opportunity for service and honor. In no other land could a boy from a country village, without inheritance or influential friends, look forward with unbounded hope. My whole life has taught me what America means. I am indebted to my country beyond any human power to repay." (3)

One of the main issues in the election campaign was the taxes imposed on imports. The Fordney-McCumber Act of 1922 raised American tariffs on many imported goods to protect factories and farms. The tariff rate was an average of about 38.5% for dutiable imports and an average of 14% overall. However, in response to this, most of American trading partners had raised their own tariffs to counter-act this measure. (4)

Industrialists such as Henry Ford attacked the tariff and argued that the American automobile industry did not need protection since it dominated the domestic market and its main objective was to expand foreign sales. He pointed out that France raised its tariffs on automobiles from 45% to 100% in response to the Fordney-McCumber Act. Ford and other industrialists tended to favour the idea of free trade. (5)

David Walsh, a member of the Democratic Party, challenged the tariff by arguing that the farmers were net exporters and so did not need protection; they depended on foreign markets to sell their surplus. Hoover and the Republicans still believed in tariffs. William Borah, the charismatic senator from Idaho, widely regarded as a true champion of the American farmer, had a meeting with Hoover and offered to give him his full support if he promised to increase tariffs of agricultural products if elected. (6) Nearly a quarter of the American labour force was then employed on the land and Hoover wanted their vote. He therefore agreed with the proposal and during the campaign promised the American electorate that he would revise the tariff. (7)

The Democratic candidate was Al Smith. As governor of New York he attempted to bring an end to child labour, improve factory laws, housing and the care of the mentally ill. During his campaign Smith gave his support for an increase to the tariffs for imported goods, even though most of the party leaders, including Cordell Hull, John J. Raskob, Burton K. Wheeler and Harry F. Byrd, were strong opponents of the Fordney-McCumber Act. (8)

Smith was the first Roman Catholic to be a serious candidate for the presidency. This became a serious problem in the Deep South and the Ku Klux Klan burned Smith's effigy and Catholics were vilified for letting blacks worship in the same churches as whites. In the 1928 Presidential Election several states that had previously voted Democrat, such as Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia voted Republican. Smith won 40.8% of the vote compared to Hoover's 58.2%. (9)

A few weeks after the somewhat unenthusiastic nomination of Herbert Hoover by the Republicans, that coalition of incompatibles known as the Democratic party nominated Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York, a genial son of the East Side with a genius for governmental administration and a taste for brown derbies. Al Smith was a remarkable choice. His Tammany affiliations, his wetness, and above all the fact that he was a Roman Catholic made him repugnant to the South and to most of the West. Although the Ku Klux Klan had recently announced . the abandonment of its masks and the change of its name to "Knights of the Great Forest," anti-Catholic feeling could still take ugly forms. That the Democrats took the plunge and nominated Smith on the first ballot was eloquent testimony to the vitality of his personality, to the widespread respect for his ability, to the strength of the belief that any Democrat could carry the Solid South and that a wet candidate of immigrant stock would pull votes from the Republicans in the industrial North and the cities generally, and to the lack of other available candidates.

That presidential election with Governor Smith, a Jeffersonian Democratic politician, running to defeat against Hoover, an engineer in business, seemed to mark the end of a period, my period, and perhaps of a culture, the moral culture. Hoover was the Hamiltonian, who had no democracy in him, none, neither political nor economic. He has shown no sense of the perception that privileges are a cause of our social trouble. He is a moralist in that. He believes in the ownership and management by business men of all business, including land and natural resources, transportation, power, light. Good business is all the good we need. Politics was the only evil, and he has no sense of politics. When he came home from his years and years of professional service in foreign lands, he did not know or care whether he was a Democrat or a Republican; he was a candidate and won some votes for the nomination for president at a Democratic convention. He stood four years later as the Republican candidate of and for business against an able, successful Democrat who was a philosophic, political democrat. And the people believed, as they voted, with Hoover. Food, shelter, and clothing, plus the car, the radio-prosperity interested them more than any old American principles, which were all on the Democratic side with Smith. I went through that campaign, sensitive, interested, non-partisan. What little I said was in the Jeffersonian tradition, but I was watching to report, not playing to win. I can assert that everybody was for business; even the Democrats who voted for Smith, were for good business, of course; they, too, expected Smith to carry on the good times and favor business. It seems to me that there are many more Republicans in this country than voted for Hoover, that our southern Democrats, party-bound by their traditions, are unconscious Republicans who only think that they are Democrats, who don't know that they are Republicans. In California, where I was living, there were no politics or principles at all. It was all business. In brief, that was an economic election which sent to the White House Herbert Hoover to do what he is trying to do: to represent business openly, as Coolidge and other presidents had covertly.

Economic Prosperity in the United States: 1919-1929 (Answer Commentary)

Women in the United States in the 1920s (Answer Commentary)

Volstead Act and Prohibition (Answer Commentary)

The Ku Klux Klan (Answer Commentary)

Classroom Activities by Subject

(1) Robert H. Ferrell, American Diplomacy in the Great Depression: Hoover–Stimson Foreign Policy (1957) page 195

(2) Charles Rappleye, Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency(2017) page 26

(3) Herbert Hoover, letter to Senator George H. Moses (14th June 1928)

(4) John Rothgeb, U.S. Trade Policy (2001) pages 32-33

(5) Edward E. Kaplan, American Trade Policy, 1923–1995 (1996) page 13

(6) Charles Rappleye, Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency(2017) page 88

(7) The Economist (18th December, 2008)

(8) Jean Edward Smith, FDR (2007) page 252

(9) Patrick Renshaw, Franklin D. Roosevelt (2004) page 64


Election of 1928: Americans Are Presented With a Clear Choice

THE MAKING OF A NATION – a program in Special English by the Voice of America.

The presidential election of 1928 gave American voters a clear choice between two different kinds of candidates and political parties. The Democratic Party nominated Al Smith, the popular governor of the state of New York. The Republican Party chose Herbert Hoover, an engineer and businessman who served as secretary of commerce for Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

Governor Alfred Smith of New York had campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1924. But he was defeated at the party convention by a compromise candidate, John Davis.

Four years later, however, Smith could not be stopped. He had a strong record as governor of the nation's most heavily-populated state. He campaigned for the presidency on a policy of building new electric power stations under public control.

Smith knew that many conservative Americans might be worried by his new ideas and his belief in strong government. So he chose as his campaign manager a Republican industrial leader who had worked with General Motors, DuPont, and other major companies.

Smith hoped this would prove his faith in the American private business system.

Al Smith was a strong political leader and an effective governor. But he frightened many Americans, especially conservative citizens living in rural areas.

They lived on farms or in small towns. Al Smith was from the city. And not just from any city, but New York City, a place that seemed big and dirty and filled with foreign people and strange traditions. Al Smith's parents came from Ireland. He grew up in New York and worked as a salesman at the Fulton Fish Market.

Smith was an honest man. But many rural Americans simply did not trust people from big cities. Al Smith seemed to them to represent everything that was new, different, and dangerous about American life.

But being from New York City was not Al Smith's only problem. He also opposed the new national laws that made it illegal to buy or produce alcoholic drinks. And he had political ties to the New York political machine. But worst of all, in the eyes of many Americans, Al Smith was a Roman Catholic.

