12. DOMESTIC POLICY
I had grown to realize very keenly that the duty of the Government to protect women and children must be extended to include the protection of all the crushable elements of labor. I saw that it was the affair of all our people to see that justice obtained between the big corporation and its employees and between the big corporation and its smaller rivals, as well as its customers and the general public. - Theodore Roosevelt, Autobiography
Justin Kaplan, Lincoln Steffens biographer, said that Roosevelt kept the center and left together. T.R. wanted reform, but he knew that if he asked for extreme reforms, he wouldnt get them. Therefore, he started with changing the working conditions of Federal workers and District of Columbia employees. He invoked the eight-hour day, the 48 hour week, the minimum wage and workmens compensation. He abolished child labor in the District of Columbia. (There were no child laborers in DC, but he did it to provide an example.) The point was to make the Federal Government a model employer.
The Giver of Good, he said in 1904, had richly endowed the American people. The conditions which have told for our marvelous material well being...have also brought the care and anxiety inseparable from the accumulation of great wealth in industrial centers. The welfare of America and perhaps the world depended upon dealing properly with the inequalities produced by capitalism. If we fail, the cause of free self-government will rock to its foundations. 1
Capitalism had brought with it slums, crime and political corruption. Big business had control of Congress. Corporate leaders could not care less about the working conditions of their employees.
In the early months of his Presidency, Theodore was warned to taper off his talk of reform. To a degree he did, and Mr. Dooley summed it up:
th trusts, says he, are heejoous monsthers built up be th inlightened intherprise iv th men that have done so much to advance progress in our beloved counthry, he says. On wan hand I wud stamp thim undher fut; on th other hand not so fast. 2
Still, Theodore, according to his biographer William Harbaugh, cautiously but steadily pursued the course to which I have been publicly committed.
J.P. Morgan attempted to combine three railroads into the Northern Securities Company. I ordered proceedings to be instituted for the dissolution of the company, T.R. wrote.3 Theodores Attorney General (with no warning, except for, as Harbaugh put it, the logic of Theodore Roosevelts career) immediately announced his intention to prosecute the Company. If we have done anything wrong, said J.P. Morgan to the President, send your man to my man and they can fix it up. Theodore resented the implication that he was just another big businessman. He was the President of the United States, trying to uphold the law, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. He declined to negotiate with Mr. Morgan.4
James J. Hill said, It really seems hard that we should be compelled to fight for our lives against the political adventurers who have never done anything but pose and draw a salary. J.P. Morgan said, Roosevelt had not acted as a gentleman. Wall Street is paralyzed at the thought that a President of the United States would sink so low as to try to enforce the law, the Detroit Free Press wrote.5 Roosevelt had acted in order to weaken the hold that big business had on government. The Supreme Court later upheld his decision by a five to four majority.6
After this...decision was rendered, suits were brought by my direction against the American Tobacco Company and the Standard Oil Company, Roosevelt wrote later.7
Theodore Roosevelt has subjugated Wall Street, proclaimed Pulitzer, a Democrat and owner of The World.8 If Roosevelt had never done anything else, and if he had committed a hundred times more mistakes, and if he were one hundred times more impulsive, changeable, unpresidential in dignity, loud and vociferating in manner and speech - ...if he had done nothing else except to start the great machinery of the government and the most powerful force and majesty of the law in the direction of prosecuting these great offenders, he would be entitled to the greatest credit for the greatest service to the nation.9
Occasionally great national crises arise which call for immediate and vigorous executive action, and that in such cases it is the duty of the President to act upon the theory that he is the steward of the people, and that the proper attitude for him to take is that he is bound to assume that he has the legal right to do whatever the needs of the people demand, unless the Constitution or the laws explicitly forbid him to do it. - Theodore Roosevelt, Autobiography
A national emergency arose when the coal miners went out on strike. There was only one coal seller, coal prices were rising sharply and winter was fast approaching. School houses are closing for lack of fuel...and it is fast getting to the point where coal can not be had at any price, complained Lodge, who was in Massachusetts.10 The President needed to do something about it. I am at my wits end how to proceed, Theodore wrote.11 To ignore this crisis was to invite tragedy.
