Senator Norris-During Wilson’s First Term

During Wilson’s first term, Senator Norris’ position could seem doctrinaire and uncompromising.  Perhaps they were; but  it was still good to have a Senator speak for consistent Progressiveness.   President Wilson’s proposals, Norris believed, did not go far enough and results were often of limited value.

–The Underwood Tariff did reduce some rates on industrial goods and prevent the growth of trusts.  Norris opposed this act because he felt it would operate disastrously against agriculture, Nebraska’s chief industry.  It removed the tariff on everything farmers had to sell while retaining it on nearly everything they had to buy.  Despite mentioning the Cornhusker  State,  George Norris’ position was not provincial.   He always  spoke for farmers, and later labor unions, all across America.

–Senator Norris supported the Federal Reserve Act because he believed, as did President Wilson, that the country needed an elastic money supply.  He was critical of the overall makeup of the board though he felt improvements would come later.   Norris specifically wanted it independent from the Treasury, which it is, and a lesser number of Federal Reserve Districts.  The current number of 12 is far too excessive and is just an additional layer of bureaucracy

–Norris supported the initial version of the Clayton Antitrust Bill but the total Senate watered at down considerably. Norris voted against the bill because it  deleted two critical provisions-criminal prosecution for anti-trust violations and heavy fines any individual or set of men organizing a trust.

–George Norris wanted Attorney General James C. McReynolds to investigate the New York, New Haven, and Hartford’s monopoly on transportation in New England. This involved high transportation rates and embezzlement.  McReynolds failed to follow through.  A few months later,  President Wilson nominated McReynolds for the Supreme Court citing the nominees  fairness and progressive philosophy.   Norris did not agree and voted against the nomination. Unfortunately, the Senate confirmed  McReynolds.  The justice  actually was very conservative and  later invalidated much of the New Deal legislation.

–Senator Norris did support the Wilson Administration in its effort to charge American freighters using the Panama Canal.  For too long, taxpayers were subsidizing these shipping companies since the federal  government operated the canal.   The companies were getting a fee ride.  This was a bold proposal from President Wilson that should have passed  10 years earlier.  Both Wilson and Norris took on the shipping industry.

–Senator Norris supported the nomination of Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court.  Brandeis, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Charles Evans Hughes were three great Justices in our history.

Senator proposed more public operation of utilities to control costs;  his triumph would come in the future years.  Presidents from all across the political spectrum often accomplish less than their supporters  would like.  Wilson’s legislative record may have been best possible considering the makeup of Congress. I still think  historians have been far too lenient in judging President Wilson.  In many ways, especially in his second term, Wilson become a dangerous reactionary.



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