William Roscoe Thayer > Theodore Roosevelt > XXII. The two Conventions
William Roscoe Thayer (1859–1923). Theodore Roosevelt. 1919.
XXII. The two Conventions
DURING the weeks while Roosevelt had been deliberating over “throwing his hat into the ring,” his opponents had been busily gathering delegates. By this delay they gained a strategic advantage. According to the unholy custom which gave to the Republicans in the Southern States a quota of delegates proportioned to the population and not to the number of Republican voters, a large Southern delegation was pledged for Mr. Taft very early. Most of the few Southern Republicans were either office-holders or negroes; the former naturally supported the Administration on which their living depended; the latter, whose votes were not counted, also supported the President from whom alone they might expect favors. The former slave States elected 216 delegates, nearly all of whom went to President Taft, making a very good start for him. In the Northern, Western, and Pacific States, however, Roosevelt secured a large proportion of the delegates. In the system of direct primaries, by which the people indicated their preference instead of having the candidates chosen in the State Conventions, which were controlled by the Machine, the Progressives came out far ahead. Thus, in North Dakota, President Taft had less than 4000 votes out of 48,000 cast, the rest going to Roosevelt and La Follette. In several of the great States he carried everything before him. In Illinois, his majority was 139,000 over Taft’s; in Pennsylvania, 67 of the 76 delegates went to him. In Ohio, the President’s own State, the Taft forces were “snowed under”; in California, a stronghold of Progressivism, Roosevelt had a large plurality. Nevertheless, wherever the Regulars controlled the voting, they usually brought President Taft to the front. Even when they could not produce the votes, they managed to send out contesting delegations.   1
  On looking back, it appears indisputable that if the Republicans could then have cast their ballots they would have been overwhelmingly for Roosevelt; and if the Roosevelt delegates to the Convention had not been hampered in voting, they too would have nominated him. But the elections had been so artfully manipulated that, when the Convention met, there were 220 contests. Everybody understood that the final result hung on the way in which these should be decided.   2
  The Convention assembled in the great Coliseum Hall at Chicago on June 18, 1912. But for ten days the hosts had been coming in, one delegation after another; the hotels were packed; each committee had its special quarters; crowds of sight-seers, shouters, and supporters swelled the multitude. The Republican National Committee met; the managers of each candidate met. The committees, which had not yet an official standing, conferred unofficially. Rumors floated from every room; there were secret conferences, attempts to win over delegates, promises to trade votes, and even efforts at conciliation. Night and day this wild torrent of excitement rushed on.   3
  A spectator from Mars might have remarked: “But for so important a business as the choice of a candidate who may become President of the United States, you ought to have quiet, deliberation, free play, not for those who can shout loudest, but for those who can speak wisest.” And to this remark, the howling and whirling dervishes who attended the Convention would have replied, if they had waited long enough to hear it through, by yelling,
  “Hail! Hail! the gang’s all here!
  What the hell do we care?
  What the hell do we care?”
and would have darted off to catch up with their fellow Bacchanals. A smell of cocktails and of whiskey was ubiquitous; a dense pall of tobacco smoke pervaded the committee-rooms; and out of doors the clang of brass bands drowned even the incessant noise of the throngs. There was no night, for the myriads of electric lights made shadows but no darkness, and you wondered when these strange creatures slept.
