November 1, 2007 - ...from the penitentiary to Congress
From 1933 to 1946, Illinois Representative Everett Dirksen sent weekly newsletters back to his constituents. These primary sources offer a glimpse into the daily workings of Congress during the Great Depression and World War II, and have been digitized by the Dirksen Confressional Center, a non-for-profit that seeks "to improve civic engagement by promoting a better understanding of Congress and its leaders through archival, research, and educational programs." The letters also offer insight into Dirksen's colleague as shown in his first newsletter describing a Representative from Minnesota.
From Minnesota comes a Member named Shoemaker, who in his Congressional biography stated, "from the penitentiary to Congress. Others often go from Congress to the penitentiary." His right to have the oath administered was challenged and after much debate, he was seated. Congressman Shoemaker is a newspaper editor. A few years ago, he learned that a crooked banker had attempted to pay what was due on a certain trust fund to a widow and her children, in spurious bonds and at once began a crusade in behalf of this family with the result that the banker was compelled to pay the family in proper money with 6% interest for the time he withheld it. The banker, in a letter, upbraided Shoemaker whereupon, he sent the banker a letter, and on the envelope below the banker,s name wrote, "Robber Of Wiidows And Orphans". This constitutes defamation under the Postal laws and on indictment and conviction Shoemaker was sentenced to Leavenworth for one year and one day. After his discharge from penitentiary, he immediately became a candidate for Congress and was elected. Under Minnesota law, anyone convicted of a felony has no civil rights unless they are restored by the legislature. Consequently, his right to a seat in Congress was challenged. But he was seated.
Representative Francis Henry Shoemaker served one term in Congress (1933-1935) and represented the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party. The Party merged with the Democratics in 1944 to from the Democratic Farmer Labor Party.