The Case Against the Reactionaries
|Speech at the Auditorium, Chicago, III., June 17, 1912
MY FRIENDS AND FELLOW CITIZENS:
I ADDRESS you as my fellow Republicans, but I also and primarily address you as fellow Americans citizens, for this has now become much more than an ordinary party fight. The issue is both simpler and larger than that involved in the personality of any man, or than that involved in any factional or in any ordinary party contest. We are standing for the great fundamental rights upon which all successful free government must be based. We are standing for elementary decency in politics. We are fighting for honesty against naked robbery; and where robbery is concerned the all-important question is not the identity of the man robbed, but the crime itself.
As far as Mr. Taft and I are personally concerned it little matters what the fate of either may be. But with Mr. Taft’s acquiescence or by his direction, and in his interest, his followers have raised an issue which is all-important to this country. It is not a partisan issue; it is more than a political issue; it is a great moral issue. If we condone political theft, if we do not resent the kinds of wrong and injustice that injuriously affect the whole nation, not merely our Democratic form of government but our civilization itself cannot endure. If the methods adopted by the national committee are approved by the convention which is about to assemble, a great crime will have been committed. The triumph of such proceedings at the moment would mean the wreck of the Republican party; and if such proceedings became habitual, it would mean the wreck of popular government. The actions of the Taft leaders in the national committee, taken with the active aid of Mr. Taft’s private secretary and of one of Mr. Taft’s Cabinet officers, are monstrous, and they should be indignantly condemned by the moral sentiment of the whole country.
Tonight we come together to protest against a crime which strikes straight at the heart of every principle of political decency and honesty, a crime which represents treason to the people, and the usurpation of the sovereignty of the people by irresponsible political bosses, inspired by the sinister influences of moneyed privilege. We here in this hall are engaged not only in a fight for the rights of every decent Republican, we are engaged in a fight for the rights of every decent American whatsoever his party may be. And, oh, my friends, for one thing at least we should-be profoundly grateful. We are more fortunate than our fathers in that there is no slightest tinge of sectionalism in the fight we are now waging. The principles for which we stand are as vital for the South as for the North, for the East as for the West. We make our appeal to all honest, far-sighted, and patriotic Americans, no matter where they may dwell.
When in February last I made up my mind that it was my duty to enter this fight, it was after long and careful deliberation. I had become convinced that Mr. Taft had definitely and completely abandoned the cause off the people and had surrendered himself wholly to the biddings of the professional political bosses and of the great privileged interests standing behind them. I had also become convinced that unless I did make the fight it could not be made at all, and that Mr. Taft’s nomination would come to him without serious opposition. The event has justified both my beliefs. I very earnestly ask our fellow Progressives who have supported other candidates to remember that one of the cardinal principles of the doctrines which we hold in common is our duty normally, loyally, and in good faith to abide by the wellthought-out and honestly expressed action of a majority. The overwhelming majority of the Republican Progressives have declared for me. It has become clear beyond shadow of doubt that if I had not made the Progressive fight it would have completely broken down, and there would have been no substantial opposition to the forces of reaction and of political crookedness. Let those Progressives who stand for principle and who are concerned with the fortunes of any particular man only as a means for securing the triumph of principle, ponder these facts and refrain in this crisis from playing into the hands of our enemies.
Mr. Taft at first denied that he represented the bosses. His denial was of little consequence, for his deeds belied his words. But I doubt if at present he would venture to repeat the denial. As it has become constantly more and more evident that the people are against him, he has more and more undisguisedly thrown himself into the arms of the bosses. Here in Chicago at this moment he has never had one chance of success save what was given him by the action of Messrs. Crane, Barnes, Brooker, Penrose, Murphy, Guggenheim, Mulvane, Smoot, New, and their associates in cheating the people out of their rights. He was beaten so overwhelmingly by the people themselves in the States where primaries were held that in the last State in which he spoke, in New Jersey, he permitted himself to be betrayed into the frank admission that he expected to be nominated because he believed the national committee would stand by him. One member of his own Cabinet, representing a State that has just repudiated him, has been working hand in glove with the other Taft members of the national committee, under the lead of Mr. Crane, of Massachusetts, Mr. Penrose, of Pennsylvania, of Mr. Mulvane, of Kansas, of Mr. Murphy, of New Jersey, and Mr. Scott, of West Virginia of all of whom have just been repudiated by their own States steal to steal from the people the victory which the people have won. Last February it was evident that Mr. Taft was the accepted representative of the bosses, of the men who upheld the combination of crooked politics and crooked business which has been the chief source not only of our political but of our social and industrial corruption. It has now, alas, become evident that Mr. Taft is willing to acquiesce in and to condone and to accept the fruits of any course of action on which these men embark, even though such action represent treason, as well as destruction, to the Republican party to which they nominally belong, and also treason to the cause of the American people as a whole.
Among the national committeemen who have taken part in this conspiracy there are a number of men who in the ordinary relations of life are doubtless decent and reputable. Probably these men excuse themselves to themselves for what they are now doing on the ground that they are not committing what the law recognizes as a crime. It may well be doubted whether on the whole our country does not suffer more from the misdeeds of men who recognize as binding on their consciences only the obligations of law-honesty, than it suffers from the misdeeds of actual criminals. Men like Messrs. Crane, of Massachusetts, Brooker, of Connecticut, and Nagel, of Missouri, who trail behind their bolder associates such as Messrs. Penrose, Murphy, and Mulvane, are doubtless genuinely shocked at the misconduct of a defaulting bank cashier or at the action of some small election official who on election day falsifies the returns. Yet the wrong to the American people, the damage to the country, by such action as these national committeemen have taken in deliberately seeking to nullify and overthrow the will of the people legitimately expressed as to their choice for President is infinitely greater than the wrong done by the tempted cashier or the bribed election official.
