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Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). An Autobiography. 1913.

X. The Presidency; Making an Old Party Progressive

ON September 6, 1901, President McKinley was shot by an Anarchist in the city of Buffalo. I went to Buffalo at once. The President’s condition seemed to be improving, and after a day or two we were told that he was practically out of danger. I then joined my family, who were in the Adirondacks, near the foot of Mount Tahawus. A day or two afterwards we took a long tramp through the forest, and in the afternoon I climbed Mount Tahawus. After reaching the top I had descended a few hundred feet to a shelf of land where there was a little lake, when I saw a guide coming out of the woods on our trail from below. I felt at once that he had bad news, and, sure enough, he handed me a telegram saying that the President’s condition was much worse and that I must come to Buffalo immediately. It was late in the afternoon, and darkness had fallen by the time I reached the clubhouse where we were staying. It was some time afterwards before I could get a wagon to drive me out to the nearest railway station, North Creek, some forty or fifty miles distant. The roads were the ordinary wilderness roads and the night was dark. But we changed horses two or three times—when I say “we” I mean the driver and I, as there was no one else with us—and reached the station just at dawn, to learn from Mr. Loeb, who had a special train waiting, that the President was dead. That evening I took the oath of office, in the house of Ansley Wilcox, at Buffalo.

On three previous occasions the Vice-President had succeeded to the Presidency on the death of the President. In each case there had been a reversal of party policy, and a nearly immediate and nearly complete change in the personnel of the higher offices, especially the Cabinet. I had never felt that this was wise from any standpoint. If a man is fit to be President, he will speedily so impress himself in the office that the policies pursued will be his anyhow, and he will not have to bother as to whether he is changing them or not; while as regards the offices under him, the important thing for him is that his subordinates shall make a success in handling their several departments. The subordinate is sure to desire to make a success of his department for his own sake, and if he is a fit man, whose views on public policy are sound, and whose abilities entitle him to his position, he will do excellently under almost any chief with the same purposes.

I at once announced that I would continue unchanged McKinley’s policies for the honor and prosperity of the country, and I asked all the members of the Cabinet to stay. There were no changes made among them save as changes were made among their successors whom I myself appointed. I continued Mr. McKinley’s policies, changing and developing them and adding new policies only as the questions before the public changed and as the needs of the public developed. Some of my friends shook their heads over this, telling me that the men I retained would not be “loyal to me,” and that I would seem as if I were “a pale copy of McKinley.” I told them that I was not nervous on this score, and that if the men I retained were loyal to their work they would be giving me the loyalty for which I most cared; and that if they were not, I would change them anyhow; and that as for being “a pale copy of McKinley,” I was not primarily concerned with either following or not following in his footsteps, but in facing the new problems that arose; and that if I were competent I would find ample opportunity to show my competence by my deeds without worrying myself as to how to convince people of the fact.

For the reasons I have already given in my chapter on the Governorship of New York, the Republican party, which in the days of Abraham Lincoln was founded as the radical progressive party of the Nation, had been obliged during the last decade of the nineteenth century to uphold the interests of popular government against a foolish and illjudged mock-radicalism. It remained the Nationalist as against the particularist or State’s rights party, and in so far it remained absolutely sound; for little permanent good can be done by any party which worships the State’s rights fetich or which fails to regard the State, like the county or the municipality, as merely a convenient unit for local self-government, while in all National matters, of importance to the whole people, the Nation is to be supreme over State, county, and town alike. But the State’s rights fetich, although still effectively used at certain times by both courts and Congress to block needed National legislation directed against the huge corporations or in the interests of workingmen, was not a prime issue at the time of which I speak. In 1896, 1898, and 1900 the campaigns were waged on two great moral issues: (1) the imperative need of a sound and honest currency; (2) the need, after 1898, of meeting in manful and straightforward fashion the extraterritorial problems arising from the Spanish War. On these great moral issues the Republican party was right, and the men who were opposed to it, and who claimed to be the radicals, and their allies among the sentimentalists, were utterly and hopelessly wrong. This had, regrettably but perhaps inevitably, tended to throw the party into the hands not merely of the conservatives but of the reactionaries; of men who, sometimes for personal and improper reasons, but more often with entire sincerity and uprightness of purpose, distrusted anything that was progressive and dreaded radicalism. These men still from force of habit applauded what Lincoln had done in the way of radical dealing with the abuses of his day; but they did not apply the spirit in which Lincoln worked to the abuses of their own day. Both houses of Congress were controlled by these men. Their leaders in the Senate were Messrs. Aldrich and Hale. The Speaker of the House when I became President was Mr. Henderson, but in a little over a year he was succeeded by Mr. Cannon, who, although widely differing from Senator Aldrich in matters of detail, represented the same type of public sentiment. There were many points on which I agreed with Mr. Cannon and Mr. Aldrich, and some points on which I agreed with Mr. Hale. I made a resolute effort to get on with all three and with their followers, and I have no question that they made an equally resolute effort to get on with me. We succeeded in working together, although with increasing friction, for some years, I pushing forward and they hanging back. Gradually, however, I was forced to abandon the effort to persuade them to come my way, and then I achieved results only by appealing over the heads of the Senate and House leaders to the people, who were the masters of both of us. I continued in this way to get results until almost the close of my term; and the Republican party became once more the progressive and indeed the fairly radical progressive party of the Nation. When my successor was chosen, however, the leaders of the House and Senate, or most of them, felt that it was safe to come to a break with me, and the last or short session of Congress, held between the election of my successor and his inauguration four months later, saw a series of contests between the majorities in the two houses of Congress and the President,—myself,—quite as bitter as if they and I had belonged to opposite political parties. However, I held my own. I was not able to push through the legislation I desired during these four months, but I was able to prevent them doing anything I did not desire, or undoing anything that I had already succeeded in getting done.

There were, of course, many Senators and members of the lower house with whom up to the very last I continued to work in hearty accord, and with a growing understanding. I have not the space to enumerate, as I would like to, these men. For many years Senator Lodge had been my close personal and political friend, with whom I discussed all public questions that arose, usually with agreement; and our intimately close relations were of course unchanged by my entry into the White House. He was of all our public men the man who had made the closest and wisest study of our foreign relations, and more clearly than almost any other man he understood the vital fact that the efficiency of our navy conditioned our national efficiency in foreign affairs. Anything relating to our international relations, from Panama and the navy to the Alaskan boundary question, the Algeciras negotiations, or the peace of Portsmouth, I was certain to discuss with Senator Lodge and also with certain other members of Congress, such as Senator Turner of Washington and Representative Hitt of Illinois. Anything relating to labor legislation and to measures for controlling big business or efficiently regulating the giant railway systems, I was certain to discuss with Senator Dolliver or Congressman Hepburn or Congressman Cooper. With men like Senator Beveridge, Congressman (afterwards Senator) Dixon, and Congressman Murdock, I was apt to discuss pretty nearly everything relating to either our internal or our external affairs. There were many, many others. The present president of the Senate, Senator Clark, of Arkansas, was as fearless and high-minded a representative of the people of the United States as I ever dealt with. He was one of the men who combined loyalty to his own State with an equally keen loyalty to the people of all the United States. He was politically opposed to me; but when the interests of the country were at stake, he was incapable of considering party differences; and this was especially his attitude in international matters—including certain treaties which most of his party colleagues, with narrow lack of patriotism, and complete subordination of National to factional interest, opposed. I have never anywhere met finer, more faithful, more disinterested, and more loyal public servants than Senator O. H. Platt, a Republican, from Connecticut, and Senator Cockrell, a Democrat, from Missouri. They were already old men when I came to the Presidency; and doubtless there were points on which I seemed to them to be extreme and radical; but eventually they found that our motives and beliefs were the same, and they did all in their power to help any movement that was for the interest of our people as a whole. I had met them when I was Civil Service Commissioner and Assistant Secretary of the Navy. All I ever had to do with either was to convince him that a given measure I championed was right, and he then at once did all he could to have it put into effect. If I could not convince them, why! that was my fault, or my misfortune; but if I could convince them, I never had to think again as to whether they would or would not support me. There were many other men of mark in both houses with whom I could work on some points, whereas on others we had to differ. There was one powerful leader—a burly, forceful man, of admirable traits—who had, however, been trained in the post-bellum school of business and politics, so that his attitude towards life, quite unconsciously, reminded me a little of Artemus Ward’s view of the Tower of London—“If I like it, I’ll buy it.” There was a big governmental job in which this leader was much interested, and in reference to which he always wished me to consult a man whom he trusted, whom I will call Pitt Rodney. One day I answered him, “The trouble with Rodney is that he misestimates his relations to cosmos”; to which he responded, “Cosmos—Cosmos? Never heard of him. You stick to Rodney. He’s your man!” Outside of the public servants there were multitudes of men, in newspaper offices, in magazine offices, in business or the professions or on farms or in shops, who actively supported the policies for which I stood and did work of genuine leadership which was quite as effective as any work done by men in public office. Without the active support of these men I would have been powerless. In particular, the leading newspaper correspondents at Washington were as a whole a singularly able, trustworthy, and public-spirited body of men, and the most useful of all agents in the fight for efficient and decent government.

