Theodore Roosevelt and Two Myths of American Politics

Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson cordially hated each other for many reasons, both public and personal.  This hate emanates in the opinion pieces that Roosevelt was paid to write by the Kansas City Star during the war years.

The below partial extract of an article written on November 26, 1918 foreshadows the rejection by the Republican controlled Senate of the Versailles Peace Treaty in 1919.  It also is an indication of the mistake that Wilson made by deciding to go personally to the Paris peace conference.  Wilson forgot that American Presidents are as powerful, or as weak, as their public support.  Wilson was rapidly losing the support that he had enjoyed during the War, as demonstrated by the Republicans in the elections held on November 6, 1918 gaining 24 seats in the House and 4 in the Senate and now controlling Congress.  Wilson had the capacity, shared by many intellectuals and others, of ignoring reality when it suited him to do so, and he did on this occasion with disastrous results.

 

The Roosevelt piece below demonstrates that two common myths of American politics are so false that it is amazing they are still so routinely dusted off and stated as facts.

1.  That American presidents do not criticize their successors.

2. That American politics end at the shore line.

No public end of any kind will be served by President Wilson s going with Mr. Creel, Mr. House, and his other personal friends to the Peace Conference. Inasmuch as the circumstances of his going are so extraordinary, and as there is some possibility of mischief to this country as a result, there are certain facts which should be set forth so clearly that there can be no possibility of misunderstanding either by our own people, by our allies, or by our beaten ene mies, or by Mr. Wilson himself.

Ten days before election Mr. Wilson issued an appeal to the American people in which he frankly abandoned the position of President of the whole people; assumed the position, not merely of party leader, but of party dictator, and appealed to the voters as such. Most of Mr. Wilson s utterances on public questions have been susceptible to at least two conflicting interpretations. But on this question he made the issue absolutely clear. He asked that the people return a Democratic majority to both the Senate and the House of Representatives. He stated that the Republican leaders were pro-war, but that they were anti-Administration. His appeal was not merely against any Republican being elected, but against any Democrat who wished to retain his conscience in his own keeping. He declared himself explicitly against the pro-war Republicans. He declared explicitly for all pro-Administration Democrats, without any reference as to whether they were pro-war or anti-war. He said that if the people
approved of his leadership and wished him to continue to be their ” unembarrassed spokesman in affairs at home and abroad, they must return a Democratic majority to both the Senate and the House of Representatives.” He explicitly stated that on the other side of the water the return of a Republican majority to either House of Congress would be interpreted as a repudiation of his leader ship, and informed his fellow countrymen that to elect a Democratic majority in Congress was the only way to sustain him, Mr. Wilson.

The issue was perfectly, clearly drawn. The Republican Party was pro-war and anti-Administration, the Democratic Party was officially pro-Administration without any mind or conscience of its own and pro-war or anti-war according to the way in which Mr. Wilson changed his mind overnight or between dawn and sunset. The Americans refused to sustain Mr. Wilson. They elected a heavily Repub lican House and to the surprise of every one carried a majority in the Senate. On Mr. Wilson s own say-so they repudiated his leadership. In no other free country in the world to-day would Mr. Wilson be in office. He would simply be a private citizen like the rest of us.

Under these circumstances our allies and our enemies, and Mr. Wilson himself, should all under stand that Mr. Wilson has no authority whatever to speak for the American people at this time. His leadership has just been emphatically repudiated by them. The newly elected Congress comes far nearer than Mr. Wilson to having a right to speak the pur poses of the American people at this moment. Mr. Wilson and his fourteen points and his four supplementary points and his five complementary points and all his utterances every which way have ceased to have any shadow of right to be accepted as expressive of the will of the American people. He is
President of the United States, he is part of the treaty-making power, but he is only part. If he acts in good faith to the American people, he will not claim on the other side of the water any representa tive capacity in himself to speak for the American people. He will say frankly that his personal leader ship has been repudiated and that he now has merely the divided official leadership which he shares with the Senate. If he will in good faith act in this way all good citizens in good faith will support him, just as they will support the Senate under similar circumstances.

But there isnt the slightest indication that he intends so to act.

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Published in: on November 26, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Quotes Suitable For Framing: Theodore Roosevelt

 

No people on earth have more cause to be thankful than ours, and this is said reverently, in no spirit of boastfulness in our own strength, but with the gratitude to the Giver of good who has blessed us.

