Alexander Mitchell Palmer
Overview
 
Alexander Mitchell Palmer (May 4, 1872 – May 11, 1936) was Attorney General
United States Attorney General
The United States Attorney General is the head of the United States Department of Justice concerned with legal affairs and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. The attorney general is considered to be the chief lawyer of the U.S. government...

 of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 from 1919 to 1921. He was nicknamed The Fighting Quaker
Religious Society of Friends
The Religious Society of Friends, or Friends Church, is a Christian movement which stresses the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Members are known as Friends, or popularly as Quakers. It is made of independent organisations, which have split from one another due to doctrinal differences...

and he directed the controversial Palmer Raids
Palmer Raids
The Palmer Raids were attempts by the United States Department of Justice to arrest and deport radical leftists, especially anarchists, from the United States. The raids and arrests occurred in November 1919 and January 1920 under the leadership of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer...

.
Palmer was elected as a Democrat to the 61st
61st United States Congress
The Sixty-first United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, DC from March 4, 1909 to March 4, 1911, during the first two years of...

, 62nd
62nd United States Congress
- House of Representatives :* Democratic : 230 * Republican : 162* Socialist : 1* Independent : 1TOTAL members: 394-Senate:* President: James S...

, and 63rd
63rd United States Congress
- House of Representatives:*Democratic : 291 *Republican : 134*Progressive : 9*Independent : 1TOTAL members: 435-Senate:*President of the Senate: Thomas R. Marshall*President pro tempore: James P. Clarke-Senate:...

 Congresses and served from March 4, 1909, to March 3, 1915. From the start he won important party assignments, serving as vice-chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in his first term and managing the assignment of office space in his second term.
Encyclopedia
Alexander Mitchell Palmer (May 4, 1872 – May 11, 1936) was Attorney General
United States Attorney General
The United States Attorney General is the head of the United States Department of Justice concerned with legal affairs and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. The attorney general is considered to be the chief lawyer of the U.S. government...

 of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 from 1919 to 1921. He was nicknamed The Fighting Quaker
Religious Society of Friends
The Religious Society of Friends, or Friends Church, is a Christian movement which stresses the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Members are known as Friends, or popularly as Quakers. It is made of independent organisations, which have split from one another due to doctrinal differences...

and he directed the controversial Palmer Raids
Palmer Raids
The Palmer Raids were attempts by the United States Department of Justice to arrest and deport radical leftists, especially anarchists, from the United States. The raids and arrests occurred in November 1919 and January 1920 under the leadership of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer...

.

Congressional career

Palmer was elected as a Democrat to the 61st
61st United States Congress
The Sixty-first United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, DC from March 4, 1909 to March 4, 1911, during the first two years of...

, 62nd
62nd United States Congress
- House of Representatives :* Democratic : 230 * Republican : 162* Socialist : 1* Independent : 1TOTAL members: 394-Senate:* President: James S...

, and 63rd
63rd United States Congress
- House of Representatives:*Democratic : 291 *Republican : 134*Progressive : 9*Independent : 1TOTAL members: 435-Senate:*President of the Senate: Thomas R. Marshall*President pro tempore: James P. Clarke-Senate:...

 Congresses and served from March 4, 1909, to March 3, 1915. From the start he won important party assignments, serving as vice-chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in his first term and managing the assignment of office space in his second term. After winning re-election in 1910, otherwise a very bad year for Democrats, he successfully led the younger progressives in his party in a revolt against Pennsylvania's Democratic establishment. Though he disclaimed personal ambition as his motive, he accepted an appointment as Pennsylvania's member on the Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee
The Democratic National Committee is the principal organization governing the United States Democratic Party on a day to day basis. While it is responsible for overseeing the process of writing a platform every four years, the DNC's central focus is on campaign and political activity in support...

 "temporarily" in 1911, a post he held until 1921.

As a congressman, Palmer aligned himself with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, advocating lower tariffs despite the popularity of tariffs in his home district and state. In his second term, he won a seat on the Ways and Means Committee chaired by Oscar Underwood
Oscar Underwood
Oscar Wilder Underwood was an American politician.Underwood was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 6, 1862. He was the grandson of Joseph R. Underwood, a Kentucky Senator circa 1850. He attended the University of Virginia at Charlottesville...

