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A Time of Scandal

Charles R. Forbes, Warren G. Harding, and the Making of the Veterans Bureau

Rosemary Stevens

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Was the founding director of the US Veterans Bureau a criminal—or a scapegoat?

In the early 1920s, with the nation still recovering from World War I, President Warren G. Harding founded a huge new organization to treat disabled veterans: the US Veterans Bureau, now known as the Department of Veterans Affairs. He appointed his friend, decorated veteran Colonel Charles R. Forbes, as founding director. Forbes lasted in the position for only eighteen months before stepping down under a cloud of criticism and suspicion. In 1926—after being convicted of conspiracy to defraud the federal government by…

Was the founding director of the US Veterans Bureau a criminal—or a scapegoat?

In the early 1920s, with the nation still recovering from World War I, President Warren G. Harding founded a huge new organization to treat disabled veterans: the US Veterans Bureau, now known as the Department of Veterans Affairs. He appointed his friend, decorated veteran Colonel Charles R. Forbes, as founding director. Forbes lasted in the position for only eighteen months before stepping down under a cloud of criticism and suspicion. In 1926—after being convicted of conspiracy to defraud the federal government by rigging government contracts—he was sent to Leavenworth Penitentiary. Although he was known in his day as a drunken womanizer, and as a corrupt, betraying toady of a weak, blind-sided president, the question persists: was Forbes a criminal or a scapegoat?

Historian Rosemary Stevens tells Forbes’s story anew, drawing on previously untapped records to reveal his role in America’s initial and ongoing commitment to veterans. She explores how Forbes’s rise and fall in Washington illuminates President Harding’s efforts to bring business efficiency to government. She also examines the Veterans Bureau scandal in the context of class, professionalism, ethics, and etiquette in a rapidly changing world. Most significantly, Stevens proposes a fascinating revisionist view of both Forbes and Harding—and raises questions about not only the validity but the source of their respective reputations. They did not defraud the government of billions of dollars, Stevens convincingly documents, and do not deserve the reputation they have carried for a hundred years.

Packed with vibrant characters—conniving friends, FBI agents, and rival politicians split by sectional and ideological interests as well as gamblers, revelers, and wronged wives—A Time of Scandal will appeal to anyone interested in political gossip, presidential politics, the "Ohio Gang," and the 1920s.

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A Time of Scandal

Rosemary Stevens

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Reviews

[A] nuanced and well-documented exploration of the controversies around the early Veterans Bureau. A Time of Scandal is a multifaceted and strong account of an interesting time.

Her colorful narrative makes a convincing case for Forbes' rehabilitation and, in light of other recent revisionist histories, a full reconsideration of an allegedly corrupt president and administration. An engaging argument for justice for a flawed but perhaps wrongfully disgraced civil servant.

Stevens offers a richly detailed account that portrays Forbes and Harding more favorably than most previous historians. Although aimed at scholars, general readers will be fascinated by the courtroom scenes and Forbes's rehabilitation during his two- year sentence in Leavenworth Penitentiary.

Professor Rosemary Stevens has produced what is certainly the definitive work on Forbes in A Time of Scandal.

Recomended.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
408
ISBN
9781421421308
Illustration Description
19 halftones
Table of Contents

Preface
Part I. American Dreams
Chapter 1: Hidden Stories, Fateful Meetings
Chapter 2: Washington, DC, March-April 1921
Chapter 3: The Dream of Efficiency in Government

Part II. Reality Checks
Chapter 4

Preface
Part I. American Dreams
Chapter 1: Hidden Stories, Fateful Meetings
Chapter 2: Washington, DC, March-April 1921
Chapter 3: The Dream of Efficiency in Government

Part II. Reality Checks
Chapter 4: Harding's Flagship Program, the US Veterans Bureau
Chapter 5: High Stakes: Controlling Veterans Hospitals
Chapter 6: Hype, Hooch and the Art of the Con

Part III. Winds of Change
Chapter 7: Taking a Friend on a Business Trip West
Chapter 8: Harding Resurgent: White House versus Forbes
Chapter 9: Transitions in 1923: Forbes's Resignation to Harding's Death

Part IV. Scandal Time
Chapter 10: Coolidge, Common Cause and the Politics of Scandal
Chapter 11: Rush to Judgment: A Senate Committee Investigates Forbes
Chapter 12: Scandal Weavers: Scripting a Story of Rogues, Graft and Greed.
Chapter 13: The Trial of Charles R. Forbes

Part V. Aftermath
Chapter 14: Making the Best of It
Chapter 15: Charlie and Bob, Masks and Mirrors

Coda
Acknowledgments
Time Line
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Rosemary Stevens, Ph.D.

Rosemary Stevens is professor emeritus of the history and sociology and science at the University of Pennsylvania and the De Witt Wallace Distinguished Scholar in Social Medicine and Public Policy at Weill Cornell Medical College. She is the author of In Sickness and in Wealth: American Hospitals in the Twentieth Century and The Public-Private Health Care State: Essays on the History of American...