Roosevelt wrote later:
The coal famine became a National menace as the winter approached...The Governor of Massachusetts and the Mayor of New York both notified me, as the cold weather came on, that if the coal famine continued the misery throughout the Northeast, and especially in the great cities, would become appalling, and the consequent public disorder so great that frightful consequences might follow.12
Theodore did not think there was anything he could do. The coal operators were not a trust. The national government had no power to do anything.13 But, he told his sister later, I could no more see misery and death come to the great masses of the people in our large cities and sit by idly, because under ordinary conditions a strike is not a subject for interference by the President, than I could sit by idly and see one man kill another without interference because there is no statutory duty imposed upon the President to interfere in such cases.14
On October first he asked the leader of the operators and the leader of the United Mine Workers to meet with him.
John Mitchell, the leader of the mine workers, spoke simply and asked Roosevelt to appoint a tribunal to arbitrate the strike. The operators spokesman was outraged at this suggestion and he, in a most insolent frame of mind, criticized and insulted both the President and Mr. Mitchell. John Mitchell remained polite and calm and Roosevelt wrote There was only one man in that conference who behaved like a gentleman and that man was not I.
That night Roosevelt felt he had failed miserably. I have tried and failed, he wrote Hanna. As usual, when troubled, he turned to Lincoln for inspiration. Just as Lincoln got contradictory advice from the extremists of both sides at every phase of the struggle for unity and freedom, so I now have carefully to guard myself against the extremists of both sides, he wrote.15
Roosevelt had a backup plan. If necessary, he would send federal troops in to run the mines. What about the Constitution...What about seizing private property for public purpose without due process of law? exclaimed Representative James E. Watson when told of this plan. Watson recalled very vividly that Roosevelt stopped suddenly, took hold of my shoulder and turned me about facing him and looked squarely into my eyes as he fairly shouted, The Constitution was made for the people and not the people for the Constitution.16 The first long-continued spell of bitter weather meant misery and violence in acute form in our big cities, T.R. wrote later.17 Governor Stone of Pennsylvania was standing by, ready to request federal troops on his signal.
The next day the miners asked that the President name a commission and put one of the mine workers on it. The operators would not accept this. They wanted a commission of five men with no representative of labor. They made the condition that I was to appoint one officer of the engineer corps of the army or navy, one man with experience of mining, one man of prominence, eminent as a sociologist, one Federal judge of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and one mining engineer, Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography.
The operators would not back down. They would rather see civil unrest, misery and violence than allow a worker to serve on the Commission.
For two hours Roosevelt tried to reason with them. Then he suddenly had a thought. What they were objecting to was the title. Roosevelt could appoint any man he wanted to the commission as long as he did not call him a representative of labor. All that was necessary for me to do was to commit a technical and nominal absurdity with a solemn face. This I gladly did. I announced at once that I accepted the terms laid down. He appointed the labor man I had all along had in view, a Mr. E.E. Clark calling him an eminent sociologist...I added to the Arbitration Commission, on my own authority, a sixth member, in the person of Bishop Spalding, a Catholic bishop, of Peoria, Ill....The man whom the operators had expected me to appoint as the sociologist was Carroll Wright--who really was an eminent sociologist. I put him on as recorder...and added him as a seventh member as soon as the Commission got fairly started.
One of the members of the commission said, [Roosevelt] acted promptly and courageously, and in so doing averted the danger...I do not think that any President ever acted more wisely, courageously or promptly in a national crisis. Mr. Roosevelt deserves unstinted praise for what he did.18
The laborers went back to work while the commission investigated the situation. As a result of the investigation, the workers got a 10% increase in their wages and shorter hours.
Theodore realized that unions were beneficent and necessary for attaining a political democracy in the United States. He felt that:
the labor problem is a human and a moral as well as an economic problem; that a fall in wages, an increase in hours, a deterioration of labor conditions mean wholesale moral as well as economic degeneration, and the needless sacrifice of human lives and human happiness, while a rise of wages, a lessening of hours, a bettering of conditions, mean an intellectual, moral and social uplift of millions of American men and women...They fail to see that all these men have the right and the duty to combine to protect themselves and their families from want and degradation...the Nation and the Government...must inevitably sympathize with the men who have nothing but their wages, with the men who are struggling for a decent life, as opposed to men, however honorable, who are merely fighting for larger profits and an autocratic control of big business.19
Jacob Riis had shown him the terrible condition in which millions of Americans were living. T.R. wanted to improve their lot and knew that there must be government action in order to do so. He felt it was the governments duty to protect women and children and all crushable elements of labor. Complete freedom for the individual, T.R. said, turned out in practice to mean perfect freedom for the strong to wrong the weak.20
By frightfully aggressive missionary work which included some uncommonly plain speaking he succeeded in a large part in overthrowing the attitude that the welfare of the laborer should be subordinate to the pocketbook of the man who employs him.21 He wanted the Federal Government to be an example of how to treat employees. At least now, government employees would have the rights other workers could only dream of at that time.
