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Theodore Roosevelt

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“There is no place in our ranks for the boss, for the man who represents the alliance between privilege in business and privilege in politics.”

Theodore Roosevelt, 1858–1919.  26th President of the United States.  Exceptional content Typed Letter Signed, T. Roosevelt, two pages, on stationery of The Outlook, New York, April 10, 1913. 

In this outstanding political letter, Roosevelt passionately encourages organization of the Progressive Party in Rhode Island.  In full:  “Through you, I want to congratulate all the Progressives of Westerly, who are acting together to form a Progressive League in your town.  Good luck go with you!  I am glad that you are organizing the Progressive party in this manner.  We must stand entirely apart from both of the old parties, and it is idle to talk of our amalgamating with them.  We must stand absolutely for our platform; we believe in applying the principles of that platform to party management as well as to government. There is no place in our ranks for the boss, for the man who represents the alliance between privilege in business and privilege in politics.  I firmly believe that there are literally millions of progressives among the rank and file of both the Republican and the Democratic parties, and that these men will sooner or later realize that they can do nothing where they are and the only way they can efficiently fight for social and industrial justice, for political and economic freedom, for equality of opportunity, is by joining the Progressive Party.  They shall have exact equality of treatment with us, without regard to whether they are ex-Democrats or ex-Republicans.  We welcome all honest citizens to our ranks and I am glad that you and other friends are busy completing the organization of our party.  Our aim should be to organize completely every precinct in the whole of the United States.”

When President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Roosevelt, at age 42, Roosevelt became the youngest president in United States history.  He enjoyed the White House, and he used presidential power to the fullest, vigorously leading the country in progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy.  He thought himself a “steward of the people” who should take whatever action was necessary for the public good unless the constitution or law expressly prohibited it.  He aggressively enforced the anti-trust laws, and, as an outdoorsman, he favored conservation, adding large amounts of land to national forests in the West, reserving lands for public use, and fostering large irrigation projects.

Roosevelt left the White House in 1909 but became dissatisfied with his hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft, whom he came to see as the tool of old school political bossism and business privilege.  When the Republican Party renominated Taft in 1912, Roosevelt split with the Republicans and formed the Progressive Party, which nominated him for President and California Governor Hiram Johnson for Vice President.  Roosevelt declared that he felt as “fit as a bull moose,” thus giving the party its nickname.  Among other things, the Bull Moose platform advocated women’s suffrage, social welfare legislation for women and children, workers’ compensation, limitations on injunctions in strikes, recall of judicial decisions, farm relief, mandatory health insurance in industry, and new inheritance and income taxes.  Roosevelt beat Taft in the popular vote and soundly beat him in the electoral vote 88–8, but the Republican split assured that Democrat Woodrow Wilson would win the presidency. 

As this letter shows, Roosevelt was passionate about the Progressive Party.  In a letter dated some two months before this one, he wrote that “the Progressive Party stands for principles, not men. We have in our ranks many ex-Democrats just as we have many ex-Republicans. Our loyalty is due to both. . . . The Progressive Party was formed on principles which we believe to be eternal, which will live long after the men of this generation have been gathered to their fathers. We are the spiritual heirs of Abraham Lincoln. The feat accomplished last election was an extraordinary feat. It is necessary to continue with the organization and to make a clearcut fight against both the old party machines. . . . Wherever the Republican Party has had the opportunity since election, . . . it has put in office reactionaries, men of the old machine, men committed to the system of bossism in politics and privilege in business. . . . We are fighting for great principles, and we are also fighting for honest citizenship against dishonesty in citizenship.

Despite Roosevelt’s efforts at organization, the Progressive Party died after it fared poorly in the 1914 mid-term elections.  By 1916 Roosevelt, who also detested Wilson, again unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination.  He died in 1919.

Roosevelt has signed this letter with a large 3¾” signature.  He has added one handwritten correction to the spelling of the word “organization.”

The letter is toned and faded, but it is still readable.  The toning and fading have resulted from prior improper framing.  The framer also trimmed the bottoms of both pages and attached the second page beneath the first with tape in order to present the letter as a single page.  As a result, the part of the second page that lies beneath the first is less toned than is the part that has been exposed to light.  Fortunately the tape has not stained the paper and does not show through.

The excellent content of this letter nevertheless makes it extremely desirable.  This would easily be a $5,000 letter were it in fine condition.



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