. There he was the principal author of the detailed tariff schedules that a Republican Senator denounced as "the most radical departure in the direction of free trade that has been proposed by any party during the last 70 years." He argued that tariffs profited business and had no benefit for workers. Pennsylvania industry, notably the large mining and manufacturing firms, opposed his tariff scheme, and Palmer was proud of that. He said: "I have received my notice from the Bethlehem Steel Company....I am marked again for slaughter at their hands."

Palmer served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention
Democratic National Convention
The Democratic National Convention is a series of presidential nominating conventions held every four years since 1832 by the United States Democratic Party. They have been administered by the Democratic National Committee since the 1852 national convention...

 in 1912 and 1916. At the 1912 Convention he played a key role in holding the Pennsylvania delegation together in voting for Wilson. Following the election of 1912, Palmer hoped to join Wilson's Cabinet as Attorney General. When he was offered Secretary of War instead, he declined citing his Quaker beliefs and heritage. He wrote to the President:
As a Quaker War Secretary, I should consider myself a living illustration of a horrible incongruity....In case our country should come into armed conflict with any other, I would go as far as any man in her defense; but I cannot, without violating every tradition of my people and going against every instinct of my nature, planted there by heredity, environment and training, sit down in cold blood in an executive position and use such talents as I possess to the work of preparing for such a conflict.


In his third Congressional term he chaired his party's caucus in the House of Representatives and served on the five-man Executive Committee that directed the Democratic Party's national affairs. Continuing to champion tariff reduction, he even accepted lower tariffs on the one economic sector he had tried to protect, the wool industry. He proposed to pay for any lost revenue with a graduated income tax targeted only at the rich. The New York Times said he gave "the ablest speech of the day" when the House debated the measure in April 1913. He said:
Business now may take notice that, as to such enterprises as cannot meet the new conditions, by reason of neglect, refusal or inability to employ that efficiency and economy which will permit industry to stand upon its own feet with less support from the government the people refuse to be longer taxed to accomplish the survival of the unfit.


His work became part of the Underwood Tariff Act
Revenue Act of 1913
The United States Revenue Act of 1913 also known as the Tariff Act, Underwood Tariff, Underwood Tariff Act, or Underwood-Simmons Act , re-imposed the federal income tax following the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment and lowered basic tariff rates from 40% to 25%, well below the Payne-Aldrich...

 of 1913.

Other progressive legislation Palmer proposed included a bill outlawing the employment of workers below a certain age in quarries and requiring quarries to be inspected. He noted that recent Welsh victims of quarry accidents were "a high class of workman –not cheap foreign labor." Late in his Congressional career, he sponsored a bill to promote women's suffrage. On behalf of the National Child Labor Committee
National Child Labor Committee
The National Child Labor Committee, or NCLC, is a private, non-profit organization in the United States that serves as a leading proponent for the national child labor reform movement...

 he offered another to end child labor in most American mines and factories. Wilson found it constitutionally unsound and after the House voted 232 to 44 in favor on February 15, 1915, he allowed it to die in the Senate. Nevertheless, Arthur Link
Arthur S. Link
Arthur S. Link was a leading American historian and a scholarly authority on Woodrow Wilson.-Biography:Born in New Market, Virginia, to a German Lutheran family, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received a B.A. in 1941 and a Ph.D. in 1945...

 has called it "a turning point in American constitutional history" because it attempted to establish for the first time "the use of the commerce power
Commerce Clause
The Commerce Clause is an enumerated power listed in the United States Constitution . The clause states that the United States Congress shall have power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." Courts and commentators have tended to...

 to justify almost any form of federal control over working conditions and wages."

In 1914, President Wilson persuaded him to give up his House seat and run instead for the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

. The depression of that year highlighted his controversial tariff position. He lost a three-man race to the incumbent Boies Penrose
Boies Penrose
Boies Penrose was an American lawyer and Republican politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He represented Pennsylvania in the United States Senate from 1897 until his death in 1921.-Biography:...

.