An eight hour day law was put into effect in the District of Columbia. More than eight hours meant, on the average, a decrease in the qualities that tell for good citizenship.22 He developed laws protecting the health of motormen and conductors on street railways in the District, laws for the safety of factory employees in the District, a child labor law, and a workmens compensation law for Government employees. He started an investigation of women and child labor in the United States. He worked on making railways engaged in Inter-State commerce responsible for injuries or deaths of employees while on duty.23 My purpose was to make the National Government itself a model employer of labor, he wrote later.
What is needed is the fundamental fight for morality, he said. What was needed was that capital shall be fair...fair to the consumer, fair to the laborer, fair to the investor [while conceding] that the laws shall be executed.24
There are very many excellent people who have lived softly, and who have no idea of what it is all ones life to earn ones living by toil, and then, without having been able to save, to face failing strength at the end of ones days. In 1904 T.R. increased the pension for Union veterans. F.D.R. agreed with his reasoning and thirty-one years later created a pension fund for civilians.25
He spoke worriedly of language of such reactionary type as directly to incite revolution--for this is what the extreme reactionary always does.26 We do not intend that this Republic shall ever fail as those republics of olden times failed, in which there finally came to be a government by classes, which resulted either in the poor plundering the rich or in the rich exploiting the poor, he said.27 The trend Theodore started towards fair treatment of workers continues to this day. The revolution he predicted failed to occur. During the 1930s when the Depression raged out of control and people were starving, his distant cousin, Franklin prevented a possible revolution by offering hope, and a New Deal. But the seeds of change were sown by Theodore.
The Interpreter takes them apart again, and has them first into a Room where was a Man that could look no way but downwards, with a Muck-rake in his hand. - John Bunyan, The Pilgrims Progress
Roosevelt made an off-the-record Gridiron speech where he complained about a group of writers who were only concerned with that which is vile and debasing. I want to let in light and air, he said, but I do not want to let in sewer gas. A month later he publicly said that the muckrakers make gross and reckless assaults on character. They are dedicated to financial or political profit. They see the whole world as nothing but muck.
Now, it is very necessary that we should not flinch from seeing what is vile and debasing. There is filth on the floor, and it must be scraped up with the muckrake; and there are times and places where this service is the most needed of all the services that can be performed. But the man who never does anything else, who never thinks or speaks or writes save of his feats with the muckrake, speedily becomes, not a help to society, not an incitement to good, but one of the most potent forces of evil...28
An editorial in American Magazine declared that the muckraker motivated by the money and power that circulation brings always hopes for the worst.29
Mr. Dooley said, But now whin I pick me favorite magazine off th flure, what do I find? Ivrything has gone wrong. Th wurruld is little betther thin a convicts camp.30
Lincoln Steffans, the muckraker whom Roosevelt advised to put more sky in his landscape,31 came to Washington to do a series on the federal government. Roosevelt gave him a letter addressed to any officer of or employee of the Government:
Please tell Mr. Lincoln Steffens anything whatever about the running of the government that you know (not incompatible with the public interests) and provided only that you tell him the truth--no matter what it may be--I will see that you are not hurt.
The federal officials revealed very little to Steffans thinking that most of the interesting information was incompatible with the public interests. Besides, Theodore had signed his name T. Roosevelt (instead of Theodore Roosevelt), something he only did on documents he felt uncomfortable signing. As a result, Steffans reports lacked color and interest. Anyone could have written these, said his editors. They wanted the true Steffans back. Once the assignment was over, Steffans went back to his unique style of writing.
