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Theodore Roosevelt; An Intimate Biography, by William Roscoe Thayer

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under any other conceivable conditions. Just as it was not New
York City, nor Harvard, nor North Dakota, which made him
ROOSEVELT, so the ROOSEVELT in him would have persisted under
whatever sky.

The time offers the opportunities. The gift in the man, innate
and incalculable, determines how he will seize them and what he
will do with them. Now it is because I think that Roosevelt had a
clear vision of the world in which he dwelt, and saw the path by
which to lead and improve it, that his career has profound
significance to me. Picturesque he was, and picturesqueness made
whatever he did interesting. But far deeper qualities made him
significant. From ancient times, at least from the days of Greece
and Rome, Democracy as a political ideal had been dreamed of, and
had even been put into practice on a small scale here and there.
But its shortcomings and the frailty of human nature made it the
despair of practical men and the laughing stock of philosophers
and ironists. Nevertheless, the conviction that no man has a
right to enslave another would not die. And in modern times the
English sense of justice and the English belief that a man must
have a right to be heard on matters concerning himself and his
government, forced Democracy, as an actual system, to the front.
The demand for representation caused the American colonists to
break away from England and to govern themselves independently.
Every one now sees that this demand was the just and logical
carrying forward of English ideals.

At about the same time, in France, Rousseau, gathering into his
own heart, from many sources, the suggestions and emotions of
Democracy, uttered them with a voice so magical that it roused
millions of other hearts and made the emotions seem intellectual
proofs. As the magician waves his wand and turns common pebbles
into precious stones, so Rousseau turned the dead crater of
Europe into a molten volcano. The ideals of Fraternity and
Equality were joined with that of Liberty and the three were
accepted as indivisible elements of Democracy. In the United
States we set our Democratic principles going. In Europe the
Revolution shattered many of the hateful methods of Despotism,
shattered, but did not destroy them. The amazing genius of
Napoleon intervened to deflect Europe from her march towards
Democracy and to convert her into the servant of his personal

Over here, in spite of the hideous contradiction of slavery,
which ate like a black ulcer into a part of our body politic, the
Democratic ideal not only prevailed, but came to be taken for
granted as a heaven-revealed truth, which only fools would
question or dispute. In Europe, the monarchs of the Old Regime
made a desperate rally and put down Napoleon, thinking that by
smashing him they would smash also the tremendous Democratic
forces by which he had gained his supremacy. They put back, so
far as they could, the old feudal bases of privilege and of more
or less disguised tyranny. The Restoration could not slumber
quietly, for the forces of the Revolution burst out from time to
time. They wished to realize the liberty of which they had had a
glimpse in 1789 and which the Old Regime had snatched away from
them. The Spirit of Nationality now strengthened their efforts
for independence and liberty and another Spirit came stalking
after both. This was the Social Revolution, which refusing to be
satisfied by a merely political victory boldly preached
Internationalism as a higher ideal than Nationalism. Truly, Time
still devours all his children, and the hysterical desires bred
by half-truths prevent the coming and triumphant reign of Truth.
While these various and mutually clashing motives swept Europe
along during the first half of the nineteenth century, a
different current hurried the United States into the rapids.
Should they continue to exist as one Union binding together
sections with different interests, or should the Union be
dissolved and those sections attempt to lead a separate political
existence? Fortunately, for the preservation of the Union, the
question of slavery was uppermost in one of the sections. Slavery
could not be dismissed as a merely economic question. Many
Americans declared that it was primarily a moral issue. And this
transformed what the Southern section would gladly have limited
to economics into a war for a moral ideal. With the destruction
of slavery in the South the preservation of the Union came as a
matter of course.

The Civil War itself had given a great stimulus to industry, to
the need of providing military equipment and supplies, and of
extending, as rapidly as possible, the railroads which were the
chief means of transportation. When the war ended in 1865, this
expansion went on at an increasing rate. The energy which had
been devoted to military purposes was now directed to commerce
and industry, to developing the vast unpeopled tracts from the
Mississippi to the Pacific, and to exploiting the hitherto
neglected or unknown natural resources of the country. Every year
science furnished new methods of converting nature's products
into man's wealth. Chemistry, the doubtful science, Midas-like,
turned into gold every thing that it touched. There were not
native workers enough, and so a steady stream of foreign
immigrants flocked over from abroad. They came at first to better
their own fortunes by sharing in the unlimited American harvests.
Later, our Captains of Industry, regardless of the quality of the
new comers, and intent only on securing cheap labor to multiply
their hoards, combed the lowest political and social levels of
southern Europe and of western Asia for employees. The immigrants
ceased to look upon America as the Land of Promise, the land
where they intended to settle, to make their homes, and to rear
their children; it became for them only a huge factory where they
earned a living and for which they felt no affection. On the
contrary, many of them looked forward to returning to their
native country as soon as they had saved up a little competence
here. The politicians, equally negligent of the real welfare of
the United States, gave to these masses of foreigners quick and
unscrutinized naturalization as American citizens.

So it fell out that before the end of the nineteenth century a
great gulf was opening between Labor and Capital. Now a community
can thrive only when all its classes feel that they have COMMON
interests; but since American Labor was largely composed of
foreigners, it acquired a double antagonism to Capital. It had
not only the supposed natural antagonism of employee to employer,
but also the further cause of misunderstanding, and hostility
even, which came from the foreignness of its members. Another
ominous condition arose. The United States ceased to be the Land
of Promise, where any hard-working and thrifty man could better
himself and even become rich. The gates of Opportunity were
closing. The free lands, which the Nation offered to any one who
would cultivate them, had mostly been taken up; the immigrant who
had been a laborer in Europe, was a laborer here. Moreover, the
political conditions in Europe often added to the burdens and
irritation caused by the industrial conditions there. And the
immigrant in coming to America brought with him all his
grievances, political not less than industrial. He was too
ignorant to discriminate; he could only feel. Anarchy and
Nihilism, which were his natural reaction against his despotic
oppressors in Germany and Russia, he went on cultivating here,
where, by the simple process of naturalization, he became
politically his own despot in a year or two.

But, of course, the very core of the feud which threatens to
disrupt modern civilization was the discovery that, in any final
adjustment, the POLITICAL did not suffice. What availed it for
the Taborer and the capitalist to be equal at the polls, for the
vote of one to count as much as the vote of the other, if the two
men were actually worlds apart in their social and industrial
lives? Equality must seem to the laborer a cruel deception and a
sham unless it results in equality in the distribution of wealth
and of opportunity. How this is to be attained I have never seen
satisfactorily stated; but the impossibility of realizing their
dreams, or the blank folly of doting on them, has never prevented
men from striving to obtain them. From this has resulted the
frantic pursuit, during a century and a quarter, of all sorts of
projects from Babuvism to Bolshevism, which, if they could not
install Utopia overnight, were at least calculated to destroy
Civilization as it is. The common feature of the propagandists of
all these doctrines seems to be the throwing-over of the Past;
not merely of the proved evils and inadequacies of the Past, but
of our conception of right and wrong, of morals, of human
relations, and of our duty towards the Eternal, which, having
sprung out of the Past, must be jettisoned in a fury of contempt.
In short, the destroyers of Society (writhing under the
immemorial sting of injustice, which they believed was wholly
caused by their privileged fellows, and not even in part inherent
in the nature of things) supposed that by blotting out Privilege
they could establish their ideals of Justice and Equality.

In the forward nations of Europe, not less than in the United
States, these ideals had been arrived at, at least in name, and
so far as concerned politics. Even in Germany, the most rigid of
Absolute Despot isms, a phantasm of political liberty was allowed
to flit about the Halls of Parliament. But through the cunning of
Bismarck the Socialist masses were bound all the more tightly to
the Hohenzollern Despot by liens which seemed to be socialistic.
Nevertheless, the principles of the Social Revolution spread
secretly from European country to country, whether it professed
to be Monarchical or Republican.

In the United States, when Theodore Roosevelt succeeded to the
Presidency in 1901, a similar antagonism between Capital and
Labor had become chronic. Capital was arrogant. Its advance since
the Civil War had been unmatched in history. The inundation of
wealth which had poured in, compared with all previous amassing
of riches, was as the Mississippi to the slender stream of
Pactolus. The men whose energy had created this wealth, and the
men who managed and increased it, lost the sense of their proper
relations with the rest of the community and the Nation.
According to the current opinion progress consisted in doubling
wealth in the shortest time possible; this meant the employment
of larger and larger masses of labor; therefore laborers should
be satisfied, nay, should be grateful to the capitalists who
provided them with the means of a livelihood; and those
capitalists assumed that what they regarded as necessary to
progress, defined by them, should be accepted as necessary to the
prosperity of the Nation.

Such an alignment of the two elements, which composed the Nation,
indicated how far the so-called Civilization, which modern
industrialism has created, was from achieving that social
harmony, which is the ideal and must be the base of every
wholesome and enduring State. The condition of the working
classes in this country was undoubtedly better than that in
Europe. And the discontent and occasional violence here were
fomented by foreign agitators who tried to make our workers
believe that they were as much oppressed as their foreign
brothers. Wise observers saw that a collision, it might be a
catastrophe, was bound to come unless some means could be found
to bring concord to the antagonists. Here was surely an amazing
paradox. The United States, already possessed of fabulous wealth
and daily amassing more, was heading straight for a social and
economic revolution, because a part of the inhabitants claimed to
be the slaves of industrialism and of poverty.

This slight outline, which every reader can complete for himself,
will serve to show what sort of a world, especially what sort of
an American world, confronted Roosevelt when he took the reins of
government. His task was stupendous, the problems he had to solve
were baffling. Other public men of the time saw its portents, but
he alone seems to have felt that it was his duty to strain every
nerve to avert the impending disaster. And he alone, as it seems
to me, understood the best means to take.

Honesty, Justice, Reason, were not to him mere words to decorate
sonorous messages or to catch and placate the hearers of his
passionate speeches; they were the most real of all realities,
moral agents to be used to clear away the deadlock into which
Civilization was settling.


In taking the oath of office at Buffalo, Roosevelt promised to
continue President McKinley's policies. And this he set about
doing loyally. He retained McKinley's Cabinet,* who were working
out the adjustments already agreed upon. McKinley was probably
the best-natured President who ever occupied the White House. He
instinctively shrank from hurting anybody's feelings. Persons who
went to see him in dudgeon, to complain against some act which
displeased them, found him "a bower of roses," too sweet and soft
to be treated harshly. He could say "no" to applicants for office
so gently that they felt no resentment. For twenty years he had
advocated a protective tariff so mellifluously, and he believed
so sincerely in its efficacy, that he could at any time hypnotize
himself by repeating his own phrases. If he had ever studied the
economic subject, it was long ago, and having adopted the tenets
which an Ohio Republican could hardly escape from adopting, he
never revised them or even questioned their validity. His
protectionism, like cheese, only grew stronger with age. As a
politician, he was so hospitable that in the campaign of 1896,
which was fought to maintain the gold standard and the financial
honesty of the United States, he showed very plainly that he had
no prejudice against free silver, and it was only at the last
moment that the Republican managers could persuade him to take a
firm stand for gold.

* In April, 1901, J. W. Griggs had retired as Attorney-General
and was succeeded by P. C. Knox; in January, 1902, C. E. Smith
was replaced by H. W. Payne as Postmaster-General.

