John R. Houk
© August 7, 2014
Here is a quote from a comment exchange on my G+ page pertaining to the SlantRight 2.0 post entitled, “Sarah Palin Doubles Down – Impeach Obama 7-19-14”.
Gideon fewer Executive Orders does not translate into less unConstitutional actions. Obama’s EO’s contradict the Constitution’s Separation of Powers instituted by the Founding Fathers.
How so? Be specific and use SCOTUS precedent, not Fox talking points.
There many comments from others as well as between myself and Gideon. So I decided to embark on a journey to research the issue. I made the mistake to look at the controversial actions of 20th century Presidents through to Obama. This has turned into a larger project than I anticipated.
As you may realize there are thousands of Executive Orders in the time period between Teddy Roosevelt which begin in 1901 through Obama’s present in August 2014. I even suspect before I end my journey BHO will undoubtedly deliver some Executive Orders that will further degrade the Constitution and Congress.
Hence I am going to divide the research into parts. As of writing this I have no idea how many parts are to come our way. When I started with this research I decided to eventually stick with controversial Presidential actions and decisions that should have been impeachable BUT political expediency always took a back seat to defending the U.S. Constitution. This will hardly be an exhaustive posting of any President’s actions. I am going to stick to ones that were the most controversial in the Press, against Congress, involving SCOTUS dramatically and violations of American citizen’s Constitutional rights. At this point I am up to President Warren G. Harding who died in Office in 1923.
When I get to the last part I will post many of the comments that led up to Gideon’s challenge delivered on August 5, 2014. There is a chance to more comments have already taken place on the G+ post. This would mean a marathon of responses. I ain’t gonna do that.
So now I begin with President Theodore Roosevelt.
Theodore Roosevelt: 3/14/1901 to 3/4/1909
President T. Roosevelt had a number of Constitutional issues. The ones that went to the Supreme Court all decided in his favor.
Here are a list of TR actions that bristled his Congress during his terms of Office:
Originally started by the French, the Panama Canal was intended to drastically shorten the travel time of ships going between the Pacific and the Atlantic. The French project turned out to be a disaster, and they were eager to hand the project off. So when Theodore Roosevelt offered to buy it, they were more than willing. However, the United States Congress was less eager to spend the money. In order to speed things up, Roosevelt helped organize a revolution that overthrew the government of Panama and replaced it with a nation whose constitution had been written by Americans and whose flag had been designed by the wife of a pro-intervention congressmen. Roosevelt’s actions would remain controversial for the rest of his life. (Top scandals and controversies of each United States president – Theodore Roosevelt; By Freeman Stevenson; Deseret News; 3/20/13 12:51 p.m. MDT)
On January 22, 1903, the Roosevelt administration and Colombia signed the Hay-Herrán Treaty, which allowed a canal to be built across Panama. However, Colombia’s legislature refused to ratify the treaty.
Later that year, Panama, which was under the control of Colombia, revolted and declared its independence on November 3, 1903. The United States recognized the new government of Panama on November 6, and a week later Panama signed a treaty with the United States providing for the construction and operation of the canal in Panama. The treaty, which granted sovereignty to the United States for a ten-mile-wide strip-the Canal Zone-in which to construct the canal, was approved by the U.S. Senate on February 23, 1904.