It has to me been both a sad and a strange thing to see men hitherto esteemed reputable take part in such action and to see it sustained by similar men outside. I suppose the explanation must be found in the fact that in the slow but general moral advance certain men lag a little behind the rate of progress of the community as a whole; and where their own real or fancied interests are concerned such men fail to recognize generally accepted standards of right and wrong until long after they have been recognized by the majority of their fellows. There was a period when piracy and wrecking I were esteemed honorable occupations, and long after the community as a whole had grown to reprehend them there were l still backward persons who failed to regard them as improper In the same way, as late as thirty years ago, there were many men in public life who while they would refuse to receive bribe did not think it objectionable to give a bribe; although now the sentiment in the community has grown so strong that it is no longer possible to excuse the bribe-giver at more than the bribe-taker.
In the same way there are still in certain parts of this country representatives of a class far from uncommon a quarter of a century ago, a class which regards an election as game without rules in which it is merely a sign of cleverness to swindle and cheat. Evidently the majority of the m. whose actions we complain of on the national committee still hold this attitude toward nominations, although some of the may have passed beyond it as regards elections. But on the committee, and associated with the men who assume to respectable, there are certain representatives of Mr. Taft who presence gives us cause to wonder whether there are not far worse influences behind the action of the committee than any at which I have guessed. Mr. Stevenson, of Colorado, has appeared on the committee, now holding the proxy of one Mr. Taft’s delegates, now that of another. Judge Ben Lindsey, in his book “The Beast and the Jungle,” has given a very graphic account of Mr. Stevenson’s political activities in Denver. I very greatly wish that every decent man this country, every plain right-thinking citizen who is in doubt as to what the representatives of Mr. Taft have done on the national committee, would read this book of Judge Lindsey In especial, let him study the part in which Judge Lindsey refers to Mr. Stevenson, and then let him think for himself just what it means when Mr. Taft and his associates accept the help of Mr. Stevenson, and import him from his own State of Colorado, to act for other States on the national committee, as one of the ablest men engaged in the movement to rob the people of their right to rule themselves.
Our opponents here in Chicago today have waged such a bitter and unscrupulous fight for the very reason that this is no ordinary factional contest. The big bosses who control the national committee represent not merely the led captains of mercenary politics but the great crooked financiers who stand behind these led captains. These political bosses are obnoxious in themselves, but they are even more obnoxious because they represent privilege in its most sordid and dangerous form. The majority of the national committee in deciding the cases before them have practiced political theft in every form, from highway robbery to petty larceny; and political theft is as dishonest as, and more damaging than, ordinary theft. There is no law to reach the offenses they have committed, but morally these offenses are far more serious from the standpoint of the national interest than any of the ordinary commercial or political offenses which expose the perpetrators to be brought before the courts of justice. The committeemen responsible for such action need to be taught that the national committee was created to be the servant and not the master of the plain men and women who make up the bulk of the Republican party. The party belongs to the millions of the rank and file. It does not belong to the handful of politicians who have assumed fraudulently to upset the will of the rank and file. The action of these men is in no sense “regular,” as they claim it to be. They in no way represent the people, they in no way represent the rank and file of the Republican party; and theft and dishonesty cannot give and never shall give a title to regularity.
One thousand and seventy-eight men are to meet here in convention to decide the future of the Republican party. At least seven out of eight of those among them who really represent the people are against the nomination of Mr. Taft. It is the duty of all of them, their first duty, to throw out of the convention every man fraudulently seated there by the national committee. The fraudulent Taft delegates whom tee national committee seated for instance from California, from Washington, from Indiana, from Kentucky, from Michigan from Arizona, from Alabama, from Texas, represent nothing but the deliberate attempt by certain discredited bosses to upset the free and honest expression of the people’s will These fraudulent Taft delegates were beaten by the voters of Washington, of California, of Texas, of Arizona, of Indiana, of Kentucky, and then they were seated by the discredited political bosses who had just themselves been beaten by the people of their own States, in Massachusetts, in New Jersey in Pennsylvania, in West Virginia, in Kansas, in Missouri Messrs. Crane, Penrose, and Company were so discredited in the eyes of the Republicans of their own States that the were beaten as delegates to the convention, and yet they arrogate gate to themselves the right to seat in the convention the delegates whom the States of Washington, California, Arizona, Texas, and the rest have just beaten at the polls! I the convention proves false to the cause of the people, if records the will of the bosses, whether yet unbeaten as New York and Colorado, or beaten as in Massachusetts an New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Kansas, it will wreck the Republican party, it will put back the cause of democracy, it will be false to every principle of honor and justice. It cannot with honesty or propriety stand in any shape or way for the action of the national committee, either by accepting the committee’s nominee for temporary chairman, nor by accepting its decision as to the seating and unseating of contested delegations.
