THEODORE ROOSEVELT. President.
Typewritten Manuscript, unsigned, sixty pages, small quarto, June 30, 1914. Entitled Speech of Hon. Theodore Roosevelt, Pennsylvania Progressive Conference, with extensive corrections on one page in Roosevelt’s hand.
ROOSEVELT OUTLINES THE PLATFORM OF THE PROGRESSIVE PARTY. Theodore Roosevelt’s holograph corrections appear on page 37, where he had made extensive revisions, in pencil, between the lines of the text and in the margins. In discussing the Progressive tariff program, he writes: ‘I ask all honest believers in a protective tariff, and especially all working men, to consider the fact that this is the only program offering hope of permanent well-being; whereas the alternative program is one of violent oscillation between such tariffs as the Payne-Aldrich bill, made by Senator Penrose and the present tariff bill, made by President Wilson and his followers, [as] well as the gentleman now running for the Senate in Pennsylvania on the Democratic ticket.” This text replaces the following sentence which Roosevelt has crossed out: ‘ I ask you to weight it side by side with the tariff record of Senator Penrose; a tariff record as productive of evil as the tariff record of any of the men he opposes.” He has also crossed out a line on page 14, in which he mentions “Mr. Lorimer in Illinois” as a political ally of Penrose.
Theodore Roosevelt begins his speech: “I am glad to speak for such men as Gifford Pinchot for senator and Dean Lewis for governor. These men by their lives have honored the republic. It would be supreme good fortune to have them in public position for already in private position they have been among the best and most useful public servants. Moreover I am glad to speak at a meeting held under the auspices of the Progressive Service of Pennsylvania, because Pennsylvania has taken an advanced position in fighting for the progressive Party and second, because the most striking of those principles is both symbolized by and embodied in the fact that we have made the Progressive Service an integral and essential portion of the working machinery of the Progressive Party. This is one of the ways in which we make it evident that our promises are to be made good by our performance; that our platform was a solemn pledge, a contract of obligation and that the planks it contains were neither put in merely to catch votes before election and to be cheerfully repudiated after election not put in with such reckless disregard of feasibility that the promises they contained were certain to be falsified. Our whole fight centers around the great principle of social and industrial justice. Our platform was a veritable charter of democracy. Each promise in it set forth some principle of conduct which itself represented one method of achieving out great central purpose.” Roosevelt discusses general party principles for the next seven pages, vowing to oppose those who represent “evil principles;” asking for the support of those Pennsylvanians who would “hold aloft the flag of good citizenship in the fight to translate these sound and lofty principles into governmental practice;” and realizing the need for “material well-being” as a foundation “on which to build the lofty superstructure of a higher life. We do not intend to let the business man of brains use those brains to the detriment either of the men who work with or under him.”
Theodore Roosevelt continues with an assessment of the Wilson administration, which he says “does not offer a single serious or intelligible plan for passing prosperity round, should prosperity at some future time return to our people.” The government’s promises concerning the trusts and tariff reduction were empty ones; “the business community has been harassed and harried to no purpose; and the prosperity of the business man has been checked exactly as the prosperity of the farmer and the wage worker has been checked.” The farmer, wage worker and the small competitor have all suffered, and “tariff reduction as put into practice by the present administration has chiefly benefited foreign rivals and competitors.” It is essential to “drive from public life all men whose political activities have been those of Senator Penrose. When we fight these men and their activities, we are fighting the battle of all decent men and the honest Republican rank and file.” Referring to the Chicago convention, Theodore Roosevelt accuses Penrose and Barnes of stealing the Republicans’ right “to nominate their own candidates and promulgate their own platform.” Their political control has become “almost absolute,” and they deliberately put Wilson into office to avoid sacrificing their own interests. The Progressive Party’s efforts to protect women, children, farmers, workers, and businessmen will come to naught as long as the government is run by men who combine “crooked politics with crooked wealth.” Wage-workers and businessmen must cooperate together and put an end to cut-throat competition, but nothing will happen “if honest business men support sinister politicians whose interested endeavor is chiefly to help the crooked business man whose success is achieved by swindling his fellows.” The election of men such as Penrose, instead of providing relief will only insure “a continuation of government by convulsion, or a governmental see-saw between two sets of policies.”
