Borah, William Edgar

Borah, William Edgar bôrˈə [key], 1865–1940, U.S. Senator (1907–40), b. near Fairfield, Ill. Admitted to the bar in Kansas in 1887, after 1890 he became prominent in law and politics at Boise, Idaho. Shortly after election to the Senate, he gained (1907) national attention by his prosecution of William Haywood and two other leaders of the Western Federation of Miners, who were accused of conspiring to murder (1905) ex-Gov. Frank Steurenberg. In the Senate he was outstanding as an orator, as an expounder of the Constitution, and as a Republican notable for his independent stands (he was sometimes called “the great opposer”). Borah was one of the Senate leaders in defeating the Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations after World War I. From 1924 to 1933 he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, and his major interest was in foreign policy. He early asked for recognition of the USSR, favored the collection of war debts, and opposed intervention in Latin American countries to protect U.S. investments. An advocate of disarmament and the outlawing of war, he suggested the Washington Conference of 1921–22 and promoted the Kellogg-Briand Pact; in 1939 he fought revision of the Neutrality Act. In domestic affairs, Borah staunchly favored prohibition. He spoke against economic monopoly and for enforcement of the antitrust laws, but he was opposed to extension of governmental powers and disapproved of the National Recovery Administration and many other New Deal measures.

See biographies by C. O. Johnson (1936, new ed. 1967, repr. 1969) and M. C. McKenna (1961); studies by J. C. Vinson (1957), R. J. Maddox (1969), and L. Ashby (1972).

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