  Such Saturnalia did not begin with the Convention of 1912. Most of those who took part in them hardly thought it a paradox that these should be the conditions under which the Americans nominated their candidates for President.   5
  Roosevelt had not intended to appear at the Convention, but when he discovered that the long distance telephone from Chicago to Oyster Bay, by which his managers conferred with him, was being tapped, he changed his mind. He perceived, also, that there was a lack of vigorous leadership among those managers which demanded his presence. By going, he would call down much adverse criticism, even from some of those persons whose support he needed. On the other hand, he would immensely strengthen his cause in Chicago, where the mere sight of him would stimulate enthusiasm.   6
  So he and Mrs. Roosevelt took the five-thirty afternoon train to Chicago, on Friday, June 14th, leaving as privately as possible, and accompanied by seven or eight of their children and cousins. Late on Saturday, the train, having narrowly escaped being wrecked by an accident, reached Chicago. At the station there was an enormous crowd. Roosevelt’s young kinsmen kept very close to him and wedged their way to an automobile. With the greatest difficulty his car slowly proceeded to the Congress Hotel. Never was there such a furor of welcome. Everybody wore a Roosevelt button. Everybody cheered for “Teddy.” Here and there they passed State delegations bearing banners and mottoes. Rough Riders, who had come in their well-worn uniforms, added to the Rooseveltian exultation. Whoever judged by this demonstration must think it impossible that the Colonel could be defeated.   7
  After he and his party had been shown to the suites reserved for them, he went out on the balcony of a second-floor room and spoke a few words to the immense multitude waiting below. He said, in substance, that he was glad to find from their cheers that Chicago did not believe in the thieves who stole delegates. Some who saw him say that his face was red with anger; others aver that he was no more vehement than usual, and simply strained himself to the utmost to make his voice carry throughout his audience. Still, if he said what they report, he was not politic.   8
  Then followed days and nights of incessant strain.   9
  The Colonel and Mrs. Roosevelt had their personal apartment in the northeast corner of the hotel, at some distance from the Florentine Room, which served as the official headquarters for the Progressives. He had, besides, a private office with a reception-room, and Tyree, one of the devoted detectives who had served under him in old times, carefully guarded the entrance. There was hardly a moment when one or two persons were not closeted with him. Occasionally, he would come out into the reception room and speak to the throng waiting there. No matter what the news, no matter how early or late the hour, he was always cheerful, and the mere sight of him brought joy and confidence to his followers.   10
  The young kinsmen went everywhere and brought back reports of what they had seen or heard. One of them kept a diary of the events as they whirled past, hour by hour, and in this one can note many of the fleeting but vivid touches, which recall to the reader now the reality of those feverish days. He attended a big Taft rally at the Taft headquarters. Bell-boys ran up and down the hotel corridors announcing it. “After each announcement,” writes the young cousin, “a group of Roosevelt men would cry out, ‘All postmasters attend!’” Two Taftites spoke briefly and “were greeted by a couple of hand claps apiece; and then the star performer of the evening was announced in the most glowing terms as a model of political propriety, and the foremost and most upright citizen of the United States—William Barnes, Jr., of Albany.” Mr. Barnes was supposed, at that time, to lead the New York Republican Machine. “We have got to save the country,” he said, “save the constitution, save our liberty. We are in danger of monarchy. The country must be saved!!” The Roosevelt cousin thought that he spoke “without fervor to a listless, sedate, and very polite audience. It was made all the more preposterous by the fact that a very ancient colored gentleman stood back of Barnes, and whenever Barnes paused, would point to the crowd and feebly begin clapping his hands. They would then slowly and very politely take up the applause, in every case waiting for his signal. It was almost pathetic.” At one time the Roosevelt scouts alleged that “Timothy Woodruff is wavering, with four other delegates, and will soon fall to us,” and told “of delegates flopping over, here and there.” A still more extraordinary piece of news came from Hooker to the effect that he had in some way intercepted a telegram “from Murray Crane to his nephew saying that Crane and Barnes would ‘fight or ruin’ and that it was now ‘use any means and sacrifice the Republican Party.’ Had it not been for the way he told us, I couldn’t have believed such a thing possible.”   11
  Rumors like these were not verified at the time, and they are assuredly unverifiable now. I repeat them merely to show how suspense and excitement were constantly fed before the Convention met. Remembering how long ex-Senator Crane and Mr. Barnes had had their hands on the throttle of the Republican Machine, we are not surprised at the young Rooseveltian’s statement: “The Taft forces control anything that has to do with machinery, but all the feeling is for Roosevelt, and the Congress Hotel, at any rate, favors the ‘Big Noise,’ as you will sometimes hear him called in the lobbies or in the streets.” Apparently, stump speeches were made at any moment, and without provocation, in any hall; room, or lobby of the hotel, by any one who felt the spirit move him; and, lest silence should settle down and soothe the jaded nerves, a band would strike up unexpectedly. The marching to and fro of unrestrained gangs, shouting, “We-want-Teddy!” completed the pandemonium.   12
