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ASSOCIATE JUSTICE FRANK MURPHY - TYPED LETTER SIGNED CIRCA 1939 - HFSID 48640

As Attorney General, he sends FDR a legal opinion regarding Presidential powers to devalue the dollar! Typed Letter signed: "Frank Murphy" as Attorney General, 3 pages, 8½x11. Washington, D.C., circa 1939.

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FRANK MURPHY
As Attorney General, he sends FDR a legal opinion regarding Presidential powers to devalue the dollar!
Typed Letter signed: "Frank Murphy" as Attorney General, 3 pages, 8½x11. Washington, D.C., circa 1939. On official letterhead to The President [Franklin Roosevelt], The White House. Pencil note (unknown hand) in upper right of first page: "Return uncut to Senator Barkley." In part: "I have the honor to refer to your inquiry whether the provisions of H. R. 3325 will be sufficient to accomplish their purpose if enacted into law after midnight. In particular, your question is whether under such circumstances the powers which are conferred upon you by the bill will be extended by it so that they will not expire until June 30, 1941, unless sooner terminated by declaration on your part in accordance with the terms of the bill. It is my opinion that the bill if enacted after midnight, June 30, 1939, will confer upon you the powers enumerated in it until June 30, 1941. ... [He cites the opinion of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in City of Beatrice v. Masslich.} In the Columbia Wire case, the Seventh Circuit said ... [citation from the opinion]. H. R. 3325, in so far as it relates to your question, extends certain powers granted the President by specific sections of prior acts of Congress to which specific reference is made. As the Supreme Court of Arkansas, in dealing with a similar question, said in Fenolio v Sebastian Bridge District ... 'The law itself is not dead though the power conferred could no longer be exercised without further legislative action.' While there are some inconsistent decisions of state courts, I find no federal decision in conflict with the view above expressed, and the great weight of authority fully supports that view. ... [A list of supportive cases follows.] The Congress has accepted this view in the past. The Settlement of War Claims Act of 1928, approved March 10, 1928, originally required that application for payment of rewards under the Act be made within a period of two years after its enactment. The Act has been amended five times since 1928 by merely striking out 'two years' and inserting in lieu thereof 'four years,' 'six years', 'eight years', 'ten years' or 'twelve years.' The last two times that this Act has been amended in this respect (1936 and 1938) the extending act has in each case extended the expiring provision after it had terminated. Respectfully". Frank Murphy (1890-1949), a former Mayor of Detroit (1930-1933), Governor-General of the Philippine Islands (1933-1936) and Governor of Michigan (1937-1938), became FDR's Attorney General on January 2, 1939, serving until January 17, 1940. On January 18, 1940, he was sworn in as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, serving until his death in 1949. As an Associate Justice, Murphy wrote many of the Court's opinions concerning civil liberties, including that for the 1940 Thornhill v. Alabama case, in which he clarified labor's right to strike, holding that peaceful picketing was a manifestation of freedom of speech. In a vigorous dissent from the Court's decision upholding the internment of Japanese-Americans (1944), Murphy became the first Justice ever to use the word "racism" in his opinion. Murphy used the term in five of his Court opinions; after his retirement, no Justice would use the word again until 1967. H.R. 3325 (1939) extended legislation empowering the President to change the weight of the dollar. (In that era, most national currencies, including the US dollar, were exchanged at a fixed rate for gold, unlike the market-driven fluctuations which take place now.) An amendment offered by the Republican minority to delete a section authorizing the President to devalue the dollar was rejected in an almost straight party line vote on April 21, 1939. H. R. 3325 ultimately passed the House but died in the Senate. In effect, Murphy is advising the President that he has the power to meddle with the dollar even after Congressional legislation expires!Senator Alben Barkley (1877-1956), to whom this opinion was forwarded, was Senate Majority Leader and an ally of the President. In 1944, FDR is believed to have narrowed his choice for a running mate to Truman and Barkley; the latter would become Truman's Vice President in 1949. Pencil notes (unknown hand) all pages. Soiled and creased (not affecting signature). Otherwise, fine condition.

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