DescriptionFranklin D. Roosevelt: Typed Letter Signed as President.
-November 1, 1938. Washington, D.C. One page. 8" x 10.5".
-To: Dean James M. Landis, Harvard School of Law, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
-Mailing folds, insignificant crinkling, else very good.
FDR writes, "The appreciation which I expressed to you last Saturday when you submitted the report of the Emergency Board of which you were a member, I now wish to add a word of congratulation. Your report has contributed to the railroad industry an outstanding milestone in the long line of peaceful settlements of wage disputes. I marvel at the skill and speed with which you and the other members of the Board completed the investigation and report. Your task was indeed a strenuous one. The intensive hearing, the time spent in efforts to mediate, and finally the writing of a twenty-five thousand word report in the few days available could only have been accomplished by untiring efforts such as you gave to the work. I am particularly pleased with the intelligent and painstaking suggestions you made with regard to cooperation of management and employees, and I have every reason to believe that these suggestions, following my own suggestions to the parties along similar lines, will lead to the necessary action for the good of the industry and of the country. You have performed a very valuable public service." James McCauley Landis (1899-1964) helped draft the Federal Securities Act of 1933, which established the first government regulation over the sale of corporate stocks. He also played a leading role in preparing the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934.
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A terrific typed letter of thanks signed "Franklin D. Roosevelt," Washington, D.C., November 1, 1938 8vo, on The White House Washington letterhead, to Dean James M. Landis of the Harvard University School of Law, regarding Landis's participation as a member of the United States Emergency Board (Carriers and Employees, 1938), in the drafting of a report on the wage controversy between railroad management and labor during the 1938 railway strike. FDR writes: "My dear Dean Landis:/ To the appreciation which I expressed to you last Saturday when you submitted the report of the Emergency Board of which you were a member, I now wish to add a word of congratulation. Your report has contributed to the railroad industry an outstanding milestone in the long line of peaceful settlements of wage disputes./ I marvel at the skill and speed with which you and the other members of the Board completed the investigation and report. Your task was indeed a strenuous one. The intensive hearing, the time spent in efforts to mediate, and finally the writing of a twenty-five thousand word report in the few days available could only have been accomplished by untiring efforts such as you gave to the work./ I am particularly pleased with the intelligent and painstaking suggestions you made with regard to cooperation of management and employees, and I have every reason to believe that these suggestions, following my own suggestions to the parties along similar lines, will lead to the necessary action for the good of the industry and of the country./ You have performed a very valuable public service./ Sincerely yours,/ Franklin D. Roosevelt." James McCauley Landis (1899-1964), a Federal administrator and Harvard Law School Dean, was born in Tokyo, Japan, the son of Henry Mohr Landis and Emma Marie Stiefler, missionary-teachers. He first came to the United States at age thirteen for schooling. He graduated from Mercersburg Academy (1916), Princeton University (1921), and Harvard Law School (1924), attaining at each the highest levels of academic achievement and receiving one of Harvard's first doctorates of juridical science. At Harvard he came under the influence of Professor Felix Frankfurter, with whom he wrote The Business of the Supreme Court (1927). Frankfurter arranged for him to clerk for Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis from 1925 to 1926. Landis's research for Brandeis's dissent in Myers v. United States (1926) introduced him to the field of federal regulation, to which he would devote his professional life. While in Washington, he met and married Stella Galloway McGehee, a journalist, in 1926; they had two children. Landis returned to Cambridge in 1926 to join the Harvard Law faculty. By 1928 he had been appointed full professor, a rise that Dean Roscoe Pound called "meteoric, almost unheard of." The law school proved unable to contain Landis's energies. Brilliant, intense, and ambitious, he dabbled in local public affairs before returning to Washington in 1933 to volunteer his services to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Landis, Benjamin Cohen, and Thomas G. Corcoran–whom the press dubbed the "Happy Hotdogs" after their mentor, Frankfurter–drafted the Federal Securities Act of 1933. Roosevelt then appointed Landis to the Federal Trade Commission to administer the new law, which established the first government regulation over the sale of corporate stocks. Landis, Cohen, and Corcoran played similarly leading roles in preparing the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934. In recognition of these efforts, Landis became one of the first