Seldom, in times of peace, is the personality of a single individual so important as that of Theodore Roosevelt during the early years of the twentieth century. At the time of his accession to the presidency, he lacked a month of being forty-three years old, but the range of his experience in politics had been far beyond his age. In his early twenties, soon after leaving Harvard, he had entered the Assembly of the state of New York. President Harrison had made him Civil Service Commissioner in 1889, and he had been successively President of the Board of Police Commissioners of New York City, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, an important figure in the war with Spain, and Governor of New York. He had been known as a young man of promise - energetic, independent and progressive - and in addition to his political activities he had found time to write books on historical subjects, see something of life on a western ranch and develop a somewhat defective physique into an engine of physical power.

Brimming with energy, nimble of mind, impetuous, sure of himself, quick to strike, a fearless foe, frank, resourceful, audacious, honest, versatile - Roosevelt possessed the qualities which would challenge the admiration of the typical American. One who frequently saw him at work described thus the way in which he prepared a message to be sent to the Senate:

    He storms up and down the room, dictating in a loud and oratorical 
    tone, often stopping, recasting a sentence, striking out and 
    filling in, hospitable to every suggestion, not in the least 
    disturbed by interruption, holding on stoutly to his purpose, 
    and producing finally, out of these most unpromising conditions, 
    a clear and logical statement, which he could not improve with 
    solitude and leisure at his command.

The breadth of his interests, the democratic character of his friendships - for he was equally at home with blue-stocking, politician, cowboy and artisan - his complete loyalty to his friends and his disregard of conventionalities gave him a grip upon popular favor that had not been duplicated since the days of Andrew Jackson, unless by Lincoln. The effectiveness of so compelling a personality was in no way diminished by Roosevelt's possession of what a journalist would call "news sense." He was made for publicity; he had an instinct for the dramatic. His speeches were removed from mediocrity by his evident sincerity, his abounding interest in every occasion at which he was called upon to talk and the phrases that were half victories which he coined almost at will. "Mollycoddle," "muckraking," "the square deal," "the big stick" became familiar idioms in the vernacular of politics and the street. The political leadership of Roosevelt rested mainly upon his personal prestige and upon his attributes as a reformer. With unerring prescience he chose those political issues which would make a wide appeal and which could be pressed quickly to a successful conclusion. His complete integrity saved him from mere opportunism; his ruggedly practical commonsense saved him from that combination of high purpose and slight accomplishment which has characterized many other reformers.

No estimate of the deficiencies in Roosevelt's personality and leadership would be agreed upon at the present time. In some cases - as in the realm of international relations - only the future can decide whether he was a prophet or a chauvinist; in all cases, opinions have differed widely, for Roosevelt could scarcely explore a river, describe a natural phenomenon or urge a political innovation without thereby arousing a controversy in which his friends and his opponents would participate with equal intensity. His identification of himself with his purposes was as complete as that of Andrew Jackson; opposition to his proposals was reckoned as opposition to him as an individual. Like many leaders of the fighting type, he was frequently weak when judging the motives of those who disagreed with him. One of his admirers declared that his greatest political defect was an impatience of any interval between an expressed desire for an act and the accomplishment of the deed itself - an inability to stand through years of defeat for the future success of an ideal. A keener and equally sympathetic critic dubbed him the "sportsman" in politics - honest, hard-hitting, but playing the issue which had an immediate political effect.

At the outset of his administration Roosevelt was apparently an adherent of the prevailing Republican creed - protective tariff, gold standard, imperialism, laissez faire and the rest. His first official utterance after becoming President was an indication that he would continue unbroken the policies of his predecessor, and to this end he insisted that the cabinet should remain intact.[1] His foreign policy was aggressive; his interest in the military and naval establishments real and constant. Roosevelt was more venturesome than McKinley, and more ready to experiment with new ideas. He took up the duties of his position with an unaffected zest and enthusiasm; he looked upon the presidential office as an exhilarating adventure in national and even international affairs. As time went on, therefore, it became more and more evident that he was prepared to play a big role on a great stage. Moreover, few doubts concerning the constitutional powers of the executive position seem ever to have assailed him. Whatever may have been his theory at the outset of his presidency, he came eventually to believe that the executive power was limited only by the specific restrictions and prohibitions appearing in the Constitution, or imposed by Congress in laws which it had constitutional authority to pass. The scope which this theory presented for the exercise of his energetic originality is evident when contrasted with the theory of his predecessors, who had, in times of peace, held to the belief that the executive possessed only the powers specifically designated by the Constitution.

