Paul Leland Haworth.

Reconstruction and union, 1865-1912 online

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men there already existed a certain dread of his
youth and impulsiveness; this dread the "in-
terests" secretly fostered. It was given out that
the new president had a "lawless mind," that he
was dangerous to prosperity.

The time was ripe for the appearance of such
a man as Roosevelt upon the stage of action.
Even in the conservative East men were begin-
ning to question recent economic tendencies and
to realize that measures must be taken to rule
the new power that had arisen. Keen thinkers
conceded the benefits that accrue in the way of
economy and efficiency from confederated in-
dustry, but they doubted the worth of such
results if they were gained at the cost of law-
lessness such as obtains in a bandit's stronghold,


and if, furthermore, all the benefits were to go
to a few favored individuals. The belief was
gaining ground that brilliant as were our recent
economic victories, American business was rot-
ten at the core, and that the great fortunes that
were being built up were too often obtained by
the use of methods that would have excited the
admiration of a Machiavelli. The prestige of King
Laissez Faire, Laissez Aller, was still powerful, but
the day was at hand for a revolt against even his
long unquestioned authority.

For a score of generations the Anglo-Saxon
race had been plodding along the stony road
that led to political equality. In America this
goal had in theory been reached. But men were
beginning to see dimly that political equality
of itself is a poor thing unless accompanied by
something approaching equality of economic
opportunity. For the new battle in behalf of
industrial democracy they now began to gird
themselves. The tendencies of the times were
Socialistic, though few Americans were as yet
Socialists. They fought not for equal wealth
but for a fair start. And assuredly there could
be no fair start when the government was ad-
ministered in the interests of a plutocracy of
special privilege.

Some economists advocated government owner-
ship as the solution of the problems of the day, but
President Roosevelt favored government control.
In his first message to congress he recommended
Federal supervision of all industrial combinations
engaged in interstate commerce and the enaction
of legislation that would render impossible the


railway rebates which had proved so instrumental
in enabling great combinations to strangle weaker
competitors. Such recommendations were not
greeted with any great enthusiasm by congress.
Their reception in the senate, many of whose
members were rather the paid attorneys of pow-
erful financial interests than representatives of
the states they were supposed to serve, proved
particularly cold. It soon became apparent that
congress would do nothing unless Roosevelt
could rouse the people and thereby force congress
to legislate along progressive lines. During the
summer and autumn of 1902 he made numerous
speeches in New England and the Middle West
in which he elaborated his theory of a "square
deal" and appealed for support in the enforcement
of the law. At Cincinnati (September 20, 1902)
he said:

"We must resolutely purpose to proceed by
evolution and not by revolution. . . . The evils
attendant upon over-capitalization alone are
in my judgment sufficient to warrant a far closer
supervision and control than now exists over the
great corporations. . . . We do not wish to de-
stroy corporations; but we do wish to make them
subserve the public good. All individuals, rich
or poor, private or corporate, must be subject to
the law of the land; . . . and the Government
will hold them to a rigid obedience. The biggest
corporation, like the humblest private citizen,
must be held to strict compliance with the will
of the people as expressed in the fundamental
law. The rich man who does not see this is in
his interest is indeed short-sighted. When we

make him obey the law, we insure for him the
absolute protection of the law."

Meanwhile the president endeavored to en-
force the laws already on the statute books. By
his direction Attorney-general Knox brought
suit against the Northern Securities Company, a
holding company organized under the laws of
New Jersey for the purpose of " merging " the inter-
ests of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific
railways and destroying competition. The govern-
ment was sustained both by the Federal circuit
court (April 9, 1903) and by the supreme court
(March 14, 1904). The company was forced to
dissolve, but the public good resulting proved
disappointingly small. It was becoming more
and more apparent that some sort of government
control over rates was necessary. Proceedings
were also begun against a powerful combination
of meat packers known as the Beef Trust, and an
injunction was secured (1903) restraining the
defendants from combining, fixing prices arbi-
trarily, curtailing supplies of meat, enforcing
penalties upon retail dealers, and otherwise
restraining trade. Such activity more than ever
confirmed the "interests" in the opinion that
Roosevelt was "unsafe." He was bitterly de-
nounced as revolutionary if not anarchical.

