August 26, 1918: Theodore Roosevelt Speech in Springfield Illinois

 

In spite of his grief over the death of his son Quentin, and his own failing health, Theodore Roosevelt did not retire from public life.  On August 26, 1918 he gave a barn-burner of a speech in Springfield, Illinois:

 

 

The two great needs of the moment are to insist upon thorough-going and absolute Americanism throughout this land, and to speed up the war; and secondarily to these needs come the needs of beginning even now to make ready, to prepare for the tasks that are to come after the war, the task of preparing so that never again shall war find us helpless, and the task of preparing for the social and industrial problems which this earth-shaking conflict of giants will leave in its ruinous wake.

To insist upon thorough-going, 100 per cent. Americanism among all our people is merely another way. of saying that we insist upon being a nation proud of our national past and confident of our future as the greatest of the nations of mankind: for if we permit our people to be split into a score of different nationalities, each speaking a different language and each paying its real soul homage to some national ideal overseas, we shall not be a nation at all, but merely a polyglot boarding house; and nobody feels much loyalty to a polyglot boarding house or is proud to belong to it. Moreover, there is no such thing as a divided loyalty. Any kind of alloy in the loyalty makes the loyalty completely valueless. At this time the man of German origin who says he is loyal to “Germanism,” to “Deutschtum,” although not to Germany, to ” Deutschland,” is disloyal to America. Germanism is incompatible with Americanism. The slightest loyalty to Germany is disloyalty to the United States. We can tolerate no half-way attitude, no fifty-fifty loyalty. The man must be an American and nothing else, or he is not an American at all.

If a man is loyal to any other flag, whether a foreign flag or the red flag of anarchy, or the black flag of Germanized socialism, he is disloyal to the American flag; and we must have but one language, the language of the Declaration of Independence, and of Washington’s Farewell Address, and of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Speech, the English language.

We are not internationalists. We are American nationalists. We intend to do justice to all other nations. But in the last four years the professed internationalists like the profound pacifists have played the game of brutal German autocracy, the game of the militaristic and capitalistic tyranny which now absolutely rules the Prussianized Germany of the Hohenzollerns. Professional internationalism stands towards patriotism exactly as free love stands toward a clean and honorable and duty-performing family life. And American pacifism has been the tool and ally of German militarism, and has represented, and always will represent, deep disloyalty to our beloved country.

Having said this, with all the emphasis at my command, I wish with no less emphasis to say that the equally important other side of Americanism is the imperative duty of treating all men who show that they are in very truth Americans as on an entire equality of right and privilege, with no more regard to their birthplace, or the birthplace of their parents than to their creed. In this crisis, since once our people grew fully awake, the Americans of German blood have in the immense majority of cases shown themselves as absolutely and aggressively and single-minded American as the citizens of any other stock or as the citizens who like most of us are of mixed stock. The German government and the-German newspapers have reluctantly recognized this and they are more bitter against the Americans of German blood than against any other Americans. The leading papers of Germany have contained bitter denunciations of them; and recently in the captured report of a»German Inspector General which spoke of the American prisoners, the General especially dwelt on the fact that the soldiers of foreign parentage felt and behaved precisely like the soldiers of native parentage, and that this applied especially to the soldiers of German parentage. Among the feats of especial gallantry chronicled of our men at the front a full proportion are to be credited to men whose names show that they are in whole or in part of German blood. We Americans all stand shoulder to shoulder in war and in peace; and woe to the men who would try to divide us. No man can serve two masters. No man can serve both the United States and Germany. If he is loyal to one side he must be hostile to the other. If he is a loyal American he must be against Germany and all her works.

For the moment the pacifists and internationalists and pro-Germans dare not be noisy. But let our people beware of them as soon as the peace negotiations begin and from that time onward. They have worked together in the past and they will work together in the future, the pro-Germans furnishing the most powerful and most sinister element of the combination while the pacifists and the internationalists prance in the foreground and furnish the rhetoric. Let our people remember that for the two and a half years before we entered the war the pacifists clamorously insisted that if we kept unprepared we would avoid war. Well, we tried the experiment. We kept completely unprepared. Even after we broke off diplomatic relations with Germany we refused to make the slightest preparation. And nevertheless we drifted into the war. Pacifism and unpreparedness never keep a nation out of war. They invite war; and they insure that if war comes it shall be costly; and long drawn out and bloody. If when the great war broke out four years ago, or even if when the Lusitania was sunk three years and a quarter ago, we had begun with all our energy to prepare, we would very possibly never have had to go to war at all, and if forced to go to war we would have conquered peace ninety days after our entry into the conflict.

