Joseph Leonard Levy.

The President and his policies; a Sunday address before the Rodeph Shalom congregation (Volume 1) online

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The President and His Policies



ongregation Rodeph Shalom




Series 7

April 19, 1908


These Sunday Lectures are distributed Free OF Charge in the Temple
to all who attend the Services.

Another edition is distributed free to friends of liberal religious thought,
on written application to the Rabbi,

An extra edition is printed for those wishing to have these lectures
mailed to friends residing out of the City.

Apply to B. CALLOMON,

1325 Western Ave. , Allegheny, Pa.



Congregation Rodeph Shalom


1. For What Do We Stand ?

2. The Consequences of Belief.

3. The Modern Millionaire.

4. The Wandering Jew.

5. A Father's Power.

6. A Mother's Influence.

7. The Child's Realm.

8. The Chosen of the Earth.

9. Atheism and Anarchism.
10. A Jewish View of Jesus.
U. The Doom of Dogma.

12. The Dawn of Truth.

13. Friendships.



Gone, but Not i^orgotter.

Pleasures and Pastimes.



What is the Good of Religion?

Love and Duty.

The Miracle of the Ages.

A Jewish View of Easter.

The Spirit of Modern Judaism.

The Ideal Home.

The Prophets of Israel.

Marching on.


1. Emile Zola;— A Tribute.

2. The Highest Gifts.

3. Art and the Synagogue.

4. Prejudice.

5. Youth and its Visions.

6. Age and Its Realities.

7. is Life Worth Living?

8. Is Marriage a Failure?

9. The True and Only Son of God.

10. The Conquering Hero.

11. The Truth in Judaism.

12. The One Only God.

13. The Holy Bible.

14. The Vast Forever,



Our Neighbors' Faith.

The Messiah.

The Future of Religion.

The Liberators.

Man and Nature.

What Woman May Do.

The School of Life.

Sowing the Wind — Reaping the

The World's Debt to Israel.
The Man without a Religion.
The Prize and the Price.



What do we gain by Reform?

"Making Haste to be Rich."


"What all the world's a seeking"

I. May we the Bible?

II. Results of Bible Criticism
Religion and the Theater.
The Continuous Warfare.
Reform Judaism and Primil

A Child's Blessing.
Herbert Spencer; — A Tribute.
rSTGod Divided?

















Cruel, to be Kind,


Wnr o/ Peace?

The Strenuous Life,

The Parent and the Child,

The Politician or the People,

The Use of Life.
The Jew.
Social Purity,
The Noblest Work of God;
Crimes of the Tongue.
Self- Respect.' -^

The President and His Policies



Rodeph Shalom Congregation


Rabbi J. Leonard Levy, D. D.

Pittsburgh, April 19th, 1908

The President and His Policies.'

By the Rev. Dr. J. Leonard Levy

A curious characteristic of human nature is the ten-
dency to viHfy the Hving helpers of the race. Strange
and ungrateful appears that human trait when it resorts
to abuse of its best and most permanent friends. The
pages of history record the reiterated demonstration of
brutal hate and bitter opposition manifested toward the
benefactors of humanity.

The Prophet Abused.
Xame a prophet who is today honored by the plaud-
its of the mighty, and I will name one who, when living,
was probably adorned with a crown of thorns! Name me
a genuine benefactor of the human family and, for the
most part. I will name one who was nailed to a horrid
cross. For thus has the world, through its false leaders,
ever treated those who were its helpers. It made them
wear sheepskins and goatskins. It forced the wanderer's
stafif into their hands. It drove them into the wilderness,
like the scapegoat of old, placing upon them the respon-
sibility, the sin and the punishment of the people.

Delivered before the Eodeph Shalom Congregation, Pitts-
burgh, Pa., Sunday, April 19, 1908. Stenographically reported
by Caroline Loewenthal.


Denied Today; Deified Tomorrow.

In most languages we find some proverb suggesting
that we "say nothing evil about the dead;" practical ex-
perience seems to suggest that the proverb might safely
be amplified to read, "and nothing good about the liv-
ing." Curious human nature ! Today it burns a man ;
tomorrow it lights tapers in his memory. Today it de-
mands his death ; tomorrow it celebrates his resurrec-
tion ; the next day it acclaims as a god him whom it called
a devil a few days before. Today it surrounds his name
with infamy; tomorrow it places him in the Temple of
Fame. Today it calumniates ; tomorrow it coronates.
Today it denies ; tomorrow it deifies.

