Teddy Roosevelt (1901-1909): The 26th Retrospective
“Whatcha got ain’t nothin new. This country’s hard on people, you can’t stop what’s coming, it ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.” – Ellis, No Country for Old Men (2007)
The Republican party’s worst nightmare had come to pass. Teddy Roosevelt was a conservative that fought for reform, a hunter that expanded conservation, a hawk who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906. Roosevelt officially renamed the executive mansion the White House and added the West Wing. He was the first president to ride in an automobile, fly in an airplane, and dive in a submarine.
Slavery and Civil Rights
Roosevelt was a deeply conflicted figure who was at once progressive (he was the first president to invite a Black man, Booker T. Washington, to dine at the White House) and yet racist. Roosevelt spoke of Native Americans as “squalid savages” and justified the taking of their lands by force as a means to spread white European civilization. He decried the evils of slavery but did not believe, nearly half a century after it ended, that black people were ready to vote.
Writing about war with Native Americans:
The most righteous of all wars is a war with savages, though it is apt to be also the most terrible and inhuman . . . A sad and evil feature of such warfare is that whites, the representatives of civilization, speedily sink almost to the level of their barbarous foes.
On the annexation of Texas in 1845:
It was of course ultimately to the great advantage of civilization that the Anglo-American should supplant the Indo-Spaniard.
I know what a good side there was to slavery, but I know also what a hideous side there was to it, and this was the important side.”
I do not believe that the average Negro in the United States is as yet in any way fit to take care of himself and others as the average white man, for if he were there would be no Negro problem.
On English colonialism:
I am a believer in the fact that it is for the good of the world that the English-speaking race in all its branches should hold as much of the world’s surface as possible. The spread of the little kingdom of Wessex into more than a country, more than an empire, into a race
Booker T. Washington
Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915) was an American educator, author, orator, and adviser to several presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African American community and of the contemporary black elite. Washington was from the last generation of black American leaders born into slavery and became the leading voice of the former slaves and their descendants. They were newly oppressed in the South by disenfranchisement and the Jim Crow discriminatory laws enacted in the post-Reconstruction Southern states in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
National Negro Business League
The National Negro Business League (NNBL) was an American organization founded in Boston in 1900 by Booker T. Washington to promote the interests of African-American businesses. The mission and main goal of the National Negro Business League was “to promote the commercial and financial development of the Negro.” It was recognized as “composed of negro men and women who have achieved success along business lines”. It grew rapidly with 320 chapters in 1905 and more than 600 chapters in 34 states in 1915.
In 1966, the League was renamed and reincorporated in Washington D.C. as the National Business League. It remains in operation.
Founded in a one room shanty, near Butler Chapel AME Zion Church, thirty adults represented the first class – Dr. Booker T. Washington the first teacher. The founding date was July 4, 1881, authorized by House Bill 165.
George Campbell, a former slave owner, and Lewis Adams, a former slave, tinsmith and community leader, should be credited for their roles in the founding of the University. Adams had not had a day of formal education but could read and write.
In addition to being a tinsmith, he was also a shoemaker and harness-maker. And he could well have been experienced in other trades. W. F. Foster was a candidate for re-election to the Alabama Senate and approached Lewis Adams about the support of African-Americans in Macon County.
What would Adams want, Foster asked, in exchange for his (Adams) securing the black vote for him (Foster). Adams could well have asked for money, secured the support of blacks voters and life would have gone on as usual. But he didn’t. Instead, Adams told Foster he wanted an educational institution – a school – for his people. Col. Foster carried out his promise and with the assistance of his colleague in the House of Representatives, Arthur L. Brooks, legislation was passed for the establishment of a “Negro Normal School in Tuskegee.”
A $2,000 appropriation, for teachers’ salaries, was authorized by the legislation. Lewis Adams, Thomas Dryer, and M. B. Swanson formed the board of commissioners to get the school organized. There was no land, no buildings, no teachers only State legislation authorizing the school. George W. Campbell subsequently replaced Dryer as a commissioner. And it was Campbell, through his nephew, who sent word to Hampton Institute in Virginia looking for a teacher.
Booker T. Washington got the nod and he made the Lewis Adams dream happen. He was principal of the school from July 4, 1881, until his death in 1915. He was not 60 years old when he died. Initial space and building for the school was provided by Butler Chapel AME Zion Church not far from this present site. Not long after the founding, however, the campus was moved to “a 100 acre abandoned plantation” which became the nucleus of the present site.
Tuskegee rose to national prominence under the leadership of its founder, Dr. Washington, who headed the institution from 1881 until his death at age 59 in 1915. During his tenure, institutional independence was gained in 1892, again through legislation, when Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute was granted authority to act independent of the state of Alabama.
Dr. Washington, a highly skilled organizer and fund-raiser, was counsel to American Presidents, a strong advocate of Negro business, and instrumental in the development of educational institutions throughout the South. He maintained a lifelong devotion to his institution and to his home – the South. Dr. Washington is buried on the campus of Tuskegee University near the University Chapel.
At the time of Washington’s death, there were 1,500 students, a $2 million endowment, 40 trades, (we would call them majors today), 100 fully-equipped buildings, and about 200 faculty. From 30 adult students in a one room shanty, we have today grown to more than 3,000 students on a campus (the main campus, farm and forest land) that includes some 5,000 acres and more than 70 buildings.
Dedicated in 1922, the Booker T. Washington Monument, called “Lifting the Veil,” stands at the center of campus. The inscription at its base reads, “He lifted the veil of ignorance from his people and pointed the way to progress through education and industry.” For Tuskegee, the process of unveiling is continuous and lifelong.
The Atlanta compromise was an agreement struck in 1895 between Booker T. Washington, president of the Tuskegee Institute, other African-American leaders, and Southern white leaders. The agreement was that Southern blacks would work and submit to white political rule, while Southern whites guaranteed that blacks would receive basic education and due process in law.Blacks would not focus their demands on equality, integration, or justice, and Northern whites would fund black educational charities
Washington called for black progress through education and entrepreneurship, rather than trying to challenge directly the Jim Crow segregation and the disenfranchisement of black voters in the South. He mobilized a nationwide coalition of middle-class blacks, church leaders, and white philanthropists and politicians, with a long-term goal of building the community’s economic strength and pride by a focus on self-help and schooling. With his own contributions to the black community, Washington was a supporter of racial uplift, but secretly he also supported court challenges to segregation and to restrictions on voter registration.
Black activists in the North, led by W. E. B. Du Bois, at first supported the Atlanta compromise, but later disagreed and opted to set up the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to work for political change. They tried with limited success to challenge Washington’s political machine for leadership in the black community, but built wider networks among white allies in the North. Decades after Washington’s death in 1915, the civil rights movement of the 1950s took a more active and progressive approach, which was also based on new grassroots organizations based in the South, such as Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Washington mastered the nuances of the political arena in the late 19th century, which enabled him to manipulate the media, raise money, develop strategy, network, push, reward friends, and distribute funds, while punishing those who opposed his plans for uplifting blacks. His long-term goal was to end the disenfranchisement of the vast majority of African Americans, who then still lived in the South. His legacy has been very controversial to the civil rights community, of which he was an important leader before 1915.
After his death, he came under heavy criticism for accommodationism to white supremacy. However, a more balanced view of his very wide range of activities has appeared since the late 20th century. As of 2010, the most recent studies, “defend and celebrate his accomplishments, legacy, and leadership”.
Washington and Roosevelt
On October 16, 1901, shortly after moving into the White House, President Theodore Roosevelt invited his adviser, the African American spokesman Booker T. Washington, to dine with him and his family; it provoked an outpouring of condemnation from southern politicians and press. This reaction affected subsequent White House practice and no other African American was invited to dinner for almost thirty years.
“Niggers In The White House”
“Niggers in the White House” is a poem that was published in newspapers around the United States between 1901 and 1903. The poem was written in reaction to an October 1901 White House dinner hosted by Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, who had invited Booker T. Washington—an African-American presidential adviser—as a guest. The poem reappeared in 1929 after First Lady Lou Hoover, wife of President Herbert Hoover, invited Jessie De Priest, the wife of African-American congressman Oscar De Priest, to a tea for congressmen’s wives at the White House. The identity of the author—who used the byline “unchained poet”—remains unknown.
Both visits triggered widespread condemnation by many throughout the United States, particularly throughout the South. Elected representatives in Congress and state legislatures from southern states voiced objections to the presence of an African American as a guest of the First Family.
The poem is composed of fourteen four-line stanzas, in each of which the second and fourth lines rhyme. The poem also frequently uses the titular epithet nigger (over 20 times) as a term to represent African Americans. Republican Senator Hiram Bingham of Connecticut described the poem as “indecent, obscene doggerel.”
The Brownsville affair, or the Brownsville raid (August 12-13), was an incident of racial discrimination that occurred in 1906 in the southwestern United States due to resentment by white residents of Brownsville, Texas, of the Buffalo Soldiers, black soldiers in a segregated unit stationed at nearby Fort Brown. When a white bartender was killed and a white police officer wounded by gunshots one night, townspeople accused the members of the African-American 25th Infantry Regiment. Although their commanders said the soldiers had been in the barracks all night, evidence was allegedly planted against the men.
As a result of a United States Army Inspector General’s investigation, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the discharge without honor of 167 soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment, costing them pensions and preventing them from ever serving in federal civil service jobs. The case aroused national outrage in both black and white communities. After more investigation, several of the men were allowed to re-enlist.
Following publication of a history of the affair in the early 1970s, a renewed military investigation exonerated the discharged black troops. The government pardoned the men in 1972 and restored their records to show honorable discharges, but it did not provide retroactive compensation to them or their descendants. Only one man had survived to that time; Congress passed an act to provide him with a tax-free pension. The other soldiers who had been expelled all received posthumous honorable discharges.
Atlanta Massacre of 1906
The Atlanta Massacre of 1906 (September 22-24) was an attack by armed mobs of white Americans against African Americans in Atlanta, Georgia. The events were reported by newspapers around the world, including the French Le Petit Journal which described the “lynchings in the USA” and the “massacre of Negroes in Atlanta,” the Scottish Aberdeen Press & Journal under the headline “Race Riots in Georgia,” and the London Evening Standard under the headlines “Anti-Negro Riots” and “Outrages in Georgia.” The final death toll of the conflict is unknown and disputed, but officially at least 25 African Americans and two whites died.
Unofficial reports ranged from 10–100 black Americans killed during the massacre. According to the Atlanta History Center, some black Americans were hanged from lamposts; others were shot, beaten or stabbed to death. They were pulled from street cars and attacked on the street; white mobs invaded black neighborhoods, destroying homes and businesses.
The immediate catalyst was newspaper reports of four white women raped in separate incidents, allegedly by African American men. Two African Americans were later indicted by a grand jury for raping Ethel Lawrence and her aunt. An underlying cause was the growing racial tension in a rapidly-changing city and economy, with competition for jobs, housing, and political power.
The violence did not end until after Governor Joseph M. Terrell called in the Georgia National Guard, and African Americans accused the Atlanta Police Department and some Guardsmen of participating in the violence against them. Local histories by whites ignored the massacre for decades. It was not until 2006 that the event was publicly marked – on its 100th anniversary, and the next year it was made part of the state’s curriculum for public schools.
Pacific Coast Race Riots of 1907
The Pacific Coast race riots of 1907 were a series of riots against both Americans and Canadians of Asian descent that took place within the United States and Canada. The riots, which resulted in violence and destruction of property, were the result of anti-Asian tension caused by white opposition to the increasing Asian population during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most notable riots that took place were in San Francisco, California; Bellingham, Washington; and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Each city and anti-Asian activist group claimed its own unique reasoning for their specific riots, which were encouraged by the Asiatic Exclusion League.
San Francisco Riots
The San Francisco riot began May 20, 1907 and lasted for several nights. It was led by European-American nativists who used violence to advance their goals of excluding Japanese immigrants and maintaining segregated schools for Caucasian and Japanese students. The conflicts over segregated schools for Japanese students and the San Francisco riot led to negotiations between the United States, Canada, and Japan, culminating in the Gentlemen’s Agreement. The Japanese government agreed to not issue passports for entry into the United States to any skilled or unskilled labor if they had not previously been to the United States.
The Bellingham riots were a series of violent riots against Americans of Asian descent which occurred on September 4, 1907, in Bellingham, Washington, United States. Although this riot specifically targeted South Asians as they had contributed a wider demographic in the city at the time, it was a part of the wider Pacific Coast race riots of 1907, which had also targeted East Asians.
A mob of 400–500 white men, predominantly members of the Asiatic Exclusion League, with intentions to exclude East Indian immigrants from the work force of the local lumber mills, attacked the homes of the South Asian Indians. The Indians were mostly Sikhs but were however labelled as Hindus by much of the media of the day.
The mob threw the East Indian workers into the streets, beat them, and pocketed their valuables. The authorities co-operated with the mob by corralling the beaten Indian immigrants into the City Hall, ostensibly for their safety. “By the next day 125 South Asians had been driven out of town and were on their way to British Columbia”.
According to one report, disputed by local leaders and newspapers, six East Indians were hospitalized; and “no one” was killed. About 100 were held overnight in the Bellingham jail, reportedly under “protective custody”. Although five men were arrested, they were later released and none of the participants in the mob violence were prosecuted.