Not until some future time, when the events of the early twentieth century are better understood, will it be possible to judge accurately the value of President Roosevelt's regime in its relation to the control of railroads and corporations. There can be no doubt, however, that one of the most serious problems that faced the American people during that time was the position which the government ought to occupy toward the business interests of the nation. Not only were the railroads and the great corporations the center of the economic life of the people, but their social and political effects were momentous.

Neither the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 nor the Sherman Anti-trust law of 1890, it will be remembered, had accomplished what had been expected of them. The Interstate Commerce law had met with grave obstacles in the courts; the Sherman act had been seldom invoked by the federal executive, and in the most prominent case, United States v. E.C. Knight Co., the government had failed to obtain the decision it desired. Government regulation seemed like a broken reed.[2] A few cases, however, had indicated the possibility that strength might be discovered in the law. In United States v. the Trans-Missouri Freight Association, the Supreme Court had declared that the Anti-trust act applied to railroads and that it forbade agreements among them to maintain rates; two years later, in 1899, the Court pronounced illegal a combination of pipe manufacturers in the Middle West, on the ground that its result was to restrain interstate commerce.

Roosevelt, like Bryan and La Follette, had been groping his way to an understanding of the importance of the new problem. During his term as Governor of New York he had clashed with the older political leaders when he supported an act looking to the heavier taxation of railway franchises. The first recommendations in his message to Congress on December 3, 1901, concerned the subject of the relation of government and industry. The accumulation of wealth in recent years in the United States, he asserted, had been due to natural causes, and much of the antagonism aroused thereby was without warrant. Nevertheless grave evils had attended the process: overcapitalization was one; untruthful representations concerning the value of the properties in which business asked the public to invest was another. Such evils should be attacked; with extreme care, to be sure, but also with resolution. Combination and concentration, he thought, should be supervised and, within reasonable limits, controlled. The remedies which the President suggested were simple: in the interest of the public the government should have the right to inspect the workings of organizations engaged in interstate commerce; because of the lack of uniformity in corporation legislation within the states, the federal government should so extend its power as to include supervision of corporations; a Department of Commerce and Industries should be established, whose head should be a cabinet officer; the Interstate Commerce law should be amended; railway rates should be just, and should be the same to all shippers alike, and the government should be the agent to provide a remedy to this end.

The enthusiastic reception accorded the message by the press indicated that one or another of its numerous recommendations met with approval. The effect on Congress, however, of the portion dealing with interstate commerce was represented by a cartoon in the New York World. Uncle Sam was there portrayed stowing away for later attention a bundle of manuscript labelled "President's Message 1901. 30,000 words," while he smilingly remarked "When I git time!" But Roosevelt was not content to let the matter drop, and in the following summer he took the unusual step of carrying his message directly to the people. In the New England states first, and later in the West, he declared his creed on the federal regulation of industry. The effectiveness of the campaign was increased by the moderation of the President, by his increasing popularity and by the many telling phrases, with which he enforced his main thesis. The Sherman act looked less like a broken reed when the chief executive of the nation declared: "As far as the anti-trust laws go they will be enforced ... and when (a) suit is undertaken it will not be compromised except upon the basis that the Government wins." Here and there objection was raised that the program was not sufficiently definite; now and then a critic hazarded a conjecture that Roosevelt had not consulted the leaders of his party; but in the main he succeeded in obtaining a sympathetic hearing. At this juncture the coal strike of 1902 gave him one of those fortunate opportunities which were commonly referred to as a part of "Roosevelt's luck." With no uncertain hand he seized the opportunity which chance presented.