In the summer and fall of 1902 the country
received a striking object lesson in the evils of
uncontrolled monopoly. In Pennsylvania, one
of the worst corporation-ridden states in the
Union, certain coal-carrying railroads had man-
aged, despite the prohibition of the state consti-
tution, to secure control of practically all the


anthracite coal mines. Although protected against
foreign competition by the Dingley tariff, the
companies displayed little of the concern for the
interests of their workingmen that is so prom-
inently put forward when tariff laws are in course
of enaction. Wages were low, and the companies,
by manipulating freight rates, reduced the osten-
sible profits of mining in order to justify a refusal
to raise wages and to furnish an excuse for raising
the price of coal. The miners offered to submit
their claims to arbitration, but the companies
curtly refused, and a strike followed (May 12,
1902), involving about 150,000 men. Under the
leadership of John Mitchell, president of the
United Mine Workers of America, a man of
singularly sane views, the strikers generally re-
frained from violence and retained the sympathy
of the public.

The deadlock continued through the summer,
and when the cold days of autumn came, Eastern
cities were practically without coal. Prices
soared high, and in many places fuel could not be
obtained for any money. The poor suffered, and
even hospitals had to go without fires. The
mine owners behaved in a most arrogant manner,
and in the hope of producing a reaction against
the strike withheld most of the coal they had on
hand. Popular indignation flamed high against
the monopolists; some ordinarily conservative
men even advocated the seizure of the mines by the
Federal government under the right of eminent
domain. A widespread appeal was made to the
president to take some action that would give
relief. Although realizing that he had no legal


authority in the matter, Roosevelt summoned
representatives of both parties to Washington and
appealed to them to sink personal considerations
for the public good. Mitchell promptly offered to
submit the issues to a tribunal which the presi-
dent should name. The operators haughtily
refused, and denounced the president for not
having stopped the strike. Public anger and
disgust proved so intense, however, that the
operators soon found it expedient to reconsider
and accept arbitration. Work was at once re-
sumed in the mines, the suffering from the want
of coal was quickly relieved, and the arbitration
tribunal brought in a decision favorable in the
main to the miners. The outcome greatly en-
hanced the president's influence among the
people, but it did not increase his popularity
among the representatives of predatory capital.

After a long and bitter fight the president's
efforts began to bear fruit. In December, 1903,
he managed to force through congress, against
the opposition of the cane sugar producers of
Louisiana and the beet sugar interests of the
North, favorable reciprocity concessions to Cuba.
At the same session congress consented to estab-
lish a new department of commerce and labor,
with a bureau of corporations to collect infor-
mation concerning combinations engaged in foreign
and interstate commerce. The president also
secured the passage of the so-called Elkins Act
directed against rebates, but the law was much
less drastic than the administration desired.

Meanwhile important events of a diplomatic
nature were occurring. In 1903 an arbitration


tribunal decided the long disputed Alaskan
boundary question in a manner decidedly favor-
able to the United States. During 1902-05 the
attempt of Germany and other powers to collect
debts owed their citizens by Venezuela and Santo
Domingo threatened grave international compli-
cations. Through American influence, the claims
against Venezuela were ultimately submitted to
The Hague tribunal, which scaled them down
(February 22, 1904) very decidedly. In the Santo
Domingo case the United States took charge
(1905) of the republic's custom-houses and ad-
ministered its finances in the interests of the
creditors. As a corollary to the Monroe Doc-
trine the president announced the responsibility
of the United States, in flagrant cases of a similar
character, to exercise "an international police
power," and to act as the agent in such collection.
Of far greater public interest were developments
on the Isthmus of Panama. For centuries men
had dreamed of a canal across the Isthmus, and
following the great rush of gold seekers to Cali-
fornia, the United States had taken tentative
steps to make the canal a reality. For almost half
a century there was a vast amount of talk about
a canal, but little was actually done. The long
voyage of the Oregon around South America
served as a popular object lesson of the crying
need of such a canal from a naval point of view,
while the exorbitant freight rates on goods going
to and coming from the Pacific coast furnished
an effective commercial argument. It was felt,
however, that such an enterprise ought to be
under purely American control, and the Clay-


