The Evolution Of Republican Policies 1901-13

The Personality and Early Career of Roosevelt

On September 14, 1901,

when Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office, the presidency passed

to a new generation and a leader of a new type recalling, if comparisons

must be made, Andrew Jackson rather than any Republican predecessor.

Roosevelt was brusque, hearty, restless, and fond of action--"a young

fellow of infinite dash and originality," as John Hay re
arked of him;

combining the spirit of his old college, Harvard, with the breezy

freedom of the plains; interested in everything--a new species of game,

a new book, a diplomatic riddle, or a novel theory of history or

biology. Though only forty-three years old he was well versed in the art

of practical politics. Coming upon the political scene in the early

eighties, he had associated himself with the reformers in the Republican

party; but he was no Mugwump. From the first he vehemently preached the

doctrine of party loyalty; if beaten in the convention, he voted the

straight ticket in the election. For twenty years he adhered to this

rule and during a considerable portion of that period he held office as

a spokesman of his party. He served in the New York legislature, as head

of the metropolitan police force, as federal civil service commissioner

under President Harrison, as assistant secretary of the navy under

President McKinley, and as governor of the Empire state. Political

managers of the old school spoke of him as "brilliant but erratic"; they

soon found him equal to the shrewdest in negotiation and action.


The Panama Canal

The most important foreign question confronting

President Roosevelt on the day of his inauguration, that of the Panama

Canal, was a heritage from his predecessor. The idea of a water route

across the isthmus, long a dream of navigators, had become a living

issue after the historic voyage of the battleship Oregon around South

America during the Spanish War. But before the United States could act

it had to undo the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, made with Great Britain in

1850, providing for the construction of the canal under joint

supervision. This was finally effected by the Hay-Pauncefote treaty of

1901 authorizing the United States to proceed alone, on condition that

there should be no discriminations against other nations in the matter

of rates and charges.

This accomplished, it was necessary to decide just where the canal

should be built. One group in Congress favored the route through

Nicaragua; in fact, two official commissions had already approved that

location. Another group favored cutting the way through Panama after

purchasing the rights of the old French company which, under the

direction of De Lesseps, the hero of the Suez Canal, had made a costly

failure some twenty years before. After a heated argument over the

merits of the two plans, preference was given to the Panama route. As

the isthmus was then a part of Colombia, President Roosevelt proceeded

to negotiate with the government at Bogota a treaty authorizing the

United States to cut a canal through its territory. The treaty was

easily framed, but it was rejected by the Colombian senate, much to the

President's exasperation. "You could no more make an agreement with the

Colombian rulers," he exclaimed, "than you could nail jelly to a wall."

He was spared the necessity by a timely revolution. On November 3, 1903,

Panama renounced its allegiance to Colombia and three days later the

United States recognized its independence.

This amazing incident was followed shortly by the signature of a treaty

between Panama and the United States in which the latter secured the

right to construct the long-discussed canal, in return for a guarantee

of independence and certain cash payments. The rights and property of

the French concern were then bought, and the final details settled. A

lock rather than a sea-level canal was agreed upon. Construction by the

government directly instead of by private contractors was adopted.

Scientific medicine was summoned to stamp out the tropical diseases

that had made Panama a plague spot. Finally, in 1904, as the President

said, "the dirt began to fly." After surmounting formidable

difficulties--engineering, labor, and sanitary--the American forces in

1913 joined the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific. Nearly eight

thousand miles were cut off the sea voyage from New York to San

Francisco. If any were inclined to criticize President Roosevelt for

the way in which he snapped off negotiations with Colombia and

recognized the Panama revolutionists, their attention was drawn to the

magnificent outcome of the affair. Notwithstanding the treaty with Great

Britain, Congress passed a tolls bill discriminating in rates in favor

of American ships. It was only on the urgent insistence of President

Wilson that the measure was later repealed.

The Conclusion of the Russo-Japanese War

The applause which greeted

the President's next diplomatic stroke was unmarred by censure of any

kind. In the winter of 1904 there broke out between Japan and Russia a

terrible conflict over the division of spoils in Manchuria. The fortunes

of war were with the agile forces of Nippon. In this struggle, it seems,

President Roosevelt's sympathies were mainly with the Japanese, although

he observed the proprieties of neutrality. At all events, Secretary Hay

wrote in his diary on New Year's Day, 1905, that the President was

"quite firm in his view that we cannot permit Japan to be robbed a

second time of her victory," referring to the fact that Japan, ten years

before, after defeating China on the field of battle, had been forced by

Russia, Germany, and France to forego the fruits of conquest.

Whatever the President's personal feelings may have been, he was aware

that Japan, despite her triumphs over Russia, was staggering under a

heavy burden of debt. At a suggestion from Tokyo, he invited both

belligerents in the summer of 1905 to join in a peace conference. The

celerity of their reply was aided by the pressure of European bankers,

who had already come to a substantial agreement that the war must stop.

