Monday, October 25, 2010
Congressmen with murderous tempers were not new to Philip Barton Key, but his prior experience had not exactly prepared him for the events of February 27, 1859. Key was used to handling such matters from behind a prosecutor's table. A few years before, his duties as the U.S. district attorney for Washington, D.C. compelled him to try Democratic Representative Philemon T. Herbert for a bizarre murder. Herbert's argument with a waiter at Willard's Hotel grew physical, and it culminated in the congressman taking out a pistol and shooting the waiter dead. Two trials later, Herbert was acquitted under arguments that included intimidation by other waiters during the scuffle.
The incident may have taught Key not to cross a congressman at breakfast, but it did nothing to suggest that sleeping with a representative's wife was a bad idea. Not long after the unsuccessful trial, Key had befriended incoming representative Daniel Edgar Sickles and his wife, Teresa. Sickles was more than twice Teresa's age, having married her in 1852 when she was 15 years old. He was also not the most dedicated family man, and his work in Congress in the tumultuous period leading up to the Civil War did nothing to improve matters. During his frequent absences, Teresa wound up spending more and more time with Key. Their relationship did not go unnoticed in the higher ranks of Washington society, but Sickles remained oblivious. That precarious balance continued for several months, until an anonymous tipster inadvertently caused one of the most talked about events in the nation's capital.
Sickles had left a wake of minor scandals through his career, but nothing to derail it. Born in New York City in October of 1819, he attended New York University for a time and apprenticed as a printer. He later changed his focus to law, was admitted to the bar in 1843, and started practicing in the city. Though he was charged with grand larceny three years later in the theft of an $800 deed, he was acquitted on technical grounds. Sickles' frequent dalliances with a prostitute named Fanny White also failed to throw him off the political track. Aided by the Tammany Hall machine, he became a member of the state assembly in 1847 and the corporation attorney for New York City in 1853. Sickles supported the idea of a central park in Manhattan, an idea which eventually came to fruition during his lifetime.
In 1853, Sickles was tapped to be secretary of the legation at London by Democratic President Franklin Pierce. The key goal of this body was to promote the freedom of the seas and convince the British government not to interfere in the American aspiration to acquire Cuba from Spain. Sickles spent two years in this position, but caused a few embarrassments along the way. In 1854, he refused to toast the health of Queen Victoria on the Fourth of July. He likely had a role in the Ostend Manifesto, a document boldly proclaiming that the United States would take Cuba by force if Spain did not part with the island peacefully. The ultimatum was not well-received in both Europe and the U.S., and Pierce was forced to distance himself from the manifesto. When Sickles returned from England, he soon wound up in the state senate. His time here was cut short when he was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives in 1856.
Sickles allied himself with the Southern, "Hardshell" wing of the Democratic Party. As crises related to slavery and the balance of power in Congress mounted, the Hardshells sought to preserve the union of states even if it meant the practice of slavery were to stay in place. To that end, Sickles supported the proposal by Democratic President James Buchanan to admit Kansas as a slave state. The measure passed the Senate, but ran into defeat in the House.
It was not long after he was returned for a second term in the House that Sickles was confronted with a bitter piece of news about his marital relations. On February 24, 1859, he received a letter signed only by someone identifying themselves as "R.P.G." This tipster, whom the New York Times later melodramatically dubbed an "enemy of mankind," suggested that Sickles' friend Key rented a house on 15th Street for no other reason than to meet clandestinely Teresa. "He hangs a string out of the window as a signal to her that he is in and leaves the door unfastened and she walks in and sir I do assure you he has as much the use of your wife as you have," R.P.G. hinted. "With these few hints I leave the rest of you to imagine."
Sickles decided to embark on an investigation. Visiting the address, he questioned a few neighbors and found to his dismay that they readily recalled that a man and woman matching the description of Key and Teresa had regularly convened at the house. Sickles confided in a few friends, one of whom surveyed the house from a rented apartment across the street and turned up nothing. Sickles even had a brief glimmer of hope, when a witness recalled seeing Teresa on a date he knew her to be in another location; this quickly faded when it turned out that the witness had simply gotten the date wrong. Finally, Sickles confronted Teresa and forced her to write a lengthy and detailed confession when she admitted to the affair. "I did what is usual for a wicked woman to do," she concluded.