Theodore Roosevelt

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Theodore Roosevelt: Remember Them

 

The men who have died of pneumonia or fever in the hospitals, the men who have been killed in accidents on the airplane training fields are as much heroes as those who were killed at the front, and their shining souls shall hereafter light up all to a clearer and greater view of the duties of life. The war is over now. The time of frightful losses among the men at the front and of heartbreaking anxiety for their mothers and wives, their sisters and sweet hearts at home has passed. No great triumph is ever won save by the payment of the necessary cost. All of us who have stayed at home and all the others who have returned safe will, as long as life shall last, think of the men who died as having purchased for us and for our children’s children, as long as this country shall last, a heritage so precious that even their precious blood was not too great a price to pay. Whether they fell in battle or how they died matters not at all, and it matters not what they were doing as long as, high of soul, they were doing their duty with all the strength and fervor of their natures. The mother or the wife whose son or husband has died, whether in battle or by fever or in the accident inevitable in hurriedly preparing a modern army for war, must never feel that the sacrifice has been laid “on a cold altar.” There is no gradation of honor among these gallant men and no essential gradation of service. They all died that we might live; our debt is to all of them, and we can pay it even personally only by striving so to live as to bring a little nearer the day when justice and mercy shall rule in our own homes and among the nations of the world.

Theodore Roosevelt, November 13, 1918

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October 30, 1918: Theodore Roosevelt Responds to the Fourteen Points

 

 

As the War was nearing its close, Theodore Roosevelt responded in the Kansas City Star with a blistering assessment of  the Fourteen Points that President Wilson was seeking to make the basis of the peace:

 

THE European nations have been told that the fourteen points enumerated in President Wilson’s message of January last are to be the basis of peace. It is, therefore, possible that Americans may like to know what they are. It is even possible that they may like to guess what they mean, although I am not certain that such guessing is permitted by the Postmaster-General and the Attorney-General under the new theory of making democracy safe for all kinds of peoples abroad who have never heard of it by interpreting democracy at home as meaning that it is unlawful for the people to express any except favorable opinions of the way in which the public servants of the people transact the public business. The first point forbids ” all private international understandings of any kind,” and says there must be ” open covenants of peace, openly arrived at,” and announces that ” diplomacy shall always proceed frankly in the public view.” The President has recently waged war on Haiti and San Domingo and rendered democracy within these two small former republics and has kept all that he has done in the matter absolutely secret. If he means what he says, he will at once announce what open covenant of peace he has openly arrived at with these two little republics, which he has deprived of their right of self-determination. He will also announce what public international understanding, if any, he now has with these two republics, whose soil he is at present occupying with the armed forces of the United States and hundreds of whose citizens have been killed by these armed forces. If he has no such public understanding, he will tell us why, and whether he has any private international understanding, or whether he invaded and conquered them and deprived them of the right of self- determination without any attempt to reach any understanding, either private or public.

Moreover, he has just sent abroad on a diplomatic mission Mr. House, of Texas. Mr. House is not in the public service of the Nation, but he is in the private service of Mr. Wilson. He is usually
called Colonel House. In his official or semi-official biography, published in an ardently admiring New York paper, it is explained that he was once appointed colonel on a governor s staff, but carried his dislike of military ostentation to the point of giving his uniform to a negro servant to wear on social occasions. This attitude of respect for the uniform makes the President feel that he is peculiarly fit to negotiate on behalf of our fighting men abroad for whom the uniform is sacred. Associated with him is an editor of the New York World, which paper has recently been busy in denouncing as foolish the demand made by so many Americans for unconditional surrender by Germany.

I do not doubt that these two gentlemen possess charming social attributes and much private worth, but as they are sent over on a diplomatic mission, presumably vitally affecting the whole country, and as their instructions and purposes are shrouded in
profound mystery, it seems permissible to ask President Wilson why in this particular instance diplomacy does not ” proceed frankly in the public view ” ?

This first one of the fourteen points offers such an illuminating opportunity to test promise as to the future by performance in the present that I have considered it at some length. The other thirteen points and the subsequent points laid down as further requirements for peace I shall briefly take up in another article. (more…)

Published in: on October 30, 2018 at 11:50 pm  Comments Off on October 30, 1918: Theodore Roosevelt Responds to the Fourteen Points  
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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

“Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die; and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life. Both life and death are part of the same Great Adventure.”