The chief business which McKinley left behind him, the work which
Roosevelt took up and carried on, concerned Imperialism. The
Spanish War forced this subject to the front by leaving us in
possession of the Philippines and by bequeathing to us the
responsibility for Cuba and Porto Rico. We paid Spain for the
Philippines, and in spite of constitutional doubts as to how a
Republic like the United States could buy or hold subject
peoples, we proceeded to conquer those islands and to set up an
American administration in them. We also treated Porto Rico as a
colony, to enjoy the blessing of our rule. And while we allowed
Cuba to set up a Republic of her own, we made it very clear that
our benevolent protection was behind her.

All this constituted Imperialism, against which many of our
soberest citizens protested. They alleged that as a doctrine it
contradicted the fundamental principles on which our nation was
built. Since the Declaration of Independence, America had stood
before the world as the champion and example of Liberty, and by
our Civil War she had purged her self of Slavery. Imperialism
made her the mistress of peoples who had never been consulted.
Such moral inconsistency ought not to be tolerated. In addition
to it was the political danger that lay in holding possessions on
the other side of the Pacific. To keep them we must be prepared
to defend them, and defense would involve maintaining a naval and
military armament and of stimulating a warlike spirit, repugnant
to our traditions. In short, Imperialism made the United States a
World Power, and laid her open to its perils and entanglements.

But while a minority of the men and women of sober judgment and
conscience opposed Imperialism, the large majority accepted it,
and among these was Theodore Roosevelt. He believed that the
recent war had involved us in a responsibility which we could not
evade if we would. Having destroyed Spanish sovereignty in the
Philippines, we must see to it that the people of those islands
were protected. We could not leave them to govern themselves
because they had no experience in government; nor could we dodge
our obligation by selling them to any other Power. Far from
hesitating because of legal or moral doubts, much less of
questioning our ability to perform this new task, Roosevelt
embraced Imperialism, with all its possible issues, boldly not to
say exultantly. To him Imperialism meant national strength, the
acknowledgment by the American people that the United States are
a World Power and that they would not shrink from taking up any
burden which that distinction involved.

When President Cleveland, at the end of 1895, sent his swingeing
message in regard to the Venezuelan Boundary quarrel, Roosevelt
was one of the first to foresee the remote consequences. And by
the time he himself became President, less than six years later,
several events--our taking of the Hawaiian Islands, the Spanish
War, the island possessions which it saddled upon us--confirmed
his conviction that the United States could no longer live
isolated from the great interests and policies of the world, but
must take their place among the ruling Powers. Having reached
national maturity we must accept Expansion as the logical and
normal ideal for our matured nation. Cleveland had laid down that
the Monroe Doctrine was inviolable; Roosevelt insisted that we
must not only bow to it in theory, but be prepared to defend it
if necessary by force of arms.

Very naturally, therefore, Roosevelt encouraged the passing of
legislation needed to complete the settlement of our relations
with our new possessions. He paid especial attention to the men
he sent to administer the Philippines, and later he was able to
secure the services of W. Cameron Forbes as Governor-General. Mr.
Forbes proved to be a Viceroy after the best British model and he
looked after the interest of his wards so honestly and
competently that conditions in the Philippines improved rapidly,
and the American public in general felt no qualms over possessing
them. But the Anti-Imperialists, to whom a moral issue does not
cease to be moral simply because it has a material sugar-coating,
kept up their protest.

There were, however, matters of internal policy; along with them
Roosevelt inherited several foreign complications which he at
once grappled with. In the Secretary of State, John Hay, he had a
remarkable helper. Henry Adams told me that Hay was the first
"man of the world" who had ever been Secretary of State. While
this may be disputed, nobody can fail to see some truth in
Adams's assertion. Hay had not only the manners of a gentleman,
but also the special carriage of a diplomat. He was polite,
affable, and usually accessible, without ever losing his innate
dignity. An indefinable reserve warded off those who would either
presume or indulge in undue familiarity His quick wits kept him
always on his guard. His main defect was his unwillingness to
regard the Senate as having a right to pass judgment on his
treaties. And instead of being compliant and compromising, he
injured his cause with the Senators by letting them see too
plainly that he regarded them as interlopers, and by peppering
them with witty but not agreeable sarcasm. In dealing with
foreign diplomats, on the other hand, he was at his best. They
found him polished, straightforward, and urbane. He not only
produced on them the impression of honesty, but he was honest. In
all his diplomatic correspondence, whether he was writing
confidentially to American representatives or was addressing
official notes to foreign governments, I do not recall a single
hint of double-dealing. Hay was the velvet glove, Roosevelt the
hand of steel.

For many years Canada and the United States had enjoyed
grievances towards each other, grievances over fisheries, over
lumber, and other things, no one of which was worth going to war
for. The discovery of gold in the Klondike, and the rush thither
of thousands of fortune-seekers, revived the old question of the
Alaskan Boundary; for it mattered a great deal whether some of
the gold-fields were Alaskan--that is, American-or Canadian.
Accordingly, a joint High Commission was appointed towards the
end of McKinley's first administration to consider the claims and
complaints of the two countries. The Canadians, however, instead
of settling each point on its own merits, persisted in bringing
in a list of twelve grievances which varied greatly in
importance, and this method favored trading one claim against
another. The result was that the Commission, failing to agree,
disbanded. Nevertheless, the irritation continued, and Roosevelt,
having become President, and being a person who was
constitutionally opposed to shilly-shally, suggested to the State
Department that a new Commission be appointed under conditions
which would make a decision certain. He even went farther, he
took precautions to assure a verdict in favor of the United
States. He appointed three Commissioners--Senators Lodge, Root,
and Turner; the Canadians appointed two, Sir A. L. Jette and A.
B. Aylesworth; the English representative was Alverstone, the
Lord Chief Justice.

The President gave to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, of the
Supreme Court, who was going abroad for the summer, a letter
which he was "indiscreetly" to show Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Balfour,
and two or three other prominent Englishmen. In this letter he

'The claims of the Canadians for access to deep water along any
part of the Alaskan Coast is just exactly as indefensible as if
they should now suddenly claim the Island of Nantucket ....

'I believe that no three men [the President said] in the United
States could be found who would be more anxious than our own
delegates to do justice to the British claim on all points where
there is even a color of right on the British side. But the
objection raised by certain Canadian authorities to Lodge, Root,
and Turner, and especially to Lodge and Root, was that they had
committed themselves on the general proposition. No man in public
life in any position of prominence could have possibly avoided
committing himself on the proposition, any more than Mr.
Chamberlain could avoid committing himself on the question of the
ownership of the Orkneys if some Scandinavian country suddenly
claimed them. If this claim embodied other points as to which
there was legitimate doubt, I believe Mr. Chamberlain would act
fairly and squarely in deciding the matter; but if he appointed a
commission to settle up all these questions, I certainly should
not expect him to appoint three men, if he could find them, who
believed that as to the Orkneys the question was an open one.

'I wish to make one last effort to bring about an agreement
through the Commission [he said in closing] which will enable the
people of both countries to say that the result represents the
feeling of the representatives of both countries. But if there is
a disagreement, I wish it distinctly understood, not only that
there will be no arbitration of the matter, but that in my
message to Congress I shall take a position which will prevent
any possibility of arbitration hereafter; a position . . . which
will render it necessary for Congress to give me the authority to
run the line as we claim it, by our own people, without any
further regard to the attitude of England and Canada. If I paid
attention to mere abstract rights, that is the position I ought
to take anyhow. I have not taken it because I wish to exhaust
every effort to have the affair settled peacefully and with due
regard to England's honor.'*

* W. R. Thayer: John Hay, II, 209, 210.

In due time the Commission gave a decision in favor of the
American contention. Lord Alverstone, who voted with the
Americans, was suspected of having been chosen by the British
Government because they knew his opinion, but I do not believe
that this was true. A man of his honor, sitting in such a
tribunal, would not have voted according to instructions from

Roosevelt's brusque way of bringing the Alaska Boundary Question
to a quick decision, may be criticised as not being judicial. He
took the short cut, just as he did years before in securing a
witness against the New York saloon-keepers who destroyed the
lives of thousands of boys and girls by making them drunkards.
Strictly, of course, if the boundary dispute was to be submitted
to a commission, he ought to have allowed the other party to
appoint its own commissioners without any suggestion from him.
But as the case had dragged on interminably, and he believed, and
the world believed, and the Canadians themselves knew, that they
intended to filibuster and postpone as long as possible, he took
the common-sense way to a settlement. If he had resolved, as he
had, to draw the boundary line "on his own hook," in case there
was further pettifogging he committed no impropriety in warning
the British statesmen of his purpose. In judging these
Rooseveltian short cuts, the reader must decide whether they were
justified by the good which they achieved.

Of even greater importance was the understanding reached, under
Roosevelt's direction, with the British Government in regard to
the construction of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. By the
Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850, the United States and Great
Britain agreed to maintain free and uninterrupted passage across
the Isthmus, and, further, that neither country should "obtain or
maintain to itself any control over the said ship-canal," or
"assume or exercise any dominion . . . over any part of Central
America." The ship canal talked about as a probability in 1850
had become a necessity by 1900. During the Spanish-American War,
the American battleship Oregon had been obliged. to make the
voyage round Cape Horn, from San Francisco to Cuba, and this
served to impress on the people of the United States the really
acute need of a canal across the Isthmus, so that in time of war
with a powerful enemy, our Atlantic fleet and our Pacific fleet
might quickly pass from one coast to another. It would obviously
be impossible for us to play the role of a World Power unless we
had this short line of communication. But the conditions of
peace, not less than the emergencies of war, called for a canal.
International commerce, as well as our own, required the saving
of thousands of miles of distance.

About 1880, the French under Count De Lesseps undertook to
construct a canal from Panama to Aspinwall, but after half a
dozen years the French company suspended work, partly for
financial reasons, and partly on account of the enormous loss of
life among the diggers from the pestilent nature of the climate
and the country. Then followed a period of waiting, until it
seemed certain that the French would never resume operations.
American promoters pressed the claims of a route through
Nicaragua where they could secure concessions. But it became
clear that an enterprise of such far reaching political
importance as a trans-Isthmian canal, should be under
governmental control. John Hay had been less than a year in the
Department of State when he set about negotiating with England a
treaty which should embody his ideas. In Sir Julian Pauncefote,
the British Ambassador at Washington, he had a most congenial man
to deal with. Both were gentlemen, both were firmly convinced
that a canal must be constructed for the good of civilization,
both held that to assure the friendship of the two great branches
of the English-speaking race should be the transcendent aim of
each. They soon made a draft of a treaty which was submitted to
the Senate,,but the Senators so amended it that the British
Government refused to accept their amendments, and the project
failed. Hay was so terribly chagrined at the Senate's
interference that he wished to resign. There could be no doubt
now, however, that if the canal had been undertaken on the terms
of his first treaty, it would never have satisfied the United
States and it would probably have been a continual source of
international irritation. Roosevelt was at that time Governor of
New York, and I quote the following letter from him to Hay
because it shows how clearly he saw the objections to the treaty,
and the fundamental principles for the control of an Isthmian

Albany, Feb. 18, 1900

'I hesitated long before I said anything about the treaty through
sheer dread of two moments--that in which I should receive your
note, and that in which I should receive Cabot's.* But I made up
my mind that at least I wished to be on record; for to my mind
this step is one backward, and it may be fraught with very great
mischief. You have been the greatest Secretary of State I have
seen in my time--Olney comes second--but at this moment I can
not, try as I may, see that you are right. Understand me. When
the treaty is adopted, as I suppose it will be, I shall put the
best face possible on it, and shall back the Administration as
heartily as ever, but oh, how I wish you and the President would
drop the treaty and push through a bill to build AND FORTIFY our
own canal.

* Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, who also opposed the first treaty.

'My objections are twofold. First, as to naval policy. If the
proposed canal had been in existence in '98, the Oregon could
have come more quickly through to the Atlantic; but this fact
would have been far outweighed by the fact that Cervera's fleet
would have had open to it the chance of itself going through the
canal, and thence sailing to attack Dewey or to menace our
stripped Pacific Coast. If that canal is open to the warships of
an enemy, it is a menace to us in time of war; it is an added
burden, an additional strategic point to be guarded by our fleet.
If fortified by us, it becomes one of the most potent sources of
our possible sea strength. Unless so fortified it strengthens
against us every nation whose fleet is larger than our own. One
prime reason for fortifying our great seaports, is to unfetter
our fleet, to release it for offensive purposes; and the proposed
canal would fetter it again, for our fleet would have to watch
it, and therefore do the work which a fort should do; and what it
could do much better.

'Secondly, as to the Monroe Doctrine. If we invite foreign powers
to a joint ownership, a joint guarantee, of what so vitally
concerns us but a little way from our borders, how can we
possibly object to similar joint action, say in Southern Brazil
or Argentina, where our interests are so much less evident? If
Germany has the same right that we have in the canal across
Central America, why not in the partition of any part of Southern
America? To my mind, we should consistently refuse to all
European powers the right to control in any shape, any territory
in the Western Hemisphere which they do not already hold.

'As for existing treaties--I do not admit the "dead hand" of the
treaty making power in the past. A treaty can always be honorably
abrogated--though it must never be abrogated in dishonest

* W. R. Thayer: John Hay, II, 339-41.

Fortunately, Lord Salisbury, the British Prime Minister, remained
benevolently disposed towards the Isthmian Canal, and in the
following year he consented to take up the subject again. A new
treaty embodying the American amendments and the British
objections was drafted, and passed the Senate a few months after
Roosevelt became President. Its vital provisions were, that it
abrogated the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty and gave to the United States
full ownership and control of the proposed canal.

This was the second illustration of Roosevelt's masterfulness in
cutting through a diplomatic knot. Arrangements for constructing
the Canal itself forced on him a third display of his dynamic
quality which resulted in the most hotly discussed act of his

The French Canal Company was glad to sell to the American
Government its concessions on the Isthmus, and as much of the
Canal as it had dug, for $40,000,000. It had originally bought
its concession from the Government of Colombia, which owned the
State of Panama: At first the Colombian rulers seemed glad, and
they sent an accredited agent, Dr. Herran, to Washington, who
framed with Secretary Hay a treaty satisfactory to both, and
believed, by Mr. Hay, to represent the sincere intentions of the
Colombian Government at Bogota. The Colombian politicians,
however, who were banditti of the Tammany stripe, but as much
cruder as Bogota was than New York City, suddenly discovered that
the transaction might be much more profitable for themselves than
they had at first suspected. They put off ratifying the treaty,
therefore, and warned the French Company that they should charge
it an additional $10,000,000 for the privilege of transferring
its concession to the Americans. The French demurred; the
Americans waited. Secretary Hay reminded Dr. Herran that the
treaty must be signed within a reasonable time, and intimated
that the reasonable time would soon be up.

The Bogotan blackmailers indulged in still wilder dreams of
avarice; like the hasheesh-eater, they completely lost contact
with reality and truth. In one of their earlier compacts with the
French Company they stipulated that, if the Canal were not
completed by a certain day in 1904, the entire concession and
undertaking should revert to the Colombian Government. As it was
now September, 1903, it did not require the wits of a political
bandit to see that, by staving off an agreement with the United
States for a few months, Colombia could get possession of
property and privileges which the French were selling to the
Americans for $40,000,000. So the Colombian Parliament adjourned
in October, 1903, without even taking up the Hay-Herran Treaty.

Meanwhile the managers of the French Company became greatly
alarmed at the prospect of losing the sum which the United States
had agreed to pay for its rights and diggings, and it took steps
to avert this total loss. The most natural means which occurred
to it, the means which it adopted, was to incite a revolution in
the State of Panama. To understand the affair truly, the reader
must remember that Panama had long been the chief source of
wealth to the Republic of Colombia. The mountain gentry who
conducted the Colombian Government at Bogota treated Panama like
a conquered. province, to be squeezed to the utmost for the
benefit of the politicians. There was neither community of
interest nor racial sympathy between the Panamanians and the
Colombians, and, as it required a journey of fifteen days to go
from Panama to the Capital, geography, also, added its sundering
influence. Quite naturally the Panamanians, in the course of less
than half a century, had made more than fifty attempts to revolt
from Colombia and establish their own independence. The most
illiterate of them could understand that, if they were
independent, the money which they received and passed on to
Bogota., for the bandits there to spend, would remain in their
own hands. An appeal to their love of liberty, being coupled with
so obvious an appeal to their pockets, was irresistible.

Just what devices the French Company employed to instigate
revolution, can be read in the interesting work of M.
Bunau-Varilla, one of the most zealous officers of the French
Company, who had devoted his life to achieving the construction
of the Trans-Isthmian Canal. He was indefatigable, breezy, and
deliberately indiscreet. He tells much, and what he does not tell
he leaves you to infer, without risk of going astray. Mr. William
Nelson Cromwell, of New York; the general counsel of the Company,
offset Varilla's loquacity by a proper amount of reticence.
Bunau-Varilla hurried over from Paris, and had interviews with
President Roosevelt and Secretary Hay, but could not draw them
into his conspiracy. The President told him that, at the utmost,
he would only order American warships, which were on the Panama
coast, to prevent any attack from outside which might cause
bloodshed and interfere with the undisturbed passage across the
Isthmus, a duty which the United States was pledged to perform.

The French zealot-conspirator freely announced that the
revolution at Panama would take place at noon on November 3d. It
did take place as scheduled without violence, and with only the
accidental killing of a Chinaman and a dog. The next day the
Revolutionists proclaimed the Republic of Panama, and on November
6th the United States formally recognized its existence and
prepared to open diplomatic relations with it. The Colombian
Government had tried to send troops to put down the rebellion,
but the American warships, obeying their orders to prevent
bloodshed or fighting, would not allow the troops to land.

As soon as the news of these events reached Bogota, the halls of
Parliament there resounded with wailing and gnashing of teeth and
protests, and curses on the perfidious Americans who had connived
to free the Panamanians in their struggle for liberty. The
mountain bandits perceived that they had overreached themselves.
Instead of the $10,000,000 which their envoy Herran had deemed
sufficient; instead of the $40,000,000 and more, which their
greed had counted on in 1904, they would receive nothing. The
Roosevelt Government immediately signed a contract with the
Republic of Panama, by which the United States leased a zone
across the Isthmus for building, controlling, and operating, the
Canal. Then the Colombians, in a panic, sent their most
respectable public man, and formerly their President, General
Rafael Reyes, to Washington, to endeavor to persuade the
Government to reverse its compact with the Panama Republic. The
blackmailers were now very humble. Mr. Wayne MacVeagh, who was
counsel for Colombia, told me that General Reyes was authorized
to accept $8,000,000 for all the desired concessions, "and," Mr.
MacVeagh added, "he would have taken five millions, but Hay and
Roosevelt were so foolish that they wouldn't accept."

The quick decisions of the Administration in Washington, which
accompanied the revolution in Panama and the recognition of the
new Republic, were made by Roosevelt. I have seen no evidence
that Mr. Hay was consulted at the last moment. When the stroke
was accomplished, many good persons in the United States
denounced it. They felt that it was high-handed and brutal, and
that it fixed an indelible blot on the national conscience. Many
of them did not know of the long-drawn-out negotiations and of
the Colombian premeditated deceit; others knew, but overlooked or
condoned. They upheld strictly the letter of the law. They could
not deny that the purpose of the Colombians was to exact
blackmail. It meant nothing to them that Herran, the official
envoy, had drawn up and signed a treaty under instructions from
Marroquin, the President of Colombia, and its virtual dictator,
who, having approved of the orders under which Herran acted,
could easily have required the Colombian Parliament to ratify the
treaty. Perfervidly pious critics of Roosevelt pictured him as a
bully without conscience, and they blackened his aid in freeing
the Panamanians by calling it "the Rape of Panama." Some of these
persons even boldly asserted that John Hay died of remorse over
his part in this wicked deed. The fact is that John Hay died of a
disease which was not caused by remorse, and that, as long as he
lived, he publicly referred to the Panama affair as that in which
he took the greatest pride. It is only in the old Sunday-School
stories that Providence punishes wrongdoing with such commendable
swiftness, and causes the naughty boy who goes skating on Sunday
to drown forthwith; in real life the "mills of God grind slowly."
Roosevelt always regarded with equal satisfaction the decision by
which the Panama Canal was achieved and the high needs of
civilization and the protection of the United States were
attended to. He lived long enough to condemn the proposal of some
of our morbidly conscientious people, hypnotized by the same old
crafty Colombians, to pay Colombia a gratuity five times greater
than that which General Reyes would have thankfully received in
December, 1903.

Persons of different temperaments, but of equal patriotism and
sincerity, will probably pass different verdicts on this incident
for a long time to come. Mr. Leupp quotes a member of Roosevelt's
Administration as stating four alternative courses the President
might have followed. First, he might have let matters drift until
Congress met, and then sent a message on the subject, shifting
the responsibility from his own shoulders to those of the
Congressmen. Secondly, he might have put down the rebellion and
restored Panama to Colombia; but this would have been to subject
them against their will to a foreign enemy--an enormity the
Anti-Imperialists were still decrying in our holding the
Philippines against the will of their inhabitants. Thirdly, he
might have withdrawn American warships and left Colombia to fight
it out with the Panamanians--but this would have involved
bloodshed, tumult, and interruption of transit across the
Isthmus, which the United States, by the agreement of 1846, were
bound to prevent. Finally, he might recognize any de facto
government ready and willing to transact business--and this he

* Leupp, 10-11.

That the Colombian politicians, who repudiated the treaty Herran
had framed, were blackmailers of the lowest sort, is as
indisputable as is the fact that whoever begins to compromise
with a blackmailer is lured farther and farther into a bog until
he is finally swallowed up. Americans should know also that
during the summer and autumn of 1903, German agents were busy in
Bogota. and that, since German capitalists had openly announced
their desire to buy up the French Company's concession, we may
guess that they did not urge Colombia to fulfill her obligation
to the United States.

Many years later I discussed the transaction with Mr. Roosevelt,
chaffing him with being a wicked conspirator. He laughed, and
replied: " What was the use? The other fellows in Paris and New
York had taken all the risk and were doing all the work. Instead
of trying to run a parallel conspiracy, I had only to sit still
and profit by their plot--if it succeeded." He said also that he
had intended issuing a public announcement that, if Colombia by a
given date refused to come to terms, he would seize the Canal
Zone in behalf of civilization. I told him I rather wished that
he had accomplished his purpose in that way; but he answered that
events matured too quickly, and that, in any case, where swift
action was required, the Executive and not Congress must decide.


These early diplomatic settlements in Roosevelt's Administration
showed the world that the United States now had a President who
did not seek quarrels, but who was not afraid of them, who never
bluffed, because--unlike President Cleveland and Secretary Olney
with their Venezuela Message in 1895--he never made a threat
which he could not back up at the moment. There was no longer a
bed of roses to stifle opposition; whosoever hit at the United
States would encounter a barrier of long, sharp, and unbending

These particular achievements in foreign affairs, and others
which I shall mention later, gave Roosevelt and his country great
prestige abroad and the admiration of a large part of his
countrymen. But his truly significant work related to home
affairs. Now at last, he, the young David of the New Ideals, was
to go forth, if he dared, and do battle with the Goliath of
Conservatism. With him there was no question of daring. He had
been waiting for twenty years for this opportunity. Such a
conflict or duel has rarely been witnessed, because it rarely
happens that an individual who consciously embodies the aims of
an epoch is accepted by that epoch as its champion. Looking
backward, we see that Abraham Lincoln typified the ideals of
Freedom and Union which were the supreme issues of his time; but
this recognition has come chiefly since his death. In like
fashion I believe that Roosevelt's significance as a champion of
Liberty, little suspected by his contemporaries and hardly
surmised even now, will require the lapse of another generation
before it is universally understood.

Many obvious reasons account for this. Most of the internal
reforms which Roosevelt struggled for lacked the dramatic quality
or the picturesqueness which appeals to average, dull,
unimaginative men and women. The heroism of the medical
experimenter who voluntarily contracts yellow fever and dies--and
thereby saves myriads of lives--makes little impression on the
ordinary person, who can be roused only by stories of battle
heroism, of soldiers and torpedoes. And yet the attacks which
Roosevelt made, while they did not involve death, called for the
highest kind of civic courage and fortitude.

Then again a political combat with tongues and arguments seldom
conveys the impression that through it irrevocable Fate gives its
decision to the same extent that a contest by swords and volleys
does. Political campaigns are a competition of parties and only
the immediate partisans who direct and carry on the fight, grow
very hot. The great majority of a party is not fanatical, and a
citizen who has witnessed many elections, some for and some
against him, comes instinctively to feel that whoever wins the
country is safe. He discounts the cries of alarm and the abuse by
opponents. And only in his most expansive moments does he flatter
himself that his party really represents the State. The
Republican Party, through which President Roosevelt had to work,
was by no means an ideal instrument. He believed in
Republicanism, with a faith only less devoted than that with
which he embraced the fundamental duties and spiritual facts of
life. But the Republicanism which he revered must be interpreted
by himself; and the party which bore the name Republican was
split into several sections, mutually discordant if not actually
hostile. It seems no exaggeration to say that the underlying
motive of the majority of the Republican Party during Roosevelt's
Presidency was to uphold Privilege, just as much as the
underlying purpose of the great Whig Party in England in the
eighteenth century was to uphold Aristocracy. Roosevelt's
purpose, on the contrary, was to clip the arrogance of Privilege
based on Plutocracy. To achieve this he must, in some measure,
compel the party of Plutocracy to help him. I speak, so far as
possible, as a historian,--and not as a partisan,--who recognizes
that the rise of a Plutocracy was the inevitable result of the
amassing, during a generation, of unprecedented wealth, and that,
in a Republic governed by parties, the all-dominant Plutocracy
would naturally see to it that the all dominant party which
governed the country and made its laws should be plutocratic. If
the spheres in which Plutocracy made most of its money had been
Democratic, then the Democratic Party would have served the
Plutocracy. As it was, in the practical relation between the
parties, the Democrats got their share of the spoils, and the
methods of a Democratic Boss, like Senator Gorman, did not differ
from those of a Republican Boss, like Senator Aldrich. Roosevelt
relied implicitly on justice and common sense. He held, as firmly
as Lincoln had held, to the inherent rightmindedness of the
"plain people." And however fierce and formidable the opposition
to his policies might be in Congress, he trusted that, if he
could make clear to the average voters of the country what he was
aiming at, they would support him. And they did support him. Time
after time, when the Interests appeared to be on the point of
crushing his reform, the people rose and coerced Congress into
adopting it. I would not imply that Roosevelt assumed an
autocratic manner in this warfare. He left no doubt of his
intention, still less could he disguise the fact of his
tremendous personal vigor; but rather than threaten he tried to
persuade; he was good-natured to everybody, he explained the
reasonableness of his measures; and only when the satraps of
Plutocracy so far lost their discretion as to threaten him, did
he bluntly challenge them to do their worst.

The Interests had undeniably reached such proportions that unless
they were chastened and controlled, the freedom of the Republic
could not survive. And yet, in justice, we must recall that when
they grew up in the day of small things, they were beneficial;
their founders had no idea of their becoming a menace to the
Nation. The man who built the first cotton-mill in his section,
or started the first iron-furnace, or laid the first stretch of
railroad, was rightly hailed as a benefactor; and he could not
foresee that the time would come when his mill, entering into a
business combination with a hundred other mills in different
parts of the country, would be merged. in a monopoly to strangle
competition in cotton manufacture. Likewise, the first stretch of
railroad joined another, and this a third, and so on, until there
had arisen a vast railway system under a single management from
New York to San Francisco. Now, while these colossal monopolies
had grown up so naturally, responding to the wonderful expansion
of the population they served, the laws and regulations which
applied to them, having been framed in the days when they were
young and small and harmless, still obtained. The clothes made
for the little boy would not do for the giant man. I have heard a
lawyer complain that statutes, which barely sufficed when travel
and transportation went by stage-coach, were stretched to fit the
needs of the public in its relation with transcontinental
railroads. This is an exaggeration, no doubt, but it points
towards truth. The Big Interests were so swollen that they went
ahead on their own affairs and paid little attention to the
community on which they were battening. They saw to it that if
any laws concerning them had to be made by the State Legislatures
or by Congress, their agents in those bodies should make them. A
certain Mr. Vanderbilt, the president of one of the largest
railroad systems in America, a person whose other gems of wit and
wisdom have not been recorded, achieved such immortality, as it
is, by remarking, "The public be damned." Probably the president
and directors of a score of other monopolies would have heartily
echoed that impolitic and petulant display of arrogance.
Impolitic the exclamation was, because the American public had
already begun to feel that the Big Interests were putting its
freedom in jeopardy, and it was beginning to call for laws which
should reduce the power of those interests.

As early as 1887 the Interstate Commerce Act was passed, the
earliest considerable attempt to regulate rates and traffic. Then
followed anti-trust laws which aimed at the suppression of
"pools," in which many large producers or manufacturers combined
to sell their staples at a uniform price, a practice which
inevitably set up monopolies. The "Trusts" were to these what the
elephant is to a colt. When the United States Steel Corporation
was formed by uniting eleven large steel plants, with an
aggregate capital of $11100,000,000, the American people had an
inkling of the magnitude to which Trusts might swell. In like
fashion when the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern
Railroads found a legal impediment to their being run by one
management, they got round the law by organizing the Northern
Securities Company, which was to hold the stocks and bonds of
both railroads. And so of many other important industrial and
transportation mergers. The most powerful financial promoters of
the country, led by Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan, were busy setting up
these combinations on a large scale and the keenest corporation
lawyers spent their energy and wits in framing charters which
obeyed the letter of the laws, but wholly denied their spirit.

President Roosevelt worked openly, with a definite purpose.
First, he would enforce every law on the statute book, without
exception in favor of any individual or company; next, he
suggested to Congress the need of new legislation to resist
further encroachments by capitalists in the fields where they had
already been checked; finally, he pointed out that Congress must
begin at once to protect the national resources which had been
allowed to go to waste, or to be seized and exploited by private

I do not intend to take up in chronological sequence, or in
detail, Roosevelt's battles to secure proper legislation. To do
so would require the discussion of legal and constitutional
questions, which would scarcely fit a sketch like the present.
The main things to know are the general nature of his reforms and
his own attitude in conducting the fight. He aimed directly at
stopping abuses which gave a privileged few undue advantage in
amassing and distributing wealth. The practical result of the
laws was to spread justice, and equality throughout the country
and to restore thereby the true spirit of Democracy on which the
Founders created the Republic. He fought fairly, but warily,
never letting slip a point that would tell against his opponents,
who, it must be said, did not always attack him honorably.

At first, they regarded the President as a headstrong young man--
he was the youngest who had ever sat in the Presidential chair--
who wished to have his own way in order to show the country that
he was its leader. They did not see that ideals which dated back
to his childhood were really shaping his acts. He had seen law in
the making out West; he had seen law, and especially corporation
law, in the making when he was in the New York Assembly and
Governor of New York; he knew the devices by which the Interests
caused laws to be made and passed for their special benefit, or
evaded inconvenient laws. But he suffered no disillusion as to
the ideal of Law, the embodiment and organ of Justice. Legal
quibbles, behind which designing and wicked men dodged, nauseated
him, and he made no pretense of wishing to uphold them.

The champions of the Interests found out before long that the
young President was neither headstrong nor a mere creature of
impulse, but that he followed a thoroughly rational system of
principles; and so they had to abandon the notion that the next
gust of impulse might blow him over to their side. They must take
him as he was, and make the best of it. Now, I must repeat, that,
for these gentlemen, the very idea that anybody could propose to
run the American Government, or to organize American Society, on
any other standard than theirs, seemed to them preposterous. The
Bourbon nobles in France and in Italy were not more amazed. when
the Revolutionists proposed to sweep them away than were the
American Plutocrats of the Rooseveltian era when he promoted laws
to regulate them. The Bourbon thinks the earth will perish unless
Bourbonism governs it; the American Plutocrat thought that
America existed simply to enrich him. He clung to his rights and
privileges with the tenacity of a drowning man clinging to a
plank, and he deceived himself into thinking that, in desperately
trying to save himself and his order, he was saving Society.

Most tragic of all, to one who regards history as the revelation
of the unfolding of the moral nature of mankind, was the fact
that these men had not the slightest idea that they were living
in a moral world, or that a new influx of moral inspiration had
begun to permeate Society in its politics, its business, and its
daily conduct. The great ship Privilege, on which they had
voyaged with pomp and satisfaction, was going down and they knew
it not.


I do not wish to paint Roosevelt in one light only, and that the
most favorable. Had no other been shed upon him, his
Administration would have been too bland for human belief, and
life for him would have palled. For his inexhaustible energy
hungered for action. As soon as his judgment convinced him that a
thing ought to be done he set about doing it. Recently, I asked
one of the most perspicacious members of his Cabinet, "What do
you consider Theodore's dominant trait" He thought for a while,
and then replied, "Combativeness." No doubt the public also, at
least while Roosevelt was in office, thought of him first as a
fighter. The idea that he was truculent or pugnacious, that he
went about with a chip on his shoulder, that he loved fighting
for the sake of fighting, was, however, a mistake. During the
eight years he was President he kept the United States out of
war; not only that, he settled long-standing causes of
irritation, such as the dispute over the Alaskan Boundary, which
might, under provocation, have led to war. Even more than this,
without striking a blow, he repelled the persistent attempts of
the German Emperor to gain a foothold on this continent; he
repelled those snakelike attacks and forced the Imperial Bully,
not merely to retreat ignominiously but to arbitrate. And in
foreign affairs, Roosevelt shone as a peacemaker. He succeeded in
persuading the Russian Czar to come to terms with the Mikado of
Japan. And soon after, when the German Emperor threatened to make
war on France, a letter from Roosevelt to him caused William to
reconsider his brutal plan, and to submit the Moroccan dispute to
a conference of the Powers at Algeciras.