As for the men under me in executive office, I could not overstate the debt of gratitude I owe them. From the heads of the departments, the Cabinet officers, down, the most striking feature of the Administration was the devoted, zealous, and efficient work that was done as soon as it became understood that the one bond of interest among all of us was the desire to make the Government the most effective instrument in advancing the interests of the people as a whole, the interests of the average men and women of the United States and of their children. I do not think I overstate the case when I say that most of the men who did the best work under me felt that ours was a partnership, that we all stood on the same level of purpose and service, and that it mattered not what position any one of us held so long as in that position he gave the very best that was in him. We worked very hard; but I made a point of getting a couple of hours off each day for equally vigorous play. The men with whom I then played, whom we laughingly grew to call the “Tennis Cabinet,” have been mentioned in a previous chapter of this book in connection with the gift they gave me at the last breakfast which they took at the White House. There were many others in the public service under me with whom I happened not to play, but who did their share of our common work just as effectively as it was done by us who did play. Of course nothing could have been done in my Administration if it had not been for the zeal, intelligence, masterful ability, and downright hard labor of these men in countless positions under me. I was helpless to do anything except as my thoughts and orders were translated into action by them; and, moreover, each of them, as he grew specially fit for his job, used to suggest to me the right thought to have, and the right order to give, concerning that job. It is of course hard for me to speak with cold and dispassionate partiality of these men, who were as close to me as were the men of my regiment. But the outside observers best fitted to pass judgment about them felt as I did. At the end of my Administration Mr. Bryce, the British Ambassador, told me that in a long life, during which he had studied intimately the government of many different countries, he had never in any country seen a more eager, high-minded, and efficient set of public servants, men more useful and more creditable to their country, than the men then doing the work of the American Government in Washington and in the field. I repeat this statement with the permission of Mr. Bryce.

At about the same time, or a little before, in the spring of 1908, there appeared in the English Fortnightly Review an article, evidently by a competent eye witness, setting forth more in detail the same views to which the British Ambassador thus privately gave expression. It was in part as follows:

“Mr. Roosevelt has gathered around him a body of public servants who are nowhere surpassed, I question whether they are anywhere equaled, for efficiency, self-sacrifice, and an absolute devotion to their country’s interests. Many of them are poor men, without private means, who have voluntarily abandoned high professional ambitions and turned their backs on the rewards of business to serve their country on salaries that are not merely inadequate, but indecently so. There is not one of them who is not constantly assailed by offers of positions in the world of commerce, finance, and the law that would satisfy every material ambition with which he began life. There is not one of them who could not, if he chose, earn outside Washington from ten to twenty times the income on which he economizes as a State official. But these men are as indifferent to money and to the power that money brings as to the allurements of Newport and New York, or to merely personal distinctions, or to the commercialized ideals which the great bulk of their fellow-countrymen accept without question. They are content, and more than content, to sink themselves in the National service without a thought of private advancement, and often at a heavy sacrifice of worldly honors, and to toil on … sustained by their own native impulse to make of patriotism an efficient instrument of public betterment.”

The American public rarely appreciate the high quality of the work done by some of our diplomats—work, usually entirely unnoticed and unrewarded, which redounds to the interest and the honor of all of us. The most useful man in the entire diplomatic service, during my presidency, and for many years before, was Henry White; and I say this having in mind the high quality of work done by such admirable ambassadors and ministers as Bacon, Meyer, Straus, O’Brien, Rockhill, and Egan, to name only a few among many. When I left the presidency White was Ambassador to France; shortly afterwards he was removed by Mr. Taft, for reasons unconnected with the good of the service.

The most important factor in getting the right spirit in my Administration, next to the insistence upon courage, honesty, and a genuine democracy of desire to serve the plain people, was my insistence upon the theory that the executive power was limited only by specific restrictions and prohibitions appearing in the Constitution or imposed by the Congress under its Constitutional powers. My view was that every executive officer, and above all every executive officer in high position, was a steward of the people bound actively and affirmatively to do all he could for the people, and not to content himself with the negative merit of keeping his talents undamaged in a napkin. I declined to adopt the view that what was imperatively necessary for the Nation could not be done by the President unless he could find some specific authorization to do it. My belief was that it was not only his right but his duty to do anything that the needs of the Nation demanded unless such action was forbidden by the Constitution or by the laws. Under this interpretation of executive power I did and caused to be done many things not previously done by the President and the heads of the departments. I did not usurp power, but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power. In other words, I acted for the public welfare, I acted for the common well-being of all our people, whenever and in whatever manner was necessary, unless prevented by direct constitutional or legislative prohibition. I did not care a rap for the mere form and show of power; I cared immensely for the use that could be made of the substance. The Senate at one time objected to my communicating with them in printing, preferring the expensive, foolish, and laborious practice of writing out the messages by hand. It was not possible to return to the outworn archaism of hand writing; but we endeavored to have the printing made as pretty as possible. Whether I communicated with the Congress in writing or by word of mouth, and whether the writing was by a machine, or a pen, were equally, and absolutely, unimportant matters. The importance lay in what I said and in the heed paid to what I said. So as to my meeting and consulting Senators, Congressmen, politicians, financiers, and labor men. I consulted all who wished to see me; and if I wished to see any one, I sent for him; and where the consultation took place was a matter of supreme unimportance. I consulted every man with the sincere hope that I could profit by and follow his advice; I consulted every member of Congress who wished to be consulted, hoping to be able to come to an agreement of action with him; and I always finally acted as my conscience and common sense bade me act.

About appointments I was obliged by the Constitution to consult the Senate; and the long-established custom of the Senate meant that in practice this consultation was with individual Senators and even with big politicians who stood behind the Senators. I was only one-half the appointing power; I nominated; but the Senate confirmed. In practice, by what was called “the courtesy of the Senate,” the Senate normally refused to confirm any appointment if the Senator from the State objected to it. In exceptional cases, where I could arouse public attention, I could force through the appointment in spite of the opposition of the Senators; in all ordinary cases this was impossible. On the other hand, the Senator could of course do nothing for any man unless I chose to nominate him. In consequence the Constitution itself forced the President and the Senators from each State to come to a working agreement on the appointments in and from that State.

My course was to insist on absolute fitness, including honesty, as a prerequisite to every appointment; and to remove only for good cause, and, where there was such cause, to refuse even to discuss with the Senator in interest the unfit servant’s retention. Subject to these considerations, I normally accepted each Senator’s recommendations for offices of a routine kind, such as most post-offices and the like, but insisted on myself choosing the men for the more important positions. I was willing to take any good man for postmaster; but in the case of a Judge or District Attorney or Canal Commissioner or Ambassador, I was apt to insist either on a given man or else on any man with a given class of qualifications. If the Senator deceived me, I took care that he had no opportunity to repeat the deception.

