Chapter 11-The Professor Goes To Washington

Chapter 11 of the book Fabian Freeway.

Far from the noise of popular celebrations which hailed the hopeful opening of the twentieth century, a small but crucial event occurred in England that seemed straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Sidney Webb induced the Royal Commission of London University to declare economics a science—and once declared so by that August body, it was assumed to be so! On February 20,1900, Beatrice Webb confided to her diary, “This divorce of economies from metaphysics and shoddy history is a great gain,” that is, for the advancement of scientific Socialism in the English-speaking world. She admitted blandly that the coup had been achieved by trickery, through successfully packing the University of London Commission.(1)

In those days science was a word to conjure with and the Webbs were gifted at legerdemain. While attracting little general notice, the Royal Commission’s pronouncement went a long way toward establishing the authority of research and teaching methods pursued with political intent by British Fabians—not only at the little London School of Economies (2) where they ruled supreme, but also at the larger universities of England and America where they were making converts.

Soon other types of social inquiry were invested with the lofty title of “social science” and presumed by a guileless public to be as free as the physical sciences from subjective or doctrinal bias. Thus professors who happened to be Socialists could present propagandist conclusions as though they were laws of nature, determined by “impartial” research. No wonder the British Fabian Socialist, John Atkinson Hobson—who wrote Free Thought in the Social Sciences, pointing out the uses of social psychology as a tool for manipulating the masses—could assert so confidently, if somewhat after the fact, that the future secret weapon of strategy would be the university professor!

More speedily than in England, Hobson’s dictum proved true in the United States, where professors as well as students aspired to become the future rulers of America. All across the continent at the turn of the century, little clusters of college professors had begun studying Socialism in secret, because an open avowal of such interest might have led to their dismissal. Recalling his youth as an instructor at the University of California, Dr. Harry L. Overstreet—long a professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York and sponsor of many Socialist causes—said: “We were studying Socialism [at California] and didn’t want anyone to know we were doing it.” (3)

At the Philadelphia University Extension, a group of self-styled liberals gathered around Woodrow Wilson, professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Princeton University. Most of them held regular positions elsewhere, as Wilson did, commuting to Philadelphia (4) to lecture in their free time as a means of augmenting their incomes and improving their extracurricular contacts. Some, like Professor Henry C. Adams and, at a later date, Professor Richard T. Ely, were the acknowledged leaders of academic Socialism in their day.

Others belonging to the Wilson circle were Dr. Albert Shaw, of the Review of Reviews; Professor William Graham Sumner, who explained morality in terms of folkways and tribal taboos, and who helped blur the distinctions between primitive and civilized man to an extent still reflected today in United States foreign policy; and the Reverend William Bayard Hale, editor and correspondent, who had gone to Oxford in 1695 and returned to write The Eternal Teacher, advocating a species of Christian Socialism akin to that of W. D. P. Bliss. They contributed to the University Extension World, which became the American Journal of Sociology; and they brought to the group, if nothing more, an awareness of the municipal politics of Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

With other American intellectuals of British ancestry, they attended summer meetings at Oxford announced in The Citizen (1895-1901), a publication of the Philadelphia University. British extension-type lecturers such as J. Hudson Shaw (better known as Broughman Villiers) and the arch-Fabian Graham Wallas—both of whom also taught at summer sessions in Philadelphia and New York—addressed the visiting scholars. The ancient halls and towers of Oxford provided a mellow setting for spokesmen from the London School of Economics still in its somewhat unpromising infancy. It is remarkable, and certainly a tribute to the Fabian talent for impressing Americans, that so small and ill-favored a nursling, which the London School continued to be for some years, had already gained so large a reputation among leaders of liberal thought in the United States.

Even after he became president of Princeton University in 1902 and could no longer participate actively in the work of tho Philadelphia University Extension, Woodrow Wilson continued to take a lively interest in that little backwater of academic ferment. New personalities appeared there from time to time whose interest in national politics was undisguised. Among them were William T. Harrison, United States Commissioner of Education under Theodore Roosevelt, and Columbia University’s chief political economist, Dr. E. R. A. Seligman, one of the earliest to perceive the presidential possibilities of Woodrow Wilson.