Instead of the braggart and brawler that his enemies mispainted
him, I saw in Roosevelt, rather, a strong man who had taken early
to heart Hamlet's maxim and had steadfastly practiced it:

"Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,

But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honour's at the stake."

He himself summed up this part of his philosophy in a phrase
which has become a proverb: "Speak softly, but carry a big
stick." More than once in his later years he quoted this to me,
adding, that it was precisely because this or that Power knew
that he carried a big stick, that he was enabled to speak softly
with effect.

No man of our time better deserved the Nobel Peace Prize than did
he. The fallacy that Roosevelt, like the proverbial Irishman at
Donnybrook Fair, had rather fight than eat, spread through the
country, and indeed throughout the world, and had its influence
in determining whether men voted for him or not. His enemies used
it as proof that he was not a safe President, but they took means
much more malignant than this to discredit and destroy him. When
the Big Interests discovered that they could not silence him,
they circulated stories of all kinds that would have rendered
even the archangel Gabriel suspect to some worthy dupes.

They threw doubts, for instance, on his sanity, and one heard
that the "Wall Street magnates" employed the best alienists in
the country to analyze everything the President did and said, in
the hope of accumulating evidence to show that he was too
unbalanced to be President. Not content with stealing away his
reputation for mental competence, they shot into the dark the
gravest charges against his honor. A single story, still
believed, as I know, by persons of eminence in their professions,
will illustrate this. When one of the great contests between the
President and the Interests was on, he remembered that one of
their representatives in New York had damaging, confidential
letters from him. Hearing that these might be produced, Roosevelt
telephoned one of his trusty agents to break open the desk of the
Captain of Industry where they were kept, and to bring them to
the White House, before ten o'clock the following morning. This
was done. To believe that the President of the United States
would engage in a vulgar robbery of the jimmy and black-mask sort
indicates a degree of credulity which even the alienists could
hardly have expected to encounter outside of their asylums. It
suggests also, that Baron Munchausen, like the Wandering Jew
Ahasuerus, has never died. Does any one suppose that the person
whose desk was rifled would have kept quiet? Or that, if the
Interests had had even reasonably sure evidence of the
President's guilt, they would not have published it? To set spies
and detectives upon him with orders to trail him night and day
was, according to rumor, an obvious expedient for his enemies to

I repeat these stories, not because I believe them, but because
many persons did, and such gossip, like the cruel slanders
whispered against President Cleveland years before, gained some
credence. Roosevelt was so natural, so unguarded, in his speech
and ways, that he laid himself open to calumny. The delight he
took in establishing the Ananias Club, and the rapidity with
which he found new members for it, seemed to justify strong
doubts as to his temper and taste, if not as to his judgment. The
vehemence of his public speaking, which was caused in part by a
physical difficulty of utterance--the sequel of his early
asthmatic trouble--and in part by his extraordinary vigor,
created among some of the hearers who did not know him the
impression that he must be a hard drinker, or that he drank to
stimulate his eloquence. After he retired from office, his
enemies, in order to undermine his further political influence,
sowed the falsehood that he was a drunkard. I do not recall that
they ever suggested that he used his office for his private
profit--there are some things too absurd for even malice to
suggest--but he had reason enough many times to calm himself by
reflecting that his Uncle Jimmy Bulloch, the best of men,
believed just such lies, and the most atrocious insinuations,
against Mr. Gladstone.

Of course, nearly all public men have to undergo similar virulent
defamation. I have heard a well-known publicist, a lawyer of
ability, argue that both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln
did not escape from what seems now incredible abuse, and that
they were, nevertheless, the noblest of men and peerless
patriots; and then he went on to argue that President Woodrow
Wilson has been the target of similar malignity, and to leave you
to conclude that consequently Wilson is in the same class with
Washington and Lincoln. If he had put his thesis in a different
form, the publicist might have seen himself, as his hearers did,
the absurdity of it. Suppose he had said, for instance: "In spite
of the fact that Washington and Lincoln each kept a cow, they
were both peerless patriots, therefore, as President Wilson keeps
a cow, he must be a peerless patriot." One fears that logic is
somewhat neglected even in the training of lawyers in our day.

The commonest charge against Roosevelt, and the one which seemed,
on the surface at least, to be most plausible, was that he was
devoured by insatiable ambition. The critical remarked that
wherever he went he was always the central figure. The truth is,
that he could no more help being the central figure than a lion
could in any gathering of lesser creatures; the fact that he was
Roosevelt decided that. He did use the personal pronoun "I," and
the possessive pronoun "My," with such frequency as to irritate
good persons who were quite as egotistical as he--if that be
egotism--but who used such modest circumlocutions as "the present
writer," or "one," to camouflage their self-conceit. Roosevelt
enjoyed almost all his experiences with equal zest, and he
expressed his enjoyment without reserve. He was quite as well
aware of his foibles as his critics were, and he made merry over
them. Probably nobody laughed more heartily than he at the
pleasantly humorous remark of one of his boys: "Father never
likes to go to a wedding or a funeral, because he can't be the
bride at the wedding or the corpse at the funeral."

Ambition he had, the ambition which every healthy-minded man
ought to have to deserve the good-will and approbation of his
fellows. This he admitted over and over again, and he made no
pretense of not taking satisfaction from the popularity his
countrymen showered upon him. In writing to a friend that he
wished to be a candidate in 1904, he distinguished between the
case of Lincoln in 1864 and that of himself and other
Presidential candidates for renomination. In 1864, the crisis was
so tremendous that Lincoln must have considered that chiefly,
irrespective of his own hopes: whereas Roosevelt in 1904, like
Jackson, Grant, Cleveland, and the other two-term Presidents,
might, without impropriety, look upon reelection as, in a
measure, a personal tribute.

One of my purposes in writing this sketch will have failed, if I
have not made clear the character of Roosevelt's ambition. He
could not be happy unless he were busily at work. If that work
were in a public office he was all the happier. But the way in
which he accepted one office after another, each unrelated to the
preceding, was so desultory as to prove that he did not begin
life with a deep-laid design on the Presidency. He got valuable
political notoriety as an Assemblyman, but that was, as I have so
often said, because he could not be inconspicuous anywhere. He
took the office of Civil Service Commissioner, although everybody
regarded that as a commonplace field bounded on three sides by
political oblivion; and only a dreamer could have supposed that
his service as Chief Police Commissioner of New York City could
lead to the White House. Only when he became Assistant Secretary
of the Navy can he be said to have come within striking distance
of the great target. In enlisting in the Spanish War and
organizing the Rough Riders, he may well have reflected that
military prowess has often favored a Presidential candidacy; but
even here, his sense of patriotic duty and his desire to
experience the soldier's life were almost indisputably his chief
motives. As Governor of New York, however, he could not disguise
from himself the fact that that position might prove again, as it
had proved in the case of Cleveland, the stepping-stone to the
Presidency. On finding, however, that Platt and the Bosses,
exasperated by him as Governor, wished to get rid of him by
making him Vice-President, and knowing that in the normal course
of events a Vice-President never became President, he tried to
refuse nomination to the lower office. And only when he perceived
that the masses of the people, the country over, and not merely
the Bosses, insisted on nominating him, did he accept. This brief
summary of his political progress assuredly does not bear out the
charge that he was the victim of uncontrollable ambition.

Roosevelt's Ananias Club caught the imagination of the country,
but not always favorably. Those whom he elected into it, for
instance, did not relish the notoriety. Others thought that it
betokened irritation in him, and that a man in his high position
ought not to punish persons who were presumably trustworthy by
branding them so conspicuously. In fact, I suppose, he sometimes
applied the brand too hastily, under the spur of sudden
resentment. The most-open of men himself, he had no hesitation in
commenting on anybody or any topic with the greatest
indiscretion. For he took it for granted that even the strangers
who heard him would hold his remarks as confidential. When,
therefore, one of his hearers went outside and reported in public
what the President had said, Roosevelt disavowed it, and put the
babbler in the Ananias class. What a President wishes the public
to know, he tells it himself. What he utters in private should,
in honor, be held as confidential.

When I say that Roosevelt was astonishingly open, I do not mean
that he blurted out everything, for he always knew the company
with whom he talked, and if there were any among them with whom
it would be imprudent to risk an indiscretion, he took care to
talk "for safety." With him, a secret was a secret, and he could
be as silent as an unopened Egyptian tomb. Certain diplomatic
affairs he did not lisp, even to his Secretary of State. So far
as appears, John Hay knew nothing about the President's
interviews with the German Ambassador Holleben, which forced
William II to arbitrate. And he sometimes prepared a bill for
Congress with out consulting his Cabinet, for fear that the stock
jobbers might get wind of it and bull or bear the market with the

Before passing on, I must remark that some cases of apparent
mendacity or inaccuracy on the part of a President--especially if
he were as voluble and busy as Roosevelt--must be attributed to
forgetfulness or misunderstanding and not to wilful lying. A
person coming from an interview with him might construe as a
promise the kindly remarks with which the President wished to
soften a refusal. The promise, which was no promise, not being
kept, the suppliant accused the President of faithlessness or
falsehood. McKinley, it was said, could say no to three different
seekers for the same office so balmily that each of them went
away convinced that he was the successful applicant. Yet McKinley
escaped the charge of mendacity and Roosevelt, who deserved it
far less, did not.

In his writings and speeches, Roosevelt uttered his opinions so
candidly that we need not fall back on breaches of confidence to
explain why his opponents were maddened by them. Plutocrats and
monopolists might well wince at being called "malefactors of
great wealth," "the wealthy criminal class." Such expressions had
the virtue, from the point of view of rhetoric, of being so
descriptive that any body could visualize them. They stung; they
shed indefinable odium on a whole class; and, no doubt, this was
just what Roosevelt intended. To many critics they seemed cruel,
because, instead of allowing for exceptions, they huddled all
plutocrats together, the virtuous and the vicious alike. And so
with the victims of his phrase, "undesirable citizens." I marvel
rather, however, that Roosevelt, given his extraordinary talent
of flashing epithets and the rush of his indignation when he was
doing battle for a good cause, displayed as much moderation as he
did. Had he been a demagogue, he would have roused the masses
against the capitalists and have goaded them to such a pitch of
hatred that they would have looked to violence, bloodshed, and
injustice, as the remedy they must apply.

