Stanley Fletcher Morse Papers,

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Charleston's Grass Roots League.

Extent: 32.5 linear ft. (26 cartons)
Extent: 117 vol.
Location: PU-4

Overview of collection [use the BACK button on browser to return to this page]
published in the 1998 edition of the University South Caroliniana Society Program, pp. 5-7.



1884 September 15 Born in Watertown, Massachusetts, son of Harry F. and Emma Bean Morse. One brother, Allan, and one sister, Ruth.
ca. 1898-1906 Graduated from Watertown High School and attended Massachusetts Agricultural College (University of Massachusetts), Amherst, Massachusetts.
1906 Graduated from Harvard University (Bussey Institute of Agriculture) with a B.A.S. degree.
1906-1907 Commenced career as agricultural engineer as the assistant field manager on cotton plantation - Cia Agricola del Tiahualilo, Mexico.
ca. 1908-1910 Assistant managing editor, The Country Gentleman.
1910 Married Elizabeth Fenn Leonard of Albany, New York.
1910-1911 Agriculturist, National Railways of Mexico and Mexico Express Company.
ca. 1913-1916 University of Arizona, Director of the Agricultural Extension Service. State leader of county agents, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
ca. 1916-1925 Morse Agricultural Service, New Orleans, Louisiana; New York, New York, editorial board of Facts About Sugar.
1925 Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
ca. 1926 Arrived in Sumter, South Carolina, to inspect farms for Judge J. H. Marion of Chester.
1927 Purchased Edgehill plantation at Stateburg, Sumter County, South Carolina. Also purchased home in Rockville, Wadmalaw Island, around same time.
1935-1936 Organized Farmers' Independence Council of America. Served as vice president.
1941 Sold Edgehill plantation and relocated to Winter Park, Florida. Maintained residence in Rockville, Wadmalaw Island.
1943-1946 Served with the Foreign Economics Administration as Chief of the American Food Mission to French North Africa; also, Chief of the Food Division, North African Joint (Anglo-American) Economic Mission. Stationed in Morocco.
1946 Returned to Rockville residence on Wadmalaw Island.
1947 Morse and other concerned Charleston County residents organized the Charleston County Citizens League. Morse served as organization's president.
1951-1954 Grass Roots Crusade formed as outgrowth of Charleston County Citizens League. Legally incorporated as Grass Roots League in 1954.
1962 January Elizabeth Morse died.
1964 February Married Carolyn Gillespie Mellette.
1971-1975 Lived in Sumter with Carolyn.
1975 April 9 Morse died in Sumter.

Biographical Sketch
The first question which presents itself is whether we are to sit here and allow the surrounding conditions to control us, or are we going to control them. The progressive man is never contented until he has successfully surmounted all the obstacles in his path; and as far as that goes he never is contented, for he is always climbing.
In 1907, Stanley Fletcher Morse wrote these words in an agricultural report with regard to the feasibility of constructing a reservoir in a Mexican village; however, the prose also could have described his commitment to civic and political action. Stanley Morse was not one to let his environment control him; he devoted much of his life to forwarding the causes he believed to be true. Morse enjoyed a long and active professional life - first as an agricultural engineer and a consultant and later as the founder and president of the Grass Roots League, a patriotic organization dedicated to preserving traditional American government and combating the forces of communism. In this collection are the reminiscences of a man devoted to upholding a traditional America; through countless editorial letters, essays, speeches, and articles researchers may study the development of a career that spanned two World Wars, the Great Depression, McCarthyism, and the Civil Rights Era.

Stanley Fletcher Morse was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, on September 15, 1884, to Harry F. and Emma Bean Morse. The oldest of three children, Morse graduated from Watertown High School and attended the Massachusetts Agricultural College before transferring to Harvard College's Bussey Institute to study agriculture and economics. In 1906, Morse graduated from Harvard and accepted a position in Mexico, where he worked as the assistant field manger at Cia Agricola del Tiahualilo, a cotton plantation. He spent several years in Mexico, but maintained his connections to North America through his role as the assistant managing editor of the agricultural journal The Country Gentleman. During this time, he conducted a long-distance courtship with Elizabeth Fenn Leonard of Albany, New York, until they married in 1910. While in Mexico (Elizabeth joined him after their marriage), Morse also served as an agriculturist for the National Railways and for the Mexico Express Company.