commissioners of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and in 1935 succeeded Joseph P. Kennedy as chairman. As a federal regulator, Landis advocated both a promotional and a policing role for the commissions. To restore financial confidence, he adopted an unexpectedly conciliatory attitude toward Wall Street and encouraged the stock exchanges to develop self-policing under SEC supervision. He wove these themes into his seminal book, The Administrative Process (1938), portraying federal regulation of industry and finance as a middle ground between government inaction and government ownership. He sought not to overturn capitalism, he explained, but to enable it to "live up to its own pretensions." In 1937 Landis returned to Harvard as Dean of the law school, while continuing to serve as a troubleshooter for FDR. He made himself controversial by endorsing the President's plan to expand the Supreme Court, by supporting the legality of sit-down strikes, and by ruling as a Labor Department judge against the deportation of Longshoremen's Union president Harry Bridges. During the Second World War Landis returned to government service. In 1942 he succeeded Fiorello La Guardia as director of the Office of Civilian Defense, where he organized a national "block plan" of air-raid wardens and other volunteers to protect and assist civilians in the event of enemy attack. When Allied victories made civilian defense increasingly unnecessary, Landis was dispatched in 1943 to Cairo, Egypt, to represent American economic interests throughout the Middle East. Taking issue with British imperialism in the region, he advocated American support for Arab nationalism and also opposed recognition of Israel as an independent Jewish state. His return to Harvard after the war was made intolerable by his estrangement from his wife and his desire to marry his secretary, Dorothy Purdy Brown, completely unacceptable actions within his social circles in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1947 he accepted President Harry S. Truman's offer to chair the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), and he resigned both as Dean and Professor of law, leaving behind his law books as a symbol of his ultimate break with the school. He divorced Stella that year and married Brown in 1948. There were no children by his second marriage. Landis found his return to the federal government equally difficult. The Truman administration proved more susceptible to business influence than the New Deal had been and intervened frequently in CAB affairs. The board also felt pressure from the major airlines, who protested against competition from a profusion of nonscheduled, limited budget airlines operated by war-veteran pilots. The larger commercial airlines distrusted Landis's independent thinking about airline competition, mergers, government subsidies, and safety precautions. Using Landis's marital and drinking problems as an excuse, and campaign contributions as an inducement, the airlines persuaded President Truman not to reappoint Landis to a second term as chairman. Thunderstruck by his unexpected dismissal, Landis turned to his old friend, Joseph P. Kennedy, who put him on retainer to "Kennedy Enterprises." At forty-eight, Landis took his first bar exams and began practicing law, representing clients before many of the federal regulatory agencies, a frustrating experience that heightened his concern over the agencies' bureaucratic delays and inefficiencies. He also served as an unofficial adviser to John F. Kennedy during his Congressional career and campaign for the Presidency. President-elect Kennedy assigned Landis to reexamine the regulatory commissions. Landis's recommendations in 1960 of increased authority for commission chairmen and streamlined agency procedures formed the core of Kennedy's regulatory policies. Landis helped Kennedy select talented appointees to revitalize the languishing commissions, and he served briefly as special assistant to the president, resigning in 1961 when named co-respondent in his secretary's divorce. At the same time, the Internal Revenue Service discovered that Landis was five years in arrears with his taxes. Although his psychiatrist was prepared to testify that the failings reflected a long-standing crisis of self-esteem that caused him to become preoccupied with public affairs and to neglect his personal obligations, Landis chose to plead guilty to minimize embarrassment for the Kennedy administration. Expecting only a fine, he was astonished when the judge sentenced him to a thirty-day imprisonment, from August 30 to September 27, 1963, a term he spent in a prison hospital ward for alcoholics. Following his release he was suspended from law practice for one year. Months later he drowned accidentally in the pool at his home in Harrison, New York. Private tragedies overshadowed Landis's long and productive public career. He was a skilled administrator and a thoughtful student and reformer of federal regulation, which in turn affected nearly every aspect of American economic life. As one colleague noted, he "gave the administrative process, usually so dull and pedestrian, a spark which [was] challenging." What a fabulous letter from FDR to a key ally and supporter during the height of the New Deal.
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