Key remained aloof of this development. So it was that three days after Sickles received the letter from R.P.G., several witnesses say Key loitering around the congressman's residence. At one point, he even made a clumsy attempt to signal Teresa, waving a handkerchief while petting the Sickles family dog after it ran out to see him. When Sickles finally saw Key outside, he was enraged. Though one of his friends, Samuel Butterworth, urged him to go the gentleman's route by challenging Key to a duel, Sickles would have none of it. He strode out to confront the district attorney, shouting that he was a scoundrel who had dishonored his house and threatening his life. He then took out a derringer and fired.
The first shot only grazed Key's hand. Key managed to grab hold of Sickles' coat collar, which was enough to prevent Sickles from firing again. Instead, he dropped his weapon and pulled free, only to take out a second gun and shoot again. This time, Key was struck in the leg near the groin. At some point during the struggle, Key took a pair of opera glasses he happened to have on him and threw them at Sickles, an attack which obviously didn't do much harm. With a serious wound, Key now begged Sickles not to kill him. Sickles ignored him, firing again. The gun misfired. He shot again, this time hitting Key in the chest. Even at this point, Sickles wasn't satisfied and tried to shoot Key in the head, only to have the fickle weapon misfire a second time. The incident took place in Lafayette Square, directly across the street from the White House.
Finally, the witnesses in the square interceded and Sickles surrendered his weapon. A surgeon had heard the shots and run to the scene, and Key was taken to a nearby house soon after. It was too late to do anything for the man, however, and he died before any medical treatment could be given. A White House page reported the matter to President Buchanan, a friend of Sickles. Whether he was ignorant of the judicial process or simply lying, Buchanan told the page that he could be detained indefinitely as a witness to the murder. He urged the page to flee the city, and he did. Teresa wasn't far behind. Her lover dead and her husband in jail, she returned to New York a disgraced woman.
Sickles was indicted for murder in March. His trial began the next month, after a lengthy jury selection in which numerous people admitted bias one way or another. The prosecution's case included evidence from the autopsy, which showed that Key had not been struck in the heart but rather died after his chest filled with blood from the wound. The one bullet retrieved from the body did not match the gun Sickles surrendered to authorities, so the prosecutor suggested that the congressman may even have had a third weapon. Their main argument was that Sickles had acted with malice aforethought, going so far as to deck himself out with multiple firearms before confronting Key.
In reply, Sickles' defense team tried out a rather risky argument: temporary insanity. The shock of learning about Teresa's affair, they argued, had driven him briefly out of his mind and caused him to gun down his friend and rival. It was the first time the argument was used in a court of law. The defense was easily able to dodge the testimony of numerous witnesses that Sickles didn't seem like a raving lunatic at the time of the shooting by simply pointing out that the witnesses had never been to an asylum, where plenty of committed people seemed perfectly normal on the surface.
Perhaps the most anticipated part of the trial never came about. After some debate, the judge opted not to admit Teresa's confession into the record. It leaked to the press soon after at any rate. As a result of this ruling, the judge also declined to admit similarly enticing evidence suggesting that Sickles himself had committed adultery with another woman in a Baltimore hotel. During the closing arguments, the defense reiterated their temporary insanity argument and suggested that one of the weapons dropped during the confrontation may have belonged to Key. The prosecution responded that Sickles had seemed normal before the shooting, attending his duties in Congress with no sign of mental disturbance and even making sure his remarks on a minor issue were recorded correctly.
After only 70 minutes, the jury returned a not guilty verdict. It may have been in error, since Sickles allegedly walked by the site with two friends not long after his acquittal and commented that he had meant to kill Key all along. Nevertheless, sympathy with Sickles was high since his action was seen in many quarters as a reasonable defense of his honor. One of the jurors told the press, "I would not have been satisfied with a derringer or a revolver, but would have brought a howitzer to bear on the seducer." So rather than the killing itself, Sickles got more flak when he and Teresa kept in contact with one another, fueling rumors that they were reuniting. They did keep in touch, but remained somewhat estranged.