Let us remember this when the peace comes. Don’t trust the pacifists; they are the enemies of righteousness. Don’t trust the internationalists; they are the enemies of nationalism and Americanism. Both of these groups appeal to all weaklings, illusionists, materialists, lukewarm Americans and faddists of all the types that vitiate nationalism. Their leaders are plausible, makebelieve humanitarians, who crave a notoriety that flatters their own egotism, who often mislead amiable and well-meaning, but short-sighted persons, who care for their own worthless carcasses too much to go anywhere near the front when fighting comes, but who in times of inert and slothful thinking, when war seems a remote possibility, can gain a reputation by windy schemes which imply not the smallest self-sacrifice or service among those who advocate them, and which therefore appeal to all exponents of intellectual vagary, sentimental instability and eccentricity, and that sham altruism which seeks the cheap glory of words that betray deeds. All these elements combined may, when the people as a whole are not fully awake, betray this country into a course of folly for which when the hour of stern trial comes our bravest men will pay with blood and our bravest women with tears. For those illusionists do not pay with their own bodies for the dreadful errors into which they have led a nation. They strut through their time of triumph in the hours of ease; and when the hours of trial come they scatter instantly and let the nationalists, the old-fashioned patriots, the men and women who believe in the virile fighting virtues, accept the burden and carry the load, meet the dangers and make the sacrifies, and give themselves to and for the country. Nations are made, defended, and preserved, not by the illusionists but by the men and women who practice the homely virtues in time of peace, and who in time of righteous war are ready to die, or to send those they love best to die, for a shining ideal.

When peace comes let us accept any reasonable proposal, whether calling for a league of nations or for any other machinery, which we can in good faith act upon, and which does really offer some chance of lessening the number of future wars and diminishing their area. But let us never forget that any promise that such a league or other piece of machinery will definitely do away with war is either sheer nonsense or rank hypocrisy. When the test comes any strong and brutal nation will treat any such agreement as a scrap of paper, precisely as Germany treated the Hague conventions and the treaties guaranteeing the neutrality of Belgium, unless well-behaved nations possess both the will and the power to enforce the observance of the agreement. Therefore let us treat any peace treaties and agreements never as substitutes for but merely as supplementary to the duty of preparing our own strength for our own defense. And let us make this duty the duty of all the people, as it should be in a democracy, where universal suffrage should rest on universal service. Let us rest our strength on an army which shall consist not of a special caste, but of the people themselves; on an army produced by the universal obligatory training of all our young men sometime between the ages of 19 and 21.

This is for the future. Our immediate duty is to win the war. We must speed up the war to the limit. We must try to finish it at the earliest possible moment, but be resolved to finish it, no matter how long it takes. We must insist on the peace of complete and overwhelming victory. We must remember that a huge army put in the field at one time will accomplish what the same number of men put into the field in driblets can never accomplish. We have a much larger population and much greater natural resources than Germany or than France and England combined. Therefore, by next spring we should have thousands of our own field guns, and scores of thousands of our own airplanes at the front, and an enormous ship tonnage in which to ferry across the ocean so many troops that by April we may have four million trained fighting men at the front, not counting non-combatants and reserves. The age limits for the draft should be greatly increased and the exemptions greatly diminished. All of this, of course, should have been done six months ago — indeed a year ago. But it is not too late now. It is the eleventh hour, but not the twelfth. We must quit making this a ” leisurely war.” Our gallant fighting men at the front have shown the most splendid military qualities, and have won for themselves and for this nation the highest honor. Therefore we who stay at home must back them up by deeds, not merely by applause. They are entitled to such backing; and such backing means great quantities of ships, guns and airplanes, and millions of trained men. It is a good thing, an admirable thing, to back up the Red Cross and the Y. M. C. A., and all kindred bodies; to pay taxes cheerfully and buy Liberty bonds and thrift stamps; to save food and grow food, and to work with all our might with head and hand at useful industry. All these things will help the fighting men to win the war. But it is the fighting men at the front who will win the war. Therefore back up the fighting men; and the only way to back them up is to do the things of which I have spoken above.

