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Independent Man

The Life of Senator James Couzens

Harry Barnard With an Introduction by David L. Lewis

Publication Year: 2002

First published in 1958 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, Independent Man is the only book-length biography of one of Michigan’s most remarkable men. His many careers embraced both the business and political spheres. Couzens was a prominent business man who helped shape Ford Motor Company but he left the company when he and Henry Ford clashed over politics. Upon leaving Ford, Couzens began his career in politics. He first served as Detroit’s police commissioner. He went on to a controversial term as mayor of Detroit and then represented Michigan in the U. S. Senate. This book reveals the life of a truly unique and inspirational man.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-4

Contents

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pp. v-viii

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FOREWORD

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pp. xi-xiv

THE James Couzens in Independent Man was not the Jame s knew. I was his first grandchild, born in 1924, and probably because I was a first grandchild I received a lot of attention and many favors. My grandfather loved all of his grandchildren, and we loved him. We knew him as Daddy Jim. In the summer, our family lived at Wabeek Farms, as did my aunt and uncle and their children...

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. xv-xxii

INDEPENDENT MAN: The Life of James Couzens and I have been friends since 1958 when it was used in the preparation of my doctoral dissertation on Henry Ford. My copy cost $5.95. Present-day buyers pay more, but they, too, have made a sound investment. Independent Man, a perfect title, has been out of print for many years (its publisher, Charles Scribner's Sons, does not know how long it has been unavailable or even the number...

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A NOTE ON THE AUTHOR

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pp. xxxiii-19

SURPRISINGLY, Independent Mans first printing omits biographical information on the book's author; we'll remedy that shortcoming here. The son of an oculist, Harry Barnard was born with the surname Kletzky in Pueblo, Colorado, in 1906. After receiving a Ph.B. from the University of Chicago in 1928...

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Prologue: October 12, 1915

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pp. 1-8

WHEN the story broke, it shoved the European war dispatches into a subordinate position in newspapers all over the world. In London as well as in Copenhagen, not to mention New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and Los Angeles, this was true. The newspapers in Detroit put out extras with big headlines...

Book I: The Money-Making Machine

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1. THE BEGINNING

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pp. 11-14

PROPERLY the story of James Couzens had its real beginning in the fall of 1870, two years before he was born. This was when his father stepped off a train in the windswept little town of Chatham, Ontario Province, Canada. An immigrant tossed up by economic depression and also propelled by deep-seated inability to get along with his own father, this traveler, then twenty-one, had...

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2. THE CANADIAN BOY

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pp. 15-17

WHEN the boy was four or five, his father became a laborer in the soap factory of Lamont and Coate. He left the grocery trade because in Canada it lacked dignity, he later said. However, his real reason for the switch was the opportunity to earn a higher wage, which in that era meant one dollar...

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3. THE MONEY-MAKING MACHINE,

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pp. 18-22

BY THE time young James was seven or eight, his father's job at the Lamont and Coate soap establishment had become twofold. He manufactured the soap by the primitive, grimy process of steammixing wood ashes with discarded animal fats and he also acted as salesman. Once in a while, young...

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4. THE NEW DETROITER

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pp. 23-28

THE place called the Amos House was a ramshackle, weather-beaten lodging and boarding place, favored by railroad workers employed at the "Junction Yards." Then, though not later, it was on the outskirts of Detroit. Its main attraction: low-priced meals. For the next three years, young James Couzens lived there, his steel-blue eyes more intently than ever focused on his...

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5. THE COAL

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pp. 29-30

IN 1895, Alex Y. Malcomson was a restless, energetic Scot with a lean, though well-built, body and a long nose framed by muttonchop whiskers that gave him the look of a successful merchant going full-steam ahead. And this was true—fortunately true, in a material sense, for the new office factotum, James Couzens. Because of what the future...

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6. THE FAMILY MAN

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pp. 31-34

EVEN before leaving the Michigan Central, Couzens had found the girl he had been looking for. She was Margaret Manning, a widow's daughter, from a family fairly well known in Detroit. Her uncle was Aaron A. Parker, a banker and head of the White Star shipping line, which operated ships on the Great Lakes from Detroit. A nephew of hers, John C. Manning...

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7. THE FORD MOTOR COMPANY

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pp. 35-43

SIMILARLY driven by ambition, Malcomson also was restless. He had lately invested some money in an icebox scheme, only to suffer a failure that cost him several thousand dollars. Couzens lost in the venture too, having put in $100. In 1902 Malcomson eyed a new business, in connection with which he was seeing much of the spare, angular man named Henry Ford. Malcomson had known...

