Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Amos Pinchot

The more I learn about Gifford Pinchot and his family the more I am fascinated by them. My interest in Amos Pinchot came when a coworker told me that he may have been a socialist. I was immediately intrigued and dug up an article on him in Pennsylvania History called, "Amos Pinchot: Rebel Prince," by Nancy Pittman Pinchot.

Here's the scoop on Amos Pinchot, according to the author of this article. He wasn't exactly a socialist. In fact toward the end of his life he became a staunch anti-communist. Amos Pinchot was a strong supporter of small business. In the early 20th century he broke from the Republican and Progressive Parties that his family had been so strongly involved with and supported Wilson and the Democrats because he felt that the Progressive Party was becoming too soft on big business. This inevitably created a rift between him and his big brother, Gifford, and his friend Theodore Roosevelt. (Gifford and Teddy had been greatly involved in the creation of the Progressive party).

Throughout his life, Amos found himself going against the current of what was considered normal, fashionable, politically astute, and socially correct. He divorced his wife because he felt that they were incompatible personally and sexually during a time when divorce was not common. He would go on to fall in love with and marry a much younger woman. He worked for the rights of organized laborers, including the I.W.W. when tensions over labor disputes reached a fever pitch. He was outspoken about his opposition to both WWI and WWII when it was considered treasonous to be so. He helped to form the ACLU during a time when Americans were not very concerned about the civil liberties of minorities and conscientious objectors.

In 1944 Amos Pinchot committed suicide. It was a few years after his daughter had taken her own life, and some say that Amos never recovered. But Amos also felt that his life had been lived in vane. He wrote to a friend shortly before his death that he thought that his life had been a failure. I was shocked to read this because the ACLU has been such a prominent and influential entity in American life. Labor disputes like those that surrounded the I.W.W., and the rampant intolerance during the first and second world wars have taught (some) Americans great lessons about civil liberties as well. Amos Pinchot left behind an incredible legacy, and I am excited to learn and research more throughout the summer.

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