Sickles was not very active in Congress following the trial, though after Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860 he blamed the increased threat of secession on abolitionists. Sickles even went so far as to say that if the North and South separated, New York City would break itself away from the country as well. "I tell you, that imperial city will throw off the odious government to which she now yields a reluctant allegiance; she will repel the hateful cabal at Albany, which has so long abused its power over her; and with her own flag, sustained by the courage and devotion of her own gallant sons, she will, as a free city, open wide her gates to the civilization and commerce of the world," he proclaimed. Once the Southern states actually did secede, however, Sickles pretty much flipped this opinion on its head and became a staunch supporter of Lincoln. "In all the partisan issues between the South and the Republican Party, the people of the city of New York are with the South, but when the South makes an untenable issue with our country, when the flag of the Union is insulted, when the fortified places provided for the common defense are assaulted and seized, when the South abandons its Northern friends for English and French alliances, then the loyal and patriotic population of that imperial city are unanimous with the Union," he said.
In this way, Sickles became a friend of Lincoln and was frequently able to meet with the President. He urged Lincoln to keep troops garrisoned at Fort Sumter, perhaps indirectly contributing to the attack there that would launch the Civil War. Sickles was not a candidate for renomination by the Democrats in 1860, likely due to his murder trial, but found himself with plenty to do when the war broke out. He committed himself to raising volunteers in New York, and within a month he helped to raise 40 companies totaling 3,000 men. Dubbed the Excelsior Brigade, the units were briefly threatened when Republican Governor Edwin Morgan asked him to disband all but eight of the companies since Sickles' top-notch recruiting was making it harder for the state to meet its own recruitment quota. Sickles thought it amounted to little more than political maneuvering, and won relief when he appealed directly to Lincoln.
Sickles now turned his focus entirely to the war. The Senate declined his nomination to brigadier general in March of 1862, but the appointment was confirmed by one vote in May. He saw action during the Peninsular Campaign, the aborted attack on Richmond from eastern Virginia, as well as Chancellorsville. He performed reserve duties during the battles at Fredericksburg and Antietam. He was promoted to a major general in 1863. Ultimately, Sickles would become best-known for his role in the Battle of Gettysburg, which caused even more controversy than his shooting of Key.
During the preparations for this battle in July of 1863, Sickles and his Third Corps were ordered to hold a portion of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Sickles noted that his ordered position left the high ground in front of him unoccupied, and thought leaving it to the Confederate Army would result in slaughter. He had already seen how the enemy's use of high ground in Chancellorsville had contributed to the Union defeat. He asked to advance, but never got an answer from General George Meade. Sickles took this as a license to move, and advanced the corps to the peach orchard atop the hill.
The move remains a disputed one. By advancing his troops, Sickles created a gap in the Union line and spread his troops more thinly than they would otherwise have been in their assigned position. Yet Sickles may well have been right in believing that the result of the battle would have been different if the Confederates had taken the orchard without any resistance. At any rate, Sickles' worst mistake may have been that he never passed on word of his new position, leaving nearby units to believe that he was still in his assigned location.
The Third Corps was subject to a major attack as the Confederates tried to break this weak point in the line. The soldiers held the line, but not without heavy losses. One of the casualties was Sickles, who was struck in the right leg by a cannonball while riding a horse on the second day of the battle. The impact was severe enough to shatter the leg into uselessness, but Sickles tried to keep up morale by looking nonchalant and clamping a cigar between his teeth as he was taken off to a field hospital. Surgeons amputated the leg partway up the thigh.
Lincoln visited him during his recovery, and soon after the draft riots in New York City the city council there ordered a gold medal struck for him. In October of 1897, Sickles would be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg, namely "most conspicuous gallantry on the field, vigorously contesting the advance of the enemy and continuing to encourage his troops after being himself severely wounded." Not everyone was so satisfied with his performance. Meade complained that the three-quarters of a mile advance "nearly proved fatal in battle." Sickles fired back during testimony before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of War, saying Meade was slow to act and missed the opportunity to destroy the Confederate army after the Union victory at Gettysburg.
Sickles was anxious to return to service, but Lincoln was understandably reluctant to do so given his injury. Instead, he gave him emissary duty in January of 1865. This meant Sickles spent several months in Greater Colombia (then comprising Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama) to convince the government to reopen the territory for Union troop crossings and to consider the possibility of taking in freed slaves after the war. At the same time, Sickles used his position to secure exotic animals for the Central Park Zoo.
