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CHAPTER TWENTY ONE


THEODORE ROOSEVELT AND HIS TIME POPULAR APPROVAL—


VIEWS ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS


the elections of November, 1902, showed unmistakably that the President had the hearty support of the people of the country in his course during the first year of his ad­ministration. The chief issues were his treatment of trusts and the settlement of the coal strike, and on these he won a signal triumph. Not only had all the Republican State con­ventions of the year strongly approved his policies but had declared in favor of his election to the Presidency in 1904. The Republicans elected the largest majority of members of the House of Representatives that their party had se­cured in a midway election during Republican administra­tion for thirty-four years. A few days after election, on November 11, 1902, the President went to New York to par­ticipate in the dedication of a building which had been erected by the Chamber of Commerce of that city as its permanent home. At a banquet in the evening the Pres­ident delivered the principal address. Fifteen years later, when the European war was in progress, the closing pass­ages of this address were recalled as evidence of farsighted wisdom on the part of Roosevelt. It was:

"We are glad indeed that we are on good terms with all the other peoples of mankind, and no effort on our part shall be spared to secure a continuance of these relations. And remember, gentlemen, that we shall be a potent factor for peace largely in proportion to the way in which we make it evident that our attitude is due, not to weakness, not to inability to defend ourselves, but to a genuine repugnance to wrongdoing, a genuine desire for self-respecting friend­ship with our neighbors. The voice of the weakling or the craven counts for nothing when he clamors for peace.; but the voice of the just man armed is potent. We need to keep in a condition of preparedness, especially as regards our navy, not because we want war, but because we desire to stand with those whose plea for peace is listened to with respectful attention."

This was not the first utterance 'of the kind that Roosevelt had made, but was in fact a repetition of what he had said twenty years earlier in the preface to his "History of the War of 1812," which he wrote in 1882, quoted in Chap­ter SIX, and in his address before the Naval War College in 1897, quoted in Chapter NINE.

In his Chamber of Commerce speech the President gave an outline of his ideas on the subject of social and indus­trial reform—a question that was steadily growing to larger importance in his mind:

"No patent remedy can be devised for the solution of these grave problems in the industrial world; but we may rest assured that they can be solved at all only if we bring to the solution certain old-time virtues, and if we strive to keep out of the solution some of the most familiar and most undesirable of the traits to which mankind has owed un­told degradation and suffering throughout the ages. Arro­gance, suspicion, brutal envy of the well-to-do, brutal indif­ference toward those who are not well-to-do, the hard re­fusal to consider the rights of others, the foolish refusal to consider the limits of beneficent action, the base appeal to the spirit of selfish greed, whether it take the form of plunder of the fortunate or of oppression of the unfortu­nate—from these and from all kindred vices this Nation must be kept free if it is to remain in its present position in the forefront of the peoples of mankind. On the other hand, good will come, even out of the present evils, if we face them armed with the old homely virtues; if we show that we are fearless of soul, cool of head, and kindly of heart; if, without betraying the weakness that cringes be­fore wrongdoing, we yet show by deeds and words our knowledge that in such a government as ours each of us must be in very truth his brother's keeper."

He went to Tennessee in November, speaking at Mem­phis on the 19th of that month, when he dwelt upon the Government's work in the Philippines, saying:

"There is no question as to our not having gone far enough and fast enough in granting self-government to the Filipinos; the only possible danger has been lest we should go faster and further than was in the interest of the Fili­pinos themselves. Each Filipino at the present day is guar­anteed his life, his liberty and the chance to pursue hap­piness as he wishes, so long as he does not harm his fellows, in a way which the Islands have never known before during all their recorded history."

Speaking at a banquet of the Union League Club in Phil­adelphia on November 22, 1902, he paid high tribute to the ability and services of Attorney General Knox, adding:

"The question of the so-called trusts is but one of the questions we must meet in connection with our industrial system. There are many of them and they are serious; but they can and will be met. Time may be needed for making the solution perfect; but it is idle to tell this people that we have not the power to solve such a problem as that of exercising adequate supervision over the great indus­trial combinations of to-day. We have the power and we shall find out the way. We shall not act hastily or reck­lessly, and a right solution shall be found, and found it will be."

In his annual message to Congress, December 2, 1902, the President said that the views which he had expressed in his message of 1901, in regard to the desirability of national control and regulation of trusts and corporations, had, in his opinion, been emphasized by experience, and he defined his general attitude on the subject as follows:

"Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable develop­ment of modern industrialism, and the effort to destroy them would be futile unless accomplished in ways that would work the utmost mischief to the entire body politic. We can do nothing of good in the way of regulating and supervising these corporations until we fix clearly in our minds that we are not attacking the corporations, but en­deavoring to do away with any evil in them. We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to subserve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth. Publicity can do no harm to the honest corporation; and we need not be over-tender about sparing the dishonest corporation."