I can perhaps best illustrate my theory of action by two specific examples. In New York Governor Odell and Senator Platt sometimes worked in agreement and sometimes were at swords’ points, and both wished to be consulted. To a friendly Congressman, who was also their friend, I wrote as follows on July 22, 1903:

“I want to work with Platt. I want to work with Odell. I want to support both and take the advice of both. But of course ultimately I must be the judge as to acting on the advice given. When, as in the case of the judgeship, I am convinced that the advice of both is wrong, I shall act as I did when I appointed Holt. When I can find a friend of Odell’s like Cooley, who is thoroughly fit for the position I desire to fill, it gives me the greatest pleasure to appoint him. When Platt proposes to me a man like Hamilton Fish, it is equally a pleasure to appoint him.”

This was written in connection with events which led up to my refusing to accept Senator Platt’s or Governor Odell’s suggestions as to a Federal Judgeship and a Federal District Attorneyship, and insisting on the appointment, first of Judge Hough and later of District Attorney Stimson; because in each case I felt that the work to be done was of so high an order that I could not take an ordinary man.

The other case was that of Senator Fulton, of Oregon. Through Francis Heney I was prosecuting men who were implicated in a vast network of conspiracy against the law in connection with the theft of public land in Oregon. I had been acting on Senator Fulton’s recommendations for office, in the usual manner. Heney had been insisting that Fulton was in league with the men we were prosecuting, and that he had recommended unfit men. Fulton had been protesting against my following Heney’s advice, particularly as regards appointing Judge Wolverton as United States Judge. Finally Heney laid before me a report which convinced me of the truth of his statements. I then wrote to Fulton as follows, on November 20, 1905: “My dear Senator Fulton: I inclose you herewith a copy of the report made to me by Mr. Heney. I have seen the originals of the letters from you and Senator Mitchell quoted therein. I do not at this time desire to discuss the report itself, which of course I must submit to the Attorney-General. But I have been obliged to reach the painful conclusion that your own letters as therein quoted tend to show that you recommended for the position of District Attorney B when you had good reason to believe that he had himself been guilty of fraudulent conduct; that you recommended C for the same position simply because it was for B’s interest that he should be so recommended, and, as there is reason to believe, because he had agreed to divide the fees with B if he were appointed; and that you finally recommended the reappointment of H with the knowledge that if H were appointed he would abstain from prosecuting B for criminal misconduct, this being why B advocated H’s claims for reappointment. If you care to make any statement in the matter, I shall of course be glad to hear it. As the District Judge of Oregon I shall appoint Judge Wolverton.” In the letter I of course gave in full the names indicated above by initials. Senator Fulton gave no explanation. I therefore ceased to consult him about appointments under the Department of Justice and the Interior, the two departments in which the crookedness had occurred—there was no question of crookedness in the other offices in the State, and they could be handled in the ordinary manner. Legal proceedings were undertaken against his colleague in the Senate, and one of his colleagues in the lower house, and the former was convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary.

In a number of instances the legality of executive acts of my Administration was brought before the courts. They were uniformly sustained. For example, prior to 1907 statutes relating to the disposition of coal lands had been construed as fixing the flat price at $10 to $20 per acre. The result was that valuable coal lands were sold for wholly inadequate prices, chiefly to big corporations. By executive order the coal lands were withdrawn and not opened for entry until proper classification was placed thereon by Government agents. There was a great clamor that I was usurping legislative power; but the acts were not assailed in court until we brought suits to set aside entries made by persons and associations to obtain larger areas than the statutes authorized. This position was opposed on the ground that the restrictions imposed were illegal; that the executive orders were illegal. The Supreme Court sustained the Government. In the same way our attitude in the water power question was sustained, the Supreme Court holding that the Federal Government had the rights we claimed over streams that are or may be declared navigable by Congress. Again, when Oklahoma became a State we were obliged to use the executive power to protect Indian rights and property, for there had been an enormous amount of fraud in the obtaining of Indian lands by white men. Here we were denounced as usurping power over a State as well as usurping power that did not belong to the executive. The Supreme Court sustained our action.

In connection with the Indians, by the way, it was again and again necessary to assert the position of the President as steward of the whole people. I had a capital Indian Commissioner, Francis E. Leupp. I found that I could rely on his judgment not to get me into fights that were unnecessary, and therefore I always backed him to the limit when he told me that a fight was necessary. On one occasion, for example, Congress passed a bill to sell to settlers about half a million acres of Indian land in Oklahoma at one and a half dollars an acre. I refused to sign it, and turned the matter over to Leupp. The bill was accordingly withdrawn, amended so as to safeguard the welfare of the Indians, and the minimum price raised to five dollars an acre. Then I signed the bill. We sold that land under sealed bids, and realized for the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache Indians more than four million dollars—three millions and a quarter more than they would have obtained if I had signed the bill in its original form. In another case, where there had been a division among the Sac and Fox Indians, part of the tribe removing to Iowa, the Iowa delegation in Congress, backed by two Iowans who were members of my Cabinet, passed a bill awarding a sum of nearly a half million dollars to the Iowa seceders. They had not consulted the Indian Bureau. Leupp protested against the bill, and I vetoed it. A subsequent bill was passed on the lines laid down by the Indian Bureau, referring the whole controversy to the courts, and the Supreme Court in the end justified our position by deciding against the Iowa seceders and awarding the money to the Oklahoma stay-at-homes.

As to all action of this kind there have long been two schools of political thought, upheld with equal sincerity. The division has not normally been along political, but temperamental, lines. The course I followed, of regarding the executive as subject only to the people, and, under the Constitution, bound to serve the people affirmatively in cases where the Constitution does not explicitly forbid him to render the service, was substantially the course followed by both Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. Other honorable and well-meaning Presidents, such as James Buchanan, took the opposite and, as it seems to me, narrowly legalistic view that the President is the servant of Congress rather than of the people, and can do nothing, no matter how necessary it be to act, unless the Constitution explicitly commands the action. Most able lawyers who are past middle age take this view, and so do large numbers of well-meaning, respectable citizens. My successor in office took this, the Buchanan, view of the President’s powers and duties.

For example, under my Administration we found that one of the favorite methods adopted by the men desirous of stealing the public domain was to carry the decision of the Secretary of the Interior into court. By vigorously opposing such action, and only by so doing, we were able to carry out the policy of properly protecting the public domain. My successor not only took the opposite view, but recommended to Congress the passage of a bill which would have given the courts direct appellate power over the Secretary of the Interior in these land matters. This bill was reported favorably by Mr. Mondell, Chairman of the House Committee on public lands, a Congressman who took the lead in every measure to prevent the conservation of our natural resources and the preservation of the National domain for the use of home-seekers. Fortunately, Congress declined to pass the bill. Its passage would have been a veritable calamity.

I acted on the theory that the President could at any time in his discretion withdraw from entry any of the public lands of the United States and reserve the same for forestry, for water-power sites, for irrigation, and other public purposes. Without such action it would have been impossible to stop the activity of the land thieves. No one ventured to test its legality by lawsuit. My successor, however, himself questioned it, and referred the matter to Congress. Again Congress showed its wisdom by passing a law which gave the President the power which he had long exercised, and of which my successor had shorn himself.