Some victims of the riots migrated to Everett, Washington where two months later, they received similar treatment. Similar riots occurred during this period in Vancouver, British Columbia, where East Asians were also targeted, and California.
In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the riots, Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen and Bellingham Mayor Tim Douglas jointly proclaimed Sept. 4, 2007, a “Day of Healing and Reconciliation,” acknowledging and atoning for those regrettable events. An imposing granite monument, the Arch of Healing and Reconciliation, was erected in downtown Bellingham and dedicated in 2018 in memory of the three groups of Asian immigrants who were expelled from the region – the Chinese in 1885, the East Indians in 1907, and the Japanese in 1942
Vancouver Anti-Asian Riots
The Vancouver anti-Asian riots occurred over the course of 2 days from September 7–9, 1907, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. At about the same time, there were similar anti-Asian riots in San Francisco, Bellingham, and other West Coast cities of North America, as part of the wider Pacific Coast race riots of 1907. They were not coordinated, but instead reflected common underlying anti-immigration and racist attitudes against Asians by whites, who was seen as an economic and social threat.
Agitation for direct action was led by labor unions and small business. While it was never confirmed that there were any deaths, the damage to Asian-owned property was extensive. Such results arising from the riots was an informal agreement whereby the governments of China and Japan limited or stopped emigration to Canada.
Springfield race riot of 1908
The Springfield race riot of 1908 were events of mass racial violence committed against African Americans by a mob of about 5,000 white Americans and European immigrants in Springfield, Illinois, between August 14 and 16, 1908. Two black men had been arrested as suspects in a rape, and attempted rape and murder. The alleged victims were two young white women and the father of one of them.
When a mob seeking to lynch the men discovered the sheriff had transferred them out of the city, the whites furiously spread out to attack black neighborhoods, murdered black citizens on the streets, and destroyed black businesses and homes. The state militia was called out to quell the rioting.
The riot, trials and aftermath are said to be one of the most well-documented examples of the complex intersection of race, class, and criminal justice in the United States. In 2008 an NPR report on the centenary of the race riot said that the fact of its taking place in a Northern state, specifically in “The Land of Lincoln”, demonstrated that blacks were mistreated across the country, not just in the South, and described the event as a proxy for the story of race in America.
At least sixteen people died as a result of the riot: nine black residents, and seven white residents who were associated with the mob, five of whom were killed by state militia and two committed suicide. It was mistakenly reported for decades that blacks were responsible for white deaths and that more whites than blacks had died. Personal and property damages, suffered overwhelmingly by blacks, amounted to more than $150,000 (approximately $4 million in 2018), as dozens of black homes and businesses were destroyed, as well as three white-owned businesses of suspected black sympathizers.
As a result of the rioting, numerous blacks left Springfield, but it is unclear how many moved away permanently. Although in the following months over 100 riot-related indictments were issued and some pled to minor violations, only one alleged rioter went to trial and conviction for lesser offenses. Of the two accused black men, who were the initial focus of the lynch mob, one was eventually tried, convicted and hanged, the other was set free. Near the 100th anniversary in 2008, the City of Springfield erected historical markers and a memorial statue. The riot was a catalyst for the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), organized to work on civil rights for African Americans.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)[a] is a civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909 as an interracial endeavor to advance justice for African Americans by a group including W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary White Ovington, Moorfield Storey and Ida B. Wells.
Its mission in the 21st century is “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination”. National NAACP initiatives include political lobbying, publicity efforts and litigation strategies developed by its legal team. The group enlarged its mission in the late 20th century by considering issues such as police misconduct, the status of black foreign refugees and questions of economic development. Its name, retained in accordance with tradition, uses the once common term colored people, referring to those with some African ancestry.
The NAACP bestows annual awards on African Americans in two categories: Image Awards are for achievement in the arts and entertainment, and Spingarn Medals are for outstanding achievement of any kind. Its headquarters is in Baltimore, Maryland. On June 29, 2020 Washington, D.C., radio station WTOP reported that the NAACP intends to relocate its national headquarters from its longtime home in Baltimore, Maryland, to the Franklin D. Reeves Center of Municipal Affairs, a building owned by the District of Columbia located on U and 14th Streets in Northwest Washington, D.C. Derrick Johnson, the NAACP’s president and CEO, emphasized that the organization will be better able to engage in and influence change in D.C. than in Baltimore.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (/djuːˈbɔɪs/ dew-BOYSS; February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an American sociologist, socialist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Du Bois grew up in a relatively tolerant and integrated community, and after completing graduate work at the University of Berlin and Harvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. Du Bois was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.