But Roosevelt was farthest removed from the Revolutionists of the
vulgar, red-handed class. He consecrated his life to prevent
Revolution. All his action in the conflict between Labor and
Capital aimed at conciliation. He told the plutocrats their
defects with brutal frankness, and if he promoted laws to curb
them, it was because he realized, as they did not, that, unless
they mended their ways, they would bring down upon themselves a
Socialist avalanche which they could not withstand. What set the
seal of consecration on his work was his treatment of Labor with
equal justice. Unlike the demagogue, he did not flatter the
"horny-handed sons of toil" or obsequiously do the bidding of
railroad brotherhoods, or pretend that the capitalist had no
rights, and that all workingmen were good merely because they
worked. On the contrary, he told them that no class was above the
law; he warned them that if Labor attempted to get its demands by
violence, he would put it down. He ridiculed the idea that honest
citizenship depends on the more or less money a man has in his
pocket. "A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his
country," Roosevelt said in a Fourth-of-July speech at
Springfield, Illinois, in 1903, "is good enough to be given a
square deal afterward. More than that no man is entitled to, and
less than that no man shall have."

That phrase, "a square deal," stuck in the hearts of the American
people. It summed up what they regarded as Roosevelt's most
characteristic trait. He was the man of the square deal, who
instinctively resented injustice done to those who could not
protect themselves; the friend of the underdog, the companion of
the self-reliant and the self-respecting. It is under this aspect
that Roosevelt seems most likely to live in popular history.

So, from the time he became President, the public was divided
into believing that there were two Roosevelts. His enemies made
almost a monster of him, denouncing and fearing him as violent,
rash, pugnacious, egotistical, ogreish in his mad, hatred of
Capital, and Capitalists condemned him as hypocritical, cruel,
lying, and vindictive. The other side, however, insisted on his
courage; he was a fighter, but he always fought to defend the
weak and to uphold the right; he was equally unmoved by Bosses
and by demagogues; in his human relations he regarded only what a
man was, not his class or condition; he had a great hearted,
jovial simplicity; a far-seeing and steadfast patriotism; he
preached the Square Deal and he practiced it; even more than
Lincoln he was accessible to every one.


During the first years of Roosevelt's Administration he had to
encounter many conditions which existed rather from the momentum
they had from the past than from any living vigor of their own.
It was a time of transition. The group of politicians dating from
the Civil War was nearly extinct, and the leaders who had come to
the front after 1870 were also much thinned in number, and fast
dropping off. Washington itself was becoming one of the most
beautiful cities in the world, with its broad avenues, seldom
thronged, its circles and squares, whose frequenters seemed never
busy, its spirit of leisure, its suggestion of opulence and
amplitude, and of a not too zealous or disturbing hold on
reality. You still saw occasionally a tiny cottage inhabited by a
colored family cuddled up against a new and imposing palace, just
as you might pass a colored mammy on the same sidewalk with a
millionaire Senator, for the residential section had not yet been
socially standardized.

Only a few years before, under President Cleveland, a single
telephone sufficed for the White House, and as the telephone
operator stopped work at six o'clock, the President himself or
some member of his family had to answer calls during the evening.
A single secretary wrote in long hand most of the Presidential
correspondence. Examples of similar primitiveness might be found
almost everywhere, and the older generation seemed to imagine
that a certain slipshod and dozing quality belonged to the very
idea of Democracy. If you were neatly dressed and wide awake, you
would inevitably be remarked among your fellows; such remark
would imply superiority; and to be superior was supposedly to be

Nevertheless this was a time of transition, and the vigor which
emanated from the young President passed like electricity through
all lines and hastened the change. He caused the White House to
be remodeled and fitted on the one hand for social purposes which
required much more spacious accommodation, and on the other for
offices in which he could conduct the largely increased
Presidential business. Instead of one telephone there were many
working night and day, and instead of a single longhand
secretary, there were a score of stenographers and typists.
Before he left Washington he saw a vast Union Station erected
instead of the over-grown shanties at Sixth Street, and he had
encouraged the laying-out of the waste places beyond the Capitol,
thus adding to the city another and imposing section. His
interest did not stop at politics, nor at carrying through the
reforms he had at heart. He attended with equal keenness and
solicitude to external improvements.

Now at first, as I have suggested, his chief duty was to continue
President McKinley's policies, which concerned mostly the
establishment of our insular dependencies, and the readjustment
of our diplomatic relations. I have described how he closed the
dispute over the Alaskan Boundary, over our joint control with
England over the Isthmus of Panama, and how he circumvented the
attempt of the Colombian blackmailers to block our construction
of the Canal.

We must now glance at a matter of almost equal importance--our
relations with Germany. The German attack on civilization, which
was openly delivered in 194, revealed to the world that for
twenty years before the German Emperor had been secretly
preparing his mad project of Universal Conquest. We see now that
he used all sorts of base tools German exchange professors,
spies, bribers, conventional insinuators and corrupters,
organizers of pro-German sentiment, and of societies of German
Americans. So little did he and his lackeys understand the
American spirit that they assumed that at the given signal the
people of the United States would gladly go over to them. He
counted on securing North and South America by commerce and
corruption, and not by armed force. The reaffirmation of the
Monroe Doctrine by President Cleveland in 1895 seriously troubled
him; for he contemplated planting German colonies in Central and
South America without resistance, but the Monroe Doctrine in its
latest interpretation forbade him or any foreign government from
establishing dominion in either American continent. Still, two
things comforted him: the Americans were, he thought, a loose,
happy-go-lucky people, without any consecutive or deep-laid
policy, as foolish republicans must be; and next, he knew that he
had the most powerful army in the world, which, if put to the
test, would crush the undisciplined American militia at the first
onset. He adopted, therefore, a double policy: he pretended
openly to be most friendly to the Americans; he flattered all of
them whom he could reach in Berlin, and he directed an effusive
propaganda in the United States. In secret, how ever, he lost no
occasion to harm this country. When the Spanish War came in 1898,
he tried to form a naval coalition of his fleet with those of
France and England, and it was only the refusal of England to-
join in it which saved this country from disaster. The United
States owe Mr. Balfour, who at that time controlled the British
Foreign Office, an eternal debt of gratitude, because it was he
who replied to the Kaiser's secret temptation: "No: if the
British fleet takes any part in this war, it will be to put
itself between the American fleet and those of your coalition."

The Kaiser expressed his real sentiment towards the United States
in a remark which he made later, not expecting that it would
reach American ears. "If I had had ships enough," he said, "I
would have taken the Americans by the scruff of the neck." As it
was, he showed his purpose to those who had eyes to see it, by
ordering the German Squadron under Diederichs to go to Manila and
take what he could there. Fortunately before he could take Manila
or the Philippines he had to take the American Commodore, George
Dewey, and when he discovered what sort of a sea-fighter the
mountains of Vermont had produced in Dewey, he decided not to
attack him. Perhaps also the fact that the English commander at
Manila, Captain Chichester, stood ready to back up Dewey caused
Diederichs to back down. The true Prussian truculence always
oozes out when it has not a safe margin of superiority in
strength on its side.

The Kaiser was not to be foiled, however, in his determination to
get a foothold in America. As the likelihood that the Panama
Canal would be constructed became a certainty, he redoubled his
efforts. He tried to buy from a Mexican Land Company two large
ports in Lower California for "his personal use." These would
have given him, of course, control over the approach to the Canal
from the Pacific. Simultaneously he sent a surveying expedition
to the Caribbean Sea, which found a spacious harbor, that might
serve as a naval base, on an unoccupied island near the main line
of vessels approaching the Canal from the east, but before he
could plant a force there; the presence of his surveyors was
discovered, and they sailed away.

He now resorted to a more cunning ruse. The people of Venezuela
owed considerable sums to merchants and bankers in Germany,
England, and Italy, and the creditors could recover neither their
capital nor the interest on it. The Kaiser bethought him self of
the simple plan of making a naval demonstration against the
Venezuelans if they did not pay up; he would send his troops
ashore, occupy the chief harbors, and take in the customs. To
disguise his ulterior motive, he persuaded England and Italy to
join him in collecting their bill against Venezuela. So warships
of the three nations appeared off the Venezuelan coast, and for
some time they maintained what they called "A peaceful blockade."
After a while Secretary Hay pointed out that there could be no
such thing as a peaceful blockade; that a blockade was, by its
very nature, an act of war; accordingly the blockaders declared a
state of belligerency between themselves and Venezuela, and
Germany threatened to bombard the seacoast towns unless the debt
was settled without further delay. President Roosevelt had no
illusions as to what bombardment and occupation by German troops
would mean. If a regiment or two of Germans once went into
garrison at Caracas or Porto Cabello, the Kaiser would secure the
foothold he craved on the American Coast within striking distance
of the projected Canal, and Venezuela, unable to ward off his
aggression, would certainly be helpless to drive him out. Mr.
Roosevelt allowed Mr. Herbert W. Bowen, the American Minister to
Venezuela, to serve as Special Commissioner for Venezuela in
conducting her negotiations with. Germany. He, himself, however,
took the matter into his own hands at Washington. Having sounded
England and Italy, and learned that they were willing to
arbitrate, and knowing also that neither of them schemed to take
territorial payment for their bills, he directed his diplomatic
attack straight at the Kaiser. When the German Ambassador, Dr.
von Holleben, one of the pompous and ponderous professorial sort
of German officials, was calling on him at the White House, the
President told him to warn the Kaiser that unless he consented,
within a given time--about ten days--to arbitrate the Venezuelan
dispute, the American fleet under Admiral Dewey would appear off
the Venezuelan coast and defend it from any attack which the
German Squadron might attempt to make. Holleben displayed
consternation; he protested that since his Imperial Master had
refused to arbitrate, there could be no arbitration. His Imperial
Master could not change his Imperial Mind, and the dutiful
servant asked the President whether he realized what such a
demand meant. The President replied calmly that he knew it meant
war. A week passed, but brought no reply from Berlin; then
Holleben called again at the White House on some unimportant
matters; as he turned to go the President inquired, "Have you
heard from Berlin?" "No," said Holleben. "Of course His Imperial
Majesty cannot arbitrate." "Very well, " said Roosevelt, "you may
think it worth while to cable to Berlin that I have changed my
mind. I am sending instructions to Admiral Dewey to take our
fleet to Venezuela next Monday instead of Tuesday." Holleben
brought the interview to a close at once and departed with
evident signs of alarm. He returned in less than thirty-six hours
with relief and satisfaction written on his face, as he informed
the President, "His Imperial Majesty consents to arbitrate."

In order to screen the Kaiser's mortification from the world,
Roosevelt declared that his transaction--which only he, the
Kaiser, and Holleben knew about--should not be made public at the
time; and he even went so far, a little later, in speaking on the
matter as to refer to the German Emperor as a good friend and
practicer of arbitration.

Many years later, when Roosevelt and I discussed this episode we
cast about for reasons to account for the Kaiser's sudden
back-down. We concluded that after the first interview Holleben
either did not cable to Berlin at all, or he gave the message
with his own comment that it was all a bluff. After the second
interview, he consulted Buenz, the German Consul-General at New
York, who knew Roosevelt well and knew also the powerfulness of
Dewey's fleet. He assured Holleben that the President was not
bluffing, and that Dewey could blow all the German Navy, then in
existence, out of the water in half an hour. So Holleben sent a
hot cablegram to Berlin, and Berlin understood that only an
immediate answer would do.

