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Senate membership, 1912-1926

 Sub-Series — Box: OVZ 2
Identifier: II.C.

Scope and Contents

Contents: Correspondence, legislation, newspaper clippings.

The Senate Membership subseries contains material related not only to Saulsbury's period as U.S. Senator from Delaware, but also to the election campaigns and the issues with which he continued to be involved after his defeat for re-election. This subseries reflects some of the same interests and issues as the General Politics subseries. The bulk of this material, however, is concentrated on Saulsbury’s senatorial duties in proposing, debating, and voting on legislation. The files contain extensive correspondence with fellow Congressmen as well as other Democrats in the Wilson administration. Because Saulsbury concentrated his energies on a few particular pieces of legislation, the related files reflect the entire process by which a proposed bill becomes law, with the many debates and amendments in that process.

Saulsbury was elected to the United States Senate in 1913 after seeking the office for a decade. His prior failure to gain the necessary votes in the state legislature was due to a combination of Republican national victories and the disruption caused by J. Edward Addicks in Delaware politics in the early part of the century. Finally, after Democratic victories in the 1912 state and national elections, the Democratic controlled State Legislature voted to send Saulsbury to Washington. Six years later, Saulsbury became the first Delaware Senator to seek re-election under the rules of direct election brought about by the 17th Amendment. He was defeated.

Saulsbury had been a key figure in the Democratic victory of Woodrow Wilson against the divided Republican opposition of 1912. In addition to his national efforts, Saulsbury had helped secure the democratic victories in Delaware that gave the party control of the State legislature and sent him to Washington. The Delaware campaign had been so bitter and partisan, however, that Delaware's senior Senator, Henry du Pont, took the remarkable position of refusing to abide by tradition and seat Saulsbury in the Senate. Saulsbury had to be seated by a fellow Democrat.

While in the Senate, Saulsbury served on the Foreign Relations Committee, the Committee for Pacific Islands and Puerto Rico (the Virgin Islands had not yet been acquired), and the Committee on Interstate Commerce, among others. Specific files in this subseries deal with Saulsbury's work on each committee. In 1916, Saulsbury was given the rare honor of being elected Senate President Pro Tern as a first term Senator. This indicated his popularity in the Democratic Party, but letters in the congratulatory files show that he was equally respected by his Republican opponents.

The bulk of Saulsbury's Senate work relates to the military position of the United States. The World War going on in Europe was an important reason for this focus, but equally important was Saulsbury's personal concern with the proper defense of the nation at all times. Saulsbury retained minimal information about the War in his files. In contrast, Saulsbury's records clearly reflect his sustained attention to the development of a system of Inland Waterways whereby sea¬-going vessels could travel between the cities of the East Coast without exposing themselves to the possibility of attack on the open seas. The linchpin of this system would be a federally operated and greatly expanded Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Saulsbury also arranged for building a fort at Lewes and supported policies for banning the shipping of munitions to belligerents, for allowing foreign ships to be reflagged in the United States, for constructing a nitrogen plant to ensure United States self-sufficiency in explosive powder production, for building a strong navy, and for increasing United States involvement in Central America. He supported these policies only for the purpose of defending the United States mainland, however. He opposed fortifying Guam, for example, because that would be regarded as hostile by Japan.

Probably the single most important piece of legislation put forward by Saulsbury while in the Senate was the Anti-Rent Bill. Three files follow this bill through the legislative process.

The entry of the United States into World War I caused a large influx of people to the cities, particularly Washington. Saulsbury's bill was designed to ensure that the upward pressure the market placed on housing costs would be checked by regulations limiting them for the duration of the war effort. The files contain documents relating to all aspects of the legislative process, from constituent correspondence to research and similar previous legislation to the final Bill and its Amendments. Personal stories from both sides help bring the legislative process to life.

The remaining files document the various other functions which a Senator was expected to fulfill. Saulsbury helped to adjust the Revenue Bill of 1916 to better represent his constituents and sought to use his influence where appropriate to assist Delawareans serving in the military. He also followed the appointment of Lewis Brandeis, the first Jewish-American on the Supreme Court. Saulsbury had great respect for the Japanese, and he hosted the visitors when a formal mission arrived from that country. He was involved in the regulation of utilities and interstate trade from his committee positions. Finally, Saulsbury continued to seek and support the election of Democrats to national office.

In 1918, Saulsbury was defeated for election to a second term in the Senate. His staunch support of the Wilson administration, which had broken its promise to keep the United States out of war, became a liability for him. In letters of congratulations and condolences, it is clear that Saulsbury was well liked and respected by Senators of both parties in victory and in defeat. The respect of his political opponents ensured that Saulsbury would continue to play a role in politics even after his defeat and the subsequent capture of the White House by a Republican administration.


  • Creation: 1912-1926


Four dated general files covering the specific time periods, followed by topical files arranged alphabetically.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA