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  FATHER COUGHLIN, HUEY LONG, & UPTON SINCLAIR; VOICES FOR THE DISAFFECTED IN 1930s AMERICA

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UPTON SINCLAIR

Sinclair noted in I, Candidate that the worst of the smear was generated by out-of-context quotations from his 1917 book, The Profits of ReligionPDF File. Sinclair said:

The greatest handicap I had to face in the campaign was "The Profits of Religion." This book was written and published in 1917, in the midst of the Word War, and has the bitterness universal at that time. I saw millions of peasant boys being led out to slaughter in the interest of the governing classes of Europe; I saw priests of Jesus blessing the flags, and inciting the mass destruction of the human race. I sat down to study religion from a new point of view--the use, or rather the abuse which had been made of it, "as a source of income and a shield to privilege". The book is a defense of true religion, its purpose being to take the churches out of the hands of ruling classes and exploiters of all kinds  (I, Candidate 63).

SInclair making a point Not only were Hearst and Mayer running amok with Sinclair's thirty years of social criticism under the moniker of socialism, but even Father Coughlin withdrew his support from the EPIC Plan. When Sinclair met with him while on the way back from his trip to meet FDR in Washington, Coughlin strongly criticized Sinclair for his views on the Catholic Church, and Christianity in general. Sinclair explained to Coughlin that his views on religion were largely misunderstood, and Coughlin said, "You may say that I am willing to forgive you for anything you may have written against our church seventeen years ago. Tell them about Paul who persecuted the Christians and later joined them." Sinclair went on to say that Coughlin generally agreed with the EPIC Plan. However, despite Coughlin's kind remarks at their meeting, once the smear campaign by Hearst, Mayer, and their cronies hit full-swing, Coughlin refused all contact from Sinclair (I, Candidate 100-102).  

The "stop Sinclair" campaign was most effective. Not only were quotations used out-of-context, but the smear was also aimed at branding him a Communist, with strong ties to Bolshevism (though man California Communist Party members were in support of Sinclair). Neither of which were true, but the damage was done. To further complicate the campaign, the Republican incumbent, George Merriam, through a complicated back-door deal with the Democratic party leaders via FDR, pledged his support of the New Deal in order to swing votes away from Sinclair (Hackett 38). The effects of the smear and of Merriam's deal were apparent at 1934 election polls: 1,080,562 for Merriam, Republican; and 899,431 for Sinclair, Democrat (McEdwards 199).



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