Theodore Roosevelt, The Metropolitan, October 1918

Published in: on October 15, 2018 at 3:30 am  Comments Off on Quotes Suitable for Framing: Theodore Roosevelt  
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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…)

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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, 2018 at 11:59 pm  Comments Off on August 26, 1918: Theodore Roosevelt Speech in Springfield Illinois  
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High Flight

 

Something for the weekend.  High Flight.  One hundred years ago on Bastille Day 1918, Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt, youngest child of President Theodore Roosevelt, died in combat at 20 years old.  He shared with his father a brilliant mind, an exuberant spirit and the ability to make countless friends wherever he went.  All of Roosevelt’s  four sons served in combat in World War I, a true Lion’s Brood.

Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s World War I Ace of Aces, knew Roosevelt and described him in his memoirs:

 

“As President Roosevelt’s son he had rather a difficult task to fit himself in with the democratic style of living which is necessary in the intimate life of an aviation camp. Every one who met him for the first time expected him to have the airs and superciliousness of a spoiled boy. This notion was quickly lost after the first glimpse one had of Quentin. Gay, hearty and absolutely square in everything he said or did, Quentin Roosevelt was one of the most popular fellows in the group. We loved him purely for his own natural self.

“He was reckless to such a degree that his commanding officers had to caution him repeatedly about the senselessness of his lack of caution. His bravery was so notorious that we all knew he would either achieve some great spectacular success or be killed in the attempt. Even the pilots in his own flight would beg him to conserve himself and wait for a fair opportunity for a victory. But Quentin would merely laugh away all serious advice.”

 

 

He had his crowded hour, he died at the crest of life, in the glory of the dawn.

Theodore Roosevelt on his son Quentin

 

 

On July 14, Roosevelt and three other American flyers were jumped by seven German planes:

 

September 5, 1918

FATHER DEAR,: –

You asked me if I knew Quentin Roosevelt. Yes, I knew him very well indeed, and had been associated with him ever since I came to France and he was one of the finest and most courageous boys I ever knew. I was in the fight when he was shot down and saw the whole thing.

Four of us were out on an early patrol and we had just crossed the lines looking for Boche observation machines, when we ran into seven Fokker Chasse planes. They had the altitude and the advantage of the Sun on us. It was very cloudy and there was a strong wind blowing us farther across the lines all the time. The leader of our formation turned and tried to get back out, but they attacked before we reached the lines, and in a few seconds had completely broken up our formation and the fight developed into a general free-for-all. I tried to keep an eye on all our fellows but we were hopelessly separated and out-numbered nearly two to one. About a half a mile away I saw one of our planes with three Boche on him, and he seemed to be having a pretty hard time with them, so I shook the two I was maneuvering with and tried to get over to him, but before I could reach him, his machine turned over on its back and plunged down out of control. I realized it was too late to be of any assistance and as none of our machines were in sight, I made for a bank of clouds to try to gain altitude on the Huns, and when I came back out, they had reformed, but there were only six of them, so I believe we must have gotten one.

I waited around about ten minutes to see if I could pickup any of our fellows, but they had disappeared, so I came on home, dodging from cloud to cloud for fear of running into another Boche formation. Of course, at the time of the fight I did not know who the pilot was I had seen go down, but as Quentin did not come back, it must have been him. His loss was one of the severest blows we have ever had in the Squadron, but he certainly died fighting, for any one of us could have gotten away as soon as the scrap started with the clouds as they were that morning. I have tried several times to write to Col. Roosevelt but it is practically impossible for me to write a letter of condolence, but if I am lucky enough to get back to the States, I expect to go to see him.

Edward Buford

His German foes buried him with full military honors and paid tribute to his valor:

 

“The aviator of the American Squadron, Quentin Roosevelt, in trying to break through the airzone over the Marne, met the death of a hero. A formation of seven German airplanes, while crossing the Marne, saw in the neighborhood of Dormans a group of twelve American fighting airplanes and attacked them. A lively air battle began, in which one American (Quentin) in particular persisted in attacking. The principal feature of the battle consisted in an air duel between the American and a German fighting pilot named Sergeant Greper. After a short struggle, Greper succeeded in bringing the brave American just before his gun-sights. After a few shots the plane apparently got out of his control; the American began to fall and struck the ground near the village of Chamery, about ten kilometers north of the Marne. The American flier was killed by two shots through the head. Papers in his pocket showed him to be Quentin Roosevelt, of the United States army. His effects are being taken care of in order to be sent to his relatives. He was buried by German aviators with military honors.”

His parents were of course devastated.  Theodore Roosevelt never completely recovered from the shock and it may have hastened his death.  However, he kept his private grief private and issued this statement to the press:  “Quentin’s mother and I are very glad that he got to the front and had the chance to render some service to his country and to show the stuff that was in him before his fate befell him.”  Quentin’s mother summed up Quentin’s life when he went off to the War:  “It was hard when Quentin went. But you can’t bring up boys to be eagles, and expect them to turn out sparrows.”

