ROOSEVELT, THEODORE

Theodore Roosevelt Declares the Progressive Party 'the spiritual heirs of Abraham Lincoln'

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ROOSEVELT, THEODORE - Theodore Roosevelt Declares the Progressive Party 'the spiritual heirs of Abraham Lincoln'
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ROOSEVELT, THEODORE - Theodore Roosevelt Declares the Progressive Party 'the spiritual heirs of Abraham Lincoln'

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Theodore Roosevelt Declares:

“The Progressive Party was formed on principles which we believe to be eternal…

We are the spiritual heirs of Abraham Lincoln”

 

ROOSEVELT, THEODORE. (1858-1919). Twenty-sixth president of the United States. TLS. (“Theodore Roosevelt”). 3pp. 4to. New York, February 14, 1913. On three sheets of The Outlook stationery.  To Henry M. Wallace, Michigan ProgressiveParty committeeman.

 

I have written a letter to Mr Watkins which I hope he will show you. Michigan is to elect a number of State officer and various county, city and township officers this Spring. I hope we shall have a straight Progressive ticket put up in the State and in every city and township. I see in the press that the regulars of the Republican Party are endeavoring to absorb our representatives. Now the Progressive Party stands for principals, not men. We have in our ranks very many ex-Democrats just as we have very many ex-Republicans. Our loyalty is due to both. The present Republican Party is under the absolute control of the men who stole from the rank and file of the Republican Party last June their right to their own choice for President, when Mr Taft was fraudulently nominated; and he and his supporters Messrs Barnes, Penrose, Guggenheim, Lorimer and company have no claim to the support of any honest man. The men who follow and support these men can have nothing in common with our plans and ideas of government. The Progressive Party was formed on principles which we believe to be eternal, which will live long after the men of this generation have been gathered to their fathers. We are the spiritual heirs of Abraham Lincoln. The feat accomplished last election was an extraordinary feat. It is necessary to continue with the organization and to make a clearcut fight against both the old party machines. I earnest hope that you will make as hard a fight in Michigan as you know how for a straight-out Progressive ticket. Incidentally let me say that the unjustifiable action of the returning officer of Michigan in stealing away from the legally elected candidate in the Twelfth District his office, should be used for all that it is worth. This action of itself shows that the Republican leaders in Michigan are not to be trusted in any shape or way, and that their protestations of good conduct are worse than worthless. Wherever the Republican Party has had the opportunity since election, as in Maine and Massachusetts, it has put in office reactionaries, men of the old machine, men committed to the system of bossism in politics and privilege in business. In Michigan in the Twelfth Congressional District these men showed that they are still committed to the principal practice of utter political dishonesty, and to the breaking down of the power of the people in favor of the bosses. We are fighting for great principles, and we are also fighting for honest citizenship against dishonesty in citizenship. We have a right to hope that Michigan will come to the front on this issue. I would rather that you did not make this letter public, but if you desire that any letter shall be made public, if you will write to me I will answer it along substantially the lines of this letter…”

 

A member of President Roosevelt’s cabinet, William Howard Taft (1857-1930) was endorsed by TR as his successor, and his support enabled Taft to easily defeat his Democratic rival, William Jennings Bryan in 1908. From 1909-1913, Taft dedicated his presidency to trust-busting and expanding the Interstate Commerce Commission. However, Roosevelt believed that Taft’s efforts were not progressive enough and felt betrayed when he opposed TR’s previous anti-trust efforts.

 

The result was a major schism in the Republican Party. In 1912, the first ever Republican primary elections were held and Roosevelt was the overwhelming winner, yet a majority of states had not participated in the elections, leaving their delegates at the mercy of party politics.

