June 24, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson

PBS American Experience

Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919):
We must handle the water, the wood, the grasses … so that we will hand them on to our children and children's children in better and not worse shape than we got them. …

Americanism … is a question of spirit, of conviction and purpose, not of creed or birthplace.
The test of our worth … is the service we render.

David McCullough (1933) [Biographer]:
[TR] thought that what would destroy America was the 'prosperity at any price' attitude, the love of … 'soft living,' and a get-rich-quick theory of life. …

Roosevelt felt that a war would be good for the country.
It would stir up blood.
It would bring us together.
It was a noble aspiration, rather than the kind of self-serving grimy business of commerce and the mercantile ambitions of the country. …

Somebody once said of him that if you took all of Theodore and put it in a pot and boiled it down and down, what you've have at the bottom of the pot after that all was over was the preacher-militant. …

David Grubin:
… Roosevelt believed it his duty to urge people to do better.
He called the presidency 'a bully pulpit.'

Theodore Roosevelt [Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Naval War College, June 1897]:
Cowardice is the unpardonable sin.
No triumph of peace is quite so great as the supreme triumphs of war.
The Nation must be willing to pour out its blood, treasure, and its tears like water rather than submit to the loss of honor and renown. …
(David Grubin, TR, PBS American Experience, 1996)

Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924):
Modern industry has so distorted competition as to put it into the power of some to tyrannize over many and enable the rich and strong to combine against the poor and weak. …
[The] President of the United States is [no] mere department of the Government [—] he is a human being trying to cooperate with other human beings in a common service. …

Jay Winter [Historian]:
Wilson's notion [was] that democracy was not only good for America but … good for the world …
[He entered the] war in 1917 because [he believed] the cause of war … was the existence of aristocratic, militaristic regimes, whose interests had nothing to do with the people.
Give the power to the people, Wilson believed, and wars would be impossible.
A democratic world would be a world without war. …
(Carl Byker & Mitch Wilson, Woodrow Wilson, PBS American Experience, 2002)

Ken Burns & Lynn Novick:
[World War I and] the anti-German propaganda produced by the Wilson administration's newly created Committee of Public Information set off a wave of hysteria about Germans and German Americans.
Sauerkraut was renamed 'Liberty Cabbage'.
Dachshunds were stoned to death.
Schoolchildren destroyed their German textbooks.
And an Illinois mob lynched an American citizen who's only crime had been speaking German over a neighbour's fence.
(A Nation of Drunkards, Prohibition, 2011)

A New Nationalism

[At 51, Theodore Roosevelt was] still ambitious, still driven to wield power, yet he held no political office and had little hope of one.
William Howard Taft was now President, and Roosevelt himself had put him in office, but he believed that Taft was turning against him, siding more and more with the conservative wing of the Republican Party, crippling many of the reforms for which Roosevelt had fought so hard. …

[In the summer of 1910, TR] called for a 'New Nationalism,' …
The New Nationalism … implies far more governmental interference with social and economic conditions.
Every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use. …
[He] attacked the courts as pro-business, advocated taxes on income and inherited wealth, stronger conservation measures, workman's compensation laws, the prohibition of child labor.

In June 1912, the Republicans met in Chicago [and nominated President Taft to run for a second term. …]

Roosevelt's [break-away Progressive Party] endorsed a sweeping charter for
  • votes for women,
  • a minimum wage,
  • abolition of child labor,
  • unemployment insurance,
  • old-age pensions.
John Morton Blum [Historian]:
He came out for a social welfare program far more advanced than anything the nation was going to know until the 1930's.

William Harbaugh [Historian]:
Here is the inception … of Social Security, even of Medicare in that platform. …

Theodore Roosevelt:
We stand for a living wages.
Wages are subnormal if they fail to provide a living for those who devote their time and energy to industrial occupation.
A standard high enough to make morality possible, to provide for education and recreation, to care for immature members of the family, to maintain the family during periods of sickness, and to permit a reasonable saving for old age.
We hold the seven-day working week is abnormal and hold that one day of rest in seven should be provided by law. …

William Harbaugh:
There was no possibility whatever that the Progressive Party could actually win the election.
It's simply inconceivable that, on its first run, a third party should have polled enough votes.
Roosevelt lost in a landslide, and the Democrats [under Woodrow Wilson] captured both houses of Congress. …
His defeat struck a blow to the [progressive wing of the Republican Party] from which [it] never recovered …
His rebellion had made a Democrat President, and the Republicans would not forgive him.