Alien Property Custodian

Leaving Congress in March 1915, Palmer decided to leave public office. When Wilson offered him a lifetime position on the Court of Claims, he at first accepted, but then arranged for a postponement so he could continue serving on the Democratic National Committee. His attachment to party affairs eventually forced him to withdraw from consideration for a judicial post. He sought other positions without success while continuing to fight for control of patronage positions in Pennsylvania. He worked for the Wilson in the 1916 elections, but Pennsylvania voted Republican as usual.

He proved out of step with the public mood when, after the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915, he offered reporters his opinion that "the entire nation should not be asked to suffer" to avenge the deaths of passengers who had ignored warnings not to travel on ships that carried munitions.

Following the declaration of war in April 1917, Palmer took every opportunity to shed his Quaker reputation, volunteering to "carry a gun as a private" if necessary or to "work in any capacity without compensation." He chaired his local draft board for a time, while Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was the 31st President of the United States . Hoover was originally a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business...

, head of the new Food Administration refused to appoint him to a post in his agency. In October, he accepted an appointment from Wilson as Alien Property Custodian
Alien Property Custodian
An Alien Property Custodian was an office within the Government of the United States during World War I and again during World War II, serving as a Custodian of Enemy Property to property that belonged to US enemies.-World War I:...

 an office he held from October 22, 1917 until March 4, 1919. A wartime agency, the Custodian had responsibility for the seizure, administration, and sometimes the sale of enemy property in the United States. Palmer's background in law and banking qualified him for the position, along with his party loyalty and intimate knowledge of political patronage.

The size of the assets the Custodian controlled only became clear over the next year. Late in 1918, Palmer reported he was managing almost 30,000 trusts with assets worth half a billion dollars. He estimated that another 9,000 trusts worth $300,000,000 dollars awaited evaluation. Many of the enterprises in question produced materials significant to the war effort, such as medicines, glycerin for explosives, charcoal for gas masks. Others ranged from mines to brewing to newspaper publishing. Palmer built a team of professionals with banking expertise as well as an investigative bureau to track down well-hidden assets. Below the top-level positions, he distributed jobs as patronage. For example, he appointed one of his fellow members of the Democratic National Committee to serve as counsel for a textile company and another the vice-president of a shipping line. Always thinking like a politician, he made sure his group's efforts were well publicized.

In September 1918, Palmer testified at hearings held by the U.S. Senate's Overman Committee
Overman Committee
The Overman Committee was a special subcommittee of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary chaired by North Carolina Democrat Lee Slater Overman. Between September 1918 and June 1919, it investigated German and Bolshevik elements in the United States...

 that the United States Brewers Association (USBA) and the rest of the overwhelmingly German liquor industry harbored pro-German sentiments. He stated that "German brewers of America, in association with the United States Brewers' Association" had attempted "to buy a great newspaper" and "control the government of State and Nation", had generally been "unpatriotic", and had "pro-German sympathies".

As Alien Property Custodian, Palmer campaigned successfully to have his powers to dispose of assets by sale increased to counter Germany's long-term plan to conquer the world by industrial expansion even after the war. Even after Germany's surrender, Palmer continued the campaign to make American industry independent of German ownership, with major sales in the metals industry in the spring of 1919, for example. He offered his rationale in a speech to an audience of lawyers: "The war power is of necessity an inherent power in every sovereign nation. It is the power of self-reservation and that power has no limits other than the extent of the emergency."

Attorney general

When President Wilson needed to fill the position of Attorney General at the start of 1919, party officials, including Palmer's colleagues on the Democratic National Committee and many recipients of his patronage during his tenure as Alien Property Custodian, backed him against other candidates with stronger legal credentials. They argued that the South was over-represented in the Cabinet and that Palmer's political intelligence was critical. Joseph Tumulty
Joseph Patrick Tumulty
Joseph Patrick Tumulty was an American attorney and politician from New Jersey.-Biography:Tumulty was born in Jersey City, New Jersey to Philip and Alicia. He attended St. Bridget's school and graduated from Saint Peter's College, New Jersey in 1901. Tumulty was active in Democratic state politics...

