Monday, February 18, 2013

Dudley Field Malone, 1: The Courage of His Convictions


      With the ratification of the 19th Amendment by the state of Tennessee on August 18, 1920, women gained the right to vote.
It was not only a right whose time had come; it was long overdue. Women could vote in elections in 27 other nations before suffrage became law in the United States.
Four Croton women profiled previously in these pages—Louise Bryant, Inez Milholland, Crystal Eastman and Doris Stevens--had actively participated in the struggle for women's suffrage.
It is now time to pay tribute to one man who played a significant role in the fight: Dudley Field Malone.
The presence of this fascinating individual in the pantheon of fighters for women's rights is now almost forgotten. Yet there was no louder voice anywhere on the subject of fairness and justice.
Dudley Field Malone was born on June 3, 1882, and grew up Manhattan’s West Side. His parents were William C. and Rose McKenny Malone. An 1880 directory shows a William C. Malone, whose occupation was "clerk," living at 402 West 42nd Street, an address in the heart of what was known as "Hell's Kitchen." William Malone had studied law in the office of eminent lawyer Dudley Field and named his son after him.
After graduating from the College of St. Francis Xavier in Chelsea, young Dudley earned a law degree from Fordham Law School in 1905. The politically powerful Tammany Hall organization arranged for his appointment following year as an assistant corporation counsel of New York City.
A friend and protégé of President Woodrow Wilson, Malone had known and supported him since the beginning of his political career. He campaigned for Wilsonfor the governorship of New Jersey and managed the campaign that led to Wilson's nomination in 1912 at the Democratic convention in Baltimore.
In 1913, the victorious Wilson appointed Malone Third Assistant Secretary of State under William Jennings Bryan, who would be his adversary a dozen years later in Tennessee in what would be called "The Scopes Monkey Trial." Two other political rising stars, Franklin D. Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Joseph E. Davies as Commissioner of Corporations, were also appointed the same day.
In November of 1913, after a brief State Department service of only seven months, Malone was named by Wilson to the post of Collector of the Port of New York. This was a political plum paying $12,000 a year for supervising the collection of import duties. In this position he also led Wilson's victorious fight to winCalifornia and other Western states in the 1916 reelection campaign. 

File:Dudley Field Malone.jpg
                                       Dudley Field Malone in 1913. He spoke truth to power.

One Fateful Day
On July 16, 1917, Malone was present at the trial of sixteen women pickets who had been arrested in front of the White House and charged with obstructing traffic. Although this was their first brush with any law and because they refused to pay a $25 fine, they were sentenced to sixty days in jail. He immediately went to the women's counsel and offered to act as attorney on appeal of the case.
Outraged at the Wilson Administration's ill-advised actions in arresting the peaceful women pickets, Malone asked for an interview with Wilson. They met that same afternoon.
He began by reminding Wilson of the more than seven years of close personal association they had enjoyed. Wilson acknowledged Malone's unswerving loyalty to him.
Malone then dropped a bombshell: He could not remain a member of any administration that imprisoned American women for demanding the right to vote. He recounted for Wilson everything he had witnessed from the time the women were arrested in front of the White House to their sentencing in police court.
"If the situation is as you describe it, " Wilson said, "it is shocking."
"The manhandling of the women by the police was outrageous and the entire trial--before a judge of your appointment--was a perversion of justice," Malone told him.
Malone's directness upset the patrician president, a Virginian and former college professor.
"Why have you come to me in this indignant fashion for things that have been done by the police officials of Washington?
"Mr. President," Malone replied, "the treatment of these women is the result of carefully laid plans made by district commissioners, who were appointed to office by you. Newspapermen of unquestioned integrity have told me the commissioners have been in consultation with your private secretary, Mr. Tumulty. The Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. McAdoo, sat in at a conference when the policy of these arrests was being determined."
Wilson denied any knowledge of this, although Tumulty and McAdoo were both very close to him. Joseph P. Tumulty, a New Jersey attorney, had served as an adviser to Wilson in his run for the New Jersey governorship in 1910; Wilson had made the 32-year-old Tumulty his private secretary and confidant in 1911.
William G. McAdoo, only seven years younger than Wilson, was Wilson's son-in-law. After the death of McAdoo's wife, he had married Wilson's youngest daughter, Eleanor, in a White House ceremony. She was 26 years his junior. It was indeed a tightly knit official family.
"Do you mean to tell me," Wilson demanded, "you intend to resign, to repudiate me and my administration and sacrifice me for your views on this suffrage question?"
Malone's Irish temper flared at this. "If there is any sacrifice in this unhappy circumstance, I am the one who is making the sacrifice," he said. He reminded Wilsonhe had promised women voters in Western states that if they chose Wilson over pro-suffrage Republican candidate Charles Evans Hughes, he would do everything in his power to get the Wilson administration to pass the suffrage amendment.
He added that suffrage was an urgent war measure and a necessary part of America's program for world democracy. "The enfranchisement of women is not at all necessary to a program of democracy," Wilson responded, "and I see nothing in the argument that it is a war measure." He asked Malone whether he was suggesting that American women would not loyally support the war unless they were given the vote.
Malone rejected Wilson's inference and again urged him to persuade his administration to pass the amendment. "You will release from the suffrage fight the energies of thousands of women to the support of your program for international justice with redoubled zeal."
Wilson refused to admit the validity of Malone's argument. Yet, some months later, when Wilson finally insisted that the Senate pass the suffrage amendment, he called it a "war measure."
"You are the president now, reelected to office," Malone went on. "You ask whether I am going to sacrifice you. You sacrifice nothing by my resignation. But I lose much. I quit a political career. I give up a powerful office in my state. I, who have no money, sacrifice a lucrative salary, and go back to revive my law practice.
"Most of all I sever a personal association with you of the deepest affection that you know has meant much to me. But I cannot and will not remain in office and see women thrown in jail because they demand their political freedom."
Wilson countered by suggesting there was no reason Malone could not become counsel for the women without resigning from the administration. Malone pointed out that such a course would be impossible. "These women would not want me as their counsel if I were a member of your administration. This would make it appear that your administration was not responsible for the indignities to which they have been subjected.
"And, it may be necessary during the appeal to criticize and condemn members of your cabinet and others close to you, and I could not do this while remaining in office under you."
Wilson made a final appeal to Malone. "If you consider my personal request and do not resign, please do not leave Washington without coming to see me."
Dudley Field Malone left Wilson's office and never consulted with him again. He immediately began working on the women's appeal. Before it could be filed,Wilson pardoned the women. What stung Malone was Wilson's failure to say it had been done to correct a grave injustice.
Malone withheld his resignation and returned to New York. In September, another group of women arrested under the same false charges were given identical sentences of 60 days in the workhouse.
That was the last straw. Malone had been willing to concede that Wilson may have been innocent of responsibility for the first arrests, but the president could not deny being personally and politically responsible for further arrests. Dudley Field Malone tendered his resignation, dated September 7, 1917, to Wilson.
Wilson responded from the presidential yacht Mayflower on September 12, accepting the resignation. Malone was flooded with letters from suffragists and legislators congratulating him on his brave and generous action.

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