Sometimes the crowd accepts the leader, honors and
praises him for a time, only to denounce him when trials
come, when the burdens and responsibilities born of the
new occasion press upon it. Then the masses sigh for
the fleshpots of Egypt, and, oblivious of the emancipat-
ing ideals and purpose of their oft-lauded leader, they
burst into bitter condemnation of him they had previously
approved and followed. Today the crowd lauds the
leader to the skies ; tomorrow it seeks to hurl him down
to ungrateful oblivion. Today it accepts as a gift of God
the words, the deeds, of its peerless commander; tomor-
row it vents its wrath and voids its hateful spirit of in-
gratitude upon him.

Why Rejected.

The greater the service, the greater the scorn heaped
upon the living servant of humanity ; so seem to indicate
the recurrent incidents in the life of mankind's emanci-

pators. \A'e may understand why the prophet is without
honor in his own land and age, and we may comprehend
how it comes that the world's opposition and hatred are
the unthinking world's tribute. The true servant of man
toils not for today, but for coming ages. He scarcely
lives in the day when he moves on earth ; he is already
living centuries ahead. This the crowd understands not.
The masses cannot see the Promised Land, clear to pro-
phetic vision. They cannot grasp the conditions of the
Ideal Republic, which he so clearly sees. And so they,
under the destructive guidance of false leaders, call him
"the enemy of human kind," or "fiend incarnate," or
"disturber of the status quo," or "child of the devil," or
they abuse him as "the troubler of Israel." They say
that he creates prejudices, interferes with personal hap-
piness, destroys the peaceful relations of the people, dis-
turbs trade, unsettles public opinions. Upon his devoted
head is laid the sin of the many, and, as shifting respon-
sibilities is an ancient vice, they attribute to him the
cause of the temporary ills which their own sins have in-
vited. Thus it happens that before he dies he, who was
the honored and accepted of the people, becomes the
despised and rejected of men.

Hosamia and Crucify.

Thus has the world ever treated its Messiahs ; thus
it still treats its chosen ; and thus the unthinking, surface-
skimming world is likely to long continue to treat those
who help it most. They will follow the master as long
as he is popular. They will take off their coats and their
cloaks and lay them down in the streets that he may

ride over them. They will bear aloft the palm branches,
crying "Hosanna, Hosanna, Master and Savior!" But,
when they are debauched by the predatory powers that
be; when they receive word from those who enjoy vested
rights or control corporate interests thriving by dishon-
est methods; then they slink away from him, suffer him
to walk his Via Dolorosa alone, permit him to be led
alone to the Golgotha of public hate, there to suft"er an
ignominious end.

Roosevelt an Uplifter.
You can already observe that this reflection is called
forth by the sacred occasion, (Palm Sunday), which is
being celebrated throughout Christendom today, and by
a thought of the man who, above all men, is, in certain
quarters, held responsible for the adverse economic con-
ditions prevailing throughout our country. I would not
have you believe, for one moment, that I place Theodore
Roosevelt and Jesus of Nazareth side by side in the scale
of service to humanity. But I do believe that, if it was
enthusiasm for God that moved the one to offer his life
for human kind, it is devotion to the moral ideal that has
impelled the other to serve this nation and its people as
have few Presidents or public officials in the history of
this or any other nation. I would not have you believe
that I consider Theodore Roosevelt a modern Messiah ;
but I do think that all the qualities that go to make the
helper, the uplifter, the noble servant of men. may be
found in this honorable man who is at present the chosen
representative of this great nation.

Equal Courage in Defeat.

He has passed through the period of loud acclaim.
For several years the people have been crying to him,
"Hosanna." ^^'hat he would do were these people tO'turn
and cry. "Crucify," remains to be seen. T believe, how-
ever, that the same moral grandeur which lias been mani-
fested by him in the past, will be shown in the future.
For, brave men, usually, no more show courage and
splendid bravery for several years uninterruptedly, only
to fail when the greatest test conies, than does a coward
display courage in the supreme moment of his life. There
may be exceptional cases, but the history of man would
indicate that a man who is a coward will remain cowardly
when called upon to face great occasions, whilst the brave
man will have equal courage to face defeat as he had the
hardihood to invite defeat.

