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The Life and Times of 



OF Theodore Roosevelt 

By William Henry Harbaugh 


Copyright 1961 by William Henry Harbaugh 
Library of Congress catalog number: 61-10128 
First Printing: 1961 

Published simultaneously in Canada by 
Ambassador Books, Ltd., Toronto. Manufactured 
in the U.S.A. by American Book-Stratford Press, Inc. 

The author gratefully acknowledges permission to quote brief extracts 
from the following books: Howard K. Beale, Theodore Roosevelt and the 
Rise of America to World Power, The Johns Hopkins Press; Elting E. 
Morison, Turmoil and Tradition: A Study of the Life and Times of 
Henry L. Stimson, Houghton Mifflin Company; Elting E. Morison and 
John M. Blum (editors), The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, copyright 
1951, 1952, 1954 by the Harvard University Press; George E. Mowry, 
The Era of Theodore Roosevelt, Harper & Brothers; George E. Mowry, 
Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement, The University of 
Wisconsin Press; Theodore Roosevelt, African Game Trails (Vol. IV of 
the National Edition of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt), and Theodore 
Roosevelt, An Autobiography (Vol. XX of the National Edition), Charles 
Scribner's Sons. Further acknowledgment will be found in the Preface of 
this book (page v) and in the Notes (page 523). 


This biography is written for the general reader for the man or 
woman with a broad interest in American history, and for the college 
student. I have based it partly on original sources, partly on memoirs 
and other works by Theodore Roosevelt's contemporaries, and partly 
on the collection of Roosevelt's letters and the numerous scholarly 
reappraisals of his turbulent career published in the last fifteen years. 
Throughout, I have tried to keep Roosevelt in the context of his times 
while yet exercising the historian's heavy and sobering responsibility 
of judging his subject's deeds in the perspective of time. 

Inevitably, I am heavily obligated to my friend and former 
professor, Arthur S. Link of Princeton, on whose urging I decided 
to undertake the project; to Elting E. Morison of M.I.T. for his 
thoughtful appraisal of the entire manuscript; to Hermann Hagedorn, 
director emeritus of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, for the 
generous gift of his time and for his many provocative and informa- 
tive suggestions; to Alfred Young of Patterson State College for his 
numerous perceptive criticisms of the whole; and to Richard Lowitt 
of Connecticut College for Women, who was a source of intellectual 
sustenance throughout, criticizing, encouraging, and sharing always 
his own vast knowledge of the period. 

I am also grateful to numerous other friends, colleagues, or 
graduate students for reading particular chapters or discussing special 
topics with me. Among them are Louis L. Gerson, Peter Schroeder, 
John Thorkelson, and Sam Witryol of the University of Connecticut; 
Norman Enhoraing and Ronald Grele, formerly of that institution; 
Ernest Cawcroft of Jamestown, New York; Alexander M. Bickel 
and Ward S. Bowman, Jr. of the Yale Law School; Thomas N. 


Bonner of the University of Omaha; John Wells Davidson and David 
W. Hirst of The Papers of Woodrow Wilson; and Captain David 
Horner of the United States Military Academy. 

Edmund A. Moore, my former chairman at the University of 
Connecticut, and Harrison W. Carter, dean of the college of arts and 
sciences, gave me the understanding without which books can 
hardly be written under the new dispensation of overcrowded classes 
and increased teaching schedules. Calvin Woodard read the galleys 
and caught a number of errors of fact and interpretation. Frances 
Stearns met my typing deadlines with skill and equanimity. 

I am also indebted to Robert H. Haynes, curator of the Theodore 
Roosevelt Collection at Harvard University; to Leslie C. Stratton, 
formerly director of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, and to Helen 
MacLachlan, the Association's curator; to Roberta Smith, reference 
librarian at the University of Connecticut; and to the staff of the Manu- 
script Division of the Library of Congress. 

I should like further to record my warm pleasure in the stimulating 
cooperation of John Farrar, friend, editor, and publisher, and of John 
Peck, associate editor of Farrar, Straus and Cudahy. 

Finally, I am indebted to my wife, Wayne Talbot Harbaugh, for 
more than the usual reasons. She not only compiled the index, she 
made clear, logical, and penetrating criticisms of many parts of the 
manuscript. In a different way I am also grateful for the diversions 
afforded by the invasions of my study by Lyn, who has grown to 
learn that daddy was not really writing a story about her teddy bear; 
by her friend Clemency, who was always a little skeptical; and more 
recently by Billy, to whom teddy bear and Teddy Roosevelt are just 
now becoming synonymous. 

Out of personal affection, and in appreciation of his long and fruit- 
ful service to the scholarship and memory of a great and controversial 
man, I dedicate this book to Hermann Hagedorn. 




1. The First Battle 3 

2. A Leader Emerges 24 

3. The Westerner: Rancher, Hunter, and Historian 44 


4. For the Good of the Nation 65 

5. The Fight for the Right 81 

6. The Great Adventure 91 

7. The Final Preparation 108 

8. The People's Choice 131 


9. The First Fell Blows 149 

1 0. A Historic Departure 1 66 

11. Affairs of State 182 

12. Noble Ends and Less Noble Means 198 

13. In His Own Right 212 


14. Another Measured Advance 23^ 

15. Trials, Triumph, and Tragedy 253 



16. The Peacemaker I 270 

17. The Peacemaker II 286 

18. More Troubles and Greater Tribulations 303 

19. For Generations Yet Unborn 318 

20. Toward the Welfare State 337 

21. The Campaign of 1908 349 

22. The Changing of the Guard 363 


23. The New Nationalism 377 

24. The Travails of Indecision 396 

25. The People Shall Rule 412 

26. Thou Shalt Not Steal 427 

27. Armageddon 437 


28. The Variety of Him 453 

29. The Bugle that Woke America 466 

30. The Campaign for American Rights 484 

31. The Last Battle 498 

Notes 523 

Index 551 





When I went into politics at this time I was not conscious of 
going in with the set purpose to benefit other people, but of get- 
ting for myself a privilege to which I was entitled in common 
with other people. 

Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography 

An air of anticipation fell over the gilded Chamber of the State House 
in Albany, New York, early in the afternoon of April 5, 1882, as 
Theodore Roosevelt, a twenty-three-year-old freshman assemblyman 
from New York City's twenty-first district, started to speak. 

Roosevelt was already a young man apart. He stood only five feet 
eight inches high and weighed perhaps 140 pounds; but his head was 
so large and distinctive that it made his muscular shoulders appear 
slight. It rested on a bull-like neck and was crowned by a shock of 
wavy blond hair parted a bit off center. Beneath a moderately low 
brow, blue-gray eyes squinted behind thick pince-nez, and a full blond 
mustache set off a squaring face framed by extraordinarily small ears 
knit close to the head. Roosevelt wore his finely tailored clothes with 
a flair that belied their conservative cut, and his manner was at once 
appealingly callow and offensively self-assured. Though he pronounced 
his A's with a broad accent and his R's with a soft roll, there was a 
kind of suppressed vehemence about his speech even in conversation, 
and when excited his voice would shift involuntarily from a resonant 
tenor to a shrill falsetto. 

"What on earth will New York send next?" an upstate newspaper- 
man had reflected on meeting him at the start of the legislative session. 


"We almost shouted with laughter to think that the most veritable 
representative of the New York dude had come to the Chamber," 
one of his friends recalled long afterward. 

Roosevelt's remarks that April afternoon were exceptional, even 
for him. In words so bold that the press described them as "almost 
startling," he demanded that the Assembly investigate reports that 
T. R. Westbrook, a Republican-appointed justice of the State Supreme 
Court, had colluded with Jay Gould, Russell Sage, and Cyrus Field 
in a "stock- jobbing" deal for control of the Manhattan Elevated Rail- 
way. The professionals were shocked. Neither the G.O.P. regulars nor 
the Tammany Democrats wished to cross the notorious Gould or to 
impugn state officials who owed their positions to behind-the-scenes ar- 
rangements by the leaders of both parties; they designed to ignore the 
matter. But Roosevelt, who had obtained an unpublished letter in 
which Westbrook promised Gould that he would "go to the very verge 
of judicial discretion" to advance the financier's interests, insisted on 
pressing for an investigation. 

The youthful crusader was peremptorily crushed both then and on 
the following day, April 6. Roosevelt's charges had so aroused civic 
leaders, however, that when the Assembly reconvened after the Easter 
holidays, the Republican leader, Thomas Alvord, and John Kelly, his 
Tammany counterpart, temporarily lost control of their forces. In 
spite of Alvord's sarcastic assertion that the only people upholding 
the attack on Westbrook were the "unnaturalized Englishmen who 
edited the New York Times" and the publisher of the New York 
Herald who "desired merely to get a strike at John Kelly," Roosevelt's 
resolution for an inquiry was approved on April 12 by 104 to 6. 

The victory proved short-lived, the Judiciary Committee exonerating 
Westbrook late in May over the young New Yorker's outraged pro- 
test. "To you, members of the Legislature of the greatest Common- 
wealth in this great Federal Union," Roosevelt grandiloquently de- 
clared following his rebuff, "I say you cannot by your votes clear the 
Judge. He stands condemned by his own acts in the eyes of all honest 
people. All you can do is shame yourselves and give him a brief 
extension of his dishonored career. You cannot cleanse the leper. 
Beware lest you taint yourself with his leprosy." 

The Westbrook affair was a political landmark for Theodore Roose- 
velt. For the first time he had tasted popular favor, and for the first 
time he had emerged as the leader of a faction. Although his brash- 


ness had incited resentment, especially among the regulars, his cour- 
age and persistence had also won begrudged respect. From then until 
he came out for James G. Elaine in the presidential campaign of 1884 
his reputation as a reformer with the temerity to act on his principles 
burgeoned; and from then until 1884 his influence on independent- 
minded men inside and outside the legislature heightened. "I think 
he grew faster than anybody I ever knew," Isaac Hunt, a taciturn 
farmer-lawyer-assemblyman from Jefferson County later mused. "He 
increased in stature, in strength, mentally all the time. ... I thought 
I knew more than he did, but before we got through he grew right 
away from me." 

Superficially, the way had been easy for this scion of the old New 
York aristocracy. Born into an established family of comfortable 
means, Theodore had enjoyed numerous advantages a warm and 
wholesome family circle, tutors, vacations in the country and travel 
abroad, a gentleman's education at Harvard, and a modest inheritance 
on reaching age. Had his background been different, in fact, had he 
not been known as an educated, high-minded gentleman of inde- 
pendent income, he would not even have been nominated for the 
legislature in the autumn of 1881. 

Yet the difference between outward appearances and inner strivings 
is often great. The courageous, fearless man whom the world eventu- 
ally came to know the crusader against crime and corruption, the 
heroic soldier, the assailant of big business, the creator of a national 
political party was not always the man that Roosevelt himself knew, 
or had known. His vaunted self-confidence was genuine; but it seems 
to have been more the product of experience and achievement than 
of inherent security. Roosevelt's is the story of a man driven: of a man 
whose strength derived from the conquest of fear, not from the lack 
of it; of a man compelled again and again to prove himself and 
possessed, happily, of the moral and physical stamina to do so. 

Theodore had been asthmatic from birth, rarely a day or a night 
passing during which the baby, the boy, or the adolescent did not in 
some degree suffer. One of his earliest recollections, he later said, 
was of his father "walking up and down the room with me in his arms 
at night." Relief was temporary when it came. Summers in the Hudson 
River country or the New Jersey highlands failed to induce a cure; 
nor did a tour of Europe help. "I was very sick last night and Mama 
was so kind telling me story s (sic) and rubbing me with her delicate 


fingers," Theodore wrote from abroad when he was eleven years old. 
"I am here in Richfield now," he reported the following year. "Of 
course I came here because I was sick." By then, however, the tide 
had begun to turn. Told by his father that he would have to build 
himself by his own efforts, the twelve-year-old youngster had thrown 
back his head, flashed his already prominent teeth, and asserted: "I'll 
make my body." 

That fall Theodore began daily workouts in a gymnasium and on 
apparatus installed on the back porch of his house; and whether be- 
cause of these exertions or natural causes, he improved so markedly 
by the following summer that asthma or other sickness never there- 
after seriously interrupted his activities. 

Notwithstanding his physical infirmities, the child "Teedie" showed 
an extraordinary zest for life. His affectionate and responsive parents 
were partly responsible; indeed, their affection for their sickly son was 
so strong that he might have developed abnormal attachments had he 
been an only child. But fortunately there were brothers and sisters 
Anna, the eldest, then Elliott and Corinne, both born after Theodore. 
There was also direction and discipline, perhaps in excess, from the 
father. In his Autobiography, written when he was fifty-four years old, 
Roosevelt described his mother as "a sweet, gracious, beautiful South- 
ern woman, a delightful companion . . . beloved by everybody" and 
"blessed with a strong sense of humor." But he lavished praise upon 
his father. "He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tender- 
ness, and great unselfishness. . . . With great love and patience, 
and the most understanding sympathy and consideration, he combined 
insistence on discipline ... he was the only man of whom I was 
ever really afraid." 

Theodore's anguished diary entries following the senior Roosevelt's 
death in 1878, during Theodore's nineteenth year, offer even more 
insight into the unusual relationship between father and son. "I feel 
that if it were not for the certainty, that ... 'he is not dead but gone 
before,' I should almost perish," he wrote five days after his father 
died. A month later he said that it seemed as if his heart would break 
when he thought of his terrible loss. He added that his father had 
"shared all my joys, and in sharing doubled them, and soothed all the 
few sorrows I ever had." A subsequent entry lamented the loss of "the 
only human being to whom I told everything, never failing to get 


loving advice and sweet sympathy in return; no one, but my wife, if 
ever I marry, will ever be able to take his place." 

Although the number of references gradually declined, the intensity 
remained. "O, Father, Father how bitterly I miss you, mourn you and 
long for you!" Theodore exclaimed several months later. More sig- 
nificant still, he despaired that he could live up to his image of his 
father. "I realize more and more every day that I am as much inferior 
to Father morally and mentally as physically," he confided to the 
diary a full half year after the senior Roosevelt died. "But," he added 
in a display of fatalistic resilience that would lose its religious cast as 
he grew older, " 'Trust in the Lord and do good!' " 

Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., had been a large-framed, athletic man 
with a leonine head, a striking beard, and a buoyant, dominant man- 
ner, born to the old Dutch mercantile tradition. He loved life and he 
regarded business as merely a means for supplying his own and his 
family's considerable wants. After his main interest, the import glass 
trade, collapsed some years before his death, he never took up an- 
other, absorbing himself instead in social life and the philanthropic 
and civic matters which had long excited his interest. His understand- 
ing of the festering social and economic problems of the times was 
delimited by his concern with individual character and morality; yet 
he felt obligated to aid the suffering and the oppressed, to work for 
reform without disturbing the existing social framework. He was a 
founder of the Orthopedic Hospital, the Children's Aid Society, and 
the State Charities Aid Association, and he actively supported the 
Newsboys' Lodging House and the Y.M.C.A. To Theodore, Jr., he 
transmitted his sense of moral duty and habit of noblesse oblige. 

Whatever the psychological nuances of their relationship, this dis- 
tinguished gentleman failed his eldest son in only one overt respect: 
He remained a civilian throughout the Civil War, probably in defer- 
ence to his Southern-born wife. True, he gave abundantly of his 
energies and talents. With two other public-spirited men he drafted 
and pressed Congress to pass the bill establishing an Allotment Com- 
mission and then toured the camps in an exhaustive effort to persuade 
enlisted men to send home a portion of their monthly salaries. "I 
would never have felt satisfied with myself after this war is over if I 
had done nothing," he confided to his wife in a letter from the field, 
"and that I do feel now that I am only doing my duty." Yet it was 
the duty of the civilian rather than that of the soldier. Theodore, who 


boundlessly admired two maternal uncles who served the Confederate 
navy with distinction, was always sensitive about the fact that his 
father had not borne arms. 

After the war the Roosevelt family again enjoyed the perquisites of 
moderate wealth and social position. For the parents there were 
gracious entertainments, dinner parties and balls, fine wines and small 
talk with relatives and friends, as well as continued civic activity. For 
the children there were exciting rides in the rig with their father, who 
loved to race; long hours reading with their mother, who was well 
read in a limited, genteel sense; most of the toys they chanced to want; 
and frequent visits with other youngsters of their background. On the 
whole, however, the children's activities centered in and around the 
four-story brownstone house and yard at 28 East 20th Street where 
Theodore had been born on October 27, 1858, and where the family 
lived until they moved into another brownstone on 57th Street. 

Theodore's advantages softened the misery of his poor health some- 
what, and his effort to conquer it remains a striking testament to his 
courage and determination. Yet to explain Roosevelt the man solely, 
or even largely, in terms of his sickly childhood and adolescence is to 
do injustice to other of his natural endowments. Even as a slender, 
almost spindly youngster, he possessed such surging physical and 
intellectual energy is left little time either to brood or to rest or, in a 
very real sense, to suffer. From the beginning he capitalized on his 
keen intelligence, gave vent to his insatiable curiosity, and sought out- 
lets for his burning desire to be recognized. 

Of the passions of Theodore's youth, nature was the most con- 
suming. At the age of eight he started the practice of collecting live 
mice and reptiles which would be emulated by his own sons and 
would keep various Roosevelt family servants on edge for upward of 
forty years. By the age of fourteen he had grasped the main tenets 
of Darwin. And when he entered Harvard in the autumn of 1876 he 
probably could have passed an examination in the general works of 
the most renowned naturalists of the era. By then, too, he had built 
a collection of bird skins, writes the zoologist, Paul R. Cutright, 
"which for size, variety, and skill of preparation was doubtless un- 
equalled by any boy his age in the United States." Based on that 
observation and study which always distinguished Roosevelt from the 
man of pure action, this interest later enabled him to discourse 
learnedly with eminent professional naturalists and to make modest 


personal contributions to the over-all body of scientific classification; 
it projected him into one of the most celebrated and unnecessary 
controversies of his presidential years that over the "Nature Fakers" 
and it formed the springboard for one of his greatest accomplish- 
ments, the vitalization of the conservation movement. 

If nature was young Roosevelt's first great interest, books were his 
second. Even as a child he read omnivorously and with surprising 
catholicity. Works of maudlin sentimentality, pious morality, high 
adventure, and classical quality were all devoured by his restless 
mind. "I worshipped Little Men and Little Women and An Old- 
Fashioned Girl" he nostalgically recalled. But "I disliked the Swiss 
Family Robinson because of the wholly impossible collection of 
animals met by that worthy family as they ambled inland from the 
wreck." On his first trip to Europe at the age of eleven, a trip that 
he professed not to enjoy though his letters indicate that he did, he 
and Elliott and Corinne reportedly read fifty or more novels! 

Theodore's travels in Europe, his fascination with nature, his read- 
ings, and his vacations with his sisters, cousins, and robust brother 
Elliott, who for a while served as his protector these and the passage 
of time wrought their influence upon his personality. From a rather 
shy, retiring child he changed into an outgoing, uninhibited adolescent 
with a developing sense of humor and a growing tendency toward 
mild exhibitionism. 

"As a young girl," wrote one of the family friends, "I remember 
dreading to sit next him at any formal dinner lest I become so con- 
vulsed with laughter at his whispered sallies as to disgrace myself and 
be forced to leave the room." Or, as Theodore himself once wrote 
his mother, "I went to Miss Nelly Dean's wedding yesterday, and 
made myself so agreable (sic) that one old Lady paid me a compli- 
ment. She evidently had a great deal of discrimination." These traits 
did not escape his contemporaries. Theodore "always thought he 
could do things better than anyone else," his cousin, Maude Elliott, 
wrote during his second trip abroad when he was fourteen. 

Maude Elliott's characterization of her ebullient cousin was not 
wholly accurate. Theodore only tried to do things better than every- 
body else. In spite of his formidable powers of rationalization, he had 
a realistic insight into his own abilities; neither as a boy nor as a man 
did he tend to overestimate them. If he too often indulged in self- 
praise, it was because of deserved pride in deeds performed and 


barriers surmounted. Life was an unrelieved, if mainly joyous, strug- 
gle, and false modesty was not among its virtues. As Theodore wrote 
his father that same year, "I then had several rounds with Johnie and 
Edward, in which I kept my own, as Johnie is smaller, though more 
used to fighting, and Edward, although much larger does not know 
so much about boxing." A few years later he would remark that of 
his five closest friends, two overestimated him, two undervalued him, 
and only one gauged his true worth. 

Young Roosevelt also abounded in warmth, sympathy, and affec- 
tion. His letters repeatedly reveal him inquiring solicitously of his 
parents' health, writing fondly of "cunning" young children, and 
pouring out his love for "My own darling little Motherling" and "My 
dear Papa." Nor were the diary entries of his college years less 
effusive: "Elliott is a noble fellow, wonderfully grown up in every 
way." "What a wonderful set of relations I have got cousins and all, 
especially my own family." "I wonder if ever a man had two better 
sisters than 1 have!" 

In maturity Roosevelt would lose little, if any, of those qualities. 
They would be modified or offset, however, by an extraordinary 
severity of judgment and by a strain of ruthlessness and a capacity for 
passing hatred which so often mars the competitive personality. 

If there was anything in Theodore's boyhood, aside from the sense 
of duty and noblesse oblige that he got from his father, to suggest that 
he would someday become a social reformer it was only his strident 
moralizing. "Did you hear that Percy Cushion was a failure?" he once 
wrote his father from Dresden. "He swore like a trooper and used 
disreputable language, so I gave him some pretty strong hints, which 
he at last took, and we do not see much more of him." As a green 
college freshman a few years later Theodore would righteously report 
that of the eleven other boys at his table, "no less than seven do not 
smoke and four drink nothing stronger than beer." As a more sophis- 
ticated sophomore, however, he would concede that although he got 
rather bored with the drunken brothers of D.K.E. he found an occa- 
sional fraternity social "good enough fun." In one of the few intima- 
tions in his diary of repressed aggressions, he would also confess that 
"Wine makes me awfully fighting." 

Roosevelt had entered Harvard in 1876 after two years of intensive 
preparation under a private tutor. Because of his lingering asthma 
he took private rooms, and in spite of membership in the best clubs, 


success in athletics and academics, and an active social life in Cam- 
bridge he remained always a little apart. William Roscoe Thayer 
remembered that he was "a good deal of a joke . . . active and 
enthusiastic and that was all." But another friend, Charles Washburn, 
who knew him more intimately, contended that he was "loved by 
many," was "in a class by himself," and was recognized as "a person 
sui generis" who was not to be judged by ordinary standards. 

Whether Theodore, as he preferred to be called until his service in 
the Spanish-American War earned him the title of Colonel, got all that 
he should have from Harvard is problematical. Certainly he enjoyed 
himself. "What a royally good time I am having," he wrote in his diary 
as a junior. "I can't conceive of a fellow possibly enjoying himself 
more." Academically, he did well in those subjects which interested 
him, notably natural history, literature, and political economy; only 
passably in those which did not. But his over-all performance was 
sufficiently high he finished "second among the gentlemen" and 
twenty-first in a class of 158 to win election to Phi Beta Kappa. 
And his writing was so well regarded that he was made an editor of 
The Advocate, one of the three undergraduate papers. He later com- 
plained, however, that "There was very little in my actual studies 
which helped me in after-life." In his Autobiography, written just 
after the Progressive campaign of 1912, he lamented that "there was 
almost no teaching of the need for collective action, and of the fact 
that in addition to, not as a substitute for, individual responsibility, 
there is a collective responsibility. Books such as Herbert Croly's 
Promise of American Life and Walter E. Weyl's New Democracy 
would generally at that time have been treated either as unintelligible 
or else as pure heresy." 

Perhaps. Yet Roosevelt conceded that his readings at Harvard did 
reinforce that individual morality that "self-reliance, energy, cour- 
age, the power of insisting on his own rights and the sympathy that 
makes him regardful of the rights of others" which had been his 
father's teaching as well as the lesson of Our Young Folks. And in 
spite of his disappointment in some of his courses, he was obviously 
stimulated. As he wrote his mother in October, 1878, political 
economy and metaphysics "are even more interesting than my Natural 
History courses; and all the more so, from the fact that I radically 
disagree on many points with the men whose books we are reading 
(Mill and Ferrier)." 


Roosevelt's extracurricular activities at Harvard further confirm his 
intellectual awakening. He became an active convert to the free-trade 
movement, probably from reading John Stuart Mill and other laissez- 
faire economists. He served as undergraduate head of the Natural 
History Society. He helped organize and for a time presided over the 
Finance dub, under the auspices of which two of the most celebrated 
economists in the country, Professor William Graham Sumner and 
Professor Francis A. Walker of Yale, delivered special lectures at 
Cambridge. And in the spring of 1880 he participated in a mock 
presidential election in which he cast his ballot for the Democrat, 
Senator Thomas Bayard, in a display of contempt for the Republican 
candidates Grant, Sherman and Elaine. "The gentleman [Roosevelt] 
in charge of the polls is a proof that the movement is not one of idle 
curiosity, but of earnest purpose," The Advocate said editorially. 

Roosevelt also belonged to a literary-political discussion group to 
which he submitted a paper, "The Machine in Politics"; was a 
member of the Art Club; and supported the Glee Club in a non- 
singing role. He was "forever at it," one of his classmates recalled, 
"and probably no man of his time read more extensively or deeply, 
especially in directions that did not count on the honor-list or 
marking-sheet. He had the happy power of abstraction, and nothing 
was more common than a noisy roomful of college mates with Roose- 
velt frowning with intense absorption over a book in the corner." 
Theodore himself was satisfied. Reviewing his life a few weeks after 
graduation, he wrote in his diary that there was nothing he would 
have cared to change. Indeed, he added, "my career (both in and out 
of college) has been more successful than that of any man I have 

It was at Harvard, too, that Roosevelt's compulsion to exhort and 
admonish became evident. "He used to stop men in the Yard, or call 
them to him," a classmate remembered. "Then he would block the 
narrow gravel path and soon make sparks from an argument fly. He 
was so enthusiastic and had such a startling array of deeply rooted 
interests that we all thought he would make a great journalist." But 
it was preacher-at-large to the American people that he was to be. The 
future was vaguely foreshadowed in one of his few editorials in The 
Advocate. Commenting on an impending football game with Yale, he 
warned that "nothing but very hard work will enable our men to 
win to victory. . . . Last year we had good individual players, but 


they did not work together nearly as well as the Princeton team, and 
were not in as good condition as the Yale men. The football season 
is short; and while it does last, the men ought to work faithfully, if 
they expect to win for Harvard the position she held three years ago." 
Twenty years later, as President of the United States, Roosevelt would 
address the captain of the Harvard squad in the same vein. 

Theodore also developed into a competent athlete at Harvard. 
After being soundly thrashed by a country bully as a youngster, he 
had characteristically resolved to learn to box well enough to defend 
himself. Long after he fulfilled that purpose (he had one fight, which 
he won, as an assemblyman and he threatened to fight in at least one 
other case) he continued to spar regularly, often with professionals. 
He became as proficient as his poor eyesight would permit his right 
hand was said to have been powerful and in his junior year he 
reached the finals in the lightweight class. He lost the championship 
bout, but won the plaudits of the spectators by commanding them to 
stop hissing his opponent for bloodying his nose after the referee had 
called the end of a round. "It's all right," he dramatically exclaimed 
with his arm upraised, "he didn't hear him." (He failed to mention 
the incident in his diaries.) 

Roosevelt was too light for football; so besides rowing, tennis, and 
riding, he channeled his cascading energy into camping trips into the 
Maine wilderness, where he fused the qualities of the hunter and 
naturalist to the bewilderment of his latter-day critics. It was a long 
jump from high tea in Back Bay to boiled coffee in the Maine woods, 
but he easily made it both ways. As W. W. "Bill" Sewall, a brawny, 
bearded woodsman of thirty-three who was to serve Roosevelt as 
guide, counselor, and companion for several years thereafter, recalled, 
"He was different from anybody that I had ever met," especially in 
that "he was fair-minded." 

He and I agreed in our ideas of fair play and right and wrong. 
Besides, he was always good-natured and full of fun. I do not think 
I ever remember him being 'out of sorts.' He did not feel well 
sometimes, but he never would admit it. ... Some folks said that 
he was headstrong and aggressive, but I never found him so except 
when necessary. ... Of course he did not understand the woods, 
but on every other subject he was posted. The reason that he knew 
so much about everything, I found, was that wherever he went he 
got right in with the people ... he was quick to find the real man 


in very simple men. He didn't look for a brilliant man when he 
found me; he valued me for what I was worth. 

Theodore's contact with Sewall and other woodsmen was the one 
broadening influence in his social development during his under- 
graduate years. He otherwise consorted with his social peers, and 
though he gradually lost his more blatant class-consciousness (as a 
freshman he had found the Yale undergraduates a "scrubby set" and 
had been reluctant to become intimate with the New York crowd at 
Harvard because he knew nothing of their "antecedents"), he always 
prided himself on his election to The Hasty Pudding and the Porcel- 
lian. As President of the United States, in fact, he was actually con- 
cerned lest his sons not receive the same distinctions. A letter to his 
"Darling Motherling" at the start of his senior year describes a normal 
round of social activities: 

Last Monday I drove Jack Tebbets over to call on the Miss 
Bacons, who are very nice girls. Wednesday I dined at the Lees, 
and spent the loveliest kind of an evening with Rosy, Alice and 
Rose. The two girls must come on to Boston next month if only 
to see Chestnut Hill; and, by Jove, I shall be awfully disappointed 
if they do'n't like it. Mamie Saltonstalls birthday was on Friday; 
I gave her a small silver fan-chain. Saturday I spent all the morning 
playing tennis with the two Miss Lanes. . . . 

. . . Wednesday Harry Shaw and I give a small opera party to 
Mr. and Mrs. Saltonstall, Rose and Alice. 

One of the girls mentioned in that letter was Alice Hathaway Lee, 
a tall, graceful young lady of Brahmin lineage, classic features, and 
feminine demeanor, who resided on Chestnut Hill. Theodore had 
been "courting" her since early in his junior year and in February, 
1880, their engagement was formally announced. "She is just the 
sweetest, prettiest sunniest little darling that ever lived, and with all 
her laughing, teasing ways, she is as loving and tender as she can be," 
Theodore wrote his sister Corinne. Everything had been "subordinate 
to winning her," he confided to a friend, Henry Minot, at the time of 
the engagement, "so you can perhaps understand a change in my 
ideas as regards science &c." 

Not quite "everything" had been subordinated to romance during 
that final year. Although Roosevelt neglected his duties as an editor 
of The Advocate and failed to deliver the commencement "disserta- 


tion" to which his rank in the class entitled him ("I have always 
studied well ... so I can afford to cut now," he commented in his 
diary shortly after his engagement) he won honor grades in four of 
his five courses, wrote a senior thesis on "The Practicability of 
Equalizing Men and Women Before the Law," and drafted the first 
two chapters of his Naval War of 1812, which was published two 
years after his graduation. A work of limited scope, high technical 
competence, and considerable dramatic power, The Naval War was 
to win favorable reviews in the United States and be so well received 
in Great Britain that Roosevelt would be invited to do the section on 
the War of 1812 for Clowes's History of the Royal Navy. 

Alice Lee was only eighteen years old when she became engaged to 
Theodore after a frenetic courtship of eight months. "See that girl?" 
he is said to have exclaimed to a friend at one point. "I am going to 
marry her. She won't have me, but I am going to have her." Alice 
had resisted him, however, and during the fall of 1879 Theodore 
became so depressed that friends sent to New York for a relative to 
come and soothe him. "I have been pretty nearly crazy," he later 
confessed in his diary (night after night he had wandered through the 
woods). "But I do not think any outsider suspected it; I have not 
written a word about it in my diary since a year ago last Thanks- 

On January 25, 1880, however, Alice Lee had submitted. "I am 
so happy that I dare not trust in my own happiness," Theodore wrote 
in his diary that night. "How she, so pure and sweet and beautiful can 
think of marrying me I can not understand, but I praise and thank 
God it is so." He added that it was love at first sight. "Thank heaven 
I am absolutely pure," he wrote two weeks later. "I can tell Alice 
everything I have ever done." 

Alice's parents had at first opposed an early marriage, but after 
what Theodore described as "a long but very peaceable argument," 
they acceded to his wishes. On October 27, 1880, his twenty-second 
birthday, Theodore and Alice Lee were married in the Unitarian 
Church of Brookline. A short honeymoon at Oyster Bay, Long Island, 
followed. "Our intense happiness is too sacred to be written about," 
was Theodore's terse diary entry. There were drives in the buggy, 
tennis games, walks in the woods, and reading aloud in the evenings 
from the Pickwick Papers, Quentin Durward, and Keats. Probably 
there was also excited planning of a future home in that then charm- 


ingly rural country, for a few months later Roosevelt purchased the 
first of three deeds totalling 155 acres and including the hilltop over- 
looking the Long Island Sound where Sagamore Mohannis and other 
Indian chieftains had held their councils of war in years long past. 
At the end of their brief honeymoon Theodore and Alice returned 
to New York City to pass the winter in the house on West 57th Street 
with Mrs. Roosevelt, Sr., preparatory to an extended tour of Europe 
in the spring. Meanwhile Alice joined the Presbyterian Church. "Now 
we are one in everything," Theodore said in his diary. "My cup is 
almost running over." 

It was to the study of law rather than of nature that Theodore 
turned during that first winter of his marriage. He had entered 
Harvard determined to pursue a scientific career in the face of his 
father's warning that the financial remuneration would be small. 
Early in his sophomore year he and Henry Minot, with whom he 
had gone camping in the Adirondacks the previous summer, published 
a short paper, "Summer Birds of the Adirondacks in Franklin 
County, N.Y.," which earned a commendation from the zoologist 
C. H. Merriam, who would later term Roosevelt the "world's au- 
thority on big game mammals." And in his junior year Roosevelt 
compiled and published on his own another small pamphlet, "Notes 
on Some of the Birds of Oyster Bay." Meanwhile, his name was listed 
in the Naturalist's Directory. 

But as his letter informing Minot of his engagement suggests, 
Roosevelt had decided to forego science by the time of that memora- 
ble event and possibly before. He later blamed Harvard's teaching 
methods for the decision. "They treated biology as purely a science 
of the laboratory and the microscope," he charged in his Auto- 
biography. "There was a total failure to understand the great variety 
of kinds of work that could be done by naturalists, including what 
could be done by outdoor naturalists." There was truth in those 
charges, but there is little evidence that Roosevelt thought so at the 
time. In fact, his diary indicates that he enjoyed laboratory work but 
was "perfectly blue" at the prospect of three years abroad completing 
his professional training. 

Roosevelt's interests were also widening. His growing fascination 
with politics was part of his intellectual awakening at Harvard, and 
it antedated his courtship of Alice Lee. A year before his engagement 


he ended his habit of taking field notes. And at almost the same time 
he severed connections with the Harvard Natural History Society 
because of the "press of other duties (in my studies and in outside 
societies)." It was during this formative period, also, that Roosevelt 
besought the advice of the economist, J. Laurence Laughlin, then on 
the threshold of his long and distinguished career. Should he continue 
in biology or turn, perhaps, to economics? Laughlin's response, which 
may well have been an adjuration for the duty-conscious Roosevelt, 
was that the nation needed men who could think clearly on public 

However that may be, Roosevelt finally decided to study law. 
Following his honeymoon he read law in the offices of his uncle, 
Robert Barnhill Roosevelt, and attended the Columbia Law School, 
where he distinguished himself for his egotism and energetic ques- 
tioning of the lecturers. He lacked the air of the professional student, 
one classmate remembered, but he was a "favorite" and was "one of 
the best men there, considered as a man." Theodore was already too 
much the moralist to give his heart to the law, however, and though 
he professed in his diary to "like the law school work very much," 
he soon abandoned it without genuine regret. "Many of the big 
corporation lawyers, to whom the ordinary members of the bar then 
as now looked up, held certain standards which were difficult to 
recognize as compatible with the idealism I supposed every high- 
minded young man is apt to feel," he wrote in his Autobiography. 
That statement has too much of the ring of the 1912 Progressive 
campaign to be taken literally; yet it probably reflected Roosevelt's 
views during 1880-81 in some degree. As Carleton Putnam cogently 
phrases it, "he aligned the moral law and the common law and was 
shocked at the discrepancy." 

The event which changed the course of Roosevelt's career was his 
nomination as the Republican candidate for assemblyman from the 
twenty-first district in the fall of 1881. He had joined the district club 
the year before because "I intended to be one of the governing class." 
And he had joined the Republican club in particular because "a young 
man of my bringing-up and convictions could join only the Republican 
party." This was particularly true in cities such as New York and 
Boston, where the Tammany type pervaded Democratic ranks. In 
spite of the G.O.P.'s corruption and callous disdain for the needs of 
the masses, it still loomed large as the heroic preserver of national 


union. To young Roosevelt, an uncompromising Unionist since boy- 
hood he had once prayed to "divine Providence to grind the South- 
ern troops to powder" and a strident nationalist from the time of his 
matriculation in college, that was reason enough for joining it. 

Roosevelt's baptism as a reformer occurred at one of the meetings 
of the District Club during the winter of 1880-81 when he and a 
handful of idealistic compatriots stood against close to a hundred 
regulars in hopeless support of a movement for nonpartisan street 
cleaning. He otherwise devoted his energies that year to breaking 
down the barriers that separated him from the lower-class Republican 
brethren. "I went around there often enough to have the men get 
accustomed to me and to have me get accustomed to them, so that 
we began to speak the same language, and so that each could begin 
to live down, in the other's mind, what Bret Harte has called 'the 
defective moral quality of being a stranger.' " In his way, he suc- 
ceeded. Most of the professionals continued to regard Roosevelt as 
unique, but many of them liked him. By the spring of 1881 he was on 
fairly good terms with Jake Hess, the German-American district 
leader, and on quite close terms with Joe Murray, an Irish-born 
lieutenant who had been "raised as a barefoot boy on First Avenue," 
served in the Army of the Potomac, and would eventually be ap- 
pointed Deputy Commissioner of Immigration for New York by 
Roosevelt himself. 

While Theodore and his bride of less than a year were leisurely 
wandering through Europe in the summer of 1881, rumblings of 
revolt were disturbing the harmony of the Twenty-first District Re- 
publican Club. Riled by the failure of Hess's man to support the 
nonpartisan street-cleaning bill in the last legislative session, civic- 
minded Republicans were threatening defection, or at least a tight- 
ening of the purse strings. Other, less civic-minded Republicans were 
champing at Hess's inability to get a full measure of patronage from 
President Chester A. Arthur. 

In these circumstances Roosevelt's new-found friend, Joe Murray, 
decided to break Hess's control by backing a candidate of his own 
for the Assembly. Fastening upon Roosevelt as most likely to appeal 
to the "better" elements the Twenty-first ran from the pretentious 
stone mansions of Fifth Avenue to the shabby brick tenements of the 
West Side Murray prepared his ground well. And when the nomi- 
nating convention met on October 28 in the "large, barn-like room 


over a saloon" that served as Club headquarters, he mustered a 16-9 
majority for Roosevelt on the first ballot. Roosevelt, who had allowed 
his name to be entered with some reluctance, meanwhile announced 
that he was owned by no man, would go to Albany untramrneled and 
unpledged, and would vote independently on municipal and other 
public matters. He added, upon formal notification of his nomination, 
that he would vote with the Republican party on national issues. 

Roosevelt's nomination struck a responsive chord except among a 
few close relatives. One Republican newspaper observed that the 
"substantial property owners" of the district needed a representative 
at Albany who could appreciate the "responsibility" of the situation. 
Roosevelt was ideal for that purpose because his "family has been 
long and honorably known as one of the foremost in this City." 
Another declared that "no better representative of the taxpayers of 
New York could have been selected." And a group of prominent 
Republicans, all of them gentlemen and some of them lawyers of the 
type against which Theodore would later inveigh, applauded him as 
"conspicuous for his honesty and integrity, and eminently qualified." 

Meanwhile, Hess good-humoredly mustered the machine behind the 
young aristocrat who had been made the instrument of his own rebuke 
but not until after he and Murray found it expedient to change 
tactics abruptly, following Roosevelt's first sally into the heart of the 

"We started in a German lager-beer saloon on Sixth Avenue," 
Murray recalled: 

The saloon keeper's name was Carl Fischer. Hess was well 
acquainted with him. I knew him slightly. We had a small beer and 
Hess introduces T. R. to Fischer and Fischer says, "By the way, 
Mr. Roosevelt, I hope you will do something for us when you get 
to Albany. We are taxed much out of proportion to grocers, etc., 
and we have to pay $200 for the privilege." 

"Why that's not enough!" said T.R. 

After we got out on the sidewalk we came to the conclusion that 
we had better stop the canvass right then and there. I says, "Mr. 
Roosevelt, you go see your personal friends. Hess and I will look 
after this end. You can reach your personal friends, we can't." 

Roosevelt heeded their advice; on election day he mounted a hand- 
some majority and led the entire Republican ticket by 600 votes. 
"Too True! Too True! I have come a 'political hack. . . .' " he 


wrote Washburn the day after his election. "But do'n't think I am 
going to go into politics after this year, for I am not." A little less 
than two months later, on January 2, 1882, he presented himself in 
pince-nez, gold fob, and evening dress to the Republican caucus at 
the Delavan House in Albany. 

What Roosevelt found in Albany was not encouraging. The 
Republicans were bad, he wrote in a diary he kept sporadically 
during the ensuing months. But, he added, at least they had numbers 
of lawyers and farmers among them. The Democrats included "six 
liquor sellers, two bricklayers, a butcher, a tobacconist, a pawn 
broker, a compositer (sic) and a typesetter ..." Worse yet, twenty- 
five were Irish, and "the average catholic Irishman of the first gen- 
eration as represented in this Assembly, is a low, venal, corrupt and 
unintelligent brute." The Tammany men were "managed entirely by 
the commands of some of John Kelly's lieutenants who are always 
in the Assembly chamber"; the County Democrats by the Commis- 
sioner of Public Works, Hubert O. Thompson, "a gross, enormously 
fleshy man, with a full face and thick, sensual lips . . ." Still, there 
were a few who seemed "to be pretty good men." Two Republican 
farmers, O'Neil and Sheehy, were "among the best members of the 

Actually, Roosevelt's strictures against first-generation Irish Cath- 
olics were grounded more on observation than deep-seated bias; be- 
fore the end of the five-months session he was to form strong 
friendships with several Irish Democrats of anti-Tammany persuasion. 
Nor did he even then sympathize with those of his class who tended 
"to trace all evils, from the absence of rain to the fight with Arabi 
Pascha, to the presence of Roman Catholics in America." He rec- 
ognized Tammany Hall for what it was a sink of corruption domi- 
nated by Irish Catholics and he saw among Republicans a somewhat 
better class of citizen. As he confided to his diary, "if the worst 
elements of all, the twenty low Irishmen, were subtracted, the 
Republican average would still be higher than the Democratic." 
Roosevelt failed to realize, of course, that up-state Republicans of 
Protestant background could be as opposed to social justice in their 
avowedly moralistic way as Tammany Democrats in their blatantly 
unscrupulous way; that Democratic iniquity in low places had long 
been surpassed by Republican solicitude for private business interest in 
high places. But those were lessons of the future. 


Roosevelt managed to contain within his diary most of his opinions 
of his associates, but he proved unable to suppress his views on public 
matters. Every fiber of his being compelled him to speak out, and 
he several times took positions that he later regretted during his three 
terms in the Assembly. "He was the most indiscreet guy I ever 
met. . . ." Isaac Hunt recalled. "George [Spinney], Billy O'Neil 
and I used to sit on his coat-tails. Billy O'Neil would say to him: 
'What do you want to do that for, you damn fool; you will ruin 
yourself and everybody else!' ... He was the most impulsive human 
being I ever knew." 

Roosevelt's impulsiveness was to become tempered by age and 
responsibility; only rarely in later years would he act without delibera- 
tion on matters of high public policy. Even as he matured, however, 
he continued to seem impulsive, for he could phrase the most care- 
fully balanced speech sensationally and make the most considered 
action appear spontaneous. To the end, moreover, he remained im- 
pulsive in his personal habits, especially his conversation; and to the 
end the quality constituted one of the mainsprings of his hold upon 
the American public. Men of conservative temperament were 
alienated and Roosevelt's friends often embarrassed by it. But the 
trust and devotion of the middle classes were inspired by it. They 
seemed to believe Roosevelt incapable of dissemblance, though in 
truth he had an artful side; and they expected that he would act 
invariably on his words, though in fact he often failed to do so. 

Even before he had unloosed his attack on Judge Westbrook, 
Roosevelt had laid the foundation for a minor reputation as a 
reformer. His maiden speech had been undistinguished, indeed pre- 
sumptuous and partisan. Delivered in a halting, almost lisping style, 
it was a protest against a movement to overcome the Democratic 
factionalism that had prevented the Assembly from being organized 
for more than three weeks by forming a coalition of Republicans and 
Democrats. "While in New York I talked with several gentlemen who 
have large commercial interests at stake," Theodore condescendingly 
remarked on January 24, 1882, "and they do not seem to care 
whether the deadlock is broken or not." Indeed, he concluded, "they 
felt rather relieved." 

Within a few weeks, however, Roosevelt proved his real mettle. 
The Syracuse Ring, as one group of Republican spoilsmen were 
known, had agreed to support the Tammany legislative program in 


return for a division of appointive offices. The mechanics of the deal 
called for the transfer of a number of positions to the control of the 
Republican Clerk; and on February 21 the veteran war horses held 
a G.O.P. caucus preparatory to feeding at the Tammany trough. 
Roosevelt, Hunt, and a number of like-minded younger Republicans 
raised such a vigorous protest, however, that they carried the majority 
with them. "I did not believe the Republican party should degenerate 
and become a party scrambling for the spoils of office, and such 
action would certainly drive the best elements of the party from it," 
Roosevelt explained to a reporter just after the caucus ended. "Rarely 
in the history of legislation here has the moral force of individual 
honor and political honesty been more forcibly displayed," the New 
York Herald exuberantly declared the next morning. Theodore's diary 
entry was less high blown: "I firmly and sweetly declined" the 
preferments offered should he change his position, he wrote. 

Ten days after that first minor triumph, Roosevelt spoke in support 
of a bill of his own to alter the procedure for electing aldermen in 
New York City. He contended that the nominating power was "largely 
divorced from the mass of voters of the same party" and that "every 
underhand expedient known to the lowest kind of trading politics" 
was thus called into play. He proposed to eradicate those evils by 
having each assembly district elect its own alderman. This would 
have reduced the number of seats held by his own party and would 
have weakened the influence of the professionals in both parties. 
The bill died aborning. 

Theodore's attitude toward labor during that first formative year 
showed few signs of the obsession with justice which otherwise char- 
acterized him. His social philosophy still encompassed little more than 
the Republican predilection for low taxes and minimal social services, 
and when a measure to pay municipal laborers a minimum of two 
dollars a day was favorably reported, he had bolted from his seat to 
oppose it. "Why, Mr. Speaker, this bill will impose an expenditure of 
thousands of dollars upon the City of New York," he heatedly said. 
Nor was that all. He also spiritedly opposed salary increases for 
New York City's underpaid policemen and firemen. 

Whatever the narrowness of his views, Roosevelt had not lacked 
courage during this baptismal year. He alone of the representatives 
from New York City had spoken out against the popular salary- 
increase measures. And he alone, reported the militantly Democratic 


New York World, had "put a quietus upon a gigantic job which had 
been quietly reported" to grant monopolistic powers over the con- 
struction of bonded warehouses and grain elevators along the water- 
fronts to the Terminal Warehouse Elevated and Docking Company. 
He had capped those signal actions by forcing the investigation of 
Judge Westbrook. 

The result was reward, and in certain places, approval. The New 
York Evening Post, like Roosevelt a bull on morality and a bear on 
social reform, asserted at the end of the session that he "accomplished 
more good than any man of his age and experience has accom- 
plished ... in years." Carl Schurz, the German-American Civil 
War general and civil service reformer who was then one of Roose- 
velt's political idols, declared that Roosevelt and two other assembly- 
men had "stemmed the tide of corruption in that fearful legislative 
gathering." And a group of the young Assemblyman's personal 
friends were so impressed by his services that they tendered him a 
testimonial dinner at Delmonico's. But most important of all, Isaac 
Hunt recollected, he was now "considered a full-fledged man worthy 
of any one's esteem." 



But as yet I understood little of the effort which was already 
beginning ... to secure a more genuine social and industrial 

Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography 

Roosevelt's re-election was practically inevitable, so illustrious was 
his reputation by the end of his first term. Nevertheless, a mild flurry 
of activity marked his campaign in the fall of 1882. He was com- 
mended for his "fearless, honest, and independent action" by a group 
of prominent constituents. Jake Hess and his regulars fell in behind 
him because they were stuck with him. And the New York Times, 
Herald, and Evening Post supported him on the grounds that he had 
been "self-sacrificing," "the leader of the younger and better element," 
and opposed to "corrupt jobs of all kinds." On November 7 Roosevelt 
led the entire ticket with a spectacular two-to-one majority even 
though Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate for governor, 
carried his district by 1,800 votes. 

Roosevelt had made only one important campaign speech. On 
October 28, to an overflow crowd of friends and party workers hi 
Lyric Hall, he had forthrightly stated his own policies, called for 
party regularity, and lashed the Democrats with that partisan fury 
which would almost always mar his campaign speeches. 

"As long as the history ... of our nation has lasted, the 
Democrats have been one and the same," he asserted, as he con- 
temptuously referred to Thomas Jefferson, "miscalled the Great," and 
James Buchanan, "the Little." The Republicans? Were they not the 



party of Hamilton, Webster, and Clay; the "great party which has 
produced a Lincoln ... the party within whose ranks we now hold 
Schurz and Choate, and every other name almost that tends to make 
this city illustrious"? If he were re-elected, Roosevelt declared, he 
would endeavor to carry "honesty and courage" as well as "private 
morality" into public office. He would also tackle the issue of "great 
importance" monopoly. ". . . there is no question that there is a 
vital spirit underlying it; that we as a people are suffering from new 
dangers; that as our fathers fought with slavery and crushed it, in 
order that it would not seize and crush them, so we are called on to 
fight new forces." 

The young New Yorker kept well that faith. During his second term 
he again stood out as a fearless foe of corruption and an unfailing 
champion of governmental reform. And he also started a campaign 
to control monopoly which was to carry into his governorship and on 
through his presidency. His record was so striking, in fact, that half- 
way through the session he received national recognition in the pages 
of Harper's Weekly and by the end of the session had emerged as 
the leader of a faction openly known as "The Roosevelt Republicans." 
In his third and final term, yet more honors befell him. 

Roosevelt's near-meteoric rise was the result of a partial measure 
of good fortune and a full measure of initiative and daring. It was his 
fortune that those ignoble exemplars of easy political virtue, Roscoe 
Conkling and Thomas C. Platt, were without great power during his 
three years in the legislature. And it was probably his fortune, too, 
that his last terms coincided with the governorship of Grover Cleve- 
land. Several times during the sessions of 1883 and 1884 Cleve- 
land and Roosevelt caught the public imagination by cooperating 
against their party machines, and in one graphic cartoon the stolid 
Democratic Governor and the ebullient Republican Assemblyman 
were portrayed with arms linked surveying a disintegrated Tammany 
tiger. But in the end the relationship between the two future Presi- 
dents, the one forty-six years old and increasingly conscious of his 
destiny, the other twenty-four and still uncertain of his life's work, 
was marred by recrimination. 

The event that first joined the two men in common cause was 
Cleveland's veto of a bill, twice supported by Roosevelt, to reduce 
the fare on the elevated railways from ten to five cents. Always a 
popular issue, it had special significance at the time because of a 


public indignation against Jay Gould. Many of the most respected 
elements in the city regarded the bill as a means of dealing that 
haughty buccaneer a heavy blow, and the city's Republican delega- 
tion at Albany prepared to support it almost to a man. 

Roosevelt would normally have opposed such a radical measure. 
The laissez-faire teachings of Harvard had held that the regulation 
of business was not a legislative function. The social milieu in which 
Theodore had been reared confirmed the tradional ordained rights of 
property. And the experience of the previous year had convinced him 
that "corporations are more sinned against than sinning." Yet the 
Westbrook investigation had given him an insight into the machina- 
tions of Jay Gould and people like him. He allowed himself to be 
carried along by the swelling tide. 

The tide failed to engulf the ultra-conservative gentleman in the 
Executive Mansion, however. Convinced that the fare-reduction bill 
embodied a breach of contract, Governor Cleveland vetoed the 
measure in a magnificent display of courage. "The State should not 
only be strictly just," he solemnly affirmed, "but scrupulously fair." 

Young Roosevelt took Cleveland's words to heart. No sooner was 
the veto message read to the Assembly on March 2, 1883, than he 
jumped to his feet (he had already been likened to a jack rabbit by 
Gould's New York World). He had risen to confess, he dramatically 
announced, that he had blundered grievously in supporting the bill 
originally. "I ... weakly yielded, partly in a vindictive spirit to- 
ward the infernal thieves and conscienceless swindlers who have the 
elevated railroads in charge, and partly to the popular voice of New 
York." The measure "breaks the plighted faith of the state" and 
was therefore at root "a question of justice to ourselves." He would 
rather leave politics with the feeling "that I had done what was right 
than stay in with the approval of all men, knowing in my heart that 
I had acted as I ought not to." 

Roosevelt's courageous sentiments were echoed less publicly by 
many of his colleagues, and on March 7 the veto was decisively 
sustained. Although the sensationalist press continued to berate him, 
many responsible newspapers commended his action warmly. Roosevelt 
was a gentleman "whose probity is as generally recognized as his 
ability," the New York Tribune said in a representative editorial; he 
had acted with "characteristic manliness" in reversing himself on 
the five-cent-fare bill. 


Nor was that the only time that Roosevelt made a manly change of 
front that spring. For some months Theodore had been immaturely 
excoriating an aged assemblyman from Richmond, one Erastus 
Brooks. Finally, near the close of the session, Brooks delivered a full- 
dress defense of his actions, and he also attacked Roosevelt sharply. 
When the Richmond Assemblyman had finished, relates Putnam, 
Roosevelt strode forward with tears in his eyes to shake his adversary's 
hand. "Mr. Brooks, I surrender," he contritely exclaimed. "I beg 
your pardon." 

In the meantime Roosevelt had mounted a new attack on Jay 
Gould. Within a week of his vote in support of Cleveland's veto, 
he introduced a resolution directing the Attorney General to bring 
3t&k> for the dissolution of Gould's Manhattan Elevated Railway Com- 
pany. And a few days after that he boldly charged that the New York 
World was "a local stock-jobbing sheet of limited circulation and 
versatile mendacity, owned by the arch thief of Wall Street, and 
edited by a rancorous kleptomaniac with a penchant for trousers." 

The words were impetuous, but the theme was not. A year before, 
so Roosevelt's Autobiography suggests and his record seemingly 
confirms, Roosevelt had come to a personal crossroads. Some time 
after the Westbrook investigation an old family friend had taken 
Theodore to lunch. After remarking that it had been a good thing 
for Roosevelt to have made the "reform play," the friend advised 
him to leave politics and identify himself with "the right kind of 
people, the people who would always in the long run control others 
and obtain the real rewards." Theodore asked if this meant that he 
should yield to the "ring." The patronizing retort was that the so- 
called "ring" included "certain big business men, and the politicians, 
lawyers and judges who were in alliance with and to a certain extent 
dependent upon them, and that the successful man had to win his 
success by the backing of the same forces, whether in law, business, 
or politics." 

Meanwhile, Roosevelt and Cleveland had come together in support 
of civil service reform, the bete noire of machine politicians in both 
parties. Early in the session Cleveland conferred in his office with 
Roosevelt and a few other Republicans in an effort to form such a 
coalition of antimachine Republicans and anti-Tammany Democrats 
as would prevent the machine politicians in both parties from thwart- 
ing his program. Roosevelt was amenable, and the coalition was 


formed. Several important measures were enacted in consequence, the 
most far-reaching of which created a Civil Service Commission. In 
addition, a large number of bills conferring special privileges on 
corporations were killed. The Roosevelt Republicans, the New York 
Times correspondent enthusiastically reported at the close of the 
session, had been "as effective as any minority the writer has ever 
seen in the Assembly." 

Governor Cleveland's resolve to brook no compromise with Tam- 
many had split the Democrats and provoked a Republican victory in 
the legislative elections of 1883. Roosevelt thereupon decided to bid 
for the speakership, for which post he had received his party's com- 
plimentary nomination at the start of his second term. Employing 
the techniques of the professional politician for the first time, he 
threw himself into the contest with remarkable vigor. He went into 
remote rural regions to seek out assemblymen-elect. He requested and 
authorized his friends to work for him. And he wrote numerous letters 
soliciting support. Yet he apparently made no deals. "I am a Repub- 
lican, pure and simple, neither a 'half breed' nor a 'stalwart'; and 
certainly no man, nor j cl any ring or clique, can do my thinking for 
me," he informed at least one correspondent: 

As you say, I believe in treating all our business interests equi- 
tably and alike; in favoring no one interest or set of interests at the 
expense of others. In making up the committees I should pay 
attention, first, to the absolute integrity of the men, second, to their 
capacity to deal intelligently with the matters likely to come be- 
fore them for . . . honesty and common sense are the two prime 
requisites for a legislator. 

Roosevelt concluded that he was much stronger than he had dared 
hope, and on the eve of the contest he wrote that his chances were 
good even though the lobby and the politicians had raised the free- 
trade scarecrow against him. Had not the New York Times remarked 
that the only thing against him was "the curable defect of being a 
young man"? When the Republican caucus met on New Year's Eve, 
however, Titus Sheard, a reputable, self-made manufacturer from 
Herkimer County was elected by 42 votes to 30. Theodore had 
suffered his first political defeat, and he was, he conceded, "cha- 

Roosevelt's strength was so great, however, that Sheard appointed 


him chairman of the Committee on Cities and then made him chair- 
man of a special committee to investigate the Public Works Depart- 
ment. In spite of the personal burdens that I will describe in the next 
chapter, Roosevelt's special committee conducted one of the most 
sensational investigations of municipal government to that time. Day 
after day Theodore and his colleagues relentlessly grilled minor and 
major officeholders as they sought to unravel the interlocking hold of 
corruption on New York City. Finally, on March 14, the committee 
filed its report. "Appalling Condition of Affairs"; "Surrogate's Office 
a Place for Blackmailing"; "How the City is Robbed"; "Sweeping 
Changes Urged"; "Roosevelt's Blunderbuss" so the newspapers 
heralded it. 

The findings justified the headlines. The committee's report re- 
vealed that the county clerk had netted $250,000 through the fee 
system and that the register of deeds and mortgages had paid ap- 
proximately $50,000 for his appointment. It showed that "a system 
of the grossest blackmail and extortion prevailed among the em- 
ployees" in the surrogate's office. The Department of Taxes and 
Assessments was found to have "absolutely no system whatever in 
the assessing" of real estate, while the "grossest abuses" were dis- 
covered in the sheriff's office. Worse still, the investigation indicated 
that the real governing authorities of the City of New York were 
"outside parties who cannot be held responsible to the law." 

Roosevelt proposed to eradicate these evils by a comprehensive 
program of reform legislation. Shortly after the special committee had 
reported he introduced nine bills, seven of which were eventually 
enacted into law. The most important substituted salaries for the fee 
system, deprived the board of aldermen of the authority to confirm 
the mayor's appointments, and empowered the mayor to appoint city 
department heads and other municipal officials as well as to remove 
them for cause with the governor's approval. 

Meanwhile Roosevelt drew up a bill designed to force the removal 
of Commissioner of Public Works Hubert O. Thompson, the leader of 
the County Democrats. At the same time Roosevelt openly pressed 
Cleveland to investigate again Sheriff Alexander V. Davidson, who 
had been acquitted of extortion following a grand-jury indictment. 
Cleveland was thereby caught in a nightmarish dilemma. Both 
Thompson and Davidson had played important roles in his rise to 
the governorship; their cooperation would be urgently needed in the 


drive for his nomination for the presidency. He had already broken 
with Tammany. Could he now destroy Thompson and Davidson and 
yet himself survive? 

For the first and perhaps the only time during his governorship 
Cleveland pursued an equivocal course. He vetoed the bill which 
would have effected Thompson's removal, and in spite of Roosevelt's 
presentation of evidence which the grand jury had not considered, he 
failed to move against Davidson. 

Actually, Cleveland's veto was well founded. The bill had been so 
amended by Republican allies of Tammany that it probably could not 
have accomplished its purpose. As its original draftsman pointed out 
in a letter to the New York Times, the final version was "unfit to 
find a place in the statute book." Nevertheless, the veto and the dis- 
missal of Roosevelt's charges against Davidson gave the Republicans, 
grown desperate for an issue against the popular Cleveland, what they 
had almost despaired of finding. "Now we had several bills that bore 
upon Tammany Hall," Roosevelt exclaimed in a campaign speech 
the following fall. "The Governor signed those most unflinchingly 
with reckless heroism. Then we had several that affected the County 
Democracy, and the leader of the County Democracy my esteemed 
fellow citizen, Mr. Hubert O. Thompson, and those measures came 
to an untimely end." 

Although Roosevelt's legislative lodestar was political reform, his 
restless mind and compelling sense of duty impelled him to explore 
and speak out on a wide range of subjects. In 1883 he vigorously 
opposed a bill to tighten the newspaper libel law on the grounds that 
"it is a great deal better to err a little bit on the side of having too 
much discussion and having too virulent language used by the press, 
rather than to err on the side of having them not say what they ought 
to say, especially with reference to public men and measures." And in 
1884 he spoke against a prohibition bill, arguing that it would play 
into the hands of the very elements it was designed to repress. 

Roosevelt also took a firm position on the absolute separation of 
church and state. Catholic and Protestant charitable organizations 
periodically solicited financial support from the legislature, and during 
the 1883 session it was proposed that the Catholic Protectory at 
Elmira be granted $25,000 for the construction of a new sewerage 
plant. Roosevelt interposed a forceful objection, asserting that the 
connection of church and state was "wholly wrong," that it brought 


religion into politics, and that it violated the spirit of the Constitution. 
His brief was unavailing, however; the bill passed by 99 to 17. A few 
weeks later when a bill to grant funds to a Protestant organization 
came up he took a similar position and was again resoundingly de- 
feated. Yet his consistency did not go unnoticed. "Mr. ROOSEVELT 
enjoys in the Assembly the distinction of having convictions and acting 
up to them," the New York Times said. 

It was Roosevelt's attitudes toward labor which were most reveal- 
ing of his development during these formative years. He was slow to 
comprehend the changes brought about by the industrial revolution 
the growing impersonality of the relations between employer and em- 
ployee, the wearying monotony of routine labor, the frequent intervals 
of unemployment, and the intense competition for jobs of the meanest 
sort. Nor did he then understand the function of unions. He attributed 
the deplorable conditions of labor to the workings of natural law 
rather than to the gross mismanagement of human resources; and 
natural law, in the prevailing view, was inviolable. As the Rev. Henry 
Ward Beecher, who was as convinced that God was on the side of the 
capitalists as he was certain that Satan was allied with the saloon- 
keepers and their workingmen customers, declaimed: "The things 
required for prosperous labor, prosperous manufactures, and pros- 
perous commerce are three. First, liberty; second, liberty; and third, 

It is a tribute to Roosevelt's capacity for growth that his labor views 
changed at all. Unlike Henry Cabot Lodge, Elihu Root and most 
leading Republicans of his generation, he gradually came to possess 
some comprehension of the labor problem. And though he failed to 
emerge of a sudden as an advanced labor reformer, his three years as 
an assemblyman saw his first cautious wandering from the hallowed 
highway of laissez faire. 

True, his wanderings were inconsistent. Even in his final term 
Roosevelt opposed a bill to reduce the working time for some 15,000 
streetcar conductors to twelve hours per day. He first argued that to 
oppose the law of supply and demand because it was unfeeling was 
like trying to repeal the law of gravity because its results were some- 
times brutal; he then charged that the twelve-hour legislation would 
tie labor to the apron strings of the state. To offer a worker such 
protection, he exclaimed, was both un-American and insulting! Had 
not Speaker of the Assembly Titus Sheard risen from laborer to 


manufacturer without such aid? The statement was correct, Sheard 
acknowledged in reply. He added, however, that he had found work- 
ing fourteen hours a day painful, brutalizing, and not in any way 
related to his subsequent success. Indeed, Sheard said, he believed 
that he would have been even more self-reliant if his hours of labor 
had been shorter and his wages higher! 

Nevertheless, the still callow Roosevelt continued to oppose the 
bill. He raised the haunting specter of communism and socialism and 
he inveighed against the Knights of Labor, who were then approach- 
ing the peak of their power. Every man should stand on his own 
bottom, he self-righteously declared at one point, only to be reminded, 
in what should have been the most mortifying blow of his legislative 
career, that his own bottom was his inheritance from his father, the 
laboring man's nothing. It was not surprising that John Swinton's 
Paper, a militant labor journal edited by a fiery idealist, called him a 
"crested snob." Yet Roosevelt won his point; Grover Cleveland, who 
was to prove far less sympathetic to labor than Theodore Roosevelt 
in the summing up, vetoed the bill on the grounds that it was "class 

John Swinton's bitter characterization of Roosevelt was animated 
by more than resentment of the young Assemblyman's opposition to 
the twelve-hour bill. By then Roosevelt had several times flaunted 
labor or its interests. He had recommended public whipping for 
certain crimes. He had dismissed with thinly veiled contempt labor's 
charge that the convict-labor system "was a vital cobra which was 
swamping [sic] the lives of laboring men." He had supported an anti- 
riot bill which labor quite realistically regarded as an antistrike 
measure. And he had once invited "a labor agitator from Brooklyn" 
to "step outside" to defend himself. The trouble with the working- 
men, he wrote in a patronizing magazine article the year after he 
retired from the Assembly, was that they had been instilled with false 
hopes by "professional agitators" who were "always promising to 
procure by legislation the advantages which can only come to work- 
ingmen ... by their individual or united energy, intelligence, and 

Years later Roosevelt regretted his manifest hostility toward unions 
and most labor legislation during this period. "One partial reason for 
my slowness in grasping the importance of action in these matters," 
he wrote in his Autobiography, "was the corrupt and unattractive 


nature of so many of the men who championed popular reforms, their 
insincerity, and the folly of so many of the actions which they 

Samuel Gompers, the convivial, dedicated, English-born Jew who 
gave the American labor movement its pragmatic character, was 
responsible for Roosevelt's first real insight into the degrading effects 
of his vaunted natural law. For years humanitarians had been de- 
nouncing the manufacture of cigars in New York tenements by un- 
organized immigrants who labored for wages that might have been 
termed subsistence had not their death rate belied it. Finally, in 1882, 
Gompers arranged the introduction of a bill to outlaw the manufacture 
of cigars in tenements, and a three-man committee, including the 
freshman Roosevelt, was appointed to investigate. 

Roosevelt later believed that he was put on the committee in the 
cynical expectation that he would perfunctorily report against the 
tenement bill. Possibly he was. Neither the Democratic nor the 
Republican leadership wanted to strike against the status quo; nor did 
the two other members of the committee plan to act in full con- 
science. The Republican member confided to Roosevelt that he would 
support the measure because of labor strength in his district, and the 
Democrat, "a sporting Tammany man who afterward abandoned 
politics for the race-track," as Theodore remembered, frankly 
admitted that he had to oppose the bill because of certain powerful 
interests. But he suggested that Roosevelt look into the situation, 
adding that he believed Roosevelt would favor the labor proposal on 
firsthand knowledge. 

Impressed by Roosevelt's "aggressiveness and evident sincerity," 
Gompers meanwhile invited the young Assemblyman to tour the 
tenement area with him. Roosvelt accepted, though he was then in- 
clined to oppose the bill. As he afterward wrote: "The respectable 
people I knew were against it; and it was contrary to the principles of 
political economy of the laissez-faire kind; the businessmen who spoke 
to me about it shook their heads and said that it was designed to 
prevent a man doing as he wished and as he had a right to do with 
what was his own." But his several inspections of tenements he went 
once with Gompers and several union officials, once with the other 
members of the committee, and once or twice on his own convinced 
him of the need for the legislation. "I have always remembered one 
room in which two families were living," he recalled. "There were 


several children, three men, and two women in this room. The 
tobacco was stowed about everywhere, alongside the foul bedding, and 
in a corner where there were scraps of food. The men, women, and 
children in this room worked by day and far on into the evening, and 
they slept and ate there. They were Bohemians, unable to speak Eng- 
lish, except that one of the children knew enough to act as interpreter." 

When the tenement bill was brought out of committee late that 
winter, Roosevelt supported it on the floor. The measure got through 
the Assembly, but it failed to be considered by the Senate, the copy 
of the bill being stolen from the clerk's files by a member of the 
manufacturers' lobby. The following year, however, a similar measure 
passed both houses and was sent to the Governor for approval. Cleve- 
land balked, fearing the bill was unconstitutional; but he did agree to 
hold a hearing on March 8. Roosevelt thereupon consented, as he 
phrased it, to act "as spokesman for the battered, undersized foreigners 
who represented the Union and the workers," and on the appointed 
day he argued convincingly for its adoption. After listening impassively 
to Roosevelt and other interested parties, the Governor surmounted 
his scruples and signed the measure into law. 

Refusing to accept defeat, the manufacturers took the issue to the 
courts. Their able attorney, former Secretary of State William M. 
Evarts, argued that tobacco was "a disinfectant and a prophylactic," 
that socialism and communism were responsible for the bill's con- 
ception, and that home manufacture was actually conducive to "the 
proper culture of growing girls." Apparently convinced by Evarts's 
reasoning, the New York Court of Appeals ruled the tenement law 
unconstitutional within less than a year of the bill's passage. 

Three months after that shocking decision, an indignant legislature 
overwhelmingly passed a slightly modified bill. Again, Roosevelt 
vigorously championed the measure in a speech in which he strayed 
far from the philosophical tenets of his youth. He conceded that the 
abolition of tenement workshops was not only a dangerous departure 
from prevailing doctrines, but was "in a certain sense a socialistic 
one." Nevertheless, he added in an understanding passage, the con- 
stantly increasing extremes of poverty and wealth demand that we 
"modify the principles or doctrines on which we manage our system 
of government." Otherwise, he continued, neither the cigar makers 
nor their children would ever be fit to perform the duties of American 
citizenship. He concluded that the bill merited passage as a "hygienic 


measure alone," and he emphasized that he was supporting the 
measure on the basis of his own findings rather than the union's 
recommendations . 

Whatever his reservations about labor unions, the struggle over the 
tenement bill was a powerfully formative experience for Roosevelt. 
For the first time he had faced the bleak fact that the American 
economic system was cruelly denying social development to hundreds 
of thousands, and probably millions, of working people. Either their 
lot would be ameliorated or democratic capitalism would be destroyed. 
Those were the alternatives. Young Roosevelt was one of the few of 
his class or party to perceive them, however faintly. 

Theodore's growth was evidenced by several other actions during 
his three years in Albany. He sponsored a bill to regulate the work- 
ing conditions of women and children; he several times voted for 
bills instituting safety measures in factories and various trades; and 
he gave full support to the creation of a labor bureau. Only on the 
wage increases for firemen, policemen, and city laborers, which he 
regarded as politically inspired, did he stubbornly hold out. 

After he left the legislature Roosevelt's insight into the character 
of American society, and especially of the judiciary, continued to 
deepen. In January, 1885, the New York State Court of Appeals 
found in the In re Jacobs case that the tenement law passed in 1884 
was patently unconstitutional. How, the court asked, can the health 
and morals of the producer be improved "by forcing him from his 
home and its hallowed associations and beneficent influences, to ply 
his trade elsewhere?" The tenement law, the court continued, was an 
indisputable abridgment of the cigar makers' "fundamental rights of 

Roosevelt's reaction to the Jacobs decision at the time is uncertain. 
Probably his autobiographical commentary is a fair statement of his 
attitude. "It was this case which first waked me to a dim and partial 
understanding of the fact that the courts were not necessarily the best 
judges of what should be done to better social and industrial con- 
ditions," he wrote. "Of course it took more than one experience such 
as this Tenement Cigar Case to shake me out of the attitude in which 
I was brought up." For the fact was "the people with whom I was 
most intimate were apt to praise the courts for just such decisions as 
this, and to speak of them as bulwarks against disorder and barriers 
against demagogic legislation." But as a result of numerous such 


decisions, he continued, "I grew to realize that all Abraham Lincoln 
had said about the Dred Scott decision could be said with equal truth 
and justice about the numerous decisions which in our own day were 
erected as bars across the path of social reform, and which brought 
to naught so much of the effort to secure justice and fair dealings for 
working men and working women, and for plain citizens generally." 

Young Roosevelt's political horizons meanwhile broadened even 
more rapidly than his social insights deepened. Eighteen eighty-four 
was a presidential election year, and the Grand Old Party's con- 
trolling clique was determined to make James G. Blaine, of Maine 
and "Mulligan letters" fame, the Republican nominee. Repelled by 
Elaine's unsavory political character, George W. Curtis, Carl Schurz, 
Henry Cabot Lodge, and other reform-minded Republicans decided 
to oppose the "Plumed Knight" with Senator George F. Edmunds of 
Vermont, an honest, conservative Yankee of no particular distinction. 
Roosevelt, who was not less repelled by Blaine than Curtis and the 
others, joined them. He announced himself for Edmunds in mid- 
January, though the Twenty-first District machine was for President 
Arthur, and in mid-April his slate of Edmunds men defeated Jake 
Hess's in the contest for delegates to the Republican State Con- 

Thereafter the story blurs. The World later charged that Roosevelt 
had compromised with John J. O'Brien, the city Republican leader, in 
his battle against Hess. Contending that Roosevelt had needed 
O'Brien's support to defeat Hess, the World claimed that he failed to 
make a sufficiently strong effort to pass a reform bill the Bureau of 
Elections Bill which would have removed O'Brien as Chief of the 
Bureau of Elections. Had Roosevelt worked as hard for passage of 
that bill as he had for the Tenure-of-Office bill, the World wrote, it 
would have gone through. 

No other evidence confirms those charges, and Putnam concludes 
that they are groundless. Yet Roosevelt makes the following admis- 
sion in his A utobiography : 

I at one period began to believe that I had a future before me, and 
that it behooved me to be very far-sighted and scan each action 
carefully with a view to its possible effect on that future. This 
speedily made me useless to the public and an object of aversion 
to myself; and I then made up my mind that I would try not to 
think of the future at all, but would proceed on the assumption that 


each office I held would be the last I ever should hold, and that I 
would confine myself to trying to do my work as well as possible 
while I held that office. 

Whether that passage refers to the World's charges is unclear. It is 
certain, however, that except for an assertion by the Evening Post 
after the presidential election of 1884 that Roosevelt had "showered 
certificates of good character and promise of 'support' on candidates 
for all sorts of city offices," no other action of his legislative career 
remotely suggests such a compromise. 

The New York Republican party was torn with dissension as it 
prepared to convene in Utica that spring. Most "stalwarts" lined up 
behind President Chester A. Arthur, who had drawn on theretofore 
untapped resources to give the country a competent administration. 
The "half-breeds" fell in behind Elaine, as did a faction of stalwarts 
headed by State Senator Thomas C. Platt, who had come out of 
seclusion and was soon to build the machine that made him the 
dominant power in New York politics for almost two decades. The 
Oswego druggist was for Elaine because he thought he would win; 
and also because he hated Arthur. Between the stalwarts and the half- 
breeds were the independents. Most were mildly for Edmunds, but all 
were vehemently against both Arthur and Elaine. They numbered 
perhaps a seventh of the convention delegates and they were led by 
the twenty-five-year-old Roosevelt. At stake was the selection of four 
delegates-at-large to the national convention, scheduled to convene in 
Chicago six weeks after the state meeting. 

Fresh from his victory over Hess four days before, Roosevelt 
arrived in Utica on April 21. Perceiving the Arthur forces' im- 
placable opposition to Elaine, he audaciously insisted that they sup- 
port the entire Edmunds slate. The Arthur men bitterly resented his 
imperious demand, but they despised Elaine more. Reluctantly they 
submitted after a final conference in Roosevelt's hotel room at two 
A.M., April 22; and when the convention met in the Utica Opera 
House early that afternoon, Roosevelt and three other Independents, 
including Curtis and President Andrew D. White of Cornell University, 
were elected on the first ballot. In his youthful exuberance Roosevelt 
then turned to ex-Governor Warner Miller, who had spearheaded his 
defeat for Speaker in January, and expostulated, "There, damn you, 
we beat you for last winter." Meanwhile a great cry went up for 


Roosevelt to appear on the platform. The New York Times described 
the scene: 

Mr. Roosevelt disregarded the call for a moment, and then, amid 
enthusiastic cheers, made his way to the stage. His slender, erect 
form, bright young face and active ways have made him familiar 
within a few days to almost every one who took part in the con- 
vention, and his legislative work had won admiration and a respect 
for his industry, capacity, and judgment. He wisely curbed any 
natural desire he may have had to make a speech. Simply and 
frankly he said: "I have nothing to say except to thank you for the 
honor you have conferred upon me. I shall try to so behave myself 
as to serve the best interests of the Republican Party, and to make 
you feel no regret in selecting me." 

All through his life, even in moments of triumph, Theodore Roose- 
velt was wont to have forebodings of disaster; the aftermath of his 
victory at Utica was no exception. A week after the convention ended 
he unburdened himself to a friendly Utica newspaper editor: 

I have very little expectation of being able to keep on in politics; my 
success so far has only been won by absolute indifference to my 
future career; for I doubt if any man can realise [sic] the bitter 
and venomous hatred with which I am regarded by the very 
politicians who at Utica supported me, under dictation from masters 
who were influenced by political considerations that were national 
and not local in their scope. I realize very thoroughly the absolutely 
ephemeral nature of the hold I have upon the people, and a very 
real and positive hostility I have excited among the politicians. 1 
will not stay in public life unless I can do so on my own terms; and 
my ideal, whether lived up to or not, is rather a high one. 

What did he mean? That he had compromised once and was too 
conscience-ridden to do it again? That he sensed that he would have 
to support Elaine eventually or get out of Republican politics? That 
he was not yet ready to accept politics as the art of the possible? 

Whatever he meant, he characteristically acted rather than brooded. 
During the interim between the state convention at Utica and the 
national convention at Chicago, Roosevelt worked feverishly to bind 
together the scattered Edmunds delegates, who never numbered a 
hundred. He hoped that they would again comprise the balance of 
power, though he was far from sanguine. "Unquestionably, Elaine is 


our greatest danger," he warned Henry Cabot Lodge, who was work- 
ing for Edmunds in Massachusetts, "for I fear lest, if he come too 
near success, the bread-and-butter brigade from the south will leave 
Arthur and go over to him. We who stand against both must be 
organized . . ." 

When the Republican convention convened the first week in June 
in Chicago, however, the forces of emotionalism and materialism 
proved overpowering. Elaine's magnetic personality inspired loyalty 
and enthusiasm if not much else, and on the fourth ballot the Grand 
Old Party gave him its nomination. There followed a wildly climactic 
scene which saw William McKinley, then a relatively obscure Ohio 
congressman, push his way through to Roosevelt on the floor and ask 
him to make a unity speech for the "Plumed Knight." The New York 
leader refused. 

The first of a long succession of Gethsemanes was now at hand. 
Roosevelt had been a center of attention throughout the convention. 
The press, remarks Putnam, had treated him whimsically, commenting 
on his "nobby straw" hat, "jaunty" attire, "nervously forcible" ges- 
tures and "pugnacious" nose. The New York Sun had described him 
as "bubbling over with martial ardor" as he vainly sought to bolster 
the dampened spirits of the Edmunds men. And another paper 
related how "Roosevelt, Fish and Lodge applauded with the tips of 
their fingers held immediately in front of their noses." 

Yet, as Putnam also observes, Roosevelt's remarkable capacity for 
leadership had come through. The World described his seconding 
speech for Thomas R. Lynch, a Mississippi Negro nominated for 
temporary chairman by Lodge in a successful maneuver against the 
Elaine delegates, as blunt and manly. The New York Times reported 
that though he "scrambled to his perch on the chair with juvenile 
activity," he spoke with the authority of "a positive practical man" 
rather than a youth. And Joseph B. Foraker, the Ohio spoilsman with 
whom Roosevelt, when President, would clash bitterly, recalled that 
his conferences with Roosevelt had been "so taxing upon the strength 
and the mental operations . . . that I felt scarcely able to attend the 
evening session . . ." Obviously, McKinley would not have sought 
Roosevelt's support for Elaine had the convention as a whole re- 
garded the young reformer as sensationalist reporters portrayed him. 

Roosevelt and the other independent-minded New Yorkers had "sat 
with troubled countenances biting their lips, crimson with vexation 


and dismay" as Blaine's fourth-ballot nomination impended. Now, 
in the agonizing aftermath of the "Plumed Knight's" victory, they 
knew they would have to decide whether they would support him in 
the campaign that fall. "I was at the birth of the Republican party, 
and I fear I am to witness its death," Curtis exclaimed as he awaited 
the final tally. The Harper's editor refused, however, to comment 
once the final result was announced. Roosevelt was less self-contained. 
He was variously reported as declining comment, advising reporters 
to see him the next week, and attributing Blaine's nomination to 
"mistaken public enthusiasm." The New York Times quoted him 
most fully: 

To say that I am satisfied with the nomination of Mr. Elaine 
would be false. I have participated in a Republican convention, and 
by all the usages of the party, I would be expected to support its 
nominee. I could have given an earnest and enthusiastic support to 
a ticket headed by such a man as George F. Edmunds. ... I 
should suppose, from what I have heard many independents say, 
that they would not give Mr. Elaine any support whatever; and 
I believe they will keep their promise. 

Roosevelt's assertion was correct. Curtis, Carl Schurz, Henry Ward 
Beecher and a great host of reformers and plain, respectable citizens 
throughout the nation were going to bolt. That Roosevelt would fail 
to go along with them was unthinkable. William Roscoe Thayer, upon 
whom the nomination of Elaine weighed "like a nightmare," described 
the esteem in which he then held the young reformer. "I thought of 
him as of a paladin against whom the forces of evil would dash them- 
selves to pieces," Thayer wrote. "I thought of him as the young and 
dauntless spokesman of righteousness whose words would silence the 
special pleaders of iniquity. I wrote him and besought him to stand 
firm." Others implored him to do the same. 

When it became evident early in July that Roosevelt would "stand 
firm," but with the Republican party rather than with his reformer 
friends, it was as though a piece of Thayer's heart had been cut out. 
"I felt as Abolitionists felt after Webster's Seventh of March speech," 
he later recalled. "My old acquaintance, our trusted leader, whose 
career in the New York Assembly we had watched with an almost 
holy satisfaction, seemed to have strangely abandoned the fundamental 
principles which we and he had believed in, and he had so nobly 


upheld. Whittier's poem, 'Ichabod,' seemed to have been aimed at 

Not all the fundamental principles had been on the side of the 
poet; nor were they now all aligned with the reformers. Roosevelt had 
gone to Chicago knowing that Elaine's nomination was probable. By 
the rules of politics he was bound to support the convention's choice. 
As his earlier speeches reveal, moreover, he regarded the Republican 
party as a principle itself. Much as he gloried in the heroic exploits 
o| Confederate soldiers, he deplored the states-rights philosophy upon 
wtich secession had been based and to which the Democratic party 
Sml adhered. He would write the next year that Jefferson Davis "en- 
joys the unique distinction of being the only American with whose 
public character that of Benedict Arnold need not fear comparison"; 
and when he himself stormed out of the G.O.P. in 1912 it was partly 
to create a more nationalistic party than the one he was abandoning. 
If ever a reformer was foreordained to swallow the bitterness of 
personal contempt with the sweetness of party loyalty, it was Theodore 
Roosevelt in 1884. 

Nevertheless, it is hard to explflh the intensity of Roosevelt's 
activities that fall. He could have refused to issue a public statement, 
or he might have sat out the campaign on his ranch in Dakota, where 
he had sped at the close of the convention. Either course would have 
enabled him to retain his party standing. Either would have main- 
tained his prized reputation for independence. But he chose instead 
to come out openly for the "decidedly mottled" Blaine, as he referred 
to his party's nominee, and to castigate the rock-ribbed Cleveland. 

Roosevelt's public statement evoked a bitter outcry from the in- 
dependents. The Boston banker, Colonel Henry Lee, is said to have 
growled to his cousin George, Roosevelt's father-in-law: "As for Cabot 
Lodge, nobody's surprised at him; but you can tell that young whipper- 
snapper in New York from me that his independence was the only 
thing in him we cared for ..." The New York Evening Post ob- 
served that "There is no ranch or other hiding place in the world in 
which a man can wait for Blaine and the Mulligan letters to 'blow 
over' . . ." And others spared Roosevelt no less. 

Roosevelt never forgave the mugwumps for their failure to accept 
his decision to support the Republican ticket in 1884. As that astute 
English observer, James Bryce, perceived, they had "impeached his 
own righteousness and classed him with the politicians." They had, in 


addition, abandoned the party of Union for that of secession. "I am 
glad I am not at home," Roosevelt wrote Lodge from Dakota just 
before he decided to enter the campaign actively. "I get so angry 
with the 'mugwumps,' and get to have such a scorn and contempt for 
them, that I know I would soon be betrayed into taking some step 
against them, and in favor of Blaine, much more decided than I really 
ought to take." That fall he lashed them almost as ferociously as he 
whipped the Democrats. 

Roosevelt had returned on October 9 to New York, where, in what 
was probably the most revealing of his statements on the matter, he 
told a reporter from the Sun that "It is altogether contrary to my 
character to occupy a neutral position in so important and exciting a 
struggle." Then, in a series of speeches delivered in Massachusetts, 
New Jersey, and New York, he revealed the depth of his Republican 
convictions, discreditably capitalized on Cleveland's moral laxness 
and conveniently dismissed Elaine's. u Now in 1864 nobody that I 
know of questioned the moral character of George B. McClellan, and 
yet no disaster . . . would have begun to equal in importance the 
terrible disaster that it would have been to have McClellan elected as 
President," he said at Maiden, Massachusetts. Therefore, he continued, 
"everyone in his senses must recognize that the man is not everything, 
that the man is not even so much, but that the party is most of all." 
In Winchester, he warned that there was a chance that the next 
President would appoint as many as four new justices to the Supreme 

Now I want to have a bench that will decide, should the question 
ever come before them, that the national banks are constitutional, 
that the law providing for the suppression of pleuro-pneumonia and 
of kindred [cattle] diseases by the National Government should be 
held constitutional. Issues like that are not decided in a day. They 
are not decided in 20 years. It is a question of national growth, and 
the same fight that has been going on for the last half century or 
more will continue to go on for some time longer. 

Roosevelt was received well in Massachusetts. But it was his address 
to the Young Men's Republican Club in New York that evoked the 
most enthusiastic response. "A gentleman told me recently he doubted 
if I would vote for the Angel Gabriel if found at the head of the 
Democratic party, to which I responded that the Angel Gabriel would 


never be found in such company," he remarked at the outset. He then 
commented on his decision to remain with the G.O.P. "It may be 
right to bolt," he acknowledged, "but you must be certain that the 
time is right; that you are acting to reform, not to destroy the 
Republican party." He had opposed Elaine's nomination, he dis- 
ingenuously added, "but then I saw, and every man who didn't view 
the scene with jaundiced eyes saw too that Mr. Elaine was nominated 
fairly and squarely because the bulk of Republicans in the Republican 
States wishes him to be their nominee." Adding that these were the 
men Abraham Lincoln used to call the "plain people," he concluded: 
"I am thankful that I am still, where by inheritance and education 
I feel that I belong, with the Republican party." 




We knew toil and hardship and hunger and thirst; and we saw 
men die violent deaths as they worked among the horses and 
cattle; but we felt the best of hardy life in our veins, and ours 
was the glory of work and the joy of living. 

Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography 

Roosevelt's political and social life had merged only infrequently 
during his three years in the legislature. His young bride, whom Isaac 
Hunt remembered as "a very charming woman . . . tall and 
willowy," had spent most of his first term and part of his second term 
with him in a suite at the Delevan House in Albany. They had seen 
little of his colleagues except at official functions, however, and when 
Theodore's third term started in January, 1884, Alice stayed in New 
York to wait for the birth of their first child. 

Two or three weeks before Alice's baby was expected, she had 
entertained three of her husband's colleagues, one of them an Irish- 
American Democrat, at lunch. "All of the men were perfectly en- 
chanted with their visit," Theodore wrote after he had returned to 
Albany. "They could hardly believe that mother was really our 
mother; and above all they praised my sweet little wife. I was very 
much amused by Welch, who said that he had never seen anyone 
look so pretty as you did when you were asking me not to tell the 
'shaved lion' story; he said 'I would have felt just as badly as she 
would have if you had gone on to tell it.' So I felt very glad we had 
entertained the three 'pollys.' " 



Seventeen days later the mother and the wife were dead. 

Theodore and Alice's three years of marriage had been extraor- 
dinarily happy. Although she seems never to have matured he de- 
ferred to her as to a child during the whole of their brief life to- 
gether he was as enamored of her at the end as he had been at the 
beginning. "How I did hate to leave my bright, sunny little love 
yesterday afternoon," he had written her from Albany the week 
before she died. "I love you and long for you all the time, and oh so 
tenderly; doubly tenderly now, my sweetest little wife." 

Roosevelt's letters from Europe during a tour they had made the 
first year of their marriage are similarly illuminating. "Really, Alice 
is an excellent traveller," he informed his sister Corinne. "When I 
reach a station I leave her in a chair with the parcels, and there she 
stays, round eyed and solemn, but perfectly happy, till I have ex- 
tricated my luggage, had it put on a hack and arranged everything." 
In other letters Theodore referred to Alice as "Baby," indulgently 
reported that she resented being addressed in any other language than 
"english" [sic], and described how she had been convulsed by sea- 
sickness on the voyage over and had "requested me to wear a 
mustard plaster first, to see if it hurts." Yet they also shared many 
pleasures maturely, including art, and Theodore freely conceded that 
her appreciation was "far keener" than his. 

The idyl ended on February 14, 1884, the fourth anniversary of 
the announcement of their engagement. In Albany, the day before, 
Theodore had reported fourteen bills out of the Cities Committee and 
was planning to remain in the Chamber until the vote was taken that 
afternoon on his Aldermanic Bill, though he had received a telegram 
that morning reporting the birth of a daughter. "I shall never forget 
when the news came and we congratulated him . . . ," Hunt recalled. 
"He was full of life and happiness." But then, Hunt added, "the 
news came of a sudden turn and he took his departure." 

After a depressingly slow trip through a dense fog then in its tenth 
day, Roosevelt reached his mother's house on West 57th Street shortly 
before midnight. He found Alice stricken by Bright's disease and 
barely able to recognize him. All that night he held her in his arms, 
leaving only to spend a few minutes with his mother who was dying 
of typhoid fever in another room. At about three o'clock that morn- 
ing Martha Bulloch Roosevelt died. Theodore, standing by her bed- 
side, repeated the words his brother Elliott had greeted him with a 


few hours earlier: "There is a curse on this house." He then returned 
to Alice. Dawn came, but not the sun. Alice continued to sink and 
at two o'clock that afternoon, February 14, she also died. She was 
twenty-two and one-half years old. 

The senior Mrs. Roosevelt, the New York Herald reported the 
next day, was the "widow of the distinguished philanthropist" who 
had founded the Roosevelt (Orthopedic) Hospital. "The devotion of 
her four children to her person was akin to chivalrous loyalty, and 
was remarked by all who came under her roof and under the spell of 
her hospitable manner and brilliant powers as the leader of a salon." 
The junior Mrs. Roosevelt, the Herald continued, "was famed for 
her beauty as well as for many graces of the heart and head." The 
two ladies took an active interest in the late Mr. Roosevelt's many 
charities, the obituary concluded, and from "visiting hospital wards 
to dispensing ice cream at a newsboys' lodging house, both found 
pleasure in making this world less of a sorrow to the poor and more 
of a lesson to the rich." 

In Albany, meanwhile, seven assemblymen, including two or three 
of Theodore's inveterate opponents, spoke movingly in support of a 
resolution to adjourn in the hope that Roosevelt might be fortified "in 
this moment of his agony and weakness." When finally the members 
arose to endorse the resolution unanimously, tears swelled many of 
their eyes. It was "an unusual compliment," the New York Times 
observed, one that reflected "the high position in the general esteem 
which Mr. Roosevelt has won by his straightforward and courageous 
course in the Legislature and in politics." 

A little after ten o'clock the next morning, Saturday, February 16, 
Theodore entered a front pew of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian 
Church. The choir chanted "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" and a 
quartet sang "Rock of Ages," after which his mother's friend and 
pastor, the Rev. Dr. John Hall, who was visibly moved, preached a 
short sermon. Following the benediction the choir sang "Angels of 
Jesus, Angels of Light." Two rosewood coffins covered with roses 
and lilies of the valley were then borne down the center aisle to the 
muted organ strains of the funeral march from Beethoven's Third 
Symphony as Theodore and the immediate family walked slowly 
behind. They entered waiting coaches and rode slowly behind twin 
hearses to Greenwood Cemetery. 

Theodore was "in a dazed, stunned state" that day, his old tutor, 


Arthur Cutler, wrote Bill Sewall. "He does not know what he does 
or says." Sometime that day, however, probably just before he went 
to bed, Roosevelt noted in his diary that "we spent three years of 
happiness greater and more unalloyed than I have ever known fall 
to the lot of others." He added that "For joy or for sorrow my life 
has now been lived out." 

Yet in death there was life. The four-day-old baby, Alice Lee, 
survived; and within less than a week her twenty-five-year-old father 
had returned to Albany and immersed himself in the investigation of 
corruption in New York City, the struggle for his reform bills, and 
the organization of the Edmunds forces. By every law of nature that 
Roosevelt had studied and by most of those he had superimposed on 
human history, life went on. Resolutely, he summed up his philosophy 
in a letter to Sewall three weeks later: "It was a grim and evil fate, 
but I have never believed it did any good to flinch or yield for any 
blow, nor does it lighten the blow to cease from working." 

Nevertheless, Theodore suffered. Alice seems hardly to have in- 
fluenced his basic personality; but she had touched the depths of his 
sensitivity. "You could not talk to him about it," Hunt recalled. "You 
could see at once that it was a grief too deep. . . . There was a sad- 
ness about his face that he never had before. ... He did not want 
anybody to sympathize with him." 

In Dakota that summer Roosevelt penned a moving memorial to 
Alice Lee. "She was," her young widower wrote, "beautiful in face 
and form, and lovelier still in spirit; as a flower she grew, and as a 
fair young flower she died." 

Her life had been always in the sunshine; there had never come to 
her a single great sorrow; and none ever knew her who did not 
love and revere her for her bright, sunny temper and her saintly 
unselfishness. Fair, pure, and joyous as a maiden; loving, tender, 
and happy as a young wife; when she had just become a mother, 
when her life seemed to be but just begun, and when the years 
seemed so bright before her then, by a strange and terrible fate, 
death came to her. 

"And when my heart's dearest died," the memorial, which he had 
printed and circulated among his friends and family, concluded, "the 
light went from my life forever." 

Thereafter, as Henry Pringle observes, a door closed on Alice Lee. 


Roosevelt maintained cordial relations with her relatives. But that was 
all. Within three years he had married again; and in the crowded 
years that followed he never again mentioned her, not even to their 
daughter Alice. His silence, Putnam concludes, "seems pathologically 
rigorous" and suggests a "discipline approaching cruelty." 

Fortunately, Roosevelt had entered the cattle business in the Bad 
Lands of the Dakota Territory the autumn before his double bereave- 
ment. Following the Republican Convention in Chicago in June, 1884, 
he went directly West to lose himself in the challenge of the round- 
up, of exploration, of man-killing animals, and of near total isola- 
tion. He found that and more. His years in Dakota constituted one of 
the great formative experiences of his life, and in passing moments 
he even considered making a full-time career of ranching, hunting, and 

The story of Roosevelt's Western adventures has been told many 
times so often, in fact, that it has become a kind of national saga. 
Yet certain episodes must perforce be repeated, and of these, none is 
more revealing than that of his gradual acceptance by the leathery 
cowhands, guides, and ranchers with whom he associated. 

The spurs were not easily won. As Roosevelt later half-seriously 
remarked, glasses were considered a sign of "defective moral char- 
acter" in the Bad Lands; and when he first visited Dakota in 1883 he 
had been forced to use all his persuasive powers merely to hire a 
hunting guide, so contemptuous was the reaction to his appearance 
and manner. Only after he had several times proved his mettle did 
opinion change, and then but slowly. 

Once, Roosevelt relates in his Autobiography, a drunken stranger 
accosted him in a hotel. "Four-eyes is going to treat," bellowed the 
drunk, who had already shot up the face of the barroom clock. Wav- 
ing two cocked pistols, he strode over to Roosevelt, who had quietly 
taken to a chair behind the stove, and repeated his demands in a 
stream of profanity. Roosevelt rose from his chair as if to oblige, 
then suddenly struck, first with a short right and left, then with an- 
other right. The guns discharged aimlessly as the drunk fell to the 

On another occasion Roosevelt brought "Hell-Roaring" Bill Jones, 
the sheriff of Billings County, to bay. Primitive, shiftless, and quick- 
tempered, "Hell-Roaring" Bill was "a thorough frontiersman, excel- 
lent in all kinds of emergencies, and a very game man," or so Roose- 


veil wrote. He was also "a thoroughly good citizen when sober." The 
encounter occurred in the office of the Bad Lands Cowboy, a news- 
paper published and edited in Medora by A. T. Packard, a University 
of Michigan graduate who had drifted to the Bad Lands about the 
same time as Roosevelt. "Hell-Roaring" Bill had been passing the 
time telling off-color stories to a group of cowpunchers, and Roose- 
velt, who had no taste for obscenity, though he was given to mild 
profanity in later years, finally decided that he had heard enough. 

"I can't tell why in the world I like you, for you're the nastiest- 
talking man I ever heard," he blurted out at the startled sheriff. 
Packard and the cowpunchers froze in their chairs, for "Hell-Roaring" 
Bill had been known to shoot on less provocation. By then, however, 
Jones had come to respect Roosevelt. 

"I don't mind saying that mebbe I've been a little too free with 
my mouth," he sheepishly replied. 

It was these and similar incidents that helped Roosevelt gain 
acceptance in the Bad Lands. Even after he had won it, however, he 
was regarded as a man apart, as a New Yorker turned Westerner, as 
a captain but never a private. Partly this was the result of his 
rancher status. But in the main it reflected his natural qualities of 

Not that Roosevelt ceased to amuse, even to amaze, the hard- 
bitten Dakotans. They never forgot how once when some cattle broke 
loose on a roundup, he commanded a hand to "Hasten forward 
quickly there." His guides and hunting companions also long remem- 
bered his ecstatic outbursts and Indian dances over a successful kill 
(they were often climaxed by the presentation of a hundred dollars 
to his guide). Nor did they fail to enjoy Roosevelt's penchant for 
ostentatious dress. Whether stepping off the train at Little Missouri in 
a derby hat or riding the range in a tailored buckskin suit, Roosevelt 
created an effect not unlike that of his appearance in evening clothes 
at his first Republican caucus in 1882. Yet even this sartorial bril- 
liance failed to enhance the gracefulness of his seat on a horse. "He 
was not a purty rider," one of his acquaintances recalled, "but a hell 
of a good rider." 

Roosevelt's experiences as a hunter also enhanced his stature. 
Sooner or later his pluck and courage, his insistence on taking the 
hard way, and his perseverance under adverse conditions became 


known. He captured the flavor of one of his early bear hunts in the 
Big Horn Mountains in a letter to his sister Bamie: 

I shall not soon forget the first one I killed. . . . Cocking my 
rifle and stepping quickly forward, I found myself face to face with 
the great bear, who was less than twenty-five feet off not eight 
steps. He had been roused from his sleep by our approach; he sat 
up in his lair, and turned his huge head slowly towards us. At that 
distance and in such a place it was very necessary to kill or disable 
him at the first fire; doubtless my face was pretty white, but the 
blue barrel was as steady as a rock as I glanced along it until I 
could see the top of the bead fairly between his two sinister looking 
eyes; as I pulled the trigger I jumped aside out of the smoke, to be 
ready if he charged; but it was needless, for the great brute was 
struggling in the death agony, and, as you will see when I bring 
home his skin, the bullet hole in his skull was as exactly between 
his eyes as if I had measured the distance with a carpenters rule. 
This bear was nearly nine feet long and weighed over a thousand 
pounds. Each of my other bears, which were smaller, needed two 
bullets apiece; Merrifield killed each of his with a single shot. 

Drawing on the experiences of that and other hunting trips, Roose- 
velt in 1885 wrote Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, the first volume of 
a trilogy on hunting, ranching, and nature observation. Three years 
later the second, Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail was published, 
and in 1893 the last, The Wilderness Hunter, came out. The three 
volumes set a new style in hunting books, embracing, in Paul R. 
Cutright's words, "vivid pictures of windswept prairie and baldface 
mountain, of lovely, sweet-smelling flowers and endless virgin forests; 
thumbnail sketches of birds and small mammals; and fascinating 
biographies of large game animals, from buffalo to bighorn." 

All three books were warmly praised by critics though they had 
serious deficiencies. They tended to be repetitious, to draw too heavily 
on unreliable sources, and to indulge in extravagant statements. 
Roosevelt himself was dissatisfied. "I wish I could make my writings 
touch a higher plane," he confided to the novelist Owen Wister, "but 
I don't well see how I can. ... I go over them a good deal and 
recast, supply or omit, sentences and even paragraphs, but I don't 
make the reconstruction complete in the way that you do." Neverthe- 
less, the chapter on the habits of the grizzly bear in The Wilderness 
Hunter was the most comprehensive to that time, while the essay on 


the Bighorn in Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail is still regarded as 
superb. As Brander Matthews, the Columbia professor and arbiter 
of Arts and Letters, wrote years later, Roosevelt's writings were in- 
variably "Tinglingly alive, masculine and vascular." 