The Niagara Movement (NM) was a black civil rights organization founded in 1905 by a group of activists – many of whom were among the vanguard of African-American lawyers in the United States – led by W. E. B. Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter. It was named for the “mighty current” of change the group wanted to effect and Niagara Falls, near Fort Erie, Ontario, where the first meeting took place, in July 1905. The Niagara Movement was organized to oppose racial segregation and disenfranchisement.
Du Bois and his supporters opposed the Atlanta compromise, an agreement crafted by Booker T. Washington which provided that Southern blacks would work and submit to white political rule, while Southern whites guaranteed that blacks would receive basic educational and economic opportunities. Instead, Du Bois insisted on full civil rights and increased political representation, which he believed would be brought about by the African-American intellectual elite. He referred to this group as the Talented Tenth, a concept under the umbrella of Racial uplift, and believed that African Americans needed the chances for advanced education to develop its leadership.
Racism was the main target of Du Bois’s polemics, and he strongly protested against lynching, Jim Crow laws, and discrimination in education and employment. His cause included people of color everywhere, particularly Africans and Asians in colonies. He was a proponent of Pan-Africanism and helped organize several Pan-African Congresses to fight for the independence of African colonies from European powers. Du Bois made several trips to Europe, Africa and Asia. After World War I, he surveyed the experiences of American black soldiers in France and documented widespread prejudice and racism in the United States military.
Pan-Africanism is a worldwide movement that aims to encourage and strengthen bonds of solidarity between all indigenous and diaspora ethnic groups of African descent. Based on a common goal dating back to the Atlantic slave trade, the movement extends beyond continental Africans with a substantial support base among the African diaspora in the Americas and Europe.
Pan-Africanism can be said to have its origins in the struggles of the African people against enslavement and colonization and this struggle may be traced back to the first resistance on slave ships—rebellions and suicides—through the constant plantation and colonial uprisings and the “Back to Africa” movements of the 19th century. Based on the belief that unity is vital to economic, social, and political progress and aims to “unify and uplift” people of African descent.
At its core, Pan-Africanism is a belief that “African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny”. Pan-Africanist intellectual, cultural, and political movements tend to view all Africans and descendants of Africans as belonging to a single “race” and/or sharing cultural unity. Pan-Africanism posits a sense of a shared historical fate for Africans in America, West Indies, and on the continent, itself centered on the Atlantic trade in slaves, African slavery, and European imperialism.
The Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) was established in 1963 to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its Member States and to promote global relations within the framework of the United Nations. The African Union Commission has its seat in Addis Ababa and the Pan-African Parliament has its seat in Johannesburg and Midrand
Scholar and Author
Du Bois was a prolific author. His collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, is a seminal work in African-American literature; and his 1935 magnum opus, Black Reconstruction in America, challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that blacks were responsible for the failures of the Reconstruction Era. Borrowing a phrase from Frederick Douglass, he popularized the use of the term color line to represent the injustice of the separate but equal doctrine prevalent in American social and political life. He opens The Souls of Black Folk with the central thesis of much of his life’s work: “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.”
His 1940 autobiography Dusk of Dawn is regarded in part as one of the first scientific treatises in the field of American sociology, and he published two other life stories, all three containing essays on sociology, politics and history. In his role as editor of the NAACP’s journal The Crisis, he published many influential pieces. Du Bois believed that capitalism was a primary cause of racism, and he was generally sympathetic to socialist causes throughout his life. He was an ardent peace activist and advocated nuclear disarmament. The United States’ Civil Rights Act, embodying many of the reforms for which Du Bois had campaigned his entire life, was enacted a year after his death.
Ida B. Wells
Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931) was an American investigative journalist, educator, and early leader in the civil rights movement. She was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Over the course of a lifetime dedicated to combating prejudice and violence, and the fight for African-American equality, especially that of women, Wells arguably became the most famous Black woman in America.
Born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Wells was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation during the American Civil War. At the age of 16, she lost both her parents and her infant brother in the 1878 yellow fever epidemic. She went to work and kept the rest of the family together with the help of her grandmother. Later, moving with some of her siblings to Memphis, Tennessee, she found better pay as a teacher. Soon, Wells co-owned and wrote for the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight newspaper. Her reporting covered incidents of racial segregation and inequality.
In the 1890s, Wells documented lynching in the United States in articles and through her pamphlet called Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases, investigating frequent claims of whites that lynchings were reserved for Black criminals only. Wells exposed lynching as a barbaric practice of whites in the South used to intimidate and oppress African Americans who created economic and political competition—and a subsequent threat of loss of power—for whites. A white mob destroyed her newspaper office and presses as her investigative reporting was carried nationally in Black-owned newspapers.