To the Rev. Dr. W. S. Rainsford, of New York, who wrote him a letter criticizing the trust portions of his message as lacking in specific remedies, he replied, December 27, 1902:

"I thank you for your letter. You say it is difficult for the politicians in Washington to understand what is needed and not to be timid. I agree with you. But one of my main difficulties arises from the fact that thoroughly good outsiders do not understand what is possible to do or indeed what is done. I am glad you wrote frankly about my mes­sage. I know you expect me to write with equal frankness in return. Your letter was a genuine disappointment to me, because it showed you had misunderstood what most emphatically no man has a right to misunderstand. My message was absolutely clear. I spoke of the need of publicity. But are you aware that to make publicity an issue is mere nonsense unless I frame legislation, which will give us a chance to get it? Are you aware also of the ex­treme un-wisdom of my irritating Congress by fixing the details of a bill, concerning which they are very sensitive, instead of laying down a general policy? I said in my mes­sage just what I had said in my speeches, only I used the phraseology appropriate to the occasion. I went over every word with Attorney General Knox and went just as far as I thought we could with safety go. He and I are now in close consultation with the Congressional" commit­tees having the legislation in charge.

"Don't you think that you will get a better idea of what I am after if you remember that I am seeking to secure action by Congress rather than to establish a reputation as a stump exhorter?"

The President's sense of humor, for which he was accus­tomed to give devout thanks as a genuine "very present help in time of trouble," is revealed constantly in his let­ters. I append two samples. The first was to Secretary Hay on May 19, 1902:

Dear John:

The enclosed papers of A *BLANK* ,B *BLANK* in point of fervor

and number would quite justify his appointment as Secre­tary of State; but I understand he only wants the consul­ship at Fort Erie. Senator Platt and Congressman Alex­ander have nearly burst into tears at the thought of its going elsewhere—Congressman Alexander is listening to me as I pen this. If Hitt's man can be put elsewhere, can we not continue Erie as a feudal appanage of Buffalo?

Faithfully yours,

T. R.

The second was to Secretary Root on February 21, 1903, enclosing a letter of complaint:

To the Secretary of War:

This is austerely called to your attention by the Presi­dent, who would like a full and detailed explanation, if pos­sible with interjectional musical accompaniment, about the iniquity of making a promotion for the senior Senator from Maine and refusing to make one for the junior Senator. Your special attention is directed to the pathos of the con­cluding sentence of the junior Senator's letter. An early and inaccurate report is requested.

T. R.

A correspondence which took place early in 1903 between the President and Senator Platt, of New York, is of interest as defining the attitude which the President habitually took with all the Senators of his party in the matter of appoint­ments. He consulted them, and when they proposed to him men who met his test of character and fitness, he appointed them gladly, but as he said, in a letter already quoted in these pages: '' They may ordinarily name the men but I shall name the standard and the men have got to come up to it." He habitually exercised great care in the selec­tion of nominees for the bench, making inquiries in all directions from which trustworthy information could be derived, and reaching a decision only when he thought the best man had been found. He pursued this course in regard to a vacancy in the United States District Court in New York in 1903. When he had decided upon the man he informed Senator Platt of his selection. The Senator, who was then broken in health and broken also in political power, and who had presented a candidate of his own choice for the place, wrote a querulous, even peevish letter to the President, to which the latter replied at length on February 22, 1903, saying among other things:

"You say that you 'cannot with any degree of equanimity consent to the appointment of a man whose chief claim to recognition is his social standing and whose unfitness for appointment is known to nearly every member of the bar in New York—i. e., to every member of the bar who is active and potential in the practise of the law.' I do not see how you can feel thus in view of the endorsements I have re­ceived. (The names of a large number of eminent lawyers in New York are then given.)

"You say that 'if Mr. H.'s appointment follows this pro­test, I shall view it with absolute disgust. I shall, more­over, experience a diminution of that interest in public affairs that has been for so many years a vital element of my life.'

"This, my dear Senator, seems hardly worthy of you. I cannot believe that you seriously mean that if I should, after careful and conscientious thought, conclude to nomi­nate a man recommended as Mr. H. is recommended, and standing as high as I know him to stand, you would feel like losing interest in public affairs. My life has been much shorter than yours, yet I have seen a good many appoint­ments made to Federal position, during the last twenty years, of which I by no means approve. But it never oc­curred to me, on account of any or all of those appoint­ments, to refuse longer to take an interest in public affairs. It is, I trust, needless to say that I fully appreciate the right and duty of the Senate to reject or to confirm any appointment according to what its members conscientiously deem their duty to be; just as it is my business to make an appointment which I conscientiously think is a good one.

