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THIRD TERM STAMPEDE PREVENTED
Two letters that Roosevelt wrote when the National Convention was about to assemble furnish conclusive evidence of his determination to stifle all schemes for making him the nominee:
June 1, 1908. To F. H. Hitchcock, Chairman of the Republican National Committee: I hand you a copy of a letter to Judge Dayton which explains itself. If any other delegates elected for Taft or instructed for him, or from constituencies which, being favorable to me and knowing my feeling in the matter, have expressed a preference for Taft--if, as I say, any such delegates show the slightest symptom of weakening, such as these West Virginia delegates have shown, I hope you will show them this letter and say that it applies to all delegates who, under such circumstances, may be tempted to do as these West Virginia delegates have done. Such action is not only to be deeply regretted from their standpoint but also from my standpoint. It can not but give rise to the very most unpleasant type of comment not only as regards them but as regards me. We have every reason to believe that Taft will be nominated on the first ballot by an overwhelming majority and it may not be necessary for you to show this letter to any one; but I want you to have it and to show it should necessity arise. I of course desire if possible to avoid making another public statement in the matter, and this is on Taft's account just as much as mine, so do not let this letter get into the newspapers.
June 1, 1908. To Senator Lodge: I enclose
I enclose a letter
a letter of which Hitchcock has a copy. It is to be shown quietly to any
of the Taft delegates who show the slightest symptoms of going for me, for you will see that it is written for use with the two Taft delegates from West Virginia. Just this morning I have spoken to Hopkins, of Illinois; and Campbell, of Kansas, telling them that they were to join with you and Hitchcock to see that no stampede for me was to gather headway for a moment. I am exceedingly anxious on every account, my own no less than Taft's, to avoid the necessity of another public utterance, which I think would do real damage and make us both look rather ridiculous. So I hope that you and Hitchcock can use the letter I enclose with any delegates who seem at all doubtful, and I should think it would straighten them out. I think the best plan to follow would be not to show this letter to any person unless both you and Hitchcock agree that it is really necessary. Be extremely careful that it is regarded as absolutely secret, and under no circumstances is reference to it to be made in the press. I fear that if it does get out it will be put in the position of protesting too much.
The National Convention met at Chicago on June 10, 1908, and the first and only ballot for Presidential nominee was taken on June 18. I arrived in Washington on the morning of that day from the Isthmus of Panama, where I was in the Government service as Secretary of the Isthmian Canal Commission. As I spent most of the day with the President I had peculiar facilities for observing his bearing at the time. Immediately after leaving Washington a few days later I wrote an account of what I had witnessed and from it I make the following quotations :
“About eleven o'clock I called on the President and was admitted at once to his private office, where I remained till 1.30 P. M., when I went to luncheon with him. He was then in constant telegraphic touch with the party managers at Chicago, and was kept thoroughly informed as to what was
going on in and out of the convention. His chief anxiety was lest the convention should be stampeded for himself. During the early afternoon several private telegrams came to him from personal friends in Chicago, saying that unless he made a fresh and most emphatic declaration that he would not accept a nomination, the convention would name him in spite of all efforts to the contrary. He was much disturbed by these messages and asked me if I thought he should make a further declaration, getting from his secretary, Mr. Loeb, copies of letters and telegrams that he had already sent to Senator Lodge and others defining his position. I read these carefully and found them so emphatic and unequivocal that I advised him to say nothing further, expressing the opinion that if he were repeatedly to follow one denial with another he would make himself ridiculous, for no fresh denial could be couched in more emphatic and conclusive language than he had already used. He accepted this view.
“We went to the White House for luncheon at 1.30 P. M. There was only one other guest present. The table was set in the open air on the south porch, looking out past the Washington Monument over the Potomac. Mrs. Roosevelt and the children were present and the meal was a delightful and informal family affair. From time to time telegrams continued to be handed to the President, some of them still begging for an additional renunciation, but he adhered to his determination not to make reply. He had strong faith that Taft would be nominated but could not quite rid himself of uneasiness about it."
When late in the afternoon news came that Taft had been nominated on the first ballot, the President was greatly relieved and expressed his delight with characteristic emphasis
That strict adherence to Roosevelt's desires and instructions by Senator Lodge, who was the presiding officer, put an end to an attempt to stampede the convention into the nomination of Roosevelt, is a matter of record. There had
been several efforts in this direction before the final and most formidable one was launched. A huge portrait of Roosevelt was displayed on the platform and the convention-in the language of an eye witness"exploded.” In the midst of the pandemonium Senator Lodge began to call the roll for a ballot. So deafening was the noise that not till the name of Massachusetts was reached on the alphabetical list, were the reporters able to record the vote. The discovery was then made that Taft's nomination was assured, and the convention subsided into quiet. What Roosevelt thought of Senator Lodge's service to him on this occasion was shown in a letter that he wrote to Mrs. Lodge on the following day, June 19, 1908:
“I wish to send you just a line, primarily to say how admirably I think Cabot handled the peculiarly delicate and difficult work at Chicago. In point of judgment, taste and power it would be literally impossible to better either his words or his actions. He was in a peculiar sense the guardian not only of the national interests, but of my own personal honor; and to do his full duty as guardian it was necessary for him effectively to thwart the movements not merely of my foes but of the multitude of well-meaning friends who did not think deeply or who were not of very sensitive fiber. It was absolutely necessary that any stampede should be prevented, and that I should not be nominated; for now that it is over we can confess to one another that it would have been well-nigh impossible for me to refuse further the nomination, and perhaps ruin the party thereby, if the nomination had actually been made; and yet if I had accepted, my power for useful service would have forever been lessened, because nothing could have prevented the wide diffusion of the suspicion that I had not really meant what I had said, that my actions did not really square with the highest and finest code of ethics—and if there is any value whatever in my career, as far as my countrymen are concerned, it consists in their belief that I have been an efficient public man, and at the same time a disinterested public servant."
To Senator Lodge he wrote on June 24, 1908: "On every side I hear of the great success you made as Chairman . . . you rendered a great public service, and you also rendered me a personal service."
A letter which he wrote to Sir George Otto Trevelyan at this time-June 19, 1908-shows how deeply he had been thinking upon the subject of a third term. In many ways it is one of the most interesting of his many interesting letters to this illustrious Englishman:
“... There is very much to be said in favor of the theory that the public has a right to demand as long service from any man who is doing good service as it thinks will be useful; and during the last year or two I have been rendered extremely uncomfortable both by the exultation of my foes over my announced intention to retire, and by the real uneasiness and chagrin felt by many good men because, as they believed, they were losing quite needlessly the leader in whom they trusted, and who they believed could bring to a successful conclusion certain struggles which they regarded as of vital concern to the national welfare. Moreover, it was of course impossible to foresee, and I did not foresee, when I made my public announcement of my intention, that the leadership I then possessed would continue (so far as I am able to tell) unbroken, as has actually been the case; and that the people who believed in me and trusted me and followed me would three or four years later still feel that I was the man of all others whom they wished to see President. Yet such I think has been the case; and therefore, when I felt obliged to insist on retiring and abandoning the leadership, now and then I felt ugly qualms as to whether I was not refusing to do what I ought to do and abandoning great work on a mere fantastic point of honor.
“There are strong reasons why my course should be condemned; yet I think that the countervailing reasons are still stronger. Of course, when I spoke I had in view the precedent set by Washington and continued ever since, the precedent which recognizes the fact that as there in