His tenure in Mexico complete, Morse returned to the United States and settled in Arizona, where he accepted a position as lecturer and director of the Agricultural Extension Service at the University of Arizona from 1913 to 1916. During this time, he also served as a state leader of county agents for the United States Department of Agriculture in Arizona. In 1916, Morse and Elizabeth, along with their son Stanley, Jr., moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he started a successful consulting firm - Morse Agricultural Service. In 1926, a consulting project led Morse to Sumter, South Carolina, where he inspected farms for Judge J. H. Marion of Chester. In 1927, the Morse family relocated to South Carolina and purchased Edgehill Plantation at Stateburg in Sumter County. Around this time, they also either purchased or rented a second home in Rockville on Wadmalaw Island.

During the mid-1930s, Morse grew wary of federal programs and argued that many of President Roosevelt's New Deal policies were aimed at inculcating socialistic policies on American farmers. In 1935, he incorporated the Farmers' Independence Council of America, an organization that fought the regimentation of American farming. He claimed that “the Agricultural Adjustment Act is an attempt by the United States Government to aid and stimulate the recovery of agriculture by legislative and administrative means. . . . It impliedly assumes that there is inherent in government a power greater than that of the human beings who compose it. Perhaps it is a hangover from the days of the absolute monarchy, when the king was presumed to reign by divine appointment and to possess superhuman omniscience.” A persuasive writer, Morse voiced his opposition to government regimentation, subsidization, and crop controls in numerous editorial letters and in correspondence to government officials.

Morse's expertise in the field of agriculture led him to a civilian position with the United States government during World War II. At the age of 59, Morse left the United States for two years to serve with the Foreign Economics Administration as the Chief of the American Food Mission to French North Africa and as the Chief of the Food Division to the North African Joint Economic Mission. Morse was stationed in Morocco but traveled throughout the continent. Both projects strove to alleviate food production problems in North Africa.

In 1947, Morse and a group of Charleston residents organized the Charleston County Citizens' League, a local branch of the Citizens Councils of America. The organization strove to “promote better citizenship, better government and the American system in County, State, and Nation and to combat socialism by giving the true facts to the people.” The League advocated the preservation of a traditional constitutional form of government and hoped to thwart attempts by politicians to regiment citizens. Morse, in his role as president, opposed government's role in business and agriculture and demanded that unnecessary expenses be cut and that inflationary policies be stopped. He also lobbied for a strong foreign policy program and opposed “attempts to promote or finance International Socialism under the guise of national defense.” Perhaps the League's greatest achievement was the success of its lobbying effort to institute a county council-manager form of government in Charleston County in 1948.

As Morse grew increasingly involved in the Citizens' League, he noted that there was a real need on the part of the organization to perform more services for citizens and to reach out to patriotic Americans beyond Charleston. Morse explained that “the Citizens' League, realizing that misgovernment in Washington was harmful to the county and every citizen in it, decided to undertake a campaign to arouse citizens to action to safeguard their interests through publicity and organization.” Thus, he formed the Citizens' Grass Roots Crusade in 1951 (legally incorporated in 1954 and renamed the Grass Roots League). As an outgrowth of the Charleston Citizens' League, the Grass Roots League was ostensibly a non-profit and non-political organization. As a patriotic society, it was devoted to civic fact-finding and to furnishing reliable information to the public. According to Morse, it represented “good government, states rights, local self-government and individual freedom.”

The records of this organization offer a unique window onto conservative American ideologies during the tumultuous McCarthy era of the 1950s. More so than the Charleston Citizens' League, the Grass Roots League focused on the detrimental effects of communism and socialism in this country, and its members espoused an unyielding foreign policy platform towards Soviet Russia and China. The Grass Roots League's research department published numerous pamphlets and tracts outlining the threat of communism and the role it played in government policy, race relations, and religion. Morse saw the destructive forces of communism at work in all aspects of society. His speeches, articles, and editorial letters grew increasingly fervent during this time period. He corresponded frequently with state senators as well as members of the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities. He obtained transcripts of hearings and kept copious notes on the activities of alleged communists within South Carolina and across the South.