After some delay, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was chosen as the meeting

place for the spokesmen of the two warring powers. Roosevelt presided

over the opening ceremonies with fine urbanity, thoroughly enjoying the

justly earned honor of being for the moment at the center of the world's

interest. He had the satisfaction of seeing the conference end in a

treaty of peace and amity.

The Monroe Doctrine Applied to Germany

Less spectacular than the

Russo-Japanese settlement but not less important was a diplomatic

passage-at-arms with Germany over the Monroe Doctrine. This clash grew

out of the inability or unwillingness of the Venezuelan government to

pay debts due foreign creditors. Having exhausted their patience in

negotiations, England and Germany, in December 1901, sent battleships to

establish what they characterized as "a peaceful blockade" of Venezuelan

ports. Their action was followed by the rupture of diplomatic relations;

there was a possibility that war and the occupation of Venezuelan

territory might result.

While unwilling to stand between a Latin-American country and its

creditors, President Roosevelt was determined that debt collecting

should not be made an excuse for European countries to seize territory.

He therefore urged arbitration of the dispute, winning the assent of

England and Italy. Germany, with a somewhat haughty air, refused to take

the milder course. The President, learning of this refusal, called the

German ambassador to the White House and informed him in very precise

terms that, unless the Imperial German Government consented to

arbitrate, Admiral Dewey would be ordered to the scene with instructions

to prevent Germany from seizing any Venezuelan territory. A week passed

and no answer came from Berlin. Not baffled, the President again took

the matter up with the ambassador, this time with even more firmness; he

stated in language admitting of but one meaning that, unless within

forty-eight hours the Emperor consented to arbitration, American

battleships, already coaled and cleared, would sail for Venezuelan

waters. The hint was sufficient. The Kaiser accepted the proposal and

the President, with the fine irony of diplomacy, complimented him

publicly on "being so stanch an advocate of arbitration." In terms of

the Monroe Doctrine this action meant that the United States, while not

denying the obligations of debtors, would not permit any move on the

part of European powers that might easily lead to the temporary or

permanent occupation of Latin-American territory.

The Santo Domingo Affair

The same issue was involved in a

controversy over Santo Domingo which arose in 1904. The Dominican

republic, like Venezuela, was heavily in debt, and certain European

countries declared that, unless the United States undertook to look

after the finances of the embarrassed debtor, they would resort to armed

coercion. What was the United States to do? The danger of having some

European power strongly intrenched in Santo Domingo was too imminent to

be denied. President Roosevelt acted with characteristic speed, and

notwithstanding strong opposition in the Senate was able, in 1907, to

effect a treaty arrangement which placed Dominican finances under

American supervision.

In the course of the debate over this settlement, a number of

interesting questions arose. It was pertinently asked whether the

American navy should be used to help creditors collect their debts

anywhere in Latin-America. It was suggested also that no sanction should

be given to the practice among European governments of using armed force

to collect private claims. Opponents of President Roosevelt's policy,

and they were neither few nor insignificant, urged that such matters

should be referred to the Hague Court or to special international

commissions for arbitration. To this the answer was made that the United

States could not surrender any question coming under the terms of the

Monroe Doctrine to the decision of an international tribunal. The

position of the administration was very clearly stated by President

Roosevelt himself. "The country," he said, "would certainly decline to

go to war to prevent a foreign government from collecting a just debt;

on the other hand, it is very inadvisable to permit any foreign power to

take possession, even temporarily, of the customs houses of an American

republic in order to enforce the payment of its obligations; for such a

temporary occupation might turn into a permanent occupation. The only

escape from these alternatives may at any time be that we must

ourselves undertake to bring about some arrangement by which so much as

possible of a just obligation shall be paid." The Monroe Doctrine was

negative. It denied to European powers a certain liberty of operation in

this hemisphere. The positive obligations resulting from its application

by the United States were points now emphasized and developed.

The Hague Conference

The controversies over Latin-American relations

and his part in bringing the Russo-Japanese War to a close naturally

made a deep impression upon Roosevelt, turning his mind in the direction

of the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The subject was

moreover in the air. As if conscious of impending calamity, the

statesmen of the Old World, to all outward signs at least, seemed

searching for a way to reduce armaments and avoid the bloody and costly

trial of international causes by the ancient process of battle. It was

the Czar, Nicholas II, fated to die in one of the terrible holocausts

which he helped to bring upon mankind, who summoned the delegates of the

nations in the first Hague Peace Conference in 1899. The conference did

nothing to reduce military burdens or avoid wars but it did recognize

the right of friendly nations to offer the services of mediation to

countries at war and did establish a Court at the Hague for the

arbitration of international disputes.

