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Charles Evans Hughes

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Charles Evans Hughes

Charles Evans Hughes
11th Chief Justice of the United States
In office
February 13, 1930[1] – June 30, 1941
Nominated by Herbert Hoover
Preceded by William Howard Taft
Succeeded by Harlan F. Stone
44th United States Secretary of State
In office
March 5, 1921 – March 4, 1925
President Warren G. Harding
Calvin Coolidge
Preceded by Bainbridge Colby
Succeeded by Frank B. Kellogg
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
October 10, 1910 – June 10, 1916
Nominated by William Howard Taft
Preceded by David Josiah Brewer
Succeeded by John Hessin Clarke
36th Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1907 – October 6, 1910
Lieutenant Lewis Chanler (1907–1909)
Horace White (1909–1910)
Preceded by Frank W. Higgins
Succeeded by Horace White
Personal details
Born (1862-04-11)April 11, 1862
Glens Falls, New York, U.S.
Died August 27, 1948(1948-08-27) (aged 86)
Osterville, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Antoinette Carter Hughes
Children Charles Evans Hughes, Jr., and 3 others
Parents David C. Hughes
Mary Connelly
Alma mater Madison University,
Brown University,
Columbia University
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Professor, Judge.
Religion Baptist
Charles Evans Hughes, age 16
Governor Charles Evans Hughes
Gubernatorial portrait of Charles Evans Hughes
Hughes as he appears in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Charles Evans Hughes, Sr. (April 11, 1862 – August 27, 1948) was an American statesman, lawyer and Republican politician from New York. He served as the 36th Governor of New York (1907–1910), Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1910–1916), United States Secretary of State (1921–1925), a judge on the Court of International Justice (1928–1930), and the 11th Chief Justice of the United States (1930–1941). He was the Republican candidate in the 1916 U.S. Presidential election, losing narrowly to incumbent President Woodrow Wilson.

Hughes was a professor in the 1890s, a staunch supporter of Britain's New Liberalism,[2] an important leader of the progressive movement of the 20th century, a leading diplomat and New York lawyer in the days of Harding and Coolidge, and was known for being a swing voter when dealing with cases related to the New Deal in the 1930s.[2] Historian Clinton Rossiter has hailed him as a leading American conservative.[3]


  • Early life 1
  • Education 2
  • Marriage and family 3
  • Early career 4
  • Governor of New York 5
  • Supreme Court 6
  • Presidential candidate 7
  • Secretary of State 8
  • Various appointments 9
  • Chief Justice 10
  • Later life 11
  • Tributes 12
  • See also 13
  • References 14
  • Further reading 15
  • External links 16

Early life

Charles Evans Hughes was born in Glens Falls, New York, the son of Rev. David C. Hughes and Mary C. (Connelly) Hughes, a sister of State Senator Henry C. Connelly (1832–1912). He was active in the Northern Baptist church, a Mainline Protestant denomination.


Hughes was educated in a private school. At the age of 14, he enrolled at Madison University (now Colgate University), where he became a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity. He then transferred to Brown University, continuing as a member of Delta Upsilon. He graduated third in his class at the age of 19, having been elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year. He read law and entered Columbia Law School in 1882, where he graduated in 1884 with highest honors.[4] While studying law, he taught at Delaware Academy.

Marriage and family

In 1885, Hughes met Antoinette Carter, the daughter of a senior partner of the law firm where he worked, and they were married in 1888. They had one son, Charles Evans Hughes, Jr. and three daughters, one of whom was Elizabeth Hughes Gossett, one of the first humans injected with insulin, and who later served as president of the Supreme Court Historical Society.[5] Hughes was the grandfather of Charles Evans Hughes III and H. Stuart Hughes.

Early career

After graduating Hughes began working for Chamberlain, Carter & Hornblower where he met his future wife. In 1888, shortly after he was married, he became a partner in the firm, and the name was changed to Carter, Hughes & Cravath. Later the name was changed to Hughes, Hubbard & Reed. In 1891, Hughes left the practice of law to become a professor at Cornell Law School, but in 1893, he returned to his old law firm in New York City to continue practicing until he ran for governor in 1906. He continued his association with Cornell as a special lecturer from 1893 to 1895. He was also a special lecturer for New York University Law School, 1893–1900.

At that time, in addition to practicing law, Hughes taught at New York Law School with Woodrow Wilson, who would later defeat him for the Presidency. In 1905, he was appointed as counsel to the New York state legislative "Stevens Gas Commission", a committee investigating utility rates.[6] His uncovering of corruption led to lower gas rates in New York City. In 1906, he was appointed to the "Armstrong Insurance Commission" to investigate the insurance industry in New York as a special assistant to U.S. Attorney General.

