Excerpts From Huey Long's "Second Autobiography"

Chapter 3-
Wherein We Care For The Soul And Body Of A Great Nation

We go to School:


One hundred and forty-eight years ago, the people of the United States began a new form of government on this continent, "in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

Today extreme inequalities in the distribution of wealth have closed the doors of opportunity to millions of our children.

Education is a function which the states can handle adequately only if helped by the federal government, and the government ought to see that such benefits of education are extended to all classes of citizens; but here in our beloved America we find inequalities in the benefits of the public schools. Some children are given excellent educational facilities in great, sanitary buildings with ample equipment, with well-fed, well-trained teachers. Other children have poor educational facilities, unsanitary buildings, meager equipment,untrained, poorly-paid teachers. The bitter fruits of these inequalities of opportunity, which endure for generations, must and shall be corrected.

Therefore we, the Government of the United States, do hereby proclaim a policy to the people of the United States, that this Government shall extend aid, financial and idealistic, to the several states, so that every worthy boy and girl, every worthy man and woman, may secure an education to the limit of their mental capacity, so that teachers and instructors may receive an adequate income, thereby gaining their God-given right to an equal enjoyment of the blessings of American liberty.

Given this Fourth day of February, in the year of our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred Thirty-Seven, and in the year of our Independence, the One Hundred Sixty-first.

HUEY PIERCE LONG, President of the United States.

After writing out this proclamation, I summoned to my office the Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Oscar L. Chapman, and Dr. John W. Studebaker, Commissioner of Education. When they arrived I handed them the proclamation to read. Chapman read it over Studebaker's shoulder.

"Well," said Chapman, when they had finished reading, "just what shall we say this means? What shall we do?"

"It means," I answered, "that I am writing a letter to the fathers and mothers of the United States to say:

"'I will send your boy and girl to college.". . .

Crime and Punishment

The first serious talk I had with my Attorney General convinced me I had chosen the man among a million for the post. As we shook hands in my executive office I felt his piercing eyes boring into my soul. I knew instantly that Frank Murphy was reading my heart and mind as though they were open books, and that something he sensed in me seemed to satisfy him.

I said to him:

"Frank, there are thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of people walking the streets today, their pockets bulging with ill-gotten gain, who should be in jail for economic crimes. But there must be thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of people in jail, who should be free. I mean there are fathers of families, who stole a loaf of bread, or a bottle of milk, or a pig, or broke into a store to get canned goods to keep their wives and children from starving to death in this great economic crisis, and were punished with as heartless a cruelty as was ever displayed by Roman tyrants against the early Christians. How can we get them out of jail? I am willing to pardon every one of those cases where the prisoners are in federal jails, convicted of that type of crime; but what about the state prisoners in state jails?"

"There can be no two rules about that, Mr. President, but we must be very discriminating if we are to be sensible in dealing with that problem," the Attorney General replied. "Men who committed crime to furnish food for their children should not have been punished in the first place. In fact, they should have been treated with sympathy for having dared a prison sentence in order to feed their children.

"I feel a board should be instituted in every state of the Union, to be composed of psychiatrists and sociologists, with a competent person to represent the public at large. I would have such boards review every case called to their attention, in which the man serving the sentence has been convicted of a crime committed under the driving urge of self-preservation. In every case where there was no previous record, and where there are women and children dependent upon the prisoner for livelihood, I would release him.

"I understand, General, that crime is costing our country twelve billion dollars--I mean twelve hundred million dollars--annually," I said.

"That's correct," he replied. "And besides, we spend about forty million dollars a year on the prosecution of federal crimes alone. The cost of punishing crime is a drop in the bucket compared to the actual crime loss. Obviously, if we spend a billion dollars a year to eliminate crime--instead of a mere fifty million, or some few hundred millions in all the country--and thereby cut our crime loss in half, we would save five or six billion dollars a year to the American people."

"Again we agree," I said. "But how should we approach this problem of reducing crime?"

"It should begin in childhood, in our public and private schools," the Attorney General replied. "Our school children should be taught a greater respect for law, not only in the schools but in the homes. There should be a revival of religious training in the home, without regard to faith, but in keeping with uplifting teachings. There should be a complete reorganization of our correctional institutions to which we send the boy and girl who makes a single mistake."

"I shall charge you, as Attorney General, with that responsibility and that duty," I told him. "You shall set an example in federal institutions and we shall educate state administrations, through publicity and whatever influence we have, to follow your example, wherever they have not done so heretofore on their own initiative."

