Public Men in and out of Office

By J. T. Salter | Go to book overview

13
HAMILTON FISH "Crusading Isolationist"

BY RICHARD NELSON CURRENT

I SUPPOSE," REMARKED HAM FISH, AS HE WAS BEGINNING the last of his twenty-four consecutive years in the House, "my name is as well known as anyone's in Congress."1 And he was no doubt right. Many of the millions who knew him or knew of him, however, were conscious more of notoriety than of fame. Some, calling themselves liberals, seemed to regard his very presence on Capitol Hill as a standing threat to the future of popular government. But the Gentleman from New York himself viewed Hamilton Fish in a quite different light. He thought of him as a liberal of the first water, and a high- minded patriot to boot. "I've never been a reactionary in my life," he would insist. "I'm a progressive. I'm with Thomas Jefferson."

The record of his congressional career fails to reveal any sign of creative, Jeffersonian statesmanship. The record, as appraised from 1920 to 1941, does give ample evidence of liberalism and patriotism, provided the appraiser is willing to accept the Fish definitions of those terms together with their Fish corollaries, anti-communism and isolationism.

Liberalism of the ichthyic sort was revealed in the congressman's occasional lapses into "progressive" irregularity, as when in the nineteen-thirties he repeatedly threatened a revolt in the House unless his Republican party, abandoning its "reactionary" leadership and ways, should support legislation for

____________________
1
This quotation of Fish and all the quotations to follow, except those for which another source is indicated, reproduce his remarks as made in conversation with the author in New York on Jan. 4, 1944.

-210-

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