  Monday came. The young scouts were as busy as ever in following the trails which led to Taft activities. The news they had to tell was always very cheering. They found little enthusiasm among the President’s supporters. They heard, from the most trustworthy sources, that this or that Taft leader or delegation was coming over. And, in truth, the Taft body probably did not let off a tenth of the noise which their opponents indulged in. The shallows murmur, but the deeps are dumb, does not exactly apply to the two opposing hosts. The Taft men resorted very little to shouting, because they knew that if they were to win at all it must be by other means. The Rooseveltians, on the other hand, really felt a compelling surge of enthusiasm which they must uncork.   13
  Meanwhile Colonel Roosevelt and his lieutenants knew that the enemy was perfecting his plan to defeat them. On Monday evening his zealots packed the Auditorium and he poured himself out to them in one of his torrential speeches calculated to rouse the passions rather than the minds of his hearers. But it fitly symbolized the situation. He, the daunt less leader, stood there, the soul of sincerity and courage, impressing upon them all that they were engaged in a most solemn cause and defying the opposition as if it were a legion of evil spirits. His closing words—“We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord”—summed it all up so completely that the audience burst into a roar of approval, and never doubted that he spoke the truth.   14
  Tuesday at noon, a crowd of fifteen thousand persons, delegates and visitors, packed the vast Convention Hall of the Coliseum. Mr. Victor Rosewater, of Nebraska, presided at the opening. As it was known that the Republican National Committee intended to place on the temporary roll of delegates seventy-two names of persons whose seats were contested, Governor Hadley, of Missouri, made a motion that only those delegates, whose right was not contested, should sit and vote during the preliminary proceedings. Had he been successful, the Regulars would have lost the battle from the beginning. But he was ruled out of order on the ground that the only business before the Convention was the election of a Temporary Chairman. This took place, and Senator Root, from New York, was elected by 558 votes; McGovern, the Roosevelt candidate, received 501 votes; there were 14 scattering, and 5 persons did not vote. Senator Root, therefore, won his election by 38 votes over the combined opposition, but his plurality was secured by the votes of the 72 whose seats were contested.   15
  During the three following days the Roosevelt men fought desperately to secure what they believed to be justice. They challenged every delegate, they demanded a roll-call on the slightest excuse, they deluged the Regulars with alternate showers of sarcasm and anger. But it availed them nothing. They soon perceived that victory lay with the Republican National Committee, which had the organization of the Convention and the framing of the rules of procedure. The Taft people, the Regulars, controlled the National Committee, and they knew that the rules would do the rest, especially since, the Chairman of the Convention, Senator Root, was the interpreter of the rules.   16
  At no other National Convention in American history did a Chairman keep his head and his temper so admirably as did Mr. Root on this occasion. His intellect, burning with a cold, white light, illumined every point, but betrayed no heat of passion. He applied the rules as impartially as if they were theorems of algebra. Time after time the Rooseveltians protested against the holders of contested seats to vote, but he was unmoved because the rule prescribed that the person had a right to vote. When the contests were taken up, the Taft men always won, the Roosevelt men always lost. The Machine went as if by clock-work or like the guillotine. More than once some Rooseveltian leader, like Governor Hadley, stung by a particularly shocking display of overbearing injustice, taunted the majority with shouts of “Robbers” and “Theft.” Roars of passion swept through the hall. The derision of the minority was countered by the majority with equal vigor, but the majority did not always feel, in spite of its truculent manner, confident of the outcome.   17
  By what now seems shameless theft, the Credentials Committee approved the seating of two Taft delegates from California, in spite of the fact that the proper officials of that State had certified that its twenty-six delegates were all for Roosevelt, and had been elected by a majority of 76,000 votes. Chairman Root put the question to the Convention, however, and those two discredited delegates were admitted for Taft by a vote of 542 to 529. This indicates how close the Convention then stood, when a change of seven votes would have given Roosevelt a majority of one and have added to his list the two California delegates who were counted out. Had such a change taken place, those who watched the Convention believed there would have been a “landslide” to Roosevelt. But the Republican Committee’s sorely tested rules held. After that, the Rooseveltians saw no gleam of hope.   18
  On Saturday, June 22d, the list of delegates to the Convention having been drawn up as the Republican Machine intended, Mr. Taft was nominated by a vote of 561; Roosevelt received 107, La Follette 41, Cummins 17, Hughes 2; 344 delegates did not vote. The last were all Roosevelt men, but they had been requested by Roosevelt to refuse to vote.   19
  Through Mr. Henry J. Allen, of Kansas, he sent this message:
  The Convention has now declined to purge the roll of the fraudulent delegates placed thereon by the defunct National Committee, and the majority which thus endorsed fraud was made a majority only because it included the fraudulent delegates themselves, who all sat as judges on one another’s cases. If these fraudulent votes had not thus been cast and counted the Convention would have been purged of their presence. This action makes the Convention in no proper sense any longer a Republican Convention representing the real Republican Party. Therefore, I hope the men elected as Roosevelt delegates will now decline to vote on any matter before the Convention. I do not release any delegate from his honorable obligation to vote for me if he votes at all, but under the actual conditions I hope that he will not vote at all.