Governor of New York

Hughes served as the Governor of New York from 1907 to 1910. He defeated William Randolph Hearst in the 1906 election to gain the position, and he was the only Republican statewide candidate to win office. An admirer of Britain's New Liberal philosophy, Hughes campaigned on a platform to improve the state of New York's standard of living by moving it away from laissez-faire tradition and enacting social reforms similar to that which had been enacted in Britain.[2] As a supporter of progressive policies, Hughes was able to play on the popularity of Theodore Roosevelt and weaken the power of the state's conservative Republican officials.[7] In 1908, he was offered the vice-presidential nomination by William Howard Taft, but he declined it to run again for Governor. Theodore Roosevelt became an important supporter of Hughes.[8]

As the Governor, Hughes produced important reform legislation in three areas: improvement of the machinery and processes of government; extension of the state's regulatory authority over businesses engaged in public services; and expansion of governmental police and welfare functions.[7] To counter political corruption, he secured campaign laws in 1906 and 1907 that limited political contributions by corporations and forced candidates to account for their receipts and expenses, legislation that was quickly copied in fifteen other states. He pushed the passage of the Moreland Act, which enabled the governor to oversee city and county officials as well as officials in semi-autonomous state bureaucracies. This allowed him to fire many corrupt officials. He also managed to have the powers of the state's Public Service Commissions increased and fought strenuously, if not completely successfully, to get their decisions exempted from judicial review.

When two bills were passed to reduce railroad fares, Hughes vetoed them on the grounds that the rates should be set by expert commissioners rather than by elected ones. His ideal was not government by the people but for the people. As Hughes put it, "you must have administration by administrative officers."[2]

Hughes, however, would be unsuccessful in achieving one of his main goals as governor: primary voting reform.[7] Hoping to achieve a compromise with the state's party bosses, Hughes rejected the option of a direct primary in which voters could choose between declared candidates and instead proposed a complicated system of nominations by party committees. The state's party bosses, however, rejected this compromise and the state legislature rejected the plan on three occasions in 1909 and 1910.

On social issues, Hughes strongly supported relatively limited social reforms. He endorsed the Page-Prentice Act of 1907, which set an eight-hour day and forty-eight-hour week for factory workers—but only for those under the age of sixteen. By employing the well-established legal distinction between ordinary and hazardous work, the governor also won legislative approval for a Dangerous Trades Act that barred young workers from thirty occupations. To enforce these and other regulations, in 1907 Hughes reorganized the Department of Labor and appointed a well-qualified commissioner. Two years later, the governor created a new bureau for immigrant issues in the Department of Labor and appointed reformer Frances Kellor to head it.

In his final year as the Governor, he had the state comptroller draw up an executive budget. This began a rationalization of state government and eventually it led to an enhancement of executive authority. He also signed the Worker's Compensation Act of 1910, which required a compulsory, employer-paid plan of compensation for workers injured in hazardous industries and a voluntary system for other workers; after the New York Court of Appeals ruled the law unconstitutional in 1911, a popular referendum was held that successfully made the law an amendment in the New York Constitution.

In 1908, Governor Hughes reviewed the clemency petition of Chester Gillette concerning the murder of Grace Brown. The governor denied the petition as well as an application for reprieve, and Gillette was electrocuted in March of that year.

When Hughes left office, a prominent journal remarked "One can distinctly see the coming of a New Statism ... [of which] Gov. Hughes has been a leading prophet and exponent". In 1926, Hughes was appointed by New York Governor Delta Upsilon fraternity. This was the first fraternity to incorporate, and he served as its first international president.

Supreme Court

On April 25, 1910, Hughes was appointed by President William H. Taft to a seat as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court vacated by David J. Brewer. Hughes was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 2, 1910, and received his commission the same day. As an associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1910 to 1916, Hughes remained an advocate of regulation and authored decisions that weakened the legal foundations of laissez-faire capitalism. He also mastered a new set of issues regarding the commerce clause and, in a deliberately restrained manner, wrote constitutional decisions that expanded the regulatory powers of both the state and federal governments.

The respective authority of federal and state governments under the Constitution's commerce clause had long been in dispute. In Cooley v. Board of Wardens (1852) the Court headed by Roger B. Taney had allowed the states, in the absence of federal legislation, to control those aspects of commerce that did not require a single national policy. However, more recent decisions, such as Weldon v. Missouri (1875), had curtailed the power of the states to tax or license out-of-state products or sales agents. Influenced perhaps by his experience as a state governor, Hughes authored a series of decisions that upheld state laws that affected—and, it might be argued, infringed on—congressional authority over interstate commerce. For example, invoking police power arguments, he upheld a Georgia statute requiring electric headlights on locomotives, including those engaged in interstate commerce.