A World Without War

[Wilson and his advisors envisioned] a new world order based on democracy. …

[Key] Republicans, led by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge [were] determined to voice their opposition to giving up US sovereignty to [proposed the League of Nations. …]

Wilson warned that the League was the only hope for reconciliation among Germany, Britain and France.
Without it, he prophesied that there would be a "Second World War."
Woodrow Wilson:
I do not hesitate to say that the war we have just been through, though it was shot through with terror of every kind, is not to be compared with the war we would have to face next time.
What the Germans used were toys as compared with what they would use in the next war. …
[Cabot] Lodge introduced a series of amendments … that severely limited American commitments to the organization.
[When these proved unacceptable to Wilson] the League of Nations went down to final defeat in the Senate.


Alice, Edith and Teddy
Ellen, Edith and Woodrow

American Experience: The Presidents

Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)

26th President of the United States (1901-1909).
25th Vice President of the United States (4 March to 14 September, 1901).
33rd Governor of New York (1899-1900).

  • TR, PBS American Experience, 1996.
    David Grubin.

    The Long Campaign

    [On] February 15th, 1898, in Havana harbor, the US battleship Maine blew up.
    266 Americans were killed. …
    Theodore Roosevelt:
    The Maine was sunk by an act of dirty treachery by the Spanish!
    The blood of the murdered men of the Maine calls for the full measure of atonement, which can only come from driving the Spaniard from the New World. …
    [Even at the time it was unclear] what had caused the Maine to explode. …
    [President] McKinley hesitated to declare war.
    Privately, Roosevelt said the President had the backbone of a chocolate eclair.
    Theodore Roosevelt:
    We will have this war …
    [In fact,] McKinley was going to war …
    [He just] wasn't going to war fast enough for Theodore Roosevelt.
    [The Spanish-American War broke out in two months later.]

    Theodore Roosevelt:
    All men who feel any power of joy in battle … know what it is like when the wolf rises up in the heart. …

    Walter LaFeber [Historian]:
    Secretary of State John Hay called it 'the splendid little war,' [and] in many respects, it was a very cheap, romantic war.
    The United States [essentially won an empire] in about six weeks.
    Roosevelt thought that this was going to be the way of war in the future …
    [He] never believed that there would be the kind of … horror and bloodshed that finally occurred in 1914 …
    It was a very different kind of war.
    [As Governor of New York, TR] supported regulation of factories and tenement workshops, fought to preserve state forests, even worked closely with some labour leaders. …

    [In 1901,] William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt had won in a landslide [—] the biggest Republican triumph in more than a quarter century …
    McKinley's closest adviser warned,
    There's only one life between this madman and the presidency.

    The Bully Pulpit

    Less then seven months after his inauguration, President William McKinley was dead from an assassin's bullet. …

    By the turn of the century, America had been transformed from a rural republic into a mighty industrial power.
    {Vast fortunes were being made by the men who controlled American industry.
    They were not regulated by government.
    There were no restraints on their power.}
    [And] those who did the everyday work of building the new America did not fully share in those benefits …
    [Their] anger was growing.
    Theodore Roosevelt:
    These fools on Wall Street think they can go on forever …
    They can't.
    I would like to be the buffer between their foolishness and the wrath that is surely to come.
    Sooner or later, there will be a riotous, wicked, murderous day of atonement. …
    In industry after industry, [J Pierpont] Morgan had combined hosts of small companies into giant monopolies — trusts — United States Steel, International Harvester, General Electric, all under the financial control of just [one] man.
    Trusts like Morgan's dominated American life …
    They manipulated prices, destroyed competition, bought and sold politicians. …

    Roosevelt ordered his attorney general to break up the monopoly and restore competition. …
    He brought an antitrust suit against Northern Securities [which controlled the major railroad lines in the Pacific Northwest. …]

    The struggle continued in the courts for more than two years.
    In the end, Morgan's railroad trust was broken up, and Roosevelt went on to prosecute other unpopular trusts — sugar, oil, beef, tobacco.
    [Still,] he left most of the giant monopolies untouched.
    Theodore Roosevelt:
    [Corporations] are indispensable instruments of our modern civilization, but I believe they should be so regulated that they shall act for the interest of the community as a whole.