Another muckraker, Upton Sinclair, wrote The Jungle, which dealt with unfair treatment of workers. He never meant for it to be an expose of the meat-packing industry. I aimed at the publics heart, Sinclair said, and by accident I hit it in the stomach. It told how festering beef, sickly swine, poisoned rats and even human remains went into food products sold to the public. People worked near open vats which were nearly at floor level. When they fell in, as they sometimes would, they would be overlooked for days until everything but the bones had gone out into the world as Durhams Pure Leaf Lard.33 (I havent been able to ate annything more nourishin thin a cucumber in a week, said Mr. Dooley. How did it all come about? A young fellow wrote a book.) When Sinclair was trying to find a publisher with little luck, Steffens said, The things you tell are unbelievable. I have a rule in my own work: I dont tell things that are unbelievable even when they are true.34
As a result of Sinclairs book, Roosevelt had the meat-packing industry investigated. Conditions were hideous, said Roosevelt. I was at first so indignant that I resolved to send in the full report to Congress. But he decided he should not make the full report public...[unless] it were necessary in order to secure the remedy. To get the meat inspection act passed, he finally had to release part of the report, inferring that the rest would follow if the amendment were not passed. It was passed with no further delay. The government agreed to bear the cost of the inspections.35 The pure food and drug law was signed the very same day.36 The railroad rate bill, meat inspection bill and pure food bill, taken together mark a noteworthy advance in the policy of securing Federal supervision and control of corporations, T.R. said later.37
Thinking that English and American spelling was confusing he decided to thoroly change it. Ninety percent of the changes were in place as alternative spellings. Honour could be spelled as honor, parlour as parlor, labour as labor, colour as color. There was also a movement on to remove the French influence in such words as omelette (omelet), catalogue (catalog), centre (center), sabre (saber), fibre (fiber). The new spelling dropped double letters. Waggon became wagon. But it dropped the ed at the end of words which was more than some people could take. Clapped became clapt, dashed dasht, dropped dropped the extra p and the ed and became dropt. Lopped was lopped to lopt. Fixed became fixt. Though became tho, thorough became thoro, through became thru. This resulted in a huge outcry. English scholars said he was abusing the Kings English. Others charged that he was in collusion with publishers who wanted to create more jobs by reprinting dictionaries and school books. The Baltimore Sun asked, How will he spell his own name? Will he make it Rusevelt or will he get down to the fact and spell it Butt-in-sky One writer said that the Presidents name should be written Rucefelt, the first silabel riming with goose. The Supreme Court ruled that any citation of a previous decision which invokes the new spelling was not a literal quotation. Congress attached an amendment to an appropriation measure which said, In printing documents authorized by law or ordered by Congress, the Government printing office shall follow the rules of orthography established by Websters or other generally accepted dictionaries of the English language.38 Theodore said, I could not by fighting have kept the new spelling in, and it was evidently worse than useless to go into an undignified contest when I was beaten...But I am mighty glad I did the thing anyhow. In my own correspondence I shall continue using the new spelling. 39 And he did.40
Race and Religion
He tried to make his administration reflect the mixture of races, religions and nationalities that was the United States. I am President of all the people of the United States, without regard to creed, color, birth place, occupation or social condition. My aim is to do equal and exact justice as among them all, he wrote Lodge.41 He appointed Catholic labor union men, white Southern Democrats and Negro Southern Republicans to important positions. He himself had no prejudice against recent immigrants and wanted to erase in the minds of the people any prejudice they might feel. I have one Catholic in my Cabinet and have had another, and I now have a Jew in the Cabinet; and part of my object in each appointment was to implant in the minds of our fellow-Americans of Catholic or of Jewish faith, or of foreign ancestry or birth, the knowledge that they have in this country just the same rights and opportunities as every one else.42
He more gingerly approached the question of the African American. He was shocked by the lynchings which occurred in the South and he wanted the lives of Negroes to be comfortable. But he realized that few white people felt the Negro was their equal. He may himself have felt Negroes werent equal to Whites. But there obviously were Negroes who were vastly superior in intelligence, creativity and in every way to white people. Theodore Roosevelt judged each man individually on his own merit, regardless of race or religion.