Published in: on July 14, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on High Flight  
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No Peace With an Undefeated Germany

 

Looking at World War I a century later we know how it turned out, and perhaps it seems to us that it was destined to turn out that way.  People living through it of course and had no such certainty, the issue of the War remaining in doubt throughout most of 1918.  In the pages of the Kansas City Star on May 12, 1918, former President Roosevelt warned against the dangers of a premature peace.  in that article he took a look at what the world might be like if a premature peace, before the German army had been defeated on the battlefield was made.  The Nazis of course would play to the hilt that the German Army had not been beaten and that Germany had been stabbed in the back by disloyal elements.

 

As now seems likely, if the great German drive fails, it is at least possible that, directly or indirectly, the Germans will then start a peace drive. In such case they will probably endeavor to make such seeming concessions as to put a premium upon pacifist agita tion for peace in the free countries of the West against which they are fighting. To yield to such peace proposals would be fraught with the greatest danger to the Allies, and especially to our own country in the future.

Let us never forget that no promise Germany makes can be trusted. The kultur developed under the Hohenzollerns rests upon shameless treachery and duplicity no less than upon ruthless violence and barbarity.

For example, there are strong indications that Germany may be prepared, if she now fails on the western front, to abandon all that for which she has fought on her western front, provided that in Middle Europe and in the East there is no interference with her. In other words, she would be prepared to give back Alsace and Lorraine to France, to give Italian Austria to Italy, to give Luxemburg to Belgium, and to let the Allies keep the colonies they have conquered, on condition that her dominance in Russia and in the Balkans, her dominance of the subject peoples of Austria through the Austrian Hapsburgs, and her dominance of Western Asia through her vassal state, Turkey, should be left undisturbed. To the average American, and probably to the average Englishman and Frenchman, there is much that is alluring in such a programme. It might be urged as a method of stopping the frightful slaughter of war, while securing every purpose for which the free peoples who still fight are fighting. Yet it would be infinitely better that this war were carried on to the point of exhaustion than that we yield to such terms.

Such terms would mean the definite establishment of Germany s military ascendancy on a scale never hitherto approached in the civilized world. It would mean that perhaps within a dozen years, certainly within the lifetime of the very men now fighting this war, this country and the other free countries would have to choose between bowing their necks to the German yoke or else going into another war under conditions far more disadvantageous to them.

A premature and inconclusive peace now would spell ruin for the world, just as in 1864 a premature and inconclusive peace would have spelled ruin to the United States, and in the present instance the United States would share the ruin of the rest of the free peoples of mankind.

On the face of it Germany would not become a giant empire. Just exactly as on the face of it at present Germany, Austria, Turkey, and Bulgaria call themselves simply four allied nations, standing
on equal terms. But in reality those four powers are merely Germany and her three vassal states, whose military and economic and political powers are all disposed of by the Hohenzollerns. A peace such as that above outlined would leave these as really one huge empire. The population of these four countries, plus the populations of Russian regions recently annexed by Germany, is over two hundred millions. This population would be directed and dominated by the able, powerful, and utterly brutal and unscrupulous German governing class, which the very fact of the peace would put in the saddle, and the huge empire thus dominated and directed would become a greater menace to the free peoples than anything known for the last thousand years.

Short-sighted people will say that this power would only menace Asia, and therefore that we need feel no concern about it. There could be no error greater or more lamentable. Twenty years hence by mere mass and growth Germany would dominate the Western European powers that have now fought her. This would mean that the United States would be left as her victim.

In the first place, she would at once trample the Monroe Doctrine under foot, and treat tropical and south temperate America as her fields for exploitation, domination, and conquest. In the next place, she would surely trample this country under foot and bleed us white, doing to us on a gigantic scale what she has done to Belgium. If such a peace as is above described were at this time made, the United States could by no possibility escape the fate of Belgium and of the Russian territories taken by Germany unless we ourselves became a powerful militarist state with every democratic principle subordinated to the one necessity of turning this Nation into a huge armed camp I do not mean an armed nation, as Switzerland is armed, and as I believe this country ought to be armed. I mean a nation whose sons, every one of them, would have to serve from three to five years in the army, and whose whole activities, external and internal, would be conditioned by the one fact of the necessity of making head, single-handed, against Germany.

