Theodore Roosevelt and the Christmas Tree

Santa Roosevelt 2

In the actual world a churchless community, a community where men have abandoned and scoffed at or ignored their religious needs, is a community on the rapid downgrade.

Theodore Roosevelt, 1917 interview Ladies Home Journal-Among his ten reasons to go to church every Sunday

 (I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

 

Colonel Roosevelt, he hated being called Teddy and preferred being called Colonel, loved Christmas.  Whenever he was at home he would always appear at the local school in his home town as Santa, to dispense gifts he bought to the local kids, a fact highlighted in his local paper after he died:

He was a village institution as the master of ceremonies over the Christmas tree in Christ Episcopal Church, and in the role of Santa Claus at the Cove Neck School, near Sagamore Hill, where all of his children learned the A B C’s. Last Christmas was the first time that Colonel Roosevelt had failed to take charge of these functions since he left the White House, with the exception of the Christmas of 1913, when he was on his way to South America. His son, Captain Archie, took his place last Christmas as the Santa Claus of the Cove Neck School.

Roosevelt was a religious man with a deep love of the Bible and a strong faith in Christ.  It therefore comes as a surprise to learn that Roosevelt initially did not want a Christmas tree in the White House after he became President.

Matt Archbold at National Catholic Register brings us this story about President Roosevelt and the Christmas Tree:

President Theodore Roosevelt, an avowed environmentalist, banned Christmas trees from the White House during his presidency. The president was against real Christmas trees because he feared that Christmas trees would lead to deforestation. Mind you, at the time Christmas trees were very controversial with environmentalists. President William McKinley even reportedly received a letter in 1899 saying Christmas trees were “arboreal infanticide” and “un-American.”

Roosevelt’s action was intended to inspire Americans to just say no to Christmas trees. Clearly his bully pulpit didn’t have the effect he wanted, even on his own children.

In 1902, Roosevelt’s two youngest sons, Archie and Quentin, went outside and cut down a smallish tree right there on the White House grounds, snuck back into the White House, and hid it in a closet. The two boys decorated the tree in secret and even enlisted the help of an electrician on staff at the White House to help decorate it with lights. When Christmas morning came, Archie gathered his family outside the closet, turned on the switch, and opened the door to reveal the tree decorated with gifts for the entire family.

Roosevelt acknowledged the event in a letter in which he wrote:

Yesterday Archie got among his presents a small rifle from me and a pair of riding boots from his mother. He won’t be able to use the rifle until next summer, but he has gone off very happy in the riding boots for a ride on the calico pony Algonquin, the one you rode the other day. Yesterday morning at a quarter of seven all the children were up and dressed and began to hammer at the door of their mother’s and my room, in which their six stockings, all bulging out with queer angles and rotundities, were hanging from the fireplace. So their mother and I got up, shut the window, lit the fire (taking down the stockings of course), put on our wrappers and prepared to admit the children. But first there was a surprise for me, also for their good mother, for Archie had a little birthday tree of his own which he had rigged up with the help of one of the carpenters in a big closet; and we all had to look at the tree and each of us got a present off of it. There was also one present each for Jack the dog, Tom Quartz the kitten, and Algonquin the pony, whom Archie would no more think of neglecting that I would neglect his brothers and sisters. Then all the children came into our bed and there they opened their stockings.

According to the website White House Christmas Cards Teddy was “amused by his boys’ ingenuity” but took him to see his friend and environmental advisor, Gifford Pinchot, to explain to horrors of chopping down Christmas trees. But a funny thing happened.

To his surprise, Pinchot went into a lengthy explanation regarding how sometimes, cutting down some larger trees was in the best interests of forests, as it allowed a larger number of smaller young trees to receive the sunlight they need to flourish. While there is no public record of any other Christmas tree being displayed in the White House during Roosevelt’s presidency, a number of environmental acts and reforestation laws had been passed by the end of his term, and the public controversy over the use of live trees for decorative and traditional use had subsided for the time being.