I have not been able to think out any solution of the terrible problem offered by the presence of the Negro on this continent, but of one thing I am sure, and that is that inasmuch as he is here and can neither be killed nor driven away, the only wise and honorable and Christian thing to do is to treat each black man and each white man strictly on his merits as a man, giving him no more and no less than he shows himself worthy to have. I say I am sure that this is the right solution. Of course I know that we see through a glass dimly, and, after all, it may be that I am wrong; but if I am, then all my thoughts and beliefs are wrong, and my whole way of looking at life is wrong. At any rate, while I am in public life, however short a time that may be, I am in honor bound to act up to my beliefs and convictions. I do not intend to offend the prejudices of any one else, but neither do I intend to allow their prejudices to make me false to my principles.43
He decided to invite Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House. T.R. admired him. Booker Washington...was a genius such as does not arise in a generation, he wrote later. Washington had written a popular autobiography called Up from Slavery. It concerned his rise from a nine-year-old slave to a great teacher and founder of the first Negro College for teachers.
This was the kind of person Theodore admired. This was a person who had fought against all odds to become a well-respected teacher and writer. He often invited writers to the White House. This was someone he was really interested in talking to.
When the papers reported that Booker T. Washington had had dinner with the President in the White House, Northerners didnt pay much attention but Southerners were outraged.
The Memphis Scrimitar said Roosevelt committed the most damnable outrage ever perpetrated by any citizen of the United States when he invited a nigger to dine with him at the White House.44
Theodore couldnt understand the fuss. I never much thought about it at the time, he said. It seemed to me so natural and so proper.45 Not wanting to offend half the voters in the country, he never did it again. He and Lodge were both saddened and disappointed by the affair. But [the Southerners] surely will learn and we must go on hoping, Cabot wrote reassuringly.46
Lincoln Lang described a scene he witnessed in the 1880s:
It was now well into April. Ever since we had left Fargo, North Dakota, we had been seeing wild fowl flying northward in large numbers, but these were as nothing to the legions we were seeing now. Following the general course of the Missouri River, it seemed as if all the aquatic birds in the world were making their way northward. Flying low, so close together as to be barely able to maintain their V-shaped formations, and, as far as the eye could reach, they were coming and going in untold numbers. Clearly, above the rumble of the train, we could hear a pandemonium of honking and quacking as they passed overhead.47
By 1900 only a fraction of the wild birds remained. Because of the disappearance of the birds, because game had been hunted out, because of the need to harness water power and the need for irrigation, President Theodore Roosevelt became a crusader for conservation.
Nature had given so much to Theodore. He wanted to preserve it so it could help future generations as it had helped him.
Even as governor of New York he tried to save land for the future enjoyment of Americans.
Gifford Pinchot, the moving and directing spirit in most of the work on conservation done during Roosevelts Presidency,48 remembered stopping in Albany for an overnight visit. Roosevelts children were playing that the mansion was under attack by Indians. Roosevelt himself was lowering the children, one by one, out of a window on the second floor. After all the children had reached safety, Pinchot and the governor had a boxing match, which Pinchot won. Then, and only then, did they discuss forestry.49 Pinchot was directed to draft the part of Roosevelts first message to Congress that concerned forestry. It was a Heaven-sent chance, Pinchot said.
The fundamental idea of forestry is the perpetuation of forests by use, Roosevelt said in his message to Congress. He recommended selective cutting and storage dams too vast for private effort to finance. It was up to the National, not State, government to do this.
Dams were needed in arid regions to store water. Roosevelt attacked the idea of private ownership of water that passes through privately owned land.