There was also Lincoln Steffens, who wrote “The Shame of the Cities” for McClure’s Magazine—a series purporting to expose corruption and poverty in American cities and suggested by the Fabian tract, “Facts for Londoners.” An early article in the New England Magazine (June, 1894) by the migrant British Fabian William A. Clarke had quoted the poet Shelley as saying, “Hell is a city very much like London,” and remarked that Shelley was unfair to Hell. The same Manichean spirit pervaded Steffens’ work, though expressed in the astringent journalistic style, known as muckraking, then coming into vogue. For a dozen years Fabian-type “fact finding” in a popular vein—practiced not only by outspoken Socialists like Lincoln Steffens and Upton Sinclair, but by such skilled reporters as Ray Stannard Baker and Ida Tarbell, who only leaned toward Socialism—enjoyed a field day in the American press.

In a period when Fabian Socialists were devoting themselves to penetration and permeation of the Liberal Party in England, a mixed bag of professors and publicists who had borrowed the liberal label prepared the way for a similar parasitic development in the United States. To a greater or lesser degree, they had been touched by Socialist ideas—a condition unsuspected by the general run of Americans. Within a surprisingly short time, Dr. Woodrow Wilson, the professors’ choice, became the Democratic Party’s candidate for the Presidency of the United States. He was elected due to a split in Republican ranks, fomented in part by old-fashioned patriots, in part by Eastern liberals and Midwestern progressives.

Immediately after Wilson’s election, the United States Department of Labor was established. It absorbed the old Bureau of Labor, now the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau furnished, like the factory inspectors’ reports in England, facts and figures Socialists have utilized to advantage for agitation and propaganda purposes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is known today chiefly as the oracular source of the monthly Consumer Price Index, to which the “escalator-clause” in many modern union contracts is tied and which assures an overall, if gradual, inflationary spiral.

That move to consolidate Federal labor agencies in Washington had been promoted by the Fabian W. D. P. Bliss, who became a Bureau of Labor investigator in 1907, the first of a flock of Socialist bureaucrats who have quietly roosted in the Department of Labor ever since. The wide and variegated connections enjoyed by Bliss were evident in the list of contributors to his New Encyclopedia of Social Reform, published by Funk and Wagnalls in 1908. There the names of well-known British Fabians (Percy Alden, M.P., Right Honorable John Burns, Sidney Webb, Edward R. Pease) and leading American Socialists of the day (Professors E. W. Bemis and F. H. Giddings, Morris Hillquit, Robert Hunter, Upton Sinclair) appeared side by side with names of such eminent non-Socialists as Samuel Gompers, Honorable Oscar Straus, Booker T. Washington and Cardinal Gibbons.

Under the Wilson Administration still another long-desired Fabian Socialist objective became a reality: the income tax, which was super-imposed on the older and kindlier American tradition of indirect taxation. Originally proposed by Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto, a heavily graduated income tax had been urged by American Fabian Leaguers as well as by their mentors of the London Fabian Society. Twice branded unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, it was finally legalized by pushing through the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution after the outbreak of World War I— at a time when distracting questions of foreign policy were uppermost in the public mind. The income tax became law in 1918, just in time to help pay for the war, a war out of which Woodrow Wilson had vowed to keep the country. Feather light at the beginning, like the “Old Man of the Sea” it has proved a progressively heavier burden upon the shoulders of an entire people—as well as a subtle political device for altering the basic economy and social structure of the nation.

While Woodrow Wilson could not actually be named a Socialist, he was the first Chief Executive of the United States to accept Socialist-minded intellectuals as aides and advisers and to present Fabian Socialist programs as his own. His book, The New Freedom, was an early attempt to equate the Democratic Party with a strange new concept of democracy which mirrored the Industrial or Social Democracy of the British Fabians. As he admitted in the preface, with a frankness seldom matched today, he did not write the book at all.5 It was compiled by a former colleague of the Philadelphia University Extension days, the Christian Socialist William Bayard Hale, on the basis of Wilson’s 1912 campaign speeches.

