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Re: Who killed Warren Harding?

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  • Ram Lau
    ... I thought they were just a conspiracy group who write parodies about the vampires and zombies. I should have mentioned that in the first place. Here is a
    Message 1 of 14 , Jan 9, 2006
      > I am somehow doubtful of the Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency's
      > accuracy, and I unfortunately couldn't find any other mentions of
      > Frank Prevost on Google.

      I thought they were just a conspiracy group who write parodies about
      the vampires and zombies. I should have mentioned that in the first
      place. Here is a more serious and scholarly account from the book
      written by Frederick Lewis Allen published in 1931:

      http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/ALLEN/ch6.html
      HARDING AND THE SCANDALS

      Having been personal attorney for Warren G. Harding before he was
      Senator from Ohio and while he was Senator, and thereafter until his
      death.
      --And for Mrs. Harding for a period of several years, and before her
      husband was elected President and after his death,
      --And having been attorney for the Midland National Bank of Washington
      Court House, O., and for my brother, M. S. Daugherty,
      --And having been Attorney-General of the United States during the
      time that President Harding served as President,
      --And also for a time after President Harding's death under President
      Coolidge,
      --And with all of those named, as attorney, personal friend, and
      Attorney-General, my relations were of the most confidential character
      as well as professional,
      --I refuse to testify and answer questions put to me, because:
      The answer I might give or make and the testimony I might give might
      tend to incriminate me.

      --Harry M. Daugherty's written reply when called upon by Judge
      Thacher for information for the Federal Grand Jury in New York, March
      31, 1926. (Punctuation revised.)

      ON THE morning of March 4, 1921,—a brilliant morning with a frosty air
      and a wind which whipped the flags of Washington—Woodrow Wilson,
      broken and bent and ill, limped from the White House door to a waiting
      automobile, rode down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol with the
      stalwart President-elect at his side, and returned to the bitter
      seclusion of his private house in S Street. Warren Gamaliel Harding
      was sworn in as President of the United States. The reign of normalcy
      had begun.

      March 4, 1921: what do those cold figures mean to you? Let us for turn
      back for a moment to that day and look about us.

      The war had been over for more than two years, although, as the Treaty
      of Versailles had been thrown out by the Senate and Woodrow Wilson had
      refused to compromise with the gentlemen at the other end of the
      Avenue, a technical state of war still existed between Germany and the
      United States. Business, having boomed until the middle of 1920, was
      collapsing into the depths of depression and dragging down with it the
      price-level which had caused so much uproar about the High Cost of
      Living. The Big Red Scare was gradually ebbing, although the
      super-patriots still raged and Sacco and Vanzetti had not yet come to
      trial before Judge Thayer. The Ku-Klux Klan was acquiring its first
      few hundred thousand members. The Eighteenth Amendment was entering
      upon its second year, and rum-runners and bootleggers were beginning
      to acquire confidence. The sins of the flappers were disturbing the
      nation; it was at about this time that Philadelphia produced the
      "moral gown" and the Literary Digest featured a symposium entitled,
      "Is the Younger Generation in Peril?" The first radio broadcasting
      station in the country was hardly four months old and the radio craze
      was not yet. Skirts had climbed halfway to the knee and seemed likely
      to go down again, a crime commission had just been investigating
      Chicago's crime wave, Judge Landis had become the czar of baseball,
      Dempsey and Carpentier had signed to meet the following summer at
      Boyle's Thirty Acres, and Main Street and The Outline of History were
      becoming best sellers.

      The nation was spiritually tired. Wearied by the excitements of the
      war and the nervous tension of the Big Red Scare, they hoped for quiet
      and healing. Sick of Wilson and his talk of America's duty to
      humanity, callous to political idealism, they hoped for a chance to
      pursue their private affairs without governmental interference and to
      forget about public affairs. There might be no such word in the
      dictionary as normalcy, but normalcy was what they wanted.

      Every new administration at Washington begins in a atmosphere of
      expectant good will, but in this case the airs which lapped the
      capital were particularly bland. The smile of the new President was as
      warming as a spring thaw after a winter of discontent. For four long
      years the gates of the White House had been locked and guarded with
      sentries. Harding's first official act was to throw them open, to
      permit a horde of sight-seers to roam the grounds and flatten their
      noses against the executive window-panes and photograph one another
      under the great north portico; to permit flivvers and trucks to detour
      from Pennsylvania Avenue up the driveway and chortle right past the
      presidential front door. The act seemed to symbolize the return of the
      government to the people. Wilson had been denounced as an autocrat,
      had proudly kept his own counsel; Harding modestly said he would rely
      on the "best minds" to advise him, and took his oath of office upon
      the verse from Micah which asks, "What doth the Lord require of thee
      but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
      Wilson had seemed to be everlastingly prying into the affairs of
      business and had distrusted most business men; Harding meant to give
      them as free a hand as possible "to resume their normal onward way."
      And finally, whereas Wilson had been an austere academic theorist,
      Harding was "just folks": he radiated an unaffected good nature, met
      reporters and White House visitors with a warm handclasp and a genial
      word, and touched the sentimental heart of America by establishing in
      the White House a dog named Laddie Boy. "The Washington atmosphere of
      today is like that of Old Home Week or a college class reunion," wrote
      Edward G. Lowry shortly after Harding took office. "The change is
      amazing. The populace is on a broad grin." An era of good will seemed
      to be beginning.

      Warren Harding had two great assets, and these were already apparent.
      First, he looked as a President of the United States should. He was
      superbly handsome. His face and carriage had a Washingtonian nobility
      and dignity, his eyes were benign; he photographed well and the
      pictures of him in the rotogravure sections won him affection and
      respect. And he was the friendliest man who ever had entered the White
      House. He seemed to like everybody, he wanted to do favors for
      everybody, he wanted to make everybody happy. His affability was not
      merely the forced affability of the cold-blooded politician; it was
      transparently and touchingly genuine. "Neighbor," he had said to
      Herbert Hoover at their first meeting, during the war, "I want to be
      helpful." He meant it; and now that he was President, he wanted to be
      helpful to neighbors from Marion and neighbors from campaign
      headquarters and to the whole neighborly American public.

      His liabilities were not at first so apparent, yet they were
      disastrously real. Beyond the limited scope of his political
      experience he was "almost unbelievably ill-informed," as William Allen
      White put it. His mind was vague and fuzzy. Its quality was revealed
      in the clogged style of his public addresses, in his choice of turgid
      and maladroit language ("non-involvement" in European affairs,
      "adhesion" to a treaty), and in his frequent attacks of suffix trouble
      ("normalcy" for normality, "betrothment" for betrothal). It was
      revealed even more clearly in his helplessness when confronted by
      questions of policy to which mere good nature could not find the
      answer. White tells of Harding's coming into the office of one of his
      secretaries after a day of listening to his advisers wrangling over a
      tax problem, and crying out: "John, I can't make a damn thing out of
      this tax problem. I listen to one side and they seem right, and
      then—God!—I talk to the other side and they seem just as right, and
      here I am where I started. I know somewhere there is a book that will
      give me the truth, but, hell, I couldn't read the book. I know
      somewhere there is an economist who knows the truth, but I don't know
      where to find him and haven't the sense to know him and trust him when
      I find him. God! what a job!" His inability to discover for himself
      the essential facts of a problem and to think it through made him
      utterly dependent upon subordinates and friends whose mental processes
      were sharper than his own.

      If he had been discriminating in the choice of his friends and
      advisers, all might have been well. But discrimination had been left
      out of his equipment. He appointed Charles Evans Hughes and Herbert
      Hoover and Andrew Mellon to Cabinet positions out of a vague sense
      that they would provide his administration with the necessary amount
      of statesmanship, but he was as ready to follow the lead of Daugherty
      or Fall or Forbes. He had little notion of technical fitness for
      technical jobs. Offices were plums to him, and he handed them out like
      a benevolent Santa Claus—beginning with the boys from Marion. He made
      his brother-in-law Superintendent of Prisons; he not only kept the
      insignificant Doctor Sawyer, of Sawyer's Sanitarium at Marion, as his
      personal physician, but bestowed upon him what a White House
      announcement called a "brigadier-generalcy" (suffix trouble again) and
      deputed him to study the possible coordination of the health agencies
      of the government; and for Comptroller of the Currency he selected D.
      R. Crissinger, a Marion lawyer whose executive banking experience was
      limited to a few months as president of the National City Bank and
      Trust Company—of Marion.

