Pepper, George W. Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

An avowed opponent of New Deal politics, Pepper argued a test case involving the constitutionality of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 before the Supreme Court.

Pepper graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1887 and its law school in 1889, then began a successful practice in constitutional and corporate law in Philadelphia. In 1893 Pepper became Biddle Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania, where he remained until 1910, when he was counsel to Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot, who was dismissed for criticizing Secretary of the Interior Richard Ballinger’s administration of Alaskan coal lands. During World War I, Pepper supported American national preparedness. He was Lyman Beecher Lecturer at Yale University in 1915 and a member of the First Provisional Training Regiment at Plattsburgh from 1915 to 1916. He chaired the Pennsylvania Council of National Defense (1917-1919). After the conclusion of the war, Pepper condemned the Versailles peace treaty negotiated by President Woodrow Wilson because of its harshness toward the defeated nations and opposed the League of Nations, preferring that the United States not interfere in European affairs.New DealAgricultural Adjustment Act of 1933New DealAgricultural Adjustment Act of 1933

George W. Pepper

(Library of Congress)

Between 1920 and 1921, Pepper was a member of a commission on constitutional revisionism in Pennsylvania, and from 1922 to 1928 he served as a Republican national committeeman. In January, 1922, he was appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill an unexpected vacancy; he won the Republican primary that May and the general election in November despite opposition from fellow state Republicans. His Senate years had some accomplishments, such as his plan for a World Court in 1924 and U.S. participation in the Permanent Court of International Justice. Pepper argued the congressional side in Myers v. United States[case]Myers v. United States[Myers v. United States] (1926), involving the right of the president to remove a postmaster with congressional approval, before the Supreme Court. After his Senate reelection defeat in 1926, Pepper was one of the leading lawyers in United States v. Butler[case]Butler, United States v.[Butler, United States v.] (1936), the test case before the Court against the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 that resulted in the invalidation of that statute. In 1940 and in 1948 he was a member of the platform committees at the Republican National Convention.

Pepper’s writings include Border Land of Federal and State Decisions (1889), Men and Issues (1924), In the Senate (1930), Family Quarrels (1931), Philadelphia Lawyer (1944), and the much-revised Digest of Decisions and Encyclopaedia of Pennsylvania Law, 1754-1898 (1898-1906).

Agricultural issues

Butler, United States v.

Myers v. United States

Presidential powers

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