Following the war, Sickles became the military governor of South Carolina and later North Carolina. One of his more notable actions came on the first day of 1866, when he overturned South Carolina's Black Code to give equal judicial rights to freed slaves. He also exempted freed slaves from special taxes and allowed them freedom of movement. President Andrew Johnson, who rose to power following Lincoln's assassination, was not as big a fan of Sickles' work as his predecessor and the two frequently clashed. Sickles thought Reconstruction should be managed by Congress rather than the White House. Johnson finally removed him from office when Sickles overextended his authority, using a military commission to try a local crook after the federal authorities declined to take the case.
Sickles returned to diplomatic work. After turning down an offer by Johnson to become Minister to the Netherlands and an offer by Republican President Ulysses S. Grant to become Minister to Mexico, he accepted an appointment as Minister to Spain. This once again put him in a position to discuss Cuban issues. Teresa died of consumption in January of 1867, and four years later Sickles remarried, this time to a woman named Caroline de Creagh whom he met at a diplomatic party in Paris. Sickles didn't see much of his new family either; he last saw a daughter de Creagh bore him when she was five years old, and then not again until 17 years later. Sickles' commission in Spain ended when he prematurely closed the American embassy in response to the execution in Havana of 53 Americans on board the ship Virginius, suspected of smuggling arms and revolutionaries into Cuba. The issue was resolved instead by direct communication between the Spanish government and the Secretary of State, leaving Sickles out altogether. He retired from the military in April of 1869 with the rank of major general.
Sickles returned the New York City and became involved in a numerous local offices, serving on the New York State Civil Service Commission and New York Monuments Commission and becoming sheriff of New York City in 1890. Two years later, he was returned to the House for a single term. Among his friends he counted James Longstreet, the Confederate general at Gettysburg, who said the position Sickles took in that conflict "saved that battlefield to the Union cause."
Accusations of fiscal mismanagement dogged Sickles from the larceny accusation on, and a few final instances of this occurred near the end of his life. Despite his father leaving him a $5 million estate upon his death in 1887, Sickles continued to run up debts. At one point, his wife had to sell her jewels to pay them off. Then in 1912, the state controller discovered a $28,476 disparity in the records of the New York Monuments Commission. The entire commission, including now 93-year-old Sickles, was suspect. He was arrested in January of 1913 by a reluctant and apologetic sheriff, but immediately bailed and allowed to remain at home. In April, the state decided not to press the case against him. Several people had made offers of financial support , but none materialized and the state was convinced he did not have the assets to make up the disparity.
In May of 1914, Sickles died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was the last surviving corps commander from Gettysburg, and the third last surviving corps commander of the entire Union army. A piece of Sickles is still visible in the nation's capital today. The surgeon who amputated his leg knew the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C. was looking for samples and sent the severed limb there. Today, Sickles' broken femur is still on display at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Dreadful Tragedy" in the New York Times on Feb. 28 1859, "Sickles Indicted For Murder" in the Chicago Tribune on Mar. 17 1859, "Sickles In Custody For A Minute Only" in the New York Times on Jan. 28 1913, "General Sickles To Go Free" in the Gazette Times on Apr. 25 1913, "Gen. Sickles Dead" in the Star and Sentinel on May 6 1914, The Outlook Vol. 107, American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles by Thomas Keneally, Generals in Blue and Gray: Lincoln's Generals by Wilmer Jones, Wicked Washington: Mysteries, Murder, and Mayhem in America's Capital by Troy Taylor, The Second Day at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership edited by Gary Gallagher, Brigades of Gettysburg: The Union and Confederate Brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg by Bradley M. Gottfried
Sunday, October 3, 2010
The controversial existence of Harry Micajah Daugherty in the world of politics is probably best exemplified by the fact that his name is linked with a key phrase in underhanded wheeling and dealing: "the smoke-filled room." In 1920, Daugherty served as the campaign manager for longtime friend Warren G. Harding, a Republican senator from Ohio. Harding was not expected to be a favored choice, but sometime before the summer convention Daugherty made an odd declaration. "At the proper time after the Republican National Convention meets some 15 men, bleary-eyed with loss of sleep and perspiring profusely with the excessive heat, will sit down in seclusion around a big table," he said. "I will be with them and will present the name of Senator Harding to them, and before we get through they will put him over."
