Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "The Pennsylvanian"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Book Review: "The Pennsylvanian"

Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: January 2005

Students of Pennsylvania politics would do well to learn about Joseph Grundy, the subject of the Ann Hawkes Hutton biography “The Pennsylvanian”. There was a time, now past, when “grudyism” was a common political term, and it was usually not meant as complimentary. Who was Joseph Grundy and what was Grundyism? The book provides the answers.

The author is an avowed fan of Joseph Grundy, whom she knew, and this book is a defense of one of Pennsylvania’s most controversial political figures. While the view is slanted, the book still allows much insight into the life of Joseph Grundy.

Joseph Grundy, nicknamed “Mr. Pennsylvania”, raised more campaign contributions for political candidates in the first half of the 20th century than any other person, according to this book. As a founder and leader of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, Joseph Grundy had a major say in what person the Republican Party nominated for Governor and was a major influence in the election of at least one President, Warren Harding. Not one to remain totally behind the scenes, Joseph Grundy also served briefly as one of Pennsylvania’s United States Senators.

Business interests dominated Pennsylvania politics (and still do?) and Joseph Grundy was an early organizer of state manufacturers to seek to influence politics. They advocated policies that helped their industries and rewarded likeminded politicians with their endorsements and, most importantly, with their campaign contributions. In particular, Joseph Grundy favored high tariffs to protect Pennsylvania manufacturers from the influx of foreign competitors. If a candidate wanted the stream of campaign funds that Joseph Grundy could produce, that candidate had better be a supporters of high tariffs.

Joseph Grundy began lobbying in 1897. At that time, Pennsylvania manufactured more products than 25 other states combined. Grundy even testified before a Senate committee arguing that “backward states” should not have as much say on tariffs as Pennsylvanians who contributed vastly more towards federal revenues. Grundy not only hobnobbed with Presidents and members of Congress, he returned on a local level where he served as a Republican poll watcher in Bucks County, missing only one election in 64 years before he retired as a Republican committee member at age 86. Further, he served on the Bristol Council for over 30 years.

Lobbyist Grundy feared the Pennsylvania legislature was going overboard in the 1910s by enacting stronger child labor laws. He urged leaders of Pennsylvania’s manufacturing community to join together so their combined strength could battle the emerging labor movement. By his argument, laws such as child labor laws were slowing the profits and expansion of Pennsylvania manufacturers and thus causing them to flee to other states. (Note: PMA continues using Grundy’s same arguments to this very day against any type of labor legislation.) In joining manufactures into a political organization, Grundy became the first President of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association in 1910. For those interested, the first dues were set at 10 cent for each employee a manufacturer had, and PMA business was decided according to one vote per each dollar of dues paid.

PMA earned an early success in helping to kill legislation for the eight hour workday in 1911. (Most workers today will be surprised to learn there once was a time in history when eight hours was a maximum workday.) PMA was very active in seeing their views were included in legislation restricting employee lawsuits but allowing the undisputed payments of workers’ compensation to employees injured at work.

Over time, Grundyism arose as a term that came to represent the vigorous defense of big business. In past times, lobbyists could be on the legislative floor, and Joseph Grundy was often found roaming amongst Republican legislators advising them as they voted.. Democratic legislators and many voters became irritated with Joseph Grundy and his tactics. According to Democratic House Speaker Hiram Andrews, “all we had to do to win an upstate election was to use the name “Grundy”’. Attacks on Grundyism could be found through political campaigns into the 1960s.

Joe Grundy was also known as a political “king maker”. He would support, raise money, and get elected many Republican candidates he almost single handedly hand picked. His primary concerns were the candidates favor industry and support high tariffs. Grundy was unwilling to compromise on his positions. Further, Grundy did not believe in the need for public relations, which allowed Grundy to further become the object of public ridicule. Senator Boies Penrose remarked that Grundy “was the best fund raiser in the history of politics and the worst politician since Julius Caesar.”

Grundy and Penrose played major roles in getting Warren Harding, a little known first term U.S. Senator from Ohio who had the major asset of being a supporter of high tariffs, elected President. Pennsylvania had a Presidential candidate in Governor William Sproul and Harding hadn’t even thought about running for President. Grundy and Penrose convinced Harding to run, supported him financially, and then saw to it that the Pennsylvania delegates would support Sproul as a favorite son and then would be loyal to them and not Sproul. Harding emerged from a dark horse candidate to win the Presidency. Harding returned the favor to Grundy and his associates by, shorting after becoming President, calling Congress into special session to increase tariffs.

Grundy had his political battles within the Republican Party. After helping elect Gifford Pinchot as Governor, Gifford held no loyalty towards Grundy. Gifford adopted the ways of progressive Republicanism, a concept Grundy publicly stated was akin to Leninism and Trotskyism. Grundy also fought with the Philadelphia Republican machine led by the Vare brothers. After losing a U.S. Senate battle to the Vare brothers, Grundy felt vindicated three years later when Grundy was appointed to a vacancy in the U. S. Senate. The Vare brothers offered political peace with Grundy along with a compromise deal, yet Grundy continued his refusal to compromise. This was Grundy’s personal political downfall, as the Vare brothers then caused Grundy and his slate of candidates to be defeated.

We can better understand our present by knowing our roots. Joseph Grundy is one of those roots worth studying. While much of his work has been forgotten, the foundation he established remains. This book gives insights into that foundation.


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