Encouraged by this experiment, feeble as it was, President Roosevelt in

1904 proposed a second conference, yielding to the Czar the honor of

issuing the call. At this great international assembly, held at the

Hague in 1907, the representatives of the United States proposed a plan

for the compulsory arbitration of certain matters of international

dispute. This was rejected with contempt by Germany. Reduction of

armaments, likewise proposed in the conference, was again deferred. In

fact, nothing was accomplished beyond agreement upon certain rules for

the conduct of "civilized warfare," casting a somewhat lurid light upon

the "pacific" intentions of most of the powers assembled.

The World Tour of the Fleet

As if to assure the world then that the

United States placed little reliance upon the frail reed of peace

conferences, Roosevelt the following year (1908) made an imposing

display of American naval power by sending a fleet of sixteen

battleships on a tour around the globe. On his own authority, he ordered

the ships to sail out of Hampton Roads and circle the earth by way of

the Straits of Magellan, San Francisco, Australia, the Philippines,

China, Japan, and the Suez Canal. This enterprise was not, as some

critics claimed, a "mere boyish flourish." President Roosevelt knew how

deep was the influence of sea power on the fate of nations. He was aware

that no country could have a wide empire of trade and dominion without

force adequate to sustain it. The voyage around the world therefore

served a double purpose. It interested his own country in the naval

program of the government, and it reminded other powers that the

American giant, though quiet, was not sleeping in the midst of

international rivalries.


A Constitutional Question Settled

In colonial administration, as in

foreign policy, President Roosevelt advanced with firm step in a path

already marked out. President McKinley had defined the principles that

were to control the development of Porto Rico and the Philippines. The

Republican party had announced a program of pacification, gradual

self-government, and commercial improvement. The only remaining question

of importance, to use the popular phrase,--"Does the Constitution follow

the flag?"--had been answered by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Although it was well known that the Constitution did not contemplate the

government of dependencies, such as the Philippines and Porto Rico, the

Court, by generous and ingenious interpretations, found a way for

Congress to apply any reasonable rules required by the occasion.

Porto Rico

The government of Porto Rico was a relatively simple

matter. It was a single island with a fairly homogeneous population

apart from the Spanish upper class. For a time after military occupation

in 1898, it was administered under military rule. This was succeeded by

the establishment of civil government under the "organic act" passed by

Congress in 1900. The law assured to the Porto Ricans American

protection but withheld American citizenship--a boon finally granted in

1917. It provided for a governor and six executive secretaries appointed

by the President with the approval of the Senate; and for a legislature

of two houses--one elected by popular native vote, and an upper chamber

composed of the executive secretaries and five other persons appointed

in the same manner. Thus the United States turned back to the provincial

system maintained by England in Virginia or New York in old colonial

days. The natives were given a voice in their government and the power

of initiating laws; but the final word both in law-making and

administration was vested in officers appointed in Washington. Such was

the plan under which the affairs of Porto Rico were conducted by

President Roosevelt. It lasted until the new organic act of 1917.

The Philippines

The administration of the Philippines presented far

more difficult questions. The number of islands, the variety of

languages and races, the differences in civilization all combined to

challenge the skill of the government. Moreover, there was raging in

1901 a stubborn revolt against American authority, which had to be

faced. Following the lines laid down by President McKinley, the

evolution of American policy fell into three stages. At first the

islands were governed directly by the President under his supreme

military power. In 1901 a civilian commission, headed by William Howard

Taft, was selected by the President and charged with the government of

the provinces in which order had been restored. Six years later, under

the terms of an organic act, passed by Congress in 1902, the third stage

was reached. The local government passed into the hands of a governor

and commission, appointed by the President and Senate, and a

legislature--one house elected by popular vote and an upper chamber

composed of the commission. This scheme, like that obtaining in Porto

Rico, remained intact until a Democratic Congress under President

Wilson's leadership carried the colonial administration into its fourth

phase by making both houses elective. Thus, by the steady pursuit of a

liberal policy, self-government was extended to the dependencies; but it

encouraged rather than extinguished the vigorous movement among the

Philippine natives for independence.

Cuban Relations

Within the sphere of colonial affairs, Cuba, though

nominally independent, also presented problems to the government at

Washington. In the fine enthusiasm that accompanied the declaration of

war on Spain, Congress, unmindful of practical considerations,

recognized the independence of Cuba and disclaimed "any disposition or

intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said

island except for the pacification thereof." In the settlement that

followed the war, however, it was deemed undesirable to set the young

republic adrift upon the stormy sea of international politics without a

guiding hand. Before withdrawing American troops from the island,

Congress, in March, 1901, enacted, and required Cuba to approve, a

series of restrictions known as the Platt amendment, limiting her power

to incur indebtedness, securing the right of the United States to

intervene whenever necessary to protect life and property, and reserving

to the United States coaling stations at certain points to be agreed

upon. The Cubans made strong protests against what they deemed

"infringements of their sovereignty"; but finally with good grace

accepted their fate. Even when in 1906 President Roosevelt landed

American troops in the island to quell a domestic dissension, they

acquiesced in the action, evidently regarding it as a distinct warning

that they should learn to manage their elections in an orderly manner.