Fighting with Fate.

Mr. Roosevelt is one of those men who may be called
a creature of destiny. Born of a well-to-do family, af-
forded al)undant opportunity for the development of all
that was great and good in him by blood and environ-
ment, he discovered, in the early A^ears of his budding
manhood, that he was physically weak, that he was
threatciKHl with disease, that his years would, probaljly,
be few. He did not weakly yield to an adverse fate;
but, going out to the Western prairies, he struggled with
fate and conquered it. Fortunately, I might almost say,
providentially, he came back a healthy, strong, vigorous
man. prepared to do a man's work in a man's world.
Wherever we find him. considcrinu' for a moment the

details of his life, whether in the Assembly at Albany, or
ill the Police Commissioner's Office in New York, or in
the Naval Department in ^^^ashing■ton, or at San Juan,
or in the White House, we find the same heroism mani-
fested, the same rugged fearlessness with which he en-
tered upon the first fight of his life, the fight with sick-
ness. Many a man would have yielded and said, "What's
the use?" But the creature of destiny rarely yields except
to the right, the fit, the decent, the proper.

Man Proposes and God Disposes.

Roosevelt's life having been spared in youth, and.
again during the conflict with Spain, it would not be sur-
prising if he should regard himself a creature of destiny.
I do not for a moment say that the President so considers
himself; I mean to convey that it would not be strange
if he did, especially in view of other circumstances, pass-
ing strange in the extreme. The Republican National
Convention held in Philadelphia in 1900, in conjunction
with the experiences already referred to, was fraught with
consequences which would assure most men that Roose-
velt was a creature of some strange, not to say provi-
dential, destiny. The period between March, 1898, and
September, 1901, was rich in peculiar experiences, illus-
trating the truth of the proverb, "Man proposes and God
disposes." Admiral Dewey was sent to take charge of the
Chinese Squadron. He was to be put beyond the possi-
bility of distinguishing himself during the Spanish-Ameri-
can War ; whatever glory mi^ht come to the Navy lead-
ers, Dewey was to get none. He was to be relegated to
oblivion. Admiral Sampson and Admiral Schley were

put in charge of divisions of the Atlantic Squadron. It
seems as if it was arranged that whatever naval glory
would be gained during the war with Spain should be
transferred to Sampson, if possible. The National Con-
vention in Philadelphia forced upon Theodore Roosevelt,
then Governor of New York, the nomination for the office
of \'ice-President of the United States, in the hope, I
believe, that he should there find the grave of his natural
and laudable political ambitions. But strange things came
to pass. Dewey returned as Admiral to the United
States, the hero of the nation ; Sampson died from paresis
superinduced, it is held, by worry; Schley still lives to
enjoy the distinction he had honestly won; Roosevelt, by
a strange destiny, became President of the nation, and
has earned for himself an enviable position in the hearts
of untold millions all over the w^orld, has made for him-
self a high place in history, a name and a fame whose
lustre will not be dimmed, whose glory will grow in the
coming" centuries.

A Man of Destiny.

It would not be surprising that a man who looks
back upon his past, and sees what religious people would
call "the finger of God" in so many various events of his
life, should be stirred by religious earnestness. One of
Germany's great reformers, walking at the seaside with a
friend, is overtaken by a storm. The lightning kills his
com])anion ; the man spared becomes one of the conse-
crated toilers for the reformation of Germany. The be-
lief that his life, so strangely spared, must have been
spared for a purpose, became the overpowering influence

in the life of that reformer in Germany. ^Nlay it not be
that the same influence has been silently at work influ-
encing this man Roosevelt, whose strong ethical purpose,
whose moral earnestness, whose unquestionable honesty,
all his followers and even most of his opponents, I be-
lieve, are willing to admit?

He Might Have Sought Ease.