(more…)

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Published in: on December 5, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Johnny Cash: Thanksgiving

Something for the weekend.  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 during the coming week. 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 19, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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October 11, 1910: First President to Fly

The first president to fly was of course Theodore Roosevelt, a man who loved a dangerous challenge.   When he flew at Kinloch Field, Saint Louis, Missouri on October 11, 1910, flying was still highly dangerous.  His pilot that day was Arch Hoxsey, one of the great pioneers of aviation, who would die in a plane crash at Los Angeles on December 31, 1910, the day after reaching a world record height by flying to 11,474 feet.  Hoxsey, as did Roosevelt, lived his life according to this maxim of Roosevelt: (more…)

Published in: on October 11, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 11, 1910: First President to Fly  
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Colonel Roosevelt Testifies

 

 

It has been a splendid little war, begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by that Fortune that loves the brave. It is now to be concluded, I hope, with that fine good nature, which is, after all, the distinguishing trait of the American character.

John Hay, US Ambassador to Great Britain, letter to Theodore Roosevelt, July 1898

 

In many ways, Theodore Roosevelt’s  future Secretary of State was correct.  The War was short and victorious for the US, with the divisions of the Civil War largely forgotten by white Americans, North and South,  unified in the fight against Spain.  This was symbolized by the rapturous reception the 6th Massachusetts received from the citizens of Baltimore as it passed through on its way to ship out, box lunches were given to the men in a huge celebration, a stark departure from the bloody greeting received by the regiment from the citizens of Baltimore on its way to Washington in 1861 at the onset of the Civil War.

However, in the aftermath of the War journalists and returning veterans told tales of rampant mismanagement, of appalling rations, inadequate uniforms and chaotic transport.  A political storm arose and President McKinley appointed a commission to investigate the conduct of the War.  Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, who had been unsparing in his private comments about the mismanagement of the Cuban campaign, appeared before the Committee on November 22, 1898, a few weeks after his election as Governor of New York.  Go here to read his testimony.  Roosevelt was restrained in his testimony, noting that the rapid expansion of the Army was bound to encounter problems, and that these problems could be partially alleviated by large scale maneuvers in peace time.   (more…)

Published in: on February 16, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Theodore Roosevelt on Lincoln and Free Speech

 

On May 16, 1918 Congress passed an amendment to the Espionage Act of 1917,  This Amendment is known to history as The Espionage Act of 1918.  Here is the text:

 

Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully make or convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States, or to promote the success of its enemies, or shall willfully make or convey false reports, or false statements, …or incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall willfully obstruct …the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States, or …shall willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States …or shall willfully display the flag of any foreign enemy, or shall willfully …urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production …or advocate, teach, defend, or suggest the doing of any of the acts or things in this section enumerated and whoever shall by word or act support or favor the cause of any country with which the United States is at war or by word or act oppose the cause of the United States therein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both….

About 2000 people were prosecuted under the Espionage Act and the Supreme Court upheld the Sedition portion against a challenge that it violated the First Amendment.  A temporary war time measure, Congress repealed it along with many other war time measures on December 13, 1920.

Theodore Roosevelt was concerned that the Act would be used by the Administration to stifle criticism of the President, and he took up his pen in May of 1917 and wrote the following article:

 

 

LINCOLN AND FREE SPEECH

PATRIOTISM means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him in so far as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth–whether about the President or about any one else–save in the rare cases where this would make known to the enemy information of military value which would otherwise be unknown to him.

Sedition, in the legal sense, means to betray the government, to give aid and comfort to the enemy, or to counsel resistance to the laws or to measures of government having the force. of law. There can be conduct morally as bad as legal sedition which yet may not be violation of law. The President–any President–can by speech or action (by advocating an improper peace. or improper submission to national wrong) give aid and comfort to the public enemy as no one else in. the land can do, and yet his conduct, however damaging to the, country, is not seditious; and although if public sentiment is sufficiently aroused he can be impeached, such course is practically impossible.