      Nor did Harding appear to be able to distinguish between honesty and
      rascality. He had been trained in the sordid school of practical Ohio
      politics. He had served for years as the majestic Doric false front
      behind which Ohio lobbyists and fixers and purchasers of privilege had
      discussed their "business propositions" and put over their "little
      deals"—and they, too, followed him to Washington, along with the boys
      from Marion. Some of them he put into positions of power, others he
      saw assuming positions of power; knowing them intimately, he must have
      known—if he was capable of a minute's clear and unprejudiced
      thought—how they would inevitably use those positions; but he was too
      fond of his old cronies, too anxious to have them share his good
      fortune, and too muddle-minded to face the issue until it was too
      late. He liked to slip away from the White House to the house in H
      Street where the Ohio gang and their intimates reveled and liquor
      flowed freely without undue regard for prohibition, and a man could
      take his pleasure at the poker table and forget the cares of state;
      and the easiest course to take was not to inquire too closely into
      what the boys were doing, to hope that if they were grafting a little
      on the side they'd be reasonable about it and not do anything to let
      old Warren down.

      And why did he choose such company? The truth was that under his
      imposing exterior he was just a common small-town man, an "average
      sensual man," the sort of man who likes nothing better in the world
      than to be with the old bunch when they gather at Joe's place for an
      all-Saturday-night session, with waistcoats unbuttoned and cigars
      between their teeth and an ample supply of bottles and cracked ice at
      hand. His private life was one of cheap sex episodes; as one reads the
      confessions of his mistress, who claims that as President he was
      supporting an illegitimate baby born hardly a year before his
      election, one is struck by the shabbiness of the whole affair: the
      clandestine meetings in disreputable hotels, in the Senate Office
      Building (where Nan Britton believed their child to have been
      conceived), and even in a coat-closet in the executive offices of the
      White House itself. (Doubts have been cast upon the truth of the story
      told in The President's Daughter, but is it easy to imagine any one
      making up out of whole cloth a supposedly autobiographical story
      compounded of such ignoble adventures?) Even making due allowance for
      the refraction of Harding's personality through that of Nan Britton,
      one sees with deadly clarity the essential ordinariness of the man,
      the commonness of his "Gee, dearie" and "Say, you darling," his being
      swindled out of a hundred dollars by card sharpers on a train ride,
      his naive assurance to Nan, when detectives broke in upon them in a
      Broadway hotel, that they could not be arrested because it was illegal
      to detain a Senator while "en route to Washington to serve the
      people." Warren Harding's ambitious wife had tailored and groomed him
      into outward respectability and made a man of substance of him; yet
      even now, after he had reached the White House, the rowdies of the
      Ohio gang were fundamentally his sort. He had risen above them, he
      could mingle urbanely with their superiors, but it was in the smoke
      filled rooms of the house in H Street that he was really most at home.

      Harding had no sooner arrived at the White House than a swarm of
      practical politicians of the McKinley-Foraker vintage reappeared in
      Washington. Blowsy gentlemen with cigars stuck in their cheeks and
      rolls of very useful hundred-dollar bills in their pockets began to
      infest the Washington hotels. The word ran about that you could do
      business with the government now——if you only fixed things up with the
      right man. The oil men licked their chops; had they not lobbied
      powerfully at the Chicago convention for the nomination of just such a
      man as Harding, who did not take this conservation nonsense too
      seriously, and would not Harding's Secretary of the Interior, Albert
      B. Fall, let them develop the national resources on friendly and not
      too stringent terms? The Ohio gang chuckled over the feast awaiting
      them: the chances for graft at Columbus had been a piker's chance
      compared with those which the mastery of the federal government would
      offer him. Warren Harding wanted to be helpful. Well, he would have a
      chance to be.
      [2]


      The public at large, however, knew little and cared less about what
      was happening behind the scenes. Their eyes—when they bothered to look
      at all—were upon the well lighted stage where the Harding
      Administration was playing a drama of discreet and seemly statesmanship.

      Peace with Germany, so long deferred was made by a resolution signed
      by the President on July 2, 1921. The Government of the United States
      was put upon a unified budget basis for the first time in history by
      the passage of the Budget Act of 1921, and Charles G. Dawes, becoming
      Director of the Budget, entranced the newspaper-reading public with
      his picturesque language, his underslung pipe, and his broom-waving
      histrionics when he harangued the bureau chiefs on behalf of business
      efficiency. Immigration was restricted, being put upon a quota basis,
      to the satisfaction of labor and the relief of those who felt that the
      amount of melting being done in the melting-pot was disappointingly
      small. Congress raised the tariff, as all good Republican Congresses
      should. Secretary Mellon pleased the financial powers of the country
      by arguing for the lowering of the high surtaxes upon large incomes;
      and although an obstreperous Farm Bloc joined with the Democrats to
      keep the maximum surtax at 50 per cent, Wall Street at least felt that
      the Administration's heart was in the right place. Every foe of union
      labor was sure of this when Attorney-General Daugherty confronted the
      striking railway shopmen with an injunction worthy of Mitchell Palmer
      himself. In January, 1923, an agreement for the funding of the British
      war debt to the United States was made in Washington; it was shortly
      ratified by the Senate. The outstanding achievement of the Harding
      Administration, however, was undoubtedly the Washington Conference for
      the Limitation of Armaments--or, as the newspapers insisted upon
      calling it, the "Arms Parley."

      Since the war the major powers of the world had begun once more their
      race for supremacy in armament. England, the United States, and Japan
      were all building ships for dear life. The rivalry between them was
      rendered acute by the growing tension in the Pacific. During the war
      Japan had seized her golden opportunity for the expansion of her
      commercial empire: her rivals being very much occupied elsewhere, she
      had begun to regard China as her special sphere of interest and to
      treat it as a sort of protectorate where her commerce would have prior
      rights to that of other nations. Her hand was strengthened by an
      alliance with England. When Charles Evans Hughes became Secretary of
      State and began to stand up for American rights in the Orient,
      applying once more the traditional American policy of the Open Door,
      it was soon apparent that the situation was ticklish. Japan wanted her
      own way; the Americans opposed it; and there lay the Philippines,
      apparently right under Japan's thumb if trouble should break out! All
      three powers, Britain, Japan, and the United States, would be the
      gainers by an amicable agreement about the points under dispute in the
      Pacific, by the substitution of a three-cornered agreement for the
      Japanese-British alliance, and by an arrangement for the limitation of
      fleets. Senator Borah proposed an international conference. Harding
      and Hughes took up his suggestion, the conference was called, and on
      November 12, 1921—the day following the solemn burial of America's
      Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery-the delegates assembled in
      Washington.

      President Harding opened the first session with a cordial if profuse
      speech of welcome, and true to his policy of leaving difficult
      problems to be solved by the "best minds," left Secretary Hughes and
      his associates to do the actual negotiating. In this case his
      hands-off policy worked well. Hughes not only had a brilliant mind, he
      had a definite program and a masterly grasp of the complicated issues
      at stake. President Harding had hardly walked out of Memorial
      Continental Hall when the Secretary of State, installed as chairman of
      the conference, began what seemed at first only the perfunctory
      address of greeting—and then, to the amazement of the delegates
      assembled about the long conference tables, came out with a definite
      and detailed program: a ten-year naval holiday, during which no
      capital ships should be built; the abandonment of all
      capital-shipbuilding plans, either actual or projected; the scrapping,
      by the three nations, of almost two million tons of ships built or
      building; and the limitation of replacement according to a 5-5-3
      ratio: the American and British navies to be kept at parity and the
      Japanese at three-fifths of the size of each.

