Louis Freeland Post
|Louis Freeland Post|
November 15, 1849|
Sussex County, New Jersey
|Died||January 11, 1928
|Parent(s)||Eugene J. Post
Louis Freeland Post (November 15, 1849 - January 11, 1928) was a prominent Georgist and the Assistant United States Secretary of Labor during the closing year of the Wilson administration, the period of the Palmer Raids and the Red Scare, where he had responsibility for the Bureau of Immigration. Post considered the process to be a witch hunt and is credited with preventing many deportations and freeing many innocent people.
Post opposed immigration restrictions and forcefully supported free speech and Henry George's single-tax movement. He once called George's political philosophy "my kind of radicalism...which regards the social values of natural resources as in their nature public property." He became an Assistant Secretary of Labor in 1913, a position he held until the end of the Wilson administration in March, 1921.
Early in March 1920, the temporary absence of Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson and the recent resignation of the Department's Solicitor General made Post the Department's Acting Secretary and the key person responsible for the Bureau of Immigration for two critical months. He directed the review of all deportation cases and often opposed the activities of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Justice Department's "Radical Division," soon renamed the General Intelligence Division. In 1919, in response to anarchist terror bombings, Hoover's agents penetrated many violent revolutionary groups and identified their members. In January 1920, Palmer and Hoover oversaw the Palmer Raids designed to arrest those members who were not U.S. citizens and deport them.
The Anarchist Exclusion Act of 1918 set the standard for such deportations. It specified that "aliens who are members of or affiliated with any organization that entertains a belief in, teaches, or advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the Government of the United States or of all forms of law" were subject to deportation. Post, often with the support of Secretary Wilson, distinguished carefully among those arrested, for example, determining that membership in the Communist Labor Party was not grounds for deportation because it did not meet the legal standard that other organizations with similar names did meet, like the Communist Party of America. By April 10, Post had reviewed a backlog of 1600 cases and dismissed 71% of them. Some had been held for as long as two months for having attended a meeting of a radical group. Post also determined that aliens were entitled to a fair hearing, which was contrary to the position of the Bureau of Immigration, which held that immigrants were not subject to constitutional safeguards. Overall, Post is credited with preventing many deportations and freeing many innocent people. He also declined to take action against those he called "harmless but technically culpable." Some had in good faith resigned from a proscribed organization. Others only became "members" of such an organization when organizations merged, as often happened. On the other hand, he authorized the deportation of anarchists even "of the extreme pacifist type," because he thought the law required that.
As early as January 1920, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began compiling a file on Post and his political leanings, but failed to find substantive evidence of radical connections on his part. Nevertheless, the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization compiled a sensational report of Post's deportation decisions, When it leaked, the press made much of the affair, what Post later called "a newspaper cyclone of misrepresentation," though some coverage supported him. Some Congressmen traded speeches on his culpability, Committee Chairman Albert Johnson of Washington state attacking Post, and Congressman George Huddleston of Alabama defending him. On April 15, 1920, Kansas Congressman Homer Hoch accused Post of having abused his power and called for his impeachment. The House Committee on Rules planned to ask the President to remove Post instead of impeaching him, so Post requested and was granted a chance to testify. He successfully defended his actions on May 7–8, attacking Attorney General Palmer and others. In a dramatic exchange, Congressman Edward W. Pou, a Democratic supporter of the anti-radical campaign, praised Post's actions–"I believe you have followed your sense of duty absolutely"–and left the room in stunned silence. The Rules Committee took no further action.
After the Attorney General had spent 2 days reading a statement in his defense, the New York Evening Post gave Post the victory:
- The simple truth is that Louis F. Post deserves the gratitude of every American for his courageous and determined stand in behalf of our fundamental rights. It is too bad that in making this stand he found himself at cross-purposes with the Attorney General, but Mr. Palmer's complaint lies against the Constitution and not against Mr. Post.
The American Legion later sought Post's dismissal in a letter to President Wilson on December 31, 1920. The White House responded with a letter quoting Labor Secretary Wilson who endorsed Post's actions, detailed the Constitutional principles that guided him, and praised his adherence to Department policies: "We will not deport anyone simply because he has been accused or because he is suspected of being a Red. We have no authority to do so under the law....Mr. Post...I am satisfied ranks among the ablest and best administrative officers in the Government service."
In retirement in 1923, he published The Deportations Delirium of Nineteen-Twenty: A Personal Narrative of an Historic Official Experience, a detailed account of the raids, arrests, and deportations of 1919-20. He called the entire effort "a stupendous and cruel fake". He asserted that his actions had been vindicated with the passage of time, that "no substantially erroneous decision of mine has yet been specified. Most certainly and without qualification may this be said of my cancellation decisions, and it was for these alone that my official fidelity was clamorously questioned.... Every attempt to show even one erroneous cancellation decision has utterly failed."
Post died on January 11, 1928 at Homeopathic Hospital in Washington, DC after a brief illness. The New York Times reported that he had been a lawyer and editor, noted his early advocacy of a single tax.
Works (partial list)
- The Chinese Exclusion Act (1901)
- Ethics of Democracy (1903)
- The Prophet Of San Francisco (1904)
- Our Advancing Postal Censorship (1905)
- Ethical Principles of Marriage and Divorce (1906)
- Social Service (1909)
- The Open Shop and the Closed Shop (1912)
- Trusts, Good and Bad (1914)
- Financing the War (1917)
- Why We are at War (1917)
- The Deportations Delirium of Nineteen-Twenty: A Personal Narrative of an Historic Official Experience (NY, 1923), reissued: ISBN 0-306-71882-0, ISBN 1-4102-0553-3
- What is the Single Tax? (1926)
- The Basic Facts of Economics: A Common-sense Primer for Advanced Students (2nd edition, 1918)
- The Prophet of San Francisco: Personal Memories & Interpretations of Henry George
- Henry George's 1886 Campaign: An Account of the George-Hewitt Campaign in the New York Municipal Election of 1886
- Schmidt, R. (2000). Red Scare: FBI and the Origins of Anticommunism in the United States, 1919-1943. Museum Tusculanum Press. ISBN 87-7289-581-0.
- Louis F. Post, The Deportations Delirium of Nineteen-twenty: A Personal Narrative of an Historic Official Experience (NY, 1923), 236
- Stanley Coben, A. Mitchell Palmer: Politician (NY: Columbia University Press, 1963), ISBN 0-231-02571-8, pp. 225-6
- O'Toole, G.J.A. (1991). Honorable Treachery: A History of U.S. Intelligence, Espionage, and Covert Action from the American Revolution to the CIA (Hardback). Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 0-87113-506-X.
- Post, 154-7
- Coben, 232
- Post, 176ff.
- Post, 200-2
- Post, 226ff.
- Post, 226, 230-2
- Coben, 233-4; Post, 243-4,
- Post, 238ff.
- Post, 271
- Post, 275-7
- Post, 158
- Post, 169-70
- "L.F. Post, Friend of Single Tax, Dies;". New York Times. January 11, 1928. Retrieved 2008-08-14.
Came of a Long Line of Literary Men.
- Media related to Louis Freeland Post at Wikimedia Commons