Poor, servile, old bureaucrat Holleben! The Kaiser soon treated
him as he was in the habit of treating any of his servile
creatures, high or low, who made a fiasco. Deceived by the
glowing reports which his agents in the United States sent to
him, the Kaiser believed that the time was ripe for a visit by a
Hohenzollern, to let off the pent-up enthusiasm of the
German-Americans and to stimulate the pro-German conspiracy here.
Accordingly Prince Henry of Prussia came over and made a
whirlwind trip, as far as Chicago; but it was in no sense a royal
progress. Multitudes flocked to see him out of curiosity, but
Prince Henry realized, and so did the German kin here, that his
mission had failed. A scapegoat must be found, and apparently
Holleben was the chosen victim.

The Kaiser cabled him to resign and take the next day's steamer
home, alleging "chronic illness" as an excuse. He sailed from
Hoboken obediently, and there were none so poor as to do him
reverence. The sycophants who had fawned upon him while he was
enjoying the Imperial favor as Ambassador took care not to be
seen waving a farewell to him from the pier. Instead of that,
they were busy telling over his blunders. He had served French
instead of German champagne at a banquet for Prince Henry, and he
had allowed the Kaiser's yacht to be christened in French
champagne. How could such a blunderer satisfy the diplomatic
requirements of the vain and petty Kaiser? And yet! Holleben was
utterly devoted and willing to grovel in the mud. He even
suggested to President Roosevelt that at the State Banquet at the
White House, Prince Henry, as a Hohenzollern, and the
representative of the Almightiest Kaiser, should walk out to
dinner first; but there was no discussion, for the President
replied curtly, "No person living precedes the President of the
United States in the White House."

Henceforth the Kaiser understood that the United States
Government, at least as long as Roosevelt was President, would
repel any attempt by foreigners to violate the Monroe Doctrine,
and set up a nucleus of foreign power in either North or South
America. He devoted himself all the more earnestly to pushing the
sly work of peaceful penetration, that work of spying and lying
in which the German people proved itself easily first. The
diabolical propaganda, aimed not only at undermining the United
States, at seducing the Irish and other hyphenate groups of
Americans, but at polluting the Mexicans and several of the South
American States; and later there was a thoroughly organized
conspiracy to stir up animosity between this country and Japan by
making the Japanese hate and suspect the Americans, and by making
the Americans hate and suspect the Japanese. I alluded just now
to the fact that German intrigue was working in Bogota, and
influenced the Colombian blackmailers in refusing to sign the Hay
Herran Canal Treaty with the United States, and peered about in
the hope of snapping up the Canal rights for Germany.

Outwardly, during the first decade of the twentieth century, the
Kaiser seemed to be most active in interfering in European
politics, including those of Morocco, in which the French were
entangled. In 1904 the war between Russia and Japan broke out.
Roosevelt remained strictly neutral towards both belligerents,
making it evident, however, that either or both of them could
count on his friendly offices if they sought mediation. At the
beginning of the war, it was generally assumed that the German
Kaiser shed no tears over the Russian reverses, for the weaker
Russia became, the less Germany needed to fear her as a neighbor.
At length, however, when it looked as if the Japanese might
actually shatter the Russian Empire, Germany and the other
European Powers seemed to have had a common feeling that a
decided victory by an Asiatic nation like Japan would certainly
require a readjustment of world politics, and might not only put
in jeopardy European interests and control in Asia, but also
raise up against Europe what the Kaiser had already advertised as
the Yellow Peril. I have no evidence that President Roosevelt
shared this anxiety; on the contrary, I think that he was not
unwilling that a strong Japan should exist to prevent the
dismemberment of Eastern Asia by European land-grabbers.

By the spring of 1905, both Russia and Japan had fought almost to
exhaustion. The probability was that Russia with her vast
population could continue to replenish her army. Japan, with
great pluck, after winning amazing victories, which left her
weaker and weaker, made no sign of wishing for an armistice.
Roosevelt, however, on his own motion wrote a private letter to
the Czar, Nicholas II, and sent George Meyer, Ambassador to
Italy, with it on a special mission to Petrograd. The President
urged the Czar to consider making peace, since both the Russians
and the Japanese had nearly fought them selves out, and further
warfare would add to the losses and burdens, already tremendous,
of both people. Probably he hinted also that another disaster in
the field might cause an outbreak by the Russian Revolutionists.
I have not seen his letter--perhaps a copy of it has escaped, in
the Czar's secret archives, the violence of the Bolshevists--but
I have heard him speak about it. I have reason to suppose also
that he wrote privately to the Kaiser to use his influence with
the Czar. At any rate, the Czar listened to the President's
advice, and by one of those diplomatic devices by which both
parties saved their dignity, an armistice was arranged and, in
the summer of 1905, the Peace was signed. The following year, the
Trustees of the Nobel Peace Prize recognized Roosevelt's large
part in stopping the war, by giving the Prize to him.

Meanwhile, the irritation between France and Germany had
increased to the point where open rupture was feared. For years
Germany had been waiting for a propitious moment to swoop down on
France and overwhelm her. The French intrigues in Morocco, which
were leading visibly to a French Protectorate over that country,
aroused German resentment, for the Germans coveted Morocco
themselves. The Kaiser went so far as to invite Roosevelt to
interfere with him in Morocco, but this, the President replied,
was impossible. Probably he was not unwilling to have the German
Emperor understand that, while the United States would interfere
with all their might to prevent a foreign attack on the Monroe
Doctrine, they meant to keep their hands off in European
quarrels. That he also had a clear idea of William II's
temperament appears from the following opinion which I find in a
private letter of his at this time: "The Kaiser had weekly pipe

The situation grew very angry, and von Billow, the German
Chancellor, did not hide his purpose of upholding the German
pretensions, even at the cost of war. President Roosevelt then
wrote--privately--to the Kaiser impressing it upon him that for
Germany to make war on France would be a crime against
civilization, and he suggested that a Conference of Powers be
held to discuss the Moroccan difficulty, and to agree upon terms
for a peaceful adjustment. The Kaiser finally accepted
Roosevelt's advice, and after a long debate over the
preliminaries, the Conference was held at Algeciras, Spain.

That Roosevelt understood, or even suspected, the great German
conspiracy which the Kaiser's hire lings were weaving over the
United States is wholly improbable. Had he known of any plot he
would have been the first to hunt it down and crush it. He knew
in general of the extravagant vaporings of the Pan-Germans; but,
like most of us, he supposed that there was still enough sanity,
not to say common sense, left in Germany to laugh such follies
away. Through his intimate friend, Spring-Rice, subsequently the
British Ambassador, he had early and sound information of the
conditions of Germany. He watched with curiosity the abnormal
expansion of the German Fleet. All these things simply confirmed
his belief that the United States must attend seriously to the
business of making military and naval preparations.

Secretary Hay had already secured the recognition by the European
Powers of the policy of the Open Door in China, the year before
Roosevelt became President, but the struggle to maintain that
policy had to be kept up for several years. On November 21, 1900,
John Hay wrote to Henry Adams: "At least we are spared the infamy
of an alliance with Germany. I would rather, I think, be the dupe
of China, than chum of the Kaiser. Have you noticed how the world
will take anything nowadays from a German? Billow said yesterday
in substance--'We have demanded of China everything we can think
of. If we think of anything else we will demand that, and be d--d
to you'--and not a man in the world kicks."*

* W. R. Thayer: John Hay, II, 248.

By an adroit move similar to that by which Hay had secured the
unwilling adherence of the Powers to his original proposal of the
Open Door, he, with Roosevelt's sanction, prevented the German
Emperor from carrying out a plan to cut up China and divide the
slices among the Europeans.

Equally adroit was Roosevelt's method of dealing with the Czar in
1903. Russian mobs ran amuck and massacred many Jews in the city
of Kishineff. The news of this atrocity reached the outside world
slowly: when it came, the Jews of western Europe, and especially
those of the United States, cried out in horror, held meetings,
drew up protests, and framed petitions, asking the Czar to punish
the criminals. Leading American Jews besought Roosevelt to plead
their cause before the Czar. As it was well known that the Czar
would refuse to receive such petitions, and would regard himself
as insulted by whatever nation should lay them before him by
official diplomatic means, the world wondered what Roosevelt
would do. He took one of his short cuts, and chose a way which
everybody saw was most obvious and most simple, as soon as he had
chosen it. He sent the petitions to our Ambassador at Petrograd,
accompanying them with a letter which recited the atrocities and
grievances. In this letter, which was handed to the Russian
Secretary of State, our Government asked whether His Majesty the
Czar would condescend to receive the petitions. Of course the
reply was no, but the letter was published in all countries, so
that the Czar also knew of the petitions, and of the horrors
which called them out. In this fashion the former Ranchman and
Rough Rider outwitted, by what I may call his straightforward
guile, the crafty diplomats of the Romanoffs.


In a previous chapter I glanced at three or four of the principal
measures in internal policy which Roosevelt took up and fought
through, until he finally saw them passed by Congress. No other
President, as has been often remarked, kept Congress so busy;
and, we may add, none of his predecessors (unless it were Lincoln
with the legislation required by the Civil War) put so many new
laws on the national statute book. Mr. Charles G. Washburn
enumerates these acts credited to Roosevelt's seven and a half
years' administration: "The Elkins Anti-Rebate Law applying to
railroads; the creation of the Department of Commerce and Labor
and the Bureau of Corporations; the law authorizing the building
of the Panama Canal; the Hepburn Bill amending and vitalizing the
Interstate Commerce Act; the Pure Food and Meat Inspection laws;
the law creating the Bureau of Immigration; the Employers'
Liability and Safety Appliance Laws, that limited the working
hours of employees; the law making the Government liable for
injuries to its employees; the law forbidding child labor in the
District of Columbia; the reformation of the Consular Service;
prohibition of campaign contributions from corporations; the
Emergency Currency Law, which also provided for the creation of
the Monetary Commission." *

* C. G. Washburn, 128, 129.

Although the list is by no means complete, it shows that
Roosevelt's receptive and sleepless mind fastened on the full
circle of questions which interested American life, so far as
that is controlled or directed by national legislation. Some of
the laws passed were simply readjustments--new statutes on old
matters. Other laws were new, embodying the first attempt to
define the attitude which the courts should hold towards new
questions which had grown suddenly into great importance. The
decade which had favored the springing-up and amazing expansion
of the Big Interests, had to be followed by the decade which
framed legislation for regulating and curbing these interests.
Quite naturally, the monopolists affected did not like to be
harnessed or controlled, and, to put it mildly, they resented the
interference of the formidable young President whom they could
neither frighten, inveigle, nor cajole.

And yet it is as evident to all Americans now, as it was to some
Americans at the time, that that legislation had to be passed;
because if the monopolists had been allowed to go on
unrestrained, they would either have perverted this Republic into
an open Plutocracy, in which individual liberty and equality
before the law would have disappeared, or they would have hurried
on the Social Revolution, the Armageddon of Labor and Capital,
the merciless conflict of class with class, which many persons
already vaguely dreaded, or thought they saw looming like an
ominous cloud on the horizon. It seems astounding that any one
should have questioned the necessity of setting up regulations.
And will not posterity wonder, when it learns that only in the
first decade of the twentieth century did we provide laws against
the cruel and killing labor of little children, and against
impure foods and drugs?