Impressed with the natural beauty of the Bad Lands, desirous of a 
hunting base of his own, and pleased by a financial investment in 
which he could be genuinely interested, Roosevelt had meanwhile 
expanded his original stake of $14,000. Shortly after Alice died he 
invested $26,000 more; then, in April 1885, he poured in an addi- 
tional $12,500. All this was done against the advice of his banker 
uncle, James Roosevelt, who not unreasonably regarded him as 
impetuous and visionary in financial matters. 

Roosevelt's original contract was a "gentleman's agreement" with 
two young and sinewy Canadians, Sylvane Ferris and Bill Merrifield, 
wherein he gave them a check of $14,000 in the fall of 1883 to pur- 
chase cattle for him. They were to run them on government lands 
around their own ranch, the Maltese Cross. When Roosevelt returned 
to Dakota in June, 1884, however, he bought a thousand additional 
head and established his own ranch thirty miles down the Little 
Missouri River. It was called Elkhorn, and it was managed by Bill 
Sewall and his nephew Will Dow under a contract that gave them 
specified salaries and a percentage of the profits but no liability for 
losses. They constructed the log ranchhouse that summer which was 
to be Roosevelt's headquarters in Dakota until he sold out in 1897. 

Having thus established his stake, Roosevelt soon plunged into the 
turbulent affairs of the region. The ranchers were ripe for organiza- 
tion. They were plagued by thieves, marauders, and inadequate range 
laws; and in November, after riding through blizzards in temperatures 
of twenty below to talk with other ranchers, Roosevelt issued a call 
for a meeting the next month. Out of it came the Little Missouri 
Stockmen's Association. Roosevelt was elected chairman and was re- 
elected the next year. "The association can congratulate itself," the 
Bad Lands Cowboy commented. "Under his administration, every- 
thing moves quickly forward and there is none of that time-consuming, 
fruitless talk that so invariably characterizes a deliberative assembly 
without a good presiding officer." 

Roosevelt also participated actively in the much larger Eastern 
Montana Stockgrowers Association, and in April, 1886 he attended 
a three-day convention in Miles City, a thriving frontier town, as he 


described it, "thronged with hundreds of rough-looking, broad-hatted 
men, numbering among them all the great cattle and horse raisers of 
the Northwest." 

"I took my position very well in the convention," Roosevelt wrote 
shortly after, "and indeed these Westerners have now pretty well 
accepted me as one of themselves, and as a representative stockman." 
He was appointed a member of a committee charged to influence the 
establishment of stockyards in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1887 he 
persuaded the convention to modify a resolution criticizing the newly 
established Interstate Commerce Commission on the grounds that the 
criticism was premature. He also effected the discharge of the in- 
competent livestock inspector at Medora. 

By then Roosevelt's interest in the Montana and Little Missouri 
Associations had already begun to wane. A prolonged drought in the 
summer of 1886 followed by a disastrously severe winter had wiped 
out a large part of his herd; and he had committed himself to the 
East for personal reasons anyway. Bill Sewall, who had viewed the 
cattle venture with pessimism from the outset, had returned with Dow 
to Maine in the late summer of 1886. A raging fire had destroyed the 
office and press of the Bad Lands Cowboy. And rancher after rancher 
had gone out of business in the aftermath of the disastrous winter of 
1886-1887. A brief item in the Dickinson Press summed it up: 
"D. O. Sweet and family have moved from Medora to Dickinson. 
Mr. Sweet desired to reside where there was some life and prospect 
of growth." 

Roosevelt returned to the Bad Lands on hunting trips in 1888, 
1890, 1892, 1893, and 1896; but he never again took an active part 
in running his cattle. When he finally sold out in 1897 he had lost 
more than $20,000 plus interest. Yet the money had been well spent. 
In spite of arduous days in the saddle, almost sleepless nights on the 
roundup, and prolonged exposure to near intolerable heat and cold, 
his body had developed remarkably. "No longer was he the slight and 
somewhat delicate-looking young man whom we had entertained at 
the Cannonball camp less than two years before," one of his Western 
friends recalled. Roosevelt "got to be lookin' more like a rugged man," 
another added. Even more important, he had proved what he was 
constrained to prove again and again throughout his life that he was 
a man among men. Not only had he held his own on the roundup, 


captured two thieves at gun point, and showed his mettle in dozens of 
other incidents, he had comported himself with dignity, discretion, 
and bravery when threatened with a duel. What most men sublimated, 
Theodore Roosevelt had experienced. 

Meanwhile, the young rancher-hunter-historian had written and 
published a biography of Thomas Hart Benton, was writing a second 
on Gouverneur Morris, and was planning a multivolume history of the 
settlement of the West. Both the biographies were highly superficial. 
The Life of Thomas Hart Benton represented not more than three 
months of scholarship and three months of intense, but spasmodic, 
writing, much of it done in the ranchhouse at Elkhorn and some of it 
in a room over a store in Medora. Yet, as Putnam suggests, "To pro- 
duce such a work in a few months, with all its faults, required both 
basic knowledge and prior deliberation to which few men of his age 
and varied activities could aspire." 

However serious the academic deficiencies of the lives of Benton 
and Morris, the books are invaluable for the light they cast on the 
future President's political philosophy. Here Roosevelt was grappling 
with currency problems, public morality, and land policy with the 
great questions of the American past and, indeed, of the American 
future. He was the politician justifying his own support of Blaine in 
1884 and visiting his resentment on the mugwumps with broad indict- 
ments of extremist reformers and spirited defenses of party regularity. 
And he was also the young politician-intellectual forging an interpre- 
tation of American history which was to influence his own actions 
until the end of his life. 

Of the two books, Benton was the most complex in subject and 
historical content. The magniloquent Senator from Missouri repre- 
sented much that Roosevelt admired. He was at once a sectionalist 
and a nationalist, a spokesman of the West and a staunch defender of 
the Union. He disdained the abolitionists and proslavery extremists 
alike. He energetically championed the interests of individual Western 
settlers and he condemned out of hand the great land engrossers and 
speculators. He wanted no part of Mexico to the Southwest, but he 
wanted a large part of Canada to the Northwest. And he resisted at 
all times infringement by the states of the rights of the national gov- 
ernment. Benton "had risen and grown steadily all through his long 
term of service," Roosevelt concluded near the end of his volume. 


"Compare his stand against the slavery extremists and disunionists, 
such as Calhoun, with the position of Webster at the time of his 
famous 7th of March speech, or with that of Clay when he brought 
in his compromise bill! In fact, as the times grew more troublesome, 
he grew steadily better able to do good work in them." 

Roosevelt's own comments on the issues were even more revealing 
than his favorable appraisal of the broad sweep of Benton's career. 
He viewed the Missouri Senator's fight to dispose of the public lands 
to actual settlers at low cost as "a move of enormous importance to 
the whole West," one which encountered intense opposition, "espe- 
cially from the short-sighted selfishness of many of the northeastern- 
ers." The drive toward Mexico was a "belligerent, or, more properly 
speaking, piratical way of looking at neighboring territory." But the 
land claimed by Canada in the old Northwest, so Roosevelt agreed 
with the vain and swaggering Missourian, "was by right our heritage." 

As for slavery, Roosevelt regarded it as "a grossly anachronistic 
and un-American form of evil." He believed, however, that it might 
have been better to have allowed it to continue a century longer, "its 
ultimate extinction being certain." And he was certain that non- 
abolitionist political leaders such as Lincoln and Seward "did more 
than all the professional Abolitionists combined really to bring about 
its destruction." The abolitionists "belonged to that class of men that 
is always engaged in some agitation or other," he sharply asserted; 
"only h happened that in this particular agitation they were right." 

Roosevelt's contempt for the abolitionists was matched by his 
disapproval of Andrew Jackson's wholesale removal of officeholders 
and destructive attack on the Second Bank of the United States. The 
former was a change "for the worse"; the latter an appeal "to the 
vague fear with which the poorer and more ignorant voters regard a 
powerful institution whose workings they do not understand." Shifting 
back to the other extreme, Roosevelt then extolled Jackson and 
Benton for standing by hard money; he also foreshadowed his own 
castigation of the Populists and Free Silver Democrats in the 1890's: 

A craze for "soft," or dishonest, money a greenback move- 
ment, or one for short-weight silver dollars works more to the 
disadvantage of the whole mass of the people than even to that of 
the capitalists; it is a move directly in the interest of "the money 
power," which its loud-mouthed advocates are ostensibly opposing 
in the interests of democracy. 


The biography of Gouverneur Morris was poorer history than the 
life of Benton, but it offered an even more penetrating insight into 
Roosevelt's thinking. Morris was a Federalist, one who "embodied 
to a peculiar degree both the qualities which made the Federalist 
party so brilliant and so useful, and those other qualities which finally 
brought about its downfall." He possessed those attributes "of gen- 
erous daring and lofty disinterestedness which we like to associate 
with the name American. ... He stood for order. He stood for the 
honest payment of debts." However and here was Roosevelt's brief 
against the Federalists and eventually much of the Republican party 
as well Morris "distrusted the mass of the people, and especially the 
mass of the people in other sections of the country." 

Indeed, Roosevelt continued, "the force and subtlety of his reason- 
ing were all marred by his incurable cynicism and deep-rooted distrust 
of mankind." At the Constitutional Convention Morris "throughout 
appears as advocatus diaboli," frankly avowing "his disbelief in all 
generous and unselfish motives." The New York financier "cham- 
pioned a strong national government, wherein he was right; but he 
also championed a system of class representation, leaning toward 
aristocracy, wherein he was wrong." Worse still, Morris "feared and 
dreaded the growth of the Union in the West," actually desiring the 
Convention "to commit the criminal folly of attempting to provide 
that the West should always be kept subordinate to the East." And 
most grievous of all, he urgently opposed the War of 1812, appearing 
as the "open champion of treason to the nation, of dishonesty to the 
nation's creditors, and of cringing subservience to a foreign power." 
Still, Roosevelt concluded, Morris's over-all contributions were im- 

Roosevelt was not wont to brook intellectual confinement. In 
writing the work on Morris he had wandered through Hamilton to 
Abraham Lincoln, whose life he seems really to have wanted to write. 
Hamilton remained Roosevelt's intellectual hero, for he was the 
architect of the base. But Lincoln, who had both preserved and 
humanized the Federalist system, captured his heart. 

Yet Roosevelt rarely acknowledged Lincoln's Jeffersonian strain. 
Nor could he willingly admit that his own views reflected Jefferson's 
influences, though throughout his life he exhorted the Republican 
party to espouse policies that by a humanistic construction were 
eminently Jeffersonian. Only after he had twice been President was 


Roosevelt to conclude, and then but temporarily, that the marriage 
of government and business that Hamilton had fostered was beyond 
the power of high-minded men to direct in the public interest. Other- 
wise he never abandoned hope that the Republican leaders would 
rise above private interest and exert their great abilities for the good 
of all as they had, he believed, in Lincoln's time. The ennobled Civil 
War President, Roosevelt wrote, "was the first who showed how a 
strong people might have a strong government and yet remain the 
freest on earth." 

He seized half unwittingly all that was best and wisest in the 
tradition of Federalism; he was the true successor of the Federalist 
leaders; but he grafted on their system a profound belief that the 
great heart of the nation beat for truth, honor, and liberty. 

If the fame of the Benton and Morris rests largely on Roosevelt's 
political eminence, the four-volume Winning of the West endures for 
its merits. It stamped its author as a historian of genuine distinction: 
of brilliant, though uneven, literary power; of broad, and often acute, 
comprehension; and of extraordinary narrative force. As the foremost 
academic historian of the West, Frederick Jackson Turner, wrote in 
his review of the final volume, "Mr. Roosevelt has done a real service 
to our history" and "has rescued a whole movement in American 
development from the hands of unskillful annalists." With "graphic 
vigor," he continued, "he has portrayed the advance of the pioneer 
into the wastes of the continent" and yet "considered his subject 
broadly, in its relations to world-history." Roosevelt's work "will be 
to the general reader a revelation." 

Nevertheless, The Winning of the West failed to fulfill Roosevelt's 
youthful ambition ("a mere dream," he called it) to write someday 
a book "that would really take rank as in the very first class." It 
lacked reflection and sobriety of judgment, and it was weak in ana- 
lytical quality. It was also rife with partisanship and presentism. The 
failings were unfortunate, for Roosevelt could be forcefully objective. 
That later tendency, so disconcerting to his liberal critics, to offset the 
emphatic criticism with the emphatic commendation, was even then 
in evidence; and many of his appraisals of controversial issues were 
scrupulously fair. But he could not consistently hold the high ground. 
His obsessive contempt for the Jeffersonians and their political de- 
scendants colored The Winning of the West no less than his other 


writings, and with grievous consequence. On the flimsiest circum- 
stantial evidence he accused Jefferson of engaging in a "characteristic 
. . . tortuous intrigue" against President Washington. He further 
failed, as Turner pointed out, to make a "detailed study of the 
incompatibility of temperament between Federalism and the West." 

There were other shortcomings. Roosevelt drew on many theretofore 
unexplored manuscripts, but his duties were so heavy (he wrote much 
of the work while he was Civil Service Commissioner or Police Com- 
missioner) that he was unable to exploit them properly. He also 
neglected economic and institutional history, partly because, as he 
revealingly confided to Turner, "I have always been more interested 
in the men themselves than in the institutions through and under which 
they worked." For all these and other faults, however, The Winning 
of the West remains a pioneering account of the American people's 
westward advance; one that justifies its author's reputation as a major 
American historian of the narrative school. 

Although the main focus of the work was on the quarter century 
between 1765, when the intrepid Daniel Boone, "a tall, spare, sinewy 
man with eyes like an eagle's and muscles that never tired," made his 
first exploration, until roughly 1796, when the British, who were 
"guilty of treachery to both friend and foe," at last recognized the 
American conquest of the West, the introductory chapter ranks as one 
of the classics of American historical literature in its tersely powerful 
description of the spread of the English-speaking peoples. "They were 
led by no one commander," Roosevelt wrote of those who thronged 
across the Alleghenies: 

They acted under orders from neither king nor congress; they 
were not carrying out the plans of any farsighted leader. In obedi- 
ence to the instincts working half blindly within their breasts, 
spurred ever onward by the fierce desires of their eager hearts, they 
made in the wilderness homes for their children, and by so doing 
wrought out the destinies of a continental nation. They warred and 
settled from the high hill valleys of the French Broad and the upper 
Cumberland to the half-tropical basin of the Rio Grande, and to 
where the Golden Gate lets through the long-heaving waters of the 
Pacific. . . . The fathers followed Boone or fought at King's Moun- 
tain; the sons marched south with Jackson to overcome the Creeks 
and beat back the British; the grandsons died at the Alamo or 
charged to victory at San Jacinto. They were doing their share of 


a work that began with the conquest of Britain, that entered on its 
second and wider period after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, 
that culminated in the marvelous growth of the United States. 

Within those broad outlines Roosevelt wove his story, retracing 
the steps of the pioneers, superimposing chronology upon chronology, 
wallowing in tales of Indian massacres, taking swipes at the French, 
the British, the Indians at all who stood in the way. Within that 
framework, too, he discoursed learnedly and perceptively on the 
character of the frontiersmen and the social customs of those who 
settled in their wake; he waxed eloquently on the courage of friend and 
foe alike; and he gloried, always, in the ceaseless and terrifying ad- 
vance to the West. 

Roosevelt saw that the British effort to forestall the colonists' 
occupation of the trans-Appalachian regions was one he regarded 
it as the main of the prime causes of the Revolution. Great Britain 
"wished the land to remain a wilderness, the home of the trapper and 
the fur trade, of the Indian hunter and the French voyageur," he 
asserted. "She desired it to be kept as a barrier against the growth of 
the seaboard colonies toward the interior. She regarded the new lands 
across the Atlantic as being won and settled, not for the benefit of the 
men who won and settled them, but for the benefit of the merchants 
and traders who stayed at home. It was this that rendered the Revolu- 
tion inevitable." Roosevelt conceded that "the sins and shortcomings 
of the colonists had been many but on the great underlying question 
they were wholly in the right, and their success was of vital conse- 
quence to the well-being of the race on this continent." It was no less 
true, he elsewhere acknowledged, that Americans might have stirred 
up the Indians themselves under different circumstances. But, he con- 
cluded, "We have to deal, not with what ... the Americans might 
have done, but with what the British actually did; and for this there 
can be many apologies, but no sufficient excuse." 

Roosevelt recognized no moral question in the engrossment of 
Indian lands by the American pioneers (his "courageous and virile" 
treatment, wrote Turner, "enables the reader to correct the ... not 
altogether well-founded criticisms ... by Eastern writers"): 

There were a dozen tribes, all of whom hunted in Kentucky and 
fought each other there, all of whom had equally good titles to the 
soil, and not one of whom acknowledged the right of any other 


. . . save the right of the strongest. . . . The conquest and settle- 
ment by the Whites on the Indian lands was necessary to the great- 
ness of the race and to the well-being of civilized mankind. It was 
as ultimately beneficial as it was inevitable ... all that can be 
asked is that they shall be judged as other slayers and quellers of 
savage people are judged. 

And so Theodore Roosevelt judged them, extolling their intrepidity 
and denouncing their regression to semibarbarity. The story of the 
white man's triumph over the redman, he wrote, 

shows us a stern race of freemen who toiled hard, endured greatly, 
and fronted adversity bravely, who prized strength and courage and 
good faith, whose wives were chaste, who were generous and loyal 
to their friends. But it shows us also how they spurned at restraint, 
and fretted under it, how they would brook no wrong to themselves, 
and yet too often inflicted wrongs on others; their feats of terrible 
prowess are interspersed with deeds of the foulest and most wanton 
aggression, the darkest treachery, the most revolting cruelty . . . 
we see but little of such qualities as mercy for the fallen, the weak, 
and the helpless, or pity for a gallant and vanquished foe. 

Roosevelt's sketches of frontier types were as sharp as his accounts 
of the long hunt, of the pursuit of new lands, and of the Homeric 
battles between Indians and whites. Among the best was that of the 
great Iroquois warrior, Logan: 

He was a man of splendid appearance: over six feet high, straight 
as a spear-shaft, with a countenance as open as it was brave and 
manly, until the wrongs he endured stamped on it an expression of 
gloomy ferocity. He had always been the friend of the white man, 
and had been noted particularly for his kindness and gentleness to 
children. ... A skilled marksman and mighty hunter, of com- 
manding dignity, who treated all men with a grave courtesy that 
exacted the same treatment in return, he was greatly liked and 
respected by all the white hunters and frontiersmen whose friend- 
ship and respect were worth having; they admired him for his 
dexterity and prowess, and they loved him for his straightforward 
honesty, and his noble loyalty to his friend. 

Francis Parkman, to whom Roosevelt had admiringly dedicated 
The Winning of the West, did not more graphically delineate the 
backwoods French. "Three generations of isolated life in the wilder- 


ness had greatly changed the characters of these groups of traders, 
bateau-men, and adventurous warriors," Roosevelt wrote: 

Hospitable, but bigoted to their old customs, ignorant, indolent, 
and given to drunkenness, they spoke a corrupt jargon of the French 
tongue; the common people were even beginning to give up reckon- 
ing time by months and years, and dated events, as the Indians did, 
with reference to the phenomena of nature, such as the time of the 
floods, the maturing of the green corn, or the ripening of the straw- 
berries. All their attributes seemed alien to the polished army 
officers of old France; they had but little more in common with the 
latter than with the American backwoodsmen. But they had kept 
many valuable qualities, and, in especial, they were brave and 
hardy, and, after their own fashion, good soldiers. 

Of all the frontiersmen, Roosevelt most admired the Scotch-Irish. 
"These Irish representatives of the Covenanters were in the West 
almost what the Puritans were in the Northeast, and more than the 
Cavaliers were in the South," he wrote. "Mingled with the descendants 
of many other races," he continued, "they nevertheless formed the 
kernel of the distinctively and intensely American stock who were the 
pioneers of our people in their march westward, the vanguard of the 
army of fighting settlers, who, with axe and rifle, won their way from 
the Alleghanies to the Rio Grande and the Pacific." 

To be sure, there were great numbers of others English, German, 
Huguenots, and some Dutch and Swedish. But a single generation 
"was enough to weld together into one people the representatives of 
these numerous and widely different races." Long before the Revolu- 
tion they had "lost all remembrance of Europe and all sympathy with 
things European," Roosevelt wrote in a passage that anticipated many 
of Turner's formal conclusions. "Their iron surroundings made a 
mould which turned out all alike in the same shape. They resembled 
one another, and they differed from the rest of the world even the 
world of America, and infinitely more, the world of Europe in dress, 
in customs, and in mode of life." Furthermore, he concluded, "the 
influence of heredity was no more plainly perceptible than was the 
extent of individual variation. . . . All qualities, good and bad, are 
intensified and accentuated in the life of the wilderness." 

Similarly, Roosevelt maintained his faith in the uplifting influence 
of the battle hard-won, of manly physical combat, of the near-animal 
struggle for existence. "The first lesson the backwoodsman learnt was 


the necessity of self-help; the next, that such a community could only 
thrive if all joined in helping one another, . . . Their lives were 
harsh and narrow, they gained their bread by their blood and sweat, 
in the unending struggle with the wild ruggedness of nature. . . . 
They were relentless, revengeful, suspicious, knowing neither truth nor 
pity"; but, he continued, "they were also upright, resolute, and fearless, 
loyal to their friends, and devoted to their country." And so, it might 
be said of those last words, was Theodore Roosevelt. But his per- 
spective was deeper, his stage of action wider, and his values more 

Roosevelt repeated those generalizations many times in The Win- 
ning of the West. He also touched upon the democratizing influence 
of the frontier, a thesis Turner was already developing when the third 
and fourth volumes were published. And he particularly stressed the 
deterministic character of the mighty westward advance. Thus Boone 
was more interesting as a type than as a leader or an explorer, for the 
West was neither discovered, won, nor settled by any single man. 
Of George Rogers Clark alone, Roosevelt concluded, "can it be said 
that he did a particular piece of work which without him would have 
remained undone." 

Such, then, was Theodore Roosevelt's literary and historical contri- 
bution to the epochal story of the American people. As the political 
leader of those people, he would soon project that epoch onto the 
world-wide stage. 

The Winning of the West had been started shortly after, and been 
completed long after, Roosevelt had shifted his base of operations 
back to the East in 1886-1887. But his own experiences in the Bad 
Lands had made it the richer. (Even Turner contended that he 
had depicted the westward movement "as probably no other man of 
his time could have done.") Without those experiences he could not 
have written so perceptively of Boone and his like; nor could he have 
understood so acutely the frontier's tendency to barbarize the weak 
and to make superior men of those who were already strong. "All 
qualities, good and bad, are intensified and accentuated in the life of 
the wilderness," he had written in a passage as applicable to the Bad 
Lands in the 1880's as to the black forests of Kentucky in the 1770's. 

That was as true, probably, of Roosevelt himself as of Boone, 
Clark, and the others. Two years in the West had converted Roose- 
velt's iron resolve to one of steel. They had reinforced his high code 


of personal morality. They had developed his natural qualities of 
leadership. And they had encouraged his growing tendency to judge 
men on their merits rather than their social backgrounds. They had 
also accentuated his intolerance of the weak, if not of the colorfully 
wicked. They had whetted his craving for hardship. And they had 
made his Darwinian concept of struggle more harsh and inclusive 
than ever. 

With genuine regret Dakota had bade him what it knew was 
good-by when he went East in the fall of 1886. "Theodore is a 
Dakota cowboy, and has spent a large share of his time in the Terri- 
tory for a couple of years," the Sioux Falls Press said. 

He is one of the finest thoroughbreds you ever met a whole- 
souled, clear-headed, high-minded gentleman. When he first went 
on the range, the cowboys took him for a dude, but soon they 
realized the stuff of which the youngster was built, and there is no 
man now who inspires such enthusiastic regard among them as he. 





He is a young man still, with all the impulsiveness char- 
acteristic of youth, and occasionally this leads him to say or do 
zealous things which seem to older men imprudent; but . . . 
he is so honest and so courageous that he does not make the 
serious blunders resulting from dishonesty or timidity. 

The Philadelphia Record 

Within two and one-half years of his return to New York in the fall 
of 1886 Roosevelt had begun a flamboyantly creative six-year tenure 
on the Civil Service Commission in Washington. Before assuming this 
new charge, however, he had scored labor violence in a memorable 
personal letter, engaged in a "bully" campaign for the mayorship of 
New York, and made an eminently successful second marriage with 
a childhood playmate. 

TR's epistolary foray against labor actually occurred five months 
before he left Dakota. On the evening of May 4, 1886, a seething 
crowd of strikers, socialists, and anarchists had gathered in Haymarket 
Square, Chicago to protest police violence in particular and managerial 
repression in general. The meeting had been proceeding peaceably, 
though passions were high and the words from the platform in- 
cendiary, when suddenly, on an ill-considered command from their 
captain, one hundred and eighty policemen had moved to disperse the 
assemblage. Someone, identity unknown, had thereupon heaved a 
bomb into the officers' serried ranks, and in the ensuing melee eight 
policemen had been killed and sixty-seven wounded. 

Eight known anarchists were subsequently arrestfed and tried. Al- 



though no one of them was ever proved to have thrown a bomb, all 
eight were found guilty: first by an inflamed and vengeful public 
opinion, then by courts of the law after one of the most injudicious 
trials in American legal annals. Seven were sentenced to death and 
one to life imprisonment. 

Like most other vocal Americans, Roosevelt had been outraged 
when he read reports of the Haymarket tragedy at the Chimney Butte 
ranch in Dakota; and like numerous of his countrymen, he had reacted 
instinctively in terms of counterviolence. "My men are hard working, 
labouring men, who work longer hours for no greater wages than 
many of the strikers . . . ," he wrote his sister Bamie at the time. 
"I believe nothing would give them greater pleasure than a chance 
with their rifles at one of the mobs. ... I wish I had them with me 
and a fair show at ten times our number of rioters; my men shoot 
well and fear very little." 

To this day, that statement has haunted Roosevelt's reputation 
among men of reflection. It is possible that they have exaggerated its 
significance; that they have failed to weigh it against TR's signal 
services to the labor movement during his later career. He was only 
twenty-seven years old at the time, and his judgment had been formed 
by biased newspaper reports. Moreover, even Henry George approved 
the punishment meted out to the anarchists. And as Putnam writes, 
"When capitalists like Jay Gould broke the law, Roosevelt was 
[equally] rampant to correct and avenge." 

Yet TR never altered the broad sense of that first violent reaction. 
Long after the evidence was in he continued to rail against the 
"murderous rioters"; long after thoughtful Chicagoans had soberly 
reconsidered their own emotional reactions Roosevelt remained im- 
pervious to the injustice of his attitude. And when, seven years after 
the Haymarket tragedy, Illinois's German-born governor, John Peter 
Altgeld, responded to the humane dictates of his Lincoln-like con- 
science by pardoning the three surviving victims of the law's mis- 
carriage, TR angrily relegated him to the ranks of Robespierre and 
the Jacobins. The conclusion is inescapable: In the Haymarket affair 
and numerous similar cases down through the years, TR's compulsion 
for order and a Hebraic-like justice constrained him to give short 
shrift to the historic safeguards of the Anglo-American law. 

Roosevelt's inability to fathom the wellsprings of industrial violence 
reflected in part his failure to frame the passing insights of his legis- 


lative years into a mature philosophy of labor. At times he perceived 
the near-controlling force of the external environment; but he could 
not, or would not, generalize rationally on his perceptions. His 
mayorality campaign in the fall of 1886 attests further to this. 

TR had entered the race with reluctance. The real contest was 
between the Democratic industrialist-philanthropist, Abram S. Hewitt, 
and Henry George, who was running on the United Labor party's 
ticket. George's epochal work, Progress and Poverty, had terrorized 
defenders of the status quo with its classic indictment of poverty and 
not wholly visionary proposals for tax reform, and it was widely 
understood that thousands of conservative Republicans would vote 
Democratic to assure his defeat. In these circumstances no Republican 
of prominence wanted the G.O.P. nomination; and Tom Platt, the 
unsavory Republican boss, had turned in desperation to young Roose- 
velt in early October. "The simple fact is that I had to play Curtius 
and leap into the gulf that was yawning before the Republican party," 
TR explained. Had the party's chances of winning been better, he 
added, he would not have been asked. 

During the whirling campaign that had followed Roosevelt's accept- 
ance he had characteristically acted as though he thought he could 
win. He tried to forestall a mass defection of Republicans to Hewitt, 
whose intemperate and irrational attack on George did his own 
reputation no honor, by treating George's advanced views lightly and 
playing on the Republicans' traditional revulsion against Tammany. 
He charged that Hewitt would be unable to divorce himself from his 
unsavory Tammany supporters. And he repeatedly declared that he 
would, if elected, "go to City Hall unpledged to any one." 

More significantly, Roosevelt reaffirmed the attitudes of his years 
in the Assembly by excoriating owners of slum properties. Then, in 
an apparent effort to redress a balance that had never been, he had 
exhorted labor lo rise by its own exertions. Only through "steady, 
individual self-help" could industrial evils be eradicated, he admon- 
ished slum-imprisoned workers who were powerless even to form an 
effective union. Indeed, he continued, industrial evils could "no more 
be done away with by legislation than you could do away with the 
bruises which you receive when you tumble down, by passing an act to 
repeal the laws of gravitation." Not until after TR became President 
would he finally realize that the repressive force of capital was so 
powerful, the enervating effect of subsistence wages so pervasive, 


that for all but the very strongest "individual self-help" was woefully 
less than enough. Had he digested Henry George's penetrating analysis 
of society at the time, he would have known it then. 

Young Roosevelt's vigorous campaigning had proved unavailing; 
he ran third, thirty thousand votes behind Hewitt and eight thousand 
behind George. As Jacob Riis reported, "in the wild dread of the 
disaster that was [supposedly] coming, men forsook party, principles, 
everything, and threw themselves into the arms of Tammany." TR was 
hurt. "Am badly defeated," he wired Henry Cabot Lodge. "Worse 
even than I feared." 

A few days after the returns were in, Roosevelt sailed for England 
to be married again. For more than a year after Alice Lee's death in 
February, 1884, he had contrived to avoid meeting Edith Carow, 
whom he had known when they were children and escorted to dances 
and parties as a youth. Theodore and Edith's friends had assumed 
before he met Alice that they would be married after he was gradu- 
ated from Harvard, but they had gradually drifted apart, perhaps, 
suggests Hermann Hagedorn, because "Her ladyship," as Roosevelt 
often referred to Edith, had her "bad days" as well as her "good 
days." (Edith would later hold that she several times rejected Theo- 
dore's proposals, but the evidence is lacking.) 

There is no record of what Edith thought when she attended 
Theodore and Alice's wedding in 1880. During the next five years, 
however, her lifelong disposition to remain aloof from society was 
accentuated. "I believe you could live in the same house with Edith 
for fifty years and never really know her," a former classmate at Miss 
Comstock's school once remarked.* Nevertheless, Edith continued to 
visit Theodore's sister Bamie, and about eighteen months after Alice's 
death she accidentally encountered Theodore himself at Bamie's 
house. Theodore's romantic resolve to be true to the memory of his 
first wife thereupon began to weaken. For days the letter "E" was the 
only entry he made in his diary, and a few months later, on November 
17, 1885, they became secretly engaged. Although Theodore was 
reportedly overheard murmuring fitfully to himself the following 
summer that he wished he could be constant to Alice, they were 

* Although Edith Roosevelt's attitude toward scholars' use of her husband's 
papers was most enlightened, she destroyed the personal correspondence 
between him and her following his death in 1919. 


married in London in December, 1886. Cecil Spring-Rice, an urbane 
and witty young English diplomat, was best man. 

Edith Carow Roosevelt was a woman of many moods and some 
paradoxes. She was kind, considerate, and tactful; she was also 
shrewd, calculating, and at times ruthless. She suffered from neuralgia, 
and neither Theodore nor the children knew quite what to expect of 
her. Her tongue was sharp, and for all her genuine affection for her 
ebullient husband, she often silenced him with a rapier-like word or 
phrase. She is said to have been possessive and demanding; yet she 
tolerantly accepted her children as nature had variously endowed 
them. Her intelligence was wide-ranging and sensitive and her literary 
judgments were by all accounts penetrating. She read poetry aloud 
with quietly dramatic effect, and she was considered by her friends 
to be an authority on Shakespeare. She was also well read in philoso- 
phy and versed in current affairs. As Theodore observed many years 
after their marriage, Edith "is not only cultured but scholarly." 

Down through the years Edith became as indispensable, probably, 
as any one person could become to her many-sided and resilient 
husband. She raised Alice Lee's daughter and bore four sons and a 
daughter of her own. She suffered Theodore's myriad political ac- 
quaintances and she tolerated some and enjoyed others of the legions 
of intellectuals who crossed her threshold on his invitation. When she 
was bored, which was not infrequent, she absented herself from lunch 
or retired early after dinner. And though she was invariably gracious 
at official functions, she was to the end of her life more a spectator 
than participant. 

Edith wisely gave sparingly of her counsel on political affairs she 
seems to have sensed intuitively when her advice would weigh and 
when it would not and she resignedly accepted many of Theodore's 
most disruptive decisions in the realization that they "were best for 
him." TR was aware that he often piqued her, and when Ted Jr: 
became engaged in 1910 he commented revealingly on their quarter 
century together. "Greatly tho I loved Mother," he wrote his first- 
born son, "I was at times thoughtless and selfish, and if Mother had 
been a mere unhealthy Patient Griselda I might have grown set in 
selfish and inconsiderate ways." She was, he elaborated, "always 
tender, gentle and considerate, and always loving, yet, when necessary 
pointed out where I was thoughtless, instead of submitting to it." 


Had she done otherwise, he concluded, her life would have been 
"very much harder, and mine very much less happy." 

Nor was Edith uninfluenced by her gregarious husband. "One 
should not live to oneself," she warned Ted in her own congratulatory 
letter. "It was a temptation to me, only Father would not allow it. 
Since I have grown older and realize that it is a great opportunity 
when one has a house that one can make pleasant for younger and 
also older people to come to, I have done better." 

Following their wedding on December 2, 1886, Theodore and 
Edith had taken a leisurely tour on the Continent. Theodore was 
captivated by Venice. "... the architecture has a certain florid 
barbarism about it Byzantine, dashed with something stronger that 
appeals to some streak in my nature," he wrote home. He was also 
enthusiastic about the Dying Gladiator, Raphael, Michael Angelo, 
and the Milan cathedral. 

The lofty aisle, with its rows of towering columns, white and 
shadowy, and the fretted, delicate work above, all seen in the dim 
half light that comes through the stained glass windows, really awes 
me; it gives me a feeling I have never had elsewhere except among 
very wild, chasm-rent mountains, or in the vast pine forests where 
the trees are very tall and not too close together. I think I care 
more for breadth, vastness, grandeur, strength, than for technique 
or mere grace or the qualities that need artistic sense or training to 

On March 19 after a short visit in Paris and an exciting whirl in 
high British social and intellectual circles, the Roosevelts embarked 
for the United States. They were to make their home at Sagamore 
Hill, the spacious gabled house which Theodore and Alice had planned 
and the architects Lamb and Rich had executed. 

The house "was nothing to soothe the eye or melt the spirit with 
subtle harmonies of proportion or grace of line," Hagedorn writes in 
his engaging Roosevelt Family of Sagamore Hill. Roosevelt knew 
what he wanted in the interior a library, great fireplaces, and a big 
parlor or drawing room but he had slight conception of how the 
exterior should look. "So the architects gave him on the outside what 
self-respecting men of substance of the 1880's valued more than 
beauty, and what architects were summoned to express: solidity, first 
of all; dignity, hospitality, comfort, the social stability of the owner, 
and permanence. The foundations were twenty inches thick; joists, 


rafters and roof boards were in proportion. Long Island's gales were 
not going to shake this house, if Mr. Lamb and Mr. Rich could pre- 
vent it. Theodore's desires regarding fireplaces were fully covered, 
moreover, with four on the first floor, four on the second, and a dumb- 
waiter for firewood rising from the cellar to feed them. Apart from 
the satisfaction of crackling logs and dancing flames, Theodore was 
assuming quite correctly, as the event proved that even two hot-air 
furnaces in the cellar might need supplementing." 

At Sagamore, Theodore soon immersed himself in the pleasures of 
family life. Alice is "too sweet and good for anything," he reported 
when his first wife's child was three and one-half years old. "Eleanor" 
the shy and retiring niece who in 1905 married a distant cousin, 
Franklin Delano Roosevelt "plays all the time with her." The baby 
Theodore Jr., born to Edith on September 13, 1887 "crawls 
everywhere, does his best to stand and talk but fails and is too 
merry and happy for anything. I go in to play with them every 
morning; they are certainly the dearest children imaginable." And so 
it was over the years. Kermit came in 1889, Ethel in 1891, Archibald 
in 1894, and finally Quentin in 1897. Each was "the sweetest little 
fellow [or girl] in the world"; and each received a full measure of the 
father's time and attention. 

Meanwhile Roosevelt published his biography of Thomas Hart 
Benton, wrote his Gouverneur Morris, and started The Winning of 
the West. He rode to the hounds and he helped organize a polo club. 
He took a perverse pleasure in falls only the courageous rode hard 
enough to suffer mishap and he once remounted with a broken arm 
and continued the chase to the kill. He talked glowingly of his tri- 
umphs and humorously of his foibles, especially in tennis, which he 
played with more energy than finesse. "I was given a first class partner 
who won in spite of me," he typically commented after a tournament 
victory. "I have turned my share of the 'cup' into a new Winchester 
rifle that I have been longing for." He also went West to hunt during 
these years; and partly to replenish his ranching losses, but mainly 
because of his compulsion to express himself, he wrote numerous 
articles on his experiences. 

Gradually, TR's circle of friends became wider and more cosmo- 
politan, but it was with Henry Cabot Lodge, ten years his senior and 
his opposite in personality, that the deepest friendship developed. A 
moralist sans fervor, Lodge began his long career as a moderate 


reformer and ended it as the archpartisan of his age. He was more 
intellectually agile and polished than Roosevelt, yet he lacked his 
friend's breadth and flexibility. Nor was he warm and spontaneous. 
His letters reveal a man as calculating in the small things as in the large 
things, a man predisposed to read the meanest motives into others. 
From his adolescence to his old age, moreover, there was about him a 
supercilious quality that his drooping eyelids sharply accentuated; and 
though his very real abilities were widely recognized, he was respected 
but neither liked nor generally admired. Never, not even in the United 
States Senate where he held the seat of Webster and Sumner for thirty 
years, was Lodge a leader in the classic mold; and never, for all his 
eminence, was he seriously considered for the presidency, except by 
Roosevelt in 1916. Yet his intellectual power was considerable, and 
he had an element of high-mindedness. His contributions to the civil 
service movement, to administrative reform, and to national defense 
were substantial and meritorious. 

Roosevelt and Lodge's relationship had been forged on the political 
crucible of the Elaine campaign and tempered by common interests 
uncovered thereafter. No less than Roosevelt, Lodge loved history; 
and even more than Roosevelt, belles-lettres. Both men had been 
long interested in civil service reform; both were strident nationalists 
and budding imperialists. Until Roosevelt espoused the humanism of 
Jefferson, or so he always insisted, of Lincoln, both were also con- 
servative Hamiltonians. Notwithstanding his public hauteur, Lodge 
was affectionate and gracious in the security of his home. And though 
he lacked TR's bubbling zest, he was an impassioned horseman and 
polo player. His wife, Nannie, had a scintillating mind and surpassing 
charm as a hostess; Theodore admired and enjoyed her, and so, 
happily, did Edith. 

From the outset Lodge recognized Roosevelt's extraordinary power 
and potential; through the three and one-half decades of their relation- 
ship he labored devotedly and at times almost selflessly to advance 
TR's political career. Roosevelt, who numbered few men among his 
friends although he had thousands of acquaintances, responded with 
his greatest gift. To Cabot Lodge more than to any other man, he 
gave his personal confidence. As TR confessed to him at one point, "I 
can't help writing you, for ... there are only one or two people in 
the world, outside of my own family, whom I deem friends or for 
whom I really care." Such was the strength of the bond that bound 


them together that not even Roosevelt's bolt from the Grand Old 
Party in 1912 dissolved it completely. 

Following his return from abroad in 1887, Roosevelt had main- 
tained a passing interest in politics. He engaged in a vendetta with 
the mugwump editor, E. A. Godkin of The Nation. He unloosed a 
bitingly unfair attack on Henry George's theories, which he mis- 
represented. And he supported Benjamin Harrison for the presidency 
in 1888, though he had again steeled himself to accept Elaine on the 
grounds that "his name alone wakens enthusiasm, and ... he would 
poll the most votes." Even as he stamped himself as a partisan 
Republican, however, he worked sincerely and energetically to reform 
the G.O.P. from within. 

Two of the most agitated issues of the 1880's were tariff and civil 
service reform. On both the Republican leadership stood militantly 
for the status quo, and on both young Roosevelt took a position well 
in advance of his party. In private correspondence, on the fringes of 
the inner councils, and in public addresses, young Roosevelt urged 
the G.O.P. to rise to them. As the presidential campaign of 1888 
impended, he even tried to beard the lion in its den. It would be a 
mistake, he told the Union League Club, "for the Republican party 
to announce that the inequalities and anomalies in the present tariff 
must not be touched, and to announce that the high tariff is a fetich, 
something to which every other issue must yield. . . ." There 
was needed, he boldly exclaimed, "a prudent and intelligent revision 
of the tariff" in order that the presidential campaign could be waged 
"on the broad ground of Republicanism, with all and not part merely 
of what the name implies." Thus were the unregenerate regulars, 
some of whom had feared Roosevelt's youthful enthusiasms more 
than Henry George's radicalism in the mayorality contest of 1886, 
confirmed in their judgment. 

Following Benjamin Harrison's election, Roosevelt had sought to 
stay the victorious G.O.P.'s gathering assault on the merit system in 
a speech to the Federal Club of New York City. After conceding that 
there was "an immediate necessity to remove a great number of Mr. 
Cleveland's more vicious and incompetent appointees," he urged that 
the classified system be substantially extended "on the lines of the 
excellent bill introduced in Congress by my friend Cabot Lodge." 
He was speaking, he pointedly exclaimed, "on behalf of very many 


tens of thousands of Republicans who belong to the party because 
they believe in it, not for what they can make of it. ..." A few 
months after that declaration Roosevelt commenced his notable labors 
on the Civil Service Commission. 

For some time TR had yearned to play the larger role for which 
friends, newspapermen, and his own consciousness had told him he 
was destined. Neither his interests in the West nor his writing and 
diverse activities at Sagamore Hill had absorbed his vaulting energies. 
And he had begun to doubt that he could write a truly great book. 
Almost three years before, in August, 1886, he had rejected over- 
tures to serve as president of the New York Board of Health. That 
same month visions of military glory visions that would never die 
had brightened momentarily when an incident along the Mexican 
border precipitated a flurry of war talk. Eagerly, Roosevelt had peti- 
tioned the Secretary of War for authority to raise an outfit of horse 
riflemen in the event of hostilities. "I haven't the least idea there will 
be any trouble," he explained to Lodge, "but as my chance of doing 
anything in the future worth doing seems to grow continually smaller 
I intend to grasp at every opportunity that turns up." Thereafter 
had come the mayoralty race, and following it, repeated protestations 
that he was through with politics. 

As the Harrison administration took shape in the spring of 1889, 
TR's political ambition flared anew. He would, he now confided to 
Lodge, "like above all things to go into politics." He feared, however, 
that he was persona non grata, and he resignedly reconciled himself 
to a literary career, planning only to take the interest in politics "that 
a decent man should." That his fears were warranted is shown by 
the reaction of the new Secretary of State, the tainted James G. 
Elaine, to Mrs. Lodge's suggestion that he appoint Roosevelt Assistant 
Secretary of State. "I do somehow fear that my sleep at Augusta or 
Bar Harbor would not be quite so easy and refreshing if so brilliant 
and aggressive a man had hold of the helm," Blaine replied to Mrs. 
Lodge. "Matters are constantly occurring which require the most 
thoughtful concentration and the most stubborn inaction. Do you 
think that Mr. T.R.'s temperament would give guaranty of that 

Blaine knew his man. And so did Benjamin Harrison. The Presi- 
dent was reluctant to give the thirty-year-old New Yorker any post in 
his administration; but under pressure from Lodge and others Harrison 


finally agreed to offer Roosevelt one of the four posts on the Civil 
Service Commission. To the President's subsequent dismay, Roosevelt 
accepted at once. 

The civil service system was in a precarious state when Roosevelt 
breezed into office on May 13, 1889. Although Cleveland had 
strengthened the rules and extended the classified lists as he left 
Washington, he had made a virtually inclusive partisan sweep of all 
positions not covered by the law during the preceding four years. 
Partly in vengeance, but mainly because they also believed in the 
spoils system, thousands of Republicans had swarmed into the capital 
or beseeched their congressmen by letter for government positions in 
the weeks preceding Roosevelt's appointment. As one confirmed 
Republican newspaper blatantly proclaimed at the time: "Hundreds 
of Offices," "Places to Suit All Classes," "Take Your Choice." 

In these circumstances, President Harrison decided to give the job- 
hunger of the party stalwarts precedence over the moral fervor of the 
reformers. Under the benign dispensation of Postmaster General John 
Wanamaker, pioneering merchant, Sunday school teacher, and G.O.P. 
"fat cat," 30,000 fourth-class postmasters were soon replaced by 
loyal, and presumably deserving, Republicans. Other cabinet officers 
were more restrained because their departments were smaller; but 
their comparative performances were as good, or bad. Harrison had 
been in office hardly a month before that paladin of civil service 
reform, Harper's Weekly, was in despair charging that "There was 
never in our history a grosser violation of distinct promises and 
pledges than the partisan devastation of the post offices under this 

The belated appointee of a skeptical President, Roosevelt was none- 
theless determined to enforce the law with accustomed zeal. "I am a 
great believer in practical politics," he wrote Lodge a little later, 
"but when my duty is to enforce a law, that law is surely going to be 
enforced, without fear or favor. I am perfectly willing to be turned 
out or be legislated out but while in I mean business." In truth, 
the waters ran deeper. Civil service reform was at once the most 
confirmed and most sustained cause of Roosevelt's career, and he 
read into it both the gospel of efficiency which is the conservative's 
creed and the open society which is the democrat's dream. As he and 
his colleagues wrote in their annual report of 1892-93, "a man enters 
the public service on his merits, after fair trial, in comparison with 


others of his fellow citizens, and is retained as long as he honorably 
serves the public." Roosevelt also regarded it as a prime preventive 
of moral degradation. The "spoils system," said that same report, "is 
a fruitful source of corruption in national life," one that prevents 
"decent men" from taking part in politics and that "degenerates into 
a mere corrupt scramble for plunder." 

Young Roosevelt believed at first that President Harrison would 
approve his rigorous enforcement of the existing laws. "I have 
strengthened the administration by showing, in striking contrast to the 
facts under Cleveland, that there was no humbug in the law now," 
he wrote after six weeks in office. Two years later, however, he was 
not so sanguine; on count after count Harrison, who privately com- 
plained that TR "wanted to put an end to all the evil in the world 
between sunrise and sunset," had failed him. "The President actually 
refuses to consider the changes in the rules . . . necessary to enable 
us to do our work effectively," Roosevelt wrote Lodge. "He has never 
given us one ounce of real backing. He won't see us, or consider any 
method for improving the service, even when it in no way touches a 
politician. It is horribly disheartening to work under such a Chief." 

Disillusioned though he was, Roosevelt and his colleagues had 
actually accomplished much during those first two years. They issued 
critical reports on examination procedures, they relentlessly pursued 
charges of fraud, and they made a well-publicized inspection tour of 
government offices in the West. "We have to do two things," Roose- 
velt, who soon became head of the Commission in title as well as in 
fact, told reporters on the eve of their departure. "One is to make the 
officials themselves understand that the law is obligatory, not optional, 
and the other is to get the same idea into the heads of the people." 

Roosevelt's dynamic exertions continued throughout the Harrison 
administration though he privately complained of inactivity. The 
annual reports "revealed the presence of a new vigor and adminis- 
trative power, and of a mind appreciative at once of ideal ends and 
practicable possibilities," one of the historians of the movement later 
wrote. Stories of Roosevelt's deeds "are handed down from genera- 
tion to generation of Commission employees," the Chairman of the 
Commission reported sixty-two years after TR had resigned his post. 
And understandably so. Roosevelt lectured a recalcitrant Congress on 
means to improve the Pendleton Law. He called Southern Democratic 
congressmen into his office to explain how their constituents could 


win federal jobs by competitive examination. And he firmly refused 
to jump names on the lists. "You saw the ... register when you were 
down here," he wrote a congressman who made inquiries for a con- 
stituent. "Her average was good . . . but it was not good enough." 
Or, as he bluntly admonished a job-seeker who had the temerity to 
discuss his connections: "No political influence will help you in the 
least. Not both your Senators and all your Representatives in Congress 
together could avail to have you certified from our registers." 

That was not all. Roosevelt devised new and practical tests for 
applicants. "When we hold an examination for assistant statistician our 
aim is to get ... an assistant statistician, not ... a Civil Service 
Commissioner or Cabinet Officer," he explained to one correspondent. 
"We make the examinations as simple as the duties of the places to be 
filled admit," he informed another. He also placed women on the same 
competitive plane with men in many positions, the result being a 
notable increase in the number of women employed during his tenure. 
In addition, TR wrote numerous magazine articles, delivered un- 
counted speeches, and lobbied vigorously for increased appropriations 
for the Commission. "The last few years politically for me have been 
largely a balancing of evils," he revealingly confided to Brander 
Matthews, "and I am delighted to go in on a side where I have no 
doubt whatever." 

One of the side effects of Roosevelt's relentless enforcement of the 
civil service laws was his restoration to grace by the mugwumps. The 
Old Guardsmen and their organs fumed over his refusal to play the 
party game, the Washington Post openly labeling him "The Rollicking 
Ranchman of Bogus Reform." But President Eliot of Harvard praised 
him as the "ideal citizen," and the New York Evening Post began 
again to refer to TR's "characteristic candor." Great numbers of Re- 
publican and Democratic newspapers also endorsed him warmly. He 
was, the Philadelphia Record said editorially, a man who "believes 
rather in the principles than the practices of his party." 

His colleagues were quiet men, who supported him to a con- 
siderable extent, but he did the fighting in the newspapers, before 
congress and everywhere else, and of course bore the brunt of the 
consequent attack which by and by came largely to be personal to 
himself, as he became recognized as the leading spirit of the Com- 


TR professed to resent the encomiums of the mugwumps and 
Democrats on the grounds that they would "discredit me with well- 
meaning but narrow Republicans." But in reality it was his own 
actions that alienated him from the party warhorses. For he not only 
cut their feed bags, he impugned the integrity of a cabinet officer and 
spread the charges on the record in the election year 1892. 

The main fight centered on the Post Office Department. John Wana- 
maker's talents were those of a near administrative genius. And al- 
though the most imaginative of his proposals those for parcel-post 
deliveries, postal savings banks, and the decentralization of administra- 
tion were blocked by the indifference of Congress, he had neverthe- 
less pushed through such a spate of reforms as made his tenure the 
most distinguished since the Civil War. On the other hand, Wana- 
maker had continued to promote the political interests of the Grand 
Old Party, partly because he hoped for congressional support of his 
legislative program, partly because he was a thoroughgoing partisan. 
As his sympathetic biographer admits and his 30,000 removals of 
fourth-class postmasters proves, he had "no profound objection to the 
theory that to the victors belong the spoils." Nor did Wanamaker 
have any "profound" respect for certain laws of the land. 

In the spring of 1891 Roosevelt had investigated reports of mal- 
administration in the Baltimore office. "We certainly struck pay 
gravel," he enthusiastically wrote Charles J. Bonaparte, the Baltimore 
patrician reformer who would later serve in his cabinet. Actually, 
Roosevelt had found that the Baltimore postmaster had arbitrarily 
removed about half the employees in the classified service and that he 
had allowed the law banning compulsory political assessments of 
classified employees to be flagrantly violated. Roosevelt had there- 
upon recommended to Wanamaker and the President that twenty-five 
Republican appointees in the Baltimore office be dismissed; but the 
report was pigeonholed. Unable long to endure the agony of inaction, 
TR had soon unburdened himself at a tempestuous meeting of the 
Civil Service Reform Association in New York. Then, following a 
melodramatic scene in which he exclaimed "damn John Wanamaker," 
he had returned to Washington on the advice of Carl Schurz and 
demanded an investigation by the House Civil Service Committee. 

The Democratic-controlled committee readily obliged. For days 
charges and countercharges filled the air as Roosevelt and Wanamaker 
made separate appearances before the Committee and Roosevelt in- 


directly accused the Postmaster General of "slanderous falsehoods." 
The consequence was a boon to the civil service movement and a 
body blow to Harrison's chances of remaining in the presidency. And 
TR knew it. Contritely, and yet resolutely, he wrote the President that 
he had "used every effort to avoid a conflict with the Post Office 
Department" and explained that it "has now become merely a ques- 
tion of maintaining my own self-respect and upholding the civil service 

By then the damage was done. The "little grey man in the White 
House," as Roosevelt referred to the cold and distant President, had 
to retain his maverick Civil Service Commissioner, for TR had so 
dramatized the merit system that his dismissal would have been con- 
strued as its overt repudiation. To be sure, Roosevelt oiled the surging 
waters by speaking energetically for Harrison's re-election in the cam- 
paign that fall. But the oil proved too thin or the waters too turbulent. 
The Wanamaker incident, the Populist movement, and a host of other 
factors combined to defeat the President and make Grover Cleveland 
the only man to serve two interrupted terms in the White House. 

Roosevelt desired to continue as Commissioner under Cleveland 
in spite of his earlier insults to that sturdy gentleman, and with char- 
acteristic aggressiveness he encouraged Carl Schurz to intercede with 
the President-elect. He warned Schurz, however, that he would stay 
on only if Cleveland agreed to stand by him and appoint a strong 
commission. Schurz was of like mind. He advised Cleveland that he 
was in a unique position to "deal a blow to the spoils system from 
which it will never recover" and he pointed out that he could "hardly 
find a more faithful, courageous and effective aid than Mr. Roosevelt" 
for that purpose. Six weeks after his inauguration the President re- 
appointed TR. 

Many of the old problems now recurred, for the Democratic hosts 
proved as numerous and deserving as those of the Grand Old Party. 
Indeed, by an attorney general's opinion rendered in June, 1893, 
political parties were authorized to solicit contributions by mail from 
government employees. The result, reported the Commission, was that 
more solicitation occurred in the congressional campaign of 1894 
than in any recent nonpresidential canvass. Nevertheless, the merit 
principle steadily advanced. President Cleveland cooperated whole- 
heartedly with Roosevelt and he encouraged high administration 
officials to do likewise. Early in his tenure he removed a Democratic 


commissioner who was out of sympathy with TR's policies, and in 
the one instance that Roosevelt quarreled publicly with a cabinet 
officer the President backed TR. So cordial was his support that in 
the summer of 1893 Roosevelt actually defended Cleveland against 
remonstrations by Schurz. 

It was with deep satisfaction in the accomplishments of the preced- 
ing six years, therefore, that halfway through the Cleveland adminis- 
tration TR resigned to become a member of the Board of Police 
Commissioners of New York City. He had not, it is true, prevailed 
on Congress to place a sufficiently large number of high government 
positions under the civil service laws. Nor, for all the excellence of 
his administrative procedures, had he found a full solution to the 
perplexing problem of promotion for merit in a bureaucracy. Yet the 
classified lists had been more than doubled during his regime, while 
the Commission's position had become so firmly established that the 
future of the civil service movement was reasonably assured. 

Others, of course, had shared in the achievement. The Civil Service 
Reform Association, major elements of the American press, and 
public-spirited citizens the country over had contributed to the 
climate of opinion that made reform possible. President Cleveland's 
cooperation had been vital. As TR wrote in a letter of resignation 
that warmly commended the Chief Executive for his courtesy and 
cooperation, Cleveland's "sweeping reduction ... of excepted 
places . . . worked a most valuable reform in the execution of the 
law itself." Roosevelt's colleagues had also borne a share of the 
load; and TR rejoiced when one of them, the "high-minded and 
upright" John R. Proctor, ex-Confederate soldier and Democrat, was 
selected by the President to replace himself as head of the Commis- 
sion. But more than any other individual, Roosevelt had been respon- 
sible for the Commission's rejuvenation and for the marshaling of 
public sentiment behind its program. His imaginative and energetic 
enforcement of the laws had virtually institutionalized the civil service 
system; and had he never performed another service for the American 
nation, that alone would have assured the perpetuation of his memory 
as a secondary figure of substantial accomplishment. 



It may be truthfully said that Theodore Roosevelt at no time 
in his career fought more effectively for the basic principles of 
free government than he fought for them as New York Police 

Former Commissioner Avery D. Andrews 

When Roosevelt resigned his New York police commissionership 
two years after he left Washington he could also look back to 
reforms achieved and victories hard won. But the reforms would 
prove even more tangible, the battles yet more bitter and controversial, 
than those of his civil service years. 

Not in all Roosevelt's career were the opponents of honest govern- 
ment more widely and deeply entrenched than those he faced when 
he accepted fusion Mayor William L. Strong's appointment in April, 
1895. Their locus was Tammany Hall, or so it seemed to the un- 
initiated. But Lincoln Steffens later reported that they actually in- 
cluded "parts of the Republican machine, the saloons, gambling- 
houses, all vice interests, sportsmen generally, and to [Steffens'] . . . 
curious surprise many business men the ablest, biggest, richest busi- 
ness men in local business; gas, transportation, banks, and the great 
financiers." Periodically sensational civic leaders like the fiery, 
bearded, Presbyterian minister, Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst, would bring 
corruption under the spotlight with such penetrating intensity that the 
citizenry would be aroused. But the "system" described by Steffens 
was too well organized, its tentacles too sharp and grasping, for 
reform waves to have enduring effect. 



Roosevelt clearly understood the formidable nature of his new 
assignment. "I must make up my mind to much criticism and dis- 
appointment," he confided to Bamie as he decided to undertake it, for 
conditions make "it absolutely impossible to do what will be expected 
of me." He was nevertheless convinced that the reasons for accepting 
the charge were more compelling than those for rejecting it: to wit, 
his work on the Civil Service Commission was becoming routine; he 
deemed it wise to identify himself again as a Republican in his native 
state; and his competitive spirit was whetted by the challenge. 

Having made his decision and expressed his forebodings, TR 
reported for duty on May 6 in high hopes, bounding up the steps of 
Police Headquarters on Mulberry Street and firing questions at his 
devoted friend Jacob Riis. "Where are our offices? Where is the board 
room? What do we do first?" he asked the Danish-born humanitarian 
and newspaperman. "It was all breathless and sudden," Steffens, whom 
Riis introduced to Roosevelt on the run, recalled. "It was just as if we 
three were the police board, T.R., Riis, and I, and as we got T.R. 
calmed down and made him promise to go a bit slow, to consult with 
his colleagues also. Then we went out into the hall, and there stood 
the three other commissioners together, waiting for us to go so that 
they could see T.R." 

Roosevelt's fellow commissioners had at once elected him president 
of the Board. But only one of them, Major Avery D. Andrews, was 
destined to support him for long. A nominal Democrat and a West 
Pointer, class of 1886, Andrews had forsaken the Army for the law 
two years earlier. He was soft-spoken and unobtrusively efficient; and 
following his appointment a few months before, he had commenced 
the reform program TR would now expand. The other two, Colonel 
Frederick D. Grant and Andrew D. Parker, were soon to break with 
Roosevelt on personal or political probably both grounds. Grant 
was the son of the illustrious General and hapless President. He was 
slow-moving, kindly, and weak, and the press compared him to TR 
as "a freight train" to a "limited express." His politics were Repub- 
lican. As his father had done before him, he also would seek to 
advance his own fortunes by joining a cabal against his superior. 
Parker was a handsome, strong-willed lawyer of considerable in- 
tellectual endowment. He had served three years as an assistant district 
attorney and he was affiliated with the County Democracy, though 
not because he opposed Tammany on ethical grounds. Steffens tol- 


erantly described him as "the man that liked to sit back and pull wires 
just to see the puppets jump." But Andrews, who had more insight 
into Parker than that celebrated reporter, recalled simply that he 
"lacked the moral character . . . essential to the post." 

Buoyed up by the apparent quality of his colleagues, TR again 
plunged into his new duties accompanied by the customary news- 
paper fanfare: "Roosevelt on Deck; Roosevelt on the Board for 
Business; He Wants to Know, and He Asks Some Pointed Questions; 
Trials are Trials Now; New Police Brooms Busy; Delinquent Police- 
men Get Short Shrift From Roosevelt." 

Throughout the spring of 1895 TR's midnight prowls over patrol- 
men's beats, dramatic changes in personnel, and emphatic pronounce- 
ments combined to keep him favorably in the news. As he histrioni- 
cally exclaimed at the end of his second month in office, "Two years 
and eight months left to me on this Board and that is time enough 
to make matters very unpleasant for policemen who shirk their duty." 

Many of the police reporters Steffens, Arthur Brisbane, and 
Joseph B. Bishop meanwhile formed strong attachments to the 
effervescent Commissioner. They gravitated to TR because his nearly 
every move and offhand remark were lively with human interest; but 
they supported him because they believed in what he was doing. "We 
have a real Police Commissioner," Brisbane wrote in the usually 
hostile World. "His teeth are big and white, his eyes are small and 
piercing, his voice is rasping. He makes our policemen feel as the . . . 
little froggies . . ." However, Brisbane continued, "he looks like a 
man of strength ... a determined man, a fighting man, an honest, 
conscientious man, and like the man to reform the force." 

Bishop was not less perceptive. "The peculiarity about . . . 
[Roosevelt] is that he has what is essentially a boy's mind," he wrote 
in the Evening Post. "What he thinks he says at once, thinks alive. It 
is his distinguishing characteristic." However, Bishop added, "with it 
he has great qualities which make him an invaluable public servant 
inflexible honesty, absolute fearlessness, and devotion to good govern- 
ment which amounts to religion. We must let him work in his own 
way for nobody can induce him to change it." Furthermore, he con- 
cluded, "he is talking to a purpose. He wishes the public to know 
what the Police Board is doing so that it will have popular support." 

Unhappily, the "popular support" Roosevelt deemed so necessary 
to the reformation of the Police Department was not long sustained. 


It began to diminish when he forced out Superintendent Tom Byrnes, 
an extraordinarily able and popular officer who had long collaborated 
with the politicians, vice men, and business men including Jay Gould, 
who comprised the grand mesalliance. And it suffered a body blow 
when he persisted in enforcing the law against the sale of intoxicating 
beverages on Sunday. Put on the statute books by the Tammany 
Democrats and kept there by the votes of well-meaning Protestant 
legislators from upstate, the Raines, or Sunday closing law, was an 
open sesame of graft. Saloonkeepers by the hundreds regularly paid 
off the police for the privilege of opening their doors in defiance of its 

Roosevelt realized that the Raines Law should have been repealed; 
and at one point he publicly stated that he would have opposed its 
enactment. As he also explained, however, he had "to choose between 
closing all the saloons and violating my oath of office" as long as it 
remained on the books. More important still, for TR was never so 
committed to a literal interpretation of his duties as that remark 
implied, he had to enforce the Raines Law in order to attain his pre- 
eminent objective the creation of an honest police force. Not until 
all the saloons were closed on Sundays could bribery be stamped out; 
and not until bribery was eliminated could the administrative reforms 
he and Andrews were fostering become truly meaningful. 

Unfortunately, the Sunday closing law ran athwart the customs of 
New York's large and reputable German-American population which 
had long observed the Continental Sunday. The German-Americans 
bitterly resented the imputation that a Sunday afternoon in a beer 
garden with a string ensemble playing Strauss and children pattering 
around the tables was sordid. And all that summer they complained 
and grumbled over the forced closing of their neighborhood drinking 
places. Finally, in September, they vented their grievances in a protest 
parade which saw thousands of marchers, many bearing placards 
emblazoned with remarks such as "Good Morning, Have You Seen 
Roosevelt's Name in Print?" "Liberty, Priceless Gem, Where Hast 
Thou Flown? To Hoboken!" stream by a reviewing stand where TR, 
who had unabashedly accepted their invitation to witness the parade, 
comported himself with such high good humor that he drew cheers 
from the protesting paraders. 

Roosevelt's troubles were compounded meanwhile by misrepre- 
sentations in unfriendly newspapers. As the protest of the German- 


Americans and the complaints of the counsel for the Liquor Dealers' 
Association, who claimed that ninety per cent of the saloonkeepers 
had gone bankrupt from loss of revenue, attest, the Raines Law was 
broadly and effectively enforced. In an effort to discredit TR, how- 
ever, newspapermen who trailed Roosevelt and Andrews when they 
made Sunday inspections reported that saloons were doing a flourish- 
ing business by means of side or rear doors. " 'East Side, West Side, 
all around the town,' yesterday went King Roosevelt I, ruler of New 
York and patron saint of dry Sundays," William Randolph Hearst's 
Evening Journal commented a month before the German-Americans 
organized their demonstration. Even Mayor Strong, who understood 
what Roosevelt was trying to do, succumbed to the popular urge and 
ridiculed his ubiquitous commissioner. "I found that the Dutchman 
whom I had appointed meant to turn all New Yorkers into Puritans," 
he laughingly said at a public dinner that fall. 

Nor was all the criticism humorous. For a time the mail brought 
in anonymous denunciations, threats, and, at least once, a crudely 
designed bomb. TR was shadowed at night in a vain effort to black- 
mail him. And the chairman of the Republican County Committee 
angrily read Roosevelt out of the G.O.P. in a desperate attempt to 
hold the German- American vote. Unmoved by these and other pres- 
sures, including an implied threat by Strong that he would turn him 
out unless he relaxed his enforcement of the Raines law, TR 
resolutely held his ground. "We have no right to consider the 
[political] results," he righteously declaimed before the Republican 
Reform Club at the height of the campaign against enforcement. 

The consequence was disaster for Roosevelt's party and vindication 
for his program. The Republicans suffered a crushing defeat at the 
polls that fall as 30,000 German-Americans reportedly bolted to the 
Democrats. But the Wine, Liquor and Beer Association resolved that 
it would expel any member who opened his shop on Sunday. "There 
has not been a more remarkable triumph of law in the municipal 
history of New York," the correspondent for the London Times re- 
ported. "The consensus is that to Theodore Roosevelt's courage and 
ability more than to any other single cause this victory is due." 

Notwithstanding charges to the contrary, TR had enforced the law 
against the singing and drinking places of the rich as well as against 
the beer gardens and saloons of the middle and lower classes. One of 
the most sensational incidents of the enforcement campaign, in fact, 


had been the raiding of Sherry's restaurant during a dinner attended by 
many eminent New Yorkers. Partly to prevent such inconveniences to 
gentlemen, but largely to circumvent the Sunday closing law as a 
whole, a measure authorizing the sale of liquor with meals in hotels 
was put through the legislature the next year. The law was so loosely 
framed that it spawned a host of fake hotels and ramshackle brothel- 
saloons, and Roosevelt again took the offensive. As he reported when 
he left office, however, it proved impossible to close most of the places 

Roosevelt's second year in office was even more tumultuous than 
his first, the Board of Commissioners being virtually paralyzed by 
internal dissension and deadlock throughout most of it. Steffens later 
placed the blame on personalities. 

T.R. liked to lead cavalry charges with a whoop out in the open, 
Parker to direct his troops mysteriously from the rear unseen. He 
hated the way T.R. took command of the police from the first day 
and kept saying "1" and "my policy". . . . Parker enjoyed turn- 
ing up at a meeting one day with Grant to block some proposition 
of the president. He tried to get Andrews, too, but the young West 
Pointer did not like the crafty conspirator; he did not approve of 
T.R.'s cowboy style either, but he stared Parker down and joined 
and stood by the president. 

Steffens was partly right, for Roosevelt was dominating if not 
domineering. Yet Steffens' statement was also misleading. Parker was 
later tried for maladministration, and if his trial proved nothing else, 
it demonstrated that he would have fought anyone who opposed his 
drive for control of the force. 

As it happened, Parker found an ally in Tom Platt. The "Easy 
Boss" was angered by Roosevelt's support of Thomas B. Reed's presi- 
dential aspirations (Platt was for McKinley), by TR's removal of 
many of "his men" from the police force for incompetency and worse, 
and especially by his enforcement of the Sunday closing law. Platt 
could not risk offending the upstate "drys" by repealing the law; yet 
he had to win back the German-Americans. He decided, therefore, to 
deadlock the Board of Commissioners in the hope that the enforce- 
ment campaign would thereby break down. He used Grant as his 

Roosevelt's response to Platt's diabolical scheme set a pattern he 
was to follow during his governorship and on through his presidency. 


He avoided a personal break with Platt and the other party leaders, 
and he continued to identify himself as a regular Republican. But on 
the main issue, the enforcement campaign, he held absolutely firm. 
"I work and fight from dawn until dark, almost"; he wearily wrote 
his sister, "and the difficulties, the opposition, the lukewarm support 
I encounter give me hours of profound depression; but at bottom I 
know the work has been well worth doing." 

It is a grimy struggle, but a vital one. . . . All day I strive to 
push matters along; to keep on good terms with the Mayor, while 
rejecting his advice and refusing to obey his orders; not to be drawn 
into a personal quarrel with Platt; not to let my colleagues split 
either among themselves or with me; to work with reformers like 
Dr. Parkhurst, and yet not let them run away with the Department; 
to keep weeding out the bad men; to attend to the thousand 
complaints, well and ill-founded, of citizens; to try to improve 
discipline, and to build up the detective bureau, and develop 
leaders; and so on and so on. 

The deadlock continued on into the spring of 1896. "I cannot 
shoot . . . [Parker]," TR complained to Lodge, "or engage in a 
rough-and-tumble with him I couldn't even as a private citizen, still 
less as the chief peace-officer of the city; and I hardly know what 
course to follow as he is utterly unabashed by exposure and repeats 
lie after lie with brazen effrontery." Finally, however, Roosevelt, 
Andrews, and Dr. Parkhurst and his followers forced Mayor Strong 
to hold the public hearing that exposed Parker's naked mendacity, 
after which Strong ordered Parker's dismissal. At the instance of 
"Boss" Platt, however, the Republican governor refused to approve 
the order. Parker was still in office when Roosevelt resigned, feuding 
anew with TR's successor. 

The Parker hearing was highlighted by one illuminating colloquy. 
After Roosevelt had charged on the witness stand that Parker was 
"mendacious, treacherous, capable of double dealing and exercising a 
bad influence upon the force," he was asked whether he would refuse 
to go along with Parker even if he knew him to be right. TR forthwith 

"No sir. I would be glad to yield to him if he was right." 

"You enjoy yielding to a man, don't you?" 

"By George, I do, and that's a fact." 

Roosevelt was understandably gratified to move gracefully out by 


accepting an appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the 
spring of 1897. Not until the last year of his presidency would he 
again be so frustrated; not until 1912 so embattled. The Rev. Dr. 
Parkhurst had stood by him until the end he even blazed out at 
Platt, who attended his church, from the pulpit. Thousands of dis- 
interested citizens and dozens of reporters and editors, especially from 
out of state, also continued to support him unreservedly. A reporter 
for the Chicago Times-Herald termed him "undeniably the biggest 
man in New York," and others boomed him for the presidency. Yet 
his enemies had proved even more numerous and powerful than he 
had expected. They included not only Tammany and the Republican 
machine, not only the German-Americans, the saloonkeepers and the 
vice lords generally, but clergymen who resented his refusal to ban 
a professional fight. ("I suffered a heavier punishment sparring at 
Harvard," he told newspapermen after witnessing the bout, "and I 
have been knocked out at polo twice for a ten times longer period.") 

Roosevelt had also antagonized labor. Union leaders had lauded 
his enforcement of the Sunday law against the restaurants and 
hostelries of the rich. And they had warmly endorsed his condemna- 
tion of more than one hundred "wretched and crowded" tenements, 
as he described them. (Twice wrathful landlords had tried to sue TR.) 
But they deplored his terrifyingly extreme remarks about striking 
mobs, and they felt that he had thrown the weight of the police force 
on the side of capital by giving protection to strikebreakers. 

The raging controversies of Roosevelt's two years as president of 
the Board have lent to easy sensationalism and facile generalization. 
As TR had foreseen at the start, he was unable to rid New York City 
of corruption; and as he had not wholly foreseen, the leaders of his 
own party had actively opposed him. Only the moral support of the 
decent elements had prevented the machine from turning him out; 
only his extraordinary courage and self-esteem had kept him from 
resigning after three or four months in office. Yet he had compiled a 
peerless record. Never in the department's history had the law been 
so effectively and dramatically enforced; never had two years seen so 
many basic and sweeping reforms. When Roosevelt took office the 
price of a captaincy was said to have been $10,000; when he left 
office it was nothing. When Roosevelt assumed his duties on May 5, 
1895, the flow of dismissals from the force was but a trickle; when 


he resigned in April 1897 it had become a flood. Steffens graphically 
described the scene at the height of the turnover: 

"Hey, there," [Roosevelt] yelled to me from his window one 
day, "come up here." I ran upstairs to his outer office, which was 
filled with all sorts of respectable people, evidently business men, 
lawyers, doctors, women, and two priests. Waving his hand around 
the circle of them, he squeezed through his teeth aloud: "I just want 
you to see the kind of people that are coming here to intercede for 
proven crooks. Come on, come into my office and listen to the 
reasons they give for letting bribers, clubbers, and crime-protectors 
stay on the police force and go on grafting on the public." 

There were other, more permanent reforms. Roosevelt had early 
announced that "We are going to have fitness, physically, mentally 
and morally, constitute the standard and basis of admission to and 
promotion in the Department . . . ;" and within a few months of his 
appointment he had largely achieved that objective. An examining 
board was created, religious and political affiliations were struck off 
the unwritten criteria for appointment, and examinations patterned on 
the federal service were instituted. The eligibility list for initial ap- 
pointment was zealously observed, though TR often made spot promo- 
tions for heroism and other exceptional acts. A probationary period 
was also established. So effective were the merit aspects of the new 
system, indeed, that it was warmly commended by a committee of the 
Civil Service Reform Association headed by Carl Schurz, which in- 
spected the department on Roosevelt's invitation. 

Repeatedly and unavailingly, the politicians tried to break it down 
or circumvent it. An incident related by the novelist Owen Wister, 
who was visiting TR in his office when a surgeon named Marvin 
Palmer happened in bearing a letter of recommendation from the 
Surveyor of the Port, is typical. "I entirely agree that a republican 
appointment would be timely," Roosevelt said after perusing the 
letter. "And I am quite sure, Dr. Palmer, that you are qualified for the 
position." After a momentary pause, he added: "And here's the way 
you can get the position. . . . Stand first on the Civil Service list!" 

Whereupon the physician strode out of the office, stopping at the 
door just long enough to say, "You can go to hell!" 

Meanwhile the force was partially modernized. A bicycle squad was 
formed, a telephonic system of communications was established, and 
recruits were given fairly intensive training before being assigned 


to beats. The force as a whole was warned to be polite to the public 
("That a citizen devoid of *pulT has any rights that a policeman is 
bound to respect, . . . [is] a novel proposition," the Herald sardoni- 
cally observed). And for the first time in decades election officials 
were honestly selected. ("If nothing but this one reform had been 
gained by it," the Tribune commented, "the political revolution of 
last year would not have been in vain.") 

But above everything else, above the administrative reforms, the 
modernization program, the political accusations and counteraccusa- 
tions, towered Roosevelt's inspirational power. As an unnamed patrol- 
man exclaimed to Steffens when the press reported that TR was 
resigning in the spring of 1897, "It's tough on the force, for he was 
dead square, was Roosevelt, and we needed him in the business." Nor 
did it die with TR's passing. Years later veteran officers confirmed 
what the New York Evening Post had predicted when Roosevelt 
closed his desk in April: "The end of the reign of Mr. Roosevelt . . . 
is not the end of Rooseveltism. Mr. Roosevelt may disappear ut- 
terly . . . but his personality will persist as an active influence in the 
force for a generation at least, till the youngest 'reform cop' is re- 
tired, and then he will not 'go out of business' entirely. ... He will 
furnish another example for the young policeman and though most 
of them may choose the majority ideal, all will remember Roosevelt." 



No qualities called out by a purely peaceful life stand on a 
level with those stern and virile virtues which move the men of 
stout heart and strong hand who uphold the honor of their flag 
in battle. 

Theodore Roosevelt* 

Theodore Roosevelt "will bring with him to Washington all that 
machinery of disturbance and upheaval which is as much a part of 
his entourage as the very air he breathes," the Washington Post said 
the day the Senate confirmed TR's appointment as Assistant 
Secretary of the Navy. "He is inspired by a passionate hatred of 
meanness, humbug, and cowardice. He is a fighter, a man of indom- 
itable pluck and energy, a potent and forceful factor in any equation 
into which he may be introduced. A field of immeasurable usefulness 
awaits him will he find it?" 

The President of the United States had been reluctant to appoint 
Roosevelt to the Navy Department post. William McKinley had been 
eased into the White House to preserve the business civilization 
against William Jennings Bryan and his rampant agrarian legions, 
not to build up the battle fleet or to force Spain out of the New World. 
Would there be a clash of interests if TR became a member of his 
administration? "I hope he has no preconceived notion which he 
would wish to drive through the moment he got in," McKinley had 

* In a review of Captain Alfred Mahan's Life of Nelson in The Bookman, 
June 1897. 



remarked to Lodge when the Massachusetts Senator had pressed 
Roosevelt's case upon him in the winter of 1897. Whereupon Lodge, 
with what reservations we may never know, had assured him that he 
"need not give himself the slightest uneasiness on that score." 

It happened, too, that the President-elect owed a political debt to 
the New York Police Commissioner. Roosevelt had at first opposed 
McKinley's nomination for President in the belief that he would not 
hold up in a crisis, whether "a soft-money craze, a gigantic labor 
riot, or danger of foreign conflict." But the confluence of Roosevelt's 
election-year regularity and his exaggerated fears of Bryan he called 
the convention that pressed its highest accolade upon the broad, un- 
furrowed brow of the Boy Orator of the Platte a "Witches' Sab- 
bath" had altered his perspective. When Mark Hanna invited him 
to join his multimillion-dollar crusade for McKinley and the gold 
standard, TR had signed on with a vengeance; and during the late 
summer and fall of 1896 he had campaigned furiously for the 
Ohioan's election and the Great Commoner's defeat. 

Furthermore, a number of other prominent Republicans including 
Tom Platt had urged Roosevelt's appointment upon McKinley. Platt 
had been hesitant when TR first asked him to use his influence. He 
was eager to have the righteous Police Commissioner out of his hair, 
however, and after concluding that TR would probably "do less harm 
to the organization as Assistant Secretary of the Navy than in any 
other office that could be named," he had submitted Roosevelt's name. 
Under these pressures the President had finally given in, and on 
April 6, 1897, a month and two days after his inauguration, he sent 
in Roosevelt's appointment to the Senate. 

TR's desire for the assistant secretaryship reflected more than his 
wish to ease out of his untenable situation in New York. That quality 
of destiny which the newspapers, his friends, and even his political 
opponents read into his future was looming larger; and he could 
hardly have remained long as Police Commissioner under any cir- 
cumstances. More than a decade earlier A. T. Packard, the editor of 
the Bad Lands Cowboy, had suggested to Roosevelt that he might 
someday become President of the United States. TR had forthrightly 
replied: "If your prophecy comes true, I will do my part to make a 
good one." But that had been in Dakota where men were inclined to 
be direct. Rarely again did Roosevelt admit such a lofty ambition, and 
never quite so simply. 


Once, during Roosevelt's police commissionership, Jacob Riis had 
asked him directly if he was working for the presidency. Angrily, TR 
had expostulated that no friend would ever suggest such an idea. 
Quickly, however, he had regained his composure, put his arm over 
his devoted friend's shoulder, screwed his face into a knot, and said 
softly: "I am going to do great things here, hard things that require 
all the courage, ability, work that I am capable of." Then, in a flash 
of self-revelation, he had added: "I must be wanting to be president. 
Every young man does. But I won't let myself think of it; I must not, 
because if I do, I will begin to work for it, I'll be careful, calculating, 
cautious in word and act, and so I'll beat myself. See?" 

Roosevelt also looked forward to his return to Washington because 
the Navy Department post gave him a seat on the fringe of power. 
While on the Civil Service Commission he had chafed under the 
restrictions of his bipartisan office. "I often have a regret that I am 
not in with you, Reed, and others in doing the real work," he had 
confessed to Lodge. During all the years of his political apprentice- 
ship, moreover, TR had been actively interested in foreign policy and 
military preparedness. He had commented on those issues in the 
presidential elections of 1884 and 1888; and he had interjected them 
into his campaign for mayor in 1886. He had long fretted over 
Cleveland and Harrison's lack of interest in the Navy, but he had 
taken heart at such assertiveness toward Germany, Spain, and Great 
Britain as they had sometimes shown. Cleveland's belligerence toward 
the British in the Venezuelan boundary dispute had won Roosevelt's 
warm endorsement, while his emphatic refusal to annex Hawaii had 
provoked his unbridled contempt "a colossal crime," he called it. 
Roosevelt had further deplored Cleveland's steady resistance to de- 
mands that he press the decadent Spanish government into granting 
independence to the Cubans. At times, also, Roosevelt had looked 
forward to American acquisition of Canada, half hoping for an in- 
cident with Great Britain as the means to effect that end. He was, in 
addition, disgusted by the apathy of a succession of presidential 
administrations toward construction of a canal across the Central 
American isthmus, for he had long foreseen the strategic and economic 
advantages of such an undertaking. TR had no illusions that his new 
post would give him a major voice in the formulation of such 
policies; but he did believe that it would give him access to some of 
the men who made the decisions. 


As it turned out, Roosevelt was to exercise a far greater influence 
during his year's tenure as Assistant Secretary of the Navy than he 
had expected and probably even hoped. Secretary John D. Long, an 
indulgent gentleman of declining energy, was often away from the 
department; and in any event, he delegated considerable authority to 
his energetic assistant. Thus Roosevelt was able from the start of his 
service to establish and direct his energies toward the realization of 
three broad objectives: the improvement of morale, administration, 
and tactical efficiency; publicity of the case for increased naval power; 
and preparation of the battle fleet for war with Spain. Within the 
year Roosevelt had firmly impressed his character on all three. 

Soon after assuming office, for example, Roosevelt was detailed 
to investigate an accident involving a torpedo boat. Dutifully, he stated 
in his official report that commanders should take proper safety pre- 
cautions. However, he added, "it is more important that our officers 
should handle these boats with dash and daring than that the boats 
should be kept unscratched." Shortly thereafter the new Assistant 
Secretary visited Newport News where the battleships Kentucky and 
Kearsarge were then being built. He was enthusiastic about the quality 
of the ships, but he disapproved their double turrets on the well- 
founded grounds that they made it necessary to train both light and 
heavy-caliber guns on the same target. In June, while Secretary Long 
was on vacation, Roosevelt undertook to lighten the paper work 
assigned torpedo-boat commanders. And in August, with Long again 
away, he lightened the load for battleship and battle-cruiser captains. 

Meanwhile Roosevelt zealously guarded the prerogatives of Navy 
Department employees under the civil service system, bombarded 
Secretary Long with advice, and made numerous personal inspections 
of naval installations. At the Cramp shipyard in Philadelphia, where 
he inspected the Iowa, it was reported that he "broke the record for 
asking questions" and that he surprised officers and shipbuilders by 
his "evident theoretical knowledge of the construction of ships of war 
down to the details of bolts and rivets." 

During the fall of 1897 Roosevelt served as chairman of a board 
on naval personnel which recommended that the distinction between 
engineering and line officers be eliminated, that unfit officers be pen- 
sioned, and that the salaries of line officers be increased. Then, over 
the opposition of conservative and economy-minded critics, he drew 
up a bill incorporating those recommendations. The measure was 


passed in 1899. The Assistant Secretary continued meanwhile to rail 
against the advancement of officers on the basis of tenure rather than 

Roosevelt's administrative reforms were usually made in coopera- 
tion with Secretary Long, whom he regularly posted when the latter 
was away from Washington. Nevertheless, TR's tendency to exert 
even more authority than Long had granted him and, especially, his 
disposition to make public statements on policy matters made conflict 
inevitable. The first major difference occurred in August, 1897, when 
Roosevelt told a meeting of naval reservists in Ohio that the United 
States ought to decide whether it should annex Hawaii without regard 
to the attitude of Japan or any other power. The headlines, TR con- 
fided to Lodge, "nearly threw the Secretary into a fit, and he gave me 
as heavy a wigging as his invariable courtesy and kindness would 
permit." A few weeks after that Long deleted a passage urging an 
increase in the size of the Navy from an article the Assistant Secretary 
was preparing for publication. Other incidents followed. And although 
the two men were still on good terms when Roosevelt resigned, it 
was mainly because of the Secretary's easygoing temperament and 
his personal affection for his irrepressible subordinate. Assuredly, TR 
had transgressed. "My chief usefulness has arisen from the fact that 
when I was Acting Secretary I did not hesitate to take responsibilities," 
he confided to Lodge shortly before he resigned in the spring of 
1898, "and from the further fact that I have continually meddled with 
what was not my business, because I was willing to jeopardize my 
position in a way that a naval officer could not." Nor did Roosevelt 
overestimate his services. During the years from 1897 to 1909, writes 
a recent naval historian, William R. Braisted, Roosevelt "was per- 
haps more responsible than any other individual ... for the shap- 
ing of the Navy into an effective instrument of war and diplomacy." 

Roosevelt was particularly exercised by Long's sensitivity to the 
economy bloc in Congress, and though he hammered at the Secretary 
to request funds for six battleships four for the Atlantic, where he 
foresaw ultimate trouble with Germany, and two for the Pacific, 
where Japan's growing power was the catalyst the best he could 
get from Long was a recommendation in December, 1897, for the 
construction of one new battleship. The result, concludes Braisted, 
was that "American naval strategists, with but a one-ocean navy, were 
still studying the means to defend American possessions against Japan 


without opening the way for a German assault in the Atlantic" a 
decade later. Indeed, as early as May, 1897, Roosevelt had assigned 
the Naval War College the following problem: 

Japan makes demands on Hawaiian Islands. 

This country intervenes. 

What force will be necessary to uphold the intervention and how 

shall it be employed? 

Keeping in mind possible complications with another Power on 

the Atlantic Coast (Cuba). 

Meanwhile, as the war clouds over Cuba continued to darken, 
Roosevelt tried to convince his superior that he should dispose the 
fleet in a way that would give it the greatest possible striking power 
in the shortest time span should war break out. But Long, who ap- 
parently lacked the power of bold decision, refused to act. Indeed, he 
even failed to act following the destruction of the Maine in Havana 
Harbor on February 15, 1898. Ten days after that epochal event he 
unwittingly gave Roosevelt his opportunity by absenting himself from 
the Department for the day. He warned his ebullient subordinate not 
to take "any step affecting the policy of the administration without 
consulting the President or me"; but Roosevelt, in a characteristic 
disregard of authority, ignored his instructions. That very afternoon 
he dispatched to Commodore Dewey that fateful telegram which 
prepared the way for the defeat of the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay 
and the acquisition of the Philippines: 

Dewey, Hong Kong: Order the squadron, except the Monocacy to 
Hong Kong. Keep full of coaL In the event of declaration of war 
Spain, your duty will be to see that the Spanish squadron does not 
leave the Asiatic coast, and then offensive operations in Philippine 
Islands. Keep Olympia until further orders. 

Secretary Long was furious when apprised of Roosevelt's action. 
TR had "gone at things like a bull in a china closet"; he lacked "a 
cool head and discrimination." Significantly, however, Long failed to 
countermand the order, perhaps because he was relieved that the 
Assistant Secretary had made the decision for him. And when war 
was declared on April 19, Dewey set off in full steam for his 
rendezvous with destiny. 

However unpardonable Roosevelt's breach of personal faith, it was 
a right move from an internal point of view; nor was it lightly made, 


though the act of sending the telegram may have been impulsive. The 
plan, which had been conceived by Mahan, was one that Roosevelt 
had long pressed upon his chief, and a case can be made that the 
authority to issue the order was technically, if not morally, Roosevelt's. 
As TR had written Secretary Long six weeks earlier, the nation might 
suffer "one or two bitter humiliations" and would "certainly be 
forced to spend the first three or four most important weeks not in 
striking, but in making those preparations to strike which we should 
have made long before." 

The tactical wisdom of Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roosevelt's 
order to Dewey is not be confused with his unofficial war-mongering 
as war impended in the spring of 1898. For many years Roosevelt 
had been extolling the warlike virtues, writing contemptuously of 
those who opposed military preparedness, and advocating American 
expansion as the manifest right of a superior people. Three years 
after he sought in 1886 to raise a troop of "as utterly reckless a set 
of desperadoes as ever sat in the saddle" for possible conflict with 
Mexico, TR was hoping for "a bit of a spar with Germany." To 
Spring-Rice he confided that "the burning of New York and a few 
other seacoast cities would be a good object lesson on the need of an 
adequate system of coast defences; and I think it would have a good 
effect on our large germ an [sic] population to force them to an 
ostentatiously patriotic display of anger against Germany." By 1895 
he was requesting Governor Levi P. Morton of New York for a 
captaincy should war break out with Spain over Cuba. And late in 
the same year he was scorning "the bankers, brokers and Anglo- 
maniacs generally" who opposed Cleveland's truculence toward the 
British in the Venezuelan crisis. Then, in the spring of 1897, less 
than two months after he became Assistant Secretary of the Navy, 
he declared in a prepared address at the Naval War College that "No 
triumph of peace is quite so great as the supreme triumph of war." 
Unquestionably, as Howard K. Beale concludes in his authoritative 
work on Roosevelt's foreign policies, TR "came close to seeking war 
for its own sake." 

It is difficult and probably impossible to square many of Roose- 
velt's statements on war with Roosevelt the moral man. Doubtless, as 
many students of Roosevelt's life have concluded, his aggressiveness 
derived in some part from his boyhood struggle against illness. It is 
unlikely, however, that the experience of his youth did more than 


determine the degree of his belligerence, for thousands of men of 
divergent psychological make-up subscribed to the same general 
theories. Cabot Lodge and John Hay shared TR's attitude toward war, 
though they were more circumspect in expressing it. Henry Adams's 
brilliant, introspective younger brother, Brooks, was a philosophical 
militarist. And Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., whose militarism has 
curiously escaped the obloquy of historians, was quite convinced that 
war "was divine" and that "this snug, over-safe corner of the world" 
needed one in order that the people might "realize that our comfort- 
able routine is no eternal necessity of things . . . and . . . that 
we may be ready for danger." Furthermore, the cult of military valor 
was world-wide. Lord Wolseley, the commander in chief of the 
British forces, merely expressed what hosts of Englishmen believed 
when he wrote in 1889 that "All other pleasures pale before the in- 
tense, the maddening delight of leading men into the midst of an 
enemy, or to the assault of some well-defended place." The generation 
that thrilled to Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" 
was followed by one that took Rudyard Kipling's Barrack-Room 
Ballads to its heart; and the reception accorded the poet laureate of 
imperialism was even more uncritical in Great Britain than in the 
United States. 

Had Roosevelt been born in a later era he might have vented his 
primordial instincts on the athletic field. As it was, he thought of war 
in terms of man-to-man combat, dashing cavalry charges, and bril- 
liant tactical maneuvers; not of mass carnage, germ-infested prison 
camps, and endless, stultifying boredom. Perhaps his heroic visions 
should not have been. There were many, even in Roosevelt's time, who 
cried out against them; among them his quondam friend, Carl 
Schurz, most of the other mugwumps, and tough-minded William 
James. It was James, in fact, who stripped the veneer of moral pur- 
pose from Roosevelt's exhortations. Not only is he "still mentally in 
the Sturm und Drang period of early adolescence," the Harvard 
philosopher wrote of his former student, he regards "one foe ... as 
good as another," and "swamps everything together in one flood of 
abstract bellicose emotion." 

For all who had eyes to see, moreover, the Civil War had been 
the first of the great modern holocausts. But for reasons that cut to 
the core of the human experience, a generation of politicians, par- 
ticipants, and propagandists of a lost cause had endowed it with an 


ultraromantic aura before Roosevelt was yet an adolescent, and to 
this day their creation survives. TR matured in that milieu. He 
despised Jefferson Davis, whom he once subjected to personal insult, 
as the symbol of disunion; but he esteemed Robert E. Lee, whose 
services to the Confederacy were far greater, as the exemplar of the 
soldierly virtues. 

The views of Roosevelt, Holmes, and the rest did not lack an in- 
tellectual rationale. Their emphasis on preparedness and the will to fight 
reflected a reading of the grand sweep of human history from a social- 
Darwinian frame of reference. And if Roosevelt did not necessarily 
regard the race among individuals as invariably to the swift, he never- 
theless believed that it was almost always so among nations. A coun- 
try had either to expand its influence by peaceful means if possible or 
by war if not. Otherwise it would lose place, power, and prestige; or 
at the least it would fail to fulfill its potential, of which failing there 
was none greater, whether for individual or nation, in Roosevelt's 
system of values. This required strength, determination, and sacrifice. 
It presumed the development of the soldierly virtues and the will to 
use them when challenged. "If our population decreases; if we lose 
the virile, manly qualities, and sink into a nation of mere hucksters, 
putting gain above national honor, and subordinating everything to 
mere ease of life; then we shall indeed reach a condition worse than 
that of the ancient civilizations in the years of their decay," Roosevelt 
wrote in his review of Brooks Adams's The Law of Civilization and 
Decay. Rome began to decline, he declared in one of those classic 
half truths of which he was sometimes a master, when the "Roman 
army became an army no longer of Roman citizens, but of barbarians 
trained in the Roman manner . . ." 

Yet, there were qualifications. TR was too buoyant, too much in 
love with life, to imbibe of the Adams brothers' pessimism. And 
even as he regretted with Brooks the passing of the military man, he 
read his values into the new economic man. There were in the 
American capitalistic system, he also said in his review of The Law 
of Civilization and Decay, "great branches of industry which call 
forth in those that follow them more hardihood, manliness, and cour- 
age than any industry of ancient times. ... As yet, while men are 
more gentle and more honest than before, it cannot be said that they 
are less brave." In 1917, when it seemed to Roosevelt that Western 
civilization stood on the brink of disaster, he earnestly sent forth his 


sons to war. But some years before, when it had been time for his 
first-bora to choose a career, he urgently advised him against West 
Point and the enervating life of a regular army officer. 

Meanwhile there was a war at hand. Two generations of American 
historians have deprecated McKinley's submission to the hysteria 
generated by the "yellow journalists," Hearst, Pulitzer and their 
imitators, to a Protestant clergy irrational with compassion for the 
oppressed Cubans, to statesmen obsessed with illusions of national 
grandeur, and to a public opinion bursting with ultrapatriotism. James 
Ford Rhodes, friend of McKinley, brother-in-law of Mark Hanna, 
and judicious defender of Republican policies, called the conflict with 
Spain "a needless war." The distinguished student of American 
diplomacy, Samuel Flagg Bemis, termed its aftermath the "great 
aberration." And a long list of others have poured forth condemna- 
tions that are harsher still. Not even the relatively exemplary adminis- 
tration of the colonial empire which arose in its wake and the per- 
spective afforded by two world wars have substantially changed those 
judgments. The most that has been said in extenuation is that resort 
to the sword was perhaps the only way to cut the Gordian Knot of 
Spanish barbarities in Cuba and to heed the American people's 
humanistic demand that they be ended; and that is hardly a tenable 
thesis. For Theodore Roosevelt, however, the war represented intel- 
lectual and emotional fulfillment. 

Roosevelt believed that "every foot of American soil, including the 
nearest islands in both the Pacific and Atlantic, should be in the hands 
of independent American states," and he regarded the liberation of 
Cuba as a first step toward that end. He also believed that war with 
undermatched Spain would prove a rewarding tactical exercise for 
the fleet and that it would spur sentiment for a more powerful Navy, 
without which, he argued, the United States had no justification for 
retaining Alaska and annexing Hawaii and little possibility of building 
up its Far Eastern trade. Repeatedly during 1897 and early 1898 he 
pointed out to Secretary of the Navy Long and others that Japan was 
threatening to surpass the United States as a naval power and that 
the Imperial German government showed a tendency "to stretch out 
for colonial possessions which may at any moment cause a conflict 
with us." We should beware, he warned, "of letting a foolish hatred 
of England blind us to our honor and interest." Germany, not Eng- 


land, was the power most likely to conflict with the United States over 
the Monroe Doctrine. 

As war actually impended in the winter and early spring of 1898 
Roosevelt's emotions came to rule him. Fearful that a joint inquiry 
with Spain into the causes of the Maine disaster would fail to impose 
responsibility on Spain, he urged Secretary Long to advise the Presi- 
dent against such an investigation. Meanwhile, in a ratiocination that 
gives point to Arnold Toynbee's aphorism that patriotism is the last 
infirmity of noble minds, he concluded that Spain was in fact culpable, 
that the ill-fated battleship "was sunk by an act of dirty treachery on 
the part of the Spaniards." And again and again as the crisis height- 
ened he pleaded for war. On the eve of conflict he revealed his 
frustrations to Brooks Adams, whose courageous great-grandfather, 
John, had won historical fame and contemporary condemnation by 
preventing another needless war just one hundred years before: 

The blood of the Cubans, the blood of women and children 
who have perished by the hundred thousand in hideous misery, lies 
at our door; and the blood of the murdered men of the Maine 
calls not for indemnity but for the full measure of atonement which 
can only come by driving the Spaniard from the New World. I 
have said this to the President before his Cabinet; I have said it to 
Judge Day, the real head of the State Department; and to my own 
chief. I cannot say it publicly, for I am . . . merely a minor 
official in the administration. 

Finally, on March 21, the naval court of inquiry reported that the 
Maine had been destroyed by the explosion of a submarine mine, but 
that it had been "unable to obtain evidence fixing the respon- 
sibility. . . ." Nor has that responsibility ever been determined. Three 
weeks later, despite the Spanish government's last-minute capitulation 
to McKinley's demand that it agree to an armistice in Cuba, the 
President submitted a militant war message to an aroused Congress. 
His action, write three recent historians, was "one of the most dis- 
astrous failures in the history of presidential leadership." 

The pressures had been too overwhelming for McKinley, whom 
Roosevelt had characterized as having the backbone of a "chocolate 
eclair," to surmount. So great was the demand for war on all sides 
that there had been talk of Congress passing a war resolution over 
the President's veto. The talk was probably idle; but speculation that 
McKinley and the Republican party would be defeated in 1900 if he 


failed to take the country into the war may have been well founded. 
In any event, it was the latter threat that apparently caused Mark 
Hanna, business leaders, and finally the President to decide for war 
in the face of their own reluctance and Spain's near total submission. 
Elihu Root's warning that "Fruitless attempts to hold back or retard 
the enormous momentum of the people bent upon war would result 
in the destruction of the President's power and influence, in depriving 
the country of its natural leader, in the elevation of the Silver 
Democracy to power" was but one of several such counsels. In the 
face of them McKinley lost the will to resist. "I think . . . possibly 
the President could have worked out the business without war," his 
friend and confidant, Senator John C. Spooner of Wisconsin, mused 
three weeks later, "but the current was too strong, the demagogues too 
numerous, the fall elections too near." 

Theodore Roosevelt was not thinking of the congressional elections 
of 1898 nor of the presidential campaign of 1900. He was consumed 
as few men have ever been consumed by concern with the role he 
would play in the war that at last had come, and he at once made 
plans to resign from the Navy Department and organize a regiment of 
volunteer cavalry. His family, his friends, and his superiors wanted 
him to continue as Assistant Secretary. Edith had given birth to her 
fifth child, Quentin, the previous fall and was even then convalescing 
after a major operation. She hoped that her husband would not go, 
though she knew that he must. President McKinley twice asked him 
to stay on. And Secretary Long, who continued to treat TR with 
fatherly indulgence, implored him not to go. "His heart is right, and 
he means well," he wrote of Roosevelt in his diary, "but it is one of 
those cases of aberration-desertion-vain-glory; of which he is utterly 

But the most ironic pressure came from Roosevelt's fellow war- 
hawk, Cabot Lodge. A few years earlier Lodge had collaborated with 
TR on a book entitled Hero Tales of American History. Now, in the 
hour of trial, he sought to dissuade both his own spirited son and his 
dearest friend from volunteering. There was, he said, no need for them 
to go to war. Furthermore, he warned Roosevelt, his resignation 
would spell the end of his political career. 

Roosevelt himself professed to be torn by conflicting emotions. He 
claimed that he was not going to war "with any undue exhilarations 
of spirits or ... recklessness or levity." And he several times 


protested that he was not seeking military glory. Yet, as he must 
surely have realized, all his life had been a preparation for the test 
that was then to come. Few men ever went forth to war with greater 
zest and higher resolve to act gallantly than TR did in that turbulent 
spring of 1898; and when he wrote from the battlefield outside 
Santiago three months later that the charge up the heights had been 
his "crowded hour," he wrote in total emotional satisfaction. No other 
episode in Roosevelt's career, not even his election to the presidency 
in his own right in 1904, quite compared. As he confided to his 
military aide several years afterward, "I know now that I would have 
turned from my wife's deathbed to have answered that call." It was, 
he said, "my chance to cut my little notch on the stick that stands as 
a measuring rod in every family." 