So much for the vital, the immediate, the imperative needs. They are the needs that must at all hazards be met forthwith. But there are other paramount needs which we must also consider.

This terrible war, with all its dreadful and lamentable accompaniments, may nevertheless do a lasting good to this nation; for it may scourge us out of the wallow of materialism, made only worse by a mawkish or vicious sham sentimentality, into which we were tending to sink. The finest, the bravest, the best of our young men have sprung eagerly forward to face death for the sake of a high ideal; and thereby they have brought home to us the great truth that life consists of more than easy-going pleasure, and more than hard, conscienceless, brutal striving after purely material success; that while we must rightly care for the body and the things of the body, such care leads nowhere unless we also have thought for our own souls and for the souls of our brothers. When these gallant boys, on the golden crest of life, gladly face death for the sake of an ideal, shall not we who stay behind, who have not been found worthy of the grand adventure, shall not we in our turn try to shape our lives so as to make this country the ideal which in our hearts we acknowledge, and the actual workaday business of our world, come a little nearer together, correspond in practice a little more closely? Let us resolve to make this country a better place to live in for these men, and for the women who sent these men to battle and for the children who are to come after them.

When peace comes, and even before peace comes, let us weigh and ponder the mighty spiritual forces called into being by this war and turn them to the social and industrial betterment of this nation. Abraham Lincoln, with his usual homely commonsense and unerring instinct for the truth, made our people remember that the do’lar has its place, an essential place, but that the man stands above the dollar. Of late years we have worshiped the dollar overmuch, and have been snugly content with sleek service to Mammon, heedless of the ominous fact that overdevotion to dollars is almost equally damaging to those who have too many and to those who have too few; for when success is treated as tested and measured, not by the achievement of a self-respecting, hardworking, happy family life, and the performance of duty to oneself and to others with pleasure as a proper accompaniment of the duty; but merely by the mass of dollars amassed — why, the result is that the successful greedy ones develop a mean arrogance, and the unsuccessful greedy ones a mean envy; and envy and arrogance are equally unlovely sides of the same evil shield.

At present the best blood in this country, from all the homes of this country, is being spilled by our sons and brothers for principle and for justice and for humanity and for love of country, because our sons and brothers have placed love of a great cause above the dollar. Let us see that the position is not reversed for a long time to come! The other day I read the statement that there were a hundred thousand undernourished children in New York City. If we had a like number of undernourished soldiers, what a cry would go up! Yet these children are the citizens of the future, and the industrial arm is of just as much importance as the military. We must realize this, and act on our realization, or some day our republic will rock to its foundation.

In achieving this purpose we must be equally on our guard against the American Romanoffs, the reactionaries of industry and politics, and against the American Bolshevists who appeal to the basest passions of envy and class hatred, and who strive for disorder and anarchy. The history of Russia during the last 18 months teaches our country exactly what to avoid. And one of the lessons it teaches is that the most sordid corruptionist may do no more harm to the nation than the conscienceless demagogue or the fanatical and impracticable visionary.

We must take the rule of justice and fair play as our guide in dealing alike with capital and with labor, with the business man and the working man. Our theory should be cooperation among individuals, and control by the government with the purpose of helping the business succeed, but of seeing that the success implies service to the public and a fair division of profits among all concerned. During war time there should be no profiteering, no unusual and abnormal profits; but there must be legitimate profits or the business can not go on, and unless it goes on the public can not be served nor the wage earners receive their wages. If there are no profits we can not raise the taxes necessary to provide money for the war. The workingmen likewise should have their right of collective action, including collective bargaining, insured; and in a very real sense they should be made partners in the business, with a share in the profits and, at least along certain lines, a share in the control; and provision should be made for their honorable security in old age, and for their insurance against disease, accident and involuntary unemployment. There must be the fullest recognition, in honor and in material reward, of the skillful, conscientious, intelligent, hard-working man — I mean a recognition which he will accept as such, not merely a recognition which outsiders think sufficient. But there must be no limiting of production, no limiting of output, and no deadening insistence on reducing the efficiency of the skillful and hardworking to the plane of the shiftless or inefficient.