Year after year, the railroads furnished unending causes for
legislative control. There were the old laws which the railroad
men tried to evade and which the President, as was his duty,
insisted on enforcing; and still more insistent and spectacular
were the new problems. Just as three or four hundred years ago
the most active and vigorous Frenchmen and English men tried to
get possession of large tracts of land, or even of provinces, and
became counts and dukes, so the Americans of our generation, who
aspired to lead the pushing financier class, worked day and night
to own a railroad. Naturally one railroad did not satisfy a man
who was bitten by this ambition; he reached out for several, or
even for a transcontinental system. The war for railroad
ownership or monopoly was waged intensely, and in 1901 it nearly
plunged the country into a disastrous financial panic. Edward H.
Harriman, who had only recently been regarded as a great power in
the struggle for railroad supremacy, clashed with James J. Hill,
of Minnesota, and J. P. Morgan, a New York banker, over the
Northern Pacific Railroad. Their battle was nominally a draw,
because Wall Street rushed in and, to avert a nation-wide
calamity, demanded a truce. But Harriman remained, until his
death in 1909, the railroad czar of the United States, and when
he died, he was master of twenty-five thousand miles of road,
chief influencer of fifty thousand more miles, besides steamboat
companies, banks, and other financial institutions. He controlled
more money than any other American. I summarize these statistics,
in order to show the reader what sort of a Colossus the President
of the United States had to do battle with when he undertook to
secure new laws adequate to the control of the enormously
expanded railway problems. And he did succeed, in large measure,
in bringing the giant corporations to recognize the authority of
the Nation. The decision of the Supreme Court in the Northern
Securities case, by which the merger of two or more competing
roads was declared illegal, put a stop to the practice of
consolidation, which might have resulted in the ownership of all
the railroads in the United States by a single person. Then
followed the process of "unscrambling the omelet," to use J. P.
Morgan's phrase, in order to bring the companies already
illegally merged within the letter of the law. Probably a
lynx-eyed investigator might discover that in some of the efforts
to legalize operations in the future, "the voice was Jacob's, but
the hands were the hands of Esau."

The laws aimed at regulating transportation, rates, and rebates,
certainly made for justice, and helped to enlighten great
corporations as to their place in the community and their duties
towards it. Roosevelt showed that his fearlessness had apparently
no bounds, when in 1907 he caused suit to be brought against the
Standard Oil Company in Indiana--a branch of a monopoly which was
popularly supposed to be above the law--for receiving a rebate
from a railroad on the petroleum shipped by the Company. The
judge who tried the case gave a verdict in favor of the
Government, but another judge, to whom appeal was made, reversed
the decision, and finally at a re-trial, a third judge dismissed
the indictment. "Thus," says Mr. Ogg, "a good case was lost
through judicial blundering." *

* Ogg, 50.

But the greatest of Roosevelt's works as a legislator were those
which he carried through in the fields of conservation and
reclamation. He did not invent these issues; he was only one of
many persons who understood their vast importance. He gives full
credit to Mr. Gifford Pinchot and Mr. F. H. Newell, who first
laid these subjects before him as matters which he as President
ought to consider. He had himself during his days in the West
seen the need of irrigating the waste tracts. He was a quick and
willing learner, and in his first message to Congress (December
1, 1901) he remarked: "The forest and water problems are perhaps
the most vital internal problems of the United States." Years
later, in referring to this part of his work, he said:

'The idea that our natural resources were inexhaustible still
obtained, and there was as yet no real knowledge of their extent
and condition. The relation of the conservation of national
resources to the problems of national welfare and national
efficiency had not yet dawned on the public mind. The reclamation
of arid public lands in the West was still a matter for private
enterprise alone; and our magnificent river system, with its
superb possibilities for public usefulness, was dealt with by the
National Government not as a unit, but as a disconnected series
of pork-barrel problems, whose only real interest was in their
effect on the reelection or defeat of a Congressman here and
there--a theory which, I regret to say, still obtains.'*

* Autobiography, p. 430.

The public lands saved mounted to millions of acres. The
long-standing practice of stealing these lands was checked and
put a stop to as rapidly as possible. Individuals and private
companies had bought for a song great tracts of national
property, getting thereby, it might be, the title to mineral
deposits worth fabulous sums; and these persons were naturally
angry at being deprived of the immense fortunes which they had
counted on for themselves. A company would buy up an entire
watershed, and control, for its private profit, the water-supply
of a region. Roosevelt insisted with indisputable logic that the
States and Counties ought them selves to own such natural
resources and derive an income from them. So, too, were the areas
restored to man's habitation, and to agriculture, by irrigation,
and by reforesting. A company, having no object but its own
enrichment, would ruthlessly cut down a thousand square miles of
timber in order to convert it into wood pulp for paper, or into
lumber for building; and the region thus devastated, as if a
German army had been over it, would be left without regard to the
effect on the climate and the water supply of the surrounding
country. Surely this was wrong.

It seems to me as needless now to argue in behalf of Roosevelt's
legislation for the conservation of national resources as to
argue against cannibalism as a practice fit for civilized men.
That lawyers of repute and Congressmen of reputation should have
done their utmost, as late as 1906, to obstruct and defeat the
passage of the Meat Inspection Bill must seem incredible to
persons of average sanity and conscience. If any of those
obstructionists still live, they do not boast of their
performance, nor is it likely that their children will exult over
this part of the paternal record.

In order not to exaggerate Roosevelt's importance in these
fundamental reforms, I would repeat that he did not originate the
idea of many of them. He gladly took his cue for conservation
from Gifford Pinchot, and for reclamation from F. H. Newell, as I
have said; the need of inspecting the packing-houses which
exported meat, from Senator A. J. Beveridge, and so on. The vital
fact is that these projects got form and vigor and publicity, and
were pushed through Congress, only after Roosevelt took them up.
His opponents, the packers, the land-robbers, the mine-grabbers,
the wood-pulp pirates, fought him at every point. They appealed
to the old law to discredit and damn the new. They gave him no
quarter, and he asked for none because he was bent on securing
justice, irrespective of persons or private interests. It
followed, of course, that they watched eagerly for any slip which
might wreck him, and they thought they had found their chance in

That was a year of financial upheaval, almost of panic, the blame
for which the Big Interests tried to fasten on the President. It
resulted, they said, from his attack on Capital and the
Corporations. A special incident gave plausibility to some of
their bitter criticism. Messrs. Gary and Frick, of the United
States Steel Corporation, called on the President, and told him
that the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company was on the verge of
bankruptcy, and that, if it went under, a general panic would
probably ensue. To prevent this financial disaster, their
Corporation was willing to buy up enough of the Tennessee Company
to save it, but they wished to know whether the President would
allow the purchase. He told them that he could not officially
advise them to take the action proposed, but that he did not
regard it as a public duty of his to raise any objection. They
made the purchase, and the total amount of their holdings in the
Tennessee Company did not equal in value what they had originally
held, for the stock had greatly shrunk. The Attorney-General
subsequently informed the President that he saw no reason to
prosecute the United States Steel Corporation. But the
President's enemies did not spare their criticism. They
circulated grave suspicions; they hinted that, if the whole truth
were known, Roosevelt would be embarrassed, to say the least.
What had become of his pretended impartiality when he allowed one
of the great Trusts to do, with impunity, that which others were
prosecuted for? The public, which seldom has the knowledge, or
the information, necessary for understanding business or
financial complexities, usually remarks, with the archaic
sapience of a Greek chorus, "There must be some fire where there
is so much smoke." But the public interest was never seriously
roused over the Tennessee Coal and Iron affair, and, six years
later, when a United States District Court handed down a verdict
in which this matter was referred to, the public had almost
forgotten what it was all about.

The great result from Roosevelt's battle for conservation, which
I believe will glorify him, in the future, to heroic proportions
as a statesman, is that where he found wide stretches of desert
he left fertile States, that he saved from destruction, that he
seized from the hands of the spoilers rivers and valleys which
belonged to the people, and that he kept for the people mineral
lands of untold value. Nor did he work for material and sanitary
prosperity alone; but he worked also for Beauty. He reserved as
National Parks for the use and delight of men and women forever
some of the most beautiful regions in the United States, and the
support he gave to these causes urged them forward after he
ceased to be President.


Having seen briefly how President Roosevelt dealt with Capital,
let us look even more briefly at his dealings with Labor. I think
that he took the deepest personal satisfaction in fighting the
criminal rich and the soulless corporations, because he regarded
them not only as lawbreakers, malefactors of great wealth, but as
despicably mean, in that they used their power to oppress the
poor and helpless classes. The Labor groups when they burst out
into violence merely responded to the passion which men naturally
feel at injustice and at suffering; to their violence they did
not add slyness or legal deceits. But Roosevelt had no toleration
for the Labor demagogue, for the walking delegate, and all
similar parasites, who preyed upon the working classes for their
own profit, and fomented the irritation of Labor and Capital.

Stronger, however, than his sympathy for any individual, and
especially for those who suffered without redress, was his love
of justice. This he put in a phrase which he invented and made
current, a phrase which everybody could understand: "the labor
unions shall have a square deal, and the corporations shall have
a square deal." At another time he expressed the same idea, by
saying that the rich man should have justice, and that the poor
man should have justice, and that no man should have more or

Time soon brought a test for his devotion to social justice. In
the summer of 1902 the coal-miners of Pennsylvania stopped
working. Early in September the public awoke with a start to the
realization that a coal famine threatened the country. In the
Eastern States, in New York, and Pennsylvania, and in some of the
Middle Western States, a calamity threatened, which would be
quite as terrible as the invasion of an enemy's army. For not
only would lack of fuel cause incalculable hardship and distress
from cold, but it would stop transportation, and all
manufacturing by machinery run by coal. The mine operators and
the miners were at a deadlock. The President invited the leaders
on both sides to confer with him at the White House. They came
and found him stretched out on an invalid's chair, with one of
his legs much bandaged, from an accident he had received in a
collision at Pittsfield a few weeks before, but his mental vigor
was unsubdued. John Mitchell spoke for the miners. The President
urged the quarrelers to come to terms. But the big coal operators
would not yield. They knew that the distress among the mining
population was great, and they believed that if the authorities
would only maintain peace, the miners would soon be forced to
give in. So the meeting broke up and the "coal barons," as the
newspapers dubbed the operators, quitted with evident
satisfaction. They felt that they had not only repelled the
miners again, but virtually put down the President for
interfering in a matter in which he had no legal jurisdiction.

And, in truth, the laws gave the President of the United States
no authority to play the role of arbiter in a strike. His plain
duty was to keep the peace. If a strike resulted in violent
disorders he could send United States troops to quell them, but
only in case the Governor of the State in which the riots
occurred declared himself unable, by the State force at his
command, to keep the peace, and requested assistance from the
President. In the coal strike the Governor of Pennsylvania, for
reasons which I need not discuss here, refused to call for United
States troops, and so did the Pennsylvania Legislature. Roosevelt
acted as a patriotic citizen might act, but being the President,
his interference had immensely greater weight than that of any
private citizen could have. He knew the law in the matter, but he
believed that the popular opinion of the American people would
back him up.

In spite of the first rebuff, therefore, he persuaded the miners
and the operators to agree to the appointment of an arbitration
commission, and this suggested a settlement which both
contestants accepted. It ended the great coal strike of 1902, but
it left behind it much indignation among the American people, who
realized for the first time that one of the three or four great

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