Theodore Roosevelt next reviews the record of the Progressive Party, especially in Pennsylvania. He mentions bills to limit campaign spending, to limit the working hours of factory women, to set a minimum wage, to control child labor, to revise the state Constitution, and to establish workmen’s compensation, bills which are now on the books in many states but were defeated by the Penrose party at home. Roosevelt also reviews the “Progressive Congressional Program” and its twelve measures for attaining “social and industrial justice,” such as establishing investigative commissions and amending the federal Constitution. The tariff questions should be handled in a businesslike manner, without favoritism, “trading votes and log-rolling. The Progressive tariff program would not be attended by the reckless haste, the improper influences, the sectional party politics which characterize our present methods of tariff legislation.” [It is here that Theodore Roosevelt makes the extensive holograph correction mentioned above.] He then outlines the principles of the Progressive anti-trust program, noting that the party would “never attack a particular business organization merely because of its size.” Monopoly springs from “either the ability to engage in unfair or oppressive trade practices, or the control of some factor necessary to the successful conduct of the industry involved. We do not object to business supremacy which results from the economic efficiency of a business. The evil to which public attention should be directed is the control of the market gained by unfair trade practices.” The Progressives advocate a strong Interstate Trade Commission with “the power of investigation the power directly to prohibit all unfair trade practices [and] the power to end exclusive control of a factor necessary to production.” Roosevelt compares this program with that of the Democrats, who are afraid to use national power to fight the trust. The trade commission is too weak to destroy the monopolies it condemns; and their Clayton anti-trust bill, in its attempt to merely restrain the size of businesses, is an “economic absurdity. They cannot, under their theories of government control business. Therefore their sole alternative is to destroy it.”
Theodore Roosevelt concludes with an outline of the Progressive attitude towards trusts, which recognizes that “competition is the law of business in the Twentieth Century. We Progressives are not afraid of power. We know that power can be controlled to good ends and is necessary for great ends. We know this is true in business, as in government, and that no other position is possible for the modern state. We have had now twenty-four years of experience with trying to regulate business by destruction. The result has been nearly flat failure. The administration proposes a policy of further destruction. The only alternative is the Progressive plan, which is sane, effective and fair. We have a right to ask good citizens to join against the present administration. No matter what the party to which these good citizens have belonged no matter what the theories of governmental action to which they have professed allegiance, they must realize that when tested by practice and performance the theories of the administration have resulted in national discredit and misfortune. The policies of the administration should be rebuked by the people and senators and congressmen returned to Washington who will strive to end these policies.”
This important speech, this first major political address by Theodore Roosevelt since the Presidential campaign of 1912, was delivered to the Progressives at a dinner in Pittsburgh. “‘Was it a swan song-was it the plea of a broken man-what was the character of the gathering? Was it a congregation of saddened and disheartened people, come to pay a kindly tribute to a passing leader,’ asked the Philadelphia North American in an editorial entitled ‘The Amazing Roosevelt.’ ‘It was none of these things,’ the editorialist answered his own question. The demonstration for the Colonel ‘surpassed anything in the 1912 campaign, and the Roosevelt who greeted this demonstration was the vigorous, fighting Theodore Roosevelt who so long has led the people’s battles.’ ‘The Colonel enjoyed every minute,’ wrote the World, malaria and other physical weaknesses [resulting from his recent South American journey] were forgotten ‘as he stood a the vortex of the night’s enthusiasm.’ Swinging out at both Democrats and Republicans, Theodore Roosevelt announced to the country that the Bull Moose was still alive, aggressive and ambitious” [Gardner, Departing Glory]. Roosevelt’s speech makes no mention of the assassination of Sarajevo just two days previous, but the onset of the Great War quickly occupied his entire attention and gave him the ammunition he needed for a final and vociferous attack on the Wilson administration.
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