The foundation of our permanent civilization rests on the farmer; and by farmer I mean not the man who owns land which others till, but the man who himself tills or helps till the ground part of which at least he himself owns. A cardinal feature of our national policy should be the insuring of his rights to this man; and this not only for his sake, but for the sake of all of us.

Normally, he must be the owner of the ground he and his sons and his hired man till; and the hired man must have conditions shaped so that if he is hardworking, thrifty and energetic he shall have the means and the opportunity himself to purchase farming land on which to dwell and to bring up his family. We ought now to formulate, and we ought long ago to have formulated, an American agricultural policy; and the national agricultural department should be completely reorganized and its activities made far more productive than at present, especially in view of the large sum of money now allotted it. Normally, in farming regions, where the land is agricultural land, tenancy should be recognized only as a transitional and temporary phase, and normally the working farmer should himself be the landowner; and legislation to secure this should at once be enacted. In different sections of the country there are different needs, and therefore different methods of meeting the needs will be necessary; nor do I now intend to define them; for the remedies may be cumulative, and may include progressive taxation of land holdings in excess of a quarter section or at most a half section, the rights of tenants to compensation for all improvements or indeed a certain property right to the land itself, and real, not nominal, provision by the government for loaning money to those who need it in order to buy themselves a freehold. There must be improved methods of farm financing with emphasis on the getting and spending more money on the farms that are worth while. The high roads must be developed. Drastic action should be taken to stop the purchase of agricultural land for speculative purchasers; where necessary this should go to the length of giving full title to the occupant for use only, and limiting his power of alienating the land. System of marketing must be developed, so as to do away with the hold-up methods that in so many places still obtain. The producer must get more, and the consumer pay less, than at present; and both these ends can be and have been attained by proper legislation.

We ought to do these and the many other things necessary now, when it is possible to do them without causing too great distress to those in possession of long undisputed privileges which by time have grown to possess much of the character of rights. Nine-tenths of wisdom is being wise in time. In this country tenant farming and the individual ownership of extensive tracts of agricultural land are growing at the expense of the homestead holders. Let us take whatever steps — conservative, if possible, radical, if necessary — are needed to remedy the situation; for if left unremedied the result may be something unpleasantly near revolution a half century hence; and in such case the wrongs will be remedied only by action which causes other wrongs to innocent people and works deep demoralization to those benefited; whereas at present by the exercise of forethought and resolution we may escape both kinds of evil.

There are certain things the state can do and must do for the farmer. But most things the farmer can do for himself by association with his fellow farmers, and such independence of unnecessary state action is healthy in itself and is consonant with the rugged self-reliance characteristic of that most typical of American citizen, the American who dwells in the open country and tills the soil with his own hands. There must be cooperation on a large scale among farmers, in marketing their products so as to get them as nearly as possible direct to the consumer, and in purchasing at least all of their needed goods that can be standardized; and gradually in other ways also. Whatever can be done by such cooperation rather than by the state should be done: but where such cooperation proves inadequate to achieve the end, whether in shipping, storing or marketing, the state must itself assume the task.

Any such cooperative association should deal with the work that peculiarly affects farmers. Therefore it should most emphatically not be turned into a political party; and a political party which goes into politics as such is just as much a political party even although it chooses to call itself by some name with non-partisan in it. Any party which represents purely a class of our citizens inevitably works mischief. It is just as bad to have public servants who represent nobody but farmers as to have public servants who do not represent farmers. Our public servants are in honor bound to represent all of us, and not merely a few of us; and unless they represent all of us, and work sincerely and wisely for the permanent benefit of all of us, then they do not really and permanently represent any of us. Individually some of us are farmers, others workingmen, others business people, others doctors or lawyers or writers, or clergymen; but in addition we are all of us Americans first and foremost; and in government our common interest as decent citizens comes ahead of the separate interest of any of us. It is wise and it may be necessary that we shall individually belong to any one of various unions or associations or leagues or corporations; but there is one union to which all of us belong and to which our first allegiance is always due, and that union is the United States.