From first to last, The New Freedom denounced capitalism as being contrary to the interests of the common man. Justice, not charity, was its theme. Somewhat quaintly, it identified the captains of industry of the day with the trustees of Princeton University who seemed to have given Dr. Wilson a hard time during his presidency of that institution. Opening with the bleak assertion (reiterated by Wilson’s political successors during half a century of unparalleled industrial growth) that the American economy was stagnant and individual opportunity was dead, it stated:

“We stand in the presence of a revolution—not a bloody revolution, America is not given to spiring of blood—but a silent revolution, whereby America will insist upon recovering in practice those ideals which she has always professed, upon securing a government devoted to the general and not to special interests.” (6)

And it concluded with the premature but eerie prediction:

“. . . We are just upon the threshold of a time when the systematic life of this country will be sustained, or at least supplemented, at every point by government activity. And we have now to determine what kind of governmental activity it shall be; whether, in the first place, it shall be direct from the government itself, or whether it shall be indirect, through instrumentalities which have already constituted themselves and which stand ready to supersede the government.”(7)

The instrumentalities referred to by Wilson were large industrial and financial concerns, headed by the United States Steel Corporation and J. P. Morgan and Company, which according to the Socialist demonology of the period constituted a kind of invisible government. Whatever instrumentalities may stand ready to supersede the American Government today are internationalist in character and Fabian Socialist-directed; and it was in Wilson’s time that such left wing groups made their first tentative efforts to grasp power in the United States by exerting influence over the Chief Executive.

As Bellamy had done, The New Freedom called for “a new declaration of independence.” (8) It deplored the system of checks and balances in government, devised by well-meaning but sadly outdated Founding Fathers, and demanded an “evolutionary” interpretation of the Constitution, as well as sweeping changes in the Judiciary. “Development” and “evolution” were the “new scientific watchwords.”(9)

Having been a teacher of law in its political aspects, Wilson found the judicial outlook of Louis D. Brandeis, Harvard Law School professor, highly congenial. Brandeis was the author of the historic “Brandeis Brief,” which ushered in a whole new phase of constitutional law based more on sociological than legal interpretations. He was a frequent caller at the White House during the first Wilson Administration, when others found it difficult to see the President. Together with the Progressive Senator La Follette of Wisconsin, he plied Wilson liberally with advice and information.(10)

Brandeis had read and greatly admired Wealth Against Commonwealth by Henry Demarest Lloyd of the American Fabian League. (11) In fact, it was through Lloyd that Brandeis was asked to serve on a panel of lawyers to present the miners’ case before Theodore Roosevelt’s Anthracite Coal Commission of 1902. For a time, American Fabians and their “liberal” satellites had hoped to advance their cause through the “New Nationalism” of the first President Roosevelt. But they found that Roosevelt’s interest in genuinely needed regulation and reforms stopped short of tampering with the Constitution.

The Harvard jurist was a close friend of Florence Kelley, of the National Consumers League,(12) whose activities in behalf of working-class women and children demonstrated dramatically how middle class Socialists in the early nineteen-hundreds managed to capture the momentum of legitimate reform drives for their own far-flung ends. Brandeis was for years a neighbor of Elizabeth Glendower Evans, Socialist hostess and financial angel with whom Florence Kelley’s daughter lived while studying at Radcliffe. When the Oregon Ten Hour Law for Women was due for a test before the Supreme Court, Florence Kelley enlisted the services of Brandeis.

His niece, Josephine Goldmark—aide and biographer of Florence Kelley—has described the circumstances under which the now-famous Brandeis Brief was prepared in 1907.(13) For two hectic weeks Josephine Goldmark and Florence Kelley assembled and sifted a huge mass of statistics, reports and precedents from foreign lands, hastily supplied by Socialist researchers. The result was something new in legal presentations, with a mere page and a half of legal argument attached to many pages of carefully slanted social and economic research, which the honorable Justices were scarcely equipped by training or experience to evaluate. Termed revolutionary at the time, this method (based on a novel concept of “juridical notice”) has by now become standard practice and serves, at least in part, to explain some otherwise teaming Supreme Court decisions of recent years.

