George Norris Supported Charles Evans Hughes in 1916

Senator George Norris, after much thought, decided to support Charles Evans Hughes over Woodrow Wilson.  Norris stuck with his party, the Republicans, over the Democrats.  Here I believe were the four pillars in the Fighting Liberal’s decision.

1. Norris obviously was at deep odds with Hughes, who wanted us to give even more aid to Great Britain and France than Wilson.  Indeed Hughes  criticized Wilson for not doing enough claiming special ties to the Allied Powers.  Nevertheless, Hughes’ position was preferable to the President’s.  As I indicated Wilson actions were strongly Pro British but he stated our policy was strict neutrality.   Norris respected the intellectual honesty of Charles  Evans Hughes.   If Hughes won the election, Norris would find criticizing the President much easier.

2. President Wilson was born in Atlanta, Ga  and spent his formative years in Staunton, Va.  Much of the southern influence remained with Wilson.  The South has always been more Pro British than the North.   During the American Revolution,  most of the impetus for separation from England came from New England and the Mid-Atlantic.  These states almost dragged Western Virginia, the Carolinas,  and Georgia into the war.   During the Civil War, England came close to recognizing the Confederacy.   On the other hand,  Governor/Justice Hughes was a lifelong New Yorker.  Hughes, Norris believed, would have a broader outlook than the provincial Woodrow Wilson. 

3.  Both Hughes and Wilson went to law school and were men of amazingly wide interests.  Hughes spent two terms  as Governor of New York  and six years on the Supreme Court.  But Wilson disliked the practice of law and wanted to be a professor and philosopher.   The President was and an idealist  and a visionary.  While fine in moderation, idealism can easily led anyone to be unyielding and self righteous.  Such men often assume they have a monopoly on truth and that anyone who does not share his ideas is wrong.  Charles Evans Hughes’ primary  interest was the law as stated in the Constitution. During World War I, the  Department of Justice carried on horrible raids and  had a callous disregard for Civil Liberties against German-Americans, Irish Americans , organized labor, and war dissenters.   President Wilson also almost ignored  the role of Congress in the post war negotiations.  It was not surprising that Senate rejected the League of Nations and the peace treaty.  I do not believe Charles Evans Hughes would have done this.

4. Like Norris, Hughes was a Republican and it was better for Norris to support the nominee of his party.

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