On December 19, 1901, he urged Congress to create a national forest reserve in the Appalachians. On June 17, 1902, an irrigation and reclamation measure was signed into law. This bill, called the Newlands bill, authorized the use of revenues from land sales for the construction of reservoirs and irrigation works. Because of the Newlands bill, thirty irrigation projects were in progress when Roosevelt left office in 1909. He used his formidable speaking talents to promote the cause of conservation. William Harbaugh writes, There followed such an era of enlightenment as the nation had never before experienced and would not again see until Franklin Roosevelt, himself nurtured on Theodores conservation theories, came to power. 50
We were able to accomplish an immense amount of work for the public through volunteer unpaid commissions appointed by the President, Theodore wrote later.51 Citizens willingly served on commissions without pay. The Inland Waterways Commission proposed the theory that every stream is a unit from its source to its mouth and its various uses are interrelated. The Tennessee Valley Authority of the New Deal took this as its premise. 52
The Inland Waterways Commission suggested improvements to navigation, development of water power, irrigation of dry lands, how to protect low lands from flooding and plans to supply water to homes and businesses. The time has come for merging local projects and uses of the inland waters in a comprehensive plan designed for the benefit of the whole country, said Theodore.53
As a result of a study of the proposed Appalachian National Forest, experimental planting of trees was begun. More study was done of the forests in various states and the results of the studies were made available to the public in printed bulletins at a very low cost. This helped publicize the cause of conserving the forests. 54
The Agriculture Appropriations Bill
The opponents of the Forest Service turned handsprings in their wrath; and dire were their threats against the Executive. - Theodore Roosevelt, Autobiography
The agriculture appropriations bill was amended to prevent the creation of new forest reserves in six Northwestern states. Theodore had ten days to sign or reject the bill. He didnt want to reject it. Gifford Pinchot, who was the head of the Forest Service, knew exactly what lands in the six states he wanted to protect:
Our field force had already gathered practically all the facts. Speedily it supplied the rest. Our office force worked straight through, some of them for thirty-six and even forty-eight hours on end, to finish the job.55
Pinchot quickly drew up an executive order preserving 16 million acres and the President signed it. Two days later he signed the agriculture appropriations bill.
If I did not act, Roosevelt said, reserves which I consider very important for the interests of the United States would be wholly in or in part dissipated.56 Roosevelt wrote that the opponents of the Forest Service turned handsprings in their wrath. 57 But when the Senators called on him to express their outrage, one noticed a twinkle in Roosevelts eyes. [He] could nurse his wrath no longer, wrote Nicholas Roosevelt. He broke into a hearty laugh, joined by all but one of the other Senators, and extending his hand cordially said: It isnt any use! We came to jump all over you, but we cant say anything other than that you put a good one over on us this time!58
Failure on my part to sign these proclamations would mean that immense tracts of valuable timber would fall into the hands of the lumber syndicates, wrote Theodore later. 59
National Conservation Congress
Because Congress would not appropriate money for two of his Commissions, he appealed to the Governors. He called a National Conservation Congress. The governors agreed in this meeting that natural resources exist for the benefit of the People. They recommended that each state appoint a Commission on the Conservation of Natural Resources which would inventory that states natural resources.60
Within a year most states had established their own Conservation programs and most citizens had become aware of the importance of conservation.61
Because of the success of the Governors conference, Roosevelt decided to hold a North American Conservation Conference. That conference recommended that all nations should be invited to join together in a conference to discuss inventory, conservation and wise utilization of world resources. Unfortunately the project was dropped after Roosevelt left office. 62
In spite of violent opposition from Congress, from water power companies, railroads and crooked special interests, he did much to, as he put it, prevent the looting of public lands. He withdrew coal lands, oil lands and water power sites from private use.63 He regulated railroads which had rights in the National Forests. Power use was regulated in the National Forests and a charge was collected for value received.64 We have a duty, he said, to protect ourselves and our children against the wasteful development of our natural resources.65
T.R.s love of nature led him to fight to preserve such places as Niagara Falls, Arizonas Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, New Mexicos Petrified forest, the Blue Ridge Mountains and, as William Harbaugh wrote, dozens upon dozens of others. 66 In letters, speeches and messages to Congress he stressed that Americas natural wonders were our rightful heritage. The National Monuments Act was passed in 1906. He proclaimed sixteen National Monuments, including Muir Woods, Pinnacles National Monument in California and the Mount Olympus National Monument in Washington. 67
He proclaimed fifty one wildlife refuges, five new national parks and thirty irrigation projects which included some of the countrys largest dams. Land reserves increased from 45 to 195 million acres.68
Dr. Charles Van Hise, a well-known conservationist and president of the University of Wisconsin from 1903 to 1908 wrote of Theodore, what he did to forward this movement...will place him not only as one of the greatest statesmen of this nation but one of the greatest statesmen of any nation of any time. 69
In late October Henry Cabot Lodge assured Theodore there is every indication not merely of a big majority, but a perfect sweep in the 1904 Presidential election.70