Social Questions to the Front

From the day of his inauguration to

the close of his service in 1909, President Roosevelt, in messages,

speeches, and interviews, kept up a lively and interesting discussion of

trusts, capital, labor, poverty, riches, lawbreaking, good citizenship,

and kindred themes. Many a subject previously touched upon only by

representatives of the minor and dissenting parties, he dignified by a

careful examination. That he did this with any fixed design or policy in

mind does not seem to be the case. He admitted himself that when he

became President he did not have in hand any settled or far-reaching

plan of social betterment. He did have, however, serious convictions on

general principles. "I was bent upon making the government," he wrote,

"the most efficient possible instrument in helping the people of the

United States to better themselves in every way, politically, socially,

and industrially. I believed with all my heart in real and

thorough-going democracy and I wished to make the democracy industrial

as well as political, although I had only partially formulated the

method I believed we should follow." It is thus evident at least that he

had departed a long way from the old idea of the government as nothing

but a great policeman keeping order among the people in a struggle over

the distribution of the nation's wealth and resources.

Roosevelt's View of the Constitution

Equally significant was

Roosevelt's attitude toward the Constitution and the office of

President. He utterly repudiated the narrow construction of our national

charter. He held that the Constitution "should be treated as the

greatest document ever devised by the wit of man to aid a people in

exercising every power necessary for its own betterment, not as a

strait-jacket cunningly fashioned to strangle growth." He viewed the

presidency as he did the Constitution. Strict constructionists of the

Jeffersonian school, of whom there were many on occasion even in the

Republican party, had taken a view that the President could do nothing

that he was not specifically authorized by the Constitution to do.

Roosevelt took exactly the opposite position. It was his opinion that it

was not only the President's right but his duty "to do anything that the

needs of the nation demanded unless such action was forbidden by the

Constitution or the laws." He went on to say that he acted "for the

common well-being of all our people whenever and in whatever manner was

necessary, unless prevented by direct constitutional or legislative


The Trusts and Railways

To the trust question, Roosevelt devoted

especial attention. This was unavoidable. By far the larger part of the

business of the country was done by corporations as distinguished from

partnerships and individual owners. The growth of these gigantic

aggregations of capital had been the leading feature in American

industrial development during the last two decades of the nineteenth

century. In the conquest of business by trusts and "the resulting

private fortunes of great magnitude," the Populists and the Democrats

had seen a grievous danger to the republic. "Plutocracy has taken the

place of democracy; the tariff breeds trusts; let us destroy therefore

the tariff and the trusts"--such was the battle cry which had been taken

up by Bryan and his followers.

President Roosevelt countered vigorously. He rejected the idea that the

trusts were the product of the tariff or of governmental action of any

kind. He insisted that they were the outcome of "natural economic

forces": (1) destructive competition among business men compelling them

to avoid ruin by cooeperation in fixing prices; (2) the growth of markets

on a national scale and even international scale calling for vast

accumulations of capital to carry on such business; (3) the possibility

of immense savings by the union of many plants under one management. In

the corporation he saw a new stage in the development of American

industry. Unregulated competition he regarded as "the source of evils

which all men concede must be remedied if this civilization of ours is

to survive." The notion, therefore, that these immense business concerns

should be or could be broken up by a decree of law, Roosevelt considered


At the same time he proposed that "evil trusts" should be prevented from

"wrong-doing of any kind"; that is, punished for plain swindling, for

making agreements to limit output, for refusing to sell to customers who

dealt with rival firms, and for conspiracies with railways to ruin

competitors by charging high freight rates and for similar abuses.

Accordingly, he proposed, not the destruction of the trusts, but their

regulation by the government. This, he contended, would preserve the

advantages of business on a national scale while preventing the evils

that accompanied it. The railway company he declared to be a public

servant. "Its rates should be just to and open to all shippers alike."

So he answered those who thought that trusts and railway combinations

were private concerns to be managed solely by their owners without let

or hindrance and also those who thought trusts and railway combinations

could be abolished by tariff reduction or criminal prosecution.