Perhaps the sharp difference between what may be called the Lincoln-Jackson and the Buchanan-Taft schools, in their views of the power and duties of the President, may be best illustrated by comparing the attitude of my successor toward his Secretary of the Interior, Mr. Ballinger, when the latter was accused of gross misconduct in office, with my attitude towards my chiefs of department and other subordinate officers. More than once while I was President my officials were attacked by Congress, generally because these officials did their duty well and fearlessly. In every such case I stood by the official and refused to recognize the right of Congress to interfere with me excepting by impeachment or in other Constitutional manner. On the other hand, wherever I found the officer unfit for his position I promptly removed him, even although the most influential men in Congress fought for his retention. The Jackson-Lincoln view is that a President who is fit to do good work should be able to form his own judgment as to his own subordinates, and, above all, of the subordinates standing highest and in closest and most intimate touch with him. My secretaries and their subordinates were responsible to me, and I accepted the responsibility for all their deeds. As long as they were satisfactory to me I stood by them against every critic or assailant, within or without Congress; and as for getting Congress to make up my mind for me about them, the thought would have been inconceivable to me. My successor took the opposite, or Buchanan, view when he permitted and requested Congress to pass judgment on the charges made against Mr. Ballinger as an executive officer. These charges were made to the President; the President had the facts before him and could get at them at any time, and he alone had power to act if the charges were true. However, he permitted and requested Congress to investigate Mr. Ballinger. The party minority of the committee that investigated him, and one member of the majority, declared that the charges were well founded and that Mr. Ballinger should be removed. The other members of the majority declared the charges ill founded. The President abode by the view of the majority. Of course believers in the Jackson-Lincoln theory of the Presidency would not be content with this town meeting majority and minority method of determining by another branch of the Government what it seems the especial duty of the President himself to determine for himself in dealing with his own subordinate in his own department.

There are many worthy people who reprobate the Buchanan method as a matter of history, but who in actual life reprobate still more strongly the Jackson-Lincoln method when it is put into practice. These persons conscientiously believe that the President should solve every doubt in favor of inaction as against action, that he should construe strictly and narrowly the Constitutional grant of powers both to the National Government, and to the President within the National Government. In addition, however, to the men who conscientiously believe in this course from high, although as I hold misguided, motives, there are many men who affect to believe in it merely because it enables them to attack and to try to hamper, for partisan or personal reasons, an executive whom they dislike. There are other men in whom, especially when they are themselves in office, practical adherence to the Buchanan principle represents not well-thought-out devotion to an unwise course, but simple weakness of character and desire to avoid trouble and responsibility. Unfortunately, in practice it makes little difference which class of ideas actuates the President, who by his action sets a cramping precedent. Whether he is highminded and wrongheaded or merely infirm of purpose, whether he means well feebly or is bound by a mischievous misconception of the powers and duties of the National Government and of the President, the effect of his actions is the same. The President’s duty is to act so that he himself and his subordinates shall be able to do efficient work for the people, and this efficient work he and they cannot do if Congress is permitted to undertake the task of making up his mind for him as to how he shall perform what is clearly his sole duty.

One of the ways in which by independent action of the executive we were able to accomplish an immense amount of work for the public was through volunteer unpaid commissions appointed by the President. It was possible to get the work done by these volunteer commissions only because of the enthusiasm for the public service which, starting in the higher offices at Washington, made itself felt throughout the Government departments—as I have said, I never knew harder and more disinterested work done by any people than was done by the men and women of all ranks in the Government service. The contrast was really extraordinary between their live interest in their work and the traditional clerical apathy which has so often been the distinguishing note of governmental work in Washington. Most of the public service performed by these volunteer commissions, carried on without a cent of pay to the men themselves, and wholly without cost to the Government, was done by men the great majority of whom were already in the Government service and already charged with responsibilities amounting each to a full man’s job.

The first of these Commissions was the Commission on the Organization of Government Scientific Work, whose Chairman was Charles D. Walcott. Appointed March 13, 1903, its duty was to report directly to the President “upon the organization, present condition, and needs of the Executive Government work wholly or partly scientific in character, and upon the steps which should be taken, if any, to prevent the duplication of such work, to co-ordinate its various branches, to increase its efficiency and economy, and to promote its usefulness to the Nation at large.” This Commission spent four months in an examination which covered the work of about thirty of the larger scientific and executive bureaus of the Government, and prepared a report which furnished the basis for numerous improvements in the Government service.

Another Commission, appointed June 2, 1905, was that on Department Methods—Charles H. Keep, Chairman—whose task was to “find out what changes are needed to place the conduct of the executive business of the Government in all its branches on the most economical and effective basis in the light of the best modern business practice.” The letter appointing this Commission laid down nine principles of effective Governmental work, the most striking of which was: “The existence of any method, standard, custom, or practice is no reason for its continuance when a better is offered.” This Commission, composed like that just described, of men already charged with important work, performed its functions wholly without cost to the Government. It was assisted by a body of about seventy experts in the Government departments chosen for their special qualifications to carry forward a study of the best methods in business, and organized into assistant committees under the leadership of Overton W. Price, Secretary of the Commission. These assistant committees, all of whose members were still carrying on their regular work, made their reports during the last half of 1906. The Committee informed itself fully regarding the business methods of practically every individual branch of the business of the Government, and effected a marked improvement in general efficiency throughout the service. The conduct of the routine business of the Government had never been thoroughly overhauled before, and this examination of it resulted in the promulgation of a set of working principles for the transaction of public business which are as sound to-day as they were when the Committee finished its work. The somewhat elaborate and costly investigations of Government business methods since made have served merely to confirm the findings of the Committee on Departmental Methods, which were achieved without costing the Government a dollar. The actual saving in the conduct of the business of the Government through the better methods thus introduced amounted yearly to many hundreds of thousands of dollars; but a far more important gain was due to the remarkable success of the Commission in establishing a new point of view in public servants toward their work.

The need for improvement in the Governmental methods of transacting business may be illustrated by an actual case. An officer in charge of an Indian agency made a requisition in the autumn for a stove costing seven dollars, certifying at the same time that it was needed to keep the infirmary warm during the winter, because the old stove was worn out. Thereupon the customary papers went through the customary routine, without unusual delay at any point. The transaction moved like a glacier with dignity to its appointed end, and the stove reached the infirmary in good order in time for the Indian agent to acknowledge its arrival in these words: “The stove is here. So is spring.”

The Civil Service Commission, under men like John McIlhenny and Garfield, rendered service without which the Government could have been conducted with neither efficiency nor honesty. The politicians were not the only persons at fault; almost as much improper pressure for appointments is due to mere misplaced sympathy, and to the spiritless inefficiency which seeks a Government office as a haven for the incompetent. An amusing feature of office seeking is that each man desiring an office is apt to look down on all others with the same object as forming an objectionable class with which he has nothing in common. At the time of the eruption of Mt. Pelée, when among others the American Consul was killed, a man who had long been seeking an appointment promptly applied for the vacancy. He was a good man, of persistent nature, who felt I had been somewhat blind to his merits. The morning after the catastrophe he wrote, saying that as the consul was dead he would like his place, and that I could surely give it to him, because “even the office seekers could not have applied for it yet!”

The method of public service involved in the appointment and the work of the two commissions just described was applied also in the establishment of four other commissions, each of which performed its task without salary or expense for its members, and wholly without cost to the Government. The other four commissions were:

Commission on Public Lands;
Commission on Inland Waterways;
Commission on Country Life; and
Commission on National Conservation.

All of these commissions were suggested to me by Gifford Pinchot, who served upon them all. The work of the last four will be touched upon in connection with the chapter on Conservation. These commissions by their reports and findings directly interfered with many place-holders who were doing inefficient work, and their reports and the action taken thereon by the Administration strengthened the hands of those administrative officers who in the various departments, and especially in the Secret Service, were proceeding against land thieves and other corrupt wrong-doers. Moreover, the mere fact that they did efficient work for the public along lines new to veteran and cynical politicians of the old type created vehement hostility to them. Senators like Mr. Hale and Congressmen like Mr. Tawney were especially bitter against these commissions; and towards the end of my term they were followed by the majority of their fellows in both houses, who had gradually been sundered from me by the open or covert hostility of the financial or Wall Street leaders, and of the newspaper editors and politicians who did their bidding in the interest of privilege. These Senators and Congressmen asserted that they had a right to forbid the President profiting by the unpaid advice of disinterested experts. Of course I declined to admit the existence of any such right, and continued the Commissions. My successor acknowledged the right, upheld the view of the politicians in question, and abandoned the commissions, to the lasting detriment of the people as a whole.

