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Theodore Roosevelt An Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt by Theodore Roosevelt

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control over all industrial organizations engaged in inter-State
commerce. This control should be exercised, not by the courts, but by
an administrative bureau or board such as the Bureau of Corporations
or the Inter-State Commerce Commission; for the courts cannot with
advantage permanently perform executive and administrative functions.



In his book "The New Freedom," and in the magazine articles of which
it is composed, which appeared just after he had been inaugurated as
President, Mr. Woodrow Wilson made an entirely unprovoked attack upon
me and upon the Progressive party in connection with what he asserts
the policy of that party to be concerning the trusts, and as regards
my attitude while President about the trusts.

I am reluctant to say anything whatever about President Wilson at the
outset of his Administration unless I can speak of him with praise. I
have scrupulously refrained from saying or doing one thing since
election that could put the slightest obstacle, even of
misinterpretation, in his path. It is to the interest of the country
that he should succeed in his office. I cordially wish him success,
and I shall cordially support any policy of his that I believe to be
in the interests of the people of the United States. But when Mr.
Wilson, after being elected President, within the first fortnight
after he has been inaugurated into that high office, permits himself
to be betrayed into a public misstatement of what I have said, and
what I stand for, then he forces me to correct his statements.

Mr. Wilson opens his article by saying that the Progressive "doctrine
is that monopoly is inevitable, and that the only course open to the
people of the United States is to submit to it." This statement is
without one particle of foundation in fact. I challenge him to point
out a sentence in the Progressive platform or in any speech of mine
which bears him out. I can point him out any number which flatly
contradict him. We have never made any such statement as he alleges
about monopolies. We have said: "The corporation is an essential part
of modern business. The concentration of modern business, in some
degree, is both inevitable and necessary for National and
international business efficiency." Does Mr. Wilson deny this? Let him
answer yes or no, directly. It is easy for a politician detected in a
misstatement to take refuge in evasive rhetorical hyperbole. But Mr.
Wilson is President of the United States, and as such he is bound to
candid utterance on every subject of public interest which he himself
has broached. If he disagrees with us, let him be frank and
consistent, and recommend to Congress that all corporations be made
illegal. Mr. Wilson's whole attack is largely based on a deft but far
from ingenuous confounding of what we have said of monopoly, which we
propose so far as possible to abolish, and what we have said of big
corporations, which we propose to regulate; Mr. Wilson's own vaguely
set forth proposals being to attempt the destruction of both in ways
that would harm neither. In our platform we use the word "monopoly"
but once, and then we speak of it as an abuse of power, coupling it
with stock-watering, unfair competition and unfair privileges. Does
Mr. Wilson deny this? If he does, then where else will he assert that
we speak of monopoly as he says we do? He certainly owes the people of
the United States a plain answer to the question. In my speech of
acceptance I said: "We favor strengthening the Sherman Law by
prohibiting agreements to divide territory or limit output; refusing
to sell to customers who buy from business rivals; to sell below cost
in certain areas while maintaining higher prices in other places;
using the power of transportation to aid or injure special business
concerns; and all other unfair trade practices." The platform pledges
us to "guard and keep open equally to all, the highways of American
commerce." This is the exact negation of monopoly. Unless Mr. Wilson
is prepared to show the contrary, surely he is bound in honor to admit
frankly that he has been betrayed into a misrepresentation, and to
correct it.

Mr. Wilson says that for sixteen years the National Administration has
"been virtually under the regulation of the trusts," and that the big
business men "have already captured the Government." Such a statement
as this might perhaps be pardoned as mere rhetoric in a candidate
seeking office--although it is the kind of statement that never under
any circumstances have I permitted myself to make, whether on the
stump or off the stump, about any opponent, unless I was prepared to
back it up with explicit facts. But there is an added seriousness to
the charge when it is made deliberately and in cold blood by a man who
is at the time President. In this volume I have set forth my relations
with the trusts. I challenge Mr. Wilson to controvert anything I have
said, or to name any trusts or any big business men who regulated, or
in any shape or way controlled, or captured, the Government during my
term as President. He must furnish specifications if his words are
taken at their face value--and I venture to say in advance that the
absurdity of such a charge is patent to all my fellow-citizens, not
excepting Mr. Wilson.

