Beck, James M. (James Montgomery), 1861-1936

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James Montgomery Beck, U.S. District Attorney of Philadelphia and Solicitor General of the United States, was also an amateur Shakespearian.

From the description of Letters to Horace Howard Furness and Horace Howard Furness, Jr., 1911-1929. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 155868022

James Montgomery Beck was born in Philadelphia on July 9, 1861. Raised in a Moravian home, he graduated from the Moravian College and Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1880. Despite his father's wish that he become a minister, he pursued a legal career. After an apprenticeship in law he was admitted to the bar in 1884 and entered the law office of William F. Harrity, a prominent Pennsylvania Democrat, with whom he formed a law partnership in 1891. Admitted to the bar of New York City in 1903, and in 1922 to the bar of England, he rose to be one of America's leading corporate lawyers.

Like many others, Beck combined his legal career with a career in public service. He served as Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania 1888-1892, and as United States Attorney 1896-1900. Although he started out as a “Cleveland Democrat,” he joined the Republican Party in 1900 and was subsequently appointed Assistant Attorney General by President William McKinley. In this capacity, he became involved with litigation concerning the government's regulatory powers, which reflected the wish of the late McKinley and early Theodore Roosevelt administrations to assist the American business community. Beck resigned in 1903, when he joined the New York law firm of Shearman and Sterling. He continued his law practices in New York, Philadelphia and Washington until 1921. In that year President Warren G. Harding, whose election Beck had actively promoted, appointed him Solicitor General of the United States. He resigned in 1925, briefly returned to his law practice and then was elected as a Republican to Congress in 1927, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James M. Hazlett. Reelected three consecutive times, he resigned in 1934, disillusioned with the “Rubber Stamp Congress” and his inability to fight the measures of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, which conflicted with his individualism and constitutionalism, and his principles of limited government and laissez-faire .

Beck shared his ideals and political beliefs in numerous speeches and publications. Having many personal contacts in England, he felt very strongly about the Allied cause and was one of the first Americans to make a case for the Entente, the alliance between Great Britain, France, and Russia prior to World War I. His most famous book, The Constitution of the United States (1924), sold over fifty thousand copies, including translations in German and French. As a Congressman he was the leading spokesman in the campaign against Prohibition, but he tried to fight the principles and legislation of the New Deal. He continued this fight after his resignation, and his book Neither Purse Nor Sword, about the destruction wrought by the New Deal upon the Constitution, appeared five months after his death. His biographer, Morton Keller, portrayed him as a passionate man, who felt deeply about anything he engaged in, but who, disillusioned with post-war society, venerated the past. One of the most eloquent orators of his time, James Beck helped shape the political views of the Republican Party. In a changing society, he died in political isolation in April 1936 and was later remembered as the often lonely defender of conservatism's great beliefs.

Beck was a devoted member, and later President, of the Philadelphia Shakespeare Society from 1913 until his death. He married Lilla Lawrence Mitchell in 1890, and had a son and a daughter, James Montgomery Beck, Jr. and Beatrice.

See: Morton Keller, In Defense Of Yesterday. James M. Beck and the Politics of Conservatism, 1861-1936, (New York, Coward-McCann, 1958).