    John Milton Cooper [Historian]:
    [TR believed] the supremacy of the public interest [had] to be asserted.
    If you're going to have big business, you're going to have to have bigger government in order to control it and regulate it. …
    In 1902, the men who mined America's coal [went] out on strike.
    Coal heated America's homes and powered its factories …
    [Many feared the] strike would cripple the country. …
    Jean Strouse [Biographer of JP Morgan]:
    The mine workers wanted higher wages, shorter working hours, some safety regulations, and they also wanted recognition of their union …
    Social unrest made Roosevelt extremely nervous.
    While he hated the lazy rich plutocrats on the one side, he was terrified of the democratic mob on the other side.
    As the strike dragged on, the mine owners refused even to meet with the miners' union.
    Jean Strouse [Biographer of JP Morgan]:
    [TR called] the mine owners and the union representatives to the White House.
    The owners are completely intransigent and brutal and, [TR said later], stupid. …

    Theodore Roosevelt:
    They came down in a most insolent frame of mind …
    [They] refused to talk of accommodation of any kind, and used language that was insulting to the miners and offensive to me.

    John Morton Blum [Historian]:
    Indeed, the owners' spokesman said that God, in His infinite wisdom, had given control of property in the United States to the owners of coal mines. …

    [At an impasse, Roosevelt] went secretly to the commander of the Army [and told him to get] troops ready and use them to seize the industry.
    In the past, other presidents had used the Army to crush labor.
    Now, Roosevelt was threatening to use it to take control of the mines and let the striking miners go back to work.
    Congressmen from his own party were outraged. …

    Faced with the threat of federal intervention, the mine owners backed down. …
    The miners went back to work [and though] their union was still not recognized, they got a 10-percent wage increase and a nine-hour work day. …

    When the President went hunting in Mississippi and refused to shoot a bear cub … an enterprising Brooklyn toymaker began turning out stuffed bears — Teddy Bears.
    Millions were soon being sold all around the world. …

    [Policeman of the Western Hemisphere]

    As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt had argued fervently for the war with Spain that had won America island possessions in the Caribbean and the Pacific.
    Now he was president of a republic he had helped turn into an empire.
    He believed it was America's destiny to compete for world markets with the great imperial powers — Germany, Britain, Japan.

    In the next eight years, Roosevelt would make the American battleship fleet one of the largest in the world …
    He was fond of quoting an old African proverb,
    Speak softly, and carry a big stick.
    In 1904 when Santo Domingo, a small island in the Caribbean, defaulted on its loans from Germany, France and Italy, chaos threatened, and Roosevelt sent in the United States Navy to preserve order and prevent the European powers from intervening.
    Walter LaFeber [Historian]:
    The one thing he did not want to happen was for Latin America to turn into another Africa or Asia where the imperial powers were struggling for position and where, indeed, the Germans, the British, the French were carving up parts of Africa and Asia.
    [In 1823] President James Monroe had warned the European powers to stay out of the western hemisphere.
    The Monroe Doctrine … stated that further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression … requiring US intervention.
    (Wikipedia, 11 June, 2013)
    Theodore Roosevelt now went one step further. …
    Walter LaFeber [Historian]:
    [He said — not only should the Europeans] stay out [— but that] the United States [had] the right to … exercise police power to keep [them] out.
    Against the wishes of Congress, Roosevelt took control of the Customs houses in Santo Domingo, began collecting payments on the debt, and restored order to the island.