  The Convention as now composed has no claim to represent the voters of the Republican Party. It represents nothing but successful fraud in overriding the will of the rank and file of the party. Any man nominated by the Convention as now constituted would be merely the beneficiary of this successful fraud; it would be deeply discreditable to any man to accept the Convention’s nomination under these circumstances; and any man thus accepting it would have no claim to the support of any Republican on party grounds, and would have forfeited the right to ask the support of any honest man of any party on moral grounds.
  Mr. Allen concluded with these words of his own:
  We do not bolt. We merely insist that you, not we, are making the record. And we refuse to be bound by it. We have pleaded with you ten days. We have fought with you five days for a square deal. We fight no more, we plead no longer. We shall sit in protest and the people who sent us here shall judge us.
  Gentlemen, you accuse us of being radical. Let me tell you that no radical in the ranks of radicalism ever did so radical a thing as to come to a National Convention of the great Republican Party and secure through fraud the nomination of a man whom they knew could not be elected. 1
  Every night during that momentous week the Roosevelt delegates met in the Congress Hotel, talked over the day’s proceedings, gave vent to their indignation, confirmed each other’s resolution, and took a decision as to their future action. The powerful Hiram Johnson, Governor of California, led them, and through his eloquence he persuaded all but 107 of them to stand by Roosevelt whether he were nominated by the Convention or not.   22
  And this they did. For when the vote for the nomination was taken at the Convention only 107 of the Roosevelt men cast their ballots. They favored Roosevelt, but they were not prepared to quit the Republican Party. During the roll-call the Roosevelt delegates from Massachusetts refused to vote. Thereupon, Mr. Root, the Chairman, ruled that they must vote, to which Frederick Fosdick replied, when his name was read again, “Present, and not voting. I defy the Convention to make me vote for any man”; and seventeen other Roosevelt delegates refrained. Mr. Root then called up the alternates of these abstainers and three of them recorded their votes for Taft, but there was such a demonstration against this ruling that Mr. Root thought better of it and proceeded in it no farther. Many of his Republican associates at the time thought this action high-handed and unjustified, and many more agree in this opinion today.   23
  Except for this grave error, Mr. Root’s rulings were strictly according to the precedents and directions of the Republican National Committee, and we may believe that even he saw the sardonic humor of his unvarying application of them at the expense of the Rooseveltians. Before the first day’s session was over, the process was popularly called the “steam roller.” Late in the week, a delegate rose to a point of order, and on being recognized by the Chairman, he shouted that he wished to call the attention of the Chairman to the fact that the steam roller was exceeding its speed limit, at which Mr. Root replied, “The Chairman rules that the gentleman’s point of order is well taken.” And everybody laughed. There was one dramatic moment which, as Dean Lewis remarks, has had no counterpart in a National Convention. When the Machine had succeeded, in spite of protests and evidence, in stealing the two delegates from California, the friends of Mr. Taft gave triumphant cheers. Then the Roosevelt men rose up as one man and sent forth a mighty cheer which astonished their opponents. It was a cheer in which were mingled indignation and scorn, and, above all, relief. Strictly interpreted, it meant that those men who had sat for four days and seen their wishes thwarted, by what they regarded as fraud, and had held on in the belief that this fraud could not continue to the end, that a sense of fairness would return and rule the Regulars, now realized that Fraud would concede nothing and that their Cause was lost. And they felt a great load lifted. No obligation bound them any longer to the Republican Party which had renounced honesty in its principles and fair play in its practice. Henceforth they could go out and take any step they chose to promote their Progressive doctrines. 2   24