If Roosevelt had lived he almost certainly would have been the Republican nominee for President in 1920 and likely would have won.  This speech indicated that the course he would have charted would have been quite different from that followed by Harding and Coolidge.  One of the more interesting might have beens in American history.

Published in: on August 26, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on August 26, 1918: Theodore Roosevelt Speech in Springfield Illinois  
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Theodore Roosevelt and Muscular Christianity

 

 

A few weeks after he gave a Fourth of July speech in 1903  in Huntington, New York, during the 250th anniversary year of that town, Colonel Roosevelt (That is the title by which he liked to be addressed, being proud of his service with the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War.  He despised being called Teddy.) addressed the Holy Name Society on August 16, 1903.  Note his appeal to men and boys to lead good and moral lives and to give full expression to the masculine virtues of courage and fortitude.  Today of course the speech would be denounced as sexist, moralistic, Christianist and you can write the remainder of the list for yourself. Such complaints would be the sheerest rubbish.  Men and boys need precisely this type of message if they are going to be a positive force in society and to be good husbands, fathers and sons.  Too many churches tend to ignore giving this type of message and society has suffered greatly as a result.  Here is the text of the speech: (more…)

Published in: on July 25, 2021 at 6:38 am  Comments (1)  
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Theodore Roosevelt on Abraham Lincoln

 

Theodore Roosevelt had two heroes:  his father and Abraham Lincoln.  In 1905 he wrote this introduction to a collection of the writings of Lincoln:

 

Immediately after Lincoln’s re-election to the Presidency, in an off-hand speech, delivered in response to a serenade by some of his admirers on the evening of November 10, 1864, he spoke as follows:

“It has long been a grave question whether any government not too strong for the liberties of its people can be strong enough to maintain its existence in great emergencies. On this point, the present rebellion brought our republic to a severe test, and the Presidential election, occurring in regular course during the rebellion, added not a little to the strain…. The strife of the election is but human nature practically applied to the facts in the case. What has occurred in this case must ever occur in similar cases. Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us therefore study the incidents in this as philosophy to learn wisdom from and none of them as wrongs to be avenged…. Now that the election is over, may not all having a common interest reunite in a common fort to save our common country? For my own part, I have striven and shall strive to avoid placing any obstacle in the way. So long as I have been here, I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man’s bosom. While I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think for their own good, it adds nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or pained by the result.”

This speech has not attracted much general attention, yet it is in a peculiar degree both illustrative and typical of the great statesman who made it, alike in its strong common-sense and in its lofty standard of morality. Lincoln’s life, Lincoln’s deeds and words, are not only of consuming interest to the historian, but should be intimately known to every man engaged in the hard practical work of American political life. It is difficult to overstate how much it means to a nation to have as the two foremost figures in its history men like Washington and Lincoln. It is good for every man in any way concerned in public life to feel that the highest ambition any American can possibly have will be gratified just in proportion as he raises himself toward the standards set by these two men.

It is a very poor thing, whether for nations or individuals, to advance the history of great deeds done in the past as an excuse for doing poorly in the present; but it is an excellent thing to study the history of the great deeds of the past, and of the great men who did them, with an earnest desire to profit thereby so as to render better service in the present. In their essentials, the men of the present day are much like the men of the past, and the live issues of the present can be faced to better advantage by men who have in good faith studied how the leaders of the nation faced the dead issues of the past. Such a study of Lincoln’s life will enable us to avoid the twin gulfs of immorality and inefficiency—the gulfs which always lie one on each side of the careers alike of man and of nation. It helps nothing to have avoided one if shipwreck is encountered in the other. The fanatic, the well-meaning moralist of unbalanced mind, the parlor critic who condemns others but has no power himself to do good and but little power to do ill—all these were as alien to Lincoln as the vicious and unpatriotic themselves. His life teaches our people that they must act with wisdom, because otherwise adherence to right will be mere sound and fury without substance; and that they must also act high-mindedly, or else what seems to be wisdom will in the end turn out to be the most destructive kind of folly.