    At the same time, he was already planning to use American power in another Latin American nation to realize a centuries-old dream — the building of a path between the seas that would link the Atlantic and the Pacific. …
    Walter LaFeber [Historian]:
    The distance at that time from New York to San Francisco — you had to go around the tip of South America — was something like 13,600 miles, and in order to move the American fleet from the Atlantic to the Pacific in [event of war] would take an extraordinary amount of time.
    With the canal, the distance is reduced to about 5,000 miles.
    Roosevelt wanted to cut his canal through Panama, the westernmost province of the sovereign nation of Colombia.
    Twenty years earlier, a French company had tried to build a canal there and gone bankrupt, leaving behind millions of dollars of equipment and a legacy of disaster.
    Now that company wanted to sell its rights to the United States for $40 million.
    Roosevelt was prepared to buy, but first he had to negotiate with the Colombian government.
    He offered $10 million in exchange for a six-mile-wide strip of land. …
    Walter LaFeber [Historian]:
    The Colombians wanted much more than $10 million, they wanted a good part of that $40 million that the United States had promised the canal company. …
    The Colombians were acting in their own national interest, but Roosevelt accused them of extortion. …
    Theodore Roosevelt:
    I did my best to get them to act straight.
    Then I determined what ought to be done without regard to them.
    [Rebels] in Panama were planning to declare their independence from Colombia …
    The rebel spokesman was a Frenchman named Phillipe Bunau-Varilla [—] a major stockholder in the French canal company. On October 10, 1903, [TR met with him in] the White House. …
    Walter LaFeber [Historian]:
    [They formed an unwritten] understanding that if the Panamanians did rise up against Colombia, Roosevelt was going to help the rebellion.
    With the American Navy patrolling offshore to keep Colombia from sending in reinforcements, the fighting was over within 48 hours, and when news reached the United States, it took Roosevelt just one hour to recognize the new Republic of Panama.
    Two weeks later, a treaty with the new Panamanian government gave America control of a strip of land 10 miles wide. Panama got $10 million.
    The old French canal company got $40 million.
    Colombia got nothing. …
    Walter LaFeber [Historian]:
    The [curious thing was, of course, that the United States had helped Colombia put down] earlier Panamanian uprisings …
    The Panama Canal was one of the greatest engineering feats in history.
    Two hundred and sixty-two million cubic yards of earth had to be moved.
    Thousands of workers would have to fight tropical heat, swamps, dangerous working conditions and deadly fevers that would take 6,000 lives. …
    David McCullough [Biographer]:
    [TR considered it] the most important, the grandest, most historic accomplishment of his presidency. …
    Other presidents would be in office before the canal was finished, but [everyone knows that it's] Theodore Roosevelt's canal.
    By November 1904, Roosevelt had been in office for three and a half years — an accidental president … brought to power by McKinley's assassination.
    [Now —] running for president for the first time [— TR] won the largest popular vote any candidate had ever won.
    But on Election night [— at a press conference,] at the very pinnacle of his success [— TR] committed one of the greatest blunders in presidential history. …
    Theodore Roosevelt:
    Under no circumstances will I be a candidate for or accept another nomination. …
    He said he was honoring the two-term tradition set by George Washington. …

    [In four years time, those words would] … compel him to give up the power he so loved to wield, and [condemn him to spend] the rest of his life trying to win it back.

    The Good Fight

    To Republican conservatives [—] opposed to any federal regulation of industry [—] Roosevelt was the enemy. …
    • To protect farmers from railroads charging excessive rates, he called for strengthening the Interstate Commerce Commission.
    • To protect consumers from filthy conditions in stockyards and food-processing plants, he championed federal meat inspection, and …
    • to insure the purity and safety of drugs, medicine and food [he introduced] the Pure Food and Drug Act. …
    Theodore Roosevelt:
    Reform is the antidote to revolution. …
    As a boy, Roosevelt had dreamed of becoming a naturalist …
    [In adulthood he] continued to study evolutionary theory, and [to expand] his already expert knowledge of large mammals and small birds. …
    Tweed Roosevelt [Great-grandson]:
    Congress was refusing to make the Grand Canyon into a national park … because developers [had plans] to 'improve' it.
    [TR] had the power to make national monuments and [game reserves — so] he declared the sides of the canyon a national monument and the base of it a game reserve …
    [When] the birds of tiny Pelican Island … off the east coast of Florida, were threatened by hunters collecting feathers to decorate women's hats [he declared it] the first federal wildlife refuge …
    [50 more were to follow.]