The majority of the national committee has acted with deliberate dishonesty. A majority composed nearly half of politicians from Territories and States that never cast a Republican electoral vote, end nearly half of politicians who have just been repudiated at open primaries by the people of their own States, has stolen from the rank and file of the Republicans from sixty to eighty lawfully elected delegates,
has substituted for them an equal number of
fraudulent delegates not elected by the people, and
claims the right to nullify the will of the people by
placing these fraudulent delegates on the
temporary roll-call of the national convention,
with the hope thereby of controlling it in the
interest of the candidate and of the bosses, whom
the people have just now emphatically repudiated.
This attempt to bind the convention by an act of deliberate dishonesty, this attempt to defraud of their rights the plain citizens of the Republican party, by the bosses whom that party has just repudiated, brings in question certain elementary principles which lie at the foundation not only of party procedure and party organization, but of free government and social order.
I hold that the convention itself is of right the only judge of the qualifications of its own members. From Washington, California, Arizona, Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Alabama, and certain other States the people elected certain delegates who are legally and morally entitled to sit in the convention. The discredited politicians making up the majority of the national committee with the determination to nullify the will of the people have substituted for those men certain others who have not the slightest claim to seats in the convention.
A minority of the national committee, composed of honorable men, who have voted on every case strictly on its merits, have in each case protested strongly against the action of the majority, showing beyond the shadow of doubt that the men thrown off the temporary roll by the majority are entitled to seats by every consideration of law and of morals.
I have carefully examined the facts in these cases myself, and I say to you that there is no element of doubt that the men in question were honorably and lawfully chosen by the people, and that the effort of the majority to unseat them represents nothing but naked theft, carried on with the sole and evil purpose of dishonestly substituting the will of the bosses for the deliberately expressed judgment of the people.
It is for the convention itself to decide these cases, and by the convention I mean the lawfully elected members of the convention. The men fraudulently put on the temporary’ roll by the dishonest action of the majority of the national committee must not be allowed to vote on their own cases, and to allow the beneficiaries of the theft to vote on one another’s case is, of course, to allow them really to vote on their own cases.
By every consideration of real justice, we are entitled to have these of whom I speak, who were elected by the people, put on the roll-call at once. But we do not ask this. Although we are deprived of our just rights when these men are not allowed to vote from the beginning, we ask merely that neither set of contestants be allowed to vote on any question before the convention until the thousand members of the convention whose seats have not been contested shall themselves decide which of the contested delegates are entitled to membership.
I believe that even with the addition of these fraudulently seated delegates Mr. Taft’s supporters are in a substantial minority of the convention, and I do not merely believe,’ I. know, that we have a large majority of the legally ejected members of the convention. The question involved in the action of the national committee is of vastly more importance than my nomination or the nomination of any man. The whole system of the corrupt alliance between crooked business and crooked politics is at stake in the making up of this temporary roll; it has been made up crookedly by the majority of the national committee, with the purpose of perpetuating the of the corrupt political boss, even when the people have declared against him.
If these methods were allowed to prevail the Republican party would come to an end, for it would cease to be the party of the people. It would pass under the control of an oligarchy of the representatives of privilege, and no method of overthrowing that control would remain available to the people. If this action by the majority of the national committee is allowed to stand, primaries are a farce and election the idle exercise of a useless privilege.
We refuse to recognize or abide by this theft of the rights of the people by the national committee. It is the duty of all honest members of the convention to fight that action from the moment the convention assembles. It is our duty to the rank and file of the Republican party, it is our duty to the people of this country to insist that no action of the convention which is based on the votes of these fraudulently seated delegates binds the Republican party or imposes any obligation upon any Republican.
The man nominated by the national committee as temporary chairman, whoever he may be, must, under these circumstances, be considered as merely an instrument chosen by them to put in effect their purposes. If such a man — whether he be Mr. Root or any one else, and whatever his previous career — is willing to accept an election by the aid of those fraudulently selected delegates, he at once becomes the representative of forces which no honorable man, no loyal Republican, can afford to see triumph, whether within the party or in our national life.
The big, evil politicians who are a curse to their land derive the major part of their strength from the fact that in any crisis a number of respectable men, although they oppose the evil, do it feebly and dare not carry the fight to the end. We who are in this fight are not feeble, and we intend to carry the fight to the end. We ask that, before the convention proceeds to organize, the groups of contested delegates stand aside and allow their title to be passed upon by the remaining uncontested delegates. This will be not only in strict accordance with common sense and justice, but in accordance with the practice prevalent under the rules of Congress in the organization of the House in the matter of contested seats.
We will abide by the decision of any honest and impartial tribunal in this matter, but we will not permit the fraudulently seated delegates to sit as judges on their own cases, and perhaps as a result to overthrow in the interests of certain bosses and of the beneficiaries of privilege the clearly and deliberately expressed judgment of the plain citizens who make up the rank and file of the Republican party.
We rest our case, not only before the Republican voters, but before the American people, upon the proposition, first, that the national committee cannot defeat the wishes of the rank and file of the Republican voters by unseating delegates honestly elected and, second, that those who are dishonestly substituted for them by the national committee must not be permitted to vote on their own cases and to be the beneficiaries of franc committed in their own behalf.
