- U.S. News
- World News
- Latin America
- Middle East
- First Nations
- From Our Files
- Classic Essays
- Vintage Mencken
- Vintage Mercury
- Social Science
A Mercury Exclusive: Tom Watson on the Leo Frank Case
Published by Editor on March 19, 2014
Exclusive to the American Mercury
by Bradford L. Huie
ON THE 100th anniversary of his initial article on the Leo Frank case, the American Mercury is proud to be the first online publication to present, in full, the groundbreaking series of articles about the case by populist reformer and muckraker Thomas E. Watson from his Watson’s Magazine for January, March, August, September, and October 1915. (ILLUSTRATION: A close-up view of the statue of Tom Watson that stands on the grounds of the Georgia capitol building. It has recently been ordered to be removed. The legend on its base reads: “A champion of right who never faltered in the cause.”)
Previously available only in scattered and tattered library archives and in imperfectly rendered scans of the originals, this important historical series has now been fully transcribed and digitized by Penelope Lee of the American Mercury staff.
Tom Watson is often mentioned in modern books and articles on the Frank case, but authors promoting the “received narrative” — that Frank was an innocent victim of anti-Semitism (and such are almost all authors today) — never cite him at length, only quoting a sentence or two, or even a fragment, to illustrate that he called rich Jews “rich Jews” — or that he was highly critical of Roman Catholicism — or some such selection designed to shock modern sensibilities to such an extent that any right-thinking man or woman would immediately conclude that nothing Tom Watson could say could possibly have any value.
But Tom Watson has a great deal to say of immense value to anyone who wants to fully comprehend the Leo Frank legal case — to anyone who wants to gain deeper insight into the mystery and intrigue surrounding the murder of Mary Phagan — to any honest man or woman who wants to understand how a strain of anti-Jewish feeling took root in the largely philo-Semitic South — and to anyone who cares about the influence of money and media on our justice system.
Nowhere, except in Watson’s articles, do we have such a fair and full exposition of the case against Frank, which was enough to convince three juries and the judges of courts all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Nowhere, except in these pieces, do we have even an intimation of the underhanded dealings of the Burns detective agency and the Haas Finance Committee in suborning perjury and purchasing false testimony. Nowhere except from Watson’s pen do we have such a brilliant analysis of the facts in the Brief of Evidence, even bringing out angles ignored by the able lawyers on both sides of the case. Nowhere except here do we find the story of the ironic tragedy of how a massive Jewish campaign to exonerate Leo Frank and “fight anti-Semitism” had, in the South, the opposite effect of that intended.
It’s little known today, but, in the early stages of the case, both the prosecution and defense tried to recruit Watson for their respective legal teams. According to the Leo Frank Case and Trial Research Library, “Ironically, the Leo M. Frank legal defense fund that began growing rapidly after the murder of Mary Phagan was used for the purpose of trying to hire one of the best and most influential criminal lawyers in the South, firebrand Tom E. Watson, to defend Leo M. Frank for $5,000 — an impressive sum by 1913 standards. The State’s prosecution team also attempted to recruit Tom Watson, but for a fraction of the offer made by the Leo M. Frank defense fund. Watson turned down offers from both parties.” Watson was later to be a U.S. Senator, and had earlier been a candidate for Vice President of the United States for the Populist Party, sharing the ticket with William Jennings Bryan for President.
One of the most preposterous allegations made by Frank partisans in recent years is that Watson’s “inflammatory” writings poisoned the atmosphere of the trial and swayed the jurors — a claim that makes one wonder just how familiar with the case these “expert” writers are after all, since Frank’s trial ended in August 1913, and Watson’s first public mention of the case wasn’t until March 1914.
Herewith, dear reader, with iterated thanks to Miss Lee for her monumental task of hand transcription of this book-length collection, we present the full Watson’s Magazine series on the murder of Mary Phagan and the trial and lynching of Leo Frank.
* * *
Resources for further research:
Newsreel footage of Tom Watson:
US News »
June 1, 2016
by Gideon Dene Editor, The American Mercury DONALD TRUMP is the obvious choice for President in 2016. It could even be argued that he is the only real choice Americans have had for a century or more. All of the other candidates have been, and are now, obvious shills for Wall Street and Zionist extremism. […]
January 3, 2013
by T.R. Bennington AS EVER, BUT ESPECIALLY in our present state of civilizational malaise, there is a need for figures with the power to inspire — men who in less confused and cynical times would have been unabashedly described as heroic. One such figure is Corporal John Alan Coey, a young soldier who has perhaps […]
March 2, 2015
“DOES the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?” If you answered the latter, you’re among a quarter of Americans who also got it wrong, according to a new report by the National Science Foundation. A survey of 2,200 people that was released Friday revealed some alarming truths about […]
Login / Register / RSS
July 23, 2015
by Garet Garrett NO ONE WOULD be so absurd as to propose that you might restore a nation’s prosperity by changing its weights and measures. Suppose the Government should say, on behalf of the wheat farmer, to increase his income, “Hereafter the half bushel shall be the legal full bushel”; and on behalf of the […]
October 19, 2014
by T.R. Bennington FOR ANY political movement that seeks eventual ascendancy, it is incumbent to engage in regular bouts of self-analysis. As a casual but sympathetic observer of the so-called far-right, I have compiled a list of what I believe to be some of the tactical errors and misconceptions made and held respectively by many […]
Arts, Film, Literature »
May 6, 2012
Selected Writings of Pauline Kael; Library of America, 2011 Pauline Kael: Alone in the Dark; Brian Kellow, Viking Adult, 2011 by Ron Capshaw FOR CONSERVATIVES, PAULINE KAEL IS notorious for her much-quoted comment about her astonishment that Nixon won the 1972 election since “everyone I know voted for McGovern.” Despite this prime example of the liberal […]