, the President's private secretary, advised the President that the office had "great power politically. We should not trust it to anyone who is not heart and soul with us." He pressed the President several times. He cabled Wilson in Paris: "Recognition of Palmer ...would be most helpful and cheering to young men of the party....You will make no mistake if appointment is made. It will give us all heart and new courage. Party know of need in tonic like this." He called Palmer "young, militant, progressive and fearless." The President sent Palmer's nomination to the Senate on February 27, 1919 and Palmer took office as a recess appointment
Recess appointment
A recess appointment is the appointment, by the President of the United States, of a senior federal official while the U.S. Senate is in recess. The U.S. Constitution requires that the most senior federal officers must be confirmed by the Senate before assuming office, but while the Senate is in...

 on March 5.

Palmer served as Attorney General from March 5, 1919, until March 4, 1921. Before assuming office, he had opposed the American Protective League
American Protective League
The American Protective League was an American organization of private citizens that worked with Federal law enforcement agencies during the World War I era to identify suspected German sympathizers and to counteract the activities of radicals, anarchists, anti-war activists, and left-wing labor...

 (APL), an organization of private citizens that conducted numerous raids and surveillance activities aimed at those who failed to register for the draft and immigrants of German ancestry who were suspected of sympathies for Germany. One of Palmer's first acts was to release 10,000 aliens of German ancestry who had been taken into government custody during World War I. He stopped accepting intelligence information gathered by the APL. Conversely, he refused to share information in his APL-provided files when Ohio Governor James M. Cox
James M. Cox
James Middleton Cox was the 46th and 48th Governor of Ohio, U.S. Representative from Ohio and Democratic candidate for President of the United States in the election of 1920....

 requested it. He called the APL materials "gossip, hearsay information, conclusions, and inferences" and added that "information of this character could not be used without danger of doing serious wrong to individuals who were probably innocent." In March 1919, when some in Congress and the press were urging him to reinstate the Justice Department's wartime relationship with the APL, he told reporters that "its operation in any community constitutes a grave menace."

Palmer Raids

In late April 1919, followers of anarchist Luigi Galleani
Luigi Galleani
Luigi Galleani was an Italian anarchist active in the United States from 1901 to 1919, viewed by historians as an anarchist communist and an insurrectionary anarchist. He is best known for his enthusiastic advocacy of "propaganda of the deed", i.e...

 attempted to assassinate Palmer by mailing a booby trap bomb to his home. It was intercepted and defused. Two months later, Palmer and his family narrowly escaped death when an anarchist exploded a bomb on his porch. Yet he initially moved slowly to find a way to attack the source of the violence. An initial raid in July 1919 against a small anarchist group in Buffalo failed when a federal judge tossed out his case. In August, he organized the General Intelligence Unit within the Department of Justice and recruited J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover
John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972...

, a 24-year-old law school graduate who spent the war working in and then leading the Justice Department's Enemy Alien Bureau, to head it. On October 17, 1919, just a year after the Immigration Act of 1918
Immigration Act of 1918
The United States Immigration Act of 1918 was enacted on October 16, 1918. It is also known as the Dillingham-Hardwick Act.-Enactment:...

 had expanded the definition of aliens that could be deported, the U.S. Senate demanded Palmer explain his failure to move against radicals. Palmer's reply on November 17 described the threat anarchists and Bolsheviks posed to the government. More than half the report documented radicalism in the black community and the "open defiance" black leaders advocated in response to racial violence and rioting of the past summer
Red Summer of 1919
Red Summer describes the race riots that occurred in more than three dozen cities in the United States during the summer and early autumn of 1919. In most instances, whites attacked African Americans. In some cases groups of blacks fought back, notably in Chicago, where, along with Washington, D.C....

.

Palmer launched his campaign against radicalism in November 1919 and January 1920 with a series of police actions known as the Palmer Raids
Palmer Raids
The Palmer Raids were attempts by the United States Department of Justice to arrest and deport radical leftists, especially anarchists, from the United States. The raids and arrests occurred in November 1919 and January 1920 under the leadership of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer...

. Federal agents supported by local police rounded up large groups of suspected radicals, often based on membership in a political group rather than any action taken. Only the dismissal of most of the cases by Assistant Secretary of Labor Louis Freeland Post
Louis Freeland Post
Louis Freeland Post was the Assistant United States Secretary of Labor during the closing year of the Wilson administration, the period of the Palmer Raids and the Red Scare, where he had responsibility for the Bureau of Immigration.-Biography:Post opposed immigration restrictions and forcefully...

 limited the number of deportations to 556.

