Majority of James M. Beck Papers Now Available Online

We are pleased to announce the completion of another digitization project. The bulk of the papers of James M. Beck (1861-1936), who enjoyed a long career as a lawyer, author, public speaker, Solicitor General, and U.S. Congressman, are now available online through the finding aid for collection MC007. Beck served as Solicitor General from 1921-1925 and represented the Philadelphia region as a Republican Congressman from 1927-1934. Researchers interested in a variety of topics will find this collection useful. For those interested in American politics and foreign policy during Beck’s life, the collection holds many items relating to World War I and Beck’s fights against Prohibition and the New Deal. It also reflects Beck’s personal interests in American history and Shakespeare.

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James M. Beck. Photo from James M. Beck Papers (MC007), Box 11, Folder 8.

One subject the collection focuses upon is World War I. Beck’s writings on World War I were widely read. Beck defended America many times against the claims that initial neutrality in the European conflict was rooted in nationalist selfishness: “If the bones of your sons are now buried in France there are the bones of many a brave American boy who, without the protection of his flag … have gone and given their young lives as a willing sacrifice. Therefore, I say to you, men of England, if there are pinpricks, do not misjudge the American people, who have done what they did under the most trying and delicate circumstances…” (Beck, “America and the Allies,” July 5, 1916, p. 19) Later, Beck agreed that conditions had made it necessary for the United States to enter the war, but warned that the outcome of the hostilities of the era would “leave a heritage of hatred among nations” and that someday in the not too distant future Germany and Japan might join forces to fight America and its allies. (Beck, “America and the War”) Our collection contains translations of Beck’s World War I writings and speeches in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, and Greek. The correspondence he received in response, from all over the world, is also in many languages. Thus, in addition to reflecting American opinions, researchers will find perspectives from diverse nations in the collection.

Another subject the collection provides insight into is the public’s impressions of domestic policies. Beck’s stand against Prohibition earned a mixed response from his constituents, with Lillian Francis Fitch writing to Beck in 1930, “It is more than difficult for me to see how any high-minded, intelligent person can … be a ‘wet’” and C. Pardo writing to praise Beck’s efforts that same year on the grounds that Prohibition “is the work largely of … busy bodies.” Beck’s strong criticism of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, which authorized United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to regulate industry in an attempt to stimulate the economy during a period of severe deflation, also resulted a variety of responses. Most letters on the subject in our collection heaped praise upon Beck for his stand, but Cable Welfair urged a more cautious response to the bill: “I am not so terribly disturbed about some of the emotional legislation passed by the last Congress. Things that are said and done when one is excited must be more or less discounted. You don’t have to get a divorce from your wife because she says you are a brute. Maybe she is mistaken; or maybe you are, but can improve.”

A final substantial component of the collection concerns Beck’s private intellectual pursuits. Beck was particularly fond of Shakespeare. The collection includes his correspondence with the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Joseph Quincy Adams, and materials related to his membership and presidency in the Philadelphia Shakespeare Society. Researchers will also note that Beck frequently quoted Shakespeare in his speeches. Beck spoke to a variety of audiences on a range of topics in American history as well, and was a frequent guest speaker for the Pennsylvania Society and the Sons of the Revolution. This index to his speeches will help researchers locate these items.

Princeton University During World War I

By Spencer Shen ’16

On the afternoon of September 24, 1914, President John G. Hibben gave an address to incoming freshman in Marquand Chapel, acknowledging that “the opening of this new academic year…presents to our minds a striking contrast: the peaceful setting of this assembly against the dark background of the terrible European war.” With the outbreak of the conflict only a month before, many Princetonians took Hibben’s call “to the service of the world” to heart. Several joined Canadian regiments and other branches of the Allied military services. Still others volunteered as ambulance drivers for the French Red Cross. A Princeton chapter of the National Red Cross Society formed, with representatives from both town and gown.

By December 1914, students had petitioned successfully for Princeton to offer organized military training. Overseen by what would later become the Committee on War Courses, the program was approved by the University trustees and headed by General Leonard Wood. Over the next two years, more and more lectures were presented by officers of the Army on military history and organization. Tactical excursions were offered and covered skills such as trench and pontoon building, bridgework and road construction, and rifle practice.

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Soldiers near Princeton University’s Witherspoon Hall, ca. 1915. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP18, Image No. 4378.

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This Week in Princeton History for December 21-27

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a veteran-athlete is killed, Abraham Lincoln writes a thank you note, and more.