  Shortly after the Convention adjourned, having, by these methods, nominated Mr. Taft and James S. Sherman for President and Vice-President, the Rooseveltians held a great meeting in Orchestra Hall. Governor Johnson presided and apparently a majority of the Rooseveltians wished, then and there, to organize a new party and to nominate Roosevelt as its candidate. Several men made brief but earnest addresses. Then Roosevelt himself spoke, and although he lacked nothing of his usual vehemence, he seemed to be controlled by a sense of the solemnity of their purpose. He told them that it was no more a question of Progressivism, which he ardently believed in, but a question of fundamental honesty and right, which everybody ought to believe in and uphold. He advised them to go to their homes, to discuss the crisis with their friends; to gain what adherence and support they could, and to return in two months and formally organize their party and nominate their candidate for President. And he added: “If you wish me to make the fight, I will make it, even if only one State should support me. The only condition I impose is that you shall feel entirely free, when you come together, to substitute any other man in my place, if you deem it better for the movement, and in such case, I will give him my heartiest support.”   25
  And so the defeated majority of the Republicans at Chicago, Republicans no longer, broke up. There were many earnest hand-shakings, many pledges to meet again in August, and to take up the great work. Those who intended to stay by the Republican Party, not less than those who cast their lot with the Progressives, bade farewell, with deep emotion, to the Leader whom they had wished to see at the head of the Republican Party. Chief among these was Governor Hadley, of Missouri, who at one moment, during the Convention, seemed likely to be brought forward by the Regulars as a compromise candidate. Some of the Progressives resented his defection from them; not so Roosevelt, who said: “He will not be with us, but we must not blame him.”   26
  Six weeks later, the Progressives returned to Chicago. Again, Roosevelt had his headquarters at the Congress Hotel. Again, the delegates, among whom were several women, met at the Coliseum. Crowds of enthusiastic supporters and larger crowds of curiosity-seekers swarmed into the vast building. On Monday, August 5, the first session of the Progressive Party’s Convention was held. Senator Albert J. Beveridge, of Indiana, made the opening address, in which he defined the principles of their party and the objects it hoped to obtain. Throughout the proceedings there was much enthusiasm, but no battle. It was rather the gathering of several thousand very earnest men and women bent on consecrating themselves to a new Cause, which they believed to be the paramount Cause for the political, economic, and social welfare of. their country. Nearly all of them were Idealists, eager to secure the victory of some special reform. And, no doubt, an impartial observer might have detected among them traces of that “lunatic fringe,” which Roosevelt himself had long ago humorously remarked clung to the skirts of every reform. But the whole body, judged without prejudice, probably contained the largest number of disinterested, public-spirited, and devoted persons, who had ever met for a national and political object since the group which formed the Republican Party in 1854.   27
  The professional politician who usually preponderates in such Conventions, and, in the last, had usurped control both of the proceedings and decisions, had little place here. The chief topic of discussion turned on the admission of negro delegates from the South. Roosevelt believed that an attempt to create a negro Progressive Party, as such, would alienate the Southern whites and would certainly sharpen their hostility towards the blacks. Therefore, he advised that the negro delegates ought to be approved by the White Progressives in their several districts. In other words, the Progressive Party in the South should be a white party with such colored members as the whites found acceptable.   28
  On Monday and Tuesday the work done in the Convention was much less important than that done by the Committee on Resolutions and by the Committee on Credentials. On Wednesday the Convention heard and adopted the Platform and then nominated Roosevelt by acclamation. Miss Jane Addams, of Hull House, Chicago, seconded the nomination, praising Roosevelt as “one of the few men in our public life who has been responsive to modern movement.” “The program,” she said, “will need a leader of invincible courage, of open mind, of democratic sympathies—one endowed with power to interpret the common man, and to identify himself with the common lot.” Governor Hiram Johnson, from California, was nominated for Vice-President. Over the platform, to which the candidates were escorted, hung Kipling’s stanza:
  “For there is neither East nor West,
  Border nor breed nor birth,
  When two strong men stand face to face,
  Though they come from the ends of the earth.”
