Page images

“The most remarkable social and political phenomenon observable in this republic to-day is the immense and growing popularity of Theodore Roosevelt. Through the large numbers of dispatches from the editors of Republican newspapers which we print this morning there runs this single note-the President's popularity is growing; he is to-day stronger with the people than ever before. The enthusiasm he has aroused asks no questions, demands no pledges, imposes no conditions. Its confidence, like its admiration, is boundless.

“No American statesman ever had such an unquestioning support, a support so completely uncritical or one so manifestly due to the inspiration awakened by personality. It is an astonishing spectacle. To the renomination of President Grant in 1880 it was felt that the third-term tradition offered an insuperable obstacle. It will not in the slightest degree avail against the wave of popular favor that now promises to make Mr. Roosevelt the candidate next year. With the spirit he has invoked and stirred tradition counts for nothing. If the time for sobering up should be long deferred, we do not know that even institutions would count for very much."

To his cousin, Mr. W. Emlen Roosevelt, on November 9, 1907, the President wrote:

“Most emphatically, I do not wish to run again for President. As I think I have made this remark in public, and in private letters which were not marked private, several hundred times, in addition to saying it quite as often in private conversation, it really does not seem advisable to say anything more at present. I find that it is absolutely useless to try to correct untruths or misrepresentations even of the most flagrant kind in the newspapers. If I should say anything whatever about not running again it would cause a furore for one week and then the next week they would say I was intriguing for a nomination and would expect a denial.

On November 19, 1907, he sent the following circular note to the Secretary of the Treasury, the Post Master General, and the Secretary of the Interior:

“I have been informed that certain office-holders in your Department are proposing to go to the National Convention as delegates in favor of renominating me for the Presidency, or are proposing to procure my endorsement for such renomination by State conventions. This must not be. I wish you to inform such officers as you may find it advisable or necessary to inform in order to carry out the spirit of this instruction, that such advocacy of my renomination, or acceptance of an election as delegate for that purpose, will be regarded as a serious violation of official propriety and will be dealt with accordingly."

[ocr errors]

In the midst of the third term discussion a decided sensation was created by the publication on April 5, 1907, of what appeared to be a well-authenticated report of an incident that had occurred at a private dinner at a hotel in Washington. According to this report a Republican United States Senator, noted for his intense hostility to the President, while under the mellowing influence of food and drink, had revealed the existence of a plot for the defeat of any candidate who might be named by Roosevelt, or who was known to share his views on public affairs. The plot was to be backed by a fund of $5,000,000 which was to be used where “it would do the most good.” “Favorite sons" were to be put forward to prevent any particular candidate from securing a nomination at the outset of the balloting; Roosevelt was to be ostensibly favored in Legislative resolutions and by delegates with the belief that he would refuse to accept a nomination and delegates professing to favor him could be switched to the candidate selected by the plotters when the time arrived for putting him forward. There was an animated discussion of the plot for a brief period and then it passed from sight never to be heard of again. If it had ever existed, publicity had made its success impossible.

In the meantime Roosevelt let it be known that Secretary Taft was his choice for his successor and there was scarcely a doubt that Taft would be named by the Republican National Convention. Third term talk persisted, however, but Roosevelt's letters show that he opposed it strenuously. In the end his renomination was prevented only by the determined opposition of his personal friends and authorized spokesmen in the convention.

But the approach of a national campaign in which his administration was to be the chief issue did not induce the President to alter in the slightest degree the policies which he had been advocating for six years. Although he had sent a very long message to Congress in December, 1907, he sent a special one to it on January 31, 1908, in which he urged the passage of a new Employers' Liability act to take the place of the one passed at a previous session and declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and urged also additional legislation "as regards the relation between capital and labor and between great corporations and the public," measures which were desirable because of the “gravely significant attitude toward the law and its administration recently adopted by certain heads of great corporations." In defining the “gravely significant attitude," he said:

“The Standard Oil Corporation and the railway company have both been found guilty by the courts of criminal misconduct; both have been sentenced to pay heavy fines; and each has issued and published broadcast these statements, asserting their innocence and denouncing as improper the action of the courts and juries in convicting them of guilt. These statements are very elaborate, very ingenious, and are untruthful in important particulars.

“The amount of money the representatives of certain great moneyed interests are willing to spend can be gauged by their recent publication broadcast throughout the papers of this country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, of huge advertisements attacking with envenomed bitterness the Administration's policy of warring against successful dis


honesty, and by their circulation of pamphlets and books prepared with the same object; while they likewise push the circulation of the writings and speeches of men who, whether because they are misled or because, seeing the light, they yet are willing to sin against the light, serve these their masters of great wealth to the cost of the plain people. The books and pamphlets, the controlled newspapers, the speeches by public or private men, to which I refer, are usually and especially in the interest of the Standard Oil Trust and of certain notorious railroad combinations, but they also defend other individuals and corporations of great wealth that have been guilty of wrongdoing.

[ocr errors]

In February the Louisville and Nashville Railway Company announced its intention to reduce the wages of its employees, saying that “the drastic laws inimical to the interests of the railroads that have in the past year or two been enacted by Congress and the State Legislatures” were largely responsible for the reduction. Several other companies announced a similar purpose. On February 18, 1908, the President sent an open letter to the Interstate Commerce Commission, mentioning these announcements and requesting the commission to make a thorough investigation of the conditions of the roads and ascertain the real merits of the case. In his letter he said:

“If the reduction in wages is due to natural causes, the loss of business being such that the burden should be, and is, equitably distributed between capitalist and wageworker, the public should know it. If it is caused by legislation, the public, and Congress, should know it; and if it is caused by misconduct in the past financial or other operations of any railroad, then everybody should know it, especially if the excuse of unfriendly legislation is advanced as a method of covering up past business misconduct by the railroad managers, or as a justification for failure to treat fairly the wage-earning employees of the company.

“It is sincerely to be hoped, therefore, that any wage

controversy that may arise between the railroads and their employees may find a peaceful solution through the methods of conciliation and arbitration already provided by Congress, which have proven so effective during the past year. To this end the Commission should be in a position to have available for any Board of Conciliation or Arbitration relevant data pertaining to such carriers as may become involved in industrial disputes. Should conciliation fail to effect a settlement and arbitration be rejected, accurate information should be available in order to develop a properly formed public opinion."

The President's letter achieved its purpose, for the reduction was not made.

Writing to Col. Henry L. Higginson, of Boston, on February 19, 1908, the President thus explained his action:

The trouble that I have comes from the fact that the big corporations that are working to discredit the laws and prevent proper laws being passed continually force me into action which is unavoidable, unless I am content to see the policies in which I believe overthrown, and yet which I very sincerely regret having to take. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad, for instance, in this endeavor to discredit the law, announces a reduction of wages, which it says is due to our unwise legislation. Such a challenge as that must at once be accepted by the Government to the extent of ordering an immediate investigation to ascertain its truth. So it is with my message to Congress. The outrageous fabrications and falsehoods of the Standard Oil and Harriman people, the Santa Fe people and others, were producing an effect that had to be counteracted. These corporations have probably spent a million dollars in their enormous advertisements and books and insertion of matter in ‘patent insides' for the country papers, and the like---prominent newspaper men having told me that they reckoned that a million dollars was an under estimate of the amount they must have spent-and this is an earnest of how much more they are willing to spend for a re

« PreviousContinue »