"Finally, my dear Senator, you say: 'If you cherish the belief that Mr. H. will be able to accomplish the political results that you have in mind, I simply wish to express the opinion that he cannot, and, moreover, will not, meet your expectations.'

"I am wholly at a loss to know what you mean by this sentence. The political results I shall have in mind if I appoint Mr. H. are those that I hope will follow the ap­pointment of a first class man whom the community in general and the bar in particular will accept as a first class man in point of character and ability, and whose appoint­ment they will feel reflects credit upon the bench. I do not see how bad political results can follow such action, and I should hope that on the whole the political results will be good. But I must frankly say that I feel, when the matter is one of the appointment of a judge, that the wisest and best politics is to appoint a thoroughly high grade man—if possible the best man obtainable. It is a matter of very keen regret to me that we seem unable to agree in this matter."

Three days later, February 28, 1903, he wrote again to the Senator, giving notice of his final decision:

"I have been going over and over that judgeship situation. I am convinced that the bar and the people generally who are best competent to judge feel that H. is by all means the better man, and I do not see how I can avoid sending in his name. Many of your strongest friends wish him. It is a matter of the greatest regret to me that our judgments on this point do not seem to agree. I would not for one moment act against your wishes if it was a matter of personal preference, but here my conception of duty seems to me to require that I should nominate him."

Writing at this period to William H. Taft, then Civil Governor of the Philippines, he gave, under date of March 13, 1903, this judicial estimate of the character and ser­vices of the Republican leaders in both houses of Congress:

"My experience for the last year and a half, including the two sessions of the last Congress and the special session of the Senate which has just closed, has made me feel re­spect and regard for Aldrich as one of that group of Sen­ators, including Allison, Hanna, Spooner, Platt, of Connec­ticut, Lodge and one or two others, who, together with men like the next Speaker of the House, Joe Cannon, are the most powerful factors in Congress. With every one of these men I at times differ radically on important ques­tions ; but they are the leaders, and their great intelligence and power and their desire in the last resort to do what is best for the government, make them not only essential to work with, but desirable to work with. Several of the lead­ers have special friends whom they desire to favor, or spe­cial interests with which they are connected and which they hope to serve. But, taken as a body, they are broadminded and patriotic, as well as sagacious, skilful and resolute. Each of them is set in his ways on certain points. Thus, with both Hanna and Aldrich I had to have a regular stand-up fight before I could get them to accept any trust legislation; but when I once got them to say they would give in, they kept their promise in good faith, and it was far more satisfactory to work with them than to try to work with the alleged radical reformers. Aldrich, for in stance, has shied off from a number of propositions in which I was interested, but if I thought the matter vital and brought it before him fair and square, I have always found him a reasonable man, open to conviction and a tower of strength when thus convinced."

A letter which the President wrote to Secretary Hay, on March 13,1903, reveals his consistent devotion to the Mon­roe doctrine and especially his determination to keep the German Government fully informed as to his position in regard to it:

"Speck (von Sternburg, German Ambassador) was in to-day, evidently inspired from Berlin to propose for our consideration in the future the advisability of having the great Powers collectively stand back of some syndicate which should take possession of the finances of Venezuela. His statement was that he believed such action would put a stop to the motive for revolution in Venezuela, would make the country peaceful and therefore more or less pros­perous, and would do away with the chance for a repetition of punitive expeditions by European powers to collect debts. He said he hoped America would take the initiative in such a movement, so that it could be begun with her in the lead. I told him I would not answer offhand but that at first blush my judgment was very strongly that our people would view with the utmost displeasure any such proposal, because it seemed to me that it would not only tend to produce complication among the guaranteeing powers but would pave the way for reducing Venezuela to a condition like that of Egypt, and that the American people interpreted the Monroe Doctrine as meaning of course that no European power should gain control of any American republics.''

At the end of March, 1903, the President left Washing­ton for a tour in the Western States, and on the eve of de­parture he sent these letters of advice and caution to two admirals of the navy:

March 28, 1903. To Admiral Henry C. Taylor:

"I am going away and I want you and everybody around the Department to help me in seeing that no chance is given ignorant, foolish or reckless newspaper men to make state­ments which tend to embroil us with foreign nations. The last thing I want to see done is an impression conveyed that we are boasting, or saying anything that will hurt the feel­ings of powers with which we are at peace, and with which I hope we will continue on terms of friendship. I want to see every step possible taken to make us the most formi­dable of foes in the event of war, and at the same time to make it equally evident that no one need fear a war with us unless from his own fault."

March 30, 1903. To Admiral George Dewey:

"Good-by and good luck to you while I am gone! Now, my dear Admiral, do let me beg of you to remember how great your reputation is—how widely whatever you say goes over the whole world. I know that you did not expect the interview you had to be printed, but do let me entreat you to say nothing which can be taken hold of by those anxious to foment trouble between ourselves and any foreign power or who delight in giving the impression that as a nation we are walking about with a chip on our shoulder. We are too big a people to be able to be careless in what we say."