"You make me very happy, Mr. President, by giving me such a duty," he replied. . . our federal and state courts is a disgrace to the name of Justice."

"Oh, yes, you have been a judge yourself," I said. "What are your suggestions on that score?"

"I believe," said the Attorney General, "that every man should be sentenced only on the recommendation of a sociologist and psychiatrist. They should have before them a social, economic, moral, and mental picture of the man, as well as knowledge of the circumstances of the crime, before ever imposing a sentence. They should understand his career from childhood, some facts about his conduct in school, and his record, if any, in private employment.

"We cling to the idea of punitive justice, instead of an intelligent and critical judgment of a crime based upon the social, moral and economic facts of his case. We want to punish, and not to correct conditions by using common sense in administering justice. It is a sadistic strain in our system. . .

"Now, General, we will need legislation from Congress to do all these things. You bring me a complete legislative program, and I shall join you in asking Congress to give us the necessary funds and to enact the necessary laws. Perhaps we will be able to take the blindfold from the eyes of Justice."

The Attorney General arose.

"Mr. President, we shall restore Justice in America."

"Here," I said, "is my hand upon that.". . .

After saving and remaking the lives of thousands, the celebrated Mayo brothers had turned their accumulated earnings to the cause of humanity saying they preferred their children to make their way in the world rather than to become indolent.

I called my secretary.

"Please get one of the Mayo brothers on the telephone. I presume they are at their sanitarium in Rochester, Minnesota."

In a few moments my phone rang and a voice said: "This is William Mayo. I am at your service, Mr. President."

"I would like you and your brother to come here to Washington to see me whenever you can conveniently make the trip," I informed him.

"What day, Mr. President?" he asked.

"Any time that suits your convenience. I am here all the time."

A few days later I was thrilled when my secretary escorted the Mayo brothers into my office..

"I can't thank you half enough for coming here," I told them.

We shook hands and they drew up chairs beside my desk.

"Gentlemen, I wish to give you a few new patients," I said.

"That is very nice of you, Mr. President," said the elder brother, William J. Mayo. "Some of your friends or members of your family?"

"Well, some of them are my friends," I replied. "Your new patients are to be 130,000,000 people, living in the United States and called Americans. I would like to have you prescribe for them the preventive measures and curative, medicinal treatments which they need. I would like you to help me in stamping out a number of diseases that take a terrific toll of human life and human effort from the American people every year. I intend to have the federal government provide the facilities and equipment which you will need to carry out this work."

"Why, Mr. President, you startle us," the elder Mayo replied. "Just how far would you ask us to go?"

"I want you to go just as far as medical science will permit you to go," I replied. "I want you to form a committee of your own profession to help you. You gentlemen understand the business of organizing, and I shall leave those details to you."

"But, Mr. President, I would like you to outline a little more clearly just what you have in mind," the elder Mayo said.

"Well, first," I said, "I would like to enlarge, under your supervision, the present, insignificant federal laboratory here in Washington into the finest laboratory on the face of the globe. I should like its scientific experimental work extended to include every known disease for which there is not a known cause or a satisfactory cure or preventive."

"Why, that is an enormous task, Mr. President," the younger man, Charles H. Mayo, interposed.

"Not enormous to the Government of the United States," I replied. "We have a Government here which has not hesitated to spend billions of dollars and sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives to kill human beings in other lands, under the sacred name of war. As President of the United States, I shall not hesitate a second to spend millions, or even hundreds of millions of dollars, to kill germs that prey upon the human race, and to war against disease.

" You will need chemists, physicists, pharmacologists, pathologists, gynecologists, immunologists, physiologists and physicians. I hope that you confer with the experts of the Rockefeller Foundation, such as Dr. Simon Flexner; with the scientists of the Carnegie Institute, the scientists of the life insurance companies, and some of our noted research specialists of city laboratories, such as Dr. William H. Parke, of New York City."

"You have given us a task of magnificent prospects, despite its magnitude," said one of the startled brothers.

"I am furnishing you and our people with an opportunity to do something about it and all these other problems of life and death," I replied.

. . . "I wonder whether you will undertake the mission of trying to discover new methods for the treatment and cure of the various forms of insanity?" I asked.

"Curing poverty, hunger and nakedness will cure and prevent most of the human ailments," said the elder Mayo.

"Well, gentlemen, would an initial appropriation of five million dollars be enough to start this war on disease?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, but won't we need some authority to act ?"

"I shall arrange that."

The two brothers arose. . .