Theodore was trying to prepare himself for a possible defeat saying, I shall keep my mind prepared for anything until after the returns are in. Every form of lie, he said, is being circulated by the Democrats...I have not any idea whether we will win or not.71
He tried to prepare himself mentally for defeat by talking about the Presidency as if it was in the past. To Kermit he said he wanted him to remember that we have had three years of great enjoyment out of the Presidency and that we are mighty lucky to have had them. [Whatever happens] I want you to feel, that I have been very, very fortunate....I have enjoyed being President and we have all of us enjoyed the White House...It was a great thing for all of us to have had the experience here. So we are ahead of the game whatever comes.72
He wrote Bamie:
However, come what may, I have achieved certain substantial results, have made an honorable name to leave the children, and will have completed by March 4th next pretty nearly seven years of work, (dating from the time I became lieutenant colonel of my regiment) which has been of absorbing interest and of real importance. So, while if defeated, I shall feel disappointed, yet I shall also feel that I have had far more happiness and success than fall to any but a very few men; and this aside from the infinitely more important fact that I have had the happiest home life of any man whom I have ever known.73
Elihu Root was amused at Theodores anxiety and wrote on Theodores birthday, October 27, 1904, I congratulate you on attaining the respectable age of 46. You have made a good start in life and your friends have great hopes for you when you grow up.74
At this time he had an accident. His horse put his foot through a rotten plank on a bridge and turned a somersault. I landed on my head and skinned my forehead...The mark was about the size of a small saucer and the skin came completely off, he wrote Lodge.75
The people, who the newspapers said like his energy, his frankness and his robust ways, elected him, according to biographer Nathan Miller, with the greatest popular majority and the greatest electoral majority ever given a candidate for President. He was, he told his wife, no longer a political accident.76
His inaugural address according to Lodge was fine. It is all right. It is of truth compact and the truths you state so powerfully, so calmly and with just the right touch of rhetoric--simple and solemn--are the truths that of all others ought to be stated by you at that great moment when the words will go straight home to the hearts of the people. You are most wise to be brief.77
This is it in part:
My fellow-citizens, no people on earth have more cause to be thankful than ours, and this is said reverently, in no spirit of boastfulness in our own strength, but with gratitude to the Giver of Good who has blessed us with the conditions which have enabled us to achieve so large a measure of well-being and of happiness...
Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us...We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into relations with the other nations of the earth, and we must behave as beseems a people with such responsibilities. Towards all other nations, large and small, our attitude must be one of cordial and sincere friendship. We must show not only in our words, but in our deeds, that we are earnestly desirous of securing their good will by acting toward them in a spirit of just and generous recognition of all their rights. But justice and generosity in a nation, as in an individual, count most when shown not by the weak but by the strong. While ever careful to refrain from wrongdoing others, we must be no less insistent that we are not wronged ourselves. We wish peace, but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness. We wish it because we think it is right and not because we are afraid. No weak nation that acts manfully and justly should ever have cause to fear us, and no strong power should ever be able to single us out as a subject for insolent aggression.
Our relations with the other powers of the world are important; but still more important are our relations among ourselves...The conditions which have told for our marvelous material well-being, which have developed to a very high degree our energy, self-reliance, and individual initiative, have also brought the care and anxiety inseparable from the accumulation of great wealth in industrial centers. Upon the success of our experiment much depends, not only as regards our own welfare, but as regards the welfare of mankind. If we fail, the cause of free self-government throughout the world will rock to its foundations, and therefore our responsibility is heavy, to ourselves, to the world as it is to-day, and to the generations yet unborn.....
We know that self-government is difficult. We know that no people needs such high traits of character as that people which seeks to govern its affairs aright through the freely expressed will of the freemen who compose it. But we have faith that we shall not prove false to the memories of the men of the mighty past. They did their work, they left us the splendid heritage we now enjoy. We in our turn have an assured confidence that we shall be able to leave this heritage unwasted and enlarged to our children and our childrens children. To do so we must show, not merely in great crises, but in the everyday affairs of life, the qualities of practical intelligence, of courage, of hardihood, and endurance, and above all the power of devotion to a lofty ideal, which made great the men who founded this Republic in the days of Washington, which made great the men who preserved this Republic in the days of Abraham Lincoln. 78
Honesty is...an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public. Unless a man is honest we have no right to keep him in public life, it matters not how brilliant his capacity. - Theodore Roosevelt, Outlook Magazine, May 12, 1900
I believe in a strong executive, T.R. said. I believe in power; but I believe that responsibility should go with power and that it is not well that the strong executive should be a perpetual executive.
