Charles Evans Hughes


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(b. Glen Falls, New York, 11 Apr. 1862; d. Osterville, Massachusetts, 27 Aug. 1948)

US; Governor of New York 1906–10, Republican presidential candidate 1916 Hughes, the son of a Baptist preacher, was educated at Brown University and Columbia Law School, from which he graduated in 1884. He served as a legal counsel for New York in investigations of insurance firms and utility industries in the state. In 1906 he was elected Governor of New York and re-elected in 1908. In this post he established a Public Service Commission to regulate utilities and railroads. He resigned from his Governorship in October 1910 to become a member of the Supreme Court, nominated by President Taft. In the court he was part of the liberal voting block. He resigned in 1916 to seek the Republican nomination for the presidency, and won the nomination on the first ballot. The election was fought as the war clouds in Europe were gathering and the Republicans were strongly neutralist. In spite of being the favourite Hughes lost to the incumbent Woodrow Wilson by 49 per cent to 46 per cent of the popular vote.

Hughes was made Secretary of state by President Harding and served for a time under his successor Coolidge. He managed to slow down the legal armaments race and took steps to improve relations with Latin America. He returned to his private law practice in 1925. Between 1928 and 1930 he served as a judge at the International Court of Justice. In 1930 he began an eleven-year spell as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. This was a controversial period in legal history as the court ruled several New Deal measures unconstitutional. Hughes was unapologetic in striking down the National Recovery Act but supported a number of other measures. He vigorously opposed President Roosevelt's plans for ‘packing’ the court with his own nominees to replace elderly judges.

Subjects: Law.

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