      "With the acceptance of this plan," concluded Secretary Hughes amid a
      breathless silence, "the burden of meeting the demands of competition
      in naval armament will be lifted. Enormous sums will be released to
      aid the progress of civilization. At the same time the proper demands
      of national defense will be adequately met and the nations will have
      ample opportunity during the naval holiday of ten years to consider
      their future course. Preparation for offensive naval war will stop now."

      The effect of this direct and specific proposal was prodigious. At the
      proposal of a naval holiday William Jennings Bryan, sitting among the
      newspaper men, expressed his enthusiasm with a yell of delight. At the
      conclusion of Hughes's speech the delegates broke into prolonged
      applause. It was echoed by the country and by the press of the world.
      People's imaginations were so stirred by the boldness and
      effectiveness of the Hughes plan that the success of the conference
      became almost inevitable.

      After three months of negotiation the delegates of Japan, Great
      Britain, and the United States had agreed upon a treaty which followed
      the general lines of the Hughes program; had joined with the French in
      an agreement to respect one another's insular possessions in the
      Pacific, and to settle all disagreements by conciliatory negotiations;
      had prepared the way for the withdrawal of Japan from Shantung and
      Siberia; and had agreed to respect the principle of the open door in
      China. The treaties were duly ratified by the Senate. The immediate
      causes of friction in the Pacific were removed; and although cynics
      might point out that competition in cruisers and submarines was little
      abated and that battleships were almost obsolete anyhow, the Naval
      Treaty at least lessened the burden of competition, as Secretary
      Hughes had predicted, and in addition set a precedent of profound
      importance. The armaments which a nation built were now definitely
      recognized as being a matter of international concern, subject to
      international agreement.

      Outwardly, then,things seemed to be going well for Warren Harding. He
      was personally popular; his friendly attitude toward business
      satisfied the conservative temper of the country; his Secretary of the
      Treasury was being referred to, wherever two or three bankers or
      industrialists gathered together, as the "greatest since Alexander
      Hamilton"; his Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, was aiding trade
      as efficiently as he had aided the Belgians; and even discouraged
      idealists had to admit that the Washington Conference had been no mean
      achievement. Though there were rumors of graft and waste and
      mismanagement in some departments of the Government, and the director
      of the Veterans' Bureau had had to leave his office in disgrace, and
      there was noisy criticism in Congress of certain leases Of oil lands
      to Messrs. Doheny and Sinclair, these things attracted only a mild
      public interest. When Harding left in the early summer of 1923 for a
      visit to Alaska, few people realized that anything was radically wrong
      with his administration. When, on his way home, he fell ill with what
      appeared to be ptomaine poisoning, and on his arrival at Sari
      Francisco his illness went into pneumonia, the country watched the
      daily headlines with affectionate concern. And when, just as the
      danger appeared to have been averted, he died suddenly—on August 2,
      1923——of what his physicians took to be a stroke of apoplexy, the
      whole nation was plunged into deep—and genuine grief.

      The President's body was placed upon a special train, which proceeded
      across the country at the best possible speed to Washington. All along
      the route, thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children were
      gathered to see it slip by. Cowboys on the Western hills dismounted
      and stood uncovered as the train passed. In the cities the throngs of
      mourners were so dense that the engineer had to reduce his speed and
      the train fell hours behind schedule. "It is believed," wrote a
      reporter for the New York Times, "to be the most remarkable
      demonstration in American history of affection, respect, and reverence
      for the dead." When Warren Harding's body, after lying in state at
      Washington, was taken to Marion for burial, his successor proclaimed a
      day of public mourning, business houses were closed, memorial services
      were held from one end of the country to the other, flags hung at half
      mast, and buildings were draped in black.

      The innumerable speeches made that day expressed no merely perfunctory
      sentiments; everywhere people felt that a great-hearted man, bowed
      down with his labors in their behalf, had died a martyr to the service
      of his country. The dead President was called "a majestic figure who
      stood out like a rock of consistency"; it was said that "his vision
      was always on the spiritual"; and Bishop Manning of New York, speaking
      at a memorial service in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, seemed
      to be giving the fallen hero no more than his due when he cried, "If I
      could write one sentence upon his monument it would be this, 'He
      taught us the power of brotherliness.' It is the greatest lesson that
      any man can teach us. It is the spirit of the Christian religion. In
      the spirit of brotherliness and kindness we can solve all the problems
      that confront us. . . . May God ever give to our country leaders as
      faithful, as wise, as noble in spirit, as the one whom we now mourn."

      But as it happens, there are some problems—at least for a President of
      the United States—that the spirit of brotherliness and kindness will
      not alone solve. The problem, for example, of what to do when those to
      whom you have been all too brotherly have enmeshed your administration
      in graft, and you know that the scandal cannot long be concealed, and
      you feel your whole life-work toppling into disgrace. That was the
      problem which had killed Warren Harding.

      A rumor that the President committed suicide by taking poison later
      gained wide currency through the publication of Samuel Hopkins Adams's
      Revelry, a novel largely based on the facts of the Harding
      Administration. Gaston B. Means, a Department of justice detective and
      a member of the gang which revolved about Daugherty, implied only too
      clearly in The Strange Death of President Harding that the President
      was poisoned by his wife, with the connivance of Doctor Sawyer. The
      motive, according to Means, was a double one: Mrs. Harding had found
      out about Nan Britton and the illegitimate daughter and was consumed
      with a bitter and almost insane jealousy; and she had learned enough
      about the machinations of Harding's friends and the power that they
      had over him to feel that only death could save him from obloquy. Both
      the suicide theory and the Means story are very plausible. The
      ptomaine poisoning came, it was said, from eating crab meat on the
      presidential boat on the return from Alaska, but the list of supplies
      in the steward's pantry contained no crab meat and no one else in the
      presidential party was taken ill; furthermore, the fatal "stroke of
      apoplexy" occurred when the President was recovering from pneumonia,
      Mrs. Harding was apparently alone with him at the time, and the
      verdict of the physicians, not being based upon an autopsy, was hardly
      more than an expression of opinion. Yet it is not necessary to accept
      any such melodramatic version of the tragedy to acknowledge that
      Harding died a victim of the predicament in which he was caught. He
      knew too much of what had been going on in his administration to be
      able to face the future. On the Alaskan trip, he was clearly in a
      state of tragic fear; according to William Allen White, "he kept
      asking Secretary Hoover and the more trusted reporters who surrounded
      him what a President should do whose friends had betrayed him."
      Whatever killed him-poison or heart failure-did so the more easily
      because he had lost the will to live.

      Of all this, of course, the country as a whole guessed nothing at the
      time. Their friend and President was dead, they mourned his death, and
      they applauded the plans of the Harding Memorial Association to raise
      a great monument in his honor. It was only afterward that the truth
      came out, piece by piece.
      [3]


      The martyred President had not been long in his grave when the
      peculiar circumstances under which the Naval Oil Reserves at Teapot
      Dome and Elk Hills had been leased began to be unearthed by the Senate
      Committee on Public Lands, and there was little by little disclosed
      what was perhaps the gravest and most far-reaching scandal of the
      Harding Administration. The facts of the case, as they were ultimately
      established, were, briefly, as follows:

      Since 1909 three tracts of oil-bearing government land had been
      legally set aside for the future hypothetical needs of the United
      States navy—as a sort of insurance policy against a possible shortage
      of oil in time of emergency. They were Naval Reserve No. 1 at Elk
      Hills, California; No. 2, at Buena Vista, California; and No. 3, at
      Teapot Dome, Wyoming. As time went on, it became apparent that the oil
      under these lands might be in danger of being drawn off by neighboring
      wells, the flow of oil under the earth being such that if you drill a
      well you are likely to bring up not only the oil from under your own
      land, but also that from under your neighbor's land. As to the extent
      of this danger to these particular properties there was wide
      disagreement; but when gushers were actually opened up right on the
      threshold of the Elk Hills Reserve, Congress took action. In 1920 it
      gave the Secretary of the Navy almost unlimited power to meet as he
      saw fit the problem of conserving the Reserves. Clearly there were at
      least two possible courses of action open to him. He might arrange to
      have offset wells drilled along the edge of the Reserves to neutralize
      the drainage, or he might lease the Reserves to private operators on
      condition that they store an equitable amount of the oil—or of fuel
      oil—for the future requirements of the national defense. Secretary
      Daniels preferred to have offset wells drilled.