The Labor Question

On the labor question, then pressing to the front

in public interest, President Roosevelt took advanced ground for his

time. He declared that the working-man, single-handed and empty-handed,

threatened with starvation if unemployed, was no match for the employer

who was able to bargain and wait. This led him, accordingly, to accept

the principle of the trade union; namely, that only by collective

bargaining can labor be put on a footing to measure its strength equally

with capital. While he severely arraigned labor leaders who advocated

violence and destructive doctrines, he held that "the organization of

labor into trade unions and federations is necessary, is beneficent, and

is one of the greatest possible agencies in the attainment of a true

industrial, as well as a true political, democracy in the United

States." The last resort of trade unions in labor disputes, the strike,

he approved in case negotiations failed to secure "a fair deal."

He thought, however, that labor organizations, even if wisely managed,

could not solve all the pressing social questions of the time. The aid

of the government at many points he believed to be necessary to

eliminate undeserved poverty, industrial diseases, unemployment, and the

unfortunate consequences of industrial accidents. In his first message

of 1901, for instance, he urged that workers injured in industry should

have certain and ample compensation. From time to time he advocated

other legislation to obtain what he called "a larger measure of social

and industrial justice."

Great Riches and Taxation

Even the challenge of the radicals, such

as the Populists, who alleged that "the toil of millions is boldly

stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few"--challenges which his

predecessors did not consider worthy of notice--President Roosevelt

refused to let pass without an answer. In his first message he denied

the truth of the common saying that the rich were growing richer and the

poor were growing poorer. He asserted that, on the contrary, the average

man, wage worker, farmer, and small business man, was better off than

ever before in the history of our country. That there had been abuses in

the accumulation of wealth he did not pretend to ignore, but he believed

that even immense fortunes, on the whole, represented positive benefits

conferred upon the country. Nevertheless he felt that grave dangers to

the safety and the happiness of the people lurked in great inequalities

of wealth. In 1906 he wrote that he wished it were in his power to

prevent the heaping up of enormous fortunes. The next year, to the

astonishment of many leaders in his own party, he boldly announced in a

message to Congress that he approved both income and inheritance taxes,

then generally viewed as Populist or Democratic measures. He even took

the stand that such taxes should be laid in order to bring about a more

equitable distribution of wealth and greater equality of opportunity

among citizens.


Economic Legislation

When President Roosevelt turned from the field

of opinion he found himself in a different sphere. Many of his views

were too advanced for the members of his party in Congress, and where

results depended upon the making of new laws, his progress was slow.

Nevertheless, in his administrations several measures were enacted that

bore the stamp of his theories, though it could hardly be said that he

dominated Congress to the same degree as did some other Presidents. The

Hepburn Railway Act of 1906 enlarged the interstate commerce commission;

it extended the commission's power over oil pipe lines, express

companies, and other interstate carriers; it gave the commission the

right to reduce rates found to be unreasonable and discriminatory; it

forbade "midnight tariffs," that is, sudden changes in rates favoring

certain shippers; and it prohibited common carriers from transporting

goods owned by themselves, especially coal, except for their own proper

use. Two important pure food and drug laws, enacted during the same

year, were designed to protect the public against diseased meats and

deleterious foods and drugs. A significant piece of labor legislation

was an act of the same Congress making interstate railways liable to

damages for injuries sustained by their employees. When this measure was

declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court it was reenacted with the

objectionable clauses removed. A second installment of labor legislation

was offered in the law of 1908 limiting the hours of railway employees

engaged as trainmen or telegraph operators.

Reclamation and Conservation

The open country--the deserts, the

forests, waterways, and the public lands--interested President Roosevelt

no less than railway and industrial questions. Indeed, in his first

message to Congress he placed the conservation of natural resources

among "the most vital internal problems" of the age, and forcibly

emphasized an issue that had been discussed in a casual way since

Cleveland's first administration. The suggestion evoked an immediate

response in Congress. Under the leadership of Senator Newlands, of

Nevada, the Reclamation Act of 1902 was passed, providing for the

redemption of the desert areas of the West. The proceeds from the sale

of public lands were dedicated to the construction of storage dams and

sluiceways to hold water and divert it as needed to the thirsty sands.

Furthermore it was stipulated that the rents paid by water users should

go into a reclamation fund to continue the good work forever.

Construction was started immediately under the terms of the law. Within

seventeen years about 1,600,000 acres had been reclaimed and more than a

million were actually irrigated. In the single year 1918, the crops of

the irrigated districts were valued at approximately $100,000,000.

In his first message, also, President Roosevelt urged the transfer of

all control over national forests to trained men in the Bureau of

Forestry--a recommendation carried out in 1907 when the Forestry Service

was created. In every direction noteworthy advances were made in the

administration of the national domain. The science of forestry was

improved and knowledge of the subject spread among the people. Lands in

the national forest available for agriculture were opened to settlers.

