Crimson Banners Fly: The Rise of the American Left

1906 Congressional Elections

Senate
Republican: 43 (-4)
Democratic: 40 (-2)
Progressive: 7 (+6)


House
Democratic: 165 (+13)
Republican: 153 (-29)
Progressive: 70 (+21)
Socialist: 2 (+1)
Independent: 1 (+1)


House of Representatives Leadership
Speaker Thomas S. Butler (R-PA)
Minority Leader Champ Clark (D-MO)
Minority Leader Wesley L. Jones (P-CA)
Minority Leader John C. Chase (S-NY)

Leading into the congressional elections for the 60th Congress, President Roosevelt actively campaigned for those politicians he found most likely to support his agenda for the remainder of his presidential term. The Progressive Party's notoriety was indeed substantially bolstered from the presidential election, but its role in defenestrating Joseph Cannon from the speakership demonstrated the seriousness to which the new party planned to meet the public's demand. To those incumbent congressmen who disliked the prospect of switching parties mid-session, the legislative elections in 1906 granted them their first opportunity to voluntarily affiliate with and win re-election as a Columbian representative. The bulk of Democratic officeholders, predominantly from the South, preferred to retain their traditional banners, but for those Republicans who otherwise would face arduous re-election challenges, switching over seemed a more favorable option.

Others in the GOP, mainly conservatives and strict party loyalists, allowed fate to take the wheel. Two years prior, 219 Republicans were elected to the 59th House of Representatives. In 1906, only 153 Republicans won on that label. Democrats raked in on Republican losses in most districts, increasing their House delegation to 165. Progressives fared marvelously, compiling onto their existing 49 seats with an additional 21; chiefly in Wisconsin, Illinois, and along the West Coast. The Socialist Party also won their second federal representative in California's 8th district, when a contentious four-way race concluded with labor activist Noble A. Richardson (S-CA) defeating his nearest opponent by about 102 votes. No one party possessed a 196-seat majority in the 60th Congress, yet enough Progressives cast their vote for Butler that he remained Speaker of the House.

Unlike their counterparts in the House, Senate Republicans overall proved far less willing to abandon ship. Only Senator Robert M. La Follette officially brandished the Progressive mantle over the course of the expired Congress. As Roosevelt's closest senatorial ally and an organizer within the party itself, La Follette reasoned that he could better assist the administration and entice more to their side by tossing away GOP affiliation. In a Milwaukee speech, the senator declared, "Our government was designed to be representative of the will of the people. Have we such a government today? Or is this country fast coming to be dominated by forces that threaten the true principle of representative government? The infectious and nefarious force of corporate consolidation has hollowed out the Party of Lincoln and sentenced its politicians to plutocratic servitude. The restoration of representative government, once given to this people by the God of Nations, cannot occur unless guided by a political faction untainted by outside influence. It is for that reason I call upon my fellow Americans dedicate yourselves to winning back the independence of this country, to emancipate this generation and throwing off from the neck of the freemen of America, the yoke of the political machine."

Republicans, especially as compared with the prior elections, significantly underperformed. The GOP Old Guard anticipated a move against them as a rippling effect of alleged Treason, but reactions differed immensely, senator to senator. Some failed to recognize the scope of the extraordinarily disadvantageous wave and suffered as a result, while others bailed out to avoid tarnishing their political reputations. Aside from Senator Shelby Cullom (R-IL), who outwardly expressed an alliance with the Progressives at the onset of his re-election bid, all other incumbent Republicans who managed to hang on in 1906 did so with less than a majority vote. The retirements of Senators Russell Alger (R-MI), George Wetmore (R-RI), Henry Burnham (R-NH), and John F. Dryden (R-NJ) served to fuel the fire as Democratic and Progressive challengers sensed blood in the water.

Senator Henry A. du Pont (R-DE), a typified pro-business and anti-Rooseveltian Republican, would have likely remained untouched in any other congressional year. He won over 60% of the electorate in the 1902 special election for that seat, exemplifying Delawarean support for the prominent public official. Few reasonably expected a genuine contest, and fewer still envisioned the senator's downfall. The Middletown DE Transcript even went as far as to exclaim, "For Senator Du Pont, it is clear that his tenure shall only end when he wills it." Reality, however, was not so rosy for the wealthy incumbent. Former Governor Ebe W. Tunnell (D-DE), who bombarded Du Pont with a steady stream of effective campaign assaults, was victorious in that Senate election. Tunnell captured 46% of the vote, compared with Du Pont's 30% and lesser-known Progressive John M. Mendinhall's 21%.

A three-way senatorial race in Idaho also ended rather fascinatingly. Incumbent Senator Fred Dubois (D-ID), a former Silver Republican and moderate Bryan Democrat, ran once more for re-election in 1906. He had been in office for sixteen years at that point, and was eyed curiously by the electorate due to his ever-shifting policy views. Dubois was extensively criticized for backing the Olney Campaign in 1904 instead of supporting Roosevelt, and for that he failed to garner support by the Progressives moving forward. The Republicans nominated Philippine-American War veteran Thomas Ray Hamer (R-ID), a member of the Idaho House of Representatives, to challenge Dubois for the seat. Hamer, in the end, was unable to sufficiently establish himself as an agreeable alternative to the incumbent, allowing for the ascension of attorney William E. Borah (P-ID). Endorsed and financially boosted by the Progressive committee, Borah characterized himself as the only reliable Roosevelt ally in the running, and, primarily for this, won that election.

In New Jersey, the nominee of the Republican Party for Senate, Representative Henry C. Loudenslager (R-NJ), was (like Du Pont) initially thought to easily exceed 60% of the vote and come out victorious. The chief opposition compromised of Democratic real estate businessman James Edgar Martine (D-NJ), who bankrolled his own campaign yet found difficulty culminating a sufficient base of support. About one month prior to the election, former Governor Franklin Murphy, a reform-minded Republican, decided to make a last-minute announcement at a small venue in Trenton. He announced his own candidacy as an independent Progressive for the Senate race, claiming that neither Standpatter Republican Loudenslager nor wealthy businessman Martine adequately represented the people of New Jersey. He promptly received an avid endorsement from President Roosevelt, and went on to win that race by a slim margin over Loudenslager.

In the Gilded Age period, the state of Maine was perhaps the most ardently Republican state. Both of its senators were members the Republican Party, and all four of its House representatives were as well. William Pierce Frye (R-ME) was the incumbent Pine Tree State Class 2 senator since 1881, when James G. Blaine vacated that seat to serve as President's Garfield's Secretary of state. Exceptionally conservative, expansionist, and a proponent of protectionism, Frye had been the epitome of a late-19th century Old Guard Republican. Unfortunately for this legacy, Frye was ruthlessly depicted as a shipping industry stooge in a Phillips article, and for that lost a great deal of public adoration. Disregarding the potential of a serious Democratic challenger, the incumbent refused to actively campaign. Maine State Senator Oakley C. Curtis (P-ME) and law official William Pennell (D-ME) put up a tough contest, but Frye narrowly escaped a humiliating loss. With a mere 44% of the vote, Frye was re-elected. Although Frye was never toppled, the closeness of this race demonstrated how precarious a position the Old Guard was in.

Taking place alongside the congressional races, New York State residents voted for their preferred candidate for the governorship. Incumbent Governor Frank W. Higgins opted against running for re-election due to an escalating illness. Not wishing to provoke a Progressive insurgency in the Empire State, Governor Higgins eventually convinced GOP Boss and former Governor Benjamin Odell (R-NY) to allow President Roosevelt an opportunity to select a fusion candidate. Roosevelt selected public utility investigator and Cornell Law School professor Charles Evans Hughes (R-NY). A picturesque critic of corporate corruption, Hughes was described by the president as, "a sane and sincere reformer, who [...] is free from any taint of demagogy." Progressives united around him, as did the Republicans, and Hughes became an early frontrunner in the gubernatorial election that year.