Roosevelt's sense of duty was so compelling, however, it is prob- 
able that he would have volunteered even if he had been unmoved by 
the call of glory. "I want to go because I wouldn't feel that I had been 
entirely true to my beliefs and convictions, and to the ideal I had set 
for myself if I didn't go," he wrote Paul Dana of the New York Sun 
at the time: 

I don't want you to think that 1 am talking like a prig, for I know 
perfectly well that one never is able to analyze with entire accuracy 
all of one's motives. . . . For two years I have consistently 
preached the doctrine of a resolute foreign policy, and of readiness 
to accept the arbitrament of the sword if necessary; and I have 
always intended to act up to my preaching if occasion arose. Now 
the occasion has arisen, and 1 ought to meet it ... if we who 
have preached the doctrine fail to put our words into effect when 
the time comes, our preaching will lose much of its force. 

The announcement that Theodore Roosevelt had resigned as As- 
sistant Secretary of the Navy on May 6, 1898, to organize the First 
Volunteer Cavalry Regiment reverberated throughout the United 
States. A flood of applications for service twenty-three thousand all 
told poured in from men in all walks of life and from all sections of 
the country. Several hundred cowboys, a score of Indians, a handful 
of New York policemen, and a sizable number of athletes from the 
Ivy League were finally accepted. The selection process was erratic 
and personal, yet nonetheless effective, as the following incident 


"My name is Dudley Deane," said a fine, athletic young man to 
Col. Theodore Roosevelt yesterday afternoon. 

A broad and cordial smile of welcome beamed on Col. Roose- 
velt's face. "Yes," he said, "I know you. You are the man who 
saved the day for Harvard in the great football game with Yale. 
You are one of the kind of men we want." 

More of that "kind" were taken even the chaplain had played 
three years of varsity football at Wesleyan, so TR, with no little 
earnestness, pointed out. "You've got to perform without flinching 
whatever duty is assigned you regardless of the difficulty or danger 
attending it," Lieutenant Colonel Roosevelt told a batch of recruits in 
Washington. "If it is the closest kind of fighting you must be anxious 
for it. ... No matter what comes you mustn't squeal." 

At San Antonio, Texas, that spring, Roosevelt and the regiment's 
actual commander, Colonel Leonard Wood, an extraordinarily able 
officer who had won the Medal of Honor for his pursuit of the great 
Apache chief, Geronimo, quickly molded their troops into a surpris- 
ingly efficient fighting force. There were, inevitably, minor problems. 
TR never mastered the regular army formalities though he main- 
tained a rough dignity, and when he detrained in San Antonio late 
in April he responded warmly to the uproarious cheers of troops who 
should have received him in a formal ceremony. A few weeks later 
Wood was forced to rebuke him for buying his men all the beer they 
could drink after a hot march in the saddle. "Sir, I consider myself 
the damnedest ass within ten miles of this camp," he contritely 
replied. And in Tampa, Florida, shortly before the Rough Riders, as 
the First Volunteer Cavalry Regiment had been affectionately dubbed 
by the press, sailed in mid-June for Cuba, Roosevelt took two of his 
sergeants to dinner in a hotel where Wood was dining with the 
commanding general of the Army. 

The Rough Riders' first engagement occurred at Las Guasimas, a 
small Cuban village, on June 24. Their point, which was led by 
Sergeant Hamilton Fish, Jr., who was killed on the spot, ran into 
a force of Spaniards, and a sharp action ensued. The enemy mounted 
a strong resistance, but they eventually gave way. By the time 
American reinforcements arrived the fight was ended. Sixteen Rough 
Riders lay dead. 

The supreme test came one week later after Wood had been 
advanced to brigade commander and Roosevelt had replaced him as 


commanding officer of the First Volunteers. On June 30 TR was 
ordered to move his regiment, which was without mounts, into posi- 
tion for an attack on the Spanish stronghold of Santiago. By nightfall 
the Rough Riders were bivouacked in a jungle at the foot of a series 
of hills flanking the east side of the city. The most prominent hill 
was San Juan, but there were entrenchments on all. 

Morning came, but no further orders. Roosevelt champed, and 
when the regulars moved out from cover to attack he was about to 
order his men to advance to the sound of the gunfire. Before he could 
give the command, a message came directing him to advance through 
the bush toward the hill directly in front of his bivouac. It was the 
one next to San Juan, and it was called Kettle Hill. "The instant I 
received the order I sprang on my horse," TR later wrote, "and then 
my 'crowded hour' began." 

It lasted most of the day. Through the whole time Roosevelt was 
a conspicuous figure as he exhorted his Rough Riders to charge 
against the enemy who maintained a destructive fire from behind their 
fortifications. "Are you afraid to stand up when I am on horseback?" 
he shouted at one terrified trooper. He said worse to others. His elbow 
was nicked by a bullet, a trooper was killed at his feet, and he had 
several other calls as close. Early that afternoon the Rough Riders 
and fragments of other regiments took the hill and held it under fire 
from the Spanish on San Juan. That night they dug in. More fights 
followed, but none matched the intensity of that charge. It was 
remarkable, wrote Richard Harding Davis, one of a coterie of news- 
paper man whose friendship with TR assured him a favorable press, 
that anyone had survived. 

The campaign had brought out Roosevelt's best and some of his 
worst. He took pride in his regiment's heavy casualties, since they 
had proved that he and his troops had been in the thick of action. He 
gloated that he had personally "doubled-up" a Spaniard. And in 
one of those desecrations of the human spirit that will forever bar him 
from attaining the immortality of Jefferson, Lincoln, and Wilson, he 
invited post-battle visitors to "look at those damned Spanish dead." 
He had been as foolhardy as he had been brave and daring. And 
beyond a doubt he was boastful. "I do not want to be vain, but I do 
not think anyone else could have handled this regiment quite as I 
have," he wrote Lodge. "I rose over those regular army officers like 
a balloon," he said to Hermann Hagedorn many years later. He also 


wrote as much in a book, The Rough Riders, the title of which Finley 
Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley found misleading. "If I was him," said 
Dooley, "I'd call th' book 'Alone in Cubia!' or Th' Darin' Ex- 
ploits iv a Brave Man be an Actual Eye-Witness.' " 

The campaign had also proved what there had been no need to 
prove Theodore Roosevelt was an inspiring leader of men. He had, 
Leonard Wood later wrote, the all-important virtues of the soldier. 
He was courageous, solicitous of his troops' welfare, and accessible 
to those who bore complaints; and he commanded in consequence the 
respect of both his men and his officers. Stephen Crane, who observed 
TR in the field hospitals between engagements, wrote at the time that 
he "worked like a cider press ... let him be a politician if he 
likes, he was a gentleman down here." 

It was perhaps inevitable that even in Roosevelt's hour of greatest 
glory he should thrust his bull neck into controversy with those who 
had it in their power to do him honor. Yellow fever raged through 
the camps after Santiago fell, and when a group of ranking regular 
officers asked TR, who was by then a brigade commander, to request 
Secretary of War Russell A. Alger to expedite the army's transfer 
north, the Rough Rider consented. With the tacit approval of the com- 
manding general, W. R. Shafter, he wrote a letter that was given 
out to the press before it reached Washington. 

President McKinley and Secretary Alger were understandably out- 
raged. Roosevelt's letter, together with one which the regular officers 
had drawn up on reconsideration, was an indirect, but damning 
indictment of the administration's conduct of the war. It also ad- 
vertised to the Spaniards, who were then negotiating peace, that the 
American Army in Cuba was no longer a disciplined and effective 
fighting force. Furthermore, Alger had made the decision to evacuate 
just the day before. 

On August 15, 1898, the disease-ridden but all-conquering Rough 
Riders disembarked from the transport Miami at Montauk Point, 
Long Island. A month later Roosevelt was called from his tent on 
the sands. The First Volunteer Cavalry Regiment was formed in a hol- 
low square with the officers and color sergeant in the center. Roosevelt 
strode into the square and one of the troopers stepped forward and 
presented him with a reproduction of Frederick Remington's famed 
bronze, "The Bronco-Buster." It was a gift from the enlisted men. 
TR was visibly moved as he now addressed his troops for the last 


time. "I am proud of this regiment beyond measure," he declared. 
"It is primarily an American regiment, and it is American because 
it is composed of all the races which have made America their coun- 
try by adoption and those who have claimed it as their country by 
inheritance." He closed with a tribute to the Negro soldiers who had 
fought with distinction beside the Rough Riders. Then, as the entire 
regiment, many of its members in tears, filed by him, he shook hands 
with each man and officer. The great adventure had ended. 

There was an epilogue. Roosevelt had been recommended for the 
Medal of Honor. He wanted it painfully, partly because he believed 
it would help him in his political career, mainly because he needed 
throughout his life to surround himself with the outward symbols of 
achievement. After the original recommendation had been made, TR 
had written numerous letters on his own behalf, sought affidavits from 
those who had been with him in battle, and beseeched Lodge to obtain 
the War Department's endorsement. But Secretary Alger refused to 
make the recommendation to Congress. 

There was a pathetic quality about it, for most of the nation knew 
anyway that Colonel Theodore Roosevelt had been a hero. The 
medal finally came, forty-six years late, and to TR's oldest son, who 
by all accounts had kept his father's faith on a beachhead in Nor- 
mandy where he died in 1944. For his own bravery under fire Con- 
gress posthumously awarded to Brigadier General Theodore Roose- 
velt, Jr., the medal which Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., had also 
earned but never received. 



An honest and fearless Governor a combination of con- 
science and backbone is a mighty good thing to have at Albany! 

The New York World 

The Rough Riders were still convalescing or frolicking on the wind- 
swept sands of Long Island when their Colonel was plunged bodily 
into politics. At issue was the governorship of New York. 

The administration of the incumbent, the Republican Frank S. 
Black, was proving grievously lacking. Black had antagonized Tom 
Platt by exerting a calculated independence and he had offended 
decent opinion by weakening the civil service system and by failing 
to act decisively to rid the administration of the Erie Canal of graft 
and corruption. So Platt, who was no sentimentalist, began casting 
about for a gubernatorial candidate. He wanted a man whom the 
people would elect and he could control. 

Theodore Roosevelt fitted the first particular. His emergence as a 
military hero, coupled with his sustained reputation as a reformer, 
gave him such a luster that he was commonly recognized as the only 
Republican who could possibly stave off the threatening Democratic 
landslide in the November elections. Even before his transport 
anchored off Montauk Point many Republican newspapers had 
nominated him, and some all but elected him. 

Senator Platt sensed that Roosevelt, who had been a minor irritant 
as police commissioner, would prove a major sufferance as governor. 
He also had forebodings that the Colonel would move from the 
governorship to the presidency. As an anti-imperialist, the "Easy 



Boss" was reluctant to place Roosevelt in a position that might enable 
him to resolve the colonial problems growing out of the war with 
Spain. Yet Thomas Collier Platt was a practical politician to the 
marrow. As Chauncey M. Depew, the witty and jaded president of 
the New York Central Railroad, pointed out, the G.O.P.'s one chance 
of retaining the governorship lay in diverting attention from the Black 
administration's shortcomings. When questioned about the canal 
frauds during the campaign, Depew cynically remarked, he could say 
with conviction: 

We have nominated for governor a man who has demonstrated 
in public office and on the battlefield that he is a fighter for the 
right, and always victorious. If he is selected, you know and we 
all know from his demonstrated characteristics, courage and 
ability, that every thief will be caught and punished. . . . Then 
I will follow the colonel leading his Rough Riders up San Juan 
Hill and ask the band to play the "Star-Spangled Banner." 

Platt saw Depew's point. He feared, however, that Roosevelt would 
break with him once he had galloped triumphantly into office; so he 
refused to endorse the Colonel until he received assurances of co- 
operation. Following a protracted negotiation, Roosevelt finally 
thrashed matters out with Platt at the latter's apartment in the Fifth 
Avenue Hotel on September 17. "We buried past differences," Platt 
wrote in his autobiography. The Colonel agreed to "consult with me 
and other party leaders about appointments and legislation in case 
he were elected." 

The announcement that Roosevelt had visited Tom Platt provoked 
howls of anguish from reformers, who had naively hoped that Roose- 
velt would head up an Independent party ticket. "By accepting Platt 
he becomes the standard bearer of corruption and demoralization," 
Fulton Cutting charged in the New York Evening Post. "The matter 
is a question of honor," John Jay Chapman, who seemed to have con- 
vinced himself that Roosevelt had committed himself to their project, 
confided to his wife. "I do not believe that Teddy Roosevelt . . . has 
so far humbled himself as to go to Mr. Platt," TR's old ally, the Rev. 
Dr. Parkhurst, protested. It was 1884 and the fateful decision to sup- 
port Blaine all over again, or so they believed. 

The reformers might have known better. For all his dedication to 
good government, Roosevelt was too wise in the ways of politics to 
be anything but a Republican "regular." Prepared though he may have 


been to make the supreme sacrifice, he determined that it should be 
as a lion and not as a lamb. His flaunting of Jay Gould, Benjamin 
Harrison and even Tom Platt had proved that before, and his leader- 
ship of the Progressive hosts would prove it again. He well knew, 
however, that he had to match power with power; that he had to 
possess office before he could act constructively. He resigned himself 
accordingly to accepting the thorns with the roses. 

The decision hurt. Had Roosevelt's ideals been lower, his con- 
temporary reputation might have been higher; independent reformers 
would not have expected so much of him. But he had repeatedly 
proved that he was one of them at heart; and when, because he was 
in action a realist rather than a doctrinaire, he failed to fulfill their 
every ideal, they invariably vented upon him the self-righteous indigna- 
tion of the true believer for the heretic. 

The Colonel naturally returned their venom. Only rarely thereafter 
would he concede that the ferment whipped up by these and other 
men of good hope the mugwumps, the muckrakers, the social 
theorists Henry George and Edward Bellamy, the social reformers 
Jane Addams and Ben Lindsey, and the humanistic politicians Bryan 
and La Follette was all that prevented America from being swallowed 
whole by the voracious materialism he himself so deplored. It was an 
irony that history long afterward crowned. Notwithstanding his far- 
reaching legislative achievements, Theodore Roosevelt's most dramatic 
contribution to American life, most historians now agree, was the 
arousal of the public conscience to the need for even further reform. 

Roosevelt's attitude toward his compromise with the machine is 
set forth in a letter to the civil service reformer, Francis E. Leupp, 
written before TR conferred with Platt on September 17. "I should 
be one of the big party leaders if I should take it," he wrote, and "I 
should have to treat with and work with the organization." 

I should see and consult the leaders not once, but continuously 
and earnestly try to come to an agreement on all important 
questions with them; and of course the mere fact of my doing so 
would alienate many of my friends whose friendship I value. On 
the other hand, when we come to a matter like the Canal, or Life 
Insurance, or anything touching the Eighth Commandment and 
general decency, I could not allow any consideration of party to 
come in. And this would alienate those who, if not friends, were 


A few reformers accepted the logic of Roosevelt's necessity. "No- 
body who has followed his career can doubt that in him, as Governor, 
civil-service reform would have a champion whom nothing could 
intimidate or seduce," the Nation wrote editorially. But others, whom 
Roosevelt termed "the idiot variety of 'Goo-Goos,' " viewed his fall 
from grace with less tolerance ("That goose Parkhurst is giving me 
some trouble," the Colonel would soon complain). And some, in- 
cluding Carl Schurz, now opposed him because of their still-seething 
resentment of his imperialism. 

The campaign that autumn confirmed the prescience of Chauncey 
Depew. The cheers at the Republican state convention had been 
louder for Platt than for Roosevelt; but it was the Colonel's show on 
the hustings. The canal frauds were all but ignored, certainly by 
Roosevelt, who promised only further investigations, and presumably 
by the crowds, which partook of the Rough Rider's hard-won fame 
and succumbed to his vibrant personality. "Seven Rough Riders, 
wearing their uniforms of glory, were on the special train on which 
Roosevelt began a tour on October 17," writes Pringle. A bugler 
would sound the cavalry charge at each stop, and as the notes died 
the candidate would begin his address. " 'You have heard the trumpet 
that sounded to bring you here, 5 he exclaimed at Fort Henry. 'I have 
heard it tear the tropic dawn when it summoned us to fight at 
Santiago/ " Roosevelt would then urge his listeners to affirm the 
results of the war by electing a Republican Congress (also a Republi- 
can governor). The ultimate came at Port Jervis when ex-Sergeant 
Buck Taylor, one of the seven glorious props, was allowed to speak. 
"I want to talk to you about mah Colonel," Taylor told the crowd. 
"He kept ev'y promise he made to us and he will to you. When he 
took us to Cuba he told us ... we would have to lie out in the 
trenches with the rifle bullets climbing over us, and we done it. ... 
He told us we might meet wounds and death and we done it, but he 
was thar in the midst of us, and when it came to the great day he led 
us up San Juan Hill like sheep to the slaughter and so he will lead 

It was a remarkable performance; and neither, the Colonel's in- 
fectious pride in his own and his Rough Riders' heroics, nor the need 
to create a diversionary political issue, quite explains it. 

A possible explanation is that Roosevelt had no program. As he 
wrote James Bryce shortly after the returns came in, he planned only 


to conduct an "honest administration." Another consideration was the 
Colonel's concern with the impending peace. He had already come 
out for annexation of the Philippines, and he was devoutly convinced 
that the anti-imperialistic Democrats constituted the gravest possible 
threat to national greatness. "Do you wish to keep or throw away the 
fruits of what we won in the war?" he admonished the crowds that 
swarmed about the rear platform of his campaign train: "We cannot 
avoid facing the fact that we occupy a new place among the people 
of the world . . . Greatness means strife for nation and man alike. 
. . . We must dare to be great . . . We are face to face with our 
destiny and we must meet it with high and resolute courage." 

But the most compelling explanation is Roosevelt's desperate desire 
to win. Even John Jay Chapman was willing to overlook the Fourth 
of July aura which characterized the Colonel's canvass on the ground 
that he "really believes that he is the American flag." As Chapman 
confided to his wife, however, when Roosevelt "endorses the adminis- 
tration of McKinley in words that are intended to cover and do cover 
Alger, I despise him, for I know him to be dishonest." 

Certainly the Colonel's deft glossing over of Republican corruption 
contrasted sharply with his full-bodied criticisms of Democratic mal- 
feasance; and though he was confined at first to generalizations about 
Tammany, the revelation late in the campaign that Croker had refused 
to permit a state supreme court justice to be renominated because he 
would not appoint a Tammany hack as clerk of the court unexpectedly 
gave him the issue he needed. Croker's action, Roosevelt wrote in his 
Autobiography, enabled me to "fix the contest in the public mind as 
one between himself and myself." It paid off; and so probably did 
$60,000 $10,000 of it reportedly from J. P. Morgan which Platt 
is said to have poured into Roosevelt's cause the last week or ten 
days. In any event, TR defeated his opponent, Augustus Van Wyck 
of Brooklyn, by 17,794 votes. He ran well ahead of his ticket, and 
for the first time, perhaps, became fully conscious of his extraordinary 
power to move great masses of people. 

Billy O'Neil, Roosevelt's compatriot in reform during TR's three 
terms in the Assembly, described that power in a letter to Jonas S. 
Van Duzer, another of the old group. "Just before I met him [TR] I 
received a letter from a friend in Albany saying Tor God's sake tell 
Roosevelt to stop his self-adulation and talking about himself so 
much,' " O'Neil wrote. After listening to the Colonel's speeches, how- 


ever, O'Neil advised him to follow "his own instincts and inspiration." 
He continued: 

At Carthage, in Jeff. County, there were three thousand people 
standing in the mud and rain. He spoke about ten minutes the 
speech was nothing, but the man's presence was everything. It was 
electrical, magnetic. . . . 

Some Democrats say it was only the idle curiosity of the crowd 
that always attends the entrance of a circus with a country town. 
I thought it something else, perhaps my own love and admiration 
for the man blinded me to the real facts. Perhaps I measured others 
by my own feelings, for as the train faded away and I saw him 
smiling, and waving his hat at the people, they in turn giving 
abundant evidence of their enthusiastic affection, my eyes filled 
with tears, I couldn't help it though I am ordinarily a cold-blooded 
fish not easily stirred like that. 

"Senator Platt," wrote Roosevelt when he was still Governor-elect, 
"is to all intents and purposes a majority of the Legislature." The 
statement was accurate. Yet Roosevelt, armed with his own righteous 
enthusiasm and supported by a public opinion which he both formed 
and reflected, was soon to prove that Platt was not always an intrac- 
table "majority." By the end of Roosevelt's administration the "Easy 
Boss" had deferred more to the Colonel on major matters than Roose- 
velt had to him. The Governor had regularly consulted him, after 
which he "frequently did just what he pleased," Platt ruefully re- 
called years later. "My desire was to achieve results, and not merely 
to issue manifestoes of virtue," Roosevelt explained in his Auto- 
biography. "I had to work with the tools at hand. ... It was only 
after I had exhausted all the resources of my patience that I would 
finally, if he still proved obstinate, tell him that I intended to make 
the fight anyhow." 

Tom Platt's first insight into the Governor's independence came 
shortly after Roosevelt's inauguration on January 1, 1899. Roosevelt 
was determined that the state canal system would be administered 
with efficiency and honesty, and he accordingly proposed the appoint- 
ment of former Comptroller James A. Roberts of Buffalo, who had 
clashed with the "canal ring" in the past; however, as Roberts re- 
jected Roosevelt's overtures for personal reasons, Platt thereupon 
seized the initiative by offering the post to Francis J. Hendricks of 
Syracuse. A machine politician of integrity and ability, Hendricks' 


acceptability was compromised by the fact that he came from a canal 
county. Nevertheless, Hendricks accepted Platt's offer, and when 
Platt next saw the Governor in New York City he presented him with 
his fait accompli. 

Roosevelt was invariably polite and sometimes deferential to Platt; 
he replied simply that he was "sorry," but that he could not appoint 
the Senator's man. Platt then lost his temper. Finally, however, he 
realized that the Governor would not yield, and the matter was settled 
when Roosevelt drew up a list of four names, one of which they both 
agreed upon. A master at playing on men's weaknesses, Platt seems 
not to have understood their strength. As William Allen White long 
afterward wrote, he "underestimated Roosevelt , . . because he had 
no sort of conception of that part of a man which is called the moral 

Thereafter Roosevelt usually pursued the course followed in the 
Hendricks case. The result was a minimum of friction and a generally, 
though not invariably, high level of major appointments. On minor 
offices, it is true, the Governor gave the machine a relatively free 
choice, partly out of physical necessity, partly because he understood 
the system. Only when he had special knowledge or desired to appoint 
a personal friend would he intervene. Joe Murray, his original sponsor 
in the Twenty-first District Republican Club, received a minor post, 
as did an occasional former Rough Rider. But in most instances 
Roosevelt refused even his friends, often giving needy acquaintances 
money from his own pocket roughly a thousand dollars during his 
two years in office rather than put them on the public payroll. 

It was in the legislative arena, however, that Roosevelt most force- 
fully threw down the gauntlet to Platt. Cynical and contemptuous of 
the democratic process though he was, the Senator possessed a care- 
fully considered socio-economic frame of reference. He believed that 
the function of government was to serve business, especially big 
business, and he was intolerant of all tampering with the foundations, 
and even the superstructure, of economic power. His machine was 
largely financed by the contributions of businessmen, and he openly 
prided himself on his ability to elicit contributions from J. P. Morgan 
and other titans. When, therefore, Roosevelt threw his influence 
behind measures designed to curtail corporate privileges in the spring 
of 1 899, Platt became thoroughly alarmed. 


I had heard from a good many sources that you were a little 
loose on the relations of capital and labor, on trusts and combina- 
tion ... on those numerous questions . . . affecting the security 
of earnings and the right of a man to run his business in his own 
way, with due respect> of course, to the Ten Commandments and 
the Penal Code. 

Actually, Roosevelt's first message to the legislature had given the 
defenders of the status quo slight cause for uneasiness. Many of its 
points had been well taken, particularly those on the civil service and 
the labor welfare laws; but they portended little major economic re- 
form. Within a few months, however, the Governor had become en- 
gaged in a full-scale battle over a series of bills designed to establish 
stricter controls on the operations of gas and transportation companies 
and to impose taxes on their franchises or earnings. None of the 
measures was conceived by Roosevelt; yet all received his considered 
support once he decided they were efficacious. 

The most significant was a bill for the taxation of the value and the 
tangible assets of all street railway, gas, electric, and water franchises. 
The measure had been introduced by Senator John Ford, a Demo- 
cratic lawyer and economist, and it was brought out of committee in 
March, 1899. Roosevelt approved the Ford bill in principle; and 
over the remonstrations of Elihu Root, who was lobbying for the 
Astoria Gas Company and had written a bill responsive to that com- 
pany's interests, he also favored proposals to level a specific tax on 
the earnings of the franchises. "Ought there not be some arrangement 
by which, if the franchises prove very valuable, a portion of the gross 
earnings should be paid to the public treasury?" the Governor wrote 
Platt at the time. "I have no sympathy whatsoever with the demagogic 
cry against corporations when those corporations render public serv- 
ice," he told a state senator the same day. "But where, by act of the 
legislature, and through taking possession of a part of the public 
domain, state or municipal, the corporation gets advantages, it should 
be taxed for them in some intelligent way." 

Jolted by this threat to their privileged position, the corporations 
raised a tremendous outcry through their retainers in the legislature 
and elsewhere. But small property holders all over the state stood to 
gain relief in the amount the utilities corporations were taxed; they 
exerted such an effective counterpressure on members of the legisla- 
ture that passage of a token tax bill became virtually inevitable. 


Meanwhile, Governor Roosevelt pondered over the larger question 
of the state's over-all tax structure. His own knowledge was deficient, 
so he characteristically consulted the experts Professor Richard T. 
Ely of the University of Wisconsin, George Gunton an independent 
labor economist, and Professor E. R. A. Seligman of Columbia Uni- 
versity, the nation's foremost authority on public finance. Impressed 
further by the complexity of their responses, Roosevelt on March 27 
sent a special message to the legislature recommending the creation 
of a joint committee to study the situation and report to the next 
legislature. The message pointed out that farmers, mechanics, and 
tradesmen bore a disproportionate share of the tax burden, and it 
pronounced the light taxation of corporations an "evident injustice." 

The supporters of Senator Ford were struck dumb by the Gover- 
nor's action. Angrily, they interpreted Roosevelt's proposal as a 
shrewd maneuver to evade a showdown with the corporations and the 
Platt machine. Roosevelt vehemently denied that it was; yet he argued 
that the Ford bill might prove "so crude a measure as to provoke a 
revolt, or else be inoperative." In spite of an admission that special 
taxes might be advisable, moreover, he strongly urged consideration 
of a broader and more inclusive program than that offered by Ford. 
Whatever the political import of these subterfuges, it is nevertheless 
clear that Roosevelt's belief that corporations should bear a tax 
burden more commensurate with their resources placed him at an 
opposite economic pole from Tom Platt, Benjamin Odell, Chauncey 
Depew, Elihu Root, and most of the other leaders of his party. 

During the next month the Governor reversed himself by coming 
out again for the Ford bill, and as the session drew to a close he threw 
the full force of his office and powerful personality behind it. To ease 
the way for legislators beholden to the corporations one such blandly 
explained that he had "received orders not to pass it" Roosevelt 
agreed to send a special, emergency message to the Assembly. He 
submitted it the night before adjournment, but Speaker Fred Nixon, 
a Platt man, refused to read it for fear of offending the "Easy Boss." 
Meanwhile the Governor was warned that he could not expect to run 
for office again "as no corporation would subscribe to a campaign 
fund if I was on the ticket." The result, Platt later affirmed, was that 
Roosevelt "clinched his fist and gritted his teeth, and drove the fran- 
chise tax-law through the legislature." 


Enraged by this frontal assault on his power base, Platt on May 6 
wrote the letter in which he questioned Roosevelt's concept of the 
relations between capital and the public. "At the last moment, and to 
my very great surprise, you did a thing which has caused the business 
community of New York to wonder how far the notions of Populism, 
as laid down in Kansas and Nebraska, have taken hold upon the 
Republican party of the State of New York," the irate, sixty-five- 
year-old boss added. Platt concluded by predicting that the Democrats 
would capture control of the state in 1900 unless Roosevelt changed 
his ways. 

The Governor was now in command, the bill being his to sign or 
veto. He was alternately ingenuous and disingenuous. He wrote Platt 
that he would have preferred to take no action and that the bill was 
"forced upon" him. But he also wrote that his study of the problem 
had convinced him that the bill "was along the right" lines, and he 
responded directly to Platt's charge that he was fostering Populism: 

I do not believe that it is wise ... for us as a party to take 
refuge in mere negation and to say that there are no evils to be cor- 
rected. It seems to me that our attitude should be one of correcting 
the evils and thereby showing that ... the Republicans hold the 
just balance and set our faces as resolutely against improper cor- 
porate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob 
rule on the other. 

Until 1912 that remained Roosevelt's abiding hope. 

Roosevelt was of no mind to veto the measure he later termed it 
"the most important law passed in recent times by any American 
state legislature" yet he wanted to remedy its imperfections. He 
consequently decided to call immediately a special session to amend 
the bill. Platt and his cohorts would then have to accept his construc- 
tive amendments or suffer the original measure's being signed into 
law during the thirty-day period authorized for that purpose. The 
machine was thus cornered. As Roosevelt confided to Lodge, many 
corporations preferred in the showdown "to be blackmailed by 
Tammany rather than to pay their just dues to an honest Board of 
Assessors." Meanwhile, so Roosevelt wrote, Platt's son, Frank, and 
the corporation attorneys tried to sell him "a gold brick, by putting 
in seemingly innocent provisions which would have made the taxation 
a nullity." He refused, however, to yield. "I told them that unless 


they passed the bill exactly as I wished it, I should sign the Ford bill," 
he reported to Lodge. 

Cowed by Roosevelt's threat, the machine reluctantly swung behind 
the Governor's amendments. These authorized state officials to make 
the assessments and provided for evaluation of corporate property as 
realty rather than in terms of securities which could easily be under- 

The conservatives' wrath at the Governor's triumph was almost 
boundless. The New York Times called the franchise tax "the robber 
baron science of taxation ruthlessly applied." Chauncey Depew, 
solicitous of the small interests for perhaps the only time in his career, 
mournfully predicted that every country trolley line in the state would 
be driven out of business. And the Brooklyn Daily Eagle first labeled 
the bill "communistic," then castigated it as an "invasion of Bryan's 
vocabulary or an infringement of geographical rights of use and sale 
in Bryan's territory." 

That the franchise tax was as significant economically as Roosevelt 
thought is questionable. There is no doubt, however, that it was a 
first major thrust at corporative privilege and as such was a milestone 
in the development of economic justice in New York State. Even more 
important, it nurtured the Governor's growing realization that many 
industrial problems were beyond the capacity of local authorities to 
resolve. Laissez-faire, Roosevelt came more and more to see, would 
have to be abandoned if the corporations were to be made responsible 
to the society that sustained them. 

Several other episodes also contributed to the views on trusts that 
later characterized Roosevelt's presidency. When, during his third 
month in office, Armour & Company offered to settle for $20,000 
fines totaling $1,500,000 for violations of the law against the sale of 
oleomargarine as butter, he indignantly refused (Platt's son termed 
Roosevelt's action "admirable, even if it was not what I wanted"). 
And when, again, he learned that unsound insurance companies were 
defaulting in their obligations to the public, he gave his signature to 
a measure requiring all fire or marine insurance companies to have a 
minimum capitalization of $200,000. He also signed a bill designed 
to strengthen the resources of savings banks by limiting their invest- 
ments in real estate mortgage and railroad bonds though it encouraged 
investment in the large, financially sound corporations at the expense 
of smaller and less stable companies and served the railroads' interests 


as well. Finally, he approved a bill authorizing the State Supreme 
Court or its agents to inspect the books and vouchers of corporations. 
Then, in the special session, he endorsed antimonopoly legislation 
bearing on transportation rates. His first year in office was further 
highlighted by the passage of several bills designed to improve the 
election and civil service laws. 

Roosevelt had not won every issue; nor had he always been as 
independent of Platt as he later remembered. His most crushing defeat 
was on a bill to place the New York City police department under 
state control. Partly in order to stamp out election frauds by Tam- 
many, Tom Platt had pressed a bill to establish a single police com- 
missioner for the city, said commissioner to be appointed by the 
governor. Because of the opposition of upstate Republicans and 
Tammany Democrats, however, the measure failed. Platt thereupon 
had a group of attorneys draw up a new bill, the so-called Constabu- 
lary Bill, which would have created a state police commissioner em- 
powered to appoint and supervise the chiefs in all major cities. 

Roosevelt was thereby impaled on the horns of a dilemma. He had 
bitterly opposed Plan's effort to dominate the police department when 
he headed the Board of Commissioners; yet the New York force had 
regressed considerably in the three years since he left office. Platt's 
bill embodied much that Roosevelt approved, especially in its pro- 
visions for civil service examinations in all the cities affected, and he 
further believed that it was probably the only way to assure honest 
elections. After much soul-searching, he decided to give the Con- 
stabulary Bill his endorsement. But in the end he was forced to 
abandon it, so concerted and vehement was the opposition to it. He 
was similarly forced to give up such faint hope as he had of amending 
the Raines Law, the noxious liquor law which had proved such a 
challenge to law enforcement during his term as police commissioner. 

The Governor's labor record proved no less controversial. Although 
his insight into the causes of labor strife was surely deeper than in 
earlier years, the memory of the Haymarket Riot, the Homestead, the 
Pullman, and other violent strikes lingered on; and even as he made 
measured contributions to the workingmen's welfare the fear of labor 
on the march was always close to the surface. 

Thus Roosevelt once accepted uncritically a report of the Board 
of Mediation which wrongly exonerated a traction company from 


charges that it was violating the ten-hour law. On another occasion 
he alerted the state militia for strike duty without real cause. And on 
a third he called out the National Guard to prevent rioting by grossly 
underpaid Italian workmen on the Croton Dam project. A riot, one 
death, and suppression of a valid strike resulted. Roosevelt's precipi- 
tate action, like that of President Cleveland's in the Pullman strike 
five years before, was partly instinctive, but fundamentally it reflected 
the fact that society, and especially responsible government officials, 
were so biased that objective information was difficult to obtain. 
Unlike Cleveland, however, Roosevelt perceived that something was 
basically wrong. He characteristically sought remedial action. 

Roosevelt's first message as governor had given more space to labor 
relations than to any other subject. The problem was not too few 
laws, he asserted, but rather "the lack of proper means of enforcing 
them." He consequently recommended that their enforcement be 
placed under the board of factory inspectors, that the number of in- 
spectors be raised to fifty, and that the governor be authorized to 
appoint ten unsalaried workers, presumably interested social workers. 
These proposals had been widely endorsed by union leaders, though 
radicals complained that the program was not comprehensive enough. 

As the session unfolded, the labor question continued to absorb 
much of the Governor's energy. He counseled with union officials far 
more than any of his predecessors had done. And within the limits of 
his philanthropic point of view, he made several modest advances in 
redressing the balance against labor. His first concrete achievement 
came on April 1, 1899, when, over the concerted opposition of 
employer representatives, he signed bills providing for more stringent 
regulation of tenement working conditions, for increases in the number 
and authority of factory inspectors, and for limitations on the hours 
of women and minors. 

The Governor also won labor's approval by supporting a bill that 
strengthened the eight-hour-day law for state employees. It was the 
duty of the state, he said in a memorandum released to the press as 
he signed the bill, "to set a good example as an employer of labor, 
both as to the number of hours of labor exacted and as to paying a 
just and reasonable wage." Conversely, Roosevelt aroused labor's ire 
by vetoing a bill to reduce the long hours of drug clerks. "I am very 
much puzzled," he explained to Jacob Riis: 


. . . You and Seth Low and Reynolds are for it and I have had 
some touching letters from drug clerks . . . while the smaller east 
and west side druggists who keep but one clerk say it would mean 
absolute ruin. . . . What I am anxious to do is whatever will really 
benefit the druggist clerks in the smaller shops. . . . 

I wish you would take the bill . . . and ... go to some small 
druggists anywhere ... on the East Side, and find out if you can 
what some of the clerks and some of the small druggists really think 
about it, and what they believe its effects really would be. 

But the labor issue which most excited Roosevelt was the bitter 
struggle of New York City's schoolteachers for a minimum salary 
schedule. A bill embodying their demands had been vetoed by Roose- 
velt's predecessor on the grounds that teachers' salaries should be 
fixed by city officials. Roosevelt entertained similar views at first; but 
after conferring with Nicholas Murray Butler and the New York City 
Superintendent of Schools he came out for state action in a ringing 
public statement. The prevailing level of salaries inflicts "grinding 
injury on people who are more than any others responsible for the 
upbringing of the citizens of the next generation," he declared. The 
level must be raised. 

Roosevelt was too firm an advocate of the merit principle to endorse 
increases based solely on length of service, however; on that account 
he opposed the bill then pending. But the measure sailed through both 
houses of the legislature over his objections. Caught thus between his 
conviction that a general increase was desirable and that superiority 
rather than mediocrity should be rewarded, Roosevelt finally compro- 
mised. He accepted the minimum-salary feature after persuading the 
teachers' representatives to agree to inclusion of a partial merit clause. 
He then combined "pleasure with duty," and signed the bill. 

The action was characteristic of the mature Roosevelt. He deplored 
waste, and he relentlessly moved against it whenever feasible. But he 
no longer was obsessed, as he had been fifteen years before, with the 
need for low taxes. Only infrequently during his later career did he 
permit short-term considerations of economy to thwart programs he 
deemed in the public interest. 

Those first four and one-half months in Albany had been the most 
sustained effort of all. From the colorful inaugural parade in near 
zero weather and the reception for six thousand people on New Year's 
Day until the last bill was studied and signed into law in May, Roose- 


velt had been immersed in his duties. Veteran newspapermen were 
amazed at his energy and work habits. He maintained a rigorous 
schedule, conferred with numberless visitors corporation lawyers, 
labor leaders, politicians, social workers, college professors and 
usually held two press conferences a day. "With a disregard of 
precedent that puzzles the politicians," the New York Times observed, 
"he has torn down the curtain that shut in the Governor and taken 
the public into his confidence . . . beyond what was ever known 

It was during the governorship, also, that TR became friendly with 
Finley Peter Dunne. "I regret to state that my family and intimate 
friends are delighted with your review of my book," he wrote Dunne 
shortly after his "Mr. Dooley" had retitled Roosevelt's The Rough 
Riders "Alone in Cubia." What's more, he informed Dunne, your 
work is full of "profound philosophy," even on our points of dis- 
agreement. "I am an Expansionist, but your delicious phrase about 
'take up the white man's burden and put it on the coon,' exactly hit 
off the weak spot in my own theory; though mind you, I am by no 
means willing to give up the theory yet." 

One regrettable incident marred the Governor's satisfaction with 
his first year's achievements. About a month after he took office he 
had been forced to decide whether a Brooklyn woman who had 
killed her stepdaughter and assaulted her husband with an ax in a 
jealous frenzy should be executed. Humanitarians, women's organiza- 
tions, and sensational newspapers subjected him to heavy pressure to 
commute the sentence. He was also warned that no governor who 
approved the execution of a woman could possibly be elected Presi- 
dent (such a threat, he wrote, was "the last thing that will influence 
me"). Even his own Victorian consideration for the gentler sex 
pointed toward commutation. But his compulsion for justice and his 
advanced intellectual views toward women pulled him the other way. 
Roosevelt had never abandoned the partially feminist attitudes of his 
Harvard years and had, in fact, won the plaudits of feminists by 
advocating woman suffrage for school board elections in his first 
annual message. After studying the case and receiving medical reports 
that the murderess was sane, he approved the death sentence, ex- 
plaining at a press conference that he could not accept sex as a valid 
reason for clemency. The murderess was executed on March 20, the 
first woman to die in the electric chair in New York State. 


The unpleasantness of that episode was soon forgotten. In April 
and May had come the legislative victories, and in June a triumphal 
trip by special train to Las Vegas for the Rough Riders' first reunion. 
Roosevelt was greeted warmly all through the Middle West and from 
Kansas onward to his destination he received one thunderous ovation 
after another. Again and again local newspapers boomed him for the 
vice-presidency in 1900 and the presidency in 1904, and many small- 
town editors even proposed that he supplant McKinley on the Re- 
publican ticket in 1900. He repeatedly sought to steer them off by 
declaring emphatically for the President's re-election, and after he 
returned home he visited Washington to affirm his loyalty to the 
President. Nevertheless, he could no longer dismiss the presidency 
from his mind. 

Roosevelt's second year in office was in substantially the same 
pattern as his first. In December Platt's lieutenant, Benjamin Odell, 
undertook to advise Roosevelt on his annual message, urging him to 
abandon his campaign for stronger employers' liability legislation and 
to modify his recommendations for increased publicity of corporate 
earnings. He also requested the Governor to tone down his remarks 
on the canal frauds. But the Governor was too far committed to a 
constructive approach to these problems to heed his advice. 

In compliance with his original agreement to consult with the 
machine, however, Roosevelt submitted a proof of his message to 
Platt before it was delivered on January 3, 1900. "All the important 
parts I had gone over by various experts," he disarmingly explained. 
That was precisely the point. The Platt forces bitterly resented his 
association with intellectuals or, as they called them, "visionary re- 
formers"; but to little avail. Roosevelt was too astute to adopt Platt's 
ways as his own and he was too aware of the profundity of the 
problems he faced to attempt to devise a program without aid from 
specialists. "I have come to the conclusion that I have mighty little 
originality of my own," he wrote President Andrew White of Cornell 
at the time. "What I do is to try to get ideas from men whom I regard 
as experts along certain lines, and then try to work out those ideas." 
To Lemuel Quigg, another Platt lieutenant, he tried further to explain 

As for my impulsiveness and my alliance with labor agitators, 
social philosophers, taxation reformers and the like, I will also go over 
all these questions with you when we meet. I want to be perfectly 


sane in all of these matters, but I do have a good deal of fellow 
feeling for our less fortunate brother, and I am a good deal puzzled 
over some of the inequalities in life, as life now exists. I have a 
horror of hysterics or sentimentality, and I am about the last man 
in the world who sympathizes with revolutionary tactics, or with 
the effort to make the thrifty, the wise and the brave go down to 
the level of the unthrifty, the slothful and the cowardly. I would a 
great deal rather have no change than a change that would put a 
premium upon idleness and folly. All I want to do is cautiously to 
feel my way to see if we cannot make the general conditions of 
life a little easier, a little better. 

And so Roosevelt continued to govern by consultation with experts. 
It was a technique that Robert M. La Follette was to use more in- 
tensively, more creatively, and more dramatically the next year as 
governor of Wisconsin, and it has come down in history as the 
Wisconsin Idea. 

For example, the trust section of Roosevelt's second annual message 
was written in collaboration with President Arthur T. Hadley of Yale, 
Professor Jeremiah W. Jenks of Cornell, and Professor Seligman as 
well as Elihu Root and James B. Dill, who had recently drafted the 
New Jersey statute on holding companies. It reflected Roosevelt's 
acceptance of the inevitability of corporate growth and his moral 
revulsion against corporate malpractices. And it came out forthrightly 
for government regulation. It advocated publicity of corporate earn- 
ings, proclaimed the right of the state to intervene against monopoly, 
and asserted that corporations should not be exempted from taxation 
because of their own mismanagement of resources. "Our laws," the 
message stated in words that would become increasingly familiar 
during Roosevelt's presidential and Bull Moose years, "should be so 
drawn as to protect and encourage corporations which do their honest 
duty by the public; and to discriminate sharply against those organ- 
ized in a spirit of mere greed, for improper speculative purposes." 

The legislature failed to act on the proposals, however, and Roose- 
velt went out of office with his program unfulfilled. Aside from bring- 
ing the trust problem into political focus, their chief value, as Wallace 
Chessman, the historian of Roosevelt's governorship, concludes, was 
in the definition they gave Roosevelt's own thought. 

The Governor's attitude toward public utilities was similarly re- 
vealing of his nondoctrinaire quality of mind. 'There is grave danger 


in attempting to establish invariable rules," he said in a passage 
defending public ownership of the New York City water supply. "In 
one instance a private corporation may be able to do the work best. 
In another the State or city may do it best. In yet a third, it may be 
to the advantage of everybody to give free scope to the power of 
some individual captain of industry." 

The Governor's handling of the canal frauds likewise foreshadowed 
the attitudes of his presidency. Early in his first year he had appointed 
two anti-Tammany Democrats of high repute, Austen G. Fox and 
Wallace MacFarlane, to serve as special counsel. After an exhaustive 
investigation, Fox and MacFarlane reported that criminal prosecution 
of the former officials charged with fraud was inadvisable and im- 
practicable. During the first week in April, 1899, however, a coalition 
of Tammany Democrats and Platt Republicans decided to refrain 
from appropriating $20,000 needed to complete the investigation. 
When he heard the reports, Roosevelt flew into a rage. With flashing 
eyes and gleaming teeth he vowed that the investigation would go on 
if he had to pay for it out of his own pocket or raise a public sub- 
scription. "Governor's Ire Kindles"; "Roosevelt In Fighting Mood"; 
"Governor Indignant!", the papers reported. Four days later Roosevelt 
sent in a special message urging passage of the appropriation. Reluc- 
tantly, the Democratic and Republican machines bowed to the public 
outcry set off by the Governor's outburst. 

Many were immune under the terms of the statute of limitations; 
others were safe because they had acted within the letter of a badly 
drawn law. Reviewing the findings in his message of January 3, 1900, 
Roosevelt concluded, just a little ingenuously, that "the one remedy 
was a thorough change in the methods and management." This had 
been accomplished, he reported, by enactment of a law during the 
previous session and by improved administrative techniques which 
had decreased the cost of operating the canals 25 per cent in spite of 
an increase in traffic. 

As the new session advanced Roosevelt's cold war with Platt again 
became momentarily hot. This time conflict centered on the reappoint- 
ment of Superintendent of Insurance Louis F. Payn, an upstate 
spoilsman and one-time lobbyist for Jay Gould who had earlier 
abused civil service procedures and originally opposed Roosevelt's 
nomination as governor. By October, 1899, Roosevelt had decided 
not to reappoint Payn when his term expired in February. Payn's 


standing with Platt was reinforced by the support of the insurance 
industry's responsible and irresponsible elements alike, however, and 
the Governor was not sanguine that he could name a successor 
acceptable to the machine. 

The conflict was still in the formative stage when a new scandal 
involving Payn was aired. Newspapers reported that the State Trust 
Company had made an unsupported loan of $435,000 to Payn, whose 
salary was $7,000, presumably because several of the bank's directors 
also served on the boards of insurance companies under Payn's super- 
vision. The Governor's resolve to displace Payn was strengthened 
by these charges, and he now reaffirmed his intent to Platt. The 
Senator was amenable at first, but when Payn indicated that he would 
fight for his job, Platt changed his mind. An impasse then threatened: 
Roosevelt could refuse to make the reappointment; and Platt could 
prevent the confirmation of his successor. In these circumstances, the 
Governor reluctantly prevailed on Platt's close friend, Francis J. 
Hendricks of Syracuse, to accept the appointment. 

To Roosevelt the displacement of Payn was another hard-won 
victory for good government. But to many reformers the selection of 
Hendricks was a sellout to Platt, and they indignantly labeled it such. 
Hurt and irritated, Roosevelt unburdened himself to his friend Louisa 
Lee Schuyler. "I can say with all sincerity," he wrote, "that I do not 
believe that any Governor but myself could have put Mr. Payn out, 
backed as he was by the strongest political influences in the State, and 
in addition the entire enormous money power of the big insurance 

You can have no conception of the pressure, political, financial, and 
every other kind that has been brought to bear upon me to keep 
him in. ... If I had done what the Evening Post and Dr. Parkhurst 
and Mr. Godkin and the smaller fry like Jack Chapman advised, I 
would not have had ten votes in the Senate to confirm my man and 
Payn would have stayed in permanently. 

One other awkward incident marred the Payn affair. The banking 
superintendent's report criticized Elihu Root, the State Trust Com- 
pany's legal counselor and one of its directors, for countenancing the 
near half-million-dollar loan to Payn. Roosevelt responded uncharac- 
teristically. He buried the report, ostensibly to avert a run on the Trust 
Company, but also, one suspects, to protect Root, who was by then 


Secretary of War, from unfavorable publicity (Root and the other 
directors' action was legally, if not morally, defensible). So at least 
contended the World, which disclosed Root's involvement and charged 
that the Governor had wanted "to shield a personal friend." 

It might be argued, though surely crudely, that Roosevelt was re- 
paying a favor (when a technicality had threatened his eligibility to 
serve as governor, Root had devised an argument to offset it), or that 
he was reluctant to place the McKinley administration under new 
embarrassment. It seems more likely, however, that Roosevelt's un- 
critical admiration for Root was in this case his controlling motive. 

Incapable of panic, loyal yet curiously detached, a constructive 
adviser on programs that he would not himself have initiated, Elihu 
Root was to his intimates, and to many who were not, the embodiment 
of wise and incisive judgment. He was and the comparison is not 
invidious more analytical than creative, though his organizing intelli- 
gence was perhaps the finest of his era; and his mental cast was both 
sharpened and narrowed by a hard-tempered realism that blunted his 
resentments even as it dulled his enthusiasms. He was, as Morison 
with his usual acuteness puts it, "without illusion in his calculation of 
what had to be done or could be done by the human agency," and 
he had no conviction that "he or anyone else could remold the con- 
dition of things much closer to the heart's desire." Lacking the moral 
fervor that inspires men to supreme acts of the spirit, Root's appeal 
was to their instinct for the ordered conditions that ease the imperfect 
path of progress as Roosevelt's, for all his own similar commitment, 
was to their puissant ideals and unfulfilled emotions. Such, indubitably, 
was Root's pull on Roosevelt himself. 

Understanding intuitively the need to contain his rawer impulses as 
well as to refine his nobler ones, Roosevelt sought in this confident, 
matter-of-fact counselor, thirteen years his senior, the means of re- 
straint. And Root, standing almost always firm in the turbulent back- 
wash of Roosevelt's surging force, supplied the want. He saw as few 
men did the throbbing tension induced by Roosevelt's unconscious 
urge to love or to hate and even, at times, to rule or to ruin, and he 
strove in his quietly self-assured way to reduce it; and also, because 
he was at heart conservative, to keep Roosevelt's creative drives 
within bounds. Repeatedly, Root turned his biting, sardonic humor 
on his ebullient friend, and Roosevelt, seemingly sensing the need for 
his own deflation, delighted in its edge. 


Even so, the relationship was not without impact on Root. What 
this eminent public servant possessed in administrative ability, he 
lacked in boldness of imagination. More administrator than social 
philosopher, he recoiled from the possible ill consequences of change 
as other men were attracted by its potential liberating effect. He 
suffered especially the conservative's dependence on convention, and 
he actually opposed Roosevelt's corporate tax program with the classic 
half-truth that "the vast preponderance of the grand fortunes" had 
conferred "great benefits on the community." Yet Root was never a 
reactionary. His brief was for a moderate, ordered, and closely con- 
trolled progress. And in the daily rub of minds with Roosevelt during 
the presidential years, his conservatism became reasonably viable. 
For one brief decade, indeed, he unenthusiastically accepted the moral 
imperative of Roosevelt's thrust for social and economic justice. 

The publicity over Payn and Root, coupled with increasing specu- 
lation about the Governor's political future, detracted from the other- 
wise substantial enactments of Roosevelt's second year in office. The 
law of 1899 opening corporation's books to agents of the supreme 
court was amended to open them to stockholders and creditors. A 
law granting a monopoly to a carriage company was supplanted by 
one designed to preserve competition in the automotive carriage in- 
dustry. And a bill forbidding interest charges of more than 6 per cent 
a year was passed and signed. 

On the other hand, the Governor did lose or concede one important 
round to the machine. Pursuant to the recommendation of the tax 
commission appointed in the spring of 1899, a measure instituting a 
one per cent tax on all mortgages and banking capital was introduced 
in 1900. At the request of J. P. Morgan and other finance capitalists, 
however, the Platt men amended it so as to exempt the New York 
Central Railroad and large corporations in general from its pro- 
visions. In consequence, the state lost six or seven million dollars in 
tax revenue. Although Roosevelt refused to support the Morgan-Platt 
amendments because of their discriminatory nature, he inexplicably 
failed to fight them forcefully. 

Several other important measures were enacted in 1900 with 
Roosevelt's active support. These improved the civil service laws, 
standardized the labels on linen cloth, and prohibited newspapers 
from soliciting funds from candidates for political office. They insti- 
tuted safeguards on the letting of contracts for the New York City 


water supply, and they prevented the traction companies from laying 
four sets of car tracks on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. They rounded 
out the Governor's conservation program by projecting a public park 
on the Palisades and reorganizing and expanding the state forest, 
fish, and game program. And they obliged both labor and the farmers 
by limiting the working hours of drug clerks and authorizing bounties 
for the production of beet sugar. Rejecting most, though regrettably 
not all, bills he believed inimical to the public interest, Roosevelt also 
vetoed or returned to the legislature some five hundred measures 
during his two-year term. 

Among the approximately one thousand bills Roosevelt signed into 
law were two that strongly affected the public school system. The 
first, which he spurred on with an emergency message, banned race 
discrimination and repealed a previous authorization of separate 
schools for Negroes on a local-option basis. In common with most 
white Americans of the period, the Governor did not regard Negroes 
in general as the equals of whites. But he did believe that many indi- 
vidual Negroes were superior to individual whites, and he felt deeply 
that they should have full opportunity to prove their merit. "My chil- 
dren sit in the same school with colored children," he righteously 
remarked when the bill came up. 

The second school measure carried over from the fight for higher 
salaries for teachers. For three months during the fall of 1899 the 
Tammany-dominated Board of Estimate had refused to pay teachers 
their salaries in Brooklyn and Queens. Roosevelt responded by push- 
ing through an emergency bill in February, 1900, that directed city 
officials to transfer funds to meet their obligations to the teachers. 
Then in May he approved a measure designed to prevent a recurrence 
of the situation. 'The difference between the attitude of Tammany 
and the republicans," he angrily wrote at the time, "is . . . that 
Tammany increased the salaries of all the useless offices but reduced 
the teachers almost to bankruptcy; whereas the republican party 
which is pre-eminently the party of the public schools has stood by 
these schools and teachers." 

Reviewing his record at the end of the second regular session in the 
spring of 1900, Roosevelt was keenly satisfied. "I think I have been 
the best Governor within my time," he confided to his uncle, James 
Bulloch, "better either than Cleveland or Tilden." 

The Governor's estimate of his relative worth was probably accu- 


rate. Within the shifting limits of such comparisons, he had excelled 
both Tilden and Cleveland. All three were men of estimable integrity 
and ability; each had battled corruption, driven through important 
administrative reforms, and yet maintained a working relationship 
with elements of his party machine. But by temperament and philoso- 
phy Tilden and Cleveland had been more passive than positive, and 
their administrations had suffered for it. Where they had refused to 
tread, Roosevelt had willingly broken new ground. They had been 
conservative of the power of the state; but Roosevelt, conscientiously 
seeking solutions to the problems forged by the rampant industrial 
order, had broken sharply with the laissez-faire theory and existing 
concepts of state and local relations. They had been solicitous of the 
traditional prerogatives of corporations; but Roosevelt, revealing him- 
self receptive to the moderate progressive thought of the times, had 
begun to believe that public responsibilities, including tax payments, 
were correlative to the possession of enormous wealth and power. 
And they had been oblivious to the plight of labor, while Roosevelt 
had commenced to redress its prevailing imbalance with capital. 

Besides all that, Roosevelt had taken major steps to preserve the 
wild life, forests, and natural beauty of his state. He had made a stab 
at arresting the spreading curse of the tenements. And he had imbued 
many officials with a sense of the public trust and instilled in others 
the fear of dismissal. Even the World, implying in an editorial that 
it might have crossed party lines to support him had he run for re- 
election, conceded that "the controlling purpose and general course 
of his administration have been high and good." 

It would be an exaggeration to say, as an upstate editor did say 
shortly before Roosevelt was nominated for Vice President, that his 
"only qualification ... for the office of Vice President is fitness for 
the office of President." But it would not be extreme to suggest that 
he had several critical qualifications for the higher office. Of these, 
none was more significant than his manifest capacity for growth and 
his signal ability to influence the flow of events by seizing the initiative 
at the strategic moment the sure measures of a superior leader. In 
only one important province, and that, ironically, the one he regarded 
himself as strongest in foreign affairs were Roosevelt's qualifica- 
tions suspect on the record. Time alone would reveal whether he 
also possessed the strength to conquer the "Sturm und Drang" im- 
pulses of his early manhood. 




"Tis Teddy alone that's runnin', and he ain't r'runnin', he's 

Mr. Dooley 

Roosevelt had reached the fork in the road. From June, 1899, when 
Westerners had hailed him as a presidential candidate as he went 
out to the Rough Riders' reunion in Las Vegas, until June of the 
following year, when the Republican convention met at Philadelphia, 
his political future evoked recurrent speculation. And by the time the 
convention delegates detrained in the Quaker City discussion of 
whether he would run for a second term as governor or would be 
forced up and out to the vice-presidency overshadowed all other 

Roosevelt most wanted to return to Albany, although he would 
have settled for the civil governorship of the Philippines. But he had 
no desire to accept the then empty honor of the vice-presidency. tw l 
am a comparatively young man . . . and I like to work," he wrote 
Lodge in February, 1900. "I do not like to be a figurehead." Nor did 
the prospect of presiding over the Senate hold any appeal. "I should 
be in a cold shiver of rage at inability to answer hounds like 
Pettigrew and the scarcely more admirable Mason and Hale," he 
continued uninhibitedly. "I would be seeing continually things that 
I would like to do, and very possibly would like to do differently from 
the way in which they were being done." Nevertheless, a number of 
factors militated in favor of the vice-presidential nomination. Some 
were within his control, most were beyond it. 



On January 20, shortly after Roosevelt's refusal to reappoint Louis 
Payn had embarrassed the Platt machine anew, the "Easy Boss" had 
urged the vice-presidential nomination upon the Governor during one 
of their regular meetings. "Platt is afraid," Roosevelt explained to 
Lodge, that "unless I take it nobody will be made Vice-President from 
New York, and that this would be a pity." 

The Colonel's naivete was characteristic. He almost always tended 
to believe well of those he was thrown in with, and generally with 
good result. His confidence brought out the best in men and often 
inspired near-fanatical loyalty and devotion. Sometimes, however, it 
backfired. When men's moral sensibilities were perverted or their 
material stakes were great, as with Tom Platt and later the managers 
of the United States Steel Corporation, Roosevelt could be deceived. 
Furthermore, TR never quite realized the overpowering impact of his 
own vibrant personality. Even such strong characters as Elihu Root 
and Cabot Lodge sometimes succumbed to it; and too often Roosevelt 
assumed that failure to challenge his enthusiastically expressed ideas 
implied agreement. On the whole, however, the advantages heavily 
outweighed the disadvantages. 

Roosevelt had left Plan's apartment without committing himself on 
the vice-presidency. Although Lodge's counsel was that it was the 
"better" and "safer" road to the presidency, he soon decided against 
it. "I was eager to have a regiment in the war and if there was another 
war I should try to have a brigade," he wrote Benjamin Odcll, "but 
nothing would hire me to continue as a colonel or brigadier general 
in time of peace." To Platt he added that since he had failed to amass 
a fortune, he felt honor bound to leave his children a record of 
achievement in politics or letters. "Now, as Governor, 1 can achieve 
something," he concluded, "but as Vice-President I should achieve 

Both Platt and Odell were unimpressed by the Governor's pro- 
tests; nor did they change their attitude when TR told them in a 
second conference on February 10 that he would "a great deal rather 
be anything, say professor of history, than Vice-President." Roose- 
velt's whole program as governor civil service reform, corporate 
publicity and taxation, and enforcement of the factory laws had con- 
stituted a near frontal assault on the Republican machine's founda- 
tions, and Platt was determined to avoid a second and possibly more 


sustained attack. Roosevelt's gradual realization of Platt's real motives 
is set forth in a letter to Lodge: 

I have found out one reason why Senator Platt wants me 
nominated ... the big-monied men with whom he is in close 
touch and whose campaign contributions have certainly been no 
inconsiderable factor in his strength, have been pressing him very 
strongly to get me put in the Vice-Presidency, so as to get me out 
of the State. It was the big insurance companies, possessing 
enormous wealth, that gave Payn his formidable strength, and they 
to a man want me out. The great corporations affected by the 
franchise tax have also been at the Senator. In fact, all the big- 
monied interests that make campaign contributions of large size 
and feel that they should have favors in return, are extremely 
anxious to get me out of the State. I find that they have been at 
Platt for the last two or three months and he has finally begun to 
yield to them and to take their view. 

Roosevelt's resolve to serve a second term as governor was sharp- 
ened by his insight into Platt's design and especially, one suspects, by 
his desire to dissipate the lingering suspicions of cowardice left by 
his resignation from the police commissionership four years before. 
As he also wrote Lodge, "I should feel like a coward if I went away 
from this work, because I ran the risk of incurring disaster and took 
a position where I could not fail, for the simple reason that I could 
not succeed." Throughout the spring of 1900, therefore, TR sought 
diligently to suppress the developing boom for his nomination as 
McKinley's running mate. In Chicago on April 26 he told reporters 
that the governorship of New York was next to the presidency in im- 
portance and that he would return to private life before accepting the 
vice-presidential nomination; and in a formal address that night he 
refused to comment though his audience gave him a standing, fifteen- 
minute ovation and chanted, "We want you, Teddy, yes we do." Two 
weeks later the Governor went to Washington to assure McKinley 
and Hanna that he intended to stand for re-election in New York. 
Roosevelt also reiterated his opposition to the vice-presidency to 
Secretary of War Elihu Root, who is said to have smiled disarmingly 
and replied: "Of course not, Theodore, you're not fit for it." 

Meanwhile Roosevelt wrote numerous letters to his Western friends 
in an unavailing effort to repress their mounting enthusiasm. He 
thought for a while that he had contained the boom, but he was never 


overly sanguine. "If I were actually nominated; and if I were unable 
to stem the convention's desire to nominate me, it might be impossible 
to refuse," he confided to Joseph B. Bishop in April. "Still, maybe 
I could refuse anyhow. And I am almost sure I can prevent the 

Tom Platt viewed the Governor's efforts with tongue in cheek, for 
the "Easy Boss" held both an ace and a trump. The ace was Senator 
Joseph Foraker of Ohio, a number of lesser anti-Hanna men, and 
Matthew Quay and his formidable Pennsylvania machine. All resented 
Mark Hanna's friendship with President McKinley and his hold on 
the Republican National Committee; all welcomed the opportunity to 
cross Hanna's will by nominating Roosevelt for the vice-presidency. 

Platt's trump was the former Rough Rider's irresistible appeal to 
the Republican rank and file in the West. During the sixteen years 
that had passed since young Roosevelt had staked his claim in the 
hearts of Westerners they had followed his career as though he had 
been a native son. They had applauded his energetic enforcement of 
the civil service laws and his battles against vice and crime in New 
York City, and they had thrilled to his heroics in Cuba. This last 
circumstance was regrettable, perhaps. It clouded the fact that TR's 
hold upon Westerners was actually formed by his prewar record. 
The Kansas City Star pointed this out editorially: "Beneath Roose- 
velt's chivalry and the picturesque style which has aroused the 
enthusiasm of the Nation there is an intense sense of duty and a 
moral courage that is invincible." 

The record of Roosevelt as a civil officer is a quite sufficient plea 
upon which to go before the people. It is of a character to make 
plain his enmity toward corruption and his devotion to public 
morality. . . . 

The Governor's popularity was not confined to the West. The 
Eastern reformers had sometimes recoiled and the party leaders had 
frequently squirmed, but TR had again and again captured the im- 
agination of the great middle classes. More than any young national 
leader of his era, Roosevelt exemplified the perennial personal 
virtues honor, courage, and duty and he quickened America's con- 
science because of it. Even the New York Sun, which was always 
suspicious of TR's economics, conceded as much just after the 
Republican Convention of 1900 ended: 


People got to saying, 'This man ROOSEVELT seems to do about 
what he thinks is right and doesn't care a rap for the consequences. 
He must be all right." 

When, against that background, Roosevelt refused to say that he 
would not accept if chosen and insisted on going to Philadelphia as 
a delegate on the grounds that it would be cowardly not to go, his 
nomination for the vice-presidency was virtually foreordained. As 
Platt was reported to have said, "Roosevelt might as well stand under 
Niagara Falls and try to spit water back as to stop his nomination by 
this convention." 

The New York boss had hardly exaggerated. Roosevelt tried for a 
while to hold back the flood. And when Platt told him the night the 
convention opened in Philadelphia on June 19 that he would prevent 
his renomination for governor if he turned down the vice-presidential 
nomination, TR reportedly replied "that this was a threat, which 
simply rendered it impossible for me to accept, that if there was to 
be war there would be war, and that that was all there was to it." 
Thereupon, Roosevelt added, "I bowed and left the room." Platt's 
account differs; but it is clear that there had been a tense scene. 

Even as Roosevelt resisted Platt, however, the waters were surging 
over. Roosevelt himself had earlier sparked a spontaneous demonstra- 
tion on the convention floor by striding briskly to his seat in a black 
civilian version of the Rough Rider's slouch campaign hat "an 
acceptance hat," so one delegate dubbed it. And for hours that night 
scores of Western delegates noisily paraded up and down the cor- 
ridors outside Hanna's suite shouting "We want Teddy." Meanwhile 
Quay's Pennsylvania forces announced their endorsement of the New 
York Governor while Platt, Quay, and Foraker pressed his nomina- 
tion on various convention leaders. 

All through the next day, the demands for Roosevelt's nomination 
continued to mount. The Colonel was told that his political future 
hung in the balance; he was warned that the West might go to Bryan 
if he rejected the nomination; and he was admonished that it was his 
duty to honor the wishes of his legions of admirers. He may also 
have been threatened with elimination from politics. Succumbing 
finally to these enormous pressures, he agreed to accept the nomina- 
tion if the delegates willed it. Late that night Mark Hanna, who had 
earlier received a wire from McKinley stating that he did not intend 


to stand in Roosevelt's way if the convention wanted to nominate him, 
also submitted. 

The next day, after McKinley was renominated, a portentous hush 
fell over the convention as LaFayette Young, head of the Iowa delega- 
tion, rose to his feet to withdraw the name of Jonathan Dolliver, 
Iowa's favorite son, and place Theodore Roosevelt's in nomination. 
It was the moment the rank and file had been waiting for. Hats flew 
into the air, state standards were raised from the floor, and pictures 
and banners appeared out of nowhere while the vast assemblage 
sprang to its feet in one great instinctive movement. The band struck 
up "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight." And the 
delegations roared their congratulations at the Governor as they 
marched exuberantly past the New York section where Roosevelt sat 
grimly in his seat, expressionless except for a tightening of lines 
around his mouth. In her box up above, Edith Roosevelt gasped 
momentarily, then flashed a smile. 

Finally the convention quieted for the seconding speeches. The 
most eloquent was by Chauncey Depew, whose Republicanism was 
the antithesis of Theodore Roosevelt's. The balloting followed, and 
when Lodge announced the near-unanimous result, the rank and file 
gave forth the mightiest and most sustained cheer of the entire con- 
vention. Roosevelt was nominated, reported an obscure country 
weekly, not because of the bosses, "but because the convention rec- 
ognized Theodore Roosevelt as that which Henry C. Payne of 
Wisconsin had called him 'not New York's son, but the nation's 
son.' " 

Even as they had been all along, however, the Governor's emo- 
tions were mixed. Roosevelt's "tail-feathers were all down," Nicholas 
Murray Butler, who saw him an hour after he had made his decision 
to submit the night before, remembered. "The fight had gone out of 
him and he had changed his former tune to that of 'I cannot disap- 
point my Western friends if they insist. ... I cannot seem to be 
bigger than the party.' " 

Roosevelt's personal letters say much the same. They also reveal 
that he was reconciled to his lot: "It was simply impossible to resist 
so spontaneous a feeling." "I would be a fool not to appreciate and be 
deeply touched by the way I was nominated." "I believe it all for the 
best as regards my personal interests." ". . . had I been running for 
re-election as Governor I could not have helped feeling an uneasiness 


of mind as to my own fate." "Mrs. Roosevelt has begun to look at the 
matter our way now." And finally: 

Every real friend of mine . . . will speak of me as exactly what I 
am the man chosen because it is believed he will add strength to 
a cause which however is already infinitely stronger than any 
strength of his a man absolutely and entirely in the second place 
whom it is grossly absurd and unjust to speak of in any other 

The cause was Republicanism. It was the gold standard, the 
protective tariff, and the supremacy of the nation over state and 
region. It was the unrestricted development of big business and the 
casting aside of the old isolation. It was integrity, efficiency, and 
high-mindedness, the skullduggery of the bosses, the maladministra- 
tion of the Army, and the McKinley administration's assault on the 
civil service notwithstanding. It was anti-Bryanism, anti-Populism, and 
anti almost everything else that threatened the party's success. It was, 
in a word, whatever the Republican orators chose to make it. 

Roosevelt chose to make the coming campaign a moral crusade for 
good government and a referendum on the new foreign policy. He had 
virtually a free rein in so doing, for the President again confined 
himself to nebulous pronouncements from his front porch in Canton, 

Mindful of the dignity of his new situation, Roosevelt told Hanna 
at the outset that he was emphatically opposed to appearing "like a 
second-class Bryan." He tried to nip in the bud a plan to form Rough 
Riders' marching units all over the country, and he announced that 
he intended to campaign on his accomplishments as governor, not on 
his military record. But he also declared that he felt "strong as a 
bull moose." 

That summer and fall Roosevelt canvassed the nation with a 
thoroughness no vice-presidential candidate had theretofore matched 
and only one presidential candidate, Bryan, had surpassed. Besides 
a trip to Oklahoma, where he fired his opening volley from the camp 
grounds of the Rough Riders' reunion, he made a quick excursion 
into the Middle West and an extended tour through the Rocky 
Mountain states, where he experienced one long triumphal home- 


All told, Roosevelt covered 21,000 miles in twenty-four states, 
spent eight weeks on the road, and made several hundred speeches. 
Everywhere he preached his four-square gospel of duty, responsibility, 
Republicanism, and Americanism; and the curious, excited, and 
adulatory crowds that came out of the hinterland to swarm about the 
rear platform of his special train at every whistle stop could no more 
contain their enthusiasm than he could suppress his moralistic ex- 
hortations. "Tis Teddy alone that's runnin'," exclaimed the inimitable 
Mr. Dooley, "and he ain't r'runnin', he's gallopin'." 

Roosevelt's nominal opponent was the Democratic vice-presidential 
candidate, Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois; but his real adversary was 
William Jennings Bryan. Few pulses ever beat more quickly for the 
plain people everywhere than did that of the Great Commoner from 
Nebraska. For three decades the farmers and small townspeople of 
the South and the Middle West basked in his prairie-like simplicity 
and whole-souled sentimentality, and three times they bestowed upon 
him their highest accolade the Democratic presidential nomination. 
Nor did he ever fail them in eloquence and devotion. Nineteen years 
after they first gave him their charge he selflessly resigned as Secretary 
of State to serve better by his lights the cause of peace that he and 
they loved, and as he neared death a decade after that he fought 
unabashedly to uphold their fundamentalist faith against an evolu- 
tionary doctrine that Roosevelt had mastered as an adolescent a half 
century before. Again and again this great-hearted Christian phrased 
with poetic insight and preached with evangelical passion their 
swelling protest against the cruel maladjustments wrought by the new 
industrial order; and it was for his broad understanding of the 
economic nature of their problems, even more than for his abiding 
compassion for all mankind, that he was truly distinguished. 

As Henry Steele Commager, one of the few modern historians to see 
Bryan whole, asserts, he was the link between the agrarian progressivism 
of the Populists and the sophisticated urban progressivism of the later 
Roosevelt. And if he did not conceive, he did pioneer in the advocacy of 
"more important legislation than any other politician of his generation." 
For what Bryan lacked in profundity, he possessed to overflowing in 
instinct. He had a firmer grasp of the public essentials, if not of the 
technical details, of the money and tariff questions than Mark Hanna, 
McKinley, and their Wall Street compatriots, and until Roosevelt 
came into his own in his second term, Bryan's social thought was 


the more advanced. His one great failing and a critical one it was 
was his lack of the scientific spirit and his resultant inability to refine 
his arguments. He was to the end more descriptive than analytical. 
A born generalizer, it was enough for Bryan that he should conceive 
his mission as the liberation of the government from the hands of the 
plutocrats; and when in 1896 he first burst upon the national scene, 
he proclaimed of the cause he led: 

On the one hand stand the corporate interests of the United 
States, the moneyed interests, aggregated wealth and capital, im- 
perious, arrogant, compassionless. . . . On the other side stand 
an unnumbered throng, those who gave to the Democratic party a 
name and for whom it has assumed to speak. Work-worn and dust- 
begrimed, they made their mute appeal, and too often find their 
cry for help beat in vain against the outer walls, while others, less 
deserving, gain ready access to legislative halls. 

That had been in 1896. Now, four years later, the cause was 
essentially the same, though Bryan's early campaign speeches focused 
on the imperialism issue. "Imperialism finds no warrant in the Bible," 
the Great Commoner thundered up and down the land. u The com- 
mand, 'Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every crea- 
ture/ has no gatling gun attachment," he declaimed. "Love, not force, 
was the weapon of the Nazarene; sacrifice for others, not the ex- 
ploitation of them, was His method of reaching the human heart" 
so he exclaimed to the tens of thousands of Baptists, Methodists, and 
Presbyterians who made his campaign even more revivalist-like than 

In effect, Bryan was asking the American people to deny the 
righteousness of a war they had heroically won and of a world 
prestige they had suddenly acquired. This was an underestimation of 
human passion. The emotions that had carried the nation exuberantly 
to war two years before were still potent; the zealous pride in the 
national achievement was still swollen. The colonial empire was a 
fait accompli rather than a debatable political issue; and the United 
States was now a major power in a world of great powers, not of 
Nazarenes. The insurrection of the Filipino patriot, Aguinaldo, In- 
voked the application of force rather than Christian charity; and even 
as Bryan's impassioned phrases poured forth, American troops were 
relentlessly applying that force. Not even the editorial spokesmen of 


American Protestantism succumbed to the Great Commoner's rolling 
periods. "God's hand," said the Methodist Episcopal Zion's Herald, 
was behind the circumstance "that those most beautiful islands of the 
Pacific, named for one of the worst monarchs that ever sat on the 
throne of Spain, should come into the possession of the most 
Protestant nation of the nineteenth century. . . . The present year 
of grace is 1900, and not 1800." 

Roosevelt's reactions to Bryan's indictment of the colonial after- 
math of the war with Spain embodied his cascading fervor for honor, 
duty, and the flag. They embraced his Social Darwinian conception of 
the evolutionary stages of the races. And they reflected his continuing 
grasp of many of the hard facts of the international struggle for posi- 
tion. Thus he deprecated the suggestion that the Philippines be 
abandoned, invoking the same strategic, commercial, and chauvinistic 
rationale which had actuated him, Lodge, and Mahan to press for 
their acquisition in the first place. We would have "to pledge our- 
selves to perpetual war with them and for them," he argued. He 
declared that the American guardianship was a sacred trust deriving 
from "the most righteous foreign war that has been waged within 
the memory of the present generation." And he repeatedly drew a 
specious parallel between Jefferson's administration of the Louisiana 
Territory and the projected Republican administration of the Philip- 
pine Islands. 

But Roosevelt's main theme was that the United States stood on 
the threshold of greatness. "It rests with us now to decide whether 
... we shall march forward to fresh triumphs or whether at the 
outset we shall cripple ourselves for the contest," he admonished the 
Republican convention in his speech seconding McKinley's renomina- 
tion. "We challenge the proud privilege of doing the work that 
Providence allots us, and we face the coming years high of heart 
and resolute of faith that to our people is given the right to win honor 
and renown as has never yet been vouchsafed to the nations of man- 

Roosevelt's rhetoric, romanticism, and egocentric nationalism to 
the contrary, his remarks at least touched the periphery of those 
momentous questions that have been a half century in the settling: 
Was the United States to play an assertive role commensurate with 
its emerging power in the affairs of the world? Was it to bury itself 
in an ostrich-like isolationism? Or was it to indulge in a nebulous 


internationalism unsupported by military force. Roosevelt and the 
other imperialists believed that there was no real choice. They sensed 
that the revolution in communications had so altered traditional con- 
cepts of time and space that the old isolationism was as anachronistic 
by the turn of the century as the pony express. They recognized that 
the sheer fact of industrial might made America a de facto member 
of the community of powers. And they clearly understood what the 
anti-imperialists, and especially Bryan, would not concede to 
abandon the Philippines was to invite a scramble by England, Ger- 
many, Japan, and Russia, and possibly to precipitate world war. 

Nevertheless, the Colonel's armor was penetrable. The Philippines 
were militarily indefensible, and within the decade Roosevelt himself 
would pronounce them an "Achilles' heel" a tacit admission that 
the overextension of lines was not necessarily synonymous with the 
emergence from isolationism. Nor would the imperialists' loose ex- 
pectations of a burgeoning Far Eastern trade be realized in Roosevelt's 
generation, or even in the two that followed. But the most glaring 
flaw was moral. In the opinion of sensitive men then and since, the 
"honor and renown" that Roosevelt read into the Philippine venture 
came not with the brutal subjugation of Aguinaldo's partisans, but 
rather with the enlightened administrative policies that culminated in 
Philippine independence in 1946. It is a tribute to Bryan's right- 
mindedness, if not to his tactical wisdom, that he worked to that end 
from the beginning. 

If Roosevelt's insight into foreign affairs was at once more romantic 
and more realistic than the Great Commoner's, his comprehension of 
domestic issues was in all but a few respects far shallower. Like 
William Allen White, whose stirringly vacuous editorial, "What's the 
Matter with Kansas," had catapulted him to fame in the summer of 
1896, TR was deluded by fear of free silver. Neither in 1896 nor in 
1900 did Roosevelt understand that the Westerners and Southerners' 
grievances derived from more than moral laxity, wool-hat dem- 
agoguery, or a bad turn in the weather. Neither in 1896 nor in 1900 
did he concede that the underlying issue involved more than "decent 
government and the honest payment of debts." He wildly charged in 
1896 that Bryan and the Democrats represented the "spirit of law- 
less mob violence"; and he repeated and embellished the indictment 
in 1900. As White, in a passage as applicable to Roosevelt as to 
himself, wrote long afterward: "How intellectually snobbish I was 


about 'sound economics.' . . . Being what I was, a child of the 
governing classes, I was blinded by my birthright. ... It seemed 
to me that rude hands were trying to tear down the tabernacle of our 
national life, to taint our currency with fiat." And so, White continued, 
"swallowing protection as a necessary evil and McKinley's candidacy 
as the price of national security, I went into the campaign with more 
zeal than intelligence, with more ardor than wisdom." 

Roosevelt's delusion both in 1896 and 1900 was made the easier 
by the character of Bryan's impassioned hosts. One major element 
included the remnants of the Populist party. And though TR himself 
would later espouse that part of the Populist manifesto of 1892 which 
read, "We believe that the powers of government . . . should be 
expanded ... to the end that oppression, injustice, and poverty 
shall eventually cease in the land," he gave little evidence of his future 
beliefs in 1900 and even less in 1896. 

Another great division of Bryan's forces was spearheaded by John 
Peter Altgeld, who had compounded his "crime" in pardoning the 
surviving Haymarket anarchists by courageously attacking Cleveland's 
handling of the Pullman strike of 1894. Roosevelt seemed not to 
realize that Altgeld was actually a sensitive and responsible spokes- 
man for the submerged urban masses; and in both campaigns he pum- 
meled the Illinois Governor unmercifully and unjustifiably, expos- 
tulating at one point that Altgeld "would connive at wholesale murder 
and would justify it by elaborate and cunning sophistry for reasons 
known only to his own tortuous soul." So sweeping were TR's 
charges, in fact, that Hanna worriedly consulted him about them after 
an especially unbalanced speech in St. Paul in the fall of 1 900. 

Hanna failed, of course, to dampen Roosevelt's ardor; nor did 
anyone else. Neither age nor experience brought moderation, mellow- 
ing, or development, and until the day of his death TR remained an 
extremist in speech when the battle was on. 

Yet, for all Roosevelt's irresponsible assertions, for all his failure 
to speak fairly to Bryan's proposals for an inheritance tax, graduated 
income tax, reduced tariff, and expanded money supply, TR did 
come out with one constructive proposal in 1900 the regulation 
of big business. Drawing on his experience as governor, he recom- 
mended publicity of capitalization and profits, taxation of corpora- 
tions, and "the unsparing excision of all unhealthy, destructive and 
anti-social elements." This program was indefensibly vague it failed, 


for example, to specify whether the states or the federal government 
should assume responsibility for its enactment, and it was a pale 
shadow compared to Bryan's comprehensive, if also inadequate, pro- 
gram. Yet its emphasis on the regulation rather than the dissolution 
of the great corporations dimly foreshadowed the future. 

In spite of McKinley's front-porch circumlocutions, and Bryan's 
perfervid oratory, the President's re-election was never in doubt. On 
Election Day his popular vote soared several hundred thousands 
above his total of 1896, and his majority reached the highest level 
since Grant's re-election in 1872. Roosevelt's contribution to this 
impressive victory cannot be measured with accuracy; but by common 
agreement, it was considerable. He had borne the brunt of the 
canvass, speaking, however egregiously at times, to the issues as no 
other Republican of prominence had done, and he had carried into 
the campaign the most devoted personal following ever rallied by a 
vice-presidential candidate. As Margaret Leech, McKinley's sym- 
pathetic biographer, acknowledges, Roosevelt's "forthright censure of 
the trusts did much to counterbalance the deference to business which 
paralyzed Republican leadership on economic questions, and to 
attract the enthusiastic support of younger and more progressive 
elements of the party." Although TR claimed that he had dug his own 
political grave, the testimony of the rank and file was that he had 
laid the foundations for his elevation to the presidency in 1904. 

The special session of Congress following the inaugural ceremonies 
four months later lasted only four days, so Vice-President Roosevelt 
never had a chance to prove that he could have presided over the 
Senate with equanimity; and it is of no moment. He tarried in 
Washington less than a week after Congress adjourned, then returned 
to Sagamore Hill for the spring and early summer. 

Unburdened by pressing duties for the first time since the winter of 
1889, TR there experienced perhaps the most pleasant vacation of his 
life. His seven children were still bound to the family's bosom, 
though Alice, witty, contrary, and worldly beyond her seventeen 
years, was straining to break away. TR enjoyed her immensely for 
she shared his lust for life. But she was already enamored by the 
superficially unconventional, and he could only with difficulty con- 
tain her. She eventually married a stand-pat Republican politician, 
Nicholas Longworth, who became Speaker of the House when the 
business civilization reached its apogee under Calvin Coolidge. 


Ted, who would become thoroughly imbued with his father's mili- 
tary values and moderately imbued with his social attitudes (he 
governed Puerto Rico and the Philippines with enlightenment and 
compassion in the 1920's and early 1930's), was then just short of 
fourteen. He was in his first year at Groton and was already able to 
best TR in tennis. The others, ranging down to chubby and effusive 
Quentin, who at three and one-half wanted and often got in on the 
fun, all had interests their father enjoyed. They rowed, hiked, waded, 
and swam together on fair days; romped, read, and recited poetry on 
rainy days. Inevitably, TR pushed the boys too hard because of his 
obsession that they should prove their manliness "I would rather 
one of them should die than have them grow up weaklings," he once 
growled at a woman who criticized their playing football. And he 
apparently drove Ted to a minor nervous breakdown at one point. 
Yet he had flashes of understanding for the limitations of the mind, if 
not of the will. He rarely demanded more than an individual could 
give, and as Wagenknecht points out, he resignedly accepted the fact 
that most men's best is not very good. "If Archie, through sheer in- 
ability, failed in mathematics," he wrote a few days later, "I should 
not in the least hold it against him; but where Ted gets on probation 
because he has been such an utter goose as pointlessly to cut his 
recitations I am not only much irritated but I also become apprehen- 
sive as to how Ted will do in after life." 

The new Vice President continued to make occasional speeches 
during the spring and summer of 1901. In April he spoke at the 
Newsboys' Lodging House. In May, with no sense of foreboding, he 
opened the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. And in June he 
addressed the Long Island Bible Society at Sagamore Hill and his 
Harvard class dinner at Cambridge. Then in July on the piazza at 
Sagamore he conducted an informal seminar for a selected group of 
Harvard and Yale undergraduates who stayed far into the evening 
listening to him and a few other idealistic Republicans urge upon them 
the compelling need for men of character to enter politics. In August 
Roosevelt participated in the observance of Colorado's twenty-fifth 
year of statehood, and on September 6 he spoke at the annual outing 
of the Fish and Game League on Isle la Motte in Lake Champlain. 

The afternoon that the Vice President addressed the Fish and 
Game League on Isle la Motte, President McKinley was mortally 
wounded in Buffalo. For the next five days McKinley hovered between 
life and death, but on the sixth day, Friday, September 13, he sank 


rapidly. Repeating the title of his favorite hymn, "Nearer, My God, 
to Thee," he murmured finally "It is God's way," then sank into semi- 
consciousness. At 2:15 in the morning of September 14 the President 

William McKinley had been a well-intentioned man, uncertain as 
to the staggering challenges of his times, but striving slowly and as con- 
scientiously as he could to rise to them. His last public address, 
delivered the day before he was shot, had been his finest. He had 
declared that the old isolationism was dead and he had counseled the 
modification of that tariff system of which he himself was the symbol. 
A transitional President at best, his election in 1896 had marked the 
end of the old order, his passing in 1901 the ushering in of the new. 

McKinley and Roosevelt had never been close; nor had cither's 
opinion of the other ever been high. To the end, McKinley had been 
unnerved as well as amused by Roosevelt's shrill bellicosity and 
flagrant disrespect for the established forms. From the beginning, 
Roosevelt had been contemptuous of McKinley's caution and in- 
decisiveness, his lack of conviction and his failure to respond to the 
moral imperatives of his office. Yet Roosevelt, like many strong- 
minded men whose lives touched McKinley's, was not unmoved by 
the President's homely virtues by his personal honesty, devotion to 
his invalid wife, unswerving loyalty to friends, and reluctance to give 
hurt even to those, like Roosevelt, who themselves had hurt him. He 
seemed genuinely saddened by his death. "He comes from the typical 
hard-working farmer stock of our country," Roosevelt wrote Lodge in 
a letter that unwittingly played on McKinley's tragic belief that it was 
a President's function to reflect rather than to lead. "In every instinct 
and feeling he is closely in touch with ... the men who make up 
the immense bulk of our Nation. . . . His one great anxiety while 
President has been to keep in touch with this body of people and to 
give expression to their sentiments and desires." 

Roosevelt had rushed by special train from Burlington, Vermont, 
to Buffalo upon being informed of the President's misfortune. There, 
so his most critical biographer concedes, he comported himself with 
dignity and restraint for three days. On September 10, the physician's 
reports being encouraging, he left to join his wife and the children 
in the Adirondacks on the theory that his withdrawal would reassure 
the country. He reached the Adirondacks, Mrs. Roosevelt wrote 
Bamie, "naturally much relieved at the rapid recovery of the Presi- 
dent." On Friday morning, as the President's physician in Buffalo 


abandoned hope, Roosevelt and a party climbed Mount Marcy. They 
had descended as far as Lake Tear of the Cloud and were having 
lunch beside a brook at two o'clock in the afternoon when a man 
came puffing up the trail with a message from Elihu Root: "The 
President appears to be dying, and members of the Cabinet in 
Buffalo think you should lose no time in coming." 

Roosevelt reached his base at six that night. After sending a mes- 
senger six miles ahead to the nearest telephone, he retired at nine, to 
be awakened at eleven by the same messenger. The President was 
dying; a special train had been arranged to pick up the Vice-President 
at North Creek, thirty-five miles distant. All that night Roosevelt sat 
on a buckboard as relays of horses and drivers rushed him over the 
gutted roads where in places a wrong turn meant a drop over a 
precipice. He arrived at North Creek at 5:30 Saturday morning, and 
he reached Buffalo at 1:30 that afternoon. 

The new President went at once to the house where the old 
President lay dead. After paying his respects to the bereaved widow, 
he was driven to the home of a friend, Ansley Wilcox, where all of the 
McKinley Cabinet except John Hay and Secretary of the Treasury 
Lyman J. Gage solemnly awaited him. Root suggested that the oath 
be taken at once, whereupon Roosevelt bowed slightly and addressed 
the group. "I wish to say that it shall be my aim to continue, ab- 
solutely unbroken, the policy of President McKinley for the peace, 
the prosperity, and the honor of our beloved country." The oath 
followed, Roosevelt adding his own redundant touch: "And so 
I swear." 

Following the ceremony Roosevelt took a brief walk with Elihu 
Root. They returned just before Mark Hanna drove up to the Wilcox 
house. When the President saw Hanna appear, he rushed out to meet 
him. It was a tense moment. Hanna had loved McKinley like a 
brother; he seems also to have aspired to the office Roosevelt now 
held. Yet Hanna, like Roosevelt, had large habits of mind. When 
the President repeated the assurances he had given the Cabinet, he 
replied that although he would not then commit himself to Roosevelt's 
nomination in 1904, he would do all in his power to make the 
administration a success during the next three years. "I trust," he 
concluded, "that you will command me if I can be of any service." 

The date was September 14, 1901, six weeks before Roosevelt's 
forty-third birthday. He was the youngest President in the nation's 





When I became President, the question as to the method by 
which the United States Government was to control the corpora- 
tions was not yet important. The absolutely vital question was 
whether the government had power to control them at all. 

Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography 

For five months after Theodore Roosevelt took the presidential oath 
in the simple ceremony at Buffalo an uneasy calm hung over the 
American business community. The mighty masters of industry and 
finance understood that Roosevelt was no Eugene V. Debs, nor even 
a William Jennings Bryan. They knew, however, that he lacked 
reverence for the "system" their constructive labor and political in- 
fluence had created. They remembered how he had struck out at 
monopoly as a fledgling legislator two decades before. They recalled 
how as Civil Service Commissioner he had flaunted the "system's" 
Grand Old Protector the Republican party. And they could not 
forget, for they were still challenging the legislation in the courts, how 
he had imposed a tax on corporations while governor. Nevertheless, 
they hoped that he would prove himself in the image of McKinley 
their "very supple and highly paid agent," as Henry Adams regarded 
the late President though by what process of alchemy they were 
not quite sure. Until Roosevelt destroyed their forced optimism by 
striking out boldly on his own, their editorial spokesmen worked 
heroically to imbue him with his lamented predecessor's heritage. 

President Roosevelt is "in perfect sympathy with the triumphant 
policies of Mr. McKinley," the New York Tribune said. It would be 



wrong to think, warned the New York Times, "that the temper of 
President Roosevelt's mind will incline him to seek for himself some 
more shining glory than that which has crowned the administration of 
his predecessor." The new President, the New York Sun added in a 
series of urgent editorials obviously designed for Roosevelt's eye, "is 
a man on whom the American people can rely as a prudent and a 
safe and sagacious successor to William McKinley." 

He represents the same political party and spirit and policies which 
were represented by Mr. McKinley; his political future, his whole 
reputation, depends on his fidelity to the sentiment of his party. 
President Roosevelt's career has been as a strict party man, happily 
for the public. His policy as President can be assumed from the 
policy of his party. It will not depend on the possible vagaries of an 
individual judgment. 

Yet Wall Street half sensed that these statements would prove more 
wishful than realistic. It assumed, however, that the President would 
at least take it into his confidence when and if he decided to alter 
McKinley's policies. Great was its consternation, therefore, when late 
in the afternoon of February 18, 1902, Attorney General Philander 
C. Knox announced that the President had directed him to invoke the 
Sherman Antitrust Law against J. P. Morgan's latest paper creation, 
the Northern Securities Company. There had been no warning save 
the logic of Theodore Roosevelt's career. 

The first memorable event of the Roosevelt era, the resurrection of 
the Sherman Law, struck financial circles like a shattering shaft of 
lightning. In New York City, where he was giving a small dinner, 
Pierpont Morgan received the news with stunned dismay. Roosevelt 
had not acted as a "gentleman," he plaintively remarked to his guests. 
Morgan's partner in the Northern Securities venture, the railroad 
magnate James J. Hill, was yet more bitter. "It really seems hard," 
he indignantly wrote a friend, "that we should be compelled to fight 
for our lives against the political adventurers who have never done 
anything but pose and draw a salary." 

The lesser men of the business world mirrored these two Goliaths' 
reactions. As the uninhibited Detroit Free Press sardonically ob- 
served, "Wall Street is paralyzed at the thought that a President of 
the United States would sink so low as to try to enforce the law." 
When the Exchange opened the next day, the listings dropped 


markedly across the board. "Not since the assassination of President 
McKinley has the stock market had such a sudden shock," the 
Tribune reported. 

What was behind Roosevelt's sensational action? Years later when 
Roosevelt wrote in his Autobiography that he had not "entered the 
Presidency with any deliberately planned and far reaching scheme 
of social betterment," he did himself a partial injustice. In actual fact, 
the whole body of his ethical beliefs was bound up in the question. 
The lineage of the presidential Square Deal traced directly to the 
antimonopoly and good-government platforms Roosevelt had ex- 
pounded when he first entered politics; and so, indeed, did the New 
Nationalism of 1912. 

Assuredly, the details differed. The problems Roosevelt now con- 
fronted were both similar to and more complex than those he had 
earlier faced. Urban slums were multiplying, and crime and corrup- 
tion were growing apace. The political machines, whether based on 
the frustrations of the repressed lower classes or grounded on the 
greed and fear of the high business order, were tightening their grasp 
on the body politic. Nature's heritage was being ruthlessly squandered 
out of apathy, ignorance, and avarice. And worse, even, than that, 
there was rising such a concentration of business power as made a 
mockery of the democratic process and threatened the very founda- 
tions of the American republic. The Northern Securities Company, 
by no means the hub of Morgan's empire, was but the most recent 
example of monopoly's arrant growth. So long as these freebooting 
activities continued, so long did the corrosive trends that accompanied 
them promise to flourish. 

In the face of these foreboding realities, Theodore Roosevelt stood 
in September, 1901, as the accidental head of a political party whose 
leadership was openly hostile toward moves for their reformation. The 
most powerful brake on the new President's action was the United 
States Senate. By the turn of the century that body had arrogated to 
itself much of the authority that Jefferson, Jackson, and Lincoln had 
vested in the executive office. Most of its members owed their seats 
to machine-dominated state legislatures, and the ablest among them 
were long in the habit of flaunting major elements of public opinion. 
Only such a unique concatenation of events as was to mark the 
Roosevelt era would force them to compromise; and no force or event 
would compel many of them to submit. 


The Republican leaders of the Senate were at once more ideologi- 
cal and more effective than their counterparts in New York. Many 
were men of personal wealth, the fruit of earlier careers in business 
or of continuing, and not wholly disinterested, investment. They were 
often leaders of their state machines. And they frequently radiated 
charm and graciousncss. With some exceptions, such as Matthew 
Quay of Pennsylvania, who narrowly escaped the penitentiary, their 
private morality was high. And even their public morality was estima- 
ble by prevailing standards. The powerful "Four," Nelson W. 
Aldrich of Rhode Island, John C. Spooner of Wisconsin, Orville H. 
Platt of Connecticut, and William B. Allison of Iowa were cut of 
fine, if purely conventional cloth; and so also were Mark Hanna and 
numbers of others. They were not to be compared with Quay or to 
Boise Penrose, the Pennsylvania aristocrat whose entire political 
career was virtually an unrelieved stench. 

Yet even the best of these men were unable to divorce themselves 
from their backgrounds. The modern concept of conflict of interest 
was foreign to their make-up, and they freely promoted their own busi- 
ness interests in the United States Senate. They were generally 
purblind to the most elementary considerations of social or economic 
justice. And they were supremely confident that the arrogant business 
society they so faithfully represented was an unexampled blessing to 
the American people. Intelligent, and in some instances even learned, 
they were undistinguished in either intellectual depth or consistency. 
They fixed upon those theories of John Stuart Mill and William 
Graham Sumner which subserved their purposes, and they con- 
temptuously dismissed those that confuted them. They supported 
government subsidies for business both overtly and covertly (through 
the protective tariff and in earlier years railroad grants); but they 
self-righteously invoked the doctrine of laissez faire against reformist 
efforts to regulate and tax either corporate or individual wealth. 
Calvin Coolidge's dictum that "the business of the United States is 
business" well stated the G.O.P.'s dominant philosophy in the 1920's; 
but it applied even more pertinently to the Republican oligarchy 
Theodore Roosevelt inherited from William McKinley in 1901. 
"These men still from force of habit applauded what Lincoln had 
done in the way of radical dealing with the abuses of his day; but 
they did not apply the spirit in which Lincoln worked to the abuses of 
their own day," Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography. 


So it was that party leaders gasped and outside observers chuckled 
when the President unloosed his bolt at J. Pierpont Morgan's 
Northern Securities Company five months after he took office. Sym- 
bolically, at least, Roosevelt had crashed headlong into the "system" 
that made business, through its ideological partners or political hire- 
lings in the House and the Senate, the de facto governing body of the 

From the start of his administration Roosevelt had seen the 
difficulties of his position. He also realized, and doubtless enjoyed, 
the irony of his sudden rise to eminence. But whether he at first com- 
prehended the power and latitude that lay dormant in his new office is 
debatable. Possibly he did, given his experience as Governor of New 
York. Yet he also knew that he would have to compromise in order 
to get legislation passed. Accordingly, he had at once entered into 
warm, seemingly deferential, relations with the men of power. 

In spite of the editorial assurances of Roosevelt's basic conserva- 
tism, McKinley's assassination in September had been a devastating 
blow to the high priests of the market place. Stock prices had declined 
when news of the shooting had first come through, and they had 
fallen again when the President died. The volcanic Morgan was 
variously reported to have been enraged and stupified, to have cursed 
wildly and to have muttered soulfully. And from the depths of a 
seemingly boundless despair, Charles M. Schwab of the United States 
Steel Corporation had even violated the unwritten code by predicting 
as McKinley lay on his deathbed that business would surely suffer if 
he failed to recover. 

Business leaders had been unwilling to let events run their own 
course, however. Their editorial spokesmen had yet to publish their 
wishful affirmations of Roosevelt's conservatism when they tried to 
exert personal pressure upon the new President through his brother- 
in-law, Douglas Robinson. He had been urged, Robinson wrote 
Roosevelt in a letter dispatched to Buffalo by special messenger, "to 
impress upon you the fact that you must ... be as close-mouthed 
and conservative as you were before your nomination for Governor'* 
and that you should "assure the country that you intend to carry out 
the administration policy." 

I must frankly tell you that there is a feeling in financial circles 
here that in case you become President you may change matters so 
as to upset the confidence ... of the business world, which would 


be an awful blow to everybody the West as well as the East as 
that means tight money. 

The advice had been superfluous. By the time he received Robin- 
son's entreaty, Roosevelt had already announced his intention of con- 
tinuing the McKinley policies in a statement that even Democratic 
and independent newspapers had heartily applauded. You have, wrote 
Lodge from England soon afterward, done "admirably, splendidly," 
and have not "made a single mistake." 

Nevertheless, there was an infectious change of pace in the White 
House. "Every day or two . . . [Roosevelt] rattles the dry bones of 
precedent and causes sedate Senators and heads of departments to 
look over their spectacles in consternation," the Detroit News ob- 
served. "Mr. Roosevelt talks to every one alike," a British embassy 
official reported to his government, "and apparently in President 
McKinley's time Senators were accustomed to have their views 
received with a certain deference." The President was receiving scores 
of people such as had rarely crossed the White House threshold in the 
past and would rarely do so in the future writers, reformers, sci- 
entists, professional social workers, and labor leaders. He was 
walking regularly to the little Grace Reformed Chapel on 15th and 
O Streets where he attended services almost every Sunday he was in 
Washington. And he was beginning, with results that would prove 
both salutary and unsalutary, to conduct diplomacy on horseback or 
while scrambling among the wilds of Rock Creek Park. Even crabbed 
Henry Adams admitted to mild exhilaration. "Theodore helps us by 
his gaiety, and delights Hay by his sense of fun," Adams wrote. 
" 'Cabot didn't mind having the newspapers say that he was head of 
the kitchen-cabinet,' said Theodore, 'but he was frantic with fury 
when they said he was learning to ride, so as to go out with me.' " 
In numerous other ways also, including the borrowing of books from 
the Library of Congress, Roosevelt was giving his administration a 
uniquely personal distinction. Mark Sullivan captured its essense in 
his Our Times: 

Roosevelt's first three months in the Presidency were interesting, 
even spectacular. . . . His high spirits, his enormous capacity for 
work, his tirelessness, his forthrightness, his many striking quali- 
ties, gave a lift of the spirits to millions of average men, stimulated 
them to higher use of their own powers, gave them a new zest for 


life. 'He brought in,' said Harry Thurston Peck, 'a stream of fresh, 
pure, bracing air from the mountains, to clear the fetid atmosphere 
of the national capital.' 

There was still no word, however, on the key question. Would 
Roosevelt continue McKinley's benevolent policy toward big business? 