Roosevelt is alleged to have encouraged the 1903 revolution for independence in Panama. The revolution conveniently began after the U.S. warship Nashville docked in Colón, Panama. (What controversy surrounded Theodore Roosevelt and the Panama Canal? Answers.com)
Teddy Roosevelt greatly expanded the use of Executive Order in terms of both quantity and reach. He declared certain lands set aside for military reservations or wildlife refuges. He made dozens of people available for appointment to government offices without regard to whether they met Civil Service requirements. (Above the Law: History and Development of Presidential Executive Orders, Part One; By John A. Sterling; LawAndLiberty.org; last revised – 12/31/01)
William Howard Taft: 3/4/1909 to 3/4/1913
To solve one impasse during the 1909 tariff debate, Taft proposed income taxes for corporations and business. … Supreme Court, in Flint v. Stone Tracy Company, approved it. … An income tax on individuals, (unlike the tax on corporations) required a constitutional amendment. One was passed with little controversy in July, 1909, unanimously in the Senate and by a vote of 318 to 14 in the House. It quickly was ratified by the states, and in February, 1913, it became a part of the Constitution as the Sixteenth Amendment, as Taft was leaving office. (William Howard Taft – 16th Amendment; Conservapedia)
Taft was considered a do nothing President that caused a split in the Republican Party. The GOP gained the reputation as a Conservative under his aegis and the Republicans considered “Progressive” left to form the Progressive Party-later Bull Moose Party-later dissolving and joining the Democrats. Regardless of Taft’s do-nothing reputation politically his Administration successfully won a huge amount of anti-trust suits. To the modern Conservative, Taft could easily be vilified as the author of Income Tax with the 16th Amendment (Events leading to passage).
Woodrow Wilson: 3/4/1913 to 3/4/1921
Woodrow Wilson, who served as President from 1913-1921, was an enthusiastic advocate of such an arrangement, stating:
“The President is at liberty, both in law and in conscience, to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit; and if Congress is overborne by him, it will be no fault of the makers of the Constitution … but only because the President has the nation behind him and Congress has not.”
… To guide society along this path, said Wilson, society needed a “true leader” who could stir the passions of the masses and use them like “tools.” “Men are as clay in the hand of the consummate leader,” he said.
Under President Wilson, progressives perfected the art of government propaganda. Wilson appointed the journalist and former muckraker George Creel to head the Committee on Public Information (CPI), the first modern ministry for propaganda in the Western world. Thus empowered, Creel methodically assembled an army of nearly 100,000 “Four Minute Men,” each trained by the CPI to deliver, at a moment’s notice, four-minute propaganda speeches at town meetings or any other public venues where they might be heard. In 1917–18 alone, these operatives delivered some 7.55 million speeches in 5,200 communities.
The Espionage Act of June 1917 and the Sedition Act of May 1918 made it illegal, under penalty of imprisonment, to utter any criticism of the government — even in the privacy of one’s own home. The progressives in the Wilson administration confrontationally questioned the patriotism of anyone whose beliefs did not seem to be “100 percent American” – i.e., anyone who was not passionately and unwaveringly pro-Wilson. …
Also during the Wilson administration, the Postmaster General was authorized to deny mailing privileges to any publication that did not meet with his approval politically; at least 75 periodicals were banned under this regulation. Journalists who printed anything critical of Wilson’s military policies faced the very serious threat of incarceration, or of having their supply of newsprint terminated by the War Industries Board.
Wilson’s Justice Department created – again, with large sums of taxpayer dollars – the American Protective League (APL), whose agents functioned as private investigators on behalf of the federal government. Their task was to monitor the activities of their neighbors, co-workers, and friends; to read their neighbors’ mail and listen in on their phone calls, all with the explicit approval of the government. As of 1918, the APL had branches in some 600 cities and a membership in excess of 250,000. The U.S. Assistant Attorney General boasted that America had never been more effectively policed.