After a long illness, Elizabeth died in 1962; at this time Morse assumed a less public role in the Grass Roots League. While still very concerned that the organization continue to propound the principles he espoused, Morse - at the age of 78 - decided to step away from his active leadership role. In 1964, he married Carolyn Gillespie Mellette. They enjoyed eleven years together until Morse's death at the age of 91 on April 9, 1975. While Morse may have curtailed his professional activities in the last decade of his life, he nevertheless continued to express his opinions in editorial letters that discussed segregation, urban renewal, the Vietnam War, and Christianity; in fact, he wrote his last letter only days before his death. It was published posthumously.

Scope and Content Notes

The papers of Stanley F. Morse (SFM) (1884 - 1975) consist of approximately thirty linear feet of materials that document his personal life, his career as an agriculturist, and his involvement in the Grass Roots League. Contextually, the papers span three quarters of the twentieth century, ranging from 1900 to 1975. The collection is divided into five series: (1) Personal Papers, (2) Agriculture, (3) Political and Civic Involvement, (4) Photographs, and (5) Publications.

Series I. Personal Papers

Series I is divided into two subseries: Biographical and Family/Personal Correspondence. The biographical information includes childhood memorabilia, class notes from Harvard University, newspaper clippings, family histories, nineteenth-century family deeds, awards, and personal family effects. Also included is an original sketch drawn for Stanley by Carey Orr, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who worked at the Chicago Tribune during the 1930s and 1940s. Entitled “Do You Want this in America? Crop Production Control in Europe,” the work depicts an image of a farmer laboring in a field with the specter of a militant soldier standing above him. This subseries also includes examples of SFM's non-professional writings: poetry, essays, and fiction. Family and personal correspondence consists of letters exchanged by SFM and various members of his family: among the family correspondents are Alan Morse (brother), Carolyn Morse (second wife), Elizabeth Morse (first wife), Emma Bean Morse (mother), and Ruth Morse (sister). Included within this sub-series is correspondence between family members other than SFM. For instance, Ruth and Elizabeth Morse corresponded frequently, and Elizabeth corresponded with her family members and friends. Of particular interest is the series of letters that SFM exchanged with Elizabeth while stationed in North Africa; he wrote weekly throughout 1944. The letters describe life in Africa, his work with the Economic Mission, and agricultural conditions; they also reveal a more personal side of SFM as expressed through his feelings for his wife. This sub-series also includes three folders of general personal correspondence - generally letters from Harvard friends and individuals with whom SFM and Elizabeth associated. Of interest is a series of letters to SFM from The Reverend Albert S. Thomas, D.D., written between 1952 and 1965.

Series II. Agriculture

Series II is divided into seven subseries: Early Career (Mexico, Arizona), 1906-17; Consulting Service, 1917-48; Agriculture, the Great Depression, and the New Deal, 1930-42; World War II, North Africa Joint Economic Mission, 1943-46; General Topical Files; SFM Agricultural Writings and Speeches; and Topographical Maps. In general, this series documents SFM's lengthy career as an agricultural engineer; it reflects his interests in soil conservation, farm efficiency, and the development of the concept of agribusiness.

The materials in the subseries “Early Career (Mexico, Arizona), 1906-17” document the first years of SFM's career after receiving his B.A.S. degree from Harvard. Materials include reports, letters, ledgers, and newspapers generated and collected by SFM while he worked on a Mexican plantation. Also included are materials pertaining to the year SFM taught at the University of Arizona - some student materials and copies of exams. There are also records that pertain to SFM's tenure on the editorial staff of the agricultural journal The Country Gentleman, including articles written by SFM, clippings, and copies of the journal.

The sub-series “Consulting Service, 1917-48” provides in-depth representation of SFM's career as an agriculturist. This sub-series is comprised primarily of the reports SFM prepared for his various clients over the course of his career. There is also some administrative information pertaining to the operation of his business, such as mailing lists, rolodexes, advertisements, journals, and service contracts. Of particular interest are the materials that address issues surrounding agriculture and farming during the Great Depression.

The sub-series “Agriculture, the Great Depression, and the New Deal, 1930-42” contains materials related to farm organizations active during the Great Depression. Of significance are the records pertaining to SFM's participation in the Farmers' Independence Council of America. (Please note that there is some overlap between “Consulting Service” and this sub-series.)