At a Cabinet meeting in April 1920, Palmer called on Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson to fire Post, but Wilson defended him. The President listened to his feuding department heads and offered no comment about Post, but he ended the meeting by telling Palmer that he should "not let this country see red." Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
Josephus Daniels
Josephus Daniels was a newspaper editor and publisher from North Carolina who was appointed by United States President Woodrow Wilson to serve as Secretary of the Navy during World War I...

, who made notes of the conversation, thought the Attorney General had merited the President's "admonition," because Palmer "was seeing red behind every bush and every demand for an increase in wages."

Fearful of extremist violence and revolution, the American public initially supported the raids. Civil libertarians, the radical left, and legal scholars raised protests. Officials at the Department of Labor, especially Louis Freeland Post
Louis Freeland Post
Louis Freeland Post was the Assistant United States Secretary of Labor during the closing year of the Wilson administration, the period of the Palmer Raids and the Red Scare, where he had responsibility for the Bureau of Immigration.-Biography:Post opposed immigration restrictions and forcefully...

, asserted the rule of law in opposition to Palmer's campaign, and Congressional attempts to impeach or censure Louis Post were short-lived, though Palmer was allowed to defend himself in two days of testimony before the House Rules Committee in June 1919. Much of the press applauded Louis Post's work at Labor as well, and Palmer, rather than President Wilson, was largely blamed for the negative results of the raids.

Labor and Business

Palmer had a pro-labor record in Congress though he was never very successful at winning labor's votes in elections. Through most of 1919 he did not join the growing chorus of anti-union sentiment and anti-Red rhetoric that greeted the Seattle General Strike and the Boston Police Strike
Boston Police Strike
In the Boston Police Strike, the Boston police rank and file went out on strike on September 9, 1919 in order to achieve recognition for their trade union and improvements in wages and working conditions...

. His potential rivals for the presidency in 1920 were not inactive. In September and October 1919, General Leonard Wood
Leonard Wood
Leonard Wood was a physician who served as the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Military Governor of Cuba and Governor General of the Philippines. Early in his military career, he received the Medal of Honor. Wood also holds officer service #2 in the Regular Army...

 led U.S. military forces against striking steel workers in Gary, Indiana. Employers claimed the strikers had revolutionary objectives and military intelligence seconded those charges, so Wood added acclaim as an anti-labor and anti-radical champion to his reputation as a military hero, critic of Wilson, and leading candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 1920.

Coal strike

The railroad and coal strike scheduled for November 1, 1919 roused him. The Senate, on October 17, had already challenged him to demonstrate what action he was taking against foreign radicals. Now these two industries faced disruption as prices continued to rise and shortages threatened, even as the presidential election year of 1920 approached. The railroad brotherhoods postponed their strike in the face of political and public opposition, but the United Mine Workers
United Mine Workers
The United Mine Workers of America is a North American labor union best known for representing coal miners and coal technicians. Today, the Union also represents health care workers, truck drivers, manufacturing workers and public employees in the United States and Canada...

 under John L. Lewis
John L. Lewis
John Llewellyn Lewis was an American leader of organized labor who served as president of the United Mine Workers of America from 1920 to 1960...

 went forward. Palmer invoked the Lever Act
Food and Fuel Control Act
The Food and Fuel Control Act, , also called the Lever Act or the Lever Food Act was a World War I era US law that among other things created the United States Food Administration and the Federal Fuel Administration.-Legislative history:...

, a wartime measure that made it a crime to interfere with the production or transportation of necessities. The law, meant to punish hoarding and profiteering, had never been used against a union. Certain of united political backing and almost universal public support, Palmer obtained an injunction on October 31 and 400,000 coal workers struck the next day.

Samuel Gompers of the American Federation of Labor
American Federation of Labor
The American Federation of Labor was one of the first federations of labor unions in the United States. It was founded in 1886 by an alliance of craft unions disaffected from the Knights of Labor, a national labor association. Samuel Gompers was elected president of the Federation at its...