Water power sites on the public domain were leased for a term of years

to private companies instead of being sold outright. The area of the

national forests was enlarged from 43 million acres to 194 million acres

by presidential proclamation--more than 43 million acres being added in

one year, 1907. The men who turned sheep and cattle to graze on the

public lands were compelled to pay a fair rental, much to their

dissatisfaction. Fire prevention work was undertaken in the forests on a

large scale, reducing the appalling, annual destruction of timber.

Millions of acres of coal land, such as the government had been

carelessly selling to mining companies at low figures, were withdrawn

from sale and held until Congress was prepared to enact laws for the

disposition of them in the public interest. Prosecutions were

instituted against men who had obtained public lands by fraud and vast

tracts were recovered for the national domain. An agitation was begun

which bore fruit under the administrations of Taft and Wilson in laws

reserving to the federal government the ownership of coal, water power,

phosphates, and other natural resources while authorizing corporations

to develop them under leases for a period of years.

The Prosecution of the Trusts

As an executive, President Roosevelt

was also a distinct "personality." His discrimination between "good" and

"bad" trusts led him to prosecute some of them with vigor. On his

initiative, the Northern Securities Company, formed to obtain control of

certain great western railways, was dissolved by order of the Supreme

Court. Proceedings were instituted against the American Tobacco Company

and the Standard Oil Company as monopolies in violation of the Sherman

Anti-Trust law. The Sugar Trust was found guilty of cheating the New

York customs house and some of the minor officers were sent to prison.

Frauds in the Post-office Department were uncovered and the offenders

brought to book. In fact hardly a week passed without stirring news of

"wrong doers" and "malefactors" haled into federal courts.

The Great Coal Strike

The Roosevelt theory that the President could

do anything for public welfare not forbidden by the Constitution and the

laws was put to a severe test in 1902. A strike of the anthracite coal

miners, which started in the summer, ran late into the autumn.

Industries were paralyzed for the want of coal; cities were threatened

with the appalling menace of a winter without heat. Governors and mayors

were powerless and appealed for aid. The mine owners rejected the

demands of the men and refused to permit the arbitration of the points

in dispute, although John Mitchell, the leader of the miners, repeatedly

urged it. After observing closely the course affairs, President

Roosevelt made up his mind that the situation was intolerable. He

arranged to have the federal troops, if necessary, take possession of

the mines and operate them until the strike could be settled. He then

invited the contestants to the White House and by dint of hard labor

induced them to accept, as a substitute or compromise, arbitration by a

commission which he appointed. Thus, by stepping outside the

Constitution and acting as the first citizen of the land, President

Roosevelt averted a crisis of great magnitude.

The Election of 1904

The views and measures which he advocated with

such vigor aroused deep hostility within as well as without his party.

There were rumors of a Republican movement to defeat his nomination in

1904 and it was said that the "financial and corporation interests" were

in arms against him. A prominent Republican paper in New York City

accused him of having "stolen Mr. Bryan's thunder," by harrying the

trusts and favoring labor unions. When the Republican convention

assembled in Chicago, however, the opposition disappeared and Roosevelt

was nominated by acclamation.

This was the signal for a change on the part of Democratic leaders. They

denounced the President as erratic, dangerous, and radical and decided

to assume the moderate role themselves. They put aside Mr. Bryan and

selected as their candidate, Judge Alton B. Parker, of New York, a man

who repudiated free silver and made a direct appeal for the conservative

vote. The outcome of the reversal was astounding. Judge Parker's vote

fell more than a million below that cast for Bryan in 1900; of the 476

electoral votes he received only 140. Roosevelt, in addition to sweeping

the Republican sections, even invaded Democratic territory, carrying the

state of Missouri. Thus vindicated at the polls, he became more

outspoken than ever. His leadership in the party was so widely

recognized that he virtually selected his own successor.


The Campaign of 1908

Long before the end of his elective term,

President Roosevelt let it be known that he favored as his successor,

William Howard Taft, of Ohio, his Secretary of War. To attain this end

he used every shred of his powerful influence. When the Republican

convention assembled, Mr. Taft easily won the nomination. Though the

party platform was conservative in tone, he gave it a progressive tinge

by expressing his personal belief in the popular election of United

States Senators, an income tax, and other liberal measures. President

Roosevelt announced his faith in the Republican candidate and appealed

to the country for his election.

The turn in Republican affairs now convinced Mr. Bryan that the signs

were propitious for a third attempt to win the presidency. The disaster

to Judge Parker had taught the party that victory did not lie in a

conservative policy. With little difficulty, therefore, the veteran

leader from Nebraska once more rallied the Democrats around his

standard, won the nomination, and wrote a platform vigorously attacking

the tariff, trusts, and monopolies. Supported by a loyal following, he

entered the lists, only to meet another defeat. Though he polled almost

a million and a half more votes than did Judge Parker in 1904, the palm

went to Mr. Taft.