Subjected to continued threats, Wells left Memphis for Chicago. She married Ferdinand L. Barnett in 1895 and had a family while continuing her work writing, speaking, and organizing for civil rights and the women’s movement for the rest of her life. Wells was outspoken regarding her beliefs as a Black female activist and faced regular public disapproval, sometimes including from other leaders within the civil rights movement and the women’s suffrage movement. She was active in women’s rights and the women’s suffrage movement, establishing several notable women’s organizations. A skilled and persuasive speaker, Wells traveled nationally and internationally on lecture tours.
In 2020, Wells was posthumously honored with a Pulitzer Prize special citation “[f]or her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching.
Greek Town Riot of 1909
The Greek Town riot was a race riot in South Omaha, Nebraska on February 21, 1909. A mob of 3,000 men killed a Greek boy, displaced the entire population of Greek Town, and burned down the Greek neighborhood in South Omaha.
States Admitted Into The Union
- Oklahoma became the 46th state November 16, 1907 from the Oklahoma and Indian Territory
Not About Party
Though a Republican, many viewed him as a Democrat. Teddy Roosevelt never considered party politics, as much as what the right thing for the most amount of people was. He believed politics was driven by personality, and he would use the sheer force of his personality to get what he wanted, winning him avid supporters and bitter enemies. Ultimately, for Teddy Roosevelt, he believed good and evil could be largely impacted by single individuals even in the modern industrial age.
The Square Deal was Theodore Roosevelt’s domestic program, which reflected his three major goals: conservation of natural resources, control of corporations, and consumer protection.
These three demands are often referred to as the “three Cs” of Roosevelt’s Square Deal. Thus, it aimed at helping middle class citizens and involved attacking plutocracy and bad trusts while at the same time protecting business from the most extreme demands of organized labor. He explained in 1901-1909:
When I say that I am for the square deal, I mean not merely that I stand for fair play under the present rules of the game, but that I stand for having those rules changed so as to work for a more substantial equality of opportunity and of reward for equally good service.
A progressive Republican, Roosevelt believed in government action to mitigate social evils, and as president he in 1908 denounced “the representatives of predatory wealth” as guilty of “all forms of iniquity from the oppression of wage workers to unfair and unwholesome methods of crushing competition, and to defrauding the public by stock-jobbing and the manipulation of securities.”
Anthracite Coal Miners Strike (1902)
Conditions for laborers, particularly coal miners were miserable. This strike in 1902 left management and labor deadlocked. Without a resolution and coal distribution, the northeast would freeze. President Roosevelt personally intervened believing he was uniquely positioned to act on behalf of the people. TR believed the president could and must see things for the entire national interest.
After threatening to nationalize coal mines, he brokered a deal that favored labor over management. It marked a turning point in labor relations, paving the way for better working conditions. This was one of many domestic victories for him.
Northern Securities Company v. United States (1904)
Teddy Roosevelt thought America’s greatest evil was too much power in the hands of corporations, believing industrialists such as J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller wielded too much power. He intended to curb it immediately upon entering office.
Teddy Roosevelt sued Morgan and Rockefeller to halt monopolization of western railways. The government would prevail 5-4 in Supreme Court. This crushed their monopoly and is where Roosevelt gained his reputation as a “trust buster” though he was more like a trust regulator.
TR believed that large size in industry came with the territory of the industrial revolution. While that clock could not be turned back, it was important to remind corporate barons that the people, not trusts nor the capitalist system, controlled affairs in the country.
He also worried that corporate interests were dangerously unaware of people’s temperament. This was a time when there was no sanitation, no highways, and no social welfare. Approximately 1 out of 5 children worked in a factory, mine or sweatshop. Rightfully, TR thought the natives would get restless if the rich got richer while they starved.
Big Stick Diplomacy
Teddy Roosevelt backed up bold declarations like these with his “Big Stick”. “Speak softly and carry a big stick” were the words outlining his philosophy meaning restrained speech while always remaining militarily ready. The big stick is your arsenal and the idea was to intimidate other countries. Every perceived action against America would be known to have consequences.
As the greatest political force behind the Spanish-American war, Theodore Roosevelt felt American emergence as a world power was our duty. Our global responsibility, as no longer a nascent country but world leader, was to civilize the rest of the world.
Many felt that we needed a canal through a central American isthmus owned by Colombia. This canal would protect both coasts for if we were attacked in the east, our west coast fleet could come to the rescue. Teddy thought the canal would be good for both the U.S. and the world, but the Colombians did not agree to his price.