All told, during the Wilson years, some 175,000 Americans were arrested for failing to adequately demonstrate their patriotism. All were punished in some way; many were jailed. (READ ENTIRITY – POLICIES OF PRESIDENT WOODROW WILSON; Derived from Paul A. Rahe [Progressive Racism] – 4/11/13 and Jonah Goldberg [Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning] – 1/8/08; DTN)
The supporter of Barack Obama and my critic of my posts – Gideon Money, would point out this is a “Right Wing” website hence unreliable. The reality is DTN is a well sourced website that Left Wingers hate because the real truth hurts. I should also note that especially after Wilson finally decided to enter WWI he had wide support of the public. It was only after WWI in 1918 that American Conservatives began to reassert themselves in Congress. David Greenberg writing for Slate and posted 12/27/10, concurs with the abuses exposed here, but he can’t help himself by going of the topic of Wilsonian nefariousness by basically saying but hey – Reagan and Bush II did a similar thing that makes them more heinous than Woodrow Wilson. Tom Head (Left Wing bona fides) writing for About.com also agrees with DTN with more of an emphasis on the 1918 Sedition Act. Head brings up the fact that both Acts were passed overwhelmingly by Congress sponsored by Democrats. He also shows that the Supreme Court upheld the Constitutionality of both Acts in which Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Coined the justifying phrase “Clear and Present Danger.” The Espionage Act and thus the connecting Sedition Act were repealed by Congress in 1920 which enabled many violators convicted to be set free from prison.
Warren G. Harding: 3/4/1921 to 8/2/1923
Harding was a Republican that had success with a Reaganomics-like program of less taxes-less government and higher revenue via economic growth. Ironically list him as one of the worst Presidents in U.S. history. Largely due to a couple of scandals that are not traced to his person but was responsible via choosing horrible greedy administrators who both ended up in jail.
Charles Forbes and Veterans’ Bureau Scandal
Colonel Charles R. Forbes, a chance acquaintance of Warren Harding, was appointed to head the recently created Veterans’ Bureau. It was later revealed that Forbes entered into corrupt arrangements with a number of contractors, particularly with those involved in the operation of hospitals, and sold government property at a fraction of its value. Charles F. Cramer, attorney for the bureau, committed suicide, which brought increased attention to the agency. In 1923, Forbes resigned his position and fled to Europe.
A Senate investigation in 1924 found that Forbes had looted more than $200 million from the government. He was subsequently indicted for bribery and corruption, and was brought back for trial in 1925. He was convicted, fined $10,000 and sentenced to two years in Leavenworth. (Veterans’ Bureau Scandal; United State History)
Teapot Dome Scandal
Teapot Dome, in U.S. history, oil reserve scandal that began during the administration of President Harding. In 1921, by executive order of the President, control of naval oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyo., and at Elk Hills, Calif., was transferred from the Navy Dept. to the Dept. of the Interior. The oil reserves had been set aside for the navy by President Wilson. In 1922, Albert B. Fall, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, leased, without competitive bidding, the Teapot Dome fields to Harry F. Sinclair, an oil operator, and the field at Elk Hills, Calif., to Edward L. Doheny. These transactions became (1922–23) the subject of a Senate investigation conducted by Sen. Thomas J. Walsh. It was found that in 1921, Doheny had lent Fall $100,000, interest-free, and that upon Fall’s retirement as Secretary of the Interior (Mar., 1923) Sinclair also “loaned” him a large amount of money. The investigation led to criminal prosecutions. Fall was indicted for conspiracy and for accepting bribes. Convicted of the latter charge, he was sentenced to a year in prison and fined $100,000. In another trial for bribery Doheny and Sinclair were acquitted, although Sinclair was subsequently sentenced to prison for contempt of the Senate and for employing detectives to shadow members of the jury in his case. The oil fields were restored to the U.S. government through a Supreme Court decision in 1927. (Teapot Dome; Cited Sources – Teapot Dome (1959) by M.R. Werner & J. Starr AND Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. (© 2012); infoplease.com)
The oil barons [i.e. Harry Sinclair & Edward Doheny] were happy when Wilson left office and Harding—a Republican—was elected in 1920. Many had donated large amounts of money to Harding’s campaign in hope of overturning the conservationist policies of previous administrations. Sinclair himself donated $1 million to Harding’s campaign and became a good friend of the new president. When Sinclair came to Washington, he joined in the White House poker parties and was often invited to stay over night (sic) as Harding’s guest. Doheny had not made a huge donation to Harding’s campaign (he had contributed $25,000), but after the election, he sent congratulatory letters to the president and offered Harding the use of his 375-foot yacht for a post-election vacation cruise.