  Portraits of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Jackson, and Hamilton, a sufficiently inclusive group of patriots, looked down upon them. After Roosevelt and Johnson addressed the audience, the trombones sounded “Old Hundred” and the great meeting closed to the words—
  “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”
  The Progressive Platform contained many planks which have since been made laws by the Democratic Party, which read the signs of the times more quickly than did the Republicans. Especially many of the suggestions relating to Labor, the improvement of the currency, the control of corporate wealth, and oversight over public hygiene, should be commended. In general, it promised to bring the Government nearer to the people by giving the people a more and more direct right over the Government. It declared for a rational tariff and the creation of a non-partisan Tariff Commission of experts, and it denounced alike the Republicans for the Payne-Aldrich Bill, which dishonestly revised upwards, and the Democrats, who wished to abolish protection altogether. It urged proper military and naval preparation and the building of two battleships a year—a plank which we can imagine Roosevelt wrote in with peculiar satisfaction. It advocated direct primaries; the conservation of natural resources; woman suffrage.   31
  So rapidly has the country progressed in seven years that most of the recommendations have already been adopted, and are among the common places which nobody disputes any longer. But the Initiative, the Referendum, and the Recall of Judicial Decisions were the points, as I remarked above, over which the country debated most hotly. The Recall, in particular, created a widespread alarm, and just as Roosevelt’s demand for it in his Columbus speech prevented, as I believe, his nomination by the Republican Convention in June, so it deprived the Progressives at the election in November of scores of thousands of votes. The people of the United States—every person who owned a bit of property, a stock or a bond, or who had ten dollars or more in the savings bank—looked upon it almost with consternation. For they knew that they were living in a time of flux, when old standards were melting away like snow images in the sun, when new ideals, untried and based on the negation of some of the oldest principles in our civilization, were being pushed forward. They instinctively rallied to uphold Law, the slow product of centuries of growth, the sheet anchor of Society in a time of change. Where could we look for solidity, or permanence, if judicial decisions could be recalled at the caprice of the mob—the hysterical, the uninstructed, the fickle mob? The opinion of one trained and honest judge outweighs the whims of ten thousand of the social dregs.   32
  The Recall of Judicial Decisions, therefore, caused many of Roosevelt’s friends, and even Republicans who would otherwise have supported him, to balk. They not only rejected the proposal itself, but they feared that he, by making it, indicated that he had lost his judgment and was being swept into the vortex of revolution. Judges and courts and respect for law, like lighthouses on granite foundations, must be kept safe from the fluctuations of tides and the crash of tempests.   33
  The campaign which followed is chiefly remarkable for Roosevelt’s amazing activity. He felt that the success of the Progressive Party at the polls depended upon him as its Leader. The desire for personal success in any contest into which he plunged would have been a great incentive, but this was a cause which dwarfed any personal considerations of his. Senator Joseph M. Dixon, of Montana, managed the campaign; Roosevelt himself gave it a dynamic impulse which never flagged. He went to the Pacific Coast, speaking at every important centre on the way, and returning through the Southern States to New York City. In September he swept through New England, and he was making a final tour through the Middle West, when, on October 14th, just as he was leaving his hotel to make a speech in the Auditorium in Milwaukee, a lunatic named John Schranck shot him with a revolver. The bullet entered his body about an inch below the right nipple and would probably have been fatal but for an eye glass-case and a roll of manuscript he had in his pocket. Before the assassin could shoot again, his hand was caught and deflected by the Colonel’s secretary. “Don’t hurt the poor creature,” Roosevelt said, when Schranck was overpowered and brought before him. Not knowing the extent of his wound, and waiting only long enough to return to his hotel room and change his white shirt, as the bosom of the one he had on was soaked with blood, and disregarding the entreaties of his companions to stay quiet, he went to the Auditorium and spoke for more than an hour. Only towards the end did the audience perceive that he showed signs of fatigue. This extraordinary performance was most foolhardy, and some of his carping critics said that, as usual, Roosevelt wanted to be theatrical. But there was no such purpose in him. He felt to the depths of his soul that neither his safety nor that of any other individual counted in comparison with the triumph of the Cause he was fighting for.   34
