Excerpts From Huey Long's "Second Autobiography"
Wherein Rebellion Brews And Fades
WHEN the Congress had adjourned after passing the Share Our Wealth legislation,
I immediately signed the bills and announced that they were the law of the land. The basis underlying most of the legislation was a perfect model to prevent future accumulations of property in the hands of a small number of people to such an extent as would impose consequent poverty upon the masses.
Five die-hard Senators staged a filibuster against the capital levy tax bill, which, while lasting less than two days, aroused such public sentiment as to leave it beyond doubt that the American people not only approved, but in whole heart expected and demanded the enactment of the Share Our Wealth legislation in toto. . .
We were kept very busy setting up the organization to carry out the general program. I knew the youth of the country would never understand delay in starting their courses in college.
"Now, here," I said to some of the men in charge of that detail, "I have said that we will have every youth in the colleges of professional or vocational education and training, regardless of the ability of parents to pay. Every boy and girl is ready and we must be ready."
"But," responded one, "the teachers are a problem we must consider, too."
"Yes," I replied, "but none of the teachers is to receive less than from $2,000 to $2,500 for the year's work. They'll be glad to follow their professions now."
In working out the plans to provide for homestead comforts for every family, the state organizations were fast whipping the program into shape with much less difficulty than we expected.
Our Senate leaders were collaborating with a number of economists and industrial leaders in working out hours of labor and the minimum earning for every family. They had reported they felt sure a minimum income of $2,500 per year to every family could be worked out. We preferred a 30 hour week.
We worked at top speed so as to be ready for action immediately following the Supreme Court's decision.
One Saturday afternoon the Chief Justice announced that the Court would deliver its opinion on the Share Our Wealth laws on the following Monday morning, which was one week earlier than the date when most of the decisions were expected to be rendered.
On Monday I had expected to wait at the Executive Offices of the White House for the Court's decision. Somehow I could not quiet a certain restlessness. I was a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court; I had practiced there. In the past, when I was concerned with a decision of that Court, I had attended to hear the judgments read. The thought struck me, why should a difference in positions affect my right as an attorney of that Court to be present at the reading of the decision?
I called for an automobile and rode to the Supreme Court Building. I immediately went to the room where the Court held its sessions, and where it would hand down its decision that day. The attendant standing at the Court door greeted me with a smile. He said:
"Mr. President, I will get you a seat. Where would you prefer it to be?"
"I am not here as the President," I answered. "I am a member of the Bar of this Court."
"Well, there are seats there," he said, and, turning he escorted me to a seat within a few feet of the nine Justices.
When I had been seated for some five or ten minutes, the members of the Court marched in in their usual single-file column and took their respective seats behind the bar. Soon the Chief Justice was reading the decision in tile case brought by the State of against the Government of the United States. I was some time catching a note from the decision to show what the ruling of the Court would be. but finally the Chief Justice read:
Just how the Congress of the United States would protect this nation from calamity in the event it were restrained from levying such taxes or how the country could have started; just how armies could be raised and supported in time of war and the general welfare promoted in times of peace, if the hands of the law makers were so restrained. . .
I needed to hear no more. The common-sense grasp of the Court was apparent from the decision. The Chief Justice wound end his summation of the case with the remark:
This Court finds the laws in question to be valid and constitutional. The case of the State of __________ is therefore dismissed at its costs.
As I left the courtroom I passed the clerk's desk and bowed to the members of the Court. It was the shrine to which I had looked with reverence during my days after I began the study of law. The Chief Justice spoke to me:
"Mr. President, the Court is glad to note that you have kept alive your membership at this bar."
"Thank you," I responded. "It's the only institution which my membership has never been under attack."