There never has been a clearer line-up than this between the plain people of the country on the one side, and on the other the powers that prey, the representatives of special privilege in the world of business and their tools and instruments in the world of politics. There can be no compromise in such a contest. It is natural that the representatives of special privilege, who know that special privilege cannot continue if the people really rule, should resort unblushingly to every kind of trickery and dishonesty in order to perpetuate their hold upon the party, and should be eager callously to destroy the party if necessary to prevent its being controlled by its rank, and file. But for this very reason we feel we have a right solemnly to appeal to all honest men to stand with us on what has now become a naked issue of right and wrong. There can be no yielding, no flinching on our part. We have the people behind us overwhelmingly. We have justice and honesty on our side. We are warring against bossism, against privilege social and industrial; we are warring for the elemental virtues of honesty and decency, of fair dealing as between man and man; we are warring to save the Republican party; and the only reward for which we ask is to put our party in such shape that it shall be of the highest possible service to the people of the United States.
Now let us consider what this fight has been for. The issue has been sharply drawn not merely by the words of Mr. Taft and of myself and of our supporters, but by our several actions. I have stood for the right of the people to rule and for their duty so to rule as to work for moral, political, and industrial justice. Mr. Taft has no less explicitly stood for a government of the people by what he calls a “representative part” of the people; and while he has of course stated in perfunctory fashion that he favors industrial justice, he has violently opposed every practical method advanced for actually doing away with industrial injustice, for actually driving privilege out of its entrenchment’s, and for actually equalizing opportunity. At the present moment we see before our eyes here in Chicago just exactly what Mr. Taft’s doctrine of government of the people by a “representative part” of the people really amounts to. Eight years ago I received electoral votes from thirty-three States; in twenty of these States direct primaries have been held, or if not direct primaries at least primaries sufficient to give the people a reasonable chance to express their preferences. In these twenty States where the rank and file of the Republican party had a chance to express their preference I won two hundred and, ninety-five delegates, Mr. Taft sixty-seven, Mr. La Follette thirty-six. That is, in those States which went Republican tight years ago, Mr. Taft obtained between one-seventh and one-eighth of the delegates where the people had a chance to express their will. These primary States are scattered everywhere throughout the country from Maine to California, and it is impossible to doubt that they give an accurate measure of what the vote in all the Republican States would be if the people had been allowed a chance to vote. But Mr. Taft’s representatives, wherever possible, prevented the adoption of a primary law. They prevented it in Michigan, for instance, they prevented it in Montana. Without question Montana and
Michigan would have gone for us at least as strongly as Illinois and Oregon, had there been a primary law. Before the people of either State Mr. Taft did not stand the chance to get a single delegate. His led captains recognized this fact and prevented the people from voting; he and they distrusted the people, with reason; and, with equal reason, they trusted the professional politicians, and in Montana and Michigan Mr. Taft won delegates, to the snickering delight of every friend of privilege and bossism in the land, whose relish is peculiarly keen in seeing delegates won against the will of the people.
These Republican primary States cast over two-thirds of the Republican vote in the electoral college. In them the people spoke. They went overwhelmingly for me, and still more overwhelmingly against Mr. Taft. In the other States that went Republican eight years ago no primaries were held, and in all but one the politicians had nearly complete sway. In these States Mr. Taft secured one hundred and seventy-six votes, I secured forty, Mr. Cummins ten. Of the Republican States, therefore, I received the overwhelming majority of the delegates wherever the people could express themselves, and taking these States all told in spite of Mr. Taft’s triumphs in the States where there were no real primaries I received four hundred and thirty-five delegates (including those which the national committee has stolen) as against the two hundred and forty-three for Mr. Taft, the thirty-six for Mr. La Follette, and the ten for Mr. Cummins. To put it in another way, I squarely carried twenty-one of the old Republican States, and these States cast two hundred and sixty-three vote in the electoral college — within three of a majority of the tote electoral vote. Mr. Taft carried enough States (where there were no primaries) to give him eighty-two electoral votes Mr. La Follette carried two States with eighteen electoral votes; Mr. Taft and Mr. Cummins divided one State wit] thirteen votes. There remain States which although Democratic at the last election contain a genuine Republican party, States like North Carolina and Oklahoma, where there were primaries and where I carried every delegate except three.
It thus appears that in the Republican States Mr. Taft was beaten two to one, and that in the Republican States which hold primaries where the people could express their desires, he was beaten by over seven to one. I call your attention to one significant feature in the attitude of the Taft papers in chronicling Mr. Taft’s victories and defeats. Whenever their head-lines announced; a defeat for Mr. Taft it meant that there had been a vote by the people themselves in a primary State. Whenever during the last ten days they have announced a victory for Mr. Taft it has meant that Mr. Taft’s representatives in the national committee have thrown out delegates elected by the people at large to represent them. My victories have been won before the people and by the people. Mr. Taft’s have been won by the bosses and by the representatives of special privilege, by the national committee and by boss-controlled conventions of machine politicians. I carried Washington at the polls; he carried it before the national committee; he never has had, and has not now, a chance with the people; and I have just as little chance wherever the crooked type of politicians has power. -If I am nominated it will be because whenever they have had a chance, the verdict of the people, expressed in millions of votes, has been over two to one in my favor. If Mr. Taft were nominated it would mean the ruin of the Republican party for the roll-call of his delegates as prepared by the national committee consists, first of delegates from States that never cast a Republican electoral vote, second, of boss-controlled delegates from States where the Republican voters were not allowed to express their preference, third, of delegates stolen from me, and fourth, and least in importance, of the delegates given him by the people — the last, who are the only delegates to whom he has any claim in right or morals, representing but one-eighth of his strength, the other seven-eighths representing the unscrupulous use of patronage in the South, the unscrupulous tactics of unprincipled machine politicians in the North, and the naked thefts of the national committee.