The first insight into Roosevelt's state of mind came with the release 
of his first annual message on December 3, 1901. A verbose and 
lengthy report, that message was well designed to allay the fears of 
business while yet suggesting a program of moderately positive action. 
Paragraph balanced paragraph, and sentence balanced sentence as 
Roosevelt made countless mental reservations of the "on the one 
hand" and "on the other hand" variety. Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. 
Dooley well summed up its apparent spirit: 

"Th' trusts," says he, "are heejoous monsthers built up be th' 
heightened intherprise iv th' men that have done so much to 
advance progress in our beloved counthry," he says. "On wan hand 
I wud stamp thim undher fut; on th' other hand not so fast." 

What Mr. Dooley and other contemporary observers did not know 
was that the President had earlier rejected suggestions by the House 
of Morgan that he revise drastically his measured call for business 
reform. While the message was being drafted, Morgan had sent two 
associates, George W. Perkins and Robert Bacon, to Washington to 
persuade the President to stand pat. Roosevelt had received them 
courteously though they argued, he informed Douglas Robinson, "like 
attorneys for a bad case." They would not have done so, he con- 
tinued, were they not representatives "of a man so strong and 
dominant a character as Pierpont Morgan." The President added that 
they wanted him "to go back on my messages to the New York 
Legislature and on my letter of acceptance for the Vice-Presidency." 

I intend to be most conservative, but in the interests of the big 
corporations themselves and above all in the interest of the country 
I intend to pursue, cautiously but steadily, the course to which I 
have been publicly committed again and again, and which I am 
certain is the right course. 

The President had also had trouble with Mark Hanna. " 'Go 
slow,' " McKinley's former confidant had warned Roosevelt on Octo- 
ber 12. Soon afterward Hanna had taken exception to the President's 


criticism of overcapitalization in the draft of his message. Not even 
labor wanted corporation control "made a political issue," he ad- 
monished Roosevelt, whereupon the President had agreed to delete 
the questionable passage. In the message as sent to Congress, how- 
ever, Roosevelt stated that "one of the chief" of the "real and grave 
evils" threatening the nation was "overcapitalization." 

Granting the indecisive tone of that first message, the section on 
corporations was still a reasoned statement of the President's views. 
Roosevelt never had taken anything but a Darwinian view of big 
business growth; he therein reaffirmed it. The corporations' develop- 
ment "has not been due to the tariff nor to any other government 
action," he noted, "but to natural causes in the business world, 
operating in other countries as they operate in our own." Further- 
more, he continued, "concerns which have the largest means at their 
disposal and are managed by the ablest men are naturally those who 
take the lead in the strife for commercial supremacy among the 
nations of the world." Foreign markets are "essential," and it would 
"be unwise to cramp or to fetter the youthful strength of our nation." 

Roosevelt also realized, however, that there were abuses, many of 
them grave and ominous. These should be eradicated by federal 
regulation. "It is no limitation upon property rights or freedom of 
contract to require that when men receive from government the 
privilege of doing business under corporate form . . . they shall do so 
upon absolute truthful representations as to the value of the property 
in which the capital is to be invested," the President asserted. As a 
first remedial step he proposed a law providing for compulsory pub- 
licity on the theory that a specific program of regulation and taxation 
could not be rationally devised until after the facts were known. 

Conscious that his proposals for national regulation would affront 
the numerous and vociferous defenders of states' rights, the President 
attempted to outflank them with historical reasoning. "When the 
Constitution was adopted, at the end of the eighteenth century," he 
wrote in a passage that graphically revealed his evolutionary approach 
to constitutional law, "no human wisdom could foretell the sweeping 
changes, alike in industrial and political conditions, which were to 
take place at the beginning of the twentieth century": 

At that time it was accepted as a matter of course that the 
several States were the proper authorities to regulate, so far as was 
then necessary, the comparatively insignificant and strictly localized 


corporate bodies of the day. The conditions are now wholly dif- 
ferent and wholly different action is called for. I believe that a law 
can be framed which will enable the National Government to 
exercise control along the lines above indicated. ... If, however, 
the judgment of the Congress is that it lacks the constitutional 
power to pass such an act, then a constitutional amendment should 
be submitted to confer the power. 

The real portent of these recommendations was largely unrec- 
ognized, and the President's message had stirred scarcely a ripple of 
excitement on Wall Street and among conservatives in general. Here 
and there, it is true, an isolated outcry was heard. In conservative 
Connecticut the Hartford Courant unloosed the first of a stream of 
editorial criticisms of the new President, exclaiming that federal con- 
trol "is a few steps ahead of government ownership, and is in the 
same path." But on the whole the reaction was favorable. Many 
conservative newspapers heaved a great sigh of relief that the Presi- 
dent's recommendations had been relatively restrained; some, in- 
cluding the Wall Street Journal, endorsed them openly; and others, 
viewing them with a cynicism born of realism, suggested that Congress 
could readily ignore them. 

Why this mild reaction? One explanation is that big business and 
its defenders had feared the worst an explosive, single-minded as- 
sault on the iniquities of "the criminal rich" and the "malefactors of 
great wealth." Another is that they were confident that the President's 
proposals would be buried by Congress. William McKinley was no 
longer in the White House, but God was in his heaven and Aldrich, 
Hanna, Spooner, and those who thought like them were still in control 
of the United States Senate. Did they not stand unalterably for the 
status quo, or at least for change in only the slightest degree? 

If more assurance were needed, the conservative Cabinet that came 
down from McKinley must have given it. The member most directly 
involved, Attorney General Philander C. Knox, was able and public- 
spirited. But he was conservative in temperament and a corporation 
lawyer in background. He might be expected, also, to be dwarfed in 
influence by Elihu Root, whose imposing talents, forceful personality, 
and intimate friendship with Roosevelt lent credence to reports that 
his hand would extend far beyond the War Department where he was 
already performing with brilliance. Root's attitude toward corporation 
control was no secret; he largely opposed it. 


Had Pierpont Morgan, E. H. Harriman, and their minions been 
closer students of human nature, they might have been more appre- 
hensive. For Roosevelt had at his command the means for independent 
executive action. Eleven years earlier a Republican Congress had 
responded to the demands of social critics by enacting the Sherman 
Antitrust Law. Modern scholarship indicates that the measure had 
been passed in relatively good faith despite contemporaneous asser- 
tions that although no one knew what it would do to the trusts, almost 
everyone agreed that "something must be flung out to appease the 
restive masses." Nevertheless, a succession of presidential administra- 
tions had invoked it sparingly, when at all. Harrison instituted seven 
suits, Cleveland eight, and McKinley, under whom more trusts were 
formed than ever before, a total of three. Indeed, the most notable 
effective prosecution under the Sherman Law had been against the 
benighted labor leader, Eugene V. Debs; and this despite Congress' 
apparent conviction that labor unions were exempted from its pro- 
visions. Of at least comparable significance, so the historian Hans 
Thorelli suggests, is the fact that until 1902 not a single action against 
a business combine had been instituted on the initiative of the 
Department of Justice headquarters in Washington; excepting only 
the four labor cases growing out of the Pullman strike of 1894, every 
one of the suits under Harrison, Cleveland, and McKinley had been 
originated by zealous district attorneys in the field. Indubitably, the 
utilization of the Sherman Law as a broad instrument of national 
policy awaited the application of a bold and imaginative intelligence. 

Just five weeks after Theodore Roosevelt took the presidential oath 
the spawning of new trusts had come to a temporary climax as in- 
corporation papers for the Northern Securities Company were filed 
in Trenton, New Jersey, at the instance of J. Pierpont Morgan. 

"What a whale of a man!" was the way one of his contemporaries 
described the imperious Morgan. "There seemed to radiate something 
that forced the complex of inferiority . . . upon all around him, in 
spite of themselves," he continued. "The boldest man was likely to 
become timid under his piercing gaze. The most impudent or re- 
calcitrant were ground to humility as he chewed truculently at his 
huge black cigar." In the parlance of the "Street," wrote James Ford 
Rhodes, he was known as "Jupiter." The appellation "was properly 
bestowed," Rhodes added, "for his word was 1 command.' " 

This First Lord of American Finance was no more committed to 


the pure theory of capitalism, however, than the propagandists who 
fashioned its folklore. He too idealized the concept of an economy 
unfettered by governmental restraints. But on the critical abstrac- 
tion that of a genuinely open market he was from the beginning a 
radical deviant. Like Aldrich and the other senators whose views 
reflected or paralleled his own, Morgan did not believe in free com- 
petition. Always, he yearned for the stability and security of an 
economy ordered by gentlemen bankers and corporation managers; 
always, he feared the instability of the hard and creative clash of un- 
disciplined economic units. 

Firm in the conviction that competition was wasteful, destructive 
of confidence, and erratic in impact, Morgan had been striving since 
1885 to regularize the organization of the railroads in particular. By 
Roosevelt's accession he had already reorganized thousands of miles 
of Eastern lines with results that graphically bore out the injurious, 
no less than the beneficial, effects of finance-capitalist control. He 
had also acquired a major interest in James J. Hill's Northern Pacific 
and Great Northern lines. Striking out from there in partnership with 
Hill, he had masterfully extended his interests over the Burlington 
road into Chicago. 

The acquisition of the Burlington line by the Morgan-Hill interests 
had been a bitter blow to the intrepid E. H. Harriman, long-time 
antagonist of Hill and dominant figure in the Union Pacific Railroad. 
Harriman believed that the conjunction of the Burlington and the 
Northern Pacific threatened his own "empire" to the south; and he 
boldly demanded permission to buy a one-third interest in the 
Burlington. Morgan and Hill had peremptorily refused, whereupon 
Harriman started an all-out fight for control of Morgan and Hill's 
Northern Pacific road. For a few frenzied hours the battle of the 
railroad and financial titans caused Northern Pacific shares to soar 
to more than $1,000 a share; but finally Harriman failed of his 
objective by a narrow margin. He had provoked such a disturbance 
and made such heavy inroads in the Northern Pacific, however, that 
Morgan and Hill retreated. The order to combine rather than compete 
was given out, and the Northern Securities Company was organized to 
implement it. The new corporation brought together the stock of all 
three roads, the Northern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Burlington, 
under a board composed of the Morgan, Hill, and Harriman interests 
and the latter's bankers, Kuhn, Loeb & Company. One-third of the 


Northern Securities Company's stock was "water"; even more im- 
portant, shippers through the entire upper West had no recourse but 
to pay such charges as the new combine fixed. 

President Roosevelt had given no intimation of his feelings when 
the Northern Securities Company was formed in the fall of 1901; nor 
had he mentioned the company in his December message. Some time 
during the early winter of 1901-1902, however, perhaps when he 
learned that Minnesota had instituted proceedings against it, he de- 
cided to investigate. Only to Attorney General Knox, who was soon 
to be castigated as a "country lawyer" by irate Wall Street men, did 
Roosevelt give his confidence. 

Pierpont Morgan's concern encompassed more than the President's 
violation of the "gentlemen's code" when the suit against the Northern 
Securities Company was announced on February 19. He feared that 
the government's action presaged a broadside attack on his other 
interests, several of which were closer to his leonine heart than the 
Western railroads; and soon after the suit was instituted he sped to 
Washington to impress Roosevelt with the gravity of his action and, 
particularly, to ascertain his future intentions. 

"If we have done anything wrong," the lordly financier exclaimed 
to the President of the United States, "send your man [the Attorney 
General] to my man [one of Morgan's lawyers] and they can fix it 
up." Roosevelt, who seems to have been somewhat awed by Morgan's 
commanding presence (though not enough so to alter his policy), 
replied simply, "That can't be done." And Knox added that the 
administration wanted to stop such combinations rather than destroy 
them. Morgan then came to the main point. "Are you going to attack 
my other interests, the Steel Trust and the others?" he asked. "Cer- 
tainly not," the President responded, "unless we find out that in any 
case they have done something we regard as wrong." 

"That is a most illuminating illustration of the Wall Street point of 
view," Roosevelt remarked after Morgan left the White House. "Mr. 
Morgan could not help regarding me as a big rival operator, who 
either intended to ruin all his interests or else could be induced to 
come to an agreement to ruin none." 

Morgan was not alone in resenting the President's failure to reveal 
his confidence. Elihu Root felt that he too should have been in- 
formed, and he vented his irritation on Knox in the erroneous belief 
that he was responsible for the President's closemouthedness. Mark 


Hanna must also have been irritated, though he failed to show it. He 
had accompanied Morgan on one of his two visits to the White 
House, but had refused to urge Roosevelt to change his policy. "I 
warned Hill that McKinley might have to act against his company," 
the large-minded Ohioan said. "Mr. Roosevelt's done it." 

The reasons for Roosevelt's cloak-and-dagger attitude are unclear. 
His only recorded comment suggests that he feared the stock market 
would have been upset had word got out. It is more likely, however, 
that he simply decided that an independent assertion of executive 
power would best serve his interests. More effectively than any words 
he might write or utter, such action would demonstrate that he was 
President in fact as well as in name; that he had finally broken free 
of the McKinley nexus. It would also signify the weakening of that 
business-government partnership which Roosevelt was compelled by 
his own inner necessity to attack. And most important of all, for 
Roosevelt could suppress his moral compulsions temporarily, it would 
win the support of the middle classes while impressing Congress with 
the need to compromise its opposition to his legislation program or 
suffer the consequences in the executive arena. As Mowry concludes, 
"With the path to effective regulation blocked by a stubborn, con- 
servative Congress, the only way for Roosevelt to bring the arrogant 
capitalists to heel was through the judicious use of the anti-trust laws." 
Thus the President would have seriously weakened his position or, 
at the least, subjected himself to agonizing intellectual turmoil, had he 
consulted with Root, the Senate Four, or the Morgan group. 

For nearly two years after suit was instituted in the winter of 1902, 
the Northern Securities case wended its way through the lower courts. 
The feeling was strong that the Supreme Court would reaffirm its 
opinion in the Knight Case of 1 895 to wit, a mere stock transaction 
was not in itself an act of commerce and upon that reasoning the 
combine's able lawyers based the burden of their arguments. When 
the Northern Securities decision was finally rendered on March 14, 
1904, however, the government's action was upheld by a five to four 
majority. John Marshall Harlan, one of the strongest (and paradoxi- 
cal) minds to grace the High Tribunal in the late nineteenth century 
and the author of the dissenting opinion in 1895, this time spoke for 
the majority. 

For the Court to accept the contention that the act violated state 
sovereignty, Justice Harlan declared, would mean "nothing less than 


that Congress, in regulating interstate commerce, must act in sub- 
ordination to the will of the states when exerting their power to create 
corporations." And such a view, the tough-minded jurist concluded, 
could not "be entertained for a moment." Thus was laid another major 
section of the legal roadbed for a broad extension of federal regulatory 
powers during the next half century. 

President Roosevelt's pleasure in the Court's ruling was tempered 
by the fact that Oliver Wendell Holmes, the first and most eminent of 
his appointees to the Supreme Court, cast his vote with the minority. 
Harlan's was an interpretation of the law, said Holmes in his dissent- 
ing opinion, that would "disintegrate society so far as it could into 
individual atoms." The tremendous size of the railroad combination 
was but "an inevitable incident" in their development and was hardly 
a legitimate reason for ordering their dissolution. 

Roosevelt was exacerbated by Holmes's dissent, which he char- 
acteristically blamed on lack of courage. "I could carve out of a 
banana a judge with more backbone than that," he reportedly ex- 
claimed. Always thereafter Holmes and Roosevelt's relationship was 
subtly hedged in though they continued to see each other. "Holmes 
should have been an ideal man on the bench," Roosevelt unforgivingly 
complained to Lodge two years later. "As a matter of fact he has 
been a bitter disappointment." The great jurist carried his resentment 
beyond Roosevelt's grave. Refusing to read a laudatory biography of 
the late President in 1921, he mused about the incident: "[The 
affair] . . . broke up our incipient friendship. . . . [Roosevelt] 
looked on my dissent to the Northern Securities case as a political 
departure (or, 1 suspect, more truly, couldn't forgive anyone who 
stood in his way). We talked freely later but it was never the 
same. . . ." Holmes added a characterization not unlike the one he 
would make of Franklin D. Roosevelt a decade hence. "[Theodore] 
. . . was very likeable, a big figure, a rather ordinary intellect, with 
extraordinary gifts, a shrewd and I think pretty unscrupulous politi- 
cian. He played all his cards if not more. R.i.p." 

The incident was regrettable, for the President's conception of 
the law roughly paralleled the evolutionary interpretation Holmes had 
written into his epochal Common Law more than twenty years earlier. 
(Holmes never acknowledged the coincidence, preferring the formula- 
tion of one of Roosevelt's senatorial contemporaries: "What the boys 
like about Roosevelt is that he doesn't care a damn for the law/') 


Indeed, the President had offered Holmes the seat in 1902 partly in 
the belief that he would bring breadth and balance to the corporation- 
oriented High Tribunal Holmes's prolabor opinions in Massachu- 
setts had especially impressed him. And though, as Holmes com- 
plained, Roosevelt's irritation over the Northern Securities dissent 
was both personal and political, it was also ideological. Too percep- 
tive a student of history to accept the fiction that legal decisions are 
made in a social and political vacuum, Roosevelt had sought a jurist 
of stature whose philosophy was consonant with his own; who was, 
as he apparently told Holmes before he appointed him, a party man 
in the tradition of Marshall. "The ablest lawyers and greatest judges 
are men whose past has naturally brought them into close relationship 
with the wealthiest and most powerful clients," the President wrote 
shortly before he announced the appointment of Holmes, "and I am 
glad when I can find a judge who has been able to preserve his aloof- 
ness of mind so as to keep his broad humanity of feeling and his 
sympathy for the class from which he has not drawn his clients. I 
think it eminently desirable that our Supreme Court should show in 
unmistakable fashion their entire sympathy with all proper effort to 
secure the most favorable possible consideration for the men who 
most need that consideration. . . ." 

Even more ironic was the actual coincidence of Holmes's and 
Roosevelt's views on business combinations. The President perceived 
that monopoly was in some instances as advantageous as it was in- 
evitable; and his economic brief against the giant trusts, as dis- 
tinguished from his political brief, was that they were free to exploit 
the shippers or consumers. His much lampooned distinction between 
"good" and "bad" trusts was a partial manifestation of this; and his 
sustained interest in regulation, which contrasted sharply with his 
erratic interest in dissolving the trusts, was a clear manifestation of it. 
To the end he regarded the Sherman Law as a special, rather than a 
general, weapon. 

The administration's prosecution of the Northern Securities Com- 
pany, which was followed shortly by a successful suit against Swift & 
Company, heartened social critics everywhere, the more so because 
of Congress' hostility to comprehensive regulatory legislation. The 
Republican leaders in both the Senate and House had treated the 
President's moderate recommendations in December, 1901, with the 
indifference they habitually reserved for such "visionary" proposals; 


and during the summer of 1902 Roosevelt had taken the issue to the 
people, who gave warm approval to his fighting, yet balanced, 
speeches. When the new Congress convened in December, 1902, the 
President pressed for legislation with considerably more forcefulness 
than he had done the year before. 

"This country cannot afford to sit supine on the plea that under 
our peculiar system of government we are helpless in the presence of 
the new conditions," Roosevelt declared in his second annual mes- 
sage. "The power of the Congress to regulate interstate commerce is 
an absolute and unqualified grant, and without limitations other than 
those prescribed by the Constitution." Should the proposed laws 
transgress the authority granted to Congress, the Chief Executive 
asserted, "we should not shrink from amending the Constitution so as 
to secure beyond peradventure the power sought." 

These were forceful generalizations; however, Roosevelt finally 
accepted a modest program embracing inspection and publicity of 
corporate earnings. He would undoubtedly have welcomed more; and 
for a short period he supported a sweeping measure offered by 
Representative Charles E. Littlefield of Maine. But when Aldrich 
threatened to withdraw support of the administration and Senator 
Hoar of Massachusetts blunderingly appended an even more radical 
bill of Littlefield's to the pending measure to create a Department of 
Commerce and Labor, Roosevelt backed down. He had no alternative, 
given Aldrich's position. Nevertheless, the President characteristically 
deluded himself. It was, he wrote William Howard Taft, "far more 
satisfactory to work" with Aldrich, Hanna, Spooner and the rest 
"the most powerful factors in Congress" than with "the radical 
'reformers,' like Littlefield." 

Roosevelt's pique was understandable, for he had already artfully 
threatened to call a special session if Congress failed to give him a 
Bureau of Corporations within the Department of Commerce and 
Labor (he ingeniously told the press that John D. Rockefeller was 
secretly influencing Congress against the measure). He had also made 
arrangements by then to enact the Elkins anti-rebate measure and to 
pass a law increasing the Attorney General's power to expedite 
antitrust proceedings. 

Viewed as a whole, and including the epochal Supreme Court cases 
which Roosevelt initiated, the President's corporation program was a 
profoundly creative undertaking. The new Department of Commerce 


and Labor possessed obvious merits. The Bureau of Corporation's 
provisions for inspection and partial publicity of corporative activi- 
ties were a long stride forward. The Elkins Act's intended elimination 
of long-standing abuses by powerful shippers was a major, if still 
inadequate, reform. And the legislation strengthening the Attorney 
General's authority to expedite cases under the Sherman Law was 
by any criterion salutary. 

The trust problem was still far from resolved. Yet the way was 
prepared for an expansion of the executive power by Roosevelt and 
those of his successors who were sensitive to the increasingly complex 
demands of the twentieth-century industrial and financial order. At 
a time when the American people's government was perilously close 
to becoming a mere satellite of big business, Theodore Roosevelt, by 
a masterful assertion of both his moral and political authority, had 
reaffirmed the people's right to control their affairs through their 
elected representatives. 

Ironically, it was a devoted Democrat with little taste for the 
President's personality who most trenchantly stated this overriding 
fact. Recoiling from his own editor's constant "nagging" of Roose- 
velt, Joseph Pultizer in the spring and summer of 1907 privately 
enjoined them to stop. "Support him on the main line no hyper- 
criticism of his minor faults," the brilliant publisher advised the 
World's leading editorial writer, Frank Cobb: 

If Roosevelt had never done anything else, and if he had com- 
mitted a hundred times more mistakes, and if he were one hundred 
times more impulsive, changeable, unpresidential in dignity, loud 
and vociferating in manner and speech . . . if he had done noth- 
ing else except to start the great machinery of the government and 
the most powerful force and majesty of the law in the direction of 
prosecuting these great offenders, he would be entitled to the 
greatest credit for the greatest service to the nation. This one initia- 
tive impulse and persevering instinct must be held as offsetting a 
hundred wrong impulses of a minor character. The greatest breeder 
of discontent and socialism is lack of confidence in the justice of 
the law, popular belief that the law is one thing for the rich and 
another for the poor. 

Theodore Roosevelt, wrote the man whose newspaper had opposed 
his election as Governor in 1898, as Vice President in 1900, and as 
President in 1904, "has subjugated Wall Street." 



I could no more see misery and death come to the great masses 
of the people in our large cities and sit by idly, because under 
ordinary conditions a strike is not a subject of interference by 
the President, than I could sit by idly and see one man kill 
another without interference because there is no statutory duty 
imposed upon the President to interfere in such cases. 

Roosevelt to Mrs. W. S. Cowles 

"[The] turbulence and violence you dread is just as apt to come from 
an attitude of arrogance on the part of the owners of property and of 
unwillingness to recognize their duty to the public as from any im- 
proper encouragement of labor unions," the President warned Robert 
Bacon in the fall of 1902 as a summer-long coal strike threatened to 
set off an outbreak of mass strife in the great urban centers of the 
East. "Do you think you are fully alive to the gross blindness of the 
operators?" Roosevelt asked his old friend Bishop of the New York 
Evening Post. "Do you realize that they are putting a heavy burden 
on us who stand against socialism; against anarchic disorder?" 

What sophisticated Mark Hanna had averted in 1900 had come 
to pass in 1902. On May 12, 1902, virtually the entire anthracite in- 
dustry in the gloomy, cavernous regions of eastern Pennsylvania had 
been struck. Two years before, the operators had made a 10 per 
cent wage concession to the mine workers in response to Hanna's 
earnest entreaties. But that had been an election year, and almost no 
price had seemed too high for William Jennings Bryan's defeat. 

With the Great Commoner safely consigned to the Chautauqua 



circuit in 1902, the operators felt free to follow their normal pre- 
dispositions. When John Mitchell, the United Mine Workers' articu- 
late president, invited them to discuss a new wage scale in February, 
they rebuffed him on the contention that he did not really represent 
the mine workers. They resented their strategic retreat of 1900, and 
they resolved to make last-ditch resistance their new battle order. 

Two months after the operators thus manned the ramparts, the 
UMW appealed to the National Civic Federation, a recently organized 
group of labor, industrial, and political leaders under Mark Hanna's 
chairmanship. Hanna obligingly arranged for the UMW officers and 
the presidents of the major coal companies to meet with the leaders 
of the Civic Federation in New York City. 

The ensuing conference proved barren of results, the operators 
refusing both to recognize the miners' union and to treat their griev- 
ances on an industry-wide basis. The operators' attitude seemed 
reasonable. The right-of-the-employer concept was deeply ingrained 
in the public consciousness, and there were few in America aside from 
labor leaders and a coterie of intellectuals who perceived how 
anachronistic the rise of large-scale industry had made it. Clinging to 
the historic, agrarian-molded conception of individual liberty, the 
middle classes refused to regard mass unionism as the logical counter- 
weight to mass industrialism; and though they often conceded that 
workers should be free to join a union, they firmly believed that the 
employer should suffer no compulsion to recognize it. Not even in 
the darkest days of this bitter strike, therefore, was the miners' de- 
mand for recognition of their union given broad popular support. 

The fact was, however, that the average coal company's holdings 
were so varied and its financial resources so great six railroad cor- 
porations owned upward of 70 per cent of the anthracite mines that 
big unionism offered the only possibility of relief for the mine workers. 
That was the crux of the recognition issue, and the operators, who 
were far from novices in the field of labor relations, knew it. As 
Pulitzer's World argued editorially a few months later, "It is pre- 
posterous to put the coal trust in the position of a champion of free 
labor, or any sort of freedom except the freedom to mine coal or to 
stop mining as it pleases to raise prices arbitrarily at will to pay the 
wages it shall decide upon and exact any hours or conditions of work 
that it may decree without regard to the public, to its miners, or to 
the law." 


The mine workers' decision to strike on May 12 had not been 
hastily made. Mitchell had persuaded them to refrain from issuing an 
immediate strike call in April; and at the final meeting sponsored by 
the Civic Federation he offered to accept a 5 per cent wage increase 
though the rank and file were demanding twenty. But in the face of 
Mitchell's moderation, the operators remained intransigent. Even 
Mark Hanna, who had been burning the long-distance wires and 
cabling American business leaders in Europe in a desperate effort to 
effect a compromise, finally threw up his hands in disgust. "Well! 
they will not only strike," he angrily exploded, "but they will get ten 
per cent increase before they settle." 

The wage issue, at least, was more complex than later appeared. 
The anthracite industry was even then "sick," and the operators were 
probably correct in arguing that an increase in wages would neces- 
sitate a rise in prices. To prove their point, they actually offered to 
open their books to Mitchell, who countered by suggesting that they 
raise prices if necessary. Their reply was that they would then be 
subjected to inroads by bituminous coal dealers, already a source of 
stiff competition. "Anthracite mining is a business, and not a religious, 
sentimental, or academic proposition," George F. Baer, President of 
the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company and the indus- 
try's chief spokesman, remarked a week before the strike started. 
Later, Baer would take an even more theological view of manage- 
ment's right to direct the industry's affairs. 

Contrariwise, the operators failed to appreciate the psychology of 
the miners' drive for an ever higher standard of living the only 
tenable excuse for their beastlike sweat and toil. As Roosevelt re- 
flected a decade later, "The majority of the men ... if they wished 
to progress at all, were compelled to progress not by ceasing to be 
wage-earners, but by improving the conditions under which all the 
wage-earners in all the industries of the country lived and worked, as 
well, of course, as improving their own individual efficiency." In the 
face of a dramatic increase in the cost of living that almost wiped 
out the miners' wage increases of two years before, however, the 
operators persisted in holding out. 

The operators were not disposed to treat with the miners' other 
grievances. Hours were long and in some jobs extreme. Machinery for 
a fair evaluation of the individual miner's daily output was deficient, 
ton weight varying between 2,740 and 3,190 pounds, and the men 


often spent many hours underground without compensation because 
of a shortage of cars. They were also subjected to a paternalism that 
belied the American dream. Even worse was the destruction of life, 
limb, and health. As Irving Stone writes in his passionate biography 
of Clarence Darrow, "Six men out of a thousand were killed every 
year; hundreds were maimed by explosions and cave-ins; few escaped 
the ravages of asthma, bronchitis, chronic rheumatism, consumption, 
heart trouble. By the age of fifty the miners were worn out and broken, 
good for little but the human slag heap." 

When, against this background, the operators turned a deaf ear to 
Mitchell and Hanna's pleas for compromise "[The miners] don't 
suffer," exclaimed George Baer, "why, they can't even speak Eng- 
lish" the coal workers had little recourse but to strike. Less than 
three weeks after they went out on May 12, an undetermined but 
substantial number of engineers, firemen, and pumpmen joined them. 
It was the greatest work stoppage up to that time. 

In Washington that spring President Roosevelt followed the strike 
with increasing alarm. There was little violence in the coal fields at 
first; and at the outset the press generally sympathized with the miners. 
Until well into the summer, moreover, the stockpiles held up. Yet 
the strike was not two weeks old before the price of coal began to 
rise sharply. Meanwhile accounts of clashes between strikers and 
nonstrikers began to appear beside reports that the independent 
operators were prevented from coming to terms by the six great rail- 
roads which controlled the means of distributing the coal. Nor, ap- 
parently, were the operators disposed to tighten their own belts. 
"Official after official has had his salary increased," the United Mine 
Workers' Journal irately charged, and "President Truesdale, of the 
Lackawanna, got an increase of $10,000 per year." 

Of all the charges and countercharges, that which most interested 
the President was one that the anthracite industry was a powerful, 
closely knit trust. Late in May the Springfield Republican pointed out 
that to the dealer and consumer there was but one seller of coal and 
that they must meet his terms or go without. "It would be difficult 
to conceive of a monopoly more perfectly established or operated 
than this monopoly which holds complete possession of a great store 
of nature most necessary to the life of the day," the Republican con- 
tended. "There is but one way to deal with [it] . . . public control 
or ownership." 


Roosevelt's response was to direct Commissioner of Labor Carroll 
Wright to investigate the strike. But on the advice of the President's 
conservative intimates, he withheld publication of Wright's report. 
Nevertheless, Roosevelt became increasingly piqued at the operators 
as the summer wore on, and in August he seriously considered in- 
stituting antitrust proceedings against the coal companies. After 
Attorney General Knox advised him that suit would fail for want of 
evidence under the Sherman Law, however, he dropped the proposal. 
"There is literally nothing, so far as I have yet been able to find out, 
which the national government has any power to do in the matter," he 
wrote Lodge, who was fretting over the strike's probable impact on 
the congressional elections in November. "Nor can I imagine any 
remedial measure of immediate benefit that could be taken in Con- 
gress," Roosevelt continued. "That it would be a good thing to have 
national control, or at least supervision, over these big coal corpora- 
tions, I am sure; but that would simply have to come as an incident 
of the general movement to exercise control over such corporations." 

The President's reflections were to the point, given the conservative 
complexion of Congress. Yet the public temper was rising daily and 
would obviously continue to rise until the strike was settled. By 
early August pea coal had soared from $2.40 a ton to $6 in the New 
York area, while coal prices as a whole had increased 50 per cent 
or more. By October schools in New York and many New England 
towns would be forced to shut down for lack of fuel, while available 
stocks, which were almost everywhere low, would be commanding 
from $30 to $35 per ton. 

To compound the problem, conservative allies of the operators were 
mounting a rising attack on Mitchell and the miners. Late in the 
summer Abram S. Hewitt, Roosevelt's erstwhile mayoralty opponent, 
charged that mild-mannered John Mitchell was trying to make himself 
"the dictator of the coal business" and extolled the operators for 
fighting for "the right of every man to sell his labor in a free market." 
Although Hewitt's contention was forcefully denied by many moderate 
editorial voices, that broad prejudice against labor which had been 
theretofore tempered by the manifest arrogance of the operators was 
beginning to come through. And when reports of growing violence 
on-the-spot observers claimed they were exaggerated by metropolitan 
newspapers received new prominence in late September, many con- 
servatives accepted Hewitt's assertions as conclusive. The real issue, 


said the new president of Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson, was 
the union's drive "to win more power." 

Whether the nation as a whole would have also turned against the 
miners is an open question. The UMW's resolve to prevent nonunion 
men from returning to the pits, the violence that must inevitably have 
ensued, and the costly discomfort to the public from the shortage 
of coal all suggest that the middle classes would have eventually 
shifted their sympathies; the unrelieved arrogance of the operators, 
together with the popular resentment of business malpractices in gen- 
eral, suggest that support of the mine workers would have continued. 
It is virtually certain, however, that Roosevelt could have swung them 
either way had he elected to take a one-sided stand. 

The President's personal intervention came only after all pos- 
sibilities except federal seizure of the mines had been seemingly ex- 
hausted. During the summer effort after effort had failed to bring the 
operators to terms. Even Hanna proved powerless to move them. 
He succeeded in persuading the bituminous miners from going out 
in sympathy. "It is one of the proudest moments of my life that I can 
state . . . that the men stood by their word," Hanna told a Chau- 
tauqua audience after the bituminous convention voted against a 
sympathy strike on July 17. And he prevailed on J. Pierpont Morgan 
and John Mitchell to formulate a compromise plan to end the 
anthracite stoppage. But as he despairingly wrote Roosevelt on 
September 29, George Baer rejected it outright. 

Meanwhile Cabot Lodge importuned Roosevelt to act. "By the 
first week in November if the strike does not stop and coal begins 
to go down we shall have [a political] . . . overturn," he warned. 
"Is there any form of pressure we can put on the operators who are 
driving us to ruin? The unions are just as obstinate but the rising 
public wrath makes for them and they stand all the firmer." 

Roosevelt was too astute a politician to be insensitive to the 
politics of the situation. Yet he felt helpless to act. "1 am genuinely 
independent of the big monied men in all matters where I think the 
interests of the public are concerned," he replied to Lodge, "and 
probably I am the first President of recent times of whom this could 
be truthfully said. . . . But where I do not grant any favors to these 
big monied men which I do not think the country requires that they 
should have, it is out of the question for me to expect them to grant 


favors to me in return. ... I am," he concluded, "at my wits' end 
how to proceed." 

Nevertheless, the President continued to grope for a practical solu- 
tion. After conferring with Root, Knox, Quay, and Governor Murray 
Crane of Massachusetts, he decided to invite the operators to confer 
with him. He contemplated telling them that he would "advise action 
[presumably to Congress] along the lines I have explained in my 
speeches but of a much more radical type in reference to their busi- 
ness unless they wake up." The same day he made that decision, how- 
ever, Crane publicly called for him to meet with both the operators 
and miners. Roosevelt thereupon abandoned the idea of negotiating 
with the operators alone. On October 1 he requested the leaders of 
both groups to confer with him. There would have been no warrant 
in interfering in a strike of iron workers, he wrote his sister Bamie 
two weeks later, for iron was not a necessity. But, he continued, "I 
could . . . [not] see misery and death come to the great masses of 
the people in our large cities and sit by idly. . . ." 

The presidential summonses were duly honored, though not in good 
grace by the operators. A little before eleven in the morning of the 
appointed day, October 3, the leaders of the operators and the coal 
miners entered the Blair House to await the President. For a few 
minutes they stood in knots at opposite ends of a long, second-floor 
room talking self-consciously. Shortly the President, who had been 
painfully injured in an automobile accident three weeks before, was 
wheeled in. 

Roosevelt opened the meeting by disclaiming either the right or 
the duty to intervene. He presumed, instead, on the conferees' good 
will. "With all the earnestness there is in me," he solemnly declared, 
"I ask that there be an immediate resumption of operations in the 
coal mines in some such way as will, without a day's unnecessary 
delay, meet the crying needs of the people. I appeal to your 
patriotism, to the spirit that sinks personal consideration and makes 
individual sacrifices for the general good." 

John Mitchell then rose to speak. Never, wrote Mark Sullivan in 
his dramatic account of the conference, did the swarthy, ex-breaker 
boy appear to greater advantage. "His natural distinction of person 
and manner was accentuated by his affecting the sober garb and the 
'reversed' collar of the clergyman," and though the gathering was of 
the strongest men, "he stood out easily as the most intelligent force 


of all, save Roosevelt." Eschewing recrimination for many weeks 
the operators had been abusing Mitchell vilely he spoke simply and 
directly : 

I am much pleased, Mr. President, with what you say. We are 
willing that you shall name a tribunal which shall determine the 
issues that have resulted in the strike; and if the gentlemen 
representing the operators will accept the award or decision of such 
a tribunal, the miners will willingly accept it, even if it be against 
our claims. 

George Baer, the operators' spokesman, was outraged by Mitchell's 
measured remarks. Two and one-half months before the Reading 
President had invoked the divine right of plutocracy against sugges- 
tions that he agree to mediate the strike. "The rights and interests of 
the laboring man will be protected and cared for," he had then 
written, "not by the labor agitators, but by the Christian men to 
whom God in His infinite wisdom has given the control of the property 
interests of the country, and upon the successful Management of 
which so much depends." Though no longer blasphemous, he now 
stood just as firmly on business' right to conduct its own affairs. His 
flintlike eyes flashed fire at the President no less than at Mitchell as 
he referred to the "crimes inaugurated by the United Mine Workers, 
over whom John Mitchell, whom you invited to meet you, is chief," 
and admonished Roosevelt that "the duty of the hour is not to waste 
time negotiating with the fomenters of this anarchy." Baer added that 
there should be no governmental interference except through the 
Courts of Common Pleas in the mining districts (the established bul- 
warks of the status quo). 

Throughout the long day, broken only by an adjournment for lunch, 
the operators continued to castigate Mitchell, the mineworkers, and 
the President. Roosevelt, the chief of the White House telegraphers 
later said, would have been justified in heaving chairs at the operators. 
They dismissed the union members as anarchists and criminals; they 
asked the President if he was not suggesting they "deal with a set of 
outlaws"; and they openly accused him of making "a grandstand 
play." There was "only one man in that conference who behaved like 
a gentleman," Roosevelt was afterward quoted as exclaiming, "and 
that man was not I." 

Between expletives, the operators made three concrete proposals: 


(1) The government should send federal troops into the anthracite 
regions. (2) The United Mine Workers should be prosecuted under 
the terms of the Sherman Antitrust Law. And (3), the miners should 
be forced to return to work at once, their grievances to be adjudicated 
by the local courts. Mitchell, who comported himself with stoic 
dignity during the entire proceedings, rejected all three proposals, and, 
late in the afternoon, the conference terminated. 

That night Roosevelt was gripped by the depression that so often 
overcame him momentarily. "I have tried and failed," he wrote Mark 
Hanna. Mitchell's proposition was "entirely fair and reasonable," he 
continued. "I felt he did very well to keep his temper. Between times 
they insulted me for not preserving order." Nor did he know what 
his next move would be. "I feel most strongly that the attitude of the 
operators is one which accentuates the need of the Government having 
some power of supervision and regulation over such corporations. I 
would like to make a fairly radical experiment on the anthracite coal 
business to start with!" 

To Roosevelt's credit, he resisted the step that would have at once 
resolved his political and economic, if not his ideological, dilemma. He 
could have broken the strike with a stroke of his pen by calling out 
federal troops as the operators requested and President Cleveland had 
done during the Pullman strike of 1 894. Coal would then have been 
mined, prices would have dropped in time for the November elections, 
and he would have received the acclaim that is the man of action's 
desideratum. So acute was the public distress and so widespread the 
exaggerated reports of union violence, that he conceivably would have 
won overwhelming support from all but labor men had he pursued 
such a decisive course. Even newspapers which had been sympathetic 
to the United Mine Workers were demanding an end to conflict 
between strikers and nonstrikers. The union men "can not expect, and 
we believe do not ask, for public support of a strike that threatens to 
degenerate into a murderous plot," the Philadelphia North American 
remarked. "It is not a coal strike, but an insurrection," the New York 
Journal of Commerce contended. 

Notwithstanding the rising hysteria, the President maintained his 
balance. "Have you ever read Hay and Nicolay's Lincoln?" he wrote 
Robert Bacon. "Just as Lincoln got contradictory advice from the 
extremists of both sides at every phase of the struggle for unity and 
freedom, so I now have carefully to guard myself against the ex- 


tremists of both sides. The men who wish me to proceed under the 
Sherman antitrust law against the miners' union are if possible one 
shade more foolish than the others who wish me to proceed under the 
same law against the coal operators as such." And the same was 
true, he added, of those who wanted him to call out the troops "on 
the present state of facts and without further investigation." 

In the midst of this worst crisis of his first administration, Roose- 
velt stole a few fleeting hours for his life's most consuming passion; 
reading. "I owe you much!" he wrote Librarian of Congress Herbert 
Putnam, who had recently sent him a shipment of books. "I am now 
reveling in Maspero and occasionally make a deviation into Sergis' 
theories about the Mediterranean races." 

It has been such a delight to drop everything useful everything 
that referred to my duty . . . and to spend an afternoon in read- 
ing about the relations between Assyria and Egypt; which could 
not possibly do me any good and in which I reveled accordingly; 
while my wife, who prefers belles-lettres, has read Shakespeare, 
which she brought down, and Tennyson which Ethel brought 
down. I have been reading Thackeray, Dickens, and Scott myself 
recently, and felt as if I simply had to enjoy a few days of history. 

The President did not know it, but he had come almost to the 
crossroads. Shortly after the failure of the conference in the Blair 
House, he sent Carroll Wright to Mitchell with a proposal that the 
strikers return to work pending an investigation by a presidential com- 
mission, the findings of which he pledged himself to do all that he 
could to implement. But as Mitchell explained in turning it down, the 
miners had already gone halfway and had no reason to believe the 
operators would "do us justice in the future." 

At this juncture there occurred an event which served powerfully 
to make the operators more tractable. For some time the operators 
had claimed that great numbers of miners would go back to work if 
protected from reprisals by the more zealous union members. There 
was a grain of truth in their contention, for a small minority of miners 
did desire to end the strike. When, accordingly, Governor William A. 
Stone of Pennsylvania called out the entire state militia to maintain 
order, moderate observers sensed that the critical test had come. Let 
the operators now "put 100,000 men to work" under the protection 
of the militia, the New York Times asserted, or else "send for 


Mitchell and settle the strike on the best terms they can make." 

The operators' worst fears were soon realized, for the great majority 
of strikers continued to stay out. Baer and his imperious associates 
were almost trapped. Just one alternative, short of concessions to the 
miners, remained. The government might still be persuaded to break 
the strike with federal troops. It was a thin reed, but the New York 
Sun waved it as if it had been a battle standard. ''Pennsylvania is in 
a state of anarchy beyond the power of her entire Guard to control," 
the Sun proclaimed. The public demand for suppression of the 
Filipino guerillas had been fulfilled. "Why is not the same far-seeing 
patriotism and resolute loyalty to the flag and to the preservation of 
the rights it guarantees to its citizens now guiding those concerned 
with the coal strike, officially or otherwise?" 

While the editors of the Sun and other conservatives were blasting 
Roosevelt for his decision to bring the operators and strike leaders 
together, another conservative was endorsing the President's conduct. 
"I am especially disturbed and vexed by the tone and substance of 
the operators' deliverances," Grover Cleveland wrote Roosevelt. Could 
not the operators and miners be persuaded to make a truce until the 
country's most pressing needs were fulfilled? Cleveland's proposal 
was even more impractical than the one Roosevelt had pressed upon 
Mitchell after the failure of the conference; yet it assured the President 
of Cleveland's good will. 

Impressed by the failure of the strikers to return to work under the 
protection of the Pennsylvania troops, and emboldened by the moral 
support of the nation's most eminent living conservative, Roosevelt 
now evolved a plan as drastic as any he ever formulated. Unless con- 
ditions soon changed for the better, he would send federal troops into 
the anthracite fields to seize the mines and run them as a receivership. 

The President had not come lightly to this momentous decision. 
"You were no alarmist," he wrote Murray Crane shortly afterward, 
"and when you saw the coal famine impending, with untold misery 
as the result, with the certainty of riots which might develop into 
social war to follow, I did not feel like longer delaying." 

The position of the operators, that the public had no rights in 
the case, was not tenable for a moment, and what most astounded 
me therein was their . . . ignorance of the fact that their violence 
and unreason and their inability or refusal to consider the terrible 
nature of the catastrophe impending over the poor were all combin- 


ing to produce a most dangerous feeling in the country at large a 
feeling which might have effect in great social disturbance. . . . 
Even without such a crisis the first long-continued spell of bitter 
weather meant misery and violence in acute form in our big cities. 

Having made his decision, Roosevelt apparently called in Knox and 
Root. "I explained that I knew this action would form an evil precedent 
. . . and that they should both write letters of protest against it if 
they wished." Reportedly, Knox challenged the President's authority 
to act in the manner he proposed, but then submitted. ("Ah, Mr. 
President," Knox is supposed to have remarked when Roosevelt sought 
his advice on a subsequent occasion, "why have such a beautiful 
action marred by any taint of legality?") Root seems reluctantly to 
have acquiesced, partly, he later contended, because he was not sure 
the President would act. "Theodore was a bit of a bluffer occasion- 
ally," he recalled, "and at the same time he had nerve to go on to 
take a chance his statements would have the deciding effect and, if 
not, to go on and trust the country would back him up." 

Actually, Roosevelt's rationale was the broad construction principle 
he had always espoused. Representative James E. Watson recalled 
raising the issue at the time. " 'But,' I said to [the President] 
'. . . what about the Constitution of the United States? What about 
seizing private property for public purposes without due process of 
law?' I recall very vividly. He stopped suddenly, took hold of my 
shoulder and turned me about facing him and looked squarely into 
my eyes as he fairly shouted, The Constitution was made for the 
people and not the people for the Constitution.' " 

Like so many other "Roosevelt" stories, Watson's may have been 
apocryphal. Surely, however, its point was accurate. He could not, 
the President wrote Murray Crane at the time, act "on the Buchanan 
principle of striving to find some constitutional reason for inaction." 
He added in his A utobiography that it illustrated what "I have called 
the Jackson-Lincoln theory of the presidency!" 

that is, that occasionally great national crises arise which call for 
immediate and vigorous executive action, and that in such cases it 
is the duty of the President to act upon the theory that he is the 
steward of the people, and that the proper attitude for him to take 
is that he is bound to assume that he has the legal right to do what- 
ever the needs of the people demand, unless the Constitution or the 
laws explicitly forbid him to do it. 


To put through his bold and imaginative plan, the President sought 
out a general who "possessed the necessary good sense, judgment, and 
nerve to act." He found him in Major General J. M. Schofield, "a 
most respectable looking old boy, with side-whiskers and a black 
skull-cap, without any of the outward aspect of the conventional 
military dictator." Roosevelt told Schofield that if forced to move it 
would be only because the crisis was almost as serious as the Civil 
War. He added that the general was to obey only his orders (the 
Commander in Chiefs) and that if served with a writ he was to send 
it to the President as had been done under Lincoln. Roosevelt had 
then given his plan an aura of constitutionality by secretly arranging 
for Governor Stone of Pennsylvania to request federal troops on 
signal. He did not, however, take Stone into his confidence; nor did 
he really delude himself that he was acting on a literal interpretation 
of the Constitution.* (A half century later Roosevelt's "stewardship" 
theory was ringingly denounced in the federal courts when a govern- 
ment attorney invoked it in support of President Truman's seizure 
of the steel industry in 1952. "With all due deference and respect for 
that great President [Roosevelt] . . . ," declared Judge David A. 
Pine of the District of Columbia Federal Court, "I am obliged to say 
that his statements do not comport with our recognized theory of 
government, but with a theory with which our government of laws 
and not of men is constantly at war.") 

Meanwhile, in a move that subtly testified to the extraordinary 
power Pierpont Morgan wielded over American life, Root visited the 
financier in New York. Root had asked for and been granted permis- 
sion to act as a private citizen. Morgan had no especial sympathy for 
the miners or their grievances; but he was incensed at the operators 
for botching their affairs and was fearful that the strike would have 
serious social consequences. He must also have been agitated by 
Roosevelt's plan for a government receivership. Accordingly, when 
Root suggested that the President appoint an independent arbitration 
commission, Morgan heartily endorsed the idea. 

On Sunday, October 12, Morgan pressed Root's proposal on 
George Baer, who came up from Philadelphia. Then, two days later, 

* Article IV, Section 4 specifies that federal troops may be called out "on 
application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot 
be convened) against domestic violence." At the time Roosevelt contemplated 
action there was no evidence that the state militia was unable to control 


Morgan and Robert Bacon speeded to Washington to present the 
operators' tentative approval to the President. "It was a strange ex- 
perience for Morgan," Frederick Lewis Allen wrote in his friendly 
biography of the financier. "Only a few months before he had faced 
Roosevelt as a man accused of the offense of setting up machinery to 
bring peace among warring railroad companies; this time he faced him 
as an ally in setting up machinery to bring peace between railroad 
companies and organized labor." 

There now unfolded a high drama, or, as Roosevelt more fittingly 
dubbed it, "a ludicrous comedy." The agreement Morgan wrought 
from the operators provided that the arbitration commission should 
include "a man who by active participation in mining and selling coal 
is familiar with the physical and commercial features of the business," 
but it failed to allow for a labor representative. The mine workers 
resented the omission; and though they agreed to the general plan, 
they requested a fairer representation, specifically the addition of a 
union man and of a Roman Catholic cleric. The operators demurred; 
nor would they accept former President Cleveland, whom Roosevelt 
wanted to appoint in place of the army engineer called for in the 
agreement. An impasse again threatened. 

Root resolved it temporarily by telegraphing Morgan, who had re- 
turned to New York, to send down a member of his firm for consulta- 
tion. "That night Bob Bacon and Perkins came on from Morgan, both 
of them nearly wild," Roosevelt wrote a few days later. "The operators 
were balking. They refused positively to accept the two extra men, 
and Morgan said he could not get them to accept. It appeared," the 
President continued, "that the men who were back of them, who were 
in the narrow, bourgeois, commercial world, were still in a condition 
of wooden-headed obstinacy and stupidity." 

For two hours the President argued with Morgan's emissaries, who 
kept an open line to the financier and the uncompromising Baer in 
New York. The operators were anxious to settle they had undoubt- 
edly learned that drastic action was in the offing and they were will- 
ing to accept a Catholic prelate, even a liberal one. But they would 
not agree to the naming of a labor leader, for they continued to regard 
union recognition as the pre-eminent issue. 

Such, then, was the state of affairs when the President suddenly 
conceived a solution. He would appoint a union man to the sociolo- 
gist's post, but would call him a sociologist. "I at last grasped the 


fact," Roosevelt explained to Lodge, "that the mighty brains of these 
captains of industry had formulated the theory that they would rather 
have anarchy than tweedledum, but if I would use the word tweedle- 
dee they would hail it as meaning peace." 

With that brilliant stroke, the President cut the Gordian knot. The 
operators saved face, among themselves if no one else. The miners 
won a fair representation, Roosevelt naming E. E. Clark, Grand 
Chief of the Order of Railway Conductors, as the sociologist. And 
the President avoided an action that was clearly extraconstitutional 
and probably unconstitutional. The infant discipline of sociology was 
also given a new distinction. "Sociologist," wrote Roosevelt after 
Clark's name on the list handed the press, "means a man who has 
thought and studied deeply on social questions and has practically 
applied his knowledge." 

The miners returned to the pits almost at once, and five months 
later the arbitration commission submitted a report moderately favor- 
able to the workers. Wages were broadly increased by 10 per cent, 
and hours were generally reduced to nine, and in a few jobs to eight 
per day. Many of management's more flagrant abuses were corrected, 
though the old method of weighing coal continued. And the Anthra- 
cite Board of Conciliation was created to settle future differences. The 
operators won their point on nonrecognition, but only formally, for 
the representatives of the United Mine Workers were granted a seat 
on the new Board of Conciliation. The operators were also granted 
a 10 per cent increase in the price of coal. Peace had come to the 
anthracite fields. 

The passing of a half century has failed to diminish the historical 
significance of the President's achievement. It is probably true, as his 
detractors assert, that he was more animated by fear of social up- 
heaval than genuine sympathy for the mine workers' plight, that his 
plan to use federal troops reflected an authoritarian disregard of legal 
restraint, and that Lodge's hysterical pleas for action in the interest 
of everyday Republican politics probably hastened his decision to act. 
But it is also true, as the Springfield Republican declared at the time, 
that he had thwarted the operators' drive to crush the United Mine 

This is the great distinguishing fact of what is to be the memo- 
rable coal strike of 1902; for while the operators still nominally 


refuse to recognize the mine workers' union, that union nevertheless 
is a party to the President's plan of arbitration and is so recognized 
by him. What the operators said they never would concede has been 
conceded, and hence, and hence only, does the strike draw rapidly 
to an end. 

Perhaps labor could have got even more than it did. The im- 
passioned agitator, Mother Jones, thought that it could have; and she 
so informed John Mitchell. But Samuel Gompers believed otherwise; 
he congratulated Mitchell on the UMW's "splendid" achievement. 
Clarence Darrow, who served as counsel to the mine workers, was 
similarly pleased. 

The personal significance of the President's action was not that he 
ended the strike, though he prided himself that he had. Nor was it in 
the great service he incidentally rendered the American labor move- 
ment, though he also took satisfaction in that. It was, rather, that in 
both his contemplated use of federal troops and in his actual success 
in winning an arbitration agreement, he had by his own lights acted 
in fairness. The precedents were overwhelmingly for government 
intervention in management's interest. By refusing to follow them, 
by making the government, as Mowry phrases it, "a third force and 
partner in major labor disputes," Roosevelt gave meaning to what he 
was to call his "Square Deal." His comportment in the anthracite 
strike, coupled with his blows against the trusts, indelibly stamped 
him within a year of his accession as the first President of the modern 
era who was not indissolubly wedded to the business point of view. 



"When I left the presidency, I finished seven and a half years 
of administration, during which not one shot had been fired 
against a foreign foe. We were at absolute peace, and there was 
no nation in the world . . . whom we had wronged, or from 
whom we had anything to fear." 

Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography 

Of all the functions of executive leadership, none more fascinated 
Roosevelt nor more graphically revealed his versatility than the con- 
duct of foreign affairs. He was zestfully absorbed by the responsi- 
bilities that were thrust upon him and went out of his way to shoulder 
others that were not. He gloried in the unfolding opportunities for 
national expression afforded by a world in flux. And he viewed with 
impatience and at times forebodings his countrymen's slowness to face 
the realities of the world struggle for power. He acted with impetu- 
osity and restraint, with bluster and sensitivity, with belligerence and 
accommodation. And he acted always to promote the American 
national interest as he conceived it. Neither the idealistic peace move- 
ment of the Bryans and the Carnegies nor the gathering international- 
ism of the era diverted him from that course, though he often used 
the internationalist vocabulary and eventually supported arbitration 
agreements not affecting the nation's vital interests. 

During Theodore Roosevelt's presidency the United States estab- 
lished a proprietary interest in Latin America. It self-consciously inter- 
jected itself into European power politics. It took an assertive interest 
in the Pacific and parts of the Far East. It modernized its army and 



expanded its battle fleet. It helped negotiate peace between the Tsar- 
wearied Russians and the empire-minded Japanese. And it pursued 
a generally enlightened policy toward its newly acquired colonial 

Roosevelt was not the sole architect of these momentous policies 
and events. Some were inherited from the McKinley administration, 
some were conceived by the President's able subordinates, and many 
grew logically out of the stresses and strains of the changing world 
situation. Still others reflected the influence of Admiral Mahan, with 
whom Roosevelt continued to maintain his stimulating relationship. 
Yet the controlling hand was Roosevelt's. Concluding that there was 
no retreat from a world power position that the Spanish-American 
War had dramatized and accentuated but which the revolution in 
communications and the rise of America as an industrial power had 
forged, he stamped his imprint upon American foreign policy with a 
force exceeded by only a few wartime Presidents and equaled, prob- 
ably, by no peacetime President. So decisive was the personal equa- 
tion, in fact, that the unfolding drama of American foreign relations 
from 1902 through early 1909 is essentially the story of the vigorous 
interplay of Roosevelt's personality and the surging mainstream of 

Roosevelt had not been in office two weeks before he interjected 
himself into the administration of the colonial dependencies. His 
habit of noblesse oblige, his belief that the United States was obli- 
gated to impose a better order on the ruins of the one it had destroyed, 
and his conviction that despotism was the high road to disaster all 
impelled him to take an active and enlightened interest in the adminis- 
tration of the empire; and so in no small degree did his urge to spread 
American culture in the manner of the great nations of the past. As 
he had explained to Frederic Coudert while still Vice President: 

Rome expanded and passed away, but all western Europe, both 
Americas, Australia and large parts of Asia and Africa to this day 
continue the history of Rome. . . . Spain expanded and fell, but 
a whole continent to this day speaks Spanish and is covered with 
commonwealths of the Spanish tongue and culture. . . . Eng- 
land expanded and England will fall. But think of what she will 
leave behind her . . ." 

Accepting literally, therefore, Rudyard Kipling's charge to 


"Take up the White Man's burden- 
Send forth the best ye breed " 

Roosevelt announced in late September, 1901, that "absolutely no 
appointments in the insular possessions will be dictated or controlled 
by political considerations" lest the United States tread the path that 
had led to the decay of Spanish rule. And to that dictum he adhered 
with slight deviation during the next seven years. At almost the same 
time he urged, as he had been doing from the time of the great 
imperialism debate, that the United States make the Filipinos "fit for 
self-government after the fashion of the really free nations." To this 
estimable goal he also strove during the whole of his presidency, 
acting always, however, within the limits prescribed by his conception 
of America's vital interests. 

The administration of the insular empire under Roosevelt was 
neither without controversy nor frustration. One of the earliest and 
most revealing incidents involved the President's effort to work out a 
rational solution to a long quarrel between the Filipinos and the 
Spanish Dominicans who had acquired tremendous holdings of choice 
farmlands during the three centuries of Spanish rule. When the 
Filipino patriots had risen against Spain in 1896, two years before 
Dewey's victory in Manila Bay, the fiery Emilio Aguinaldo had con- 
fiscated the church lands by executive decree; and by the time the 
Americans encamped on the archipelago the Filipinos were working 
them as their own. 

Shortly before Roosevelt became President, William Howard Taft 
had proposed that the United States purchase title to the disputed 
lands and then restore them to the Filipino farmers. But the McKinley 
administration had shown little desire to press the issue. Late in 
February, 1902, however, after conferring with Taft, Root, and 
Archbishop Ireland, Roosevelt decided to send Taft to the Vatican 
to make the necessary arrangements. Three months later the gargan- 
tuan Taft was received with gracious circumspection by the venerable 
Leo XIII. The Vatican consented to sell the friar's lands, but the 
negotiations broke down when it refused to withdraw the obnoxious 
monastic orders as the Filipinos and the American hierarchy, which 
wanted to send over American priests, desired. Taft reopened the 
negotiations a year later. "The matter assumed all the aspects of a 
New England horse trade," Henry Pringle later wrote; and not until 
November, 1903, when the United States agreed to pay approxi- 


mately 50 per cent more than the appraised value of the lands and 
to abandon the demand that the Vatican withdraw the Spanish friars, 
was it finally settled. 

Superficially, the Vatican had won its case. But in reality the 
Roosevelt administration had won a memorable victory. The Spanish 
friars failed to regain their power only two hundred stayed on in the 
Islands while the former church lands became the basis of a native 
yeoman class. By 1912, fifty thousand Filipinos worked small farms 
which they had purchased on generous terms from the American 

Ironically, this enlightened diplomacy was bitterly criticized by 
some American Catholics who refused to credit the charges against 
the friars and bitterly resented the establishment of a secular school 
system on the islands. The President refused, however, to yield to 
their protests. Indeed, he heartily endorsed Taft's effort to create an 
educational system on the American model and he several times 
warned that it should be completely nonsectarian. "The teachers must 
not only be careful to abstain from taking sides for or against 
Catholicism or any other creed," he warned Taft in July, 1902, "but 
they must be careful to abstain from action which gives the impression 
that they are thus taking sides." 

To compound the religious problem, an articulate minority of 
American Catholics tried frenetically to enlist Roosevelt's support in 
crushing a group of Filipinos who had severed tics with Rome the 
Aglipayans. Roosevelt bitterly resented this high-handed proposal, 
and on June 22, 1904 he wrote Bishop Frederick Z. Rooker of Jaro 
in the Philippines one of the angriest letters he ever penned to a 
member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. He said in part: 

Now, my dear Bishop Rooker, to be frank with you, your letter 
makes it evident that what you in your heart desire is to take the 
place of the friars, and have American troops take the place of the 
Spanish troops in upholding a clerical and political despotism in 
the islands, without regard to the wishes of the islanders. You say 
that you wish the civil government to come to an end, the power 
to be taken out of the hands of the natives, and a military govern- 
ment established under some general like my good friend Wood, 
with instructions instantly and without regard to law to give you 
and your colleagues possession of all the churches and other prop- 
erty which the Aglipayans claim. In other words, you desire us to 


establish a military despotism in the interests of the Catholic 
Church. I think you must be singularly ignorant of the temper of 
the American people if you believe such a proposition feasible. 

Meanwhile, the President sought to endow the island dependencies, 
both in the Caribbean and the Pacific, with modest economic advan- 
tages. As John Blum writes, "he defied the sugar lobby, the Demo- 
crats, and a considerable fraction of Republicans to obtain for Cuba 
a tariff advantage essential for the economic stability of the government 
he had helped to establish there"; and he would have done likewise for 
the Philippines had the Republican Old Guard permitted him. But it 
would not. If the President had not known it before, he knew there- 
after that no consideration of rational economics, of the general wel- 
fare, and assuredly not of the "White Man's burden" could touch the 
Grand Old Party's most sacred of cows. 

Fortunately, other areas of executive action remained open. Both 
before and after Roosevelt's inauguration in 1905 the economic, 
political, and social uplifting of the new colonials advanced markedly. 
Railroads were built, sanitation facilities were introduced, and schools 
were constructed and staffed by the hundreds. Meanwhile Roosevelt 
cautiously, yet consistently, urged the colonial administrators to give 
the islanders greater participation in the conduct of their affairs. "I 
shall endeavor," he said more than once, "progressively to increase 
the share which the Filipinos themselves take in the government of 
the islands, letting the advance in this direction be rapid or slow 
precisely in accordance with the capacity which the Filipinos them- 
selves develop for self-restraint, moderation, and ability to combine 
the enjoyment of liberty with the enforcement of order." Failing 
finally to provide enough self-government to satisfy the anti-imperial- 
ists, and giving too much to please the unregenerate Old Guard, he 
yet managed to turn over to his successor a colonial empire that was 
the most progressively governed of any in the world. 

On one count only, aside from his failure to strike down the tariff 
barrier and otherwise build up the economy of the archipelago, did 
Roosevelt's administration of the Philippines fail. He steadfastly re- 
fused to make a categorical promise of independence. He feared, for 
one thing, that Japan or Germany would move in if the United States 
moved out; he believed, for another, that the Filipinos were not then 
capable of self-government. In a moving letter in June, 1902, to the 


high-minded anti-imperialist, Senator Hoar of Massachusetts, he 
emphasized the latter: 

I am encouraging in every way the growth of the conditions 
which now make for self-government in the Philippines and which, 
if the Filipino people can take advantage of them, will assuredly 
put them where some day we shall say that if they desire independ- 
ence they shall have it. But I cannot be certain when that day will 
be, and of course there is always the possibility that they may them- 
selves behave in such fashion as to put it off indefinitely. Now I 
do not want to make a promise which may not be kept. Above all 
things, I want for myself and for the nation that there shall be good 
faith. Senator Hoar, I honor you and revere you. I think you are 
animated by as lofty a spirit of patriotism and of devotion to and 
belief in mankind as any man I have ever met in public life. I hate 
to seem in your eyes to be falling short of my duty on a great 
question. I ask you to believe that after much painful thought, after 
much groping and some uncertainty as to where my duty lay, I am 
now doing it as light has been given me to see it. 

The President's attitude might have been more favorably reviewed 
before the bar of history had he always expressed himself on that 
high plane. But he had not. Critics have never forgotten that during 
the campaign of 1900 he had called Aguinaldo's beleagured patriots 
"Talgal bandits," "Chinese halfbrceds," and worse; that he had re- 
fused to concede the legitimacy (whatever the practicality) of the 
native independence movement; and that he had defended the Ameri- 
can troops' cruel repression of Aguinaldo. 

The organization and administration of the new possessions and 
the Cuban protectorate had been a collective enterprise. Besides 
Roosevelt and Taft, the late President McKinley, Elihu Root, Leonard 
Wood and three physicians Majors Walter Reed, William C. Gorgas, 
and Dr. Jesse W. Lazcar, had all made contributions which radically 
affected the character of the American empire. 

But it was Roosevelt who was responsible for the more strictly 
diplomatic accomplishments of his administrations. One of the earliest 
of these was the settlement of the long-standing Alaskan boundary 

Thirty-seven years before Secretary of State William H. Seward 
arranged the purchase of Alaska, the British and Russian govern- 


ments had ratified a treaty which loosely defined the line between 
British Columbia and the Alaskan Panhandle as running thirty miles 
inland from the head of tidewater. Following the discovery of gold 
in the Canadian Klondike in 1896, however, Canadians sought to 
have the boundary redefined so as to give them access to the gold 
fields. National passions had momentarily flared as Whitehall found 
itself caught between the Scylla of American enmity and the Charybdis 
of Canadian resentment against imperial rule. In October, 1899, how- 
ever, Secretary of State Hay arranged to give the Canadians tempo- 
rary control of the area they most desired. This modus vivendi was 
in force when Roosevelt became President. 

Roosevelt never had believed that the Canadian claim was valid. 
"If we suddenly claimed a part of Nova Scotia you would not arbi- 
trate," he wrote Sir Arthur Lee while he was still Vice-President . 
"This Canadian claim ... is entirely modern. Twenty years ago the 
Canadian maps showed the lines just as ours did." For several months 
after he took the presidential oath, however, Roosevelt was content 
to "let sleeping dogs lie." Not until March, 1902, when he learned 
that gold might be discovered in the disputed territory, did he act. 
Then, in a first display of "Big Stick" diplomacy, he brought the full 
force of his powerful personality to bear upon the British and 
Canadians. If gold is discovered, the President pointedly told a Lon- 
don Times correspondent in a White House interview, "I shall send 
up engineers to run our line as we assert it and I shall send troops to 
guard and hold it." A few weeks later, after discussing the matter 
with Lodge, he ordered Root to move "additional troops ... as 
quietly and unostentatiously as possible to Southern Alaska, so as to 
be able promptly to prevent any possible disturbance." Then, as 
Howard K. Beale points out, he and other Americans repeatedly 
"made it clear to the British Government that America would never 

In order, so he admitted, "to save his face," Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 
the Canadian Prime Minister, finally suggested the creation of an 
arbitration commission. Roosevelt was at first unsympathetic to 
Laurier's proposal, for he was absolutely convinced of the righteous- 
ness of the American case. Only after he realized that the presence 
of three Americans on the proposed six man commission portended 
no worse than a deadlock did he consent; and even then he took pains 


to let it out that he would instruct the American commissions "in no 
case to yield any of our claim." As he informed Hay, who was prob- 
ably the decisive factor in his decision to agree to a form of arbitra- 
tion, "The fact that they have set up an outrageous and indefensible 
claim and in consequence are likely to be in hot water with their 
constituents when they back down, does not seem to me to give us 
any excuse for paying them money or territory. To pay them anything 
where they are entitled to nothing would . . . come dangerously near 

During the summer and fall of 1902 negotiations continued, though 
the President diverted much of his energy to the settlement of the 
anthracite strike and the Panama Canal controversy with Colombia. 
Finally, in January, 1903, Hay and Sir Michael Herbert, the British 
Ambassador, signed a treaty providing for an arbitration tribunal of 
six "impartial jurists of repute" who would "consider judicially the 
question submitted to them." Three were to be selected by the Presi- 
dent of the United States; three by His Britannic Majesty. 

The treaty received a rough reception in the Senate, so firm was the 
conviction that Canada was completely in the wrong. At one point the 
President was forced to withdraw it temporarily in order to make its 
wording more palatable, and for a while it was doubtful that the 
Senate would ratify it under any circumstances. Finally, however, 
after two members of the Supreme Court refused to serve on the 
proposed commission, Roosevelt confided to Lodge that he would 
appoint Root, Senator George Turner of Washington, and Lodge 
himself if the Senate approved the treaty. Lodge thereupon whispered 
the President's intentions about the Senate chamber, and opposition 

The formal announcement of the President's appointments pro- 
voked a resoundingly hostile reaction. "All my illusions are gone," 
Sir Michael Herbert exclaimed. Roosevelt "is obstinate and unreason- 
able." Laurier was no less outraged; he even talked of breaking off 
further negotiations. Nor did the American press spare the President. 

"President Roosevelt ought not to appoint . . . [Lodge] to the 
place," the Springfield Republican declared. "[Lodge] has been play- 
ing for years to the gallery where the England-haters sit," the Hartford 
Courant added, "and to the determination of this boundary question 
he does not bring the judicial mind." (The Senator confirmed those 


judgments by delivering a violently anti-Canadian speech in Boston 
shortly after his appointment was announced. ) 

The President must have known that his nonjudicial appointments 
would evoke a thunderous protest. Neither in his correspondence nor 
in his Autobiography, however, does he offer an explanation. The 
most plausible theory, and the one Beale advances, is that Lodge 
convinced Roosevelt that his own and Turner's appointments were 
necessary to see the treaty through the Senate. Certainly the opposi- 
tion in that body had collapsed like an accordion when word that 
Roosevelt would appoint Lodge and Turner was passed about the 
Senate cloakroom. 

Roosevelt did not regard his selections as a breach of faith. Not- 
withstanding the judicial phraseology of the treaty, he had consistently 
made clear his determination to secure a decision favorable to the 
United States. Even after the commissioners had been selected, he 
continued to press the validity of the American case on the British 
Foreign Office. Lord Alverstone, the British appointee, was wined, 
dined, and politely badgered. And when Justice Holmes went to 
England for a vacation that summer, he carried with him a letter 
from the President revealing his intense belief in the righteousness of 
the American cause. For a time, also, Roosevelt considered termi- 
nating negotiations under Lodge's insistent urgings. Taking counsel 
from Hay and Ambassador Choate, however, he finally repudiated 
that unseemly suggestion. The Alaskan controversy is "altogether too 
important a matter to take a snap judgment or to forfeit a single 
chance of bringing it to a successful conclusion," Roosevelt cabled 
Lodge. "There is not at present one single act which would justify so 
much as considering the breaking off of the negotiations." 

Nevertheless, Roosevelt refused to relax his resolve to run the 
boundary line with American troops should a settlement fail. In this 
he was supported by Hay, Choate, and Root, all of whom were con- 
servative by temperament, and two of whom, Hay and Choate, were 
extraordinarily cordial toward the British. Indeed, this threat may 
have been responsible for Lord Alverstone's support of the burden of 
the United States' demands, for it served as mute testimony of the 
depth of American feelings. Thus, Beale concludes, "The plan to use 
troops resulted not just from the desire of an impetuous President to 
bully or to have his own way; it grew in part at least out of a calm 
decision of cautious advisers, who feared growing frontier tension 


created by a lawless population might blow up into a dangerous 
international incident if uncontrolled." 

The Alaskan boundary dispute was neither the first nor the last time 
Roosevelt "spoke softly" and waved a "big stick" behind the scenes 
to impress upon the world powers the righteousness, or dominance, 
of American claims. During the whiter of 1902-03 he had pressed 
Kaiser Wilhelm IFs Imperial Germany hard; and in 1904 he waved 
his "stick" clear around as he openly informed all Europe that the 
United States was assuming the time-worn custom of policing the 
financial affairs of the more impecunious Latin American nations. 

The origins of the Venezuelan crisis and the Roosevelt Corollary 
to the Monroe Doctrine were deep-rooted and tangled. Both grew 
out of the perennial instability of Latin American governments. Both 
revealed Roosevelt's growing concern for the United States' strategic 
interests in the Caribbean. And both reflected America's new power 
position vis-a-vis Europe. Of the two, the Venezuelan affair was the 
more immediately serious; the announcement of the Roosevelt Corol- 
lary the more far-reaching. Out of the one grew the other. 

The Venezuelan crisis had come to a head in early December, 
1902, when Germany and Great Britain, despairing of diplomatic 
efforts to collect debts due their nationals, attempted to coerce the 
Venezuelan government by blockading that nation's coastline and 
seizing or sinking such gunboats as comprised its navy. The American 
government had first learned of German intentions to move against 
Venezuela in December, 1901. Hay seemingly acquiesced in the Ger- 
man design, warning only that the United States would tolerate no 
territorial aggrandizement; but the administration was in fact gravely 
alarmed. On December 17 Roosevelt ordered Culebra, off Puerto 
Rico, to be transferred to the Navy Department in order that a base 
might be established "in case of sudden war." Further precautionary 
measures followed. Arrangements were made to mobilize the fleet in 
the Caribbean at the end of the year, and in the early summer the 
General Board of the Navy ordered "a careful reconnaissance of the 
terrain most likely to be occupied by German forces as well as a 
detailed examination of all localities where landing operations might 
be affected." These moves were climaxed by the appointment of 
Admiral Dewey to the command of the Caribbean fleet, an unprece- 
dented assignment for a four-star admiral. 


On December 8, 1902, the day the hero of Manila Bay raised his 
flag on the gunboat Mayflower, Germany and Great Britain severed 
relations with Venezuela. Within a fortnight they seized several 
Venezuelan naval vessels, bombarded two forts at Puerto Cabello, 
and established a formal blockade of the Venezuelan coast. Roosevelt 
responded by confirming existing orders to move the battle fleet to 
Trinidad, five hundred miles closer to Venezuela, and by apparently 
talking pointedly to the German ambassador. 

Results were soon forthcoming. The day the order to move the 
fleet was announced, the German charge d'affaires hustled over to 
the State Department where Hay raised the specter of a congressional 
resolution calling on the President to act to uphold the Monroe 
Doctrine. Meanwhile, Ambassador Theodor von Holleben sent two 
urgent warnings to Berlin. By then, it appears, the self-centered 
Wilhelm II had begun to realize that he could not capitalize indefi- 
nitely on the good will created by his younger brother's recent visit 
to the United States, and on December 10 Speck von Sternburg, an 
old friend of the President's, who had talked with Roosevelt earlier 
that fall, was called to Berlin to give his impressions to high German 
officials. He stunned them, if the account he wrote Roosevelt is 
correct. "Nothing could have pleased me more," he confided to the 
President, "because it gave me a chance to tell them the truth. I've 
told them every bit of it and I have used rather plain talk. . . . 
Fear I've knocked them down rather roughly, but should consider 
myself a cowardly weakling if I had let things stand as they were." 
Against this background Germany agreed to arbitration; it also de- 
cided to replace Ambassador von Holleben with von Sternburg, a 
change Roosevelt had long urged. 

The Venezuelan affair was a watershed in the President's thinking 
on the Monroe Doctrine. At the start of the crisis he had believed 
that European intervention in Latin American affairs was tolerable 
if it did not lead to territorial aggrandizement. By its end, however, 
he had begun to see the potentialities of such a policy; and less than 
a month afterward he had taken the first tentative step toward formu- 
lation of the "Roosevelt Corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine. The 
catalytic agent was a talk with von Sternburg in mid-March. Thus 
Roosevelt wrote Hay in confidence: "Speck was in today, evidently 
inspired from Berlin, to propose for our consideration in the future 
the advisability of having the great Powers collectively stand back of 


some syndicate which should take possession of the finances of 

The German proposal had an abstract appeal, for there was no 
assurance that the Venezuelan dictator, Castro, who clung to his 
shaken authority, had reformed permanently. Nor was there any 
guarantee that similar crises would not occur in any of a dozen or 
more Latin American nations. Yet the plan implied compromise of 
the substance, if not the form, of the Monroe Doctrine; and Roosevelt 
was quick to sense it. His "first blush" judgment, he told the new 
German Ambassador, was that it "would pave the way for reducing 
Venezuela to a condition like that of Europe, and that the American 
people interpreted the Monroe Doctrine as meaning of course that 
no European power should gain control of any American republic." 
The whole debt-collection process, he realistically observed to Hay, 
could prove a "subterfuge" for exercising control. 

It was conditions in debt-ridden and revolution-wracked Santo 
Domingo that finally impelled Roosevelt to decisive action. The affairs 
of that island republic differed from those of a number of other Latin 
American nations only in their particulars; and in July, 1903, four 
months after the Venezuelan crisis had ended, the German, Italian, 
and Spanish governments had forced the Dominican authorities to 
sign protocols for the payment of monthly installments on the debts 
owed their nationals. Thereafter matters had moved from bad to 
worse. Finally, in January, 1904, the harried Dominican Minister of 
Foreign Affairs made a special trip to Washington to prevail upon the 
American government, in Roosevelt's words, "to establish some kind 
of protectorate over the islands, and take charge of their finances." 

The President would have preferred to avoid involvement com- 
pletely he had, he said at the time, "about the same desire to annex 
it as a gorged boa constrictor might have to swallow a porcupine 
wrong-end-to" but he agreed to send down an informal mission. 
Then, on February 1, insurrectionists fired on an American cruiser, 
the Yankee, and a few days later new disturbances occurred. Ameri- 
can plantation owners and investors now implored the government to 
act, and on February 5 Roosevelt cabled Rear Admiral Wise to take 
"immediate steps for protection of United States citizens and prop- 
erty." Two weeks later he directed Admiral Dewey to go to Santo 
Domingo and give him "a full, impartial searching account of the 
situation as it now presents itself to your eyes." He was still reluctant* 


however, to undertake a major intervention. "I hope it will be a good 
while before I have to go further," he wrote Ted, who was then an 
undergraduate at Harvard. "But sooner or later it seems to me in- 
evitable that the United States should assume an attitude of protection 
and regulation in regard to all these little states in the neighborhood 
of the Caribbean." 

Fearful of another ugly crisis like that over Venezuela and pre- 
disposed in any event to resolve the larger problem, Roosevelt took 
a decisive step: On May 20, in a letter to Root which the latter read 
at a Cuban anniversary dinner in New York, the President set forth 
the principles of what became known as the Roosevelt Corollary to 
the Monroe Doctrine. "If a nation shows that it knows how to act 
with decency in industrial and political matters, if it keeps order and 
pays its obligations, then it need fear no interference from the United 
States," he wrote in part. "Brutal wrongdoing, or an impotence which 
results in a general loosening of the ties of civilizing society, may 
finally require intervention by some civilized nation; and in the West- 
ern Hemisphere the United States cannot ignore this duty." 

A violent, and mixed, reaction ensued; and though Roosevelt pro- 
fessed to be "amused at the yell," he was actually irritated at his 
critics' refusal to face reality. It was "the simplest common sense, 
and only the fool or the coward can treat it as aught else," he angrily 
charged. "If we are willing to let Germany or England act as the 
policemen of the Caribbean, then we can afford not to interfere when 
gross wrong-doing occurs. But if we intend to say 'Hands off' to the 
powers of Europe, sooner or later we must keep order ourselves." 

Roosevelt never backed down from that position. Emphasizing in 
his annual message six months later that the United States entertained 
neither "land hunger" nor other ulterior ambitions toward the "other 
nations of the western hemisphere save such as are for their welfare," 
he underlined his profound reluctance at having to undertake the 
policeman's role. "We have plenty of sins of our own to war against," 
the President observed, "and under ordinary circumstances we can 
do more for the general uplifting of humanity by striving with heart 
and soul to put a stop to civic corruption, to brutal lawlessness, and 
violent race prejudices here at home than by passing resolutions about 
wrong-doing elsewhere." 

The ink was barely dry on Roosevelt's "Corollary" message to 
Congress before he found it necessary to act under its terms. During 


the summer and autumn of 1904 conditions in Santo Domingo had 
steadily deteriorated. The national debt had soared to $32,000,000 
and was still rising. One of the main customs houses had been turned 
over to an agent of a New York corporation which claimed an unpaid 
debt of $4,500,000. The Italians, French, and Belgians were angrily 
protesting that Santo Domingo was violating the protocols of 1905. 
And the Morales administration was suffering attack from within. 
It was Venezuela all over again, or so it seemed; and Roosevelt and 
Hay were determined to prevent a repetition of the final chapter. On 
December 30, accordingly, the Secretary of State directed the Ameri- 
can minister to Santo Domingo to ascertain "discreetly but earnestly" 
whether President Morales "would be disposed to request the United 
States to take charge of the collection of duties." Morales proved 
amenable, and on February 7, 1905, a protocol providing for Ameri- 
can control of the republic's customs houses was finally arranged. 
One of the stormiest and most prolonged controversies of Roosevelt's 
presidential career followed. 

From the start, many senators had viewed the President's proceed- 
ings with grave misgivings. Led by Roosevelt's standing enemies, 
Senators John Morgan of Alabama and Augustus O. Bacon of 
Georgia, but including a handful of Republican anti-imperialists as 
well, they charged that the protocol would lead to an American pro- 
tectorate over the island republic and they accordingly refused to vote 
approval when the President submitted it for ratification on February 
15. While Roosevelt fumed "Bacon is a man of meticulous mind, 
a violent partisan, with no real public spirit" and conditions in Santo 
Domingo daily grew more precarious, the Senate sat tight. Both the 
regular and special sessions of Congress expired without the protocol 
coming to a vote on the floor, although the Foreign Relations Com- 
mittee finally reported it favorably. 

Whether the President would have allowed matters to drift until 
Congress met in December, had affairs not taken a turn for the worse, 
is conjectural. Possibly he would have. On March 14, however, an 
Italian cruiser appeared off the coast of Santo Domingo, while at 
almost the same time the French and Belgians renewed pressure for 
payment of their debts. The crisis Roosevelt had urgently sought to 
avert was thus upon him. Either the United States moved in, or the 
three European nations took action on their own. Even Senator 
Morgan recognized that something had to be done. And to the 


President's unmitigated disgust, the Alabama legislator proposed that 
the great powers be encouraged to act in concert the very action 
that Roosevelt's diplomacy, which was predicated on opposition to 
the spread of European influence in Latin America, was designed to 

The President held off for a few more days in the hope that the 
crisis would fail to jell. On March 28, however, the American minister 
cabled that the Dominican government was in "domestic peril," that 
a modus vivendi was "absolutely necessary," and that the European 
powers awaited an American decision to appoint a collector of 
customs. Roosevelt thereupon turned to individual senators for advice. 
He first called in the Republicans, Spooner, Foraker, Lodge, and 
Knox, to discuss the situation with him and Taft, who had replaced 
Root as Secretary of War. All "heartily" agreed that he should take 
over the Dominican customs as President Morales wanted, Minister 
Dawson recommended, and the European nations approved; and all 
submitted to Taft's genial chaffing for their surrender to "usurption 
of the executive." The President then consulted with the Democratic 
minority leader, Senator Arthur Pue Gorman of Maryland, an old foe. 
Gorman also agreed that the President should appoint a customs 
collector in spite of the Senate's earlier failure to ratify the protocol. 
Thus fortified by the support of the leaders of both parties, Roosevelt 
directed Acting Secretary of State Alvey A. Adee to make the neces- 
sary arrangements for the collectorship. 

An American was appointed general receiver and collector of Santo 
Domingo's customs in due course, and for some years thereafter the 
islanders enjoyed such a financial stability as they had never before 
experienced. Roads were built, schools established, and a revenue 
service created. The foreign debt was drastically scaled down, and 
the Dominican share of customs collections soared beyond all previous 
totals. Moreover, the threat of European intervention was dissipated. 
On the other hand, as Mowry points out, the seeds of the later 
"Dollar Diplomacy" were sown when it was proposed in 1906 that 
the European-held debt be taken over by a private American bank. 

The success of the experiment in Santo Domingo failed to cool the 
tempers of the anti-Roosevelt forces in the United States Senate. So 
sustained was their resentment of the President that when the protocol 
again came to a vote in 1906 it failed for a second time to win the 
necessary two-thirds majority. Not until February, 1907, was the 


arrangement formalized; and then it was Root's conciliatory influence 
that carried the day. The whole affair was unfortunate. The measured, 
reluctant, and extraconstitutional action of a responsible chief execu- 
tive, it gave superficial credence to the charges that he aspired to 
powers that were not lawfully his. It enlarged the partial truth that 
his diplomacy possessed the sensitivity of a blunderbuss. And it 
deepened Latin American hostility toward the powerful neighbor to 
the north. 

The Santo Dominican incident sharply points up both the strength 
and weakness of Roosevelt's Latin American diplomacy. The Presi- 
dent's intervention broke the crisis, gave relief to the Santo Domini- 
cans, and made the eighty-three-year-old Monroe Doctrine a viable 
instrument of national policy. By using the crisis to enunciate the 
general principle of American obligation to intervene in future crises 
the so-called "Roosevelt Corollary" however, Roosevelt incited 
resentment throughout Latin America and cost the United States the 
good will of European idealists. Furthermore, as Dexter Perkins and 
other scholars have pointed out, the public declaration was largely 
unnecessary. When President Monroe pronounced his memorable 
doctrine in 1823 the United States was a third-class power dependent 
upon moral suasion and the British Royal Navy; when President 
Roosevelt elaborated his corollary in 1904 the United States was a 
first-class power, one that had already brought Imperial Germany to 
bay by a display of strength and determination. Had the President 
stood on his own maxim "actions speak louder than words" and 
confined his intention to prevent further European intervention to 
diplomats alone, he might have served his country's purposes more 
fully. But by speaking out publicly, he converted a triumph of action 
into a near tragedy of words. 



By far the most important action I took in foreign affairs 
. . . related to the Panama Canal. Here again there was much 
accusation about my having acted in an "unconstitutional" 
manner . . . and at different stages of the affair believers in a 
do-nothing policy denounced me as having "usurped authority" 
which meant, that when nobody else could or would exercise 
efficient authority, I exercised it. 

Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography 

From that September day in 1513 when Vasco Nunez de Balboa first 
gazed upon the placid blue waters that led to the fabled East, men of 
imagination had dreamed of linking the Atlantic and the Pacific 
Oceans with a canal across the Central American isthmus. For four 
centuries, however, their vision had been thwarted by the formidable 
engineering obstacles that weighed upon it. Not even the genius of 
Ferdinand De Lesseps had been able to give it substance; and only 
after Theodore Roosevelt marshaled the political, financial, and scien- 
tific resources of the United States behind it in a sustained assertion 
of power was it finally realized. 

A hah century before Roosevelt became President the United 
States and Great Britain had agreed through the Clayton-Bulwer 
Treaty of 1850 to facilitate construction of an unfortified canal open 
to the commerce of all nations in times of war as well as of peace. 
As the United States grew mighty in the aftermath of the Civil War, 
however, the treaty was persistently denounced by American national- 
ists; and when the battleship Oregon was forced to steam around 



South America to reinforce the fleet off Cuba in 1898, demands for 
repudiation of the treaty and for construction of an American-owned 
and fortified canal reached a crescendo. The result was the drawing 
up of a new treaty early in 1900 the First Hay-Pauncefote Treaty. 
Under its terms the United States was authorized to construct and 
administer the proposed canal, but not to fortify it or close it in time 
of war. This arrangement was poorly calculated to appease a body 
politic already pressing for unilateral action. And though it was re- 
ceived with moderate favor in conservative circles, it met a thunderous 
opposition by the jingo press, partisan Democrats, Irish-Americans 
and German-Americans, and professional twisters of the British lion's 
tail. It also incited the measured and articulate opposition of Theo- 
dore Roosevelt, who was then governor of New York. 

Roosevelt was hesitant to offend his old friend, Secretary of State 
John Hay. At the urging of friends in New York, however, he 
reluctantly came out against the treaty in February, 1900. "I most 
earnestly hope that the pending treaty . . . will not be satisfied unless 
amended so as to provide that the canal, when built, shall be wholly 
under the control of the United States, alike in peace and war," he 
declared in a public statement. "This seems to me vital, from the 
standpoint of our seapower, no less than from the standpoint of the 
Monroe Doctrine." 

Hay was hurt and irritated by Roosevelt's statement, for he be- 
lieved that defeat of the treaty would prove a heavy blow to the 
Anglo-American entente he was then cultivating. "Cannot you leave 
a few things to the President and the Senate who are charged with 
them by the Constitution?" he angrily wrote the Governor. "Do you 
really think the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty preferable to the one now 
before the Senate? There is no third issue, except dishonor." 

Roosevelt's reply had been tender yet firm. "I hesitated long before 
I said anything about the treaty through sheer dread of two moments 
that in which I should receive your note, and that in which I should 
receive Cabot's," he wrote. "You have been the greatest Secretary of 
State I have seen in my time, but at this moment I can not, try as I 
may, see that you are right." He then argued that a canal constructed 
under the treaty terms would be a military liability on the grounds 
that the fleet would be tied up in its defense. He also contended that 
it would vitiate the Monroe Doctrine: 


If we invite foreign powers to a joint ownership, a joint guar- 
antee, of what so vitally concerns us but a little way from our 
borders, how can we possibly object to similar joint action say in 
Southern Brazil, or Argentina, where our interests are so much less 
evident? If Germany has the same right we have in the canal across 
Central America, why not in the partition of any part of Southern 
America? To my mind, we should consistently refuse to all Euro- 
pean powers the right to control, in any shape, any territory in the 
Western Hemisphere which they do not already hold. 

Meanwhile Lodge, who was then emerging as the most powerful 
member of the Foreign Relations Committee, supported amendments 
which reserved the right of fortification to the United States and 
excised an article inviting interested powers to concur in the treaty. 
As thus altered the First Hay-Pauncefote Treaty was approved by the 
Senate on December 20, 1900. "Now the onus is on England," the 
Massachusetts Senator triumphantly wrote in his personal journal. 
"If she accepts well. If she, out of infinite stupidity, refuses, then we 
can honorably go on, & abrogate the treaty and build the canal." The 
way was now opened for Theodore Roosevelt to fulfill the dream of 
four centuries. For although Great Britain rejected the amended 
treaty, she eventually ratified a second treaty virtually incorporating 
the Senate amendments. 

Except for his public statement in February, Roosevelt had taken 
no part in the proceedings. When he became President in September, 
1901, however, the Second Hay-Pauncefote Treaty had not yet been 
laid before the Senate. He accordingly urged its ratification in his first 
annual message on December 3, and thirteen days later the Senate 
so acted. The United States had only to choose a route and start con- 
struction, or so it appeared. 

Before a route was selected and work on the canal begun, however, 
the Roosevelt administration became involved in such a stage play of 
high and low comedy as the American people had seldom before 
witnessed. When the curtain crashed down at the end the pockets of 
a mesalliance of American, Colombian, and French adventurers were 
filled to overflowing, Ferdinand De Lesseps's vivid imagination and 
bold daring were vindicated, and the United States was endowed with 
a legacy of ill-will which the Good Neighbor policies of later Presi- 
dents to this day have failed to dissipate entirely. In addition, Roose- 
velt's desire for achievement was gratified, his engineering judgment 


affirmed, and the strategic interests of the United States well served. 

The bizarre events preceding the final curtain call have been many 
times related, often with a fine sense of drama, occasionally with an 
informed appreciation of their complexity, and almost always with an 
anti-Roosevelt bias. Biographical unity requires that they be retold 
once more. 

When Ferdinand De Lesseps's grandiose project collapsed in 1889 
with a boom that reverberated around the world, American interest 
in an isthmian canal shifted to Nicaragua where engineering diffi- 
culties seemed less imposing and the political climate more favorable. 
In 1899 a commission headed by Rear Admiral John G. Walker 
recommended in a preliminary report based largely on administrative 
considerations that the Nicaraguan route be used. This recommenda- 
tion had been well received in the Senate; but it failed to win support 
in the House, which demanded that a new commission be formed to 
explore all possible routes. Nor did the Walker Commission's pre- 
liminary report evoke favorable response in scientific circles. By the 
late 1890's a growing body of technical opinion favored resumption 
of work on De Lesseps's uncompleted project, partly on the grounds 
that the increasing size of ocean-going ships would soon make a 
Nicaraguan canal obsolete because of its dependence on narrow and 
shallow rivers. As the Philadelphia Times observed: 

The preference for the Nicaraguan route is determined by other 
than purely scientific considerations, and it leaves a doubt in the 
unprejudiced mind whether the commerce of the world might not 
be better served, after all, by encouraging the completion of the 
Panama canal than by undertaking a competitive canal by a less 
advantageous route. 

Over these measured objections, the Nicaraguan route might still 
have been selected had it not been for the sensational lobbying cam- 
paign waged by the De Lesseps company's receivers. Organized as 
the New Panama (Canal) Company, they conspired to influence a 
decision favorable to Panama and to unload their franchise on the 
American government for the princely sum of $109 million. To these 
ends an enterprising New York attorney, William N. Cromwell, was 
retained to press the company's case in high places. A $60,000 
contribution was made to the Republican campaign fund in 1900. 


And a comic-opera revolution was instigated in the long restive state 
of Panama. 

The manipulations of Cromwell and his unfriendly ally, a flam- 
boyantly imaginative Frenchman named Philippe Jean Bunau- 
Varilla, defy complete reconstruction. It is clear, however, that Crom- 
well was responsible in some part for the omission in the Republican 
platform of 1900 of a preferential statement for the Nicaraguan route; 
that he was responsible in large part for Mark Marina's decision to 
carry the fight for a Panamanian route to the floor of the Senate; 
and that he probably reinforced Roosevelt's interest in the Pana- 
manian route. It is similarly clear that the versatile Bunau-Varilla 
capitalized on every opportunity, the most notable a gift from nature, 
to win his case. Thus when Mt. Momotombo in Nicaragua spewed 
forth a molten stream of lava just as debate on Senator Spooner's 
bill for the Panama route was coming to a head in June, 1902, Bunau- 
Varilla hastily purchased ninety Nicaraguan stamps portraying the 
majestic mountain and a great cloud of smoke at its summit. These 
he had placed on each Senator's desk accompanied by an appropriate 
inscription: "An official witness of the volcanic activity of Nicaragua." 
Three days after that byplay, the Panama faction won a key test by 
a 42-to-34 vote. 

In consequence of these happenings, a wrong inference about the 
administration's decision to choose the Panama route has often been 
drawn. It is undeniable that Cromwell exerted a powerful influence 
on Hanna, Hay, and the President. Again and again they reflected 
his point of view, and in the end they accepted a settlement consonant 
with his recommendations. Yet there is not a scrap of evidence to 
indicate that they were animated by ulterior considerations, as Crom- 
well assuredly was. Even more in 1902 than in 1900, the overwhelm- 
ing burden of engineering opinion, including that of the Walker 
Commission, was for the Panama route; and as the editors of Roose- 
velt's Letters emphasize in a suggestive note, the President was fully 
informed of and in agreement with that opinion. 

If the President's decision to press the Panama route on Congress 
was measured and responsible, his negotiations with Colombia for 
permission to construct the canal through the isthmus is one of the 
ineradicable blots on his record. It is the measure of his arrogance 
toward smaller and less highly developed states, in fact, that in select- 
ing the Panama route he seems not even to have considered treating 


Colombia as a truly sovereign power. As he wrote Hay in the summer 
of 1902 when apprised that preliminary negotiations were proceeding 
unsatisfactorily, "I think they [the Colombians] would change their 
constitution if we offered enough." 

To be sure, there were extenuating circumstances. The most im- 
portant of these grew out of the unsettled state of affairs in Colombia, 
where the harassed and high-minded dictator, Jose Manuel Marro- 
quin, sat veritably on another volcano one compounded of greed, 
nationalism, and political intrigue. Unfortunately for Roosevelt and 
his country, it also erupted. 

Colombia had been on the threshold of revolution since 1899, and 
in the fall of 1902 fighting actually broke out. By November the 
Colombian minister to the United States had been discredited by his 
own government's minister of foreign affairs. Meanwhile Secretary of 
State Hay, who was to prove as impervious of Colombian sensibilities 
as he had been deferential to those of the British, wrung an agree- 
ment satisfactory to American interests from the new Colombian 
minister, one Dr. Tomas Herrdn. On January 22 that harried gentle- 
man and the overbearing American Secretary of State affixed their 
signatures to the Hay-Herran Treaty, and a little less than two months 
later the United States Senate ratified it by a vote of 73 to 5. 

Three days after Dr. Herran signed the treaty he had received a 
cable from Bogota instructing him to withhold his signature. The 
proposed arrangements were substantially unsatisfactory to the Co- 
lombian government, the Colombian senate, and the Colombian peo- 
ple. The treaty provided for the payment of $40 million to the New 
Panama Canal Company and but $10 million plus $250,000 a year 
to the Colombian government. It granted the United States perpetual 
control of a five-kilometers-wide zone across the isthmus. And it pro- 
vided for the establishment of a system of mixed courts that would 
further have compromised Colombia's sovereignty. So vehement was 
the reaction against these arrangements that Marroquin, whose dic- 
tatorship was neither as total nor as stable as Washington assumed, 
refused to identify himself with the treaty; he forwarded it to the 
Colombian senate without his signature or an affirmative recom- 

Roosevelt and Hay were infuriated by Colombia's reaction. Had 
not the Colombian government initiated talks in December, 1900, out 
of fear that the United States would choose the Nicaraguan route? 


Why should it now oppose terms which were absolutely necessary to 
American construction and operation of the canal? terms which 
Colombia's own accredited envoy had approved. 

The fault was partly Herran's. He had made no effort to withdraw 
his signature upon receipt of his belated instructions; nor had he in- 
formed Hay of their import. Furthermore, American intelligence was 
poor and misleading. The American minister to Colombia, Charles 
B. Hart, failed to report accurately the gathering opposition at Bogota. 
And neither he nor his successor, Arthur M. Beaupre, ever fully 
informed the administration of the importance high principled Colom- 
bians attached to the sovereignty features of the treaty. Dismissing 
such protests as "unimportant and largely hypocritical," Beaupre 
gave Hay and Roosevelt the impression that the Colombian govern- 
ment placed gold above honor, as in actual fact, many, though by no 
means all, Colombian officials did. 

There was no possibility that the United States would modify its 
demands for control over the projected canal zone, given the dictates 
of military security. Even President Marroquin recognized this. "I find 
myself in a horrible perplexity," he pathetically wrote one of his 
generals, ". . . in order that the North Americans may complete 
the work by virtue of a convention with the Government of Colombia, 
it is necessary to make concessions of territory, of sovereignty and of 
jurisdiction, which the Executive Power has not the power of yielding; 
and if we do not yield them ... we will lose more sovereignty than 
we should lose by making the concessions they seek." "History will 
say of me," the distraught dictator continued, "that I ruined the 
Isthmus and all Colombia, by not permitting the opening of the 
Panama Canal, or that I permitted it to be done, scandalously injuring 
the rights of my country." 

Other Colombian leaders also recognized their government's 
dilemma; and in a desperate effort to salvage something, they sought 
to place what amounted to a lien on the $40 million the United States 
was prepared to pay the New Panama Canal Company. Whether 
Colombia would have then ratified the treaty is a moot question; but 
there is no doubt that American acquiescence would have dispelled 
the shadowy charges of collusion to which Cromwell's backstage 
maneuvering later gave birth. 

Cromwell's main design was to protect the impending $40 million 
settlement. Arguing that it would be immoral for the United States 


to accept an amendment that would allow the Colombian government 
to expropriate any of the $40 million slated for the New Panama 
Canal Company, he persuaded Hay to send the American minister in 
Bogota a long memorandum that in effect committed the United States 
"to the complete support of the New Company's financial interests." 
This was a staggering diplomatic blunder. Nothing short of an ulti- 
matum to sign or submit to force could have had a more deleterious 
impact on the treaty's prospects; and if any single action constituted 
its death blow, it was that note, a copy of which was sent to the New 
Panama Canal Company's office in Paris. 

In reality, no single action was responsible. President Marroquin 
had long known that his political opposition was determined to pre- 
vent final disposition of the question while he was in office regardless 
of the terms. And Hay's blunders the note of April 28 was but one 
of several served more to accentuate than to cause the Colombian's 
determination to reject the Hay-Herran Treaty. 

When, therefore, the Colombian senate decisively rejected the Hay- 
Herran Treaty on August 12, 1903, Roosevelt vented his indignation. 
The "Dagos" had acted "exactly as if a road agent had tried to hold 
up a man," he privately wrote. "They are mad to get hold of the 
$40,000,000 of the Frenchmen." "I do not think that the Bogota lot 
of jack rabbits should be allowed permanently to bar one of the future 
highways of civilization." 

Unwisely influenced by Cromwell, misinformed by diplomatic dis- 
patches from Bogota, and victimized by Hay's obtuseness, Roosevelt's 
reaction was understandable, if not excusable. He backtracked just a 
little in his autobiographical account of the episode : 

I am well aware that the Colombian people have many fine 
traits; that there is among them a circle of high-bred men and 
women which would reflect honor on the social life of any country; 
and that there has been an intellectual and literary development 
within this small circle which partially atones for the stagnation and 
illiteracy of the mass of the people; and I also know that even the 
illiterate mass possesses many sterling qualities. But unfortunately 
in international matters every nation must be judged by the action 
of its government. The good people in Colombia apparently made 
no effort, certainly no successful effort, to cause the government to 
act with reasonable good faith toward the United States; and 
Colombia had to take the consequences. 