Roosevelt’s response was to back a local revolution, which created the nation of Panama on November 3, 1903, in exchange for the right to build a canal there. He was criticized for fomenting revolution and underhanded diplomacy with independent American republics, but Roosevelt would not care stating, “I didn’t steal the canal. I built it”.
The Panama Canal was the largest engineering project ever undertaken, and became one of the wonders of the world when completed on August 15, 1914. Teddy Roosevelt thought it was his single biggest contribution to world civilization.
Europeans were also beginning to venture into Latin America at the turn of the 20th century. Roosevelt saw them as a strategic threat, and without consulting Congress or asking permission of Latin America, introduced the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine in his 1904 State of the Union Address, after the Venezuela Crisis of 1902-03, declaring the United States in charge of the western hemisphere. Specifically, Roosevelt stated America held police power to enforce good behavior in countries of the western hemisphere.
Venezuelan Crisis of 1902-03
The Venezuelan crisis of 1902–1903 was a naval blockade imposed against Venezuela by Great Britain, Germany and Italy from December 1902 to February 1903, after President Cipriano Castro refused to pay foreign debts and damages suffered by European citizens in recent Venezuelan civil wars. Castro assumed that the American Monroe Doctrine would see Washington intervene to prevent European military intervention. However, at the time, US president Theodore Roosevelt and his Department of State saw the doctrine as applying only to European seizure of territory, rather than intervention per se.
With prior promises that no such seizure would occur, the US was officially neutral and allowed the action to go ahead without objection. The blockade saw Venezuela’s small navy quickly disabled, but Castro refused to give in, and instead agreed in principle to submit some of the claims to international arbitration, which he had previously rejected. Germany initially objected to this, arguing that some claims should be accepted by Venezuela without arbitration.
President Roosevelt forced the Germans to back down by sending his own larger fleet under Admiral George Dewey and threatening war if the Germans landed. With Castro failing to back down, US pressure and increasingly negative British and American press reaction to the affair, the blockading nations agreed to a compromise, but maintained the blockade during negotiations over the details. This led to the signing of an agreement on February 13, 1903 which saw the blockade lifted, and Venezuela commit 30% of its customs duties to settling claims.
When the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague subsequently awarded preferential treatment to the blockading powers against the claims of other nations, the US feared this would encourage future European intervention. The episode contributed to the development of the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, asserting a right of the United States to intervene to stabilize the economic affairs of small states in the Caribbean and Central America if they were unable to pay their international debts, in order to preclude European intervention to do so.
TR won reelection by the largest popular margin in history. He considered this his second term and promised not to run again. This was a public statement he made he would regret for the rest of his life. Roosevelt agonized over leaving office. He wanted to do more, but honored his promise and did not run for reelection after this upcoming term, even though his first one was technically continuing President McKinley’s term. During his second term, Roosevelt tried to extend his Square Deal further, but was blocked by conservative Republicans in Congress.
Roosevelt was popular but Progressives thought he could do more for social and economic reform. Roughly 8 million new immigrants in the first decade of the new century turned life for the working class from bad to intolerable.
Detailing horrific conditions endured by immigrant workers in a Chicago meatpacking plant, Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”(1906) was an expose of the meat-packing industry. The highlights included no bathrooms, no toilets, no sinks, rats aplenty, and workers falling into the meat grinding machine. Roosevelt responded immediately believing the federal government should act on behalf of the consumer.
Antiquities Act (1906)
Deemed necessary after two decades of looting, desecration, and destruction of Native American sites in the Southwest such as Chaco Canyon and Cliff Palace, on June 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill. The Act for the Preservation of Antiquities (also called the Lacey Act) was an intentionally broad piece of legislation to set aside “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” in order to stop their destruction. As it was worded, either the President or Congress could establish national monuments under the Antiquities Act.
This was the authorization Roosevelt needed to halt the destruction of the American landscape. There existed a growing sense as the frontier closed, the wilderness was disappearing. For example, there were plans to destroy the Grand Canyon. Roosevelt felt these pristine wilderness spots were the heirlooms of America that must be saved for children. In total, Roosevelt preserved 230 million acres of land.
Pure Food and Drug Act (1906)
Signed June 23, 1906 applying to goods shipped in foreign or interstate commerce, the purpose of the legislation was to prevent adulteration or misbranding. Adulteration was defined in various ways.
For confectionary, adulteration would be the result of any poisonous color or flavor, or of any other ingredients harmful to human health. Food was adulterated if it contained filthy or decomposed animal matter, poisonous or deleterious ingredients, or anything that attempted to conceal inferior components.
