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    Alf Landon to FDR on election night 1936, "The nation has spoken... You have my sincere congratulations."

    Franklin D. Roosevelt: Alf Landon Congratulatory Concession Telegram.
    -November 4, 1936. Topeka, Kansas. One page. 8.25" x 6.5".
    -Dated in pencil. Small splits along folds, light soiling, uneven right edge, else good condition.

    The "Postal Telegraph" reads ""RXH9 36=H TOPEKA KANS 4 1234A/ THE PRESIDENT=/ HYDE PARK NY=/ THE NATION HAS SPOKEN STOP EVERY AMERICAN WILL ACCEPT THE VERDICT AND WORK FOR THE COMMON CAUSE OF THE GOOD OF OUR COUNTRY STOP THAT IS THE SPIRIT OF DEMOCRACY STOP YOU HAVE MY SINCERE CONGRATULATIONS=/ ALF M LANDON." This gracious telegram was FDR's first "official" notice of concession from his Republican opponent in the 1936. Even though most of the nation's newspapers and many key Democrats including Al Smith endorsed him, Kansas Governor Alf Landon's moderate conservatism could not sway an electorate finding hope in the New Deal.

    Big business accused FDR of destroying the nation's individualism and threatening its freedom, but FDR put together a coalition of intellectuals, blue-collar workers, southern farmers, and urban minority voters, including a huge number of blacks who shifted to the Democratic Party. The end result: FDR won in another landslide, and Landon won only the states of Maine and Vermont. "As Maine goes, so goes the nation" was a traditional axiom of American political culture from 1888 to 1936, when FDR's presidential victory against Landon prompted Democratic National Committee Chairman James A. Farley to quip, "As Maine goes, so goes Vermont." Included is a letter of provenance from a family member of the telegram's original owner.