Let me give you two striking illustrations of how Mr. Taft’s theory of government of the people by a “representative part” of the people actually turns out to be in practice. In Ohio a primary was held for’ the district delegates; but the Taft managers who had control of the State central committee refused our request that there should also be a primary vote for the delegates at large. At the primary I beat Mr. Taft by forty-seven thousand in a vote which was about eighty per cent of that polled at the last election for governor. It was an overwhelming repudiation of Mr. Taft by the plain people, by the rank and file of the Republican party of Ohio. But this did not affect the State convention. Mr. Taft was not above sending an appeal to his leaders in the State convention begging them’ to give him the vote anyhow in spite of the way in which he had been repudiated by the polls. In that convention the county in which the city of Cleveland stands had some fifty delegates. That county had gone against Mr. Taft about three to one; he had even run behind Mr. La Follette. His repudiation by the people of the county had been so complete that it is to me literally incomprehensible how any man with any pretensions to honorable feeling could fail to’ accept the verdict. But Mr. Taft’s lieutenants undertook to steal from the people their right to deliver what verdict they chose. Their task was no more reputable than any form of burglary and was far more damaging to the community than burglary. They were successful. They succeeded in getting from the city of Cleveland, which had repudiated Mr. Taft three to one at the polls, a delegation of politicians which, was ten to one in his favor. This delegation turned the scale at the State convention and earned Mr. Taft’s effusive gratitude by stealing for him from the people of Ohio the six delegates at large. He was not entitled to these delegates. The people of Ohio who were defrauded in his interest, were’ entitled to them. The people were cheated out of their rights because they were misrepresented by the convention. Mr. Taft asked the Ohio State convention to misrepresent the people and it did misrepresent the people. Mr. Taft need never again explain what he means by government of the people by a “representative part” of the people. He has shown in actual practice that he means government of the people by politicians who shall misrepresent them in the selfish interest of some one else.
My second example is the national committee itself. The recent action of the national committee illustrated well what has happened in our country in the twisting of nominal representative government away from its original purpose until it becomes thoroughly unrepresentative and misrepresentative. All this party machinery was originally designed simply in order to make the will of the party genuinely effective. It had no other purpose then. It can have no other legitimate purpose now. Until within a very few years no man would have been brazen enough openly to announce that this was not its purpose. It has been reserved for Mr. Taft and his friends in this crisis openly to act on such an assumption. The other day thirty-seven of Mr. Taft’s adherents on the national committee stole from the people of California their right to give the votes of California to the men of their choice. These thirty-seven politicians, none of whom lived in California, assumed to override the will of the quarter of a million of California voters who had recorded their will at the primary. The thirty-seven men who do not live in California have given seats to two Taft men whom the quarter of a million California voters had refused to seat. These two Taft delegates have no more right to sit in the Republican convention than they have to sit in the Democratic convention. They were defeated in California by about seventy-seven thousand majority; a majority greater than Mr. Taft’s entire vote. Under the act of the legislature all the delegates ran on one ticket, the Taft and Roosevelt delegates alike binding themselves to abide by the result. No delegates were elected by districts. Mr. Taft sent an urgent appeal to California just before the primary election, an appeal which showed his complete action quiescence in what was done — and unless he was prepared then to protest it was dishonorable to protest afterward. Yet on the plea of a henchman of Mr. Patrick Calhoun’s, thirty-seven adherents of Mr. Taft on the national committee robbed the people of California of their rights and seated the two Taft-Calhoun delegates. Of these thirty-seven men, four represented the Territories of Alaska, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Porto Rico. Twelve represented States that went Democratic four years ago. Fourteen came from Republican States, everyone of which had repudiated Mr. Taft and his committeemen at the primaries held this spring. In other words, of the thirty-seven Taft men who in Mr. Taft’s interest robbed the overwhelming majority of the Republican voters of the great Republican State of California of their rights, sixteen represented no Republican electoral vote whatever and fourteen represented Republican States whose voters by overwhelming majorities had repudiated the men themselves and Mr. Taft also at the primaries held this spring. There remain out of the twenty nine only seven men, six of these representing States where the Republican voters have had no chance to express their preference for President. In other words, out of the thirty. seven men on the national committee who in Mr. Taft’s interest disfranchised California so far as two of its delegates art concerned, but one single man represented a State where the majority was Republican and where when it had had a chance it had not repudiated both the man himself and Mr. Taft himself. The action of the committee in seating the Taft delegates from Washington was even worse; and in the other States I have named it was at least as bad. This is Mr. Taft theory of government of the people by a “representative part” of the people when it is reduced to practice. From the practice of this theory, under the pretense of heeding the forms a democracy, it is but one step farther to cast aside all pretense whatever. and Mr. Taft’s lieutenants have taken this step again and again; from swindling the people by sharp political tricks they have gone to the point of deliberate theft. Mr. Taft in encouraging what was done in the Ohio State convention showed his anxious desire to defeat the will of the people by sharp trickery which kept just within the law. But in electing and seating the delegates whom the Taft national committeemen have put on the temporary roll of the convention from California, Washington, Arizona, Kentucky, Indiana, Texas, and other States a much longer step toward dishonesty has been taken. These delegates represent deliberate theft, deliberate robbery. The action of Mr. Taft’s supporters in these cases raises a question even more vital than those that have legitimately been raised, in this campaign. Before discussing questions dealing with the right of the people to rule and to secure social and industrial justice it is necessary to settle once for all that when the decision has been made by the people it shall not be reversed by force and fraud. We have a right to ask every honest man among our opponents, whatever may be his views as to the principles we advocate, heartily to support us in this fight for the elementary, the fundamental honesties of politics. The first and greatest issue before us is the issue of theft. Every honest citizen should join with us in the fight for honesty against theft and corruption.