Defeating fellow contenders John Alden Dix (D-NY) and Representative William Sulzer, notorious agitator and celebrated yellow journalist William R. Hearst won the Democratic nomination for governor in 1906. Hearst, having served as a congressman from New York since 1902, constantly and viciously objected to conservative governing at the federal level. He most recently had led a short-lived filibuster against a House version of the American Safeguards repeal bill (which was rescinded in March of 1905) and helped to engineer the anti-Cannon Revolt in Congress. Now, as a gubernatorial candidate, Hearst pledged to institute a state-wide 8-hour working day, recognize and arbitrate with labor unions, and abolish child labor in totality. He worked to display himself as a "bonafide progressive" challenging the "machinist" Republican establishment which stood against regulation of the financial sector. Hughes, who was a rather poor public speaker, had trouble articulating a rebuttal to Hearst's charges.

The race shifted in late-October when, in the aftermath of the bankruptcy crisis, Hughes was discovered to have accepted a hefty campaign donation from banker James Stillman. Democrats seized on the news, reciting the slogan "Hughes is for Wall Street, Hearst is for Main Street". Hearst professionally sensationalized the controversy by his own framing in the New York Journal, popularizing the transaction enough to garner the attention of Former President Bryan. The Nebraskan formally endorsed Hearst for Governor on October 30th, stressing the rare opportunity for New Yorkers to be represented by an individual who "knew all the names, and all the faces, of all the men who wronged working people in New York." Pundits forecasted a close race, and neither side took a moment to subside activity until the last minutes of the campaign. Hughes benefited enormously from Roosevelt's backing, but it seemed the Wall Street and GOP support harmed the candidate more than it assisted him. Boosted by depressed Progressive turnout and an energized contingent of New York City Democrats, William Randolph Hearst defeated Charles Evans Hughes: 737,046 votes (or 49.7%) to 724,812 (48.9%). A new era was dawning for the Northern Democratic Party, and Hearst's victory proved the first true defeat for Roosevelt since 1900.


Senators Elected in 1906 (Class 2)
John Tyler Morgan (D-AL): Democratic Hold, Unopposed
Jeff Davis (D-AK): Democratic Hold, 80%
John F. Shafroth (D-CO): Democratic Hold, 48%
Ebe W. Tunnell (D-DE): Democratic Gain, 46%
Augustus Bacon (D-GA): Democratic Hold, Unopposed
William E. Borah (P-ID): Progressive Gain, 43%
Shelby M. Cullom (R-IL): Republican Hold, 51%
William P. Hepburn (P-IA): Progressive Gain, 49%
Charles Curtis (P-KS): Progressive Gain, 46%
Thomas H. Paynter (D-KY): Democratic Hold, 66%
Murphy J. Foster (D-LA): Democratic Hold, Unopposed
William P. Frye (R-ME): Republican Hold, 44%
*Charles J. Bonaparte (P-MD): Progressive Gain, 37%
Winthrop M. Crane (R-MA): Republican Gain, 47%
William A. Smith (R-MI): Republican Hold, 45%
Knute Nelson (R-MN): Republican Hold, 44%
Anselm J. McLaurin (D-MS): Democratic Hold, Unopposed
Joseph K. Toole (D-MT): Democratic Hold, 48%
William A. Poynter (D-NE): Democratic Hold, 51%
Cyrus A. Sulloway (R-NH): Republican Hold, 46%
Franklin Murphy (P-NJ): Progressive Gain, 40%
Furnifold Simmons (D-NC): Democratic Hold, Unopposed
Jonathan Bourne Jr. (P-OR): Progressive Gain, 40%
Samuel P. Colt (R-RI): Republican Hold, 45%
Benjamin Tillman (D-SC): Democratic Hold, Unopposed
Andrew E. Lee (D-SD): Democratic Gain, 44%
Robert L. Taylor (D-TN): Democratic Hold, 64%
Joseph W. Bailey (D-TX): Democratic Hold, 70%
Thomas S. Martin (D-VA): Democratic Hold, 68%
Stephen B. Elkins (R-WV): Republican Hold, 41%
C.H. Parmelee (D-WY): Democratic Hold, 45%

*Special Election
 
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Part 4: Chapter XIII

The First Family, August 24th, 1907 - Source: Wiki Commons

Chapter XIII: A Grand Bargain: The Unlucky Fortune of Jurgis Rudkus

Subsequent to the legislative elections, President Roosevelt, despite his eagerness to plow ahead with progressive reform, took some time to define the image of his presidency in advance of the upcoming presidential race. The 60th Congress would not meet for its first session until December of 1907. In that interim, the president fostered a more harmonious representation of himself than the prototypical blustering cowboy that so often flooded the popular imagination. Unlike any of his recent predecessors, Roosevelt allowed reporters into the now-renovated White House and cultivated incessant coverage for his administrations. It had been many years since the United States president built a decent relationship with newspaper correspondents,and the incumbent thought it wise to change that.

Newsmen followed the daily activities of the personable leader, capturing frequent informal photographs and witty one-liners. He granted them, essentially, the first modern press briefings. This resulted in considerably favorable coverage that spanned every mainstream publication regardless of its political orientation (aside from extreme partisans). Positive reporting from daily columnists allowed Roosevelt to connect with middle-class supporters who gobbled up the latest presidential news as if it was candy. Especially in the post-Panic period, but even at the onset of his 1898 gubernatorial election, Roosevelt was a celebrity leader - and he knew it, loved it, and used it to his advantage whenever possible.

Around the autumn of 1906, President Roosevelt completing his reading of The Jungle, a novel authored by muckraker and anti-corruption advocate Upton Sinclair. The Jungle was a contemporaneous story of a Lithuanian immigrant as he strives to establish a promising life for himself and his family in the United States. The protagonist, Jurgis Rudkis, works in the meat industry, and it through his viewpoint that the reader is taught the unsanitary and gruesome conditions of the Chicago meatpacking plants. Rudkis endures rancid wage slavery, workplace accidents, and frequent mistreatment by the factory employers until he is driven to homelessness and addiction.

Author Upton Sinclair, who based the tale on his own experience working undercover in the meat industry, meant to expose the very real conditions of the meatpacking plants and that of poor, second-wave immigrants through the fictionalized perspective of Rudkis. Sinclair hoped that capturing the essence of unregulated capitalism and extreme systematic inequality would not only spur interest in worker's rights, but indicate the base faults with capitalism itself. The novel ends with Rudkis finding purpose and financial support in a socialist community, thereby demonstrating socialism's innate humanism and focus on cooperative labor in place of competition. Rudkis learns to embrace community-oriented socialism and his story ends on a hopeful note. With such an ending, Sinclair believed that the readership, numbering in the millions by the end of 1906, would arrive to a similar anti-capitalist conclusion.

President Roosevelt, who initially balked at Sinclair and his audience for instilling socialism in the public psyche, stated his "utter contempt" for the author, and affirmed that "three-fourths of the things he said were absolute falsehoods." Once he took the time to read the story, however, the president became appalled by the bleakly described factory conditions. He was disgusted less so by the foundational condition of immigrant workers than the nauseatingly unsanitary meat packing plants, allegedly tossing aside a plate of sausage mid-meal and promptly ordering an investigation of the industrialized workplaces. That research, headed by Commissioner Charles P. Neill, verified the legitimacy of Sinclair's assertions.

When the Congress did convene, Roosevelt required an attentive avenue of reform. The administration toyed with several monumental initiatives, and, due to the favorable congressional elections, coalition-building was far more viable than it had been previously. The Square Deal, as previously inferred, carried with it an ample amount of proposals, and it was up to the president to designate which legislative endeavors were more worthy of immediate implementation. Acting on his own accord, but too pressured by public demands, he would move meatpacking regulation to the top of that list.