The oil barons’ wishes came true when Harding announced that he had appointed Albert Fall, a former senator from New Mexico, as secretary of the interior. Fall was a rancher, mine owner, and former prospector.
He was an “old pal” of Doheny. Fall had hopes that when he left the Cabinet (he planned to stay for only one year) that Doheny would hire him. Fall knew that Doheny had hired the previous secretary of the interior.
Fall was also a good friend of Harding, whom he played poker with two or three times a week. When he served in the Senate, Fall had strongly opposed the conservation policies put in place under Presidents Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson. He believed that the government’s land should be placed in the hands of private interests and exploited as soon as possible.
Fall wasted no time in helping the oil barons get leases to public lands. One of the first things he did as secretary of the interior was to persuade Harding to transfer authority over the naval reserves from the secretary of the navy to the Department of the Interior. Two months after being inaugurated, Harding signed an executive order putting the reserves in the hands of Secretary Fall.
That same month, Fall went to the Kentucky Derby as Sinclair’s guest. He also wrote a letter to his friend Doheny, stating that he had everything worked out with the Department of the Navy. He assured Doheny that he will “conduct the matter of the naval leases under direction of the President” without having to consult with the navy.
Many officers in the Navy opposed Harding’s executive order. One admiral complained that if the reserves were turned over to the Interior Department, “we might as well say good-bye to our oil.”
The first lease, for the California reserves, was negotiated with Doheny in November 1921. Under the terms of the proposed lease, Doheny’s company, Pan-American Petroleum and Transport Company, was to build storage tanks in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to store oil for the navy, to put crude oil in the tanks, and to pay royalties on the oil drilled from the reserves at a low price. It was a great deal for Doheny. He estimated it would give him a profit of $1 million. In return, Doheny made a “loan” of $100,000 to Fall. On November 28, 1921, three days after Doheny made his offer, his son, Ned Doheny, carried a black satchel containing the $100,000 in cash to Fall’s hotel apartment and watched him count the money.
The special prosecutors also filed four criminal cases. One charged Fall and Doheny with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Another similar case was against Sinclair and Fall. A third case charged Fall with bribery. And a fourth case charged Doheny and his son Ned with bribery. These cases, which were tried over a period of six years, were less successful. In the conspiracy cases, defense lawyers managed to convince the juries that Doheny and Sinclair had no intent to defraud the United States. The juries accepted the argument that the leases were made to help the navy prepare for war and to protect the country. They found the defendants not guilty. Doheny and his son were also found not guilty of bribery. Only Fall was convicted, for having accepted a bribe while acting in his official capacity. The prosecutors made a strong argument that the evidence showed “the criminal intent of Fall to make money out of his position of trust and honor,” and the jury agreed. Fall was sentenced to a year in jail and to pay a fine of $100,000. His appeal was denied on June 6, 1931, and he was sent to the New Mexico State Penitentiary.
* * * * *
As a result of the diligent investigation of the Senate committee and the persistence of the special prosecutors, the rich oil fields at Teapot Dome and in California were recovered and returned to the U.S. Navy. The government collected millions of dollars from Doheny and Sinclair as well as almost $50 million for the oil drilled in its reserves. The Harding administration has remained a symbol of corruption. The Teapot Dome scandal illustrates the dangers that money and corporate power can pose to democratic government. Even the appearance of corrupt influences can erode people’s faith in democracy. (READ ENTIRETY – BRIA 24 4 The Teapot Dome Scandal; CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS FOUNDATION: Bill of Rights in Action SPRING 2009 (Volume 24, No. 4))
Meanwhile, President Harding took a summer trip west, stopping in Wyoming, enjoying Yellowstone and continuing on to Alaska and, eventually, to San Francisco. While there, the President died suddenly. Some historians believe Harding escaped impeachment for his role in Teapot Dome by having the “good fortune” of dying as the scandal was unfolding. Of course, such a conclusion cannot be proven. (Excerpted from: The Teapot Dome Scandal; By Phil Roberts; WyoHistory.org)
See Also: Graft and Oil: How Teapot Dome Became the Greatest Political Scandal of Its Time AND The Strange Presidency of Warren G. Harding
The scandals in Warren G. Harding’s life is only rivaled by Slick Willie Clinton.