 (AFL) at first attempted to mediate between Palmer and Lewis, but after several days called the injunction "so autocratic as to stagger the human mind." The coal operators smeared the strikers with charges that Lenin and Trotsky had ordered the strike and were financing it, and some of the press echoed that language. Palmer's public rhetoric was restrained throughout. He eschewed characterizing labor's action as some others did –"insurrection" and "Bolshevik revolution", for example –and made straightforward statements about what the government of necessity had to do. Responding to an AFL attack he wrote:
Nothing that the Government has done is intended or designed to have any effect upon the recognized right of labor to organize, to bargain collectively through its unions, or, under ordinary industrial conditions, to walk out by concerted action....The Government faced the alternative of submitting to the demands of a single group, to the irreparable injury of the whole people, or of challenging the assertion by that group of power greater than that of the Government itself.


Lewis, facing criminal charges, withdrew his strike call, though many strikers ignored his action. As the strike dragged on into its third week, coal supplies were running low and public sentiment was calling for ever stronger government action. Final agreement came on December 10. Palmer's tough stand won him considerable praise from business and professional groups. He received one letter that said: "A lion-hearted man, with a great nation behind him, has brought order out of chaos. You have shown...that the United States is not a myth, but a virile, mighty power which shows itself when a man who measures up to the duties of the hour is at the helm." Such support stiffened his resolve in the next labor crisis.

The coal strike also had political consequences. At one point Palmer asserted that the entire Cabinet had backed his request for an injunction. That infuriated Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson
William Bauchop Wilson
William Bauchop Wilson was a American labor leader and politician. He is best remembered for his service as the first Secretary of Labor between 1913 and 1921 under President Woodrow Wilson.-Early life:...

 who had opposed Palmer's plan. The rift between the Attorney General and the Secretary of Labor was never healed, which had consequences the next year when Palmer's attempt to deport radicals was largely frustrated by the Department of Labor.

May Day warnings

Within Palmer's Justice Department, the General Intelligence Division (GID) headed by J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover
John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972...

 had become a storehouse of information about radicals in America. It had infiltrated many organizations and, following the raids of November 1919 and January 1920, it had interrogated thousands of those arrested and read through boxes of publications and records seized. Though agents in the GID knew there was a gap between what the radicals promised in their rhetoric and what they were capable of accomplishing, they nevertheless told Palmer they had evidence of plans for an attempted overthrow of the U.S. government on May Day 1920.

With Palmer's backing, Hoover warned the nation to expect the worst: assassinations, bombings, and general strikes. Palmer issued his own warning on April 29, 1920, claiming to have a "list of marked men" and said domestic radicals were "in direct connection and unison" with European counterparts with disruptions planned for the same day there. Newspapers headlined his words: "Terror Reign by Radicals, says Palmer" and "Nation-wide Uprising on Saturday." Localities prepared their police forces and some states mobilized their militias. New York City's 11,000-man police force worked for 32 hours straight. Boston police mounted machine guns on automobiles and positioned them around the city.

The date came and went without incident. Newspaper reaction was almost uniform in its mockery of Palmer and his "hallucinations." Clarence Darrow
Clarence Darrow
Clarence Seward Darrow was an American lawyer and leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union, best known for defending teenage thrill killers Leopold and Loeb in their trial for murdering 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks and defending John T...

 called it the "May Day scare." The Rocky Mountain News
Rocky Mountain News
The Rocky Mountain News was a daily newspaper published in Denver, Colorado, United States from April 23, 1859, until February 27, 2009. It was owned by the E. W. Scripps Company from 1926 until its closing. As of March 2006, the Monday-Friday circulation was 255,427...

asked the Attorney General to cease his alerts: "We can never get to work if we keep jumping sideways in fear of the bewiskered Bolshevik." Palmer's embarrassment buttressed Louis Freeland's position in opposition to the Palmer raids when he testified before a Congressional Committee on May 7–8.