  After a brief examination the surgeons stated that he had better be removed to the Mercy Hospital in Chicago. They put him on his special car and by an incredible negligence they sent him off to make the night journey without any surgical attendant. On reaching the Mercy Hospital, Dr. Ryan made a further examination and reported that there seemed to be no immediate danger, although he could not be sure whether the Colonel would live or not. Roosevelt, who was advertised to make a great speech in Louisville, Kentucky, that evening, summoned Senator Beveridge and sent him off with the manuscript of the address to take his place. Mrs. Roosevelt reached Chicago by the first train possible, and stayed with him while he underwent, impatiently, nearly a fortnight’s convalescence. Then, much sooner than the surgeons thought wise, although his wound had healed with remarkable speed, he returned to Oyster Bay, and on October 30th he closed his campaign by addressing sixteen thousand persons in the Madison Square Garden. He spoke with unwonted calm and judicial poise; and so earnestly that the conviction which he felt carried conviction to many who heard him. “I am glad beyond measure,” he said, “that I am one of the many who in this fight have stood ready to spend and be spent, pledged to fight, while life lasts, the great fight for righteousness and for brotherhood and for the welfare of mankind.”   35
  President Taft and the members of his Cabinet took little or no active part in the campaign. Indeed, the Republicans seemed unable to arouse enthusiasm. They relied upon their past victories and the robust campaign fund, which the Interests gladly furnished. The Democratic candidate was Woodrow Wilson, Governor of New Jersey, who had been professor at Princeton University, and then its president. As Governor, he had commended himself by fighting the Machine, and by advocating radical measures. As candidate, he asserted his independence by declaring that “a party platform is not a program.” He spoke effectively, and both he and his party had the self-complacency that comes to persons who believe that they are sure to win. And how could their victory be in doubt since the united Democrats had for opponents the divided Republicans? When Colonel Roosevelt was shot, Governor Wilson magnanimously announced that he would make no more speeches. Roosevelt objected to this, believing that a chance accident to him, personally, ought not to stop any one from criticising him politically. “What ever could with truth and propriety have been said against me and my cause before I was shot, can,” he urged, “with equal truth and equal propriety, be said against me now, and it should so be said; and the things that cannot be said now are merely the things that ought not to have been said before. This is not a contest about any man; it is a contest concerning principles.”   36
  At the election on November 5th, Wilson was elected by 6,286,000 votes out of 15,310,000 votes, thus being a minority President by two million and a half votes. Roosevelt received 4,126,000 and Taft 3,483,000 votes. The combined vote of what had been the Republican Party amounted to 7,609,000 votes, or 1,323,000 more than those received by Mr. Wilson. When it came to the Electoral College, the result was even more significant. Wilson had 435, Roosevelt 88, and Taft, thanks to Vermont and Utah, secured 8 votes. Roosevelt carried Pennsylvania the rock-bound Republican State, Missouri which was usually Democratic, South Dakota, Washington, Michigan, and eleven out of the thirteen votes of California. These figures, analyzed calmly, after the issues and passions have cooled into history, indicate two things. First, the amazing personal popularity of Roosevelt, who, against the opposition of the Republican Machine and all its ramifications, had so easily defeated President Taft, the candidate of that Machine. And secondly, it proved that Roosevelt, and not Taft, really represented a large majority of what had been the Republican Party. Therefore, it was the Taft faction which, in spite of the plain evidence given at the choice of the delegates, and at the Convention itself—evidence which the Machine tried to ignore and suppress—it was the Taft faction and not Roosevelt which split the Republican Party in 1912.   37
  Had it allowed the preference of the majority to express itself by the nomination of Roosevelt, there is every reason to believe that he would have been elected. For we must remember that the Democratic Platform was hardly less progressive than that of the Progressives themselves. Counting the Wilson and the Roosevelt vote together, we find 10,412,000 votes were cast for Progressive principles against 3,483,000 votes for the reactionary Conservatives. And yet the gray wolves of the Republican Party, and its Old Guard, and its Machine, proclaimed to the country that its obsolescent doctrines represented the desires and the ideals of the United States in 1912!   38
  Although the campaign, as conducted by the Republicans, seemed listless, it did not lack venom. Being a family fight between the Taft men and the Roosevelt men, it had the bitterness which family quarrels develop. Mr. Taft and most of his Secretaries had known the methods of Mr. Roosevelt and his Ministers. They could counter, therefore, charges of incompetence and indifference by recalling the inconsistencies, or worse, of Roosevelt’s regime. When the Progressives charged the Taft Administration with being easy on the Big Interests, Attorney-General Wickersham resorted to a simple sum in arithmetic in order to contradict them, showing that whereas Roosevelt began forty-four Anti-Trust suits, and concluded only four important cases during his seven and a half years in office, under Taft sixty-six new suits were begun and many of the old ones were successfully concluded. Some great cases, like that of the Standard Oil and of the Railroad Rates, had been settled, which equaled in importance any that Roosevelt had taken up. In the course of debate on the stump, each side made virulent accusations against the other, and things were said which were not true then and have long since been regretted by the sayers. That happens in all political contests.   39
