Robert Marion La Follette

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La Follette, Robert Marion

(ləfŏl`ĭt), 1855–1925, American political leader, U.S. Senator from Wisconsin (1906–25), b. Primrose, Wis.

Early Career

Admitted (1880) to the Wisconsin bar, he practiced in Madison, Wis., and was district attorney (1880–84) of Dane co. As U.S. Representative (1885–91), he generally followed the traditionally conservative policies of the Republican party. After a political conflict that led to his break with the state Republican leaders, La Follette began to formulate a detailed reform program and, appealing directly to the people, to build a broad constituency. He unsuccessfully sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1896 and 1898 and finally won it in 1900. As governor of Wisconsin (1901–6) he secured a direct primary law, tax reform legislation, railroad rate control, and other measures that became collectively known as the Wisconsin Idea.

U.S. Senator

In 1906 La Follette entered the U.S. Senate and served until his death. At odds with the conservative leadership of President TaftTaft, William Howard,
1857–1930, 27th President of the United States (1909–13) and 10th chief justice of the United States (1921–30), b. Cincinnati. Early Career

After graduating (1878) from Yale, he attended Cincinnati Law School.
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, La Follette helped found (1911) the National Progressive Republican League; its aim was to wrest the Republican presidential nomination from Taft in 1912 and secure it for La Follette. When Theodore RooseveltRoosevelt, Theodore,
1858–1919, 26th President of the United States (1901–9), b. New York City. Early Life and Political Posts

Of a prosperous and distinguished family, Theodore Roosevelt was educated by private tutors and traveled widely.
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 announced his candidacy for the nomination, however, many of La Follette's supporters switched to Roosevelt, who eventually ran on the Progressive partyProgressive party,
in U.S. history, the name of three political organizations, active, respectively, in the presidential elections of 1912, 1924, and 1948. Election of 1912
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In the Senate, La Follette generally supported the reform measures of President WilsonWilson, Woodrow
(Thomas Woodrow Wilson), 1856–1924, 28th President of the United States (1913–21), b. Staunton, Va. Educator

He graduated from Princeton in 1879 and studied law at the Univ. of Virginia.
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's administration, championing federal railroad regulation, sponsoring (1915) the act that elevated and regulated conditions of maritime employment, and advocating (1913) passage of the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He broke with the Wilson administration, however, when he resisted the increasing tendency to side with the Allies; he led the resistance to arming merchant ships and voted against the U.S. declaration of war. He afterward supported war legislation, but made every effort to place the financial burden on the rich. From 1919 to 1925 he was one of the most powerful men in the Senate. He opposed the League of Nations and the Permanent Court of International Justice (the World Court) and fought the U.S. postwar deflation policy. In 1924 he ran for President on the Progressive ticket and polled 5 million votes. The strain of the campaign sapped his strength, and he died the following summer.

Other Family Members

Robert La Follete's wife, Belle Case La Follette, 1859–1931, b. Juneau co., Wis., obtained a law degree, worked for woman suffrage, engaged in journalism, and ably advised her husband throughout his life. Their older son, Robert Marion La Follette, Jr., 1895–1953, b. Madison, Wis., assisted (1919–25) his father as secretary, then succeeded him in the U.S. Senate and served there until 1947, when he was defeated in the Wisconsin primaries. "Young Bob," as he was known, also championed tax reform and backed New Deal legislation until the passage of the 1938 naval expansion bill. Another son, Philip Fox La Follette, 1897–1965, b. Madison, Wis., served (1931–33, 1935–39) as governor of Wisconsin.


See the elder Robert La Follette's autobiography (1913, new ed. 1960); E. N. Doan, The La Follettes and the Wisconsin Idea (1947); R. S. Maxwell, La Follette and the Rise of the Progressives in Wisconsin (1956) and, ed., La Follette (1969); D. Young, ed., Adventures in Politics: The Memoirs of Philip La Follette (1970); N. C. Unger, Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer (2000).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

La Follette, Robert Marion


Born June 14, 1855, in Primrose, Wis.; died June 18, 1925, in Washington, D.C. US politician, lawyer.

A member of the House of Representatives as a Republican from 1885 to 1891, La Follette was governor of Wisconsin from 1901 to 1905 and became a US senator in 1906. In 1911 he was one of the founders of the National Progressive Republican League, which criticized the conservative policies of the Republican Party leadership. He denounced the US entry into World War I. In 1924 he ran as an independent candidate for president, supported by the American Federation of Labor and a number of other organizations united in the Progressive bloc (also called the La Follette movement). La Follette’s election platform, reflecting the dissatisfaction of a broad range of the population with both the Republican and Democratic parties, called for restrictions on the economic and political power of the monopolies, democratization of the country’s political life, and improvement in the conditions of farmers and workers. In the election of 1924, La Follette won about 5 million votes (running third behind the Democratic and Republican candidates).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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