ton-Bulwer Convention of 1850 with Great Britain
stood in the way. Numerous efforts were made
to abrogate the treaty, and shortly after Roose-
velt came to power the work was accomplished.
The new treaty, signed by Secretary Hay and
Lord Pauncefote, in effect provided that the
United States might construct a canal entirely
under its own auspices and manage the highway
as it deemed proper.

At this time it was generally supposed that the
canal would follow the Nicaragua route. An
American company had done some work on such
a canal in the early '90s, and the Federal govern-
ment had expended considerable money in inves-
tigating the practicability of the Nicaragua route.
Even before this a French company, headed by
Ferdinand de Lesseps, the builder of the Suez
Canal, had begun a canal on the Isthmus of Pan-
ama, but the affair was badly managed, and work
had to be suspended. About the time of the abro-
gation of the Clayton-Bulwer Convention the af-
fairs of the French company reached such a crisis
that early in 1902 it offered to sell all its rights to
the United States for $40,000,000. Under author-
ization from congress a commission headed by
Admiral John G. Walker was already investigating
the comparative practicability of the respective
routes; the commission now recommended that
the Panama route be adopted. Congress author-
ized the president to purchase the French com-
pany's rights for a sum not exceeding $40,000,000
and to acquire from the republic of Colombia
perpetual control over a strip of land not less
than six miles wide extending from sea to sea.


An argument that weighed heavily in inducing
congress to favor the Panama route was that it
was less subject to earthquakes and volcanic
disturbances than that through Nicaragua. The
argument proved particularly effective because
of the popular excitement over the terrible out-
break of Mont Pelee on the island of Martinique.

A treaty was presently negotiated with the
Colombian charge (January 22, 1903) leasing a
strip of land six miles wide, in return for which
the United States agreed to pay $10,000,000
down and an annuity of $250,000. The United
States senate soon ratified the treaty, but strong
opposition to the pact developed in Colombia.
In the hope of obtaining a better bargain and
perhaps of confiscating the property of the French
company, whose concession would soon expire,
the Colombian senate rejected the treaty.

The residents of the Panama region had ex-
pected great things from the canal, and felt deeply
disgruntled at the dog-in-the-manger policy of
their government. Encouraged and assisted
by agents of the French company, they seceded
from Colombia and set up an independent state.
The American government kept clear of the move-
ment until it was actually begun, when a naval
force carried out an order from Washington to
"prevent the landing of any force with hostile
intent, either Government or insurgent, at any
point within 50 miles of Panama." The justi-
fication for this order lay in the treaty of 1846
which contained a stipulation that the United
States should keep open the right of way of the
Panama Railway Company. Under this article


President Cleveland had in 1885 landed troops
at the time of the Prestien rebellion. But it can
hardly be denied that the administration's ac-
tion in the present case created a situation very
favorable to revolution.

The revolutionists quickly mastered the isth-
mus, American marines landed at Colon, and
American ships stood in the way of Colombia's
sending any more troops to the seat of the trouble.
On the 6th of November, three days after the
revolt began, Secretary Hay instructed the
American consul to recognize the de facto govern-
ment. A week later Philippe Bunau-Varilla,
former chief engineer of the French company but
now minister of the new republic, was formally
received by President Roosevelt. Other powers
followed the American lead, and Colombia found
herself powerless to do more than protest. A
convention was quickly negotiated with Panama
(November 18, 1903) whereby the United States
agreed to guarantee the independence of the new
republic. In return Panama ceded to the United
States perpetual control of a zone ten miles wide
across the Isthmus, the United States agreeing to
pay therefor $10,000,000 down and an annuity
of $250,000 beginning nine years thereafter. De-
spite opposition, the treaty was duly ratified by
the senate (February 23, 1904) by a vote of 66
to 14.

