A portrait of George Rublee from the FTC Reporter (1915)

A portrait of George Rublee from the FTC Reporter (1915)

Legislation always has many parents, but George Rublee made special efforts to instill progressive politics into federal antitrust legislation. Rublee was a kind of political itinerant. Not formally affiliated with any party, Rublee’s legal training, conviction, and wealth made it possible for him to lead an interesting career with contributions to public policy in several fields. Rublee was a speechwriter for President Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive party activist, and internationalist, ending his career with an effort to find havens for German Jews in 1938.


Despite Rublee’s affiliation with the Roosevelt campaign, Louis D. Brandeis tapped Rublee to assist in the Wilson administration’s antitrust plan. While Brandeis had muckraked for radical reform of big business, favoring prohibitions on a wide range of business practices, Rublee set upon the problem and determined that Brandeis’ approach would fail. In a meeting with President Wilson in May 1914, Rublee convinced both Brandeis and Wilson that a general law banning unfair competition paired with a strong agency was the most efficacious approach. This view carried the day, in part because of Rublee’s tireless lobbying of the FTCA. Rublee later served as a Commissioner, but his tenure was marred by what he saw as inept fellow commissioners, by budget constraints at the new agency, and by the inability to gain formal confirmation to the agency. As Commissioner, Rublee attempted to hire top economists, to steer the agency away from becoming an advice-giving body, and to focus on big cases instead of petty frauds.

Rublee married Juliet Barrett, who earned her own place in American history as Suffragist, birth control advocate, and contemporary of Margaret Sanger. Her papers are maintained by Smith College.[2] Rublee was the son of Horace Rublee, a Republican Party leader, journalist, and ambassador to Switzerland.

[1] See generally Marc Eric McClure, Earnest endeavors: The Life and Public Work of George Rublee (2003).

[2] http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/sophiasmith/mnsss285.html.