From the guide to the James M. Beck Papers, 1787-1936, 1880-1936, (Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Flannagan, John William, 1885-1955. Scrapbooks of John William Flannagan, 1920-1953. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Calvin Coolidge Papers, 1915-1932 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Wrench, Evelyn, 1882-1966. Sir Evelyn Wrench letters, 1923-1927. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Addresses and articles (bound), 1899-1921. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933. Calvin Coolidge papers, 1915-1932. Library of Congress
referencedIn Krauskopf, Joseph, 1858-1923. Papers, 1885-1923. Temple University Libraries, Paley Library
creatorOf Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964. Correspondence, 1920-1959. Haverford College Library
referencedIn Sir William Wiseman papers, 1916-1961 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn John William Davis papers, 1846-1959 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Beck, James M. (James Montgomery), 1861-1936. Correspondence with Henry Charles Lea, 1898. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Kellogg, Frank B. (Frank Billings), 1856-1937. Frank B. Kellogg papers, 1890-1942 [microform]. Minnesota Historical Society Library
referencedIn Davis, John W. (John William), 1873-1955. John William Davis papers, 1846-1959 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Frederick M. Dearborn collection of military and political Americana, Part I: The Revolution and the Administration, 1669-1958. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933. Letter, 1926 January 20, Washington, D.C. [to] Hon. James M. Beck, Washington, D.C. Bridwell Library
referencedIn Oswald Garrison Villard papers, 1872-1949. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, 1668-1983, Bulk, 1750-1850, 1668-1983 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Clark, Robert Sterling, 1877-1956. Sterling and Francine Clark Papers: Reading Library, 1707-1961. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, The Clark
referencedIn Viola Price Franklin letter collection, 1849-1941 Willamette University University Archives and Special Collections
creatorOf Repplier, Agnes, 1855-1950. Papers of Agnes Repplier [manuscript], 1891-1925. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Beck, James M. (James Montgomery), 1861-1936. Letters to Horace Howard Furness and Horace Howard Furness, Jr., 1911-1929. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964. Miscellaneous papers, 1921-1960. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Joseph Hodges Choate Papers, 1745-1929, (bulk 1852-1917) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn McCabe, W. Gordon (William Gordon), 1841-1920. Papers, 1865-1917. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf Murfin, James O. (James Orin), 1875-1940. James Orin Murfin papers, 1896-1940. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Hart, James, 1896-1959. Papers of James Hart [manuscript] 1919-59. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Weinberger, Harry, 1888-. Harry Weinberger papers, 1915-1944 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Davis, John W. (John William), 1873-1955. John William Davis papers, 1846-1959 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Beck, James M. (James Montgomery), 1861-1936. James M. Beck correspondence with Mantle Fielding, 1931. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Suspected radical propaganda file, [ca. 1890-1919]. New York State Archives
creatorOf Beck, James M. (James Montgomery), 1861-1936. Correspondence with Edgar Fahs Smith, 1925. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Beck, James M. (James Montgomery), 1861-1936,. Letter signed (typescript) from James M. Beck to Joseph Quincy Adams [manuscript], 1933 March 13. Folger Shakespeare Library
referencedIn Spring Rice, Cecil, Sir, 1859-1918. Letters, 1914-1918. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Wiseman, William, Sir, b. 1885. Sir William Wiseman papers, 1916-1961 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf American Taxpayers League. Literature, 1931-1932. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Choate, Joseph Hodges, 1832-1917. Joseph Hodges Choate papers, 1745-1929 (bulk 1852-1917). Library of Congress
creatorOf James M. Beck Papers, 1787-1936, 1880-1936 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections.Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. Public Policy Papers.
referencedIn Papers, 1847-1933. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn William Roscoe Thayer papers, 1762-1927 (inclusive), 1872-1921 (bulk). Houghton Library.
referencedIn Douglas Tilden Papers, 1860-1970 Bancroft Library
referencedIn Harding, Warren G. (Warren Gamaliel), 1865-1923. TMsS, [n.d.]. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
creatorOf Beck, James M. (James Montgomery), 1861-1936. Correspondence to Paul Philippe Cret, 1929. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Houghton Mifflin Company correspondence and records, 1832-1944. Houghton Library.
referencedIn James Orin Murfin papers, 1896-1940 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Adams, Joseph Quincy, 1881-1946 person
associatedWith Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873 person
associatedWith American Taxpayers League. corporateBody
associatedWith Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820 person
correspondedWith Choate, Joseph Hodges, 1832-1917. person
associatedWith Clark, Robert Sterling, 1877-1956. person
associatedWith Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933. person
associatedWith Cooper, Thomas, 1759-1839 person
associatedWith Coues, Elliott, 1842-1899 person
associatedWith Cuvier, Georges, Baron, 1769-1832 person
associatedWith Darlington, William, 1782-1863 person
associatedWith Daugherty, H. M. (Harry Micajah), 1860-1941 person
associatedWith Davis, John W. (John William), 1873-1955. person
associatedWith Dearborn, Frederick M. (Frederick Myers), b. 1876 person
associatedWith Edison, Thomas A., (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931 person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955 person
associatedWith Everett, Edward, 1794-1865 person
associatedWith Fielding, Mantle, 1865-1941. person
associatedWith Fitch, John person
associatedWith Flannagan, John William, 1885-1955. person
associatedWith Franklin, Viola Price person
associatedWith Genth, F. A., (Frederick Augustus), 1820-1893 person
associatedWith Gray, Asa, 1810-1888 person
associatedWith Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872 person
associatedWith Harding, Warren G. (Warren Gamaliel), 1865-1923. person
associatedWith Hart, James, 1896-1959. person
associatedWith Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964. person
correspondedWith Houghton Mifflin Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Kellogg, Frank B. (Frank Billings), 1856-1937. person
associatedWith Krauskopf, Joseph, 1858-1923. person
associatedWith McCabe, W. Gordon (William Gordon), 1841-1920. person
associatedWith Murfin, James O. (James Orin), 1875-1940. person
associatedWith Newcomb, Simon person
associatedWith Newton, Isaac, Sir, 1642-1727 person
associatedWith New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. corporateBody
associatedWith Poinsett, Joel Roberts, 1779-1851 person
associatedWith Repplier, Agnes, 1855-1950. person
associatedWith Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- ) corporateBody
associatedWith Rittenhouse, David, 1732-1796 person
correspondedWith Robinson, Corinne Roosevelt, 1861-1933 person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919 person
associatedWith Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813 person
associatedWith Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, 1793-1864 person
associatedWith Seybert, Adam, 1773-1825 person
associatedWith Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 person
associatedWith Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866 person
associatedWith Spring Rice, Cecil, Sir, 1859-1918. person
associatedWith Stevens, Henry person
associatedWith Sully, Thomas, 1783-1872 person
correspondedWith Thayer, William Roscoe, 1859-1923 person
associatedWith Thomson, Charles, 1729-1824 person
correspondedWith Tilden, Douglas, 1860-1935 person
correspondedWith Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949 person
associatedWith Waterton, Charles, 1782-1865 person
associatedWith Wayne, Anthony person
associatedWith Weinberger, Harry, 1888- person
associatedWith Wiseman, William George Eden, Sir, bart., 1885- person
associatedWith Wiseman, William, Sir, b. 1885. person
associatedWith Wrench, Evelyn, 1882-1966. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Lawyers--United States--20th century--Correspondence
New Deal, 1933-1939
American history/20th century
Legislators--Pennsylvania--20th century--Speeches, addresses, etc
Prohibition--United States
World War I
Bureaucracy--United States--20th century
American politics and government
Conservatism--United States--History--20th century
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1861-07-09

Death 1936-04-12

Americans

English

Information

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