The Tariff Revision and Party Dissensions

At the very beginning of

his term, President Taft had to face the tariff issue. He had met it in

the campaign. Moved by the Democratic demand for a drastic reduction, he

had expressed opinions which were thought to imply a "downward

revision." The Democrats made much of the implication and the

Republicans from the Middle West rejoiced in it. Pressure was coming

from all sides. More than ten years had elapsed since the enactment of

the Dingley bill and the position of many industries had been altered

with the course of time. Evidently the day for revision--at best a

thankless task--had arrived. Taft accepted the inevitable and called

Congress in a special session. Until the midsummer of 1909, Republican

Senators and Representatives wrangled over tariff schedules, the

President making little effort to influence their decisions. When on

August 5 the Payne-Aldrich bill became a law, a breach had been made in

Republican ranks. Powerful Senators from the Middle West had spoken

angrily against many of the high rates imposed by the bill. They had

even broken with their party colleagues to vote against the entire

scheme of tariff revision.

The Income Tax Amendment

The rift in party harmony was widened by

another serious difference of opinion. During the debate on the tariff

bill, there was a concerted movement to include in it an income tax

provision--this in spite of the decision of the Supreme Court in 1895

declaring it unconstitutional. Conservative men were alarmed by the

evident willingness of some members to flout a solemn decree of that

eminent tribunal. At the same time they saw a powerful combination of

Republicans and Democrats determined upon shifting some of the burden of

taxation to large incomes. In the press of circumstances, a compromise

was reached. The income tax bill was dropped for the present; but

Congress passed the sixteenth amendment to the Constitution, authorizing

taxes upon incomes from whatever source they might be derived, without

reference to any apportionment among the states on the basis of

population. The states ratified the amendment and early in 1913 it was


President Taft's Policies

After the enactment of the tariff bill,

Taft continued to push forward with his legislative program. He

recommended, and Congress created, a special court of commerce with

jurisdiction, among other things, over appeals from the interstate

commerce commission, thus facilitating judicial review of the railway

rates fixed and the orders issued by that body. This measure was quickly

followed by an act establishing a system of postal savings banks in

connection with the post office--a scheme which had long been opposed by

private banks. Two years later, Congress defied the lobby of the express

companies and supplemented the savings banks with a parcels post system,

thus enabling the American postal service to catch up with that of other

progressive nations. With a view to improving the business

administration of the federal government, the President obtained from

Congress a large appropriation for an economy and efficiency commission

charged with the duty of inquiring into wasteful and obsolete methods

and recommending improved devices and practices. The chief result of

this investigation was a vigorous report in favor of a national budget

system, which soon found public backing.

President Taft negotiated with England and France general treaties

providing for the arbitration of disputes which were "justiciable" in

character even though they might involve questions of "vital interest

and national honor." They were coldly received in the Senate and so

amended that Taft abandoned them altogether. A tariff reciprocity

agreement with Canada, however, he forced through Congress in the face

of strong opposition from his own party. After making a serious breach

in Republican ranks, he was chagrined to see the whole scheme come to

naught by the overthrow of the Liberals in the Canadian elections of


Prosecution of the Trusts

The party schism was even enlarged by what

appeared to be the successful prosecution of several great combinations.

In two important cases, the Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of the

Standard Oil Company and the American Tobacco Company on the ground that

they violated the Sherman Anti-Trust law. In taking this step Chief

Justice White was at some pains to state that the law did not apply to

combinations which did not "unduly" restrain trade. His remark,

construed to mean that the Court would not interfere with corporations

as such, became the subject of a popular outcry against the President

and the judges.


Growing Dissensions

All in all, Taft's administration from the first

day had been disturbed by party discord. High words had passed over the

tariff bill and disgruntled members of Congress could not forget them.

To differences over issues were added quarrels between youth and old

age. In the House of Representatives there developed a group of young

"insurgent" Republicans who resented the dominance of the Speaker,

Joseph G. Cannon, and other members of the "old guard," as they named

the men of long service and conservative minds. In 1910, the insurgents

went so far as to join with the Democrats in a movement to break the

Speaker's sway by ousting him from the rules committee and depriving him

of the power to appoint its members. The storm was brewing. In the

autumn of that year the Democrats won a clear majority in the House of

Representatives and began an open battle with President Taft by

demanding an immediate downward revision of the tariff.

The Rise of the Progressive Republicans

Preparatory to the campaign

of 1912, the dissenters within the Republican party added the prefix

"Progressive" to their old title and began to organize a movement to

prevent the renomination of Mr. Taft. As early as January 21, 1911, they

formed a Progressive Republican League at the home of Senator La

Follette of Wisconsin and launched an attack on the Taft measures and

policies. In October they indorsed Mr. La Follette as "the logical

Republican candidate" and appealed to the party for support. The

controversy over the tariff had grown into a formidable revolt against

the occupant of the White House.