Agricultural regulatory measures notwithstanding, Roosevelt funneled his frustrations with the economic status quo into a single objective. The greatest legacy Roosevelt wished to his administration to leave behind was lessening excessive economic inequality. After the numerous scraps over his first two years in office, he witnessed first-hand the dangerous notion of extreme wealth in the hands of a select few puffed-up individuals. Therefore, Roosevelt's number one priority narrowed down to implementing the Bryan-era Constitutional amendment pertaining to the income tax. "The really big fortune," he declared, "the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means, Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective—a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate."
 

Senator Charles W. Fairbanks of Indiana, 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

From the moment of Chairman McKinley's retirement and his handing of the reigns to Whitelaw Reid, the Republican Party's future was set in stone. Much like his predecessor, Reid took it upon himself to reaffirm the party's mantra of arch-conservatism and stringent defiance of Theodore Roosevelt. The national committee first looked to resist the new president at an even stronger level than Bryan, returning to the consensus of the late Garret Hobart's mandate in 1897. Chairman Reid, with the 'Big Four' leading U.S. Senators, managed the party with an iron fist through the brunt of Roosevelt's presidency. However, that scene began to shift as the events of the last several years played out. In the aftermath of David Phillips' publishing of "The Treason of the Senate," Once-dominant Senators Spooner and Platt privately indicated their shared intention to step down after completing their terms in March of 1909. Aldrich, thoroughly defamed and dragged through the mud, began to fear that his political strength had been stripped as a result of allegations of blatant corruption.

Senator Fairbanks, not yet reprimanded by the "Treason" series, had been the sole member of the upper echelon of Republican senatorial power untarnished during the course of the 59th Congress. Even the aged hardliner Senator Frye was publicly disgraced by his near-loss in a bastion of Eastern Republicanism, leaving Fairbanks as one of the few remaining influential Old Guard Republicans as the new Congress came to order. The Hoosier shepherded resistance to the noisy president and his Senate agenda up to this point, and he planned an identical tactic for the incoming session. Losses in the congressional elections substantially weakened his position, however, and eschewed Fairbanks' intent to keep up unmoving resistance. His league of oppositionist hardliners stayed in command despite these losses, but Fairbanks, who hoped to retain Republican superiority in the upper chamber, was not blind to the fact that his party was in jeopardy.

The results in the Senate contests reduced the total number of Republican senators to 43 from 47. Although the GOP figure outnumbered the Democrats' 40, the inclusion of Columbian Party into the new Congress muddled the true senatorial composition. Independent Progressives had gained seven seats of their own. In the case of a Democratic-Progressive alliance, albeit not incredibly likely in the Senate but a possibility nonetheless, the Republicans would have lost their position of authority altogether and be relegated to a minority contingent. Fairbanks, frightened by the mere thought, took steps to avoid such a culmination. Therefore, just before the 60th Senate met for its first session on December 2nd, Fairbanks requested a face-to-face meeting with President Roosevelt.

Recognizing deep distrust betwixt the factions, stemming from years of infighting and further symbolized by the 1904 split, Fairbanks approached Roosevelt in a cordial manner. Roosevelt accepted the request upon considerable contemplation, likely believing the humbled Republican leader prepared to, at long last, lower the barriers. More or less, the president was correct in his assumption. Fairbanks gently implored the president to work alongside the Republican Party instead of allying himself with Senate Democrats. He granted the president that a workable coalition was already garnered in the House, and short-term alliances were built in the previous congressional session, but Fairbanks insisted that it would better suit the president in the long-term to work with the GOP instead of either the Southern-based States' Rights Democrats or their anarchic Bryanite counterparts. Roosevelt, shocking his visitor, largely concurred.

There were assuredly areas of reasonable accommodation, especially considering the concerns of fierce anti-reformists like Spooner could be passably disregarded moving forward. For example, each deeply distrusted exposé-oriented scandal-mongering muckrakers. TR had certainly fostered a healthy relationship with the press as a whole, and had moved marginally leftward to the extent that he sympathized with printed media in their aim to reveal corruption where it existed, but he did not not agree with unethical journalists publishing (supposed) wild charges and unsubstantiated claims against fellow politicians. "The liar," he said, "is no whit better than the thief, and if his mendacity takes the form of slander he may be worse than most thieves." Roosevelt was no friend to muckrakers like David Phillips and William R. Hearst, regardless of the breadth to which he benefited from their works.

Legislatively, the two men found avenues of agreement as well. Recognizing the near-calamity of the Panic of 1906, Fairbanks did not shoot down Roosevelt's assertions pertaining to the old natural laws of the marketplace no longer proving sustainable. He disliked the precedent it set, but admitted that the economic wrongs highlighted in the banking panic required being righted through legislation. Both Fairbanks and Roosevelt eventually concurred in the need for some semblance of reform on this front, yet the final decision rested with a massive compromise from each side, or, in other terms, a 'Grand Bargain'.

President Roosevelt somewhat subscribed to the notion of labor reform as described in the Chicago Progressive platform, specifically a shortened work week and the bolstering of the American Safeguards Act, but he too understood that legislative effort expended precious political capital. Curtailing the "malefactors of great wealth" and regulating the stock market were the president's chief priorities late in his term, and his foundational belief that "predatory wealth" irreparably harmed Americans of all classes transcended direct labor reforms. Roosevelt thenceforth offered Fairbanks his proposal; he would lower his sights on businesses and soothe rowdy Progressives who demanded wage standardization, and in exchange the Republicans would back a Constitutional amendment enshrining the income and inheritance taxes.

It was met with mixed reception. Radical Columbians referred to the agreement as "The Betrayal," and cited it as evidence that the party ought to back an aggressive stand-in for Roosevelt. Others reflected on the deal as "A Grand Bargain" that facilitated legislative movement and cooled tension between the warring factions. Liberal Democrats belonged to the former camp, frankly outraged that the president seemingly spurned the Bryan-endorsed Chicago platform. It planted a seed of distrust in their minds that Roosevelt would fight tooth-and-nail to dig back up. [...] Some detractors returned to the fold as results began emanating from Congress. For others, their disappointment had been immeasurable - and their optimism ruined.
H. William Ackerman, Columbians in Washington: Great Expectations and the Hope of a Nation, 2013

By the summer of 1908, Congress passed an assortment of progressively leaning legislation. This included an aggressive Meat Inspection Act and Clean Liquid Products Act that mandated government supervision and inspection of factorial food and alcohol production, and a Pure Food and Drug Act which banned interstate traffic in mislabeled food products. The 60th Congress also approved, in a unanimous fashion, admitting New Mexico, Arizona, and Oklahoma as three new states (the first territory transformation since Utah in 1896). Finally, making good on the promise to do so, an overwhelming majority of Republicans signed off on the joint-resolution to amend the Constitution in May of 1908, joining the majority of Democratic and all Progressive officeholders. In what would soon become the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, this resolution stated, "The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect a taxes on estates and incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."
 

W.E.B. Du Bois (Middle Row, Second from Right) and the Niagara Movement, 1905 - Source: Wiki Commons

For all of the reassuring rhetoric so liberally flaunted by Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressives, race relations in the United States had not improved whatsoever during his tenure. White supremacy in the South, at its height since the Civil War, guaranteed that the widespread and systematic discrimination of black Americans would continue unperturbed. Neither Bryan's populism nor Roosevelt's progressivism challenged the racial hierarchy imposed on much of the country by virulent racist governing. Voiceless and no longer satisfied with the direction of the nation under pompous non-savior presidents and politicians, a growing segment of the black population sought more direct means of attaining civil rights.