The most important of these federalism-related decisions were the Minnesota Rate Cases of 1913. In these, Hughes enhanced state regulation of railroads by reviving the Cooley doctrine of "concurrent powers." To persuade his colleagues, Hughes composed a detailed and carefully argued opinion. He began with the generally accepted proposition that Minnesota and the other states had the authority, using their police powers, to regulate commerce within their bounds. He then extended this logic to include rate-regulation when such internal commerce was intermeshed with interstate traffic to towns in bordering states.

Even as Hughes expanded the regulatory power of the states, he took a nationalist stance with respect to the authority of Congress over commerce, including that within the various states. Thus, in the important Shreveport Cases of 1914, Hughes sustained a decision of the Interstate Commerce Commission voiding intrastate rates set by the Railroad Commission of Texas. The Texas rates encouraged the development of Dallas and Houston by blatantly discriminating against Texas shippers who marketed their goods via Shreveport, Louisiana. In striking down these rates as an interference with interstate commerce, Hughes recognized that the logic of his argument would permit federal regulation of any action that affected commerce. Thus, it might be used to challenge the sharp distinction made in United States v. E. C. Knight Co. (1895) between commerce, which was subject to federal regulation, and manufacturing, which was not. Reluctant to infringe upon precedent, he inserted language that sought to limit the decision's reach to railroad carriers: "the agencies of interstate commerce." By leaving Knight intact, the associate justice restricted the authority of the federal government over local businesses or factories whose raw materials or products were part of interstate commerce. Yet the logic of his argument pointed to the position he would espouse during the constitutional crisis of 1937.

In cases involving the controversial issue of anti-trust regulation, the Supreme Court was divided. The faction led by John Marshall Harlan and Rufus Peckham embraced a small-producer ethic and a fully competitive market; these justices used the Sherman Act's prohibition of "restraint of trade" to outlaw price fixing by businesses. A second group, headed by Chief Justice Edward D. White and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., stood for "reasonable" market regulation, managed either by private agreements among producers (long permitted under common law) or by public administrative agencies. Preferring administrative regulation to the play of market forces, Hughes usually voted with White and Holmes in anti-trust cases.

In three other sets of cases, Hughes also authored opinions that bolstered the regulatory powers of state legislatures and administrative bodies. In the first line of decisions, he gave a narrow interpretation to the "contract clause" of the United States Constitution, which prohibits states from enacting any law "impairing the obligation of contracts." Refusing to give a literal reading to the state-granted charter of the Southern Pacific Railroad, which specified that the company could "collect and receive such tariffs ... as it may prescribe", Hughes contended that this clause "necessarily implies that the charges shall be reasonable and does not detract from the power of the State ... to prescribe reasonable rates."

In a second set of opinions, Hughes favored regulation over certain claims of individual rights. Thus, in Wilson v. U.S. (1911), he asserted that corporate officers could not resist a subpoena for company records by invoking the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination. This decision made corporations more vulnerable to prosecution by limiting the rights of individuals as delineated in Boyd v. U.S. (1886). The Court's reasoning in Boyd had extended "the personal security of the citizen" guaranteed by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to include an individual's personal papers. Sensing danger to Boyd's broad definition of individual rights, Justice McKenna dissented in Wilson, declaring that Hughes's distinction between personal and corporate papers was "a limitation by construction" on an important "constitutional security for personal liberty." For his part, Hughes was unwilling to construe individual rights so that they frustrated the government's efforts to achieve a legitimate regulatory goal.

In a third set of pre-1916 cases, Hughes addressed the laissez-faire doctrine of "liberty of contract." Using this legal principle, many judges in Britain and the United States had voided, as an infringement of an individual's property rights, legislation that regulated common law bargains made in the marketplace between employers and their workers. But in a seminal article of 1881, "Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract," the Oxford political philosopher Thomas Hill Green disputed this reasoning. Green pointed out that the British Factory Acts had already limited the liberty of industrial capitalists and that legislation requiring compulsory schooling had circumscribed the freedom of parents. Extending the logic of these measures, Green adumbrated a positive and collectivist definition of liberty, a concept of "public freedom" that justified legislative oversight of economic life, especially land ownership and use. He likewise proposed legislative intervention into the terms of private bargains, to "provide against contracts being made which, from the helplessness of one of the parties to them, instead of being a security for freedom, become an instrument of disguised repression." Picking up this line of argument and declaring "a great departure from the principles of free contract," Gladstone created an Irish Land Court with complete control over rents and other landlord-tenant issues. Two decades later, Churchill and other New Liberals regularly invoked Green's arguments in parliamentary debates over English legislation.