It is not to be wondered at that our opponents have been very bitter; for the line-up in this crisis is one that cuts deep to the foundations of government. Our democracy is now put to a vital test; for the conflict is between human rights on the one side and on the other special privilege asserted as a property right. The parting of the ways has come. The Republican party must definitely stand on one side or the other. It must stand, by deeds, and not merely by empty phrases, for the rights of humanity, or else it must stand for special privilege. Our opponents are fond of calling themselves regular Republicans. In reality they have no title to membership in any party that is true to the principles of Abraham Lincoln. They are fighting for the cause of special privilege and their chief strength-is drawn from the beneficiaries of intrenched economic and social injustice. I do not in the least mean that they are all of them or even a majority of them impelled by improper motives any more than I would say the same thing of the men in the North who during the Civil War were favorable to slavery and hostile to the Union. But most of the master spirits among them have a strong selfish interest in resisting the campaign against industrial wrong. The real masters among our opponents are often by no means the men nominally in the forefront. These real masters of the reactionary forces have a tremendous personal interest in perpetuating the right of the boss in politics with as its necessary accompaniment, the safeguarding of privilege and the enlarging of the sphere of special interest. They are the men who stand back of the ordinary political leaders who are against us. They are the men who directly or indirectly control the majority of the great daily newspapers that are against us. Behind them comes the host of honest citizens who because the channels of their information are choked misunderstand our position and believe that in opposing us they are opposing disturbers of the peace. In addition these are the men who now, as in every age — are intellectually and temperamentally incapable of consenting to progress and who worship at the shrine of the sanctity of property even though that property be illicitly acquired and used to the detriment of the community. All of these honest men are sedulously taught by the big sinister men above them that revolution depends if we strike at even the most obvious injustice. They are taught to believe that change means destruction. They are wrong. The men who temperately and with self-restraint but with unflinching resolution and efficiency strike at in justice, right grievous wrong, and drive intrenched privilege from its sanctuary, are the men who prevent revolutions. Life means change; where there is no change, death comes. We who fight sanctity for the rights of the people, for industrial justice and social reforms are also fighting for material well-being; for justice is the handmaiden of prosperity; and without justice there can be no lasting prosperity. We pledge ourselves not only to strive for prosperity but to bring it about; for it can only come on a basis of fair treatment for all; and on such a basis it shall come, if the people intrust power to us.
When I undertook this contest I was well aware of the intense bitterness which my reentry into politics would cause, I knew that the powers that prey would oppose me, with tenfold the bitterness they would show in opposing any other Progressive candidate, simply because they do not fear any other Progressive candidate, whereas they very greatly fear me. I knew also that they would directly or indirectly influence very many men who pride themselves upon belonging to and indeed typifying what they regard as the educated and respectable classes. But it has been to me a matter of melancholy concern to see the effect that these influences have produced upon so many men in the Northeast, and in cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, who lead lives that are on the whole rather pleasant, rather soft, and who are free from all possibility of the pressure of actual want. It has been a matter of concern to me to see how bitter and irrational has been the opposition to us among a very large proportion of these men, the men who are to be found in the most noted clubs, in the centers of big business, and in the places especially resorted to by those whose chief desires are for ease and pleasure. We have with us a small percentage of the heads of great corporations and of great corporation lawyers, including I believe almost every man of either class sufficiently high-minded and far-sighted to see that in the long run privilege spells destruction, not only to the class harmed by it but the class possessing it. We welcome the presence of these men. Every honest man whatever his fortune, should be our ally. The great majority of capitalists, however, and of the big corporation lawyers so intimately connected with them, are naturally hostile to-us. Their hostility did not surprise me.
The men who are most benefited by privilege unless they are
exceptionally disinterested and far-sighted, cannot be
expected to feel friendly toward those who assail privilege.