He was called to the ^^'hite House and every ambi-
tion, that a loyal American might righteously indulge,
was gratified. There he was, "a scholar and a gentle-
man," a man of ample financial resources, a member of
America's first families, a son of the Revolution, a scion
of families who had served the nation faithfully. There
he was, having reached the highest place in the gift of
the Amercan people, surrounded by infinite opportunities
for ease, for even greater culture, for making himself a
ruling social factor. I doubt not that if Mr. Roosevelt
had determined to take leisure in the A\'hite House, the
very men who today regard him as "an enemy of the
Republic," would have said that he was "the best fellow

Demand for Publicity.

But Roosevelt's call to the White House was provi-
dential, at least so I regard it. He swore to fulfill the
law, to obey the law, and to see it fulfilled and obeyed ;
and an oath with Roosevelt is a vow, and a vow must be
fulfilled. In his first message to Congress on December
3, 1901, the present President of the United States told
the people of the United States what he purposed doing.
Few but his honest followers believed him. Bismarck


used to say tliat when you want to fool your enemies in
political life, tell them the truth, for they will not believe
it. The PVesident, following that policy, consciously or
unconsciously, told the American people in his First
Inaugural Address, on December 3, 1901. the truth. His
great demand was for publicity, and I wish to read you
his words, spoken in 190 1, and then his words uttered in
1907, the so-called offending words. I want you to pon-
der these words very carefully. I would like you to learn
them by heart, so that you may be able to quote them
to the opponents of the President. Listen to this quota-
tion from his First Inaugural :

" " * " There are real and grave evils, one of the chief
being over-capitalization, because of its many baleful conse-
quences; anil a resolute and practical effort must be made to
correct those evils.

•'There is a wide-spread conviction that the great corpora-
tions known as trusts are in certain of their features and ten-
dencies hurtful to the general welfare. * * It is based upon
sincere conviction that combination and concentration should be
not prohibited, but supervised and within reasonable limits con-
ti oiled; and in my judgment tills conviction is "right.''

The Offending Speech.

This he said in 1901 when the nation was congratu-
lating itself on its good fortune in having so capable a
successor to the martyred McKinley. Listen now to what
he said May 30, 1907, when his opponents had begun to
denounce him as a destroyer !

" ' * . But the public interest requires guaranty
against improper multiplication of securities in the future. Eea-
sonable regulations for their issuance should be provided so as
to secure as far as may be that the proceeds thereof shall be
devoted to legitimate business purposes. In providing against
over-capitalization we shall liarm no human being who is honest;

and we shall benefit many, for over-capitalization often means
an inflation that invites business panic, it always conceals the
true relation of the profit earned to the capital invested, creating
a burden of interest pajmients, which may redound to the loss
alike of the wage-earner and the general public, which is con-
cerned in the rates paid byi shippers; it damages the small in-
vestors, discourages thrift and puts a premium on gambling and
business trickery. ' '

Popular Faith in the President.

This utterance is taken from the address now denom-
inated as his great blunder. But reflect on the situation
for a moment! In his first message to Congress, the
President told the nation what he sought to do. He was,
at that time, commended for his courageous utterances
and was later approved by the nation for the manner in
which lie had carried out that which he had designed.
The election of 1904 proved that the people of the United
States were convinced that he w^as worthy of their con-
fidence and of the highest honor they could bestow.
What has he said since that time that has been out of
harmony with his initial statement? The Indianapolis
address, just quoted, and Avhich his enemies have most
bitterly criticized, was a reiteration of first principles ex-
panded in the light of experience, but it by no means
differed in important details from his first message to
Congress. He has been as firm as a rock in his deter-
mination to fulfill his duty as the Chief Executive of the
nation, and to keep the oath of ofifice he took on the day
he was sworn in as President. Read his various ad-
dresses ! Parallel them with the statements made in the
First Inaugural, and you will find that during his career
in the A\niite House he has used his first message as a


text on which later messages have l)eeii. to a great extent,
commentaries !

The President Is the People's Representative.