Meanwhile, Roosevelt pondered a course of action. The United 
States could seize Panama under the so-called right of "international 
domain," as a militant minority of newspapers were demanding. It 
could construct the canal under an attenuated interpretation of an 
1846 "right of transit" treaty as Professor John Bassett Moore, of 
Columbia University, was urging. It could support a revolution in 
Panama, which had revolted against Colombia (New Granada) many 
times in the past, and where discontent was again rife. Or it could 
return to the Nicaraguan route as many Southern Democrats were 
suggesting. In any case, the decision was Roosevelt's to make. 

By the time the President made his decision he had also emerged 
as his own Secretary of State. He never doubted that the canal would 
be constructed, and he doubted very little that it would be routed 
through Panama. As he wrote Hay at the time, "the great bulk of the 
best engineers are agreed that that route is best . . . [and] what we 
do now will be of consequence, not merely decades, but centuries 
hence, and we must be sure we are taking the right step before we 

The "right step" was a hard one to choose. Roosevelt's first inclina- 
tion was to act on the basis of Professor Moore's sophistic report. 
"If under the treaty of 1 846 we have a color of right to start in and 
build the canal," he wrote Hay after reading Moore's memorandum 
at Sagamore Hill, "my offhand judgment would favor such proceed- 
ing." By early autumn Roosevelt had prepared a rough draft of a 
message to Congress requesting authority to proceed independently 
of Colombia on the grounds that it was "out of the question to submit 
to extortion." The interests of the United States and of world com- 
merce demanded "that the canal should be begun with no needless 
delay," the proposed message stated. It added that the "testimony of 
the experts is very strong, not only that the Panama route is feasible, 
but that in the Nicaraguan route we may encounter some unpleasant 

In the meantime the President had rejected suggestions that the 
United States foment a revolt by the Panamanians, or that he make a 
militant public statement. TR unburdened himself on October 10 to 
Albert Shaw, always something of a jingoist, who was on the point of 
coming out editorially in his Review of Reviews for a revolution: 

I cast aside the proposition made at this time to foment the 
secession of Panama. Whatever other governments can do, the 


United States cannot go into securing by such underhand means, 
the secession. Privately, I freely say to you that I should be de- 
lighted if Panama were an independent State, or if it made itself so 
at this moment; but for me to say so publicly would amount to an 
instigation of a revolt, and therefore I cannot say it. 

Fortunately, the President neither had to "say it," nor to submit 
his proposed message to Congress. On November 5 a revolutionary 
junta declared Panama's independence of Colombia, and four days 
later the United States extended de facto recognition to the new 

Of all the events in the Panama story, the most extraordinary were 
those encompassing that revolution. They revealed Cromwell and 
Bunau-Varilla at the high tide of their resourcefulness and influence; 
they showed Roosevelt and Hay at their circumspect best; and they 
displayed the Colombian government at its confused and disorganized 
worst. They also saw the Panamanians fulfill aspirations a half cen- 
tury old. It was these very aspirations, in fact, that formed the spring- 
board for Cromwell and Bunau-Varilla's activities and which allowed 
Roosevelt to acquiesce silently, yet in reasonably good conscience, to 
what he could not advocate publicly. 

Panama had long lacked both the capital and political climate 
essential to material and cultural progress. Separated from Bogota 
by a near impenetrable tropical jungle and a lofty mountain range, 
she was fifteen days' traveling time from the capital city, where the 
ruling gentry regarded her alternately with disdainful indifference or 
avaricious curiosity. Neither by "community of interest nor racial 
sympathy" were the Panamanians drawn to their Colombian over- 
lords. They had repeatedly demonstrated by armed rebellion their 
dissatisfaction with absentee rule over the years; but always they had 
been beaten down, sometimes by American troops. Six times during 
the fifty-three years prior to the climactic revolution of 1903 Ameri- 
can sailors or marines had gone ashore to restore that order necessary 
to the open transit across the isthmus guaranteed by the Treaty of 
1846; and four times in 1861, 1862, 1885, and 1900 the impotent 
Colombian government had itself requested American military inter- 
vention. As Roosevelt contended in his Autobiography, Colombia's 
"connection with the Isthmus would have been sundered long before 
it was" had it not been for American intervention. 

Against such a background, those masters of intrigue and per- 


suasion, Cromwell and Bunau-Varilla, had little trouble in finding 
Panamanians whose revolutionary fervor burned more fiercely than 
ever when confronted with the prospect of an independent Republic 
of Panama endowed with the $10 million the United States had been 
prepared to pay Colombia. During the summer of 1903 Cromwell 
and Bunau-Varilla sustained the hopes of a small band of Panamanian 
conspirators and in the early autumn of 1903, when the conspirators 
were on the point of abandoning the project for want of funds and 
encouragement, Bunau-Varilla gave them both. The result was revolu- 

Roosevelt and Hay knew from reports of special observers and 
from conversations with Cromwell and Bunau-Varilla that a revolu- 
tion was in the making. The President could readily have suppressed 
it; but in accordance with his interpretation of American interest, he 
gave it silent approval, Hay advising him that the United States should 
act "to keep the transit clear" and warning that American interven- 
tion "should not be haphazard nor, this time should it be to the 
profit, as heretofore of Bogota." Hay also gave Bunau-Varilla the 
information he most needed by confiding to the flamboyant French- 
man on October 16 that American naval forces had been ordered "to 
sail towards the Pacific." Coming after an earlier interview with 
Roosevelt which Bunau-Varilla construed as favorable although the 
President failed to give explicit approval to his design, Bunau-Varilla 
hardly needed to know more. The stage was set for the final act. 

On November 2 the captains of United States warships already 
dispatched to isthmian waters were ordered to "maintain free and 
uninterrupted transit" and to "prevent landing of any armed force, 
either government or insurgent at any point within fifty miles of 
Panama." This meant that Colombia would be unable to reinforce 
its tiny garrison in Panama. Then, at 5:49 A.M. on November 3, ex- 
actly forty-nine minutes after the Panama City fire brigade started to 
distribute weapons to crowds in the streets, the revolution against 
Colombia was accomplished. Except for a brief shelling by a Colom- 
bian gunboat which killed an innocent bystander and mortally 
wounded an ass, there was no violence. For the Colombian governor 
of Panama, Jose Domingo de Obaldia, participated in the conspiracy, 
and the Colombian army detachment in Panama City sold its services 
to the revolutionary cause, as financed by the New Panama Canal 


The next day the Panamanians celebrated their independence with 
a formal ceremony. The Colombian general was presented with 
$30,000, most of his officers with $10,000 each, and every soldier 
in the ranks with fifty gold dollars. The American consul, Felix 
Ehrman, joined in a gala parade, and the President-to-be, Dr. Manuel 
Amador Guerrero, delivered an oration: 

The world is astounded at our heroism! Yesterday we were but 
the slaves of Colombia; today we are free. . . . President Roose- 
velt has made good. . . . Free sons of Panama, I salute you! Long 
live the Republic of Panama! Long live President Roosevelt! Long 
live the American Government! 

Dr. Amador was almost premature. The same day he was pro- 
claiming long life to the new republic and its North American friends, 
the commandant of the five hundred Colombian regulars in Colon 
was threatening to kill every Yankee in the city unless his force 
received rail passage to Panama City. Before he summoned the neces- 
sary nerve, however, a detachment of United States marines was 
landed under orders to prevent the Colombians from using the rail- 
road. The success of the revolution was assured. 

Washington learned of the revolution's success the morning after 
this last threat was dissipated. Within an hour and a half Secretary 
Hay, in conformance with instructions from Roosevelt, directed the 
American consul at Panama City to recognize Dr. Amador's de jacto 
government. Within five days the President received the ubiquitous 
Bunau-Varilla, who entered the White House as Minister Plenipoten- 
tiary of the Republic of Panama. 

Less than a week later, Bunau-Varilla signed for the Republic of 
Panama a treaty which enabled the Panama Canal to be constructed 
on terms favorable to Panama, the United States, the New Panama 
Canal Company, and probably civilization as a whole. Written partly 
by Bunau-Varilla and partly by Hay, who consulted with Roosevelt, 
Root, Knox, and Albert Shaw, it made Panama a virtual protectorate 
of the United States. The treaty granted the United States perpetual 
"use, occupation, and control" of a strip across the Isthmus ten miles 
wide, and it authorized the United States to fortify the canal and 
safeguard the independence of Panama. Panama was awarded $10 
million and a $250,000 annual payment to begin nine years later. 


The New Panama Canal Company received $40 million; Colombia 

For Roosevelt, the sword of righteousness had again thrust through 
the shield of iniquity. Just as the American colonies "had revolted 
from England because England declined to treat them as free men 
with equal rights," so had "Panama revolted from Colombia because 
Colombia, for corrupt and evil purposes or else from complete gov- 
ernmental incompetency, declined to permit the building of the great 
work which meant everything to Panama." Nor need the Colombians, 
who offered to ratify the Hay-Herran Treaty by executive decree, now 
expect the United States to respond to their change of front. "In their 
silly efforts to damage us they cut their own throats," the President 
charged. "They tried to hold us up; and too late they have discovered 
their criminal error." Furthermore, their belated offer proves beyond 
cavil that when the same government said earlier that it had no power 
to take that step "it was guilty of deliberate bad faith." Consequently, 
the President concluded, "nothing could be more wicked than to ask 
us to surrender the Panama people, who are our friends, to the 
Colombian people, who have shown themselves our foes." 

Roosevelt held in the main to that analysis over the years. True, he 
allowed his boundless pride in the achievement to overrule his dis- 
cretion by declaring in an address at the University of California in 
1911, "I took the canal zone and let Congress debate, and while the 
debate goes on the canal does also." And in his Autobiography he 
asserted that "From the beginning to the end our course was straight- 
forward and in absolute accord with the highest standards of inter- 
national morality." But other statements in his Autobiography were 
more representative: 

I did not lift my finger to incite the revolutionists. ... I simply 
ceased to stamp out the different revolutionary fuses that were 
already burning. ... I deeply regretted, and now deeply regret, 
the fact that the Colombian Government rendered it imperative for 
me to take the action I took; but I had no alternative, consistent 
with the full performance of my duty to my own people, and to the 
nations of mankind. 

It is doubtful that the case for and against Roosevelt's conduct will 
ever die. The story is too dramatic, the characters too romantic, the 
maneuverings too intricate. This much, however, is clear: Roosevelt's 


controlling motive was his conviction of the United States' vital inter- 
est in constructing a canal through Panama under conditions favorable 
to the national security. Had he not been so compulsively eager to 
act; had he not been so quick to rise to the challenge thrown up by 
Colombia's rejection of the Hay-Herran Treaty; and had he been 
more accurately and broadly informed, he might have realized that 
great objective without leaving a heritage of ill-will. Indeed, he might 
even have assuaged the Colombians by paying them a sum equal to 
that paid Cromwell's group. But because he persisted in regarding the 
Colombians as blackmailers, and because delay was foreign to his 
nature and possibly subversive of his presidential ambitions in 1904, 
he allowed himself to pursue a blameworthy course. His autobio- 
graphical explanation is illuminating but certainly not convincing: 

My belief then was, and the events that have occurred since have 
more than justified it, that from the standpoint of the United States 
it was imperative, not only for civil but for military reasons, that 
there should be the immediate establishment of easy and speedy 
communication by sea between the Atlantic and the Pacific. These 
reasons were not of convenience only, but of vital necessity, and 
do not admit of indefinite delay. . . . Colombia proposed to wait 
a year, and then enforce a forfeiture of the rights and property of 
the French Panama Company, so as to secure the forty million 
dollars our government had authorized as payment to this company. 
If we had sat supine, this would doubtless have meant that France 
would have interfered to protect the company, and we should then 
have had on the Isthmus, not the company, but France; and the 
gravest international complications might have ensued. 



In politics we have to do a great many things we ought not 
to do. 

Theodore Roosevelt 

March 4, 1905, dawned clear and brisk. The wind was fair for the 
season, and the sky was blue and almost cloudless. To the East, 
where the oversized dome of the Capitol broke the horizon, a tuft of 
storm clouds hovered; but they were political, and from noon on, 
invisible. Two years were to pass before they would burst in full fury. 
This was Theodore Roosevelt's day of glory, even greater perhaps 
than that day seven years before when he and his Rough Riders had 
braved the withering Spanish fire in Cuba. 

A few minutes after noon Roosevelt stepped forward on the east 
portico of the Capitol to face Chief Justice Melville E. Fuller. In the 
background stood an honor guard of Rough Riders, high government 
officials, foreign diplomats and their ladies, personal friends of many 
years past, and the ubiquitous Roosevelt family. Slowly and deliber- 
ately, his eyes fastened on the Chief Justice, Roosevelt placed his left 
hand on an open Bible, raised his right hand, and repeated the 
measured phrases of the presidential oath. 

The President was heavier and more deeply lined, especially around 
the eyes, than he had been four years before when he was sworn in 
as Vice-President. His face was wider, his shoulders broader, his neck 
thicker. He was much larger through the midriff, and he seemed 
stronger than he had as a young man, when his square face alone 



conveyed the impression of physical strength. His power and confi- 
dence were evident, and his voice, always imperfect and too high in 
pitch, had the timbre of a man proven; proven in battle in another 
era, and proven in office in the years just gone by. Roosevelt on 
March 4, 1905, was in command. As he repeated the last words of 
the presidential oath, the throng that milled about the plaza between 
the Capitol and the Library of Congress gave forth an approving roar 
the first display of an enthusiasm that was to eclipse that of all 
previous inaugurations save Andrew Jackson's first. 

The President's inaugural address was undistinguished in form and, 
on first reading, in substance. Its theme was the familiar one of duty, 
responsibility, and courage, and its locus was the relationship of those 
values to a changing society. Its generalizations were broad enough 
to be trite while its peroration lacked little in grandiosity. Yet when 
that address is reread against what had already transpired and what 
was soon to transpire, its relevance as a testament of Roosevelt's faith 
and intent becomes apparent. The "Giver of Good," said the Presi- 
dent, had blessed mightily the American people. "We are the heirs 
of the ages, and yet we have had to pay few of the penalties which in 
old countries are exacted by the dead hand of a bygone civilization." 
Still, we had faced perils which "called for the vigor and effort with- 
out which the manlier and hardier virtues wither away." And so now 
did we continue to face these, the perils of an advanced industrial 
civilization. "The conditions which have told for our marvelous ma- 
terial wellbeing, which have developed to a very high degree our 
energy, self-reliance, and individual initiative, have also brought the 
care and anxiety inseparable from the accumulation of great wealth 
in industrial centers." Upon the resolution of these problems, ex- 
claimed this first major statesman of the new order, depended the 
welfare of the American people, and perhaps of mankind itself. "If 
we fail, the cause of free self-government throughout the world will 
rock to its foundations." But, he added, we need not fail. For the 
qualities now needed were not different from what they had ever 
been. They were those "of practical intelligence, of courage, of hardi- 
hood, and endurance, and above all the power of devotion to a lofty 
ideal." They had made great the men who founded the Republic 
under Washington, and they had made great the men who preserved 
it under Lincoln. They could also, he concluded, make great the 
present generation. 


Through the remainder of that March afternoon Roosevelt was 
zestful, ebullient, and even prideful. On the reviewing stand an hour 
or two later, he alternately sat and stood, grinned and laughed, waved 
and applauded. He stamped his feet and bent his knees to the rhythm 
of "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight." He glowed 
when a troop of Rough Riders, fortified by three days of liquid 
preparation for the indignity of riding artillery rather than cavalry 
mounts, rode uproariously by. And he chatted freely, almost con- 
stantly, with members of the presidential party. 

The President was also mindful of the charges that he had usurped 
congressional power and exploited colonial peoples, or so the news- 
papers, with perhaps more license than veracity, reported him as 
being. "1 really shuddered today as I swore to obey the Constitution," 
the President supposedly joked at the outset of the parade. Later, as 
the Puerto Rican contingent passed in review, he turned to Senator 
Bacon, the anti-imperialist from Georgia, and remarked with a 
chuckle: "They look pretty well for an oppressed people, eh, Senator?" 
Roosevelt again fixed his gaze on the discomfited Georgian when a 
finely drilled body of Filipino Scouts swung past the reviewing stand 
to the buoyant strains of "Gary Owen." "The wretched serfs disguised 
their feelings admirably," he shouted as Bacon turned his face from 
the scene. 

The President's high spirits were warranted. He was acutely aware 
that his effectiveness during his first term had been circumscribed by 
the accidental nature of his elevation to power; that Congress had 
tolerated him and at times angrily compromised with him, but had 
supported him only when his recommendations had coincided with its 
own views. Now, however, he was President by popular mandate 
rather than by assassin's hand. He had swept scores of Republicans 
into office with him. And he had already indicated by messages, 
speeches, and informal maneuvers that he would no longer pay lip 
service to the dead hand of McKinley or be again so deferential to 
the will of the Senate oligarchy. "Tomorrow I shall come into my 
office in my own right," he is said to have exclaimed on the eve of 
his inauguration. "Then watch out for me." 

If the President's inaugural address exemplified those high and 
statesman-like ideals to which Roosevelt so urgently aspired, the 
events preceding the election had revealed that ruthlessness and low 
cunning that made him the master politician of his own age and one 


of the masters of all ages. During the three years the President was 
serving the nation and incidentally enhancing his prestige by battling 
the trusts, intervening in the coal strike, and acquiring the Panama 
Canal Zone, he had also been waging a fiercely single-minded cam- 
paign for his nomination and election in 1904. He manipulated the 
patronage with cold disingenuousness. He signed a controversial 
pension bill. And during the third of those years he slowed the 
momentum of his antitrust campaign and temporarily reaffirmed that 
historic alliance between the Republican party and big business that 
his earlier policies had begun to weaken. 

Roosevelt's triumphal election in November, 1904, had actually 
been an anticlimax. The real contest had been for the nomination, 
and it had been won more than a full year before won, ironically, 
against Mark Hanna, the man who symbolized the McKinley policies 
Roosevelt had so spontaneously promised to continue upon assuming 

Marcus Alonzo Hanna was no Joseph G. Cannon committed to the 
preservation of the status quo at any cost but the political; nor was he 
a Nelson W. Aldrich dedicated to its preservation at almost all costs 
including the political. Rather, the portly, convivial Ohioan was a 
genuinely sophisticated conservative. An eminently successful busi- 
nessman in his own right, he is said to have tried most of the 
customary means of suppressing labor during his early career only to 
have concluded that an open-handed policy was more profitable in 
the long run than recurrent strife. Although he had coined the slogan 
"Stand pat" for the campaign of 1900, Hanna understood that the 
predatory ways of capital would have to be reformed, the rights of 
labor more generally affirmed, if social upheaval was to be averted. 
And he had, consequently, little sympathy with those of his Republi- 
can colleagues in the Senate who sought to convert his campaign 
slogan of 1900 into a political philosophy. Why, then, did Roosevelt 
choose to move against him? 

The reason was power. Hanna had it and Roosevelt wanted it. 
The President wanted it, assuredly, to satisfy his ego. He was in that 
sense not basically different from Jackson and Lincoln, Wilson and 
Franklin D. Roosevelt, nor even Washington and Jefferson. Like 
several of those storied figures, also, he took an extraordinary, almost 
primitive satisfaction, in the free-wheeling exercise of power. Yet, as 
Abraham Lincoln was distinguished from Stephen A. Douglas by the 


depths of his idealism rather than his ambition, so was Theodore 
Roosevelt set apart from the overwhelming number of his political 
contemporaries by his dedication to the public interest. Had Roose- 
velt's moral sensibilities been less acute he might have been likened 
to Hanna himself, a good and well-intentioned man, but hardly a 
great man; and had they been genuinely dull he might have been 
compared to Platt, or Quay, or Penrose, men to whom power was 
the consuming end of life. Roosevelt might even have emerged as a 
violent demagogue, for he had not a few of the attributes, among 
them the ability to oversimplify, smear his opponents, and stir the 

If Roosevelt wanted Hanna's power to gratify his baser urges and 
it bears underlining that he did he also wanted it to assure the 
success of those high public purposes to which his vaulting ambition 
and love of power had long been dedicated. For all his sophistication, 
Hanna was hardly prepared to rally the Grand Old Party behind those 
parts of the President's program which were too advanced for his own 
tastes. The question of whether Roosevelt's maturing progressivism, 
a progressivism that was even then dimly pointing toward basic 
changes in the distribution of power in American society, or Hanna's 
program of piecemeal concessions that failed to modify the capitalists' 
control of the body politic, was far from idle. And since Hanna 
wanted at the least to continue the role of Warwick and at the most 
to become President himself, Roosevelt believed he had either to 
crush him or suffer the constriction of most of the policies he himself 

Whatever the baseness or loftiness of Roosevelt's motives, however 
groundless some of his rationalizations and praiseworthy other of his 
justifications, his drive to unseat the man who had made McKinley 
was at once subtle, open, and pitiless. It saw the President ally him- 
self with, and even be obsequious to, the unsavory bosses Quay and 
Penrose and the archconservative Foraker of Ohio. It saw him appoint 
a great host of Quay, Penrose, and Forakcr's friends, not a few of 
them the "low morality" types Civil Service Commissioner Roosevelt 
had so despised, to the government service. And finally, after Foraker 
had boxed in Hanna by calling on the Ohio Republican Convention 
to endorse the President in the spring of 1903, it saw Roosevelt force 
Hanna's hand by publishing a private telegram from the Senator, a 
low blow that left Hanna little alternative but to allow the Convention 


to endorse the President. From that point on, in fact, Roosevelt was 
the head of the Republican party outside Congress. "It simplified 
things all around," he exulted to Lodge. "Hanna was my only formi- 
dable opponent so far as the nomination . . . [was] concerned." 

Nine months later Mark Hanna lay dead of typhoid fever. To the 
end he had maintained cordial relations with the President, and 
Roosevelt had visited him during his final illness; and fittingly so. 
More than any man in the United States, Hanna could have ruined 
Roosevelt in the formative years, 1901-1902. But in spite of his own 
ambition and his contempt of Roosevelt's flamboyance and distaste 
for many of his policies, Hanna had chosen to place public and party 
interests above his own political fortunes. Roosevelt acknowledged 
as much in a moving letter to Elihu Root the day after his Olympian 
adversary died: 

I think that not merely I myself, but the whole party and the 
whole country have reason to be grateful to him for the way in 
which, after I came into office, under circumstances which were very 
hard for him, he resolutely declined to be drawn into the position 
which a smaller man of meaner cast would inevitably have taken; 
that is, the position of antagonizing public policies if I was identified 
with them. He could have caused the widest disaster to the country 
and the public if he had attacked and opposed the policies referring 
to Panama, the Philippines, Cuban reciprocity, army reform, the 
navy and the legislation for regulating corporations. But he stood by 
them just as loyally as if I had been McKinley. 

Hardly less than his obsession with power, Roosevelt's dextrous 
manipulation of the patronage in his campaign against Hanna had 
been disillusioning to the President's defenders. Actually, Roosevelt 
was incomparably more restrained than Lincoln, who appointed a 
string of inferior men to high civilian and military offices in order to 
secure the success and promote the great objects of his administration. 
But because Roosevelt was so emphatically on the record, and espe- 
cially because he was so boorishly self-righteous, his compromises 
have subjected him to a heavy burden of censure. 

The most flagrant violation of Roosevelt's principles was the ap- 
pointment of James S. Clarkson of Iowa, the archspoilsman who had 
led the Republican hosts in their assault on the fourth-class post- 
masterships under Wanamaker, to a non-policy-making plum in New 


York in 1902. Clarkson, the President explained to the numerous and 
vociferous critics of his startling appointment, was "in no way to be 
criticized" for his "occasional" removals of Democratic postmasters 
in years gone by. He was, indeed, "an honorable and capable man." 
To some, however, Roosevelt was more candid. "In politics," he con- 
fessed, "we have to do a great many things we ought not do." 

Although the President thus lowered the bars on minor offices, he 
stood firm for the most part on major appointments. His attitude 
toward the Isthmian Canal Commission was a case in point. As 
Alfred D. Chandler, Jr. has written, the construction of the Panama 
Canal by the first great government corporation in American history 
was a worthy tribute to the President's pragmatic, trial and error 
administrative techniques. He took more pride in it than any other 
of his concrete achievements. And it was his personal decision to 
support Dr. William C. Gorgas, who insisted on pursuing Walter 
Reed's theories on yellow fever, that made the undertaking possible. 
When, accordingly, Senator Quay asked Roosevelt to appoint one of 
his constituents to the Isthmian Commission in 1904, the President 
forthrightly turned him down. "I hate to be in any way unrecipro- 
cative," he wrote the powerful Pennsylvanian. "But it does seem to 
me that in handling this Commission I should do nothing on the 
ground of locality." 

I have had to refuse to appoint an admirable young fellow in 
whom Lodge was intensely interested, though I was able to place 
him on the Philippine Commission. Senator Platt has been inter- 
ested in a first-class man, Burr, who is entirely fit for the position; 
yet I am inclined to think . . . that Parsons is the better man. . . . 
In any ordinary appointments I am only too glad to consider politi- 
cal recommendations and the recommendations of my friends, and I 
should do the same even on extraordinary occasions where so much 
was not involved. But when we come to a position like this I feel 
as I do when I am choosing a judge for the Supreme Court, that I 
must have an eye single to the way the work will be done. 

Nor was that the only instance of Roosevelt's reaffirmation of the 
faith of his civil service, police commissionership, and governorship 
years. The undeniable fact is that even as he used the patronage to 
create a personal political machine, he advanced efficiency, integrity, 
nonpartisanship at an unprecedented rate. The year before he came 


up for election he had indictments brought against an imposing array 
of Republicans for defrauding the Post Office Department and he also 
pushed an investigation of land corruptionists in Oregon, one of 
whom was a Republican congressman. He instituted a rigid civil 
service system in the Philippines, backed a measure sponsored by 
Lodge and Root for the improvement of the consular service, and 
gave forceful and informed support to Root's reorganization of the 
Army. He also added 50,000 positions to the classified civil service 
lists during his seven and one-half years in office. Notwithstanding 
Roosevelt's minor concessions to the bosses and paternal solicitude 
for unemployed ex-Rough Riders, the general level of his appoint- 
ments was the highest since the halcyon days before Jackson. Never, 
said Lord Bryce, had he seen a more eager, high-minded, and efficient 
set of public servants, men more useful and more creditable to their 
country, than the men Theodore Roosevelt placed in positions of high 

In selecting men of character and ability for government office, 
Roosevelt went beyond the customary geographical considerations. 
Before he appointed Oscar Straus, the first Jew to serve in a Cabinet 
post, Secretary of Commerce and Labor in 1906, for example, he 
besought the advice of the respected banker and pillar of New York's 
civic-minded German-Jewish community, Jacob Schiff. Later, at a 
banquet of prominent Jews in honor of Straus, Roosevelt emphatically 
exclaimed that he had not even thought about Straus's religion when 
contemplating his appointment. But Schiff, whose hearing was failing, 
bungled the cue. "Dot's right, Mr. President," he exclaimed. "You 
came to me and said, 'Chake, who is der best Jew I can appoint 
Segretary of Commerce.' " 

There is, regrettably, reason to suspect that the Schiff story is 
apocryphal. But there is no evidence to indicate that its larger sense 
is misleading. In similar vein, Roosevelt sometimes appointed a 
Roman Catholic, a labor union man, a white Southern Democrat or 
a Negro Southern Republican as he strove to make his administration 
reflect the rich ethnic diversity of American society. Invariably, he 
did so with an eye for the immediate political advantage. He con- 
sorted with Booker T. Washington, the first American Negro ever 
invited to break bread in the White House, because Washington was 
supporting him in his fight to wrest control of the party machinery 
from Mark Hanna; and he gave high place to other qualified Negroes 


for the same reason. Yet he also recognized Negroes and members of 
other suppressed ethnic and religious groups in ways that clearly 
transcended his political interests. 

Roosevelt was too sophisticated a Reform Darwinist to believe 
blatantly in racial supremacy though a mild undercurrent of racism 
seems to have lingered in his unconsciousness. His thought coincided 
roughly with the moderate, informed opinion of the times; and it was 
in fact more advanced than that of reformer-economists like John R. 
Commons and politician-intellectuals like Cabot Lodge and Woodrow 
Wilson. Yet Roosevelt was never enthusiastic about the mass immigra- 
tion of Irish, Slavs, and Southern Europeans of Jews and Greeks 
and Roman Catholics. He believed that their numbers were too great, 
their conditions of life too impoverished, and their cultural back- 
grounds too different for easy assimilation. And he erroneously con- 
cluded that they were easy prey to political radicalism as well as to 
social and moral degradation. Unable to slow their influx he un- 
successfully recommended immigration restriction and then appointed 
a commission of exports which submitted a racist report he charac- 
teristically reacted by promoting their assimilation. To this end he 
fulminated against discrimination and sought actively to open the 
channels of advancement and opportunity to the more distinguished 
among them. "I grow extremely indignant at the attitude of coarse 
hostility to the immigrant," Roosevelt wrote the Rev. Lyman Abbott, 
publisher of the influential, Protestant-oriented Outlook, after he had 
renounced further political ambition: 

I have tried to ... appeal to their self-respect and make it easy 
for them to become enthusiastically loyal Americans as well as good 
citizens. I have one Catholic in my Cabinet and have had another, 
and I now have a Jew in the Cabinet; and part of my object in 
each appointment was to implant in the minds of of our fellow- 
Americans of Catholic or of Jewish faith, or of foreign ancestry 
or birth, the knowledge that they have in this country just the same 
rights and opportunities as every one else . . . just the same ideals 
as a standard toward which to strive. I want the Jewish young man 
who is born in this country to feel that Straus stands for his ideal 
of the successful man. 

Roosevelt's attitude toward the declining birth rate offers additional 
insight into his final acceptance of the "American Dream" and its 
implicit repudiation of racial, as distinct from national or cultural 


superiority. "The American stock is being cursed with the curse of 
sterility, and it is earning the curse, because the sterility is wilful," he 
said in an article in the Outlook in 1911. "If it were confined to 
Americans of old stock ... we could at least feel that the traditions 
and principles and purposes of the founders of the Republic would 
find their believers and exponents among their descendants by adop- 
tion." And in that case, he wrote, "I, for one, would heartily throw 
in my fate with the men of alien stock who were true to the old 
American principles rather than with the men of the old American 
stock who were traitors to the old American principles." But un- 
fortunately, he lamented, "the children of the immigrants show the 
same wilful sterility that is shown by the people of the old stock." 

Roosevelt's intense preoccupation with Americanism, an Ameri- 
canism that embraced personal morality as well as national loyalty 
and unity, pervaded his views on religion. Throughout his life he was 
a regular churchgoer, and by the testimony of some of his intimates, 
a devoutly religious man as well. "When a man believes a thing, is it 
not his duty to say so?" he said to the pastor of the St. Nicholas 
Dutch Reformed Church in New York at the age of seventeen. "If I 
joined the church, wouldn't that be the best way for me to say to the 
world that I believed in God?" 

Over the years Roosevelt never wavered in his formal commitment 
to the church, nor to the Bible as a source of inspiration. Bill Sewall 
remembered that he took the Bible with him on trips into the North 
Woods as a Harvard undergraduate and that he would slip away to 
peruse it by himself. "Some folks read the Bible to find an easier way 
into Heaven," Sewall once said. But, "Theodore reads it to find the 
right way and how to pursue it." Nevertheless, Roosevelt's innermost 
convictions are unclear even to this day. As Hagedorn writes, "He 
trumpeted his moral convictions from the housetops and up and down 
the land, until even his friends begged for mercy. But his relation to 
the unseen was something else." Only three or four times in the near 
forty years of his maturity is he reported to have spoken freely of his 
faith; and in most of those instances the report is suspect or deficient. 

Curiously, Roosevelt had been even more dependent on religion 
than most young men during his adolescence and early manhood a 
reflection, perhaps, of what Elting Morison characterized "his capacity 
for total investment." At Harvard he taught an Episcopal Sunday 
school class until forced to resign because of his refusal to abandon 


his Dutch Reformed affiliation; and he prayed regularly each morning 
during his college years. It was to religion, moreover, that he had 
turned for solace in the traumatic aftermath of his father's death. "It 
is lovely to think of our meeting in heaven. . . ." "Lord, I believe; 
help thou mine unbelief." "Nothing but my faith in the Lord Jesus 
Christ could have carried me through this, my terrible time of trouble 
and sorrow." These were his diary entries at the time. During Roose- 
velt's twenty-first year, however, the evidences of deep religious feel- 
ing had begun to abate; nor do they seem to have resurged in the 
double tragedy of his mother's and his first wife's death when he was 

It is true that Roosevelt continued to pay formal obeisance to the 
Judeo-Christian God, and occasionally to the Trinity as well. But 
nowhere in the published addresses and writings of his later years is 
there anything resembling a movingly spiritual confession of faith. 
Nor was he ever, so far as is known, disturbed by the Darwinian 
findings which were rocking the very substance of traditional theology 
as he came into manhood. "I know not how philosophers may ulti- 
mately define religion," he wrote, "but from Micah to James it has 
been defined as service to one's fellowmen rendered by following the 
great rule of justice and mercy, of wisdom and righteousness." And 
that, for Theodore Roosevelt, who lacked even Lincoln's mysticism, 
was enough. As Gamaliel Bradford, in a dozen lines that atomize the 
volume and more of essays designed to prove Roosevelt's spirituality, 
concludes: "I cannot find God insistent or palpable anywhere in the 
writings or the life of Theodore Roosevelt. He had no need of him 
and no longing, because he really had no need of anything but his 
own immensely sufficient self. And the abundant, crowding, mag- 
nificent presence of this world left no room for another. Bishop's Life 
of Roosevelt ends with a quotation [from Roosevelt] which seems to 
sum up the whole story: 'It is idle to complain or to rail at the 
inevitable; serene and high of heart we must face our fate and go 
down into the darkness.' I do not see God here anywhere at all." 

If Roosevelt's rejection of both dogma and spirituality made for a 
broad tolerance of religious diversity, his overwhelming commitment 
to religion as a social and ethical force nevertheless imposed limits 
on that tolerance. His ultimate test was whether a religion transgressed 
the moral code that comprised the warp of the Judeo-Christian herit- 
age. He was chary, accordingly, of the Church of the Latter-day 


Saints. Yet, with uncharacteristic restraint, he opposed a proposed 
constitutional amendment against polygamy partly on the grounds 
"that there is less polygamy among the Mormons . . . than there 
have been bigamous marriages among an equal number of Christians." 
Roosevelt knew, it is perhaps no exaggeration to conclude, that the 
history of mankind is writ large with foolish and futile religious 

Roosevelt's dedication to the moral law coupled with his insight 
into the steady pressure of environment forces made him more sympa- 
thetic to Catholicism than most middle-class Americans of his times. 
He had little patience with the doctrine of papal infallibility and he 
especially resented the Roman Church's authoritarian structure. His 
frequent endorsements of the separation of church and state, his 
emphatic support of the free public school system, and his implied 
criticisms of parochial education even suggest a latent anti-Catholi- 
cism. But in the final analysis he was most impressed with Rome's 
beneficial influences with its potential ability to impress upon the 
immigrants those Judeo-Christian ethical values which were the fount 
of his own inspiration and out of which Protestantism itself had 

Nor was Roosevelt daunted by the prospect of a Catholic residing 
in the White House at some future date. Indeed, he welcomed it, for 
it implied a complete assimilation. Too pragmatic to be bound by 
doctrinaire principles himself, he was confident that other men of 
responsibility and patriotism would prove similarly chainless. He 
accordingly took pleasure in striking out at Protestant bigots and 
asserting that he would happily support a Roman Catholic for the 
presidency if he happened to be the best qualified man. Predicting in 
September, 1904 (a most politic timing, it is true), that there would 
be many Catholic Presidents in the years to come, he expressed the 
hope that if any one of them know "anything of me or my conduct, 
he will feel that I have acted along just the lines that he can afford 
to act." Over the years Roosevelt could, and did, consort in good 
conscience with Catholic and Episcopalian bishops, with Jewish rabbis 
and Methodist ministers, and with laymen of all denominations, in- 
cluding the Unitarian Taft. 

Against this background, Roosevelt's ceaseless cultivation of politi- 
cal support by minority groups becomes more morally defensible. 
Had he been a religious bigot or an Anglo-Saxon supremacist dedi- 


cated to purity of the so-called race, his activities might have stamped 
him as a sheer political opportunist. But his commitment was to the 
preservation of American institutions, not to the privileged position 
of a particular in-group, and it was more intellectual than political in 
origin. To discriminate against an American citizen because of his 
own or his father's birthplace was to the mature Roosevelt, "a base 
infamy utterly un-American and profoundly unpatriotic." 

Had Roosevelt never faced an electorate he would probably have 
been as deeply involved in the Americanization of the newer immi- 
grants as he was as an active politician. But since he had to face the 
electorate, and since he believed "in being thoroughly practical in 
politics," he spared no effort to win every last vote in every last 
minority group or organization that he had served during his twenty- 
year political career. During the presidential campaign of 1904 the 
word went out in a dozen different tongues from the professional ward 
heelers and precinct leaders that the President had appointed Jews 
and Catholics to high office; that he had defended immigrant working 
men against exploitation by the great coal barons; and that he had 
represented the little man against the privileged few in his strike 
against the trusts. 

The whole man in 1904 was not only one of ideals, courage, and 
forthrightness; he was a man of surprising fear and no little expedi- 
ency. If the appointment of Clarkson in 1902 had been designed to 
promote Roosevelt's cause at the nominating convention of 1904, a 
decision the President made to broaden the pension base for Union 
veterans in the late winter of 1904 by executive decree was calculated, 
at least in part, to advance his fortunes in the election that followed 
that convention. The President's unilateral action, roared W. Bourke 
Cochran, grandiloquent orator, Tammany chieftain, and spoilsman 
of the first order, was a clear-cut case of executive usurption of con- 
gressional authority. The New York Times claimed that the American 
nation had rarely witnessed such a "remarkable" and "impudent" 
assertion of executive power. "There is an impression that we are to 
elect a President next November," was the New York World's com- 
ment. "It is a mistake. Unless Mr. Roosevelt be totally at sea regard- 
ing the nature of his office, we are to elect a czar." 

The Republicans in Congress had discreetly held their tongues. 
They had paid higher prices than "executive usurption" for the 
political favors of the Grand Army of the Republic in the past. As 


for Roosevelt, he was as eager as they to reap the harvest of G.A.R. 
votes in November though he undoubtedly knew that his order would 
rub Congress the wrong way. "I came to the conclusion," he later 
explained, that if we waited on Congress "we would either have no 
legislation or else improper legislation." Yet he also had no doubt 
that he was morally right; that the pensions were deserved. The men 
who were to receive them were not former contractors who had waxed 
rich at the government trough during the war, or tariff protected 
manufacturers seeking just one more favor. They were, as Roosevelt, 
who honored them years before he became a politician, appropriately 
said, "the men who fought for union and liberty" and "not only saved 
this Nation from ruin, but rendered an inestimable service to all 

Roosevelt well knew that during the four years the "plain people" 
had been at war Elihu Root took his degree at Hamilton College and 
Robert Lincoln finished his studies at Harvard. J. P. Morgan, a 
widower without children at twenty-four, procured a substitute to 
serve in the Army and began the career that was to make him the 
most powerful man in the nation by the time Roosevelt became Presi- 
dent. John D. Rockefeller, who also hired a substitute, bent over his 
books in the produce commission business in Cleveland, invested in 
oil, and watched his annual income rise to $17,000 by the end of the 
conflict. Philip D. Armour made his first great "killing" by selling 
pork "short" as Grant marched through the Wilderness to Richmond. 
And Jay Gould, Jay Cooke, Andrew Carnegie, Colis P. Huntington, 
Jim Fisk, and dozens of others who preferred the emoluments of the 
market place to the miseries (or glories) of the battlefield either 
launched their careers or embellished their already sizable fortunes 
while the muskets rattled and the cannon roared. When the silence 
finally fell on Appomattox their futures were secure, or as nearly so 
as money could make them. 

It was for "the plain people" who managed to survive the holocaust 
of Civil War that Roosevelt's pension order was designed. Whatever 
the political nuances of his decision to sign it (he self-righteously 
refused to admit any) the justification he offered was plausible. Ad- 
mitting that there was an "unreasoning or demagogic demand for 
excessive and improper amounts" and claiming that he had prevented 
Congress from submitting to it, he reminded Jacob Riis that "there 
are very many excellent people who have lived softly, and who have 


no idea of what it is all one's life to earn one's living by toil, and then, 
without having been able to save, to face failing strength at the end 
of one's days." The age of sixty-two had been selected, he added in 
a passage that presaged the later, more socially conscious Roosevelt, 
"not at random, but after careful inquiry which satisfied us that in 
most great manufacturing and railroad establishments new men of 
the age of 62 who might apply for work were peremptorily refused. 
. . . There are exceptions, of course, but the average toiler, the 
average wageworker, whose work is physical, has at 62 lost half his 
capacity to do his work. In New Zealand, at 65 such a man, even 
if a civilian, is given an old-age pension, larger in amount by over 
one-half than the amount we thus allow." The Civil War veteran 
shall have such a pension, TR emphatically concluded, "because 
the presumption is that he needs it." 

In a world that was beginning to become aware of the need for 
industrial societies to take care of the aged, the President's ruling was 
socially meaningful, however inadequate, exclusive, and political its 
application. Thirty-one years were to go by, and five Presidents were 
to pass in and out of the White House, before Roosevelt's reasoning 
would be applied to civilians as well as veterans; and then it would 
be in the first administration of his distant cousin and sometime 

Just as Roosevelt sought the support of the minority groups and 
Union veterans for his campaign in 1 904, he welcomed the backing 
of big business in general and of Wall Street in particular. In a 
maneuver that had further confused the distinctions between the 
parties, the Cleveland wing of the Democratic party had beaten down 
attempts to include free silver and income tax planks in the party 
platform in 1904 and then named Judge Alton B. Parker of New 
York to carry the once progressive Democratic standard. A confirmed 
Gold Democrat, and a colorless campaigner, Parker was a moderate 
states' rights adherent and a strong anti-imperialist. He was the 
antithesis of Bryan in personality, and he differed radically from the 
Great Commoner in social philosophy. He also offered a striking 
contrast to Roosevelt, "The Republican Bryan," as embittered mem- 
bers of the Old Guard were by 1904 calling the President. 

Although Democratic newspapers had received Parker's nomination 
with diverse enthusiasm, they had quickly closed ranks, announcing 
from one end of the country to the other that the campaign would be 


waged on the issue of personalities. Theodore Roosevelt, declared 
Colonel Henry Watterson's Louisville Courier-Journal, embodies 
"absolutism" and the "Gospel of Force"; Alton B. Parker, said 
Pulitzer's editors on the World, stands for "conservative and consti- 
tutional Democracy." 

Wall Street leaders sulked. There was enough truth in these asser- 
tions to challenge the wisdom of their supporting Roosevelt over the 
conservative Parker. Until the day of Raima's death the Morgan, 
Harriman, Rockefeller and similar interests had hoped that the Ohio 
Senator would somehow wrest the nomination from the Rough Rider 
in the White House. As a meeting of railroad executives had urged 
Hanna in January, 1904: "Stop making presidents and become one 
yourself." But with the passing of that monumental symbol of "Mc- 
Kinleyism" in February, they had resigned themselves to the inevi- 
table. Six weeks before Roosevelt's power-packed steamroller forced 
his unanimous nomination at Chicago before mechanically cheering 
delegates (the galleries were wildly enthusiastic), even the New York 
Sun had leaped atop the boiler: 

RESOLVED: That we emphatically endorse and affirm Theodore 
Roosevelt. Whatever Theodore Roosevelt thinks, says, does, or 
wants is right. Roosevelt and Stir 'Em Up. Now and Forever; One 
and Inseparable! 

The rest of the Old Guard had gone along, or were soon to do so. 
Henry Adams had thought that they would not. "Roosevelt has no 
friends," he wrote in January with characteristic effort at effect. "I 
doubt whether he has in all Washington, including his own Cabinet, 
a single devoted follower; for even Cabot can hardly be called a 
devoted follower of anyone, except as a kitten follows its own tail 
. . . every man in the organization will dread his re-election. Half 
of them, and all the money, will sell him out." 

That summer money flowed into Republican headquarters like a 
great tidal wave. J. P. Morgan contributed $150,000; H. H. Rodgers 
and John D. Archbold of the Standard Oil Company, $100,000; 
C. S. Mellon, $50,000; E. H. Harriman, $50,000; and William Nelson 
Cromwell, $5,000. All told, $2,195,000 swelled the Republican war 
chest, 12V2 per cent the gift of corporations. 

Historians still differ over the meaning of Wall Street's munificent 
support of Roosevelt's campaign in 1904. Some contend that it proved 


the real issue was one of parties rather than of men; that a Demo- 
cratic Congress was a more potent threat to the established order than 
a Republican Congress, even with Roosevelt in the White House. 
The editors of the New York Sun so believed: "We prefer the im- 
pulsive candidate of the party of conservatism to the conservative 
candidate of the party which the business interests regard as perma- 
nently and dangerously impulsive." Others claim that the lords of 
the market place and the heads of the counting houses were too 
astute to fear Roosevelt; that they were persuaded by Elihu Root's 
logic: "You say Roosevelt is an unsafe man. I tell you he is a great 
conservator of property and rights." And many, of course, interpret 
it both ways. 

Roosevelt himself badly wanted Wall Street's support. But he 
wanted it, or so he wanted to believe, on his own terms. And though 
he had been consistently more temperate in his criticism of business- 
men and their policies throughout 1904, he righteously directed the 
chairman of the Republican National Committee to return the contri- 
butions of officials of the Standard Oil Company, which was then 
under investigation. He further warned the chairman that there should 
be no intimation to businessmen that the administration would become 
conservative in return for their financial aid. "I should hate to be 
beaten in this contest," he wrote, but I should not merely hate, I 
should not be able to bear being beaten under circumstances which 
implied ignominy. To give any color for misrepresentation to the 
effect that we are now weakening . . . would be ruinous." 

The force of the President's renouncement of Standard Oil money 
is mitigated, however, by his failure to attempt to stay the main stream 
of contributions from other corporations. It is further weakened by his 
remonstrations to Root to spread through the financial community the 
gospel that he was really protecting business from revolution. Root's 
text bears reading: 

There is a better way to protect property, to protect capital, to 
protect . . . enterprises, than by buying legislatures. There is a bet- 
ter way to deal with labor, and to keep it from rising into the tumult 
of the unregulated and resistless mob than by starving it or by 
corrupting its leaders. . . . That way is, that capital shall be fair 
. . . fair to the consumer, fair to the laborer, fair to the investor; 
that it shall concede that the laws shall be executed. . . . Never 
forget that the men who labor cast the votes, set up and pull down 


governments, and that our government is possible ... the contin- 
ued opportunity for enterprise, for the enjoyment of wealth, for in- 
dividual liberty, is possible, only so long as the men who labor with 
their hands believe in American liberty and American laws. 

Those remarks had laid bare the essence of Roosevelt's policies. 
No competent observer or biographer has challenged them as a state- 
ment of what Roosevelt was actually doing. But many historians have 
used Roosevelt's endorsement of them as the point of departure for 
a cynical appraisal of his motives and personality. It proves, they 
suggest or declare, that he was at heart a sophisticated conservative 
rather than a genuine progressive, that he hated the "malefactors of 
great wealth" because he feared their excesses would provoke revolu- 
tionary violence, not because they were fundamentally unjust. 

There is surely a large measure of truth in that analysis. One need 
but recall Roosevelt's harangues against the Haymarket anarchists, 
against Altgeld, Bryan, and the Silver Democrats, to realize how 
obsessive was his fear of what he believed was upheaval from below. 
"We shall have to do this in order to prevent that," is the suggestive 
comment of Richard Hofstadter. Obviously, many of the sophisticated 
conservatives with whom Roosevelt associated Lodge, Hanna, Root 
were drawn to him because of this phase of his political personality, 
though none was willing to go as far down the reform path as he. 
Moreover, Roosevelt himself conceived his role in much the same 
light. As he explained to the British historian, Sir George Trevelyan, 
"Somehow or other we shall have to work out methods of controlling 
the big corporations without paralyzing the energies of the business 

There were, nonetheless, significant differences between the Presi- 
dent and his conservative friends. Roosevelt was temperamentally 
disposed to act; they were inclined to stand pat until the external 
pressures became overwhelming. Roosevelt became morally indignant 
when confronted with injustice; they remained largely indifferent. 
Roosevelt would become intellectually involved in the reform itself 
in its social and economic merit and would make it part of his body 
of affirmative beliefs; they would view it as a necessary evil. Above 
all else, it was this positive accent that distinguished Roosevelt from 
his sophisticated conservative consorts, the real proponents of stra- 
tegic retreat. The President's goal was a better, a more just and less 


privileged America; theirs a more ordered America. This had been 
evidenced by Roosevelt's actions during his legislature years, by the 
reforms of his governorship, most notably the franchise tax, and by 
several, if hardly all, of the policies of his first term as President. 
It would be further evidenced by the policies of his second term. 

It is one of the regrettable ironies of Roosevelt's career that there 
had been no need for him to compromise himself as he did during 
the campaign of 1904. Having wrested control of the party machinery 
from Hanna, his election was a foregone conclusion, so firm was his 
hold upon the affections of the American people. That hold had 
already been demonstrated by a thousand and more incidents, and 
none more moving than by the reception accorded him on an ex- 
tended whistle-stop tour through the West in the spring of 1903. 
Roosevelt, as always, had been profoundly, even mystically, stimu- 
lated. "Wherever I stopped at a small city or country town," he wrote 
John Hay, "I was greeted by the usual shy, self-conscious, awkward 
body of local committeemen, and spoke to the usual audience of 
thoroughly good American citizens a term I can use in a private 
letter to you without being thought demagogic!" 

That is the audience consisted of ... gaunt, sinewy farmers and 
hired hands from all the neighborhood, who had driven in with their 
wives and daughters and often with their children, from ten or 
twenty or even thirty miles round about. For all the superficial 
differences between us, down at bottom these men and I think a 
good deal alike, or at least have the same ideals, and I am always 
sure of reaching them in speeches which many of my Harvard 
friends would think not only homely, but commonplace. There 
were two bodies which were always gathered to greet me the 
veterans and the school children. The veterans felt that I had fought 
too, and they claimed a certain right of comradeship with me which 
really touched me deeply; and to them I could invariably appeal 
with the certainty of meeting an instant response. Whatever their 
faults and shortcomings, and however much in practise they had 
failed to come up to their ideal, yet they had this ideal, and they 
had fought for it in their youth of long ago. . . . 

The President had also been amused by the gifts of two bears, 
a lizard, a horned toad, and a horse; and by the undiluted democracy 
of the mayor of Butte, Montana: 


... As soon as we got in the banquet hall and sat at the head 
of the table the mayor hammered lustily with the handle of his knife 
and announced, "Waiter, bring on the feed." Then in a spirit of 
pure kindliness he added, "Waiter, pull up the curtains and let the 
people see the President eat!" but to this I objected. ... Of the 
hundred men who were my hosts I suppose at least half had killed 
their man in private war. ... As they drank great goblets of wine 
the sweat glistened on their hard, strong, crafty faces. They looked 
as if they had come out of the pictures in Aubrey Beardslee's 
[sic] Yellow Book. 

On November 8, 1904 the people whose ideals Theodore Roosevelt 
exemplified had turned out by the millions to give him the greatest 
popular majority to that time. Judge Parker's campaign had fallen 
flat, as it had been foredoomed to do, and not even the revelation of 
the President's munificent support by Wall Street did more than create 
a mild flurry of excitement. Roosevelt's adroit and self-righteous 
handling of the issue, suggests Mowry the President dismissed the 
exaggerated implications of Parker's charges as "unqualifiedly and 
atrociously false," but ignored the objective portions may even have 
redounded to his advantage. 

In any event, the returns gave the President a popular majority 
of more than 2,500,000 and an electoral majority of 196. Roosevelt 
swept every state in the North, including Missouri, and he was un- 
doubtedly responsible for much of the Republicans' near one-hundred- 
seat majority in the House. It was, the New York Sun conceded, "one 
of the most illustrious personal triumphs in all political history." 

On the state level, however, the President's personal popularity 
failed to offset completely the growing disenchantment with his party; 
five of the states he carried elected Democratic governors. Yet there 
were elements of vindication even in that circumstance; also of irony. 
For in spite of Roosevelt's baleful campaign compromises, the fact 
was, as the British Ambassador reported to Whitehall, the President's 
long-standing criticisms of "political machines and party government 
by 'bosses' has encouraged ... the principle of independent judg- 

Roosevelt was astonished and elated by the magnitude of his vic- 
tory. He was also sobered. On Election night, in accordance with a 
decision he had made some time before, he issued a statement of 
future intentions. "I am deeply sensible of the honor done me by the 


American people . . . ," he said. "I appreciate to the full the solemn 
responsibilities this confidence imposes upon me, and I shall do all 
that in my power lies not to forfeit it." 

On the fourth of March next I shall have served three and a half 
years, and this three and a half years constitutes my first term. 
The wise custom which limits the President to two terms regards 
the substance and not the form. Under no circumstances will I be 
a candidate for or accept another nomination. 

A sincere and high purposed affirmation of the national tradition, 
that statement was nevertheless the worst political blunder of Theo- 
dore Roosevelt's career. 





Three of the most cherished powers of private business had 
been the right to set its own prices for services, the right to main- 
tain its books and records in secrecy, and the right to negotiate 
with labor without interference by a third party. The President's 
1905 message challenged . . . all these rights. . . . 

George E. Mowry, The Era of Theodore Roosevelt 

Roosevelt's majestic triumph at the polls in November, 1904, had not 
altered the Old Guard's sentiments toward him. To the leaders of his 
own party this greatest popular hero since Andrew Jackson was still 
a maverick who must be contained and even repressed; and as they 
detrained in Washington early in December for the lame-duck session 
of the Fifty-eighth Congress, the Republicans had breathed defiance. 
"Congress," growled Joseph G. Cannon, the grizzled, tobacco-chew- 
ing Speaker of the House, "will pass the appropriation bills and mark 

Cannon's forecast had proved substantially correct. By Roosevelt's 
inauguration on March 4 Congress had pigeonholed or rejected most 
of the recommendations railroad regulation, employers' liability 
legislation, tariff relief for the Philippines, and a child labor law for 
the District of Columbia the President had made in his annual 
message on December 6. Nor had it acted on the President's special 
message urging ratification of the critical Santo Domingo treaty. There 
had been, decidedly, an aura of resentment, of studied insolence about 
that final session of the Fifty-eighth Congress. 

The President had not really expected more. "Congress does from 



a third to a half of what I think is the minimum that it ought to do, 
and I am profoundly grateful that I get as much," he confessed to 
Leonard Wood shortly after the inauguration. He was, it is true, 
exasperated by the Senate's cavalier treatment of the Santo Domingo 
treaty. "The Senate adjourns. I am then left to shoulder all the 
responsibility due to their failure . . . and have to spend an in- 
dustrious summer engaged in the pleasant task of making diplomatic 
bricks without straw." Yet he was delighted that the lame-duck 
session had voted funds for the construction of two more battleships. 
"This navy puts us a good second to France and about on a par with 
Germany. . . . For some years now we can afford to rest and merely 
replace the ships that are worn out or become obsolete, while we 
bring up the personnel." And he was quietly confident that he had 
won the first skirmish in the looming battle for railroad rate regula- 

Roosevelt had originally hailed the Elkins Anti-rebate Act of 1903 
as one of his administration's signal accomplishments. Within a year 
of its enactment, however, he had concluded that a more comprehen- 
sive system of regulation would have to be instituted. But he had 
waited until the people gave him their mandate in November, 1 904, 
before pressing the case. Then, in his most unequivocal annual mes- 
sage to that time, he had forcefully delineated the lines of advance. 

The President's paramount objective was the winning of authority 
for the Interstate Commerce Commission or a similar body to set 
"maximum" railroad rates. This was necessary, he told Congress, 
because "as the law now stands the commission simply possess the 
bare power to denounce a particular rate as unreasonable." The Com- 
mission's ruling should take effect immediately after it had been made 
(instead of after prolonged and immobilizing litigation), and it should 
remain in effect unless reversed by the courts. Otherwise the great high- 
ways of commerce could not be kept "open to all on equal terms." 
Nor should Congress be deterred by philosophical objections to big 
government. The question was empirical. National supervision, Roose- 
velt asserted, was the only means by which "an increase of the 
present evils ... or a still more radical policy" could be prevented. 
The President had struck at the opportune moment. The Elkins 
Act had diminished the rebate evil, but many powerful shippers 
were defying or circumventing its provisions. Other discriminatory 
practices, including freight differentials that wrought hardship on 


whole sections of the country, were rampant, while the consolidation 
of lines for purposes of efficiency was threatening great numbers of 
farmers and small manufacturers with the loss or drastic reduc- 
tion of service. It was also widely, and exaggeratedly, believed that 
rates in general were excessive. The result was such a broadly based 
demand for reform as the nation had not theretofore witnessed. 

Militant farmers and their organizations were bitterly prescribing 
the old Populist remedy, government ownership of the roads. Southern 
and Western state legislatures were memorializing Congress for relief 
from the "iniquities" of the railroad operators or were threatening to 
act on their own as they had done during the Granger era. And more 
important still, for the fanners had tried and failed with William 
Jennings Bryan, the small-town middle classes were swelling the 
mighty protest. Business and professional men who had cast Demo- 
cratic ballots only when Blaine had run against Cleveland, men who 
had equated Bryanism with social revolution and financial madness 
these and many, many more were furiously decrying the abuses of the 
railroads. Even conservative churchmen were indignantly viewing 
the rate issue as a moral problem. The sensational revelations of the 
muckrakers, spread broadcast on the pages of the magazines and 
newspapers, had finally aroused their consciences. 

The Old Guard was visibly shaken. Repeatedly in the past it had 
dismissed or deflected mass pressures for reform; there were some 
who now argued that it could do so again. There were others, how- 
ever, who painfully concluded that it could no longer hold the weak- 
ening line. These realists knew that the corporations' spokesmen in 
the Senate could still turn a deaf ear to the outcries of the agrarians 
and ignore with impunity the feeble demands of labor. But they were 
not so confident that they could resist the combined pressure of the 
agrarians and the urban middle classes and yet remain indefinitely in 
power. From Joseph G. Cannon and Nelson W. Aldrich on down, 
therefore, the leaders of the Old Guard reluctantly decided to give 
the President and the reformers the shadow of their program. They 
or their predecessors had done this before with the original Inter- 
state Commerce Act of 1887, the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, 
and even the Elkins Act of 1903. They would now do it again, this 
time by endowing the courts with such broad powers of review that 
the Commission's decisions would become virtually impossible to 
implement. Yet even this devious strategy was formulated under 


duress, for at heart many preferred inaction. Had it not been for the 
sustained and commanding influence of Theodore Roosevelt, they 
might well have done nothing, the political consequences notwith- 

The struggle that marked the Old Guard's decision to hoist the 
white flag proved bitter and dramatic. Waged when the President's 
power was at its very apex, it saw him abandon hope of tariff reform, 
submit to artful insult by Aldrich and his lieutenants, and back down 
from an advanced position. Yet it also saw him drive the Old Guard 
from its bastions, hold together a political party that a wrong move 
might have split asunder, and give the American people meaningful 
railroad legislation for the first time in the nation's history. 

The first skirmish had been handily won by the President. Flushed 
by his stunning victory in November, Roosevelt had considered 
urging tariff revision as well as railroad reform when he drafted his 
annual message. Had not the Republicans beaten "the Democrats 
on the issue that protection was robbery, and that when necessary we 
would amend or revise the tariff ourselves"? He would take action, if 
only because the existing schedules threatened the very fabric of 
the enlightened colonial policy to which he was so firmly committed. 
Privately and discreetly, he revealed his feelings to the party faithful. 
He might call a special session of Congress in September to revise the 
tariff, he wrote Nicholas Murray Butler. It was possible that he would 
send in a special tariff message early in the new year, he confided to 
Cannon. Indeed, he had composed a draft of his proposed remarks; 
perhaps the Speaker would be interested in reviewing them! 

The President neither sent in a special message nor called an 
extra session. Hardly had he made those first, perhaps impulsive 
gestures toward revision, in fact, than he began to draw back. The 
obstacles were too imposing. A minority of Republicans, mainly from 
the Middle West, favored revision. They could be counted on for 
informed, vociferous support; but their numbers were inconsequential. 
In opposition was a solid phalanx of stand-patters. They were headed 
by Cannon in the House and Orville H. Platt in the Senate, and they 
included virtually the entire Republican leadership. Committed by 
interest and conviction to the protectionist principle, they were un- 
alterably opposed to a major reduction in schedules. For reasons of 
political expendiency, they were also opposed to minor adjustments 
even on those schedules which no longer served a protectionist 


purpose. As Speaker Cannon candidly explained years later, "We 
know from long experience that no matter how great an improvement 
the new tariff may be, it almost always results in the party in power 
losing the following election." 

Roosevelt nevertheless made measured soundings throughout 
November, 1904. They were not encouraging. "I am having great 
difficulty," he reported to Butler in early December. "The trouble is 
that there are large parts of the country which want no tariff 
revision. . . . They say, with entire truth, that neither in the platform 
nor in any communication of mine is there any promise whatever that 
there shall be tariff revision. . . . My argument in response is that 
I am meeting not a material need but a mental attitude. . . . What 
I am concerned about is to meet the expectation of people that we 
shall consider the tariff question, and the need of showing that the 
Republican party is not powerless to take up the subject." 

Nine days later the President despaired of the chances of tariff 
revision, at least by the lame-duck Congress. There was, he informed 
Butler, "a strong majority against it a majority due partly to self- 
interest, partly to inertia, partly to timidity, partly to genuine convic- 
tion. . . ." Nor was there anyone among the small minority of 
revisionists who possessed the "remarkable ability" needed to frame 
the law and steer its passage through Congress. A month later he 
privately conceded defeat. "On the interstate commerce business, 
which I regard as a matter of principle, I shall fight," he wrote Lyman 
Abbott, the editor and publisher of the Outlook. "On the tariff, which 
I regard as a matter of expediency, I shall endeavor to get the best 
results I can, but I shall not break with my party." 

The President's statements were partly rationalizations. He rec- 
ognized the need for tariff revision and he would have liked to effect 
it; his letters leave no doubt of that. Yet his decision to subordinate, 
and possibly to abandon, the issue did little real violence to his 
principles. Roosevelt's views on the tariff had paralleled the change 
in his attitude toward government regulation of industry and his 
repudiation of laissez-faire in general. By the mid-1890's and pos- 
sibly before, he had come to believe that protectionism was a neces- 
sary instrument of national policy, one consonant with the obligation 
of the state to regulate in the interests of the whole. The mature 
Roosevelt could no more have weakened American industry's com- 
petitive advantage over foreign manufacturers by promoting free trade 


than he could have jeopardized America's world power position by 
jettisoning the battle fleet. The issue was urgent, not open to com- 
promise, and only inadvertently Republican. Not even the bitter 
protests of his Western followers would move Roosevelt from his 
protectionist commitment when, in 1912, he emerged as the knight 
errant of the long-gathering progressive movement. 

Still, Roosevelt was acutely aware that there were abuses, that the 
schedules on some products were so high that the term "competitive 
concept" was a mere play on words. Except in their impact upon 
colonial policy, however, he hardly regarded these abuses as critical. 
As he explained to Butler, "I think there are certain schedules that 
should be reduced, but I do not think it at all a vital matter to reduce 
them, so far as the welfare of the people is concerned." Hence his 
willingness to exchange the threat of tariff reform for rate regulation. 
This was regrettable, for Roosevelt's inability to alter the tariff stands 
as one of the signal failures of his presidency. Yet it had to be, so 
numerous and powerful were the high priests of protectionism within 
his party. Had he made a genuine effort to revise the tariff at any 
time during his seven and one-half years in office, he would have 
destroyed his effectiveness. Even as he virtually threw in the sponge, 
however, he decided to use the threat of action on the tariff to cajole 
and soften the Old Guard. Thus, as Blum shrewdly points out, he 
raised the dreaded specter at the outset of the fight for rate regulation 
and revived it at strategic moments thereafter until his offensive was 
fairly organized. 

Of all the agitations then current, that for tariff reform was the 
most baleful to "Uncle Joe" Cannon. Railroad reform promised to 
alienate some important Republicans; but it bid to appease many 
more, notably the farmers and small shippers. Tariff reform, however, 
threatened to antagonize tens of thousands of party stalwarts the 
small manufacturers who comprised the very sinews of the Republican 
party. In spite of his plan to have the lame-duck session "mark time," 
therefore, Cannon came quickly to terms in the winter of 1904-05. 
In return for inaction on the tariff, he allowed the President's railroad 
program as embodied in the Esch-Townshend bill to roll through the 
House by a staggering majority of 356 to 17. The Senate, of course, 
then refused to consider the measure; but it did provide for committee 
hearings following the adjournment of Congress. Hence the President's 
quiet confidence following his inauguration in March. 


Meanwhile Roosevelt prepared to take the issue to the people and 
to the enemy. He went to the enemy first, addressing the Union League 
Club of Philadelphia late in January, 1905. He had drawn his ground 
well. Philadelphia was long notorious for its craven politics, its corrupt 
business leaders, its complacent "nice people"; it was the financial 
capital of the state that regularly sent Quay and Penrose to the United 
States Senate; and it was one of the great railroad centers of the 
nation. Like the Old Guard it indifferently commissioned to represent 
it, the City of Brotherly Love stood immovably for the status quo. 

The President said little in Philadelphia, or anywhere else, that he 
had not said before. But he did speak more emphatically, more effec- 
tively, and more authoritatively. His listeners could not but perceive 
what the leaders of the Senate were still unwilling to concede that 
Roosevelt was President in his own right. He reminded the Union 
Leaguers, as he was shortly to remind the nation in his inaugural 
address, that "the great development of industrialism means that there 
must be an increase in the supervision exercised by the Government 
over business-enterprise." He observed, as he had done in his first 
message to Congress three years before, that the framers of the Con- 
stitution could not possibly have foreseen present-day developments, 
that state regulation was impractical and national regulation manda- 
tory. And he called again for amendment of the Constitution if neces- 
sary. His peroration nailed down his conservative-progressive Square 

. . . there must be lodged in some tribunal the power over rates, 
and especially over rebates . . . which will protect alike the rail- 
road and the shipper on an equal footing. . . . We do not intend 
that this Republic shall ever fail as those republics of olden times 
failed, in which there finally came to be a government by classes, 
which resulted either in the poor plundering the rich or in the 
rich . . . exploiting the poor. 

From then until the rate issue was finally settled eighteen months 
later, Roosevelt maintained his fire. After the lame-duck session ended 
without Senate action on the day of his inauguration, he again feinted 
with the tariff. In April and May, he campaigned through the Middle 
West and Southwest while en route to the annual Rough Riders' 
reunion at San Antonio. And during the summer of 1905 he again 
warned the Old Guard that tariff reform was still a possibility. Early 


in the fall he even went into the Southeast where he repeatedly praised 
the Confederate military leaders, commented pridefully on his own 
Southern blood, and declaimed on the need for railroad legislation. It 
was as though he "himself fired the last two shots from the Alabama 
instead of his uncle," the incredulous correspondent for the Washing- 
ton Star reported. "Wherever the President's visit is discussed you 
will hear men who believed in and fought for the Confederate cause 
speak of him with the affection of a comrade." 

It was well that Roosevelt thus mobilized his forces, for the rail- 
roads, abetted by the National Association of Manufacturers, had 
already organized theirs. While the President was warning that his 
program was the only alternative to socialism, an imposing battery of 
railroad lawyers was arguing before the Senate Committee on Inter- 
state Commerce that it constituted a one way track to the destruction 
of private property. Nor did the railroads confine their fire to the 
Senate committee room. The distinguished scholar, William Z. Ripley, 
described their activities: 

Bogus conventions, packed for the purpose . . . passed resolu- 
tions unanimously, to be scattered broadcast by free telegraphic 
dispatches all over the country. "Associations for the Maintenance 
of Property" held conventions; the fact being duly advertised. 
Palpably garbled news items from Washington were distributed 
without cost. . . . An elaborate card catalogue of small news- 
papers through the United States was made; in which was noted all 
the hobbies, prejudices, and even the personal weakness of the 
editors. . . . Dakota farmers got suggestions as to the danger of 
the proposed legislation affecting their rates. Kentucky planters 
were warned of the probable effect upon tobacco prices. 

This powerful propaganda barrage yet failed of its target, mainly 
because the public recognized it for what it was even as it was born. 
The deep-seated grievances of the farmers and small shippers, the 
rising indignation of professional men, the continued revelations of 
the muckrakers, and the relentless pounding of the President of the 
United States all these combined to make the movement for regula- 
tion politically irresistible. Observer after observer recognized this at 
the time. As the Chicago Tribune reported, "Many Senators are will- 
ing to serve the railroads and big shippers, but they have no desire to 
arouse a popular sentiment which might deprive them of their seats." 
By December, 1905, when the Fifty-ninth Congress finally convened, 


the reform wave was so engulfing that such stalwart Old Guardsmen 
as William B. Allison of Iowa and John Spooner of Wisconsin had 
been swept onto its crest. One question, and one question alone, 
remained: What shape would the impending legislation take? 

The events which answered that question afford as much insight 
into Roosevelt as any in his presidential career. They reveal especially 
his extraordinary skill and balance. The President insisted from the 
start that the attack be organized and disciplined, that it encompass 
the enemy's defeat, but not its annihilation. His order of battle, written 
into his annual message to Congress hi December, 1905, was a model 
of calculated restraint. The President counseled that the railroads, for 
all their faults, "had done well and not ill" to American society. He 
warned that rate regulation was "a complicated and delicate problem." 
And he declared that because of the "extraordinary development of 
industrialism along new lines . . . which the lawmakers of old could 
not foresee and therefore could not provide against," the well-meaning 
corporations had been driven into malpractices by the compulsions 
of the struggle for survival. 

Having recognized the railroads' constructive services, Roosevelt 
then revealed the idealism that caused him always to reject the busi- 
ness civilization's ultimate values. "There can be no delusion more 
fatal to the nation," he warned, "than the delusion that the standard 
of profits, of business prosperity, is sufficient in judging any business 
or political question from rate legislation to municipal government." 
He would, accordingly, set up a moral and legal standard that would 
free "the corporation that wishes to do well from being driven into 
doing ill, in order to compete with its rival, which prefers to do ill." 
The rebate evil should be eliminated completely, the Interstate Com- 
merce Commission should be empowered to fix maximum rates after 
appeal and investigation, and delay in implementing the Commission's 
findings should be drastically reduced. Those were his objectives. He 
would go a little beyond them; but he would not stop short of them. 

As incorporated hi the Hepburn bill, Roosevelt's rate recommenda- 
tions passed the House early in 1906 by a majority even more im- 
posing than that mounted on the Esch-Townshend bill the previous 
year. The Hepburn bill then went to the Senate, where progressives 
sought vainly to correct its inadequacies and the Old Guard tried 
urgently to compound them. 

The problem in part was that the Hepburn bill failed to provide a 


means for determining rates realistically. Roosevelt had called for 
uniform accounting procedures and for government inspection similar 
to that exercised over the national banks. This was a first, and im- 
portant, step toward a full solution; but it was inconclusive. Without 
authority for the Interstate Commerce Commission to evaluate the 
worth of the railroads, it was impossible to fix a fair rate. This was 
widely recognized at the time. But it was Senator La Follette who 
most forcibly impressed it upon the President. 

Robert Marion La Follette had stormed out of Wisconsin, which 
he had given a gubernatorial administration that serves to this day 
as a prototype of enlightenment while building a political machine that 
survived until the rise of McCarthy, to be sworn in at the opening 
session of the Fifty-ninth Congress in March, 1905. A radical in the 
traditional sense he was a root thinker to the point of single-minded- 
ness he would brook neither intellectual nor political compromise. 
Again and again during the twenty years he sat in the United States 
Senate this humorless, fiercely intense tribune of the upper Mississippi 
Valley championed unpopular causes, often with grave risk to his 
influence and not inconsiderable ambition, but almost always with 
honor to his convictions. Historians who shared his isolationist sym- 
pathies, and many who did not, would eventually set him down as 
the greatest twentieth-century senator of the progressive persuasion, 
excepting only, perhaps, George W. Norris of Nebraska. 

La Follette had come to Washington in the high hope that the 
second Roosevelt administration would herald the full flowering of 
the national progressive movement. And though he brought reserva- 
tions about the President there was, he suspected, too much of the 
trimmer in his make-up he yet knew that Roosevelt had an in- 
telligent regard for the opinion of experts and that he was reputedly 
open to advice. 

The redoubtable Wisconsin freshman's hopes had begun to sink 
when Roosevelt failed to come out for evaluation of railroad proper- 
ties in his annual message. They sank further when it became apparent 
that the Hepburn bill would go to a final vote in the Senate without 
that important provision. Rebelling inwardly against the tradition that 
kept freshmen senators out of debate, La Follette maintained his 
silence for week after week. Nor did he discuss his views with the 
President. In accordance with his habit of working with those in whom 
the real power was vested, Roosevelt was not confiding in La Follette 


and others of his stamp. In February, 1906, however, the Wisconsin 
Senator's hopes were momentarily revived when Lincoln Steffens 
arranged for him and the President to meet. 

For two hours late one Sunday night these two embattled leaders 
of the American social-justice movement discussed the rate problem 
in the privacy of the White House. Conceding the logic of La Fol- 
lette's economic analysis, Roosevelt rejected its politics. "But you 
can't get any such bill as that through this Congress," he exclaimed 
as the Wisconsin Senator finished. "I want to get something through." 

La Follette had characteristically replied that Roosevelt should 
capitalize on the popular sentiment for rate reform by sending a 
special message to Congress. Failing in that, he should take the issue 
to the next Congress. And even if that should also fail, the President 
would have at least familiarized the public with the only truly effec- 
tive course of action; and that, concluded the unyielding Senator, 
would be a monumental achievement. 

Both men were proved right. Roosevelt went on to win his im- 
mediate, and limited, objective, then took the more advanced issue to 
Congress and the people in succeeding years. La Follette, meanwhile, 
contributed to the general enlightenment, or, so Roosevelt com- 
plained, confusion, by raising the basic question. "I became utterly 
out of patience with his attitude. . . ." he wrote of La Follette a 
year later, "for . . . had it been effective, [it] would have meant the 
loss of the bill with absolutely no compensating gain." Still, the 
President added, he "often serves a very useful purpose in making the 
Senators go on record, and his fearlessness is the prime cause of his 
being able to render this service." 

The futility of the course La Follette wanted Roosevelt to pursue 
was decisively demonstrated in April, 1906, when the Wisconsin 
freshman resolutely broke with tradition and took the floor of the 
Senate chamber, a 148-page manuscript clutched in his hand. As he 
started to speak senator after senator stalked off the floor, but before 
he had completed his presentation two days later most had returned 
some out of idle curiosity, some to engage him in open debate, and 
some, like Jonathan Dolliver of Iowa, the President's floor leader of 
the moment, to become converts to his point of view. For to those 
whose minds were open, La Follette's logic was irrefutable. As Roose- 
velt well knew, however, the majority of the Old Guard's minds were 
closed. Their design was to mitigate the popular pressure, not to 


resolve the railroad problem. When La Follette's ideas were put to 
the roll-call test, only six Republicans supported them. By a vote of 
40 to 27 the proposal for physical evaluation of the railroad's assets 
was defeated. 

While La Follette was striving for the impossible, Roosevelt was 
earnestly mustering votes for the possible, and for a little that was 
not. The formidable character of his carefully defined task had again 
been driven home when Cabot Lodge declared on February 12 that 
freight rates were not generally excessive. "I have the gravest doubts," 
the Massachusetts Brahmin exclaimed in the Senate Chamber, "as to 
the wisdom of government rate-making even in the most limited 
form." Lodge's opposition must have hurt the President. So highly 
did he esteem his friend's purposes and affection, however, that it 
failed to affect their relationship. "I say deliberately," Roosevelt wrote 
Lyman Abbott soon afterward, "that during the twenty years [Lodge] 
has been in Washington he has been on the whole the best and most 
useful servant of the public to be found in either house of Con- 
gress. . . . Lodge is a man of very strong convictions." And this 
means, he continued in a flash of self-revelation, "that when his con- 
victions differ from mine I am apt to substitute the words 'narrow' 
and 'obstinate' for 'strong'; and he has a certain aloofness and cold- 
ness of manner that irritate people who don't live in New England. 
But he is an eminently fit successor of Webster and Sumner." Roose- 
velt never really changed that judgment of his closest friend. 

Even as Lodge flailed the heart of the President's program, the Old 
Guard leadership concluded that Roosevelt had the votes to win the 
right to fix maximum rates. It decided, therefore, to attack the flank 
by amending the Hepburn bill with such broad provisions for judicial 
review that the I.C.C.'s rate-making power would be dissipated. The 
architect of this strategy was Nelson W. Aldrich of Rhode Island. 

A natural aristocrat of modest birth, Aldrich was by some estimates 
the ablest senatorial conservative of his times. He had been educated 
in the common schools of the mill town, East Killingly, Connecticut, 
gone into the wholesale grocery business in Providence as a youth, 
and been mobilized into the federal military service in 1862 at the age 
of twenty. Stricken by typhoid fever after six months of war, he had 
returned to Providence to move up the business and social ladder. 
By his middle twenties he had been made junior partner in the grocery 
firm, and by his middle thirties he had become president of the First 


National Bank and of the Providence Board of Trade. He had mean- 
while married well. 

A boyhood interest in debate (he later eschewed oratory) and a 
mature concern with civic affairs had caused Aldrich to gravitate to 
politics. He became head of the City Council in Providence, served 
one term in Congress in the late 1870's, and was made a United 
States senator by the Republican organization in the early 1880's. In 
Washington, where the irreverent dubbed him "Morgan's floor broker 
in the Senate," Aldrich's impressive talents soon won him recognition 
as one of the most persuasive young spokesmen of the burgeoning in- 
dustrial and financial order. Witty, urbane, and gracious to his peers, 
a connoisseur and patron of painting, Aldrich was intellectually facile 
if not profound. He was imperious by nature, and he was both more 
arrogant and less flexible than Elihu Root. Aldrich had always been 
vaguely contemptuous of his inferiors, and as he grew older he be- 
came increasingly aloof, disdaining the intimacy of most other sena- 
tors, yet wielding greater influence perhaps than anyone else in the 

Aldrich's failing was the common one of the self-made man: He 
was insensitive to the inequities in the economic system that had 
yielded undue preferment to his own superior abilities. The welfare of 
labor, the farmers, and the consumers fell not within his compass 
except incidentally, and in the classic manner of his type he believed 
that government should subsidize and otherwise foster the ends of 
business while desisting from regulatory action. A millionaire several 
times over, the father-in-law of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the holder of 
vast oil and railroad securities, Aldrich nevertheless failed to fit the 
formula of David Graham Phillips' muckraking Treason of the 
Senate. His conservatism, like that of his colleague and staunch sup- 
porter, Orville Platt of Connecticut, who had no millions and owned 
little stock, was ideological, and in the field of finance, narrowly 
constructive. By temperament, by experience, and by conviction, 
Nelson W. Aldrich was a Hamiltonian. 

It was probably inevitable that the distinguished Rhode Islander 
should emerge as the leader of Roosevelt's opposition. By 1906 Mark 
Hanna was two years in his grave. Spooner and Allison were acting 
as Roosevelt's lieutenants on the rate bill largely for reasons of ex- 
pediency. And Platt, "not as brilliant, but ... of fine ability, of 
entire fearlessness, and of a transparently upright and honorable 


nature" in the President's apt description, had died the summer before. 
Of the genuine conservatives, only Philander C. Knox, who had re- 
signed as Attorney General to become junior senator from Pennsyl- 
vania, approached Aldrich in character. And he led no faction. 

A number of factors gave added precision to Aldrich's plan to 
vitiate Roosevelt's railroad program by amendment during the critical 
months of early 1906. The most fortuitous of these was the Hepburn 
bill's failure to specify the scope of the review the courts would ex- 
ercise. Roosevelt believed that the right of limited review of the 
I.C.C.'s findings was both necessary and proper; and upon being 
advised that the omission of a definite provision would result in a 
ruling of unconstitutional] ty, he had his lieutenants attack the problem 
when the bill reached the Senate. His object, as Blum writes, was to 
devise an amendment that would "perpetuate explicitly the ambiguities 
implicit in the House's version." But in thus tampering with the House 
bill, Roosevelt opened the door for the Old Guardsmen to cloak their 
antiregulation, prorailroad arguments in the hallowed language of 

To a few, such as Knox, the constitutional question was substantive. 
In a memorable speech on March 28 the former Attorney General 
declared that judicial review was "a right painfully won from tyran- 
nies of the past" and that it "would be as a reproach to those of us 
who are lawyers . . . should we urge the bill or ... supinely 
permit it to become law." But to most conservative Republicans the 
real issue was how best to circumvent effective regulation of maximum 
rates. Little or nothing in the backgrounds of Elkins of West Virginia, 
Penrose of Pennsylvania, Dcpew of New York, Foraker of Ohio, and 
numerous other Old Guardsmen suggests that they were remotely 
animated by concern for the preservation of a great legal tradition. 

If the Old Guard's shift of focus from rate-making to judicial review 
illuminated the art of political sophistry, Aldrich's floor leadership 
revealed the politics of desperation. Unable to muster a majority for 
such a broad review clause as would have thwarted the President's 
purposes, his fertile mind devised still another stratagem. He would 
turn over floor leadership of the Hepburn bill, then under Dolliver's 
control, to a Democrat. Not a respectable Democrat with whom the 
President could cooperate, but a beak-nosed, one-eyed master of per- 
sonal invective whom Roosevelt had once compared with Robespierre 


and Marat and had not spoken to for four years Benjamin R. 
"Pitchfork Ben" Tillman of South Carolina. 

The South Carolina Senator exemplified both the worst and the 
best in the Southern "popocrat" tradition. A vicious Negro-baiter, an 
early anti-imperialist, and an inveterate dipper into the federal pork 
barrel, Tillman was as devoted a servant of his white, back-country 
constituents' interests as most Northern Republicans were to those 
of the railroad managers and manufacturers. Like many Southerners 
of demagogic bent, his compassion was considerable if erratic; had 
he not been perverted by the curse of Southern history he might have 
emerged as a respected progressive. "Pitchfork Ben" believed with 
the President that the real issue was railroad legislation in the public 
interest, and he proposed to effect it by spelling out the narrowest 
possible area for judicial review. He even sought to prohibit tem- 
porary injunctions, the device by which the railroads could indefinitely 
delay the I.C.C.'s rulings from going into effect. 

Roosevelt was exasperated by the blow the Rhode Island Senator 
had dealt him. "Aldrich," he fumed privately, had "completely lost 
both his head and his temper." Indeed, the President feared he might 
lose everything by identifying himself with the Tillman-La Follette 
radicals. Not only was it possible that the amendment restraining the 
use of temporary injunctions would be ruled unconstitutional, there 
was no assurance that Roosevelt could realign his forces should the 
alliance with Tillman and La Follette break down. Roosevelt soon 
decided, however, to take the gamble, and in truth it was not too 
great. "The more I think over this railroad rate matter and the antics 
of the men who are, under all kinds of colors, trying to prevent any 
kind of effective legislation," he wrote to Allison, "the more I think 
through their own action the so-called 'conservative' or so-called 
'railroad senators' have put us in a position where we should not 
hesitate to try to put a proper bill through in combination with the 
Democrats." The Republicans, he indignantly complained to another 
correspondent, "have tried to betray me." 

Roosevelt accordingly entered into negotiations with the despised 
South Carolinian through a mutual friend. The President hoped that 
they could agree on a bill that would be acceptable to the Spooner- 
Allison Republicans in the center; but when this failed because Till- 
man's provisions were too radical for Spooner and Allison, Roosevelt 
agreed to go all the way with Tillman and La Follette if they could 


muster a majority. He soon pulled back, however, Tillman failing by 
two votes to win from the Democratic caucus the support he needed. 
Both the explicitly narrow review concept and the amendment limit- 
ing the use of injunctions consequently collapsed. 

The President thereupon returned to his original position that of 
an explicit perpetuation, as Blum terms it, of "the ambiguities im- 
plicit in the House's version" and under Allison's persuasive cloak- 
room leadership the Republican majority then closed ranks behind 
Roosevelt's program. The Democrats also went along, and on May 
18, 1906, with only two states'-rights Democrats from Alabama 
and one Republican, Foraker of Ohio, voting in the negative, the 
Hepburn bill passed the Senate. The President had carried his primary 

Charges and countercharges inevitably followed: Cries of betrayal 
from the Tillman-La Follette left; claims of victory by the Aldrich- 
Knox right. Notwithstanding his failure to form the majority that 
would have made his amendments possible, Tillman felt that the 
President had let him down. With injured countenance and ostenta- 
tious restraint, "Pitchfork Ben" had arisen from his seat just a few 
days before the final vote to read an "inside history of recent events" 
from a carefully prepared manuscript. He "confessed" that he had 
entered into a "conspiracy" with the President; he charged that the 
administration had surrendered to Aldrich; and he flatly asserted that 
Roosevelt had spoken derogatorily of prominent Republicans, namely, 
Knox, Spooner, and Foraker. 

If Tillman's first two charges were routine, the third was sensational. 
Roosevelt had already strained intraparty harmony to the breaking 
point; the revelation that he had criticized members of his own party 
to the leader of the opposition, if proved, could sever the last thin 
cord. It was with cold discomfort, therefore, that Lodge listened to 
the colorful South Carolinian's accusations. As soon as Tillman con- 
cluded, he rushed to a telephone to read to the President a steno- 
graphic report of the South Carolinian's remarks. Lodge returned to 
the Senate chamber a few minutes later with what the political ex- 
igencies demanded an official denial. Tillman's assertion, said the 
President in the statement that Lodge read into the record, was "a 
deliberate and unqualified falsehood." 

And so Benjamin R. Tillman of South Carolina was initiated into 
Roosevelt's "Ananias Club," a society whose rolls were to swell as 


its director's political career lengthened. It is doubtful that "Pitch- 
fork Ben's" membership was earned. Roosevelt was never wont to 
speak with moderation in the heat of controversy. And though the 
President repeated his denial a few days later in what his daughter 
Alice dubbed a "posterity letter," he not insignificantly added: "I 
cannot remember the details of the conversation." 

The claims of victory by the Aldrich forces were devoid of founda- 
tion. When Roosevelt scuttled the Tillman-La Follette program, he 
withdrew only to his original position. Blum proves beyond cavil that 
the bill that finally went through embodied the ambiguous phraseology 
that Roosevelt had first insisted upon. Thus it was Aldrich, his power 
compromised by Roosevelt's leadership and Allison's defection to the 
President's side, who had actually submitted. "[Aldrich] . . . has 
come nearer being unhorsed and thrown in the ditch in this struggle," 
Tillman observed, "than ever before since I have been here." Only by 
climbing on the bandwagon at the end had the haughty Rhode Islander 
saved his face and a measure of his prestige. 

Largely overlooked at the time, moreover, was a clause that put all 
interstate pipelines under the Commerce Commission's control. On 
May 4, two weeks before the final vote in the Senate, Roosevelt had 
sent in a report from the commissioner that described how the 
Standard Oil Company's possession of a near monopoly of pipelines 
enhanced its already favored position. He accompanied the report 
with a forceful special message pointing out that Standard Oil was 
overcharging New England consumers three to four hundred thousand 
dollars a year, mainly "by unfair or unlawful methods." Abandoning 
his opposition to the concept of rate-making, Lodge, who was rarely 
immune to pressures from his Massachusetts constituents, had framed 
an amendment that classified all pipelines, including those owned by 
and designed for the use of a single corporation as in the case of 
Standard's, as common carriers. 

Roosevelt had earned the right to exult and even to exaggerate. 
The Hepburn bill "contains practically exactly what I have both 
originally and always since asked for," he later wrote. Senator Tillman 
knew that it did not contain what the President had "always" re- 
quested. But the vituperative South Carolinian also knew what 
Aldrich tried in the end to ignore: Passage of the Hepburn bill was 
an extraordinary testament to Roosevelt's generalship. In a speech 
made after his relations with the President had resumed their cus- 


tomarily low level, the unpredictable Tillman acknowledged that fact. 
Had it not been "for the work of Theodore Roosevelt, in bringing 
this matter to the attention of the country," he graciously said, 
". . . we would not have had any bill at all," and "whatever success 
may come from it will be largely due to him." Of course, he added, 
the idea was proclaimed in three successive Democratic platforms. 
Other Democrats echoed Tillman's words. "I do not believe a bill 
of this character would have passed the Senate," Henry M. Teller of 
Colorado declared, "if the President had not given life to this enter- 
prise." Without Roosevelt, intoned Joseph A. Bailey of Texas, "even 
this imperfect and insufficient bill could have never become a law." 

Roosevelt never had any illusions that the Hepburn Act was perfect. 
It is probably true that he failed to comprehend certain of its in- 
adequacies, notably its failure to strike at freight differentials. And 
he undoubtedly overestimated its immediate impact. Even as he had 
skillfully fought for its broad principles, however, he had frankly 
regarded it as experimental; always, his plan was to amend it on the 
basis of practical experience. 

To dwell on the Hepburn Act's limitations is to obscure the real 
measure of the President's achievement. Once again Roosevelt had 
demonstrated that mastery of the political process that had set off 
his administration of New York; once again his bold and imaginative 
leadership had forged the Grand Old Party into an untempered in- 
strument of reform. By feinting and threatening, by advancing and 
retreating, by inciting the people and cooperating with the opposition, 
he had wrung from the leaders of his own party legislation that many 
of them bitterly opposed. He had in addition forged another counter- 
force to the overweening power of monopoly. To the conservative 
elements of the nation, government by commission was what would 
later be called "creeping socialism"; to the extreme left, it was 
perversion of the socialist dogma. But to disinterested observers it 
represented a pragmatic and creative response to the need to curb 
the railroads' antisocial power while yet preserving the economic 
advantages of large-scale organization. The appraisal of Professor 
Ripley, who had been disappointed when Roosevelt failed to support 
amendments he had urged at the time, is still persuasive. The Hepburn 
Act, wrote Ripley many years later, "was an historic event the most 
important, perhaps, in Theodore Roosevelt's public career and a 
not insignificant one in our national history." 



But for all that, this contemner of "reforms" made reform 
respectable in the United States, and this rebuker of "muck- 
rakers" has been the chief agent in making the history of "muck- 
raking" in the United States a national one, conceded to be 

Robert M. La Follette, Autobiography 

Although the struggle for passage of the Hepburn bill was a striking 
example of Roosevelt's power to sustain leadership, it illuminated 
only a few of his many facets and was but one of several events which 
made 1905 and 1906 the most constructively turbulent years of his 
presidency. During these first two years of power "in his own right," 
Roosevelt took America into the world, impressed his image upon a 
score and more of domestic issues, and engaged in a ceaseless round 
of controversies. He jousted good-naturedly with Bryan, who accused 
him of stealing his program. He harpooned the idealistic authors of 
reformist magazine articles by castigating them as "muck-rakers." And 
he quarreled publicly with his ambassador to Austria-Hungary, a 
pleasant gentleman whose career was ruined by the foibles of his 
ambitious wife. He also made a seriocomic effort to convert the 
nation to simplified spelling. And he gave his support to public health 
measures of momentous importance. 

Many of the President's controversies hardly merit review though 
they were sensational enough in their time. His quarrel with Ambas- 
sador and Mrs. Bellamy Storer, for example, proves only that Roose- 
velt was mildly indiscreet in his enthusiasm for the advancement of 



Archbishop Ireland to cardinal's rank. As Pringle, after dismissing 
Storer's charge that Roosevelt had authorized him to inform Pope 
Pius X of the President's desire for Ireland's promotion, speculates: 
"It is not difficult to imagine Roosevelt pacing up and down in front 
of his guests at Oyster Bay and insisting explosively that 'Ireland is 
just the man for Cardinal ... the Pope should appoint him ... I 
fully sympathize.' " 

If the Ireland affair was soon forgotten, the President's vain effort 
to impose simplified spelling upon an anguished people lives on in 
the minds of literary purists. Roosevelt took not unnaturally to the 
recommendations of the Spelling Reform Association, a learned 
organization headed by his friend, Professor Brander Mathews of 
Columbia University. And when the Association proposed three hun- 
dred changes in spelling in 1906, he directed the Government Print- 
ing Office to comply. Although about 90 per cent of the new spellings 
were already in the standard dictionaries under optional or alternative 
listings they mainly embraced such changes as "honour" to "honor," 
"dropped" to "dropt," "fulfill" to "fulfil" the ensuing reaction was 
as heated as the one provoked by another Roosevelt's effort to change 
the date of Thanksgiving Day some three decades later. 

The New York Times weightily observed that all newspapers "will 
take the kindly view that the President's heterographical freaks are 
misprints and will correct them into English. . . ." An irate contribu- 
tor to the Rochester Post-Express charged that the whole scheme 
is backed "by certain large publishing interests and designed to carry 
out an immense project for jobbery in reprinting dictionaries and 
schoolbooks." And Henry Watterson declared in his Louisville 
Courier-Journal that the President's name should be written "Ruce- 
felt," "the first silabel riming with goose." But the most indignant 
outcry was raised three thousand miles away. The "President's 
American," it was freely said on the isle that had spawned the 
language, is usurping the "King's English." 

For six months and more the fateful controversy raged. Presidents 
Andrew White of Cornell, David Starr Jordan of Stanford, and 
Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia aligned themselves with Roose- 
velt. But his friend Arthur T. Hadley of Yale discreetly refused to 
comment, while Woodrow Wilson of Princeton expressed open dis- 
approval. The Supreme Court of the United States also issued an 
opinion. Any citation of a previous decision which invoked the new 


spelling "was not a literal quotation," the Chief Justice sternly in- 
formed the Solicitor General. 

Roosevelt knew when a cause was lost. "I could not by fighting 
have kept the new spelling in," he explained to Mathews after the 
House angrily directed that all government publications, including 
those emanating from the executive department, observe the standard 
practice, "and it was evidently worse than useless to go into an un- 
dignified contest when I was beaten." They had made a tactical error. 
"Do you know that the one word as to which I thought the new 
spelling was wrong thru was more responsible than anything else 
for our discomfiture?" The President would not, however, concede 
complete defeat. "In my own correspondence I shall continue using 
the new spelling," he added. He did. 

Meanwhile, more substantial matters were absorbing the President's 
energy. For a decade and one-half a dedicated group of reformers 
inspired by the Department of Agriculture's chief chemist, Dr. 
Harvey Wiley, "a very mountain among men, a lion among fighters," 
as one admirer described him, had been agitating for a federal law 
to require the accurate labeling of preserved foods, beverages, and 
drugs. They had mobilized an articulate opinion in support of their 
proposals, and they had twice won approval for their bills in the 
House. They had failed, however, to make headway in the Senate, the 
Republican spokesmen for the food and drug industries combining 
with the Southern Democratic proponents of states' rights to keep 
their bills in committee. 

The President's commitment to their cause was belated a reflec- 
tion, perhaps, of that accommodation to the conservatives which 
marked much of his conduct in the election year 1904. Not until the 
summer of 1905 after talks with his personal physician, Dr. Samuel 
Lambert, Dr. Wiley, and others, did Roosevelt agree to come out for 
their proposals; and then he did so with misgivings. As he remarked 
in November, "it will take more than my recommendation to get 
the law passed, for I understand that there is some very stubborn 
opposition." And as he did not say, he was prepared to sacrifice 
almost everything for passage of his railroad regulation program. 
Nevertheless, he recommended federal regulation of "interstate com- 
merce in misbranded and adulterated foods, drinks, and drugs" hi 
his annual message on December 5. 

Roosevelt's brief recommendation (it was three sentences long) 


had incited a short, but bitter, fight in the Senate. Refusing to allow 
a bill sponsored by Weldon Heyburn of Idaho to emerge from com- 
mittee, Aldrich exposed his acrid anti-intellectualism by sneering 
openly at the "chemists of the Agricultural Department" and 
speciously asserting that "the liberty of all the people of the United 
States" was at stake. Nor was the powerful Rhode Islander's armor 
pierced when Porter J. McCumber of North Dakota rejoined that the 
real issue was a man's right to receive what he asks and pays for, "not 
some poisonous substance in lieu thereof." 

For a month and one-half after Aldrich's onslaught the Heyburn 
bill lay buried in committee. On February 15, 1906, however, 
Aldrich unexpectedly informed Beveridge that he would permit it to 
be brought out for consideration, and six days later the measure 
rolled through the Senate. Four states'-rights Democrats voted against 
it, and Aldrich, in a not unusual gesture of contempt, abstained. 
Characteristically, Aldrich offered no explanation for his startling 
reversal; nor does his adulatory biographer explore his reasoning. The 
circumstantial evidence, however, is overwhelming. A new wave of 
public indignation had been set off by Samuel Hopkins Adams's ex- 
posures of the patent medicine industry in Collier's. The American 
Medical Association was threatening to take the issue into partisan 
politics. And Roosevelt himself had entered a personal appeal. In 
addition, and perhaps as important, Aldrich wanted to clear the 
decks for the final debate on the railroad bill. 

The Pure Food bill might have died in the House. Cannon was 
indifferent, and Roosevelt was too engrossed in the fight for railroad 
legislation to give it much attention. But the publication of Upton 
Sinclair's gruesome indictment of the meat-packing industry, The 
Jungle, in late February dramatically altered the situation. Both the 
public and Roosevelt were so revolted by Sinclair's findings that the 
President was almost instantaneously galvanized into action. On 
March 12 he directed Secretary of Agriculture James "Tama Jim" 
Wilson to investigate the novelist's charges: 

I wish you would carefully read through this letter yourself [he 
had enclosed a personal appeal from Sinclair]. . . . The experi- 
ences that Moody has had in dealing with these beef trust people 
convinces me that there is very little that they will stop at. You 
know the wholesale newspaper bribery which they have un- 
doubtedly indulged in. Now, I do not think that an ordinary in- 


vestigation will reach anything. I would like a first-class man to be 
appointed to meet Sinclair. . . . We cannot afford to have any- 
thing perfunctory done in this matter. 

Meanwhile, the President engaged in a brisk and revealing exchange 
with Sinclair, who had written The Jungle as a brief for socialism. "I 
agree with you that energetic, and, as I believe, in the long run 
radical, action must be taken to do away with the effects of arrogant 
and selfish greed on the part of the capitalist," Roosevelt wrote the 
young and sensitive novelist. However, he continued, he deplored the 
"pathetic belief" of the characters who "preach socialism" in the last 
chapter of The Jungle. There were communities where "self-raising 
is very hard for the time being," the President added, but "there are 
many, many men who lack any intelligence or character and who 
therefore cannot thus raise themselves." He would help those crippled 
by accident (as the employers' liability bill he was then urging Con- 
gress to pass was designed to do), and he would regulate big business; 
but he was not then ready to go farther. "A quarter of a century's 
hard work over what I may call politico-sociological problems has 
made me distrust men of hysterical temperament," he pointedly re- 
marked. Yet, he resolutely concluded, "all this has nothing to do with 
the fact that the specific evils you point out shall, if their existence be 
proved, and if I have power, be eradicated." 

During the next several weeks the investigation of the meat-packing 
industry weighed increasingly heavily on the President. He appointed 
two special investigators of unimpeachable reputation, Commissioner 
of Labor Charles P. Neill and the veteran social worker, James B. 
Reynolds, to verify Sinclair's findings. And he took his old friend, 
Albert J. Beveridge of Indiana, into his confidence. Beveridge was 
never a member of the Senate's inner circle, his self-assurance, in- 
dependence, and progressive viewpoint offending the Old Guard. Like 
Roosevelt, however, he had continued to grow intellectually. He had 
already voted consistently for railroad regulation, and before the year 
was out he would become a passionate partisan of the graduated 
income tax and child labor legislation. 

Beveridge had been aware of the nauseous conditions in the stock- 
yards and packing houses for some time, and he had been contemplat- 
ing legislation even before Sinclair's dramatic indictment captured 
the national imagination. With the President's hearty assent, but with- 


out a promise of active support, he now framed a meat inspection 
measure which passed the Senate on May 25 as an amendment to 
the Agricultural Appropriations bill. The House committee on agricul- 
ture sat on it, however; and for a while it appeared that the impas- 
sioned outpourings of Sinclair, Mark Sullivan, and all the others would 
come to naught. For in the committee chairman, James W. Wads- 
worth, a stand-pat, walrus-mustached, gentleman farmer from Gen- 
eseo, New York, the packers had a man almost as solicitous of their 
interests as the paid lobbyists who milled about the corridors of the 

Meanwhile, the long struggle for the railroad bill described in the 
preceding chapter had ended. For the first time, accordingly, Roosevelt 
was free to throw the power of his office behind the pure food and 
meat inspection legislation; and with customary zest and no little 
finesse, he did so. 

The facts uncovered by Neill and Reynolds are "hideous," the 
President wrote Wadsworth on May 26. "I was at first so indignant 
that I resolved to send in the full report to Congress." But after re- 
flection, he continued, he had decided to withhold it if Wadsworth 
would push through the Beveridge amendment. "I should not make 
the report public with the idea of damaging the packers," he ominously 
added. "I should do it only if it were necessary in order to secure the 

In spite of this veiled threat, Wadsworth and the packers' friends 
in and around Congress were too intent on preventing effective in- 
spection to act rationally. They soon came up with crippling amend- 
ments, whereupon Roosevelt sent the House a special message urging 
passage of the Beveridge amendment. The first part of the Neill- 
Reynolds report, carefully designated as "preliminary," was appended. 
Again the inference was clear: The President would publish the full 
and more damning report should the House fail to swing into line. 