From George Washington through Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and up to Calvin Coolidge, every American president had been male, white, and a Protestant Christian. Of course, there was no law requiring a candidate to be Protestant. But millions of traditional Americans just were not ready to give their vote to a Roman Catholic.

Opponents of the Smith campaign generally did not speak openly about his religion. But many of them were afraid that Smith would take his orders from the Vatican in Rome, instead of working with the Congress in Washington.

Al Smith fought back. He told the country, "I am unable to understand how anything I was taught to believe as a Catholic could possibly be in conflict with what is good citizenship. My faith," he said, "is built upon the laws of God. There can be no conflict between them. "

But many Protestant Americans thought there was a conflict. And they looked to the Republican Party to supply a strong candidate to oppose Smith and the Democrats.

The Republicans did just that. They nominated former secretary of commerce Hoover, one of the country's most popular men. Hoover was well-known to Americans. People trusted him. And they liked the way he had gained great personal success from poor beginnings.

In fact, Hoover's life story would have pleased Abraham Lincoln, another American who rose from a poor family to fame.

Hoover was born in the farm state of Iowa in 1874. His father was a poor metal worker who kept moving his family from state to state.

Herbert Hoover's father died when the boy was just six years old. His mother died four years later. Young Herbert had to move to the western state of Oregon to live with his mother's brother.

Herbert's uncle was luckier in life than Herbert's parents. He had made money in the land business. And he helped the boy gain admission to Stanford University in California. At the university, Herbert showed great skill in mathematics. And he decided to go into business as a geologist studying the science of the earth.

After college, Herbert Hoover got a job as a mine worker. During the next several years, Hoover spent most of his time working as an engineer in foreign countries. And he succeeded beyond his greatest dreams. By the time he was forty years old, he had earned more than one million dollars.

After World War One, he organized the effort to provide food for starving people in Europe. He did an excellent job, winning praise from people in Europe and the United States alike. Next, Hoover joined the administration of President Warren Harding, serving as the Secretary of Commerce. Again, he did a very good job.

Hoover left the cabinet in 1925. But two years later, he organized efforts to provide relief for victims of a flood in the southern state of Mississippi. And again, Americans all around the country took note of this quiet, serious man who did such effective work in so many different kinds of situations.

Some Americans, however, did not like Hoover, including some people who usually supported Republicans.

For example, many professional Republican politicians did not trust him, because he had spent most of his life in business, not politics. Some stock market traders thought Hoover might change the rules on the New York Stock Exchange. And many farmers believed Hoover had no new ideas about how to solve their growing economic problems.

This, then, was the choice Americans faced in 1928. On the one hand, Al Smith. A Democrat. A Roman Catholic. A politician from the city. A man wanting some social change. And on the other hand, Herbert Hoover. A Republican. A businessman who had proven the dream that even a poor boy could become great in America. A man who seemed to succeed with every effort he touched.

The main issue in the campaign was not economics or religion, but the new national laws banning alcoholic drinks. Hoover was for the laws Smith against them. The two candidates also argued about how to provide aid to struggling farmers, and how to increase electricity and water supplies.

Herbert Hoover won the election of 1928. It was one of the greatest victories in presidential history. Hoover won fifty-eight percent of the votes. Smith got just forty percent. And Hoover captured four hundred forty-four electoral votes to Smith's eighty-seven.

And so it was that the engineer and businessman Herbert Hoover entered the White House in 1929. There was some trouble the day he moved in. Outgoing President Coolidge was a man who watched every dollar he owned. And he accused some White House workers of stealing his shoes on the day of the inauguration. But -- finally -- safe, conservative, business-like Herbert Hoover was leading the country.

The nation's stock market reacted by pushing stock prices to record high levels. Everyone expected that economic growth would continue and expand. But the happy times were just a dream. Within one year, the stock market collapsed. Millions of people lost their jobs. The nation fell into the worst economic crisis it had ever faced.

Herbert Hoover was not personally responsible for the crisis. In many ways, it was his own bad luck to be elected just before the disaster struck. But it was his job to guide the nation through its troubled waters. And he would prove to be the wrong person to give such leadership.

His four years in office would be one of the most difficult periods in the nation's history. We will look at President Hoover's administration in our next program.

You have been listening to THE MAKING OF A NATION, a program in Special English on the Voice of America. Your narrators have been Harry Monroe and Rich Kleinfeldt. Our program was written by David Jarmul.


1928 Presidential Election - History

Religion figured prominently in the 1928 presidential election when Alfred E. Smith, the Democratic governor of New York, became the first Catholic to run as the candidate of a major political party. Smith, who ran against the Republican Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, tried to downplay the subject of his religion. In this article from Atlantic Monthly of April 1927, lawyer Charles Marshall argued that loyalty to the Catholic Church conflicted with loyalty to the United States. Atlantic Monthly editor Ellery Sedgwick had solicited the Marshall letter, although he was himself a Smith supporter. He thought that the religious debate was inevitable, and he tried to place it on an intellectual plane. Although the article revealed anti-Catholic biases, Marshall’s views were less strident than those of many contemporaries.

The American people take pride in viewing the progress of an American citizen from the humble estate in which his life began toward the highest office within the gift of the nation. It is for this reason that your candidacy for the Presidential nomination has stirred the enthusiasm of a great body of your fellow citizens. They know and rejoice in the hardship and the struggle of which have fashioned you as a leader of men. They know your fidelity to the morality you have advocated in public and private life and to the religion you have revered your great record of public trusts successfully and honestly discharged your spirit of fair play, and justice even to your political opponents. Partisanship bids fair to quail before the challenge of your personality, and men who vote habitually against your party are pondering your candidacy with sincere respect and yet—through all this tribute there is a note of doubt, a sinister accent of interrogation, not as to intentional rectitude and moral purpose, but as to certain conceptions which your fellow citizens attribute to you as a loyal and conscientious Roman Catholic, which in their minds are irreconcilable with that Constitution which as President you must support and defend, and with the principles of civil and religious liberty on which American institutions are based.

To this consideration no word of yours, or on your behalf, has yet been addressed. Its discussion in the interests of the public weal is obviously necessary, and yet a strange reticence avoids it, often with the unjust and withering attribution of bigotry or prejudice as the unworthy motive of its introduction. Undoubtedly a large part of the public would gladly avoid a subject the discussion of which is so unhappily associated with rancor and malevolence, and yet to avoid the subject is to neglect the profoundest interests in our national welfare.

American life has developed into a variety of religious beliefs and ethical systems, religious and nonreligious, whose claims press more and more upon public attention. None of these presents a more definite philosophy or makes a more positive demand upon the attention and reason of mankind than your venerable Church, which recently at Chicago, in the greatest religious demonstration that the world has ever seen, declared her presence and her power in American life. Is not the time ripe and the occasion opportune for a declaration, if it can be made, that shall clear away all doubt as to the reconcilability of her status and her claims with American constitutional principles? With such a statement the only question as to your proud eligibility to the Presidential office would disappear, and the doubts of your fellow citizens not of the Roman Catholic Church would be instantly resolved in your favor.

