Firstclass passengers with political connections


Mar 20, 2007
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Now, I freely admit, I find politics to be a bit of a bore. Prime Ministers come...Prime Ministers go...nothing ever changes.

But, in researching the lives of various first-class passengers, I've been struck by how many actually had connections with those in positions of political influence, either at home or abroad. Most famously, Major Butt was military aide-de-camp to the Taft administration. Did this position confer any great degree of power on him? What were his duties? Were he and the President close friends?

Eloise Smith was the daughter of Congressman James Hughes of Virginia. My ignorance is shocking so I must ask - how does Congress 'fit' into the American political system? How was Hughes elected? Is a congressman the American equivalent of an MP here in England? Congress relates to the Senate...how? Which holds more power?

On a less formal footing, I gather that Helen Churchill Candee had a large number of social contacts in Washington and was active in the campaign for 'Votes for Women' around 1913.

The Earl of Rothes, Noelle's husband, held a seat in the Lords and I believe that he was involved (I'd need to check in what capacity) in the strife that beset the Liberal government as it sought to reform that house in the summer of 1911. Thomas Andrews had a brother who was at some stage Prime Minister of Ireland. And I was recently intrigued to learn that Tyrell Cavendish, a well-born Englishman, was travelling to the States aboard the 'Titanic' in the hope of whipping up support and - presumably financial backing - from his American father-in-law as he prepared to campaign for a seat in the Commons.

I'm vaguely aware that Mrs Penasco had links with the government in either her native Spain or in Latin America - I'd love to know more about her. At the other end of Europe, Sigrid Lindstrom was the niece of a Swedish prime minister of the late nineteenth century.

Is anybody able to shed any more light on any of these connections? All contributions will be most gratefully received and I might even learn a thing or two!
 

Dave Gittins

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Here's a crash course on the US system.

Congress consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Members of the House are elected much like members of the House of Commons. Each state sends members proportionate to its population. (Hence the importance of winning in California).

The Senate is supposed to uphold the rights of the states and each state has two senators. In 1912, the senators were appointed by the states legislatures. Today they are elected.

The most obvious politician on Titanic was probably Isidor Straus. He was a Democrat representative from 30 January 1894 to 3 March 1895, having been selected to fill a casual vacancy. He didn't stand for re-election.

James Hughes had a long career and died on the job. He was a Republican representative and served from 4 March 1901 to 3 March 1915. He came back from 4 March 1927 to 2 March 1930.

You'll notice that in those days the terms of the Congress ended in the March following the elections held in November. That explains why President Taft, who lost the 1912 election, was still around to present Captain Rostron's Congressional Gold Medal on 1 March 1913.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Is anybody able to shed any more light on any of these connections?<<

Beyond the fact that these connections existed you mean? Not really.

In general terms, it's not really all that surprising. People who lived in this social strata tended to be well connected in the halls of power, and some of these people...while not a part of the government...had a substantial amount of power and infulance in their own right.

Consider J.P. Morgan, the nominal owner of the IMM and hence Titanic. This was a guy who had so much money, that kings and heads of state often tried to curry his favour.

Then there were passengers such as Ben Guggenhiem who was very much a hooked up guy and had to be. You just didn't get to the upper crust and stay there without taking an interest in and even attempting to influance or control governmental affairs or getting in well with the "Right People."

A century or so ago, you might call this Tammeny Hall if you were in...say...New York City. Google that one up as well as information on Boss Tweed if you want to know what that was all about. These days, it brings to mind what we here in the Little 'ol South still call The Good Old Boys Network.
 

Bob Godfrey

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The Mexican Manuel Uruchurtu had been associated with the corrupt and oppressive regime of Porfirio Diaz, which was overthrown by revolutionaries like Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa a year before the Titanic sank. Uruchurtu was a close friend of Vice President Ramon Corral, a man despised by the populace and widely thought to have been appointed by Diaz as a form of self-protection; with Corral next in line, nobody would want to depose him! Though neither had any popular support, both were elected to office by an almost unanimous (and completely rigged) vote. After the Revolution they were exiled to Paris.

On the Titanic Uruchurtu was returning from a trip to Paris where he had made contact with Corral and very likely also the deposed President. Some histories claim that Uruchurtu was himself an exile, but his descendants deny this and suggest that he had been sent to Paris on some kind of diplomatic mission.

It might be of particular interest to you, Martin, that he traveled to Cherbourg in the same rail compartment as Sigrid Lindstrom.
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Mar 20, 2007
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Jolly interesting! Thank you for your contributions. The political activities of Manuel Uruchurtu had certainly passed me by.

Were congressmen paid or did James Hughes have independent means which allowed him to follow a career in politics? I seem to recall reading that, in the America of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, politicians were seldom deemed to be 'gentlemen' in the same way as their parliamentary counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Were congressmen paid <<

Yep, and they still are, by law. From Article One Section Six of the U.S Constitution:
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.
Which is too much as far as I'm concerned but that's a rant for another forum.

As to politicians being regarded as gentlemen...well...let's just say that your results may vary.

Wildly.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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I know that British politicians were paid - which theoretically meant that even the poorest man could embark on a career in Parliament - but, in practice, the overwhelming majority of MPs were of gentle or aristocratic birth and of independent means. Lord Salisbury and Arthur Balfour would be cases in point! A political career therefore tended to equate with social status. I wondered if the same applied in the States - would a congressman like James Hughes be granted access to the smartest Society drawing rooms? I seem to recall that this would NOT have been the case - Caroline Astor's list of the Four Hundred featured very few politically active figures. Didn't one of the Roosevelts (Teddy, perhaps?) have to go so far as to conceal his illustrious pedigree from the electorate?
 

