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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

The Republican Bosses were angry and dismayed


After

the conclusion of the Spanish war, McKinley was elected for a second time; almost immediately afterwards he was murdered by an Anarchist named Czolgosz, sometimes described as a "Pole," but presumably an East European Jew. The effect was to produce a third example of the unwisdom--though in this case the country was distinctly the gainer--of the habit of using the Vice-Presidency merely as an electioneering bait. Theodore Roosevelt had been chosen as candidate for that office solely to catch what we should here call the "khaki" sentiment, he and his "roughriders" having played a distinguished and picturesque part in the Cuban campaign. But it soon appeared that the new President had ideas of his own which were by no means identical with those of the Party Bosses. He sought to re-create the moral prestige of the Republican Party by identifying it with the National idea--with which its traditions as the War Party in the battle for the Union made its identification seem not inappropriate--with a spirited foreign policy and with the aspiration for expansion and world-power. But he also sought to sever its damaging connection with those sordid and unpopular plutocratic combinations which the nation as a whole justly hated. Of great energy and attractive personality, and gifted with a strong sense of the picturesque in politics, President Roosevelt opened a vigorous campaign against those Trusts which had for so long backed and largely controlled his party. The Republican Bosses were
angry and dismayed, but they dared not risk an open breach with a popular and powerful President backed by the whole nation irrespective of party. So complete was his victory that not only did he enjoy something like a national triumph when submitting himself for re-election in 1904, but in 1908 was virtually able to nominate his successor.

Mr. Taft, however, though so nominated and professing to carry on the Rooseveltian policy, did not carry it on to the satisfaction of its originator. The ex-President roundly accused his successor of suffering the party to slip back again into the pocket of the Trusts, and in 1912 offered himself once more to the Republican Party as a rival to his successor. The Party Convention at San Francisco chose Taft by a narrow majority. Something may be allowed for the undoubtedly prevalent sentiment against a breach of the Washingtonian tradition of a two-terms limit; but the main factor was the hostility of the Bosses and the Trusts behind them, and the weapon they used was their control of the Negro "pocket boroughs" of the Southern States, which were represented in the Convention in proportion to their population of those States, though practically no Republican votes were cast there. Colonel Roosevelt challenged the decision of the Convention, and organized an independent party of his own under the title of "Progressive," composed partly of the defeated section of the Republicans and partly of all those who for one reason or another were dissatisfied with existing parties. In the contest which followed he justified his position by polling far more votes than his Republican rival. But the division in the Republican Party permitted the return of the Democratic candidate, Dr. Woodrow Wilson.

The new President was a remarkable man in more ways than one. By birth a Southerner, he had early migrated to New Jersey. He had a distinguished academic career behind him, and had written the best history of his own country at present obtainable. He had also held high office in his State, and his term had been signalized by the vigour with which he had made war on corruption in the public service. During his term of office he was to exhibit another set of qualities, the possession of which had perhaps been less suspected: an instinct for the trend of the national will not unlike that of Jackson, and a far-seeing patience and persistence under misrepresentation and abuse that recalls Lincoln.


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