The conceptions to which we refer are not superficial. They are of the very life and being of that Church, determining its status and its relation to the State, and to the great masses of men whose convictions deny them the privilege of membership in that Church. Surely the more conscientious the Roman Catholic, and the more loyal to his Church, the more sincere and unqualified should be his acceptance of such conceptions.

These conceptions have been recognized before by Roman Catholics as a potential obstacle to their participation in public office, Pope Leo XIII himself declaring, in one of his encyclical letters, that “it may in some places be true that for most urgent and just reasons it is by no means expedient for (Roman) Catholics to engage in public affairs or to take an active part in politics.”

It is indeed true that a loyal and conscientious Roman Catholic could and would discharge his oath of office with absolute fidelity to his moral standards. As to that in general, and as to you in particular, your fellow citizens entertain no doubt. But those moral standards differ essentially from the moral standards of all men not Roman Catholics. They are derived from the basic political doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, asserted against repeated challenges for fifteen hundred years, that God has divided all power over men between the secular State and that Church. Thus Pope Leo XIII, in 1885, in his encyclical letter on The Christian Constitution of States, says: “The Almighty has appointed the charge of the human race between two powers, the ecclesiastical and the civil, the one being set over divine, and the other over human things.”

The deduction is inevitable that, as all power over human affairs, not given to the State by God, is given by God to the Roman Catholic Church, no other churches or religious or ethical societies have in theory any direct power from God and are without direct divine sanction, and therefore without natural right to function on the same basis as the Roman Catholic Church in the religious and moral affairs of the State. The result is that that Church, if true to her basic political doctrine, is hopelessly committed to that intolerance that has disfigured so much of her history. This is frankly admitted by Roman Catholic authorities.

Pope Pius IX in the famous Syllabus (1864) said: “To hold that national churches, withdrawn from the authority of the Roman Pontiff and altogether separated, can be established, is error.”

That great compendium of Roman Catholic teaching, the Catholic Encyclopedia, declares that the Roman Catholic Church “regards dogmatic intolerance, not alone as her incontestable right, but as her sacred duty.” It is obvious that such convictions leave nothing in theory of the religious and moral rights of those who are not Roman Catholics. And, indeed, that is Roman Catholic, teaching and the inevitable deduction from Roman Catholic claims, if we use the word “rights” strictly. Other churches, other religious societies, are tolerated in the State, not by right, but by favor.

Pope Leo XIII is explicit on this point: “The (Roman Catholic) Church, indeed, deems it unlawful to place the various forms of divine worship on the same footing as the true religion, but does not, on that account, condemn those rulers who, for the sake of securing some great good or of hindering some great evil, allow patiently custom or usage to be a kind of sanction for each kind of religion having its place in the State.”

That is, there is not a lawful equality of other religious with that of the Roman Catholic Church, but that Church will allow state authorities for politic reasons—that is, by favor, but not by right—to tolerate other religious societies. We would ask, sir, whether such favors can be accepted in place of rights by those owning the name of freemen?

Furthermore, the doctrine of the Two Powers, in effect and theory, inevitably makes the Roman Catholic Church at times sovereign and paramount over the State. It is true that in theory the doctrine assigns to the secular State jurisdiction over secular matters and to the Roman Catholic Church jurisdiction over matters of faith and morals, each jurisdiction being exclusive of the other within undisputed lines. But the universal experience of mankind has demonstrated, and reason teaches, that many questions must arise between the State and the Roman Catholic Church in respect to which it is impossible to determine to the satisfaction of both in which jurisdiction the matter at issue lies.

Here arises the irrepressible conflict. Shall the State or the Roman Catholic Church determine? The Constitution of the United States clearly ordains that the State shall determine the question. The Roman Catholic Church demands for itself the sole right to determine it, and holds that within the limits of that claim it is superior to and supreme over the State. The Catholic Encyclopedia clearly so declares: “In case of direct contradiction, making it impossible for both jurisdictions to be exercised, the jurisdiction of the Church prevails and that of the State is excluded.” And Pope Pius IX in the Syllabus asserted: “To say in the case of conflicting laws enacted by the Two Powers, the civil law prevails, is error.”

Extreme as such a conclusion may appear, it is inevitable in Roman Catholic philosophy. That Church by the very theory of her existence cannot yield, because what she claims as her right and her truth she claims is hers by the “direct act of God” in her theory, God himself directly forbids. The State cannot yield because of a great mass of citizens who are not Roman Catholics. By its constitutional law and in the nature of things, practices of religion in its opinion inconsistent with its peace and safety are unlawful the law of its being—the law of necessity—forbids. If we could all concede the “divine and exclusive” claims of the Roman Catholic Church, conflict would be eliminated but, as it is, there is a wide consensus of opinion that those claims are false in fact and in flat conflict with the very being and order of the State.

In our constitutional order this consensus is bulwarked on the doctrine of the Supreme Court of the United States that our religious liberty and our constitutional guaranties thereof are subject to the supreme qualification that religious “practices inconsistent with the peace and safety of the State shall not be justified.” (Watson v. Jones 13 Wall. P. 579)

The Roman Catholic Church, of course, makes no claim, and never has made any claim, to jurisdiction over matters that in her opinion are solely secular and civil. She makes the claim obviously only when the matter in question is not, in her opinion, solely secular and civil. But as determination of jurisdiction, in a conflict with the State, rests solely in her sovereign discretion, no argument is needed to show that she may in theory and effect annihilate the rights of all who are not Roman Catholics, sweeping into the jurisdiction of a single religious society the most important interests of human well-being. The education of youth, the institution of marriage, the international relations of the State, and its domestic peace, as we shall proceed to show, are, in certain exigencies, wrested from the jurisdiction of the State, in which all citizens share, and confided to the jurisdiction of a single religious society in which all citizens cannot share, great numbers being excluded by the barriers of religious belief. Do you, sir, regard such claims as tolerable in a republic that calls itself free?

And, in addition to all this, the exclusive powers of the Roman Catholic Church are claimed by her to be vested in and exercised by a sovereignty that is not only created therefor by the special act of God, but is foreign and extraterritorial to these United States and to all secular states. This sovereignty, by the highest Roman Catholic authority, that of Pope Leo XIII, is not only superior in theory to the sovereignty of the secular State, but is substituted upon earth in place of the authority of God himself. . . .

It follows naturally on all this that there is a conflict between authoritative Roman Catholic claims on the one side and our constitutional law and principles on the other. Pope Leo XIII says: “It is not lawful for the State, any more than for the individual, either to disregard all religious duties or to hold in equal favor different kinds of religion.” But the Constitution of the United States declares otherwise: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Thus the Constitution declares the United States shall hold in equal favor different kinds of religion or no religion and the Pope declares it is not lawful to hold them in equal favor. Is there not here a quandary for that man who is at once a loyal churchman and a loyal citizen? . . .

Americans indulge themselves in the felicitation that they have achieved an ideal religious situation in the United States. But Pope Leo, in his encyclical letter on Catholicity in the United States, asserts: “It would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most desirable status of the Church.” The modern world reposes in the comfortable reflection that the severance of Church and State has ended a long and unhappy conflict, when the same Pope calls our attention to the error of supposing “that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and Church to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced.”