 

In Michigan, the state Republican Convention was held April 11, 1912, and made national headlines for its raucous infighting. “Fistfights and semi-brawls were the order of the day and the Michigan National Guard was ordered by Gov. Chase Salmon Osborn to ‘protect state property.’
Chaos ensued when competing delegations supporting Taft and Roosevelt tried to get into the armory at the same time. Pushing, shoving and fistfights broke out and windows were the objects of attack by some would-be delegates… ‘Never in the history of the Republican party has there been a more disorderly scene at a state convention in Michigan,’ opined the Bay City Times in a story headlined “PANDEMONIUM AT G.O.P. CONVENTION,’” (“Teddy Roosevelt in 1914 Visits Scene Here of Launching of Bull Moose Party: Republican Riot At Armory in 1912 Put Bay City Into Nationwide Headlines,” mybaycity.com, Rogers). At the Republican National Convention held in Chicago from June 18-22, 1912, Taft garnered the nomination despite Roosevelt’s popular win.

 

Roosevelt responded by founding the Progressive or “Bull Moose” party, which held a national convention on August 7, 1912. Michigan’s Progressive Party had been officially founded several weeks earlier, on July 21, 1912 in Jackson, Michigan, chosen for its symbolic significance as the birthplace of the Republican Party in 1854.

 

The bitter four-way race between Taft, former president Roosevelt, Socialist Eugene V. Debs, and Democrat Woodrow Wilson is the only case during the 20th century when a third party candidate received more votes than a Democrat or Republican. In so doing, however, Roosevelt split the Republican vote, and ensured Wilson’s victory.  

 

Our letter mentions William Barnes, Jr. (1866-1930), a former Roosevelt supporter and U.S. Surveyor of Customs for the Port of Albany from 1899 to 1911. In 1912, Barnes, a Republican National Convention delegate and chairman of the New York State Republican Committee, was instrumental in securing Taft’s nomination. In July 1914, Roosevelt publicly accused Barnes of corruption, for which Barnes sued for libel; Roosevelt was acquitted in 1915.

 

Pennsylvania Senator Boies Penrose(1860-1921) was chairman of his state’s Republican Party and an influential figure in party politics. Roosevelt attacked him for supporting Taft and carried the state in 1912.

 

Illinois Congressman William Lorimer(1861-1934) was a prominent political operator, known as the “Blond Boss” in Chicago. However, during the 1912 campaign, Lorimer was under investigation for corruption and bribery. Roosevelt sought to link Lorimer’s name to Taft’s, even though “Roosevelt knew that Taft had no relation to Lorimer. It didn’t matter. Taftism meant bossism. Roosevelt was for the people,” (William Howard Taft and the First Motoring Presidency, 1909-1913, Bromley).

 

Businessman and philanthropist Simon Guggenheim(1867-1941), a Republican, represented Colorado in the Senate from 1907-1913. On March 28, 1912, The New York Times quoted Guggenheim as stating: “Col. Roosevelt was misinformed regarding the situation in Colorado… The facts are, omitting Denver, the convention stood 528 for Taft and 242 for Roosevelt, or a majority of more than two to one in favor of Taft.”

 

L. Whitney Watkins(1873-?), of Jackson, was a member of the Michigan State Board of Agriculture and a Roosevelt supporter who, with Governor Osborn’s endorsement, ran for Michigan’s governorship as a Progressive in 1912, but lost to his Democratic opponent.

 

Roosevelt condemned some of these Taft supporters by name in the May 4, 1912 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, stating, “Mr. Taft was nominated for president in 1908 because of his outspoken indorsement of progressive policies. Opposed to these policies―and to Mr. Taft―were the Reactionaries, Messrs. Aldrich, Cannon, Penrose, Guggenheim, Keeling, Gallinger, Tawney, Cox, Patrick Calhoun and Lorimer. Without a single exception these men are supporting Mr. Taft today—supporting him openly and with every political trick at their command. They are entirely in accord with his record in the presidency… Mr. Taft’s present adherents―Reactionaries like Messrs. Aldrich, Cannon, Penrose, Gallinger, Guggenheim and Lorimer―are precisely the men who, under the President’s theory of government, would be, as they to a certain degree already are, the ‘representative part’ of the people that governs the rest of the people, and that does not really represent them at all, but misrepresents them.”

 

Written on three stationery sheets from the small Christian weekly The Outlook, which Roosevelt edited beginning in 1911. Bearing one holographic correction. Broadly signed and folded with some light wear in very fine condition.

 


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