Before 1899, there had been no organization of the anthracite miners with sufficient strength to force any changes in the conditions under which the men performed their work. During that year the United Mine Workers of America began to send organizers into the Pennsylvania region. In 1900 the men struck, but an agreement was reached with the operators and work was resumed. The settlement, however, was not satisfactory to either side, and in 1902 the workers asked for a conference. The presidents of the coal companies and the coal-carrying railroads replied that they were always ready to meet their own employees but would have no dealings with a general labor organization. Smaller causes of unrest were the demand for more pay, shorter hours, and payment for coal by weight instead of by the car, but the fundamental issue was the recognition of the union - the workmen insisting on collective bargaining, the operators refusing it. The men were helpless except as a union; the roads were sure of keeping the upper hand if they dealt with the men individually or in small groups. When attempts at conference failed, the miners struck and from May 12 until October 23 nearly 147,000 of them remained idle. The total loss to miners and operators was nearly $100,000,000.

Since the Pennsylvania fields were almost the sole source of supply for anthracite coal, discomfort was soon felt in the North and West, and as the cooler weather came on, suffering became acute and public feeling bordered on panic. A winter without hard coal could hardly be contemplated without grave misgivings. Popular opinion, meanwhile, went increasingly to the side of the miners. The refusal of the operators to confer, and the propriety of the conduct of the workmen made a wide impression that was favorable to the union. Moreover, George F. Baer, President of the Philadelphia and Reading Company, spoke of himself and his associates in a letter to a correspondent as those "Christian men to whom God in His infinite wisdom has given the control of the property interests of the country." The remark was widely quoted and generally looked upon as evidence of a selfish and uncompromising individualism.[3] The strike having now become a matter of national importance, President Roosevelt requested the operators and representatives of the miners to meet him in Washington, October 3. At this conference the spokesman of the railroads refused mediation, while the leader of the United Mine Workers, John Mitchell, proposed arbitration and pledged the workers to accept it.

After the refusal of the operators to accept the President's conciliatory offer, he decided to apply pressure. He obtained the consent of Grover Cleveland to act as chairman of a commission of investigation and determined to seize the mines by military force, if necessary, operate them as a receiver and await the report of his commission. In some way, which can not now be indicated with certainty, the operators were influenced to accept mediation, and the President appointed a commission with Judge George Gray as chairman.[4] The miners immediately returned to work, coal began again to flow to the North, and public rejoicing was extreme. The President's Commission at once repaired to Pennsylvania, heard 558 witnesses, visited the mines, and inspected machinery and the homes of the miners. It concluded that neither side was completely in the right, and therefore made an award that satisfied some of the complaints of both parties. In the history of the relation between the federal government and the business interests of the nation, the anthracite strike of 1902 is of marked significance. The operators had given evidence of a failure to understand that their business so concerned the nation that the interest of the public in it must be heeded. The successful outcome enhanced the prestige of the government and of the President, and an example of the need of greater control over corporations received wide publicity at the precise moment when the general subject was uppermost in the popular mind.

The first legislative evidence of the result of the agitation for the more effective regulation of industry was an act approved on February 11, 1903, by which any suit brought in a Circuit Court by the United States government under the Sherman Anti-trust act or the Interstate Commerce law, could be given precedence over other cases at the desire of the Attorney-General. Three days later a law was passed which established a Department of Commerce and Labor, whose chief was to be a cabinet officer. Included in the Department was a Bureau of Corporations headed by a Commissioner, who was authorized to investigate the organization and conduct of the business of corporations. Within another five days the Elkins Act had been passed - a law designed to eliminate rebating. Despite the Interstate Commerce act, the practice of rebating had continued. Agreement was general that railroad men who, in other respects, were perfectly scrupulous, commonly violated the law in order to get business in competition with their rivals. Among the railroad men who had violated the law but who deprecated the necessity of so doing, was Paul Morton, president of the Santa Fe system. Morton volunteered to assist Roosevelt in stamping out the evil, and the Elkins law was designed to aid in this process. It forbade any variation from published rates, made both a corporation and its agents punishable for offenses against the law, prohibited the receiving of rebates as well as giving them, and made the penalty for failure to observe the provisions of the Act a fine of one thousand to twenty thousand dollars. Furthermore, during February, 1903, Congress appropriated $500,000 to be expended under the direction of the Attorney-General for the better enforcement of the anti-trust and interstate commerce laws.