Bowing to pressure from his tenuous Democratic allies in Congress, President Roosevelt not only deliberately hushed fellow insurgents from delving into racial matters, but he too declined an opportunity to invite author Booker T. Washington to the White House and, to his reputation's detriment, ordered the discharge of the all-Black 25th Infantry Regiment. On the former issue, Washington, an out-and-out conservative advocate of Black entrepreneurship and a proponent of racial uplift, discovered that the president retracted an invite to the black leader for dinner at the White House. As was later revealed, Roosevelt considered bringing the spokesman to the Executive Mansion out of a personal wish to do so, but settled against it out of fear of retribution by temporary legislative partners in the House and Senate. Washington, rightly disturbed and betrayed, never again spoke to the president.

Regarding the 25th Infantry, that subject had been another monumental moral failure on the part of Roosevelt. In August of 1906, white residents in Brownsville, Texas falsely accused the regiment of stirring a riot and of attacking white women. An alleged shooting that had taken place in the city was also attributed to the black soldiers. Investigators ordered to the scene accepted unchallenged testimony and bogus forensic evidence as proof that men belonging to the regiment were the perpetrators, and they recommended an immediate dismissal. At the insistence of his Cabinet and the Army Inspector General, President Roosevelt formally decreed a dishonorable discharge of the 25th. Booker Washington and the National Negro Business League, as well as many contemporary newspapers and organizations concerned with the case, denounced the president wholeheartedly and maintained the soldiers' innocence.

One of the most significant leaders of the early twentieth century struggle for black liberation, activist and author W.E.B. Du Bois, came to prominence at this historical moment. A professor at Atlanta University, Du Bois became known as an influential intellectual in the movement for civil rights and emerged as a leader in that movement following the publication of The Souls of Black Folk in 1903. In staunch opposition to the Southern-centric practicality and gradual uplift offered by Washington, Du Bois stressed distrust of white leaders and politicians who espoused damning disenfranchisement and segregation. Criticizing his ideological opponent, he wrote, "But so far as Mr. Washington apologizes for injustice, North or South, does not rightly value the privilege and duty of voting, opposes the higher training and ambition of our brighter minds,—so far as he, the South, or the Nation, does this,—we must unceasingly and firmly oppose them" Rejecting a harmonious relationship with those who unapologetically avowed civil inferiority, Du Bois embodied the urgent need for revolutionary change for the black community.

Two brutal race riots also characterized the Roosevelt presidency as armed white mobs instigated horrific cruelty against local black residents. A 1908 Springfield race riot, or more accurately 'lynch mob', saw the rise of a tumultuous anti-black militia as they brutalized black homes and businesses for two nights. Mayhem also erupted in the Atlanta Massacre of 1906, when armed mobs of white supremacists tormented and assaulted the city's black population until forcibly halted by the Georgia National Guard. Several dozen black Americans were killed in these calamitous riots and, for those crimes, no one was held accountable. Georgia Governor M. Hoke Smith (D-GA), then a gubernatorial candidate, praised the violence against black residents as the only means available to protect "fair young girlhood of the South" from assault. He won his election with over 99% of the vote.

Of anything, the race riots demonstrated the undeniable need for a civil rights organization in the United States. Politicians in the major parties showed outward antipathy for the rights of black Americans, save the occasional broad denouncement of lynchings, so the duty fell to the citizens themselves to fight for self-preservation. In February of 1909, a group of intellectuals, activists and authors - ranging from social and economic reformers like Florence Kelley and William English Walling to civil rights advocates Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell and Henry Moskowitz - founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Flatly and without question, this organization exclaimed its primary mission "To promote equality of rights and to eradicate caste or race prejudice among the citizens of the United States." It stood against Jim Crow disenfranchisement and fought to abolish poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and all other methods utilized to de-legitimize the black vote and dehumanize black lives.

Some of these same figures also supported unionized labor and cooperative economics, and employed political activism to oppose white supremacy. Those in the same vein as West-Indian American postal worker and theorist Hubert Harrison denounced capitalism altogether. To Harrison, racism in and of itself stemmed from "fallacy of economic fear" inherent in the capitalist competition.


If the overturning of the present system should elevate a new class into power; a class to which the Negro belongs; a class which has nothing to gain by the degradation of any portion of itself; that class will remove the economic reason for the degradation of the Negro. That is the promise of Socialism, the all-inclusive working-class movement. In the final triumph of that movement lies the only hope of salvation from this second slavery; of black men and of white.
Hubert H. Harrison, "Summary and Conclusion," NYC, December 16th, 1911

Like NAACP founders Du Bois and Walling, Harrison would seek progress from the Socialist Party. The emphasis of the SP on class struggle appealed to those who were disconcerted with capitalist exploitation in conjunction with the major parties. In contrast to the Republicans, Democrats, and Progressives, the Socialists sought a radical societal and economic change that could certainly benefit black Americans who, as Harrison once stated, were "more essentially proletarian than any other American group." Insofar as the party was specifically concerned with the civil rights, its lack of a strong opposition to lynching and refusal to change racist membership practices in its Southern branches left much to be desired. The influx of civil rights activists into the party proper, however, looked to change that.
 
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Now this is exciting - I hope we'll see an earlier integration of racial equality into the socialist movement, it's always made sense but of course prejudices are hard to change...
 
Hope the Socialists do support racial equality (eventually)--wonder what their reaction to the "Red Summer" of 1919 and the Tulsa Race Riot (assuming both still happen) will be ITTL...
 
Now this is exciting - I hope we'll see an earlier integration of racial equality into the socialist movement, it's always made sense but of course prejudices are hard to change...
Hope the Socialists do support racial equality (eventually)--wonder what their reaction to the "Red Summer" of 1919 and the Tulsa Race Riot (assuming both still happen) will be ITTL...
We shall certainly see! :)
 

"The White Flag?" Cartoon Depicting Roosevelt's Surrender to the Trusts, April 10th, 1908 - Source: LoC

In the face of an ever-changing Progressive Party and the arguable capitulation of Theodore Roosevelt to the demands of the Republicans for political purpose, the Democrats re-awakened with a sense of purpose. Former President Bryan and DNC Chair Johnson scorched the administration for folding into the conservative appeal to ameliorate its stance on regulating corporations and instituting labor reform. Johnson issued a statement condemning the president for his contemptible Grand Bargain, and Bryan, utilizing his famous voice, continued to orate in favor of unforgiving trust prosecution and assistance programs for working Americans. In stark contrast to Roosevelt's concentration on tax reform and mild regulatory measures, the Nebraskan implored the need for more direct fixes to the national woes. The platform adopted by the Nebraska Democratic Party in March of 1908 synthesized Bryan's messaging.

The various investigations have traced graft and political corruption to the representatives of predatory wealth and laid bare the unscrupulous methods by which they have debauched elections and preyed upon a defenseless public through the subservient officials whom they have raised to place and power. The conscience of the nation is now aroused and will, if honestly appealed to, free the government from the grip of those who have made it a business asset of the favor-seeking corporations; it must become again a "government of the people, by the people and for the people;" and be administered in all its departments according to the Jeffersonian maxim, "equal rights to all and special privileges to none."
The Nebraskan Democratic Platform, March 5th, 1908

The varied planks of the 1908 Omaha platform broadly referred to Roosevelt as a sham, citing his newfound alliance with the "trust magnates" of the Republican Party as prime example of the incumbent's insincerity. The Nebraskan delegates demanded an administration in which there would be no reluctance to annihilate trusts, no hesitation to assert the right of Congress to regulate interstate commerce, and no swearing-off of tariff reduction. It proposed most of what the 1904 Progressives did: an eight-hour working day, an employer's liability law, and an enlargement of the railway commissions, determinately deeming the Rooseveltian deal with Republican elites forces a sample case of what could be expected in an elongated Roosevelt presidency.