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8. THE BUSINESS MANAGER

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pp. 44-48

As THOUGH by instinct the "crackerjack" paired off with Ford after the organizational meeting. Ford volunteered to take Couzens home in his odd-looking, tiller-steered runabout, and Couzens accepted the invitation. For the Ford Motor Company, this was the real beginning—and also for the two "partners," as, in due time, they would be called. Up to that moment they had...

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9. THE CLOUD

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pp. 49-55

BY 1903, at least 145 other automobile firms had been founded in the United States. Already, despite the public's continued interest in motoring, most of them had disappeared. "Look at the constantly lengthening list of 'dead ones' in the automobile trade," the Automobile Magazine warned...

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10. THE REALIGNMENT

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pp. 56-65

AT THE next directors' meeting it was voted unanimously "to throw down the gauntlet, come what may.'1 Space in newspapers was purchased for denunciations of the Selden patent. These Ford advertisements assured prospective car buyers, "We will protect you." Then, to offset the Licensed...

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11. THE MONEY-MAKING MACHINE, II

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pp. 66-71

IN 1907, business in America was generally in a bad way. Mark Twain said this was because Theodore Roosevelt, the President, was a "crazy man." Others said it was because of the financial manipulations by the "trusts." Whatever the cause, the country was gripped by economic panic. The...

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12. THE CRISIS

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pp. 72-82

YET the Midas touch left something to be desired for both Couzens and Ford. In spite of the riches that flowed in on them, in spite of all the doors thrown open to them, neither was really a happy man. Both illustrated a fact—that success often is harder to endure than failure, that it frequently carries...

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13. THE FIVE-DOLLAR-A-DAY PLAN

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pp. 83-94

REALIZATION that he faced a crisis in his life plunged him into a state of self-examination, doubt, discontent, and indecision. He was at a dead end. He had to give his life a new purpose, or throw the balance of it away in dissipation, in absorption in trivialities, or in activity that bored him. He suffered from sleepless nights, and complained of not feeling well. His doctor recommended that he go away for a rest.1 He knew, however...

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14. THE FINAL BREAK

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pp. 95-100

THE wage plan proved a good temporary palliative for the tension between Couzens and Ford. Ford enjoyed being interviewed for magazines, newspapers, even books. Both Couzens and he obtained pleasurable excitement from watching how the paternalistic side of the plan worked, and...

Book II: The New Public Man

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15. THE JOB-SEEKER AGAIN

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pp. 103-106

EVEN after his break with Ford, Couzens remained a director in the company, and continued to take an interest in the "social experiment" in the Ford organization. He continued to make crusading speeches to other businessmen. Before the Windsor (Ontario) Board of Trade, he denounced businessmen...

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16. THE POLICE COMMISSIONER

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pp. 107-112

IN THE words of Detroit's semi-official historian, George B. Catlin, he "immediately began making history" as Commissioner of Police.1 Owing to that penchant of his for saying what he thought, he started off with a storm. During an interview with the newspapers he was asked to give his policy on law enforcement...

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17. THE ODD CANDIDATE

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pp. 113-116

"THE first thing you know, Jim, you will be a national character. Remember that Theodore Roosevelt started his career as police commissioner of New York City. Incidentally and confidentially, let me tell you that William Alden Smith will not be a candidate for United States Senator again two years...

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18. THE STRONG MAYOR

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pp. 117-121

"I AM by nature somewhat more destructive than constructive/' Couzens had said back in 1915 in a burst of self-analysis.1 What he really meant was that he received pleasure out of challenging accepted patterns of conduct that did not jibe with his own strictly disciplined moral code. This is the way he had performed his job as police commissioner, and...

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19. THE PEOPLE'S MAN

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pp. 122-125

IT WAS not merely because Couzens was a "builder mayor," nor even because he was so conspicuously honest and aggressively non-political, that he became one of the few outstanding mayors in American history. In all probability, his "disgraceful contemporary," as he called Mayor "Big Bill" Thompson...

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20. THE BATTLE FOR M.O.

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pp. 126-130

IRONICALLY, no one in the Detroit of that period was more often called a "Bolshevist" than Couzens himself—mainly because of his battle to establish municipal ownership of the city's streetcar lines. He had flatly declared in his inaugural message that Detroit needed to run its own public transportation system. His blue eyes never looked more like steel than...

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21. THE "DAMNABLE OUTRAGE"

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pp. 131-133

PROBLEMS remained, however. The D.U.R. launched nine different lawsuits to try to invalidate the referendum. One suit was even based on the point that the paper used for the ballots was too thin.1 Steel for the rails was needed, and no major steel company would submit bids. The bonds voted in the referendum had to be sold, and investment brokers boycotted...

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22. THE REWARD

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pp. 134-138

COUZENS' satisfaction at having established the nation's largest mu nicipally owned railway was "sweeter," he said, than anything he had ever achieved in business.1 Best of all, he had demonstrated beyond any question that he was his own man. The Detroit News commented: The only way...