… good ole Warren was having an illicit affair with not only a young campaign volunteer but there were other women as well. Two of the women were personal friends of his wife Florence, and the campaign volunteer was a young woman named Nan Britton who developed a big honking crush on the President when he was still a mere congressman and was determined to make him hers.
… Harding was an unrestrained womanizer. … his wife Florence, known as the Duchess, was the power behind the throne. Five years older than her husband, Florence married Harding against her wealthy father Amos Kling’s wishes. Her first husband had been the ne’er do well son of a wealthy family. As far as Kling was concerned, Harding was cut from the same cloth. But Florence saw a diamond in the rough and was determined to polish him up. Their marriage was a solid business partnership, not a love match. She brought drive and money to the table, and Warren brought her political opportunity.
Harding first cheated on Florence three years into the marriage with Susie Hodder, his wife’s best friend since childhood. Then he began a 15 year affair with another friend of the couple Carrie Fulton Phillips. Carrie was blonde and beautiful with the figure of a Gibson girl, tiny waist and a generous bosom. To make it even more complicated, Harding and Carrie’s husband were good friends. The affair started in 1905, a year after Carrie and her husband James lost their young son. James had a nervous breakdown and spent time at Dr. Kellogg’s sanitarium in Battle Creek. While he was a way, the grieving wife was comforted by Harding. Despite their respective marriages, Harding and Carrie found ample time for their trysts. They would sneak away when the two couples took joint vacations to Europe. Once they even managed to meet up in Montreal for New Year’s Eve.
Most historians consider Carrie to be the love of his life. More than 100 intimate letters were discovered in the 1960’s but publication of the letters has been enjoined by a court order until 2014. Historians who have seen them say that they are very touching in some ways and also very erotic. The relationship foundered when Carrie developed a passion for all things German, moving to Berlin in 1911, where she may or may not have become a spy for Germany during World War I. At the very least she was outspokenly pro-German. When Harding supported President Wilson’s aggressive response to the sinking of the Lusitania, Carrie was pissed. She threatened to reveal their affair if he voted for war with Germany, but she didn’t go through with her threat. Harding warned Carrie that if she kept it up she faced arrest. Still Carrie was such critic that the Bureau of Investigation put her under surveillance. The Bureau got wind of Harding’s affair but kept silent.
After fifteen years, Carrie was tired of being Harding’s mistress, she wanted to be his wife. … While he had no passion for his wife, he did for politics. Carrie had had enough. During the presidential election of 1920, Carrie blackmailed Harding ending up with lump-sum of $25,000 and $2,000 a month for as long as Harding was in politics. She and her husband were also sent on an all expense (sic) paid trip to the Far East courtesy of the Republican party until the election was over.
There were minor flings with Augusta Cole, whom Harding impregnated and then forced to have an abortion; Rosa Hoyle, who gave birth to Harding’s illegitimate son; a distraught New York woman who committed suicide when Harding refused to leave his wife. There is also some evidence that Harding may have been responsible for the accidental death of prostitute at one of the many wild parties he hosted. Apparently Hardings (sic) cronies had a secret bank account to buy the silence of his ex-flames.
His third mistress Grace Cross had been one of Harding’s secretaries during his senate years, and received a substantial blackmail payment for the return of incredibly sappy and juvenile love letters Harding wrote her. But it was his fourth mistress who was the most infamous, a beautiful blonde named Nan Britton. Britton was a campaign volunteer began sleeping with Harding when she was 20 and he was 51. While other girls pasted photos of movie stars on their walls, Nan plastered his campaign photos on her bedroom walls. Harding and her father were friends, and he knew of her infatuation but pooh-poohed it at the time, insisting that she would meet someone her own age.