Mr. Wilson says that the new party was founded "under the leadership
of Mr. Roosevelt, with the conspicuous aid--I mention him with no
satirical intention, but merely to set the facts down accurately--of
Mr. George W. Perkins, organizer of the Steel Trust." Whether Mr.
Wilson's intention was satirical or not is of no concern; but I call
his attention to the fact that he has conspicuously and strikingly
failed "to set the facts down accurately." Mr. Perkins was not the
organizer of the Steel Trust, and when it was organized he had no
connection with it or with the Morgan people. This is well known, and
it has again and again been testified to before Congressional
committees controlled by Mr. Wilson's friends who were endeavoring to
find out something against Mr. Perkins. If Mr. Wilson does not know
that my statement is correct, he ought to know it, and he is not to be
excused for making such a misstatement as he has made when he has not
a particle of evidence in support of it. Mr. Perkins was from the
beginning in the Harvester Trust but, when Mr. Wilson points out this
fact, why does he not add that he was the only man in that trust who
supported me, and that the President of the trust ardently supported
Mr. Wilson himself? It is disingenuous to endeavor to conceal these
facts, and to mislead ordinary citizens about them. Under the
administrations of both Mr. Taft and Mr. Wilson, Mr. Perkins has been
singled out for special attack, obviously not because he belonged to
the Harvester and Steel Trusts, but because he alone among the
prominent men of the two corporations, fearlessly supported the only
party which afforded any real hope of checking the evil of the trusts.

Mr. Wilson states that the Progressives have "a programme perfectly
agreeable to monopolies."

The plain and unmistakable inference to be drawn from this and other
similar statements in his article, and the inference which he
obviously desired to have drawn, is that the big corporations approved
the Progressive plan and supported the Progressive candidate. If
President Wilson does not know perfectly well that this is not the
case, he is the only intelligent person in the United States who is
thus ignorant. Everybody knows that the overwhelming majority of the
heads of the big corporations supported him or Mr. Taft. It is equally
well known that of the corporations he mentions, the Steel and the
Harvester Trusts, there was but one man who took any part in the
Progressive campaign, and that almost all the others, some thirty in
number, were against us, and some of them, including the President of
the Harvester Trust, openly and enthusiastically for Mr. Wilson
himself. If he reads the newspapers at all, he must know that
practically every man representing the great financial interests of
the country, and without exception every newspaper controlled by Wall
Street or State Street, actively supported either him or Mr. Taft, and
showed perfect willingness to accept either if only they could prevent
the Progressive party from coming into power and from putting its
platform into effect.

Mr. Wilson says of the trust plank in that platform that it "did not
anywhere condemn monopoly except in words." Exactly of what else could
a platform consist? Does Mr. Wilson expect us to use algebraic signs?
This criticism is much as if he said the Constitution or the
Declaration of Independence contained nothing but words. The
Progressive platform did contain words, and the words were admirably
designed to express thought and meaning and purpose. Mr. Wilson says
that I long ago "classified trusts for us as good and bad," and said
that I was "afraid only of the bad ones." Mr. Wilson would do well to
quote exactly what my language was, and where it was used, for I am at
a loss to know what statement of mine it is to which he refers. But if
he means that I say that corporations can do well, and that
corporations can also do ill, he is stating my position correctly. I
hold that a corporation does ill if it seeks profit in restricting
production and then by extorting high prices from the community by
reason of the scarcity of the product; through adulterating, lyingly
advertising, or over-driving the help; or replacing men workers with
children; or by rebates; or in any illegal or improper manner driving
competitors out of its way; or seeking to achieve monopoly by illegal
or unethical treatment of its competitors, or in any shape or way
offending against the moral law either in connection with the public
or with its employees or with its rivals. Any corporation which seeks
its profit in such fashion is acting badly. It is, in fact, a
conspiracy against the public welfare which the Government should use
all its powers to suppress. If, on the other hand, a corporation seeks
profit solely by increasing its products through eliminating waste,
improving its processes, utilizing its by-products, installing better
machines, raising wages in the effort to secure more efficient help,
introducing the principle of cooperation and mutual benefit, dealing
fairly with labor unions, setting its face against the underpayment of
women and the employment of children; in a word, treating the public
fairly and its rivals fairly: then such a corporation is behaving
well. It is an instrumentality of civilization operating to promote
abundance by cheapening the cost of living so as to improve conditions
everywhere throughout the whole community. Does Mr. Wilson controvert
either of these statements? If so, let him answer directly. It is a
matter of capital importance to the country that his position in this
respect be stated directly, not by indirect suggestion.