“World War II, North Africa Joint Economic Mission, 1943-46” provides a comprehensive account of SFM's service in North Africa. It includes correspondence with various government officials in the United States, England, and France during his tenure with the mission. This sub-series includes reports and updates on the progress of the mission's work. Of particular interest are SFM's work-related journals and notebooks as well as his personal diary. Some correspondence and reports are written in French. There are also a few North African publications (journals, newspapers) that SFM collected in Africa.

The “General Topical Files” sub-series contains information pertaining to agriculture and agribusiness in general. Much of the information appears to have comprised reference/research files that SFM created for his own professional use. Also included in this subseries are articles written about SFM during his career as an agriculturist.

SFM was an avid writer and public speaker. “SFM Agricultural Writings, Speeches” contains drafts, published copies, and reprints of articles that SFM wrote over the course of his career as an agricultural engineer. It also contains editorials and speeches composed over the course of his career.

“Topographical Maps” contains a number of oversized original maps that SFM used during his career as an agricultural consultant.

Series III. Political And Civic Involvement

Divided into five subseries, Series III chronicles SFM's interest and involvement in the American political scene from the 1930s to his death in 1975. The series is divided as follows: Early Political Involvement; Charleston County Citizens' League/Grass Roots League; SFM Political Writings/Speeches; and General Topical Files.

The materials found in “Early Political Involvement” reveal SFM's emerging interest in politics during the New Deal. He disagreed with many of President Roosevelt's policies towards farming - in particular the Agricultural Adjustment Act. He reacted by commencing an active editorial letter campaign that continued throughout his life. The correspondence in this sub-series reveals how he became much more politically minded in his career as a consultant.

Of historical significance is the collection of materials on SFM's involvement in The Charleston Citizens' League and the Grass Roots League (in the second sub-series). In his role as the founder and president of both organizations, SFM revealed both his patriotism and his conservative political outlook. One can trace themes that emerged during his early participation in politics (threat of socialism, fear of communism, excessive governmental control) directly to the goals and missions of the Charleston Citizens' League and the Grass Roots League. The materials within this sub-series document SFM's involvement first in the Citizens' League and then the Grass Roots League. Materials include charter documentation, incorporation materials, member lists, and administrative documentation. This series also contains the Grass Roots League's newsletter, The Independent Citizen. There is a great deal of material reflective of the Grass Roots League's efforts to publicize its mission and activities: press releases, newspaper advertisements, newspaper clippings, and articles. The Research Department devoted a great deal of time to producing and publishing documents, pamphlets, and fliers; these documents, included in this sub-series, perhaps best explain the mission of the GRL and provide insight into SFM's political ideology. Correspondence in this sub-series includes letters to and from a variety of public figures including the following twentieth-century political personages:

William Stephenson, editor The Virginian
Mark W. Clark
William Loeb, Manchester, NH, Union Leader
L. Mendel Rivers
Strom Thurmond
Mrs. William F. Buckley
Jesse Helms
Styles Bridges
Joseph Martin
James F. Byrnes
Herbert Hoover
The sub-series “SFM Political Writings/Speeches” reflects SFM's years of public speaking and writing efforts. Between 1930 and 1975, SFM wrote countless editorials and forwarded them to newspapers across the country. These letters reflect the fact that SFM was usually not afraid to speak out. Rarely did he use a pseudonym; when he did it was usually John Q. Public, Mrs. Elizabeth Morse or “a concerned citizen.” SFM also accepted many invitations to speak out publicly. (Included in the collection are some original reel-to-reel audiotaped recordings of speeches. Currently, they are not available for use by researchers until they are transferred to a useable format.) Some of his earlier speeches reveal the confluence of his agricultural and political interests; by the time the Grass Roots League was founded most speeches reflect his interest in preserving a traditional American way of life and fighting communism.