One thing is worth pointing out: During the seven and a half years of my Administration we greatly and usefully extended the sphere of Governmental action, and yet we reduced the burden of the taxpayers; for we reduced the interest-bearing debt by more than $90,000,000. To achieve a marked increase in efficiency and at the same time an increase in economy is not an easy feat; but we performed it.

There was one ugly and very necessary task. This was to discover and root out corruption wherever it was found in any of the departments. The first essential was to make it clearly understood that no political or business or social influence of any kind would for one moment be even considered when the honesty of a public official was at issue. It took a little time to get this fact thoroughly drilled into the heads both of the men within the service and of the political leaders without. The feat was accomplished so thoroughly that every effort to interfere in any shape or way with the course of justice was abandoned definitely and for good. Most, although not all, of the frauds occurred in connection with the Post-Office Department and the Land Office.

It was in the Post-Office Department that we first definitely established the rule of conduct which became universal throughout the whole service. Rumors of corruption in the department became rife, and finally I spoke of them to the then First Assistant Postmaster-General, afterwards Postmaster-General, Robert J. Wynne. He reported to me, after some investigation, that in his belief there was doubtless corruption, but that it was very difficult to get at it, and that the offenders were confident and defiant because of their great political and business backing and the ramifications of their crimes. Talking the matter over with him, I came to the conclusion that the right man to carry on the investigation was the then Fourth Assistant Postmaster-General, now a Senator from Kansas, Joseph L. Bristow, who possessed the iron fearlessness needful to front such a situation. Mr. Bristow had perforce seen a good deal of the seamy side of politics, and of the extent of the unscrupulousness with which powerful influence was brought to bear to shield offenders. Before undertaking the investigation he came to see me, and said that he did not wish to go into it unless he could be assured that I would stand personally behind him, and, no matter where his inquiries led him, would support him and prevent interference with him. I answered that I would certainly do so. He went into the investigation with relentless energy, dogged courage, and keen intelligence. His success was complete, and the extent of his services to the Nation are not easily to be exaggerated. He unearthed a really appalling amount of corruption, and he did his work with such absolute thoroughness that the corruption was completely eradicated.

We had, of course, the experience usual in all such investigations. At first there was popular incredulity and disbelief that there was much behind the charges, or that much could be unearthed. Then when the corruption was shown there followed a yell of anger from all directions, and a period during which any man accused was forthwith held guilty by the public; and violent demands were made by the newspapers for the prosecution not only of the men who could be prosecuted with a fair chance of securing conviction and imprisonment, but of other men whose misconduct had been such as to warrant my removing them from office, but against whom it was not possible to get the kind of evidence which would render likely conviction in a criminal case. Suits were brought against all the officials whom we thought we could convict; and the public complained bitterly that we did not bring further suits. We secured several convictions, including convictions of the most notable offenders. The trials consumed a good deal of time. Public attention was attracted to something else. Indifference succeeded to excitement, and in some subtle way the juries seemed to respond to the indifference. One of the worst offenders was acquitted by a jury; whereupon not a few of the same men who had insisted that the Government was derelict in not criminally prosecuting every man whose misconduct was established so as to make it necessary to turn him out of office, now turned round and, inasmuch as the jury had not found this man guilty of crime, demanded that he should be reinstated in office! It is needless to say that the demand was not granted. There were two or three other acquittals, of prominent outsiders. Nevertheless the net result was that the majority of the worst offenders were sent to prison, and the remainder dismissed from the Government service, if they were public officials, and if they were not public officials at least so advertised as to render it impossible that they should ever again have dealings with the Government. The department was absolutely cleaned and became one of the very best in the Government. Several Senators came to me—Mr. Garfield was present on the occasion—and said that they were glad I was putting a stop to corruption, but they hoped I would avoid all scandal; that if I would make an example of some one man and then let the others quietly resign, it would avoid a disturbance which might hurt the party. They were advising me in good faith, and I was as courteous as possible in my answer, but explained that I would have to act with the utmost rigor against the offenders, no matter what the effect on the party, and, moreover, that I did not believe it would hurt the party. It did not hurt the party. It helped the party. A favorite war-cry in American political life has always been, “Turn the rascals out.” We made it evident that, as far as we were concerned, this war-cry was pointless; for we turned our own rascals out.

There were important and successful land fraud prosecutions in several Western States. Probably the most important were the cases prosecuted in Oregon by Francis J. Heney, with the assistance of William J. Burns, a secret service agent who at that time began his career as a great detective. It would be impossible to overstate the services rendered to the cause of decency and honesty by Messrs. Heney and Burns. Mr. Heney was my close and intimate adviser professionally and non-professionally, not only as regards putting a stop to frauds in the public lands, but in many other matters of vital interest to the Republic. No man in the country has waged the battle for National honesty with greater courage and success, with more whole-hearted devotion to the public good; and no man has been more traduced and maligned by the wrong-doing agents and representatives of the great sinister forces of evil. He secured the conviction of various men of high political and financial standing in connection with the Oregon prosecutions; he and Burns behaved with scrupulous fairness and propriety; but their services to the public caused them to incur the bitter hatred of those who had wronged the public, and after I left office the National Administration turned against them. One of the most conspicuous of the men whom they had succeeded in convicting was pardoned by President Taft—in spite of the fact that the presiding Judge, Judge Hunt, had held that the evidence amply warranted the conviction, and had sentenced the man to imprisonment. As was natural, the one hundred and forty-six land-fraud defendants in Oregon, who included the foremost machine political leaders in the State, furnished the backbone of the opposition to me in the Presidential contest of 1912. The opposition rallied behind Messrs. Taft and LaFollette; and although I carried the primaries handsomely, half of the delegates elected from Oregon under instructions to vote for me, sided with my opponents in the National Convention—and as regards some of them I became convinced that the mainspring of their motive lay in the intrigue for securing the pardon of certain of the men whose conviction Heney had secured.

Land fraud and post-office cases were not the only ones. We were especially zealous in prosecuting all of the “higher up” offenders in the realms of politics and finance who swindled on a large scale. Special assistants of the Attorney-General, such as Mr. Frank Kellogg, of St. Paul, and various first-class Federal district attorneys in different parts of the country secured notable results: Mr. Stimson and his assistants, Messrs. Wise, Denison, and Frankfurter, in New York, for instance, in connection with the prosecution of the Sugar Trust and of the banker Morse, and of a great metropolitan newspaper for opening its columns to obscene and immoral advertisements; and in St. Louis Messrs. Dyer and Nortoni, who, among other services, secured the conviction and imprisonment of Senator Burton, of Kansas; and in Chicago Mr. Sims, who raised his office to the highest pitch of efficiency, secured the conviction of the banker Walsh and of the Beef Trust, and first broke through the armor of the Standard Oil Trust. It is not too much to say that these men, and others like them, worked a complete revolution in the enforcement of the Federal laws, and made their offices organized legal machines fit and ready to conduct smashing fights for the people’s rights and to enforce the laws in aggressive fashion. When I took the Presidency, it was a common and bitter saying that a big man, a rich man, could not be put in jail. We put many big and rich men in jail; two United States Senators, for instance, and among others two great bankers, one in New York and one in Chicago. One of the United States Senators died, the other served his term. (One of the bankers was released from prison by executive order after I left office.) These were merely individual cases among many others like them. Moreover, we were just as relentless in dealing with crimes of violence among the disorderly and brutal classes as in dealing with the crimes of cunning and fraud of which certain wealthy men and big politicians were guilty. Mr. Sims in Chicago was particularly efficient in sending to the penitentiary numbers of the infamous men who batten on the “white slave” traffic, after July, 1908, when by proclamation I announced the adherence of our Government to the international agreement for the suppression of the traffic.

The views I then held and now hold were expressed in a memorandum made in the case of a Negro convicted of the rape of a young Negro girl, practically a child. A petition for his pardon had been sent me.