Much of Mr. Wilson's article, although apparently aimed at the
Progressive party, is both so rhetorical and so vague as to need no
answer. He does, however, specifically assert (among other things
equally without warrant in fact) that the Progressive party says that
it is "futile to undertake to prevent monopoly," and only ventures to
ask the trusts to be "kind" and "pitiful"! It is a little difficult to
answer a misrepresentation of the facts so radical--not to say
preposterous--with the respect that one desires to use in speaking of
or to the President of the United States. I challenge President Wilson
to point to one sentence of our platform or of my speeches which
affords the faintest justification for these assertions. Having made
this statement in the course of an unprovoked attack on me, he cannot
refuse to show that it is true. I deem it necessary to emphasize here
(but with perfect respect) that I am asking for a plain statement of
fact, not for a display of rhetoric. I ask him, as is my right under
the circumstances, to quote the exact language which justifies him in
attributing these views to us. If he cannot do this, then a frank
acknowledgment on his part is due to himself and to the people. I
quote from the Progressive platform: "Behind the ostensible Government
sits enthroned an invisible Government, owing no allegiance and
acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this
invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt
business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship
of the day. . . . This country belongs to the people. Its resources,
its business, its laws, its institutions, should be utilized,
maintained, or altered in whatever manner will best promote the
general interest." This assertion is explicit. We say directly that
"the people" are absolutely to control in any way they see fit, the
"business" of the country. I again challenge Mr. Wilson to quote any
words of the platform that justify the statements he has made to the
contrary. If he cannot do it--and of course he cannot do it, and he
must know that he cannot do it--surely he will not hesitate to say so

Mr. Wilson must know that every monopoly in the United States opposes
the Progressive party. If he challenges this statement, I challenge
him in return (as is clearly my right) to name the monopoly that did
support the Progressive party, whether it was the Sugar Trust, the
Steel Trust, the Harvester Trust, the Standard Oil Trust, the Tobacco
Trust, or any other. Every sane man in the country knows well that
there is not one word of justification that can truthfully be adduced
for Mr. Wilson's statement that the Progressive programme was
agreeable to the monopolies. Ours was the only programme to which they
objected, and they supported either Mr. Wilson or Mr. Taft against me,
indifferent as to which of them might be elected so long as I was
defeated. Mr. Wilson says that I got my "idea with regard to the
regulation of monopoly from the gentlemen who form the United States
Steel Corporation." Does Mr. Wilson pretend that Mr. Van Hise and Mr.
Croly got their ideas from the Steel Corporation? Is Mr. Wilson
unaware of the elementary fact that most modern economists believe
that unlimited, unregulated competition is the source of evils which
all men now concede must be remedied if this civilization of ours is
to survive? Is he ignorant of the fact that the Socialist party has
long been against unlimited competition? This statement of Mr. Wilson
cannot be characterized properly with any degree of regard for the
office Mr. Wilson holds. Why, the ideas that I have championed as to
controlling and regulating both competition and combination in the
interest of the people, so that the people shall be masters over both,
have been in the air in this country for a quarter of a century. I was
merely the first prominent candidate for President who took them up.
They are the progressive ideas, and progressive business men must in
the end come to them, for I firmly believe that in the end all wise
and honest business men, big and little, will support our programme.
Mr. Wilson in opposing them is the mere apostle of reaction. He says
that I got my "ideas from the gentlemen who form the Steel
Corporation." I did not. But I will point out to him something in
return. It was he himself, and Mr. Taft, who got the votes and the
money of these same gentlemen, and of those in the Harvester Trust.

