16. The “Bull Moose” Party

Now to you men, who, in your turn, have come together to spend and be spent in the endless crusade against wrong, to you who face the future resolute and confident, to you who strive in a spirit of brotherhood for the betterment of our nation, to you who gird yourselves for this great new fight in the never-ending warfare for the good of humankind, I say in closing...We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord. - Theodore Roosevelt, National Convention of the Progressive Party, Chicago, Illinois.

The Republicans asked him to refuse the nomination for President if it came. “I told them that I emphatically did not want the nomination, and should regard it as a misfortune if it came, and that I did not believe there was any chance of its coming, but that I should certainly not definitely state that if it did come in the form of a duty I would refuse to perform the duty,” he said. In other words, he would not announce that he would refuse the nomination if offered.1
He said:

If at this particular crisis, with the particular problems ahead of us at this particular time, the people feel that I am the one man in sight to do the job, then I should regard myself as shirking a plain duty if I refused to do it...for often it is true that at a given moment there is one tool, one instrument particularly available, and then that instrument must be used even though to use it necessarily means to break it.2

Governors, newspaper editors and other people visited or wrote to him urging him to become a candidate. When seven progressive governors wrote him, he felt a responsibility to try to take the nomination from Taft. “I will accept the nomination for President if it is tendered to me, and I will adhere to this decision until the convention has expressed its preference.” Root thought Roosevelt was beginning to think of himself as some sort of Messiah. Edith was so upset that she took Ethel to South America. 3

In Columbus, Ohio, a reporter asked him if he was in the race. He invented a new and enduring political phrase when he answered, “My hat is in the ring.” 4

He did not expect to get the Republican nomination. “Do not get the idea into your head that I am going to win in this fight,” he wrote a friend. “It was a fight that had to be made and there was no alternative to my making it.”5

In almost every state where there were primaries, Roosevelt was the winner. He went to the Republican convention in Chicago saying that he felt “like a bull moose.”

President Taft was renominated with 547 votes against 107 for Roosevelt and 41 for LaFollette.6

Nicholas and Archie didn’t understand why T.R. hadn’t won. They “cornered T.R. and cross-questioned him about the political situation.” T.R. told them that the current delegate system did not work since it was controlled by the party bosses. That is why he favored direct primaries. It was “the lesser of two evils.” “If the people of the country could have voted as they felt, [I] would have four-fifths of the country. But the bosses control everything.”7

T.R.’s followers left the Republican convention in Chicago and formed the Progressive Party, nicknamed the “Bull Moose” Party. Jane Adams campaigned for the Progressive Party, which offered votes for women, the eight-hour-day and legislation to protect laborers. She secured his nomination with her speech which said in part:

A great party has pledged itself to the protection of children, to the care of the aged, to the relief of overworked girls, to the safe guarding of burdened men...
I second the nomination of Theodore Roosevelt because he is one of the few men in our public life who has been responsive to the social appeal and who has caught the significance of the modern movement.8

“The Progressive Party believes,” he said, “that this is a government of the people, to be used for the people, so as to better the condition of the average man and average woman of the nation...We are for the people’s rights.” 9

“I like power. But I care nothing to be President as President. I am interested in these ideas of mine and I want to carry them through, and I feel that I am the one to carry them through,” he said.10

He called for the direct election of U.S. senators, preferential primaries in presidential years, votes for women, a federal securities commission, regulation of trusts, reduced tariffs, workers compensation, safety and health standards in industry, the creation of a national health service, the construction of national highways, the imposition of a graduated income tax, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, abolition of child labor and pure food and drug laws. 11

He was dumbfounded at the enthusiasm displayed for him at the Progressive convention in August. “A spirit of religious fervor” seemed to have taken hold of his followers. He considered it “one of the triumphs of his life.” The members sang hymns and patriotic songs. When Roosevelt appeared they cheered for nearly an hour.12