August 8, 1904.

The application for the commutation of sentence of John W. Burley is denied. This man committed the most hideous crime known to our laws, and twice before he has committed crimes of a similar, though less horrible, character. In my judgment there is no justification whatever for paying heed to the allegations that he is not of sound mind, allegations made after the trial and conviction. Nobody would pretend that there has ever been any such degree of mental unsoundness shown as would make people even consider sending him to an asylum if he had not committed this crime. Under such circumstances he should certainly be esteemed sane enough to suffer the penalty for his monstrous deed. I have scant sympathy with the plea of insanity advanced to save a man from the consequences of crime, when unless that crime had been committed it would have been impossible to persuade any responsible authority to commit him to an asylum as insane. Among the most dangerous criminals, and especially among those prone to commit this particular kind of offense, there are plenty of a temper so fiendish or so brutal as to be incompatible with any other than a brutish order of intelligence; but these men are nevertheless responsible for their acts; and nothing more tends to encourage crime among such men than the belief that through the plea of insanity or any other method it is possible for them to escape paying the just penalty of their crimes. The crime in question is one to the existence of which we largely owe the existence of that spirit of lawlessness which takes form in lynching. It is a crime so revolting that the criminal is not entitled to one particle of sympathy from any human being. It is essential that the punishment for it should be not only as certain but as swift as possible. The jury in this case did their duty by recommending the infliction of the death penalty. It is to be regretted that we do not have special provision for more summary dealing with this type of cases. The more we do what in us lies to secure certain and swift justice in dealing with these cases, the more effectively do we work against the growth of that lynching spirit which is so full of evil omen for this people, because it seeks to avenge one infamous crime by the commission of another of equal infamy.

The application is denied and the sentence will be carried into effect.


One of the most curious incidents of lawlessness with which I had to deal affected an entire State. The State of Nevada in the year 1907 was gradually drifting into utter governmental impotence and downright anarchy. The people were at heart all right; but the forces of evil had been permitted to get the upper hand, and for the time being the decent citizens had become helpless to assert themselves either by controlling the greedy corporations on the one hand or repressing the murderous violence of certain lawless labor organizations on the other hand. The Governor of the State was a Democrat and a Southern man, and in the abstract a strong believer in the doctrine of State’s Rights. But his experience finally convinced him that he could obtain order only through the intervention of the National Government; and then he went over too far and wished to have the National Government do his police work for him. In the Rocky Mountain States there had existed for years what was practically a condition of almost constant war between the wealthy mine-owners and the Western Federation of Miners, at whose head stood Messrs. Haywood, Pettibone, and Moyer, who were about that time indicted for the murder of the Governor of Idaho. Much that was lawless, much that was indefensible, had been done by both sides. The Legislature of Nevada was in sympathy with, or at least was afraid of not expressing sympathy for, Messrs. Moyer, Haywood, Pettibone, and their associates. The State was practically without any police, and the Governor had recommended the establishment of a State Constabulary, along the lines of the Texas Rangers; but the Legislature rejected his request. The Governor reported to me the conditions as follows. During 1907 the Goldfield mining district became divided into two hostile camps. Half of the Western Federation of Miners were constantly armed, and arms and ammunition were purchased and kept by the union as a body, while the mine-owners on their side retained large numbers of watchmen and guards who were also armed and always on duty. In addition to these opposing forces there was, as the Governor reported, an unusually large number of the violent and criminal element, always attracted to a new and booming mining camp. Under such conditions the civil authorities were practically powerless, and the Governor, being helpless to avert civil war, called on me to keep order. I accordingly threw in a body of regular troops under General Funston. These kept order completely, and the Governor became so well satisfied that he thought he would like to have them there permanently! This seemed to me unhealthy, and on December 28, 1907, I notified him that while I would do my duty, the first need was that the State authorities should do theirs, and that the first step towards this was the assembling of the Legislature. I concluded my telegram: “If within five days from receipt of this telegram you shall have issued the necessary notice to convene the Legislature of Nevada, I shall continue the troops during a period of three weeks. If when the term of five days has elapsed the notice has not been issued, the troops will be immediately returned to their former stations.” I had already investigated the situation through a committee, composed of the Chief of the Bureau of Corporations, Mr. H. K. Smith, the Chief of the Bureau of Labor, Mr. C. P. Neill, and the Comptroller of the Treasury, Mr. Lawrence Murray. These men I could thoroughly trust, and their report, which was not over-favorable to either side, had convinced me that the only permanent way to get good results was to insist on the people of the State themselves grappling with and solving their own troubles. The Governor summoned the Legislature, it met, and the constabulary bill was passed. The troops remained in Nevada until time had been given for the State authorities to organize their force so that violence could at once be checked. Then they were withdrawn.

Nor was it only as regards their own internal affairs that I sometimes had to get into active communication with the State authorities. There has always been a strong feeling in California against the immigration of Asiatic laborers, whether these are wage-workers or men who occupy and till the soil. I believe this to be fundamentally a sound and proper attitude, an attitude which must be insisted upon, and yet which can be insisted upon in such a manner and with such courtesy and such sense of mutual fairness and reciprocal obligation and respect as not to give any just cause of offense to Asiatic peoples. In the present state of the world’s progress it is highly inadvisable that peoples in wholly different stages of civilization, or of wholly different types of civilization even although both equally high, shall be thrown into intimate contact. This is especially undesirable when there is a difference of both race and standard of living. In California the question became acute in connection with the admission of the Japanese. I then had and now have a hearty admiration for the Japanese people. I believe in them; I respect their great qualities; I wish that our American people had many of these qualities. Japanese and American students, travelers, scientific and literary men, merchants engaged in international trade, and the like can meet on terms of entire equality and should be given the freest access each to the country of the other. But the Japanese themselves would not tolerate the intrusion into their country of a mass of Americans who would displace Japanese in the business of the land. I think they are entirely right in this position. I would be the first to admit that Japan has the absolute right to declare on what terms foreigners shall be admitted to work in her country, or to own land in her country, or to become citizens of her country. America has and must insist upon the same right. The people of California were right in insisting that the Japanese should not come thither in mass, that there should be no influx of laborers, of agricultural workers, or small tradesmen—in short, no mass settlement or immigration.

Unfortunately, during the latter part of my term as President certain unwise and demagogic agitators in California, to show their disapproval of the Japanese coming into the State, adopted the very foolish procedure of trying to provide by law that the Japanese children should not be allowed to attend the schools with the white children, and offensive and injurious language was used in connection with the proposal. The Federal Administration promptly took up the matter with the California authorities, and I got into personal touch with them. At my request the Mayor of San Francisco and other leaders in the movement came on to see me. I explained that the duty of the National Government was twofold: in the first place, to meet every reasonable wish and every real need of the people of California or any other State in dealing with the people of a foreign power; and, in the next place, itself exclusively and fully to exercise the right of dealing with this foreign power.

Inasmuch as in the last resort, including that last of all resorts, war, the dealing of necessity had to be between the foreign power and the National Government, it was impossible to admit that the doctrine of State sovereignty could be invoked in such a matter. As soon as legislative or other action in any State affects a foreign nation, then the affair becomes one for the Nation, and the State should deal with the foreign power purely through the Nation.

I explained that I was in entire sympathy with the people of California as to the subject of immigration of the Japanese in mass; but that of course I wished to accomplish the object they had in view in the way that would be most courteous and most agreeable to the feelings of the Japanese; that all relations between the two peoples must be those of reciprocal justice, and that it was an intolerable outrage on the part of newspapers and public men to use offensive and insulting language about a high-spirited, sensitive, and friendly people; and that such action as was proposed about the schools could only have bad effects, and would in no shape or way achieve the purpose that the Californians had in mind. I also explained that I would use every resource of the National Government to protect the Japanese in their treaty rights, and would count upon the State authorities backing me up to the limit in such action. In short, I insisted upon the two points (1) that the Nation and not the individual States must deal with matters of such international significance and must treat foreign nations with entire courtesy and respect; and (2) that the Nation would at once, and in efficient and satisfactory manner, take action that would meet the needs of California. I both asserted the power of the Nation and offered a full remedy for the needs of the State. This is the right, and the only right, course. The worst possible course in such a case is to fail to insist on the right of the Nation, to offer no action of the Nation to remedy what is wrong, and yet to try to coax the State not to do what it is mistakenly encouraged to believe it has the power to do, when no other alternative is offered.

