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FDR Secretary of Agriculture Warns Supreme Court in 1936

 Says Wisdom Will Avert Bloodshed

This July 4, 1936 issue of Newsweek magazine has Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace (later FDR's Vice President) with a scowl on his face pointing with a pencil and the caption "SECRETARY WALLACE WARNS THE COURT." Inside the the article on Wallace's warning to the Supreme Court is captioned "WALLACE: Secretary Declares Wisdom Will Avert Bloodshed."

There has been much loose talk in media and political circles recently about "unprecedented" attacks on the judiciary by Republicans, but those claims show a profound ignorance of American history. Far more serious attacks on the judiciary and the Supreme Court were made by Presidents Andrew Jackson and Franklin D. Roosevelt and his minions like Secretary Wallace. Even the campaign to impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1950s and 1960s was a more serious attack on the judiciary than recent events.

Here are some excerpts from the article, which was a review of Henry Wallace book, "Whose Constitution."


Wallace's language pictured above about converting  "some of the worst legal barriers into the broad highways" and making the Constitution a "living instrument" was urging the Supreme Court to ignore the language of the Constitution. This language about the "living Constitution" continues to this day by politicians who want the court to substitute their judgment for that of the Constitution, Congress or states.

But Wallace was more than making suggestions about the Court's interpretation of the Constitution, he was issuing threats, with his barely veiled language that if the Court does not change "a mechanism which would embody the spirit of the age" must be fashioned and that he hoped "such action can be taken as bloodlessly as the Constitution was enacted."

The Court did not change fast enough for Franklin Roosevelt and Henry Wallace so they chose to bludgeon the Court into submission in 1937 with their court packing scheme.

This rare 1935 Newsweek gives the full flavor of the Roosevelt Administration's antipathy to the Supreme Court and their intent to make the Court bow to their superior power and political support.

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