Lastly, SFM, in his role as the president of GRL, maintained extensive reference and subject files. Included in the final sub-series are the contents of what probably made up the GRL's filing system. Broken into two divisions, “General Topical Files” contain information that the GRL requested or received regarding other organizations (right wing, anti-Communist, white supremacist, as well as materials on the NAACP, Congress of Racial Equality, Africa Defense and Aid Fund). Additionally, this group of materials includes topical subject files. One of the larger ones is the GRL's file on anti-communism; it contains a wealth of information on the 1950s McCarthy era, the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, socialism, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Series IV. Photographs

This series contains approximately 600 photographs divided into two subseries - personal and agricultural. The personal photographs include images of family members and SFM's boyhood home. SFM and his associates probably took the agricultural photographs for use in consulting reports. Included are images of plant life, soil, and farm equipment. Of interest are the series of photographs SFM took while in Africa. In addition to the traditional agricultural images, the group also contains many pictures of life in Morocco and Tunisia. Many of the photographs are small images; the majority are black and white with a few daguerreotypes and early portraits included. There are also a number of unidentified negatives for the photographic collection.

Series V. Publications

This series is comprised of the library of SFM and the Grass Roots League. It is divided into five subseries: newsletters, monographs; pamphlets/political tracts; periodicals (journals, magazines); and government documents. The bulk of materials in this series are publications that reflect a right wing, anti-communist sentiment in America in the 1950s and 1960s. There are a few publications that pertain to SFM's agricultural career, such as textbooks and other scientific publications. Many of the documents were put out by small, vanity presses and are not commonly found on the shelves of libraries and bookstores. Many of the journals are no longer in print. Most of the government documents were published during the 1950s and express an anti-communist sentiment; many were published by the United States Government Printing Office. The GRL probably maintained many subscriptions to the newsletters of organizations with similar missions; this is reflected in the variety of newsletters included in this collection. All provide an excellent look at a right wing, conservative outlook and reflect evolving fears concerning communism, civil rights, segregation, race, and government activities.

Description of Series

Personal Papers, ca 1884-1975, undated (Boxes 1, 15; 1 Oversized flat file folder)

Arranged topically by subseries: Biographical, Family/Personal Correspondence; arranged alphabetically within subseries. Legal documents, correspondence, personal effects, and biographical and genealogical materials.

Agriculture, 1907-47, undated (Boxes 2-5, 15; 3 map files)

Arranged topically by subseries: Early Career; Consulting Service; Agriculture, the Great Depression, and the New Deal; World War II, North Africa Joint Economic Mission; Correspondence; General Topical Files; SFM Agricultural Writings, Speeches; and Topographical Maps. Arranged alphabetically within subseries. Correspondence, ledgers, journals, diaries, newspaper clippings, reports, articles, speeches, editorial letters, and topographical maps.

Political and Civic Involvement, ca 1930-75, undated (Boxes 5-13, 16-17; 2 map files; Audio tapes)

Arranged topically by subseries: Early Political Involvement; Charleston Country Citizens' League/Grass Roots League; SFM Political Writings/Speeches; General Topical Files. Arranged alphabetically within subseries. Correspondence, newspaper clippings, reports, articles, speeches, editorial letters, membership lists, charter documents, constitution and bylaws, press releases, audio tapes, research pamphlets, broadsides, U.S. government documents.

Photographs, ca 1907-45, undated (Box 18)

Approximately 650 images arranged topically by subseries: Agriculture, Personal. Black and white photographs, daguerreotypes, photographic negatives. Varying sizes from 2 in. by 3 in. to 8 in. by 10 in.

Publications, ca 1899-1975 (Boxes 13-14)

Arranged topically by subseries: Monographs; Pamphlets/Political Tracts; Periodicals; Government Documents; and Newsletters. Bound books, government documents and periodicals (journals). Newsletters are arranged alphabetically and then chronologically in boxes 13 and 14. Refer to USCAN for information on retrieving books, government documents and periodicals.

Stanley F. Morse Library of Publications

8.75 linear ft. (7 cartons)

Various books and other publications re labor relations, Communism, conspiracies, international relations, social changes of the day, and other concerns during the Cold War era in the United States.

Titles listed individually in USCAN. Request by carton number.

Container List

The container list for the Stanley Fletcher Morse Papers consists of a sixty-three page file available in

Adobe Acrobat PDF formatPDF Version (To update software visit Adobe Acrobat homepage.)

Microsoft Word formatMS Word

Administrative Notes

Location: PU-4
Processed: Meg Moughan, Project Archivist, and Susan Asbury and Kathy Hilliard, Project Assistants (April 1998)
Notes: Information concerning copyright must be secured in writing from the Director of the South Caroliniana Library.

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