After a good deal of discussion, we came to an entirely satisfactory conclusion. The obnoxious school legislation was abandoned, and I secured an arrangement with Japan under which the Japanese themselves prevented any immigration to our country of their laboring people, it being distinctly understood that if there was such emigration the United States would at once pass an exclusion law. It was of course infinitely better that the Japanese should stop their own people from coming rather than that we should have to stop them; but it was necessary for us to hold this power in reserve.

Unfortunately, after I left office, a most mistaken and ill-advised policy was pursued towards Japan, combining irritation and inefficiency, which culminated in a treaty under which we surrendered this important and necessary right. It was alleged in excuse that the treaty provided for its own abrogation; but of course it is infinitely better to have a treaty under which the power to exercise a necessary right is explicitly retained rather than a treaty so drawn that recourse must be had to the extreme step of abrogating if it ever becomes necessary to exercise the right in question.

The arrangement we made worked admirably, and entirely achieved its purpose. No small part of our success was due to the fact that we succeeded in impressing on the Japanese that we sincerely admired and respected them, and desired to treat them with the utmost consideration. I cannot too strongly express my indignation with, and abhorrence of, reckless public writers and speakers who, with coarse and vulgar insolence, insult the Japanese people and thereby do the greatest wrong not only to Japan but to their own country.

Such conduct represents that nadir of underbreeding and folly. The Japanese are one of the great nations of the world, entitled to stand, and standing, on a footing of full equality with any nation of Europe or America. I have the heartiest admiration for them. They can teach us much. Their civilization is in some respects higher than our own. It is eminently undesirable that Japanese and Americans should attempt to live together in masses; any such attempt would be sure to result disastrously, and the far-seeing statesmen of both countries should join to prevent it.

But this is not because either nation is inferior to the other; it is because they are different. The two peoples represent two civilizations which, although in many respects equally high, are so totally distinct in their past history that it is idle to expect in one or two generations to overcome this difference. One civilization is as old as the other; and in neither case is the line of cultural descent coincident with that of ethnic descent. Unquestionably the ancestors of the great majority both of the modern Americans and the modern Japanese were barbarians in that remote past which saw the origins of the cultured peoples to which the Americans and the Japanese of to-day severally trace their civilizations. But the lines of development of these two civilizations, of the Orient and the Occident, have been separate and divergent since thousands of years before the Christian era; certainly since that hoary eld in which the Akkadian predecessors of the Chaldean Semites held sway in Mesopotamia. An effort to mix together, out of hand, the peoples representing the culminating points of two such lines of divergent cultural development would be fraught with peril; and this, I repeat, because the two are different, not because either is inferior to the other. Wise statesmen, looking to the future, will for the present endeavor to keep the two nations from mass contact and intermingling, precisely because they wish to keep each in relations of permanent good will and friendship with the other.

Exactly what was done in the particular crisis to which I refer is shown in the following letter which, after our policy had been successfully put into execution, I sent to the then Speaker of the California lower house of the Legislature:

February 8, 1909.

Speaker of the Assembly,
Sacramento, California:
I trust there will be no misunderstanding of the Federal Government’s attitude. We are jealously endeavoring to guard the interests of California and of the entire West in accordance with the desires of our Western people. By friendly agreement with Japan, we are now carrying out a policy which, while meeting the interests and desires of the Pacific slope, is yet compatible, not merely with mutual self-respect, but with mutual esteem and admiration between the Americans and Japanese. The Japanese Government is loyally and in good faith doing its part to carry out this policy, precisely as the American Government is doing. The policy aims at mutuality of obligation and behavior. In accordance with it the purpose is that the Japanese shall come here exactly as Americans go to Japan, which is in effect that travelers, students, persons engaged in international business, men who sojourn for pleasure or study, and the like, shall have the freest access from one country to the other, and shall be sure of the best treatment, but that there shall be no settlement in mass by the people of either country in the other. During the last six months under this policy more Japanese have left the country than have come in, and the total number in the United States has diminished by over two thousand. These figures are absolutely accurate and cannot be impeached. In other words, if the present policy is consistently followed and works as well in the future as it is now working, all difficulties and causes of friction will disappear, while at the same time each nation will retain its self-respect and the good will of the other. But such a bill as this school bill accomplishes literally nothing whatever in the line of the object aimed at, and gives just and grave cause for irritation; while in addition the United States Government would be obliged immediately to take action in the Federal courts to test such legislation, as we hold it to be clearly a violation of the treaty. On this point I refer you to the numerous decisions of the United States Supreme Court in regard to State laws which violate treaty obligations of the United States. The legislation would accomplish nothing beneficial and would certainly cause some mischief, and might cause very grave mischief. In short, the policy of the Administration is to combine the maximum of efficiency in achieving the real object which the people of the Pacific Slope have at heart, with the minimum of friction and trouble, while the misguided men who advocate such action as this against which I protest are following a policy which combines the very minimum of efficiency with the maximum of insult, and which, while totally failing to achieve any real result for good, yet might accomplish an infinity of harm. If in the next year or two the action of the Federal Government fails to achieve what it is now achieving, then through the further action of the President and Congress it can be made entirely efficient. I am sure that the sound judgment of the people of California will support you, Mr. Speaker, in your effort. Let me repeat that at present we are actually doing the very thing which the people of California wish to be done, and to upset the arrangement under which this is being done cannot do good and may do great harm. If in the next year or two the figures of immigration prove that the arrangement which has worked so successfully during the last six months is no longer working successfully, then there would be ground for grievance and for the reversal by the National Government of its present policy. But at present the policy is working well, and until it works badly it would be a grave misfortune to change it, and when changed it can only be changed effectively by the National Government.

In foreign and domestic affairs alike the policy pursued during my Administration was simple. In foreign affairs the principle from which we never deviated was to have the Nation behave toward other nations precisely as a strong, honorable, and upright man behaves in dealing with his fellow-men. There is no such thing as international law in the sense that there is municipal law or law within a nation. Within the nation there is always a judge, and a policeman who stands back of the judge. The whole system of law depends first upon the fact that there is a judge competent to pass judgment, and second upon the fact that there is some competent officer whose duty it is to carry out this judgment, by force if necessary. In international law there is no judge, unless the parties in interest agree that one shall be constituted; and there is no policeman to carry out the judge’s orders. In consequence, as yet each nation must depend upon itself for its own protection. The frightful calamities that have befallen China, solely because she has had no power of self-defense, ought to make it inexcusable in any wise American citizen to pretend to patriotic purpose, and yet to fail to insist that the United States shall keep in a condition of ability if necessary to assert its rights with a strong hand. It is folly of the criminal type for the Nation not to keep up its navy, not to fortify its vital strategic points, and not to provide an adequate army for its needs. On the other hand, it is wicked for the Nation to fail in either justice, courtesy, or consideration when dealing with any other power, big or little. John Hay was Secretary of State when I became President, and continued to serve under me until his death, and his and my views as to the attitude that the Nation should take in foreign affairs were identical, both as regards our duty to be able to protect ourselves against the strong and as regards our duty always to act not only justly but generously toward the weak.