As Roosevelt anticipated, the confirmation of the charges made in 
Sinclair's novel had a devastating impact upon the packing industry's 
sales, especially in Western Europe. In testimony before the House 
committee on agriculture a few days later, one packing executive 
described the decline as "disastrous"; another reported that his com- 
pany's sales had "been more than cut in two." 

Under this pressure, the packers decided to support a federal meat- 
inspection measure in the hope that it would restore public confidence 


in their products. Almost overnight many of the same lobbyists who 
had earlier castigated the Beveridge amendment as "unconstitutional" 
and "socialistic" reversed themselves. What they and their powerful 
employers now wanted, and what Wadsworth was prepared to give 
them, was in Mark Sullivan's words, "an inspection law . . . strong 
enough to still public clamor, while not so drastic as to inconvenience 
them too greatly." But what the President wanted, and what he was 
prepared within limits to fight for, was, in his words, "a thorough and 
rigid, and not a sham, inspection." 

The result was conflict, and in the Roosevelt pattern, compromise. 
After a bitter exchange of letters in which the President heatedly 
wrote Wadsworth that his substitute amendment was "very, very bad," 
and the Congressman replied that Roosevelt was "wrong, 'very, very 
wrong,' " they reluctantly came together. The President agreed that 
the government should bear the cost of inspection (Beveridge had 
wanted the packers to pay the inspectors' salaries, but as Roosevelt, 
who was looking for minor points of concession anyway, belatedly 
realized, this would have opened the door to collusion) . The President 
also yielded to the packers' objections to Beveridge's proposal that 
the date of inspection be stamped on the cans. But Roosevelt won 
clear-cut victories on two other points. It was agreed that inspectors 
were to be appointed under the civil service laws and that the govern- 
ment could stop inspections in plants that failed to comply with its 
recommendations. This meant that the packers would have either to 
conform or lose the now coveted government stamp of approval. 

The President also won a substantive victory on the most important 
issue of all court review. Wadsworth had sought to include a clause 
that would have enabled the packers to evade the law by endless 
litigation. Roosevelt was outraged by this proposal. "I wish to repeat 
that if deliberately designed to prevent the remedying of the evils com- 
plained of," he testily wrote Wadsworth on June 15, "this is the exact 
provision which the friends of the packers and the packers themselves 
would have provided. . . . Why have you not put such a provision 
in the post-office law as it affects fraud orders; in the law as it affects 
fraudulent entries of homesteads, and so forth?" 

Roosevelt then published his "very, very bad" letter. Wadsworth 
was crushed, or nearly so. Reluctantly, he submitted to a compromise 
clause which restricted the packers' right to appeal the inspectors' 
rulings in the courts. Meanwhile the way was cleared for passage of 


the original pure food bill. Four months later Wadsworth lost the seat 
he had held almost continuously since 1881. An embittered and dis- 
credited man, he could only growl that the "bloody hero of Kettle 
Hill" was "unreliable, a faker, and a humbug." 

Once again the President basked in the glow of achievement. "The 
railroad rate bill, meat inspection bill & pure food bill ... mark a 
noteworthy advance in the policy of securing Federal supervision 
and control over corporations," he told Lyman Abbott. "I send you 
herewith the pen with which I signed the agricultural bill, containing 
the meat inspection clauses," he wrote Beveridge shortly after the 
signing ceremony. "You were the man who first called my attention to 
the abuses in the packing houses. You were the legislator who drafted 
the bill which in its substance now appears in the amendment to the 
agricultural bill. . . ." 

But to Upton Sinclair, Dr. Wiley, and all the other reformers who 
had recruited the armies that Roosevelt had so brilliantly maneuvered, 
the President sent nothing. Nor did he mention them in his Auto- 
biography. It was not that Roosevelt was ungenerous; nor, even, that 
he was contemptuous or wholly impatient of men of theory. Roose- 
velt himself was the most eminent intellectual to sit in the White 
House since John Quincy Adams; and his administration reflected it. 
Never had a President shown such a considered respect for the 
opinion of experts of welfare workers and social critics, of natural 
scientists and experts in general, never had there been such a triumph 
of applied theory as marked the conservation movement under 
Theodore Roosevelt.* And never, either, had a President been so 
acutely sensitive to the compromises forced upon him by political 
necessity and so rankly partisan in their defense. Incident after in- 
cident attests to this. 

Roosevelt never publicly acknowledged his debt to Tillman and his 
Democratic colleagues on the Hepburn bill in spite of the sufferance 
the coarse South Carolinian and other Democrats had given him. Nor, 
until late in his second administration, did he begin to have reserva- 
tions about supporting the Republican Old Guardsmen whose opposi- 
tion to his own advanced theories had repeatedly compelled their 
compromise and at times their emasculation. During the congres- 
sional elections of 1906 he called in effect for a united Republican 

* See Chapter 19. 


front; and when Samuel Gompers dared to challenge it with a scorch- 
ing indictment of "Uncle Joe" Cannon's labor record, he boiled over 
with resentment. "This administration has had no stouter friend than 
the Speaker of the House," Roosevelt wrote in apparent sincerity. "I 
need not say . . . that it is a simple absurdity to portray him as an 
enemy of labor. ... He is a patriotic American. He is for every 
man, rich or poor, capitalist or labor man, so long as he is a decent 
American; and he is entitled to our support because he is a patriotic 

Meanwhile, the President continued to give William Jennings Bryan 
short shrift. The closest Roosevelt ever came to admitting his 
affinity with the Great Commoner was at a Gridiron Club dinner in 
January, 1905, when Bryan disarmingly accused the President of 
abstracting plank after plank from the Democratic platform. Roose- 
velt had ingenuously confessed the crime. The trouble, he explained 
with mock regret, was that he had to expropriate the good things in 
the Democratic platform since Mr. Bryan would never be in a position 
to make use of them. 

As Pringle has cogently written, however, Roosevelt was in the 
main "curiously intolerant toward the Commoner." Even in late 1905 
and early 1906 when Bryan was publicly threatening to read out of 
the Democratic party those members who opposed the President's 
effort to regulate railroads, Roosevelt was fulminating against him in 
private: "He is neither a big nor a strong man ... he is shallow, 
but he is kindly and well-meaning, and singularly free from rancor." 
"Bryan, LaFollette, and others like them, so far as I know, have 
always refused to attack labor people or to denounce their wrong- 
doing, no matter how flagrant for corporations, though their in- 
direct influence may be powerful, have practically no votes, while the 
labor vote is very strong indeed." "As for Bryan . . . what a shallow 
demagogue he is. I do not believe he is a bit worse than Thomas 
Jefferson, and I do not think that if elected President he will be a 
worse President. The country would survive. ..." 

There was more than partisan Republicanism, more than Roose- 
velt's concealed discomfort at his own compromises, in those stric- 
tures. For even as the President picked up the pieces of the Populist- 
Democratic platform and began dimly to see that in himself, if not in 
his party, Hamiltonianism and Jeffersonianism were actually merging, 
he feared where the advanced reformers might take him. More than 


ever before he was now the hero of the moderate left; and no more 
than before did he believe that the critical problems facing the 
republic could be resolved by supplanting business control of 
American society with that of the agrarians and labor. 

The lust for power and prestige, the self-interest approach to public 
issues, the potential for political corruption all these Roosevelt re- 
garded as qualities possessed alike by the right and the left, by the 
exploiters and the exploited, the favored and the unfavored. They 
buttressed his fears of unregulated competition; they provoked his 
consuming aversion to government in the interests of a particular 
class; and they served inevitably as the intellectual springboard for 
the great centralizing tendencies of his administrations. They also 
explain his obsession with personal character, for upon the integrity 
of the office holder and the disinterested intelligence of the adminis- 
trator did the success of the classless, centralized state depend. Even 
Lincoln Steffens, observing in 1904 that Roosevelt "has been sneered 
at for going about the country preaching . . . good conduct in the 
individual, simple honesty, courage, and efficiency," was moved to 
conclude that "the literal adoption of Mr. Roosevelt's reform scheme 
would result in a revolution, more radical and terrible to existing in- 
stitutions, from the Congress to the Church, from the bank to the 
ward organization, than socialism or even anarchy. Why, that would 
change all of us not alone our neighbors, not alone the grafters, 
but you and me." 

It was not to be. Indeed, Roosevelt's critics on the right even deny 
the moral and intellectual base of his mighty thrust toward the na- 
tional welfare state, arguing as they must that the President's real goal 
was the personal aggrandizement of power. Contrariwise, his de- 
tractors on the left, including the latter-day Steffens, scorn both his 
rationale and his results. No basic change in the power structure was 
wrought by Roosevelt's deeds and even less was wrought by his words, 
they contend to this day. In their analysis, his projection of a class- 
less government was chimerical. And perhaps it was. But the 
biographical point remains: Roosevelt regarded himself as the steward 
of all the people's interests as the active and effective proponent of 
the regulatory theory of a classless government. 

Like the Founding Fathers, Roosevelt believed that man's lust for 
power had to be contained. But he went far beyond that monumental 
testament to their conviction the separation of powers and the crea- 


tion of an artificial system of checks and balances in bringing his 
views to pass. His expansion of the executive branch and his con- 
tinuing effort to convert the Supreme Court to a public interest 
philosophy, coupled with his later demand for the recall of judicial 
decisions on the state level, constituted a direct assault on their 
creation. And it had to be, given Roosevelt's realization that business 
domination of the judiciary as well as of the legislature had made 
separation of powers more theoretical than actual. Yet he remained 
consistent with the Founding Fathers in one regard: He insisted al- 
ways that the left be kept in balance. Hence his exaggerated fear of 
Bryan and La Follette; his refusal until 1912 to align himself with 
any of the great movements of protest; and his irrepressible habit of 
striking verbal blows at the left even as he concretely advanced its 

Whatever the enduring value of Roosevelt's theory of balance 
through government regulation, it had practical limitations at the time. 
For one thing, it presupposed that government control of the cor- 
porations would induce more fundamental changes than it actually 
did. Long after Roosevelt left office big business continued to have a 
disproportionate voice in Congress, to dominate the regulatory agencies 
Roosevelt had devised to control it, and to send its political spokes- 
men to the White House, though never again with quite the same 
freedom to trample on the public interest as in the pre-Roosevelt era. 
For another, it profoundly overestimated the power of the left at 
that point in history. Neither the agrarians nor labor, and certainly 
not the reformers, were then in a position to assume effective control 
of American society. Bryan's election in 1896, 1900, or 1908 might 
have spawned a spate of reform legislation, but it would hardly have 
fathered the revolution Roosevelt feared. By the President's own 
analysis, the power of business was inextricably intertwined with the 
social and political fabric of the nation, and especially of the courts. 
But Roosevelt, his mind's eye partly on the future and partly on the 
past (he never fully weaned himself from the conservative historians 
upon whom he had been nurtured), could not quite see this during 
the middle years of his presidency. Nor could he realize that the rise 
of labor, the agrarians, and even the intellectuals to a rough equality 
with business must perforce be accompanied by excesses and prob- 
ably by violence, given business' persistent and entrenched opposition 
to that rise. More than anything else, in fact, his failure to appreciate 


the inevitability of such convolutions explains his flaming intolerance 
of the militant left. 

Probably no incident of Roosevelt's presidential career more 
graphically illustrates this intolerance than his blistering attack on the 
"muck-rakers," leveled first in the semiprivacy of a Gridiron Club 
dinner in late January, 1906 and repeated publicly in the middle of 
April. "In Pilgrim's Progress," the President exclaimed on the latter 
occasion, "the Man with the Muck-rake is set forth as the example of 
him whose vision is fixed on carnal instead of on spiritual things . . . 
the man who never does anything else, who never thinks or speaks 
or writes, save of his feats with the muck-rake, speedily becomes, not 
a help to society, not an incitement to good, but one of the most 
potent forces for evil." 

Roosevelt's indictment had apparently been sparked by the publica- 
tion in early January of the first article of David Graham Phillips' 
sensational series, "The Treason of the Senate," in William Randolph 
Hearst's Cosmopolitan. Many of Phillips' insights pierced the veneer 
of disinterestedness that the most confirmed railroad senators presented 
to the public. And a hard stratum of truth underlay the great body of 
his work. But his misstatements of fact, innuendoes, and exaggerations 
offended many responsible readers, while his character assassinations 
tended to obscure the fact that a political philosophy, rather than per- 
sonal corruption, was actually on trial. Roosevelt, who knew "poor 
old Chauncey Depew," Aldrich, Spooner and the rest for what they 
really were unreconstructed Hamiltonians was understandably ex- 

The President may have feared, moreover, that the coincidence 
of Phillips' indictment and the administration's renewed attack on 
the trusts three major railroads had been indicted in December 
and suit was filed against the Standard Oil Company in March 
would stiffen the Old Guard's resistance to the Hepburn bill, the 
fight for which was then coming to a climax. There is also a sug- 
gestion that the real object of Roosevelt's assault was Hearst himself. 
Certainly he had long yearned to strike a blow at that demagogic 
tycoon, whom he mercilessly evaluated in a letter to an English friend 
a few months later: 

Hearst has edited a large number of the very worst type of 
sensational, scandal-mongering newspapers . . . being a fearless 
man, and shrewd and farsighted, Hearst has often been of real use 


in attacking abuses which benefited great corporations, and in 
attacking individuals of great wealth who have done what was 
wrong. ... He will never attack any abuse, any wickedness, any 
corruption, not even if it takes the most horrible form, unless he is 
satisfied that no votes are to be lost by doing it. He preaches the 
gospel of envy, hatred and unrest. ... He cares nothing for the 
nation, nor for any citizens in it. 

Roosevelt seems to have been motivated most, however, by fear 
that the reform movement was getting out of hand. "The dull, purblind 
folly of the very rich men; their greed and arrogance, and the way in 
which they have unduly prospered by the help of the ablest lawyers, 
and too often through the weakness or short-sightedness of the judges 
or by their unfortunate possession of meticulous minds" all this, he 
worriedly wrote, was exciting the popular mind and sparking an enor- 
mous increase in socialistic propaganda. The outpourings of Cosmo- 
politan, McClure's, and Collier s contained "a little good, a little 
truth," but it was mixed in with a "great amount of evil," Roosevelt 
told Secretary of War William Howard Taft. But to others, and espe- 
cially to the scholarly journalist, Ray Stannard Baker, whose revela- 
tions of railroad malpractices in McClure's had done much to marshal 
public sentiment behind the President's regulatory program, Roosevelt 
insisted that he was not trying to thwart the advance of the reform 

Baker had been shocked and hurt when he learned in the spring of 
1906 that Roosevelt had assailed the reform writers before the Grid- 
iron Club in January. "It was difficult for me to understand this 
attack, considering all that had recently happened, all that the Presi- 
dent owed to the investigations and reports of at least some of the 
magazine writers," he later wrote. Baker had thereupon tried to 
dissuade Roosevelt from repeating the "muck-rake" speech in April. 
"Now, the letting in of light and air in the matter of current business 
conditions, toward which you yourself have contributed more than 
any other man, and for which your administration will, I sincerely 
believe, be chiefly remembered," he wrote the President on April 7, 
"is neither pleasant nor profitable for the rascals upon whom the light 
is turned." Conceding that some of the exposures had been extreme, 
Baker asked whether they "have not, as a whole, been honest and 
useful? and would not a speech, backed by all of your great authority, 


attacking the magazines, tend to give aid and comfort to these very 
rascals, besides making it more difficult in the future not only to get 
the truth told but to have it listened to?" 

Seemingly unmoved by Baker's appeal, Roosevelt had promised 
only that he would try to make clear that he was assailing the 
extremists. "One reason I want to make that address," he said in 
reply, "is because people so persistently misunderstand what I said, 
that I want to have it reported in full." 

Actually, Roosevelt's remarks in the public version of the "muck- 
rake" speech in April were carefully qualified. He hailed "as a bene- 
factor" every writer who attacks evil, provided he is honest and 
refrains from "indiscriminate assault upon character." He warned 
against misinterpreting his words in one phrase, and predicted in the 
next that misinterpretation would be their fate. "Some persons are 
sincerely incapable of understanding that to denounce mud-slinging 
does not mean the endorsement of whitewashing," he ruefully ob- 
served. And he reiterated his respect for forthright and factual ex- 
posures of wrongdoing: 

At the risk of repetition let me say again that my plea is, not for 
the immunity to but for the most unsparing exposure of the poli- 
tician who betrays his trust, of the big business man who makes or 
spends his fortune in illegitimate or corrupt ways. 

The President's request for a fair hearing was not universally 
honored. As Baker had predicted, within twenty-four hours the maga- 
zine writers were all lumped together by the newspapers the sensi- 
tive, searching ones like Baker himself and Lincoln Steffens, the 
perfervid emotionalists like Phillips and Thomas Lawson, the author 
of Frenzied Finance. Triumphantly, the conservative press, long 
starved for utterances by Roosevelt it could endorse without strain, 
trumpeted the glad tidings across the land. "It was a great day while 
it lasted, but it came too hot," the New York Sun gloated. "Muck- 
rakers worked merrily for a time in their own bright sunshine, and an 
unthinking populace applauded their performance. Now there are 
few to do them reverence." The people, the Philadelphia Press hope- 
fully said, "are sick of the muck-rake" and "a healthy reaction has 
begun." But had it? 

The President's speech failed to stay the enveloping wave of 
reformism. Many moderate newspapers, including the New York 


Times, rallied to the defense of the responsible "muck-rakers," and 
the term itself became one of approbation rather than derogation. 
For several years thereafter the muckrakers flourished, maintaining 
the while that angry excitement which contributed so markedly to 
Roosevelt's own success as President. When finally they began to take 
to their deathbed near the end of the Taft administration, it was mainly 
of old age. Public interest had paled and their writings had ceased 
to be news. The President's attack in 1906 had done little more than 
blunt their edge. 

Yet many of the muckrakers were embittered even so. "I met the 
President many times afterward," Baker, who was to become a confi- 
dant of Woodrow Wilson, recalled, "and there were numerous ex- 
changes of letters, but while I could wonder at his remarkable versa- 
tility of mind, and admire his many robust human qualities, I could 
never again give him my full confidence, nor follow his leadership." 
Lincoln Steffens, to whom Roosevelt had given carte blanche to 
investigate the executive branch of the government just two and one- 
half weeks before the Gridiron Club speech, professed to be un- 
perturbed. The President, he wrote, "said that he did not mean me." 

The indictment of the muckrakers was a minor tragedy. Sensible 
to the impetus the literature of exposure gave the movement for re- 
form, historians have found it as hard as Baker to understand how 
Roosevelt could have struck such a devastating blow at the men and 
women whose writings had so abetted his own program. By un- 
critically accepting the muckrakers' reminiscences, by fastening on 
the letter to Taft as a closed statement of Roosevelt's philosophy, and 
by misconstruing the broad tenor of the speech itself, they have even 
concluded that the President was at heart a pseudo-progressive. In so 
doing they have underplayed Roosevelt's plaintive warning against 
misinterpretation and his explicit exoneration of those "who with 
stern sobriety and truth assail the many evils of our time." And more 
important, perhaps, they have discounted or ignored the fact that he 
concluded the public version of the "muck-rake" address with two 
proposals hardly calculated to make men of wealth and their spokes- 
men in the Senate rest easy federal supervision of all corporations 
engaged in interstate commerce and a progressive inheritance tax on 
swollen fortunes. 

Significantly, those recommendations did not go unheralded by 
contemporary commentators. Many reformers and moderates who 


would have (and had) dismissed the inheritance tax proposal disdain- 
fully had it come from Bryan announced their support. The radical 
Democrats feigned displeasure that "that Republican" in the White 
House had stolen another plank from the Democratic platform. And 
numerous conservative newspapers lashed both proposals mercilessly, 
often in the same editorials that glowingly endorsed Roosevelt's 
chastisement of the muckrakers. One of the sharpest lashes came from 
that delight of the political reformers and despair of the economic 
progressives, the New York Evening Post: 

We do not expect any terrible results from the President's 
happy-go-lucky remark about a subject to which, it is plain, he 
has given no serious thought. It will be a mortification to his 
friends, and a real public misfortune, that his mouthing has made 
Bryan appear a reactionary, Hearst a conservative, and has elevated 
Debs and Powderly to the level of Presidential statesmanship. 

In reality, the President's insight into tax policy was less acute than 
Bryan's. Except for Roosevelt's firm grasp of the inevitability of 
centralization in industry and the imperative need to devise effective 
methods of federal control, his knowledge of economics was rudi- 
mentary. He construed the inheritance tax as a moral rather than an 
economic instrument; and not until later, when he belatedly took up 
the graduated income tax, was he animated so much by a considered 
appraisal of revenue needs or a desire to level (though the enactment 
of his own welfare program would have made the creation of new 
sources of tax revenue mandatory) as by a moralistic urge to strike 
at the malefactors of great wealth. 

There should be, the President argued in the "muck-rake" speech, 
a sharp distinction between fortunes "gained as an incident to per- 
forming great services to the community . . . and those gained in 
evil fashion by keeping just within the limits of mere law-honesty.'" 
He added that "no amount of charity in spending [ill-won] fortunes 
in any way compensates for misconduct in making them." He realized, 
of course, that it was impossible to make the distinction; and because 
of his reluctance to penalize those whose incomes were by his un- 
specified criteria earned, he was slow to espouse the income tax. Such 
was his contempt for the idle rich and their offspring, however, that 
he came easily to the conclusion that regardless of how huge fortunes 


were amassed, they should not be passed down in full. "They rarely 
do good and they often do harm to those who inherit them," he 
sermonized in his last annual message to Congress. From the attack 
on the muckrakers on, accordingly, Roosevelt repeatedly urged Con- 
gress and nation to adopt a steeply graduated inheritance tax. 



Forty years before Americans were willing to listen . . . 
[Roosevelt] urged active participation in world decisions for 
which he felt we shared responsibility and whose consequences he 
felt we could not escape. 

Howard K. Beale, Theodore Roosevelt 

Even before the President's domestic program reached its finest flower 
in 1906, Roosevelt had sounded the death knell over the old isola- 
tionism and won recognition for his country as a world power of the 
first magnitude. He had further committed the United States to inter- 
nationalism of a form. Never thereafter would the American people 
live in relative isolation from the affairs of Europe or the Eastern 
Hemisphere, though they would often imagine that they were. Never 
again would the leaders of the Old World act without regard to 
American interests, though they would sometimes tragically miscalcu- 
late America's response to their actions. 

The Roosevelt who sheathed the sword of ultranationalism to plunge 
into the struggle for world peace in 1905 and 1906 was a wiser and 
more reflective man than the Roosevelt who had exulted over war in 
1898, urged repudiation of a half-century-old treaty with the British 
in 1900, and rode roughshod over Latin American sensibilities in 
1902. He thought as much as always in terms of power "I never take 
a step in foreign policy unless I am assured that I shall be able eventu- 
ally to carry out my will by force," he asserted in 1905 and numerous 
times before and after. And he continued to press urgently and effec- 
tively for military preparedness, especially for the strengthening of 



the battle fleet. But he now possessed a clearer perception of the 
ramifications of power. 

No longer did Roosevelt gauge events solely in terms of their 
impact upon the immediate interests of the United States, as he had 
frequently done in the past. No longer did he believe that a display 
of force was invariably more effective than patient negotiation or that 
America had only to flex its muscles and go it alone. When, just six 
months before he brought peace to Russia and Japan in 1905, he 
declared in his inaugural address that America's attitude toward all 
the nations of the world "must be one of cordial and sincere friend- 
ship" and that it must be shown "not only in our words, but in our 
deeds," he indubitably meant it. And had it not been for the fetters 
imposed by his own views on colonialism, he might well have fulfilled 
that high aspiration. 

Nowhere were these changes more apparent than in the President's 
attitude toward the Far East. He still clung to many of the old im- 
perialistic precepts, and he believed to the end that China was fraught 
with opportunity for American economic penetration. "Before I came 
to the Pacific Slope I was an expansionist," he exclaimed in San 
Francisco in May, 1903, "and after having been here I fail to under- 
stand how any man . . . can be anything but an expansionist." Thus 
he continued to give vigorous support to John Hay's "Open Door" 
and to reflect the ideas of Captain Mahan and, more critically, of 
Brooks Adams. Yet and this is the real measure of his intellectual 
growth Roosevelt saw the world in more and more complex terms. 

"He commenced to realize," writes Beale, "that the struggle for 
supremacy in Eastern Asia was closely related, sometimes in a compli- 
cated and baffling fashion, to a struggle for dominance hi Europe, and 
that both of these component struggles were parts of a world struggle 
that encompassed much besides either Europe or the Far East. . . . 
[He] came to comprehend the discouraging but basic fact that, if 
America was to become a world power among imperial rivals as he 
wished her to do, she must enter a game in which, through compli- 
cated moves and countermoves, each nation was trying to increase its 
own power but was determined that no other power or group of 
powers should attain sufficient strength to threaten it and its friends." 

One of the portentous results of this maturing process was a 
volte-face toward Russia. Roosevelt had originally been more pleased 
than displeased by that giant's remorseless advance into Turkestan 


and the wild reaches of Siberia during the late nineteenth century, 
viewing the march of the Russian peoples with the fascination that 
he had written into his own Winning of the West. He was keenly aware 
that the Russians were undemocratic, if not barbaric, and he had 
vague forebodings that Russia might some day "take possession of 
Northern China and drill the Northern Chinese to serve as her army." 
But as late as the eve of his elevation to the presidency he professed 
to be undisturbed by that latter prospect. "Undoubtedly the future is 
hers unless she mars it from within," he wrote in July, 1901. "But 
it is the future and not the present." Meanwhile Russia's advance into 
China would exert a stabilizing influence on that backward, amor- 
phous, and warlord-ridden nation. Consequently, he concluded, it 
would actually prove a blessing to "civilization." 

Under the heavy responsibility of the presidential office, however, 
Roosevelt's views began to change. America's dynamic thrust toward 
world power, the dream of economic penetration of China with the 
clash of American and Russian aspirations that it portended these 
and the growing rapprochement with Great Britain shed an ominous 
new light on the Russian question. Where once Roosevelt had been 
enamored of the Eurasian giant's latent power and had even specu- 
lated that Russia might be "the hope of a world that is growing effete," 
he now began to ponder the implications of that power. A note of 
apprehension and distrust of Russian ambitions crept into his cor- 
respondence; and when the Russians massacred thousands of Jews 
at Kishinev in 1903 he was revolted, though he discreetly refused to 
protest openly. He was further incensed by the tsarist government's 
failure to withdraw its troops from Manchuria in accordance with 
an agreement with China of 1902 and by its resultant flaunting of 
the Open Door. "I wish, in Manchuria, to go the very limit I think 
our people will stand," he informed Hay in high irritation during the 
summer of 1903. The Russians have comported themselves with 
"well-nigh incredible mendacity," the President complained to Albert 
Shaw about the same time. "I believe in the future of the Slavs if they 
can only take the right turn," he later confided to Spring-Rice, who 
had been trying to impress him with the Russian menace for almost 
a decade. "But I do not believe in the future of any race while it is 
under a crushing despotism. . . ." 

Conversely, Roosevelt's once harsh attitude toward Japan softened 
perceptibly. There was much in the Japanese national character that 


he had always admired military competency, industrial efficiency, 
and sacrificial quality. And though he believed that the Japanese had 
much to learn from the West, particularly about the treatment of 
women, he felt that Americans could profit from contact with the 
Japanese. He was notably impressed by their success in eliminating 
"the misery" that so cursed America's great cities. But the President 
was not wont to interject consciously his personal likes and dislikes 
into his appraisal of the American national interest. Even after he 
turned against the Tsar's government he continued to feel warm 
toward the Russian people; and he always did respect Germans 
heartily, the anti-German tenor of much of his diplomacy notwith- 

Roosevelt's growing cordiality toward Japan was animated by 
several factors. The most critical were the belief that Japan had 
resigned itself to American possession of Hawaii and the Philippines 
and the conviction that Japan constituted the natural counterweight 
to Russia in the Far East. Hence the administration's approval of the 
Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902. Yet the President never dropped 
his guard completely. "It is always possible that Russia and Japan 
will agree to make up their differences and assume an attitude of 
common hostility toward America," he warned his ambassador to 
Russia in December, 1904. Or, as he had bluntly phrased it to the 
Japanese ambassador during a luncheon conversation six months 
before, "Japan might get the 'big head' and enter into a general career 
of insolence and aggression." But he did not think this was likely as 
long as the United States treated Japan with respect and recognized 
its "paramount interest in what surrounds the Yellow Sea." 

Convinced that the interests of America and the whole civilized 
world called for a supreme effort to promote stability in the Far East, 
the President held himself ready to make the necessary effort. Nor 
did he feel any compunction about acting on this, his personal esti- 
mate of the situation. Indeed, during the summer of 1905, in an action 
that heavily underlined the irreconcilables faced by numerous archi- 
tects of twentieth-century foreign policy, he strained the executive 
authority to its uttermost limit to achieve his object. 

Shortly before the President opened the memorable Russo-Japanese 
peace conference, his special representatives in London and Tokyo, 
Senator Lodge and Secretary of War Taft, pledged the United States 
to silent partnership in the Anglo- Japanese Alliance. Of necessity, 


the commitment was unofficial. Roosevelt would have welcomed a 
formal treaty with His Majesty's government, for he regarded British 
and American interests as identical in their larger compass. But he 
was too able a political leader to cut himself off from the people by 
proposing such a radical break with tradition. So he settled on the 
personal arrangements made by Lodge and Taft. They were not bind- 
ing, except in a gentlemanly sense. Yet their import was clear: On 
the word of its President and without the knowledge of its people, the 
United States government had agreed to act in concert with Great 
Britain and Japan should a Far Eastern crisis develop. As Taft had 
confidentially explained to Count Taro Katsura, the Japanese Prime 
Minister, Tokyo could count upon his government "quite as confi- 
dently as if the United States were under treaty obligations." 

Two decades were to pass before the American people learned of 
this signal circumvention of the treaty making power. A rumor that 
the United States had unofficially joined the Anglo-Japanese Alliance 
was published in Japan a few months after the fact, but it was denied 
by Washington. Only when the historian Tyler Dennett uncovered 
the evidence while doing research for his Roosevelt and the Russo- 
Japanese War, published in 1925, was the secret out. 

Why the suppression? The startling fact seems to be, as Beale con- 
cludes, that Roosevelt simply did not "dare tell" the American people. 
Whether this restraint was justified depends on the latitude one feels 
the executive should be granted. There is no question, however, that 
the President had exceeded the limits of his authority in its narrow 
construction; that he had comported himself in the grand and some- 
times circumspect manner of the strong Presidents from Jefferson 
through Truman. Nor is there any question that he had acted out of 
deep-felt concern for his country's well-being, and that he had then 
acted only after mature reflection and extended consultation with 
responsible advisers. Confident in the wisdom of his policy, serene in 
the knowledge that he would within four years return again to the 
people, he needed no other justification. 

The most far-reaching aspect of the Anglo-American-Japanese 
accord which Roosevelt had thus embraced was the recognition of 
Japanese suzerainty in Korea the so-called Taft-Katsura Agreement. 
Korea had been wrenched from its tie to the Confucian state by 
China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. The triumphant 
Japanese and the watchfully aggressive Russians had then guaranteed 


her nominal independence; but the Tsar's government had persistently 
tightened its hold upon her during the decade that followed. Mean- 
while it continued its occupation of Manchuria. 

Desperate to resolve what it regarded as the Russian threat, Japan 
finally offered Russia a free hand in Manchuria in exchange for one in 
Korea. But the Russians, as Sir Bernard Pares writes, were aiming 
"at nothing less than establishing a Russian hegemony over Asia 
. . . including ... the expulsion of the British from India." Repeatedly 
the Tsar Nicholas II refused to respond to Japanese entreaties that 
he evacuate Manchuria or soften his Korean policy. Finally, on 
February 5, 1904, Tokyo "gave a last and earnest warning," and then 
withdrew its minister from St. Petersburg. Three days after that, in a 
maneuver they had used against China in 1894 and would develop to 
perfection thirty-seven years later, the Japanese launched a surprise 
attack on the Russian fleet at Chemulpo. They made no formal 
declaration of this, the start of the Russo-Japanese War. 

Spectacularly successful both on land and sea, the Japanese stood 
as masters of all Korea and part of Manchuria as well by the spring 
of 1905. They thus made British recognition of their authority in 
Korea a prime factor in renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 
1902; and they in effect demanded a similar recognition from the 
United States. 

Roosevelt had followed the course of the war with absorbed interest. 
He was informed that the Japanese occupation forces were subjecting 
the Koreans to indignities that made the white imperialism so acidly 
characterized by "Mr. Dooley" and others seem restrained. And he 
knew that the Japanese were making a concerted effort to restrict 
American business activity in Korea. He must also have known, 
though he could not admit it, that American refusal to recognize 
Japan's aggrandizement of Korea might have restored the luster to 
that moral leadership which the subjugation of the Filipino guerillas 
had so badly tarnished; that it might even have evoked grudging 
words of praise from his severest domestic critics, the "goo-goos." 
But he further understood that such action would have spiked his 
project for a Far Eastern balance of power built on the friendship 
and mutual recognition of the interests of his own country and Japan. 
Adapting himself to conditions as he found them, therefore, he warmly 
agreed with Taft that the United States approved Japan's "suzerainty 
over" Korea while Tokyo disavowed designs on the Philippines. "Your 


conversation with Count Katsura absolutely correct in every respect," 
the President cabled Taft on July 31, 1905. "Wish you would state 
to Katsura that I confirm every word you have said." 

Roosevelt never publicly explained his Korean policy even after 
he left the presidency; and understandably, given the continued 
delicacy of Japanese-American relations. Nevertheless, his intimates 
knew why he had acted as he did. Events had boxed him into a 
situation analogous to that encountered by Franklin D. Roosevelt at 
Yalta when the Communists had de facto control of Poland. As Elihu 
Root, irked by charges that his beloved friend had "sold out" the 
Koreans (young Syngman Rhee was among the most bitter protestants 
at the time), insisted twenty-five years later, the President had no 
alternative aside from complete withdrawal. "Many people are still 
angry because we did not keep Japan from taking Korea," Root 
reflected. "There was nothing we could do except fight Japan; Con- 
gress wouldn't have declared war and the people would have turned 
out the Congress that had. All we might have done was to make 
threats which we could not carry out." 

By the time the Taft-Katsura memorandum had made formal the 
Anglo-American-Japanese comity, the President stood on the thresh- 
old of his most magnificent, and in a sense most frustrating, diplo- 
matic achievement mediation of the Russo-Japanese War. The back- 
ground was long and complex. 

Roosevelt had not quite assumed full direction of Far Eastern 
affairs when the war broke out in February, 1904. His initial reaction 
followed lines Secretary Hay had earlier laid down. Both Russia and 
Japan were urged to observe "the neutrality of China," and interested 
neutral powers were adjured to cooperate to the same end. That, 
apparently, was all. Afterward the President said in a letter to Spring- 
Rice that he "notified Germany and France in the most polite and 
discreet fashion that in the event of a combination against Japan" 
the United States would "promptly side with Japan and proceed to 
whatever length was necessary on her behalf." But neither the editors 
of Roosevelt's Letters nor Beale have found evidence that he delivered 
such a warning. Possibly Roosevelt confused what he actually said 
with what was in his mind at the time, or with what he later believed 
he should have said. And possibly neither Ambassador Jusserand nor 
Speck von Sternburg reported what they may have regarded as in- 
formal remarks meant for them rather than their governments. 


Meanwhile, the President's enthusiasm for the Nipponese continued 
to mount. By the technological, militaristic, and administrative criteria 
that loomed so large in his thinking, they were proving themselves 
civilized. "What nonsense it is to speak of the Chinese and the 
Japanese as of the same race," the President said to Hay at one 
point. "I should hang my head in shame if I were capable of dis- 
criminating against a Japanese general or admiral, statesman, philan- 
thropist or artist, because he and I have different shades of skin," he 
wrote on the eve of the peace conference. The white Russians, not 
the yellow Japanese, were the inferior people. "They are utterly in- 
sincere and treacherous; they have no conception of the truth . . . 
and no regard for others ... no knowledge of their own strength 
and weakness." Was not the Tsar "a preposterous little creature." 

Even at the height of his enthusiasm for the Japanese, however, the 
President thought basically in terms of an American interest related 
to that of civilization as a whole. To be sure, he sometimes conjec- 
tured that it might be best for Russia and Japan to bleed themselves 
to cnfeeblement; and he occasionally contemplated an ultimate war 
between the United States and Japan. But he never gave serious con- 
sideration to either possibility. Maturely and morally, he concluded 
that the war should be ended rather than prolonged, and that Ameri- 
can and world interests would be served thereby. A friendly America 
would give Japan no provocation for hostile action; and in any event, 
Russia was more dangerous. "If Russia wins she will organize north- 
ern China against us," Roosevelt predicted to Hay when the war was 
but five months old. "Therefore, on the score of mere national self- 
interest, we would not be justified in balancing the certainty of im- 
mediate damage [from Russia] against the possibility of future damage 
[from Japan]." 

Consequently the President strove to promote a peace that would 
end the war and yet reflect Japan's military victories. To Chentung 
Liang-Cheng and Baron Takahira, the cordial Chinese and Japanese 
ambassadors to Washington, to Count Arturo Cassini, the despised 
representative of the Tsar, and to those old stand-bys, Speck von 
Sternburg and Jean Jules Jusserand, Roosevelt repeatedly proposed 
mediation. But for more than a year he was cast about on the shoals 
of European rivalries. No nation could afford to antagonize the 
Russians. France was already allied with them; Germany was striving 
soulfully to woo them; and Great Britain was in the throes of a fateful 


indecision. Nor would the Russians themselves listen to peace pro- 
posals. "Cassini throws a pink fit at any reference to peace," Hay 
remarked as late as November, 1904. 

In these circumstances Roosevelt shrewdly decided that peace 
would have to be arranged, if at all, by a seemingly disinterested third 
power. And though suggestions were offered that a congress of nations 
attempt mediation, he peremptorily dismissed them for fear a congress 
would partition China irreparably and destroy America's growing 
friendship with Japan in the process. As he explained to Hay, "We 
could hardly afford to allow a combination of R. G. & F. to step in 
and deprive Japan of the results of this war." 

- Lacking the financial resources to fight indefinitely, or indeed for 
many more months, Japan meanwhile realized the wisdom of negoti- 
ating while the fortunes of war were still so munificently with her. 
Rumors that she would entertain mediation cropped out in February, 
1905, and in March Ambassador Takahira and Baron Kaneko, a 
Harvard classmate of Roosevelt's, began secret conferences with the 
President. Their government demanded victor's terms, including an 

The Tsar, who was an obtuse autocrat at worst and a reckless 
gambler at best, was not amenable. He preferred to stake the future 
on one more showdown with the Japanese fleet; and this over against 
the colossal defeats of his forces, the near bankruptcy of his govern- 
ment, and the massive unrest of his people. The showdown came in 
the Battle of the Sea of Japan on May 27 and 28, when, in one of the 
most impressive naval victories yet to be won, Admiral Togo prac- 
tically destroyed Admiral Rozhdestvensky's thirty-two-ship fleet which 
had steamed around the world from Europe for the engagement. And 
so, wrote Pares, there was fulfilled a fate that had been sure to over- 
take it "from the day it set sail on its desperate errand under the 
ill-starred flag of the Romanoffs." Three days later the Japanese, 
having ascertained that Roosevelt agreed with their principal demands, 
asked the President to initiate mediation. 

Even imperious Wilhelm II now importuned his stubborn cousin, 
"Nicky," to agree to mediation on the grounds that the cessation of 
hostilities was the only alternative to revolution. Under this and other 
pressure, the Tsar began to weaken, though hardly to break; and there 
ensued a difficult preliminary negotiation which has been brilliantly 
pieced together by Beale. Through it all Roosevelt showed himself 


wisely sensitive to the childlike whims of the Tsar and discreetly firm 
with the Japanese, who were beginning to stand hard on their new- 
won dignity. Privately the President raged. "The more I see of the 
Czar, the Kaiser, and the Mikado the better I am content with 
democracy, even if we have to include the American newspaper as one 
of its assets," he complained to Lodge. But in his relations with the 
principles he acted with "consummate tact." 

During the early summer Roosevelt ironed out most of the surface 
conflict in separate meetings with the delegates: Count Sergei Witte 
and Baron Roman R. Rosen for the Russians; Ambassador Takahira 
and Baron Jutaro Komura for the Japanese. Then, on August 5, he 
surpassed himself with a memorable display of social urbanity and 
diplomatic finesse aboard the presidential yacht Mayflower, anchored 
in the harbor of Oyster Bay. The occasion was a luncheon for the 
envoys, and the issue was precedence. Who would be seated to the 
President's right? Which nation would be toasted first? Who would 
precede whom into the dining room? 

That the fate of tens of thousands of common soldiers and sailors 
should have depended upon such trivialities (and still often does) is 
incredible. Witte, who admitted to being "morbidly sensitive" to 
criticism of his shaken country, was beset by fear that the President, 
"a typical American, inexperienced in and careless of formalities, 
would make a mess of the whole business," and that the Japanese 
might "be given some advantage" over the Russian envoys. "I will 
not suffer a toast to our Emperor offered after one to the Mikado," 
he irritably remarked to Baron Rosen on the eve of the conference. 
Nor were Takahira and Komura, who stood half a foot under Roose- 
velt and a full foot under the tall and powerful Witte, disposed to 
waive the proprieties. Their country's resounding defeat of the Rus- 
sians had symbolized nothing if not the yellow man's rise to equality 
and more with the white man; and their resultant arrogance had 
already made its mark on American public opinion. 

Roosevelt, however, came up with an ingenious solution. After 
introducing the Russians to the Japanese when they came aboard the 
presidential yacht, he engaged in general conversation in French; 
then, his butchered phrases still pouring out, he simultaneously guided 
the chief of each delegation across the threshold and into the dining 
salon, where their plates were filled from a round buffet table. After 
everyone was served, he exclaimed: "Gentlemen, I propose a toast 


to which there will be no answer and which I ask you to drink in 
silence, standing." He then drank "to the welfare and prosperity of 
the sovereigns and peoples of the two great nations, whose representa- 
tives have met one another on this ship." It was, he said, "my most 
earnest hope and prayer, in the interest ... of all mankind that a 
just and lasting peace may speedily be concluded among them." 

The President had carried it off. The subsequent conversation was 
more relaxed even than circumstances warranted, and when Takahira 
and Rosen later departed, they shook hands warmly. Roosevelt was 
tremendously relieved; and also pleased with himself. "I looked for- 
ward to this affair with a good deal of anxiety," he confided that 
night to Joseph B. Bishop, who was then secretary of the Isthmian 
Canal Commission, "knowing that a single slip on my part which 
could be construed as favoring one set of envoys over the others would 
be fatal. ... I think we are off to a good start." 

The luncheon on the Mayflower was but a prelude to the larger 
drama that constituted the mediation itself. From any perspective, 
President Roosevelt had embarked on one of the most perilous 
courses of his entire career. The stakes were fabulously high. Success 
promised peace the end of pointless bloodletting, the extinction of 
the threat of worldwide conflict. It meant that Roosevelt would be 
acclaimed by men of good will the world over; that he would be 
showered with laurels such as no American had ever before received. 
Failure meant that the war would continue, or, more likely, that the 
powers of Europe would carve out a peace representative of their own 
special interests. It also foreshadowed personal humiliation for the 
President and loss of prestige for his country. Nor was that all. 
Success in the primary objective peace threatened failure in the 
secondary objective: advancement of the United States' interests. For 
Japanese-American friendship hung in the balance. What would be 
the fate of the President's good neighbor policy toward Japan if the 
terms of the peace he had promoted failed to satisfy the Mikado's 

It is the measure of Roosevelt's character that knowing all this he 
still undertook the mission. There are, of course, the stock psycho- 
logical explanations his unfailing compulsion to act, his perpetual 
gravitation toward the center of the stage, his conviction that glory 
was the supreme end of life. But in all probability, higher motives 
than those were controlling. Indeed Beale, whose work is marred 


neither by unreasoned adulation nor by undisciplined prejudice, con- 
cludes that the President's purpose was purely and simply to end the 
carnage and stabilize the balance of power in the Far East. "I thought 
it my plain duty to make the effort," the President wearily, yet happily, 
remarked to Bishop the night of the Mayflower luncheon. "I should 
be sorry to see Russia driven completely off the Pacific coast," he had 
confided to Lodge two months before, ". . . and yet something like 
this will surely happen if she refused to make peace." 

The final terms arranged at Portsmouth were actually more advan- 
tageous to Russia than Roosevelt thought necessary. The Tsar had 
remained adamant, disdaining to the end the Japanese demand for 
an indemnity; he also opposed transfer of Sakhalin Island to Japan. 
Fortunately for his obdurate Majesty, Sergei Witte had managed 
through a combination of good luck and high skill to swing the 
mercurial American temperament from support of Japan to sympathy 
for Russia. He had also faithfully reflected his sovereign's obduracy 
at the council table. The result was prolonged deadlock. Concluding 
that the negotiations would thus terminate in failure, with all that 
implied, Roosevelt had made an indirect personal appeal to the 
Mikado near the end. And well that he had, for the Russian envoys 
were under orders from the Tsar to "finish the negotiations and come 
home at once." To Witte's astonishment and Komura's despair, Tokyo 
had submitted. On August 30 the Japanese agreed to waive the in- 
demnity and accept the southern half of Sakhalin Island, rather than 
the whole as they had been demanding. 

Peace of a sort had finally come to the Far East. As Roosevelt 
freely acknowledged, France and Germany had contributed to the 
final achievement; and so had the rugged Russian patriot, Witte, who 
had earlier been dismissed from the Tsar's service because of his 
opposition to the aggressive policies which had provoked the war. 
Nevertheless, it was a uniquely personal triumph for the President, 
one that earned for him and his government the acclaim of the 
nations. The Tsar, the Mikado, the Kaiser, the King of England 
(whose government had been inactive), and hundreds of prominent 
men the world over effusively poured forth their congratulations. 
Some were perfunctory; but many were heartfelt. 

'This is the happiest news of my life," exclaimed the aging Pope 
Pius X, who would live just long enough to protest the start of a much 
greater war. "Thank God for President Roosevelt's courage." "You 


have probably saved the lives of a quarter of a million men," the 
American Ambassador to Russia reported. As the editors of the 
Literary Digest concluded, "Whatever the actual influences which in- 
duced the Government at Tokyo to accept the terms, the whole world 
is agreed that President Roosevelt is the man who marshaled them in 
such a way as to bring about the desired result. 

As in all creative acts, however, the cost was high. Even as many 
Americans basked in their President's glory, even as they conceded 
that Roosevelt had done for humanity what no one else could have 
done, they lamented the price of greatness. They spoke critically of 
"entangling alliances"; they remarked nostalgically of the old isola- 
tionism; they read knowingly of the riotous wave of anti-Americanism 
that rose in Japan in the wake of the settlement. And some, Mark 
Twain among them, even protested that peace had preserved the 
tottering regime of the autocratic and irresponsible Nicholas II. Better 
that the Russians should be liberated from their "age-long chains," 
said that master satirist of royalty and its works. 

And perhaps it would have been better as it would also have been 
better if the United States had not become identified with Japan's 
failure to realize the full fruits of her military victories. More than 
one historian has added the heavy burden of hindsight to those 
ponderous judgments. But to what real enlightenment? To accept the 
premises of those who argue that Roosevelt should have forborne the 
peacemaker's role that fate had thrust before him is to accept premises 
which lead logically, albeit extremely, to preventive war. Not yet has 
moral Western man succumbed to that ultimate degradation of the 
human spirit. So the wheel perforce turns full circle back to the 
night of the luncheon aboard the Mayflower and the President's un- 
affected statement to his friend Bishop that he had felt it "my plain 
duty to make the effort." 

John Hay had not lived to see his country become the focal point 
of world interest at Portsmouth. Never a robust man, he had been 
steadily declining since the summer of 1900. Partly out of loyalty to 
party and friend, largely out of sheer inertia, he had hung on until 
after the inauguration in March long enough for the Senate to 
emasculate a series of arbitration treaties he had laboriously negotiated 
and then insult him personally by declining to pass a resolution au- 
thorizing him to accept the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor from 


the French government. Early in the morning of July 1, 1905, two 
weeks after he had returned to his summer home in New Hampshire 
following a fruitless trip to Europe in quest of health, he died. 

Private secretary to Abraham Lincoln, friend of Roosevelt's revered 
father, and one of the main architects of that Anglo-American amity 
to which Roosevelt was now committed, Hay had been for the Presi- 
dent a link with the past. "I dearly loved him; there is no one who 
with any of us can quite fill the place he held," Roosevelt wrote 
Hay's widow the day of his death. "He was not only my wise and 
patient advisor in affairs of state; he was the most devoted and . . . 
charming of friends." The sentiments were genuine, if not inclusive. 

The death of the man who had articulated the Open Door policy 
evoked more than the normal spate of uncritical newspaper appraisals. 
Hay was given rank with the greatest Secretaries of State; he was 
credited with achievements that were more Roosevelt's than his and 
with responsibility for the administration's "signal success." The 
President was irritated by these lavish encomiums, though he had 
publicly pronounced Hay's death a "national bereavement." And in 
letters to Lodge, Taft, Beveridge and others he revealed his pique. 
But not until the publication in 1909 of three volumes of Hay's letters 
edited by Henry Adams did he give full vent to his feelings. 

Curiously, the burden of Hay's comments was favorable to Roose- 
velt. "He has plenty of brains, and as you know, a heart of gold," Hay 
had written in one letter. However, Hay did play down the President's 
role in the Panama and Alaskan boundary episodes, and otherwise 
showed less deference presumably, than the President desired. 
"[Roosevelt] . . . began talking at the oysters, and the pousse-cafe 
found him still at it," Hay had confided to Adams near the end of 
Roosevelt's first year in office. "When he was one of us, we could sit 
on him but who, except you, can sit on a Kaiser?" 

On January 28, 1909, in a nine-page posterity letter to Lodge that 
was as revealing of its author's values as of its subject's character and 
achievements, Roosevelt reduced Hay to a stature somewhat below 
that which many historians would later give him. 

I think he was the most delightful man to talk to I ever met, for 
... he continually made out of hand those delightful epigrammatic 
remarks which we would all like to make, . . . [Roosevelt wrote]. 
But he was not a great Secretary of State. ... He had a very 
ease-loving nature and a moral timidity which made him shrink 


from all that was rough in life. . . . His close intimacy with Henry 
James and Henry Adams charming men, but exceedingly un- 
desirable companions for any man not of strong nature and the 
tone of satirical cynicism which they admired . . . marked that 
phase of his character which so impaired his usefulness as a public 
man. [Hay] . . . never initiated a policy or was of real assistance in 
carrying thru a policy; but he sometimes phrased what I desired 
said in a way that was of real service; and the general respect for 
him was such that his presence in the Cabinet was a strength to the 
administration. He was always afraid of Senators and Congressmen 
who possest any power or robustness. . . . 

Roosevelt then came to the core of his grievance: He reproduced 
documents to prove that he, not Hay, had been principally responsible 
for settling the Alaskan dispute. He wrote that he himself had done 
the "vital work" on Panama. He charged that Hay would not act when 
a crisis had occurred in China. And he claimed that Hay "could not 
be trusted where England was concerned." 

Many of the President's points were well taken; but others, espe- 
cially on Panama and Alaska, were distorted. There was also an 
ironic aspect to the complaint that Hay had failed to initiate policy. 
It was not in Roosevelt's nature to have permitted Hay or anyone else 
to make the great decisions of state. With less assertiveness than 
Roosevelt respected, perhaps, Hay had often and sometimes crucially 
proffered sagacious advice; and the President had on occasion re- 
jected it. Nevertheless, as the burden of Roosevelt's estimate suggests, 
Hay had been in his own times overrated. 

Neither Roosevelt's letter to Lodge nor the remarks in Hay's pub- 
lished letters which provoked it comprise a pleasant chapter. Lincoln, 
the man both men most admired, could not have written them. But 
Roosevelt apparently had to. His sense of history and his extraor- 
dinary concern for his place in history would not permit him to leave 
unchallenged statements that he regarded as misleading or derogatory 
to himself. 

If the President's reflections on Hay reveal his own hypersensitivity, 
his selection of Elihu Root as the new Secretary of State reveals his 
larger strength. His natural rapport with men of strong character 
virtually foreordained that he would turn to Root in the urgency of 
the summer of 1905, though he thought fleetingly of Taft, who had 
replaced Root as Secretary of War eighteen months before. "I wished 


Root . . . partly because I am extremely fond of him and prize his 
companionship as well as his advice, but primarily because I think 
that in all the country he is the best man for the position," Roosevelt 
explained to Beveridge. "He will be a tower of strength to us all," he 
wrote Lodge. "I not only hope but believe that he will get on well 
with the Senate, and he will at once take a great burden off my mind 
in connection with various subjects, such as Santo Domingo and 

Root was to meet the President's hopes, though his works as 
Secretary of State were to be less notable than those of his years in 
the War Department. Then he had been a host unto himself efficient, 
constructive, and within the limits of his cautious outlook, bold. He 
had contributed substantially to the creation of the American colonial 
system and he had essayed a noteworthy reorganization of the army. 
There was a subtle difference, however, in the circumstances of Root's 
two secretaryships, separated as they were by eighteen months. 

Elihu Root had been already in office, already engaged in his con- 
structive labors, when Theodore Roosevelt became President of the 
United States in September, 1901. And he had continued to be a real 
power until, with Roosevelt's praises ringing in his ears "I shall 
never have, and can never have, a more loyal friend, a more faithful 
and wiser adviser" he had resigned on February 1, 1904. But when 
Root returned to Washington in July, 1905, it was to the service of a 
man who had been resoundingly endorsed by the American people, 
was more ebulliently confident than ever, and had for many months 
been making the broad decisions in foreign policy on his own. The 
old order had passed; nor could it be re-created. 

Yet Root hardly proved subordinate. As Roosevelt later said, "He 
fought me every inch of the way. And, together, we got somewhere." 
The President took Root into his confidence on most matters of state, 
and he fortunately gave him almost free rein in the formulation and 
carrying out of policy for the Western Hemisphere. Root resolved 
the nettling Santo Domingo situation by winning Senate approval of 
a new treaty with the Dominican republic in February, 1907; he pro- 
moted cordial relations with Canada; and he emerged as one of the 
early architects of the modern "Good Neighbor" policy. He was also 
virtually solely responsible for the administration's Manchurian policy. 



"In [Roosevelt's] . . . consciousness of the possibility of 
world war and of America's involvement in it, and hence of 
America's concern to help avoid it, he was unusual in an America 
that was for the most part innocent of the danger of war and 
certain that a war in Europe or Asia would not concern us if it 
did come." 

Howard K. Beale, Theodore Roosevelt 

The muffled outcry of the isolationists over the President's mediation 
of the Russo-Japanese War became an angry roar when Roosevelt 
interjected America into a smoldering crisis in French Morocco at 
virtually the same time. In this action as in the Far Eastern one the 
President sought to promote peace through an uneasy balance of 
conflicting interests. And in this crisis as in that one Roosevelt duti- 
fully shouldered responsibilities that a lesser man might have avoided. 
Once again he emerged as the only statesman possessed of the prestige, 
power, and presumed disinterest to be acceptable to all concerned. 
And once again he acted in the realization that fulfillment of his 
larger objective might compromise the lesser interests of his own 
country, though he worked adroitly to avoid it. 

The issues were not basically different from those which had led 
to war between Russia and Japan. Nor were the implications less 
portentous. They involved nothing less than that complex of ententes, 
alliances, rivalries, and insecurities which was to drag all Europe into 
war in 1914. 

The immediate stake was the Open Door in Morocco. By agree- 



merits completed in April, 1904, the British had recognized French 
control over Morocco in return for French recognition of British 
preeminence in Egypt. These arrangements offended the Germans, 
who had come too late on the imperialistic stage to play a role com- 
mensurate with their newly consolidated might, and their seething 
ambitions consequently spilled over. On March 31, 1905, on the 
urging of his militant Chancellor, Von Billow, Emperor Wilhelm II 
disembarked from a German warship off Tangier and delivered, as 
one historian phrases it, "a defiant, saber-rattling speech" in which 
he pointedly declared that the Sultan was an independent sovereign 
in whose domain all foreign powers were entitled to equal rights. The 
war clouds that had hovered over Europe since the end of the Franco- 
Prussian War threatened to deluge the continent once more. 

Roosevelt was again caught in a dilemma. France's case was so 
weak, her breach of a trust arranged in 1880 so flagrant, that world 
opinion might normally have forced her to abandon her Moroccan 
venture.* But the Moroccan situation could not be isolated from the 
European power matrix nor, indeed, from Britain's interest in Egypt, 
where Suez was already regarded as the Empire's life line. To stand 
against France in Morocco was to oppose Great Britain. 

Roosevelt's friendship with the British was emotional in the broad 
usage of the word; but it was not blindly so, as Hay's sometimes was. 
The President often railed at the supercilious qualities of eminent and 
not so eminent Englishmen, and he regarded many British traits as 
offensively stupid. Like Lodge and numerous other ultranationalists, 
moreover, he shared feelings of cultural inferiority toward the British 
a sure sign of the repressed esteem in which he actually held them. 
Yet his strident patriotism would not allow of the mother country's 
supremacy; and even in his historical writings he had only begrudg- 
ingly acknowledged the great heritage she had bequeathed her mighty 
offspring. Nevertheless, by 1905 Roosevelt had become convinced 
that American and British interests were largely similar; and in the 
fall of that year the British Ambassador was reporting to Whitehall 
that although Roosevelt's "prejudices are all the other way," he had at 
times "seemed really friendly." Two years later when the President 
received as the new ambassador his old and respected friend, James 
Bryce, author of The American Commonwealth, he cast aside his 

* Morocco's independence had been affirmed by an international congress at 
Madrid in 1880. 


prepared remarks, so Bryce wrote, "and made a long impromptu 
speech full of expressions of friendliness to the King and to Great 
Britain and conveying the earnest desire for best relations and recipro- 
cal understanding between the two countries." 

Roosevelt's feelings toward the Germans were at once less critical 
and more hostile than those toward the British. That genius for order 
and efficiency he so admired in the Japanese was magnified in the 
case of the Germans, and many of his own domestic measures bear the 
mark of the German example. He was also less sensitive than many 
Americans to the Germans' nationalism, militarism, and compulsive 
need of self-assertion. Roosevelt could, it is true, laugh surreptitiously 
at the Kaiser's pompous struttings and imperious boasting; and he was 
never, as sometimes has been claimed, the subordinate partner in the 
calculated friendship he and that haughty gentleman long maintained. 
Still, he did have a kind of admiration for Wilhelm (which he astutely 
impressed upon German diplomats when it suited his purposes). And 
he once paid him the American politician's supreme compliment by 
declaring that he could have carried his ward in a democratic election. 
Always, however, the President regarded Imperial Germany as a 
powerful potential rival. 

Although Berlin sensed Roosevelt's predisposition toward the 
British, and in lesser degree the French, it hoped that the American 
President would serve as Germany's amicus curiae in the Moroccan 
crisis. His cordial relations with the Kaiser and his intimacy with 
Speck von Sternburg, together with America's devotion to the Open 
Door in China and absence of ambition in North Africa, suggested 
that he might. And from early 1905 on the Germans subjected him 
to unremitting pressure to that end. They pointed out that France and 
Spain's primacy in Morocco could lead to the exclusion of other 
commercial nations and that it would enable them to control the 
passage to the East. They protested that Germany had no ambitions 
in Morocco beyond maintenance of the Open Door. And they argued 
that the British would privately welcome action. Would not the United 
States join Germany in encouraging the Sultan to request an inter- 
national conference? Would not Roosevelt cooperate by releasing a 
protest of his own simultaneously with one by Germany? 

The President's response to these entreaties was circumspect. He 
told Speck von Sternburg in early March, 1905, that an active 
Moroccan policy would only expose him "to the bitterest attacks" in 


Congress. And he later advised him that "our interests in Morocco 
are not sufficiently great to make me feel justified in entangling our 
Government." Gradually, however, the onward rush of events over- 
took him. Following his inflammatory speech at Tangier on March 31, 
the Kaiser became beset by fear that England would support France 
in a showdown; and through his ambassador, Wilhelm importuned 
Roosevelt to urge the British against such a fateful course. But the 
President, who was then on a bear hunt in Colorado, shrewdly re- 
frained. As he explained to Taft, who was handling affairs in Hay's 
illness, he did not want to make the English "think we are acting as 
decoy ducks for Germany." He added, however, that he was "sincerely 
anxious to bring about a better state of feeling between England and 
Germany," and he suggested that the Secretary of War conduct a 
cautious inquiry into the British attitude, but only if he found the 
Ambassador, Sir Mortimer Durand, or the First Secretary "in any 
rational mood and you think the nice but somewhat fat-witted British 
intellect will stand it." 

During May and early June tension continued to rise, especially 
after the Sultan issued an invitation for a conference of the powers. 
The dramatic dismissal on June 6 of Foreign Minister Theophile 
Delcasse, the resolutely anti-German architect of France's Moroccan 
policy, reduced it temporarily; but the dismissal served also to em- 
bolden the Kaiser. As rumors of an impending showdown spread 
through the great chancelleries of the Western World, the Imperial 
government assumed an increasingly belligerent posture. Fearing 
finally that war might ensue, the French reluctantly began to relax 
their opposition to an international conference. Roosevelt, who had 
been keeping an eye on every straw in the wind, thereupon concluded 
that the time to intervene had come. 

The President's friendship with amiable Jean Jules Jusserand, with 
whom he had often played tennis and scrambled over the boulders of 
Rock Creek Park, now proved fruitful. Taking the Ambassador into 
his confidence almost completely, he impressed him with the gravity 
of the crisis and convinced him of his own disinterested purposes 
(the President's problem was to avoid creating the impression that 
he was pro-German). A measure of Roosevelt's success is found in 
part in the sympathetic report Jusserand later made to this govern- 


Examining . . . the means by which he might help us in avoid- 
ing war, the very idea of which struck him with horror, the Presi- 
dent has concluded that the only chance to do what might be useful, 
would be perhaps to flatter this excessive vanity of William II, to 
which he attributes, in large measure, the present difficulties. 

Roosevelt's intercession, combined with the force of events, had 
served to swing over the French, at least for the moment. Within a 
few days, however, a new impasse threatened. France demanded a 
preliminary understanding before meeting at the council table; Ger- 
many insisted that the issues be decided at the formal conference. 
The fate of the conference, and perhaps of world peace, hung pre- 
cariously in the balance. 

The President reacted with characteristic ingenuity. Using Speck 
von Sternburg as a sounding board, he played for the Kaiser's ear 
such a song of praise as was certain to beguile a man of Wilhelm's 
consummate vanity. He said the Kaiser "stands as the leader among 
the sovereigns of to-day who have their faces set toward the future." 
He argued that the French decision to accept a conference was "a 
genuine triumph for the Emperor's diplomacy." And he suggested 
that the Emperor's "high and honorable fame might be clouded" 
should "questions about minor details" produce "the dreadful calamity 
of war." 

Roosevelt's resourcefulness apparently again tipped the scales. 
Wilhelm agreed to an advance agenda; and he also promised that if 
there should be differences at the conference he would in every case 
support whatever decision Roosevelt regarded as "the most fair and 
the most practical." The President conveyed this promise to the 
French with the resultant resolution of their doubts. 

The President would have preferred to have taken no further part 
in the proceedings. Congressional opposition to his involvement was 
strong and vociferous; and in January, 1906, Senator Bacon intro- 
duced a resolution designed to remind the President of the Founding 
Fathers' allegedly isolationist faith. Even Root questioned the wisdom 
of Roosevelt's participation. But Lodge rose to the President's defense 
with a high-blown, if somewhat inaccurate, assertion that it was in 
the American tradition to use "moral influence ... to prevent war." 
And when the conference, which opened at Algeciras in southern 
Spain on January 16, 1906, deadlocked, Roosevelt did not hesitate 
to accept the challenge. 


On February 19, with talk of war once more filling the air, the 
President offered a four-point compromise program. In consonance 
with his basic sympathies, as well as his estimate of the total situation, 
his proposals were more reflective of French than German interests. 
They provided for the Open Door in principle; but they proposed in 
effect to turn over control of the Moroccan police to France and 
Spain. The Kaiser understandably demurred, and it seemed for a 
while that the conference would now actually fail. On the basis of 
representations from the Russians, however, Roosevelt decided to 
make a direct appeal to His Imperial Majesty on March 7. Again 
playing on Wilhelm's vanity, and also his honor, he quoted Speck von 
Sternburg's earlier promise that the Emperor would defer to his de- 
cision in the event of an insoluble difference between the German 
government and France. Wilhelm could do little but submit; after 
failing to convert Roosevelt to a compromise plan of his own, he 
did so. 

The President's imaginative diplomacy had saved the conference, 
and probably the peace as well. He had strengthened the bonds with 
his country's natural allies, France and Great Britain, and had man- 
aged at least to preserve the bonds with Germany. He had also taken 
America another long stride into the world. The episode, writes 
Mowry, "was eloquent testimony to Roosevelt's growing appreciation 
that the frontiers of twentieth-century American security often lay 
along the Yangtse and the Rhine, at Algeciras and Rome and Paris, 
and in a host of other places, some of them unknown or obscure even 
to members of Congress." 

Firm in the conviction that he had acted in the right that the 
virtual closing of the Open Door in Morocco was a small price for 
the maintenance of peace and the support of the British-French 
entente Roosevelt was again magnanimous in victory. To Jusserand 
he wrote that he had been able to give him his confidence only because 
he knew that "you would treat all that was said and done between us 
two as a gentleman of the highest honor treats what is said and done 
in the intimate personal relations of life." And of Speck von Sternburg, 
whose contribution was perhaps even greater than Jusserand's, he 
wrote: "Loyal though Speck was to his Government, down in his 
heart the honest, brave little gentleman did not believe Germany was 
acting as she should act." But to His Majesty, Wilhelm II, the Presi- 
dent was less than candid. In a message that Speck von Sternburg, 


though presumably not Wilhelm, saw through, he extended his "sin- 
cerest felicitations on this epochmaking political success at Algeciras" 
and asseverated that His Majesty's policy "has been masterly from 
beginning to end." 

As for his own role, the President remained discreetly silent. Only 
to Ambassador Whitelaw Reid in London, in a long, heavily docu- 
mented letter which he warned must "be considered as of the most 
strictly confidential character," did he set forth the record of events. 
That letter was designed for a posterity which until recently rejected 
it. Passing over the European sources and dismissing the claims to Reid 
as a figment of Roosevelt's imagination, American historians have 
tended to belittle, or at least underestimate, the President's decisive 
influence in arranging and then saving the Algeciras Conference. Not 
until 1956, when Beale published his study of Roosevelt after ex- 
haustive research in the sources, including those in Europe, was the 
President's own account confirmed. He was, Beale concludes, "an 
amazingly accurate reporter in this instance." 

President Roosevelt's mediation of the Russo-Japanese War and 
his intervention in the Moroccan dispute deservedly earned him the 
Nobel Peace Prize for 1906. Thereafter his views on domestic issues 
would continue to develop; his convictions on foreign affairs, how- 
ever, had by then reached near maturation. This was confirmed by his 
admonishment of "those who would lightly undergo the chance of 
war in a spirit of mere frivolity, or of mere truculence," and by his 
growing concern over the burgeoning costs and frightful implications 
of the international armaments race. Thus at the same time that 
Roosevelt worked for the particular peace he made a sincere, though 
severely limited, effort to secure the general peace through inter- 
national limitation of naval power and arbitration of minor disputes. 
In this, however, he failed, European rivalries proving too intense, 
the United States Senate too chauvinistic, and the President's basic 
assumptions (they were predicated on continued Anglo-American 
naval dominance) too transparent. 

Roosevelt had first issued a call for an international conference in 
October, 1904. Because of the Russo-Japanese War, however, he 
shortly afterward withdrew the call. Then, when the Tsar indicated 
the next year that he would like to call the conference himself, the 
President readily deferred. The Tsar's sponsorship would give the 
United States a freer hand; and it would happily spare Roosevelt, who 


still scorned the "peace-at-any-price" people on the grounds that they 
failed to realize that "justice is greater than peace," the odium, as he 
phrased it, of "posing too much as a professional peacemaker." 

During the long interval between the original call and the actual 
convening of The Second Hague Peace Conference on June 15, 1907, 
Roosevelt gave considerable thought to the meeting's agenda. He 
warned that the Conference should not be regarded as a panacea. 
"Just at present the United States Navy is an infinitely more potent 
factor for peace than all the peace societies of every kind and sort," 
he wrote President Eliot of Harvard, whom he viewed as an im- 
practical visionary. "At The Hague I think we can make some real 
progress, but only on condition of our not trying to go too far." And 
after he had skirted suggestions for limiting the size and quality of 
armies, he drew back on the grounds that the world armaments 
manufacturers' lobby was too powerful and that the Kaiser, especially, 
would never agree. However, he continued to press for naval limita- 
tions and "obligatory arbitration as broad in scope as now appears to 
be practicable." He further espoused a proposal for exemption of 
private property from capture in time of war. 

The first of these proposals was doomed from the beginning. The 
Russians wanted to rebuild their fleet, and the Japanese wanted to 
keep ahead of them and gain on the Americans and British. The 
Germans aspired to build up to the British. And the Italians were 
envious of the French. Neither was the prospect of accepting a status 
quo based on an overwhelming Anglo-American supremacy enticing 
to any of the other major powers including the British, who equivo- 
cated. Hence the death of the President's proposal and the continuance 
of the fateful armaments race which he correctly surmised would 
eventuate in a catastrophic war. 

Roosevelt's other proposals also died as they were born. He was 
himself unable to press compulsory arbitration as much as he would 
have liked because of the attitude of the Senate. As he explained to 
the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, "it does not repre- 
sent any real advance for me or anyone else to sign a general arbitra- 
tion treaty which itself merely expresses a 'pious opinion' that there 
ought hereafter to be arbitration treaties whenever both parties think 
they are advisable and this was precisely the opinion that most even 
of my own good friends in the Senate took as regards the last batch 
of arbitration treaties which I sent them." Nevertheless, he added, "I 


will do my best to get this Government to agree to any feasible 
scheme which will tend to minimize the chances for war occurring 
without previous efforts to secure mediation or arbitration." 

Whether the President could have persuaded the Senate to accept 
his view is conjectural. Before he had a chance to act, eight European 
states led by Germany refused at The Hague to agree to arbitrate 
legal disputes, to say nothing of those involving national interest. Even 
the recommendation for exemption of private property from capture 
in time of war was scuttled; and the Conference adjourned on October 
18, 1907, without material accomplishment. As Joseph H. Choate, 
the American delegate, succinctly put it in one of his reports, "There 
is very great reluctance on the part of these fighting nations to bind 
themselves to anything." 

The President's cautious internationalism and his mature abhor- 
rence of war continued, of course, to be delimited by his unwavering 
devotion to the national interest and by his continued contempt for 
the backward nations. He never agreed to endorse arbitration of 
disputes involving the national honor or interest. Nor did he ever 
abandon his belief that it was the duty of the "civilized" nations to 
discipline the "barbarous" ones. He did, it is true, concede that the 
problem was relative, that it was difficult to "state exactly which 
power ceases to be free and civilized and which comes near the line 
of barbarism or despotism." But in practice he invariably allowed his 
own conception of the American national interest to rule. 

The President's China policy was a case in point. Roosevelt had 
the intellectual equipment to have evolved a China policy that would 
have served American interests and kept ill-will at a minimum. He 
had a keen conception of the Russian menace, an almost prophetic 
vision of China's future importance, and unparalleled daring and 
imagination. But because he held firm to his technological criteria of 
civilization, because he overestimated his country's economic stake in 
China, and because he insisted on upholding false values of prestige, 
he failed. 

To be sure, Roosevelt inherited his China policy from McKinley 
and left its conduct largely in Hay's hands until 1904. Yet Hay kept 
him informed. He agreed in the main with Hay's policies. And he 
himself made several critical decisions during Hay's tenure. As Beale 
shows, it was the President who insulted the Chinese by insisting that 
the mixed foreign court at Shanghai rather than the Chinese govern- 


ment should be authorized to sentence a group of Chinese citizens 
found guilty of "violent incitements to insurrection" against the 
Chinese government. It was the President who tried to compel the 
Chinese to support a nominally American railroad company which 
had laid but twenty-eight miles of track out of a projected thousand 
miles in five years of financial chicanery and general mismanagement. 
(Lodge and Roosevelt agreed that the maintenance of American 
prestige was at stake.) And it was the President who directed policy 
throughout the Chinese boycott of American goods in 1905. Of these 
incidents, the latter was the most significant. The attitudes and actions 
which provoked it were deeply enmeshed in the American, and indeed 
the Western, social fabric; and they cut to the core of the imperialistic 
philosophy, even in its by then softened version. 

The precipitating issue was the Chinese Exclusion Treaty of 1883, 
which came up for renewal in 1904. Roosevelt had long favored the 
exclusion of Chinese laborers on economic and social grounds. "There 
is no danger of having too many immigrants of the right kind," he 
said in his annual message of 1905 and in numerous private letters. 
Nor, he also wrote, does it make any "difference from what country 
they come." However, he argued, "we should not admit masses of 
men whose standards of living and whose personal customs and habits 
are such that they tend to lower the level of the American wage- 

The question was in fact actually more complex than that. Immi- 
gration officials and private citizens frequently visited indignities on 
those Chinese who were admitted, many of them high government 
officials and distinguished scholars. The United States refused natural- 
ization to all Chinese ("Congress has done its work so well that even 
Confucius could not become an American," Hay remarked to Roose- 
velt at one point). And West Coast politicians were so intent on 
playing on the prejudices of their constituents that they demanded 
unilateral exclusion legislation in the spring of 1904 regardless of the 
outcome of the then pending treaty negotiations. 

Whatever the limitations of the President's own views, they were 
far in advance of his countrymen's at large. He personally favored 
admission of qualified Chinese to citizenship. He wanted to extend 
America's developing cultural hold on China. And he was reluctant 
to make commercial intercourse with China more difficult than it 
already was. But in the spring of 1904, fearing more the wrath of the 


West Coast voters than the indignation of the impotent Chinese, he 
sacrificed statesmanship to politics. On April 5 of that election year, 
he informed his Cabinet that he would approve a separate exclusion 
bill. Then, in one of the weakest actions of his presidential career, he 
signed a measure so providing. 

Meanwhile, anti-American sentiment in China rose feverishly. It 
emanated not from the reactionary Boxers, but from the men of 
China's future the progressive-minded intellectuals, students, and 
businessmen who foresaw for China the industrialized development 
that Roosevelt himself foresaw in his more reflective moments. Led 
by Sun Yat-Sen among others, these new nationalists resolved to 
assert China's independence; and they proposed as a first step toward 
that end the boycotting of American goods in protest against the 
contemptuous treatment of their countrymen by American immigra- 
tion officials. 

The President's response to the boycott was at once enlightened 
and authoritarian. He was so angered by the "barbarous methods" 
which inspired the boycott that he ordered reform even before the 
textile and other interested American business groups beseeched him 
to pursue a rational policy in the interest of their commerce with 
China. "We are a civilized nation," Roosevelt wrote the secretary of 
the Immigration Bureau on June 12, and "we are trying to teach the 
Chinese to be civilized. ... We ought not to treat a Chinese repre- 
sentative in a way which we would not for a moment tolerate if 
applied by the Chinese to some of our representatives." He then 
issued an executive order prescribing humane treatment of visiting 
Chinese by American immigration officials and directing "immediate 
dismissal" of any official who failed to conform. 

Chinese grievances were too long standing and the new nationalists' 
desire to assert their independence too intense, however, for a change 
in the form rather than the substance of American policy to divert the 
Chinese nationalists; on July 20, 1905, the boycott was instituted. 
It spread rapidly from Shanghai through South China and thence to 
Hawaii, the Philippines, and the Japanese ports of Nagasaki and 
Yokahama. It varied widely in effectiveness and was nowhere total; 
yet it was severe enough to evoke frantic pleas for diplomatic action 
by the American interests affected. As one consul reported, our 
businessmen in China have "gone mad" and are acting like "regular 
wild Indians." 


The President's contempt for the "inferior" Chinese now began 
slowly to surge to the surface. He continued to rail against the obtuse- 
ness that had incited the crisis. "I have the right," he testily wrote 
Senator George C. Perkins of California, "to expect that the Pacific 
coast representatives will aid me in undoing the injustice in our 
treaties . . . which has probably been the whole, and certainly the 
main, cause of the present boycott." But he was unable to hold to that 
rational viewpoint entirely. To the veteran China hand, William Rock- 
hill, he now laid bare his fatal flaw. The Chinese, wrote Roosevelt, 
"despise weakness even more than they prize justice, and we must 
make it evident both that we intend to do what is right and that we 
do not intend for a moment to suffer what is wrong." 

Nevertheless, the President resisted his rising impulse to resort to 
force until well into November, 1905. Gratified when the Chinese 
government formally condemned the boycott on August 31, he at- 
tempted to marshal public opinion behind a revision of the exclusion 
laws. The United States had failed to do its "duty toward the people 
of China," he bluntly told an export-conscious audience in the cotton 
belt on October 20. At the same time, however, he warned that 
America must maintain its "rights." 

Meanwhile anti-American sentiment in China intensified in spite of 
the near extinction of the boycott. The President's daughter, Alice, 
who had accompanied Taft to the Far East, was insulted by the 
Cantonese and forced to cancel a visit to their city. Riots broke out 
in several places, including Shanghai, where the Chinese nationalists 
sought greater jurisdiction over the privileged foreign settlement. And 
in early December an American admiral who had accidentally shot a 
Chinese woman was mobbed. 

In these circumstances, the President decided to pursue the firmest 
possible course; on November 15 he ordered the Secretary of the 
Navy to concentrate "as strong a naval force as possible" off the 
China coast. Preparations to form an expeditionary force of 15,000 
troops followed, and by mid-February the battleship Oregon was 
hovering off Hong Kong and Canton while the gunboat El Cano was 
cruising on the Yangtse River. With the stage thus set, the President 
submitted a series of humiliating demands to the Imperial government 
on February 26. Eight days later the Emperor resignedly submitted 
to this gunboat diplomacy by issuing an Imperial edict condemning 
expressions of antiforeign sentiment by his subjects. 


Roosevelt's threat of force had restored tranquillity, maintained the 
Open Door, and refurbished the national ego. But it had also em- 
bittered China's men of the future. It would be absurd to blame the 
whole subsequent China tangle on the President's coercive policies; 
many and graver blunders were to be made in the years to come. It is 
also difficult to see how Roosevelt could have avoided a firm policy 
(except for the unnecessary display of force), given the violence of 
Chinese activity, the frenetic pressures of American businessmen and 
labor leaders, and the Western milieu of which the United States, how- 
ever less imperiously, was yet a part. Within this frame of reference, 
Roosevelt had done almost all that was possible. He had upbraided 
American officials for their execrable discourtesy; he had urged 
Congress to modify the exclusion policy (though after he himself had 
submitted to it); and he had taken the question to the people. How 
then had he failed? 

The President failed, if we may accept Beale's conclusions, in that 
he, his advisers, and all but a handful of American commentators 
persisted in regarding China as a colonial with all that the term 
implied. Ideally, the United States should have courted, rather than 
condemned, the new nationalists. It should have encouraged, rather 
than discouraged, Chinese efforts to whittle down the extraterritorial 
privileges of Occidentals. And as Roosevelt himself wanted to do, it 
should have opened its doors to cultivated Chinese. But the domestic 
political maelstrom, coupled with the President's inability to break 
totally with his imperialistic, might-is-right heritage, prevented it from 
so doing. Of all the ironies in Theodore Roosevelt's career, none is 
more revealing than that he should have professed to see the spirit 
of the American Revolution in the revolt of the Panamanians against 
Colombia, but refused to see it in the revolt against colonialism of the 
ancient, the proud, and the civilized Chinese. 

The China problem had not yet been resolved when the President 
became involved in a somewhat similar crisis with Japan. For several 
years that compound of economic insecurity, racial prejudice and 
political demagoguery which lay behind the Chinese exclusion law 
had also been swelling the West Coast's resentment of the Japanese. 
In 1905 the California legislature openly debated an Oriental ex- 
clusion bill before settling on a joint resolution that was almost as 
offensive as the proposed bill. And in the fall of 1906 the dam finally 
broke as the San Francisco Board of Education, its resolve weakened 


by heavy pressure from organized labor, ordered all ninety-three 
Japanese, Chinese, and Korean students in the public educational 
system to attend a segregated school. 

From across the Pacific there now rolled a great wave of protest 
which Roosevelt, raging and storming over "the idiots in the Cali- 
fornia legislature," sought desperately to roll back. "These Pacific 
Coast people . . . with besotted folly are indifferent to building up 
the navy while provoking this formidable new power a power 
jealous, sensitive and warlike, and which if irritated could at once 
take both the Philippines and Hawaii from us if she obtained the 
upper hand on the seas," he protested to Lodge. "Let me repeat that 
everything in my power will be done," he confidentially wrote Baron 
Kaneko, who had cabled him from Tokyo. "The action of these people 
in San Francisco no more represents American sentiment as a whole 
than the action of the Japanese seal pirates last summer represented 
Japanese sentiment." 

The Californians proved intractable, however, and in his annual 
message that December the President scorched the San Francisco 
School Board. He called the Board's action "a wicked absurdity" and 
"a crime against a friendly nation"; and he threatened to use "all the 
forces, civil and military" at his command to rectify it. Then, early 
in the new year, he sent in a special message to Congress which con- 
cluded with an expression of hope that the people of San Francisco 
would resolve the issue "as a matter of comity." 

Neither the President's threats nor his pleas moved the emotion- 
wrought San Franciscans. He decided therefore to intervene directly. 
Early in February, on his own invitation, he received at the White 
House an eight-man delegation from the San Francisco School Board. 
After several conferences (Elihu Root sat always on Roosevelt's left, 
prepared to interject the light touch or to tap the table when the 
President became too vehement), the San Franciscans accepted 
Roosevelt's contention that the segregation order was deleterious to 
the nation's foreign relations, and a compromise was agreed upon: 
Aliens of any nationality would be admitted to nonsegregated schools 
provided they knew English and were in the proper age group; the 
President would recommend an amendment to the immigration law 
which would in effect empower him to exclude coolie labor. 

The resultant lessening of tension proved temporary. That same 
month the California Assembly passed a bill limiting ownership of 


land by Japanese and Chinese, and the next month the California 
Senate received a bill to exclude Japanese children over ten years of 
age from the white public schools. In May a mob attacked a Japanese 
restaurant and bath house in San Francisco, and in June the Board of 
Police Commissioners refused licenses to six Japanese employment 
bureaus. Meanwhile, the President and Secretary Root negotiated 
feverishly with the Japanese government as reports of possible conflict 
between the United States and Japan filtered in through diplomatic 
channels. Finally, Roosevelt decided to send Taft to Tokyo to mitigate 
Japanese resentment. 

The amiable Secretary of War reached the Japanese capital in 
October, 1907, and was at once, so he enthusiastically wrote home, 
"feted all over the place." Following a round of talks with high 
Japanese officials he completed arrangements already in the making 
for the so-called Gentleman's Agreement, under the terms of which 
both Japan and the United States agreed to limit emigration of their 
nationals to types acceptable to each other. Practically, this meant that 
the trickle of coolies into California would almost dry up. 

Meanwhile the President had formulated plans for a gesture on the 
grand scale the dispatch of the American battle fleet around the 
world. Roosevelt's reasons for that bold decision included such tactical 
considerations as giving the fleet practice in coaling at sea and ascer- 
taining the precise time it would take to move it from one ocean to 
the other. Fundamentally, however, they embodied the desire to stimu- 
late domestic support for his naval construction program and to 
dramatize to the world, and especially the impressionable Japanese, 
the magnitude of American naval power. 

The President's willingness thus to leave the Philippines and 
Hawaii unguarded while the fleet was in European waters suggests 
that he had not taken the war talk of the summer of 1907 seriously. 
In reality, he had taken it seriously; but he contemplated a future 
rather than an immediate war, Japanese naval strength being at least 
a third less than the United States' at that time. He consequently 
viewed the visit of the fleet to Japan as a deterrent. "My own judg- 
ment is that the only thing which will prevent war is the Japanese 
feeling that we shall not be beaten," he confided to Root in July, 1907. 

Nevertheless, precautions were undertaken. Early in July Roosevelt 
sent Leonard Wood, then in command of the Philippines defenses, 
coded instructions on the measures to be taken in the event of attack. 


And the commander of the Great White Fleet that steamed out of 
Hampton Roads on December 1 6, carried firm orders to be prepared 
for and to resist attack. 

No enemy fired a gun except in salute; and on the return of the 
fleet fourteen months later its main missions had been accomplished 
or were being accomplished. The Japanese had received the officers 
and men with a spectacular demonstration of hospitality and bland- 
ness, while Congress had been sufficiently moved (with the help of 
war talk from the President) to have authorized the construction of 
two additional battleships. There had also been controversy. The 
chairman of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee was so exacerbated 
by the President's decision to dispatch the fleet without the formal 
approval of Congress that he had threatened to refuse funds for its 
supply to which the President had responded that enough money 
was already available to get the fleet to the Pacific, that it would 
definitely go to the Pacific, and it could then stay in the Pacific. 
"There was no further difficulty about money," Roosevelt tersely re- 
called in his Autobiography. 

The President also declared in his Autobiography that the world 
cruise of the fleet was "the most important service that I rendered to 
peace." Historians are not so confident. Beale speculates that it served 
to spur the Japanese naval party and anti-American elements who 
were even then in conflict with pro-American groups in Japan, while 
Braisted suggests that "a powerful American fleet defending the 
Philippines in 1909 was potentially no less threatening to Japan than 
had seemed Japan's intervention in Hawaii to the United States only 
twelve years before." It is also likely that that spectacle of American 
naval might quickened Wilhelm IFs already burning resolve to build 
up the Imperial German Navy. 

By the end of Roosevelt's presidency, moreover, the Asiatic balance 
he had striven so laboriously to create was working against American 
commercial interests. In silent defiance of the Open Door, Russia and 
Japan had agreed to divide north China, Mongolia, and Korea be- 
tween them, and by an exchange of notes between Secretary Root 
and Baron Takahira on November 30, 1908, the United States had 
implicitly recognized Japan's economic ascendancy in Manchuria. 
It is bootless to contend, however, that this posture of affairs was the 
fault of the administration. Japan was coming of age in any event, and 
the Root-Takahira Agreement had actually signaled a sort of clearing 


of the air. The only alternative to Root's measured attempt to per-' 
suade Japan to be moderate was war, or a firm threat of war. If the 
display of force implicit in the fleet's world cruise was a blunder, what 
would the mustering of sufficient power to disrupt the new Russo- 
Japanese comity or to drive the Japanese out of Korea and Manchuria 
have been? To find the wellsprings of Russian and Japanese aggres- 
sions in Korea, north China, and Mongolia, the historian must probe 
far beyond the policies of the Roosevelt administrations. Short of 
war, the unwisdom of which is clear, or of complete withdrawal from 
the Far East, the wisdom of which is arguable, Roosevelt had done 
almost all that could reasonably be demanded. He had also set his 
country off from all the other powers and atoned partly for his own 
hardness toward China by accepting the suggestion of a Congrega- 
tional missionary, Arthur Henderson Smith, that a portion of the 
Boxer indemnity be used to support Chinese students in American 



If a man has a very decided character, has a strongly ac- 
centuated career, it is normally the case of course that he makes 
ardent friends and bitter enemies. . . . 

Theodore Roosevelt to G. O. Trevelyan 

The President continued, meanwhile, to be a storm center of contro- 
versy on the domestic front. He created it, he fell into it, and he 
searched it out. When he was not rebuking his once trusted friends, he 
was taunting his long-sworn enemies. And if he was fleetingly at peace 
with both, as occasionally he was, it was rarely the peace that passeth 
understanding. Nor was it possible to predict what the swirling winds 
that bore his wrath would next envelop. During the same two years 
the President was making his mark in European affairs, pacifying the 
Japanese, and flaunting the power of the American navy, he crossed 
swords with a people whom he had sought sincerely to uplift the 
Negroes. He unloosed his fury on a private citizen whose sole offense 
was an imagination that transcended the observed facts of nature. And 
he was himself victimized by the financial and industrial barons whose 
motives he had so long suspected. 

The President's clash with the Negroes resulted from an incident at 
Brownsville, Texas, on August 14, 1906, when a group of Negro 
soldiers from nearby Fort Brown allegedly killed a white bartender 
and wounded a policeman in a wild midnight raid on the town. No 
one of the alleged participants was ever positively identified; nor did 



any one of them ever admit responsibility. They were never tried 
before a court of law, military or civil, and to this day their guilt 
remains unproved. Yet Roosevelt, in a flagrant breach of the Anglo- 
American code of justice, punished three companies of Negro troops 
with extraordinary severity. He was substantially influenced to this 
action by the report of the soldiers' commanding officer, who reluc- 
tantly concluded that his troops were blameworthy, and by the find- 
ings of two separate investigations, one by a Major August B. Block- 
son, the other by the Inspector General of the Army. 

Major Blockson's report charged that the raid had been "pre- 
concerted" and that many members of the three Negro companies 
stationed at Fort Brown had entered into a "conspiracy of silence" 
to protect the men who had actually done the shooting; he recom- 
mended that they "be made to suffer with others more guilty." After 
an intensive effort to break the "conspiracy" failed, possibly because 
there was none, the President ordered almost the entire complement 
of the three companies in question "discharged without honor . . . 
and forever barred from re-enlistment." Of the 1 60 or more soldiers 
thus summarily dismissed, several were near retirement and six had 
won the coveted Medal of Honor in campaigns against the Indians, 
the Spaniards, or the Filipino insurrectionists. 

Although the order was signed on November 5, Roosevelt withheld 
its release until after the congressional elections of November 6, 
presumably to mitigate its political impact. So, at least, contended 
the New York Herald, which claimed that a shift in the Negro vote 
would have reduced the Republican majority in the House of Repre- 
sentatives from 59 to 14, and the Washington Post, which pointed out 
that a switch of one half the Negro votes in Cincinnati could have 
defeated the President's son-in-law, Representative Nicholas Long- 

The President's action provoked a country-wide reaction. Many 
Southern newspapers applauded his course, but the Northern press 
sharply criticized it and Negro editors and civic leaders vehemently 
condemned it. The New York Age castigated the discharge order as 
an "outrage upon the rights of citizens who are entitled in civil life 
to trial by jury and in military life to trial by court-martial." And the 
pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church of New York exclaimed that 
although Roosevelt was "once enshrined in our love as our Moses," 
he is now "enshrouded in our scorn as our Judas." Only in Tuskegee, 


Alabama, was there silence; and there it was brutally painful. The 
President had "blundered," Booker T. Washington, to whom Roose- 
velt had given advance notice, privately wrote a friend, and ". . . the 
enemy will, as usual, try to blame me for all of this. They can talk; 
I cannot, without being disloyal to our friend, who [sic] I mean to 
stand by throughout his administration." 

Roosevelt was to ride out the storm, though at no enhancement to 
his reputation as a man of justice. For in Joseph B. Foraker, who 
unexpectedly emerged as the beleaguered Negro soldiers' amicus 
curiae, he encountered a bold and resourceful adversary. The veteran 
Ohio senator aspired to the presidency in 1908, and as one of his 
biographers writes, he needed "an issue which would lend itself to 
exploitation before the public at large." Although Foraker believed 
at first that the soldiers were guilty as charged, he made an intensive 
private investigation during November, 1906, in the hope that he 
might turn up something of political advantage; and by early De- 
cember, when Congress convened, he had convinced himself that the 
affair was in truth an "American Dreyfus Case." From then on the 
Ohioan carried the torch of justice almost alone. But not until March 
2, 1909, two days before Roosevelt left office in triumph and Foraker 
left it in disgrace, a victim of the President's wrath and the revelation 
of his unseemly relations with the Standard Oil Company, was it 
lighted; and then but dimly. On that date Roosevelt signed a compro- 
mise measure which authorized the appointment of a high military 
court to review the individual cases of all the discharged soldiers. 

The two-year controversy between the imperious President and the 
audacious Senator was brisk with acrimony. The most regrettable 
incident occurred at the Gridiron Club dinner in January, 1907. 
Failing for once to accept the newspapermen's barbs in good grace, 
Roosevelt delivered a long and humorless defense of his policies and 
then virtually flung the gauntlet at Foraker, who sat less than twenty 
feet away, his face ashen. With the temerity that had always set him 
off from the herd, Foraker retrieved it. For twenty minutes, his words 
interrupted only by applause from the tables, he tongue-lashed the 
President of the United States, charging finally that Roosevelt's han- 
dling of the Brownsville case had been illegal, unconstitutional, and 

Furious, Roosevelt had sprung to his feet demanding time for a 


reply. He got it after the applause for Foraker slowly abated. 
Through clenched teeth, with squinting eyes and flushing face, the 
President emphatically denied the Senate's right to interfere and 
dogmatically asserted that only he had the power to mete out justice 
to the discharged soldiers. "The only reason I didn't have them hung 
was because I couldn't find out which ones . . . did the shooting," 
he emphatically added. Some of them were "bloody butchers." He 
had thereupon stormed out of the hall, leaving, so Foraker recalled, 
"no good taste in anybody's mouth and no good feeling in anybody's 

Less than twenty-four hours later the President had recovered his 
balance. "Foraker ought not to have been called upon to speak," he 
wrote Beveridge, "but, as he was called upon, I do not blame him 
much for the speech he did make." 

The saddest part of the Brownsville affair, sadder even than the 
President's comportment at the Gridiron Club dinner, was the im- 
pression it gave of Roosevelt's attitude toward Negroes. It is con- 
ceivable, of course, that the President's indictment would have been 
less sweeping and his punishment less severe had white troops been 
involved. Yet his published correspondence fails to suggest it. On the 
surface, at least, Roosevelt's resort to guilt by association was ani- 
mated by a conscientious, if misguided, compulsion to maintain 
military discipline rather than by racial prejudice. A statement he 
made two days after the discharge order was issued is convincing of 
his conscious motives: 

When the discipline and honor of the American Army are at 
stake I shall never under any circumstances consider the political 
bearing of upholding that discipline. ... To show you how little 
the question of color enters into the matter, I need only point out 
that when a white officer was alleged to be guilty in speaking of 
the incident of commenting unfavorably on the black troops gen- 
erally, I directed an immediate investigation into his words and 
suitable proceedings against him should he prove to have been 
correctly quoted. 

Roosevelt never deviated from that position. To underscore it and 
to embarrass Foraker politically, he revealed while the conflict was at 
its peak that he planned to appoint a prominent Negro to a high 
federal post in Cincinnati (Foraker, who was caught unaware, testily 


told newspapermen to consult "the third Senator from Ohio Booker 
Washington"). The President also tried to redress the balance during 
these last, troubled years by directing the Army to consider the 
organization of a Negro battalion of heavy artillery. And in 1908 he 
threatened the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway Company 
with legal action unless it provided Negro passengers with facilities. 
Also, in his annual message of 1906, which came between the issuance 
of the discharge order and the clash with Foraker at the Gridiron 
Club, Roosevelt coupled a ringing denunciation of lynching with a 
rational appeal for improved Negro education : 

It is out of the question for our people as a whole permanently 
to rise by treading down any of their own number. The free public 
school, the chance for each boy or girl to get a good elementary 
education, lies at the foundation of our whole political situation. 
... It is as true for the Negro as for the white man. 

The President's effort to redeem his reputation for fair-mindedness 
met only moderate success. His strictures against lynching failed to 
mollify the Negro press because he sapped their strength by estimating 
that one-third of the lynchings in the South were actually incited by 
rape (he had earlier complained to Owen Wister about Charleston 
aristocrats who "shriek in public about miscegenation, but . . . leer 
as they talk to me privately of the colored mistresses and colored chil- 
dren of white men whom they know"). And to the end Brownsville 
remained an open wound, one that historians would open still wider. 
There were some, even then, who were able to place the affair in 
perspective. Among them was Booker T. Washington whose views, 
admittedly, were influenced by the primacy in Negro circles his friend- 
ship with Roosevelt had given him. "The bulk of the Negro people 
are more and more inclined to reach the decision that even though 
the President did go against their wishes in dismissing the soldiers at 
Brownsville," Washington wrote in June, 1908, "he has favored them 
in nine cases out of ten and the intelligent portion of the race does not 
believe that it is fair or wise to condemn such good friends as Presi- 
dent Roosevelt and Secretary Taft because they might have done 
what they considered right." The patient educator, whose controversial 
counsel to fellow Negroes to eschew the professions for the manual 
arts was already under attack by radicals like William E. B. DuBois 
(though not by Roosevelt), added that it "is not the part of common 


sense to cherish ill will against one who has helped us in so many 
ways as the President has." 

Meanwhile Roosevelt was forcing other of his friends to defend his 
representations against the nature-fakers. Of all the controversies of 
the presidential years, this was the most needless. No weighty public 
matter stood in the offing; no election hung in the balance. All that 
the President could gain was the satisfaction of speaking his mind, 
and he could gain that only by compromising the dignity of his office. 

Like so many of Roosevelt's seemingly impulsive acts, the assault 
on the nature-fakers had been long in building up. The first round 
had been fired in the Atlantic Monthly some years before by John 
Burroughs, who flailed the Rev. William J. Long, a pseudo nature 
writer who attributed human characteristics and other absurdities to 
wild animals. It is the measure of Roosevelt's devotion to science 
that in writing Burroughs that he was "delighted" with his forthright 
exposure of misrepresentation, he also challenged the great naturalist 
himself. "Don't you think that you perhaps scarcely allow sufficiently 
for the extraordinary change made in the habits of wild animals by 
experiences with man?" he wrote. Burroughs had agreed. "I shall 
never cease to marvel at the variety of your interests and the extent 
of your knowledge," he replied. "You seem to be able to discipline 
and correct any one of us in his chosen field. My Atlantic paper has 
some hasty streaks in it." 

During the next several years other prominent naturalists also 
criticized the Long school while Roosevelt, with difficulty, repressed 
his own rising irritation. Finally, in the spring of 1907, he lost control, 
giving out an interview under the title "Roosevelt on the Nature 
Fakirs." "You will be pleased to know," he wrote Burroughs, "that 
I finally proved unable to contain myself, and . . . sailed into Long 
and Jack London and one or two others of the more preposterous 
writers of 'unnatural' history." "I know that as President I ought not 
to do this," he added, "but I was having an awful time toward the 
end of the session and I felt I simply had to permit myself some 

The Reverend Long staggered under the presidential censure; but 
only momentarily. In two forceful public letters he accused Roosevelt 
of "bad taste and cowardice" and ridiculed the contention that the 
President was a naturalist. "I find after carefully reading two of his 


big books," he vitriolically wrote, "that every time Mr. Roosevelt gets 
near the heart of a wild thing he invariably puts a bullet through it. 
From his own records I have reckoned a full thousand hearts which 
he has thus known intimately. In one chapter alone I find that he 
violently gained knowledge of 1 1 noble elk hearts in a few days." 

Rarely had the President given his hungry critics such an oppor- 
tunity. Many people felt that Long's false nature writing was less 
offensive than Roosevelt's wanton killing; and many more concluded 
that whatever the President's reasons, he had been ungentlemanly and 
cruel in attacking a private citizen. 

Nevertheless, neither Roosevelt nor his friends were willing to drop 
the matter. On their own initiative the director of the New York 
Zoological Park, the curator of Mammalogy and Ornithology at the 
American Museum of Natural History, and a number of other natural- 
ists defended the President in the September, 1906, issue of Every- 
body's. And in the same issue Roosevelt expounded on that commit- 
ment to truth that had obviously been his ruling motive: 

We abhor deliberate or reckless untruth in this study of natural 
history as much as in any other, and therefore we feel that a grave 
wrong is committed by all who, holding a position that entitles them 
to respect, yet condone and encourage such untruth. 

Resentment against the President's action in the nature-fakers inci- 
dent was still seething when he became involved in a far more sig- 
nificant imbroglio. This time, however, his role was confidential. 

Rumors of an impending break in the stock market had started in 
December, 1906, when Roosevelt submitted to Congress his most 
radical annual message so far. An expansion of the constructive parts 
of his muck-rake speech and of a hard-hitting address he had de- 
livered at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, during the congressional cam- 
paign, it declared that all big business was really engaged in interstate 
commerce and should consequently be brought under federal control. 
Specifically, it called for compulsory publicity of corporations' ac- 
counts, government inspection of their books, and, as La Follette had 
argued for the previous spring, physical valuation of railroad prop- 
erties. It further contended that the "authority" for these measures 
was inherent in the Constitution. The tough-mindedness which had 
always distinguished Roosevelt's views on big business from Bryan's 
pervaded the message. The President dutifully denounced monopoly; 


but he proposed no inclusive assault on the trusts. "Our effort should 
be not so much to prevent consolidation . . . ," he wrote, "but so to 
supervise and control it as to see that it results in no harm to the 
people." Only through "such adequate control and regulation . . . 
as will do away with the evils which give rise to the agitation against 
them" could government ownership of the railroads be averted. Ob- 
serving that some people claimed that "such control would do away 
with the freedom of individual initiative and dwarf individual effort," 
Roosevelt flatly asserted that "This is not a fact." Indeed, he con- 
tinued, "the deadening and degrading effect of pure socialism, and 
especially of its extreme form, communism ... are in part achieved 
by the wholly unregulated competition which results in a single indi- 
vidual or corporation rising at the expense of all others." 