As the Democrats looked forward, they recognized the need to overcome Roosevelt's grip on the popular imagination and his celebrity stature. Public adoration of the incumbent president lessened only marginally as a result of his surrender to Fairbanks and the 60th Congress, meaning the Democratic contender still faced a rigorous obstacle in the incumbent's substantial grassroots support. In order to win and circumvent the odds, the Democrats required the enlistment of a candidate capable of coalescing Bryan's agrarian allies as well as embittered Progressives. In the words of former Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, Jr. (D-IL), a prosperous campaigned needed, "a standard bearer representative of all men. [...] He must appeal to the common people of every state and city, and do so ad nauseam. The voters should see themselves in (the nominee.)" If one could sufficiently enlighten the masses to the brilliance of Bryan Democracy, the party membership believed, they could turn the tables on the seemingly impervious president and his standpatter friends.

Three competent candidates had already joined the presidential race for the Democratic nomination by the spring of 1908: Reformist Governor John A. Johnson (D-MA), antitrust advocate and former Tennessee Governor Benton McMillin (D-TN), and octogenarian former Senator Henry G. Davis (D-WV). Most of the political heavyweights, those in the vein of Minority Leader Champ Clark, patiently awaited former President Bryan's plans. Bryan, as it was, gave no indication of his future plans in any of his national speeches, deliberately ignoring desperate audience pleas to run once more. Judging by his personal letters, we today have little doubt that Bryan possessed a burning desire to take back his presidential crown. If he had entered, Bryan likely would have won the nomination. The central problem with this scenario, however, was that the second foreseeable frontrunner to the Democratic nomination would certainly have splintered off into an independent candidacy. If it meant to convey unified opposition to President Roosevelt, the Democratic Party could not afford forsaking the high-profile, de facto leader of the Northern Democrats: William Randolph Hearst.

Aside from a potential Bryan candidacy, it was Hearst who was eyed by the public as the Democratic standard bearer. Having been elected governor of New York in 1906, the tenor-voiced, 6'1" businessman and publisher departed his congressional residence to fully relocate his base of operations to the Empire State. Just as he had done during his entire political career, the Californian focused vehemently on rooting out governmental corruption and enacting pro-labor legislation. Within his first three months in office, Governor Hearst partnered with muckraking journalists Samuel S. McClure and Lincoln Steffans to expose four state senators in the pocket of corporate influence. Hearst also oversaw an investigation into New York State Democratic Committee Chairman John A. Dix for allegations of tax fraud related to an Albany lumber business owned by Dix' father-in-law, Lemon Thomson. Dix was not formally prosecuted, though he did ashamedly resign from the committee in May 1907.

Governor Hearst, intent on making good on his campaign promises, passed some notable and much-needed labor reforms ranging from child labor prohibition to the institution of an eight-hour working day for state workers. A shy yet effective public speaker, the governor also managed to convince the reluctant State Assembly to approve legislation which called for limitations on corporate donations to political campaigns and an Office of Campaign Expenditures (working under the New York Comptroller) to conduct general oversight. Albeit barred from initiating much else due to limitations placed on the budget in the aftermath of the 1906 Panic and Bankruptcy Crisis, Hearst succeeded in manifesting a degree of public adoration unmatched by any other officeholder in the State of New York. It was said by contemporaneous magazines that only Roosevelt equaled the favor instilled by the public in Governor Hearst.

It was not an extraordinary shock when the ambitious Hearst declared his interest in seeking the Democratic nomination for 1908. Running as an officeholder of the most populous state in the Union, and as a successful businessman independent not beholden to any party organization or financial backers, Hearst embodied perhaps the gravest threat to the Roosevelt Administration. The gubernatorial incumbent also ran a media empire spanning coast to coast, from the New York Journal to the San Francisco Examiner. Just prior to taking office in Albany, Hearst also acquired the Los Angeles Examiner and the Boston American, adding these two publications to his newspaper repertoire. The same sensationalist features, manipulative editorials and cartoonish supplements were run across the various papers regardless of location, and every Hearst possession vigorously championed the same line: "HEARST FOR PRESIDENT!" Spending tens of thousands per week in his spring campaign to the nomination (allegedly bribing delegate votes in that process), the Hearst Campaign prepared to make a stand at the national convention.
 
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Cartoon Depicting Roosevent and Taft En-Route to the RNC, February 9th, 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

It is a fool's errand for one to underestimate the significance of the Roosevelt-Fairbanks Bargain on the political landscape in 1908. That deal had been a bipartisan milestone, or so it was perceived. It not only served as an olive branch from the Republican National Committee to Roosevelt, thus validating his call for federal regulation, but it had been the first open admission by the Republican Party that they were wrong on policy. It unintentionally admitted the fallacy of laissez-faire economics: something the modern GOP had never before dared to insinuate. No longer was there a question who called the shots - it was President Roosevelt, not Whitelaw Reid. [...] Fairbanks left that meeting with an impression of an unambiguous victory, thinking the deal fenced-in boundless progressivism to a more business-friendly zone, but others were patently discouraged that the upstart senator had given away the farm.
Jay R. Morgan, The American Elephant: A Study of the Republican Party, 1980

Indeed, Roosevelt's bargain appeared to symbolize the rebuilding of certain bridges once burned to a cinder. It managed to bring together two wholly disparate forces in an apparent show of shared belief in collegial government. For those who viewed the agreement in a positive light, mostly moderate and reluctant Progressives akin to Vice President Taft, it had opened the doors to further negotiation and a closer bond with American commercial interests. Now that President Roosevelt was talked down from the ledge of incessant trust-busting and business demonization, perhaps the stock market could rebound to its pre-Panic figures. More so than anything, the Grand Bargain appeared to spell the beginning of the end for the Progressive Party in a rather unprecedented development.

The Progressives, fundamentally a splintered faction of the old Republicans (albeit joined by a small segment of disassociated Democrats within its first four years of existence), built itself squarely upon the shoulders of Theodore Roosevelt. Numerous divisive tendencies joined together at the Chicago Convention Hall in 1904 with an undivided purpose to nominate the only figure they found perceptive to the ideals of Progressivism and economic fairness. Without Roosevelt, the building of the Columbian Party would have proven impossible at worst and forgettable at best. His victory, and the further victories of his party in the midterm congressional races, proved that his forces could withstand scrutiny and garner massive public support, but it had all been centered around a single politician and the ideas he professed. Was this truly a sustainable model, or could recent circumstances and accusations of betrayal shatter the durability of the new party?

If, leading Progressives supposed, the Grand Bargain exemplified more than a simple disarmament, what then could the looming presidential election have in store? The notion began to stir in early 1908 that President Roosevelt would seek the nomination of both the Progressives as well as the Republicans. Some, like contributor Joseph M. Ryan of The Washington Post, theorized that that had been the president's genuine objective in his meeting with Senator Fairbanks. "Appealing to the business community," Ryan hypothesized, "is not Roosevelt's forte, yet that may be his electoral strategy following four years of coarse vilification and disparagement. It is thus far unclear whether the man behind the famous breakup of Standard Oil and United States Steel could reshape himself to be palatable." As was also the subject of mass speculation, would a cross-endorsement relegate the Progressive Party to the same fate as the Populists? Fusion tactics eliminated the People's Party as a worthwhile force in American politics, there is little doubt an identical outcome would befall the similarly anti-establishment Columbians.

Achieving dual nomination would virtually ensure the incumbent an additional term, while the prospect of a second three-way race jeopardized the party's now-noteworthy standing. The Progressive leader would not have the benefit of a Democratic nominee avidly out-of-touch with the base of that party, no matter how much he wished it. Furthermore, the plausibility that Bryan would once more endorse President Roosevelt was very unlikely. He instead appealed to the opposing party's moderate wing, holding several discussions with Senator Cullom to craft congressional policy and, as a result, solidified the votes necessary to pass the Constitutional resolution on May 15th.