Bob Godfrey

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"The overwhelming majority of MPs were of gentle or aristocratic birth." For the Liberals and Conservatives, yes. But times were rapidly changing. Ramsay MacDonald, Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, was the illegitimate son of a housemaid and a farm labourer. Just 12 years later he would be Prime Minister, though possibly still unwelcome in the smartest Society drawing rooms.
 
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Labour - pah! Ramsay MacDonald...he really DID meet a Princess Casamassima of his very own. He went exceedingly soft and gooey over the Roumanian princess, Marthe Bibesco, and wrote her some extraordinary letters. His Left-Wing convictions didn't count for so much then!
 
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sashka pozzetti

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Are you 'pah'-ing the Labour in the social context of 1912, or the 'new' labour of today?

Or perhaps both?
 

Bob Godfrey

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A bas les aristos, mes enfants!

But meanwhile, back in the thread... In 1912 the payment for MP's in Britain was a very recent development, introduced only in the previous year. Lloyd George (Chancellor of the Exchequer) declared that "It is not a remuneration, it is not recompense, it is not even a salary. It is just an allowance, to think the minimum allowance, to enable men to come here, men who would render incalculable service to the state." Each MP was provided with an annual sum of £400, roughly equivalent to the pay for the most junior officer on the Titanic. The equivalent sum today would be around £24,000.
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sashka pozzetti

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And you have a University education too! Take the famous ET dunce's hat and retreat to the corner with an informative book on political history!!!

:)
 
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Now that IS interesting. I was under the impression that politicians had been receiving pay-slips for some years prior to 1912. If my A-level History is standing me in good stead (I've not worried myself over the activities of the hoi-polloi for several years now), the Chartists had been demanding salaries for MPs in the 1830s and 1840s. Indeed, this was one of the main points of the charter which gave their movement its name. I didn't realise that it took them until 1911 to meet with any success!
 

Bob Godfrey

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Payments of various kinds date back several hundred years, but that was generally left to the constituencies and most offered little or nothing. You're right to say that most MP's didn't need it before the late 19th Century.
 
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Why, Sashka? I know my political history and I'm entitled to my opinion as much as you! I've simply never fancied socialism - particularly not of the kind expounded by Labour throughout much of the twentieth century (shudder). As for the wishy-washy, bourgeois antics of New Labour - what a joke!

Still, I suppose we were lucky never to have a Communist revolution here in England. My god - I would have topped myself. Assuming the people didn't do for me first.

Which reminds me of that WONDERFUL scene in David Lean's 1965 film adaptation of Pasternak's 'Doctor Zhivago'....

One bitter winter evening in what I take to be either 1912 or 1913, arch-cad Victor Kamarovsky (played by Rod Steiger) takes young Lara (Julie Christie) to a super-smart Moscow restaurant, with a view to getting her sozzled on champagne before effecting her seduction. There is gilding and red velvet...obsequious waiters, bowing and scraping...a Hungarian gypsy orchestra...the room scintillates with jewels and silk gowns, snowy shirt fronts and braided uniforms...

As the couple are ushered into their seats, and Kamarovsky contemplates the menu (in French, naturally), the sound of a political rally in the square outside percolates through the laughter, the music, the clink of silver and crystal. A hush falls over the elegant crowd, conversation ceasing as everybody listens to the swelling sound of the revolutionary anthem. After a moment's silence, Kamarovsky surveys his visibly perturbed fellow diners with a calm contempt. 'Perhaps they will sing in tune AFTER the revolution', he quips. The atmosphere immediately lightens, there are smiles and cheers, glasses are raised, and the orchestra strikes up a lively melody to drown out the sound of the workers...
 
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sashka pozzetti

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Martin, you are so inconsistent! :)

You open a thread with

'I find politics to be a bit of a bore. Prime Ministers come...Prime Ministers go...nothing ever changes'

and then amusingly dismiss an entire political party, in all its variation as 'riff-raff'

Now you reveal you're not so disinterested after all.

But it is great to hear that you don't want a Communist Revolution as I hate tractors, and don't like beetroot, so I propose a fascist Dictatorship instead, with me in top position.

Does anyone know when MP's did start getting reasonable wages?
 

Bob Godfrey

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The antics of most politicos are a joke, Martin, whatever the colour of their banners. Kamarovsky had the right idea - remain detached, observe, and when the time comes jump in the right direction. Topping himself was never an option he would consider, though I daresay eventually somebody did it for him.

Sashka, I thought I'd answered that question? £400 was a pretty good income in 1912. Nowadays they get around £60k, I believe, and about three times that for the Prime Minister. Relative to the average rise in incomes over the last 100 years, the rate of pay for an MP has fallen behind.
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Mar 20, 2007
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Au contraire - I find politics to be a bit of a bore precisely BECAUSE nothing ever changes. And the Labour Party HAS historically contained a lot of riff-raff. Some would argue it still does - one of my friends is going to a party tonight to celebrate the departure from Downing Street of Tony Blair.

Now that the sceptre of the Labour Party has been raised...were there any politically active second or third class passengers aboard the 'Titanic'? Or at least ones who left some legacy of their political outlook?
 

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