Roosevelt in the Field

After looking on for a while, ex-President

Roosevelt took a hand in the fray. Soon after his return in 1910 from a

hunting trip in Africa and a tour in Europe, he made a series of

addresses in which he formulated a progressive program. In a speech in

Kansas, he favored regulation of the trusts, a graduated income tax

bearing heavily on great fortunes, tariff revision schedule by schedule,

conservation of natural resources, labor legislation, the direct

primary, and the recall of elective officials. In an address before the

Ohio state constitutional convention in February, 1912, he indorsed the

initiative and referendum and announced a doctrine known as the "recall

of judicial decisions." This was a new and radical note in American

politics. An ex-President of the United States proposed that the people

at the polls should have the right to reverse the decision of a judge

who set aside any act of a state legislature passed in the interests of

social welfare. The Progressive Republicans, impressed by these

addresses, turned from La Follette to Roosevelt and on February 24,

induced him to come out openly as a candidate against Taft for the

Republican nomination.

The Split in the Republican Party

The country then witnessed the

strange spectacle of two men who had once been close companions engaged

in a bitter rivalry to secure a majority of the delegates to the

Republican convention to be held at Chicago. When the convention

assembled, about one-fourth of the seats were contested, the delegates

for both candidates loudly proclaiming the regularity of their election.

In deciding between the contestants the national committee, after the

usual hearings, settled the disputes in such a way that Taft received a

safe majority. After a week of negotiation, Roosevelt and his followers

left the Republican party. Most of his supporters withdrew from the

convention and the few who remained behind refused to answer the roll

call. Undisturbed by this formidable bolt, the regular Republicans went

on with their work. They renominated Mr. Taft and put forth a platform

roundly condemning such Progressive doctrines as the recall of judges.

The Formation of the Progressive Party

The action of the Republicans

in seating the Taft delegates was vigorously denounced by Roosevelt. He

declared that the convention had no claim to represent the voters of the

Republican party; that any candidate named by it would be "the

beneficiary of a successful fraud"; and that it would be deeply

discreditable to any man to accept the convention's approval under such

circumstances. The bitterness of his followers was extreme. On July 8, a

call went forth for a "Progressive" convention to be held in Chicago on

August 5. The assembly which duly met on that day was a unique political

conference. Prominence was given to women delegates, and "politicians"

were notably absent. Roosevelt himself, who was cheered as a conquering

hero, made an impassioned speech setting forth his "confession of

faith." He was nominated by acclamation; Governor Hiram Johnson of

California was selected as his companion candidate for Vice President.

The platform endorsed such political reforms as woman suffrage, direct

primaries, the initiative, referendum, and recall, popular election of

United States Senators, and the short ballot. It favored a program of

social legislation, including the prohibition of child labor and minimum

wages for women. It approved the regulation, rather than the

dissolution, of the trusts. Like apostles in a new and lofty cause, the

Progressives entered a vigorous campaign for the election of their

distinguished leader.

Woodrow Wilson and the Election of 1912

With the Republicans

divided, victory loomed up before the Democrats. Naturally, a terrific

contest over the nomination occurred at their convention in Baltimore.

Champ Clark, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Governor

Woodrow Wilson, of New Jersey, were the chief contestants. After tossing

to and fro for seven long, hot days, and taking forty-six ballots, the

delegates, powerfully influenced by Mr. Bryan, finally decided in favor

of the governor. As a professor, a writer on historical and political

subjects, and the president of Princeton University, Mr. Wilson had

become widely known in public life. As the governor of New Jersey he had

attracted the support of the progressives in both parties. With grim

determination he had "waged war on the bosses," and pushed through the

legislature measures establishing direct primaries, regulating public

utilities, and creating a system of workmen's compensation in

industries. During the presidential campaign that followed Governor

Wilson toured the country and aroused great enthusiasm by a series of

addresses later published under the title of The New Freedom. He

declared that "the government of the United States is at present the

foster child of the special interests." He proposed to free the country

by breaking the dominance of "the big bankers, the big manufacturers,

the big masters of commerce, the heads of railroad corporations and of

steamship corporations."

In the election Governor Wilson easily secured a majority of the

electoral votes, and his party, while retaining possession of the House

of Representatives, captured the Senate as well. The popular verdict,

however, indicated a state of confusion in the country. The combined

Progressive and Republican vote exceeded that of the Democrats by

1,300,000. The Socialists, with Eugene V. Debs as their candidate again,

polled about 900,000 votes, more than double the number received four

years before. Thus, as the result of an extraordinary upheaval the

Republicans, after holding the office of President for sixteen years,

passed out of power, and the government of the country was intrusted to

the Democrats under the leadership of a man destined to be one of the

outstanding figures of the modern age, Woodrow Wilson.