- William Edgar Borah
name = William E. Borah
imagesize = 175px
jr/sr=United States Senator
March 4, 1907
January 19, 1940
John W. Thomas
date of birth=birth date|1865|6|29|mf=y
place of birth=near Fairfield,
dead = dead
date of death=death date and age|1940|1|19|1865|6|29
place of death=
William Edgar Borah (
June 29, 1865near Fairfield, Illinois– January 19, 1940 Washington, D.C.) was a prominent Republican attorneyand longtime United States Senatorfrom Idahonoted for his oratorical skills and isolationist views. One of his nicknames later in life was "The Lion of Idaho."
Early life and career
Borah's schooling included the Wayne County common schools and the Southern Illinois Academy at Enfield. He attended
University of Kansasin 1885 but was forced to leave after contracting tuberculosishis freshman year. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in September 1887. After practicing law in Lyons, Kansas, he relocated to Boise, Idaho, in 1890, where he became the most prominent attorney in the state. Borah ran for the United States Senate in 1902, but was defeated in the Idaho Legislatureby Weldon B. Heyburn.
In 1907, shortly after entering the Senate, Borah, as the prosecuting attorney, was pitted against
Clarence Darrowin the nationally publicized trial of "Big Bill" Haywood and two other radical labor union officials for the 1905 murder of former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg.
In 1906, the Idaho Legislature elected William Borah to the U.S. Senate over the controversial Democratic incumbent,
Fred Dubois. Borah was reelected by the Idaho Legislature in 1912, and four more times by popular vote (1918, 1924, 1930 and 1936). He remains the longest-serving member of the United States Congress in Idaho history.
A member of the
Republican National Committeefrom 1908 to 1912, he was a delegate to the 1912 Republican National Convention. As a senator Borah was dedicated to principles rather than party loyalty, a trait which earned him the nickname "the Great Opposer." He disliked entangling alliances in foreign policy and became a prominent anti-imperialistand nationalist, favoring a continued separation of American liberal and European Great Power politics. He encouraged the formation of a series of world economic conferences and favored a low tariff.
In 1919 Borah and other Senate Republicans, notably
Henry Cabot Lodgeof Massachusettsand Hiram W. Johnson of California, clashed with President Woodrow Wilsonover Senate ratification of the Treaty of Versaillesending World War Iand establishing the League of Nations. Borah emerged as leader of the "Irreconcilables," a group of senators noted for their uncompromising opposition to the treaty and the League. During 1919 Borah and Johnson toured the country speaking against the treaty in response to Wilson's own speaking tour supporting it. Borah's impassioned November 19, 1919, speech on the Senate floor in opposition to the treaty and League of Nations was contributive to the Senate's ultimate rejection of it. [http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/Speeches_Borah_League.htm Classic Senate Speeches: William E. Borah to The League of Nations] on November 19, 1919. Accessed May 15, 2008.]
From 1925 to 1933, Borah served as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As Chairman, he became known for his pro-Soviet views, favoring recognition of the
Communistregime, and sometimes interceded with that government in an unofficial capacity during the period when Moscow had no official relations with the United States. Purportedly, Kremlin officials held Borah in such high esteem that American citizens could gain permission to travel throughout the Soviet Union with nothing more than a letter from the Senator.
Domestically, he sponsored bills that created the Department of Labor and the Children's Bureau. He was one of the Senators responsible for uncovering the scandals of the Harding Administration. In 1932, unhappy with the conservative policies of President
Herbert Hooverin light of the Great Depression, Borah refused to publicly endorse Hoover's reelection campaign.
After Hoover's defeat by Democrat
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Borah, now the Dean of the United States Senate, supported certain components of the New Deal, such as old-age pensions and the confiscation of US citizen's gold by executive order, but opposed others, including the National Industrial Recovery Actand the Agricultural Adjustment Act.
Personality and views
Borah was a progressive Republican who often had strong differences of opinion with the conservative wing of the party. Borah also had a reputation for being headstrong. When conservative President
Calvin Coolidgewas told of Borah's fondness for horseback riding, the president is said to have replied, "It's hard to imagine Senator Borah going in the same direction as his horse."