In 1903, likewise, was initiated an important judicial proceeding in the direction of the enforcement of the Sherman law. The Great Northern Railway Company and the Northern Pacific Railway Company operated parallel competing lines of road extending from the region of Lake Superior to the Pacific Coast. An attempted consolidation of the two had been declared illegal under the statutes of the state of Minnesota. On November 13, 1901, under the leadership of two of the foremost railway magnates of the nation, J.J. Hill and J.P. Morgan, there had been organized the Northern Securities Company, to purchase and control at least a majority of the shares of the capital stock of the two lines of railway. In this way the two roads would be operated as one, their earnings pooled, competition between the two eliminated and a virtual consolidation effected. On the advice of the Attorney-General, Philander C. Knox, President Roosevelt directed that proceedings be instituted against the holding company - an act that seemed almost useless in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in the Knight Case. But the decision in the Northern Securities Case, handed down in 1904, was a surprise. By a vote of five to four the Court declared the company a combination in restraint of trade, and therefore illegal under the Sherman act, and enjoined any attempt on its part to control the affairs of either of the two railways.

Nineteen hundred and four, the year of the presidential election, found Roosevelt in a strong position. His success in handling the coal strike and his energetic preparations for the crusade against trust evils had struck a responsive chord in the popular mind. Late in 1903 he had announced to Congress that frauds had been discovered in the post office and land office, and urged the appropriation of funds for the prosecution of the offenders. The result was a house-cleaning which involved the conviction of many officials, including two United States senators. Roosevelt's popularity became greater than ever.

It was to be expected, however, that some opposition would appear to the nomination of Roosevelt for a continuation of his term of office, and it was around the forceful Mark Hanna that the opposition began gradually to center. Hanna had attained remarkable influence as a senator, was highly trusted by the business interests and was popular among southern Republicans. But his death in February, 1904, effectively ended any opposition to Roosevelt, since it was then too late to focus attention upon any other competitor. The Republican nominating convention, therefore, which met in Chicago on June 21, lacked any semblance of a contest, and the President was renominated without opposition. The platform was of the traditional sort. The history of the party was approved; its achievements in giving prosperity to the country and peaceful government to the island possessions were recounted; the protective tariff, the gold standard, an isthmian canal, the improvement of the army and navy, the continuation of civil service reform and a vigorous foreign policy, - on all these the party utterance was that of other days. Surprisingly little was said upon the subject of the regulation of corporations. The few steps already taken were approved, but as to the future, the platform was almost colorless:

    Combinations of capital and of labor are the results of the 
    economic movement of the age, but neither must be permitted to 
    infringe upon the rights and interests of the people. Such 
    combinations, when lawfully formed for lawful purposes, are 
    alike entitled to the protection of the laws, but both are 
    subject to the laws, and neither can be permitted to break them.

The Democratic convention met in St. Louis on July 6, and the excitement which marked its proceedings compensated for the lack of interest at the Republican meeting. As drawn up by a sub-committee of the Committee on Resolutions, the platform was, in many of its planks, a distinct return to the programs of the days before 1896. It urged a reduction of the tariff, generous pensions and civil service reform, together with the enforcement of the anti-trust laws and the popular election of senators. In the main, it was devoted to a condemnation of the existing Republican administration, which it denounced as "spasmodic, erratic, sensational, spectacular and arbitrary." It also contained a paragraph declaring that the question of the money standard had ceased to be an issue, on the ground that recent discoveries of gold had enormously increased the supply of currency in the country. Bryan did not approve. With characteristic energy he threw himself into an all-night fight in the Committee in behalf of a silver plank. His defeat indicated that the convention was in the hands of his opponents and the platform as adopted contained no reference to the currency.