Grave difference of opinion existed as to our
course in the matter. President Roosevelt justi-
fied his action on the ground of Colombia's
mercenary conduct and her inability to preserve
order. He contended that Colombia had no right


"to bar the transit of the world's traffic across
the isthmus," and argued that "intervention was
justified by the treaty of 1846, by our national
interests, and by the interests of civilization at
large." To many his arguments were not con-
clusive, but Colombia had behaved in so un-
neighborly a fashion and the prospect of a canal
was so fascinating that the great body of Amer-
icans applauded the accomplished fact and did
not care to scrutinize too closely the means by
which it had been brought about.

The purchase of the French company's inter-
ests was consummated, and steps were taken
"to make the dirt fly." Transcontinental rail-
roads and political opponents of the president
did what they could to make the enterprise a
failure, and for a time the engineers selected to
manage the work proved themselves in one way
or another unfitted for the task. But much was
accomplished in the way of sanitary precautions
and the assembling of material, and the lock
type of canal was fixed upon. Early in 1907 the
president took the wise step of committing the
great undertaking to army engineers. Since then,
under the capable direction of Lieutenant-colonel
George W. Goethals, progress has been rapid.
Present indications point to the completion of the
canal not later than 1913.

President Roosevelt inherited from his prede-
cessor some flagrant frauds in the post-office
department. Many politicians urged that the
matter should be hushed up, but with character-
istic energy the president worked to purge the
administration of the wrong-doers. In 1903-04


a searching investigation conducted by Fourth
Assistant-postmaster-general Bristow disclosed
the fact that conspirators by collusion in con-
tracts and in other ways had cheated the govern-
ment out of some hundreds of thousands of
dollars. Many officers resigned or were removed.
Upwards of forty were indicted, and many were
convicted, but some of the leaders escaped by
invoking the statute of limitations. Under Roose-
velt's inspiration, Senator Burton of Kansas was
prosecuted for illegally using his influence with
the post-office department to prevent the issue
of a fraud order against a company of question-
able character. Burton was convicted and
sentenced to a year in the penitentiary. Another
senator was tried on a charge of bribery in
connection with the post-office but escaped

The president's action in these cases greatly
increased his popularity, but some of the party
leaders and the "special interests" failed to de-
velop any notable enthusiasm for him. In the
whiter of 1903-04 a movement was begun to
prevent his nomination and to substitute Senator
Hanna, head of the Republican national com-
mittee. But hi February, 1904, Hanna died;
and popular feeling, aroused by the conspiracy,
made itself felt in so unmistakable a fashion as to
enable Roosevelt to dominate the party com-
pletely. When the convention met in Chicago
in June, it nominated him by acclamation, with
Senator Charles W. Fairbanks of Indiana as
his associate on the ticket. Fairbanks represented
the conservative whig, and his reserved and


formal manners won for him the nickname of

The Democratic convention met at St. Louis
on July 6th. Bryan's successive defeats had
weakened his hold upon the party, and the "safe
and sane" element controlled the convention.
Nevertheless, Bryan succeeded in excluding from
the platform all reference to the money question.
On the first ballot, Alton B. Parker, chief judge of
the New York court of appeals, was nominated
for the presidency, his nearest competitor being
William Randolph Hearst, the owner of the
Hearst newspapers. Judge Parker immediately
telegraphed to the convention that he considered
"the gold standard as firmly and irrevocably
established," and that if this view was unsatis-
factory to the majority, he must decline the
nomination. Contrary to the wishes of Bryan,
the convention replied that the platform was
silent on the money question because it was not
regarded "as a possible issue in this campaign."
For the vice-presidency the convention nomi-
nated Henry Gassaway Davis, an octogenarian
millionaire of West Virginia.