Similar arguments appeared in the United States. In an article in the Columbia Law Review in 1908, Roscoe Pound of the University of Chicago mounted a vigorous attack on "mechanical jurisprudence", the judicial practice of "rigorous logical deduction from predetermined conceptions in disregard of ... the actual facts." Citing Lochner v. New York, the controversial decision of 1905 upholding freedom of contract, Pound assailed the Supreme Court for giving "us rules which, when applied to the existing commercial and industrial situation, are wholly inadequate." In 1909 Pound continued his assault on conceptual thinking in an essay on "Liberty of Contract." Focusing upon Adair v. U.S. (1908), which invalidated another law regulating labor contracts, he berated the Court for not recognizing the "practical conditions of inequality."

The central problem, Pound argued, was that the legal system "exhibits too great a respect for the individual" and "too little respect for the needs of society." Pound came to this position partly through long debates with his former colleague at the University of Nebraska, the rising sociologist Edward A. Ross. "We have grown into an organic society," Ross argued, "in which the welfare of all is at the mercy of each." The two men continued their dialogue when Ross moved to the University of Wisconsin, where he became a colleague of Richard Ely. Influenced like Pound by German social and legal thinkers, Ely in 1903 had ascribed "the coercion of economic forces" in American society "to the unequal strength of those who make a contract."

Hughes undoubtedly was aware of these intellectual currents. There is no evidence that he was directly influenced by T. H. Green; however, he knew Ely through the AALL and had probably read Pound's essays. Whatever the precise links, the associate justice wrote opinions that mirrored the arguments of the Oxford philosopher of "positive liberty" and the sociologically inclined Midwestern professors. "Freedom of contract is a qualified and not an absolute right ...," Hughes declared in upholding an Iowa law that voided contracts limiting the legal rights of railroad workers: The state may "interfere where the parties do not stand upon an equality...." Using similar reasoning, the associate justice upheld a California law that mandated a forty-eight-hour work-week for women in various industries and allowed a federal statute to override a contract between an interstate railroad and its employees. Finally, Hughes joined Justice Day's dissent in Coppage v. Kansas (1915), a case in which a majority of the Court struck down a Kansas law forbidding "yellow dog contracts" that prevented workers from joining a union.[2] Citing the police power, Day and Hughes argued that a state could legitimately ban such contracts.

He wrote for the court in Bailey v. Alabama 219 U.S. 219 (1911),[9] which held that involuntary servitude encompassed more than just slavery, and Interstate Commerce Comm. v. Atchison T & SF R Co. 234 U.S. 294 (1914),[10] holding that the Interstate Commerce Commission could regulate intrastate rates if they were significantly intertwined with interstate commerce.

On April 15, 1915, in the case of Frank v. Mangum,[11] the Supreme Court decided (7-2) to deny an appeal made by Leo Frank's attorneys, and instead upheld the decision of lower courts to sustain the guilty verdict against Frank. Justice Hughes and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. were the two dissenting votes.

Presidential candidate

Hughes during the 1916 presidential campaign

Hughes resigned from the Supreme Court on June 10, 1916,[12] to be the Republican candidate for President in 1916. He was also endorsed by the Progressive Party,[13] thanks to the support given to him from former President Theodore Roosevelt. Other Republican figures such as former President William Howard Taft endorsed Hughes and felt the accomplishments he made as Governor of New York would establish him as formidable progressive alternative to Wilson.[2] Many former leaders of the Progressive Party, however, endorsed Wilson because Hughes opposed the Adamson Act, the Sixteenth Amendment and diverted his focus away from progressive issues during the course of the campaign.[2] Hughes was defeated by Woodrow Wilson in a close election (separated by 23 electoral votes and 594,188 popular votes). The election hinged on California, where Wilson managed to win by 3,800 votes and its 13 electoral votes and thus Wilson was returned for a second term; Hughes had lost the endorsement of the California governor and Roosevelt's 1912 Progressive running mate Hiram Johnson when he failed to show up for an appointment with him.