Is our law, then, in papal theory, no law? Is it contrary to natural right? Is it in conflict with the will and fiat of Almighty God? Clearly the Supreme Court and Pope Leo are profoundly at variance. Is it not obvious that such a difference of opinion, concerning the fundamental rights between two sovereignties operating within the same territory, may, even with the best intentions and the most sensitive consciences, be fruitful of political offenses that are odious among men?

Citizens who waver in your support would ask whether, as a Roman Catholic, you accept as authoritative the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that in case of contradiction, making it impossible for the jurisdiction of that Church and the jurisdiction of the State to agree, the jurisdiction of the Church shall prevail whether, as statesman, you accept the teaching of the Supreme Court of the United States that, in matters of religious practices which in the opinion of the State are inconsistent with its peace and safety, the jurisdiction of the State shall prevail and, if you accept both teachings, how you will reconcile them.

At the present time no question assumes greater importance than the education of youth. The legislatures of Tennessee, of Oregon, and of Nebraska have of late laid impious hands upon it and the judiciary has sternly curbed them. From what has been said above, it is clear that the claims of the Roman Catholic Church touching this point, more than those of any other institution, may conflict with the authority of the State.

It is true that in the famous Oregon School cases the Supreme Court of the United States held a state law unconstitutional that forbade parents to educate their children at church schools of every denomination. But there was no assertion in the law that the church schools in question gave instruction inconsistent with the peace and safety of the State and there was no allegation of that tenor in the pleadings. On the record the church schools were void of offense. But, had that feature existed in the cases, it would necessarily have led to a reversal of the decision. There would have been a conflict between Church and State as to whether the instruction was inconsistent with the peace and safety of the State. The Roman Catholic Church, if true to her doctrine and dogma, would have had to assert exclusive jurisdiction over the determination of this point. Equally the State, in self-preservation, would have had to assert exclusive jurisdiction. The conflict would have been irreconcilable. What would have been the results and what the test of a sincere and conscientious Roman Catholic in executive office or on the bench?

Nothing can be clearer to the American mind than that the plain political teaching of Pope Pius IX and of Pope Leo XIII, as set forth in their encyclical letters, is inconsistent with the peace and safety of the State within the meaning of those words as used by the Supreme Court of the United States in its great decision. That it is “not lawful for the State to hold in equal favor different kinds of religion” that it is not universally lawful for the State and the Roman Catholic Church to be dissevered and divorced that the various kinds of religion in theory have their place in the State, not by natural right, but by favor that dogmatic intolerance is not alone the incontestable right of the Roman Catholic Church, but her sacred duty that in the case of conflicting laws of the State and the Roman Catholic Church the law of that Church shall prevail, are propositions that would make up a strange textbook for the instruction of American youth.

We have no desire to impute to the Roman Catholic Church aught but high and sincere motives in the assertion of her claims as one of the Two Powers. Her members believe in those claims, and, so believing, it is their conscientious duty to stand for them. We are satisfied if they will but concede that those claims, unless modified and historically redressed, precipitate an inevitable conflict between the Roman Catholic Church and the American State irreconcilable with domestic peace. With two illustrations—and those relating to English Christianity—we have done.

In the sixteenth century the decree of Pope Pius V in terms deposed Elizabeth, Queen of England, from the English throne and absolved her subjects from their allegiance. The result is well known. Much that pertained to the venerable forms of religion in the preceding centuries became associated in the popular mind of England with treason—even the Mass itself when celebrated in the Roman form. Roman Catholics were oppressed in their rights and privileges. Roman Catholic priests were forbidden within the realm. The mills of God turned slowly, but they turned. The Roman Catholics of England endured the penalties of hostile legislation with heroic fortitude and resignation. Public opinion slowly changed and gradually Roman Catholic disabilities were removed, and in 1850, under Cardinal Wiseman, the Roman Catholic Hierarchy was restored in England, with no other condition than that its sees should not use the ancient titles that the Hierarchy of the Church of England had retained. Peace and amity reigned within the realm, irrespective of different religions, and domestic repose marked a happy epoch. But the toleration and magnanimity of England bore strange fruit. Scarcely was the Roman Hierarchy restored to its ancient privileges when the astounding Apostolic Letter of Pope Leo XIII appeared (1896), declaring to the world that the orders of the Church of England were void, her priests no priests, her bishops not bishops, and her sacraments so many empty forms.

But this was not all. Reaching hands back through three centuries, the Roman Pontiff drew from obscurity the case of John Felton, an English citizen who in 1570, contrary to the law of treason at that time on the statute book of England, posted on the walls of London the decree of Pope Pius V already referred to, deposing the English Queen. Felton was beatified in 1886 by the act of Pope Leo XIII.

The honors paid him were rendered three hundred years after his treasonable act. There lies their sinister import. They are no part of the medieval milieu they belong to the modern world and must have judgment not by medieval but by modern standards. One would have supposed, in view of the critical situation in modern States in relation to the respect for authority of government and the obedience of citizens to the law, that the beautification might have been omitted. One would have supposed that the changes in political thought and theory through three hundred years would have dictated the wisdom of letting the dead past bury its dead, and the memory of blessed John Felton rest in peace with those abandoned political doctrines that inspired his heroic but unhappy deed.

Is the record of the Roman Catholic Church in England consistent, sir, in your opinion, with the peace and safety of the State?

Nothing will be of greater satisfaction to those of your fellow citizens who hesitate in their endorsement of your candidacy because of the religious issues involved than such a disclaimer by you of the convictions here imputed, or such an exposition by others of the questions here presented, as may justly turn public opinion in your favor.

(The Atlantic’s columns will be open to further discussion of this subject)

Source: Charles C. Marshall, “An Open Letter to the Honorable Alfred E. Smith,” Atlantic Monthly 139 (April 1927): 540󈞘, 548󈞝.


Religion figured prominently in the 1928 presidential election when Alfred E. Smith, the Democratic governor of New York, became the first Catholic to run as the candidate of a major political party. Smith, who ran against the Republican Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, tried to downplay the subject of his religion. In his speech accepting the presidential nomination, Smith sought to reassure voters that he would not favor Catholics, “Wets” (supporters of Prohibition), or Easterners if elected president. While his words may have reassured some, his obvious New York accent reinforced the worries—and prejudices—of others.

Al Smith: I am entirely unwilling to accept the old order of things as the best, unless, and until I become convinced, that it cannot be made better. While this is a government of laws, and not of men, laws do not execute themselves. We must have people of character and outstanding ability to save the nation. To me, the greatest elements of satisfaction, in my nomination, is the fact that I owe it to no man, or to no set of men. I can with complete honesty make the statement that my nomination was brought out by no promise, given or implied, by me or anybody in my behalf. I will not be influenced in appointments by the question of a person’s wet or dry attitude. I will not be influenced in appointments by the fact that a man is either rich or poor, whether he comes from the North, the East, the South or the West, or by what church he attends in the worship of God. The sole standard of my appointment will be the same as they’ve been in my governorship: integrity of the man or woman, and his ability, or her ability, to give me the greatest possible aid in devoted service to the people.

Source: Courtesy of the Michigan State University, G. Robert Vincent Voice Library.