One form of servility consists in a slavish attitude–of the kind, incompatible with self-respecting manliness–toward any person who is powerful by reason of his office or position.. Servility may be shown by a public servant toward the profiteering head of a large corporation, or toward the anti-American head of a big labor organization. It may also be shown in peculiarly noxious and un-American form by confounding the President or–any other official with the country and shrieking “stand by the President,” without regard to whether, by so acting, we do or do not stand by the country.

 

A distinguished Federal judge recently wrote me as follows:
“Last November [1917?] it seemed as if the American people were going to be converted into a hallelujah chorus, whose only function in government should be to shout ‘Hallelujah!’ ‘Hallelujah!’ for everything that the Administration did or failed to do. Any one who did not join that chorus was liable to imprisonment for treason or sedition.
“I hope that we shall soon have recovered our sense as well as our liberty.“The authors of the first amendment to the Federal Constitution guaranteeing the right of assembly and of freedom of speech and of the press. did not thus safeguard those rights for the sake alone of persons who were to enjoy them, but even more because they knew that the Republic which they were founding could not be worked on any other basis. Since Marshall tried Burr for treason it has been clear that that crime cannot be committed by words, unless one acts as a spy, or gives advice to the enemy of military or naval operations. It cannot be committed by statements reflecting upon officers or measures of government.
“Sedition is different. Any one who directly advises or counsels resistance to measures of government is guilty of sedition. That, however, ought to be clearly distinguished from ‘discussion of the wisdom or folly of measures of government, or the honesty or competency of public officers. That is not sedition. It is within the protection of the first amendment. The electorate cannot be qualified to perform its duty in removing incompetent officers and securing the repeal of unwise laws unless those questions may be freely discussed.
“The, right to say wise things necessarily implies the right to say foolish things. The answer to foolish speech is wise speech and not force. The Republic is founded upon the faith that if the American people are permitted freely to hear foolish and wise speech, a majority will choose the wise. If that faith is not justified the Republic is based on sand. John Milton said it all in his defense of freedom of the press: `Let truth and error grapple. Who ever knew truth to be beaten in a fair fight?’ ”

 

 

Abraham Lincoln was in Congress while Polk was President, during the Mexican War. The following extracts from his speeches, during war-time, about the then President ought to be illuminating to those persons who do not understand that one of the highest and most patriotic duties to be performed in his country at this time is to tell the truth whenever it becomes necessary in order to force our government to speed up the war. It would, for example, be our highest duty to tell it if at any time we became convinced that only thereby could we shame our leaders out of hypocrisy and prevent the betrayal of human rights by peace talk of the kind which bewilders and deceives plain people.
These quotations can be found on pages 100 to 146 of Volume I of “Lincoln’s Complete Works,” by Nicolay and Hay.

In a speech on January 12, 1848, Lincoln justified himself for voting in favor of a resolution censuring the President for his action prior to and during the war (which was still going on). He examines the President’s official message of justification and says, “that, taking for true all the President states as facts, he falls far short of proving his justification, and that the President would have gone further with his proof if it had not been for the small matter that the truth would not permit him.” He says that part of the message “is from beginning to end the sheerest deception.” He then asks the President to answer certain questions, and says: “Let him answer fully, fairly, and candidly. Let him answer with facts and not with arguments. Let him remember that he sits where Washington sat, and so remembering, let him answer as Washington would answer. Let him attempt no evasion, no equivocation.” In other words, Lincoln says that he does not wish rhetoric, or fine phrases or glittering statements that contradict one another and each of which has to be explained with a separate key or adroit and subtle special pleading and constant reversal of positions previously held, but straightforward and consistent adherence to the truth. He continues that he “more than suspects” that the President “is deeply conscious of being in the wrong; that he feels that innocent blood is crying to heaven against him”; that one of the best generals had “been driven into disfavor, if not disgrace, by the President” for insisting upon speaking unpalatable truths about the length of time the war would take (and therefore the need of full preparedness); and ends by saying that the army has done admirably, but that the President has bungled his work and “knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. God grant he may be able to show there is not something about his conscience more painful than all his mental perplexity.”
Remember that this is Lincoln speaking, in war-time, of the President. The general verdict of history has justified him. But it is impossible to justify him and not heartily to condemn the persons who in our time endeavor to suppress truth-telling of a far less emphatic type than Lincoln’s.