Mr. Wilson has promised to break up all trusts. He can do so only by
proceeding at law. If he proceeds at law, he can hope for success only
by taking what I have done as a precedent. In fact, what I did as
President is the base of every action now taken or that can be now
taken looking toward the control of corporations, or the suppression
of monopolies. The decisions rendered in various cases brought by my
direction constitute the authority on which Mr. Wilson must base any
action that he may bring to curb monopolistic control. Will Mr. Wilson
deny this, or question it in any way? With what grace can he describe
my Administration as satisfactory to the trusts when he knows that he
cannot redeem a single promise that he has made to war upon the trusts
unless he avails himself of weapons of which the Federal Government
had been deprived before I became President, and which were restored
to it during my Administration and through proceedings which I
directed? Without my action Mr. Wilson could not now undertake or
carry on a single suit against a monopoly, and, moreover, if it had
not been for my action and for the judicial decision in consequence
obtained, Congress would be helpless to pass a single law against

Let Mr. Wilson mark that the men who organized and directed the
Northern Securities Company were also the controlling forces in the
very Steel Corporation which Mr. Wilson makes believe to think was
supporting me. I challenge Mr. Wilson to deny this, and yet he well
knew that it was my successful suit against the Northern Securities
Company which first efficiently established the power of the people
over the trusts.

After reading Mr. Wilson's book, I am still entirely in the dark as to
what he means by the "New Freedom." Mr. Wilson is an accomplished and
scholarly man, a master of rhetoric, and the sentences in the book are
well-phrased statements, usually inculcating a morality which is sound
although vague and ill defined. There are certain proposals (already
long set forth and practiced by me and by others who have recently
formed the Progressive party) made by Mr. Wilson with which I
cordially agree. There are, however, certain things he has said, even
as regards matters of abstract morality, with which I emphatically
disagree. For example, in arguing for proper business publicity, as to
which I cordially agree with Mr. Wilson, he commits himself to the
following statement:

"You know there is temptation in loneliness and secrecy. Haven't
you experienced it? I have. We are never so proper in our conduct
as when everybody can look and see exactly what we are doing. If
you are off in some distant part of the world and suppose that
nobody who lives within a mile of your home is anywhere around,
there are times when you adjourn your ordinary standards. You say
to yourself, 'Well, I'll have a fling this time; nobody will know
anything about it.' If you were on the Desert of Sahara, you would
feel that you might permit yourself--well, say, some slight
latitude of conduct; but if you saw one of your immediate
neighbors coming the other way on a camel, you would behave
yourself until he got out of sight. The most dangerous thing in
the world is to get off where nobody knows you. I advise you to
stay around among the neighbors, and then you may keep out of
jail. That is the only way some of us can keep out of jail."

I emphatically disagree with what seems to be the morality inculcated
in this statement, which is that a man is expected to do and is to be
pardoned for doing all kinds of immoral things if he does them alone
and does not expect to be found out. Surely it is not necessary, in
insisting upon proper publicity, to preach a morality of so basely
material a character.

There is much more that Mr. Wilson says as to which I do not
understand him clearly, and where I condemn what I do understand. In
economic matters the course he advocates as part of the "New Freedom"
simply means the old, old "freedom" of leaving the individual strong
man at liberty, unchecked by common action, to prey on the weak and
the helpless. The "New Freedom" in the abstract seems to be the
freedom of the big to devour the little. In the concrete I may add
that Mr. Wilson's misrepresentations of what I have said seem to
indicate that he regards the new freedom as freedom from all
obligation to obey the Ninth Commandment.

But, after all, my views or the principles of the Progressive party
are of much less importance now than the purposes of Mr. Wilson. These
are wrapped in impenetrable mystery. His speeches and writings serve
but to make them more obscure. If these attempts to refute his
misrepresentation of my attitude towards the trusts should result in
making his own clear, then this discussion will have borne fruits of
substantial value to the country. If Mr. Wilson has any plan of his
own for dealing with the trusts, it is to suppress all great
industrial organizations--presumably on the principle proclaimed by
his Secretary of State four years ago, that every corporation which
produced more than a certain percentage of a given commodity--I think
the amount specified was twenty-five per cent--no matter how valuable
its service, should be suppressed. The simple fact is that such a plan
is futile. In operation it would do far more damage than it could
remedy. The Progressive plan would give the people full control of,
and in masterful fashion prevent all wrongdoing by, the trusts, while
utilizing for the public welfare every industrial energy and ability
that operates to swell abundance, while obeying strictly the moral law
and the law of the land. Mr. Wilson's plan would ultimately benefit
the trusts and would permanently damage nobody but the people. For
example, one of the steel corporations which has been guilty of the
worst practices towards its employees is the Colorado Fuel and Iron
Company. Mr. Wilson and Mr. Bryan's plan would, if successful, merely
mean permitting four such companies, absolutely uncontrolled, to
monopolize every big industry in the country. To talk of such an
accomplishment as being "The New Freedom" is enough to make the term
one of contemptuous derision.

