The Income Tax And How It Grew

and grew, and grew, and grew

Sixty years ago the permanent individual income tax, with escalation built into its table of rates, came on gently and quietly, by no means ignored, yet not the object of any great furor, either. Read more »

Paul Morphy, Chess Prodigy

Could he have beaten Bobby Fischer?

Oliver Wendell Holmes once celebrated Americans as a people “which insists in sending out yachts and horses and boys to outsail, out-run, out-fight, and checkmate all the rest of creation.” The concluding champion on his list was Paul Charles Morphy, whose youthful exploits in chess during the 1850’ won the admiration of poets, scientists, and thousands of ordinary buffs. Read more »

That Wonderful One-hoss Shay

Oliver Wendell Holmes, father of the famous Supreme Court justice, was not only a renowned professor of anatomy at Harvard but by popular acclaim the genial poet laureate of Boston, which he preferred to call “the hub of the solar system.” Despite his usual good humor, Holmes was an aggressive Unitarian and spent much time assaulting the Puritan theology of his forebears.Read more »

148 Charles Street

The Literary Lights Were Always Bright at

Everyone wanted to be invited to 148 Charles Street, where Charles Dickens mixed the punch and taught the guests parlor games, John Greenleaf Whittier and Harriet Beecher Stowe vied in telling ghost stories, and Nathaniel Hawthorne paced the bedroom floor one unhappy night in the final miserable year of his life.Read more »

Memo To: Oliver Wendell Holmes From: The Friends Of Old Ironsides Subject: Help!

It was a bright day for the Republic, that afternoon of May 15, 1815, when the U.S.S. Constitution victoriously dropped anchor oil the Battery at New York. Of all the gala homecomings that Castle Clinton’s low brown walls would witness in the next century and a half, none would be charged with more patriotic fervor. Read more »

The Law To Make Free Enterprise Free

First among all nations the United States made “restraint of trade” a crime, and voted an economic ideal into law. One of its most energetic exponents looks back on that unique, vague, and unenforceable bit of legislation: the Sherman Antitrust Act

Ever since the Civil War there has been a continuous conflict between two opposing ideals in American economic thinking. The first of them says that business management, if relieved from the rigors of cutthroat competition, will be fair and benevolent. The age of competition is over, the theory continues, and great corporations with the power to dominate prices benefit the economy. In the field of big business, this philosophy justifies giant mergers.

Sacco-Vanzetti: The Unfinished Debate

Today, thirty-two years after Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed for the murder of a paymaster and his guard in South Braintree, Massachusetts, the ghosts of the cobbler and the fish-peddler are not at rest. As recently as last year a joint senate-house committee of the Massachusetts legislature was asked to recommend that the governor issue posthumous pardons, thus correcting “an historical injustice which had besmirched the reputation and standing of Massachusetts in the eyes of the entire world.” No pardons were forthcoming. Read more »