All American Presidents come to the office with a past. This was no less true of Woodrow Wilson as it was of Warren Harding, Jack Kennedy, or Bill Clinton. Wilson, like those just mentioned was rumored to have been a womanizer and this womanizing came back to bite him during his Presidency.
Those that put the bite on Wilson came to him through a close knit constituency that had supported Wilson in his candidacy for President. This constituency was the Jewish presence in America. Leading American Industrialists noted this tight knit relationship with the Jewish vote by writing, “The Jews made much of Woodrow Wilson, far too much for his own good. They formed a solid ring around him.” One of those Jewish leaders in Wilson’s inner circle was New York attorney Samuel Untermyer.
This same Untermyer was retained as a lawyer by one of Wilson’s former flames in order to try and discreetly take care of a potential breach of promise action against Wilson by this former Wilson mistress. Untermyer had been a supporter of the Wilson campaign and a contributor to boot. Untermyer came to Wilson hoping that the case could be taken care of discreetly without public embarrassment to the President.
The problem was that Wilson’s former paramour, who had remarried since the previous dalliance, had a step-son whom she was fond of who was in hock to the tune of 40K. The damsel, through Untermyer was hopeful that the President would have access to the funds to help her step-son get out of debt and in return she would surrender Wilson’s steamy love letters, which were now in Untermyer’s possession.
President Wilson conveyed his gratitude that the “lady” in question was trying to discreetly take care of this situation as opposed to going to a Republican lawyer who would make political hay out of Wilson’s indiscretion. Wilson, however had a couple problems. First of all he didn’t have 40 thousand dollars laying around. Secondly, hone didn’t think it wise to publish his need for that money to supporters given the questions that would naturally arise. (We must keep in mind that 40K in the early 20th century was a large sum of money in today dollars.)
Untermyer offered a solution to Wilson that would satisfy all parties. Untermyer offer that,
1.) Untermyer himself would, out of his own pocket, provide the needed 40K
2.) Untermyer assured Wilson that the breach of promise lawsuit would never see the light of day
3.) Untermyer promised Wilson that he would place the love letters in a safe place where no one would ever see them
The only quid pro quo that Untermyer asked was that Wilson would consider Untermyer’s counsel when the next Supreme Court Justice opening required Wilson’s appointment. That vacancy soon did occur and Untermyer suggested that the jurist Louis Brandeis be named the first Jewish Justice to the Supreme court. Untermyer’s suggestion became President Woodrow Wilson’s appointment.
Lundberg, Ferdinand, America’s Sixty Families (New York: Vanguard Press, 1937).
Murphy, Bruce Allen. The Brandeis/ Frankfurter Connection.
Viereck, George Sylvester, The Strangest Friendship in History (New York: Liveright, Inc., 1932).
Wise, Jennings, Woodrow Wilson: Disciple of Revolution (New York: Paisley Press, 1938).
Freedman, Benjamin, Facts are Facts
Coleman, John, One World Order