Regardless of the recent moves transparently designed to gain favor, the powerful GOP Old Guard saw it as political maneuvering. They were vastly distrustful of what they viewed as Roosevelt's conspiracy to steal their party nomination. It was unsurprising in retrospect, considering the president's constant belligerence to the Republican committee, ruthless criticism of President Depew, and accusations that the party machine fought against basic American principles. More so than all else, an ingrained opposition to anti-trust action and the Hepburn Rebate Act made the two forces completely incompatible. Chairman Reid officially coined their stance in early April, proclaiming, "This June, those who favor the sound basis of industry and the cardinal principles of political faith will nominate a true Republican to the presidency."

Reid's proclamation gifted those Republicans eager to challenge Roosevelt the green light to go forward to declare their respective candidates. Seven candidates did just that, including arch conservative Former Senator James Sherman, Galesburg attorney and Representative George W. Prince (R-IL), and consistent anti-Progressive Illinois Lieutenant Governor Lawrence Yates Sherman (R-IL). Former President Depew refused to consider a renewed run at the presidency despite encouragement by the party elite. Likewise, Fairbanks, Reid, and McKinley turned down offers to take the mantle. Former Speaker Cannon had been expected to announce his intention to run in April, but he restated disinterest in re-entering the political fray.

The moniker of frontrunner fell to Pennsylvanian Philander Chase Knox, the incumbent Class 1 senator from that state. Knox had served as Attorney General for Beveridge and Depew, annihilated the 1904 Democratic adversary with over 60% of the vote, and continually championed pro-business resistance to Roosevelt all throughout the 59th and 60th Congresses (famously disregarding the tension-dissipating provisions of the Grand Bargain). Although not quite a member of the party's elite, Knox speedily won over much of the national committee and began sweeping state nominating conventions. He had the nomination all but sewn up by June, eliminating the chance of a contested convention. Of course, in Knox' victory lied a significant drawback for Roosevelt. Any remaining hope that the president would bring back together the disparate factions of the GOP was dashed. In this fateful move that, plausibly, permanently skewed American politics to a multi-party system, the Progressives would go their own way, and the parties in 1908 would fail to unite in spite of incessant speculation.
 
Part 4: Chapter XIV

Internal View of the Republican National Convention, June 17th, 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

Chapter XIV: The Election of 1908: Democracy for the Highest Bidder

Over nine hundred delegates and thousands of guests and onlookers arrived to Chicago on June 16th. They did so in order to take part in the opening of the Republican National Convention: To craft the renewed platform and formally nominate their ideal suitor to clash with President Roosevelt in November. Knowing that the opposing parties were not winnable to their cause, convention security staff upheld a strict identification policy for all visitors as a means to ensure that the festivities were inaccessible to "socialists, anarchists, and nefarious Progressive and Democrat informers." Participants were visually scanned upon entry, and any individuals deemed unsuitable (including anyone under the age of 25 and all unaccompanied women) were denied access to the venue.

Even though the festivities were, by their very nature, exuberant and celebratory, an aura of unpleasantness pervaded the Chicago Coliseum. Despite assurances by the party leadership that the GOP was in a position to deliver a decisive blow to the president, much of the party remained unconvinced. President Chauncey Depew's miserable third-place performance in the 1904 election was commonly attributed to public distaste for avid conservatism as well as Depew's own rather despicable reaction to consolidation and labor agitation. Still, even with these drawbacks, Depew had had the advantage of incumbency. Now that the party was readying itself to designate a presidential challenger that essentially mirrored the much-loathed 1904 platform, some delegates doubted that any such candidate could sufficiently conquer burgeoning progressivism and zoom past Roosevelt in the Electoral Vote count.

Led by Senators Fairbanks and Cullom, a minority contingent proposed altering the convention platform to better recognize the validity of the Grand Bargain instead of acting as if it had never been struck. Appealing to the moderate Progressive faction could prove advantageous, men like Fairbanks presumed, so offering them enticing rhetoric had the potential to sink a huge section of the Roosevelt vote while sacrificing virtually nothing in terms of genuine policy. "We trust in the spirit of conservative progress," explained Representative Frederick H. Gillett (R-MA) during the platform dispute, "and that is why it is in the party's best interest to readmit those elements of the [1900] platform that had carried Albert Beveridge to the White House. Unrelenting orthodoxy will serve us no benefit if our position allows King Theodore I to grow ever fatter in his Oval Office throne."

Temporary Convention Chairman Morgan Bulkeley, Aetna Life Insurance Company president and incumbent Connecticut senator, allowed the plank proposals to come to a vote. Senator Frye spoke to the defense of the status quo, fiercely decrying the mediated platform amendment as a, "rotten component of the Progressive conspiracy to overturn the basis [of the Republican Party]." Representative John W. Weeks (R-MA), the former Mayor of Newton, Massachusetts and present congressman of the 12th District of the Bay State, firmly planted his flag on the side of the status quo. Weeks seconded Frye's defense of reiterating the previous platform as-is. "Surrendering our ideals to the league of radicals paraded by the charlatan president is not an option. If we resort to alteration, we may as well cast our lot with Bill Bryan! Weeks' exhilarating statement won over an adequate number of fence-sitter delegates to vanquish the mediation proposal, effectively ending that debate once and for all.

On June 18th, time arrived for the nomination. An overwhelming majority of delegates had all but settled their bets on Senator Knox after his rampage through the state conventions awarded the Pennsylvanian with confident support. His nomination was virtually safeguarded from any attempts to upend it, but the candidate looked to sew up any loose ends regardless. Not everyone was thrilled with Knox as the nominee, and the former Attorney General understood this. Some of the delegates quietly desired the renomination of Depew to the presidency, while others believed a more prominent figure like Senator Henry C. Lodge stood the best shot against the incumbent. Fortunately for the aspiring nominee, he had been gifted a worthwhile advocate who agreed to speak to Knox's nomination and rally support.

Roosevelt assures us of his readjustment. He swears to it, that no man in that Columbian catastrophe could sway his awakened convictions. If this is true, I ask, Mr. President, how then can we assume you hold to your word to any bargain? If you are a free agent, unrestrained by fraternization, all that you have sworn before Congress, and the country, is bunk. [...] It is folly to close our eyes to outstanding facts. The agents of discord and destruction have lit their torches in the homes of radical Columbians and wayward Democrats. Ours, the Party of Lincoln and Beveridge, is the temple of liberty under the law. Ours is the appealing voice to sober the nation. There can be no resolution but that truth. Now, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, my countrymen all. I obey the command of my state and the mandate of all Republicans, when I offer the name of the next President of the United States, Philander Chase Knox.
Warren Gamaliel Harding, Republican Convention Speech, 1908

That did the trick. This nominating address by the incumbent lieutenant governor of Ohio, Warren G. Harding, was received warmly by the crowd. In effect, it considerably bolstered the plausibility that Knox would retain a two-thirds vote on the first ballot. Serving beside Ohio Governor Myron Herrick, Harding gained statewide notoriety for skillfully managing the Ohio State Senate and thwarting a lackluster Progressive uprising in that legislative body. Now in the midst of his second term in office, the stone-faced Ohioan arrived to Chicago as a delegate for his state's Republican Party representing the majority pro-Knox faction. His speech presenting the frontrunner not only assisted Knox's prospects, but perhaps his own as well. "I daresay," former Chairman McKinley was reportedly heard in conversation with Senator Harris,
"that man has a future in the party. We would do well to keep an eye on that one."

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Exhaling a breath of relief, the Knox camp cleared the road ahead and passed the necessary delegate threshold on the first call. Not one vote went to either former President Depew or Senator Lodge, relegating that fear to the political graveyard. Knox's team, studious of the failures of the 1904 Republican ticket, settled on a vice president they believed would appeal to the oft-ignored Western Republican segment of the party. To this end, Knox recommended James Norris Gillett (R-CA), the railroad-friendly incumbent governor of California. Gillett promptly accepted, and the ticket was thence settled.

