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A. Mitchell Palmer

AKA Alexander Mitchell Palmer

Born: 4-May-1872
Birthplace: Moosehead, PA
Died: 11-May-1936
Location of death: Washington, DC
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Laurelwood Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA

Gender: Male
Religion: Quaker
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Government
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: US Attorney General, Palmer Raids

A Pennsylvania lawyer, A. Mitchell Palmer was elected to Congress three times, where he supported tariff reform, woman's suffrage, and legislation ending child labor. During World War I he was appointed to oversee the US government's confiscation of enemy property. Appointed Attorney General in 1919, he took immediate action against organized labor, seeking injunctions to stop strikes and prosecuting striking miners, railroad workers, and steelworkers for promoting economic and social revolution. Amid reports that mail bombs had been discovered in a New York post office, in November 1919 Palmer ordered warrantless raids -- coordinated by his assistant, J. Edgar Hoover -- that led to the arrests of about 450 persons for suspected communist associations. Two months later he ordered the round-up of about 10,000 suspected anarchists, revolutionaries, or holders of subversive views.

Of course, mass arrests for political beliefs violate several tenets of the US Constitution, but Palmer dismissed criticism by explaining that in "trying to protect the community against moral rats you sometimes get to thinking more of your trap's effectiveness than of its lawful construction." As these thousands of prisoners were held for months without trial, Palmer insinuated that this was necessary to prevent violent uprising. The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 in direct response to Palmer's raids and internments, and by mid-year, after a few suicides among the imprisoned, Palmer's tactics had become controversial. Eventually about 250 of the prisoners were deported to Russia, the rest were released, and Palmer left the Justice Department with the end of the Woodrow Wilson administration in 1921. He never again held public office, but remained active in the Democratic Party. His wife, Peggy Palmer, was chair of Pennsylvania's Cinema Censorship Board.

Father: Samuel Bernard Palmer (engineer)
Mother: Caroline Albert
Wife: Roberta Bartlett Dixon (m. 23-Nov-1898, d. 1922, one daughter)
Daughter: Mary
Wife: Margaret Fallon Burrall ("Peggy", censor, m. 29-Aug-1923)

    High School: Moravian Parochial School, Bethlehem, PA (1887)
    University: BA, Swarthmore College (1891)

    US Attorney General (5-Mar-1919 to 4-Mar-1921)
    US Official Custodian of Alien Property (22-Oct-1917 to 4-Mar-1919)
    US Congressman, Pennsylvania 26th (4-Mar-1909 to 3-Mar-1915)
    Pennsylvania State Official Forty-third judicial district stenographer (1892-93)
    American Bar Association (1893)
    Democratic National Committee (1912-20)
    Pennsylvania Bar Association 1893
    Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity
    Assassination Attempt bomb on his porch (2-Jun-1919)
    Assassination Attempt (one other)

Author of books:
Red Radicalism: As Described by Its Own Leaders (1920)


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