      But when Albert B. Fall became Secretary of the Interior under
      President Harding, he decided otherwise. During 1921—on the eve of the
      Conference for the Limitation of Armaments—certain high officers in
      the navy were sufficiently nervous about possible trouble with Japan
      to declare that the navy must at once have fuel oil storage depots
      built and filled and ready for use at Pearl Harbor and other strategic
      points. This idea suited Mr. Fall perfectly. He had come into office
      as the ally of certain big oil interests, and being a politician
      without illusions, he saw a chance to do them a favor. He would lease
      the reserves in their entirety to private operators, and meet the
      needs of the navy by using the royalty oil which these operators paid
      the Government for the purpose of buying fuel oil tanks and filling
      them with fuel oil. To be sure, the Secretary of the Navy alone had
      power to lease the Reserves, and Fall was not the Secretary of the
      Navy; but that was not an insuperable difficulty.

      Less than three months after President Harding took office, he signed
      an Executive Order transferring the Reserves from the custody of the
      Secretary of the Navy to that of the Secretary of the Interior. On
      April 7, 1922, Fall secretly and without competitive bidding leased
      Reserve No. 3, the Teapot Dome Reserve, to Harry F. Sinclair's Mammoth
      Oil Company. On December 11, 1922, he secretly and without competitive
      bidding leased Reserve No. 1, the Elk Hills Reserve, to Edward F.
      Doherty's Pan-American Company. It has been argued that these leases
      were fair to the Government and that no undue profits would have
      accrued to the lessees if the contracts had been allowed to stand. It
      has been argued that the necessity for keeping secret what were
      thought of as military arrangements was sufficient excuse for the
      absence of competitive bidding and the complete absence of publicity.
      But it was later discovered that Fall had received from Sinclair some
      $260,000 in Liberty bonds, and that Fall had been "lent" by
      Doheny—without interest and without security—$100,000 in cash.

      After a long series of Senate investigations, governmental lawsuits,
      and criminal trials which dragged out through the rest of the decade,
      the Doheny lease was voided by the Supreme Court as "Illegal and
      fraudulent," the Sinclair lease was also voided, and Secretary Fall
      was found guilty of accepting a bribe from Doheny and sentenced to a
      year in prison. Secretary of the Navy Denby-who had amiably approved
      the transfer of the Reserves from his charge to that of Fall—was
      driven from office by public criticism. Paradoxically, both Doheny and
      Sinclair were acquitted. But Sinclair had to serve a double term in
      prison in 1929: first, for contempt of the Senate in refusing to
      answer questions put to him by the Committee on Public Lands, and
      second, for contempt of court in having the jury at his first trial
      shadowed by Burns detectives. (One of the jurors declared that a man
      had approached him with the suggestion that if he voted right he would
      have an automobile "as long as this block.")

      Such are the bare facts of the oil lease transactions. But they are
      only a part of the story. For after the Senate Committee's first
      important disclosures, early in 1924, and President Coolidge's
      appointment of the useful Mr. Owen Roberts and the ornamental
      Ex-Senator Atlee Pomerene as a bi-partisan team of Government
      prosecutors to take whatever legal action might be called for on
      behalf of the Government, Messrs. Roberts and Pomerene discovered that
      certain bonds transferred by Sinclair to Fall had come from the
      exchequer of a hitherto unheard-of concern called the Continental
      Trading Company, Ltd., of Canada. And the history of the Continental
      Trading Company, Ltd., as it was gradually dragged to light, was not
      only highly sensational but highly illuminating as a case-study in
      current American business ethics. This is what had happened:

      On the 17th of November, 1921—a few months before the Fall-Sinclair
      contract was made—a little group of men gathered in a room at the
      Hotel Vanderbilt in New York for a business session. They included
      Col. E. A. Humphreys, the owner of the rich Mexia oil field; Harry M.
      Blackmer of the Midwest Oil Company; James E. O'Neil of the Prairie
      Oil Company; Colonel Robert W. Stewart, chairman of the board of the
      Standard Oil Company of Indiana; and Harry F. Sinclair, head of the
      Sinclair Consolidated Oil Company. At that meeting Colonel Humphreys
      agreed to sell 33,333,333 barrels of oil from his oil field at $1.50 a
      barrel. But he discovered that he was not, as he had supposed, to sell
      this oil directly to the companies represented by the other men
      present. He was asked to sell it to a concern of which he had never
      heard, a concern which had only just been incorporated—the Continental
      Trading Company, Ltd. The contract of sale was guaranteed on behalf of
      the mysterious Continental Company by Sinclair and O'Neil. And the
      Continental straightway resold the oil to Sinclair's and O'Neil's
      companies, not at $1.50 a barrel, but at $1.75 a barrel——thereby
      diverting to the coffers of the Continental a nice profit of
      twenty-five cents a barrel which might otherwise have gone to the
      other companies whose executives were gathered together. A profit, it
      might be added, which in the course of time should amount to over
      eight million dollars.

      As a matter of fact, it never amounted to as much as that. For after a
      year or more the Senate became unduly inquisitive and it was thought
      best to wind up the affairs of the Continental Trading Company, Ltd.,
      and destroy its records. But before this was done, the profit of that
      little deal pulled off at the Hotel Vanderbilt had piled up to more
      than three millions.

      With these millions, as they rolled in, President Osler, the
      distinguished Canadian attorney who headed the Continental, purchased
      Liberty bonds. And the bulk of these bonds (after taking out a
      2-per-cent share for himself) he turned over, in packages, to four of
      the gentlemen who had sat in on the conference at the Vanderbilt, as
      follows:

      To Harry M. Blackmer, approximately $763,000.
      To James E. O'Neil, approximately $800,000.
      To Colonel Robert W. Stewart, approximately $759,000.
      Harry F. Sinclair, approximately $757,000.

      And did these gentlemen at once report to their directors and
      stockholders the receipt of the bonds and put them into the corporate
      treasuries? They did not.

      Blackmer, according to the subsequent (very subsequent) testimony of
      his counsel, put his share in a safety deposit box at the Equitable
      Trust Company in New York, where in 1928 it still remained.

      O'Neil turned over his share to his company, but not until May, 1925.

      Stewart handed his share to an employee of the Standard oil Company of
      Indiana to be held in trust for the company in the vaults of the
      company, but never told any other associates of this except one member
      of the company's legal staff, and never disclosed to his directors
      what he had done until 1928, when he finally turned over the bonds to
      them. The trust agreement was written in pencil.

      Sinclair, according to his own testimony, did not take the directors
      or officers of his company into his confidence until 1928, and kept
      his share of the bonds in a vault in his home. He did not keep all of
      them there very long, however, or the brave history of the Continental
      Trading Company, Ltd., might never have come to light. A goodly
      portion of them (as we have already seen) he turned over to Fall.
      Another goodly portion, amounting to $185,000, he "loaned" (in
      addition to an outright gift Of $75,000), to the Republican National
      Committee, later getting back $100,000 of it The "loan" was made to
      Will H. Hays, who had been chairman of the Republican National
      Committee during the Harding-Cox campaign of 1920, had later been
      appointed Postmaster-General by President Harding, and had finally
      resigned to become supervisor of morals for the motion-picture
      industry. Mr. Hays was czar of the movies by the time Sinclair handed
      him the bonds, but being a conscientious man, he was trying to get the
      1920 Republican campaign debt paid off. To this end he attempted to
      use the Sinclair "loan" in a very interesting way. He and his
      lieutenants approached a number of wealthy men, potential donors to
      the cause, and told them that if they would contribute to meet the
      deficit they might have Sinclair bonds to the amount of their
      contributions. How long they might keep the bonds was not made
      clear--at least in Hays's testimony before the Senate Committee on
      Public Lands. This method of concealing an enormous Sinclair
      contribution was euphemistically called, by the moral supervisor of
      the movies, "using the bonds in efforts to raise money for the deficit."
      [4]


      So much for our little lesson in governmental practice and in the
      fiduciary duties of business executives in behalf of their
      stockholders. Now let us turn to the lighter side of the oil scandals.
      Lighter, that is, for those who were in no way implicated. There is a
      certain grim humor in the twistings and turnings of unwilling
      witnesses under the implacable cross-examination of Senator Walsh of
      Montana, without whose resourceful work the truth might never have
      been run to earth. Some of the scenes in the slowly-unfolding drama of
      the investigations, some of the sojourns of interested parties on
      foreign shores, some of the odd tricks of memory revealed, are not
      without an element of entertainment. Let us go back over the record of
      that long investigation and study a few of them, item by item.

