Charles Evans Hughes

Charles Evans Hughes

[hyooz or, often, yooz]
Hughes, Charles Evans, 1862-1948, American statesman and jurist, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1910-16), U.S. Secretary of State (1921-25), and eleventh Chief Justice of the United States (1930-41), b. Glens Falls, N.Y.

Political and Diplomatic Career

A graduate of Columbia law school, he was admitted to the bar in 1884 and practiced law in New York City, where he advanced rapidly in his profession. He served (1905) as counsel for a committee of the New York state legislature investigating gas companies and, as counsel (1905-6) for another state investigating committee, achieved national prominence for his exposure of corrupt practices of insurance companies in New York. This led to his election (1906) as Republican governor of New York. In this post (1907-10), Hughes brought about the establishment of the public service commission, the passage of various insurance-law reforms, and the enactment of much labor legislation. He resigned the governorship after President Taft appointed him (1910) Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, but left the Court in 1916 to run for President on the Republican ticket.

The election was one of the closest presidential contests in American history, Woodrow Wilson defeating Hughes by an electoral vote of 277 to 254 and a popular vote of 9,129,606 to 8,538,221. The vote of California, which went to Wilson by less than 4,000 votes largely because of the disaffection of Hiram Johnson, decided the election. Hughes again devoted himself to his law practice. In 1921, President Warren Harding appointed him Secretary of State. He continued in this office under President Coolidge. Hughes prepared plans for the limitation of naval armaments at the Washington Conference (see naval conferences), directed negotiations for several important foreign treaties, and vastly increased the prestige of the U.S. Dept. of State. He was a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (1926-30) and a judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice (1928-30).

Supreme Court Chief Justice

In 1930, Hughes was appointed Chief Justice of the United States by President Hoover; he retired in 1941. As Chief Justice, Hughes generally held a moderately conservative position, and was often a swing vote on a court divided between conservative and liberal factions. The Hughes court helped develop the modern notion of freedom of speech through such decisions as Near v. Minnesota (1931), which largely voided all laws permitting prior restraint of press publication. More often than not, he voted to uphold controversial legislation of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal, though in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States (1935), he wrote the opinion that found the act that created the National Recovery Administration to be unconstitutional. He vigorously opposed Roosevelt's unsuccessful effort to reorganize the Supreme Court in 1937.


Many of Hughes's addresses were published in The Pathway to Peace (1925), The Supreme Court of the United States (1928), Our Relations to the Nations of the Western Hemisphere (1928), Pan-American Peace Plans (1929), and Nations United for Peace (1945). See his autobiographical notes, ed. by D. J. Danelski and J. S. Tulchin (1973); biographies by B. Glad (1966) and R. F. Wesser (1967).

Charles Evans Hughes, Sr. (April 11, 1862August 27, 1948) was a lawyer and Republican politician from the State of New York. He served as Governor of New York (1907-1910), United States Secretary of State (1921-1925), Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1910-1916) and Chief Justice of the United States (1930-1941). He was the Republican candidate in the 1916 U.S. Presidential election, losing to Woodrow Wilson.

After attending Madison College (now Colgate University), Hughes graduated from Brown University in 1881 and taught school to earn money for law school. He graduated Columbia Law School in 1884 and entered law practice. A high-profile case in which he uncovered corruption in the New York State utility industry positioned him to win elected office in 1906; he defeated William Randolph Hearst to become Governor of New York. Hughes was offered the vice-presidential nomination in 1908 by William Howard Taft but declined. In October 1910, Hughes was appointed by Taft as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Hughes resigned from the Supreme Court on June 16, 1916 to be the Republican candidate for President of the United States in the U.S. presidential election, 1916; after losing the election he returned to the practice of law, and he re-entered government service as United States Secretary of State under President Harding.

Herbert Hoover, who had appointed Hughes' son as the Solicitor General in 1929, appointed Hughes as the Chief Justice of the United States in 1930, in which capacity he served until 1941. On August 27, 1948, Hughes died in Osterville, Massachusetts. His New York City law firm is now known as Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP.

