Brandeis: A Free Man's Life

By Alpheus Thomas Mason | Go to book overview

So much for the larger meaning of the case to Brandeis. The more immediate practical result was that severe criticism and public resentment finally forced Ballinger's resignation on March 7, 1911, and Taft had to accept it. The embattled Secretary was succeeded by one of Brandeis's friends, Walter L. Fisher, a public-spirited Chicago lawyer. When about to assume his official duties, Fisher wrote Brandeis substantially thus: Because of your profound knowledge of the Interior Department and its problems, I wish your counsel and advice on matters of administration. Brandeis replied: I have but two suggestions to offer -- approve no documents the contents of which you do not understand; sign no letters which you have not read. Fisher retorted tersely: You ask the impossible.


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
The Controller Bay Fiasco, 1911

"IF THEY had searched the nation over," Brandeis said of the new Secretary of the Interior, "they could have found no better man than Fisher. . . . I think that his ideas of loyalty will differ from those of Mr. Ballinger."1 Fisher might have been different, but the Interior Department seemed to be the same. Early in 1911 newspapermen again smelled something cooking in the Department, and on April 20 the Philadelphia North American took the lid off the pot. "TAFT SECRETLY GIVES CONTROL OF ALASKA COAL TO GUGGENHEIMS," ran an ominous headline. The story, written by Angus McSween, declared that on October 28, 1910, President Taft had signed an executive order granting the Morgan-Guggenheim syndicate the only outlet from the Alaskan coal fields to tidewater not already in its control. Actually McSween was guilty of overstatement, as the order on its face merely withdrew from the Chugach National Forest, 12,800 acres of land on the shores of Controller Bay. Nevertheless, circumstances lent plausibility to his charge, for Controller Bay was of supreme importance to any group interested in exploiting the Bering coal fields, which included the

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