The prediction, which basically said Harding would be chosen out of frustration, may have cost Daugherty a seat at the convention as a delegate-at-large. After all, he was openly saying that he and other political bosses, likely men of the "Ohio Gang" of Harding backers, would wield more power at the convention than the delegates.
Daugherty proved rather clairvoyant in his statement, however. The convention at Chicago ground its way through several ballots, unable to reach a consensus on the Republican ticket for the year's presidential contest. Several political bosses met in a hotel room made hazy by the cigar smoke and decided that if the deadlock could not be broken, Harding would be an acceptable choice. Daugherty and other members of the Harding team helped by raining pro-Harding postcards down on the convention from the rafters. Finally, on the tenth ballot, Harding was selected with Governor Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts as his running mate.
Daugherty's prediction had come true, but it would hardly do him any favors. For the rest of his political career, he would be waylaid by enemies accusing him of incompetence or complicity in the corruption that emerged under Harding's presidency.
Daugherty was born in Washington Court House, Ohio in January of 1860. He pursued a legal career, which included a period serving as the Fayette County prosecuting attorney. This morphed into a political path, as he was elected a township clerk for the county, served two terms on the city council of Washington Court House in the late 1880s, and held a seat in the state house of representatives from 1890 and 1894.
From there, Daugherty sought to go on to bigger and better things, but never with any success. He made failed bids for the nominations for Ohio attorney general in 1895 and governor in 1899, and wasn't able to get the Republican nod for the Senate races in 1910 and 1916. In 1912, he contented himself with managing the Ohio campaign of Republican presidential candidate William Howard Taft. It marked yet another flop on Daugherty's record, as Taft not only failed to best Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson but also tallied fewer votes than former President Theodore Roosevelt's third party bid. During these dry years, Daugherty supported himself by representing corporate interests and acting as the vice president of the Columbus Savings and Trust Company.
After Harding was selected as the Republican presidential nominee in 1920, Daugherty continued to be a close compatriot. He accompanied the candidate on all of his speaking engagements and served on the campaign's legislative committee. Along with other bosses ushering Harding toward the election, Daugherty earned the scorn of Democratic presidential candidate James Cox, another Ohioan and governor of that state, when Harding declared himself "the freest man that was ever nominated by any party for the presidency." Cox fired back that Harding was essentially in the pocket of big business and asked, "What promise have you made to Harry M. Daugherty, corporation lobbyist, and what promises was he authorized to make in your behalf in order to secure your nomination at Chicago?"
Harding was nevertheless able to win the 1920 election, and in February of the next year Harding announced that he was appointing Daugherty to the post of Attorney General. The favor, along with Daugherty's character, continued to draw ire for some time after. When Harding reportedly cautioned newspapers against printing criticisms of Daugherty, Democratic Senator Augustus Stanley of Kentucky asked, "Will the President say in his desperation to shield his friend, Harry M. Daugherty, that senators and representatives who denounce the nefarious and crooked operations of a political broker are 'political blackguards?'"
The Attorney General did find some support amid the rash of accusations that befell him, however. In July of 1922, the Ohio bar passed a resolution proclaiming their support for Daugherty, charging that "certain propaganda has been made in Congress and in the press tending to discount and discredit the service and character of Mr. Daugherty."
Daugherty still took plenty of flak from opponents. One of the earliest things to come across his desk was the case of Eugene V. Debs, a Socialist leader charged under the Espionage Act for utterances made against World War I in Canton, Ohio. Debs had been convicted in June of 1917 and sentenced to 10 years in prison in September of 1918. Following an unsuccessful appeal, Debs began serving the sentence in April of 1919; he was eligible for parole in August of 1922, with the sentence scheduled to end in December of 1925 with good conduct.