The delegates had, in fact, come to the meeting with the distinct purpose of returning to the "safe and sane" democracy of Grover Cleveland. To that end, the platform was to drop the silver issue and Bryan was to be replaced by a more conservative leader. The radical forces centered their strength upon William R. Hearst, but they were in a distinct minority, and in the end, the Cleveland wing succeeded in nominating Judge Alton B. Parker of New York. As soon as he was notified of his nomination, Judge Parker telegraphed to the convention that he regarded the gold standard as irrevocably established and that he must decline to be the party candidate if his attitude on the currency was unsatisfactory to the delegates. Thereupon the convention replied that the platform was silent on the question of a monetary standard because it was not regarded as a campaign issue. Parker was satisfied with the reply, and the last word was written upon a question that had disturbed politics for many years.

The succeeding campaign was unusually listless. Parker did not inspire enthusiasm, although a man of undoubted integrity and ability, and the personality of Roosevelt was the controlling force. Only at the close of the canvass did a passing interest appear in some charges made by Parker. He called attention to the fact that Secretary Cortelyou of the Department of Commerce and Labor had been charged with the duty of examining the acts of corporations and had then resigned to become chairman of the National Republican Committee. Parker insinuated that Cortelyou was using information about corporate misdoing, which he had discovered, in order to force large contributions from the business interests. He also declared that the Republican campaign was being financed by the corporations. Roosevelt did not answer the charges until three days before the election, and then he asserted that the statements made by Parker were "unqualifiedly and atrociously false." Later investigations have shown that in general Parker was correct in his complaint as to the activities of the corporations, although he would have found difficulty in proving his charges in detail. The same investigations, however, indicated that some of the Democratic campaign fund had come from similar sources.

The election resulted in the choice of President Roosevelt, whose popular vote was 7,600,000 to Parker's 5,000,000. In the more populous sections of the country, which were normally Republican, the party vote scarcely exceeded that of 1900, but in the Far West, the increases were notable. Beyond the Mississippi River, except in the southern states, hardly a county gave a majority for Parker, showing that the region which had gone to Bryan in 1896 was substantially solid for Roosevelt. Indeed, the policies to which Roosevelt was committed bore a greater resemblance to the principles of Bryan than to the laissez faire philosophy to which many important Republican leaders adhered. Despite their dissent, however, his victory in the election was so overwhelming that he could carry out his program with the irresistible pressure of public opinion behind him.

During the campaign year, the Commissioner of Corporations was busy investigating the activities of the so-called "beef-trust," and a suit against the combination was pressed to a successful conclusion in January, 1905. In its decision in the case (Swift &Company v. United States), the Supreme Court dwelt at some length on the charges made against the Company. A dominant proportion - six-tenths - of the dealers in fresh meat in the United States were alleged to have agreed not to bid against one another in the live-stock markets; to restrict the output of meat in order to raise prices; to keep a black-list; and to get illegal rates from the railroads to the exclusion of competitors. To the objection of the members of the trust that the charges against them were general and did not set forth any specific facts, the Court retorted that the scheme alleged was so vast as to present a new problem in pleading. The decision was against the combination, which was ordered to dissolve. The publicity given to the case and to the methods of the meat packers assisted in the passage of legislation requiring government inspection of meats.

An unexpected phase of the Sherman act appeared in 1908, in the case Loewe v. Lawlor. The American Federation of Labor, acting through its official organ, had declared a boycott against D.E. Loewe, a hat manufacturer of Danbury, Connecticut. The Court decided that a combination of labor organizations designed to boycott a dealer's goods was a combination in restraint of trade and that the manufacturer might maintain an action against the Hatters' Union for damages.[5]

In the meantime, another prominent trust had played into the hands of the administration. The American Sugar Refining Company imported large amounts of raw sugar, on which it paid tariff duties. In November, 1907, it was discovered that the Company had tampered with the scales on which the incoming sugar was weighed, in such a manner as to defraud the government. In the resulting legal actions, over $4,000,000 were recovered from the Company, criminal prosecutions were carried on against the officials and employees, and several of them were convicted. The close relation between the railroads and the great corporations was indicated when the Standard Oil Company of Indiana was brought into court on the charge of receiving rebates on petroleum shipped over the Chicago and Alton Railroad. The decision by Judge K.M. Landis was that the Company was guilty on 1,462 separate counts and must pay a fine of $29,240,000. On appeal to a higher court the case was dismissed, partly on a question concerning the meaning of the law.