Whether or not the men of the Street agreed with the Boston 
Herald, which termed the message "a fine example of restrained 
radicalism and progressive conservatism," the stock market had soon 
steadied. Nevertheless, rumors persisted that the President would make 
an unsettling move, perhaps against the great Harriman empire, which 
was then under investigation by the Interstate Commerce Commission. 
And when the market suddenly broke sharply on March 14 Harri- 
man's Union Pacific dropped twenty-five points railroad officials 
openly cried "persecution." "I would hate to tell you to whom I think 
you ought to go for an explanation of all this," Harriman bitterly 
exclaimed to reporters. 

The President was now in a quandary. Should he try to stave off 
panic by directing the Interstate Commerce Commission to let up? 
(The Fifty-ninth Congress had expired without taking action on the 
proposals made in his annual message. ) Or should he encourage the 
reform movement on the theory, as expounded in January to the 
president of the Santa Fe, "that we have got to make up our minds 
that the railroads must not in the future do things which cannot bear 
the light?" Apparently, Roosevelt decided to hold to reform but to 
soften its impact by conciliatory words. On March 15, he directed 
the Commission to undertake a comprehensive investigation of the 
railroad industry with particular reference to physical evaluation, 
legitimacy of stock issues, and vertical and horizontal integration. 
"I desire from you," he wrote the Commission, "recommendations 
definite and precise in character to secure a far more thoro-going 
supervision and control than we now have over the great agencies of 


interstate transportation." Two and one-half months later, however, 
with talk of panic still current, he made a psychological concession to 
business by declaring at Indianapolis that he did not believe the rail- 
roads were overcapitalized. 

During the summer of 1907 the situation worsened. The President 
was subjected to heavy pressure from businessmen to let up, especially 
after Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, whom Roosevelt characterized 
as having "the face of a fanatic honest, fearless, well-meaning, but 
tense to a degree that makes me apprehensive," rocked the corporate 
world by imposing a fine of more than $29 million against the Stand- 
ard Oil Company for violating the Elkins Act on some fourteen hun- 
dred separate counts. 

The President refused, however, to give substantial ground. "I have 
tried my best not to take up any old offenses," he wrote the Boston 
banker Henry Lee Higginson, on August 12, "but I cannot grant an 
illegal immunity. If we have to proceed against anyone it is because 
he has sinned against the light." Eight days later, in an address at 
Provincetown, Roosevelt dropped a bomb of his own. After charging 
that "certain malefactors of great wealth" were actually forcing a 
panic in the hope that it would effect a "reversal" of his regulatory 
policies "so that they may enjoy unmolested the fruits of their own 
evil-doing," he strongly urged the criminal prosecution of businessmen 
law-breakers. Unfortunately, he observed, "the average juryman 
wishes to see trusts broken up ... but is very reluctant to find the 
facts . . . when it comes to sending to jail a reputable member of 
the business community for doing what the business community has 
unhappily grown to recognize as well-nigh normal in business." 

Nothing untoward followed the President's forceful reaffirmation 
of his policies, for the financial disturbances were caused by an inter- 
national overextension of credit rather than by Roosevelt's various 
pronouncements. Not until the middle of October, when reports of 
the attempt by a group of swashbuckling banker-speculators to corner 
the copper market with funds drawn from their own unstable trust 
companies, as well as the large and sound Knickerbocker Trust 
Company of New York, were blazoned across the headlines did a 
major crisis occur. Overnight long lines of frantic depositors formed 
outside the affected institution's doors, and by the end of the week 
the runs had forced them all to close. Throughout the nation, but 
especially in New York, the already overdrawn credit lines became 


taut. The Westinghouse Company went into receivership; the Stock 
Exchange in Pittsburgh suspended operations; Western banks de- 
manded more and more money from their New York depositories. 
And the great Trust Company of America faced imminent collapse. 

At this juncture J. Pierpont Morgan brought the force of his 
commanding abilities to bear. On Wednesday morning, October 23, 
while Roosevelt was hurriedly returning from a hunt in the Louisiana 
canebrakes and before Secretary of the Treasury George B. Cortelyou 
arranged to deposit $25 million of government funds in New York's 
national banks, Morgan prevented the Trust Company of America 
from closing by making a heavy deposit of private monies. The next 
morning some of the government's deposits were added to Morgan's 
central fund, and these, together with a new pooling of Wall Street's 
resources, kept both the Trust Company and the Stock Exchange 
open until the regular closing on Friday. 

The President was relieved. On Friday, following consultations 
with Root and others, he wrote Cortelyou a public letter designed to 
call attention to the government's role in staying the panic and to 
help restore general confidence. "I congratulate you upon the admi- 
rable way in which you have handled the present crisis," Roosevelt 
said in part. 

I congratulate also those conservative and substantial business- 
men who in this crisis have acted with such wisdom and public 
spirit. By their action they did invaluable service in checking the 
panic which, beginning as a matter of speculation, was threatening 
to destroy the confidence and credit necessary to the conduct of 
legitimate business. 

Within limits, the President was right. Whatever their past errors, 
the "conservative" bankers of New York had acted wisely and 
speedily. Indeed, Morgan had been a central bank unto himself. 
"At a time when the almost universal instinct was to pull one's own 
chestnuts out of the fire, to escape new commitments, to dodge 
responsibility," wrote Frederick Lewis Allen, "he risked everything, 
again and again, on the success of his campaign." He had, in addition, 
wielded power greater than that of the President of the United States 
further testimony to the precarious state of the republic. Roosevelt 
was destined to go out of office without having substantially modi- 
fied it. 


If the devoutly religious Morgan had greater courage and a higher 
conception of the commonweal than most of his fellow financiers, he 
was nonetheless willing to use the situation to his own advantage. The 
money shortage had carried on into the next week, and by the week- 
end the prominent brokerage firm of Moore & Schley, which held a 
great block of the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company's stock, was in 
danger of failing. Morgan again responded to the challenge. 

On Saturday, November 2, an emissary of Moore and Schley sug- 
gested to the great financier that his United States Steel Corporation 
buy out the small, but competing, Tennessee Coal and Iron Company. 
Its bonds could then be substituted for the Tennessee Company's, 
saving Moore & Schley and averting a crisis among brokerage firms 
in general. Morgan pondered over the proposal. He could possibly 
have bailed out Moore & Schley by other means. Grant B. Schley later 
admitted to a congressional committee that all the firm really needed 
was five or six million dollars in "real money," while Judge Elbert H. 
Gary, the Steel Corporation's president, conceded that a loan would 
have sufficed. At the time, however, Moore and Schley rejected 
Morgan's offer of a five-million-dollar loan as insufficient. Spurred by 
his partner, George W. Perkins, Morgan consequently decided to 
pursue the merger proposal. He was convinced that the T. C. & I.'s 
coal and iron deposits alone were worth the price, and after prolonged 
argument with Henry Clay Frick he prevailed on the Steel Corpora- 
tion's Finance Committee to buy T. C. & I., at par with United States 
Steel bonds. 

But Judge Gary was at once more cautious and more subtle than 
the bull-like Morgan; at his insistence the deal was made contingent 
on President Roosevelt's agreement. Twice before Gary had made 
arrangements with the President or his representatives for the Steel 
Corporation in the fall of 1905 and for the International Harvester 
Company in the winter of 1907. In each of these "gentlemen's agree- 
ments" Gary had agreed to open all the company's books and records 
to the Bureau of Corporations with the understanding that the re- 
sultant information would be used "by the President alone for his 
guidance in making such suggestions to Congress concerning legisla- 
tion as might be proper, expedient, and for the actual benefit of the 
general public." In each case the administration had agreed that the 
President, rather than the Attorney General, would have the final 
determination of what matters should be kept confidential. Although 


neither agreement specified that the corporations would be exempted 
from prosecution for irregularities, the Morgan-Gary group assumed 
that Roosevelt would not take such action until after they had been 
granted time to make their practices conform to the law. The President 
was too astute to make an explicit promise to that effect. But as his 
continued failure to institute suit against the companies suggests and 
his repeated recommendations to Congress for more comprehensive 
regulatory legislation confirm, Wall Street's assumption that he was 
more interested in sustained regulation than haphazard dissolution 
was correct. Indeed, so the historian Robert Wiebe observes, the only 
broad difference in outlook was that the Wall Street men conceived 
themselves as equal partners in the business-government relationship 
(a marked decline, assuredly, from their status as senior partners 
when Roosevelt succeeded McKinley), and the President regarded 
them as junior partners. 

In these circumstances, Morgan readily agreed that a conference 
with Roosevelt was desirable, and late that Sunday night Gary and 
Frick departed for Washington. They met with the President (whom 
they found at breakfast) and Root early the next morning. Blandly, 
Gary explained that the United States Steel Corporation had an oppor- 
tunity to purchase the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company at a "price 
somewhat in excess of its true value." Should the President approve 
the purchase before the Stock Exchange opened at ten that morning, 
he continued, it "would be of great benefit to financial conditions, and 
would probably save further failure of important business concerns." 
Gary and Frick had then professed purity of motive. "Judge Gary 
and Mr. Frick inform me that as a mere business transaction they do 
not care to purchase the stock," Roosevelt afterward wrote Attorney 
General Bonaparte for the record. They say, he continued, that "but 
little benefit will come to the Steel Corporation from the purchase; 
that they are aware that the purchase will be used as a handle for 
attack upon them on the ground that they are striving to secure a 
monopoly of the business and prevent competition. . . . But they 
feel that it is immensely to their interest, as to the interest of every 
responsible businessman, to try to prevent a panic and general in- 
dustrial smashup at this time." "I answered that while of course I 
could not advise them to take the action proposed, I felt it no public 
duty of mine to interpose any objection." 

The episode haunted Roosevelt thereafter. It was used by the 


Democrats without full exposition of the facts as a campaign issue 
in 1908; it was raised during the investigation of the United States 
Steel Corporation in 1911 with portentous consequences to the 
course of American political history; and it was sporadically revived 
during the rest of Roosevelt's life. Pringle has woven it into a kind of 
"babe in the woods" account of Roosevelt's relations with "The 
Wicked Speculators." And some historians regarded it as prima facie 
evidence of Roosevelt's two-facedness. 

Indubitably, Roosevelt had been imposed upon. The United States 
Steel Corporation's acquisition of the Tennessee Coal and Iron Com- 
pany strengthened its already favored position within the industry and 
measurably increased its assets. In spite of the impression conveyed 
by Gary and Frick, moreover, it remains an open question whether 
the merger was the only means of saving Moore & Schley. Yet what 
else could the President have done? He was advised that rejection of 
the proposal would induce a new panic and possibly a real depression. 
He was told that time was of the essence and that the decision had 
to be made before the Stock Exchange opened that morning. And he 
was assured that Morgan and the others were acting in good con- 
science. He did, accordingly, what circumstances dictated; he accepted 
the word of Gary and Frick as that of gentlemen. 

The President's tacit consent to the merger should also be viewed 
in the context of his maturing trust philosophy. As his call for a 
sweeping regulatory program in December, 1906 suggests, he by then 
entertained little brief for the Sherman Law except as a political or 
moral weapon; during the year and one half following the Panic of 
1907 he would invoke it only in the most extreme cases. It seems 
reasonable to contend, therefore, that he was broadly predisposed to 
approve the merger. And though he hedged in his letter to Bonaparte 
by emphasizing that the Steel Corporation's holdings would still com- 
prise less than 60 per cent of those of the industry at large, the 
transaction as he understood it was consistent with his own philosophy 
on monopoly. 

As the long term economic consequences of the merger prove, 
however, Roosevelt's inability to give a specific definition to the 
philosophy to define the indirect no less than the direct limits of 
tolerance was critical. The contention that control of less than 60 
per cent of the industry failed to constitute a monopoly had a super- 
ficial appeal; and in 1920 the Supreme Court itself succumbed to it, 


refusing to order the Steel Corporation's dissolution after a long and 
exhausting suit. But the apparent effect of the absorption of Tennessee 
Coal and Iron by U.S. Steel was the partial subversion of the interests 
of a section of the nation. Controlled thereafter from Pittsburgh and 
New York, T. C. & I. was forced to pursue policies consonant with 
the interests of U.S. Steel rather than the economy of the Southeast. 
It was subjected to "basing point" prices that by some accounts pre- 
vented it from capitalizing fully on its ability to produce more cheaply 
than the parent corporation's northern subsidiaries; its natural pro- 
pensity to expand and diversify its production was seriously curbed; 
and the steel-consuming industries throughout the region it served 
seemingly grew less rapidly than they would have had T. C. & I. been 
free to meet their demands. 

Probably neither Morgan nor Gary, and surely not Frick, foresaw 
all this at the time. Whatever their misrepresentations to Roosevelt in 
the White House Conference, the conspiratorial element is lacking in 
their talks in New York at the height of the Panic. Nevertheless, the 
absorption of the southern company gave them and their successors 
a powerful influence over the fortunes of the Southeast; and in so 
doing it sharply pointed up the basic weakness in the President's 
approach to the trust problem. 

Otherwise, the Panic of 1907 proved salutary. By dramatizing the 
inadequacies of the banking and currency system it set the stage for 
meliorative legislation in 1908 and thoroughgoing reform in 1913 
when the Federal Reserve Law was enacted under Woodrow Wilson. 
After Roosevelt again called for corrective legislation in his annual 
message of December, 1907, Senator Aldrich introduced a bill author- 
izing national banks to issue additional notes up to $500 million in 
times of emergency. The notes were to be based on municipal, state, 
and railroad bonds, and they were to be taxed in order to expedite 
their retirement once the money market loosened. This was somewhat 
less than the President had recommended. 

Meanwhile a bill that anticipated the Federal Reserve Act in many 
essentials was introduced in the House. Politics, insecurity, and a lack 
of economic imagination combined, however, to force its rejection. 
Cannon and Aldrich found it too unorthodox. Roosevelt himself con- 
sidered it inflationary; also "very puzzling." Furthermore, he leaned 
too heavily on Aldrich. As he facilely wrote in defense of the Rhode 
Islander's measure a few weeks later: 


I would like to see a thoroly good system of banking and cur- 
rency . . . and yet this is the only measure that has been pro- 
posed that we can seriously consider. The trouble is that the minute 
I try to get action all the financiers and businessmen differ so that 
nobody can advise me, nobody can give me any aid; and only 
Senator Aldrich has prepared a bill. 

A substitute administration offering, the Vreeland bill, meanwhile 
passed the House. As merged with Aldrich's bill and enacted into 
law, it modified the former's Eastern bias by broadening the base for 
note issues in the South and the West. It still gave heavy advantage 
to the East, however, and Southern Democrats and Republican pro- 
gressives pummelled it unmercifully. Carter Glass of Virginia charged 
that the three man committee of bankers empowered to handle the 
reserve fund in time of crisis would reflect the interests of the great 
financial institutions and could readily strangle small country banks. 
He further contended that it "perpetuates and accentuates the rigidity 
of a bond-secured currency system," and he finally dismissed it as 
"50 per cent House infamy and 50 per cent Senate infamy." John 
Sharp Williams of Mississippi claimed that it ought "to be entitled the 
'Cannon-Aldrich political emergency bill.' " And La Follette was 
equally vitriolic and considerably more voluble. 

The criticisms were partisan and overdrawn. The Aldrich-Vreeland 
bill was designed as a temporary expedient rather than an inclusive 
reform, and its provision for a study commission was of momentous 
importance. Nevertheless, many of the opposition's points were well 
taken, and the Federal Reserve Act would incorporate them. As 
Roosevelt's critics contend, furthermore, his failure to fashion sub- 
stantial banking and currency reform was one of the signal defeats 
of his presidency. 

Like Roosevelt's other failures, however, it fades into insignificance 
beside his towering contribution to the conservation movement. 



When the historian . . . shall speak of Theodore Roosevelt, 
he is likely to say that he did many notable things, but that his 
greatest work was inspiring and actually beginning a world move- 
ment for staying territorial waste and saving for the human race 
the things on which alone a peaceful, progressive, and happy life 
can be founded. 

Robert M. La Follette, Autobiography 

Of all Roosevelt's constructive endeavors, the movement for conser- 
vation was the most remarkable for sustained intellectual and adminis- 
trative force. In none other did the President blend the scientific 
outlook and his moralistic conception of the public interest quite so 
effectively; in only one other, foreign policy, did he submerge partisan 
politics nearly so decisively. For more than seven years, often against 
the avowed opposition of the most powerful leaders of his own party, 
and at the bitter end against the combined opposition of both parties, 
he pressed Congress and the states to place the future public interest 
above the current private interest. And though he was repeatedly 
criticized, rebuffed, and insulted, he refused to be thwarted or even 
to compromise significantly. 

Roosevelt was always frank to confess that his conservation pro- 
gram was builded upon the labors and visions of scientists who had 
given, or were to give, the flower of their lives to its advancement. 
"They actually did the job that I and the others talked about," he 
pointed out in an address at Harvard two years after he left the White 



House. "I know what they did because it was something in which I 
intensely believed, and yet it was something about which I did not 
have enough practical knowledge to work except through them. . . ." 
Yet, as virtually everyone who has written about the conservation 
movement has warmly conceded, the President's was the ultimate 

Roosevelt would have undoubtedly thrown himself into the move- 
ment whatever the circumstances of his presidency. His empiricism, 
love of nature, obsession with orderly development, and devotion to 
the public good are all suggestive of that. But he would hardly have 
promoted it with such extraordinary boldness and imagination had 
it not been for his inspiring relationship with Gifford Pinchot, Chief 
Forester of the United States and one of American history's most 
constructive secondary leaders. 

The scion of an old Huguenot family of moderate wealth and high 
public spirit (the Pinchots in 1900 made the grant that started the 
Yale Forestry School), Gifford was thirty-six years old when Roose- 
velt became President. A tall and sinewy figure with piercing eyes, 
a thin straight nose, and a long sharp chin that a drooping mustache 
barely softened, he wore an air of compelling urgency. He was con- 
stantly converting, or trying to convert, and only his natural gracious- 
ness and the high fortune of his friendship with the President early 
spared him the fate of many another zealot. For more, even, than 
most men with a mission, Pinchot was fanatically confident of the 
righteousness of his cause. Upon its altar he would eventually sacrifice 
his governmental career. 

Roosevelt had known Pinchot well enough to sponsor him for 
membership in the Boone and Crockett Club in the 1890's. But not 
until Roosevelt became governor of, New York did the two men be- 
come close. Once, during the winter of 1899, Pinchot stopped in 
Albany for an overnight visit, arriving, so he later wrote, "just as the 
Executive Mansion was under ferocious attack from a band of 
invisible Indians, and the Governor of the Empire State was helping 
a houseful of children to escape by lowering them out of the second- 
story window on a rope." After the children had been "saved," the 
forester had proved his mettle by knocking Roosevelt "off his very 
solid pins" in a boxing match. He and his host had then discussed 

While one of the nation's most singularly productive friendships 


was thus being sealed, the conservation cause had been going badly in 
Washington. By Roosevelt's accession in 1901 more than twenty-six 
million acres of public lands had been withdrawn from private entry; 
but the figures were deceptive. Under the prevailing leasing system 
private exploitation of minerals, timber, and water-power sites went 
on apace, even in the so-called reserves. Although Cleveland had 
abruptly halted the leasing process by executive order ten days before 
his second term expired, McKinley had soon signed a compromise 
measure which suspended Cleveland's restraining order after nine 
months had elapsed and thereafter left the reserves open to indis- 
criminate mining and prospecting. Between 1898 and 1905, when this 
"vicious piece of legislation," as the Public Land Commission termed 
it, was repealed, three million acres of government timber land passed 
permanently into private hands. 

President Roosevelt had barely moved into the White House after 
McKinley's death in September, 1901, before he unloaded his bag- 
gage in the conservationists' camp. On Roosevelt's return from his 
predecessor's funeral, Pinchot and Frederick H. Newell, who may 
fairly be called the father of the Reclamation Service, spelled out to 
him the far-reaching forestry and reclamation plans they and their 
able associates had long hoped to institute. "The new President knew 
what we were talking about," Pinchot recalled in his autobiography. 
"We left, two very happy men, authorized to draft for the Message 
what we thought it ought to say on our twin subjects. It was a 
Heaven-sent chance." 

The message President Roosevelt sent in to the Congress two 
months later gave forceful expression to Pinchot and NewelFs 
advanced scientific views; and in the manner of all Roosevelt's partly 
ghost-written statements, to his own as well. "The fundamental idea 
of forestry is the perpetuation of forests by use," Roosevelt declared 
as he recommended that the reserves be kept open to "selective 
cutting." They should also be utilized as natural reservoirs, supple- 
mented where necessary by great storage dams "too vast for private 
effort" to finance. Nor was this to be accomplished by the states alone. 
"It is as right for the National Government to make the streams and 
rivers of the arid region useful by engineering works for water stor- 
age," he declared in a passage that foreshadowed his later, more 
strident centralism, "as to make useful the rivers and harbors of the 
humid region by engineering works of another kind." Too often, he 


testily wrote, the states had defaulted on their obligations by allowing 
streams to pass into private ownership. "Whoever controls a stream 
practically controls the land it renders productive," he reminded the 
Congress, and "... the doctrine of private ownership of water apart 
from land cannot prevail without causing enduring wrong." The 
government's reclamation program should create "the best possible 
social and industrial conditions" for the people moving into the re- 
claimed lands; however, he added, it should conform to state laws 
and should be accomplished "in such manner as will enable the 
people in the local communities to help themselves." 

Roosevelt had then plunged headlong into the seven years struggle 
10 put the proposals of his message into effect. On December 19, 1901, 
he urged Congress in a special message to create a national forest re- 
serve in the Appalachians. Meanwhile he threw his as yet untested 
power behind a Democratic-sponsored irrigation and reclamation 
measure, the Newlands bill, which McKinley had failed to support 
and which Joseph G. Cannon, then chairman of the Appropriations 
Committee, was opposing. Cannon's opposition was animated by an 
unreasoned commitment to economy, by fear that the reclaimed areas 
would offer competition to Midwestern agriculture, and by that 
coarse anti-intellectualism which was so much a part of his make-up. 
As he later snapped in another context, he stood "not one cent for 
scenery" and he never did have much use for the "college professors, 
students, wise men and so on through the length and breadth of the 
country, who investigate. . . ." Nor was "Uncle Joe" moved by a 
presidential appeal couched both in rational terms and in the pork- 
barrel language that he understood so well. "I do not believe that 
I have ever before written to an individual legislator in favor of an 
individual bill," Roosevelt wrote the Ohioan,*"but I break through my 
rule to ask you as earnestly as I can not to oppose the Irrigation 
measure. Believe me this is something of which I have made a careful 
study, and great and real though my deference is for your knowledge 
of legislation, and for your attitude in stopping expense, I yet feel 
from my acquaintance with the far West that it would be a genuine 
and rankling injustice for the Republican party to kill this measure. 
I believe in it with all my heart from every standpoint." 

I am just about to sign the River and Harbor bill. . . . Now 
this is a measure for the material benefit of your State and mine 
and of the other states with harbors and navigable rivers. Surely it 


is but simple justice for us to give to the arid regions a measure of 
relief, the financial burden of which will be but trifling, while the 
benefit to the country involved is far greater than under the River 
and Harbor bill. I cannot too strongly express my feeling upon 
this matter. 

Cannon refused to clarify his position, and the Newlands bill rolled 
through the House without his support, and on June 17, 1902, Roose- 
velt enthusiastically signed it into law. The first important enactment 
of his presidency, it authorized the creation of a reclamation service, 
assigned revenues from land sales to the construction of reservoirs and 
irrigation works by the federal government, and established a broadly 
creative, if heavily subsidized, policy toward the arid lands. By its 
authority, thirty irrigation projects embracing three million acres, in- 
cluding the Roosevelt Dam in Arizona, were in progress or already 
completed when Roosevelt left office in March, 1909. 

During the remainder of his first term Roosevelt continued to see 
much of Pinchot, a charter member of his "Tennis Cabinet." And at 
the forester's suggestion he shortly set aside the Dismal River and 
Niobrara Forest Reserves for a controlled experiment in tree planting 
in Nebraska where an earlier and more limited experiment had 
shown that marketable trees could grow on sand hills regarded as 
worthless. This second experiment proved similarly successful, serving, 
in Pinchot's words, as the forerunner of the "great Shelter Belt Plan 
begun under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and so brilliantly sug- 
gested and successfully directed by Raphael Zon." 

Not until after he was elected in his own right, however, did Roose- 
velt's flaming conviction really scorch the anti-conservationists. Rein- 
forced by his popular mandate and by the Public Land Commission's 
(appointed in 1903) considered recommendations for orderly devel- 
opment, the President now launched a full-scale program to stay the 
exploitative processes of a century and a quarter and to impress upon 
the nation an intelligent awareness of nature's beauteous bounty and 
munificent industrial potential. From the winter of 1905 on, indeed, 
scarcely a detail eluded Roosevelt's creative attention as he vigorously 
promoted the cause of conservation through regulated use in his 
public speeches, messages to Congress, and executive actions. The 
consequence was such an enlightenment as the nation had not there- 
tofore seen and would not again witness until Franklin Roosevelt, 


himself nurtured on Theodore's conservationist principles, came to 

The first harvest was reaped on February 1, 1905, when Roosevelt 
signed a measure transferring the Forest Reserves from the jurisdiction 
of the inefficient Land Office in the Department of the Interior to the 
Bureau of Forestry, renamed the Forest Service, in the Department of 
Agriculture. The measure also conferred upon Pinchot that tremen- 
dous grant of power which was to make him the Galahad of the 
conservationists and the bete noire of their opponents. Two months 
after its enactment, the Forest Service was authorized for the first time 
to make arrests for the violation of its regulations. 

The forestry movement was now coming of age. The most power- 
ful interests in the West, including the National Wholesale Lumber 
Dealers' Association, had finally concluded that the selective cutting 
and other techniques urged upon them by the evangelical Pinchot 
and his dedicated colleagues were feasible. It was no accident that the 
transfer bill was passed just after they expressed their approval of its 
intent at the meetings of the American Forest Congress early in 
January, 1905; nor that Roosevelt had waited until after the election 
of 1904 to push it. 

The Forest Service became even more independent of Congress 
than anticipated in ensuing months. By a little-noticed clause soon 
given an inclusive interpretation by the Attorney General, William 
H. Moody, the Agriculture Appropriations Act of 1905 authorized the 
Service to use the revenues from the sale of the lands or products of 
the reserves for administration of existing reserves and the creation 
of new ones. The result was a small revolution. "While we could still 
say nothing but Tlease' to private forest owners," Pinchot recalled, 
"on the national Forest Reserves we could say, and we did say, 'Do 
this,' and 'Don't do that.' We had the power, as we had the duty, to 
protect the Reserves for the use of the people, and that meant stepping 
on the toes of the biggest interests in the West. From that time on it 
was fight, fight, fight." 

Under Roosevelt's driving leadership the Forest Lieu Act of 1 897 
was repealed. This measure, writes Roy Robbins, was believed by 
many Westerners to have "done more to aid the speculators and cor- 
porations than to aid the actual settler." Hard on its demise came an 
administration order establishing a leasing system for use of the grass 
lands within the forest reserves. Under and in violation of prevailing 


regulations, pastures had been ruthlessly overgrazed, government 
lands had been fenced in by private operators, cattlemen had fought 
bloody battles against sheepmen, and both had made life miserable 
for the homesteaders who were regarded as a menace by the large 
grazing interests. A first, and partial, step toward remedying these 
conditions, the new order was buttressed by Roosevelt's resolve to 
enforce the laws against fencing. "I cannot consent to a clause con- 
tinuing for a year, or for any length of time, the present illegal fenc- 
ing," he explained to Senator Francis E. Warren of Wyoming, whose 
solicitude for the sheep industry would later earn him the sobriquet, 
"the greatest shepherd since Abraham." The President continued: 

The opposition we have . . . now comes primarily from the big 
men who graze wandering flocks of sheep, and who do not promote 
the real settlement of the country. These are the men whose in- 
terests are diametrically hostile to those of the homemakers, who 
wish to eat out and destroy the country where he desires per- 
manently to live, and who, when they have thus ruined the land of 
the homesteader and small stockman, move elsewhere to repeat the 
process of devastation. 

Actually, as Samuel P. Hays' penetrating study of the conservation 
movement makes clear, Roosevelt's understanding of the problem was 
deeper than his strictures against illegal fencing implied. He knew 
that many homesteaders and small cattlemen had also resorted to 
illegal fencing, if only in self-defense. He shared the cattlemen's 
animus toward the sheepmen. And he realized that the Public Land 
Commission's investigation had indicated that the fenced-in lands were 
generally less overgrazed than the open range. As he conceded in a 
special message the next year, fencing the public domain "would be 
thoroughly desirable if it were legal." 

The President was also aware that the 160-acre limitation in the 
existing homestead legislation was grossly inadequate for the semi- 
arid country. He persistently labored to correct this, and shortly 
before he left office Congress raised the allotment to 320 acres. As 
Roosevelt contended, however, the only rational solution was a system 
basing the allotment on the particular needs of the area. Otherwise, he 
observed as early as December, 1905, "needless suffering and failure 
on the part of a very considerable proportion of the bona-fide settlers 
who give faith to the implied assurance of the government that such 


an area is sufficient" would probably result. In later years students of 
the Western land problem would confirm his judgment. 

Meanwhile the President focused his sights on the fast-growing 
electric power industry. For some years, writes Pinchot, utility com- 
panies had been securing the best water-power sites "through every 
workable use or misuse of the public-land laws and the laws relating 
to navigable rivers. . . . The Government's problem, as we saw it, 
was to ensure the fullest possible development of water power and its 
sale to the consumer at the cheapest possible price. That meant the 
prevention of monopoly where we could, and effective regulation of 
it where we couldn't." To these ends Roosevelt had vetoed a bill on 
March 3, 1903, that would have turned Muscle Shoals, which later 
became the heart of the TVA, over to piecemeal private development. 
And in June, 1905, Pinchot was given the authority to issue permits 
for the use of water-power sites. 

From 1906 on, when a number of sites were leased to the Edison 
Electrical Company of California, a policy of controlled, fifty-year 
leases obtained. To assure orderly development, Pinchot withdrew 
2,565 sites from entry during the next two years, often on the pretext 
that he planned to establish ranger stations on them. In these actions, 
as in most others, he leaned heavily on the President's broad shoulders. 
''Without T.R.'s support," he wrote forty years later, "all reasonable 
regulation of the development of water power on the National Forests 
would have broken down." 

Thus Roosevelt, after first approving a number of loosely framed 
special acts for private contraction, several times vetoed bills which 
failed to conform to the administration's regulatory program; and on 
January 15, 1909, in one of the most memorable of such actions, he 
sweepingly rebuked both Congress and the puissant electric power 
lobby. "I esteem it my duty," he said in rejecting a measure that 
would have authorized the construction of an unleased and unregu- 
lated dam in Missouri, "to use every endeavor to prevent this growing 
monopoly, the most threatening which has ever appeared, from being 
fastened upon the people of the Nation." This bill "does not contain 
the conditions essential to protect the public interest." 

Shortly after Roosevelt and Pinchot began to apply the principle 
that "the public rights come first and private interest second" to the 
electric power industry, the President imposed it upon the mining 
industry. Under the prevailing agricultural land laws, valuable coal 


lands had long been passing into private hands at prices wholly dis- 
proportionate to their true value. Now, by direction of the President 
on June 29, 1906, the process was finally slowed. During the next two 
years more than fifty million acres believed to contain coal and other 
minerals were temporarily withdrawn from public entry in order that 
they might be classified, and before Roosevelt left office eighteen 
million additional acres were withdrawn in Alaska. To be sure, the 
President's frequent requests that Congress establish a royalty fee 
system under government price and transportation controls fell on 
deaf ears. But as Hays concludes, the Geological Survey at least 
"valued the coal lands according to the quality of the deposits and 
their accessibility, and established prices which would aid develop- 
ment, while preventing speculation." 

By 1907 Congress, the timber, grazing, and mining interests of the 
West, countless other interests, and the overwhelming majority of 
conservatives in the East were surfeited with Theodore Roosevelt. 
From 1907 on the President faced a manifestly hostile Congress, one 
that was to resist him on almost all major issues and actually 
repudiate him on some. Had Roosevelt been a less resourceful man, 
he might consequently have served out his final years of the presi- 
dency in fretful impotence. But because he held it the executive's duty 
to lead, and because he accepted the stewardship theory without 
reservation, he managed to maintain the authority of his office. By his 
discriminating use of the veto power he held the main line against 
his opponents' embittered assaults; and by continuing that audacious 
use of the executive power that had characterized his tenure from 
the strike against the Northern Securities Company in 1902 on, he 
even advanced in some areas. His conservation program reached full 
maturity, in fact, at the very time it fell under the sharpest attack. 

The first of the succession of showdowns between President and 
Congress came during the short session of 1907. Senatorial resentment 
of Roosevelt and Pinchot's policies toward the forest reserves had 
seemingly increased in direct proportion to their effectiveness; and 
when the Agricultural Appropriations bill was sent in from the 
House, Senator C. W. Fulton, an Oregon Republican who bowed not 
to "Uncle Joe" Cannon in the vigor of his anti-intellectualism, 
castigated the Chief Forester and his colleagues as impractical 
"dreamers and theorists" ensconced within "marble halls" and op- 
posed a provision to increase Pinchot's salary. 


Less than a month later Fulton proposed to amend the Agricul- 
tural Appropriations bill with a clause specifying that no forest 
reserve should thereafter be created within the states of Oregon, 
Washington, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, or Wyoming (extremist 
Westerners actually wanted the reserves returned to the states, under 
whose benign authority private interests had already ravaged great 
blocks of land). The anti-Roosevelt feeling in the Senate was so con- 
certed that Fulton's amendment was adopted without a roll-call vote, 
and shortly before the session ended the amended Agricultural Ap- 
propriations bill reached the President's desk. Fulton and his friends 
waited, serene in the belief that Roosevelt would sign it, since the 
Department of Agriculture and all its subordinate agencies, including 
the forest reserves, depended on its authorization for funds during 
the coming fiscal year. They were completely unprepared for the ex- 
plosion that followed. 

Responding instinctively to what he and Roosevelt conceived as a 
sullen threat to the American future, Gifford Pinchot formulated an 
ingenious counterattack: He would have the President proclaim Na- 
tional Forests in all suitable remaining public lands during the ten 
days Roosevelt had to sign or reject the bill. "We knew precisely 
what we wanted," Pinchot recalled. "Our field force had already 
gathered practically all the facts. Speedily it supplied the rest. Our 
office force worked straight through, some of them for thirty-six and 
even forty-eight hours on end, to finish the job." As the proclama- 
tions were completed, Pinchot took them to the White House for 
Roosevelt's signature. They were then sent to the State Department 
for safekeeping until, all told, twenty-one new forest reserves, embrac- 
ing sixteen million acres in the six states affected by Fulton's amend- 
ment, were provided for. They were formally proclaimed on March 2 
just before the President signed the Agricultural Appropriations bill 
into law. 

Six years later Roosevelt wrote with transparent glee of how "the 
friends of the special interests in the Senate" had been outwitted. "The 
opponents of the forest service turned handsprings in their wrath, and 
dire were their threats against the Executive; but the threats could not 
be carried out, and were really only a tribute to the efficiency of our 
action." As a memorandum he dictated at the time reveals, however, 
he was genuinely concerned lest historians interpret his action as 
arbitrary. "If I did not act ... and if Congress differs from me in 


this position," he wrote, "it will have full opportunity in the future 
to take such position as it may desire. . . ." 

Failure on my part to sign these proclamations would mean that 
immense tracts of valuable timber would fall into the hands of the 
lumber syndicates ... for our entire purpose in this forest reserve 
policy is to keep the land for the benefit of the actual settler and 
home-maker, to further his interests in every way, and, while using 
the natural resources of the country for the benefit of the present 
generation, also to use them in such manner as to keep them un- 
impaired for the benefit of the children now growing up to inherit 
the land. This is the final and exclusive object not merely of our 
forest policy but of our whole public land policy. 

The President's "midnight" proclamations rang down the curtain 
for many Westerners. Forgotten in the bitterness of the hour were 
the ties of affection that had once made them regard the young 
reformer-ranchman as their own; that had moved them to pour out 
of the mountains and off the great plains to serve under his command 
in 1898; that had turned "Boss" Platt's cynical maneuvering into an 
uncontrollable stampede at the Republican Convention of 1900. Not 
only to the lumber syndicates, the mining corporations, and the great 
sheep and cattle barons, but to many of the "plain people" Roosevelt 
professed so to love, the President by 1907 was a deadly enemy of 
their region. The spurious charge that the governor of Washington 
now leveled against Pinchot he "has done more to retard the growth 
and development of the Northwest than any other man" could only 
have had Roosevelt as its real object. Within a month of the proclama- 
tions a call (proposed several months before by the governor of 
Colorado at the instigation of the sheepmen and farmers rather than 
the lumber interests) had gone out all over the West for a great 
protest convention to meet in Denver on June 19. 

Not all the opposition to the Roosevelt-Pinchot policies was un- 
founded; nor did it all emanate from the servants of "special privilege" 
as the President and his devoted forester friend too sweepingly im- 
plied. The problems were so diverse and the interests involved so 
irreconcilable that there remain to this day areas of unresolved con- 
flict. The complaint of the states that the national reserves reduced 
their tax base is reasonable, if not in the broad view consequential. 
Understandable also are the protests of all those operators, small even 
more than large, who by habit or custom had come to regard the 


nation's resources as theirs to exploit. Man once unfettered does not 
gracefully submit to bureaucracy, no matter how great its flexibility 
or laudable its social and scientific purposes. The leasing fees, the 
proscriptions of illegal fencing, the prohibition of excessive grazing 
these and numerous other regulations were anathema to free-wheeling 
Westerners on the make. 

Furthermore, all Westerners did not regard the administration's 
forest policies as a boon to the small entrepreneur. Again and again 
there arose in the mountain states the complaint that the great lumber 
companies benefited unfairly from the creation of reserves because 
they had already engrossed the lands that gave ingress. Besides, the 
selective-cutting techniques prescribed by the Forest Service were 
easier for the large interests to finance. The gigantic Weyerhaeuser 
Timber Company could act in accordance with the principles of a 
long-term investment, but few small companies or independent opera- 
tors had the financial resources to take the long view. Inevitably, they 
resented having it imposed upon them. 

Roosevelt's reaction to these complaints was ambivalent at best 
and disingenuous at worst. He continued in his public pronouncements 
to emphasize the antimonopolistic tenor of his policies; and with some 
justification, for a million and one-half acres were opened to settle- 
ment by small farmers under his administration while his water-power 
program was clearly designed to bring natural monopolies under public 
control. At the same time, however, he privately complained that the 
"people refuse to face squarely the proposition that much of these 
lands ought to be leased and fenced as pastures, and that they cannot 
possibly be taken up with profit as small homesteads." But the point 
is hardly worth laboring. The President's commitment to scientific 
forestry was so total, his insight into the advantages of corporate 
organization in a technological age so deep, that the knowledge that 
the big companies were profiting and growing could not have altered 
his course. Regulation was to him the only socially desirable solution. 

There were also other complaints against the administration. The 
grazing interests vehemently protested that much grassland was locked 
up in the forest reserves, as in truth it temporarily was. On the eve of 
the militant protest convention in Denver the Forest Service released 
thousands of acres of such land a well-timed maneuver, admittedly, 
but also part of an already considered policy. Beyond or beneath 
these arguable complaints was the West's vexation at Roosevelt's 


good-government philosophy, or at least its practical application. 

Starting in 1903 the administration had relentlessly proceeded 
against a great host of land swindlers including every member but 
one of Oregon's all-Republican congressional delegation. Their in- 
dictment and subsequent prosecution had won plaudits for Roosevelt 
throughout most of the country. But in the Northwest they had 
evoked an enthusiasm similar to that displayed by the Tammany 
Democrats when Police Commissioner Roosevelt had tried to clean 
their Augean stables in the mid-1 890's. "Even men who were in no 
way implicated . . . felt a sympathy for the ones who were caught," 
writes an historian of the movement, "for unquestionably such frauds 
had been too common . . . to be viewed seriously." One high govern- 
ment official whom Roosevelt had dismissed, though not prosecuted, 
was elected to represent an Oregon district in Congress within six 
months of his forced retirement; and Senator Fulton never did forgive 
Roosevelt for the blow he had dealt his colleagues. 

There was also the paradox inherent in Pinchot's personnel policies. 
For years the old Forestry Division had been plagued by an inferior 
staff, especially in the field, where ward politicians, ex-bartenders, and 
other misfits had comprised an embarrassing large part of the ranger 
force. Westerners on the spot had understandably chafed at being 
policed by such a motley crowd; and at Pinchot's instance Roosevelt 
had placed foresters under the civil service laws in December, 1904. 
So salutary did that reform prove that by 1908 a New York con- 
sulting firm compared the administration of the Forest Service "most 
favorably" with private industry and reported that its investigators had 
"rarely, if ever, met a body of men where the average of intelligence 
was so high or the loyalty to the organization and to the work so 

From Cannon on down, however, the professional politicians re- 
sented the resultant loss of patronage. More ironical still, Westerners 
who had earlier protested the low quality of the Forestry Division 
fulminated in later years against the high quality of the reconstituted 
Forest Service. No longer could they evade regulations on the excuse 
that the men who devised and enforced them were appallingly in- 
competent. Like the meat packers, the railroad officials, and many 
other businessmen who had felt Roosevelt's controlling hand, their 
philosophy was thus proved under fire to encompass little more than 
their own self-interest. 


Meanwhile the President's appreciation of nature was carrying him 
into less utilitarian channels. For all his zest for hunting, Roosevelt 
possessed both the naturalist's compulsion to conserve and the demo- 
crat's desire to share. Now, as he fought Congress for a rational policy 
toward both the conservation and maximization through controlled 
use of the nation's natural resources, he also skirmished for the pres- 
ervation of its magnificent natural monuments for Niagara Falls 
and Arizona's Grand Canyon, for Oregon's Crater Lake and New 
Mexico's Petrified Forest, for the undulating Blue Ridge Mountains 
and dozens upon dozens of others. In his private letters, his speeches, 
and even in his messages to Congress he expressed his heartfelt con- 
viction that nature's wonders were the American people's own right- 
ful heritage. "I cannot too often repeat that the essential feature in 
the present management of the Yellowstone Park, as in all similar 
places, is its essential democracy," he said on April 24, 1903, as he 
laid the cornerstone of the gateway to that spectacular park. It is, he 
elaborated, "the preservation of the scenery, of the forests, of the 
wilderness life and the wilderness game for the people as a whole, 
instead of leaving the enjoyment thereof to be confined to the very 
rich who can control private reserves." 

And so there were created during Roosevelt's two administrations 
five National Parks Crater Lake in Oregon, Platt National Park in 
Oklahoma, Wind Cave in South Dakota, Sully Hill in North Dakota, 
and Mesa Verde in Colorado. These doubled the number established 
by all his predecessors. There was passed under Roosevelt's spur the 
National Monuments Act of June, 1906, by authority of which he 
eventually proclaimed sixteen National Monuments, including Wyo- 
ming's Devil Tower, California's Muir Woods, and Washington's Mount 
Olympus. There were established by executive orders issued between 
March 14, 1903, when Roosevelt first realized he had the power, and 
March 4, 1909, when he turned over the power, fifty-one wildlife 
refuges ("Is there any law that will prevent me from declaring Pelican 
Island a Federal Bird Reservation?" he had asked. Informed that there 
was none, he had replied: "Very well, then I so declare it"). And 
there was launched from the base built by William T. Hornaday, 
George Bird Grinnell, Frank M. Chapman, the National Audubon 
Society, and others a nature-appreciation movement that offers one 
of the few remaining hopes that the march of the billboards, the gas 


stations, and the bulldozers may somehow be stayed and that such 
commercial barbarisms as Wisconsin's Dells may yet be redeemed. 

As the time for Roosevelt to yield his stewardship drew near, he 
came increasingly to realize that the future of the conservation move- 
ment lay preeminently with the states. They must be persuaded to 
abandon their particularism in order that regional, multipurpose river 
developments might be undertaken; they must be imbued with a sense 
of responsibility that the despoliation of their own public lands might 
be halted. To these ends Roosevelt appointed a path finding body, the 
Inland Waterways Commission, on March 14, 1907. Six months later 
he announced that he would call a conference of governors to meet 
in Washington that winter. The long-range effect of both these 
actions was momentous. 

The President's decision to create the Inland Waterways Commis- 
sion was sparked by W J McGee of the Bureau of Soils, though com- 
mercial groups in the Mississippi Valley had been urging action for 
some time. At issue was the need of a comprehensive plan for the 
improvement and control of the nation's rivers. Roosevelt had long 
realized this, and his letter to the chairman of the Commission spelled 
out the charge: 

Works designed to control our waterways have . . . been un- 
dertaken for a single purpose, such as the improvement of naviga- 
tion, development of power, the irrigation of arid lands, the protec- 
tion of lowlands from floods, or to supply water for domestic and 
manufacturing purposes. While the rights of the people to these and 
similar uses of water must be respected, the time has come for 
merging local projects and uses of the inland waters in a compre- 
hensive plan designed for the benefit of the whole country. 

Within the year the Inland Waterways Commission confirmed and 
amplified the President's original charge in a report that reflected the 
creative imagination of McGee and the engineering brilliance of 
Marshall O. Leighton, Chief Hydrographer of the Geological Survey. 
Presumably because he feared that Congress might miss the point, 
Roosevelt appended to it a sharp blast of his own against the electric 
power industry. "Among these monopolies . . . ," he wrote, "there 
is no other which threatens, or has ever threatened, such intolerable 
interference with the daily life of the people as the consolidation of 
companies controlling water power." 


... I call your special attention to the attempt of the power cor- 
porations, through bills introduced at the present session, to escape 
from the possibility of Government regulation in the interests of the 
people. These bills are intended to enable the corporations to take 
possession in perpetuity of national forest lands for the purposes of 
their business, where and as they please, wholly without compensa- 
tion to the public. 

Neither the report of the Inland Waterways Commission nor the 
angry assertions of the President turned Congress from its pork- 
barreling, philosophically conservative ways. Resentful of Roosevelt's 
hold on the popular mind, contemptuous of his concern for social 
planning, and solicitous as always of the varied special interests, the 
Republican majority yearned openly for the day when its leader would 
no longer lead when it would have again a President in the mold of 
McKinley. Sullenly, it sat on its hands. It got off them only to prohibit 
the President from appointing new commissions without congressional 
assent following Roosevelt's return to the subject in his message of 
December 8, 1908. The historic handling of the inland waterways has 
been "short-sighted, vacillating, and futile," the President charged in 
that last annual message. The army engineers responsible for the 
program (the Chief of the Corps was actually on record as stating 
that flood control, hydroelectric power, and irrigation should be sub- 
ordinate to navigation) were "unsuited by their training and traditions 
to take the broad view" and they had failed above all "to grasp the 
great underlying fact that every stream is a unit from its source to 
its mouth, and that all its uses are interdependent." Congress should 
provide funds, the President fruitlessly concluded, "to frame and 
supervise the execution of a comprehensive plan." 

It was those last two principles "that every stream is a unit from 
its source to its mouth, and that all its uses are interdependent" which 
later comprised the springboard for the TVA, that monument to 
George W. Morris's persistence and the New Deal's acceptance of its 
legacy from the Square Deal. 

Had Theodore Roosevelt's service to conservation ended with the 
proclamation of the sixteen million acres of Forest Reserves in 1907, 
or with his vigorous exposition of the findings of the Inland Water- 
ways Commission, his administrations would still have been dis- 
tinguished beyond those of all of his predecessors. But it did not. The 


Governors' Conference of 1908 added one more star to his already 
glittering constellation. 

On the morning of May 13, 1908, President Roosevelt, attired in 
the formal clothes he deemed appropriate to the occasion, mounted a 
temporary podium in the East Room of the White House. For fifty 
minutes in the modulated, cultured tones that were as characteristic 
of his speech as the shrill falsetto ascribed to him by caricaturists, he 
spoke to the members of his Cabinet; to the Associate Justices and 
the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; to the 
governors of thirty-eight states and territories, many of whom spared 
no love for either him or conservation; to that loyal leader of the 
opposition, William Jennings Bryan, who would make his third and 
last bid for the presidency that autumn; to Andrew Carnegie, dedicated 
for some years past to peace, philanthropy, and public welfare; to 
John Mitchell, still the dignified idol of the United Mine Workers; to 
James J. Hill, the most enlightened of the great railroad magnates; 
and to a host of scientists, publicists, and representatives of the 
nation's learned societies. Grover Cleveland would also have been 
present had he not then been in his final illness. 

The President's address was a testament of faith and a statement 
of hope. He started by declaring that conservation was "the chief 
material question that confronts us, second only and second al- 
ways to the great fundamental question of morality." He emphasized 
the urgent need for a "coherent plan" of development. He reaffirmed 
that his object was not to lock up natural resources, but to use them 
in a way that would increase their yield for the next generation. "No 
wise use of a farm exhausts its fertility," he observed. "So with the 
forests." He showered encomiums upon Gifford Pinchot, "to whom we 
owe so much of the progress we have already made." And he con- 
cluded with a moralistic assertion that the rights of the public were 
paramount to those of private individuals: 

In the past we have admitted the right of the individual to injure 
the future of the Republic for his own present profit. The time has 
come for a change. As a people we have the right and the duty, 
second to none other but the right and duty of obeying the moral 
law, of requiring and doing justice, to protect ourselves and our 
children against the wasteful development of our natural resources, 
whether that waste is caused by the actual destruction of such 
resources or by making them impossible of development hereafter. 


Probably no event of Roosevelt's turbulent career evoked a more 
spontaneous and universally favorable reaction that the three-day 
conference he had then opened. Throughout the nation his address 
was acclaimed as one of his greatest public utterances, perhaps the 
greatest. Even the New York Evening Post grudgingly wrote that 
"this is distinctly a case where Mr. Roosevelt's love of the spectacular 
and skill in advertising have proved of public advantage." The New 
York Sun, noted the editors of the Literary Digest, "is the only 
paper we yet have seen which holds absolutely aloof from the 
enthusiasm of the occasion." 

The monumental significance of the Governors' Conference can 
only be suggested. Not all the governors were sympathetic to the 
Roosevelt-Pinchot program; and before the sessions closed several of 
the Westerners militantly defended states' rights, that "darling of the 
great special interests" as Pinchot caustically termed them. Thus 
Governor Gooding of Idaho demanded that the National Forests be 
transferred to the states and Governor Norris of Montana castigated 
the grazing fee as a "levying of tribute." Yet even they gave their 
names to the notable Declaration of the Governors, a landmark in 
the history of the conservation movement and the changing concep- 
tion of federal-state relationships. That document declared: 

We agree that the sources of national wealth exist for the benefit 
of the People, and that monopoly thereof should not be tolerated. 

We declare the conviction that in the use of the natural resources 
our independent States are interdependent and bound together by 
ties of mutual benefits, responsibilities, and duties. 

We agree that further action is advisable to ascertain the present 
condition of our natural resources and to promote the conservation 
of the same; and to that end we recommend the appointment by 
each State of a Commission on the Conservation of Natural Re- 
sources, to co-operate with each other and with any similar com- 
mission of the Federal Government. 

Roosevelt proved quick to take a first stride toward activating the 
declaration's recommendations. On June 8, 1908, he appointed the 
Federal Commission on the Conservation of Natural Resources under 
the chairmanship of the indefatigable Pinchot. Organized into four 
divisions water, forest, land, and mineral resources the Commis- 
sion was charged by Roosevelt to cooperate heartily with the states in 
the interests of "the permanent welfare of the people" and to submit 


a preliminary report by January, 1909. The end product, writes Rob- 
bins, was a three-volume report that comprises "the most exhaustive 
inventory of our natural resources that has ever been made." Its value 
to scholars, government officials, and all those civic-minded citizens 
who have since concerned themselves with the conservation movement 
has been inestimable. 

Most of the state executives kept the faith of their declaration 
during the first great outburst of enthusiasm that followed the con- 
ference. Within a year or so of the final session forty-one state con- 
servation commissions had been formed; and until their recommenda- 
tions began actually to be applied, everyone, or almost everyone, was 
avowedly for conservation. Only "when it began to interfere with the 
profits of powerful men and great special interests," complained 
Pinchot with some exaggeration and considerable truth, did the honey- 
moon come to an end. 

Yet that is less than the whole. If, a half century later, many state 
governments stand paralyzed before the special interests that Roose- 
velt fought; if, thirty years after Roosevelt's death, private power 
companies continue to build dams without regard for the multi- 
purposes he urged; if, only rarely, a governor emerges with the 
courage and vision to rise above the short-sighted economy that 
Roosevelt deplored; if, all this in our times is true, it is also true that 
the very substantial achievements of the past fifty years reflect the 
animating spirit of Theodore Roosevelt and that those of the next 
half century will doubtless continue to reflect it. 

There was much difference of opinion about President Roosevelt the 
politician, Dr. Charles Van Rise, pioneer conservationist, noted 
geologist, and president of the University of Wisconsin from 1903 to 
1918, wrote two years after Roosevelt left the presidency: 

He has been severely criticized by many, warmly commended 
by others, but his aggressive action for the conservation of our 
resources has been commended by all parties alike . . . what he 
did to forward this movement and to bring it into the foreground of 
the consciousness of the people will place him not only as one of the 
greatest statesmen of this nation but one of the greatest statesmen 
of any nation of any time. 



There has been a curious revival of the doctrine of State 
rights ... by the people who know that the States cannot with 
justice to both sides practically control the corporation and who 
therefore advocate such control because they do not venture to 
express their real wish, which is that there shall be no control 
at all. . . . 

Theodore Roosevelt in a speech at Harvard, 1907 

Although the President's inadvertent submission to Wall Street during 
the Panic of 1907 and its aftermath had thrown him back into the 
arms of the congressional conservatives, his sustained struggle for 
conservation suggests that the rapprochement was not of the spirit. 
True, Roosevelt maintained the working alliance with the Old Guard 
on some issues until near the end, though it daily grew more pre- 
carious. And in the manner of his entire career, he continued to 
compromise, holding out for some measures, sacrificing others, and 
accepting the form in lieu of the substance on still others. 

The President wanted, for example, to reorganize the administration 
of the Navy as the Army had earlier been reorganized by Elihu Root. 
But he wanted even more to build up the battle fleet and establish a 
naval base at Pearl Harbor. Both programs were opposed by powerful 
members of his own party. Rather than risk total defeat, accordingly, 
he concentrated his energies on the latter. The result was that Con- 
gress in 1908 gave him two battleships (after he had manufactured a 
war scare with Japan) and the Pearl Harbor Base while the reorgani- 
zation problem was left to his successors. 



A letter Roosevelt wrote to Cannon while the question hung in the 
balance is revealing of the President's continued mastery of the 
political process: "If you knew the stormy time I have been having on 
your behalf with all kinds of people in connection with the tariff com- 
mission, I think you would look favorably on this Pearl Harbor 

Again, Roosevelt would have been gratified had Congress enacted 
a national child labor law. But on that, as on many other measures, 
he was thwarted by his party's massive conservatism. So powerful 
was the manufacturers' hold upon the Republican leadership that no 
executive pressure, no marshaling of sociological data, no high- 
minded appeals from disinterested reformers could have broken it. 
The President had little alternative, therefore, but to dismiss as im- 
practical the impassioned pleas of Beveridge, who had taken the child 
labor movement to his heart, and to support instead a bill sponsored 
by Lodge which applied only to the District of Columbia, an area 
where child labor was virtually nonexistent. The President rationalized 
this near-mockery of justice by contending that it would serve to warn 
the states that they must either pass similar legislation or be subjected 
to a federal law in the future. 

To dwell on Roosevelt's forced compromises with the Sixtieth 
Congress is to obscure the larger significance of his final years as 
President. The fact is that on front after front he was moving far out 
in advance of his party moving so far and so rapidly that by 1908, 
a year before Herbert Croly published his The Promise of American 
Life, Roosevelt had skirted all, and occupied most, of the ground he 
was to deploy his armies over in 1912. Nor is it surprising that the 
President's ideas continued to develop during these last, frantic years. 
For if the challenges were not more imposing than they had been at 
the beginning, they were more sharply delineated; and in great 
measure because of Roosevelt's own actions and speeches. It was 
partly the momentum of his own earlier attacks on special privilege 
that now impelled Roosevelt to set forth piecemeal the positivist- 
regulationist program that the theoretician Croly would later formalize 
and expand. 

The essence of this program was a broad extension of federal 
authority by executive action and by act of Congress. And one of 
the most widely accepted interpretations of it, as I have mentioned 
before, is that it represented a signal reflection of Roosevelt's lust for 


personal power. Only a man who believed in power could have 
countenanced such a concentration of authority as Roosevelt re- 
peatedly urged; only a man unafraid of power could have unloosed 
the broadsides that Roosevelt again and again rained upon the 
states'-righters. So the analysis runs. 

There is, to repeat, a measure of truth in those assertions. The 
reader familiar with Blum's perceptive writings on Roosevelt must be 
impressed by the influence abstract and concrete concerts of power 
exerted upon the President's policies. Nor can he disregard Blum's 
suggestion that Roosevelt resented being inhibited by the law; that 
he, especially, "may have benefited from the limits on Presidential 
power which men who understood the problem in 1787 created." The 
Brownsville affair and numerous other incidents attest weightily to 
that. So does one of Roosevelt's candid revelations. "I don't think 
that any harm comes from the concentration of power in one man's 
hands," he wrote as his tenure neared its end, "provided the holder 
does not keep it for more than a certain, definite time, and then 
returns to the people from whom he sprang." 

Nevertheless, an even larger truth emerges: A great exertion of 
federal authority was the only feasible means of meeting the challenge 
of the times. That challenge was dramatized by the overweening 
arrogance of the Morgans, the Harrimans, the meat packers, and their 
like. But its primal force was the impersonal corporate power of the 
burgeoning industrial age and that shattering revolution in communica- 
tions which made California closer to New York in Roosevelt's day 
than Virginia had been to Georgia when the Constitution was framed. 
To ignore this, to attribute the growth of centralized power under 
Roosevelt to his apparent compulsion for power, is to do enormous 
violence to history and to the President himself. For if Roosevelt's 
glands decreed that he must forever act, his high sense of justice and 
his empirical approach to problems determined the direction of his 

Theodore Roosevelt had never been alone in urging the positivist- 
regulationist state upon a reluctant Congress. By comparison to the 
negative-minded Cleveland and the judicial-minded Parker he may 
have been a Caesar. But by comparison to the affirmative-minded 
Bryan he was a comrade in arms. For all that mental fuzziness which 
prevented him from seeing the problem in detail, the Great Commoner 
also understood that the upheavals wrought by the machine civiliza- 


tion made national action mandatory; and on numerous particular 
issues he heartily cheered Roosevelt on. And so, even, with William 
Howard Taft. Notwithstanding that conservative gentleman's distaste 
for personal power, the rise of the regulationist state was to continue 
throughout the four years of his presidency. 

Curiously, the high-minded and rational motivation of Roosevelt's 
conservation policies has rarely been challenged, even by the Presi- 
dent's most psychoanalytically oriented critics, though they embodied 
the broadest of all his extensions of federal authority. It is perhaps 
fruitful, therefore, to re-examine his evolving corporation and labor 
policies, and especially his attitude toward the judiciary. 

The President's move against the Northern Securities Company in 
1902 had been followed by a spate of antitrust proceedings forty- 
three all told. The burden of these had been instituted hard on the 
election of 1904 and they had served in part to justify Roosevelt's 
faith in himself, to prove that he was a free moral agent in spite of 
the hostage the corporation's tremendous contributions to his cam- 
paign had purportedly represented. They had failed, however, to re- 
solve the trust problem. Antisocial practices continued in the face of 
the dissolution orders, and the vast majority of corporations were in 
no wise affected anyway. 

The President was accordingly beset by misgivings even as he 
encouraged a succession of attorney generals to prosecute the most 
flagrant violators of the antitrust laws. At the risk of repetition, it 
should be remarked again that the constructive in him had always 
rebelled against the muckraking mentality's total indictment of big 
business. Roosevelt rarely, if ever, attacked from a purely anticorpora- 
tion bias. To assert the supremacy of the federal government; to court 
(unconsciously perhaps) the favor of the "plain people"; to suppress 
the most flagrant cases of "wrongdoing"; or to strike down the most 
patent monopolies these, and the need to force Congress to support 
his program, as with the Hepburn bill, were seemingly his motives. 
But now, slowly yet ineluctably, that regulationist philosophy which 
had all along dominated his policy toward the railroads came in his 
mind to reign over most other areas as well. Without abandoning trust- 
busting completely, for he continued to believe that some trusts war- 
ranted dissolution, Roosevelt gave regulation greater and greater 

By March, 1907, seven months before he tacitly agreed to the 


merger of the United States Steel Corporation and the Tennessee Coal 
and Iron Company, the President was writing the Interstate Commerce 
Commission that he did "not believe in the sweeping and indis- 
criminate prohibition of all combination which has been so marked 
and as I think so mischievous a feature of our anti-trust legislation." 
Could not the Commission explore further the possibility of authoriz- 
ing combinations by consent?" he inquired. And in December of 
that year he realistically asserted that "This is an age of combina- 
tions." Then, with greater emphasis than ever before, he urged Con- 
gress in December, 1907, to get behind a bold and comprehensive 
regulatory program, one that would place all interstate business under 
federal supervision. "This is not advocating centralization," he de- 
clared stridently. "It is merely looking facts in the face and realizing 
that centralization in business has already come and cannot be avoided 
or undone, and that the public at large can only protect itself from 
certain evil effects of this business centralization by providing better 
methods for the exercise of control . . ." 

The pure-food law was opposed so violently that its passage was 
delayed for a decade; yet it has worked unmixed and immediate 
good. The meat-inspection law was even more violently assailed; 
and the same men who now denounce the attitude of the National 
Government in seeking to oversee and control the workings of 
interstate common carriers and business concerns, then asserted 
that we were "discrediting and ruining a great American industry." 

The President's assertions drew strong support from a small coterie 
of sophisticated Wall Street men, among them George W. Perkins, 
who was already moving along the road that would carry him to 
Armageddon with Roosevelt in 1912. That very winter, in fact, the 
House of Morgan supported proposals that would have regularized 
the procedures embodied in the earlier "gentlemen's agreements" with 
Judge Gary by authorizing the Bureau of Corporations to pass on 
business projects in advance. By then, however, the great majority 
of corporate leaders outside the Morgan-Gary-Perkins axis were so 
exercised by Roosevelt's penetrating criticisms of businessmen and by 
his increasing receptivity to labor's demands that they were blinded 
to their own interests. Nor did small business take kindly to measures 
that would have accelerated the inevitable rise of giant corporations 
by sanctioning "reasonable" restraints on trade. The result was that 
neither the regular session of the Sixtieth Congress nor the short 


session a year later gave serious consideration to the proposals. The 
trouble, the President wrote Henry Lee Higginson in exasperation, was 
that the corporations preferred that the existing laws be "administered 
crookedly" rather than be revised in their own and the public 
interest. "Of course," he added, "as far as I am concerned such ex- 
pectation is in vain." 

The President's charge may have been oversimplified; but it was 
hardly impetuous and certainly not ill-considered. As his reflections 
at the time of Holmes' appointment to the Supreme Court suggest, 
he had long seen the partial truth in Brooks Adams's contention that 
the law is "the expression of the will of the strongest for the time 
being" and that as wealth increases "the representatives of the monied 
class acquire that absolute power once wielded by the Roman procon- 
sul, and now exercised by the modern magistrate." He recoiled, how- 
ever, from Adams' pessimistic conclusion that a legal system serving 
poor and rich alike was impossible of realization and probably of con- 
ception. Excepting his personal transgressions, which were more 
largely those of the man of action than of theory, the whole tenor of 
Roosevelt's approach to the law was one of reconstruction. His goal 
was a legal system that knew neither class nor favor; he had sought 
often in the past, and he would seek more often in the future, to 
attain it. 

For years Roosevelt had been angered by the moral anomaly of 
imposing heavy prison terms on petty criminals while allowing busi- 
nessmen to violate the statutes (criminal as well as civil) with relative 
impunity. He had been uncertain, however, as to a course of action. 
He believed that since the antitrust laws had so long lain dormant it 
would be unfair to prosecute for offenses which the government had 
condoned, in effect, by default. And he had consequenty overlooked 
many businessmen's earlier transgressions. But now, as he stepped 
his campaign to bring corporations under the law, he concluded that 
the dictates of justice required that businessmen who flaunted the law 
be treated with neither more nor less consideration than other crimi- 
nals. So he repeated in that December message the strictures against 
juries which fail "to jail a member of the business community" that 
he had uttered at Provincetown the previous summer. "The two great 
evils in the execution of our criminal laws today are sentimentality 
and technicality," he informed the Congress. Both should be rem- 


edied; the former by "the gradual growth of a sound public opinion," 
the latter by strengthening and more clearly defining the law. 

Nor did the President then cover his guns. On January 31, 1908, 
over the protests of his lieutenants, he fired at Congress one of the 
most bitter and radical special messages on record. Reiterating his 
standing, if still general, demand for a constructive revision of the 
Sherman Antitrust Law, Roosevelt charged that "the representatives 
of predatory wealth of the wealth accumulated on a giant scale by 
all forms of iniquity, ranging from the oppression of wage workers 
to unfair and unwholesome methods of crushing out competition, and 
to defrauding the public by stock jobbing and the manipulation of 
securities," were thwarting his program. He excoriated those "apolo- 
gists of successful dishonesty" who declaim against all measures to 
strike down corruption "on the grounds that any such effort will 'un- 
settle business.' " He called again for stringent regulation of securities, 
adding that there "is no moral difference between gambling at 
cards . . . and gambling in the stock market" (a sentiment that he 
often expressed privately as well). He upbraided "decent citizens" for 
permitting "those rich men whose lives are evil and corrupt" to control 
the nation's destiny. And he generalized disdainfully about that great 
body of editors, lawyers, and politicians "purchased" by the corpora- 
tions as "but puppets who move as the strings are pulled." 

The President then vented his towering rage on the judiciary. There 
has been, he caustically declared, a growing tendency for judges to 
"abuse" the injunction process in labor cases. The injunction was a 
necessary device for the prevention of violence and should under no 
circumstances be eliminated. Nevertheless, he continued, steps should 
be taken to remedy the "grave and occasionally irreparable wrong" 
sometimes inflicted upon those enjoined. It was a travesty on justice 
for the law to acknowledge labor's right to engage in peaceable, 
organized action on the one hand and for the courts, "under the guise 
of protecting property rights," to override that right on the other 

The blazing indictment continued. The "high office of judge" 
should be regarded with the "utmost respect," as should those "brave 
and upright men" who in the main comprised the judiciary, the 
President wrote. However, he added, the judge who "truckles to the 
mob" and "shrinks from sternly repressing violence and disorder," or 
who makes the wage worker bitter "by misuse of the process of 


injunction or by his attitude toward all measures for the betterment 
of the conditions of labor," or by failing "to stop the abuses of the 
criminal rich," could not expect to escape public censure. And this, 
he concluded, "is but right, for except in extreme cases this is the 
only way he can be reached at all." 

Not in all Roosevelt's seven and one-half years in office was there 
an emotional outburst comparable to the one that followed that 
message. In Congress, where the Bryan wing of the Democracy 
punctuated its reading with round after round of spontaneous ap- 
plause, the great body of Republicans sat glumly, applauding per- 
functorily, and then but infrequently. On the outside, conservative 
Easterners like Nicholas Murray Butler lost all sense of proportion 
and the New York Times actually wrote editorially that the President's 
"delusions of persecution . . . would ordinarily be commended to 
the attention of a psychiatrist." 

Across the nation, however, the reaction was favorable. The agents 
of special privilege who wore the Republican label in Congress had 
never been broadly representative of the "plain people" who com- 
prised the bulk of the Grand Old Party's membership. And independ- 
ent Republican editorial voices by the dozens joined their Democratic 
counterparts in hailing the message of January 31 "as a classic," as 
one of "the really memorable state papers in the history of the 
nation," and as "a clarion call to duty." And once again that faithful 
tribune of the people, William Jennings Bryan, rose to his great rival's 
support. Roosevelt's message, exclaimed Bryan, was a "brave" and 
timely "call to arms"; he urged his fellow Democrats "to accept 
promptly the issues that have been presented by the President." 

Fundamentally, the memorable message of January 31 was what 
the President claimed it was an exhortation to "national honesty in 
business and politics." As such it was in the pattern cut out more 
than a quarter of a century before when he had so courageously defied 
his party leaders by moving the investigation of Judge Westbrook. 
There was, however, one significant difference. The Roosevelt of 
1882 had seen only the superficial manifestations of corruption; the 
Roosevelt of 1908 knew something of their root causes. This was 
exemplified by his sweeping arraignment of both the puppets and the 
men who actually pulled the strings; by his charge that the courts were 
partial to the corporations; and by his asseveration that the judiciary's 
overwhelming commitment to the status quo was perverting justice 


and thwarting organized labor. As Roosevelt had explained to Justice 
William R. Day a few weeks before, unless the spirit behind the 
decisions that had recently overruled New York's bakery and tene- 
ment laws was changed, "we should not only have a revolution, but 
it would be absolutely necessary to have a revolution, because the 
condition of the worker would become intolerable." What he wanted 
"from some of you judges, whom I respect more than I do any other 
public men," the President had added, is "some satisfactory scheme, 
which would permit of the necessary protest against the few un- 
righteous, and the less few unwise decisions, without impairment of 
that respect for the law which must go hand in hand with respect for 
the courts. . . ." The failure to get that "scheme" would be respon- 
sible for Roosevelt's espousal of the recall of judicial decisions in 

Meanwhile the President continued his efforts to meliorate the lot 
of the working man and woman. He still refused to accept the 
principle of the closed shop while his fear of labor violence and dis- 
like for "professional labor agitators" remained as great as ever. Less 
than two months before the message of January 31, in fact, he had 
ordered federal troops into Nevada to suppress reported violence dur- 
ing a strike in the mine fields. When it became evident, however, that 
there was little violence and that the pro-corporation governor of the 
state had designed to use the troops to break the mine workers' 
union, Roosevelt had peremptorily withdrawn them. 

Roosevelt did not even then subscribe to the near total environ- 
mentalism that comprises the warp and the woof of so much of 
twentieth-century liberalism. To the end he believed in the individual's 
free moral capacity, in his ability to control and rise above his 
environment. And he was unfailingly disdainful of theoretical so- 
cialism. To Lincoln Steffens, whose increasingly critical attacks on 
Roosevelt reflected his own growing commitment to socialism, the 
President wrote in June, 1908 that "under government ownership 
corruption can flourish just as rankly as under private ownership." 
Privilege must be eliminated; but privilege was not all. "I know from 
actual experience from experience of the most intimate kind in the 
little village of Oyster Bay and out in the West at Medora, where 
there was not a special privilege of any kind in either place that 
what is needed is the fundamental fight for morality." Yet, as he wrote 
another friend, the tenets of many people who call themselves socialists 


"are not only worthy of respect but represent real advances." Among 
such "advances," presumably, were major features of Roosevelt's 
own conservation program. 

Even as Roosevelt clung to the vestiges of the "survival of the 
fittest" theory, even as he continued to believe that much of man's 
weakness and evil was inherent, he drastically modified his application 
of those concepts. By 1908 he perceived more clearly than ever before 
that the environment was of tremendous, if not quite overpowering 
influence, especially on the weak and the straitened. So in the newer 
mode of Reform Darwinism and the older tradition of noblesse 
oblige and human compassion, he strove to mitigate the conditions of 
labor through government action. Warmly and persistently he sup- 
ported proposals for the eight-hour day and for workmen's compensa- 
tion measures. "I spoke of the hard case of P. B. Banton, who was 
crippled for life while doing his duty on the Panama Canal and is 
now helpless with a wife and three children," he wrote a congressman 
in February, 1908. "Will it not be possible to have a general bill 
passed to remedy the injustice . . . ? No more righteous act could 
be passed by Congress." Or, as he wrote in his message of January 3 1 : 

The special pleaders for business dishonesty, in denouncing the 
present Administration for enforcing the law against the huge and 
corrupt corporations which have defied the law, also denounce it 
for endeavoring to secure sadly needed labor legislation, such as a 
far-reaching law making employers liable for injuries to their em- 
ployees. ... It is hypocritical baseness to speak of a girl who 
works in a factory where the dangerous machinery is unprotected 
as having the "right" freely to contract to expose herself to dangers 
to life and limb. She has no alternative but to suffer want or else 
to expose herself to such dangers ... it is a moral wrong that 
the whole burden of the risk necessarily incidental to the business 
should be placed with crushing weight upon her weak shoul- 
ders. . . . This is what opponents of a just employers' liability law 
advocate. . . . 

Even more significant than Roosevelt's widening acceptance of the 
deterministic postulates of Reform Darwinism was his strengthening 
conviction of the need for big unionism He continued to condone the 
closed shop, but he came more and more to believe that big unionism 
was as necessary as big business was inevitable; and within the limits 
imposed by his ultimate faith in individualism, he warmly encouraged 


the labor movement. The principle of unionism was "beneficial," he 
repeatedly asserted; it was the "abuses" of power that must be guarded 

The first President to keep an open door to union officials, Roose- 
velt conferred many times with Gompers, Mitchell, and other labor 
leaders during his seven and one-half years in office. And though he 
never again played such a dramatic role as he had in the Anthracite 
Strike of 1902, he continued to the end to make a modest contribution 
to labor's uplifting. For example, in the winter of 1908 when several 
railroads contemplated wage reductions in order to redeem losses 
caused by the administration's regulatory program or so the Louis- 
ville and Nashville angrily charged Roosevelt ordered the Interstate 
Commerce Commission to investigate. "These reductions in wages 
may be warranted, or they may not," the President wrote. But in any 
event, the Commission should be prepared to mediate. It finally did 
so, arranging a settlement that held the line on wages and creating in 
the process a precedent for the handling of future controversies in the 
railroad industry. 

Had Roosevelt had his way, the principle of government mediation 
would have been made broadly inclusive. In his annual message of 
1906 and again in that of 1907 he had urged "compulsory investiga- 
tion of such industrial controversies as are of sufficient magnitude 
and of sufficient concern to the people of the country as a whole" 
clear evidence that in the President's mind labor had come of age. 
When his attitude is contrasted to that of the National Manufacturers 
Association, which was then girding its loins for an anti-unionism 
campaign that persists to this day ("better to fight than be assassinated 
in the interests of a coalition of politics and labor," the Association's 
journal warned in May, 1908), the magnitude of Roosevelt's progres- 
sivism stands in perspective. 

Although organized labor was gratified by the advances in the 
President's thought, it still refused to take him to its bosom. Roose- 
velt's deep distrust of union officials as a class remained ill-concealed. 
And his reluctance to place labor violence in its social context con- 
tinued. Roosevelt might have agreed with that part of the publisher 
E. W. Scripps's defense of the bomb-setting McNamara brothers 
which read: "We, the employers . . . have the jobs to give or with- 
hold; the capital to spend, or not spend, for production, for wages, 
for ourselves; we have the press to state our case and suppress theirs; 


we have the Bar and the Bench, the legislature, the governor, the 
police and the militia." But he could only have spewed epithets over 
Scripps's conclusion that "violence and mob force" were labor's sole 
weapons and that "Workingmen should have the same belligerent 
rights in labor controversies that nations have in warfare." 

A much more direct cause of labor's disenchantment with the 
President was his failure to force the G.O.P. to write his advanced 
recommendations into law. As Samuel Gompers, whose own career 
was the epitome of moderation and gradualism, later charged, Roose- 
velt "desired to maintain party leadership and that led to compromise 
with the reactionaries in the Republican party." 

There was large truth in that analysis; and the President's devious 
handling of the injunction issue in the 1908 campaign would under- 
score it. Nevertheless, Gompers' evaluation begs the central political 
question of Roosevelt's presidency. Could Roosevelt have broken 
with the Old Guard and yet fulfilled so many other of his foreign and 
domestic objectives? 



I believe in a strong executive; I believe in power; but I 
believe that responsibility should go with power and that it is 
not well that the strong executive should be a perpetual executive. 

Theodore Roosevelt 

The sands were running out, and with them the President's waning 
influence over Congress and party. Within five months of the 
memorable special message of January 3 1 Roosevelt's successor would 
be nominated, and within ten months he would be elected. For the 
four months following Roosevelt would be in name what he already 
was in fact a "lame duck" President. Then, on March 4, 1909, just 
a year after the meeting of the governors at the White House, the 
middle-aged man who had committed himself to the "governing class" 
as a youth would return to the people, though not really to become 
one of them. 

A difficult matter for normal men, the loss of power was an ex- 
cruciating prospect for this man of such extraordinary drive and 
talent one which all his surging emotions rebelled against; one 
which his character alone supported, and then only after a supreme 
and sustained exertion of strength. Rarely has history witnessed a 
more painfully high-minded action than Roosevelt's voluntary re- 
linquishment of a power that he had proudly proclaimed was greater 
than that of any crowned head in all of Europe. And rarely has 
history seen a great man come nearer to true nobility than Theodore 
Roosevelt did when he resolutely refused over a period of many 



months to submit to the enormous pressures that he violate his elec- 
tion-eve promise of 1904 and accept another term. 

It was to his fellow historian, Sir George Otto Trevelyan, that the 
President wrote most revealingly of his abnegation. "It is a very un- 
healthy thing that any man should be considered necessary to the 
people as a whole, save in the way of meeting some given crisis," he 
wrote. "I regard the memories of Washington and Lincoln as priceless 
heritages for our people, just because they are the memories of 
strong men, of men who cannot be accused of weakness or timid- 
ity ... who, nevertheless, led careers marked by disinterestedness 
just as much as by strength. . . ." 

Now, my ambition is that, in however small a way, the work I do 
shall be along the Washington and Lincoln lines. ... I may be 
mistaken, but it is my belief that the bulk of my countrymen, the 
men whom Abraham Lincoln called "the plain people" the 
farmers, mechanics, small tradesmen, hard-working professional 
people feel that I am in a peculiar sense their President, that I 
represent the democracy in somewhat the fashion that Lincoln did, 
that is, not in any demagogic way but with the sincere effort to 
stand for a government by the people and for the people. Now the 
chief service I can render these plain people who believe in me is, 
not to destroy their ideal of me. 

Continuing, Roosevelt related an incident that had greatly moved 
him. "A few months ago three old back-country farmers turned up 
in Washington and after a while managed to get in to see me," he 
said. "They were rugged old fellows, as hairy as Boers and a good 
deal of the Boer type. They hadn't a black coat among them, and 
two of them wore no cravats; that is they just had on their working 
clothes, but all cleaned and brushed. When they finally got to see 
me they explained that they hadn't anything whatever to ask, but that 
they believed in me, believed that I stood for what they regarded as 
the American ideal, and as one rugged old fellow put it, 'We want to 
shake that honest hand.' " 

If Roosevelt's decision to step down was an act of high statesman- 
ship, the manner and choice of his successor was something less. It 
was marked by poor judgment, was influenced by extraneous con- 
siderations of personality, and was accomplished in typical power- 
political fashion. 

The President's real preference for the succession was Elihu Root. 


Down through the tumultuous years of the second administration 
that ablest of Roosevelt's intimates had continued to give the Presi- 
dent constructive counsel as well as to explain him to his own Wall 
Street friends. To the end, however, Root had remained a skeptic. 
And though he often endorsed Roosevelt's advanced recommenda- 
tions, including that for an inheritance tax, he was largely unmoved 
by the humanism that had already pushed Beveridge and would soon 
drive George W. Perkins in new directions. Never did Root urge 
Roosevelt on; never did he display that passion for social and 
economic justice that made the Square Deal an end in itself. After he 
lost close contact with Roosevelt and entered the United States 
Senate in 1909, moreover, he lost even the veneer of his ideological 
sophistication. As his most recent biographer, Richard W. Leopold, 
concludes, from then until his retirement in 1915, Root was "as- 
tonished, puzzled, irritated and eventually overborne" by the progres- 
sive ferment that challenged the values of his early manhood. 

That Roosevelt could have believed Root capable of carrying on 
the Square Deal is a measure of the Secretary of State's forceful 
personality as well as of Roosevelt's credulity. It is also a measure of 
the President's deep concern with foreign policy, for in that area 
Root was above all others qualified. Roosevelt was so favorably dis- 
posed toward Root, in fact, that he once called him "without question 
the greatest living statesman" and purportedly remarked that "I would 
walk on my hands and knees from the White House to the Capitol to 
see Root made President." But he was shrewd enough to realize 
that Root's corporate background and conservative associations made 
him politically unpalatable, and he wisely refrained from making him 
his heir apparent. "What the people do not understand of ... 
[Root]," he ruefully concluded, "is that if he were President they 
would be his clients." 

The best qualified man all around was probably Charles Evans 
Hughes of New York. A stern, unbending Baptist, Hughes's heavy 
beard and pale blue eyes masked a will of steel. He had been cata- 
pulted to prominence in 1905 on the force of his brilliant special 
investigation of the corrupt and mismanaged life insurance industry 
in the Empire State. Backed handsomely by the Roosevelt administra- 
tion the next year, he had narrowly defeated William Randolph Hearst 
in a gubernatorial contest that Roosevelt had exuberantly pronounced 
"a victory for civilization." As governor, Hughes had fused the old 


political reformism with the new economic progressivism much in 
the manner of Roosevelt himself, and he became in consequence the 
presidential choice of many progressive Westerners as well as of 
Eastern reformers of the Evening Post variety. Unfortunately, how- 
ever, Hughes's most striking personal characteristic his fierce in- 
dependence proved his Achilles heel. 

In the spring of 1907 after Roosevelt removed a minor federa 
officeholder in Rochester who was opposed to both Hughes and 
himself, the Governor had righteously announced that he had been 
neither consulted nor informed. This studied rebuff to the President 
had then been blown up into a major declaration of independence by 
a feature writer for the Evening Post, and Hughes was thus forced 
into the camp of the enemy not of the left or the right, but of the 
impracticable, Roosevelt-baiting "goo-goos." The President never 
forgot the incident. Hughes is "a thoroly selfish and cold-blooded 
creature," he warned Taft more than a year later. "I strove to help 
him and he started the entire mugwump press cackling with glee about 
the way in which he had repudiated my help and did not care for it, 
and relied purely upon the people." The affair had sealed Hughes's 
fate, if it had not already been sealed by Roosevelt's affection for 
William Howard Taft. 

The selection of this distinguished and eminently likable public 
servant was not as incongruous as events later suggested. By per- 
formance and apparent conviction, Taft was sympathetic to Roose- 
velt's program. As he wrote with some irritation in 1907, "Mr. Roose- 
velt's views were mine long before I knew Mr. Roosevelt at all." From 
the President's strictures against the abuse of injunctions through his 
espousal of the inheritance tax, Taft had conscientiously, if reservedly, 
supported him. And he had been on the tariff issue more forthright 
than Roosevelt himself. Furthermore, he had proved in the Philip- 
pines that he could be moved by enlightened compassion. And if he 
believed with the President and others of the inner circle that reform 
was necessary to preserve the capitalistic structure, he also believed 
with Roosevelt, though not with all the others, that some reforms 
were ends in themselves. 

Behind Taft's affable countenance, walrus mustache, and three 
hundred and more pounds of undulating flesh, however, was a man 
of marked limitations. They were not great; and they would not have 
disqualified Taft from the presidency in normal times. But the times 


were not normal. By the sheer force of his political genius, Roosevelt 
had made his party moderately responsive to the challenges that 
everywhere confronted it. But not even he had radically changed the 
Grand Old Party's basic character. The election of a La Follette, the 
conversion of a Beveridge, the surging progressivism of the rank and 
file notwithstanding all that, the party's congressional leadership and 
corporate supporters remained militantly conservative and in many 
cases reactionary. Never during the Progressive Era, not even at the 
height of insurgency in 1910, would more than a quarter of the Re- 
publican delegation in either the Senate or the House raise the progres- 
sive battle flag. Taft lacked the wherewithal to bear it for the other 

Taft was neither bold nor dynamic; nor in the political sense re- 
sourceful. He was extraordinarily lazy, and he was given to petulance 
rather than, like Roosevelt, to wrath. His mental processes were pain- 
fully conventional, and he displayed little of Roosevelt's synthesizing 
intelligence and even less of his urge to create. For all his humanism 
and unexpected moral courage, he was then and would always be 
thereafter a conservative in all his instincts. No more than Elihu 
Root, and others of legalistic frame of mind, could he approve all of 
Roosevelt's tactics, even though he thought he believed in his objec- 
tives. Had the battle been won, Taft might have been competent to 
hold the line. The point is debatable, perhaps. But the lines were 
actually advancing and the intermediate objectives changing. The 
President's great battle order of January 3 1 , which Taft had professed 
to approve, had called for an offensive that Roosevelt himself would 
have been hard pressed to push to victory. Was Taft, whose experi- 
ence had been that of a loyal lieutenant and a top-drawer liaison 
officer, the man for the command? 

Taft's ambitious wife and his father-like half-brother were confident 
that he was; but only because they were enamored of the presidency 
itself. They seemed not to understand, or at least to accept, the 
formidable obstacles that would confront any Republican successor 
to Theodore Roosevelt. Indeed Mrs. Taft, the real instrument of her 
husband's tragedy in that she placed her own desire to be First Lady 
above his more reasonable aspiration to a post on the Supreme Court, 
seems to have been impervious to the tidal wave of reformism that 
was then engulfing the country. Recoiling from the President's special 
message of January 31, she advised her husband as early as Feb- 


ruary, 1908, not to "make any more speeches on the Roosevelt 

But there was another Taft who was sure that William Howard 
was not the man for the command. "Roosevelt is a good fighter and 
enjoys it, but the malice of politics would make you miserable," Taft's 
aged mother warned her son shortly before she died. 'They do not 
want you as their leader, but cannot find anyone more available." 
Nor was Roosevelt absolutely certain. A letter he sent Taft during 
the heat of the campaign in 1908 is implicitly revealing of his doubts: 
Be sure to let the people realize "that for all your gentleness and 
kindliness and generous good nature, there never existed a man who 
was a better fighter when the need arose," he wishfully advised his 
beloved friend. 

By then Roosevelt had long since made his decision. As early as 
1905, in fact, he had decided that the Secretary of War was his most 
likely successor, and thereafter he had given him every encouragement 
short of absolute commitment. True, he had appeared to waver in 
early 1906 when he again offered Taft a seat on the High Bench. 
There was a compelling need for distinguished men to sit on "the 
greatest court in Christendom" and pass judgment on the questions 
"which seem likely vitally and fundamentally to affect the social, in- 
dustrial and political structure of our commonwealth," Roosevelt had 
then written. However, he had also explained, he thought that Taft 
really wanted to become a member of the Court. "What you say in 
your letter and what your dear wife says [Mrs. Taft had impressed her 
views on the President in an urgent, half-hour interview arranged at 
her instigation] alter the case." 

Following that fateful exchange, the President's resolve to make 
Taft his successor deepened, though he did not act decisively until 
March, 1907. During the interim the generous-minded Secretary of 
War several times told Root, his wife, and the President himself that 
Roosevelt should run again. Although Roosevelt gave that sugges- 
tion short shrift, he did write William Allen White, who was cool to 
Taft, that he was "not going to take a hand in his nomination for it is 
none of my business." Then, in October, 1906, he strained his rela- 
tions with the aggressive Mrs. Taft, if not with her husband, by 
warning that if Hughes's popularity continued to soar and Taft 
remained aloof he might have to back the New Yorker. In March, 
1907, however, before Roosevelt's vendetta with Hughes completely 


soured him, the President virtually made the final commitment by 
directing that "a peculiar regard" for Taft's "judgment" be shown in 
all executive appointments in Ohio. 

The pre-convention campaign that the President now waged for 
his "beloved Will" was as ruthless, and probably more so, than the 
one he had fought against Mark Hanna for his own nomination in 
1904. And the justification was less, for Hughes was closer to Roose- 
velt ideologically than Hanna had been. Once again the President 
played the patronage game to the hilt; and once again he artfully 
denied that he had. "I appointed no man for the purpose of creating 
Taft sentiment; but ... I have appointed men in recognition of the 
Taft sentiment already in existence." But Roosevelt needed even 
more than that to win, or so he thought. Late in January, in one of 
those brilliant political maneuvers so characteristic of himself and 
that later Roosevelt, he stole Hughes's audience in the Governor's 
very hour of self-revelation. 

In spite of Hughes's public indifference and the President's pref- 
erence for Taft, the movement for Hughes's nomination had con- 
tinued to burgeon during all of 1907. The Governor was repeatedly 
urged to declare his intentions, and he finally agreed to state his views 
on national issues in a widely advertised address to the Republican 
Club of New York on January 31, 1908. It was expected that the 
Governor's statement of faith (it turned out to be friendly to Roose- 
velt and his policies) would be spread broadside over the front pages 
of the newspapers the morning following. The headlines on February 
1, however, heralded a startlingly different event: "Roosevelt's on- 
slaught . . ."; "Big Men Roasted . . ."; "Message Dazes"; "Hottest 
Message Ever Sent to Congress. . . ." 

On the afternoon of January 31, too late for publication in the 
evening papers, the President had released that most challenging of 
all his messages to Congress. "If Hughes is going to play the game," 
he blandly remarked to reporters, "he must learn the tricks." 

And so Roosevelt the king-maker. Years before, in his biography 
of Benton, he had bitterly criticized Andrew Jackson for acting 
similarly. But the point merits no belaboring. The selection of Taft, 
even more than some of the President's other aberrations, was the 
price the nation paid for Roosevelt's inherent strength and manifest 
distinction. Furthermore, as Mowry remarks, Roosevelt's popularity 


was so great that he had either to choose and support a successor or 
submit to his own renomination. 

Mrs. Taft's gnawing suspicions to the contrary, the President's 
support of her husband was so effective that Taft's nomination was 
a foregone conclusion months before the Republican Convention 
opened at Chicago on June 19. Only a stampede for the President 
could have altered the outcome; and, as Pringle writes, the conven- 
tion consequently proved a study in irony "Roosevelt the politician 
used machine methods to crush Roosevelt the popular hero." 

Determined to prevent his own nomination, Roosevelt had com- 
missioned Lodge to stave off any movement for his selection. It was 
a tough assignment. "If you think it was pleasant to be the one to 
close the door & do what we both thought right you are in error," 
Lodge later wrote his friend. "The hardest thing I ever had to do in 
public life was to use all the great tho' temporary powers of my place 
at Chicago to shut you out of the White House & put some one else 
(much as I love & admire that some one else) in." 

But Lodge had succeeded admirably succeeded in the face of a 
record forty-nine-minute demonstration for Roosevelt that had in- 
terrupted his keynote address just before the end. "The President . . . 
retires by his own determination," this devoted friend who more than 
any one else except, perhaps, Edith Roosevelt, appreciated the 
nobility of Roosevelt's self-abnegation, had exclaimed to the dele- 
gates after order was restored. "His refusal of renomination ... is 
final and irrevocable. Any man who attempts to use his name as a 
candidate for the presidency impugns both his sincerity and his good 
faith. . . . That man is no friend to Theodore Roosevelt." 

Throughout the campaign that summer and fall the President 
directed a steady stream of thinly veiled instructions at the un- 
comfortable Taft, who had won the nomination on the first ballot. 
Many were exhortatory "Hit them hard, old man!" he wrote at one 
point and many more were shrewdly practical. Roosevelt warned 
Taft not to affront Speaker Cannon, no matter how insufferable that 
aging tyrant's support. He suggested that Taft curtail his golf playing, 
or at least refuse to be photographed "in costume" (he had always 
been careful about his own tennis, he pointedly explained). And he 
warned the Secretary of War not to appear on the same platform 
with the loathsome Foraker, whose unsavory relationship with the 
Standard Oil Company had recently been aired by Hearst. Roosevelt 


further urged Taft to be cautious in his recommendations for tariff 
revision (Taft had embarrassed the President and party by forth- 
rightly coming out for downward tariff revision in 1906). 

It was hard, even so, for the warrior-politician to avoid the smoke 
of battle. Mastering his swelling frustration, he held to an early 
decision to make no speeches. He also tried conscientiously to prevent 
his own booming personality from overpowering Taft's. "I think that 
the number of times my name is used should be cut down," he wrote 
the nominee after reading the draft of his formal message of accept- 
ance. "You are now the leader, and there must be nothing that looks 
like self-depreciation or undue subordination of yourself." But in 
the end, Roosevelt reached the front through a series of public letters; 
and in so doing he again scarred his reputation. 

There was much in the Democratic platform of 1908 and Bryan's 
exegesis of it that warranted attack from Roosevelt's point of view. 
This was particularly true of the foreign policy planks. Not only did 
they display little understanding of the realities of world power, they 
threatened a disruption of Roosevelt's delicately negotiated master- 
piece, the "Gentlemen's Agreement" with Japan. As the President 
caustically observed to Taft, the Democrats "desire to insult Japan 
by excluding all Japanese immigration, and at the same time recom- 
mend cutting down the navy so it could only be used for coast 
defense." In addition, the Democratic platform called for an im- 
mediate declaration in favor of Philippine independence, a proposal 
Roosevelt regarded as fatefully premature. 

The Democratic planks on domestic matters were not above 
criticism either. The President regarded the statements on the trusts, 
which promised a limitation on the size of corporations rather than 
regulation of their activities, as impractical. He had no sympathy for 
the Democrats' promise of over-all reductions in the tariff, preferring 
instead his own party's ephemeral promise of a controlled revision 
that would retain the protectionist principle. And he took specious 
exception to the Democrats' proposal for a federally guaranteed bank 
deposit scheme which presaged the Federal Deposit Insurance Cor- 
poration of the New Deal. Professing to approve it in principle, he 
urged Taft to attack it on the grounds that the banking structure must 
be radically changed before it could be implemented. But it was the 
injunction issue that inspired Roosevelt to show his political colors 
and suffer his heaviest wound. 


True to the faith of his message of January 31, and four previous 
recommendations to Congress, the President had sent Lodge to the 
Republican Convention at Chicago under firm instructions to frame 
an injunction plank with teeth in it. But the Massachusetts Senator 
had failed, partly because he was unsympathetic, and largely because 
of the National Association of Manufacturers' decisive authority in 
Republican councils. The plank, as rewritten by the Association's 
president, James W. Van Cleave, Aldrich, and other conservative 
Republican leaders, pledged the party to "uphold at all times the 
authority and integrity of the courts. . . ." Nor did it propose to 
limit the use of injunctions. That plank "will legalize what we have 
been trying to abolish," Samuel Gompers had cried out in anguish at 
the time. Bitterly, he had then charged that labor had been "thrown 
down, repudiated and relegated to the discard by the Republican 
party." The Democrats, meanwhile, had proved as superficially 
responsive to labor's demands as the Republicans had been substan- 
tively responsive to industry's. At Gompers's urging, their convention 
at St. Louis adopted a sweeping plank that could readily be interpreted 
as outlawing the use of the injunction in labor disputes. 

Roosevelt had seized upon the Democratic plank as extreme, and 
he was partly honest in so doing. Nothing he ever said or wrote 
suggests that he favored the outright abolition of injunctions. Always 
his brief was against their "abuse" by procorporation or antilabor 
judges. In a characteristically partisan and self-deluding twist, how- 
ever, he now contended that the Republican plank was truly "mod- 
erate" and that the G.O.P. had steered a middle course between the 
demands of labor and the manufacturers. 

The issue had simmered through the summer of 1908. It flamed up 
on October 13 when the press across the land carried an open letter 
from Gompers in which he repeated the charge that the Republicans 
had sold out labor and boldly urged workingmen to vote for Bryan. 
Roosevelt was furious. A week and a half later he released a long and 
indignant letter to Senator Philander Knox in which he challenged 
Bryan, who had been silent on the injunction issue, to indicate whether 
he agreed with Gompers's broad construction of the Democratic 
plank. He also criticized Gompers for charging hi words that were 
actually less vehement than his own that the judiciary was subservient 
to corporate power. And he particularly excoriated Gompers's sup- 
port of legislation that would have attacked the secondary boycott. 


"No court could possibly exercise any more brutal, unfeeling, or 
despotic power than Mr. Gompers claims for himself and his followers 
in this legislation," he said. Roosevelt failed, however, to reply effec- 
tively to the basic political challenge to wit, the Republican party 
was so submissive to the National Association of Manufacturers that 
not even the President of the United States had been able to have his 
reasonable views on the injunction problem written into the party's 
platform. For that letter, for past compromises, and for future blasts, 
tens of thousands of working men would in 1912 rally behind Eugene 
V. Debs or Woodrow Wilson. 

Meanwhile Gompers had replied in kind. "The mere fact that Mr. 
Roosevelt denounces a proposition as wicked does not so constitute 
it," he said in a second public letter. He noted that Roosevelt himself 
had called the reversal of the $29 million fine Judge Landis had 
imposed on the Standard Oil Company "a gross miscarriage of 
justice." He quoted the President's statement of January 31 that "It 
is futile to concede ... the right and the necessity of organized 
effort on the part of wage earners and yet by injunctive process to 
forbid peaceable action to accomplish the lawful objects for which 
they are organized. . . ." He twitted Roosevelt for permitting "Genial 
Uncle Joe" Cannon and other Old Guardsmen to "slap" him in the 
face by nominating the archconservative James "Sunny Jim" Sherman 
for Vice-President. And he charged that Roosevelt, after failing to 
get the Republican platform committee to accept his own liberal 
platform, "not only swallows the whole pot pourri, but . . . directly 
and indirectly attack[s] me in the fight which my fellow workers and 
I are making in defense of equality before the law of the men of 
labor with all other citizens. . . ." He added an ironic footnote. In 
January, 1908, Roosevelt himself had called Gompers's attention to a 
chapter in George A. Alger's Moral Overstrain that sharply criticized 
the courts for guaranteeing the workingman "an academic and theo- 
retic liberty which he does not want" and "denying him industrial 
rights to which he thinks he is ethically entitled." Then, four days 
before the memorable Special Message of January 31, Roosevelt had 
written Gompers that he would "be amused to know" that he had sent 
copies of Alger's book to the antilabor Supreme Court Justices Day 
and McKenna. 

The injunction controversy was unpleasant, but it had been waged 
openly both by Roosevelt and by Taft. There was, in fact, a refresh- 


ing quality in Taft's frank defense of his issuance of injunction orders 
while a Federal judge in Cincinnati almost a decade before. But there 
was another issue in the campaign of 1908 on which a frank defense 
seemed politically inexpedient religion. A Unitarian of considered 
conviction, William Howard Taft did not believe in the divinity of 
Jesus Christ. He stood in distinguished company with Benjamin 
Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and John Quincy Adams 
probably; with Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt possibly; 
and with numbers of other eminent Americans whose services to their 
country had been not less noteworthy for their failure to conform to 
the reigning theology. But Taft in 1908 was running against William 
Jennings Bryan. The consequence was a painful experience for Taft 
and a frustrating one for Roosevelt. 

All during the summer of 1908 the President fumed privately at 
the undercover campaign. Bryan was playing "strong in Chautauqua 
circles and elsewhere for the church vote," he irritably wrote Taft. 
Meanwhile others raised the issue "the bigoted, narrow-minded, 
honest, evangelical . . . Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, and some 
Presbyterians," as Roosevelt, who received hundreds of letters pro- 
testing Taft's unbelief, referred to them. "Think of the United States 
with a President who does not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son 
of God," wrote the editor of one religious journal, "but looks upon 
our immaculate Savior as a common bastard and low, cunning im- 
postor!" From Chautauqua came the report that the Methodist min- 
isters attending an Epworth League Convention had "gone wild" for 
Bryan. "They assert that no good Methodist can vote for a man who 
openly declares he does not believe in the divinity of Christ," the 
secretary of the Assembly said. On the other hand, the Literary Digest 
reported that the majority of religious publications viewed Taft's 
religion with equanimity, while at least one Catholic paper argued that 
the issue was irrelevant since the "dominant Protestantism of the day 
is unconfest [sic] Unitarianism." 

To compound Taft's troubles, many Protestants also argued that 
the Republican candidate had been pro-Catholic in his conduct of 
affairs in the Philippines. The charge was patently unfair. Although the 
Vatican had driven a hard bargain when it finally consented to sell the 
friars' lands, militant Catholics had bitterly disapproved the secular 
emphasis of the public school system established on the Islands during 
Taft's commissionership. 


Confused, surprised, and hurt, Taft proposed to issue a public 
statement. But under advice from Root and Roosevelt, he decided 
against it. Meanwhile, the President kept silent with difficulty. He 
continued to inveigh against bigotry in his private letters, alluding 
repeatedly to Lincoln's unorthodox religious beliefs. And he once 
attended Unitarian services with Taft in the hope, as he phrased it, 
"that it would attract the attention of sincere but rather ignorant 
Protestants who support me." But in deference to Taft's interests he 
waited until the campaign was over before speaking out. Then, in a 
letter that reflected that Jeffersonian strain which was often submerged 
but never drowned, he poured forth his convictions in a public letter 
to a correspondent from Ohio: "You ask that Mr. Taft shall let the 
world know what his religious belief is.' " 

This is purely his own private concern; it is a matter between 
him and his Maker, a matter for his own conscience; and to require 
it to be made public under penalty of political discrimination is to 
negative the first principle of our Government, which guarantees 
complete religious liberty, and the right to each man to act in 
religious affairs as his own conscience dictates. . . . 

Discrimination against the holder of one faith means retaliatory 
discrimination against men of other faiths. The inevitable result of 
entering upon such a practice would be an abandonment of our real 
freedom of conscience and a reversion to the dreadful conditions of 
religious dissension which in so many lands have proved fatal to 
true liberty, to true religion, and to all advance in civilization. 