He aroused a religious fervor when his voice rang out:

win or lose, we shall not falter. Whatever fate may at the moment overtake any of us, the movement itself will not stop. Our cause is based on the eternal principle of righteousness13...you men who...have come together to spend and be spent in the endless crusade against wrong, to you who face the future resolute and confident, to you who strive in a spirit of brotherhood for the betterment of our nation, to you who gird yourselves for this great new fight in the never-ending warfare for the good of mankind, I say in closing...We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord.14

He was fighting evil. He was fighting, as Revelations 19:19 says, “the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against [the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords].” Armageddon is the last great battle at the end of the world. Evil to him was the Romanoffs, the Russian royalty, uncontrolled capitalism, anything that persecutes the laboring class and causes them to revolt. If conditions did not improve, he felt that there would be a revolution. “If the Romanoffs of our social and industrial world are kept at the head of our Government the result will be Bolshevism, and Bolshevism means disaster to liberty, writ large across the face of this continent.”15 One need only look at the effects of the Russian revolution and communism to see that he was right. T.R. began the fight for worker’s rights that prevented a similar revolution from happening here.

At Carnegie Hall he spoke these words:

I am not leading this fight as a matter of aesthetic pleasure. I am leading because somebody must lead, or else the fight would not be made at all...we need leaders of inspired idealism, leaders to whom are granted great visions, who dream greatly and strive to make their dreams come true; who can kindle the people with the fire from their own burning souls...[they are but instruments] to be used until broken and then to be cast aside....In the long fight for righteousness the watchword for all of us is spend and be spent. It is of little matter whether any one man fails or succeeds; but the cause shall not fail, for it is the cause of mankind.

Crowds roared. They couldn’t resist the man. He felt like he was “walking like a gladiator to the lions” when he faced these frenzied crowds.16

The doctrines we preach reach back to the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount. They reach back to the commandments delivered at Sinai. All that we are doing is to apply those doctrines in the shape necessary to make them available for meeting the living issues of our own day.17

His speeches had a religious meaning and people felt encouraged to regard him as kind of a prophet. They all became emotional during his speeches, caught up in the religious aspect of them.

He aims “at a leadership far in the future, as a sort of Moses and Messiah,” said Henry Adams.

Taft made an anti-Roosevelt speech in Boston and wept afterwards. “He was my best friend,” Taft said.18

Taft said Roosevelt “appeals to their imagination; I do not. He is a really vivid person, whom they have seen and shouted themselves hoarse over and voted for, millions strong.” 19

One relative said to Roosevelt, “In the old days you were the progressive leader of the conservatives, and now you are the conservative leader of the progressives.” To which T.R. replied, “Yes, yes! That’s it! I have to hold them in check all the time. I’ve got to restrain them.” 20

Assassination Attempt
Now, friends, I am not speaking for myself at all. I give you my word, I do not care a rap about being shot; not a rap. - Theodore Roosevelt, at Milwaukee

In Milwaukee Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a disgruntled saloon keeper from his Police Commissioner days. The bullet hit his steel glasses case and a thickly folded copy of his speech. T.R. fell back but got back up. “Don’t hurt him,” he said, probably saving the man’s life. He looked into the man’s eyes and said, “Take him away.” Then he spit into his hand to see if he was bleeding from his lungs. Seeing no blood, he insisted on making his next speech. 21

When he got to the auditorium he said, “I will make this speech, or die, one way or the other!” 22

The presiding officer said, “I have something to tell you and I hope you will receive the news with calmness. Colonel Roosevelt has been shot. He is wounded.” Cries of horror could be heard. T.R. stood there in his blood soaked shirt and said, “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!” There were cries of “Oh, no!”

He held up the speech. “There is where the bullet went through--and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech but I will try my best.”