The efforts of Roosevelt in the direction of control of the railroads resembled his activities in relation to industrial combinations. A variety of circumstances had combined to arouse a popular demand for the reinforcement of existing legislation: the discovery of grave abuses in connection with the transportation of petroleum; the continuance of favoritism and rebating, together with increasing public knowledge of their existence; the rise in freight rates; and the consolidation of the railroads into a few large systems, with the accompanying concentration of power in the hands of a small number of persons. In his public speeches and in his messages to Congress in 1904 and 1905, President Roosevelt made himself the spokesman of the popular will. In particular - and it was here that the conflict was destined to rage - the President called for the transfer to the Interstate Commerce Commission of the power to determine the rates which the roads should be allowed to charge. The project was not a new one, having already taken shape in previous years, but at no time was Congress prepared to pass definite legislation. The reaction of the railroads to the rising demand was energetic. A costly propaganda was entered upon designed to prove to the public that the roads should be let alone. A powerful lobby worked insistently upon Congress, first to prevent action and later, when action was seen to be inevitable, to weaken the legislation wherever possible. The railroad's campaign of popular education, however, helped to convince the popular mind that new laws were needed, and came coincidently with the disclosures of corporate mismanagement and wrong-doing. The outcome was the Hepburn Act of June 29, 1906.

Its major provisions were five in number. It enlarged the scope of the Interstate Commerce Act so as to include control of express and sleeping car companies, pipe lines, switches, spur tracks and terminals. Free passes, which had hitherto been productive of much favoritism and the source of political corruption, were strictly forbidden, except to a few specified classes. The "commodity clause" forbade railroads to carry goods, other than timber, in which they had an interest, except such as they were going to use themselves. This provision was designed mainly to check the activities of those companies which owned both coal mines and railroads, and which used their advantageous position to crush independent operators. Its force, however, was largely nullified by subsequent decisions of the courts. The Hepburn law also enabled the Commission to prescribe the methods of book-keeping which the roads must follow, to call for monthly or special reports and to employ examiners who should have access to the books of the carriers. The roads were even denied the right to keep any records except those approved by the Commission. These drastic features of the law were due in part to the practices of certain roads which hid away corrupt expenditures in their accounts in such a manner that detection was almost impossible. Most important, however, among the provisions of the Act was that in relation to rate-making, which not only empowered the Commission to hear complaints that rates were unjust or unreasonable, but even enabled it to determine what would be a just and reasonable charge in the case, and to order the carrier complained of to adhere to the new rate. The rate-making section of the Hepburn Act immediately resulted in a large increase in the number of complaints entered by shippers against the carriers. Previously, few cases had been taken to the Commission - only 878 in eighteen years - because relief was seldom obtained and then only at great cost in time and money. Under the new law more than 1500 cases were entered within two and a half years, and several thousand others were informally settled out of court.

The example of the federal government in adopting restrictive railway legislation was followed by the states, on a nation-wide scale. Hours of labor were regulated, liability for accidents defined, railroad commissions given larger powers, and freight and passenger rates determined. The result was a tangle of local regulations, many of which were designed to embarrass the roads and others of which were passed with slight knowledge of the practical questions involved.