Despite coming close to winning the presidency, Hughes did not seek the Republican nomination again in 1920. Hughes also advocated ways to prevent the return of President Wilson's expanded government control over important industries such as the nation's railroads,[2] which he felt would lead to the eventual destruction of individualism and political self-rule.[2] After Robert LaFollette's Progressive Party advocated the return of such regulations during the 1924 US Presidential election, Hughes shifted rightwards believing that the federal bureaucracy should now have limited powers over individual liberties and property rights and that common law should be strictly enforced.[2]

Secretary of State

Hughes' residence in 1921

Hughes returned to government office in 1921 as Secretary of State under President Harding. On November 11, 1921, Armistice Day (changed to Veterans Day), the Washington Naval Conference for the limitation of naval armament among the Great Powers began. The major naval powers of Britain, France, Italy, Japan and the United States were in attendance as well as other nations with concerns about territories in the Pacific — Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and China.[14]

The American delegation was headed by Hughes and included Elihu Root, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Oscar Underwood, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate. The conference continued until February 1922 and included the Four-power pact (December 13, 1921), Shantung Treaty (February 4, 1922), Five-Power Treaty, the Nine-Power Treaty (February 6, 1922), the "Six-power pact" that was an agreement between the Big Five Nations plus China to divide the German cable routes in the Pacific, and the Yap Island agreement.[15]

Hughes continued in office after Harding died and was succeeded by Coolidge, but resigned after Coolidge was elected to a full term. On June 30, 1922, he signed the Hughes–Peynado agreement that ended the United States's six-year occupation of Dominican Republic.[16]

Various appointments

In 1907, Gov. Charles Evans Hughes became the first president of the newly formed Northern Baptist Convention—based at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC, of which Hughes was a member. He also served as President of the New York State Bar Association.

After leaving the State Department, he again rejoined his old partners at the Hughes firm, which included his son and future United States Solicitor General Charles E. Hughes, Jr., and was one of the nation's most sought-after advocates. From 1925 to 1930, for example, Hughes argued over 50 times before the U.S. Supreme Court. From 1926 to 1930, Hughes also served as a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and as a judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice in The Hague, Netherlands from 1928 to 1930. He was additionally a delegate to the Pan American Conference on Arbitration and Conciliation from 1928 to 1930. He was one of the co-founders in 1927 of the National Conference on Christians and Jews, now known as the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), along with S. Parkes Cadman and others, to oppose the Ku Klux Klan, anti-Catholicism, and anti-Semitism in the 1920s and 1930s.[17]

In 1925–1926, Charles Evans Hughes represented the API (American Petroleum Institute) before the FOCB (Federal Oil Conservation Board).[18]

In 1928 conservative business interests tried to interest Hughes in the GOP presidential nomination of 1928 instead of Herbert Hoover. Hughes, citing his age, turned down the offer.

Chief Justice

Portrait of Hughes as Chief Justice.

Herbert Hoover, who had appointed Hughes's son as Solicitor General in 1929, appointed Hughes Chief Justice of the United States on February 3, 1930. Hughes was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 13, 1930, and received commission the same day, serving in this capacity until 1941. Hughes replaced former President William Howard Taft, a fellow Republican who had also lost a presidential election to Woodrow Wilson (in 1912) and who, in 1910, had appointed Hughes to his first tenure on the Supreme Court.

Hughes' appointment was opposed by progressive elements in both parties who felt that he was too friendly to big business. Idaho Republican William E. Borah said on the United States Senate floor that confirming Hughes would constitute "placing upon the Court as Chief Justice one whose views are known upon these vital and important questions and whose views, in my opinion, however sincerely entertained, are not which ought to be incorporated in and made a permanent part of our legal and economic system."[19] Nonetheless Hughes was confirmed as Chief Justice with a vote of 52 to 26.

Hughes as Chief Justice swore in President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, 1937 and 1941.

Upon his return to the court, more progressives had joined the bench and Hughes seemed determined again to vote progressive and soon bring an end to the longstanding pro-business Lochner era.[2] During his early years as Chief Justice, however, the fear he had developed for an overblown bureaucracy during World War I undermined his optimism.[2] Showing his old progressive image, he upheld legislation protecting civil rights and civil liberties[2] and wrote the opinion for the Court in Near v. Minnesota 283 U.S. 697 (1931), which held prior restraint against the press is unconstitutional. Concerning economic regulation, however, he was still willing to uphold legislation which supported "freedom of opportunity" for individuals on the one hand and the "police power" of the state on the other[2] but did not personally favor legislation that linked national economic planning and bureaucratic social welfare together.[2] At first resisting Roosevelt's New Deal and building a consensus of centrist members of the court, Hughes used his influence to limit the collectivist scope of Roosevelt's changes[2] and would often strike down New Deal legislation he felt was poorly drafted and did not clearly specify how they were constitutional.[20] By 1935, however, Hughes felt the court's four conservative Justices had disregarded common law and sought to curb their power.[2]

