Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

[ocr errors]

politics, have tended to produce a very unhealthy condition of excitement and irritation in the popular mind, which shows itself in part in the enormous increase in the Socialistic propaganda.

“Nothing effective, because nothing at once honest and intelligent is being done to combat the great amount of evil which, mixed with a little good, a little truth, is contained in the outpourings of

“Some of these Socialists; some of them merely lurid sensationalists; but they are all building up a revolutionary feeling, which will, most probably, take the form of a political campaign. Then we may have to do, too late, or almost too late, what had to be done in the silver campaign, when in one summer we had to convince a great many good people that what they had been laboriously taught for several years was untrue.

“Under such circumstances you would be the best possible leader, and with your leadership we could rest assured that only good methods would prevail. In such a contest you could do very much if you were on the bench; you could do very much if you were in active political life outside. I think you could do most as President, but you could do very much as Chief Justice, and you could do less, but still very much, as Associate Justice. Where you can fight best I cannot say, for you know what your soul turns to better than I can.

"As I see the situation, it is this: There are strong arguments against your taking this justiceship. In the first place, my belief is that of all the men who have appeared so far you are the man who is most likely to receive the Republican nomination, and who is, I think, the best man to receive it. It is not a light thing to cast aside the chance of the Presidency, even though, of course, it is a chance, however, a good one.

“It would be a very foolish thing for you to get it into your thoughts, so that your sweet and fine nature would be warped and you would become bitter and sour, as Henry Clay became; and, thank heaven, this is impossible. But

[ocr errors]

it is well to remember that the shadow of the Presidency falls on no man twice, save in most exceptional circumstances.

“Now, my dear Will, there is the situation as I see it. It is a hard choice to make, and you yourself have to make it. You have two alternatives before you, each with uncertain possibilities, and you cannot feel sure that which ever you take you will not afterward feel that it would have been better if you had taken the other. But which ever you take I know that you will render great and durable service to the nation for many years to come, and I feel sure that you should decide in accordance with the promptings of your own liking, of your own belief as to where you can render the service which most appeals to you, as well as that which you feel is most beneficial to the nation. No one can with wisdom advise you."

Mr. Taft had the offer under consideration for three and a half months before deciding, and on July 30, 1906, declined it in a letter written from Murray Bay, Canada, where he was on vacation. In it he repeated the Philippine reason that he had given when the first offer was made, and said:

“I know that few, if any, even among my friends, will credit me with anything but a desire, unconscious, perhaps, to run for the Presidency, and that I must face and bear this misconstruction of what I do. But I am confident you credit my reasons as I give them to you, and will believe me when I say that I would much prefer to go on the Supreme Bench for life than to run for the Presidency, and that in twenty years of judicial service I could make myself more useful to the country than as President, even if my election should come about.

“Please do not misunderstand me to think that I am indispensable or that the world could not run on much the same if I were to disappear in the St. Lawrence river. But circumstances seem to me to have imposed something in the nature of a trust to me personally that I should not discharge by now succeeding Justice Brown. In the nature of things the trust must end with this Administration, and one or two years is short to do much. Yet the next session of Congress may result in much for the benefit of the Filipino, and it seems to me it is my duty to be in the fight.”

[ocr errors]

The election took place on November 2, 1908, and Taft was elected triumphantly, receiving 321 electoral votes against 162 for Bryan, and a plurality of 1,269,800 in the popular vote. This was the largest electoral and popular vote ever received by any candidate except that recorded for Roosevelt in 1904, when he had 336 electoral votes and a plurality of 2,545,500 in the popular vote.

Five days after his election, November 7, 1908, Mr. Taft wrote from Hot Springs, Va., to the President a long letter, mainly composed of a review of the results in various States, and saying in recognition of the President's services on his behalf :

“I have just reached Hot Springs, and have only now taken up my correspondence. The first letter I wish to write is to you, because you have always been the chief agent in working out the present status of affairs, and my selection and election are chiefly your work. You and my brother Charley made that possible which in all probability would not have occurred otherwise. I don't wish to be falsely modest in this. I know, as you have said to me when we have talked the matter over, that neither you nor he could probably have done the same thing with any other candidate, under the circumstances as they were, but that doesn't affect the fact as I have stated it, or my reason for feeling the deep gratitude which I do to you both for what has happened and the successful efforts which you have made, costing time and energy and subjecting you to severe criticism and, in some cases, the loss of personal friendships that you might have avoided.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

CHAPTER X

LETTERS ON DECADENCE; WEALTH; BIRDS; HUMOR IN

POLITICS; CLEVELAND; LIBEL SUIT; THE NAVY

ROOSEVELT's correspondence during the spring and summer of 1908 shows the usual wide variety of interests. Always a patient listener, his remarkable alertness of mind which enabled him to foresee clearly the end of a talker's discourse long before the talker himself had arrived at it, frequently put his patience to a severe strain. Writing to Henry Adams, on March 9, 1908, he gives a hint of his sufferings at times: “Of course I have read your grandfather's diary; but I have at once sent for another copy to reread in part about those years. There was just two years' interval, then, between his Presidency and his nominal appearance in Congress. O Lord! I wish I did not sympathize with him and the rest of his family about being bored! The capacity to be bored, whether treated as a sin or a misfortune, is an awful handicap.'

The extraordinary range of Roosevelt's reading and knowledge is revealed in a letter which he wrote to the Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, at the moment when he was in the very thick of his struggle with Congress for further legislation in regard to governmental control and regulations of corporations and when his daily correspondence was crowded with protests against his course. other men of his time, in or out of public life, could have written such a letter as this? I append it in full.

How many

WHITE HOUSE,

March 5, 1908. My dear Mr. Balfour:

Through Arthur Lee I have just received the copy of 'Decadence,” and thank you for it. I confess I began to

read it with some apprehension lest it might have something to do with some phase of French literary thought. Naturally, therefore, I was glad when the first few lines showed that my fears were groundless.

It seems to me that you are eminently right in seeing that it is good to give a name to something of vital consequence, even though in a sense the name only expresses our ignorance. It is a curious thing in mankind, but undoubtedly true, that if we do not give such a name to our ignorance, most of us gradually feel that there is nothing to be ignorant about. Most emphatically there is such a thing as “decadence” of a nation, a race, a type; and it is no less true that we can not give any adequate explanation of the phenomenon. Of course there are many partial explanations, and in some cases, as with the decay of the Mongol or Turkish monarchies, the sum of these partial explanations may represent the whole. But there are other cases notably, of course, that of Rome in the ancient world, and, as I believe, that of Spain in the modern world, on a much smaller scale, where the sum of all the explanations is that they do not wholly explain. Something seems to have gone out of the people or peoples affected, and what it is no one can say. In the case of Rome, one can say that the stocks were completely changed, though I do not believe that this in the least represents even the major part of the truth. But in the case of Spain, the people remain the same. The expulsion of Moor and heretic, the loss of the anarchistic and much misused individual liberties of the provincial towns, the economic and social changes wrought by the inflow of American gold—all of them put together do not explain the military decadence of the Spaniard; do not explain why he grew so rigid that, at first on sea and then on land, he could not adapt himself to new tactics, and above all, what subtle transformation it was that came over the fighting edge of the soldiers themselves. For nearly a century and a half following the beginning of Gonsalvo's campaigns, the Spanish infantry showed itself superior in sheer fighting ability to any other infantry

« PreviousContinue »