SAMUEL SEABURY'S public life began in the 1890's with his campaign for Henry George, the single-tax philosopher, for mayor; it ended in the late 1940's with the death of his friend Fiorello H. La Guardia, the Fusion candidate of his selection who became the greatest reform mayor New York ever had. As judge, lawyer and investigator, Seabury defended trade unions and advocated municipal ownership of public utilities--an early and late muckraker; handled major appeals before the highest courts for clients famous and unknown; and served as counsel in the state investigation of New York City corruption that still stands as a landmark in municipal housecleaning. Across fifty public years, he encountered some of the major figures on the American scene.
The aim of this biography is to reach back into Seabury's past to discover the nature of the twentieth-century man with eighteenth- century manners ("I will not be exceeded in courtesy," he once said), to learn why he turned his energies to municipal reform, to determine what were his accomplishments, and to bring into new focus the lessons that were his legacy.
There is a great deal on the printed record involving Judge Seabury. The main sources of this book are court and legislative documents; reports of state investigating committees, including minutes