      Item One. Who Loaned Fall the Money?

      In the autumn of 1923—not long after Harding's lamented death—Senator
      Walsh's committee learned of a recent sudden rise to affluence on the
      part of Secretary Fall. For some time previously Fall had been in
      financial straits; he had not even paid his local taxes for several
      years. But now all was changed. Mr. Fall had even purchased additional
      land near his New Mexican ranch, and in this purchase had used a
      considerable number of hundred-dollar bills. The Walsh committee at
      once became bloodhounds on the scent: hundred-dollar bills are as
      exciting to investigators as refusals to testify or refusals to waive
      immunity. From whom had Fall been receiving money? Fall wrote the
      committee a long letter, denying absolutely that he had ever received
      a dollar from Mr. Doheny or Mr. Sinclair, and in tones of outraged
      innocence explained that he had received a loan of $100,000 from
      Edward B. McLean of Washington, a millionaire newspaper-owner whose
      ample hospitality Harding and his associates had often enjoyed.

      Mr. McLean was in Palm Beach and unable to come to Washington to
      testify about this loan. The committee might perhaps have been
      expected to let the matter go at that. But they did not. Mr. McLean
      was wanted—and it began to appear that he was extremely unwilling to
      be examined. He and his friends engaged in a voluminous correspondence
      by coded telegrams with his aides in Washington, discussing the
      progress of affairs in messages such as

      Haxpw sent over buy bonka and householder bonka sultry tkvouep
      prozoics sepic bepelt goal hocusing this pouted proponent

      Finally Senator Walsh all too obligingly journeyed to Palm Beach to
      take McLean's testimony there. Yes, McLean had made a loan to Fall.
      But he had made it in the form of three checks. Secretary Fall had
      shortly returned the checks; they had not even passed through the
      banks, and there was no record whatever of the transaction.

      Clearly this brief and unusual financial transaction threw little
      light on the prosperity of the Ex-Secretary of the Interior or his use
      of cash in large denominations. Another explanation was necessary.
      Whereupon—on January 24, 1924—the lessee of Naval Reserve No. 1,
      Edward L. Doheny, took the stand. He, too, had loaned $100,000 to
      Fall. The money had been carried from New York to Washington in a
      satchel. But the loan had nothing to do with any lease of oil-bearing
      land. It was a bona fide loan made to accommodate an old friend. The
      elderly oil magnate drew a touching picture of his long years of
      comradeship with Fall. Was $100,000 a rather large sum to be loaned
      this way in cash? Why, no, it was "just a bagatelle" to him. It was
      not at all unusual for him "to make a remittance that way." Was there
      a note given for the loan? Yes; Doheny would search for it. Later he
      produced it——or rather, a fragment of it. The signature was missing.
      Fearing that he might die and that Fall might be unduly pressed for
      payment by cold-blooded executors, Doheny had torn the note in half
      and given the part with the signature of Mrs. Doheny—and she had
      mislaid it. The explanation was perfect—though some years later the
      Supreme Court seemed to regard it with skepticism.

      Item Two. Six or Eight Cows

      Just before the generous Doheny took the stand, the newspapers had
      been treated to a first-class front-page story. Archie Roosevelt, so
      of the great T.R. and brother of the lesser T.R. (who was Harding's
      Assistant Secretary of Navy), had come before the Walsh Committee as a
      volunteer witness. Archie Roosevelt was an officer in one of the
      Sinclair companies, and he had something to get off his mind. His
      brother had urged him to tell all. He (Archie) had been told by one
      G.D. Walberg, confidential secretary to Sinclair, that Sinclair had
      paid $68,000 to the manager of Fall's ranch, a circumstance which, in
      view of the relentless way in which Senator Walsh was running down
      evidence, apparently had caused Wahlberg some uneasiness. Furthermore,
      Sinclair had sailed for Europe—not only had sailed, but had done so
      very quietly, without letting his name appear on the passenger list.
      The committee called Wahlberg. This gentleman was even more uneasy at
      the committee table than he had been in talking to Archie Roosevelt,
      but he had a charming explanation for what he was said to have said.
      Roosevelt must have misunderstood him. He had said nothing about
      $68,000. What he must have said was that Sinclair had sent "six or
      eight cows" to Fall's ranch. (Which was true, after a manner of
      speaking: Sinclair had indeed made a present of live stock to Fall;
      not precisely "six or eight cows," but a horse, six hogs, a bull, and
      six heifers.) You see how the misunderstanding arose? You see how much
      "sixty-eight thous" sounds like "six or eight cows"?

      The Committee on Public Lands did not seem to see. They lifted a
      collective eyebrow. So a little later Wahlberg tried again. This time
      his explanation was even more delightful. He had been consulting his
      memory, and had decided that what he must actually have said when he
      sounded as if he were talking about $68,000 going to the manager of
      the Fall ranch, or the Fall farm, was that $68,000 was going to the
      manager of the "horse farm"—by which he had meant the trainer at
      Sinclair's celebrated Rancocas Stables. This $68,000 represented the
      salary of Hildreth, the trainer, together with his share of the
      winnings of Zev and other Sinclair horses.

      "Horse farm"—there seemed to be something less than idiomatic about
      the phrase. The collective eyebrow was not lowered.

      Item Three. The Silences of Colonel Stewart—and Others

      The Senate committee was hot on the trail—or rather on two trails. But
      then and thereafter the various gentlemen who could give it the
      greatest assistance in following these trails to the end revealed a
      strange reluctance to talk and a strange condition of memory when they
      did talk. Secretary Fall was declared by his physicians to be a "very
      sick man" who ought not to be pressed to testify. When he finally did
      testify, he refused to answer questions which might "tend to
      incriminate" him. Sinclair, as Archie Roosevelt had told the
      committee, had gone to Europe; after he returned, he too refused to
      answer questions; it was this refusal which led to his conviction for
      contempt. After his acquittal on the graver charge of conspiracy to
      defraud the government he at last spoke out; he admitted that he had
      turned over the bonds to Fall, but insisted that they were given in
      payment for a one-third interest in Fall's ranching and cattle business.

      Blackmer had gone to Europe and could not be induced to return. O'Neil
      had gone to Europe and could not be induced to return. Osler of the
      Continental Trading Company was somewhere at the ends of the earth.
      And as for Colonel Stewart, only the insistence of John D.
      Rockefeller, Jr., induced him to come from Cuba to face the committee.
      When he did face it, early in 1928, he testified as follows: "I did
      not personally receive any of these bonds. I did not make one dollar
      out of the transaction." Less than two months later, after Sinclair's
      acquittal had somewhat reduced the tension, he admitted that over
      three-quarters of a million dollars' worth of these bonds had been
      delivered to him, and that he had not told the directors of his
      company about them for several years.

      Item Four. The Testimony of Mr. Hays

      In 1924 Will H. Hays, preceptor of motion-picture morality, was called
      before the Senate committee. He was asked how much money Sinclair had
      contributed to the Republican Party. Seventy-five thousand dollars, he
      said.

      In 1928, after the history of the Continental bonds had become
      somewhat clearer, Mr. Hays was asked to face the committee again. He
      told them the full story of Sinclair's "loan" of $185,000 in addition
      to his gift. Why had he not told this before? He had not been "asked
      about any bonds."

