Merwin K. Hart
|Merwin K. Hart|
|Born||June 25, 1881
Utica, New York,
|Died||November 30, 1962
Manhattan, New York,
Cause of death
|Forest Hill Cemetery, Utica|
|Occupation||Lawyer, Businessman, Politician|
|Known for||Hart-Agnew Law|
Board member of
|Utica Mutual Insurance Co.|
|Spouse(s)||1) Katherine Margaret Crouse
2) Constance (Gray) Dall
|Parents||Henry Gilbert Hart &
Lucy Lord Kimball
Merwin Kimball Hart (June 25, 1881 – November 30, 1962) was an American politician from New York.
Born in Utica, New York, Hart attended Harvard in 1900, graduating in 1904 in the same class as Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was a Republican member of the New York State Assembly (Oneida Co., 1st D.) in 1907 and 1908. He sponsored the Hart-Agnew Law, an anti-gambling bill passed by the New York Legislature on June 11, 1908 that led to a complete shutdown of horse racing in the State during 1911 and 1912.
Merwin Hart later practiced law, being admitted to the bar in 1911.
During the First World War, Hart served in France, as Captain, although the Army first wanted Hart to serve in Ordnance; interference by Roosevelt helped Hart get his demanded commission. After the War, Hart returned to practicing law.
At the beginning of the 1930s, Hart and others founded the New York State Economic Council, a legislative lobbying organization that sought to curtail government interference into the economy in aftermath of the economic collapse in 1929. Roosevelt's New Deal would provide for new challenges to the organization, especially to Hart personally, who saw in the New Deal something far removed from the American way of life. Another factor, Hart believed, too, was interfering with society: Communism.
In 1937 he toured Europe, and Hart was happy to see that at least one country could stop the Communist menace, Franco's Spain. In the 1940s, Hart became briefly a target of Secretary of State Harold L. Ickes. Ickes spoke about "fifth column" interference in the United States at an address at Columbia University, and classified Hart as being part of the "native fascist minded group." Hart demanded a retraction by Ickes, saying that his "statements are absolutely false." In reply, Ickes offered Hart a "trade." "I will retract my statement gladly when I hear that you have come out to fight against the asserted gangs of native Fascists and fifth columnists that are trying to pave the way for the dictators here as they prepared it in other lands; when I hear that you have come out in defense of civil liberties and American democracy. Until then, my dear sir, you remain in my eyes, and in the eyes of the American people, what I said you were." An unsatisfied Hart replied, "I am and always have been absolutely opposed to fascism, nazism and communism in the United States... [they] are building up in Washington a government well-nigh as fascistic, as despotic, as anything in the dictator countries of Europe." Ickes would later denounce Hart as a bigot, one of the five American "Quislings." Hart accused Ickes of slander again.
In 1943, Hart renamed his organization the National Economic Council, for which a few noted libertarians did some work, Albert Jay Nock, Frank Chodorov and Garet Garrett, but none joined the Council. The National Economic Council itself would work together with the National Committee to Uphold Constitutional Government during the next years, a committee founded by Frank Gannett. After World War II, Hart tried to set up a political action committee, but did not find enough followers.
The trouble did not stop there. Slowly over the years, conspiracist views had entered the worldview of Hart, which became now even more overt in the writings of the Council. In 1960, Hart became a chairman of the New York branch of the John Birch Society. Although he denied allegations of anti-Semitism before the Buchanan committee, the 1961 letter of the National Economic Council carried the following statement: "...if there were 6,000,000 Jews within reach of Hitler, which number is widely questioned, and if they have all disappeared, where are they? ... Is it not likely that many of these 6,000,000 claimed to have been killed by Hitler and Eichmann are right here in the United States and are now joining in the agitation for more and more support for the state of Israel—even if the American Republic goes down." A few years after Hart's death, the indebted National Economic Council was conveyed to Willis Carto.
- "Ickes Denounces 'Appeasers' Here". New York Times. 1940-12-18. p. 30.
- "M. K. Hart Demands that Ickes Recant". New York Times. 1940-12-19. p. 22.
- "Ickes Offers Hart Retraction Trade". New York Times. 1940-12-21. p. 10.
- "Hart Again Accuses Ickes of Distortion". New York Times. 1940-12-22. p. 28.
- "Ickes is Honored as Foe of Bigotry". New York Times. 1941-02-26. p. 13.
- "Hart Denies Charge of 'Treason' by Ickes". New York Times. 1941-02-27. p. 9.
- "Merwin K. Hart of Birch Society". New York Times. 1962-12-02. p. 88.