The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/La Follette, Robert Marion

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LA FOLLETTE, lạ fŏl-lĕt, Robert Marion, American statesman: b. Primrose, Wis., 14 June 1855. He was graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1879, and the next year was admitted to the bar. He became district attorney of Dane County in 1880, retaining that position till 1884, when he took up the regular practice of his profession. In 1887 he was elected to Congress, serving till 1891; he won reputation as an orator, and as a member of the Committee of Ways and Means took a prominent part in the framing of the McKinley Tariff Bill. At the close of his service in Congress he resumed his practice, and remained active in politics, becoming one of the leaders of the younger men in the Republican party. He took part in a campaign against the exclusive privileges of corporations and against the boss system. His two pamphlets, ‘Menace of the Machine’ and ‘The Nomination of Candidates by Australian Ballot’ (1897), attracted wide attention. In them he outlined his program for electoral reform in Wisconsin. He was elected governor of his State three times, 1900, 1902 and 1904. As governor he led in the movement for a direct primary law, for the equalization of taxation and the regulation of railroad rates. He resigned the governorship in 1905 to become United States senator and was re-elected in 1911. In the Senate he has demanded progressive legislation and has become well known for his advocacy of the physical valuation of railroads, his speeches on railroad subjects showing him to be a profound student of these questions. He was prominently mentioned for the Presidential nomination in 1908, receiving 25 votes, and again in 1912. During the Taft administration he voted with the Democrats on some of the tariff schedules which were vetoed by the President. He remained in the Republican ranks in 1912, being strongly opposed to Roosevelt, the Progressive leader of that year. In the first Wilson administration his opinion was often consulted. He was the chief of a small filibustering pacifist group in the Senate which opposed the arming of American merchant vessels in the European War zone. His action was severely criticised by the people and press of the country.