      Item Five. The Reticence of Mr. Mellon

      A few days after Mr. Hays gave his second and improved version of the
      Sinclair contributions, the cashier of Charles Pratt & Company was
      called before the committee to testify about $50,000 worth of
      Sinclair-Continental Liberty bonds which had been left by Hays with
      the late John T. Pratt, to be held agains a contribution of the same
      amount—after the ingenious Hays plan—by Mr. Pratt to the Republican
      Committee. The cashier produced a card on which Mr. Pratt had noted
      the disposal of the bonds and the payment of his contribution. And in
      the corner of this card was a minute notation in pencil, as follows:
      $50,000
      Andy Weeks
      DuPont
      Butler

      Senator Walsh examined the card.

      Senator Walsh: I can make out "Weeks," and I can make out "DuPont,"
      and I can make out "Butler," but what is this other name? It looks
      like Andy.

      The Cashier (using a magnifying glass): It's Weeks, DuPont, Butler,
      and the other name must be Candy. . . . Yes, it might be Andy.

      Senator Nye: And who is Andy?

      The Cashier: I have no idea who Andy can be. I can think of no one
      known as Andy.

      There was a roar from the crowd in the room. Everybody knew who Andy
      must be. Senator WAlsh dispatched a note to Andrew W. Mellon,
      Secretary of the Treasury, to ask him if he could explain the
      notation. This Mr. Mellon obligingly did without delay.

      Late in 1923, Mr. Mellon explained—at just about the time when the
      Teapot Dome investigation was getting under way—Hays had sent him some
      bonds. "When Mr. Hays called shortly thereafter, he told me that he
      had received the bonds from Mr. Sinclair and suggested that I hold the
      bonds and contribute an equal amount to the fund. This I declined to do."

      The Secretary had acted with strict integrity. He had sent the bonds
      back, and instead of following Hays's suggestion he had made an
      outright contribution of $50,000. He added that he had "had no
      knowledge of what has developed since, that is, of the Teapot Dome
      lease matter."

      It is perhaps worth noting, however, that this testimony was given in
      1928. For more than three years not only the Senate committee, but
      Messrs. Roberts and Pomerene, the public attorneys appointed by
      President Coolidge to prosecute the government suits, had been trying
      to discover just what had become of the Continental bonds, and during
      all that time the Secretary of the Treasury was aware that in 1923 he
      had been offered Liberty bonds which came from Sinclair. He said
      nothing until that little card turned up with Andy (or possibly Candy)
      penciled on it. A small matter, perhaps; but surely it revealed the
      Secretary as a paragon of reticence when his testimony might cast
      discredit on the money-raising methods of his party.

      Thus comes to an end—as of this writing, at least—the remarkable story
      of Teapot Dome and Elk Hills and the Continental Trading Company, Ltd.
      The Executive Order transferring the leases, which may be said to have
      begun it all, was promulgated in June, 1921, when Harding was new in
      office, and the Stillman divorce trial was impending, and Dempsey was
      preparing to meet Carpentier, and young Charles Lindbergh had not yet
      taken his first ride in an airplane. By the time Sinclair and Stewart
      had told their stories and Hays had revised himself and Secretary
      Mellon had overcome his reticence, Lindbergh had flown to Europe and
      Herbert Hoover was corralling delegates for the Republican nomination;
      by the time Harry Sinclair emerged from his unwelcome term of service
      as apothecary in the Washington jail, the bull market had come down in
      ruin and the Post-war Decade was dying. Secretary Fall's term as
      guardian of the national resources for the Harding Administration had
      been brief, but the aftermath had been as long and harrowing as it was
      instructive.

      Oh yes—there is one more thing to add. The oil: what became of the oil
      that started it all, the oil that the patriots of the Navy Department
      had been so anxious to have immediately available in case of trouble
      in the Pacific? There had been a good deal of excitement about bonds
      and hundred-thousand-dollar loans, but everybody seemed to have
      forgotten about that oil. Production in the properties leased to
      Sinclair and Doheny was stopped; but you may recall that the danger of
      drainage into neighboring wells went right on producing, and it is
      said that part of the oil from them—including, in all probability,
      some drawn from within the Reserves—was sold to the Japanese Government!
      [5]


      The oil cases were the aristocrats among the scandals of the Harding
      Administration, but there were other scandals juicier and more
      reeking. Let us hold our noses for a moment and examine a few of them
      briefly.

      There was, for example, the almost incredible extravagance and
      corruption of the Veterans' Bureau under Charles R. Forbes, a
      buccaneer of fortune (and one-time deserter from the army) whom
      Harding had fallen in with on a visit to Hawaii. Harding was so taken
      with Forbes that in 1921 he put him in charge of the Government's work
      for those disabled war heroes in whose behalf every public man
      considered it his duty to shed an appreciative tear. Forbes held
      office for less than two years, and during that time it was estimated
      that over two hundred million dollars went astray in graft and
      flagrant waste on the part of his Bureau. Forbes went on a notorious
      junket through the country, supposedly selecting hospital sites which
      in reality had already been chosen. His Bureau let contracts for
      veterans' hospitals almost without regard for price; for instance, a
      contract for a hospital at Northampton was let to a firm which asked
      some thirty thousand dollars more than the lowest bidder. It was
      charged that Forbes had an arrangement with the builders of some
      hospitals whereby he was to pocket a third of the profits.
      Preposterous purchases of hospital supplies were made: the Veterans'
      Bureau bought $70,000 worth of floor wax and floor cleaner, for
      instance—enough, it was said, to last a hundred years—and for the
      cleaner it paid 98 cents a gallon, although expert testimony later
      brought out the fact that it was worth less than 4 cents a gallon
      exclusive of the water which it contained. Quantities of surplus goods
      were sold with the same easy disregard for price: 84,000 brand-new
      sheets which had cost $1.37 each were sold at 26 or 27 cents apiece,
      although at that very moment the Bureau was purchasing 25,000 new ones
      at $1.03 apiece. "At one time," reported Bruce Bliven, "sheets just
      bought were actually going in at one end of the warehouse [at
      Perryville, Maryland] as the ones just sold were going out the other,
      and some of them by mistake went straight in and out again." More than
      75,000 towels which had cost 19 cents each were sold for 3 3/8 cents
      each. These few facts are enough to show with what generous abandon
      Forbes spent the money appropriated to care for the defenders of the
      Republic. Forbes went to Leavenworth in 1926 for fraud.

      There was rampant graft in the office of the Allen Property Custodian
      as well. Gaston B. Means has charged that attorneys who came to
      Washington to file claims for the return of properties taken over from
      Germans during the war were advised to consult a Boston lawyer named
      Thurston, that Thurston would charge them a big fee for his services,
      the claim would be allowed, and the fee would be split with those in
      authority. Be that as it may, the evidence brought out in the American
      Metal Company case was sufficient to indicate the sort of transaction
      which was permitted to take place.

      The American Metal Company was an internationally owned concern 49 per
      cent of whose stock had been taken over by the Allen Property
      Custodian during the war on the ground that it belonged to Germans.
      This stock had been sold for $6,000,000. In 1921 a certain Richard
      Merton appeared at the Custodian's office with the claim that this 49
      per cent had not been German, but Swiss, and that the Swiss owners,
      whom he represented, should be reimbursed. The claim was allowed after
      Merton had paid $441,000 in Liberty bonds to John T. King, Republican
      National Committeeman from Connecticut, for "services" which consisted
      of introducing him to Colonel T. W. Miller, the Custodian, and to Jess
      Smith, Attorney-General Daugherty's man Friday. It was brought out at
      Miller's trial that at least $200,000 of this $441,000 was paid over
      to Jess Smith "for expediting the claim through his acquaintance in
      Washington"; that Mal S. Daugherty, brother of the Attorney-General,
      sold at least $40,000 worth of Merton Liberty bonds and shortly
      thereafter deposited $49,165 to his brother's account; and that
      Colonel Miller also got a share of the money. Miller was convicted in
      1927 of conspiracy to defraud the Government of his unbiased services
      and was sentenced to eighteen Months in prison. Daugherty was also
      brought to trial, but got off. After two juries had been unable to
      agree as to his guilt or innocence, the indictment against him was
      dismissed-but not before it had been brought out that in 1925 this
      former chief legal officer of the Government had gone to his brother's
      bank at Washington Court House, Ohio, and had taken out and burned the
      ledger sheets covering his own account there, and his brother's
      account, and another account known as "Jesse Smith Extra."