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    A wonderful and authentic piece of American history, the original Postal Telegraph telegram, received at Hyde Park, New York, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt from Kansas Governor and Republican Presidential candidate Alfred M. Landon, sent from Topeka, Kansas. In superb condition, this original telegram, FDR's first "official" notification from his Republican opponent of Landon's concession of the 1936 Presidential election to FDR, dated November 4, 1936, reads: "RXH9 36=H TOPEKA KANS 4 1234A/ THE PRESIDENT=/ HYDE PARK NY=/ THE NATION HAS SPOKEN STOP EVERY AMERICAN WILL ACCEPT THE VERDICT AND WORK FOR THE COMMON CAUSE OF THE GOOD OF OUR COUNTRY STOP THAT IS THE SPIRIT OF DEMOCRACY STOP YOU HAVE MY SINCERE CONGRATULATIONS=/ ALF M LANDON." In 1936 FDR was renominated by the Democrats without opposition. The Republicans, strongly opposing the New Deal and "big government," nominated Alfred M. Landon, Governor of Kansas. Eighty percent of the newspapers endorsed the Republican party, which was also supported by conservative Democrats including Alfred E. Smith. Big business accused FDR of destroying the nation's individualism and threatening its freedom, but FDR put together a coalition of intellectuals, blue-collar workers, southern farmers, and urban minority voters, including a huge number of blacks who shifted to the Democratic Party. The end result: FDR won in another landslide, and Landon won only the states of Maine and Vermont. "As Maine goes, so goes the nation" was a hoary axiom of American political culture from 1888 to 1936, when FDR's Presidential victory against Republican Alf Landon prompted Democratic National Committee Chairman James A. Farley to quip, "As Maine goes, so goes Vermont." Alfred Mossman Landon (1887-1987), Governor of Kansas and Republican Presidential nominee, known as Alf, was born in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania, the son of John M. Landon, an oil and natural gas executive, and Anne Mossman. Landon received a law degree from the University of Kansas in 1908. In 1915 he married Margaret Fleming, who died in 1918. They had a daughter. Landon married Theo Cobb in 1930, and they had a son and a daughter, Nancy Landon Kassebaum, who was elected to the United States Senate from Kansas in 1978. Although Landon was admitted to the Kansas bar in 1908, he did not practice law. He worked instead in banking until 1911, when he became an independent petroleum producer. He served briefly as a first lieutenant in the army in 1918. After 1936 he began developing business interests in addition to oil production, becoming a prominent radio station owner-executive by the 1960s. A shrewd businessman, Landon prospered in his various enterprises, although he never became wealthy. This was largely because of his abiding concern with politics, which had been fostered by his politically active father. Father and son worked in support of Theodore Roosevelt's 1912 presidential candidacy. In 1914 Alfred Landon was the Progressive party chairman in Montgomery County, but he returned to the Republican party, with most other Progressives, in 1916. In 1922 Landon served as secretary to Governor Henry J. Allen and in 1924 was an important leader in the independent gubernatorial campaign of William Allen White against the Ku Klux Klan. Landon was the organizer of the successful campaign in 1928 to nominate and elect Clyde M. Reed governor; he himself was chosen chairman of the Republican state committee. In 1930 conservative Republicans denied Reed renomination and ousted Landon from the state chairmanship. Landon bounced back in 1931, leading a well-publicized movement by independent Kansas oil producers against monopoly and for conservation in their depression-stricken industry. Dealing with Democrats and Republicans in Kansas and elsewhere, he demonstrated that he could work effectively with a broad range of people. Landon was nominated for governor in 1932 as a moderate who could unite the factionalized Republican party, reduce taxes and expenditures, and yet maintain essential state services. He ran for election against the odds, for the Democrats controlled the governorship and seemed destined to sweep the nation at the polls in November. As Landon remarked, though, "There are lots worse things than taking a licking, and one of them is to run away from a fight because it is hard." He ran an energetic campaign against the respected Democratic governor, Harry Woodring, and a colorful independent, Dr. John R. Brinkley, who had gained notoriety for his goat-gland transplantations to restore male virility. Landon won election with a scant plurality, with 34.8 percent of the votes, apparently having convinced people that Brinkley was the "great promiser" and Woodring the "greatest little claimer Kansas has had in a long time." In 1933, like other American officials, Governor Landon was beset by the challenges of the Great Depression. A champion of governmental economy and efficiency, he declared that one "cannot get something for nothing." Landon advocated action that resulted in further regulation of banks, insurance firms, trucking companies, and utilities; more effective conservation of natural resources; protection of farmers from foreclosures; reform of state and local finances; and reorganization of the state government. All of these measures were accomplished on the basis of a balanced state budget. Moreover, Kansas, under his leadership, obtained proportionately more federal funds than most Plains states to deal with the hardships of both depression and drought, which severely struck the area during his governorship. This reflected Landon's ability often to work successfully with the administration of Democratic president Franklin D. Roosevelt. This cooperation was particularly true in the fields of agriculture, conservation, and unemployment relief. Relying on his own expertise, Landon worked closely with Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes to develop programs to cope with distress in the oil industry. Landon won reelection in 1934, the only Republican governor who did so that year. In 1935 and 1936 Republican interest in him as a Presidential candidate grew steadily. This was not surprising, for after the widespread Democratic victories in the 1932 and 1934 elections there were relatively few Republican state and federal officeholders. Landon alone of these officials had an outstanding record, had no connection with the widely discredited presidency of Herbert Hoover, and occupied the middle ground between Republican insurgents and conservatives. Other Republicans, such as Senators William E. Borah of Idaho, Lester J. Dickinson of Iowa, and Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan and Chicago publisher Frank Knox, sought their party's presidential nomination. Landon