The President of the United States is no King of
England. He has other functions than those of laying
cornerstones, and appearing at public dinners, and hold-
ing levees. The President of the United States is no
Emperor A\'illiam, is no absolute monarch. The Presi-
dent of the United States is no Czar, and can have no
tyrannical will. William II. and Xicolas II. rule for life,
their heirs are to rule after them, and they are not re-
sponsible to their people ; but the President of the United
States is responsible to the people, and the period during
which he can direct public affairs is wisel}' limited to a
few years. He is the servant of the people, but he is at
the same time, the only one who can speak for the peo-
ple, as things have developed in American history. Presi-
dent Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia College, who
is conceded to be a very conservative man, says in his
splendid brochure, "True and False Democracy," (page
35), that, "as matters stand today. States and syndicates
have senators ; districts and local interests have repre-
sentatives ; but the whole people of the United States
have only the President to speak for them and to do their
will." Some of the members of the Legislature of the
United States say that the President is usurping their
power, that he is encroaching upon their rights ; but this
assertion must be considered in the light of the advice of
James Madison, the fourth President of the United States,
who said, speaking of the Legislatix'e De])artmcnt of the


Government: "It is against the enterprising ambition of
this department that the people ought to indulge all their
jealousy and exhaust all their precautions."

Roosevelt No Anaemic Weakling.

Other criticisms of the President refer to his en-
croachments in other directions. I am sure that he has
not exceeded his constitutional authority. If he had, I
am equally sure that you would have heard of it long
since. There are enough people searching him with can-
dles and watching him with electric lights, that, were he
to take one single step beyond the constitutional rights
of the Executive, you would have been informed of it in
the form of impeachment. Respecting the President as I
do, trusting him as I do, I cannot help feeling that he
has, however, gone further than his predecessors, and
that he has acted toward Congress and the Judiciary in
a manner that may possibly lead some corrupt successor
to use his example as a precedent, to go further and to
make a tool of other departments of the government. Be-
lieving utterly in his absolute honesty and integrity, I
cannot join those who blame him. What would you have
him do? The present President of the Ur^ited States is
no lady ; he is no bloodless ascetic ; he is no anaemic
weakling. lie is a man, in whose veins flows red blood ;
a man who has been moved to the very depths of his
nature by the vuifolding of as great a conspiracy as ever
wrecked a nation. Can we expect him to stand supinely
by, and act as so many of his fellow citizens do in the
presence of frequent acts of unrighteous aggression? as,
for instance, Pittsburghers have acted while their rights


have been ignored by political cabals? Do you think
that he can, or ought to, face national evils as we in Pitts-
burgh have stood municipal corruption, if Lincoln Stef-
fens's indictment in his "Shame of the Cities" is true?
Do you think that he should permit any railroad or other
corporate organization to make a baggage-car of the will
of the people and to charge extra rates besides? The
President is not a man to supinely submit to entrenched
evil without a protest. He is one whose whole being is
permeated with moral force. If men seek to abuse privi-
leges ; if they endeavor by means legal, but immoral, to
divert the streams of legislation in contempt of justice;
if they, by the power of a superior financial position, try
to debauch the nation ; if they, hoping to escape the con-
demnation of the righteous, indulge in methods which
savor of the era of the highwayman, is it not natural that
such a man as President Roosevelt should visit them
with burning, righteous indignation? He would not be
the man he is had he acted otherwise.

Colonial Policy.

His policies may be considered under three heads,
colonial, foreign and domestic. Here we find him acting
with a degree of political foresight and high statesman-
ship which testify to his splendid ideal of harmonizing
political legislation with moral principles. If he has been
WTong then honor is wrong, and honesty is wrong, and
morality is wrong, and conscientiousness is wrong. Cuba
had been promised independence, and Cuba has been
made free. The Philippine Islands fell into the hands
of this nation by the arbitrament of war; but the Philip-


pines are to be civilized, after the American ideal, by a
process of gradual assimilation. Last year the National
Assembly was opened in the Islands, and again the
"square deal," so loved by the President, was made mani-
fest. With both of these former Spanish possessions our
government has dealt with a degree of generosity and
honor which mark a new epoch in the history of inter-
national diplomacy.

The Panama Canal.

A Panama Canal has been the hope of many of the
best friends of the nation. After diplomatic difficulties
were removed and the Clayton Bulwer Treaty happily dis-
posed of, our government entered upon the duty of unit-


Online LibraryJoseph Leonard LevyThe President and his policies; a Sunday address before the Rodeph Shalom congregation (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 2)