But associated with them are many men whose selfish interest
in privilege is far less obvious. I genuinely regret that we have
had with us so small a percentage of the men for whom life has
been easy, who belong to or are intimately associated with the
leisured and monied classes; so small a proportion of the class
which furnishes the bulk of the membership in the larger social business and professional clubs, and which supplies the majority of the heads of our great educational institutions and of the men generally, who take the lead in upholding the cause of virtue when only the minor moralities and the elegancies of life are at issue. My concern and regret are primarily for these men themselves. They could do us good by joining with us, for it is earnestly to be wished that this movement for social justice shall number among its leaders at least a goodly proportion of men whose leadership is obviously disinterested, who will themselves receive no material benefit from the changes which as a matter of justice they advocate. Yet the good to the people would be small compared to the good which these men would do to their own class by casting in their lot with us as we battle for the rights of humanity, as we battle for social and industrial justice, is we champion the cause of those who most need champions and for whom champions have been too few. I have been puzzled at the attitude of the men in question. They are often the men who in the past have been very severe in their condemnation of corruption, in their condemnation of bossism, and in railing at injustice and demanding higher ideals of public service and private life Yet when the supreme test comes they prove false to all their professions of the past. They fear the people so intensely that they pardon and uphold every species of political ant business crookedness in the panic-struck hope of strengthening the boss and special privilege and thereby raising a powerful shield to protect their own soft personalities from the public. They are foolish creatures; the people would never harm them; yet they still dread the people. They stand with servile acquiescence behind the worst representatives of crooked business and crooked politics in the country, and by speech or by silence they now encourage or condone the efforts of our opponents to steal from the people the victory they have won and to substitute boss rule for popular rule. Some of these men have in the past assumed to be teachers of their fellow men in political matters. Never again can they speak in favor of a high ideal of honesty and decency in political life, or of the duty to oppose political corruption and business wrong-doing; for to do so would expose them to the derision of all who abhor hypocrisy and who condemn fine words that are not translated into honorable deeds.
Apparently these men are influenced by a class consciousness which I had not supposed existed in any such strength. They live softly. Circumstances for which they are not responsible have removed their lives from the fears and anxieties of the ordinary men who toil. When a movement is undertaken to make life a little easier, a little better, for the ordinary man, to give him a better chance, these men of soft life seem cast into panic lest something that is not rightly theirs may be taken from them. In unmanly fear they stand against all change, no matter how urgent such change may be, They not only come far short of their duty when they thus act, but they show a lamentable short-sightedness. In this country of ours no man can permanently leave to his descendants the right to live softly; and if he could leave such a right it would in the end prove to be a right not worth having. The inheritance really worth while which we can transmit to our children and to our children’s children is the ability to do work that counts, not the means of avoiding work — the ability for efficient effort, not the opportunity for the slothful avoidance of all effort. The leaders in the fight for industrial and social justice today should be the men to whom much has been given and from whom we have a right to expect in return much of honesty and of courage, much of disinterested and valorous effort for the common good. The multimillionaire who opposes us is the worst foe of his own children and children’s children, and, little though he knows it, we are their benefactors when we strive to make this country one in which, justice shall prevail; for it is they themselves who would in the end suffer most if in this country we permitted the average man gradually to grow to feel that fair play was denied him, that justice was denied to the many and privilege accorded to the few.
We who in this contest are fighting for the rights of the plain people, we who are fighting for the right of the people to rule themselves, need offer no better proof of the fact that we are fighting for all citizens, no matter what their politics, than that which is afforded by the action of that portion of the press which is controlled by privilege, by the great special interests in business. Newspapers of this type are found in every part of the country, in San Francisco, in Cincinnati, in Chicago and St. Louis, in Boston and Philadelphia. But the are strongest in New York. Some of these newspapers are nominally Democratic, some nominally Republican, some nominally independent. But in reality they are true only to the real or fancied interests of the great capitalist class by certain of whose members they are controlled. Sometimes the interests of this capitalist class are identical with those of the country as a whole, and in that case these papers serve interests of the commonwealth. Sometimes the interests of the capitalist class are against the interests of the people a whole, and in that case these papers are hostile to the interest of the commonwealth. But neither their acting favorably nor their acting adversely to the interests of the commonwealth is anything more than an incident to their support of the interests to which they are bound. The great and far-reaching evil of their action is that they choke and foul the only channels of information open to so many honest and well-meaning citizens. The most prominent representatives of these papers in New York and Massachusetts supported Mr. Parker against me in 1904 Mr. Parker was a Democrat, but he was entirely satisfactory to their masters, and for the time being they ardently did all they could to overthrow the Republican party and to elect a Democratic President. But when I began to be seriously talked about for the Republican nomination this year, these papers one and all turned Republican to the extent of becoming my furious opponents and the furious champions of Mr. Taft. There is an element of pure comedy in reading in these papers continual lamentations about the likelihood of my candidacy breaking up the Republican party. They themselves did all they could to beat the Republican party when they thought they could elect Mr. Parker. Now these papers would eagerly champion the Republican party if they could keep Mr. Taft as its nominee for President. In the past they have not concealed their contempt for Mr. Taft, and none of them regard him in any way as a leader.
The difference between us and our present-day opponents is as old as civilized history. In every great crisis of the kind we face to-day, we find arrayed on one side the men who with fervor and broad sympathy and lofty idealism stand for the forward movement, the men who stand for the uplift and betterment of mankind, and who have faith in the people; and! over against them the men of restricted vision and contracted sympathy, whose souls are not stirred by the wrongs of others Side by side with the latter, appear the other men who lack all intensity of conviction, who care only for the pleasure of the day; and also those other men who distrust the people, who if dishonest wish to keep the people helpless so as to exploit them, and who if honest so disbelieve in the power of the people to bring about wholesome reform that every appeal to popular conscience and popular intelligence fills them with an angry terror. According to their own lights, these men are often very respectable, very worthy, but they live on a plane of low ideals. In the atmosphere they create impostors flourish, and leadership comes to be thought of only as success in making money, and the vision of heaven becomes a sordid vision, and all that is highest and purest in human nature is laughed at, and honesty is bought and sold in the market-place.