Significantly, Woodrow Wilson named Louis D. Brandeis, nominally a Progressive Republican, to the Supreme Court in 1915, where he continued to work for liberalization of the Constitution. His appointment was bitterly contested in the Senate, along with the appointment of a former Harvard Law School instructor and fellow Progressive, George Rublee, to the Federal Trade Commission. Born in Wisconsin, Rublee was a polished product of both Groton and Harvard. His vacations in Cornish, New Hampshire, dated from an era when visitors to Washington, who had tried and failed to reach the President, complained: “Wilson stays in Cornish and communes with God.”(14) During the summer of 1914, Wilson occupied the spacious red brick home of the American novelist, Winston Churchill, in Cornish, while the chief presidential adviser, Colonel Edward M. House, resided in nearby Manchester.

Members of the discreet summer colony which developed in Cornish and survived for decades included Edward Burling, Sr., Rublee’s colleague on the World War I Shipping Board, and his partner in a Washington law firm that specialized in hiring Harvard alumni who had been law clerks in Justice Brandeis’ office. Cornish familiars also included Philip Littell, later an editor of the liberal-Fabian weekly, the New Republic; and the very personable Professor Robert Morss Lovett, who was to serve as the leading front man for revived American Fabian Socialist organizations after World War I. (15) Some wintered at the Turtle Bay colony in Manhattan.

All had been honor students at Harvard together in the late eighteen-eighties and early eighteen-nineties when Bellamy’s Nationalism, adorned with touches of John Ruskin and William Morris, captivated young campus intellectuals. The old school tie endured, and in a rarefied, profitable and mysterious fashion, certain of its wearers permeated the highest circles in Washington politics and New York finance—particularly after a third partner in the Burling-Rublee law firm, Dean Acheson, became Under Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State in later Administrations.

Still another member of that long-lived Harvard group was Thomas W. Lamont, Sr.—affectionately known to old college chums as “Tommy”—who never ceased to be impressed by the superior wisdom of George Rublee, an upperclassman when Lamont was a sophomore. From financial reporter on a New Jersey newspaper, Lamont rose to become a senior partner of J. P. Morgan and Company, in the dismantlement of which he eventually assisted. In 1933 Lamont signed the so-called Bankers’ Report advocating diplomatic recognition of Soviet Russia.

As President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson did not hesitate to name outspoken Socialists to obscure but critical posts in government A case in point was Fred C. Howe, Wilson’s Commissioner of Immigration at the Port of New York. A writer and lecturer by profession, Howe resigned after a congressional investigation into alleged neglect of duty, in connection with his unauthorized action in releasing alien radicals held for deportation by the Department of Justice.(16) Both before and after the incident, he figured prominently in a number of Socialist-dominated organizations. (17)

Wilson had also sent the Christian Socialist William Bayard Hale (18) as his special representative to revolution-torn Mexico in 1913-14, instituting a species of presidential diplomacy which has since become almost routine. In Mexico Wilson received private reports both from Hale and from another erstwhile lecturer at the Philadelphia University Extension, Lincoln Steffens, who was in Vera Cruz to attend a Socialist conference in 1914. Those reports helped to effect some curious results, including support and eventual recognition of the junta of General Venustiano Carranza, at a time when the latter controlled no more than ninety square kilometers in all Mexico and when his councils were deeply infiltrated by agents of German Military Intelligence.

In 1940-41 the writer of this book was permitted to examine the Woodrow Wilson Papers in the Library of Congress. A folder relating to Mexico contained a personal letter from Secretary of State Robert Lansing commenting on Wilson’s preference for soliciting amateur advice often contrary to the observations of seasoned and responsible officials.

Recent hearings before the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security disclosed that, in a more recent Latin American crisis, diplomatic policies of the United States, which placed and have maintained Fidel Castro in power, were similarly instigated by reports from a “liberal,” journalist, Herbert L. Matthews, of The New York Times. Meanwhile, well-founded advance warnings by professional diplomats, concerning Castro’s long-standing Moscow ties, were ignored or suppressed.(19) Compounding that folly, plans for the ill-starred Bay of Pigs invasion were entrusted to amateurs under presidential supervision rather than to military technicians. So, from all indications, history repeats itself; and the same brand of Socialist-suggested ineptitude as practiced by President Wilson, has once more invited penetration of the Western Hemisphere by a European military power.