Hughes was often aligned with the court's three liberal Justices Louis Brandeis, Harlan Fiske Stone, and Benjamin Cardozo in finding some New Deal measures (such as the violation of the gold clauses in contracts and the confiscation of privately owned monetary gold) Constitutional,[2] On one occasion, Hughes would side with the conservatives in striking down the New Deal's Agricultural Adjustment Act in the 1936 case United States v. Butler,[2] which held that the law was unconstitutional because its so-called tax policy was a coercive regulation rather than a tax measure and the federal government lacked authority to regulate agriculture,[2] but surprisingly did not assign the majority opinion,[2] a practice usually required for court's most senior justice who agrees with the majority opinion,[21][22] and allowed Associate Justice Owen Roberts to speak for the entire majority in his own words.[2] It was accepted that he did not agree with the argument that the federal government lacked authority over agriculture and was going to write a separate opinion upholding the act's regulation policy while striking down the act's taxation policy on the grounds that it was a coercive regulation rather than a tax measure.[2] However, Roberts convinced Hughes that he would side with him and the three liberal justices in future cases pertaining to the nation's agriculture which involved the Constitution's General Welfare Clause if he agreed to join his opinion.[2]

By 1936, Hughes sensed the growing hostility in the court and could do little about it.[2] In the 1936 case Carter v. Carter Coal Company, Hughes took a middle ground for both doctrinal and court-management reasons.[2] Writing his own opinion, he joined the three liberal justices in upholding the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act's marketing provision but sided with Roberts and the four conservatives in striking down the act's provision which regulated local labor.[2] By 1937, as the court leaned more in his favor, Hughes would renounce the position he took in the Carter case regarding local labor and ruled that the procedural methods that governed the Wagner Act's labor regulation provisions bore resemblance to the procedural methods which governed the railroad rates that the Interstate Commerce Commission was allowed to maintain in the 1914 Shreveport decision and thus demonstrated that Congress could use its commerce power to regulate local industrial labor as well.[2]

In 1937, when Roosevelt attempted to pack the Court with six additional justices, Hughes worked behind the scenes to defeat the effort,[23][23] which failed in the Senate.[23] by rushing important New Deal legislation- such as Wagner Act and the Social Security Act- through the court and ensuring that the court's majority would uphold their constitutionality.[2] The month after Roosevelt's court-packing announcement, Roberts, who had joined the four conservative Justices in striking down important New Deal legislation, shocked the American public by siding with Hughes and the court's three liberal justices in striking down the court's previous ruling in the 1923 Adkins v. Children's Hospital case-which held that laws requiring minimum wage violated the Fifth Amendment's due process clause- and upholding the constitutionality of Washington state's minimum wage law in West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish. Because Roberts had previously sided with the four conservative justices and used the Adkins decision as the basis for striking down a similar minimum wage law the state of New York enforced in Morehead v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo[24] it was widely perceived that he only agreed to uphold the constitutionality of minimum wage as a result of the pressure that was put on the Supreme Court by the court-packing plan.[25] However, both Hughes and Roberts acknowledged that the Chief Justice, in fact, had already convinced Roberts to change his method of voting months before Roosevelt announced his court-packing plan[20][26] and that the effort he put into defeating the plan played only a small significance in determining how the court's majority made their decisions in future cases pertaining to New Deal legislation.[26]

Following the overwhelming support that voters showed for the New Deal through Roosevelt's overwhelming re-election in November 1936,[20] Hughes was able to persuade Roberts no longer to base his votes on political maneuvering and to side with him in future cases regarding New Deal related policies.[20][26] Roberts had voted to grant certiorari to hear the Parrish case before the election of 1936.[27] Oral arguments occurred on December 16 and 17, 1936, with counsel for Parrish specifically asking the court to reconsider its decision in Adkins v. Children's Hospital,[28] which had been the basis for striking down a New York minimum wage law in Morehead v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo[24] in the late spring of 1936.[29]

Roberts indicated his desire to overturn Adkins immediately after oral arguments ended for the Parrish case on Dec. 17, 1936.[29] The initial conference vote on Dec. 19, 1936 was split 4-4; with this even division on the Court, the holding of the Washington Supreme Court, finding the minimum wage statute constitutional, would stand.[30] The eight voting justices anticipated Justice Stone—absent due to illness—would be the fifth vote necessary for a majority opinion affirming the constitutionality of the minimum wage law.[30] As Hughes desired a clear and strong 5-4 affirmation of the Washington Supreme Court's judgment, rather than a 4-4 default affirmation, he convinced the other justices to wait until Stone's return before both deciding and announcing the case.[30] In one of his notes from 1936, Hughes wrote that Roosevelt's re-election forced the court to depart from its "fortress in public opinion" and severely weakened its capability to base its rulings on either personal or political beliefs.[20]