Conservative Republicans in Idaho, notably Governor and later Senator
Frank R. Gooding, often feuded with Borah as well. Nevertheless, Borah became a strong political force in Idaho and elsewhere often in spite of opposition from his own party. After his death, Borah was linked by Gore Vidal as the father of Alice Roosevelt Longworth's child, but at that time Vidal did not not give much data in support of his assertion.
Wallace E. Olson, then president of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in mocking the United States income tax system and rates reported on the debates held in Congress that,
A fear expressed by a number of opponents was that the proposed law, with its low rates was the camel's nose under the tent that once a tax on incomes was enacted, rates would tend to rise. Sen. William E. Borah of Idaho was outraged by such anxieties, and derided a suggestion that the rate might eventually climb as high as 20 percent. Who, he asked, could impose such socialistic, confiscatory rates? Only Congress. And how could Congress, the Representatives of the American People, be so lacking in fairness, justice and patriotism? -- "Wall Street Journal," October 5, 1973. Page 8 at columns 4-6.
In 1931 Borah declared he was in favor of the revision of the
Versailles Treatyand the Polish corridor, and the revision of the Treaty of Trianonthat divided lands from the old Hungarian Kingdombetween Austria, Czechoslovakia, Romaniaand Yugoslavia. [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,753073,00.html Show Stolen?] , " Time Magazine", November 2, 1931]
In 1932 Borah strongly disagreed with the suggestion of the drafters of the
London Economic Conferenceof 1933, who met in Geneva, that the United States should settle intergovernmental debts as a step to recover from the Great Depression. [The World Economic Conference, Herbert Samuel, "International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs" 1931-1939), Vol. 12, No. 4. (Jul., 1933) 445.]
1936 Presidential campaign
In an attempt to revitalize the progressive wing of the Republican Party, in 1936 a 71-year-old Borah ran for
President of the United States, becoming the first Idahoan to do so. Borah's candidacy was opposed by the conservative Republican leadership and dismissed by Roosevelt. He managed to win only a handful of delegates. Borah won a majority of delegates in only one state, Wisconsin, where he had the endorsement of Progressive United States Senator Robert M. La Follette, Jr.Borah refused to endorse the eventual Republican nominee, Alf Landon, leading some to believe he might cross party lines and support Roosevelt's reelection. As he had four years earlier, ultimately he chose to support neither candidate. [http://www.kevincmurphy.com/williamborah3.html A Lion Among The Liberals] , by Kevin C. Murphy. Accessed May 15, 2008.]
Despite his failed presidential run, throughout his long career Borah remained personally popular among Idaho voters. While in the Senate in Idaho he never faced a serious political challenge from either the Republicans or Democrats. After abandoning his presidential campaign, later in 1936 at the height of Democratic power during the New Deal era, Borah ran for reelection against three-term Idaho Governor
C. Ben Ross, a Roosevelt ally, and won with well over 60 percent of the vote.
Borah conducted a long-time affair with
Alice Longworth, the daughter of Theodore Rooseveltand the wife of fellow politician Nicholas Longworth. He was long rumored to be the biological father of Alice Longworth's only child, Paulina Longworth, who was born nearly 20 years into her parents' marriage. Alice Roosevelt's diaries were made available to her biographer, historian Stacy A. Cordery, who found and published Alice's own admission of Borah's paternity.Cordery, Stacy A. "Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, From White House Princess to Washington Power Broker." New York: Penguin Group, Viking Adult (2007). ISBN 0670018333 ISBN 978-0670018338] Other historians such as Carol Felsenthal, Betty Boyd Caroli and TIME journalist Rebecca Winters Keegan, have also demonstrated that Paulina Longworth's father was Borah, and that this was generally accepted knowledge in Washington, D.C.[ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1207827,00.html] , "TIME Magazine'.]
Known for his public integrity, eloquent speaking ability, and genuine concern for his constituents, William E. Borah died in Washington, D.C., on
January 19, 1940of a cerebral hemorrhageat the age of 74. He is buried in Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise. [ [http://www.cityofboise.org/parks/caring/cemetery/index.aspx?id=mh_walking_tour#Borah Cemetery Walking Tour: William E. Borah] , published by City of Boise. Accessed May 15, 2008.