Early life

Hughes was born in Glens Falls, New York. In 1862, his family moved to New York City, where his mother enrolled him in a private school. He graduated from college at age 12, first in his class. His great grandfather was a Methodist preacher from Buffalo, who became a Christian following his arrival in Japan, and Charles followed the Christian religion.

Hughes went to Madison University (now Colgate University) where he became a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity, then transferred to Brown University, where he continued as a member of Delta Upsilon and graduated in 1881 at age 19, youngest in his class, receiving second-highest honors. For the next two years he worked at Stevens Institute Academy in Davenport, Florida, where he taught the Japanese language, Latin, and Calculus in order to earn money for law school. He entered Columbia Law School in 1882, and he graduated in 1884 with highest honors.

In 1885, he met Antoinette Carter, the daughter of a senior partner of the law firm where he worked, and the were married in 1888. They had one son and two daughters, one of whom was Elizabeth Hughes Gossett, one of the first humans injected with insulin, and who later served as president of the Supreme Court Historical Society.

In 1891, Hugehes left the practice of law to become a professor at the Cornell University Law School, but in 1893 he returned to his old law firm in New York City. At that time, in addition to practicing law he taught at New York Law School with Woodrow Wilson. In 1905, he was appointed as counsel to a New York state legislative committee investigating utility rates. His uncovering of corruption led to lower gas rates in New York City. As a result, he was appointed to investigate the insurance industry in New York

Governor of New York

Hughes served as the Governor of New York from 1907 to 1910. He defeated William Randolph Hearst in the 1906 election to gain the position, and he was the only Republican statewide candidate to win office. In 1908, he was offered the vice-presidential nomination by William Howard Taft, but he declined it to run again for Governor.

As Governor, he pushed the passage of the Moreland Act, which gave him the power as governor to oversee civic officials as well officials in state bureaucracies. This allowed him to fire many corrupt officials. He also managed to have the powers of the state's Public Service Commissions increased, and he attempted unsuccessfully to have their decisions exempted from judicial review. When two bills were passed to reduce railroad fares, Hughes vetoed them on that grounds that the rates should be set by expert commissioners rather than by elected ones. In his final year as the Governor, he had the state comptroller draw up an executive budget. This began a rationalization of state government and eventually it led to an enhancement of executive authority.

When Hughes left office, a prominent journal remarked "One can distinctly see the coming of a New Statism ... [of which] Gov. Hughes has been a leading prophet and exponent".

In 1909, he led an effort to incorporate Delta Upsilon fraternity. This was the first fraternity to incorporate, and he served as its first international president.

In 1926, Hughes was appointed by Governor Alfred E. Smith to be the chairman of a State Reorganization Commission through which Smith's plan to place the Governor as the head of a rationalized state government, was accomplished, bringing to realization what Hughes himself had envisioned.

Supreme Court

In October 1910, Hughes was appointed as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He wrote for the court in Bailey v. Alabama , which held that involuntary servitude encompassed more than just slavery, and Interstate Commerce Comm. v. Atchison T & SF R Co. , holding that the Interstate Commerce Commission could regulate intrastate rates if they were significantly intertwined with interstate commerce.

Presidential candidate

He resigned from the Supreme Court on June 10, 1916 to be the Republican candidate for President in 1916. He was also endorsed by the Progressive party. Hughes was defeated by Woodrow Wilson in a close election (separated by 23 electoral votes and 594,188 popular votes). The election hinged on California, where Wilson managed to win by 3,800 votes and its 13 electoral votes and thus Wilson was returned for a second term.

Hughes returned to private law practice, again at his old firm, Hughes, Rounds, Schurman & Dwight, today known as Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP.

Secretary of State

Hughes returned to government office in 1921 as Secretary of State under President Harding. As Secretary of State, in 1921 he convened the Washington Naval Conference for the limitation of naval armament among the Great Powers. He continued in office after Harding died and was succeeded by Coolidge, but resigned exactly at the end of the Harding-Coolidge term and the beginning of Coolidge's full term.