President Roosevelt announced his court reform bill on February 5, 1937, the day of the first conference vote after Stone's February 1, 1937 return to the bench. Roosevelt later made his justifications for the bill to the public on March 9, 1937 during his 9th Fireside Chat. The Court's opinion in Parrish was not published until March 29, 1937, after Roosevelt's radio address. Hughes wrote in his autobiographical notes that Roosevelt's court reform proposal "had not the slightest effect on our [the court's] decision,"[25] but due to the delayed announcement of its decision the Court was characterized as retreating under fire.[25]

Although Hughes wrote the opinion invalidating the National Recovery Administration in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States- though the decision was also a unanimous one upheld by all of the court's nine Justices-,[2] he also wrote the opinions for the Court in NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp.,[31] NLRB v. Friedman-Harry Marks Clothing Co.[32] and West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish[33] which approved some New Deal measures. Hughes supervised the move of the Court from its former quarters at the U.S. Capitol to the newly constructed Supreme Court building.

Hughes wrote twice as many constitutional opinions as any of his court's other members. "His opinions, in the view of one commentator, were concise and admirable, placing Hughes in the pantheon of great justices."[34] His "remarkable intellectual and social gifts...made him a superb leader and administrator. He had a photographic memory that few, if any, of his colleagues could match. Yet he was generous, kind, and forebearing in an institution where egos generally come in only one size: extra large!"[34]

Later life

For many years, he was a member of the Union League Club of New York and served as its president from 1917 to 1919.

On August 27, 1948, Hughes died in what is now the Tiffany Cottage of the Wianno Club in Osterville, Massachusetts. His remains are interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.[35]


The grave of Charles Evans Hughes in Woodlawn Cemetery
Charles Evans Hughes commemorative stamp, issued on centenary of birth, 1962

See also


  1. ^ "Federal Judicial Center: Charles Evans Hughes". 2009-12-12. Retrieved 12 December 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad "Charles Evans Hughes and the Strange Death of Liberal America". Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  3. ^ Clinton Rossiter, Conservatism in America (1962) p. 174
  4. ^ Ross 2007, p. 2
  5. ^ "Elizabeth Hughes: Fifty-eight years on animal-insulin". Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  6. ^ "Stevens gas committee". The New York Times. 27 April 1905. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c "Charles Evans Hughes". Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Schizer, David M. "Welcoming the J.D. Class of 2014", address at Columbia Law School, August 2011, p. 4.
  9. ^ "Findlaw Bailey v. Alabama". Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  10. ^ "Interstate Commerce Comm. v. Atchison T & SF R Co.". Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  11. ^ "Leagle; Frank v. Mangum". Archived from the original on 2012-01-18. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  12. ^ Supreme Court of the United States Accessed December 13, 2007.
  13. ^ Eisler, a Justice for All, page 39, ISBN 0-671-76787-9
  14. ^ "Washington Naval Conference". Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  15. ^ "Text of the Agreement Reached on Yap And Other Mandated Pacific Islands". New York Times. 1921-12-13. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  16. ^ Calder, Bruce J. (1984). The impact of intervention: the Dominican Republic during the U.S. occupation of 1916-1924. Markus Wiener Publishers. p. 223.  
  17. ^ "National Conference for Community and Justice". Retrieved 19 December 2007. 
  18. ^  
  19. ^ Wittes 2006, p. 50
  20. ^ a b c d e Devins, Neal (1996). "Government Lawyers and the New Deal". William & Mary Law School. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  21. ^ "The Chief Justices and Self-Assignment of Majority Opinions: A Research Note". Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  22. ^ "Lee Epstein". Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  23. ^ a b c Jeff Shesol, Supreme power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court (2010) pp. 394–7.
  24. ^ a b 298 U.S. 587 (1936)
  25. ^ a b c McKenna, Marian C. (2002). Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-packing Crisis of 1937. New York, NY: Fordham University Press. p. 419.  
  26. ^ a b c McKenna, Marian C. (2002). Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-packing Crisis of 1937. New York, NY: Fordham University Press. pp. 422–23.  
  27. ^ McKenna, Marian C. (2002). Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-packing Crisis of 1937. New York, NY: Fordham University Press. pp. 412–13.  
  28. ^ 261 U.S. 525 (1923)
  29. ^ a b McKenna, Marian C. (2002). Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-packing Crisis of 1937. New York, NY: Fordham University Press. p. 413.  
  30. ^ a b c McKenna, Marian C. (2002). Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-packing Crisis of 1937. New York, NY: Fordham University Press. p. 414.  
  31. ^ "N.L.R.B. v. JONES & LAUGHLIN STEEL CORP., 301 U.S. 1 (1937)". Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  32. ^ "Findlaw; NLRB v. Friedman-Harry Marks Clothing Co". Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  33. ^ "Findlaw; West Coast hotel v. Parrish". Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  34. ^ a b "Charles Evans Hughes". Official Supreme Court media at  
  35. ^ , Yearbook"Here Lies the Supreme Court: Gravesites of the Justices"Christensen, George A. (1983) .  
  36. ^ Library of Congress, Charles Evans Hughes collection.
  37. ^ Federal Judicial Center, Hughes Reference materials.
  38. ^ "Charles Evans Hughes Issue". Smithsonian national Postal Museum. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  • Ross, William G. (2007). The Chief Justiceship of Charles Evans Hughes, 1930-1941. Columbia, SC:  