    In 1907, [in] a deliberate [challenge] to Roosevelt's authority, Congress passed a bill stripping him of the power to designate national forests [—] opening up millions of acres of timber to loggers and developers. …
    Just days before the bill became law, {in blatant defiance of the will of Congress} [he created] 16 million more acres of national forests. …
    John Milton Cooper [Historian]:
    [He believed men needed to preserve the wilderness so as to have a place] to develop the physical and the moral qualities [necessary to make them good] soldiers and citizens [— just as it had done for him.]
    Before he was through, Roosevelt had created
    • five new national parks,
    • 18 national monuments [and]
    • 150 national forests …
    [In all he placed] 230 million acres of United States land under public protection.
    [It would prove to be his] most enduring legacy.

    [In 1905, a year into the Russo-Japanese War, Russia was losing badly.]
    Walter LaFeber [Historian]:
    [TR] believed that the United States had to dominate the Pacific in the 20th century. …

    [Japan] was now becoming militarily paramount on the mainland of Asia, especially in Korea and South Manchuria.
    And [it was feared] that the next place that Japan might move might be the Philippines — which the United States … had taken in 1898. …

    [TR and Secretary of State Taft struck a secret deal with the Japanese] that the United States [would] recognize [a Japanese takeover of Korea on the understanding that they would] not touch the Philippines. …
    [They sold out the Koreans] to the Japanese. …
    That summer he [hosted successful peace negotiations between the Russia and Japan.]
    [And] Theodore Roosevelt, who believed in the cleansing moral power of war and [famed] for leading the charge up San Juan Hill, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. …

    Black Care

    At first, Roosevelt thought World War I would be just another 'bully fight.'
    War had always lifted his spirits.
    Theodore Roosevelt:
    I am nearly sure as can be … that England and France will benefit immensely by the war.
    Perhaps it is necessary that their manhood should be tried and purged in the ordeal of this dreadful, fiery furnace.

    John Morton Blum [Historian]:
    [He remained as convinced as ever] that war did something for urban industrialized man, that the act of fighting somehow restored the right spirit. …

    John Milton Cooper [Historian]:
    Theodore Roosevelt hated Woodrow Wilson …
    … Wilson was in the place that he thought he ought to be.
    Theodore Roosevelt believed that great crises call forth great leaders.
    This should have been his moment in world history. …
    It's the jealousy of one great man for another. …
    [On] May 7, 1915, the ocean liner Lusitania was [sunk] by a German submarine.
    Hundreds of women and children died, among them many Americans.
    Although the German government argued that the ship was secretly carrying war supplies, Americans everywhere were horrified.
    Theodore Roosevelt:
    That's murder …
    It seems inconceivable that we can refrain from taking action, for we owe it not only to humanity, but to our own national self-respect.

    John Milton Cooper [Historian]:
    Now the Germans had … tarnished our honor.
    For Theodore Roosevelt, it's his chance to cast off restraints. …
    [In the 1916 election] Wilson ran on his record.
    He had signed into law many of the progressive programs Roosevelt had advocated — a graduated income tax, child labor laws, workman's compensation.
    But Roosevelt continued to despise the President, especially his slogan,
    He kept us out of war.

    Theodore Roosevelt:
    This is yellow … plain yellow. …

    John Morton Blum [Historian]:
    Roosevelt … began to make a lot of … the question of loyalty on the part of immigrants who were German-American or Irish-American.

    William Harbaugh [Historian]:
    [He] favored the abolition of the teaching of the German language in the public schools.
    [Theodore Roosevelt]
    • condemned conscientious objectors as 'slackers, pure and simple,'
    • condoned mob action against radical labor leaders, and
    • demanded that teachers who refused to take loyalty oaths be dismissed.

Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924)

28th President of the United States (1913-1921).
Nobel Peace Prize (1919).

  • Woodrow Wilson, PBS American Experience, 2002.
    Carl Byker and Mitch Wilson.