Throughout his entire life, and especially after he rose to leadership in his party, Lincoln was stirred to his depths by the sense of fealty to a lofty ideal; but throughout his entire life, he also accepted human nature as it is, and worked with keen, practical good sense to achieve results with the instruments at hand. It is impossible to conceive of a man farther removed from baseness, farther removed from corruption, from mere self-seeking; but it is also impossible to conceive of a man of more sane and healthy mind—a man less under the influence of that fantastic and diseased morality (so fantastic and diseased as to be in reality profoundly immoral) which makes a man in this work-a-day world refuse to do what is possible because he cannot accomplish the impossible. (more…)

Published in: on June 9, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Theodore Roosevelt on Abraham Lincoln  
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Roosevelt and Churchill: Parallel Lives

“I dislike the father and dislike the son, so I may be prejudiced.  Still, I feel that, while the biographer and his subject possess some real farsightedness…both possess or possessed such levity, lack of sobriety, lack of permanent principle, and an inordinate thirst for that cheap form of admiration which is given to notoriety, as to make them poor public servants.”

Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 commenting privately on Winston Churchill’s biography of his father Lord Randolph Churchill.

Gary Oldman received a well-earned Oscar as best actor for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour (2017):

I wish we had a modern day Plutarch to write parallel lives of Churchill and his closest American analogue, Theodore Roosevelt.

Both Churchill and Roosevelt came from families of great wealth and influence, and idolized their fathers, although in the case of Winston Churchill that idolatry was misplaced due to the fact that in many ways his father was a self-absorbed cad who had almost no time for his son.  Both fathers died relatively young.

Churchill and Roosevelt both enjoyed political success at early ages and both were national figures for most of their adult lives.

Both would break with the political parties that they started with, and both would return to their early political allegiances.  Both were looked at askance by the establishments of their political parties.

Both men were champions of the development of the early welfare states, while also ferocious opponents of socialism.

Churchill and Roosevelt both fought in wars for their countries and achieved fame as a result.

Both were serious historians, wrote many volumes on various subjects and also wrote for the newspapers and journals of their day.

Larger than life figures, they both had huge public images that hid the private men within the images.

Both had large families and dearly loved their wives and children.

Orators of the first rank, both Roosevelt and Churchill were masters of the spoken and written English tongue.

Both were essentially conservative reformers.

Of course there are also important differences.  Two come to mind immediately.  Roosevelt never confronted the great challenge of war as a statesman as Churchill did.  He was President at a time of peace.  The second is that Churchill lived for 90 years to Roosevelt’s 60.  If Churchill had lived to Roosevelt’s age, he would never have been Prime Minister of England and lesser men might well have led the British to make a squalid temporary peace with Hitler.  If Roosevelt had lived to Churchill’s age he would almost certainly have been elected President in 1920 and would have died in 1948.

The essential similarity of Roosevelt and Churchill is that they viewed life as a wonderful adventure and history as a great heroic epic in which their nations were destined to play great roles.  Statesman like them are rare indeed and happy the nations which have them.

Published in: on March 7, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Roosevelt and Churchill: Parallel Lives  
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Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead

 

A video clip from the film The Wind and the Lion (1975) where Brian Keith gave a superb performance as Theodore Roosevelt and John Huston gave an unforgettable portrayal of Secretary of State John Hay.  John Milius’ film was superb entertainment, but poor history.  In the film Perdicaris is Edith Perdicaris, portrayed by Candice Bergen, who is taken captive by Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli, played with considerable panache by Sean Connery, the leader of band of Berber insurgents in Morocco in 1904.  Perdicaris comes to respect, perhaps even to love, her captor, who, after many adventures ultimately frees her.  As is usually the case, reality was more prosaic than fiction.

Perdicaris the captive was not an attractive female, but a 64 year old man, Ion Pericaris.  Perdicaris did grow to respect his captor, who treated him well, regarding him as a patriot fighting against a corrupt regime.  Perdicaris was captured on May 18, 1904.  Raisuli sent to the Sultan a list of demands in exchange for the release of Perdicaris and his stepson who was also a captive.  The demands included $70,000 in gold, safe-conduct for his tribesmen, and being named governor of two districts near Tangier. (more…)

Published in: on November 29, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead  
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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Theodore Roosevelt

 

The man who advocates anarchy directly or indirectly, in any shape or fashion, or the man who apologizes for anarchists and their deeds, makes himself morally accessory to murder before the fact. The anarchist is a criminal whose perverted instincts lead him to prefer confusion and chaos to the most beneficent form of social order. His protest of concern for workingmen is outrageous in its impudent falsity; for if the political institutions of this country do not afford opportunity to every honest and intelligent son of toil, then the door of hope is forever closed against him. The anarchist is everywhere not merely the enemy of system and of progress, but the deadly foe of liberty. If ever anarchy is triumphant, its triumph will last for but one red moment, to be succeeded for ages by the gloomy night of despotism.

