John Patrick Grace papers, 1902-1940

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Grace, John P. (John Patrick), 1874-1940
Politician and journalist, of Charleston, S.C. Personal and legal papers. Includes material on Charleston and South Carolina politics; the Charleston American, a newspaper founded by Grace; anti-English feeling at the time of World War I; American sympathy for Irish nationalism; enforcement of the Espionage Act against Grace for his wartime editorials; land speculation in Florida during the 1920s; Grace's speaking engagements on behalf of Alfred E. Smith (1928); his opposition to Roosevelt's nomination in 1932; and his attitude toward world events in the 1930s.
26 Linear Feet
12,082 Items
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The Grace papers are divided into several series: Correspondence, Miscellany, Legal and Financial Papers, Clippings and Printed Material, and Volumes.

The bulk of the collection lies in the Correspondence series, dating 1908-1940, with topics ranging from Grace's personal news, business adventures, and his political career. The early letters, pre-1920, are largely concerned with Charleston politics. Correspondence from the mayoralty election of 1915, the election of the U.S. representative from South Carolina in 1916, and the mayoralty election of 1919 all reveal the corruption and violence that regularly accompanied Charleston elections in the early twentieth century. Grace was a candidate for mayor in 1911, 1915, and 1919. He appears to have been considered an upstart in Charleston politics; at least he claimed to be opposed to the rule of the reactionary aristocrats who, he thought, had controlled Charleston. Since Grace was Roman Catholic, religious prejudice was often injected into the elections campaigns in which he was active, particularly for the election of 1919.

The corruption of Charleston elections was also demonstrated by several governors when they called out the militia to keep the peace in Charleston during elections (for example, 1919), by the murder of a Grace man in 1915, and Grace's charge that Francis Marion Whaley bought his seat in the House of Representatives in the election of 1916. This accusation led to a hearing in the House of Representatives, which decided against an investigation, claiming a lack of evidence to support the charge of corruption.

Another large amount of correspondence stems from Grace's publishing of the Charleston American, a daily morning paper begun in 1916. From the many letters concerning the founding and progress of the paper, the problems and great expense connected with the publication of a daily paper become apparent. Also, there are comparisons of the progress of the Charleston American with the established News and Courier.

In his Charleston American editorials, Grace regularly criticized the ongoing war in Europe. His pro-Irish opinions were accompanied by accusations that England had begun the war in order to preserve its naval and commercial superiority. He wrote that the United States had been flooded by British propaganda, and considered British naval policy to be a more flagrant violation of neutrality than German submarine attacks.

Grace wanted the United States to observe strict neutrality, as Wilson had proposed. When the United States entered the war, Grace was extremely angry, calling it "Wilson's War." His editorials were so critical of Wilson and so pro-German that Grace, on the basis of the Espionage Act, was cited to appear for a hearing, and the Charleston American temporarily lost its third class mailing privilege.

Although Grace did not hold office after 1923, he was active in politics until his death. Correspondents included Governors Thomas Gordon McLeod (1923-1927), John Gardiner Richards (1927-1931), Ihra C. Blackwood (1931-1935), and Olin D. Johnston (1925-1939). Grace appeared closest to Richards, asking and receiving many favors. Grace despised Blackwood, however, and denounced him publicly for removing Grace from the state's highway commission.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Grace also corresponded with a number of national politicians. In 1922, he received a letter from his friend and Representative from South Carolina, W. Turner Logan, who spoke of joining the "Bolsheviks, Borah, LaFollette and Frasier," and explained that this alignment was not a third party movement but "simply progressive." Grace also exchanged letters with Millard E. Tydings, James F. Byrnes, Hamilton Fish, Jr., James A. Reed, Pat McCarran, George W. Norris, James E. Murray, Eugene Talmadge, Ellison D. Smith, and William W. Ball.

Grace was active in the presidential election of 1928, and was invited by Tydings to make a series of addresses in behalf of Alfred E. Smith, the Democratic candidate. In the course of this election, some of Grace's letters reveal his political philosophy, and this was elaborated in his letters during the 1930s. In connection with the presidential election of 1932, Grace was sorely disappointed when Franklin D. Roosevelt won the Democratic nomination over Al Smith. Grace accused Roosevelt of being an ingrate and an opportunist, and remained a severe critic of Roosevelt, especially concerning Roosevelt's treatment of the Supreme Court.

Also of interest in correspondence from the 1920s are Grace's speculation in Florida real estate, his losses growing out of the depression, and his opinion (from 1934) as to the causes of the depression.

During the 1930s, Grace wrote at length on world politics. The letters are particularly good for discerning his political philosophy, his reasoning with respect to the entrance of the United States into World War I, and his opinion as to the developments in Europe that led to World War II. While he disapproved of some of Hitler's tactics, Grace wrote in 1938 that Hitler was one of the greatest men of the day. Important also is the long letter from George Norris explaining why he had voted against the entrance of the United States into World War I.

The Legal and Financial Papers series, dated 1885-1939, includes documents connected with the business of the Charleston American, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Co., the Cooper River Bridge Co., the Whaley hearing, and the O.B. Limehouse Case, among others. Cases are arranged alphabetically; the remainder of the series is sorted chronologically. The financial papers also contain many bills and receipts.

The remaining papers are sorted into Miscellany, Clippings, and Printed Material. The Volumes series includes three scrapbooks of newspaper clippings.

Biographical / historical:

John P. Grace was born on "factory hill" in Charleston, S.C., in 1874. He attended the Christian Brothers' School, Charleston High School, and received his law degree in 1902 from Georgetown. In the course of his law career he was associated with the firms of Logan and Grace and Logan, Grace, and Cosgrove. He founded and edited the Charleston American daily newspaper and was elected mayor of Charleston for two terms, 1911-1915 and 1919-1923. Until his death on June 25, 1940, he was influential politically in Charleston as well as in state political circles. He was a member of the Hibernian Society, the German Rifle Club, the Elks Club, the Knights of Columbus, and of several organizations dedicated to Irish liberty. He was also the attorney for the Central Labor Union of Charleston.

Acquisition information:
The John Patrick Grace Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a purchase in 1956.
Processing information:

Processed by Rubenstein Library Staff, 1970s

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, January 2011

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], John Patrick Grace Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University