Presidential Race of 1928

Herbert Hoover The presidential election of 1928 was one of the most controversial in American history, providing a major test of party loyalties in Alabama, which had historically voted Democratic. The controversy surrounded the issues of Prohibition, religion, race, the Republican prosperity, and a distrust of urban politicians. Many scholars maintain that 1928 was a realigning election in which traditional party bases switched loyalties to the extent that the makeup of both parties was transformed. In Alabama, however, voters continued to support Democratic candidates by large majorities, voting for Franklin Roosevelt by margins of more than 80 percent between 1932 and 1944. Alfred E. Smith One of the most important issues at the time was Prohibition, which had taken effect in January 1920, banning the sale, manufacture, and transportation of all beverages containing more than 0.5 percent alcohol. Al Smith, the Democratic candidate, opposed the ban on alcohol on the grounds that the issue should be decided at the state level. Hoover, the Republican candidate, was an advocate of Prohibition. Alabama was considered a "dry" state, bringing the state Democratic Party into direct conflict with the national party's support for Smith. J. Thomas Heflin Thomas Heflin, the junior senator from Alabama, aroused anti-Smith fervor through speeches and pamphlets. Heflin denounced Democrats who voted party lines rather than choosing candidates based on their stands on issues. He claimed that such party members would vote for a "yellow dog" if it ran on the Democratic ticket, giving rise to the label of "Yellow-Dog Democrats," which became popular as a negative term for describing southerners who remained staunchly loyal to the party, no matter the candidate.

Delivering his inaugural address on March 4, 1929, President Hoover promised Americans that he would lead the country through four more years of prosperity and freedom, but was unable to deliver on the former. On October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed, plunging the country into the Great Depression. Hoover's insistence that the national government had no responsibility for providing direct aid to unemployed, hungry, and desperate Americans paved the way for the Democratic victory of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. As a result, Democrats controlled the White House from 1933 until 1952 when voters returned a Republican, Dwight D. Eisenhower, to the presidency. In 1960, the only other Irish Catholic Democrat to run for president, John F. Kennedy, took the White House with only partial help from Alabama. The state gave six electoral votes to non-declared Harry Byrd of Virginia, a conservative Democrat opposed to integration, and began Alabama's shift toward the Republican Party.

Andersen, Kristi. The Creation of a Democratic Majority, 1928-1936. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.


Al Smith

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Al Smith, in full Alfred Emanuel Smith, (born December 30, 1873, New York, New York, U.S.—died October 4, 1944, New York City), U.S. politician, four-time Democratic governor of New York and the first Roman Catholic to run for the U.S. presidency (1928).

When his father died, young Smith interrupted his schooling and went to work for seven years at the Fulton fish market in New York City to help support his family. His political career was launched in 1895, when Tammany Hall—the New York City Democratic political organization—appointed him an investigator in the office of the city commissioner of jurors. He then served in the state assembly (1903–15), where his lively intelligence, dedication to the voters of his district, and genial manner won him the powerful office of speaker by 1913. Initially a routine politician, he gained a wider point of view on social issues as a member of a commission investigating factory conditions (1911) and as a delegate to the state constitutional revision committee (1915). Tammany Hall made him sheriff of New York County (1915), and in 1917 he was elected president of the Board of Aldermen of Greater New York.

Although few believed Smith had a chance in the gubernatorial race the following year, he was elected by a narrow margin. He proved an extraordinary vote getter, though he lost the governorship in the Republican landslide of 1920. He was again elected governor in 1923 and served three more terms until 1928. As governor he fought for adequate housing, improved factory laws, proper care of the mentally ill, child welfare, and state parks. He effected a reorganization of the state government on a consolidated, businesslike basis and repeatedly demonstrated his leadership by forcing Republican legislatures to accept his recommendations.

Smith was the first Roman Catholic to receive serious consideration as a candidate for the presidency of the United States. His religion, combined with his opposition to Prohibition, resulted in a prolonged deadlock with William G. McAdoo, the “dry” candidate, at the Democratic National Convention of 1924. Neither candidate was nominated. Four years later, Smith’s name was again placed in nomination and he won on the first ballot. A champion of urban America, he carried on an aggressive campaign as the “Happy Warrior” and presented a picturesque figure with his brown derby hat, cigar, and colourful speech as his trademarks and “The Sidewalks of New York” as his theme song. The rural districts of the West and the South combined to ensure his defeat by the conservative Republican, Herbert Hoover.

In later years Smith lost contact with his old following, and in 1936 and 1940 he supported the Republican presidential candidates.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.


The Woman's Vote in National Elections

Fifty eight million American citizens will be eligible to qualify under the election laws of the states and vote in the presidential election of 1928. Of this number of potential voters, 28,500,000, or about 49 per cent, are women.

In presidential elections since the nation-wide enfranchisement of women in 1920, net more than 35 to 40 per cent of the women eligible have gone to the polls. The National League of Women Voters, in a recent address to the President, admitted “the truth of the popular belief that in non-voting women are the worst offenders.” However, it is recognized by national politicians, notwithstanding the poor record made by the woman voters, that in any presidential election which presented issues by which they were thoroughly aroused—and were aligned on one side in predominant numbers, while the men were fairly evenly divided—the result would be determined by the woman's vote.

Seven years ago, in the presidential campaign which immediately followed the adoption of the nineteenth amendment, the woman's vote was regarded as a leading political problem, and the parties keenly competed for the support of the new voters. Politicians reported, however, upon their return to Washington and the state capitals after the election, that the enfranchisement of women, aside from increasing the size of the electorate, had shown no effects of which the parties need take serious account.


1930's

1930: In the mid-term elections, a resurgent Republican party gained control of Congress giving them the power to block President Smith's polices. Among the many losing Democrats that year was New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt, who lost to his distant cousin Republican Theodore Roosevelt Jr. by a margin of less than 5,000 votes.

1931: The Republican controlled Congress passed a tax cut but this was vetoed by Smith only to by overridden which almost destroyed Smith's credibility with the American people.

Many felt that this "Catholic bastard" of a president is the reason the country is in turmoil. In New York on March 15, Race Riots broke out against the Irish and Catholic communities. The riots were ten times worse than 1844 Philadelphia or 1863 New York Riots. 107 Irish and/or Catholics were killed, while over a thousand were injured or missing. Al Smith declared a state of emergency and had police and military forces lay siege to the Manhattan Island. Part of the Statue of Liberty is destroyed by a misfire from one of the several battleships sent into the harbor.

The riots ended but the city was in ruins. Seeing the statue smoking and surrounded by rubble in the harbor sent cold chills down Al Smith's back. He addressed the nation on Ellis Island pledging to rebuild the statue and the city. But New York would never be the same after the 1931 riots.

1932: The Republicans were ready to throw Smith out on his ear. Unemployment was at 20 percent and rising, thanks to Smith's tax increases and many could not forgive him for the New York riots they proclaimed he caused. The top Republican candidates that year were Idaho Senator William Borah and newly elected New York Governor Teddy Roosevelt Jr. (Roosevelt was supported by Andrew Mellon, Herbert Hoover and the GOP establishment). Borah won several primaries but was seen as too radical, so the party bosses turned to Roosevelt and he won the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican convention with 683 votes to Borah's 310. In his acceptance speech, Roosevelt pledged himself "To a New Deal for the American people". Ohio Governor Robert A. Taft was nominated for Vice President. Roosevelt took to the campaign trail against Smith. Running on a platform of lower taxes and less government spending, Roosevelt swamped Smith 56% to 40%. The one bright spot for Democrats was the election of Franklin Roosevelt as Governor of New York.