was able, however, to win the nomination in June 1936 by remaining moderate on the issues and effectively employing his campaign resources. The convention delegates chose Colonel Knox as his running mate. Landon led a divided as well as a depleted party into the 1936 Presidential election campaign. Some Republicans, ferociously attacking the New Deal, assumed positions to his right; others endorsed Roosevelt; and still others remained inactive. Former Democratic presidential nominees John W. Davis (1873-1955) and Alfred E. Smith, among other members of their party, endorsed Landon, although they brought few voters with them. The Kansan ran a vigorous, well-financed, and far-flung campaign. He had considerable success in reorganizing his party and reshaping it along more realistic lines. His chief objective was to champion moderation on the issues, in contrast with what he thought was Roosevelt's immoderation against business and in developing the power of the federal government. Landon advocated resource conservation and the preservation of the family farm. Moreover, he promised to be fair to the needy and to organized labor. He proposed subsistence pensions for the elderly, fair and effective regulation of big business, assistance to tenant farmers, and strict adherence to the Constitution. He forthrightly denounced racial prejudice and religious bigotry. On matters of peace and world trade, the Republican nominee vowed to seek international cooperation. He would also recruit the best people, regardless of party, to staff the government. Landon emphasized the need for efficient administration, a balanced budget, and measures to encourage business expansion in order to bring economic recovery and provide jobs for unemployed Americans. This was, he said, the way to counter the record of Roosevelt's New Deal: "Twenty-five billion dollars spent. Thirteen billion dollars added to the public debt. Eleven million unemployed left." Contrary to the favorable public opinion polls of the Literary Digest (an original copy of which is also part of this FDR Collection), Landon had little chance of winning the Presidency from Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was approaching the peak of his popularity. The Kansas governor had neither name recognition, organization, patronage, record, nor speaking ability to match the president. Landon was at his best on issues of minor interest to the electorate at that time, such as opposition to loyalty oaths and prejudice and promotion of international cooperation, and on a popular concern like conservation, on which Roosevelt was equally strong. For the most part Landon's campaign was gallant and kept the Republican party a viable, if diminished, opposition. Roosevelt won reelection in a landslide, polling 27,752,869 votes to Landon's 16,674,665 and 523 electoral votes to 8. The Republicans emerged from the election with only 89 seats in the House of Representatives and 16 in the Senate. The 1936 campaign was heated and often nasty, but neither the Governor nor the President indulged in vituperation against each other, as this Landon concession telegram to FDR proves. Indeed, after the election, whenever Landon visited Washington, FDR invited him to The White House, where they got along cordially.  Although urged to do so, Landon did not run again for public office or accept the Republican National Committee chairmanship. He was a vigorous titular head of his party until 1940 and was given much credit for its resurgence in the elections of 1938. Landon was instrumental in the defeat of anti-Semite Gerald Winrod for Kansas's Republican senatorial nomination in 1938. That year he was also the only nationally prominent major party politician to defend the right of Socialist leader Norman Thomas to speak publicly after he had been prevented from doing so in Jersey City. Moreover, the Kansan spoke out against the Nazi persecution of Jews and later served on the board of directors and the executive committee of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Landon was a trenchant critic of FDR's policies, although he supported the President on protesting the sinking of the U.S.S. Panay by Japan in 1937 as well as on the Ludlow war referendum resolution in 1938 and often on defense measures. Indeed, in 1938 Roosevelt named him vice chairman of the United States delegation to the Inter-American Conference in Lima, Peru. In 1940 the President apparently considered appointing Landon Secretary of War, but the Kansan stated publicly that he would not accept the job unless FDR refused to stand for nomination to a third presidential term. By 1941 the two men divided increasingly on foreign policy. The Kansan was not opposed to giving money and goods to Great Britain in its war with Germany and Italy, but he believed that Roosevelt was trying to maneuver the United States into the war, which he opposed and feared would convert the nation into a garrison state. Landon remained a significant opposition spokesman during World War II as an apostle of responsible two-party politics.  Landon's influence declined after the war. He continued to speak out, however, frequently taking independent positions. Among other things, Landon supported President Harry S. Truman often on foreign policy, helped to force the resignation of Republican National Committee chairman C. Wesley Roberts in 1953, occasionally criticized Senator Joseph R. McCarthy (1908-1957) and other extreme anti-Communists, opposed right-to-work legislation, favored international control of nuclear weapons, and, beginning in 1953, far in advance of any other prominent Republican or Democrat, advocated American diplomatic recognition of the People's Republic of China. In 1962 he was a leading supporter of President John F. Kennedy's trade expansion legislation. Landon also crusaded regularly over the years against high taxes, inflation, and excessive government regulation. By the end of the 1950s he was widely recognized as an elder statesman. Advancing age slowed Landon's political activities by the late 1960s, but until 1987 he often granted interviews and issued press statements on the issues facing America. He died in Topeka, Kansas one month after festivities marking his one-hundredth birthday, which included a visit from President Ronald Reagan. To the end Landon remained a remarkably independent political figure, noted for his integrity and sense of responsibility. This telegram from Landon to FDR is a true piece of American history in which FDR's Republican challenger concedes defeat in a gracious and professional manner which typified Alfred M. Landon's character, from an election that represented a high-tide of Liberal idealism in FDR's reelection. A one of a kind item.





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    June, 2008
    7th Saturday
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