In 1947, the state of Idaho donated a bronze statue of Borah to the
National Statuary Hall Collection. Idaho's highest point, Borah Peak, at 12,662 feet (3859 m), is named for him, as are two public schools: Borah High Schoolin Boise, and Borah Elementary School in Coeur d'Alene. At the University of Idaho, an annual symposiumon foreign affairs, a residence hall, and a theater in the student unionbuilding bear his name. William E. Borah Apartment, Windsor Lodge, a home of his in Washington, D.C., was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmarkin 1976.citation|title=PDFlink| [http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Text/76002134.pdf National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: William Edgar Borah Apartment, Number 21, Windsor Lodge / William Edgar Borah Apartment, Number 21, Chancellery Cooperative] |32 KB|date=January, 1976 |author=Cathy A. Alexander, Ralph Christian, and George R. Adams |publisher=National Park Service and PDFlink| [http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Photos/76002134.pdf "Accompanying three photos, exterior, from 1975 and 1978"] |32 KB]
Borah may be best known today for having reportedly said, in September 1939, after
Germanyinvaded Poland, "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler—all this might have been averted." The source of this quote was a 1940 Senate Document, "News Articles on the Life and Works of Honorable William E. Borah", compiled and written by William Kinsey Hutchinson, then International News Service's Washington Bureau Chief. Hutchinson indicated that Borah said it to him in private "in words that ran like a prayer." [ William Kinsey Hutchinson, "News Articles on the Life and Works of Honorable William E. Borah, Late a Senator from the State of Idaho", Senate Document 150 (Washington, D.C., 1940), p. 37.] There is no other public record of Borah saying this; Borah died before Hutchinson published the document, and thus could not deny or confirm it; its veracity is therefore questionable.
The quote has been repeatedly cited as evidence of the alleged naivete of a belief in the power of pure diplomacy. Conservative commentator
Charles Krauthammerhas referred to the quote in at least three of his columns, making an analogy to negotiating with Chinain 1989, with North Koreain 1994 and with Iranin 2006. [ [http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1515951,00.html "Why the Nazi Analogy Is on the Rise"] , Brendan Nyhan, " Time Magazine", August 31, 2006] In August 2006 United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeldreferred to the quote when decrying those who want to "negotiate a separate peace with terrorists". [ [http://www.defenselink.mil/Speeches/Speech.aspx?SpeechID=1033 Address at the 88th Annual American Legion National Convention] , Donald Rumsfeld, August 29, 2006]
May 15 2008, U.S. President George W. Bushreferred to the quote in a speech to the Knessetin Israelcommemorating that nation's 60th anniversary, after stating, "some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along." Some, including Barack Obamahimself, interpreted Bush's comment to be a criticism of Obama for his stated willingness to negotiate with the leaders of Iran. White House staff stated that the reference was meant more as a criticism of former president Jimmy Carter, who has argued that the U.S. should be willing to meet with Hamas. CNN, "The Situation Room," May 15, 2008 at 5 PM EDT.]
*"No more fatuous chimera has ever infested the brain than that you can control opinions by law or direct belief by statute, and no more pernicious sentiment ever tormented the heart than the barbarous desire to do so. The field of inquiry should remain open, and the right of debate must be regarded as a sacred right." —1917 [ [http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote/william_borah_quote_8f1d William E. Borah Quote/Quotation ] at quotes.liberty-tree.ca]
*"America has arisen to a position where she is respected and admired by the entire world. She did it by minding her own business... the European and American systems do not agree." —1919 speech in
Brooklynopposing the League of Nations. [ [http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/Speeches_Borah_League.htm U.S. Senate: Art & History Home > Classic Senate Speeches ] ]
*CongBio|B000634|name=BORAH, William Edgar|inline=1
* [http://www.aoc.gov/cc/art/nsh/borah.htm National Statutory Hall]
* [http://www.martin.uidaho.edu/borah/history.htm Borah Symposium at the University of Idaho]
* [http://www.cityofboise.org/parks/caring/cemetery/index.aspx?id=mh_walking_tour#Borah Morris Hill Cemetery Boise,ID]
* [http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/haywood/HAY_BBOR.HTM Biography (from UMKC Law School)]
* [http://www.kevincmurphy.com/williamborah.htm A Lion Among the Liberals: William Edgar Borah and the rise of New Deal Liberalism]
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