Book III: The Senator

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23. THE ONE-MAN BLOC

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pp. 141-151

HE WAS a marked man in the Senate from the very beginning. His career in industry as well as in municipal government, plus his wealth and his reputation as a fighter formed a combination that caught the public fancy. One news service, unaware of his Canadian birth, sent out during his first month a story to the effect that he was "a natural candidate for President in 1924." "If the Democrats...

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24. THE PLAIN-SPEAKING STATESMAN

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pp. 152-157

IN THE summer of 1923, a full-fledged boom was under way to nominate Henry Ford for President of the United States. Ford was set to run on either major party ticket, but preferably the Republican, judged the most likely to win. To a later generation, one nursed on the picture of Ford as a man...

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25. THE MILLIONAIRES' WAR

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pp. 158-167

EARLY in November 1923 the New York Times sent a telegram to Couzens in Detroit: "We will appreciate it if you wire us collect your views on Secretary Mellon's propositions to reduce income taxes/'x Quite innocently, this telegram directed him on a course that touched off one of the most explosive...

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26. "THE LA FOLLETTEITE!"

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pp. 168-173

BY THEN, Couzens' political creed had matured. It was not conscious Progressivism, in the La Follette sense, though most of the time he did stand close to La Follette. Nor was it simon-pure insurgency, in the style of Brookhart or Magnus Johnson, the Minnesota whirlwind, though much of the time...

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27. THE CRITIC OF COOLIDGE

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pp. 174-180

"WHAT I hope for is that there will be enough aggressive Republican representatives in the next Congress to make the party stand for something better than it has in the past," Couzens had told Vandenberg during the campaign.1 His hope was ill-founded. For the landslide that kept Coolidge in the White House had crushed not only the Democratic party—forever...

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28. THE RESTLESS STATESMAN

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pp. 181-185

HE KNEW what was missing. Back in the time when he was mayor, a group of newspapermen one day asked him for a definition of success in life. "Contentment and peace of mind, something that comes from within you/' he said. "I sometimes think that I will never find them for myself." He certainly tried to find them....

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29. THE MAGNIFICENT GIFT

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pp. 186-192

I have more money than I am entitled to. I am just commencing to take time to learn how to separate myself from some of it." * That year Henry Morgan, his secretary, persuaded him to visit a small home for crippled children in Detroit maintained by a Blanche Leuven Brown, herself...

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30. THE "DANGEROUS MAN"

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pp. 193-199

His Children's Fund gift was cited in many quarters as proof of the healthy working of the American economic system. By coincidence, however, the system was just then on the eve of a great spell of sickness, the first symptom of which was a pronounced rise in unemployment. Nearly everyone dismissed this trend in the latter days of the Coolidge Bull Market...

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31. THE CRUSADER AGAIN

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pp. 200-207

THEIR first major clash was on the old question of Muscle Shoals. For Hoover held to the same view on Muscle Shoals that Goolidge had advocated, that it should not be operated as a government power project, but should be turned over to private power companies, if developed for power at all.1 In his very first message to Congress, Hoover denounced...

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32. THE END OF AN ERA

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pp. 208-210

AHEAD was the 1932 election. Basically, this election among other things was a referendum on the Hoover policies on the depression in general, on unemployment relief in particular. Including many Republicans, the people plainly were angry with Hoover, rightly or wrongly. Even so stanch a regular Republican as Frank O. Lowden, the former Governor of Illinois...

Book IV: The Independent Man

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33. THE BANK CRISIS

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pp. 213-220

ROOSEVELT was not to take office until the following March 4, 1933, and Couzens like nearly everyone else believed the period between the election and inauguration would be a quiet time. But this calculation was rudely upset. New tremors in the banking system of the country occurred in Nevada, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana. Then, on February 14, 1933, less....

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34. THE WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE

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pp. 221-227

Two days later, February 8, 1933, Edsel Ford conferred in Washington on the situation with Ogden L. Mills, who had succeeded Mellon as Secretary of the Treasury. He also talked with Charles A. Miller of Utica, New York, who had succeeded Dawes as president of the RFC. Miller left a record of his conference with Edsel. "I . . . urged on him strongly the duty of...

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35. THE CLIMAX

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pp. 228-234

CHAPIN and Ballantine arrived in Detroit on Saturday, February 11, 1933.1 The date is important, for the next day, Sunday, February 12, was Lincoln's Birthday, making the following Monday a legal holiday; hence the banks would not be required to open. This meant that there was time until the following Tuesday morning, the fourteenth— an extra day—to make...

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36. "A HELL OF A MESS"

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pp. 235-244

THE holiday served its major purpose of keeping any depositors, including Ford, from making withdrawals. But getting the banks open again was another matter. Originally the holiday was supposed to last only eight days. Governor Comstock, however, was forced to extend it indefinitely at the request of the bankers...