Various appointments

In 1907, Gov. Charles Evan Hughes became the first president of newly formed Northern Baptist Convention.

After leaving the State Department, he again rejoined his old partners at the Hughes firm, which included his son and future United States Solicitor General Charles E. Hughes, Jr., and was one of the nation's most sought-after advocates. From 1925 to 1930, for example, Hughes argued over 50 times before the U.S. Supreme Court. From 1926 to 1930, Hughes also served as a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and as a judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands from 1928 to 1930. He was additionally a delegate to the Pan American Conference on Arbitration and Conciliation from 1928 to 1930. He was one of the co-founders in 1927 of the National Conference on Christians and Jews, now known as the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), along with S. Parkes Cadman and others, to oppose the Ku Klux Klan, anti-Catholicism, and anti-Semitism in the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1928 conservative business interests tried to interest Hughes in the GOP presidential nomination of 1928 instead of Herbert Hoover.

Hughes, citing his age, turned down the offer.

Chief Justice

Herbert Hoover, who had appointed Hughes' son as Solicitor General in 1929, appointed Hughes Chief Justice of the United States in 1930, in which capacity he served until 1941. Hughes replaced former President William Howard Taft, who had also lost a presidential election to Woodrow Wilson (in 1912).

His appointment was opposed by progressive elements in both parties who felt that he was too friendly to big business. Idaho Republican William E. Borah said on the United States Senate floor that "placing upon the Court as Chief Justice one whose views are known upon these vital and important questions and whose views, in my opinion however sincere entertained, are not which ought to be incorporated in and made a permanent part of our legal and economic system." Nonetheless Hughes was confirmed as Chief Justice with a vote of 52 to 26.

As Chief Justice, he led the fight against Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to pack the Supreme Court. He wrote the opinion for the Court in Near v. Minnesota , which held prior restraints against the press are unconstitutional. He was often aligned with Justices Louis Brandeis, Harlan Fiske Stone, and Benjamin Cardozo in finding President Roosevelt's New Deal measures to be Constitutional. Although he wrote the opinion invalidating the National Recovery Administration in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States , he wrote the opinions for the Court in NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. , NLRB v. Friedman-Harry Marks Clothing Co., , and West Coast Hotel v. Parrish which looked favorably on New Deal Measures.

Later life

For many years, he was a member of the Union League Club of New York and served as its president from 1917 to 1919. The Hughes Room in the club is named for him.

On August 27, 1948, Hughes died in Osterville, Massachusetts. He was laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.


  • Charles Evans Hughes Junior High School (of Woodland Hills, CA, now closed) was named in his honor, as was the Hughes Range in Antarctica.
  • Charles Evans Hughes High School (of New York, New York) was named in his honor. It was renamed Bayard Rustin High School for the Humanities.
  • Hughes Hall is a dormitory at the Cornell Law School, where he once taught.
  • Charles Evans Hughes Middle School in Long Beach, California, was named in his honor.

See also


Further reading

  • Frank, John P., The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions (Leon Friedman and Fred L. Israel, editors) (Chelsea House Publishers, 1995) ISBN 0791013774, ISBN 978-0791013779
  • Glad, Betty, Charles Evans Hughes and the illusions of innocence: A study in American diplomacy (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1966)
  • Perkins, Dexter, Charles Evans Hughes and American democratic statesmanship (Boston: Little, Brown, 1956)
  • Pusey, Merlo J., Charles Evans Hughes, 2 vol. (New York: Macmillan, 1951)
  • Ross, William G., The Chief Justiceship of Charles Evans Hughes, 1930-1941 (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2007) ISBN 1570036799, ISBN 978-1570036799
  • Wesser, Robert F., Charles Evans Hughes: Politics and reform in New York, 1905-1910 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967)

External links


Search another word or see Charles Evans Hugheson Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature