April 5: The Supreme Court and National Politics

sacco.jpg (77796 bytes) Cartoon criticizing the Sacco/Vanzetti decision, 1927

A slight adjustment in the schedule. We'll be spending most of our time on the Court itself--and its key role in shaping conservatism during the deacde between 1919 and 1929. The key document reading is the Bailey case, in which the Court ruled unconstitutional a law placing a tax on child labor. The decision is a very easy read.



    Kyvig, Explicit and Authentic Acts

The Kyvig reading focuses on Prohibition and women's suffrage, two constitutional amendments passed at the dawn of the postwar era that played key roles throughout the 1920s. Yet this period is also notable for the overt politicking of the Supreme Court, especially Chief Justice William Howard Taft, and the profound national debates over freedom of speech, rights of the accused, and nativism--all sparked by the Sacco-Vanzetti case, to which I have a couple of links below.


Felix Frankfurter on the Sacco-Vanzetti case
Sacco-Vanzetti overview
the Taft Court: Bailey (1922)



1.) To what extent did the Supreme Court set the tenor for the conservatism of the 1920s? Or was it more responding to popular attitudes?

2.) To what extent did the 1920s continue to reflect the mores of a past era: i.e., Lochner regarding economic policy?

3.) Was the 1920s Supreme Court hostile to the concept of government regulation, or was it, in the words of one historian, a proponent of "dual federalism," that is, opposing federal government powers but having little problem with action by state governments?

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