Aside from his connection with the anti-trust campaign and the movement for railroad regulation, Roosevelt's most significant activities during his second administration related to conservation. As early as 1880 the Superintendent of the Census had called attention to the exhaustion of the best public lands. The truth of his assertion had been exemplified in the rush of settlers to Oklahoma when the former Indian Territory was opened to settlement on April 22, 1889. At noon on that day the blast of a cavalry bugle was the signal that any settler might enter and stake out his claim. On foot, on fleet horses, in primitive wagons, an excited, jostling mob rushed toward those lands that seemed most desirable. Trains were crowded to the roofs; tools, furniture, and portable houses were carried in from Texas, Nebraska and Kansas. By nightfall a stretch of waving prairie became Gruthrie, with a population of 10,000 persons; by the evening of the first day Oklahoma possessed a population of 50,000; twenty years later it had over a million and a half, contained flourishing cities, many public enterprises, and a beautiful state university.

The fact that desirable land was becoming so rare called attention to the waste and dishonesty in connection with our public land system. In his annual report for 1884 the Secretary of the Interior had complained that large amounts of land had been acquired under fictitious names or by persons employed for the purpose. Their holdings were then passed over to speculators who retained huge areas for a rising market. Railroads had kept lands granted to them, without fulfilling the conditions of the grants. Titled Englishmen and English land companies had gained control of tracts of unbelievable size, one of them being estimated at 3,000,000 acres. The history of the disposal of the public land had almost been duplicated in the history of the forest-bearing public domain, except that measures had earlier been taken to conserve the remnant of the once magnificent supply of standing timber. An act of 1891 had enabled the president to set apart as public reservations any lands bearing forests. All the presidents, from Harrison down, had availed themselves of their power, and had established great numbers of reservations, most of them in states west of the Mississippi.[6]

A few far-sighted individuals had long urged caution in the disposal of the public resources. Some beginnings in fact had already been made in the Division of Forestry in the Department of Agriculture, where Clifford Pinchot was actively interested in forest preservation. In 1901 and later his functions had been expanded, and the forestry service had taken up protection against fire, the sale of timber, and reforestation. In 1907 President Roosevelt appointed a commission to study the inland waterways, which after careful investigation recommended a convention for the discussion of conservation problems. Thereupon the President invited the governors of the states to Washington for a conference, at which conservation questions were thoroughly discussed. The resulting recommendations composed a complete, although general plan of reform: the natural resources of the country to be used for the prosperity of the American people; reclamation of arid lands; conservation of forests, minerals and water-power; the protection of the sources of the rivers; and cooperation between Congress and the states in developing a conservation program. A National Conservation Commission was later appointed which coordinated the work of organizing the movement, and made an exhaustive inventory of the nation's natural resources.

The conservation movement also called attention to the possibilities of the arid region between the western parts of Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas, and the eastern border of California. Within this vast area were large tracts of land that would be fertile if sufficiently supplied with water. The most important legislation in a series of acts designed to meet this need was the Reclamation Act of 1902. Under its provisions the federal government set aside the proceeds of the sale of public land in sixteen states and territories as a fund for irrigation work. With the resources thus obtained, water powers were developed, reservoirs built and large tracts supplied with water. Private companies and western states also carried out numerous projects. The Department of Agriculture after its establishment in 1889 also conducted many undertakings which, in effect, were conservation enterprises. It helped educate the American farmer in scientific methods, sought new crops in every corner of the globe, discovered and circulated means of combating diseases and insects, studied soils, distributed seeds and gathered statistics. In the arid and semi-arid regions the discovery of dry farming was of great value. This consists of planting the seed deep and keeping a mulch of dust on the surface by frequent cultivation, in order to retard the evaporation of the moisture in the ground underneath.[7]

Nothing can be more apparent than the complete change of position which was brought about during the eight years after the death of President McKinley. At the end of that period, both the industrial corporations and the railways were on the defensive, and the public had secured the whip hand. Industry, especially the railroads, was tamed and hobbled - some thought, crippled. Many factors contributed to the revolution. President Roosevelt was its most active agent, to be sure, - its "gigantic advertiser" and popularizer. But it could hardly have taken place - at least at the time and in the way it did - without the great upheaval of 1896, without the publicity which the "muck-rake" magazines and daily newspapers were able to offer, without the industrial consolidations of 1898 and later, and without the refusal of industry and the railways to obey earlier and less drastic laws, and their skilled and insistent attempts to find loop-holes in legislation.