In choosing his cabinet, Roosevelt chose experienced bureaucrats and Washington insiders (including a Democrat) to lead the executive departments. Roosevelt's First Cabinet was as follows

Vice President: Hebert C. Hoover

Secretary of State: William E. Borah

Secretary of the Treasury: Andrew W. Mollen

Secretary of War: Henry L. Stimson

Attorney General: Charles E. Hughes Jr.

Postmaster General: Walter F. Brown

Secretary of the Navy: Charles F. Adams

Secretary of the Interior: Frank Knox

Secretary of Agriculture: Ray C. Chapin

Secretary of Commerce: Wendell L. Wilkie

Secretary of Labor: Francis C. Perkins

The congressional leadership was dominated by conservatives.

Speaker of the House: Bertrand H. Snell (R)

House Majority Leader: Joseph W. Martin Jr. (R)

House Minority Leder: John N. Garner (D)

Senate Majority Leader: Charles L. McNary (R)

Senate Minority Leader: Morris Sheppard (D)

1933: With a super majority in the Congress, President Roosevelt pushed a long list of legislation through during his first 100 days of office. Among them was the Worker's Assistance Recovery Program (WARP), which set forth a system of government loans to working men and their families instead of the blanket checks that some liberals supported. Another act of Roosevelt's Presidency was to pass the Social Security Act of 1933. Under the act a system of private accounts would be set up, into which taxpayers would place money and the government would match their savings. But by far the most important bill passed during Roosevelt's first two years was the Revenue Act of 1933, which abolished the federal income tax and in its place a national sales tax of 21% was put into place.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a force in her own right, writing her own weekly newspaper column entitled "Elly's Week", and going around the country campaigning for the poor and the needy (though not as much as her Democratic cousin did in OTL since her husband was not crippled by polio).

1934: The Republicans make a clean sweep in almost all elections. The one bright point for the Democrats was the election of Franklin Roosevelt as Governor of New York.

1935: President Roosevelt appoints former Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to succeed Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who had been appointed by President Smith in 1930. Hughes will serve until 1945.

1936: the economy was back on its feet, unemployment had been cut in half and the DOW was rising, Roosevelt was re-elected in a landslide over NY Governor Franklin Roosevelt in the presidential election.

Meanwhile in Europe, The Nuremberg laws are passed in Germany. President Roosevelt orders that refugee camps be set up across the East Coast and gets a bill passed through which grants all European Jews fleeing persecution US citizenship.

1937: During the first six mouths of Roosevelt's second term, conservative Republicans in Congress pushed for allowing the depression era legislation of Roosevelt's first term to expire. Although Roosevelt was opposed to repealing all the bills, he realized that the times required a change in focus and government spending.

Roosevelt saw the danger posed to the U.S. by Japan's expansion into China, and Germany's threats against Europe. Later that year the Supreme Court ruled that part of the WARP was unconstitutional. This caused Roosevelt to follow the wishes of Taft and the conservatives. Roosevelt pushed the Naval Act of 1937 through the Congress.

1938: Conservatives succeed in allowing the WARP program to expire in 1942, and cut Social Security by 15%.

In the mid-term elections, the Republicans suffered slight loses due to division between liberals and conservatives. Despite this, the Republicans retained overwhelming control of Congress.

Roosevelt decides "enough is enough" when he learns that Japan has committed unspeakable atrocities in China. It seems the Japanese forces invaded China and burned its capitol to the ground and slaughtered thousands of innocents. Roosevelt orders that sanctions on Oil, Steel and raw materials be imposed, as well as begin the largest arms buildup in American history so far.

1939: Roosevelt had been suffering from poor health for some time (sometimes he was forced to use a wheelchair). Most expected Roosevelt to follow the 2-term limit set by George Washington. Vice President Robert Taft was considered the front-runner for the Republican nomination. Other potential candidates included Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg and New York District Attorney Thomas Dewey.

But by September, Germany had responded to America's rearmament by invading Poland and declaring war on Great Britain and France. By mid-October the Japanese had invaded French and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia. Roosevelt declared that the United States would not stand for this blatant aggression. Japan realized that American bases in the Pacific would threaten their expansionist goals, and they launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. On December 8, Roosevelt ask Congress for a declaration of war against Japan. Within two weeks Germany and Italy had declared war on the United States. Barely 100 days after Hitler invaded Poland, the whole world was engulfed in war.


A House Divided: An overview of my headcanon 1928 US Election

Welcome back! Sorry for the delay, work was crazy. Here's the next part on my headcanon overview, this time the 1928 US Presidential Election.

An Election Turned Referendum

By 1928, America was sliding firmly into economic depression with no end in sight. The radical interventionist policies proposed by President McAdoo to relieve the crisis, such as personal relief measures, make-work programs, and regulations were stopped by the Republican-dominated House. Despite this, two small measures were passed that managed to provide some short-term relief. The Business Credit Act was passed by Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. It extended lines of credit to businesses like banks and railroads around the country to keep wages up and competitive. It was hoped that if wages remained the same, there would not be a downturn in spending and that consumer goods purchasing in conjunction with tariff proposals would right the economy. Similarly, both liberal and conservative Republicans allied with the Progressive Party and some Southern Democrats to create the Federal Farm Bureau. This bureau sought to stop the downward spiral of crop prices and end the crop surplus by allowing farm organizations to sell directly to their state and federal government. Lines of credit for farmers to buy farm goods like seed was extended to local farming groups, but not directly to the farmers. While this put a dent in the farm surplus, it failed to help farmers pay off the loans they’d taken out to buy new mechanized equipment. While these small steps were important in these early years of the depression, they were predicated on the notion that the depression would soon end. Later, President Roosevelt would extend these measures and incorporate them into the Fair Deal.

President McAdoo tried his best to work with the new Republican majority as more Democrats abandoned him. They barely managed to retain the Senate in the 1926 Midterms and most knew that 1928 was a long shot. McAdoo was not prevented from running for a third term, but most candidates abided by Washington’s two terms. He also hoped for a Democrat that would appeal to hard-money Republicans and the coalition he’d built in 1920 and 1924. This naturally led him to Secr. of Commerce Al Smith who had contacts with powerful urban Democratic machines in places like New York and Boston. McAdoo and Smith had never been on the best of terms and Smith had broken with McAdoo over the proposed interventionist economic policies. Smith announced that he would not seek the presidency in 1928, instead entering the race for Governor of New York. Smith was not the only former McAdoo Democrat to publicly renounce a presidential run. Postmaster Oscar Underwood, VP Alexander Palmer, and Secr. of Agriculture Gilbert Hitchcock all refused McAdoo’s support for presidential runs.

In this hour of weakness for the Democrats, newly Republican-aligned Herbert Hoover announced his presidential campaign. Hoover’s work with Wilson during the Great War endeared him to many progressive Republicans while his business acumen won over hard money, conservative supporters of Calvin Coolidge (Coolidge would later throw his support behind Hoover, who repaid Coolidge with the position of Secr. of Commerce). Hoover also drew support from those Democrats who’d been breaking with McAdoo. Hoover advocated continuing business-friendly solutions to the worsening depression and he boldly declared that the “glum malaise which we find our country in these past few months, will be done and over with by the beginning of the next decade”.