Theodore Roosevelt, First Annual Message to Congress (December 1, 1901)

Published in: on September 1, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Quotes Suitable for Framing: Theodore Roosevelt  
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TR and Spelling Reform

TRSpelling

I suppose that few people would disagree that the spelling of words in the English language is a mess.  Trying to impose rules, with myriads of exceptions, on a language that grew with no consensus as to spelling, has bedeviled generations of school children and foreigners attempting to learn the language alike.

Whenever a problem existed, Teddy Roosevelt optimistically assumed that a solution could be found.  Thus in 1906 as President he became a champion of what he called spelling reform, backing the efforts of the organization called The Simplified Spelling Board, founded early in 1906, which was funded by Andrew Carnegie.

On August 27, 1906 Roosevelt wrote to the head of the US Printing Office:

Oyster Bay, August 27, 1906

To Charles Arthur Stillings

My dear Mr. Stillings:

I enclose herewith copies of certain circulars of the Simplified Spelling Board, which can be obtained free from the Board at No. 1 Madison Avenue, New York City. Please hereafter direct that in all Government publications of the executive departments the three hundred words enumerated in Circular No. 5 shall be spelled as therein set forth. If anyone asks the reason for the action, refer him to Circulars 3, 4 and 6 as issued by the Spelling Board. Most of the critcism of the proposed step is evidently made in entire ignorance of what the step is, no less than in entire ignorance of the very moderate and common-sense views as to the purposes to be cahieved, which views as so excellently set forth in the circulars to which I have referred. There is not the slightest intention to do anything revolutionary or initiate any far-reaching policy. The purpose simply is for the Government, instead of lagging behind popular sentiment, to advance abreast of it and at the same time abreast of the views of the ablest and most practical educators of our time as well as the most profound scholars—men of the stamp of Professor Lounsbury. If the slighest changes in the spelling of the three hundred words proposed wholly or partially meet popular approval, then the changes will become permanent without any reference to what officials or individual private citizens may feel; if they do not ultimately meet with popular approval they will be dropt, and that is all there is about it. They represent nothing in the world but a very slight extension of the unconscious movement which has made agricultural implement makers write “plow” instead of “plough”; which has made most Americans write “honor” without the somewhat absurd, superfluous “u”; and which is even now making people write “program” without the “me”—just as all people who speak English now write “bat,” “set,” “dim,” “sum,” and “fish” instead of the Elizabethan “batte,” “sette,” “dimme,” “summe,” and “fysshe”; which makes us write “public,” “almanac,” “era,” “fantasy,” and “wagon,” instead of the “publick,” “almanack,” “aera,” “phantasy,” and “waggon” of our great-grandfathers. It is not an attack of the language of Shakespeare and Milton, because it is in some instances a going back to the forms they used, and in others merely the extension of changes which, as regards other words, have taken place since their time. It is not an attempt to do anything far-reaching or sudden or violent; or indeed anything very great at all. It is merely an attempt to cast what sleight weight can properly be cast on the side of the popular forces which are endeavoring to make our spelling a little less foolish and fantastic.

Sincerely yours,

Theodore Roosevelt

Go here for a list of words whose spelling he wished to simplify. (more…)

Published in: on August 9, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on TR and Spelling Reform  
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Theodore Roosevelt, the Ring and Lincoln

 

All of his life Theodore Roosevelt was an admirer of Abraham Lincoln.  His Secretary of State, John Hay, had been a secretary to Lincoln, and after his death purchased six hairs from Lincoln’s head taken during his autopsy.  Almost 40 years after the assassination of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt was being inaugurated for his second term.  Hay sent him a special gift for him to wear while taking his oath of office, a ring, pictured above, containing one of Lincoln’s hairs.