I very strongly believe that never again should we be caught unprepared as we have been caught unprepared this time. I believe that all our young men should be trained to arms as the Swiss are
trained. But I would regard it as an unspeakable calamity for this Nation to have to turn its whole energies into the kind of exaggerated militarism which under such circumstances would alone avail for self-defense.

The military power of Germany must be brought low. The subject nations of Austria, the Balkans, and Western Asia must be freed. We ought not to refrain an hour longer from going to war with
Turkey and Bulgaria. They are part of Germany’s military strength. They represent some of the most cruel tyrannies over subject peoples for which Ger many stands. It is idle for us to pretend sympathy with the Armenians unless we war on Turkey, which, with Germany’s assent, has well-nigh crushed the Armenians out of existence.

When President Wilson stated that this war was waged to make democracy safe throughout the world, he properly and definitely committed the American people to the principles above enunciated, and for the American people to accept less than their President has thus announced that he would insist upon would be unworthy. The President has also said that “there is therefore but one response possi ble for us.  Force force to the utmost force with out stint or limit the righteous and triumphant force which shall make right the law of the world and cast every selfish dominion down in the dust.”

The American people must support President Wilson unflinchingly in the stand to which he is committed and must resolutely refuse to accept any other position. We must guard against any slackening of effort. We must refuse to accept any pre mature peace or any peace other than the peace of overwhelming victory.

We must secure such complete freedom for the peoples of Central Europe and Western Asia as will shatter forever the threat of German world domina tion. Our honorable obligations to our allies, our loyalty to our own national principles, the need to protect our American neighbors, the need to defend our own land and people, and our hopes for the peace and happiness of our children s children all forbid us to accept an ignoble and inconclusive peace.

Published in: on June 27, 2018 at 3:30 am  Comments Off on No Peace With an Undefeated Germany  
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Our Second War For Independence

 

And what a disastrous Second War for Independence the War of 1812 tended to be for the infant US with the major exception of the Battle of New Orleans fought after the treaty of peace was signed.  Theodore Roosevelt in his magisterial The Naval War of 1812, written when he was all of 23, understood this:

In spite of the last trifling success, the campaign had been to the British both bloody and disastrous. It did not affect the results of the war; and the decisive battle itself was a perfectly useless shedding of blood, for peace had been declared before it was fought. Nevertheless, it was not only glorious but profitable to the United States. Louisiana was saved from being severely ravaged, and New Orleans from possible destruction; and after our humiliating defeats in trying to repel the invasions of Virginia and Maryland, the signal victory of New Orleans was really almost a necessity for the preservation of the national honor. This campaign was the great event of the war, and in it was fought the most important battle as regards numbers that took place during the entire struggle; and the fact that we were victorious, not only saved our self-respect at home, but also gave us prestige abroad which we should otherwise have totally lacked. It could not be said to entirely balance the numerous defeats that we had elsewhere suffered on land—defeats which had so far only been offset by Harrison’s victory in 1813 and the campaign in Lower Canada in 1814—but it at any rate went a long way toward making the score even.

Jackson is certainly by all odds the most prominent figure that appeared during this war, and stands head and shoulders above any other commander, American or British, that it produced. It will be difficult, in all history, to show a parallel to the feat that he performed. In three weeks’ fighting, with a force largely composed of militia, he utterly defeated and drove away an army twice the size of his own, composed of veteran troops, and led by one of the ablest of European generals. During the whole campaign he only erred once, and that was in putting General Morgan, a very incompetent officer, in command of the forces on the west bank. He suited his movements admirably to the various exigencies that arose. The promptness and skill with which he attacked, as soon as he knew of the near approach of the British, undoubtedly saved the city; for their vanguard was so roughly handled that, instead of being able to advance at once, they were forced to delay three days, during which time Jackson entrenched himself in a position from which he was never driven. But after this attack the offensive would have been not only hazardous, but useless, and accordingly Jackson, adopting the mode of warfare which best suited the ground he was on and the troops he had under him, forced the enemy always to fight him where he was strongest, and confined himself strictly to the pure defensive—a system condemned by most European authorities, [Footnote: Thus Napier says (vol. v, p. 25): “Soult fared as most generals will who seek by extensive lines to supply the want of numbers or of hardiness in the troops. Against rude commanders and undisciplined soldiers, lines may avail; seldom against accomplished commanders, never when the assailants are the better soldiers.” And again (p. 150), “Offensive operations must be the basis of a good defensive system.”] but which has at times succeeded to admiration in America, as witness Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Kenesaw Mountain, and Franklin.

Published in: on May 31, 2018 at 5:13 am  Comments Off on Our Second War For Independence  
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