Daugherty considered the original sentence too harsh, since it didn't take Debs' age (61 at the time of conviction) into account. He recommended in December of 1921 that the sentence be commuted at the end of the year. Daugherty suggested that Debs did not intentionally break the law, and that it would be a wise political move to commute the sentence due to Debs' considerable clout, but stressed that the decision shouldn't amount to a pardon. "No right-thinking man would set up a government, or a system of government advocated by Debs, as against the government founded by the wisdom of our forefathers and supported by every right-thinking American who has an understanding of the benefits and necessity of government and the security and opportunity it affords," he said. "I became satisfied while talking with Debs that his conviction and imprisonment in the penitentiary have had no effect upon his incorrect opinions."
Despite these explanations, Daugherty was still the chief recipient of opponents' anger when Harding commuted Debs' sentence. Another more serious pardon issue related to an earlier case. In May of 1922, Thaddeus H. Caraway, a Democratic senator from Arkansas, accused Daugherty of receiving $25,000 from New York shipbuilder Charles W. Morse to get him released from prison in 1912 following his conviction on charges of violating banking laws. Caraway said the money passed through Georgia attorney Thomas B. Felder into Daugherty's hands. The Justice Department responded that the Taft-era pardon only took Morse's health problems into consideration.
Caraway demanded Daugherty's resignation, but nothing came of it. Four months later, Republican Representative Oscar Keller of Minnesota proposed impeachment proceedings against the Attorney General on a different issue, namely injunction proceedings started by the Justice Department against striking railroad unions to keep the trains running. Keller charged violations of the First Amendment, specifically that Daugherty acted "in a manner arbitrary, oppressive, unjust, and illegal," threatened punishment against opponents, illegally used funds to prosecute individuals and corporations for lawful acts while failing to prosecute illegal acts, and recommended release of offenders of Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
Daugherty was unfazed. He grinned broadly when told of the resolution, which was referred to the House Judiciary Committee with little hope of progress. Later, he proposed an expansion of the injunction, including forbidding strikers from trying to stop people crossing the picket line, picketing near the entrances to rail sites, or using threats. The impeachment effort collapsed during committee hearings in December of 1922, when Keller tried to read a prepared statement and was told he could not "lecture" the representatives and needed to be under oath. Keller angrily tossed the statement before Andrew J. Volstead, committee chairman and another Minnesota Republican, saying he wouldn't cooperate if he could not read it. Keller then stormed out, accusing the committee of a "bare-faced attempt to whitewash Harry M. Daugherty." The committee later recommended exoneration for the Attorney General, and the House agreed in a 204-77 vote in January of 1923.
The blow that finally toppled Daugherty came in the form of the most famous of the scandals to rock the Harding Administration: the Teapot Dome Scandal. Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall leased naval oil fields in Wyoming and California to oil men Harry F. Sinclair and Edward L. Doheny in 1922, and the deal had been sweetened by $409,000 paid to Fall. The Secretary of the Interior ultimately had to serve a year in prison and pay a $100,000 fine after his conviction on bribery charges.
Daugherty was never implicated in the crimes, but his enemies were quick to question why he had not caught this misconduct earlier. Burton K. Wheeler, a Democratic Senator from Montana and one of Daugherty's most outspoken foes, asked President Coolidge (Harding died in August of 1923) to demand Daugherty's resignation. Wheeler later amended his request, asking for an inquiry into the Justice Department. He also accused Felder of being a former partner to Daugherty who collected money in exchange for selling appointments and dismissing cases related to Prohibition-era alcohol violations in New York. Felder responded that the two were associated with several of the same cases, but never partners; he also said such accusations had arisen before, with no result. Nevertheless, Felder was ultimately convicted of conspiracy in a scheme to bribe Daugherty to remove evidence from Justice Department files.
Daugherty came under even more fire when the committees investigating the corruption received a report in February of 1924 that he dealt in Sinclair oil stock. He refused to resign, asking, "Shall reputations be destroyed and public officials driven from office by clamor, insinuation, and falsehood?" The next month, Daugherty was blasted in testimony by Roxie Stinson, the divorced wife of Daugherty's friend and assistant, Jesse Smith. In 1923, Smith had been found dead of apparent suicide in the apartment he shared with Daugherty. Stinson said she remained friendly with Smith following their separation, and that he had told her Daugherty procured stock in companies such as White Motors and Pure Oil for nothing; she said Smith even gave her some small blocks of stock. She said the corruption put a great deal of stress on Smith, and that she tried without success to get him to break his loyalty to Daugherty. She agreed that Smith killed himself, but held that the Attorney General was "morally responsible" for the death.