Further reading

  • The Recall of Justice Hughes (May, 1916) The World's Work.
  • Abraham, Henry J., Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court. 3d. ed. (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1992). ISBN 0-19-506557-3.
  • Cushman, Clare, The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies,1789–1995 (2nd ed.) (Supreme Court Historical Society), (Congressional Quarterly Books, 2001) ISBN 1-56802-126-7; ISBN 978-1-56802-126-3.
  • Ernst, Daniel R. Tocqueville's Nightmare: The Administrative State Emerges in America, 1900-1940 (Oxford University Press, 2014).
  • Frank, John P., The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions (Leon Friedman and Fred L. Israel, editors) (Chelsea House Publishers, 1995) ISBN 0-7910-1377-4, ISBN 978-0-7910-1377-9.
  • Glad, Betty, Charles Evans Hughes and the illusions of innocence: A study in American diplomacy (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1966).
  • Hall, Kermit L., ed. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-19-505835-6; ISBN 978-0-19-505835-2.
  • Martin, Fenton S. and Goehlert, Robert U., The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography, (Congressional Quarterly Books, 1990). ISBN 0-87187-554-3.
  • Perkins, Dexter, Charles Evans Hughes and American democratic statesmanship (Boston: Little, Brown, 1956).
  • Pusey, Merlo J., Charles Evans Hughes, 2 vol. (New York: Macmillan, 1951).. the standard scholarly biography
  • Shesol, Jeff. Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court (W.W. Norton, 2010)
  • Simon, James F., FDR and Chief Justice Hughes: The President, the Supreme Court, and the Epic Battle Over the New Deal (Simon & Schuster, Forthcoming, February 2012).
  • Urofsky, Melvin I., The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Garland Publishing 1994). 590 pp. ISBN 0-8153-1176-1; ISBN 978-0-8153-1176-8.
  • Wesser, Robert F., Charles Evans Hughes: Politics and reform in New York, 1905–1910 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967).

External links

  • Judge Manuscript Information: Charles Evans Hughes. List of archives with documents via Judges of the United States Courts. Retrieved April 15, 2005.
  • Archives at the Supreme Court Historical Society
Legal opinions as Chief Justice
  • Near v. Minnesota ex rel. Olson, 283 U.S. 697 (1931).
  • Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495 (1935).
  • NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1 (1937).
  • West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379 (1937)
  • Addresses of Charles Evans Hughes, 1906–1916; with an introduction
Political offices
Preceded by
Frank W. Higgins
Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Horace White
Preceded by
Bainbridge Colby
U.S. Secretary of State
Served under: Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge

March 4, 1921 – March 4, 1925
Succeeded by
Frank B. Kellogg
Legal offices
Preceded by
David Josiah Brewer
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
of the United States

October 10, 1910 – June 10, 1916
Succeeded by
John Hessin Clarke
Preceded by
William Howard Taft
Chief Justice of the United States
February 13, 1930 – June 30, 1941
Succeeded by
Harlan Fiske Stone
Party political offices
Preceded by
William Howard Taft
Republican presidential nominee
Succeeded by
Warren G. Harding
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Lawson Purdy
President of the National Municipal League
Succeeded by
Henry M. Waite
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Alfonso XIII of Spain
Cover of Time Magazine
29 December 1924
Succeeded by
Juan Belmonte
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