Lincoln had to deal with various critics of the “stand by the President” type. To one he answers that, “the only alternative is to tell the truth or to lie,” and that he would not “skulk” on such a question. He explains that the President’s supporters “are untiring in their efforts to make the impression that all who vote supplies or take part in the war do of necessity approve the President’s conduct,” but that he (Lincoln) and his associates sharply distinguished between the two and voted supplies and men but “denounced the President’s conduct” and “condemned the Administration.” He stated that to give the President the power demanded for him by certain people would “place the President where kings have always stood.” In touching on what we should now speak of as rhetoric, he says

“The honest laborer digs coal at about seventy cents a day, while the President digs abstractions at about seventy dollars a day. The coal is clearly worth more than the abstractions, and yet what a monstrous inequality in the price!” He emphatically protests against permitting the President “to take the whole of legislation into his hands”–surely a statement applying exactly to the present situation. To the President’s servile party supporters he makes a distinction which also readily applies at the present day: “The distinction between the cause of the President . . . and the cause of the country . . . you cannot perceive. To you the President and the country seem to be all one. . . . We see the distinction clearly enough.”
This last statement was the crux of the matter then and is the crux of the matter now. We hold that our loyalty is due solely to the American Republic, and to all our public servants exactly in proportion as they efficiently and faithfully serve the Republic. Our opponents, in flat contradiction of Lincoln’s position, hold that our loyalty is due to the President, not the country; to one man, the servant of the people, instead of to the people themselves. In practice they adopt the fetichism [sic] of all believers in absolutism, for every man who parrots the, cry of “stand by the President” without adding the proviso “so far as he serves the Republic” takes an attitude as essentially unmanly as that of any Stuart royalist who championed the doctrine that the king could do no wrong. No self-respecting and intelligent freeman can take such an attitude.

The Wisconsin legislature has just set forth the proper American doctrine, as follows
“The people of the State of Wisconsin always have stood and always will stand squarely behind the National Government in all things which are essential to bring the present war to a successful end, and we condemn Senator Robert La Follette and all others who have failed to see the righteousness of our nation’s cause, who have failed to support our government in matters vital to the winning of the war, and we denounce any attitude or utterance of theirs which has tended to incite sedition among the people of our country.”

In view of the recent attitude of the Administration as expressed through the attorney-general and postmaster-general I commend to its attention the utterances of Abraham Lincoln in 1848 and of the Wisconsin legislature in 1918. The Administration’s warfare against German spies and American traitors has been feeble. The government has achieved far less in this direction than has been achieved by a few of our newspapers and by various private individuals. This failure is aggravated by such action as was threatened against The Metropolitan Magazine. The Metropolitan–and the present writer–have stood and will continue to stand, “squarely behind the national government in all things which are essential to bring the present war to a successful end” and to support “the righteousness of the nation’s cause.” We will stand behind the country at every point, and we will at every point either support or oppose the Administration precisely in proportion as it does or does not with efficiency and single-minded devotion serve the country.

From this position we will not be driven by any abuse of power or by any effort to make us not the loyal servants of the American people, but the cringing tools of a man who at the moment has power.
The Administration has in some of its actions on vital points shown great inefficiency (as proved by Senator Chamberlain’s committee) and on other points has been guilty of conduct toward certain peoples wholly inconsistent with its conduct toward other peoples and wholly inconsistent with its public professions as regards all international conduct. It cannot meet these accusations, for they are truthful, and to try to suppress the truth by preventing the circulation of The Metropolitan Magazine is as high-handed a defiance of liberty and justice as anything done by the Hohenzollerns or the Romanoffs. [Roosevelt uses these royal families as examples of German and Russian tyranny, respectively.] Such action is intolerable. Contrast the leniency shown by the government toward the grossest offenses against the nation