From the standpoint of politics, the effect of the Roosevelt administrations was notable. As has been seen, the Republican party had become largely the party of the business and commercial classes, conservative and unyielding to the new demands of the late nineteenth century. Its leadership had been sharply challenged by the forces of unrest in 1896. On an issue other than a monetary one, the success of Bryan would have been possible. The failure of the attempt to get control of the federal government in the interest of the Populist program was only a temporary defeat, for the revival of unrest, although checked by the war with Spain, was sure soon to reappear. In President Roosevelt, the forces of discontent, especially in the Middle and Far West, saw their hoped-for champion, and their support of him was instant and complete. The dominant leadership and much of the rank and file of the Republican party had become liberal. The situation was anomalous, however, for no great political party can experience a thorough-going change of philosophy in a few years. Only the future, therefore, could tell whether the newer and more liberal element would continue to control the party, or whether a reaction against its leadership would take place.


It is too early to expect a biography of Roosevelt which is informed and critical, as well as sympathetic. The keenest judgment is to be found in Atlantic Monthly (CIX, 577), "Mr. Roosevelt." The following are also available: L.F. Abbott, Impressions of Theodore Roosevelt (1919); F.E. Leupp, The Man Roosevelt (1904); W.R. Thayer, Theodore Roosevelt (1919); C.G. Washburn, Theodore Roosevelt; the Logic of His Career (1916). Roosevelt can be partly understood through a critical reading of his writings, especially his Addresses and Presidential Messages (1904), and his Autobiography (1913).

On the coal strike consult the Autobiography, and Senate Reports, 58th Congress, special session, Document No. 6 (Serial Number 4556), the report of the President's Commission. The election of 1904 is discussed in Latane, Croly and Stanwood: see also C.M. Pepper, The Life and Times of Henry Gassaway Davis (1920). The new railroad acts are well discussed in W.Z. Ripley, Railroads: Rates and Regulations (1912), and by F.H. Dixon in Quarterly Journal of Economics, XXI, 22.

The literature of conservation is very large. An excellent single chapter is in Katherine Coman, Industrial History of the United States (rev. ed., 1910); C.R. Van Hise, The Conservation of Natural Resources in the United States (1913), is a standard work; R.P. Teele, Irrigation in the United States (1915), is detailed; for documents concerning the conference of governors, House of Representatives Document No. 1425, 60th Congress, 2nd session (Serial Number 5538).

The anti-trust campaign is best followed in Theodore Roosevelt, Addresses and Presidential Messages, and in the Autobiography. The Northern Securities decision is in United States Reports, vol. 193, p. 197.

       * * * * *

[1] In view of the later activities of President Roosevelt, there is point in the remark of a satirist that Roosevelt did carry out the policies of McKinley - and bury them. Atlantic Monthly, CIX, 164.

[2] Above, p. 257.

[3] It was later denied that Baer made the statement, but a photographic copy of the letter was printed in Lloyd, Henry D. Lloyd, II, 190. See also Mitchell, Organized Labor, 384; Peck, Twenty Years, 693-6.

[4] Rumor says that Roosevelt sent Elihu Root to the eminent financial magnate, J.P. Morgan, with information of his intent to appoint the Cleveland Commission, and that Morgan applied the pressure to the coal operators.

[5] In 1917, fourteen years after Loewe's first suit, he recovered damages from the Union.

[6] In 1918, 151 national forests aggregated 176,000,000 acres. Secretary of the Interior, Annual Report, 1918, 61.

[7] The territory of Alaska contains immense stores of natural resources which are being conserved with more wisdom than characterized the disposal of our continental supplies. The area of the territory, 586,400 square miles, constitutes a, kingdom. It has uncounted wealth in fish, furs, timber, coal and precious metals. At present the federal government is building a railroad which will tap some of the resources of the region. Enc. Brit., "Alaska."