Story of Theodore Roosevelt - J. W. McSpadden




The Home-Coming, and a New Fight

When Theodore Roosevelt reached home, on that day in June, 1910, he was given an unprecedented welcome. As his ship passed through the Narrows of New York harbor, the guns on the neighboring forts fired the presidential salute of twenty-one guns. The battleships in the bay took it up, followed by the screaming of whistles and sirens from every craft for miles around.

"Teddy is home! Teddy is home!" they seemed to say.

At Quarantine his party was met by two members of President Taft's Cabinet and a committee of three hundred New Yorkers, and was transferred to a revenue-cutter which took them up the bay to the Battery. There he landed and was met by Mayor Gaynor, who made him an address of welcome; to which Roosevelt replied:

"I have thoroughly enjoyed myself; and now I am more glad than I can say to get home, to be back in my own country, back among people I love. I am ready and eager to do my part in solving the problems which must be solved."

From the Battery a great parade moved uptown, with him as the central figure escorted by his old beloved regiment of Rough Riders, reassembled from every corner of the United States to don the khaki again. It was a constant cry from him of "Hello, Bill! How are you, Jerry!" His silk hat was battered to pieces before the day was over; while the crowds jamming sidewalks and windows all along Fifth Avenue yelled themselves hoarse.

But what did Roosevelt mean, in his reply to Mayor Gaynor, "I am eager to do my part in solving the problems which must be solved?"

Just this. He felt that the Republican party had come to a parting of the ways. It had fallen too much under the domination of the big business interests. The last year of his own term as President had been marked by bitter fights with Congress. For one thing he had wanted the tariff revised downward. For another, he believed thoroughly in reclamation and conservation of our natural resources—our forests, mines, and natural water-power.

In securing the nomination and election of Taft to succeed him, Roosevelt had hoped that these progressive policies would be continued. But Taft had not been able to stand against Congress and "Wall Street." The new tariff bill which was finally passed in the first year of the Taft administration revised the tariff upward instead of downward, that is, made prices on foreign goods dearer. There had also been grave scandals regarding the seizure of public coal lands in Alaska.

These were only two of many things which Roosevelt regarded as "problems which must be solved." What he would do about it, was the question now asked by the newspapers and citizens generally; for they knew him too well to vision him as sitting idly by with hands folded. He left them not long in doubt.

"This," he said, "is the duty of every citizen, but is peculiarly my duty; for any man who has ever been honored by being made President of the United States, is thereby forever rendered the debtor of the American people, and is bound throughout his life to remember this, his prime obligation."

He had probably counted the cost to himself. It would have been so easy to sink back into cosy retirement at Oyster Bay, now at the height of his popularity and do nothing to injure it! He knew that a fighter constantly makes enemies. But he could not fold his arms.

One of the first lamentable results of his re-entry into politics was his estrangement from Taft, the "dear Will" of former days. It was inevitable in view of the wide divergence of their political views; and the breach was only healed in the closing months of Roosevelt's life.

Roosevelt made a noteworthy trip across the continent, delivering speeches, then returned to New York, where he became associate editor of The Outlook. One facetious journalist thereupon dubbed it The Outlet, which in a sense it was. Through its pages he discussed with fearless freedom the questions of the day which pressed for solution. He believed, for example, in a strong, centralized government which should have power in any crisis to override the rights of any State. He called this the "New Nationalism," and it is exactly what took place when the World War was, upon us. But Roosevelt was in advance of his time, and was called "radical" and "dangerous."

As the campaign of 1912 for the Presidency approached, it was seen that a "showdown" of Taft forces and Roosevelt forces was inevitable. At first he had insisted that he was not a candidate, and he was doubtless sincere. But he saw that there was no other candidate in sight, and after the governors of seven States had sent him a joint appeal asking him to stand for the nomination, he reluctantly admitted that "his hat was in the ring."

The national Republican Convention which followed, at Chicago, was one of the stormiest political gatherings ever staged. Some States had elected two sets of delegates, representing the two wings of the party. The "standpatters" had been instructed for Taft, and the "progressives" for Roosevelt.

The latter's campaign headquarters, at a nearby hotel, was a seething riot of enthusiasm, Crowds went by in the streets constantly chanting, "We want Teddy! We want Teddy!" The mere sight of the Colonel's slouch hat wrought up the delegates to frenzy.

Roosevelt stayed away from the convention which wrangled over seating or unseating delegates. The chairman, Elihu Root, one of the ablest public men of his time, tried to be fair; but it was soon evident that he favored the Taft interests. Root, like other sincere public men, admired Roosevelt but was afraid of "his radical tendencies."

The upshot of it all was that the Roosevelt delegates refused to vote. They withdrew in a body, leaving the nomination to Taft; and repaired to another public auditorium, where they nominated Roosevelt by acclamation.

That night when a reporter asked him how he felt, he replied, "I feel as fit as a bull moose!"

And that was how the Bull Moose, or Progressive party, was born.