with its eagerness to assail any one who tells unpleasant truths about the Administration. The Hearst papers play the German game when they oppose the war, assail our allies, and clamor for an inconclusive peace, and they play the German game when they assail the men who truthfully point out the shortcomings which, unless corrected, will redound to Germany’s advantage and our terrible disadvantage. But the Administration has taken no action against the Hear[s]t papers. The Metropolitan Magazine has supported the war, has championed every measure to speed up the war and to make our strength effective, and has stood against every proposal for a peace without victory. But the Administration acts against the magazine that in straightforward American fashion has championed the war. Such discrimination is not compatible with either honesty or patriotism. It means that the Administration is using the great power of the government to punish honest criticism of its shortcomings, while it accepts support of and apology for these shortcomings as an offset to action against the war and, therefore, against the nation. Conduct of this kind is a grave abuse of official power.

Whatever the Administration does, I shall continue to act in the future precisely as I have acted in the past. When a senator like Mr. Chamberlain in some great matter serves the country better than does the Administration, I shall support that senator; and when a senator like Mr. La Follette perseveres in the course followed by the Administration before it reversed itself in February, 1917 [urging that the U.S. stay out of World War I], I shall oppose him and to that extent support the Administration in its present position. I shall continue to support the Administration in every such action as floating the liberty loans, raising the draft army, or sending our troops abroad. I shall continue truthfully to criticise any flagrant acts of incompetency by the Administration, such as the failure in shipping matters and the breakdown of the War Department during the last fourteen months, when it appears that such truthful criticism offers the only chance of remedying the wrong. I shall support every official from the President down who does well, and shall oppose every such official who does ill. I shall not put the personal comfort of the President or of any other public servant above the welfare of the country.

In a self-governing country the people are called citizens.  Under a despotism or autocracy the people are called subjects. This is because in a free country the people are themselves sovereign, while in a despotic country the people are under a sovereign. In the United States the people are all citizens, including its President. The rest of them are fellow citizens of the President. In Germany the people are all subjects of the Kaiser. They are not his fellow citizens, they are his subjects. This is the essential difference between the United States and Germany, but the difference would vanish if we now submitted to the foolish or traitorous persons who endeavor to make it a crime to tell the truth about the Administration when the Administration is guilty of incompetence or other shortcomings. Such endeavor is itself a crime against the nation. Those who take such an attitude are guilty of moral treason of a kind both abject and dangerous.

Published in: on February 14, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Court-Martial of Winfield Scott

Two hundred and ten years ago the War of 1812 was about to break out.  Winfield Scott would become a national hero in that war, rising from Captain to Brigadier  General, with a brevet rank of Major General, all before his thirtieth birthday.  However, before the War his military career almost ended when he was convicted at a court-martial.

One of the greatest scoundrels in American history was doubtless James B. Wilkinson.  Twice commander of the American Army between the Revolution and the War of 1812, Wilkinson was also a spy for the Spanish government.  In addition to this treachery, Wilkinson was corrupt and was always quite ready to harm his country if he would personally benefit.  Although his being a spy for Spain was not discovered until after his death, enough of his other infamies were known during his lifetime for him to be held in low esteem by his fellow officers.

In 1809 Captain Scott was court-martialed for accurately calling Major General Wilkinson a liar and a scoundrel, and ventured the opinion that serving under Wilkinson was as dishonorable as being married to a prostitute.  There was also a trumped-up charge of Scott pocketing the money of the men under his command.  In January 1810 Scott was convicted on the fairly nebulous charge of engaging in conduct unbecoming of an officer and suspended from the Army for one year.  Many another man would have given up a military career after this rocky start, but not Captain Scott.  He merely resumed his duties after the year and proceeded on with his meteoric career as if nothing had happened.  His bete noir General Wilkinson would go on to lead American forces to defeat in two battles in 1814 and was relieved of command.  The war that made the career of Scott ended the career of his arch enemy.  President Theodore Roosevelt in the third volume of his The Winning of the West has this to say about Wilkinson: (more…)

Published in: on January 14, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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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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