On the fourth of March next I shall have served three and a half years, and this three and a half years constitutes my first term. The wise custom which limits the President to two terms regards the substance and not the form. Under no circumstances will I be a candidate for or accept another nomination.79
Having said this, being an honest man, he had to stick by it.
Over the next four years he resisted strong pressure to change his mind. He could have had a third, fourth or even fifth term for the asking. He resisted this temptation because, although he liked power, he had given his word.
The plain people--the farmers, mechanics, small tradesmen, hard-working professional people believed in him. He did not want to destroy their ideal of [him].80
A few months ago, he said, Three old back-country farmers turned up in Washington and after a while managed to get in to see me. They were rugged old fellows, as hairy as Boers and a good deal of the Boer type. They hadnt a black coat among them, and two of them wore no cravats; that is they just had on their working clothes, but all cleaned and brushed. When they finally got to see me they explained that they hadnt anything whatever to ask, but that they believed in me, believed that I stood for what they regarded as the American ideal, and as one rugged old fellow put it, We want to shake that honest hand.81
The power of the Presidency could easily be used to secure a third term. This, Roosevelt believed, was not healthy. He didnt want to make the two term custom a law because in time of real peril you would not want to absolutely disqualify from the highest office a man who while holding it had actually shown the highest capacity to exercise its powers with the utmost effect for the public defense.
It would be a veritable calamity, he said in his Autobiography, if the American people were forbidden to continue to use the services of the one man whom they knew, and did not merely guess, could carry them through the crisis.82
Four years later, his youngest son Quentin said, There is a little hole in my stomach when I think of leaving the White House.83
Death of John Hay
...to [him, death] was just as simple and natural a matter as any of the things in our daily experience.... - Louise Pond Jewell, The Great Adventure
Roosevelt loved Lincoln and used him for inspiration. I...as usual take an immense comfort out of the speeches of Lincoln, he wrote in 1903.84 Lincoln always seems to inspire you to your best, said Lodge in 1905.85
John Hay, his Secretary of State, was an important link to the past--to Roosevelts father and to Lincoln. John Hay had been a dear friend of my father and Lincolns personal secretary.86
When Hay died, Theodore wrote his widow, I dearly loved him; there is no one who with any of us can quite fill the place he held. He was not only my wise and patient advisor in affairs of state; he was the most devoted and...charming of friends.87
He wrote a friend:
John Hays loss was to me a personal one in the sense which could have been true of hardly any other man, for he was not only a dear friend of mine but a dear friend of my father. The nation is richer because he has lived; and he fell in the harness, as I should suppose every man would wish to fall....
John Hay, however, died within a very few years of the period when death comes to all of us as a certainty, and I should esteem any man happy who lived till 65 as John Hay has lived, who saw his children marry, his grandchildren born, who was happy in his home life, who wrote his name clearly in the record of our times, who rendered great and durable services to the Nation both as statesman and writer, who held high public positions, and died in the harness in the zenith of his fame. When it comes our turn to go out into the blackness, I only hope the circumstances will be as favorable.
I have never been able to feel that the man who died well on in years with a great and well earned record of victory behind him, and still in the flush of his triumph, was unfortunate. 88
For Hays replacement he wished Root. He is of course the one man for the place...You know how fond I am of Root, wrote Lodge, and whose capacity for great service to the Republic I have the deepest confidence. 89
To my great pleasure, said T.R., [Root] accepted at once and was evidently glad to accept and be back in public life...He will be a tower of strength to us all...he will at once take a great burden off my mind....For a number of months now I have had to be my own Secretary of State, and while I am very glad to be it so far as the broad outlines of the work are concerned, I of course ought not to have to attend to the details. 90
Roosevelt also said to a friend:
It is because Root would not hesitate to express an opinion that he was immensely more valuable to me in the cabinet than John Hay was. Hay was a splendid character, likeable and lovable, but he would never criticize. He wouldnt fight for an opinion. Root would...he was a most dogged fighter.91