Later years

Palmer sought the Democratic Party's nomination for President in 1920. In a crowded field of candidates, he presented himself as the most American of all. Campaigning during the Georgia primary, he said: "I am myself an American and I love to preach my doctrine before undiluted one hundred percent Americans, because my platform is, in a word, undiluted Americanism and undying loyalty to the republic." Journalist Heywood Broun
Heywood Broun
Heywood Campbell Broun, Jr. was an American journalist. He worked as a sportswriter, newspaper columnist, and editor in New York City. He founded the American Newspaper Guild, now known as The Newspaper Guild. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he is best remembered for his writing on social issues and...

 pretended to investigate: "We assumed, of course, from the tone of Mr. Palmer's manifesto that his opponents for the nomination were Rumanians, Greeks and Icelanders, and weak-kneed ones at that....We happened into Cox's headquarters wholly by accident and were astounded to discover that he, too, is an American....Thus encouraged we went to all camps and found that the candidates are all Americans." Palmer had considerable support among party professionals, but no track record as a campaigner or a vote winner. He won delegates in the Michigan and Georgia primaries but did so without demonstrating voter appeal. He also faced strong opposition from labor for his use of an injunction against striking coal miners in the fall of 1919. Though he probably never had a chance of winning the nomination, he ran a respectable third until his support collapsed on the convention's 39th ballot and the nomination shortly thereafter went to Ohio Governor James Cox
James M. Cox
James Middleton Cox was the 46th and 48th Governor of Ohio, U.S. Representative from Ohio and Democratic candidate for President of the United States in the election of 1920....

.

In 1921, in the closing weeks of the Wilson administration, Palmer asked the President to pardon imprisoned Socialist leader Eugene V. Debs
Eugene V. Debs
Eugene Victor Debs was an American union leader, one of the founding members of the International Labor Union and the Industrial Workers of the World , and several times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States...

, whose health was said to be failing. He suggested the birthday of President Lincoln as an appropriate day for the announcement, noting Lincoln's willingness to forgive the Confederate South. Wilson's response was "Never!", and he wrote "Denied" across the clemency petition.

After retiring from government service in March 1921, Palmer went into the private practice of law and continued to act the role of a senior statesman of the Democratic Party. Widowed on January 4, 1922, he married Margaret Fallon Burrall in 1923.

After the Republicans won the national election of 1924
United States presidential election, 1924
The United States presidential election of 1924 was won by incumbent President Calvin Coolidge, the Republican candidate.Coolidge was vice-president under Warren G. Harding and became president in 1923 when Harding died in office. Coolidge was given credit for a booming economy at home and no...

 in a landslide, he was quick to congratulate Governor Al Smith of New York on his re-election and declare him the party's new leader, and he backed Smith for the Democratic nomination in 1928.

As a Roosevelt supporter and a delegate from the District of Columbia, he served as one of nine members on the Platform Committee of the 1932 Democratic National Convention
1932 Democratic National Convention
The 1932 Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago, Illinois from June 27 - July 2, 1932. The convention resulted in the nomination of Governor Franklin Roosevelt of New York for President and Speaker of the House John Nance Garner of Texas for Vice-President...

 and authored the original draft of the platform. With the repeal of prohibition a major issue, Palmer used his expertise as the Attorney General who first enforced Prohibition to promote a plan to expedite its repeal through state conventions rather than the state legislatures. Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine later credited him with the platform's opposition to forgiving the debts of America's allies in World War I and its promise to reduce government expenditures by 25%, though at the time Palmer also said that "extraordinary appropriations for the existing emergency" to relieve unemployment would counterbalance those savings.

On May 11, 1936 at Emergency Hospital in Washington, D.C., Palmer died from cardiac complications following an appendectomy two weeks earlier. Upon his death, Attorney General Cummings said "He was a great lawyer, a distinguished public servant and an outstanding citizen. He was my friend of many years' standing and his death brings to me a deep sense of personal loss and sorrow." He was buried at Laurelwood Cemetery (originally a cemetery of the Society of Friends
Religious Society of Friends
The Religious Society of Friends, or Friends Church, is a Christian movement which stresses the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Members are known as Friends, or popularly as Quakers. It is made of independent organisations, which have split from one another due to doctrinal differences...

) in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Stroudsburg is a borough in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is located in the Poconos region of the state, approximately five miles from the Delaware Water Gap, at the confluence of the Brodhead and Pocono Creeks. It is the county seat of Monroe County. Stroudsburg is part of the...

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