      It was during the grand jury investigation which preceded the American
      Metal Company case that Harding's Attorney-General wrote the
      remarkable statement which appears at the head of this chapter. During
      his trial Daugherty failed to take the stand in his own defense, and
      his attorney, Max Steuer, later explained this failure in another
      equally remarkable statement:

      "It was not anything connected with this case which impelled him to
      refrain from so doing. . . . He feared . . . that Mr. Buckner would
      cross-examine him about matters political that would not involve Mr.
      Daugherty, concerning which he knew and as to which he would never
      make disclosure. . . . If the jury knew the real reason for destroying
      the ledger sheets they would commend rather than condemn Mr.
      Daugherty, but he insisted on silence."

      Could there be a more deliberate implication that Harding's
      Attorney-General could not tell the truth for fear of blackening the
      reputation of his dead chief? Call Daugherty's silence, if you wish,
      the silence of loyalty, or call those statements an effort to hide
      behind the dead President; in either case the Harding Administration
      appears in a strange light.

      Charges still more damaging were boldly made by Gaston B. Means in
      1930. He stated that as a henchman of the Ohio gang he used to engage
      two adjoining rooms at a New York hotel for the collection of
      prohibition graft from bootleggers who were willing to pay for federal
      protection; that he would place a big goldfish-bowl in one of the
      rooms, on a table which he could see by peeping through the door from
      the next room; that each bootlegger would come at his appointed hour
      and minute and leave in the bowl huge amounts of cash in
      thousand-dollar or five-hundred-dollar bills; that as soon as the
      bootlegger left, Means would enter, count the money, and check off the
      contribution; and that in this way be collected a total of fully seven
      million dollars which he turned over to Jess Smith, the
      collector-in-chief for the Ohio Gang, who shared an apartment in
      Washington with Attorney-General Daugherty.

      Means further asserted that the swag from this and other forms of
      graft was kept hidden—many thousand dollars at a time—in a metal box
      buried in the back yard of the house which he occupied at 903
      Sixteenth Street in Washington; he described this house and yard as
      being protected with a high wire fence and fitted out with a code
      signal system and other secret devices such as would delight a gang of
      small boys playing pirate.

      Jess Smith committed suicide—at least that was the official verdict—in
      1923 in the apartment which he shared with Harry Daugherty. Means
      claimed that just before this tragedy took place, the gang had
      discovered that Smith, like the careful shopkeeper he had been before
      he was brought to Washington by Daugherty to occupy a desk in the
      Department of justice—had kept a record of all the cash which had
      passed through his hands, and that Smith, terrified at the thought of
      his guilt and his secret knowledge, had been playing with the idea of
      turning state's witness against the gang. According to Means, the gang
      thereupon decided that Smith must be disposed of. Although Smith was
      afraid of firearms, he was persuaded to purchase a revolver on One of
      his trips to Ohio. And the "suicide" which followed—so Means plainly
      indicated, as many others had already suspected—was no suicide at all.

      Finally, Means drew attention to the astonishing mortality among those
      who had been in on the secrets of the gang. Not only had Smith dropped
      out of the picture, but also John T. King (who had received the Merton
      bonds), C. F. Hately (a Department of justice agent), C. F. Cramer
      (attorney for the Veterans' Bureau), Thurston (the Boston lawyer who
      represented many clients before the Alien Property Custodian), T. B.
      Felder (attorney for the Harding group), President Harding, Mrs.
      Harding, and General Sawyer. They had all died—most of them
      suddenly—within a few years of the end of the Harding Administration.

      No matter how much or how little credence one may give to these latter
      charges and their implications, the proved evidence is enough to
      warrant the statement that the Harding Administration was responsible
      in its short two years and five months for more concentrated robbery
      and rascality than any other in the whole history of the Federal
      Government.
      [6]


      And how did the American people take these disclosures? Did they rise
      in wrath to punish the offenders?

      When the oil scandals were first spread across the front pages of the
      newspapers, early in 1924, there was a wave of excitement sufficient
      to force the resignations of Denby and Daugherty and to bring about
      the appointment by the new President, Calvin Coolidge, of special
      Government counsel to deal with the oil cases. But the harshest
      condemnation on the part of the press and the public was reserved, not
      for those who had defrauded the government, but for those who insisted
      on bringing the facts to light. Senator Walsh, who led the
      investigation of the oil scandals, and Senator Wheeler, who
      investigated the Department of justice, were called by the New York
      Tribune "the Montana scandalmongers." The New York Evening Post called
      them mud-gunners." The New York Times, despite its Democratic
      leanings, called them "assassins of character." In these and other
      newspapers throughout the country one read of the "Democratic
      lynching-bee" and "poison-tongued partisanship, pure malice, and
      twittering hysteria," and the inquiries were called "in plain words,
      contemptible and disgusting."

      Newspaper-readers echoed these amiable sentiments. Substantial
      business men solemnly informed one another that mistakes might have
      been made but that it was unpatriotic to condemn them and thus to
      "cast discredit on the Government," and that those who insisted on
      probing them to the bottom were "nothing better than Bolsheviki." One
      of the leading super-patriots of the land, Fred R. Marvin of the Key
      Men of America, said the whole oil scandal was the result of "a
      gigantic international conspiracy . . . of the internationalists, or
      shall we call them socialists and communists?" A commuter riding daily
      to New York from his suburb at this period observed that on the
      seven-o'clock train there was some indignation at the scandals, but
      that on the eight-o'clock train there was only indignation at their
      exposure and that on the nine-o'clock train they were not even
      mentioned. When, a few months later, John W. Davis, campaigning for
      the Presidency on the Democratic ticket, made political capital of the
      Harding scandals, the opinion of the majority seemed to be that what
      he said was in bad taste, and Davis was snowed under at the polls. The
      fact was that any relentless investigation of the scandals threatened
      to disturb, if only slightly, the status quo, and disturbance of the
      status quo was the last thing that the dominant business class or the
      country at large wanted.

      They had voted for normalcy and they still believed in it. The most
      that they required of the United States Government was that it should
      keep its hands off business (except to give it a lift now and then
      through the imposition of favorable tariffs and otherwise) and be
      otherwise unobtrusive. They did not look for bold and far-seeing
      statesman. ship at Washington; their idea of statesmanship on the part
      of the President was that he should let things alone, give industry
      and trade a chance to garner fat profits, and not "rock the boat."
      They realized that their selection of Harding had been something of a
      false start toward the realization of this modest ideal. Harding had
      been a little too hail-fellow-well-met, and his amiability had led him
      into associations which brought about unfortunate publicity, and
      unfortunate publicity had a tendency to rock the boat. But the basic
      principle remained sound: all the country needed now was a President
      who combined with unobtrusiveness and friendliness toward business an
      unimpeachable integrity and an indisposition to have his leg pulled;
      and this sort of President they now had. The inscrutable workings of
      Providence had placed in the office left vacant by Harding the precise
      embodiment of this revised presidential ideal. Calvin Coolidge was
      unobtrusive to the last degree; he would never try to steer the ship
      of state into unknown waters; and at the same time he was sufficiently
      honest and circumspect to prevent any unseemly revelry from taking
      place on the decks. Everything was, therefore, as it should be. Why
      weaken public confidence in Harding's party, and thus in Harding's
      successor, by going into the unfortunate episodes of the past? The
      best thing to do was to let bygones be bygones.