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Madison Square Garden in New York City, July 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

From all corners of the country, Democratic politicians of prominence and state-designated representatives traveled to the party's nominating convention in New York City. Chairman Johnson headed the tie-breaking vote to settle on the venue, opposing the Western branch of Democracy which had preferred Denver. From Johnson's perspective, Senator Richard Olney's success in the Empire State four years prior exemplified that New York still proved a definitive swing state. If the party played its cards correctly, those 39 Electoral Votes could very well decide the outcome of the presidential race. Therefore, on July 6th, the doors of Madison Square Garden in Manhattan opened to the enormous, varied assemblage of the Democratic National Convention.

From the get-go, one of the earliest surprises of the DNC was the appearance of Governor Hearst alongside the New York delegation. Typically, the candidates did not personally attend (Bryan in 1896 and Beveridge in 1900 were the exceptions, as neither anticipated the nomination landing in their lap). This caused quite an uproar in the press, whose journalists profusely cataloged the provocative governor's movements and reactions to the daily proceedings. It launched him onto the front pages far above the other potential nominees, and all but assured that Hearst's political career and public favorability stayed on the up and up regardless of the results of the convention. It was opportunistic to a T, and the Democratic leadership despised him for it.

As the delegates poured in amid stirring animation, the atmosphere seemed light and lively. No one candidate had the nomination sewn up on the first day of the event, yet the various sects were prepared to unite around whomever won out the day. Unity was the name of the game, as it was extremely important for the party to convey a spirit of solidarity as contrasted with the divisive Progressive-Republican spat. Most Democrats hoped to steer clear altogether of any contentious risks, and, in fact, they would congregate to form a strong, standardized platform clear of any controversy or alienating portions. It closely resembled the Omaha platform constructed by the Nebraska Democrats, combining pledges to suitably regulate industry with denouncements of President Roosevelt for failing to live up to progressives' expectations. Hearst and some of his Northern Democratic allies wished to add additional planks for nationalizing the railroads, a proposal previously brought up by former President Bryan, but they left the matter alone. The platform, Hearst believed, did not matter a pittance in comparison to the nominee.

Going into the convention, Governor Hearst had more delegates in his pocket than any other competitor, but not yet enough to claim a sure-fire majority. He was naturally suspicious of the party functionaries and immensely distrusted the pseudo-democratic nominating process. Democratic officials did not conduct their business openly, and, although they jeered at the Republicans for the same crime, all presidential, gubernatorial, and senatorial nominations were made behind closed doors and in smoke-filled rooms. Only when the candidate was an incumbent, already deemed a presumptive nominee, or somehow captivated the delegation in a frenzy were the wills of party leadership no serious concern. The 1904 convention and the sudden injection of Olney by the Reorganizers demonstrated the alternative. Hearst was not interested in playing their game, and fully intended to lock-in the nomination before it could be nabbed.

Those present at the convention anticipated a drawn-out affair engorged with successive ballots and rambunctious in-fighting on the floor. "They were always circuses," wrote Charles W. Bryan, brother to the former president and editor of The Commoner. "Patriotism stirs agitation, and it matters not the party affiliation or candidate preference. In New York, it felt no different. There was no drift of enthusiasm to any one man in particular on that first day. The newsmen speculated the fates of the twenty, or so, contenders in the evening papers. Theodore Bell, the temporary chairman, spoke at tiring length to the galleries, and alluded to the achievements of historical Democratic presidents. When he reached the 'earthshaking Bryan Administration,' the crowd leapt to its feet and wildly, frantically, burst into demonstration. That was as good a hint as any who they truly wanted." Ravenous applause for former President Bryan, who had been present and stood briefly to accept the clamor, concluded after nearly a full hour. Hearst, who watched the standing ovation with his teeth tightly clenched, was reportedly more nervous at that juncture than any preceding moment. The convention, if left to its own devices, would certainly renominate Bryan if given the opportunity.

The precise timetable is debated by political historians, but sometime between the evening of July 6th and the afternoon of July 7th, Governor Hearst and his operatives scrambled together impromptu appointments with several dozen delegates of varying states as well as with the beloved former president. The objective was simple: win the votes on the first call. Any other result practically guaranteed a Bryan nod. "He was your textbook crook," historian Russell Kirk wrote of Hearst in American Politics Reconsidered. "Unseen for decades, Bill Hearst unearthed the hideous customs of fraudulent electoral manipulation and political blackmail. It has been said by liberal historians that these allegations were unproven, but that is their muddling modus operandi. Hearst called to order those backroom deals and he certainly threatened Bryan to his weathering face." As has been hypothesized as the dawn of a greater scandal, Governor Hearst may, or may not, have approached Bryan and forewarned him of his plan to run as an independent candidate if denied the nomination.

It is crucial to recall that Hearst's publications played a significant role in Bryan's election campaigns, and assisted in spreading the Nebraskan's message to the American citizenry via the Hearst media empire. The New York Journal had been a pivotal ally of Bryan and an undeniable vehicle for Democratic reform for many years. Hearst also personally donated tens of thousands in campaign funds to the Nebraskan in 1896, and urged his readership to do the same. If he did indeed threaten a third party run, Hearst absolutely utilized the above points to guilt Bryan to act accordingly. For what ever the reason, the former president did his part to deliver his publishing ally the nomination. Bryan authored a brief memorandum to every last delegate expressing support for Governor Hearst and doubly affirming his unwillingness to accept the nomination of the party for president. Some blindly followed Bryan's statement. Others saw through the wool placed over their eyes.

What followed, on the third day on the convention, could only be described as a small-scale rebellion. A "Stop Hearst" sentiment rose amongst the delegates opposed to his nomination or otherwise incensed by Bryan's odd and uncharacteristic remarks. Through the nominating speeches of the non-Hearst candidates, a small segment of the party voiced their extreme displeasure of a Hearst presidency. Congressman Richmond Hobson (D-AL), for instance, asserted that, "Dirty money cannot buy the presidency. Not from any banker, nor oil magnate, nor publisher." He emphasized that final word in an obvious reference to Hearst, expectorating it like a foul curse.

Unfortunately for the Alabaman, it was far too late to close the floodgates. Hearst is said to have exhibited a sly grin on his face whilst observing Hobson's vicious speech, likely understanding that nothing could stop the locomotive he put into motion. Delegates from California, 100% behind the Hearst candidacy, brushed off the suspicions of their choice as sensationalist nonsense and held firm. "Hearst," a pro-Hearst Michigan delegate relayed, "draws upon a legitimate sense of resentment against the fleecing of Americans by the moneyed elite and political bosses. He's an outsider who cares for the common man." Another was recorded stating, "[Hearst] cannot be bought, and that is how we know he speaks the absolute truth."

At five minutes past 12 o'clock, Chairman Bell announced that the roll call would commence.
The tally was struck, and the fix was in.


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On the final day of the convention, July 11th, the delegates unanimously selected Minority Leader Champ Clark to join Hearst on the ticket. Clark had been a favorite of the delegates for his competent leadership in the House as well as his favor by the Southern and Midwestern Democrats. Few doubted the honesty of the Missourian representative, and it was said of the delegates that they simmered down once Clark won the vice presidential slot. They hoped that if the nominee was truly a man as dangerous as his opponents insisted, the running-mate could surely reign in the worst of it.

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Internal View of the Progressive National Convention, August 2nd, 1908 - Source: Wiki Commons

Undeterred by the activities of the two major political parties, scores of Progressive delegates met to officially renominate President Theodore Roosevelt for a second term. Taking place shortly after the Democratic convention in mid-July, these men and women united under a common banner at the Chicago Coliseum intent on shredding the opposing contenders and defending the Roosevelt domestic agenda. In their view, the president had been brutally and unfairly judged by the other nominees. Progressives now prepared to relish in cathartic rebuttal.