    [In] his early days in office [Wilson] was able to
    • toughen anti-trust laws,
    • win new protections for labor unions,
    • create the Federal Reserve System to make loans more easily available to average Americans, and
    • give government the resources it needed to rein in big business by creating the first lasting income tax.
    David M Kennedy [Historian]:
    [In the] first two years of Wilson's first term [he accomplished more] than in virtually any other two year period in the 20th century.
    He [laid] down the rhetorical markers about how the state must step in to insulate citizens against the volatilities of the free market …
    In a second round of reforms Wilson pushed through the first law mandating an 8 hour work day and the first law banning child labor. …

    Victoria Bissell Brown [Historian]:
    To understand Woodrow Wilson's racial views, it is important to remember that he was a Southerner.
    He had been raised in a climate in which it was presumed that African American people were less evolved than Anglo Saxon people. …
    This was not a casual assumption on his part, it was one that was ingrained in his whole being.

    Ellen Wilson:
    My life has been the most remarkable life history that I ever even read about-and to think I have lived it with you!
    I love you, my dear, in every way you could wish to be loved.
    Deeply, tenderly, devotedly, passionately.

    Woodrow Wilson:
    It is very wonderful how you have loved me.
    I have gone my way after a fashion that made me the center of the plan.
    And you, who are so independent in spirit and in judgment, whose soul is also a kingdom, have been so loyal, so forgiving.
    Nothing but love could have accomplished so wonderful a thing.
    On August 6, [1914] with her husband at her side, Ellen Axson Wilson died. …

    [The sinking of the RMS Lusitania by U-boat on 7 May, 1915] stoked nationalist cries for America to enter the war.
    [TR called Wilson] a "prime-jackass" and threatened to "skin him alive if he doesn't go to war."

    Republican Congressmen … were also furious with the President.
    Henry Cabot Lodge [US Senate]:
    Wilson is afraid …
    He flinches in the presence of danger, physical and moral. …

    Woodrow Wilson:
    I come from the South and I know what war is, for I have seen its terrible wreckage and ruin.
    It is easy for me as President to declare war.
    I do not have to fight, and neither do the gentlemen on the Hill who now clamor for it.
    It is some poor farmer's boy, or the son of some poor widow — who will have to do the fighting and dying. …
    On the afternoon of January 31st, 1917, the president received a diplomatic communiqué: the German Government had declared all-out submarine warfare against American ships in the Atlantic.
    Then, a telegram was intercepted that revealed Germany was trying to persuade Mexico to declare war against the US by offering the states of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico as potential war prizes. …
    On April 2nd, Wilson stood before a joint session of Congress and asked for a declaration of war against Germany.
    Woodrow Wilson:
    It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars.
    But the right is more precious than peace and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts, for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples.
    The world must be made safe for democracy. …
    From concert halls to schools, Beethoven and Brahms, along with all works of German literature, were banned.
    [Thousands] of Americans were arrested for opposing the war on moral and ethical grounds. …
    [Eugene Debs —] four-time Socialist candidate for President [—] was sentenced to ten years in prison [for making a speech against the war.]
    Victoria Bissell Brown [Historian]:
    The Wilson Administration supported and passed an Espionage Act and later a Sedition Act, both of which limited free speech in this country.
    Under the provisions of that act, the Wilson Administration could arrest anyone that spoke out against the war, anyone who spoke out against Wilson's policies, anyone who spoke out against conscription. …
    The President was haunted by the mounting casualties.
    In his lifetime, the rifles and cannons of the Civil War had become the machine guns, tanks and airplanes of the world war.
    He became convinced that there was only one hope for the human race: to make this the last war. …

    [His peace] plan had fourteen simple points.
    The first thirteen described a world where conflicts would be settled without war.
    The last point described the organization that would make peaceful coexistence possible, a new international forum called the League of Nations. …
    Jay Winter [Historian]:
    Wilson's aim in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 was probably higher than any statesman in the modern period.
    No one else had tried to fundamentally recast the international order in a way that would make war impossible. …
    [A] young Vietnamese student who would later call himself Ho Chi Minh gave Wilson's delegation a letter requesting independence for his country. …

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