Dear Theodore:

The hair in this ring is from the head of Abraham Lincoln.  Dr. Taft cut it off the night of the assassination, and I got it from his son-a brief pedigress.

Please wear it tomorrow;  you are one of the men who most thoroughly understand and appreciate Linocln.

I have had your mongram and Lincoln’s engraved on the ring.

Longas, O utiman, bone dux, ferias, Praestes Hesperia.

Yours affectionately, John Hay

The Latin quote was from the Roman poet Horace, Odes, IV, V:  “Mayest thou, Good Captain, give long holiday to Hesperia!”  Roosevelt was deeply touched by this gesture and responded:

 

 

“Dear John, Surely no other President, on the eve of his inauguration, has ever received such a gift from such a friend.  I am wearing the ring now; I shall think of it and you as I take the oath tomorrow.  I wonder if you have any idea what your strength and wisdom and sympathy, what the guidance you have given me and the mere delight in your companionship, have meant to me these three and a half years? 

With love and gratitude, Ever yours….”

Published in: on July 23, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Theodore Roosevelt, the Ring and Lincoln  
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Theodore Roosevelt’s Heir Earns the Medal of Honor

All but forgotten today, Leonard Wood, if he is recalled at all, is chiefly remembered because Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri is named in his honor.  The initial commander of the Rough Riders, Wood was regarded a century ago as the political heir of Theodore Roosevelt.  Roosevelt, until the Grim Reaper cut that prospect short in January of 1919, was widely considered a shoo in for the Republican nomination for President in 1920.  After his death, his friend Leonard Wood became the front runner, seemingly destined to cap his odd career with the Presidency.  Born on October 9, 1860 in Winchester, New Hampshire, he was trained as a physician.  Unable to earn a reliable income in civilian life, he applied for a commission in the Army Medical Corps.  In June 1885 he  contracted with the Army to serve as an Assistant Surgeon without rank.  He found in himself an unexpected talent for military command when, in the last campaign against Geronimo, he took command of a detachment of the 8th Infantry after the officers in the detachment were killed in hand to hand combat with the Apaches.  He showed such courage and skill in this role, that Captain Henry Lawton, the commander of the expedition, and General Nelson Miles, recommended Wood for a Medal of Honor, and lobbied persistently for it over the next dozen years until it was finally awarded in 1898.  Here is the text of the Citation:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Assistant Surgeon Leonard Wood, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in the Summer of 1886, in action in the Apache Campaigns in Arizona Territory. Assistant Surgeon Wood voluntarily carried dispatches through a region infested with hostile Indians, making a journey of 70 miles in one night and walking 30 miles the next day. Also for several weeks, while in close pursuit of Geronimo’s band and constantly expecting an encounter, commanded a detachment of Infantry, which was then without an officer, and to the command of which he was assigned upon his own request.

More posts on Leonard Wood and the other chief figures in the 1920 Presidential race to come.

 

Published in: on May 3, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Theodore Roosevelt’s Heir Earns the Medal of Honor  
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Johnny Cash: Thanksgiving

A reminder from the late, great Johnny Cash that we all have so much to thank God for when we sit down with our families tomorrow. Perhaps we should also recall these words from Theodore Roosevelt in his final Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1908:

For the very reason that in material well-being we have thus abounded, we owe it to the Almighty to show equal progress in moral and spiritual things. With a nation, as with the individuals who make up a nation, material well-being is an indispensable foundation. But the foundation avails nothing by itself. That life is wasted, and worse than wasted, which is spent in piling, heap upon heap, those things which minister merely to the pleasure of the body and to the power that rests only on wealth. Upon material well-being as a foundation must be raised the structure of the lofty life of the spirit, if this Nation is properly to fulfil its great mission and to accomplish all that we so ardently hope and desire. The things of the body are good; the things of the intellect better; the best of all are the things of the soul; for, in the nation as in the individual, in the long run it is character that counts. Let us, therefore, as a people set our faces resolutely against evil, and with broad charity, with kindliness and good-will toward all men, but with unflinching determination to smite down wrong, strive with all the strength that is given us for righteousness in public and in private life.

Published in: on November 27, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Johnny Cash: Thanksgiving  
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