  Roosevelt himself, being the incarnation, if not indeed the cause, of the Progressive Party, had to endure an incessant volley of personal attack. They charged him with inordinate ambition. We heard how Mr. William Barnes, Jr., the would-be savior of the country, implied that Roosevelt must be defeated in order to prevent the establishment of monarchy in the United States. Probably Mr. Barnes, in his moments of reflection, admitted to himself that he did not really mean that, but many campaign orators and editors repeated the insinuation and besought free-born Americans not to elect a candidate who would assume the title of King Theodore. Many of his critics could account for his leaving the Republican Party and heading another, only on the theory that he was moved by a desire for revenge. If he could not rule he would ruin. The old allegation that he must be crazy was of course revived.   40
  After the election, the Republican Regulars, who had stubbornly refused, to read the handwriting on the wall during the previous four years, heaped new abuse upon him. They said that he had betrayed the Party. They said that he had shown himself an ingrate towards Taft, whose achievements in the Presidency awoke his envy. And more recently, many persons who have loathed the Administration of President Wilson, blame Roosevelt for having brought down this curse upon the country.   41
  These various opinions and charges seem to me to be mistaken; and in the foregoing chapters, if I have truly divined Theodore Roosevelt’s character, every reader should see that his action in entering the field for the Republican nomination in 1912, and then in founding the Progressive Party, was the perfectly natural culmination of his career. Some one said that he went off at a tangent in 1912. Some one else has said better that this tangent was a straight line leading back to 1882, when he sat in the New York Assembly. Remember that the love of Justice was from boyhood his leading principle. Remember that, after he succeeded in having a law passed relieving the miserably poor cigar-makers from the hideous conditions under which they had to work, a judge declared the law unconstitutional, thereby proving to Roosevelt that the courts, which should be the citadels of justice, might and did, in this case, care more for the financial interests of landowners than for the health, life, and soul of human beings. That example of injustice was branded on his heart, and he resolved to combat the judicial league with in humanity, wherever he met it. So Abraham Lincoln, when, at the age of twenty-two he first saw a slave auction in New Orleans, said, in indignant horror, to his companion, John Hanks: “If I ever get a chance to hit that thing [meaning slavery] I’ll hit it hard.” Exactly thirty years later, Abraham Lincoln, as President, was hitting that thing—slavery—so hard that it perished. Roosevelt’s experience as Assemblyman, as Civil Service Commissioner, as Police Commissioner, as Governor, and as President, had confirmed his belief that the decisions of the courts often stood between the People and Justice.   42
  Especially in his war on the Interests was he angered at finding corporate abuses, and even criminal methods, comfortably protected by an upholstery of favoring laws. With that tact and willingness to compromise on non-essentials in order to gain his essential object, which mark him as a statesman, he used the Republican Party, naturally the party of the plutocrats who controlled the Interests, just as long as he could. Then, when the Republican Machine rose against him, he quitted it and founded the Progressive Party, to be the instrument for carrying on and completing the great reforms he had at heart. Here was no desertion, no betrayal; here was, first of all, common sense; if the road no longer leads towards your goal, you leave it and take an other. No one believed more sincerely than Roosevelt did, in fealty to party. In 1884 he would not bolt, because he hoped that the good which the Republican principles would accomplish would more than offset the harm which the nomination of Blaine would inflict. But in 1912, the Republicans cynically rejected his cause which he had tried to make the Republican cause, and then, as in 1884, he held that the cause was more important than the individual, and he followed this idea loyally, lead where it might.   43
  In trying thus to state Roosevelt’s position fairly, I do not mean to imply that I should agree with his conclusions in regard to the Recall of the Judicial Decisions; and the experiments which have already been made with the Referendum and Initiative and Direct Primaries are so unsatisfactory that Roosevelt himself would probably have recognized that the doubts, which many of us felt when he first proposed those measures, have been justified. But I wish to emphasize my admiration for the large consistency of his career, and my conviction that, with out his crowning action in 1912, he would have failed to be the moral force which he was. If ambition, if envy, if a selfish desire to rule, had been the motives which guided him, he would have lain low in 1912; for all his friends and the managers of the Republican Party assured him that if he would stand aside then, he would be unanimously nominated by the Republicans in 1916. But he could not be tempted.   44

Note 1. Fifteenth Republican National Convention (New York, 1912), 333, 335. [ back ]

Note 2. Lewis, 363. [ back ]


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