Harding helped her get a job in the newspaper business, and they began an affair that would last for six years. Nan allegedly lost her virginity to Harding in an (sic) New York hotel room but not before driving him into a frenzy of desire by coyly refusing to sleep with him. She followed him to Washington when he became a U.S. Senator, allegedly giving birth to a daughter named Elizabeth Ann in 1919 (concieved (sic) during a tryst in the Senate Office building). When Nan told Harding she was pregnant, he offered to pay for an abortion. Nan refused, moving to Chicago with the baby to live with her sister. She saw him secretly during the Republican convention, apparently he spent more time with Nan then he did attending to the business of the nomination. The affair continued even after Harding was in the White House, aided by two Secret Service Agents James Sloan and Walter Ferguson. According to Nan, Florence almost caught them in mid-tryst in one of the cloakrooms in the Oval Office after being tipped off by another agent.
Some historians believe that Nan Britton’s story of her affair with Harding was nothing but fiction. There is no hard evidence one way or the other, no surving (sic) love letters. Both Harding’s relatives and Elizabeth Ann’s descendents (sic) refuse to take a DNA test to prove conclusively one way or the other that Harding was her father.
… (Presidential Scandals: The Affairs of Warren G. Harding; By Elizabeth K Mahon; Scandalous Women blog; 2/18/13)
If being a moral reprobate wasn’t being bad enough, even in death the scandal was the gift that kept on giving. Due to the obvious yet mysterious cover-up perpetrated by President Harding’s wife Florence, Harding’s death became wrapped in conspiracy theories as to the nature of his demise. The scintillating and the best short version I could find is at the post entitled, “Warren G. Harding: Heart Attack, Stroke, or Murder?” The best breakdown of the conspiracies, what led to them and the aftermath of the death can be found nine chapter post (which obviously begins with chapter one) entitled, “The Strange Life and Death of President Harding”. The latter title gives a decent outline of the conspiracies surrounding Harding’s death:
1. Natural Causes?
If ever there was a candidate for a heart attack, it was Warren Harding. He lived the fat-filled, tobacco-infused, and alcohol-drenched life of early 20th Century America with gusto.
… a violator of reasonably healthy behavior. His only exercise consisted of desultory rounds of golf, fairly frequent love trysts, and at least twice-weekly marathon poker games. These card games were drenched in highballs, suffused with cigar smoke, and punctuated with copious expectorations of tobacco juice into strategically placed spittoons. While Harding and his cronies played cards and munched on roast beef sandwiches, the Duchess kept the whiskey flowing. These games often ran past one in the morning.
Dr. Charles Sawyer — Doc Sawyer, as he was known in the Harding family — was a homeopathic physician who believed in herbal preparations, purgatives, laxatives, and other folk remedies. (Harding’s other doctor, a scientifically trained allopathic physician, was Dr. Joel Boone, who was kept at a distance from his famous patient by the jealous and possessive Sawyer.) In brief, Harding’s worsening coronary disease went untreated. (Chapter 6)
2. Negligent Homicide?
Still, because of his cheerful vigor, Harding’s death came as a surprise. For all of Dr. Boone’s concern, one is left with the impression (derived from Dr. Boone’s diaries and memoirs) that he felt that Harding could have been saved. Even with that hopeful outlook, Boone and the specialists brought into the picture when the ill Harding arrived in San Francisco thought that Sawyer’s treatment of Harding was, at best, contrary to the best medical practice, and, at worst, bizarre.
… Sawyer, continuing to mistake Harding’s angina for indigestion, was convinced that its severity was compounded by ptomaine poisoning from “a mess of King Crabs drenched in butter.” Obviously, reasoned Sawyer, he had to purge Harding of the poisons with powerful purgatives. The fact that Harding became weaker and weaker with this treatment did not alarm Sawyer as it had the other three physicians.