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37. THE MISSION THAT FAILED

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pp. 245-252

His overnight trip might well have been screen-titled: "Couzens to the Rescue." Its importance was well underlined in a memorandum that Vandenberg hastily typed on his portable in his Senate office and had delivered to Couzens at the Washington railroad station. "This stupendous journey" was how Vandenberg referred to Couzens' mission. "We have been in complete...

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38. THE NEW DEAL ONLOOKER

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pp. 253-261

ALL during these last bewildering days of the Detroit crisis, other events, equally tumultuous, had been transpiring in Washington. These were general developments in consequence of Roosevelt's inauguration and his calling of a special session of Congress the next day. With all his preoccupation with Detroit matters, Couzens tried his best to keep up with these events also. He had liked Roosevelt's...

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39. THE INVESTIGATOR AGAIN

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pp. 262-267

T H E inquisition of the House of Morgan began May 23, 1933, in the marble-floored conference room of the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency. In certain quarters it would be labeled a "circus," especially after the incident engineered by a press agent of having a midget suddenly plump himself on Mr. Morgan's lap. But in truth this inquisition...

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40. THE DELEGATE TO LONDON

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pp. 268-274

ROOSEVELT unexpectedly opened the way to his needed change of scene. Summoning him to the White House for a 9 A.M. meeting, but without telling him the purpose, Roosevelt had Couzens ushered into his private apartment. The President was still in bed, having breakfast and reading the newspapers, which informality (inconceivable with Coolidge or Hoover) so...

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41. THE SMEAR

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pp. 275-290

THE Detroit bank case had re-exploded. Couzens first learned of this development between sessions in London when Jay Hayden showed him a cable from his newspaper, the Detroit News. The cable asked Hayden to get Couzens* comments on testimony given before a one-man grand jury that day by Clifford Longley, the Ford attorney and the latest president of the defunct Union Guardian Trust Company...

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42. THE NEW DEAL REPUBLICAN

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pp. 291-297

THAT spring Roosevelt sent to Congress a request for an emergency public-works program to cost $4,800,000,000. It was a measure, one which made possible not only big public works, but also the WPA projects of "made work," the National Youth Administration, and other agencies to supply jobs for the unemployed, that sent the conservative opposition into a kind..

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43. THE UNBOWED HEAD

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pp. 298-302

HE WAS never to feel really "fine" again. The incisions were slow in healing. He had to have injections of insulin. The attacks of terrible pain recurred. He was disappointed and depressed over his physical condition, he wrote to John C. Manning, nephew of Mrs. Couzens. But for the most part, his mood was to rise above his physical distress and carry...

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44. THE POLITICAL DILEMMA

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pp. 303-310

IN TRUTH, there was no campaign. He still had no organization with which to make one, a price he paid for having eschewed patronage in politics. After fourteen years as a Senator, he was in the pitiful position of a political leader unable to count on more than a dozen men in the whole state to serve as the nucleus of a strong campaign committee. Then, too, he declined to give the...

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45. THE INDEPENDENT MAN

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pp. 311-314

H E KNEW only too well the consequences. "I have written myself out of the Senate/' he wrote to Senator McNary.1 Friends said, "Too bad, too bad/' His response was, "Not at all. The important thing is that the New Deal, what it stands for, be firmly entrenched. That means another term for Roosevelt is necessary...

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46. THE TRIUMPHANT DEFEAT

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pp. 315-321

WHETHER or not the exertion of being with Roosevelt that night had harmed him, none could say. He was obviously exhausted. Frank and Bill Yaw escorted him from the Roosevelt meeting to the Book- Cadillac Hotel, where Dr. Freund was waiting to take him back to the hospital. Dr. Freund saw that he was over-fatigued. "Was it worth it?" he asked, after they were settled in...

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47. "THE END OF THE ROAD"

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pp. 322-328

WHETHER or not the exertion of being with Roosevelt that night had harmed him, none could say. He was obviously exhausted. Frank and Bill Yaw escorted him from the Roosevelt meeting to the Book- Cadillac Hotel, where Dr. Freund was waiting to take him back to the hospital. Dr. Freund saw that he was over-fatigued. "Was it worth it?" he asked, after they were settled in...

Notes

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pp. 329-358

Bibliography

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pp. 359-368

Index

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pp. 369-376

Back Cover

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p. 396-396


E-ISBN-13: 9780814335871
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814330852

Page Count: 408
Illustrations: 1
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: Great Lakes Books

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Subject Headings

  • Couzens, James, 1872-1936.
  • Legislators -- United States -- Biography.
  • United States. Congress. Senate -- Biography.
  • Michigan -- Politics and government -- 1837-1950.
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