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of us, when it comes right down to hard facts, consider government, the Republic, the general scheme of the world, a kind of modus vivendi to make sure we are not interfered with while we are at the game-never mind the rest? But yesterday the shout arose that the President was inviting “ labor men” to break bread at the White House-white men, these. Well, why not labor men, if they are otherwise fit companions for the President of the United States? That these were, no one questioned. It was at that luncheon, I suppose, that one of them made the remark that at last there was a hearing for him and his fellows. I have forgotten the precise occasion, but I remember the President's pregnant answer:
“Yes! The White House door, while I am here, shall swing open as easily for the labor man as for the capitalist, and no easier."
It seems as if it was in the same week that the President had been denounced in labor meetings as "unfriendly » because he would not let union rules supersede United States law in the office of the public printer. Only a little while before, resolutions of organized labor had denounced him as “unfair" because he had opposed mob-rule with rifles in an Arizona mining dispute, and the editors of “organs that had not yet got through denouncing him as a time-server because of his action in the anthracite coal strike were having a hard and bewildering time of it. How many of their readers they succeeded in mixing up beside themselves, I don't know. Some, no doubt; for even so groundless a lie as this, that President Roosevelt had jumped Leonard Wood over four hundred and fifty veteran soldiers to a major-generalship because he was his friend, found believers when it was repeated day after day by the newspapers that cared even less for the four hundred and fifty veterans than they did for Leonard Wood, merely using him as a convenient screen from behind which to hit Roosevelt. Whereas, the truth is that General Wood was not “ jumped ” a single number by his friend, but came up for confirmation in the regular routine of promotion by seniority of rank, all the jumping having been done years before by President McKinley for cause, and heartily applauded by the American people. Of all this his defamers were perfectly well aware; and so they must have been
of the facts in the labor situation of which they tried to make capital, if I may use so odd a term. It was just as simple as all the rest of President Roosevelt's doings.
Finance, tariff," he said to me once,“ these are important. But the question of the relations of capital and labor is vital. Your children and mine will be happy in this country of ours, or the reverse, according to whether the decent man in 1950 feels friendly toward the other decent man whether he is a wageworker or not. 'I am for labor,' or 'I am for capital,' substitutes something else for the immutable laws of righteousness. The one and the other would let the class man in, and letting him in is the one thing that will most quickly eat out the heart of the Republic. I am neither for labor nor for capital, but for the decent man against the selfish and indecent man who will not act squarely."
To a President of that mind came the coalstrike question in October, 1902, with its demand for action in a new and untried field a perilous field for a man with political aspirations, that was made clear without delay. Then, if ever, was the time for the policy of postponement, had his personal interests weighed heavier in the scale than the public good. To me, sitting by and watching the strife of passions aroused all over the land, it brought a revelation of the need of charity for the neighbor who does not know. From the West, where they burn soft coal, and could know nothing of the emergency, but where they had had their own troubles with the miners, came counsel to let things alone. Men who thought I had the President's ear sent messages of caution. Go slow," was their burden;" tell him not to be hasty, not to interfere.” While from the Atlantic seaboard cities, where coal was twelve dollars a ton, with every bin empty and winter at the door, such a cry of dread went up as no one who heard it ever wants to hear again. From my own city, with its three million toilers, Mayor Low telegraphed to the President:
I cannot emphasize too strongly the immense injustice of the existing coal situation to millions of innocent people. The welfare of a large section of the country imperatively demands the immediate resumption of anthracite coal mining. In the name of the City of New York I desire to protest through
you, against the continuance of the existing situation, which, if prolonged, involves, at the very least, the certainty of great suffering and heavy loss to the inhabitants of this city, in common with many others.
Governor Crane of Massachusetts came on to Washington to plead the cause of the Eastern cities, whose plight, if anything, was worse. The miners stood upon their rights. Organized capital scouted interference defiantly, threatening disaster to the Republican party if the President stepped in. The cry of the cities swelled into a wail of anguish and despair, and still the mines were idle, the tracks of the coal roads blocked for miles with empty cars. In the midst of it all the “hasty ” man in the White House wrote in reply to my anxious inquiry:
“I am slowly going on, step by step, working within my limited range of powers and endeavoring neither to shirk any responsibilities nor yet to be drawn into such hasty and violent action as almost invariably provokes reaction.”
Long after it was over, Secretary of the Navy Moody told me of what was happening then in Washington. “I remember the President sitting with his