C, Choate, Joseph Hodges
Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman
Edited By: Kermit L. Hall
Choate, Joseph Hodges
(b. Salem, Mass., 24 Jan. 1832; d. New York, N.Y., 14 May 1917), lawyer and diplomat. In the best tradition of the legal profession, Choate was far more than a superb advocate and a witty after-dinner speaker. As a Republican reformer, he roused public support against both the Tweed Ring and Tammany Hall. Dedicated to public service, he was a founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History and an active participant in charitable enterprises. And as ambassador to England from 1899 to 1905, he helped forge a new era in Anglo-American relations. Such achievements are representative of his distinguished extralegal career.
During the 1880s and 1890s, Choate appeared frequently before the Supreme Court. He was unsuccessful in fighting state liquor prohibition in *Mugler v. Kansas (1887) and anti-Chinese legislation in Fong Yue Ting v. United States (1893) (see chinese exclusion cases), but he successfully defended both the claims of the New York Indians in New York Indians v. United States (1898) and Stanford University, the beneficiary of the will of Leland Stanford, from challenges by the federal government in United States v. Stanford (1896). His most colorful winning argument came in *Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co. (1895), when he attacked the federal *income tax of 1894: “The act … is communistic in its purposes and tendencies, and is defended here upon principles as communistic, socialistic—what should I call them—populistic as ever have been addressed to any political assembly in the world” (p. 532).
John E. Semonche