Except for his seething resentment over the intrusion of the reli- 
gious issue, the President was jubilant in Taft's hour of victory. "We 
have them beaten to a frazzle," he had exclaimed again and again the 
night of the election as the returns were brought into him at Sagamore 
Hill. And on November 10 he wrote the President-elect a warm, con- 
gratulatory letter declaring that with the possible exception of Hughes, 
Taft was the only man who could have been elected. "You have won 
a great personal victory as well as a great victory for the party," he 
said, "and all those who love you, who admire and believe in you 
and are proud of your great and fine qualities, must feel a thrill of 
exaltation over the way in which the American people have shown 
their insight into character, their adherence to high principle." 

Roosevelt was partially right. It was "a great personal victory"; but 
as much for himself as for Taft the President-elect's margin was only 


half of Roosevelt's record plurality in 1904. Taft had, however, run 
far ahead of his party. Four states Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, and 
North Dakota elected Democratic governors while returning majori- 
ties for Taft. And in New York, where Hughes was re-elected, Taft 
ran considerably ahead of the Governor and the ticket as a whole. 
Nor was the Republican majority in the congressional elections espe- 
cially large, a number of reactionaries having failed to be returned. 
The import was clear: Neither Roosevelt nor Taft had succeeded in 
convincing the country that the Grand Old Party had a monopoly on 
reform and progress. 

The President-elect's reaction to his triumph was not less ominous. 
He was not jubilant. At three o'clock the morning after the election 
Taft wearily told a crowd outside his half-brother's house in Cincinnati 
that he hoped his administration would prove "a worthy successor of 
that of Theodore Roosevelt." He then went to bed. 

A few weeks later he confided his sense of inadequacy to a friend. 
"If I were now presiding in the Supreme Court of the United States as 
chief justice, I should feel entirely at home," wrote the man whose 
mother had warned him he was not qualified for the presidency, "but 
with the troubles of selecting a Cabinet, and the difficulties in respect 
to the revision of the tariff, I feel just a bit like a fish out of water." 
He concluded by saying that "my wife is the politician and she will 
be able to meet all these issues." It was not to be. 



I have had the best time of any man of my age in all the 
world. ... I have enjoyed myself in the White House more 
than I have ever known any other President to enjoy himself, 
and ... I am going to enjoy myself thoroly when I leave the 
White House. 

Theodore Roosevelt 

The most striking aspect of the postelection interim was that atten- 
tion continued to center on Roosevelt. Between the election in No- 
vember and the inauguration in March there was no abatement of 
the controversy that had enveloped him from 1902 on; nor was there 
any relaxation of the President's determination to spread on the record 
his blueprint for a future America. Until the end of the regime Roose- 
velt was a raging lion spurred by prods at his rear, wounded by 
attacks on his flanks, angered by barriers at his front but roaring all 
the while. 

The roar was as lordly as it was angry. The hunting hi other 
seasons had been good; and the Congress that convened in December, 
1908, to bid all speed to this powerful personality who had revitalized 
the powers of this office and made it responsive as never before to the 
needs of the industrial age, knew it. The legislative and administrative 
achievements of the past seven years the Hepburn Act, the Pure 
Food and Drug Act, the Meat Inspection Amendment, the Employer's 
Liability Act, the antitrust measures, the conservation program, the 
work on the Panama Canal, the expansion of the fleet, the Roosevelt 
Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, and the intervention in European 



and Far Eastern affairs could not be written off. The pressures that 
Roosevelt had generated for even greater reforms could not be dis- 

The President's final annual message on December 8 proved to be 
more a call to action than a valediction. Roosevelt, the Washington 
Post observed, "looks forward and not back." There were, assuredly, 
the prideful cadences of most of the other messages. And there were 
few new ideas. The recommendations for judicial reform, labor legis- 
lation, conservation, and naval expansion had all been made before, 
though not always as specifically. Nevertheless, that message was a 
compelling statement of the President's still advancing progressivism, 
one that boldly laid down proposals of action on every important 
issue then current except the tariff, and one that categorically declared 
that the workingman should be guaranteed "a larger share of the 
wealth" he produced. It provoked the New York Commercial and 
Financial Chronicle to complain that if a fraction of Roosevelt's 
recommendations could be put into statute "they would commit the 
country to a course of new experiments and make over the face of 
social creation." And it inspired in the New York Sun a ray of hope 
hope that within a few weeks "the seven-year flood of words" would 
at last dry up! 

But the most suggestive comments on the President's urgent call 
for social and economic justice through centralization were made by 
independent Democratic newspapers. Roosevelt had asserted that the 
telegraph and telephone companies should be placed under the 
jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission. And he had 
again charged that corporate wealth was using the "appeal to the old 
doctrine of States' rights" as a "cover" in its fight against "adequate 
control and supervision. . . ." The charge was neither new nor in- 
accurate. Roosevelt had leveled it many times before, often, as in the 
case of the meat packers, with fateful precision. But the significant 
point, as the Literary Digest reported, was that "a number of Southern 
and other Democratic papers are willing to give it a tolerant, and 
even a sympathetic hearing, while some of the most strenuous pro- 
tests come from Republican sources." 

That historic reversal in philosophy which has been the signal 
feature of twentieth-century party politics was thus in the process of 
delineation. Repulsed by Roosevelt's neo-Jeffersonian ends, the Re- 
publicans were openly abandoning their commitment to Hamiltonian 


means in order to thwart the fulfillment of those ends; attracted by 
those same ends, the Democrats were abandoning their belief in 
Jeffersonian means that they might be realized. The trend was by no 
means universal. The Republicans would waver until 1912, and on 
some issues, long after; and the Democrats would not even be certain 
where they stood under Woodrow Wilson. By the middle of the cen- 
tury, however, the reversal would be relatively complete: The over- 
whelming majority of Democrats in Congress, except for the Southern 
states'-rightists, would be wedded to the centralized welfare state; the 
great majority of Republicans would be in varying degrees opposed 
or unsympathetic to it. Theodore Roosevelt, grown increasingly 
sensitive of, and frustrated by, the tenets of his own party during his 
last two years in office, served mightily to hasten this momentous 
development. Indeed, his messages, speeches, and public letters had 
established him as a kind of advance agent for reform. The Detroit 
News said that "Measured by his own standard, his work will be 
seen to be one of awakening rather than accomplishment." The New 
York Tribune said the great service of his administration "has been 
in calling public attention to social problems and bringing them into 

There was truth in those appraisals. The history of twentieth- 
century reform that fails to account Roosevelt's moral and political 
influence upon his own times and, through then young men like 
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harold Ickes, Felix Frankfurter, Henry 
L. Stimson, Learned Hand, and countless others upon later times, 
falls woefully short. But the argument is not all inclusive. For if 
Roosevelt failed either to convert his party to his own regulatory 
philosophy or to effect such an orthodox reform as revision of the 
tariff, his legislative and administrative accomplishments had been 
nonetheless concrete. 

Unfortunately, the President had distorted the larger sense of his 
last annual message by an acrimonious attack upon Congress itself. 
During the previous session an amendment had been adopted limiting 
the activities of the Secret Service to the protection of the President 
and the investigation of counterfeiting. In part because he felt the 
Secret Service was needed to combat anarchists, and mainly because 
he wanted it to investigate corporation executives who had violated 
the law, Roosevelt had vehemently opposed the amendment. The 
House, however, had insisted on passing it. Some members of that 


body were still riled over the President's earlier prosecutions of con- 
gressmen for postal, land, and timber frauds. Others were presumably 
reluctant to expedite the indictment of businessmen whose interests 
they had so long served. And still others opposed the expansion of 
the Secret Service on high civil libertarian grounds. 

Unable longer to hold back what he believed was the truth, the 
President had baldly charged in his annual message of December, 
1908, that the chief argument for the amendment had been "that the 
congressmen did not themselves wish to be investigated." Congress 
was outraged. Never during Roosevelt's seven and more years in 
office did his relations with the legislature sink to a lower level than 
they did under the weight of that accusation. Unanimously, an out- 
raged House approved the formation of a committee to investigate. 
Angrily, Senator Aldrich drafted a resolution of inquiry that even 
Cabot Lodge supported. 

In the White House, meanwhile, the President fumed. On January 
4 he replied to the House with a special message that modified his 
charge against Congress, but repeated the assertion that weakening 
the Secret Service was a boon to "the criminal class." The members 
of the House were not edified; in an action that goes back to Jackson 
for a precedent, they voted by a majority of 211 to 36 to lay on the 
table that portion of the annual message which referred to the Secret 
Service and the whole of the special message of January 4. They 
further resolved that the message be viewed as an invasion of the 
privileges of the House. Not even that ponderous rebuke chastened 
the President, however, and for weeks, so Ambassador Bryce reported 
to Whitehall, people hardly ventured to mention Roosevelt's name at 
many dinner tables. 

To make matters worse, the President was by then embarked upon 
a course more misguided even than his conduct in the Brownsville 
affair. Infuriated by charges in the Indianapolis News and the New 
York World that the $40 million paid the New Panama Canal Com- 
pany had gone to interested American businessmen, including his 
brother-in-law, Douglas Robinson, Roosevelt decided to have the 
government institute libel proceedings. His decision was made after 
consultation with high government attorneys, and his provocation was 
understandable, the World having finally charged him with deliberate 
misstatement of fact. Grand juries in Indianapolis and New York 
actually returned indictments against the publishers of both news- 


papers, while Bryce wrote Sir Edward Grey that "The moral effect 
of convictions in cases of this kind would be excellent." In the end, 
however, federal district judges dismissed the cases. And well, prob- 
ably, that they did. For as the editors of Roosevelt's Letters suggest, 
a government victory "would ... in the opinion of many men at 
the time and since, have placed the freedom of the press in jeopardy." 

Until the end of the reign the charges and countercharges continued. 
Repeatedly, Roosevelt lost his powers of discretion; but only rarely 
his sense of humor. "Taft told me with a chuckle," he wrote his son 
Kermit the second week in January, ". . . that one of his friends in 
New York has said to him that he supposed that between the election 
and his inauguration there would be a period of stagnation in Wash- 
ington. I have felt like wiring him," he continued, "that the period of 
stagnation continues to rage with uninterrupted violence." Congress, 
however, lost both its discretion and its humor. Critical of the man, 
resentful of his conception of his office, and largely unsympathetic to 
his broad social purposes, it struck wildly, even irresponsibly at the 

In early January Congress approved the bill authorizing a private 
power project in Missouri under conditions that mocked Roosevelt's 
plan for a carefully controlled development of such sites. The result 
was the irate veto message discussed in Chapter 19. On January 12 
the Senate agreed to a resolution directing the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury to give a comprehensive report of all disbursements under the 
President's emergency fund. (No irregularities were found.) Shortly 
later a bill designed to create 4,000 positions in the Census Bureau, 
all without competitive examination, was passed. Refusing to submit, 
Roosevelt sent in another angry veto message. Then, when the Presi- 
dent transmitted to Congress on February 8 the Report of the Country 
Life Commission, a document of surpassing excellence which re- 
flected Roosevelt's concern for the conservation of human no less 
than of natural resources, the House refused to appropriate funds to 
publish it. 

Those were not the only examples of Congress' consuming desire 
to insult, to defy, and to expose the President in those last turbulent 
months. The supreme act of spite was the passing of the amendment 
to the Sundry Appropriation Bill discussed in Chapter 19, which 
forbade the President's appointing commissions of inquiry without 
specific authority from Congress. If evidence is lacking that Congress 


understood the great accretion of power and expansion of executive 
authority which had occurred during the Roosevelt years, that action 
should fill the void. Yet even it failed to beard the mighty lion. "I 
replied to Congress," Roosevelt wrote in his Autobiography, "that if 
I did not believe the Amendment to be unconstitutional, I would veto 
the Sundry Civil Bill which contained it, and that if I remained in 
office I would refuse to obey it." 

Even in the midst of the raging storm there were moments of 
triumph and actions of real consequence. The most memorable came 
on February 22, 1909, when the Great White Fleet steamed into 
Hampton Roads, its voyage around the world completed. From the 
deck of the presidential yacht Mayflower Roosevelt reviewed it, serene 
in the knowledge that Congress had again appropriated funds for two 
new battleships, and probably mistakenly confident that the fleet's 
grand tour had exerted a profoundly salutary impact upon world 
politics. "Not until some American fleet returns victorious from a 
great sea battle will there be another such homecoming, and such a 
sight," the President proudly exclaimed. 

On October 27, 1908, Theodore Roosevelt had turned fifty years 
of age. He was unsettled about his future plans; but he was none- 
theless sure that he should do something useful "to help onward 
certain movements for the betterment of the people." As he wrote 
Ted, who had gratified him by entering business in Hartford after 
graduation from Harvard "instead of leading a perfectly silly and 
vacuous life around the clubs or in sporting fields," he was also 
determined to enjoy himself. "Every now and then solemn jacks come 
to me to tell me that our country must face the problem of 'what it 
will do with its ex-Presidents,' " he confided to his oldest son. 

I always answer them that there will be one ex-President about 
whom they need not give themselves the slightest concern, for he 
will do for himself without any outside assistance; and I add that 
they need waste no sympathy on me that I have had the best time 
of any man of my age in ah 1 the world, that I have enjoyed myself 
in the White House more than I have ever known any other Presi- 
dent to enjoy himself, and that I am going to enjoy myself thoroly 
when I leave the White House, and what is more, continue just as 
long as I possibly can to do some kind of work that will count. 

Nor did he fail in those goals during the decade of life that re- 


Actually, Roosevelt had already laid his immediate plans. He would 
first go into the dark depths of Africa, there to hunt big game and 
collect data and specimens for the Smithsonian Museum ("I feel that 
this is my last chance for something in the nature of a 'great adven- 
ture,' " he explained to St. Loe Strachey). He would then go to 
Oxford on the invitation of its chancellor to deliver the Romanes 
Lectures (these, he wrote Lodge with mixed pride and awe, had been 
given by Gladstone, Huxley, Morley, and Bryce among others). The 
engagement would also give substantial purpose to his European visit, 
for he said, he was anxious to avoid a "kind of mock triumphal pro- 
cession." Upon his return to the United States in the late spring of 
1910, he would become a contributing editor to Lyman Abbott's 
Outlook at a salary of $12,000 per year (he had rejected vastly more 
remunerative offers on the grounds that the Outlook connection was 
the more appropriate for a former President). 

Roosevelt's decision to become a popular editorial writer was not 
ideal. But he had too much contempt for the money-making process, 
too much suspicion of businessmen and their values, to have accepted 
a position in industry. There was, moreover, that irresistible com- 
pulsion to express himself, to continue to influence the flow of events. 
"1 feel that I can still for some years command a certain amount of 
attention from the American public," he explained, "and ... I want 
to use it so far as possible to help onward certain movements for 
the betterment of our people." Short of a return to politics there was 
only one other possibility a college presidency. There had been 
speculation in 1906 that Roosevelt would succeed Charles Eliot at 
Harvard. But the offer was never made. Henry Lee Higginson prob- 
ably expressed the common doubt when he questioned whether 
Roosevelt would be happy in such a cloistered atmosphere. He also 
wondered if the necessary "judgment is to be found coupled with 
such enormous energy?" A greater man than Higginson, however, 
thought that it might be. Roosevelt, said the philosopher William 
James, was qualified in many ways. 

While the President was formulating his plans and his enemies 
were figuratively wishing luck to the lions ("Only Four Weeks More 
of Roosevelt," an editorial in the Sun proclaimed on February 4), a 
quieter and largely unspoken drama was playing out at 1600 Pennsyl- 
vania Avenue. It revealed Roosevelt's personality in yet another 


It will be recalled that the President had been unable to refrain 
from counseling Taft during the campaign of 1908, or, in the end, 
from openly participating himself. Taft had welcomed, or at least 
accepted graciously, his benefactor's activities; and during the cam- 
paign he had made little effort to disengage himself from the Roose- 
velt record or from the President's personal influence. Indeed, he had 
broadly endorsed the Roosevelt policies. After the election, Roosevelt 
had continued his role as chief of staff for a week or two, long enough 
to advise the President-elect against a move to prevent Cannon's 
re-election as Speaker on the grounds that the effort would probably 
prove abortive. And even if it should prove successful, he had added, 
"I do not believe it would be well to have him in the position of the 
sullen and hostile floor leader bound to bring your administration to 
grief." This was sound advice; but it was also frighteningly ominous 
advice. Sooner even than Roosevelt feared, Taft would be caught in 
a web from which there would be no escape. He would be forced to 
take open sides with either the insurgent or Old Guard wings of his 

The decision to accept Cannon having been made, Roosevelt had 
rather abruptly abandoned the role of adviser. His wisdom and sense 
of propriety told him that Taft must be his own master; and with an 
exertion of self-discipline that was the more remarkable for his earlier 
dominance over his easygoing friend, Roosevelt gave the President- 
elect his rein. Difficult moments followed, especially when it became 
apparent that Taft was unsympathetic to the Roosevelt-Pinchot con- 
servation policies and that he planned to drop several members of the 
Cabinet (he had never really promised to keep them on, though at 
one point he had implied that he would). But as Henry Pringle, who 
sometimes captures Roosevelt in fuller perspective in his sober life 
of Taft than in his lively biography of Roosevelt, concludes, the 
President "loyally suppressed, save on one or two occasions, any 
temptation to give expression to the first seeds of doubt regarding the 
man he had pushed into glory." Roosevelt told Archie Butt, his 
military aide, that "Taft is going about this thing just as I would do, 
and while I retained McKinley's Cabinet the conditions were quite 
different. I cannot find any fault in Taft's attitude to me." 

Indeed the President did not request his successor to appoint his 
friends to office outside the Cabinet except in a very few cases. He 
arranged indirectly for his private secretary, William Loeb, to become 


Collector of the Port of New York. And on December 10 he sent 
Taft a memorandum listing the names of eleven men and a woman 
who, he wrote, had "been staunch adherents of Mr. Taft under stress 
of adverse assault hi positions not of the first rank." He asked for 
nothing; but the implication was clear. Taft caught it. He eventually 
took care of most of the people on the list, which included a few 
former Rough Riders, though he dropped Deputy Commissioner of 
Immigration Joe Murray, who had given Roosevelt his start hi politics 
in 1881, and one other. Only for his old hunting guide and com- 
panion, Bill Sewall, did Roosevelt make a direct plea; and on Decem- 
ber 18 he was able to write "Friend William" that Taft had agreed 
to keep him on as Collector of Customs for the Eastern District of 
Maine. After thanking Sewall and his wife for their gift of a pair of 
heavy woolen socks, he warned Sewall to show his letter of recom- 
mendation to no one except Taft. Otherwise, he explained, "I should 
be deluged with requests for letters." 

There were additional touches of loyalty, affection, and appreciation 
as the time for the changing of the guard drew near. To Gifford 
Pinchot, Roosevelt implied that he was distressed that Taft was not 
reappointing the able and progressive James Garfield Secretary of the 
Interior. "There had been a peculiar intimacy between you and Jim 
and me, because all three of us have worked for the same causes, 
have dreamed the same dreams, have felt a substantial identity of 
purpose," the President wrote. "Jim has made a sacrifice in entering 
public life that you and I have not made. ... I think that he has 
been the best Secretary we have ever had in the Interior Department." 
Now, Roosevelt concluded, Garfield's "law practise has gone to the 

But it was on his relations with Pinchot himself, in a letter that 
cast a long shadow over the future, that the retiring President poured 
out his heart. "As long as I live I shall feel for you a mixture of 
respect and admiration and of affectionate regard," he wrote the emi- 
nent forester two days before he left office. "I am a better man for 
having known you . . . and I cannot think of a man in the country 
whose loss would be a more real misfortune to the Nation than yours 
would be. For seven and a half years," he continued, "we have 
worked together, and now and then played together and have been 
altogether better able to work because we have played; and I owe 


to you a peculiar debt of obligation for a very large part of the 
achievement of this administration." 

The President wrote one other important letter in those final days. 
Conscious, perhaps, of the partial failure of his Far Eastern policy, 
fearful with reason of Germany's growing lust for naval power, and 
faithful as always to the views of Mahan, he addressed himself to the 
President-elect the day before the inauguration. "Dear Will," he said, 
"one closing legacy. Under no circumstances divide the battle fleet." 

There remained only the personal farewells and the inaugural cere- 
mony itself. On March 1 the President gave a dinner to his "Tennis 
Cabinet" and out-of-town associates. He seated Ambassador Jean 
Jules Jusserand on his right, Captain Seth Bullock, United States 
Marshal of Oklahoma at his left, and twenty-nine other guests, in- 
cluding Bill Sewall, a professional wolf hunter named Jack Abernathy, 
and Elihu Root at the rest of the table ("there will never be such a 
smashing precedence again as to rank," wrote Archie Butt). 

At the end of the luncheon the guests gave the President a bronze 
cougar by Proctor, Henry L. Stimson making the presentation when 
Seth Bullock choked with emotion. Later that afternoon the President 
went to the home of the Garfields, where eleven more or less regular 
members of the "Tennis Cabinet" presented him with a silver bowl 
as Jusserand, who was to have presided, broke down. The next after- 
noon at a reception for the diplomatic corps in the East Room of 
the White House many in the line, including the Japanese Ambassa- 
dor's wife, Baroness Takahara, wept openly. Meanwhile, the President 
himself lost his composure when he found his wife and their daughter 
Ethel crying over a diamond necklace that a group of Washington 
society women had presented the First Lady. "He has the humour to 
carry these little scenes off well," Butt wrote, "and says he feels 
heartily ashamed of such apparent weakness." However, Butt re- 
flected, "the love which does manifest itself on all sides, coming just 
now after the bitter attacks from the political world, has gone to their 

There was one final civility. With characteristic generosity, Roose- 
velt had invited the Tafts to spend the night of March 3 at the White 
House. In a letter signed "With love and affection, my dear Theo- 
dore," Taft accepted with warm protestations of their continuing 
friendship. Their ladies also tried to be friendly; but Mrs. Taft lacked 
the grace. Even before she moved into the White House she had 


made arrangements for many of the Roosevelts' favorite servants to 
be replaced the instant the change in mistresses became official. Both 
the President and his wife were hurt, but they did not show it. Taft 
later described the dinner that night as a "funeral"; and the Tafts did 
not invite the Wilsons in 1913 though Taft made several other gener- 
ous gestures to his successor. Archie Butt reported that the dinner 
went better than expected, however, the President "talking as naturally 
and entertainingly as he does usually at his luncheons" and the salad 
course being reached before it was realized. When it was time to 
retire, Mrs. Roosevelt gently took Mrs. Taft's hand and expressed the 
hope that her sleep would be sweet. "Thoughtful and gentle to the 
last," wrote Butt, ". . . she has stood, the embodiment of womanly 
dignity and social culture, before the entire nation, never unbending 
in the matter of official etiquette, yet always the gentle, high-bred 
hostess; smiling often at what went on about her, yet never critical of 
the ignorant and tolerant always of the little insincerities of political 

The inaugural ceremony the next day was ruled by the pomp and 
circumstance of tradition though it was held indoors because of a 
blustery storm that Cabot Lodge, with more prescience than he knew, 
pronounced a "calamity." Solemnly President Taft promised in his 
undistinguished inaugural address to maintain and enforce his prede- 
cessor's reforms; and enthusiastically former President Roosevelt 
rushed forward to congratulate him. "God bless you, old man," he 
exclaimed. "It is a great state document." Then, by an arrangement 
suggested by Roosevelt and warmly endorsed by Mrs. Taft, the parties 
divided. Instead of riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with the new 
President, Roosevelt was escorted by the New York delegation to the 
railroad station where he and his wife were given a rousing sendoff. 
Meanwhile Mrs. Taft took the former President's place at her hus- 
band's side to the disgust of the members of the Congressional com- 
mittee. The seven and one-half years of Theodore Roosevelt's presi- 
dency thus ended; the era of Theodore Roosevelt was yet to reach 
a climax. 





The whole tendency of [Roosevelt's] programme is to give a 
democratic meaning and purpose to the Hamiltonian tradition 
and method. He proposes to use the power and resources of the 
Federal government for the purpose of making his country-men 
a more complete democracy in organization and practise. . . . 

Herbert Croly, The Promise of American Life 

Within three weeks of Taff s inauguration Theodore Roosevelt, his 
twenty-year-old son Kermit, and a party of professional naturalists 
had embarked for Africa from the grimy port city of Hoboken, New 
Jersey. The new President had not seen the former President off. But 
he had sent gifts a gold ruler and an autographed photograph of 
himself and a pathetically revealing letter. "When I am addressed as 
'Mr. President,' " Taft wrote, "I turn to see whether you are not at 
my elbow." He predicted that Roosevelt would find him under sus- 
picion by theur Western friends when he returned. He guilelessly re- 
marked that Cannon and Aldrich had promised to stand by the plat- 
form and follow his lead, and he confessed that he lacked Roosevelt's 
facility for educating the public and arousing popular support. "I can 
never forget that the power that I now exercise was a voluntary 
transfer from you to me," he concluded, "and that I am under obliga- 
tion to you to see that your judgment . . . shall be vindicated. . . ." 
Edith Roosevelt had also remained at home. She had not wanted 
Theodore to go; but as in 1898 she had known that he must. His 
mother "was perfectly calm and self-possessed," Kermit confided to 
Archie Butt aboard ship that morning; however, he added, "her heart 
was almost broken." 



Others had also been moved. "In all the striking incidents of your 
career," wrote Cabot Lodge the following week, "I never saw one 
which impressed me more. It was not merely the crowd but the 
feeling which was manifested which was so striking. I can see you 
now, as the ship moved slowly down the river, waving your hand to 
us from the bridge, . . . The newspapers have been filled daily with 
minute accounts of your progress. . . . The American people . . . 
follow it all with the absorbed interest of a boy who reads 'Robinson 
Crusoe' for the first time." 

The field part of the expedition proved a spectacular success. 
"Bwana Makuba" (Great Master), as the Africans called the Colonel, 
took seriously the Smithsonian Institution's sponsorship repeatedly 
he had protested that he was "going primarily as a naturalist" and 
he was able to ship to the National Museum a collection of flora, 
fauna, and mammals that raised that institution's East African collec- 
tion to among the world's greatest. He impressed his companions with 
the breadth of his knowledge. "[Roosevelt] . . . had at his command 
the entire published literature concerning the game mammals and birds 
of the world, a feat of memory that few naturalists possess," Edmund 
Heller, with whom he later collaborated on a two-volume scientific 
work, reported. "I constantly felt while with him that I was in the 
presence of the foremost field naturalist of our time, as indeed I 
was. . . ." During the long nights in camp, the Colonel wrote the 
Lodges, he even came into his "inheritance in Shakespeare" whose 
works were among the sixty classics in the "pigskin library" he carried 
with him. Roosevelt's mood was poetically re-created in the foreword 
to his African Game Trails: 

"I speak of Africa and golden joys"; the joy of wandering 
through lonely lands; the joy of hunting the mighty and terrible 
lords of the wilderness, the cunning, the wary, and the grim. . . . 

But there are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the 
wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its 
charm . . . the strong attraction of the silent places, of the large 
tropic moons, and the splendor of the new stars; where the 
wanderer sees the awful glory of sunrise and sunset in the wide 
waste spaces of the earth, unworn of man, and changed only by 
the slow change of the ages through time everlasting. 

The ten-months' adventure had been free of conflict except for 
Roosevelt's bouts with the wild beasts of the jungle. Almost the instant 


the Colonel emerged at Khartoum in mid-March, however, the old 
order returned. In speeches that he himself reported "caused an out- 
burst of anger and criticism among the Egyptian Nationalists, the 
anti-English and fanatically Moslem party," he applauded British 
rule in the Sudan as "really the rule of civilization" and declared that 
it was "incumbent on every decent citizen of the Sudan to uphold the 
present order of things." 

Two weeks after those impolitic remarks, the Colonel, Mrs. Roose- 
velt and Ethel, who had met him at Khartoum, were received by the 
King and Queen of Italy. He found them, as he was to find most of 
the other royalty he met during the next two months, "delightful 
people" of ordinary endowment. And so, perhaps, he might also have 
found the Pope, Pius X. But when the Papal Secretary, Merry del Val, 
informed him that as the condition of an audience with His Holiness, 
the ex-President must agree not to see a group of offensive American 
Methodist Missionaries in Rome (one of the Methodists had referred 
to Pius X as "the whore of Babylon"), the former President refused. 
The Pope, he said, was a "worthy, narrowly limited parish priest; 
completely under the control of ... Merry del Val." Roosevelt then 
refused to see the Methodists who issued what he termed a "scur- 
rilous" address of exultation when it was learned that he had rebuffed 
the Pope. "The only satisfaction I had out of the affair," the Colonel 
wrote Lodge, ". . . was that on the one hand I administered a needed 
lesson to the Vatican, and on the other hand I made it understood 
that I feared the most powerful Protestant Church just as little as I 
feared the Roman Catholics." He added that it was a good thing he 
had no further interest in public office, for the incident would have 
compromised his usefulness as a candidate. 

The grand tour continued. In Paris Roosevelt captivated the 
French with a homely exhortation at the Sorbonne on the "Duties of 
Citizenship." Even he was surprised by the favorable reception it 
evoked. In Holland he was enchanted by Haarlem's tulip show. And 
in Christiania, where he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize at Andrew 
Carnegie's instance, he sparked the simmering peace movement by 
calling for the limitation of naval armaments, expansion of the work 
of The Hague Tribunal, and the formation of a League of Peace 
backed by force if necessary. He did not, however, spell out the details. 

After a brief visit in Stockholm, the Colonel and his party went 
to Germany where he and Wilhelm II held their much remarked 


review of army maneuvers. Afterward the Kaiser sent Roosevelt two 
photographs of them watching the troops. On one, in the Imperial 
hand, was the inscription: "When we shake hands we shake the 
world." The German Foreign Office urgently requested Roosevelt to 
return the photographs even before he left Berlin, but the Colonel 
refused. "His Majesty, the Kaiser, gave the photographs to me," he 
said, "and I propose to keep them." On the other hand, Roosevelt 
apparently made no effort to impress Wilhelm with his disapproval 
of his naval expansion program, perhaps because he was swept up 
by His Majesty's enthusiasm, more probably, as Elting Morison sug- 
gests, because he believed the cause was hopeless. He had, moreover, 
thrown down the gauntlet at Christiania. "The ruler or statesman," 
Roosevelt exclaimed after coming out for a League of Peace, "who 
should bring about such a combination would have earned his place 
in history for all time and his title to the gratitude of mankind." 

In London a week later Roosevelt served as the American repre- 
sentative at the funeral of Edward VII. The formal dinner given by 
King George V the night before, he later told Taft, was the most 
"hilarious banquet" he ever attended. Eight visiting monarchs were 
there, and "Everyone went to the table with his face wreathed and 
distorted into grief." But even before the first course was over, he 
continued, "we had all forgotten the real cause of our presence in 
London." In the line of procession the next day, the former President 
of the United States rode with the French Minister of Foreign Affairs 
and a Persian Prince in the eighth carriage. 

A week and a half after Edward's funeral Roosevelt shook the 
British by lecturing them on their administration of Egypt. "Now, 
either you have the right to be in Egypt or you have not," he de- 
clared at the Guildhall in London on May 3 1 ; "either it is or it is not 
your duty to establish and to keep order." He then advised them to 
get out if they were not prepared to rise to their responsibilities. He 
expressed the earnest hope, however, that in the interest of civiliza- 
tion and "fealty to your own great traditions," they would decide to 
rise to them. 

Seven days later Roosevelt delivered the Romanes lecture, "Bio- 
logical Analogies in History," that had figured so prominently in his 
original decision to visit Great Britain and Europe. It was not an 
intellectual success. "In the way of grading which we have at Oxford," 
the Archbishop of York later said, "we agreed to mark the lecture 


'Beta Minus,' but the lecturer 'Alpha Plus.' While we felt that the 
lecture was not a very great contribution to science, we were sure that 
the lecturer was a very great man." 

On June 18, 1910, the "very great man" disembarked at New 
York. During the fourteen months he had been conquering the jungle, 
slighting the Pope, enlightening the British, and sounding the hopeful 
moral note at Christiania, his chosen successor had been proving a 
political failure. And even as the Colonel waved, grinned, thumped, 
and expostulated amidst the most tumultuous of receptions, troubles 
were closing in on him. For by the summer of 1910 the shifting 
coalitions which Roosevelt had so skillfully maneuvered during his 
presidency had crystallized into uncompromising conservative and 
progressive factions; and in the face of his promises to continue the 
Roosevelt policies, Taft had aligned himself with the former. 

The new President's misfortunes were only partly of his own 
making. Almost any man would have suffered by comparison to 
Roosevelt, one of the three or four greatest natural leaders of all 
American history. Nor could Taft be blamed for the temper of the 
times or the character of his party. At the very moment the national 
progressive movement was building up to its first roaring climax, the 
long-champing Republican majority in Congress was angrily re- 
affirming that marriage to the lords of the market place that Roosevelt 
had fought so hard to sunder. Only Roosevelt himself could have 
saved the situation; and not even he could have saved it without 
taking sides. 

Human frailty and differences also figured importantly in the party's 
polarization. As Taft's mother had feared, William Howard's lack of 
zest for conflict proved a heavy burden. He tended to submit rather 
than fight; or, because of his laziness, to follow the course of least 
resistance. He delegated too much authority; and for want of in- 
formation or willingness to explore a problem, he sometimes made 
offhand or impulsive decisions. He had a poor sense of timing. And 
he lacked the ability to inspire. Nor did he read so voluminously or 
productively as Roosevelt, nor welcome to the White House such a 
churning stream of people with ideas (if Taft ever had an intellectual 
exchange with an Upton Sinclair or his like, it is not a matter of 

Taft's decision to surround himself with legalists also hurt, for his 
Cabinet supplemented rather than complemented his own viewpoints. 


His later lament that "Roosevelt has no one to advise him of the 
conservative type, like Root or Moody or Knox or myself, as he did 
when in office," is as revealing of Taft as of TR; and it gives point 
to the classic remark dropped by Senator Jonathan Dolliver, the Iowa 
insurgent, who observed that the President was a "ponderous and 
amiable man completely surrounded by men who know exactly what 
they want." Taft's brother Henry, his half-brother Charles and the 
President's wife, who was ill throughout most of his term, added to 
his difficulties. They wielded a heavy and conservative influence, 
wrongly advising him as to the temper of the country and fanning the 
flames of his growing suspicions of the absent Roosevelt. 

Ironically, however, it was Taft's stubborn courage which first dis- 
rupted the party. True at first to his personal ideals and campaign 
promises, Taft had called a special session to revise the tariff shortly 
after his inauguration. The House had responded in reasonably good 
faith by approving substantial reductions on iron and steel goods and 
writing in an inheritance tax provision. When the House bill reached 
the Senate, however, Aldrich and his friends blandly amended it 847 
times, mostly upward. They also eliminated the inheritance tax clause, 
though they reluctantly replaced it with a modest tax on corporations. 
The President was irritated; but after he secured some modifications 
he lost the will to fight or even to veto the measure. Then, in a move 
that adds point to Mowry's observation that Taft suffered himself 
through life to be "often persuaded to act against his own basic 
instincts," he rationalized his acquiescence by asserting that the bill 
represented "a sincere effort on the part of the Republican party to 
make a downward revision." Nor was that all. That autumn Taft went 
into the Middle West where the Payne-Aldrich tariff was regarded as 
a bare-faced perversion of the spirit of the Republican platform of 
1908, one whose rates served Eastern interests and compromised 
those of the West, and exclaimed in Winona, Minnesota, that "I 
think the Payne bill is the best bill that the Republican party ever 

Roosevelt was already on safari in Africa when the controversy 
reached its peak. Such comment as he did make was hardly to his 
credit. From the Juja Farm on May 15, 1909, he wrote Lodge, who 
had smugly informed him that the Senate would virtually maintain 
the old schedules, that there was no real issue: 


. . . what we have to meet is not an actual need, but a mental 
condition among our people, who believe there ought to be a 
change; and I also agree with you that the inevitable disappoint- 
ment and irritation will die down after a few months provided, as 
of course will be the case, that the Bill is fundamentally sound, and 
provided also, as you say, that there comes a return of prosperity 
when once the tariffs are out of the way. 

Triumphantly, Lodge had shown TR's letter to Aldrich. "He put 
the whole situation in those few lines," the Rhode Islander wrote with 
enthusiasm. "He is the greatest politician we have had. We are dealing 
with a mental condition and that is the exact trouble with the situa- 
tion." Thus was the irony compounded. It was Roosevelt who emerged 
as the beneficiary of the ensuing reaction against Taft. 

If the Colonel's views were clouded on this first of the two issues 
that set his successor on the road to political disaster, they were clear 
and consistent on the second conservation. Taft apparently came 
into the presidency with no conscious intention of undoing Roose- 
velt's great work, although, as Hays aptly suggests, he certainly in- 
tended to modify it. From the beginning Gifford Pinchot (whom he 
regarded as "a good deal of a radical and a good deal of a crank") 
was suspicious, and with cause. "There is one difficulty about the 
conservation of natural resources," President-elect Taft had declared 
to the second Joint Conservation Conference of Governors on De- 
cember 8, 1908. "It is that the imagination of those who are pressing 
it may outrun the practical facts." It was Taft's failure to make a 
fighting speech on that occasion, Pinchot later claimed, coupled with 
numerous other straws in the wind, including the dropping of Garfield, 
that sparked the Roosevelt administration's last-minute withdrawals 
of potential water-power sites on the theory "that the incoming 
Executive would have to act affirmatively to give them away." 

To make matters worse, Taft had selected a dubious conservationist, 
Richard Achilles Ballinger, to replace Garfield, the dedicated Secre- 
tary of the Interior. Ballinger was a strict constructionist; or, in 
Pinchot's somewhat overdrawn characterization, a friend of the special 
interests. While Commissioner of the Land Office under Roosevelt in 
1907 he had opposed the President's mineral-lease program, preferring 
outright sale to rental. And on that and other accounts he had re- 
signed his position after exactly a year in office. Returning under Taft 
to the government service in a higher position than Pinchot held, it 


was probably inevitable that he should clash with the zealous Chief 

Taft's legalism further complicated matters. Whatever the Presi- 
dent's views on conservation, he had no stomach for the Roosevelt- 
Garfield-Pinchot methods. "After T.R. came Taft," Pinchot was later 
to write in high irritation. "It was as though a sharp sword had been 
succeeded by a roll of paper, legal size." Neither did Taft approve of 
the Hamilton-Marshall conception of implied powers a doctrine 
Roosevelt would have had to invent had it not already been in the 
public realm or of Roosevelt and Pinchot's reliance on scientific, as 
opposed to congressional, advice. As he admonished the California 
conservationist, William Kent, three months after his inauguration, 
"We have a government of limited power under the Constitution, 
and we have got to work out our problems on the basis of law." 

Now, if that is reactionary, then I am a reactionary. . . . Pinchot 
is not a lawyer and I am afraid he is quite willing to camp outside 
the law to accomplish his beneficent purposes. I have told him so 
to his face. ... I do not undervalue the great benefit that he has 
worked out, but I do find it necessary to look into the legality of 
his plans. 

The first clash between Pinchot and the new administration had 
come over the water-power sites. "I do not hesitate to say," Taft 
wrote Kent late in the spring of 1909, that the presidential power to 
withdraw public lands "was exercised far beyond legal limitation 
under Secretary Garfield and, more than that, unnecessarily so." 
Resolutely, Taft authorized Secretary Ballinger to restore them to 
public entry pending a report by the Geological Survey. So the die 
was cast early. For in rejecting the view that the spirit of the law and 
the public interest could best be served by temporary withdrawals 
while the time-consuming permanent surveys essential to controlled 
development were completed, Taft had repudiated one of Roosevelt's 
basic policies. 

With clocklike regularity clashes between Pinchot and Ballinger 
had followed. Ballinger so harassed the Reclamation Service that a 
group of its engineers contemplated resigning in a body. He made 
establishment of legitimate ranger stations difficult. He played into 
the hands of the corrupt "Indian Ring" by canceling an arrangement 
whereby the Forest Service had efficiently managed the forests in the 


Indian Reservations to the Indians' advantage. And he allowed the 
administration's prime dispenser of the patronage, Postmaster General 
Hitchcock, to have an outsized hand in appointments. 

Ballinger justified his actions on strict constructionist grounds. 
Perhaps he did act in good faith. But if so, his tendency toward loose 
construction when private interests were at stake has never been 
adequately explained. The most generous interpretation is that he 
mirrored the Western milieu out of which he came: He was intelligent 
enough to approve conservation in principle, and less broadly in 
practice. But when the issue was drawn his commitment almost in- 
variably proved to be to the private entrepreneur; and hence, in the 
Roosevelt-Garfield-Pinchot view, to the ruthless exploitation or in- 
efficient development of the nation's natural resources. Both before 
Ballinger entered and after he left the government service, moreover, 
he recommended that the public domain be opened to all comers, and 
at least twice during his tenure as Secretary of the Interior, Taft him- 
self requested that he cease associating with the known opponents 
of conservation. 

The most famous example of Ballinger's tergiversation was his 
attitude toward the Morgan-Guggenheim Syndicate's acquisition of 
the Cunningham coal lands claims in Alaska. The details of this 
cause celebre of the Taft administration need not concern us here. 
But it should be observed that the case dramatically demonstrated that 
more than legalism, or even states' rights, differentiated Ballinger's 
policies from Garfield's. When, in the spring of 1910, the evidence 
was finally in, Ballinger was revealed to have played fast and loose 
with the law in a way that made Pinchot and Garfield's elastic inter- 
pretations seem rigid by comparison; and he had done so in the 
private, though assuredly not in his personal, interest, rather than the 
public interest. Worse still, President Taft was revealed to have 
compromised his integrity by signing a spuriously dated document 
designed to bolster the administration's case against Pinchot's charges 
that Ballinger was promoting a "give-away" of the disputed Cunning- 
ham claims. And most portentously of all, Pinchot had been forced 
to resign. 

By every criterion except that of the public interest, the fault was 
the Chief Forester's. With characteristic single-mindedness, he had 
decided within six months of Taft's inauguration to force the larger 
issue into the open. During the summer and autumn of 1909 he had 


delivered one conservationist speech after another as the newspapers 
buzzed with rumors of his differences with Ballinger. And in late 
September, after it became clear that Taft intended to support 
Ballinger's handling of the Cunningham claims (Ballinger refused to 
recognize their flagrantly fraudulent character), Pinchot told Taft he 
would stick to his guns even if the President had to fire him. Three 
months later, in defiance of a presidential order, Pinchot sent Senator 
Dolliver a letter defending two of his own subordinates who had 
released information about Ballinger and the Cunningham claims to 
the press. By prearrangement, the lowan read it on the floor of the 
Senate chamber. "It is clear not only that they acted from a high 
and unselfish sense of public duty," Pinchot's defense of his sub- 
ordinates ran, "but that they deliberately chose to risk their official 
positions rather than permit what they believed to be the wrongful 
loss of public property." 

By his own admission, Pinchot had been insubordinate. "There is 
only one thing for you to do now," Elihu Root told the President as 
the issue was joined; and on January 7 the President called for the 
Chief Forester's resignation. "I would not have removed Pinchot if 
I could have helped it," he plaintively observed three days later. Taft 
replaced Pinchot with an outstanding conservationist, but he kept 
Ballinger on, and by doing so fatally stamped his administration as 
anticonservationist and indirectly as anti-Roosevelt. The Congressional 
insurgents thus had their second major grievance against the President. 

With thirty newspaper editors over the country calling for Pinchot's 
nomination for President in 1912 and the periodical press, which was 
already enraged by the President's call for an increase in the postal 
rates for magazines, rising almost as one in criticism of Taft, the 
pressure was now on the administration and the Old Guardsmen in 
Congress. On June 25, in compliance with an earlier request from 
Taft, Congress restored the President's authority to withdraw public 
lands temporarily from entry the same power it had so angrily 
wrested from Roosevelt three years before. And from then on Taft 
moved so relentlessly that by the end of his term of office his record 
of withdrawals compared most favorably with Roosevelt's. Whether 
this represented the fulfillment of his original intent or reflected his 
political desperation, as Pinchot asserted and Roosevelt implied, is 
impossible to say. What is certain, however, is that he failed even 
then to grasp Roosevelt's conception of controlled development. 


Indeed, Taft actually reversed TR's policies by signing a number of 
bills authorizing perpetual and unlimited franchises for the construc- 
tion of dams, among them one for the James River in Missouri, the 
project that Roosevelt had so angrily vetoed two months before he 
left office. 

Unquestionably, the removal of Pinchot was the major catalyst in 
Roosevelt's estrangement from Taft. The Colonel tried to be fair; 
and he even sought to withhold judgment until his return to the 
United States. The burden was unbearable. On each side there were 
ties of loyalty and affection. But on Pinchot's side there was also a 
great cause one of the greatest of Roosevelt's presidency. It was 
inconceivable that Taft should have dealt it such a blow. "We have 
just heard by special runner that you have been removed," TR wrote 
Pinchot from the Lado Enclave in Africa on January 17, 1910. "I 
cannot believe it. I do not know any man in public life who has 
rendered quite the service you have rendered. ... Do write. . . ." 

Pinchot had already written. On December 31, 1909, a week before 
he was forced out, he sent the Colonel a sixteen-point bill of par- 
ticulars against Taft, the gist of which was that "the tendency of the 
Administration thus far, taken as a whole, has been directly away 
from the Roosevelt policies." Then on April 11, to the regret of 
Lodge, who advised TR not to see him, Pinchot met his former 
chief at Porto Maurizio in Italy. 

There is no record of what Roosevelt and Pinchot said at that 
momentous meeting. "One of the best and most satisfactory talks with 
T.R. I ever had," was Pinchot's terse comment in his diary. "Lasted 
all day, and till about 10:30 at night." But Pinchot had already said 
enough in his letter of December 3 1 to make his position clear. And 
if he had not, he bore letters from Beveridge, Jonathan Dolliver, and 
William Allen White charging that the Payne-Aldrich Tariff was "just 
plain dishonest" and that Taft had taken "the certificate of character 
which Mr. Roosevelt had given him and turned it over to the Senator 
[Aldrich] from Rhode Island." 

Roosevelt never felt the same toward Taft after that. On the day 
he saw Pinchot he wrote Lodge that Taft had virtually failed. "The 
qualities shown by a thoroughly able and trustworthy lieutenant are 
totally different, or at least may be totally different, from those needed 
by the leader, the commander," he remarked. Admitting that "a man 
with strong convictions is always apt to feel overintensely the differ- 


ence between himself and others with slighter convictions," he had 
then renounced ambitions of his own: 

I have played my part, and I have the very strongest objection 
to having to play any further part; I very earnestly hope that Taft 
will retrieve himself yet, and if, from whatever causes, the present 
condition of the party is hopeless, I most emphatically desire that 
I shall not be put in the position of having to run for the Presidency, 
staggering under a load which I cannot carry, and which has been 
put on my shoulders through no fault of my own. 

Nor was Roosevelt then disposed to help the Republican regulars. 
The Colonel had had almost a year to reflect on the character of his 
party and his presidency. And in a passage that the Democrats would 
have given their party treasury to have made public, he testily rejected 
Lodge's suggestion that he campaign for the G.O.P. in 1910. "Twice I 
have asked the American people to elect a Republican Congress," 
he reminded his friend, "in one case in spite of an indifferent record 
[1906], and in the other in spite of a poor record [1908]. ... In 
each case the leaders of Congress have promptly gone back on their 
promises and have put me in the position of having promised what 
there was no intention of performing. I don't see how I can put myself 
in such a position again." 

Three weeks later the former President passed another revealing 
judgment: "Our own party leaders did not realize that I was able to 
hold the Republican party in power only because I insisted on a 
steady advance, and dragged them along with me. Now the advance 
has been stopped. . . ." 

Meanwhile Roosevelt's wife reported that people were urging her 
to keep her husband out of the country for a year and a half longer 
("Why not for life?" said Henry Adams). Finally, on May 30, Elihu 
Root met TR at the Dorchester House in London. Root defended 
Taft for an hour, after which, so he later contended, the Colonel 
promised to stay out of politics for sixty days following his return 

In Washington at about the same time, the troubled President, 
whom Adams described as "feebly wabbling all over the place, and 
tumbling about the curbs," penned a long, poignant letter to his 
predecessor. Taft remarked on the heavy burden of Mrs. Taft's illness. 
She "is not an easy patient and an attempt to control her only in- 


creased the nervous strain." He dismissed the criticisms of the Payne- 
Aldrich Tariff measure, terming it "a good bill and a real downward 
revision." And he pointed with understandable pride to the construc- 
tive measures already enacted or about to be enacted railroad legisla- 
tion, a postal savings bank system, statehood for New Mexico and 
Arizona, protection for railroad employees, and restoration of the 
President's authority to withdraw land from the public domain. He 
concluded by incorrectly implying that the insurgents, rather than the 
Old Guard, had failed to abide by the party platform: 

The fight for a year to move on and comply with our party 
promises has been a hard one. LaFollette, Cummins, Dolliver, 
Bristow, Clapp and Beveridge, and I must add Borah, have done all 
in their power to defeat us. They have probably furnished ammuni- 
tion enough to the press and the public to make a Democratic 
House. . . . 

Roosevelt dictated a generous but pointed reply to Taft's letter, 
which he had received just before sailing. We are, he wrote, aware 
that the "sickness of the one whom you love most has added im- 
measurably to your burden . . . and feel very genuine pleasure at 
learning how much better she is." He also told Taft of his talk with 
Root, adding significantly that he did not know the situation at home. 
U I am, of course, much concerned about some of the things I see and 
am told." "I have felt it best to do ... absolutely nothing and 
indeed to keep my mind as open as I kept my mouth shut!" 

The mind was willing, but the heart and the flesh were weak. For 
a few weeks after his return home a fortnight later the Colonel 
managed to avoid public affront to Taft, though he rejected the 
President's invitation to visit him in Washington. And in spite of the 
importunities of the insurgents Pinchot, Garfield, Beveridge, La 
Follette and almost every one else of consequence who made the 
hegira to Sagamore Hill that summer, he refused to identify himself 
openly with the opposition. In fact, he worked conscientiously to 
promote party unity of a sort. Yet TR proved incapable of repressing 
his feelings completely. Before the summer was out he had so 
thoroughly reaffirmed the advanced progressivism of the last two 
years of his presidency (and, at Pinchot and Herbert Croly's urging, 
a little more besides) that he and the President had lost all rapport. 

The first break occurred in August when Roosevelt challenged the 


reactionary Barnes machine for the temporary chairmanship of the 
New York State Republican Convention. If Taft had been capable of 
reading the signs, he would have seen that the Colonel's action was 
providential. A firm and open declaration of support for Roosevelt 
would have placed TR under personal obligation and would have 
narrowed their ideological gulf, since Barnes was an incorrigible 
conservative. But with characteristic maladroitness Taft made it ap- 
pear that he favored the Barnes forces; nor did he suppress his perverse 
satisfaction when news that the New York County organization had 
refused to endorse Roosevelt reached him in Washington. The 
Colonel's opinion of his successor's ineptitude was thus confirmed. 
"Taft is utterly helpless as a leader," he confided to Ted soon after- 

I fear that he has just enough strength to keep with him the 
people of natural inertia, the good conservative unimaginative 
people who never do appreciate the need of going forward, and 
who fail to realize that unless there is some progressive leadership, 
the great mass of the progressives for lack of this legitimate leader- 
ship will follow every variety of demagogue and wild-eyed visionary. 

Less than two weeks later TR was campaigning in support of his 
own progressive policies, and, so he professed to believe, of Taft and 
party unity. On August 23, in a special railroad car provided by the 
Outlook, he set out on a three weeks' speaking tour of the West that 
carried him into sixteen states and saw him deliver at Osawatomie, 
Kansas, perhaps the most radical speech of his career. More, even, 
than on his previous forays into the West, he was wildly, almost 
ecstatically acclaimed by plainly dressed crowds that stood long hours 
in the baking prairie sun awaiting his whistle-stop appearances; and 
more, perhaps, than ever before they saw in Roosevelt the Moses who 
would lead them to the promised land. 

The Colonel scaled the status quo's outer defenses at Denver on 
August 29 when he attacked the Supreme Court for its decisions in the 
Knight case of 1895 and the Lochner case of 1905. Both cases, he 
said, were against national rights and against states' rights. But in 
reality, he asserted, they were "against popular rights, against the 
Democratic principle of government by the people, under the forms 
of law." The result was the creation of a "neutral ground . . . which 
can serve as a place of refuge for the lawless man, and especially for 


the lawless man of great wealth, who can hire the best legal talent to 
advise him how to keep his abiding place equally distant from the 
uncertain frontiers of both state and national power." 

Two days later, on the grounds at Osawatomie where John Brown's 
centennial was being celebrated, TR stormed conservatism's inner 
bastion. "The essence of any struggle for liberty has always been, and 
must always be to take from some one man or class of men the right 
to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not 
been earned by service to his or their fellows," he declared in a 
passage that was as close to a Marxist interpretation of history as he 
ever got. 

Anticipating the furore those words would incite, Roosevelt had 
preceded them with a quotation: 

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the 
fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first 
existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the 
higher consideration. 

With characteristic directness, he had then rammed the point home. 
"If that remark was original with me, I should be even more strongly 
denounced as a Communist agitator than I shall be anyhow. It is 
Lincoln's. I am only quoting it. . . ." 

Roosevelt's dream was actually the ancient one of equality of op- 
portunity within a propertied framework. In the tradition of the 
Jacksonians far more than of Lincoln, he sought to purge business of 
its corrosive influence upon men, morals, and politics; but not to 
destroy it. Even at Osawatomie Roosevelt preached no proletarian 
uprising nor envisioned no broad destruction of private property. Nor, 
significantly, did he call for the upbuilding of labor as a countervailing 
force. The "essence of the struggle is to destroy privilege, and give 
to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value 
both to himself and to the commonwealth." Only then could 
America's mighty creative forces fulfill their unparalleled potential, 
he exclaimed in a passage that marked the full flowering of his views 
and gave title to his speech and the progressive movement's philos- 
ophy, the "New Nationalism puts the national need before sectional 
or personal advantage." 

It is impatient of the utter confusion that results from local 
legislatures attempting to treat national issues as local issues. It is 


still more impatient of the impotence which springs from over 
division of governmental powers, the impotence which makes it 
possible for local selfishness or for legal cunning, hired by wealthy 
special interests, to bring national activities to a deadlock. This New 
Nationalism regards the executive power as the steward of the 
public welfare. It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested 
primarily in human welfare rather than in property, just as it de- 
mands that the representative body shall represent all the people 
rather than any one class or section of the people. 

TR had then called the list of reforms without which equality of 
opportunity would remain the haphazard process the industrial revolu- 
tion had made of it. The elimination of corporate expenditures for 
political purposes; physical valuation of railroad properties; regulation 
(though not even by inference, the breaking up) of industrial com- 
binations; establishment of an expert tariff commission (to func- 
tion within the protectionist framework); a graduated income tax 
and, especially, a graduated inheritance tax; reorganization of the na- 
tion's financial system; conservation of natural resources and stringent 
regulation of their exploitation; comprehensive workmen's compensa- 
tion laws; state and national legislation to regulate the labor of women 
and children; and complete publicity of campaign expenditures. 

Much of the West applauded what it heard at Denver and 
Osawatomie. "The West loves and understands Roosevelt," the Den- 
ver Republican observed. This region "takes it for granted that 
Theodore Roosevelt will be the next Republican candidate for Presi- 
dent," the correspondent of the New York World wired from 
Cheyenne, "so what is the use of getting excited about it." The New 
York Tribune urbanely agreed. Criticisms of Colonel Roosevelt 
"afford great comfort to a select class of persons," it remarked, "for 
not to approve, or to give only a qualified approval to, the Colonel is 
a mark of distinction. It sets you apart from the common herd, with 
its love of moral platitudes and its incapacity for distinguishing be- 
tween them and deep and original thought." 

Other Eastern criticisms were not so light-hearted. Elihu Root con- 
tinued to be patronizing of his turbulent friend, aptly remarking that 
"the only real objection" was that Roosevelt had called the New 
Nationalism "new!" But he was nonetheless disturbed. "I shall be 
curious to know whether he really meant" that he would deprive the 
courts of their power to pass on constitutional questions, he wrote 


Taft. Cabot Lodge also managed a degree of equanimity by claiming 
that Western papers had quoted Roosevelt out of context. But he too 
was worried; and he so informed the Colonel. Meanwhile the New 
York Commercial in a fair sample of the unsophisticated Eastern 
reaction, called Roosevelt a "peripatetic revolutionist" and his tour 
"a firebrand's triumphal march." 

It was President Taft, however, who was hurt and angered the most. 
He complained that Roosevelt had gone far beyond the advocations 
of his White House days (which was not substantially true). He 
commented on Roosevelt's "ego," "swelled-headedness," and "wild 
ideas." And he argued that the Colonel's proposals were "imprac- 
ticable" since they could be brought about only through "revolution 
or revision of the Constitution." But above all he was enraged that 
the Colonel had aligned himself with the enemy. "In most of his 
speeches he has utterly ignored me," he lamented to his brother 
Horace. "His attitude toward me is one that I find difficult to under- 
stand and explain. . . ." "He is at the head of the insurgents, and 
for the time being the insurgents are at the top of the way. They 
have carried Wisconsin and Kansas and California and Iowa, and 
they may carry Washington. . . ." 

Subsequent events wrought little change in the general situation. 
In spite of his fear that the G.O.P. was foredoomed to defeat in 1910 
and 1912, Roosevelt seems to have been congenitally unable to stay 
out of the congressional campaign. His own ambitions were as yet 
unformed he may have been thinking vaguely of 1916 but he still 
believed that only the Republicans were capable of governing. He 
foresaw with fateful accuracy, furthermore, that complete division 
foreboded long-term disaster. He accordingly decided to veer back 
toward the middle and even to endorse the Payne-Aldrich tariff; but 
to little constructive result, so turbulent was the backlash of Osawa- 
tomie and his entente cordiale with the insurgents. 

In New York the Old Guardsmen simply would not forgive the 
Colonel either for the "crime" at Osawatomie or for "sins" com- 
mitted as far back as his governorship. Worse still, Roosevelt's 
reluctant decision to resume relations of a sort with Taft backfired. 
The President and the former President had met once since Roosevelt's 
return from Africa at Taft's summer residence in Beverly, Massachu- 
setts, on June 30. Taft had made a heartfelt effort to break through 
the formal veneer. "See here now," he exclaimed to the Colonel, 


"drop the 'Mr. President.' " But for all his effervescent good will, his 
"bullies" and exclamations of "de-e-light," TR had refused to resume 
the old relationship. They had parted as far apart as they had been 
before they saw each other. 

They met again on September 19 at New Haven, where Taft was 
attending a meeting of the Yale Corporation. This time their con- 
ference set off a small bomb. TR stole the early headlines by streak- 
ing out from Oyster Bay in a motorboat, putting in at Stamford 
because of rough weather, and proceeding on to New Haven by 
motor. He and the President had conferred alone for an hour, then 
departed for the station in an automobile. The Colonel "told stories 
and the President wreathed his face with a purely physical smile and 
laughed aloud," Archie Butt reported, "but it was all strained." 

Up to that point, the meeting had been fruitful, for Taft had agreed 
to support Roosevelt in his bid for the temporary chairmanship of 
the New York State Convention. Unfortunately, however, a member 
of Taft's entourage told newspapermen on the President's train that 
the conference had been arranged at Roosevelt's request and that he 
had asked the President to help him out of his difficulties in New York. 
That did it as far as TR was concerned. 

Roosevelt issued a denial the next day and then poured out his 
feelings to Lodge. He had agreed to meet Taft on the representations 
of a third party, he said. "I did not ask Taft's aid or support in any 
shape or way, and it would never have entered my head to do so; 
although of his own accord he volunteered the statement that Barnes 
and Company were crooks, and that he hoped we would beat them." 
For his part, Taft wrote his wife that "It was perfectly characteristic 
that after having sought the interview, as ... [Roosevelt] un- 
doubtedly did, . . . [he] should at once advertise that it was not at 
his instance. . . ." He added that Roosevelt had asked for his sup- 
port. To Butt, however, Taft explained that he had offered his support 
unsolicited, and that he had done so because he knew that the Colonel 
intended to ask for it. 

Taft's later support of Roosevelt at the New York State Conven- 
tion failed to mend the breach, partly because Roosevelt prevented 
that body from endorsing the President for re-election. And when 
Root in "a jollying letter" written at Taft's request asked TR to speak 
for the President in Ohio, he categorically refused. "As for what you 
say about the President having helped here in New York," he replied, 


"I can only say that I went into the fight at all simply at the earnest 
request of the Taft men." The Colonel added that he had "been 
cordially helping the election of a Republican Congress, having split 
definitely with the Insurgents, including good Gifford Pinchot, on this 

I have never had a more unpleasant summer. The sordid base- 
ness of most of the so-called Regulars, who now regard themselves 
as especially the Taft men, and the wild irresponsible folly of the 
ultra-Insurgents, make a situation which is very unpleasant. ... I 
do not see how I could as a decent citizen have avoided taking the 
stand I have taken this year, and striving to reunite the party and to 
help the Republicans retain control of Congress and of the State of 
New York, while at the same time endeavoring to see that this 
control within the party was in the hands of sensible and honorable 
men who were progressives and not of a bourbon reactionary type. 



Even so clear-headed a man as Root thinks that Theodore 
has not the Presidency in his mind, but that he aims at a leader- 
ship far in the future, as a sort of Moses and Messiah for a vast 
progressive tide of a rising humanity. 

Henry Adams 

Had Theodore Roosevelt been not quite so ambitious, or even a 
shade less self-righteous, the history of twentieth-century American 
politics must surely have been different. The Taft forces had been 
humiliatingly defeated in the congressional elections of 1910, first 
by the insurgents in the Republican primaries and then by the Demo- 
crats in the regular contests. For the first time since Grover Cleveland 
the Democrats had won control of the House, and for the first time 
in the Roosevelt era the American people had broadly affirmed their 
progressivism by electing a string of progressive governors, most of 
them Democrats. They had also returned almost all the incumbent 
progressive Republican senators and had added three new ones to 
their ranks. The import was clear: Taft and the Old Guard were 
headed for defeat in 1912 and Theodore Roosevelt was destined to 
have his party's nomination thrust upon him four years after that. 
Assuming that the Colonel's thoughts were on 1916, and he was 
too young and dynamic for them not to have been, his tactics and 
strategy were sharply limned. He must avoid giving mortal affront to 
the Old Guard, which was bowed but far from crushed, and he must 
continue to cultivate relations with the party's growing band of pro- 
gressives. Following Taft's defeat in 1912 he would resume leader- 



ship of the party. Resignedly, the Old Guard would accept him in the 
realization that he was the party's strongest candidate; enthusiastically, 
the progressives would embrace him in the belief that he reflected 
their views. 

This course, if it was in fact a course, was not without obstacles. 
On the one side stood the Roosevelt-haters. Conservatives by and 
large, they also included politicians of no apparent ideology men to 
whom politics was purely a play for power, men who might even sup- 
port another progressive, so eager were they to have done with TR's 
disruptive force. Could the Colonel compromise with such types in- 
definitely? He had done so for seven and one-half years as President, 
and with generally constructive results. Without office, however, he 
would have nothing constructive to show; nothing but party regularity 
and intellectual inconsistency. 

On the other side stood the militant progressives the men and 
women of creative vision and evangelical good will whose doctrinaire 
politics Roosevelt had so often deplored and whose fertile ideas he 
had so regularly expounded. Could the Colonel indefinitely please 
these the Jane Addamses, the Gifford Pinchots and all those other 
idealists whose lives and heritage have so enriched the Republic and 
yet maintain his precarious political relationship with the conserva- 
tives, including his beloved friends Root and Lodge? Already, by 
1910, this was a meaningful question. For the reform sentiment that 
Roosevelt had so spectacularly affirmed at Osawatomie would have 
to be consolidated on more than party regularity and nurtured on 
more than intellectual equivocation. Should TR pull his punches too 
much, should he imply by his relations with the conservatives that he 
had not really meant what he had said, then, surely, the reformers 
would gravitate to the relentlessly uncompromising La Follette, as 
many were already doing or threatening to do. Probably Roosevelt 
could have won them back; it was not the Colonel's nature, however, 
to view his political future with optimism. 

In the center stood Roosevelt himself Roosevelt the progressive 
conservative and Roosevelt the conservative progressive; Roosevelt, 
the man of surprising subtlety and predictable bluntness; Roosevelt, 
the ruthless politician and the idealistic preacher; Roosevelt, the con- 
temner of reformers and the purveyor of reforms; Roosevelt, the most 
consummate man of action the American public has ever known. 
Could he avoid stumbling over himself? Could he for five years do 


and say the contradictory things necessary to the preservation of his 
hold on both the right and the left? Could he accept the inevitable 
even after he had convinced himself that Taft's nomination in 1912 
was in fact inevitable? 

For well on to a year the Colonel pursued this, the course of 
political wisdom and expediency, if not of valor. The Colonel re- 
sumed friendly relations with Taft even as he was cultivating them 
with La Follette. He was less than consistent on some issues and he 
reversed himself ignobly on at least one, tariff reciprocity. He both 
defended and criticized Taft in private, and he did the same with 
La Follette, Pinchot, and other militant progressives. And he even 
backslid a bit from Osawatomie. In the end, however, he proved emo- 
tionally incapable of walking the tightrope that both he and circum- 
stances had strung. 

The rapprochement with Taft proved short-lived; nor did it ever 
quite recapture the easy informality of earlier years. Roosevelt could 
rekindle the flames of friendship as readily as he could stamp them 
out, but he could not re-create the old respect for Taft's competency. 
Never, not even with his beloved brother Elliott, who had died of 
alcoholism eighteen years before, was Theodore Roosevelt tolerant of 
weakness. And never, almost certainly, was he tolerant of ineptitude 
in men of public responsibility. For all those flashes of courage that 
made his downfall a minor tragedy, Taft had proved both weak and 
inept. "I do not believe he has been a bad President, and I am sure 
he has been a thoroughly well-meaning and upright President," TR 
wrote Arthur Lee in September, 1910, as his relations with Taft 
started to become more cordial. "I think he is a better President than 
McKinley and probably than Harrison, but the times are totally dif- 
ferent, and he has not the qualities that are needed at the moment." 
After Taft's continuing political obtuseness and Roosevelt's bustling 
vanity had brought about a situation beyond repair, the Colonel 
would alter even that measured judgment of his chosen successor. 

Meanwhile, however, TR wrote Taft that he was "a trump" to 
invite him again to the White House. He commended him in De- 
cember, 1910, after reading the proof of his annual message (though 
most of that message was intransigently conservative, portions of it 
were eminently progressive). And he rendered friendly advice on 
foreign policy. Taft responded in kind, for he was even more desirous 
of harmony than Roosevelt. Reporting to the Colonel on the progress 


of the Panama Canal in late November, he observed that it would be 
completed around July, 1913, "a date at which both you and I will 
be private citizens and . . . can then visit the canal together." And 
in March, 1911, when Roosevelt requested permission to raise and 
command a cavalry division in the event the festering Mexican situa- 
tion exploded into a major war, the President cordially acquiesced. 

Three months later the President and the former President met in 
Baltimore at a celebration honoring Cardinal Gibbons, where as 
Mowry writes, they "shook hands heartily, whispered together, and 
at times broke into unrestrained laughter." A few days later Roose- 
velt sent the Tafts a silver wedding anniversary gift. Taft's thank-you 
note, dated June 18, 1911, was the last personal communication ex- 
changed by the two men in years. By the third week in August Roose- 
velt was writing that the President "is a flubdub with a streak of the 
second-rate and the common in him, and he has not the slightest idea 
of what is necessary if this country is to make social and industrial 
progress." Taft's real trouble, he explained to Hiram Johnson in 
October, 1911, lay in his values. Like those of McKinley, Hanna, and 
most of America's business leaders, they were essentially materialistic. 

What caused this final estrangement? Certainly Roosevelt's per- 
sonality was a major factor. TR's whole career was marred by a seem- 
ingly congenital inability to view his competitors with normal dispas- 
sion, and Mowry's speculation that he "could not have thoroughly 
approved of the leadership of any successor, much less that of a per- 
sonal friend," is powerfully compelling. It is not unlikely, in fact, that 
from that one great flaw of character flowed much of the rest the 
intolerance, the hypercriticism, the indignation at the reversal of "my 
policies." Even at their unalloyed worst, however, personality con- 
siderations were only partially determinative. They fixed the direction 
of Roosevelt's broad bias, and they governed the magnitude of the 
final eruption; but they would have been historically inconsequential 
had they not been compounded by ideological issues in which TR had 
long been involved. During the eight or ten months of his rapproche- 
ment with Taft, for example, the Colonel proved quite capable of 
checking his more egregious compulsions. It is reasonable to assume 
that he might have continued to hold them in bounds had there not 
unfolded in the spring and fall of 1911 a new series of disruptive 
issues. One of the most important of these was foreign policy. 

In the face of Roosevelt's labors in the vineyard of peace, he had 


never lost that contempt for weakness which had marred his conduct 
of diplomacy with the less advanced nations. He never regarded U.S. 
vital interests as justiciable, in spite of his own efforts in behalf 
of the Second Hague Peace Conference and the endorsement he had 
given limited arbitration treaties while President, to say nothing of 
his Nobel Prize speech in the spring of 1910. To the end of his life 
the Colonel remained a Realpolitiker, his moral principles partly sup- 
pressed by his own strident nationalism or merged in that Zeitgeist 
which identified America's national interests with the ultimate welfare 
of humanity. When, therefore, Taft backed a series of comprehensive 
arbitration treaties in the spring of 1911, Roosevelt was hard pressed 
to maintain the facade of approval that circumstances demanded. In- 
deed, he soon commenced to destroy it brick by brick. 

Privately, the Colonel warned Lodge, who needed no urging, against 
sanctioning such "maudlin folly" as the negotiation of "honor and 
independence." He also said much the same publicly, first in a signed 
article in the March issue of the Outlook, later in a seven-page letter 
published in the New York Times. Hurt and embittered, Taft refused 
to reply in kind though he privately attributed Roosevelt's opposition 
to his primitive drives and personal animosity toward himself. "The 
truth is he believes in war and wishes to be a Napoleon and to die on 
the battlefield," he wrote of his predecessor. "I shall continue . . . 
to discuss the treaties, and shall not notice the personal turn of his 
remarks. ... It is curious how unfitted he is for courteous debate. 
I don't wonder he prefers the battle-ax." Roosevelt's private opinion 
of Taft was hardly more complimentary. 

Actually, the controversy transcended both personalities and poli- 
tics. The two men's raging disrespect for each other doubtless con- 
tributed subconsciously to the fanning of the flames; but neither it nor 
Roosevelt's as yet unformed ambition for 1912 was causal. Above all 
else, above conservation even, this was an ideological conflict. 

Like Bryan, Carnegie, and eventually Woodrow Wilson, William 
Howard Taft envisioned the ultimate substitution of international law 
for sheer force. He devoutly believed that all disputes were justiciable, 
including those involving the national honor and interest. And in a 
series of extraordinarily frank and sensitive speeches in defense of the 
arbitration treaties before the Senate in 1911, he persuasively ex- 
pounded his internationalist views. "We had the war of 1812, in 
which our neighbor, England, asserted rights that she would not now 


think of pressing," Taft said at Marquette on September 11. "I think 
that war might have been settled without a fight and ought to have 
been. So with the Mexican War. So, I think, with the Spanish war." 
The climax came at the University of Idaho on October 7, when Taft 
directly foreshadowed Woodrow Wilson's "too proud to fight" as- 
sertion of four years later. "I don't think," the President exclaimed to 
the students and faculty, "that it indicates that a man lacks personal 
courage if he does not want to fight, but prefers to submit questions 
of national honor to a board of arbitration." 

To a Theodore Roosevelt, a Cabot Lodge, an Admiral Mahan, and 
even an Oliver Wendell Holmes, Taft's subordination of the national 
ego was the rankest heresy. How could patriotism be fostered? How 
could the manly virtues, without which the nation would follow the 
course of Rome and all the other past civilizations grown flaccid 
from effeteness and ultramaterialism, be maintained if national wrong 
were admitted and the will to assert renounced? 

That was not the whole of Roosevelt's brief against Taft's arbitra- 
tion treaties. If the Colonel bore the national honor as a truculent 
youngster carried a chip on the tip of his shoulder, his understanding 
of power politics as it was then played was as deep as that of the 
most cynical of his European contemporaries. He entertained no ob- 
jection per se to a treaty with England, for he now believed America 
and Britain's larger national interests were either identical or comple- 
mentary. But he objected strenuously to Taft's plan to consummate 
similar treaties with all the other powers. As he wrote Lodge late in 
the spring of 1911: 

Of course as regards England . . . there is not any question 
that we could not arbitrate. . . . But with either Germany or 
Japan it is perfectly conceivable that questions might arise which 
could not submit to arbitration. If either one of them asked us to 
arbitrate the question of fortifying the Isthmus; or asked us to 
arbitrate the Monroe Doctrine, or the fortification or retention of 
Hawaii; or Germany's right to purchase the Danish islands in the 
West Indies; or Japan's right to insist upon unlimited Japanese 
immigration why! we would not and could not arbitrate. 

There was and is no easy answer. In the tradition of the great 
idealists, Taft was pushing hard on the only course that offers ulti- 
mate hope for the preservation of world civilization. In the tradition 
of the great realists, Roosevelt was arguing that national survival was 


paramount to commitment to a world order. Actually, neither states- 
man was quite as extreme as his words of the moment suggested. The 
President, for example, was wholeheartedly committed to the fortifica- 
tion of the Panama Canal and the defense of the Monroe Doctrine. 
The Colonel, as his acceptance of Root's treaties and his Nobel Prize 
speech suggest, was willing to push for arbitration as an eventual 
goal. Like Root and the many other responsible senators who helped 
emasculate the treaties at issue, however, he felt that Taft was moving 
too rapidly and, hence, irresponsibly. 

Other issues continued to widen the ideological gulf between the 
two antagonists throughout 1911. One was conservation; another, 
Roosevelt's continuing criticism of the courts. As Taft's administra- 
tion progressed he had become increasingly responsive to the needs 
of the conservation movement. In June, 1910, at the President's re- 
quest, Congress restored to his office the power to withdraw public 
lands from entry (it forbade the creation of or addition to forest re- 
serves in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, or Wyo- 
ming, however, except by act of Congress), and during the remainder 
of his administration Taft actually exercised the power of withdrawal 
more liberally than Roosevelt had done. 

Notwithstanding this salutary effort, however, Taft failed to give 
the conservation movement the moral support that had made it a 
crusade under Roosevelt and Pinchot. Had he spoken for conservation 
with the same zeal he defended the Payne-Aldrich Tariff or the 
arbitration treaties, he might have spared himself a heavy burden of 
pain. Nevertheless, by late April, 1911, after he finally accepted 
Secretary of the Interior Ballinger's resignation "with great reluc- 
tance," and appointed an able and dedicated conservationist in his 
place, Roosevelt was writing that if only "Poor Taft" had done some 
of the things he was now doing two years earlier, his lot might have 
been substantially different. But even this faint glimmer of approval 
was soon obscured by the black cloud that fell over Taft's Alaskan 

Distressed by Taft's appointment of "a thoroughly untrustworthy 
man" as governor of Alaska in 1909, and disgusted by the subsequent 
revelations of Ballinger's handling of the Guggenheim claims, Roose- 
velt needed but the slightest breeze to fan the white coals of his con- 
servationist zeal. It came in the spring of 1911 when the Taft ad- 
ministration restored to public sale forest lands on Controller Bay 


that his own administration had withdrawn from public entry. The 
Colonel interpreted this as playing into the hands of the Guggenheim 
monopolists, and on July 22, a little more than a month after he and 
Taft had conversed so amiably at the Gibbons reception in Baltimore, 
he published in the Outlook a severe attack on Taft's conservation 
policies in general and his Alaskan policy in particular. The President, 
he wrote, had created conditions which would make it possible for 
the Guggenheim interests to acquire control of the only remaining 
outlet to the Bering coal fields. Four days later Taft responded to this 
indictment with a special message to Congress sharply defending his 
own course and criticizing by implication the Roosevelt administra- 
tion's action. "I fear," the President confided to poor Archie Butt, 
who was still striving manfully to be loyal to Taft without being dis- 
loyal to Roosevelt, that the Colonel "will regard this portion of my 
message as a direct slap at himself and will answer it as such." 

The President's fears were justified. Encouraged by the single 
minded Pinchot, who would no longer even concede that Taft was 
"upright," Roosevelt struck back on August 5 and again on August 12 
through editorials in the Outlook. One was signed, the other unsigned, 
and neither spared the nettled President's feelings. Even as the con- 
troversy thus degenerated, however, it was punctuated by new ad- 
vances in Roosevelt's thought. Eschewing a simple recommendation 
for lease, as opposed to sale, of the Alaskan coal lands, he came out 
for government construction and operation of the port facilities and 
the railroad line into the coal fields. This, he emphatically believed 
and openly declared, was the only alternative to private monopoly. 

If Taft's foreign and conservation policies were central to Roose- 
velt's ideological estrangement from the President, the Colonel's atti- 
tude toward the law continued to be the most critical factor in Taft's 
divorcement from Roosevelt. A few months were yet to pass before 
TR would carry his slashing criticisms of the judiciary to their logical 
conclusion the substitution of the people's will for the courts' judg- 
ment under limited conditions. But as conservatives long feared, 
Roosevelt was advancing rapidly along that fateful path in the spring 
of 1911; and Taft realized it. 

Curiously, the legal issue was confounded by the trust question. In 
spite of his protestations in 1908 that his policies were the same as 
Roosevelt's, Secretary of War Taft had always entertained reserva- 
tions about the wisdom, and in some cases the legality, of many of 


Roosevelt's policies. He had, it is true, demurred only mildly, and 
he had even acquiesced in the President's handling of the Brownsville 
affair. He had also submitted to Roosevelt's views on the trusts, which 
he seems not to have grasped fully. "What we believe in, if I under- 
stand it," he wrote TR shortly after his own nomination, "is the regu- 
lation of the business of the trusts as distinguished from its destruc- 
tion." Once Taft had assumed Roosevelt's sceptre, however, his 
compulsion to uphold the letter of the law a compulsion that at times 
caused him to pursue policies more redolent of form than of substance 
became again his leitmotif. The result was the most unrelenting 
destruction of the trusts to that time and the most shattering of blows 
to the relations between the President and the former President. 

The signs were already posted when, in ordering the dissolution of 
the Standard Oil and American Tobacco companies in the spring of 
1911, the Supreme Court laid down the so-called "rule of reason" 
doctrine. In so far as that doctrine read flexibility into the interpreta- 
tion of the Sherman Antitrust law, it confirmed Roosevelt's long-held 
view; he can perhaps be forgiven the smugness that crept into his 
comments. "I think it is a good thing to have had those two de- 
cisions . . . ," he wrote a friend, "but they do not reach the root of 
the matter." What was needed, he wrote in the Outlook on June 3, 
was an independent commission with powers similar to those of the 
Interstate Commerce Commission. Regulation of corporations could 
then be "accomplished by continuous administrative action, and not 
by necessarily intermittent lawsuits." Furthermore, he added, the com- 
mission should be empowered to fix prices indirectly. 

If President Taft was impressed by Roosevelt's article in the Out- 
look, there is no record of it. Conscious that he was enforcing the 
Sherman Law as it had not been enforced, even by Roosevelt himself, 
he gave his energetic Attorney General, George W. Wickersham, his 
rein. The consequence was that while Standard Oil and American 
Tobacco Company executives were privately snickering at the govern- 
ment (the orders seemed not to affect their company's real power posi- 
tions within the steel and tobacco industries; and, as Pringle writes, 
who among them "was indicted, fined or punished?"), the adminis- 
tration was taking its most fateful step of all. In the full flower of that 
stubborn innocence that was both his charm and his political undoing, 
Taft allowed a special assistant to the Attorney General to file suit 


against the United States Steel Corporation on October 26, 1911. He 
did not even read the government's bill of particulars. There followed 
the most disastrous explosion in the Republican party's history. 

The government's petition of October 26 made the startling in- 
ference that President Roosevelt had been hoodwinked by Messrs. 
Frick and Gary when they assured him in October, 1907 that the 
purchase of the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company by the United 
States Steel Corporation was essential to stoppage of the panic of that 
year and that no advantage would accrue to U.S. Steel from the 
merger. In spite of the hard truth of this inference, the Colonel was 
too vain, or to put it more charitably, too human, to do other than 
deny it. He did so at once vitriolically in his private letters and 
vehemently in an Outlook article of November 18. He complained to 
friends that Taft had been "enthusiastic" and "emphatic in his com- 
mendation of the merger" when Secretary of War. "It ill becomes him 
either by himself or through another afterwards to act as he is now 
acting," he contended. And he charged in the article in the Outlook 
that Taft's insistence on meeting the trust problem "by a succession 
of lawsuits . . ." was about as practical as "a return to the flintlocks 
of Washington's Continentals." 

The wheel had finally turned full circle. Roosevelt now appeared at 
one with Justice Holmes who had raised similar objections to the dis- 
solution of the Northern Securities Company in 1904. Yet the wheel 
had also moved forward; and in so doing it had left the great jurist, 
who held no brief for regulation either, to muse alone over the raw So- 
cial Darwinian theories of Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sum- 
mer. "I don't disguise my belief," Holmes had written his friend Pol- 
lock just the year before, "that the Sherman Act is a humbug based on 
economic ignorance and incompetence, and my disbelief that the Inter- 
state Commerce Commission is a fit body to be entrusted with rate- 
making. . . ." 

The Colonel's solution was the one that he had been pointing 
toward as early as 1902 when "Mr. Dooley" had chided him for his 
apparent ambivalence toward the trusts, for his then fuzzy categoriza- 
tion of "good" and "bad" industrial combinations. TR called not only 
for continuous and comprehensive government regulation as he had 
done so often during the last years of his presidency and again at 
Osawatomie, for the first time in a public statement he faced the 


ultimate question government control of wages, hours and prices. 
After defending his own comportment in the Steel case (he implied 
that the Steel Corporation was a "good" trust) and criticizing the 
Taft administration's failure to dissolve the "bad" Tobacco Trust in 
fact no less than in theory, he concluded that in extreme cases the 
government should be empowered to exercise "control over monopoly 
prices, as rates on railways are now controlled. . . ." 

Impressed by the paeans of praise for TR that immediately rose 
out of the man-made canyons on lower Manhattan, historians have 
widely interpreted the Outlook article as a direct bid for Wall Street's 
support. And so it was, in timing at least. Wiebe's studies show that 
the Morgan-Gary-Perkins forces were already disaffected by the Taft 
administration's relentless enforcement of the Sherman Law and that 
they had earlier sought to avoid suit by reviving the "gentlemen's 
agreements" of the Roosevelt years and offering to correct in advance 
such practices as the Department of Justice found offensive. But 
Wickersham, whose devotion to the letter of the law was as sustained 
as Taft's, had flatly refused. Furthermore, they had already proved 
themselves sympathetic to Roosevelt's broad regulatory proposals, in- 
cluding government price-fixing. As Judge Gary told the congressional 
committee that investigated the Steel Corporation that June, price- 
fixing would diminish cut-throat competition; and as he did not tell 
the committee, it would also have assured tremendous profits for his 
organization since the prices would have to be set high enough to 
cover the costs of the small, and less efficient, companies. Gary also 
argued that it was "a great mistake to suppose that we can dominate 
the market price, a great mistake." Under cross-examination, how- 
ever, he conceded that the Steel Corporation's vertical organization, 
coupled with the benefits derived from comparative bookkeeping in 
its numerous plants, did give it a considerable advantage. 

As I suggested in the treatment of the U.S. Steel-T. C. & I. merger 
in Chapter 18, Roosevelt seems never to have shown any real insight 
into the purely economic effects of the subordination of the interests 
of a subsidiary company to those of a parent company. He was con- 
cerned with the more obvious abuses of power railroad rebates, for 
example rather than with the subtle and intangible, yet surely sub- 
stantive, economic consequences of monopoly or oligopoly. Believing 
that the manufacturing industries were impelled by the same natural 


forces as the utilities to become monopolistic or oligopolistic, he came 
readily to the conclusion that what was right for one was right for the 
other; that the Steel Corporation should be regulated in the manner of 
the railroads rather than dissolved. 

There were refinements and exceptions of course; also inconsist- 
encies. As a moralist, TR was concerned preeminently with processes. 
Since the Standard Oil and American Tobacco trusts, unlike the Steel 
Corporation, had been created by willfully dishonest, anti-social 
means, they were "bad" trusts and deserved to be atomized. This was 
right; this was retributive justice, so essential in his value system to the 
good and ordered society. Yet and here was the inconsistency he 
did not believe their effective dissolution was possible even though he 
had made the original decision to prosecute them as President. Hence 
his assertion that the Tobacco Trust had been dissolved in theory but 
not in fact. 

The Colonel was not alone in this view. Many informed observers 
believed at the time and for long thereafter that the decrees against the 
Standard Oil and American Tobacco companies failed to alter their 
real power positions within their industries. Most economic historians 
now hold, however, that the disruption of the oil and tobacco trusts 
had a constructive impact on the industries concerned. They further 
contend that both the application and the threatened application of the 
Sherman and Clayton acts by the Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson adminis- 
trations reduced the incidence of business malpractices and retarded the 
growth of monopoly. As Eugene V. Rostow puts it, "The example of 
these basic decisions served as a powerful negative factor in business 
affairs. Certain lines of development were denied to ambitious men." 

In these circumstances, TR's distinction between "good" and 
"bad" trusts belongs more to the limbo of morals than economics. 
Conversely, Taft's wholesale prosecution of the trusts gives his ad- 
ministration a luster often denied it. (It is no accident that his majority 
opinion in the Addyston Pipe & Steel Co. case, rendered when he was 
a Federal judge in 1898, is one of the classic statements of antitrust 
literature. ) Nevertheless, there is widespread agreement that more than 
mere trust-busting was needed; that an incorporation statute such as 
Roosevelt had proposed and Taft had failed to push, or an agency like 
the Federal Trade Commission, which TR had also envisioned and 


Wilson later created, was also necessary. This being so, it is fair to 
conclude that Roosevelt's perception of the complexity of aspects of 
the trust problem and his sustained call for the rule of reason were as 
economically hard-headed as his belief that the Steel Corporation was 
a "good" trust was economically naive. 

Roosevelt had anticipated that his article would provoke charges of 
collusion between himself and Wall Street, and he had acted to dispel 
them with a statement at once forthright and disingenuous: 

Sincere zealots who believed that all combinations could be 
destroyed and the old-time conditions of unregulated competition 
restored, insincere politicians who knew better but made believe 
that they thought whatever their constituents wished them to think, 
crafty reactionaries who wished to see on the statute-books laws 
which they believed unenforceable, and the almost solid "Wall 
Street crowd" or representatives of "big business" who at that time 
opposed with equal violence both wise and necessary and unwise 
and improper regulation of business all fought against the adop- 
tion of a sane, effective, and far-reaching policy. 

The Colonel's main point was relevant. The business community 
and its representatives in Congress had in fact prevented the enact- 
ment of his regulatory program in 1908. What TR failed to observe, 
however, was that the Morgan-Gary-Perkins part of the "Wall Street 
crowd" he had so sweepingly arraigned had actually cooperated in the 
preparation of much of that program and had then supported it. 

On the other hand, only a few big businessmen were willing to 
accept in good faith Roosevelt's most crucial hypothesis big business 
should be subordinate to, rather than a partner of, the government. 
Among them were men of high civic purpose and personal disinterest, 
like the canny, freethinking Scot, Andrew Carnegie; also some 
younger men like the sophisticated, yet increasingly humanistic, George 
Perkins. Competition, exclaimed Perkins in the spring of 1911 in a 
speech that blended Gary's concern for business stability with Roose- 
velt's desire for social justice, had largely induced "the past horrors 
of the factory system" low wages, restricted production, child labor, 
and "inadequate care for the safety of life and limb." Within a month 
of TR's outburst Carnegie was to write Perkins, who forwarded his 
letter to Taft, that Roosevelt's proposal for government price-fixing 
was the only effective solution to the trust problem. And by the end 
of the year Perkins would place at the Colonel's disposal his own 


bulging pocketbook, the product of that service to the Morgan and 
other interests that he was then abandoning. 

However all that may be, it is apparent that the steel suit and 
Roosevelt's resultant enunciation of a trust program so advanced that 
it remains unrealized to this day catapulted him into that presidential 
arena which he had been theretofore only skirting. As the Charleston 
Post correctly surmised, ". . . Theodore' and 'Will' have parted 
political company sharply at last, and . . . there is going to be a 
struggle between them as representing conflicting schools of thought 
within the Republican party." 

The Colonel himself was at once amused, pleased, and confused. 
He was amused that there should be so much interest in what he 
contended "was really merely a repetition of what I had been saying 
for nine years at least." He was pleased that it "seemed to be the one 
really practical platform put forth by any leader, the one platform 
that represented sincerity of belief as to the need of reform and prac- 
tical good sense in advocating what could be really achieved." And he 
was confused, or so he protested, by the demands that he issue a 
categorical declaration of his intentions. "Most men seem to live in 
a space of two dimensions; and so they wish either for me to declare 
myself a candidate, or to declare that I will not accept the nomination 
under any circumstances," he wrote on December 11, 1911. "I cannot, 
as a matter of duty, take either position. I am not a candidate, I shall 
not become one, I do not think it will be necessary to accept the 
nomination; but if the matter of my candidacy should appear in the 
guise of a public duty, then however I might feel about it personally, 
I would not feel that I ought to shirk it. But I see no signs of it so 

Indubitably, TR was honest, even to himself. Whatever his sub- 
conscious desires, his rational self opposed a bid for the nomination. 
His place in history was already high and secure, and he quite agreed 
with Nick Longworth and other conservative intimates that it would 
be "a veritable calamity" to run again. He would even have moments 
of regret after the die had been cast. "I've got no glory to get out of 
being President again," he told Felix Frankfurter that winter. "I have 
no particular religious beliefs" and no sense of assurance that there 
is a hereafter. "The one thing I want to leave my children," accord- 
ingly, ". . . is an honorable name. They have that now." 

Also, the Colonel's near superhuman energy was beginning to flag. 
This was not perceptible to the public. At fifty-three TR's stamina was 


still incredible. The arduous speaking tour in the spring of 1911; the 
scramble walks, long hikes, rowing trips, and hunts; the whirling talks 
with visitors at Sagamore or in the Outlook office on Fourth Avenue; 
the voluminous outpouring of articles all are suggestive of that. 
Roosevelt would not measurably weaken until after he had been 
stricken with malarial fever during his exploration of the River of 
Doubt in South America in 1914. And even in the five years of life 
that followed that setback the fighting instinct which compelled him 
again and again to rise to the challenge would drive him to remarkable 
feats of energy. Nevertheless, Roosevelt m 1911 was admitting to 
himself and close friends that he felt tired. 

Finally, the political realities had not changed significantly. The 
Taft forces firmly controlled the party machinery, and only a minor 
revolution could unseat them. Such an upheaval would not be easy 
to accomplish, given La Follette's growing resolve to strike boldly 
on his own. The Wisconsin Senator's personal following was large, 
though not large enough to gain him the nomination, as Roosevelt 
coldly surmised. And much of it, including Roosevelt partisans like 
Gilford Pinchot, who had announced for La Follette only after con- 
cluding that TR would not run, would move unhesitatingly into the 
Roosevelt camp should the Colonel give the sign. But not all of it 
would. Inevitably, there would be resentment and recriminations 
among La Follette's hard-core supporters. Nor could La Follette 
himself be expected to submit gracefully. In vanity, in creative drive, 
in moral fervor, and in lust for power in virtually everything but 
personal charm and that breadth of view which was TR's greatest 
distinction, the Midwestern regionalist was Roosevelt's peer. And in 
uncompromising quality or stubbornness he was his superior. 
Should TR decide to fight Taft for the presidential prize, he must 
first give battle to the rock-hewn senator from Wisconsin. 

There were even more compelling reasons, on the other hand, why 
Roosevelt's resolve to remain aloof weakened during the long summer 
and fall of 1911. Of these, the most powerful was the mounting evi- 
dence that he, and he alone, was the popular choice. TR still thrived 
on personal popularity. He loved to be engulfed by surging crowds, 
to preach to great assemblages, to bask in their roaring shouts of ap- 
proval and demonstrations of faith. And when, therefore, the cry for 
his nomination went up all over the country following his statements 
on the trusts, it was practically foreordained that he should reconsider 
his position. 


Nor could the prospect of another term have been as unappeal- 
ing in late 1911 as it had been in 1908. Notwithstanding the great 
popular favor under which Roosevelt had left the presidency, there 
had been that rankling undercurrent of resentment by Congress which 
had so comprised the dignity and effectiveness of his last year in 
office. Had he been re-elected in 1908 it would hardly have abated 
substantially. But by 1911 the old order had markedly changed. The 
archconservative Aldrich had retired. Allison was dead. Foraker had 
been forced out. And Joe Cannon's power had finally been circum- 
scribed by a coalition of Democrats and insurgent Republicans led by 
an emerging progressive star, George W. Norris of Nebraska. 

More important still, the progressive movement was surging for- 
ward. In spite of Roosevelt's belief in 1908 that the country was 
surfeited with reform, or at least with him, notwithstanding Taft's 
post-election contentions that he had been elected to consolidate 
rather than to advance, the demand almost everywhere was for more, 
not less, reform. This was exemplified by the early reaction against 
Taft's conservation policies, by the signal defeat of the conservative 
Republicans in the 1910 congressional elections, and by the meteor- 
like rise of La Follette; it was further attested by the emergence of 
men like Woodrow Wilson in the ranks of the Democrats and by the 
increasing strength of the progressive Republicans in and out of Con- 
gress; and it was confirmed by the popular approval accorded Roose- 
velt's views on the relations of capital and labor and kindred problems. 

There was, it is true, no assurance that the conservative Republicans 
in Congress would go along with Roosevelt much more than they had 
before should he again become President. Yet TR would undoubtedly 
carry many progressive Republicans into office with him. And he 
could in addition count on considerable support from the Democrats, 
who, in combination with the small group of progressive Republicans, 
had been responsible for enacting most of Taft's reforms possible. 
Here it was power, prestige, and a political matrix that promised 
greater opportunity for the fulfillment of Roosevelt's ideas than ever 
before. The times, as TR acutely sensed, were crying for action. 
Could he turn his back on them? Could he again contain, as he had 
so nobly done in 1908, that vaulting personal ambition which had 
been the springboard for so many long plunges in the past? Could he 
live indefinitely at Sagamore surrounded by the mementos of a past 
glory? a glory which however great, was less than that which now 



The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience. 
The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political 
theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious, even 
the prejudices which judges share with their fellow-men, have 
had a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining 
the rules by which men should be governed. 

Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Common Law 

Seven months were still to pass before Colonel Roosevelt would stand 
at Armageddon. But by December, 1911, the forces that would drive 
him there were proving hard to contain. From all sides and from all 
sections of the country letters imploring TR to run were pouring in. 
They came from Republican regulars who coldly calculated that 
Roosevelt's was the bandwagon to ride. They came from nationalists 
who viewed La Follette as a regionalist, and from moderates who re- 
garded him as an extremist. They came from radical Westerners who 
concluded that only the Colonel could win. They came from men with 
little or no place in politics from TR's favored "plain people"; from 
friends of long and abiding affection; from personal supporters of no 
acquaintance whatsoever. And they came from social reformers like 
Colorado's great children's judge, Ben Lindsey. Inevitably, under 
this heartening demonstration of confidence, the Colonel began to 

By the middle of December Roosevelt was casting an appraising 
eye at the trial balloons his friends had sent up. And by the end of 
the month he was clearly implying that he would accept the nomina- 



tion if it came as the result of "an overwhelming public sentiment." 
But even then he would not admit that he earnestly wanted it. "I 
should regard it as utterly unfortunate"; it "would be a veritable 
calamity"; such was his constant refrain. Besides, he might lose. "If 
I were nominated, very possibly I should be beaten," he confided to 
the president of the University of California; "and if I were elected, 
such impossibilities would be expected of me that I do not see how 
I could avoid causing bitter disappointment to sincere and good 

TR had lost little of those fears which lingered always near the 
surface and sometimes surged above it. Nor was this fiercest cam- 
paigner of the era yet prepared to command a lost cause; to lead his 
still inadequate armies against all those hoary bastions of privilege and 
complacency he had so often verbally harassed. Until July, 1912, 
Colonel Theodore Roosevelt led no Pickett's charges and ordered no 
Rapido crossings. Only when he became convinced that victory was 
possible, if not absolutely certain; only when he convinced himself 
that he had heard the clarion call of duty, then, and then only, did 
he unfurl his battle flag and plunge his sword. In December, 1911, 
the chances of success were still slight, the call of duty still muted, 
though they were daily growing greater and louder. 

Yet Roosevelt had already made a major, preparatory step. His 
moving renunciation of 1904, he now said, applied only to three 
consecutive terms. The real danger "would come from a man who 
had been in office eight years and may be thought to have solidified 
his power by patronage, contracts and the like, using that power to 
perpetuate himself," he explained to a friend, Herbert Parsons. "Oh! 
good Herbert," he added parenthetically, "I cannot help grinning as 
I dictate these words at your solemnity over the possible danger to 
free institutions from the Contributing Editor of The Outlook who 
has just come to Town hanging onto a strap in a crowded car." 

TR's confessions that he felt tired and old had also abated. He 
never conceded the point, but the pleasures of Sagamore and the 
stimulations of his editorial work were not enough. As Frankfurter, 
who understood his drives better than most, remarked after their 
meeting that winter, "when a fellow was gifted like TR was gifted for 
public life, he had to do that, just as Gutzon [Borglum] had to sculpt, 
work with his hands. You could see that [after the Colonel had ex- 
claimed, 'Oh, if only Taft knew the joys of leadership!'] he just sort 


of jumped out and was going to lead the armies for regeneration. All 
this about, 'We stand at Armageddon,' wasn't just flapdoodle. That's 
the way he felt." 

Moreover, the prestige and power Roosevelt was then savoring 
would wane after November, 1912. The steady stream of visitors, the 
tidal wave of mail, the headlines that heralded his every word all 
this, TR well knew, stemmed from the muddled situation created by 
the hapless man in the White House. Had Taft's administration been 
popular and his control of the party commanding, then, surely, the 
politicians and the idealists, the disaffected and the men of good hope, 
would not have made the hegira to Sagamore Hill. 

The future also looked less promising than it had a year earlier. 
La Follette's bid for the nomination was earnest and powerful, if 
not powerful enough. Should the Colonel decline the authority that 
was being urged upon him, the moral and political leadership of the 
party's progressive hosts would repose in the Wisconsin Senator fol- 
lowing Taft's defeat in the national campaign. Could TR wrest it back 
between 1912 and 1916? Probably he could have; yet the question 

If all the above is speculative, Roosevelt's conscious conclusion 
that it was his plain duty to run is not. Again and again it was im- 
pressed upon him that only he could hold the Republican party to- 
gether. He was told that Taft's defeat for re-election would split the 
G.O.P. beyond repair; that La Follette's drive for the nomination 
was destined to end in bitter frustration. He was told that only he 
could advance the progressive principles he had so persuasively ex- 
pressed at Osawatomie; that he, not La Follette, represented a pro- 
gressivism that was both sane and constructive. And most important 
of all, probably, for his thirst for power was never quenched, it was 
borne upon him that he had a chance to win. 

All through December and on into January, however, Roosevelt 
continued to hold back. He repeatedly protested privately that he was 
not a candidate and that he emphatically did not want to run; and he 
pointedly refused to give overt encouragement to his friends. Yet he 
refrained from closing the door with a Sherman-like declaration. And 
under a rapidly rising volume of appeals to declare himself, the 
emphasis of his replies perceptibly changed; no longer did he inter- 
lard with reservations his statements that he "might conceivably" 


accept the nomination. By early January he obviously wanted to run 
but only on his own terms. 

The crux of the Colonel's terms was that the people should de- 
mand his nomination. "My usefulness . . . would depend not merely 
upon the people wishing me to be President, but upon their having 
good reason to believe that I was President because of their wishes, 
because of their desire that I should do a given job, which they felt 
I could do better than anyone else, and not because of any personal 
ambition on my part." Therefore, he wrote the publisher Frank 
Munsey on January 16, "I must not put myself in a position which 
would look as if I were seeking the office." 

From then on events moved swiftly to their fateful climax. Two 
days later, in response to a plea from Michigan's Governor Chase 
Osborn, TR virtually threw his hat into the ring. "I am inclined to 
come to the conclusion that it is impossible for me much longer to 
remain silent," he wrote. "In this morning's mail came two letters 
from Governor Glasscock of West Virginia and Governor Hadley of 
Missouri, written to the same general effect as yours." He would, he 
continued, agree to reply openly to a joint letter signed by these and 
other governors stating that the people of their states "desire to have 
me run for the Presidency, and [want] to know whether in such a case 
I would refuse the nomination." 

I want to make it very clear that I am honestly desirous of con- 
sidering the matter solely from the standpoint of the public interest, 
and not in the least from my own standpoint; that I am not seeking 
and shall not seek the nomination, but that of course if it is the 
sincere judgment of men having the right to know and express the 
wishes of the plain people that the people as a whole desire me, 
not for my sake, but for their sake, to undertake the job, I would 
feel in honor bound to do so. 

This "spontaneous appeal" of the governors was a disingenuou