The Fall of McAdoo and the rise of Herbert Hoover seemed to outshine the Progressive Party. Burton K. Wheeler had effectively forged a true political party from the bones of Robert M. La Follette’s personal political vehicle. He decided to capitalize on these accomplishments and began campaigning for president, believing that he was the only one strong enough in the Progressive Party to run as a candidate. Initially unopposed, Wheeler received the blessing of pacifist and House Whip Victor Berger (who was ineligible to run for either the Presidency or Vice Presidency). But Wheeler’s showmanship and somewhat iron-fisted rule over the Progressive Party angered some of the more radical members of the party. Seymour Stedman, formerly Eugene V. Debs’ 1920 running mate, and member of the House under the constituent “Social Democratic-Progressive Party” announced his own campaign for the Progressive Party nomination. The two factions that La Follette had peacefully unified and Wheeler had held together were splitting at the seams. The old Bull Moose populists and the increasingly radical Socialists grew more and more distant. Promises of land reform, banking regulations, and even stripping some powers from the Senate did nothing to appease radicals who looked across the Atlantic at the Union of Britain, Commune of France, and Socialist Republic of Italy. They called for the immediate abolishment of capitalism and redistribution of wealth. Opponents called this the end of the Progressive Party but Wheeler moved quickly to preserve party unity. He promised to run in 1928 on nationalization programs (similar to the radical nationalization programs proposed by La Follette in 1924) and a “general wealth tax”. Stedman agreed, if begrudgingly, to join with Wheeler as his Vice President. While this compromise secured the nomination for Wheeler, it did nothing to fix the growing divide in his party.

The 1928 Campaign

In an act of desperation, McAdoo and the Democratic bosses settled on Joseph T. Robinson from Arkansas as their presidential candidate. Robinson had been a dutiful, if humble, member of the Senate and had ably served as Senate Majority Leader. McAdoo hoped that a progressive Dixie Democratic could weld together an emergency coalition of Northern and Southern Democrats. Robinson accepted, though he knew it was an absolute longshot for the Democrats in 1928. McAdoo and the Midwest Democratic bosses tapped into a dark horse for VP, former Governor James M. Cox. Cox had managed to work well with both Republicans, Democrats, and even the labor interests in Ohio. Both Cox and Robinson had walked a fine line following the crash, neither decrying nor supporting McAdoo. The Robinson/Cox ticket ran a campaign based around progressive counter measures, make-work programs, and rural electrification projects. Cox had promised that their administration would offer programs to bail out rural families and smaller banks that supported small communities. Robinson also courted his southern allies to appeal to an ever increasing populist base and in effect alienated some of the northern progressives who called for real reform. Robinson and Cox refused to desegregate government offices and would not support anti-segregationist Democrats running for Congress. Similarly, the ticket would not agree to overturn prohibition despite public opinion against it or the general public’s apathy towards following the new law. Pro-segregationist Democrats vehemently supported Robinson and this alliance rankled one Huey Long, the Chair of the Louisiana Public Service Committee and a candidate for the 1928 Louisiana Gubernatorial race. The Democrats made a strong showing in the traditional south, where a Dixiecrat leading the ticket and continued segregation secured the regional machines. But elsewhere Robinson, Cox, and all of their supporters were met with the stony faces of the unemployed with just one question for their candidate, “How will you help us?”

On the opposite end, Herbert Hoover was met with support wherever he went. The humanitarian efforts he’d led during the Great War had catapulted him to the status of celebrity. Business leaders respected his experience in commerce and hopeful voters believed that a “Businessman President” would help the country, “like any struggling store, it takes a new manager with a fresh outlook to turn it around”. Hoover spent weeks touring with progressive and conservative Republicans throughout the country, receiving the blessing of leading progressives like Hiram Johnson and William Edgar Borah as well as the understated support of conservatives like Calvin Coolidge. He faced some resistance in the Far West states and some of the more radical Midwest states, both areas where the Progressives were (for the time being) holding. His popularity allowed him to break into the Northeast as well, securing the rousing support of the strong party machines in Pennsylvania, New York, and Maine.

After a good showing in the Northeast, Hoover turned his campaign around and made for the plains states. There, Hoover took meetings with wealthy industrialists and affected farmers. He toured farms, main streets, and held meetings with farming boards and co-ops. Other Republican challengers folded quickly and these favorite son candidates quickly supported Hoover. As a political outsider with friends on both sides of the aisle, Hoover picked veteran moderate and Kansas Senator Charles Curtis, as his running mate. Hoover also secured the support of charity organizations around the country with promises of cutting red tape and “getting Washington’s nose out of something they got no business being in”. He optimistically declared that the “mild crisis which the American markets found themselves” would be alleviated through cutting restrictions on businesses, protectionist policies, and trusting in state and charity organizations to support the out of work. Still, some cautious Republicans feared that Hoover’s rural campaigning would force the Republicans and Progressives to compete for the same vote. But the Progressives had had a rocky start to the election year and Wheeler was alienating voters with his iron-handed rule of the party. Seymour Stedman had stopped attacking Wheeler and the Bull Moose faction, but he’d also never outright supported his running mate, and the two men seemed to be running parallel if allied campaigns. Cynics within the Progressives decried the fall of the progressive mantle from a real cause to a vehicle for political gain. Teddy, La Follette, and now Wheeler--when will we have an actual Progressive? asked the Cheyenne Weekly Register, a Progressive-aligned newspaper.

The radicals in the Progressives who’d chafed in the party since 1924, were asking for greater influence within the party. They advocated for more “direct action” as a party, including diplomatic recognition of the burgeoning Third Internationale in Europe. Wheeler was holding the party together for another election through his own influence, under-handed tactics, and concession campaigning. The Progressives campaigned in 1928 on banking reform, nationalization of rail, power, rural infrastructure, and coal mines while advocating solving the depression through a federally run work program, a general Wealth Tax, and a national credit program for farmers and factory workers. He and the party bosses seized on the nomination of Hoover as a “Wall Street Coup”, pinning his broad support and campaign as “some kind of pro-business, plot against America”. Overall, Wheeler and the Progressives ran a vigorous, if overshadowed race, and only made gains in the House. Later historians would note the influence that Wheeler’s 1928 campaign would have on the populist appeals of the 1950s and the measures instituted by President Tugwell after the Progressive Party victory in 1952.

The rump Socialist Labor Party had spent the late 20s organizing and advocating for more radical change. The news stories coming across the Atlantic from Jack Reed in London were reporting on the creation of a Syndicalist Britain. Stories of the tumultuous October Days that gave birth to the French Commune had been sparse. But America was getting a first hand account of how the home of the British Empire was becoming a new haven of socialism. Foster and his radicals helped spread these stories, ensuring the further radicalization of leftists in America. The Socialist Labor Party ran Verne Reynolds and Benjamin Gitlow on a half-hearted campaign focused mainly on promoting labor radicalization, general and immediate nationalization, and redistribution of the wealth. But most SLP campaigners were more radicalizers and organizers rather than political representatives. Often times their meetings turned violent.