John Hay was one of the most delightful of companions, one of the most charming of all men of cultivation and action. Our views on foreign affairs coincided absolutely; but, as was natural enough, in domestic matters he felt much more conservative than he did in the days when as a young man he was private secretary to the great radical democratic leader of the ’60’s, Abraham Lincoln. He was fond of jesting with me about my supposedly dangerous tendencies in favor of labor against capital. When I was inaugurated on March 4, 1905, I wore a ring he sent me the evening before, containing the hair of Abraham Lincoln. This ring was on my finger when the Chief Justice administered to me the oath of allegiance to the United States; I often thereafter told John Hay that when I wore such a ring on such an occasion I bound myself more than ever to treat the Constitution, after the manner of Abraham Lincoln, as a document which put human rights above property rights when the two conflicted. The last Christmas John Hay was alive he sent me the manuscript of a Norse saga by William Morris, with the following note:

Christmas Eve, 1904.

DEAR THEODORE: In your quality of Viking this Norse saga should belong to you, and in your character of Enemy of Property this Ms. of William Morris will appeal to you. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and many happy years, I am yours affectionately,

In internal affairs I cannot say that I entered the Presidency with any deliberately planned and far-reaching scheme of social betterment. I had, however, certain strong convictions; and I was on the lookout for every opportunity of realizing those convictions. I was bent upon making the Government the most efficient possible instrument in helping the people of the United States to better themselves in every way, politically, socially, and industrially. I believed with all my heart in real and thoroughgoing democracy, and I wished to make this democracy industrial as well as political, although I had only partially formulated the methods I believed we should follow. I believed in the people’s rights, and therefore in National rights and States’ rights just exactly to the degree in which they severally secured popular rights. I believed in invoking the National power with absolute freedom for every National need; and I believed that the Constitution should be treated as the greatest document ever devised by the wit of man to aid a people in exercising every power necessary for its own betterment, and not as a straitjacket cunningly fashioned to strangle growth. As for the particular methods of realizing these various beliefs, I was content to wait and see what method might be necessary in each given case as it arose; and I was certain that the cases would arise fast enough.

As the time for the Presidential nomination of 1904 drew near, it became evident that I was strong with the rank and file of the party, but that there was much opposition to me among many of the big political leaders, and especially among many of the Wall Street men. A group of these men met in conference to organize this opposition. It was to be done with complete secrecy. But such secrets are very hard to keep. I speedily knew all about it, and took my measures accordingly. The big men in question, who possessed much power so long as they could work under cover, or so long as they were merely throwing their weight one way or the other between forces fairly evenly balanced, were quite helpless when fighting in the open by themselves. I never found out that anything practical was even attempted by most of the men who took part in the conference. Three or four of them, however, did attempt something. The head of one big business corporation attempted to start an effort to control the delegations from New Jersey, North Carolina, and certain Gulf States against me. The head of a great railway system made preparations for a more ambitious effort looking towards the control of the delegations from Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and California against me. He was a very powerful man financially, but his power politically was much more limited, and he did not really understand his own limitations or the situation itself, whereas I did. He could not have secured a delegate against me from Iowa, Nebraska, or Kansas. In Colorado and California he could have made a fight, but even there I think he would have been completely beaten. However, long before the time for the Convention came around, it was recognized that it was hopeless to make any opposition to my nomination. The effort was abandoned, and I was nominated unanimously. Judge Parker was nominated by the Democrats against me. Practically all the metropolitan newspapers of largest circulation were against me; in New York City fifteen out of every sixteen copies of papers issued were hostile to me. I won by a popular majority of about two million and a half, and in the electoral college carried 330 votes against 136. It was by far the largest popular majority ever hitherto given any Presidential candidate.

My opponents during the campaign had laid much stress upon my supposed personal ambition and intention to use the office of President to perpetuate myself in power. I did not say anything on the subject prior to the election, as I did not wish to say anything that could be construed into a promise offered as a consideration in order to secure votes. But on election night, after the returns were in I issued the following statement: “The wise custom which limits the President to two terms regards the substance and not the form, and under no circumstances will I be a candidate for or accept another nomination.”

The reason for my choice of the exact phraseology used was twofold. In the first place, many of my supporters were insisting that, as I had served only three and a half years of my first term, coming in from the Vice-Presidency when President McKinley was killed, I had really had only one elective term, so that the third term custom did not apply to me; and I wished to repudiate this suggestion. I believed then (and I believe now) the third term custom or tradition to be wholesome, and, therefore, I was determined to regard its substance, refusing to quibble over the words usually employed to express it. On the other hand, I did not wish simply and specifically to say that I would not be a candidate for the nomination in 1908, because if I had specified the year when I would not be a candidate, it would have been widely accepted as meaning that I intended to be a candidate some other year; and I had no such intention, and had no idea that I would ever be a candidate again. Certain newspaper men did ask me if I intended to apply my prohibition to 1912, and I answered that I was not thinking of 1912, nor of 1920, nor of 1940, and that I must decline to say anything whatever except what appeared in my statement.

The Presidency is a great office, and the power of the President can be effectively used to secure a renomination, especially if the President has the support of certain great political and financial interests. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that the wholesome principle of continuing in office, so long as he is willing to serve, an incumbent who has proved capable, is not applicable to the Presidency. Therefore, the American people have wisely established a custom against allowing any man to hold that office for more than two consecutive terms. But every shred of power which a President exercises while in office vanishes absolutely when he has once left office. An ex-President stands precisely in the position of any other private citizen, and has not one particle more power to secure a nomination or election than if he had never held the office at all—indeed, he probably has less because of the very fact that he has held the office. Therefore the reasoning on which the anti-third term custom is based has no application whatever to an ex-President, and no application whatever to anything except consecutive terms. As a barrier of precaution against more than two consecutive terms the custom embodies a valuable principle. Applied in any other way it becomes a mere formula, and like all formulas a potential source of mischievous confusion. Having this in mind, I regarded the custom as applying practically, if not just as much, to a President who had been seven and a half years in office as to one who had been eight years in office, and therefore, in the teeth of a practically unanimous demand from my own party that I accept another nomination, and the reasonable certainty that the nomination would be ratified at the polls, I felt that the substance of the custom applied to me in 1908. On the other hand, it had no application whatever to any human being save where it was invoked in the case of a man desiring a third consecutive term. Having given such substantial proof of my own regard for the custom, I deem it a duty to add this comment on it. I believe that it is well to have a custom of this kind, to be generally observed, but that it would be very unwise to have it definitely hardened into a Constitutional prohibition. It is not desirable ordinarily that a man should stay in office twelve consecutive years as President; but most certainly the American people are fit to take care of themselves, and stand in no need of an irrevocable self-denying ordinance. They should not bind themselves never to take action which under some quite conceivable circumstances it might be to their great interest to take. It is obviously of the last importance to the safety of a democracy that in time of real peril it should be able to command the service of every one among its citizens in the precise position where the service rendered will be most valuable. It would be a benighted policy in such event to disqualify absolutely from the highest office a man who while holding it had actually shown the highest capacity to exercise its powers with the utmost effect for the public defense. If, for instance, a tremendous crisis occurred at the end of the second term of a man like Lincoln, as such a crisis occurred at the end of his first term, it would be a veritable calamity if the American people were forbidden to continue to use the services of the one man whom they knew, and did not merely guess, could carry them through the crisis. The third term tradition has no value whatever except as it applies to a third consecutive term. While it is well to keep it as a custom, it would be a mark both of weakness and unwisdom for the American people to embody it into a Constitutional provision which could not do them good and on some given occasion might work real harm.

There was one cartoon made while I was President, in which I appeared incidentally, that was always a great favorite of mine. It pictured an old fellow with chin whiskers, a farmer, in his shirt-sleeves, with his boots off, sitting before the fire, reading the President’s Message. On his feet were stockings of the kind I have seen hung up by the dozen in Joe Ferris’s store at Medora, in the days when I used to come in to town and sleep in one of the rooms over the store. The title of the picture was “His Favorite Author.” This was the old fellow whom I always used to keep in mind. He had probably been in the Civil War in his youth; he had worked hard ever since he left the army; he had been a good husband and father; he had brought up his boys and girls to work; he did not wish to do injustice to any one else, but he wanted justice done to himself and to others like him; and I was bound to secure that justice for him if it lay in my power to do so.