Speaking to a great audience in Chicago on April 2,1903, the President said:

"I believe in the Monroe Doctrine with all my heart and soul; I am convinced that the immense majority of our fel­low-countrymen so believe in it; but I would infinitely prefer to see us abandon it than to see us put it forward and bluster about it, and yet fail to build up the efficient fighting strength which in the last resort can alone make it re­spected by any strong foreign power whose interest it may ever happen to be to violate it.

1' There is a homely old adage which runs: ' Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.' If the American nation will speak softly and yet build and keep at a pitch of the highest training a thoroughly efficient navy the Mon­roe Doctrine will go far."

The first mention of the "big stick" adage that I find in his correspondence is in a letter that he wrote while he was Governor of New York. During his Presidency the cartoonists of the daily press seized upon a part of it only and pictured him invariably with an immense club in his hand, oftentimes with spikes protruding from the sides of it. He was thus represented as the champion of the "Big Stick" policy in governmental administration, and in that forceful aspect he was placed continuously before the world.

During his Presidency I made collections of the press car­toons about him and took them to the White House with me on my occasional visits. Usually they were inspected by him in the presence of such members of the family as happened to be there and they were the cause of much merri­ment, he himself enjoying them as much as any one else. On one occasion, after a particularly large batch had been examined, he said,—I give his words from memory: "It is very curious. Ever since I have been in the Presidency I have been pictured constantly as a huge creature with enormous clenched teeth, a big spiked club, and a belt full of pistols—a blustering, roaring swashbuckler type of ruf­fian, and yet all the time I have been growing in popularity. I don't understand it at all."

The explanation seemed to me to be simple enough. All the cartoonists at heart liked him, and there was seldom or never anything bitter or really unfriendly in their por­trayals of him; they were uniformly good-natured. He, as I have said, genuinely enjoyed their productions and had many of the original drawings framed and placed on the bookcases in his library, both in the White House and at Oyster Bay.

Writing from the Far West to Senator Lodge, he gave an interesting glimpse of the movement which was on foot at the time to make Grover Cleveland the Democratic Presi­dential candidate for a third term:

May 4, 1903.—"I enjoyed meeting Cleveland for I like the old fellow. It is evident he has the Presidential bee in his bonnet, and it is equally evident that a large number of people are desirous of running him again. Bryan would bolt him, but in spite of this I think he would be a very formidable candidate. In North Dakota, for instance, they told me they thought he would run better than any other Democrat. So they did in Missouri and Iowa.

"I have been well received, indeed, I might say, enthusi­astically received. But, frankly, I have been too long in public life to be taken in by a good reception, and I have not the slightest idea how things really stand."

May 23, 1903.—"Most of the people out here believe that Cleveland will be nominated on the Democratic ticket, and that he will be a very formidable man to beat—probably the most formidable Democrat. If nominated he will drive certain Democrats away. For instance, the Governor of Nevada and the Mayor of Carson, both Democrats, told me that they should vote for me if Cleveland were nominated; but I find that Pierpont Morgan and other Wall Street men have been announcing openly within the past fortnight that they should support Mr. Cleveland against me with all their power. They would draw a great many votes both from the honest rich and the fool respectable classes."

The President had appointed as District Attorney for the State of Delaware, Mr. William M. Byrne, concerning whom there had been a heated partisan controversy be­cause of his relations with political factional quarrels in the State. In a letter to him, on March 23, 1903, the Presi­dent said:

"I have named you as District Attorney. Now there is one thing, and one thing only, that I demand. That is, that you keep clear of factional politics, and indeed do just as little political work as possible, and confine your attention to making the best record as district attorney that has been made by any district attorney of Delaware. There must not be a single legitimate or well-founded complaint against you. You will of course show neither fear nor favor in anything you do. Any offender of any kind whose case may be brought to your attention, or whom you can reach, is to be prosecuted with absolute indifference as to whether he is Republican or Democrat, Addicks man or anti-Addicks man. I have liked you and I think well of you, but under the circumstances of your appointment and the way in which it was fought, I have a right to demand that you walk even more guardedly than the ordinary public official walks, and that you show yourself a model officer in point of fearlessness and integrity, industry and ability.

"The question of your confirmation will come up when the Senate reconvenes. You can help yourself in it more than any other man can possibly help you; and you can help yourself only by making a record which will be a just source of pride to you and to me."

In accordance with the recommendation of the President in his first message to Congress, repeated in subsequent messages, Congress passed in February, 1903, an act cre­ating a Department of Commerce and Labor, including a Bureau of Corporations, and the act was approved on February 19. The first head of it, George B. Cortelyou, who had been Secretary to the President, was appointed two days later.

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