Judge Parker owed his nomination to conserva-
tive influences, and he was more satisfactory to
"the interests" than Roosevelt. But it presently
became apparent that Parker would be defeated,
and "Big Business," not being in the habit of
backing losing causes, rendered him compara-
tively little aid. Bryan supported the ticket
loyally, but hundreds of thousands of his ad-
mirers could not forget that the influences behind
Judge Parker had repudiated the candidate in


1896. The Democrats made the mistake of fight-
ing the campaign largely on the issue of Roose-
velt's personality and raised the cry that the
constitution was in danger. As a forlorn hope,
Judge Parker took the stump, but his abilities
as a speaker and leader proved mediocre. He
made extravagant charges regarding the govern-
ment of the Philippines that he was unable to
substantiate, and in speeches at Madison Square
Garden and elsewhere he insinuated that his
opponent had placed George B. Cortelyou in
charge of the Republican campaign because
Cortelyou, having been secretary of the depart-
ment of commerce and labor, possessed corpora-
tion secrets that put him in a favorable position
to blackmail the trusts into making campaign
contributions. Roosevelt issued a heated reply
characterizing the charge as "unqualifiedly and
atrociously false." He admitted that corporations
were contributing to the Republican fund as
others were to the Democratic fund, but he
pointed out that the department of commerce
and labor had been so recently organized that as
yet it had no corporation secrets. He declared
that, if elected, he would go into the presidency
unhampered by any pledge or promise except to
"see to it that every man has a square deal, no
less and no more."

The returns from the election showed that Judge
Parker was the worst defeated man since Horace
Greeley. The apostle of "the square deal"
received 336 electoral votes as against 140 for
his opponent, and a popular plurality of upwards
of two millions and a half. He carried even


Missouri and Kentucky and received one electoral
vote in Maryland. The moment that the result
was no longer in doubt Roosevelt issued a short
statement to the effect that he would under no
circumstances be a candidate for re-election. It
was his declaration of independence from the

A notable feature of the election was the inde-
pendence displayed by the voters. In five of the
states carried by Roosevelt, Democratic governors
were elected, and in many places smashing blows
were delivered at political machines. Every-
where there was a revolt against political corrup-
tion and the rule of the plutocracy. The result
is attributable in large measure to the president's
utterances in favor of reform and to a campaign
along the same lines conducted by certain power-
ful magazines. Franchise-looting was falling into
disfavor, and in several cities, notably Chicago,
Toledo, and Cleveland, mayors were chosen
who advocated municipal ownership of public
utilities. Both before and after the election the
"muck rakers" stirred every political cesspool to
its depths, and though the results often distressed
patriotic Americans, there was promise of better
things. Bad conditions still continued in many
places. Some cities and states remained "cor-
rupt and unashamed." Selfish interests still
lurked in the shadows watching covertly for the
first signs of public indifference in order to ac-
complish their corrupt designs. But the atmos-
phere had been cleared. The years of Roosevelt's
rule will always be notable for a revolution in the
attitude of men toward political and financial


In the summer of 1905 President Roosevelt
stood on perhaps the highest pinnacle of fame
ever attained by an American in his own lifetime.
At home the voice of faction was temporarily
stilled; even Democrats paid homage to the
president's honesty of purpose. By aiding in
bringing to a close the bloody Japanese-Russian
war he performed a service for humanity at large
that won for him the coveted Nobel prize and the
admiration of both hemispheres. Even by his
bitterest enemy among newspapers he was re-
spectfully greeted as "the world's first citizen."

Such homage was flattering, but it could not
last. As time passed, the president's prosecution
of powerful lawbreakers and his efforts to secure
further reforms roused an opposition that grew
more and more bitter. His last administration
proved a period of almost constant struggle,
and his conflicts with congress and with individ-
uals assumed a personal character that reminded
the historian of the days of Johnson and Jackson.
In the fall of 1907 a financial panic reacted upon
his administration as such an event always
reacts upon the party in power. By dismissing
from the service without honor a battalion of
colored troops, some of whom had "shot up"
the town of Brownsville, Texas, he also alienated

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Online LibraryPaul Leland HaworthReconstruction and union, 1865-1912 → online text (page 14 of 20)