Philander C. Knox: Wikis


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Philander Chase Knox

In office
1917 – 1921
Preceded by George T. Oliver
Succeeded by William E. Crow

In office
March 6, 1909 – March 5, 1913
President William Howard Taft
Preceded by Robert Bacon
Succeeded by William Jennings Bryan

In office
June 1904 – 1909
Preceded by Matthew Quay
Succeeded by George T. Oliver

In office
April 5, 1901 – June 30, 1904
President William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt
Preceded by John W. Griggs
Succeeded by William H. Moody

Born May 6, 1853(1853-05-06)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died October 12, 1921 (aged 68)
Washington, DC, U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater West Virginia University
Mount Union College
Profession Lawyer, Politician

Philander Chase Knox (May 6, 1853–October 12, 1921) was an American lawyer and politician who served as Attorney General and U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania and was Secretary of State from 1909-1913.


Early life, education, and marriage

Knox was born in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania suburb of Brownsville, Pennsylvania. His father was a banker and his mother was active in philanthropic and social organizations. He went to private primary and secondary schools attended by the affluent.

Knox went to and graduated from Mount Union College in 1872 with a bachelor of arts degree. Whilst there, he formed a lifelong friendship with future U.S. President William McKinley, who was at the time a local district attorney.

Knox married Lillie Smith, the daughter of Andrew Smith of the firm Smith, Sutton and Co., in 1880.

Legal career

He was admitted to the bar in 1875 and practiced in Pittsburgh. From 1876-1877 he was Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and became President of the Pennsylvania Bar Association in 1897.

Knox was a leading Pittsburgh attorney in partnership with James Hay Reed, their firm being Knox and Reed (now Reed Smith LLP). Knox was also a member of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, whose earthen dam failed in May 1889, causing the Johnstown Flood. When word of the dam's failure was telegraphed to Pittsburgh, Frick and other members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club gathered to form the Pittsburgh Relief Committee for tangible assistance to the flood victims as well as determining to never speak publicly about the club or the flood. This strategy was a success, and Knox and Reed were able to fend off all lawsuits that would have placed blame upon the Club’s members.

Knox was a member of the Duquesne Club. Along with fellow South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club member Jesse H. Lippencott, Knox served as a director of the Fifth National Bank of Pittsburgh. Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Mellon and Philander Knox were directors of the Pittsburgh National Bank of Commerce.

Knox's nickname was “Sleepy Phil” which is said to have been because he dozed off during board meetings or because he was cross-eyed, making it difficult for his two eyes to track together.

As counsel for the Carnegie Steel Company, he took a prominent part in organizing the United States Steel Corporation in 1901.

U.S. Attorney General

He served as Attorney General in the cabinets of Presidents McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt from 1901 to 1904.

While serving Roosevelt, Knox worked hard with the concept of Dollar Diplomacy.

He is well-known for famous quote to Roosevelt: "Mister President, do not let so great an achievement suffer from any taint of legality," made in regards to the construction of the Panama Canal. (A slightly rephrased version of this quote was spoken by Brian Keith as Roosevelt in the 1975 film The Wind and the Lion.)

U.S. Senator

In June 1904, he was appointed by Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker of Pennsylvania to fill the unexpired term of Matthew S. Quay in the United States Senate.

In 1905, he was re-elected to the Senate for the full term (to 1909).

Knox made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican Party nomination in the [[1908 U.S. presidential election.

U.S. Secretary of State

In February 1909, President William Howard Taft nominated Senator Knox to be Secretary of State.[1] However, Knox was originally found to be constitutionally ineligible because the salary for the post had been increased during his Senate term, thus violating the Ineligibility Clause.[2] In particular, Knox had been elected to serve the term from March 4, 1905 to March 3, 1911 and during legislation approved on February 26, 1907 as well as debate beginning on March 4, 1908 he consistently supported pay raises eventually instituted for the 1908 fiscal calendar.[2][3] The discovery of the constitutional complication came as a surprise, after President-elect Taft had announced his intention to nominate Knox.[2] The Senate Judiciary Committee proposed the remedy of resetting the salary to its pre-service level, and the Senate passed it unanimously on February 11, 1909.[3] There was much more opposition in the U.S. House of Representatives, where the same measure was defeated once, and then after a special procedural rule was applied, was passed by a 173–115 vote.[4] On March 4, 1909, the salary of the Secretary of State position was reverted from $12,000 to $8,000, and Knox took office on March 6.[2][3] This legislative mechanism later became known as the "Saxbe fix" and has been applied in a number of similar circumstances.

Knox served as Secretary of State in Taft's cabinet until March 5, 1913. As Secretary of State, Knox reorganized the Department on a divisional basis, extended the merit system to the Diplomatic Service up to the grade of chief of mission, pursued a policy of encouraging and protecting American investments abroad, declared the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, and accomplished the settlement of the Bering Sea controversy and the North Atlantic fisheries controversy.

Return to the Senate

Following his term of office, Knox resumed the practice of law in Pittsburgh.

Knox was again elected to the Senate from Pennsylvania and served from 1917 to 1921.

Knox was a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 1920 U.S. Presidential election but was handily defeated at the convention.

In April 1921 he introduced a Senate resolution to bring a formal end to American involvement in World War I. It was combined with a similar House resolution to create the Knox-Porter Resolution, signed by President Warren G. Harding on July 21.

Knox died in Washington, D.C. later that year.

See also


External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
John W. Griggs
United States Attorney General
Succeeded by
William H. Moody
United States Senate
Preceded by
Matthew S. Quay
United States Senator (Class 3) from Pennsylvania
Served alongside: Boies Penrose
Succeeded by
George T. Oliver
Preceded by
George T. Oliver
U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
William E. Crow
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Bacon
United States Secretary of State
Served under: William Howard Taft

Succeeded by
William Jennings Bryan


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