“I want you to understand that I am ahead of the game anyway. No man has had a happier life than I have led; a happier life in every way.” 23

He spoke for another hour and a half amid pleas to seek medical attention. After about twenty-five minutes an observer noticed that his voice “was much feebler than normal. He was swaying from side to side as if he might at any moment collapse or fall. They had stationed a man in front of him, one in back of him, and one on each side to catch him in case he should fall.”24

Later the New York Herald had a cartoon of T.R. waving his bullet riddled speech. It said, “We are against his politics, but we like his grit.”25

The manuscript and glasses case had deflected the bullet and it went outside the ribs and into the muscle. It otherwise would have hit his heart.26 “It certainly did not touch a lung and isn‘t a particle more serious than one of the injuries any of the boys used continually to be having,” he told Edith. When he finally went to the hospital, the doctors ordered absolute rest in order to prevent infection.

“I did not care a rap for being shot,” he wrote Spring-Rice. “It is a trade risk, which every prominent public man ought to accept as a matter of course. For eleven years I have been prepared any day to be shot.”27

“I am practically all right again; and felt a little like the old maid who, when she at last discovered a man under the bed, seized him and said, “You’re the burglar I have been looking for for these last twenty years.”28 The Reform Republicans voted for Roosevelt but the Democrats stuck with Wilson.

Wilson won with 6,301,254 votes. Roosevelt had 4,127,788 and Taft was third with 3,485,831.

“We have fought the good fight, we have kept the faith, and we have nothing to regret,” T.R. said. 29
He also said:

I steadily strove to be loyal to my ideals and yet to strive to realize them in practical fashion. I always tried to administer each office well. I never did one thing personally that was not as straight as a string; and, where I had to work with other men, I tried my best to get the common results of as high a quality as possible, without insisting upon so much that it would mean a break-up with my associates. On a big scale I handle things just as I tried to handle them on a smaller scale...I was on the whole successful...as President, I was able to do a great deal that I wished to do. This was done merely because I utilized the reformers without letting them grow perfectly wild-eyed; and I yet kept in some kind of relations with the machine men, so as to be on a living basis with them, although I had to thwart them at every turn...There is just one element of relief to me in the smash that came to the Progressive party. We did not have many practical men with us. Under such circumstances the reformers tended to go into sheer lunacy. I now can preach the doctrines of labor and capital just as I did when I was President, without being hampered by the well-meant extravagances of so many among my Progressive friends.30

In 1914 Theodore felt that the majority of Americans were sick and tired of him. As far as him ever being in politics again he said, “my duty for the time being is to obey the directions of the New Bedford whaling captain when he told his mate that all he wanted from him was ‘silence; and damn little of that!’” He felt that it was time for him to leave politics “and leave the ground clear for the development of a successor.”31

He knew he was not likely to get the Republican nomination in 1916. He had broken from the Republican party in 1912 and they still held it against him. The Republicans nominated Hughes. The Progressives chose Roosevelt, but he turned them down. His telegram was read at the Progressive Convention. “I am very grateful for the honor you confer on me by nominating me as president. I cannot accept it at this time....”

Roosevelt campaigned for Hughes who stood for preparedness and progressiveness:

We must stand not only for America First but for America first, last, and all the time and without any second....We can be true to mankind at large only if we are true to ourselves. If we are false to ourselves, we shall be false to everything else...We stand for Peace, but only for the Peace that comes as a right to the just man armed, and not for the Peace which the coward purchases by abject submission to wrong. The Peace of cowardice leads in the end to war after a record of shame.32

Roosevelt still wanted to make his voice heard, to influence Americans in some way. He continued to write and lecture to “[awaken] my fellow country men to the need of facing unpleasant facts.” He wanted to continue to preach on Progressive ideals and on Americanism and preparedness.

“I am interested in the triumph of the great principles for which with all my heart and soul I have striven and shall continue to strive,” he wrote.33

He thought the Progressives were way ahead of their time. They were “way ahead of the country as a whole in morality.” They were just too spiritually advanced for most people. What they had done, he felt, was worthwhile. He also felt that eventually their ideals would triumph and be adopted by the government.34

Wilson was re-elected and Franklin Roosevelt became Assistant Secretary of the Navy. T.R. wrote him saying, “It is interesting to see that you are in another place which I myself once held. I am sure you will enjoy yourself to the full..., and that you will do capital work.”