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Gilbert Holland Montague, 1880-1961


Lawyer, pro-business economist, book collector; economics instructor of FDR.

Born Springfield, Mass., 1880; BA Harvard, 1901; MA 1902; instructor in economics at Harvard while attending Harvard Law school, Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of his students; graduated Harvard Law School, 1904; worked for New York legal firm; clerked for NY Supreme Court, 1908-1910; special deputy attorney general prosecuting election fraud; taught engineering contracts at Brooklyn Polytechnic, 1906-1917; leading practitioner of antitrust law [1] ( Sherman and Clayton acts ); employed representing nearly all the large oil companies; actively involved in pro-business "lobbying" and public policy; involved in numerous congressional investigations and committees; served as an advisor to the Treasury and Justice departments; on Attorney General's Commission to Study Antitrust Laws, and authored most of its 405-page final report calling for reduced government restrictions on private enterprise, 1955.

He is particularly of note for his collection of over 15,000 books and 20,000 pamphlets. He collected manuscripts, including a 14th century copy of the Magna Carta. He was a relative of Emily Dickinson [1] and kept a collection of over 900 of her items. He became somewhat of an expert on Emily, and donated his collection to Harvard in 1950, enabling a number of questions about her life to be answered.

A firm believer in free trade, he wrote diligently in defense of free markets and reduced government involvement in business. He wrote a number of books, including Business Competition and the Law (1917) and Rise and Progress of the Standard Oil Company (1903). He chaired numerous bar association panels, including the ABA's Antitrust Division, the Committee on Monopolies and Restraints of Trade, and the Committee on the Federal Trade Commission.

Gilbert and his wife maintained a summer home in Seal Harbor, Me., which they called Beaulieu.

Was this named after the english Beaulieu?

Franklin Roosevelt is famous for The New Deal, an increase in the size and direct economic involvement of the federal government in an attempt to cope with the effects of the Great Depression. The formal legislation behind the New Deal seems to have been the National Industrial Recovery Act, the "NRA". The historian Arthur Schlesinger has this to say of Gilbert's involvement in what happened (around 1933):

"The nation was more than ready. Many people had an anguished sense of crisis. For some, society itself seemed confronted by the specter of dissolution. ...

By this time several groups were working independently on the general problem. Because they had shifting and overlapping membership and engaged in a continual process of cross-consultation, it is difficult to reconstruct the sequence of developments; and the recollections of the participants ... have proved as confusing... It seems evident that two groups were especially important. Once centered in Senator Wagner's office... the other in the office of John Dickinson, the Undersecretary of Commerce.

... In (Wagner's group, ed.) David Podell, a trade association lawyer proposed modifying the Antitrust Act...; Gilbert H. Montague was an expert on the law of business association; Robert M. La Follette, Jr., emphasized public works and national planning, W. Jett Lauck of the United Mine Workers spoke both for the interests of labor and for the UMW approach to economic planning; and Harold Moulton of the Brookings Institution brought an economist's judgment to the reconciliation of the various suggestions. The Dickinson group drew primarily on the ideas and resources of the Executive Branch... From the start, the two groups were in contact.

... in his second fireside chat, ... Roosevelt talked about `a partnership in planning' between government and business... (While they were working on this speech, Moley said `You realize, then, that you're taking an enormous step away from the philosophy of equalitarianism and laissez-faire?' Roosevelt, silent a moment, replied with great earnestness, `If that philosophy hadn't proved to be bankrupt, Herbert Hoover would be sitting here right now. I never felt surer of anything in my life than I do of the soundness of this passage.')

Three days later, ... a meeting was called at the White House. Here Roosevelt, after listening to the competing arguments, issued his familiar order that the group lock itself in a room until it could come out with a single proposal... By May 15, the long struggle was over, and a bill was ready for Congress." (The Coming of the New Deal, Schlesinger)

In F.D.R.: His Personal Letters, edited by Elliott Roosevelt, is the following description of what Gilbert thought of Roosevelt's policies. I assume this is written by Elliott Roosevelt:

"... Numbered among the instructors in this course (a year-long course in FDR's sophomore year at Harvard called Outlines of Economics, ed.) was Gilbert Holland Montague, later a prominent lawyer and chairman of the N. Y. Bar Association's Committee on the National Industrial Recovery Act, in which capacity he termed the N.R.A. `a goldfish bowl' that was opaque and from a constitutional viewpoint would not hold water. Speaking at the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences in Philadelphia on April 6, 1935, Montague had this to say of the handiwork of his former pupil: `... hastily, absent-mindedly, without any intention or realization that it was acting fascistically, the N.R.A. snatched at a form of executive law-making that was unconsciously but nevertheless essentially fascistic...'" (Elliott Roosevelt)


[DAB], Supl. 7, 1961-1965, p. 547.
F.D.R., Roosevelt.
The Coming of the the New Deal, Schlesinger.

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