Senate Speeches and Remarks

Read some of Hugo Black’s landmark speeches during his senate years.

Muscle Shoals (March 05, 1928)

Senator Black speaks on why the federal government dam at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, built during World War I, should to be used to produce cheap fertilizer for Alabama farmers and not be used by the Alabama Power Company for its profits. This question was a major theme in Black’s 1926 campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Reapportionment of the Congress (February 25, 1929)

Senator Black debates a bill to reapportion–or re-distribute–Congressional seats among the states. He discusses the two methods for computing population by Congressional district and refers to his understanding of the constitutional requirements in reapportionment.

Censorship of Imported Books (March 18, 1930)

Senator Black discusses the censoring of imported books: He expresses his “inherent objection to having books censored by a clerk of the Secretary of the Treasury.”

Suspension of Immigration (Dec. 15, 1930)

Senator Black testifies before the Senate Committee on Immigration in support of his own bill and others that would suspend immigration in the United States for a period of two years. Amid the “great Depression,” Black argues that “practically every other civilized country in the world provides for the suspension of immigration in case of unemployment or economic depression… It is simply a question of not being willing to divide whatever few jobs there are here with those from other countries.” Congressional Record, Session 71 -3 (1930), Hearings before the Committee on Immigration, United States Senate, 13-14.

Municipal Utilities and Muscle Shoals (January 27, 1931)

Amid the Great Depression, Senator Black complains that the Republican Administration of President Herbert Hoover refuses to sell electricity produced by the federal dam in Muscle Shoals to cities and towns while selling it at low rates to the private power company. “I doubt whether there is another power company in the United States that has the same sinecure the Alabama Power Co. has at Muscle Shoals,” Black declares.

Unemployment in the Great Depression (January 10, 1933)

Senator Black’s national radio address on his bill to shorten the work week to address massive unemployment is re-printed in the Congressional Record. Black proclaims: “When greed and privilege grasp unearned wealth and condemn millions to undeserved poverty and misery, government is useless if it does not curb greed and destroy privilege.”

Constitutionality of Bill Mandating a 30-Hour Work Week (April 03, 1933)

Senator Black presents his arguments during extensive floor debate on why his bill to address massive unemployment by mandating that companies engaged in interstate commerce limit employees’ hours of work in order to spread more employment to more people.

Findings from the Investigation of U.S. Government Subsidies for Merchant Marine (February 26, 1934)

In a national radio address, reprinted in the Congressional Record, Senator Black reports on his Senate investigation into how federal subsidies for mail service have been spent by merchant marine companies. “The record … discloses that the huge subsidies paid by the Government to build up a merchant marine … have been largely spent in high salaries, extravagant expense accounts, highly paid lobbyists, and huge dividends,” Black states.

Investigation of the Utility Lobby (August 09, 1935)

Reprinted in the Congressional Record, Black’s national radio address discusses how utilities are lobbying the Congress. He states: “There is no constitutional right on the part of any sordid and powerful group to present its views behind a mask concealing the identity of the group.”

Controversy over Tactics of Black’s Senate Select Committee on Investigations (March 20, 1936)

Senator Black takes the floor in spirited debate in order to defend his Select Committee’s inspection and alleged seizure of telegrams of the Hearst –owned newspapers during its investigation of influence peddling and lobbying by utility companies and large, holding companies.

President Roosevelt’s “Court-Packing” Plan Reviewed (February 24, 1937)

Shortly after his 1936 re-election, President Franklin Roosevelt proposed a controversial plan to increase the membership of the US Supreme Court in order to assure that the Court would not strike down as unconstitutional additional New Deal reforms, as the Court had done in recent years. In a nationally broadcast radio address, Senator Black vigorously supported the President’s plan. His remarks were placed in the record of the Senate.