John Jacob Esch -- a Wisconsin Congressman and the World War I era
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This is a study of the political life of Congressman John Jacob Esch during the years from 1914-1919. This study is not intended to be a mere political biography, however. The extraordinary domestic situation brought about by America's involvement in World War I affected the actions, beliefs and careers of many national political figures. Congressman Esch was one of those so affected. This study is an analysis of the manner that the war affected his political career. John Esch represented Wisconsin's Seventh District for twenty-two years from 1899 to 1921. The years from 1914 to 1919, however, were probably the most critical--if not the most important--of his long political career. America's involvement in World War I brought extraordinary pressures to bear on the members of Wisconsin's Congressional delegation. LaFollette's attitude towards the war helped pin a "pro-German" label on him and other members of the delegation. During the neutrality controversy Esch joined with LaFollette in opposing the administration's course. Once America entered the conflict, however, Esch broke with the Senator and followed his own course. World War I affected Esch's position on three important issues not directly related to the war: immigration, prohibition and woman's suffrage. The chaotic condition of American railroads caused by the war led to federal control of the nation's transportation systems. Each recognized federal control as a necessity during the war and aided in the framing of wartime railroad legislation. When the war ended he was a co-author of the controversial Transportation Act which returned the railroads to their former owners. Esch's part in framing the Transportation Act and his votes on many issues during the war had brought him many enemies by 1920. Chief of these was Senator LaFollette who emerged from the war as strong as ever in Wisconsin. In the Republican primary of 1920 Esch was overwhelmingly defeated by Joseph Beck, a LaFollette lieutenant who received the combined support of organized labor, the Non-Partisan League and the state progressive machine.
La Follette, Robert M. -- (Robert Marion) -- 1855-1925
Esch, John J. -- (John Jacob) -- 1861-1941
World War, 1914-1918 -- Wisconsin
Wisconsin -- Politics and government -- 1848-1950.