One charge held that Sinclair turned over securities to Daugherty and Will H. Hays, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, to cover a deficit incurred by the party in the 1920 campaign. The committee also heard testimony that Daugherty and Hays each received $25,000 to secure Harding's nominations at the 1920 convention, while Senator Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania got a $50,000 payout. Amid the hubbub, Daugherty still refused to resign, proclaiming, "I wouldn't have given 30 cents for the office of Attorney General, but I won't surrender it for a million dollars."
When Daugherty refused to supply documents on various aspects of Harding corruption, Coolidge asked for the Attorney General's resignation. Daugherty agreed to do so, and left office at the end of March of 1924. "I have no personal feeling against the President," he insisted. "I am yet his dependable friend and supporter." Coolidge chose Harlan Fiske Stone, former dean of Columbia Law School and director of several corporations, as his successor.
The investigation into Daugherty continued, at least until his counsel abruptly announced in June of 1924 that he would not testify before the committee. The Senate voted 70-2 to pursue the matter anyway, and take it to the Supreme Court if need be. While out of office, Daugherty had to defend himself against numerous accusations. They included failure to actively pursue the collection of millions of dollars in war debts, failure to identify fraud within the Justice Department, collecting bribes via Smith to get the government to look the other way on Prohibition matters, and the appointment of anti-labor William J. Burns to the department's Bureau of Investigation (Burns also resigned under fire in 1924).
In May of 1926, Daugherty was indicted alongside former Alien Property Custodian Thomas Miller and former Republican national committeeman John T. King on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government. In this case, the men were charged with fraud in the $7 million sale of American Metal Company assets seized during World War I to German metal magnate Richard Merton. Smith was also implicated, but of course could not be charged due to his death; King died before he could go to trial. Daugherty was the first Attorney General indicted for crimes in office, and prosecutors charged that $49,335 in Liberty bonds could be traced to him, deposited via his brother's bank in a joint account with Smith. Altogether, the men were accused of receiving $441,000 in kickbacks in the sale.
The trial began in September of 1926. Merton testified that he had no dealings with Daugherty, and that the sale was conducted through a supposedly neutral Swiss corporation. The strongest evidence against Daugherty came from his brother, Mal S. Daugherty, though all he could do was say evidence was no longer available. Mal, the president of Midland National Bank in Washington Court House, said Harry told him he had burned three accounts of bank ledger sheets related to the American Metal Company transfer. Daugherty's attorney gave the rather awkward argument that he destroyed the documents "in a moment of madness," partially fueled by the constant attacks against him, and meant to burn records related to a Harding campaign fund instead. Prosecutors said the lost bank ledgers would have proved Daugherty's guilt.
After lengthy deliberations, the jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of convicting Miller and 7-5 in favor of convicting Daugherty. Another trial was scheduled, and in the interim Daugherty testified as part of the proceedings against Fall, saying the Justice Department was never asked for a formal opinion on the corrupt oil leases. At the next trial in February of 1927, the amount of Daugherty's alleged kickback increased to $140,000, while witnesses suggested that Miller got $40,000. The next month, this jury debated the question for even longer, about 70 hours, before convicting Miller. Only one person was against conviction of Daugherty, but it was enough to hang the jury. The federal prosecutor, Emory R. Buckner, asked for the indictment against Daugherty to be quashed. Teary-eyed, Daugherty said he would be returning home to practice law.
Though Harry Daugherty never served any jail time, Mal was found guilty of defrauding his bank in March of 1931 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Daugherty died in Columbus, Ohio in October of 1941 of congestive heart failure following his recovery from two heart attacks and pneumonia. He left an unfinished book defending his reputation, and an estate worth $175,000.