1. Beatrice Webb, Our Partnership (London, Longmans, Green & Co., Ltd., 1948), p. 195.

2. In 1895, five years after its founding, the London School of Economics, then occupying two rooms in Adelphi, boasted exactly eight registered students and two lecturers. One of these instructors was the Director, W. A. S. Hewins, who voiced conservative views on economics but faithfully followed Sidney Webb’s lead in matters of organization. The other was the radical Graham Wallas, whose field was politics. Max Beer, Fifty Years of International Socialism (London, Allen & Unwin, 19350, pp. 83-83.

3. Forty Years of Education (New York, League for Industrial Democracy, 1945), pp. 46-47.

4. From 1893 to 1898 the Nationalists continued to maintain their “Bureau of Nationalist Literature” in Philadelphia, which distributed Bellamy’s speeches and Looking Backward, and Professor Frank Parsons’ Public Ownership of Monopolies and Philosophy of Mutualism–all known to Woodrow Wilson. Sylvia E. Bowman, The Year 2000–A Critical Biography of Edward Bellamy (New York, Bookman Associates, 1958), p. 136.

5. Woodrow Wilson, The New Freedom, A Call for the Emancipation of the Generous Energies of a People (New York, Doubleday, Page & Co., 1913), p. vii.

6. Ibid., p. 30.

7. Ibid., p. 217.

8. Ibid., pp. 48-49.

9. Ibid., pp. 4247.

10. Ray Stannard Baker, An American Chronicle (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1945), p. 276. Wilson later excoriated Senator La Follette as one of “a little group of wilful men” for his continued opposition to United States participation in World War I, even after war had been declared.

11. Josephine Goldmark, Impatient Crusader, Florence Kelley’s Life Story. (Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1953), p. 153.

12. Florence Kelley, who called herself a Marxist, had been a Nationalist and an American Fabian. She later served as president of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, and vice president of the League for Industrial Democracy, affiliates of the London Fabian Society. See Appendix II.

13. Goldmark, op. cit., pp. 143-159. On page 159, Miss Goldmark states: “The Brandeis Brief in the Muller case, reprinted together with Judge Brewer’s opinion, was in great demand from law schools and universities as well as from labor unions and libraries . . . Gone was the deadening weight of legal precedent.”

14. Baker, loc. cit., p. 276.

15. To the end of his life, Professor Lovett was the house guest of Edward Burling, Sr., when visiting Washington.

16. Record of the Sixty Sixth Congress (Washington, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1919), pp. 1522-23.

17. Railway Review, Chicago (January 27, 1923). “Fred C. Howe, New York City; National Committee, American Civil Liberties Union; special writer, Federated Press; . . . chairman, committee on resolutions and member of National Council, Peoples’ Legislative Service; contributing editor, Labor Age; Defense Committee, I. W. W.; organizer, School of Thought, Siasconset, Nantucket, Mass.” Howe was also a director of the League for Industrial Democracy. See Appendix II.

18. A telegram of June, 1916, from the German Ambassador in Washington to the German Foreign Office, furnished by the United States Department of State and presented by Bruce Bielaski testifying before the Senate Subcommittee on the Judiciary on December 6, 1918, revealed that from the outset of World War I William Bayard Hale held a contract extending until June 23, 1918, as a confidential agent of the German Foreign Office at a salary of $15,000 per year. Subsequently he went to Germany as correspondent for an American press service which, as the telegram also reveals, was not aware of Hale’s connection with the German Government. He returned to America following the entry of the United States into World War I. Senate Document No. 672, 66th Congress. Report and Hearings of the Subcommittee on the Judiciary, United States Senate (Washington, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1919), Vol. II, pp. 1393-94.

19. Hearings before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate. (Washington, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1962), 87th Congress, Part 5 (January 9, February 8, 1961. February 2, 1962). Testimony of William Wieland, pp. 485-681, Part 13 (July 13, 1962). Testimony of Whiting Willauer, pp. 861-888.

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