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A Muted Fury: Populists, Progressives, and Labor Unions Confront the Courts, 1890-1937

A Muted Fury: Populists, Progressives, and Labor Unions Confront the Courts, 1890-1937

by William G. Ross


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For half a century before 1937, populists, progressives, and labor leaders complained bitterly that a "judicial oligarchy" impeded social and economic reform by imposing crippling restraints on trade unions and nullifying legislation that regulated business corporations. A Muted Fury, the first study of this neglected chapter in American political and legal history, explains the origins of hostility toward the courts during the Progressive Era, examines in detail the many measures that antagonists of the judiciary proposed for the curtailment of judicial power, and evaluates the successes and failures of the anti-court movements.

Tapping a broad array of sources, including popular literature and unpublished manuscripts, William Ross demonstrates that this widespread fury against the judiciary was muted by many factors, including respect for judicial power, internal divisions among the judiciary's critics, institutional obstacles to reform, and the judiciary's own willingness to mitigate its hostility toward progressive legislation and labor. Ross argues that persistent criticism of the courts influenced judicial behavior, even though the antagonists of the courts failed in their many efforts to curb judicial power. The book's interdisciplinary exploration of the complex interactions among politics, public opinion, judicial decision-making, the legislative process, and the activities of organized interest groups provides fresh insights into the perennial controversy over the scope of judicial power in America.

Originally published in 1994.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691605050
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 07/14/2014
Series: Princeton Legacy Library , #229
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents


Introduction 1

1 The Seeds of Discord 23

2 Challenges to Constitutional Orthodoxy 49

3 Meliorative Measures 70

4 Reconstructing the Bench 86

5 The Judicial Recall Movement 110

6 Theodore Roosevelt and the Judicial Referendum 130

7 Ebb and Flow, 1913-1921 155

8 The Taft Court and the Return of "Normalcy" 179

9 The La Follette Proposal 193

10 The Borah Proposal 218

11 The Supreme Court Calms the Tempest 233

12 The Judicial Issue in the 1924 Election 254

13 Final Conflicts, 1925-1937 285

Conclusion 313

Index 325

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From the Publisher

"A fascinating account of an often neglected but critical era of American political and legal history, namely 1890 through 1937. By tracing the changing nature of judicial reform movements, Ross provides an excellent contribution to the burgeoning field of social movements and state power broadly conceived."—Victoria Hattam, Yale University

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