December 21, 1918—With orders home in his pocket, celebrated athlete Hobey Baker  ’14 crashes in France while testing a repaired plane, sustaining fatal injuries.

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Hobey Baker’s crashed plane. John D. Davies Collection on Hobey Baker (AC005), Box 5, Folder 7, Image No. 21828.

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The Birth of the Civil Liberties Bureau and The National Civil Liberties Bureau,1917-1919

by: Professor Samuel Walker
School of Criminal Justice
University of Nebraska at Omaha

This is the first part in a series that was introduced earlier.

The fight for civil liberties during World War I originated with the Civil Liberties Bureau (CLB), formed as a committee of the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM) immediately after the United States declared war on April 6, 1917. Led by Crystal Eastman and Roger Baldwin, the Bureau lobbied Congress and the Wilson administration regarding provisions for conscientious objectors in the Selective Service Act and provided advice to young men facing the draft. Leaders of the parent AUAM, however, soon thought these activities would alienate the administration of President Woodrow Wilson and as a result the Bureau became a separate organization, the National Civil Liberties Bureau in the fall of 1917. In 1918 Military Intelligence began investigating the NCLB for violations of the Espionage Act, and finally on August 30, 1918 the Justice Department raided the NCLB office and seized its records. (See the documents in the topic, The National Civil Liberties Bureau and the Woodrow Wilson Administration.) Prosecution appeared possible, but never occurred. In January 1920 the NCLB was reconstituted as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). (See the documents in the topic, The Founding of the ACLU.)

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The AUAM pamphlet, Concerning Conscription, circa May-June 1917, presents its views regarding selective service and conscientious objection to participation in war, while Congress was debating the selective service bill. The principal issues involved the criteria for eligibility as a conscientious objector.

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The AUAM handbill, circa May-June 1917, while Congress was still debating the selective service bill. It attacks the idea of a draft and argues for a completely voluntary system for military service.

 

 

 

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These three April 1917 letters between the AUAM and Secretary of War Newton D. Baker reflect the close and cordial relations between members of the Wilson administration and the civil libertarians in the early months of the war. These individuals knew each other from their pre-war progressive reform activities. Baker, for example, had been a reform mayor of Cleveland, Ohio. The AUAM memorandum here sets forth its views on what categories of people should be eligible for conscientious objector status. The cordial relations ended in the spring of 1918 when Military Intelligence and some Justice Department officials concluded that the NCLB was violating the Espionage Act.

 

This May 15-17, 1917 correspondence with Frank Walsh, a Kansas City, Missouri, attorney discusses a possible legal challenge to the constitutionality of the draft. Walsh was a prominent Progressive Era reformer and advocate of the labor movement. Some antiwar and pacifist leaders regarded the draft as a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court eventually rejected this argument.

 

 

 

 

 

The AUAM pamphlet, Constitutional Rights in War-Time (May 1917) represents the organization’s first formal statement of the range of civil liberties issues at the outset of the war.

 

 

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Bronze Memorial Stars

Dear Mr. Mudd:

What is the origin of the stars on Princeton University buildings? Is there any database listing the location of each star?

The bronze stars on window sills of Princeton University dormitories commemorate the University’s students and alumni who died in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and in the Vietnam War. An additional 13 bronze stars honoring those who died on September 11, 2001 are located in a memorial garden between East Pyne and Chancellor Green.

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Letter from the Society of the Claw to members seeking funding for the initial stars.

The original 140 stars, honoring students who lost their lives in World War I, were placed in 1920. These stars were donated by members of the Society of the Claw, an organization of members of the Class of 1894 who, as a sign-on condition, promised to either attend the next five reunions or every reunion throughout their lives. The Society also inducted honorary members who had done an “unusual service” or “brought exceptional honor” to Princeton, such as Woodrow Wilson ’1879. The Society of the Claw raised $431.65 for these stars, which were then placed on the window sill of each dorm room last occupied by a Princeton student who lost his life in the war.

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Princeton economics processing project completed

More than 1,100 feet of records providing insights into 20th-century economics history available

 

Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library has completed a two-year project to process all of its economics-related public policy collections to modern standards. These collections provide a rich resource about American economic thought and policies in the 20th century and the impact of American economic policy and the ideas of some of the leading economic thinkers on the emerging world economy, especially in developing nations.

Twenty-eight collections, totaling more than 1,100 linear feet, were processed through the support of the John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Fund and a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Electronic finding aids for each collection are available on the library’s website for researchers.

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