      As the years went by and the scandals which came to light grew in
      number and in scope, it began to appear that the "mistakes" of 1921-23
      had been larger than the friends of normalcy had supposed when they
      vented their spleen upon Senator Walsh. But the testimony, coming out
      intermittently as it did, was confusing and hard to piece together;
      plain citizens could not keep clear in their minds such complicated
      facts as those relating to the Continental bonds or the Daugherty
      bank-accounts; and the steady passage of time made the later
      investigations seem like a washing of very ancient dirty linen.
      Business was good, the Coolidge variety of normalcy was working to the
      satisfaction of the country, Coolidge was honest; why dwell
      unnecessarily on the past? Resentment at the scandals and resentment
      at the scandalmongers both gave way to a profound and untroubled
      apathy. When the full story of the Continental Trading Company deal
      became known, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., as a large stockholder in the
      Standard Oil of Indiana, waged war against Colonel Stewart and managed
      to put him out of the chairmanship of the company; but the business
      world as a whole seemed to find nothing wrong in Colonel Stewart's
      performance. The voice of John the B<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
    • THOMAS JOHNSON
      My recollection of Jess Smith is that he was a crony, who was a frequent companion of Florence Harding, who he and Warren called Duchess due to her overblown
      Message 2 of 14 , Jan 10, 2006
        My recollection of Jess Smith is that he was a crony,
        who was a frequent companion of Florence Harding, who
        he and Warren called 'Duchess' due to her overblown
        aristocratic airs. He also acted as a liaison for
        Warren's affairs, including sneaking women into the
        White House. I seem to remember that he was found dead
        in an apparent suicide, a bullet to his right temple
        and though he was left-handed, the AG refused to
        investigate, the insinuation being that he was killed
        by someone inside the administration. He had been
        selling off massive amounts of federal liquor to cover
        his debts from playing the market very badly.
        Thanks for sending the info, Ram.

        Tom



        --- Ram Lau <ramlau@...> wrote:

        > > I am somehow doubtful of the Federal Vampire and
        > Zombie Agency's
        > > accuracy, and I unfortunately couldn't find any
        > other mentions of
        > > Frank Prevost on Google.
        >
        > I thought they were just a conspiracy group who
        > write parodies about
        > the vampires and zombies. I should have mentioned
        > that in the first
        > place. Here is a more serious and scholarly account
        > from the book
        > written by Frederick Lewis Allen published in 1931:
        >
        > http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/ALLEN/ch6.html
        > HARDING AND THE SCANDALS
        >
        > Having been personal attorney for Warren G. Harding
        > before he was
        > Senator from Ohio and while he was Senator, and
        > thereafter until his
        > death.
        > --And for Mrs. Harding for a period of several
        > years, and before her
        > husband was elected President and after his death,
        > --And having been attorney for the Midland National
        > Bank of Washington
        > Court House, O., and for my brother, M. S.
        > Daugherty,
        > --And having been Attorney-General of the United
        > States during the
        > time that President Harding served as President,
        > --And also for a time after President Harding's
        > death under President
        > Coolidge,
        > --And with all of those named, as attorney, personal
        > friend, and
        > Attorney-General, my relations were of the most
        > confidential character
        > as well as professional,
        > --I refuse to testify and answer questions put to
        > me, because:
        > The answer I might give or make and the testimony I
        > might give might
        > tend to incriminate me.
        >
        > --Harry M. Daugherty's written reply when called
        > upon by Judge
        > Thacher for information for the Federal Grand Jury
        > in New York, March
        > 31, 1926. (Punctuation revised.)
        >
        > ON THE morning of March 4, 1921,—a brilliant morning
        > with a frosty air
        > and a wind which whipped the flags of
        > Washington—Woodrow Wilson,
        > broken and bent and ill, limped from the White House
        > door to a waiting
        > automobile, rode down Pennsylvania Avenue to the
        > Capitol with the
        > stalwart President-elect at his side, and returned
        > to the bitter
        > seclusion of his private house in S Street. Warren
        > Gamaliel Harding
        > was sworn in as President of the United States. The
        > reign of normalcy
        > had begun.
        >
        > March 4, 1921: what do those cold figures mean to
        > you? Let us for turn
        > back for a moment to that day and look about us.
        >
        > The war had been over for more than two years,
        > although, as the Treaty
        > of Versailles had been thrown out by the Senate and
        > Woodrow Wilson had
        > refused to compromise with the gentlemen at the
        > other end of the
        > Avenue, a technical state of war still existed
        > between Germany and the
        > United States. Business, having boomed until the
        > middle of 1920, was
        > collapsing into the depths of depression and
        > dragging down with it the
        > price-level which had caused so much uproar about
        > the High Cost of
        > Living. The Big Red Scare was gradually ebbing,
        > although the
        > super-patriots still raged and Sacco and Vanzetti
        > had not yet come to
        > trial before Judge Thayer. The Ku-Klux Klan was
        > acquiring its first
        > few hundred thousand members. The Eighteenth
        > Amendment was entering
        > upon its second year, and rum-runners and
        > bootleggers were beginning
        > to acquire confidence. The sins of the flappers were
        > disturbing the
        > nation; it was at about this time that Philadelphia
        > produced the
        > "moral gown" and the Literary Digest featured a
        > symposium entitled,
        > "Is the Younger Generation in Peril?" The first
        > radio broadcasting
        > station in the country was hardly four months old
        > and the radio craze
        > was not yet. Skirts had climbed halfway to the knee
        > and seemed likely
        > to go down again, a crime commission had just been
        > investigating
        > Chicago's crime wave, Judge Landis had become the
        > czar of baseball,
        > Dempsey and Carpentier had signed to meet the
        > following summer at
        > Boyle's Thirty Acres, and Main Street and The
        > Outline of History were
        > becoming best sellers.
        >
        > The nation was spiritually tired. Wearied by the
        > excitements of the
        > war and the nervous tension of the Big Red Scare,
        > they hoped for quiet
        > and healing. Sick of Wilson and his talk of
        > America's duty to
        > humanity, callous to political idealism, they hoped
        > for a chance to
        > pursue their private affairs without governmental
        > interference and to
        > forget about public affairs. There might be no such
        > word in the
        > dictionary as normalcy, but normalcy was what they
        > wanted.
        >
        > Every new administration at Washington begins in a
        > atmosphere of
        > expectant good will, but in this case the airs which
        > lapped the
        > capital were particularly bland. The smile of the
        > new President was as
        > warming as a spring thaw after a winter of
        > discontent. For four long
        > years the gates of the White House had been locked
        > and guarded with
        > sentries. Harding's first official act was to throw
        > them open, to
        > permit a horde of sight-seers to roam the grounds
        > and flatten their
        > noses against the executive window-panes and
        > photograph one another
        > under the great north portico; to permit flivvers
        > and trucks to detour
        > from Pennsylvania Avenue up the driveway and chortle
        > right past the
        > presidential front door. The act seemed to symbolize
        > the return of the
        > government to the people. Wilson had been denounced
        > as an autocrat,
        > had proudly kept his own counsel; Harding modestly
        > said he would rely
        > on the "best minds" to advise him, and took his oath
        > of office upon
        > the verse from Micah which asks, "What doth the Lord
        > require of thee
        > but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk
        > humbly with thy God?"
        > Wilson had seemed to be everlastingly prying into
        > the affairs of
        > business and had distrusted most business men;
        > Harding meant to give
        > them as free a hand as possible "to resume their
        > normal onward way."
        > And finally, whereas Wilson had been an austere
        > academic theorist,
        > Harding was "just folks": he radiated an unaffected
        > good nature, met
        > reporters and White House visitors with a warm
        > handclasp and a genial
        > word, and touched the sentimental heart of America
        > by establishing in
        > the White House a dog named Laddie Boy. "The
        > Washington atmosphere of
        > today is like that of Old Home Week or a college
        > class reunion," wrote
        > Edward G. Lowry shortly after Harding took office.
        > "The change is
        > amazing. The populace is on a broad grin." An era of
        > good will seemed
        > to be beginning.
        >
        > Warren Harding had two great assets, and these were
        > already apparent.
        > First, he looked as a President of the United States
        > should. He was
        > superbly handsome. His face and carriage had a
        > Washingtonian nobility
        > and dignity, his eyes were benign; he photographed
        > well and the
        > pictures of him in the rotogravure sections won him
        > affection and
        > respect. And he was the friendliest man who ever had
        > entered the White
        >
        === message truncated ===
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