« PreviousContinue »
dent who will appoint an Attorney General to continue these prosecutions. Four years ago Mr. Cortelyou returned, as I am informed, any money forwarded by any one who was being prosecuted or proceeded against by the National Government, or who had any personal interest whatever in any matter pending before the administration.''
Mr. Sheldon's reply to this letter caused great surprise and distress to the President for it informed him that his directions to Mr. Cortelyou, Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1904, quoted in an earlier chapter, to return a Standard Oil contribution to the campaign fund, had not been obeyed. He replied to Mr. Sheldon's note as follows, on September 25, 1908 :
“There is one feature of your letter of the 22d which causes me much surprise. You say that in 1904 the contribution of the Standard Oil Company I spoke of was made under the authority of its executive committee. This is the first time I was aware that such a contribution was made. In response to my letters Mr. Cortelyou told me that no Standard Oil money was received or would be received. Later, after the campaign closed, I was informed from a different source that certain individuals who had contributed had Standard Oil as well as other interests. Mr. Cortelyou informed me that he made his statement on Mr. Bliss's authority, which he and I were of course warranted in accepting as final." (See Chapter XXVII, Vol. I.)
The campaign was not proceeding with the aggressive vigor which the President considered desirable, and toward the end of September he yielded to the appeals of the campaign managers and decided to take a hand in it himself. He wrote a long letter, addressed to the Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan, which was published in the newspapers and called forth a vigorous reply from Mr. Bryan. Roosevelt responded in a second and no less vigor
ous letter, and the desired aggressiveness was imparted to the canvass, remaining with it till the end. Writing to Lawrence Abbott, of the Outlook, at New York, on September 22, 1908, the President said:
“... In this Foraker affair I made up my mind that I would hit from the shoulder, inasmuch as Taft did not. Taft is quite right in saying that he does not wish to hit a man when he is down; but this is not a case of that. This is a case of a fight to a finish, and in such a fight (if you will pardon the simile by an old-time boxer) if a man wishes to win it is absolutely necessary that he shall knock out his opponent when he has the latter groggy.
Writing to William Kent, Esq., California, on September 28, 1908, he said:
“Of course I do not dare in public to express my real opinion of Bryan. He is a kindly man and well-meaning in a weak way; always provided that to mean well must not be translated by him into doing well if it would interfere with his personal prospects. But he is the cheapest fakir we have ever had proposed for President.'
Twice during his Presidency, Roosevelt offered a position on the Supreme Court bench to William H. Taft, and twice the latter declined to accept it. The first offer was made while Taft was Governor of the Philippines and was declined on the ground that he did not feel that he ought to abandon his work in the Islands at that time. The second offer was made in March, 1906, when Taft was Secretary of War. The correspondence between the two men at the time was first published during the campaign of 1908 and the revelation which it made of the affectionate relations existing between them caused something very like a sensation. When the appointment was offered, the President thought that Mr. Taft would be glad to accept it and was surprised when in a personal interview the latter expressed himself otherwise. Shortly after this interview the President, on March 15, 1906, wrote a long letter to him in which he said:
“I think I have been in error as to your feeling. You say that it is your decided preference to continue your present work. This I had not understood. On the contrary, I gathered that what you really wanted to do was to go on the bench, and that my urging was in the line of your inclination, but in a matter in which you were in doubt as to your duty.
“My dear Will, it is preeminently a matter in which no other man can take the responsibility of deciding for you what is best for you to do. Nobody could decide for me whether I should go to the war or stay as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Nobody could decide for me whether I should accept the Vice Presidency or try to continue as governor. In each case it is the man himself who is to lead his life after having decided one way or the other. No one can lead that life for him, and neither he nor any one else can afford to have any one else make the decision for him, because the vital factor in the decision must be an equation of the man himself.
“So far as I am personally concerned, I could not put myself in your place, because I am not a lawyer, and would under no circumstances, even if I had been trained for a lawyer, have any leaning toward the bench; so in your case I should, as a matter of course, accept the three years of service in the War Department, dealing with the Panama and Philippine questions, and then abide the event as to whether I became President or continued in public life in some less conspicuous position or went back to the practice of law.
“But I appreciate, as every thoughtful man must, the importance of the part to be played by the Supreme Court in the next 25 years. I don't at all like the social conditions at present. The dull, purblind folly of 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 and short-sightedness of the judges, or by their unfortunate possession of meticulous minds; these facts, and the corruption in business and
THEODORE ROOSEVELT, 1908
From a painting by Joseph De Camp presented to Harvard University by the Class of 1880, and
now in Memorial Hall