Sources: The Political Graveyard, "Ohio: Election Of Republican Candidate For Governor Probably By About 30,000" in the New York Times on Nov. 8 1899, "Wade Ellis To Lead Fight On Harmon" in the New York Times on Feb. 8 1910, "Prophesied How Harding Would Win" in the New York Times on Jun. 13 1920, "Harding Abandons Vacation To Hold Party Conferences" in the New York Times on Jun. 20 1920, "Cox Ridicules Assertions By Rival Nominee" in the Deseret News on Oct. 30 1920, "Democrats Concede The Election Of Sen. Harding" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on Nov. 3 1920, "Harding Picks Cabinet" in the Reading Eagle on Feb. 22 1921, "Daugherty A Storm Centre" in the New York Times on Feb. 22 1921, "Daugherty Report On Release Of Debs" in the New York Times on Dec. 31 1921, "Daugherty Charged Again With Getting Big Fee From Morse" in the Miami News on May 3 1922, "Caraway Asks That Daugherty Resign" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on May 22 1922, "Daugherty To Lead War Prosecutions" in the New York Times on May 26 1922, "Gives Out Data On Morse's Pardon To Aid Daugherty" in the New York Times on May 28 1922, "Harding Shields Daugherty, Is Senate Charge" in the Pittsburgh Press on Jun. 4 1922, "Ohio Bar Upholds Daugherty" in the New York Times on Jul. 8 1922, "Asks House To Impeach Daugherty" in the Southeast Missourian on Sep. 11 1922, "Asks Impeachment Against Daugherty" in the New York Times on Sep. 12 1922, "Daugherty Seeks Firmer Injunction" in the New York Times on Sep. 22 1922, "Keller Quits Probe Alleging Whitewash" in the Evening Independent on Dec. 15 1922, "Wheeler Again Plans Ousting Of Daugherty" in the Miami News on Feb. 15 1922, "Daugherty Remains Under Fire In Senate Oil Inquiry" in the Lewiston Evening Journal on Feb. 20 1924, "daugherty Threatens To Carry To People Battle To Retain Cabinet Seat" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on Feb. 22 1924, "Tells Of Deal With Daugherty" in the Gettysburg Times on Mar. 13 1924, "Oil Probers Get Setback" in the Evening Independent on Mar. 20 1924, "Thinks Smith Suicide And Harry Daugherty Morally Responsible" in the Lewiston Evening Journal on Mar. 27 1924, "Daugherty Is Not 'At Outs' With Coolidge" in the Southeastern Missourian on Mar. 31 1924, "News Review Of Current Events" in the Polk County News on Apr. 10 1924, "Daugherty Refuses Call Of Committee" in the New York Times on Jun. 5 1924, "Senate Votes 70-2 To Fight Daugherty" in the New York Times on Jun. 6 1924, "Asked To Grant Appeal" in the Herald-Journal on Jan. 24 1926, "Jury Indicts Daugherty In Alien Scandal" in the Milwaukee Sentinel on May 8 1926, "Mal Daugherty Admits Record Was Destroyed" in the Times Daily on Sept. 24 1926, "German Magnate Helps Daugherty" in the Ellensburg Daily Record on Sept. 14 1926, "Paper Burned By Daugherty When Hounded" in the Schenectady Gazette on Oct. 8 1926, "Daugherty Will Face New Trial" in the Sarasota Herald on Nov. 4 1926, "Fall Blamed For Leasing Of Oil Lands" in the Berkeley Daily Gazette on Nov. 30 1926, "Daugherty And Miller Again Facing Trial" in the Sarasota Herald on Feb. 9 1927, "Daugherty Man 'Friday' Figures In Court Trial" in the Lewiston Evening Journal on Feb. 9 1927, "Brother Deals Daugherty Rap" in the Prescott Evening Courier on Feb. 15 1927, "Ex-Alien Property Chief Convicted Of Conspiracy" in the Berkeley Daily Gazette on Mar. 3 1927, "Corruption: One Blind, One Coated" in Time on Mar. 14 1927, "Daugherty Is Found Guilty" in the Gettysburg Times on Mar. 5 1931, "Mal Daugherty Gets 10 Years In Prison" in the New York Times on Mar. 19 1931, "Harry Daugherty Succumbs At 81" in the Evening Independent on Oct. 13 1941, King of the Bootleggers: A Biography of George Remus by William A. Cook, The New Encyclopedia of American Scandal by George C. Kohn, New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of Modern America by Nathan Miller