Obsolescent Big Guns, Judicial Suppleness and Wooden Titans



The latest developments on the dying question of limiting naval armament sent the sound of multiple stable doors being shut on horses that had long bolted. With touching respect for diplomatic niceties Japan informed Britain that it could not accept limiting the size of guns on battleships to 14 inch calibre. Japan claimed that this proposal was a manoeuvre to leave her in a position of permanent inferiority to Britain, which was mildly confusing as the Imperial Japanese Navy already boasted two ships mounting 16 inch guns. Admittedly the US Navy could boast three such vessels. Not only was naval arms limitation receding into the mists of past hops and ideals as the Far East slipped inexorably towards war, but the debate on gun sizes belonged to an earlier age of naval weaponry. When war eventually came in 1941, the aircraft carrier and land-based aircraft were to be the decisive factors.

The US Supreme Court ruled in favour of the constitutionality of the Railway Labour Relations Act which guaranteed collective bargaining in the industry on the Frazier-Lemke Act, which imposed a three year moratorium on the foreclosure of farm mortgages. It also reversed its decision of the previous year on the question of whether States could impose minimum wages for women workers. All these decisions left the Supreme Court looking less like a determined opponent of President Roosevelt’s generally liberal policies. In turn it weakened the urgency of FDR’s “Court-packing” scheme, which had appeared to be a response the Court’s obstruction. It is one of history’s more intriguing questions whether the Court’s decisions were motivated solely by considerations of Law, or whether an element of political calculation was involved.


The Catholic Church fought a doomed rear-guard action against a move by the Nazi government to curtail confessional, in practice Catholic, schools. The Pope went so far as to issue and Encyclical accusing the government of breaching the Concordat between Church and State. As the government could simply ban the circulation of the Encyclical (accusing the church of breaking its oath to the state along the way), it was simply ignored. Much greater importance was attached to the reconciliation to the regime of Field-Marshal Ludendorff. He had drifted to the fringes of public and sanity, but he still counted as the disciple of the late Field-Marshal Hindenburg who was still revered. The foundation myth of the Nazi state rested on the betrayal of the military rulers of Imperial Germany by civilian politicians, so their despotism and incompetence was ignored.

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