Opposed undyingly to these men are the men of faith and vision, the men in whom love of righteousness burns like a flaming fire, who spurn lives of soft and selfish ease, of slothful self-indulgence, who scorn to think only of pleasure for themselves, who feel for and believe in their fellows, whose high fealty is reserved for all that is good, that is just, that is honorable. By their very nature these men are bound to battle for the truth and the right. They do not address themselves only to the cultured and exclusive few. They prize character even more than intellect. They know well that conscience is not the privilege merely of the men of wealth and cultivation and they make their appeal to all men alike in the name of the great fundamental qualities, and qualities that every man should have, the qualities of generosity and unselfishness, of fearless honesty and high courage.
We who war against privilege pay heed to no outworn system of philosophy. We demand of our leaders today understanding of and sympathy with the living and the vital needs of that in the community whose needs are greatest. We are against privilege in every form. We believe in striking every bulwark of privilege. Above all we are against the evil alliance of special privilege in business with special business in politics. We believe in giving the people a free hand to work in efficient fashion for true justice. To the big man and to the little men, in all the relations of life, we pledge justice and fair dealing.
A period of change is upon us. Our opponents, the men of reaction, ask us to stand still. But we could not stand still if we would; we must either go forward or go backward. Never was the need more imperative than now for men of ‘vision who are also men of action. Disaster is ahead of if we trust to the leadership of men whose souls are seared and whose eyes are blinded, men of cold heart and narrow mind, who believe we can find safety in dull timidity and dull inaction. The unrest cannot be quieted by ingenious trickery of those who profess to advance by merely marking time, or who seek to drown the cry for justice by loud and insincere clamor about issues that are false and issues that are dead. The trumpets sound the advance, and their peal cannot be drowned by repeating the war-cries of bygone battles, the victory shouts of vanished hosts. Here in this city of the State of Lincoln I can set forth the principles for which we stand to-day in the words which Lincoln used fifty-four years ago, when in speaking of the then phase of the eternal struggles between privilege and justice, between the rights of the many 1 and the special interest of the few, he said:
“That is the real issue. That is the issue which will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between two principles — right and wrong — throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time. The one is the common right of humanity, the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says: ‘You toil and work and earn bread, and I will eat it.’ No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who bestrides the people of his own nation and lives from the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.”
Were Lincoln alive today he would add that it is also the same principle which is now at stake when we fight on behalf I of the many against the oppressor in modern industry whether I the abuse of special privilege be by a man whose wealth is great or is little, whether by the multimillionaire owner of railways and mines and factories who forgets his duties to those who earn his bread while earning their own, or by the owner of the foul little sweat-shop who coins dollars from the excessive and underpaid labor of haggard women. We who stand for the cause of progress are fighting to make this country a better place to live in for those who have been harshly treated by fate; and if we succeed it will also really be a better’] place for those who are already well off. None of us can really prosper permanently if masses of our fellows are debased and degraded, if they are ground down and forced to live starved and sordid lives, so that their souls are crippled like their bodies and the fine edge of their every feeling blunted. We ask that those of our people to whom fate has been kind shall remember that each is his brother’s keeper, and that all of us whose veins thrill with abounding vigor shall feel our obligation to the less fortunate who work wearily beside us in the strain and stress of our eager modern life.
Friends, here in Chicago at this time you have a great task before you. I wish you to realize deep in your hearts you are not merely facing a crisis in the history of a party. You are facing a crisis in the history of a nation and what you do will have an appreciable effect throughout the world at large. Here in America we the people have a continent or which to work out our destiny, and our faith is great that our men and women are fit to face the mighty days. Nowhere else in all the world is there such a chance for the triumph on a gigantic scale of the great cause of Democratic and popular government. If we fail, the failure will be lamentable, an our heads will be bowed with shame; for not only shall we fail for ourselves, but our failure will wreck the fond desires of all throughout the world who look toward us with the for hope that here in this great Republic it shall be proved from ocean to ocean that the people can rule themselves, and thus ruling can gain liberty for and do justice both to themselves and to others. We who stand for the cause of the uplift of humanity and the betterment of mankind are pledged to eternal war against wrong whether by the few or by the many, by plutocracy or by a mob. We believe that this country will be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in. The sons of all of us will pay in the future if we of the present do not do justice to all in the present. Our cause is the cause of justice for all in the interest of all. The present contest is but a phase of the larger struggle. Assuredly the fight will go on whether we win or lose; but it will be a sore disaster to lose. What happens to me is not of the slightest consequence; I am to be used, as in a doubtful battle any man is-used, to his hurt or not, so long as he is useful, and is then cast aside or left to die. I wish you to feel this. I mean it; and I shall need no sympathy when you are through with me, for this fight is far too great to permit us to concern ourselves about any one man’s welfare. If we are true to ourselves by putting far above our own interests the triumph of the high cause for which we battle we shall not lose. It would be far better to fail honorably for the cause we champion than it would be to win by foul methods the foul victory for which our opponents hope. But the victory shall be ours, and it shall be won as we have already won so many victories, by clean and honest fighting for the loftiest of causes. We fight in honorable fashion for the good of mankind; fearless of the future; unheeding of our individual fates; with unflinching hearts and undimmed eyes; we stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.