"Yale Wins Regatta versus
Harvard" by Jeff Provine
says: we're very pleased to present the twenty-third story from Jeff
Provine's excellent blog
This Day in
Alternate History Please note that the opinions expressed in this post
do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
On July 2nd 1852,
a decade after each had formed their boating club for crew, Yale issued a
challenge to its rival Harvard for a race "to test the superiority of the
oarsmen of the two colleges". .
The Race (as it became known) was held on a warm day at Lake Winnipesaukee
in New Hampshire with the various clubs of the teams putting forth several
boats. Just before leaving New Haven, a group of Yale students decided
that, though hardly sporting, they would reorganize their crews to put
forth a strongest boat with the other members on another boat. The result
was Yale's boat Shawmut winning by an impressive three lengths to
Harvard's Oneida. General Franklin Pierce (soon to be President Pierce in
1853) awarded Yale the silver-inscribed oars used for the trophy.
While nothing of note seemingly came from the simple boating match
(another would be held in 1855 with Yale winning again; and a third in
1859 with Harvard taking the lead), an air of craftiness and superiority
would come over the Yale campus. Students took to heart a lesson of
This feeling would come to a head forty years later on the US Supreme
Court while Melville Fuller (a Harvard man, graduating in 1853) was the
Chief Justice. Three Yale men served as Associate Justices: Henry Billings
Brown (Yale, 1856), David J. Brewer (Yale, 1856), and George Shiras, Jr.
(Yale, 1853). While they supported votes with Fuller putting into effect
the legality of the anti-trust Sherman Act, they decided that it was time
the federal government took a step further.
It was over dinner at Shiras' Washington residence that they formulated
their plan to take it upon themselves to clear up questions that might be
solved in blood later in American history. For example, Brewer noted, if
the question of slavery had been handled by the courts in the Dred Scott
case in 1857, there would have been no need for a Civil War to sort out
the social affairs of states. They had then only been starting their legal
careers and still gloating over victory in The Race, but they knew they
could have done something. Now they had the chance for real change.
In 1895, Brown convinced Shiras and Brewer to follow him in supporting the
Income Tax Act of 1894 that had come under question in Pollock v. Farmers'
Loan & Trust Company, 157 U.S. 429. With a slight majority of 6-3, income
tax became legal in the United States, and they felt that the working
people would be kept better affirmed in power and not be in fear of taking
a violent step toward revolution. They later supported limits on workers'
hours as well as the Trust Busting of the Roosevelt and Taft
1896 held another key vote in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537. The case
of a 1/8 black man attempting to ride a "whites only" car in Louisiana
came under fire by protection from the 14th Amendment. Though they
initially agreed that the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction to
mandate laws on intrastate travel, the three began to suspect the idea of
"equality" if races were truly kept separate. They joined with Justice
Harlan dissenting (a former slave owner, he had many negative things to
say of racism and, specifically, the evils of the Ku Klux Klan), but they
knew the court would be split 5-4. By using the quote "Equal Justice Under
Law" Fuller had used himself in Caldwell v. Texas, 137 U. S. 692 (1891),
they managed to persuade the Chief Justice to side with them, thus
stopping a trend toward "segregation" over the whole of the country,
despite political fallout and several white uprisings. Working further
with race relations, the Court would support the citizenship of the
American-born Chinese man Wong Kim Ark in 1898.
While the South, Midwest, and large cities of the North went through a
troubling decade of integration from 1900-10, the court also dealt with
the growing territories of the United States, declaring citizenship to
Puerto Ricans in 1904 with Gonzalez vs. Williams (192 U.S. 1) and
outlining the rights of the peoples among newly conquered islands in the
famous Insular Cases. Justice became required in such places as the
war-torn Philippines, which underwent a sort of Reconstruction modeled on
that of the South after the Civil War and now stands as a model among
Southeastern Asian countries after independence in 1946.
The distribution of wealth and power among the lower classes caused an
upheaval for rights in the United States, many of which were granted to
keep up American morale in World War I. The Post-War Boom lasted well into
Hoover's second term, but eventual readjustment of the inflated markets
caused the painful Crash of '33. With much of the country applauding First
Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's work to advance minorities in public-works
programs, the Great Depression was considered over by the time war was
declared in 1941. Peace in the form of the Cold War settled on America,
when another Supreme Court decision named the draft unconstitutional in
the exception of defense against an invading enemy. The Korean and Vietnam
Wars would thus be handled by volunteers and an increasingly professional
army, as displayed by the Years of Service awards given by President
Johnson after the Armistice of 1969 in Saigon, South Vietnam.
says in reality, in reality, Harvard won the Race. Brown, Brewer, and
Shiras served as Justices but did not attempt to manipulate the law to
achieve what may happen in the future. Rather, they served as fairly
conservative upholders of a strict reading of the Constitution. Income Tax
was struck down, anti-trust supported (except for production facilities
located within a single state, which fell under state laws), Wong Kim Ark
became a citizen from birth, and Plessy vs. Ferguson upheld Jim Crow laws,
establishing legality for sixty years of racial suppression.
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Today in Alternate History web site.
Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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