The agreed upon “cause of death” was a stroke, although only Sawyer appeared to believe that conclusion. The other three doctors, particularly Boone, believed that Harding died from a heart attack. Most likely, the three allopaths agreed to the diagnosis of a stroke to keep Sawyer’s reputation from being damaged by his inept care of the President of the United States.
A reasonable conclusion is that Harding was a victim of negligent homicide. … Sawyer, having given Harding another powerful dose of purgative, propelled the president into cardiac arrest.
Even if this scenario cannot be proved, it is clear that Sawyer was guilty of horrendous malpractice, both in diagnosis and treatment. It is reasonable to conclude that Harding, who might have died sooner or later from a heart attack, was a victim of negligent homicide. (Chapter 6)
But could Harding have hastened his own end?
“I can deal with my enemies. It’s my goddam friends that have me walking the floor at night!” So Warren Harding supposedly told the famous journalist, William Allen White.
There were times during the Western trip when Harding was visibly depressed. He seemed particularly shaken after a private interview in St. Louis with Fall’s wife. There was a sword above his head, and Harding knew it. He had made a new will just before leaving Washington, executed by his personal attorney, Harry Daugherty. He sold his belovedMarion Star a few weeks before — for a sum far exceeding its worth. His newspaper was to be his place of retirement, his home to go to after his presidency was over. All in all, he seemed to be getting his house in order, anticipating his death.
While one of the rumors floating around after Harding’s death was that he committed suicide to avoid impeachment and disgrace, there is little likelihood that he was driven to such an act by ingesting poison. It seems an unlikely method to choose to take one’s life, even if he had been clever enough to select a means that would mimic “natural causes.” Harding might have been corruptible, but he was not so clever and devious. (Chapter 6)
The specter of murder pervades the characters of the Harding administration. Some of the suicides, notably Jesse Smith, prompted rumors of murder, since the hapless Smith knew too much about the schemes that might have involved Daugherty, bootleggers, grafters, and Harding himself. It is interesting to note that at least five of the principals in this story died suddenly.
In his book, Means claims that he was on special assignment to Mrs. Harding, who directed him to obtain evidence of Harding’s affair with Nan Britton. … Means was asked to pilfer letters and mementos from Nan Britton, and to deliver them personally to Mrs. Harding. Means recorded her fury over her husband’s infidelity. To add more spice to his account, Means has other revelations about Jesse Smith, Charlie Forbes, and other characters.
According to Means, Mrs. Harding had two motives for murdering her husband. The first, and most important, was to protect his reputation from the looming scandals by killing him when he was at the height of his popularity. She could not allow him to be disgraced. His death, she reasoned, would remove him from the tawdry malefactions of his subordinates.
The second motive was revenge, prompted by her jealousy over Nan Britton, who had, she claimed, given birth to Harding’s daughter. The betrayal wounded her so deeply that she could not allow her beloved Warren to live.
As Means’ potboiler of a book steams to its conclusion, Mrs. Harding more or less admits that she poisoned her husband, almost as an act of charity.
… Most of these murder plots revolved around some idea that Harding had to be silenced, lest he implicate, punish, or otherwise demolish the careers of the grafters.
But this was different. Florence Harding had been dead for some six years at the time of the publication of Means’ book — she had died a little more than a year after her husband — and was, of course, not able to defend herself. As it turned out, there was little need for a defense, since Means, recently released from a federal prison in Atlanta after serving a sentence of two years for graft, was not a very credible witness.
… Means was shown to be a fraud, convicted [Editor: pertaining to another American tragedy viz. the Lindbergh baby kidnapping], and spent the rest of his life in prison, where he died in 1939.
… the protection of her husband’s reputation was important to her. Her burning much of her husband’s papers immediately after his death evidences this. … (Chapter 6)
All nine chapters are an excellent read on Harding’s mysterious death.
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