President Wilson has made explicit promises, and the Democratic
platform has made explicit promises. Mr. Wilson is now in power, with
a Democratic Congress in both branches. He and the Democratic platform
have promised to destroy the trusts, to reduce the cost of living, and
at the same time to increase the well-being of the farmer and of the
workingman--which of course must mean to increase the profits of the
farmer and the wages of the workingman. He and his party won the
election on this promise. We have a right to expect that they will
keep it. If Mr. Wilson's promises mean anything except the very
emptiest words, he is pledged to accomplish the beneficent purposes he
avows by breaking up all the trusts and combinations and corporations
so as to restore competition precisely as it was fifty years ago. If
he does not mean this, he means nothing. He cannot do anything else
under penalty of showing that his promise and his performance do not
square with each other.

Mr. Wilson says that "the trusts are our masters now, but I for one do
not care to live in a country called free even under kind masters."
Good! The Progressives are opposed to having masters, kind or unkind,
and they do not believe that a "new freedom" which in practice would
mean leaving four Fuel and Iron Companies free to do what they like in
every industry would be of much benefit to the country. The
Progressives have a clear and definite programme by which the people
would be the masters of the trusts instead of the trusts being their
masters, as Mr. Wilson says they are. With practical unanimity the
trusts supported the opponents of this programme, Mr. Taft and Mr.
Wilson, and they evidently dreaded our programme infinitely more than
anything that Mr. Wilson threatened. The people have accepted Mr.
Wilson's assurances. Now let him make his promises good. He is
committed, if his words mean anything, to the promise to break up
every trust, every big corporation--perhaps every small corporation--
in the United States--not to go through the motions of breaking them
up, but really to break them up. He is committed against the policy
(of efficient control and mastery of the big corporations both by law
and by administrative action in cooperation) proposed by the
Progressives. Let him keep faith with the people; let him in good
faith try to keep the promises he has thus repeatedly made. I believe
that his promise is futile and cannot be kept. I believe that any
attempt sincerely to keep it and in good faith to carry it out will
end in either nothing at all or in disaster. But my beliefs are of no
consequence. Mr. Wilson is President. It is his acts that are of
consequence. He is bound in honor to the people of the United States
to keep his promise, and to break up, not nominally but in reality,
all big business, all trusts, all combinations of every sort, kind,
and description, and probably all corporations. What he says is
henceforth of little consequence. The important thing is what he does,
and how the results of what he does square with the promises and
prophecies he made when all he had to do was to speak, not to act.



In "The House of Harper," written by J. Henry Harper, the following
passage occurs: "Curtis returned from the convention in company with
young Theodore Roosevelt and they discussed the situation thoroughly
on their trip to New York and came to the conclusion that it would be
very difficult to consistently support Blaine. Roosevelt, however, had
a conference afterward with Senator Lodge and eventually fell in line
behind Blaine. Curtis came to our office and found that we were
unanimously opposed to the support of Blaine, and with a hearty good-
will he trained his editorial guns on the 'Plumed Knight' of Mulligan
letter fame. His work was as effective and deadly as any fight he ever
conducted in the /Weekly/." This statement has no foundation whatever
in fact. I did not return from the convention in company with Mr.
Curtis. He went back to New York from the convention, whereas I went
to my ranch in North Dakota. No such conversation as that ever took
place between me and Mr. Curtis. In my presence, in speaking to a
number of men at the time in Chicago, Mr. Curtis said: "You younger
men can, if you think right, refuse to support Mr. Blaine, but I am
too old a Republican, and have too long been associated with the
party, to break with it now." Not only did I never entertain after the
convention, but I never during the convention or at any other time,
entertained the intention alleged in the quotation in question. I
discussed the whole situation with Mr. Lodge before going to the
convention, and we had made up our minds that if the nomination of Mr.
Blaine was fairly made we would with equal good faith support him.

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