Moorfield Storey

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Moorfield Storey.

Moorfield Storey (March 19, 1845 – October 24, 1929) was an American lawyer, publicist, and civil rights leader. According to Storey's biographer, William B. Hixson, Jr., he had a worldview that embodied "pacifism, anti-imperialism, and racial egalitarianism fully as much as it did laissez-faire and moral tone in government."[1] Storey served as the inaugural president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a position he held from 1909 to 1929.

Early life[edit]

Storey's family was descended from the earliest Puritan settlers and had close connections with the abolitionist movement. He was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and arrived in Northeast Harbor after the Civil War, building a house there. He graduated at Harvard in 1866, and then studied at Harvard Law School. From 1867 to 1869, Storey was clerk for the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, effectively private secretary to its chairman, Senator Charles Sumner. He accepted the position as it seemed the best route to continue his law studies.[2] During his tenure, he initially supported the removal of President Andrew Johnson from office but soon became disenchanted by what he viewed as the corruption and opportunism of politicians on both sides. He was admitted to the bar in 1869.


He established a distinguished law practice in Boston, Massachusetts, and from 1873 to 1879 was editor of the American Law Review.[3] He was elected president of the American Bar Association in 1896,[3] and was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[4]

He was a well-known person in the "Mugwump" movement of 1884, and actively supported Grover Cleveland. As a strong believer in the gold standard, freedom of contract, and property rights, he could not abide the candidacy of William Jennings Bryan and supported the National Democratic Party (Gold Democrats) third-party ticket in 1896.[5] In 1887 he built a house on Great Cranberry Island.

Storey spoke at the first anti-imperialist mass meeting in Boston in June 1898, and was a vice president of the New England Anti-Imperialist League. In addition, he wrote a book brief for the Lodge Committee summarizing the war crimes of the Philippine–American War. From 1905 until its dissolution in 1921, he was president of the national Anti-Imperialist League.

Congressional campaign[edit]

Late in the campaign of 1900, Storey seriously pondered running for president on a third-party ticket but decided against it because it was impractical. Instead, he ran a losing, but spirited and high profile, campaign for Congress as an independent anti-imperialist candidate. Other planks in his platform included support for the gold standard and free trade.

Champion of civil rights[edit]

Storey consistently and aggressively championed civil rights not only for blacks but also for American Indians and immigrants. He also opposed immigration restrictions. "When the white man governs himself, that is self-government," he declared, "but when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is more than self-government–that is despotism."[5]

Storey was the first president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1909 until his death in 1929.[6] He played a critical role in several important NAACP victories. Most notably, in 1917, he was lead counsel before the Supreme Court in Buchanan v. Warley. In that case, the Court unanimously overturned a Louisville law that forcibly segregated blacks by city blocks. The Court's opinion reflected the jurisprudence of property rights and freedom of contract as embodied in the earlier precedent it established in Lochner v. New York.

However he was on the conservative side in the Sacco and Vanzetti case.[2]

Later life[edit]

In the 1920s, Storey served as the chairperson of the Haiti-Santo Domingo Independence Society and on the advisory committee of the American Fund for Public Service Committee on American Imperialism.

He died in Lincoln, Massachusetts, survived by four of his five children with Gertrude Cutts, whom he had married in 1870. She had died in 1912.[2]


Damon W. Root touted him as an historical role model for libertarian Democrats in a 2007 article for Reason Magazine.[7]



  1. ^ Hixson (1972), p. 39.
  2. ^ a b c Sidney Gunn (1936). "Storey, Moorfield". Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 
  3. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Storey, Moorfield". Encyclopedia Americana. 
  4. ^  "Storey, Moorfield". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921. 
  5. ^ a b David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, "Gold Democrats and the Decline of Classical Liberalism, 1896-1900," Independent Review 4 (Spring 2000), 555-75
  6. ^ Bliss Perry, "Moorfield Storey as a Man," The Crisis, May 1930, pp. 156-57.
  7. ^ Root, Damon W. (December 2007). "The Party of Jefferson: What the Democrats can learn from a dead libertarian lawyer". Reason Magazine. 


  • William B. Hixson Jr., Moorfield Storey and the Abolitionist Tradition (1972).