Provisions included creation of the Food and Drug Administration, which was entrusted with the responsibility of testing all foods and drugs destined for human consumption, the requirement for prescriptions from licensed physicians before a patient could purchase certain drugs, and the requirement of label warnings on habit-forming drugs. An offending manufacturer or distributor could be prosecuted by the Federal government, except that a distributor was not liable to such action if he could show an adequate guarantee from the vendor.
Meat Inspection Act (1906)
Signed on June 30, 1906, the legislation prohibited the sale of adulterated or misbranded livestock and derived products as food and ensured that livestock were slaughtered and processed under sanitary conditions. The law reformed the meatpacking industry, mandating that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspect all cattle, swine, sheep, goats, and horses both before and after they were slaughtered and processed for human consumption.
The law also applied to imported products, which were treated under similarly rigorous foreign inspection standards. The 1906 legislation amended prior Meat Inspection Acts of 1890 and 1891 and other laws that had provided for USDA inspection of slaughtered animals and meat products but had proven ineffective in regulating many unsafe and unsanitary practices by the meatpacking industry.
Panic of 1907
The Panic of 1907 was a financial crisis that took place in the United States over a three-week period starting in mid-October, when the New York Stock Exchange fell almost 50% from its peak the previous year. Panic occurred, as this was during a time of economic recession, and there were numerous runs on banks and trust companies.
The 1907 panic eventually spread throughout the nation when many state and local banks and businesses entered bankruptcy. Primary causes of the run included a retraction of market liquidity by a number of New York City banks and a loss of confidence among depositors, exacerbated by unregulated side bets at bucket shops.
The panic was triggered by the failed attempt in October 1907 to corner the market on stock of the United Copper Company. When this bid failed, banks that had lent money to the cornering scheme suffered runs that later spread to affiliated banks and trusts, leading a week later to the downfall of the Knickerbocker Trust Company—New York City’s third-largest trust. The collapse of the Knickerbocker spread fear throughout the city’s trusts as regional banks withdrew reserves from New York City banks. Panic extended across the nation as vast numbers of people withdrew deposits from their regional banks. It is the 9th largest decline in U.S. stock market history.
The panic might have deepened if not for the intervention of financier J. P. Morgan, who pledged large sums of his own money, and convinced other New York bankers to do the same, to shore up the banking system. This highlighted the impotence of the nation’s Independent Treasury system, which managed the nation’s money supply yet was unable to inject liquidity back into the market.
By November, the financial contagion had largely ended, only to be replaced by a further crisis. This was due to the heavy borrowing of a large brokerage firm that used the stock of Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company (TC&I) as collateral. Collapse of TC&I’s stock price was averted by an emergency takeover by Morgan’s U.S. Steel Corporation—a move approved by anti-monopolist president Theodore Roosevelt. The following year, Senator Nelson W. Aldrich, a leading Republican, established and chaired a commission to investigate the crisis and propose future solutions, leading to the creation of the Federal Reserve System.
Roosevelt had a vision, plans and made them happen regardless of what people thought. He was the first President to exercise the “moral imperative” of the presidency. He felt that he represented the people, articulated the views of the people, and influenced those views to mobilize people behind important reforms with or without Congress.
This is the heart of the Donald Trump support. People like the idea of a rich guy who will come in and make things better for the common (read white) man.
This is also the problem with sole focus on economic and social reform without a specific focus and plan on race that is present in the Bernie Sanders campaign. The argument that the labor reforms enacted in the Square Deal made things better for race relations were dubious. Still, clean water and healthy food is a pretty good legacy to leave.
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William Howard Taft (1909 – 1913) would follow Teddy Roosevelt
William McKinley (1897 – 1901) preceded Teddy Roosevelt
Grover Cleveland (1885 – 1889) and would assume the presidency again from 1893-1897
Andrew Johnson (1865 – 1869) would assume the presidency after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (1861 – 1865)
Zachary Taylor (1849-1850) would assume the presidency after the Mexican War.
John Quincy Adams (1825 – 1829) was the first President who wasn’t a founding father and preceded the influential Andrew Jackson (1829 – 1837)
It all started with George Washington (1789 – 1797).
Woodrow Wilson (1913 – 1921) would guide the United States through World War I.
Harry Truman (1945 – 1953) would assume the presidency after the death of the iconic FDR (1933 – 1945)
Jimmy Carter (1977 – 1981) would be the only Democratic President for 25 years post Civil Rights.
George W. Bush (2000 – 2008) is the final President in our series.