The Outcome

Hoover’s celebrity status and popular campaign meant his victory was all but ensured. He won overwhelmingly and he led his party to secure the Senate and House. Robinson graciously conceded over the radio, having only secured South Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. The Democrats lost their majority in the Senate though they retained a sizable chunk in the House. The Progressives managed to sap some seats from the Democrats, boosting their presence in the Senate and House.

Future American historians would note that the 1928 Election was the end of the Progressive Era. Historian Barbara Morris in her seminal 1990 history book, The Ordeal: The End of Wilsonian America, put forth that Herbert Hoover had tapped into a tide of cynicism from America swinging away from the high minded progressivism of Woodrow Wilson. Contemporaries to Hoover’s election were not so critical and believed that this would simply mark a “new era of American progressivism”. One Republican newspaper said after Hoover’s election that “We had Rooseveltian Progressivism, Wilsonian Progressivism--now we will see Hoover Progressivism”. But they never could have foreseen what Hoover’s America would turn out to be.


American History: Hoover Wins in 1928

BOB DOUGHTY: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.

The presidential election of nineteen twenty-eight gave American voters a clear political choice. The Democratic Party nominated Al Smith. He was the popular governor of the state of New York. The Republican Party chose Herbert Hoover. He was an engineer and businessman who served as secretary of commerce for presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

This week in our series, Rich Kleinfeldt and Harry Monroe tell us about the presidential election of nineteen twenty-eight.

RICH KLEINFELDT: Governor Alfred Smith of New York had campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination in nineteen twenty-four. But he was defeated at the party convention by a compromise candidate, John Davis.

Four years later, however, Smith could not be stopped. He had a strong record as governor of the nation's most heavily-populated state. He campaigned for the presidency on a policy of building new electric power stations under public control.

Smith knew that many conservative Americans might be worried by his new ideas and his belief in strong government. So he chose as his campaign manager a Republican industrial leader who had worked with General Motors, DuPont and other major companies.

Smith hoped this would prove his faith in the American private business system.

HARRY MONROE: Al Smith was a strong political leader and an effective governor. But he frightened many Americans, especially conservative citizens living in rural areas.

They lived on farms or in small towns. Al Smith was from the city. And not just from any city, but New York City, a place that seemed big and dirty and filled with foreign people and strange traditions. Al Smith's parents came from Ireland. He grew up in New York and worked as a salesman at the Fulton Fish Market.

Smith was an honest man. But many rural Americans simply did not trust people from big cities. Al Smith seemed to them to represent everything that was new, different, and dangerous about American life.

But being from New York City was not Al Smith's only problem. He also opposed the new national laws that made it illegal to buy or produce alcoholic drinks. And he had political ties to the New York political machine. But worst of all, in the eyes of many Americans, Al Smith was a Roman Catholic.

RICH KLEINFELDT: From George Washington through Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and up to Calvin Coolidge, every American president had been male, white, and a Protestant Christian. Of course, there was no law requiring a candidate to be Protestant. But millions of traditional Americans just were not ready to give their vote to a Roman Catholic.

Opponents of the Smith campaign generally did not speak openly about his religion. But many of them were afraid that Smith would take his orders from the Vatican in Rome, instead of working with the Congress in Washington.

Al Smith fought back. He told the country, "I am unable to understand how anything I was taught to believe as a Catholic could possibly be in conflict with what is good citizenship. My faith," he said, "is built upon the laws of God. There can be no conflict between them. "

HARRY MONROE: But many Protestant Americans thought there was a conflict. And they looked to the Republican Party to supply a strong candidate to oppose Smith and the Democrats.

The Republicans did just that. They nominated former secretary of commerce Herbert Hoover, one of the country's most popular men. Hoover was well-known to Americans. People trusted him. And they liked the way he had gained great personal success from poor beginnings.

In fact, Hoover's life story would have pleased Abraham Lincoln, another American who rose from a poor family to fame.

Hoover was born in the farm state of Iowa in eighteen seventy-four. His father was a poor metal worker who kept moving his family from state to state.

Herbert Hoover's father died when the boy was just six years old. His mother died four years later. Young Herbert had to move to the western state of Oregon to live with his mother's brother.

Herbert's uncle was luckier in life than Herbert's parents. He had made money in the land business. And he helped the boy gain admission to Stanford University in California. At the university, Herbert showed great skill in mathematics. And he decided to go into business as a geologist studying the science of the earth.

RICH KLEINFELDT: After college, Herbert Hoover got a job as a mine worker. During the next several years, Hoover spent most of his time working as an engineer in foreign countries. And he succeeded beyond his greatest dreams. By the time he was forty years old, he had earned more than one million dollars.

After World War One, he organized the effort to provide food for starving people in Europe. He did an excellent job, winning praise from people in Europe and the United States alike. Next, Hoover joined the administration of President Warren Harding, serving as the secretary of commerce. Again, he did a very good job.

Hoover left the cabinet in nineteen twenty-five. But two years later, he organized efforts to provide relief for victims of a flood in the southern state of Mississippi. And again, Americans all around the country took note of this quiet, serious man who did such effective work in so many different kinds of situations.

Some Americans, however, did not like Hoover, including some people who usually supported Republicans.

For example, many professional Republican politicians did not trust him, because he had spent most of his life in business, not politics. Some stock market traders thought Hoover might change the rules on the New York Stock Exchange. And many farmers believed Hoover had no new ideas about how to solve their growing economic problems.

HARRY MONROE: This, then, was the choice Americans faced in nineteen twenty-eight. On the one hand, Al Smith. A Democrat. A Roman Catholic. A politician from the city. A man wanting some social change.

And on the other hand, Herbert Hoover. A Republican. A businessman who had proven the dream that even a poor boy could become great in America. A man who seemed to succeed with every effort he touched.

The main issue in the campaign was not economics or religion, but the new national laws banning alcoholic drinks. Hoover was for the laws Smith against them. The two candidates also argued about how to provide aid to struggling farmers, and how to increase electricity and water supplies.

RICH KLEINFELDT: Herbert Hoover won the election of nineteen twenty eight. It was one of the greatest victories in presidential history. Hoover won fifty-eight percent of the votes. Smith got just forty percent. And Hoover captured four hundred forty-four electoral votes to Smith's eighty-seven.

And so it was that the engineer and businessman Herbert Hoover entered the White House in nineteen twenty-nine. There was some trouble the day he moved in. Outgoing President Coolidge was a man who watched every dollar he owned. And he accused some White House workers of stealing his shoes on the day of the inauguration. But -- finally -- safe, conservative, business-like Herbert Hoover was leading the country.

HARRY MONROE: The nation's stock market reacted by pushing stock prices to record high levels. Everyone expected that economic growth would continue and expand. But the happy times were just a dream. Within one year, the stock market collapsed. Millions of people lost their jobs. The nation fell into the worst economic crisis it had ever faced.

Herbert Hoover was not personally responsible for the crisis. In many ways, it was his own bad luck to be elected just before the disaster struck. But it was his job to guide the nation through its troubled waters. And he would prove to be the wrong person to give such leadership.

His four years in office would be one of the most difficult periods in the nation's history. We will look at President Hoover's administration in our next program.


Watch the video: The American Presidential Election of 1928