It was largely an uneventful affair, especially when compared with the preceding convention, and relatively few members arrived with any plans to adjust the party platform or otherwise earnestly contest the national committee. Delegates universally held the Square Deal in high regard and championed the Roosevelt initiatives with critical acclaim. They too extolled McKenna's Justice Department in its high-profile prosecutions of Northern Securities, U.S. Steel, and Standard Oil. House Minority Leader Wesley Jones remarked during the PNC platform discussions that, "President Roosevelt confirmed only what we all already knew. He, as president, and the Progressive Party constituted the successors to Beveridge and his vision of Republicanism. Others may do quite a lot of talk, but from this leader we've seen action. Do not be misguided! Overturning the most successful leader of our generation would be a great historical error."

A compounded, multi-hour debate did ensue on the first day of the festivities regarding the party program in relation to the Grand Bargain. As was inevitable following the deal termed by some more radical Progressive affiliates as a "betrayal," a discernible segment of the party looked to instill a modification in the existing platform that addressed the perceived corrupt bargain with Fairbanks and the Republican Old Guard. This faction, albeit a minority in the overall scheme of the convention makeup, called for an amendment that more stridently chastised Republican Standpatters and aggressively reprimanded corporate influence in American politics (partially inspired by Hearst's similar virulence against corporations).

The final vote to amend the platform in this fashion failed, 4-1, although an alternative proposal to dedicate a plank to the New York City Bankruptcy Crisis did pass. The latter resolution called attention to the federal government's efforts in saving the city from total financial collapse at a time when the wealthy elite brushed off their public duty. To the chagrin of the further-left Progressives, this addition did not directly censure accumulated wealth in and of itself, nor did it name J.P. Morgan as a guilty party. The charge did little to mend the wounds of the so-called betrayal, and it is likely that resistance to the leftward pull additionally entrenched sentiment that Roosevelt's politics had mutated in the wake of the Grand Bargain.

Once the mainstays in the Columbian Party began, one after another, speaking to the credentials of President Roosevelt, ill-will from the platform debate fluttered away for a time. State representatives of the Progressive Party, in addition to assemblymen, local officials and mayors, spoke out in affection to the Square Deal and its architect. At the same time, the speakers intensely criticized the Republican establishment's renewed efforts to cut into Roosevelt's support, by, as described by Senator Borah, "Utilizing deceptive messaging and revising history to overlook the tragic consequences of Standpat Republican leadership." Governor Hearst, however, received the bulk of the attack. Congressman Albert Douglas (P-OH) called the publisher a "downright lout unfit for office," and State Senator John D. Achison (P-DE) referred to the Democrat as a "yahoo sensationalist." Senator Franklin Murphy tore the governor apart, dedicating fifteen minutes solely to attack the Californian for his sketchy business ties and suspected vote-buying.

It is fair to assert that the Progressive delegation in its entirety abhorred Knox and Hearst equally. Likewise, once the convention took its first (and only) state-by-state call, it was too evident that the party held steadfast behind President Roosevelt.


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As predicted, Roosevelt stormed in on the initial tally without a whisper of opposition. No other figure in the premier band of Columbians could have hoped to contend with the mighty incumbent even if were to wish it so. Those like Senator La Follette privately toyed with the concept of challenging Roosevelt for the nomination, if only to push him further left and force disassociation with the Republican Party. A fair amount of delegates, specifically those representing populist bastions in the Prairie and Mountain states, discreetly looked to reign in the president and deter him from a second Grand Bargain. To them, garnering minor policy achievements in exchange for succumbing to the corporate-influenced GOP sacrificed their sense of moral superiority and belief in the Progressive program.

After Roosevelt presented a welcome acceptance speech, one that subtly pricked the hardline left-wing with the line, "I believe in men who take the next step, not those who theorize about the 200th step," the aforementioned skeptics pushed one final objective. In no short order, they schemed to remove Vice President Taft from the ticket. Taft, as a center-right Progressive, embodied everything the La Follette's of the party had issue with. The vice president had been overly accommodating to congressional Republicans and cast only a single tie-breaking vote for the entirety of his four-year service. By all accounts, Taft failed in convincing Republicans to lean toward President Roosevelt and the Square Deal. For what purpose did it serve the party for Taft to then remain on the ticket?


The Vice Presidential situation offered the greatest encouragement to that class of delegates which is looking always for excitement at a political convention. Delegates opposed to incumbent William Howard Taft hoped to invigorate a well-fought contest in the race for second place. They appealed to the aggressive nature of progressive philosophy, calling for a second-in-command more closely resembling La Follette or Borah. After a period of time and consultation with state officials, Roosevelt shut down the debate. He demanded of his friends the selection of Taft. [...] Pro-Taft delegate Herman West officially nominated the incumbent, noting that his achievements in office merited re-nomination. Clarifying the appeal of the Columbian Party to business owners, West said that the conservatives "fight socialism blindly" while Taft and Roosevelt "fight it intelligently in the pursuit of eliminating the conditions that allows radicalism to flourish." Taft was confirmed on the first ballot with few dissidents.
Jacob B. Allison, "Brief War for Vice President," Chicago Tribune, August 5th, 1908

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Bill Haywood Portrait, Circa 1907 - Source: Wiki Commons

The cause of American Socialism was in a puzzling place. Socialists experienced tremendous success on the electoral front thus far, capturing a handful of mayoral and municipal offices in addition to its two congressmen. Eugene Debs' performance in the 1904 election was incontrovertibly staggering. Metropolitan centers like Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Pasadena, and Flint demonstrated huge favor for the Socialist Party and their reputations as radical havens began to reflect that new reality. The activist lifeblood of the left-wing also took a leading role in developing early twentieth century popular culture with publications like Appeal to Reason, Forward, and the International Socialist Review reaping mass circulation and significant readerships. Still, the growth of leftist tendencies brought about a new facet to the movement that these organizations hadn't yet dealt with. Namely, co-option.

Upton Sinclair had written The Jungle in 1906 not to provoke an interest in commodity oversight, but to stir empathy for the condition of the laborer and present socialism as the sensible solution. The author had helped found the Intercollegiate Socialist Society in 1905 to act as an intellectual organization for student activists and organizers. It was constructed, chapter-by-chapter, to elucidate the principles of socialism to the next generation and build a class of revolutionaries from below. When Roosevelt declared an interest in The Jungle, Sinclair may have been hopeful that his work had been popularized to such an extent. Yet, when all that it generated was inoffensive food product regulation, the author famously quipped, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." Similarly, novelist Jack London indicted capitalism at length in The Iron Hell, postulating a nightmarish right-wing society void of true personhood. "Let us control them," London wrote. "Let us profit by [machine] efficiency and cheapness. Let us run them for ourselves. That, gentlemen, is socialism."

Dynamic Socialist literature that filtered through the American citizenry did not seem to connect as well as intended. Muckrakers agitating the public likewise meant to incense anti-establishment fervor, but, on a consistent basis, little to nothing was gained from it. Fundamental conditions hadn't changed for the working class under a Progressive presidency - the party most often identified as co-opting socialistic rhetoric. Some felt as though the Columbians had undercut the Socialists' work, naming capitalist excesses problematic whilst proposing ineffective solutions. Moreover, Hearst's populism was viewed skeptically by scores of SP members who detected a deceptive aura around the publisher. Progressives and Democrats both muddied the waters for the American Left with their own reformist solutions, falling far short of what class-conscious workers desired from their government. A moderate expansion of federal oversight was simply futile if one hoped to quell the ABCs of capitalist contradiction.

In the midst of this rise of middle-class, liberal reformism, the Socialist Party congregated in Chicago to name their presidential nominee. Hopefully, the delegates prayed, their candidate could break through the mold and present theirs as the dominant vision for a brighter future. Despite having run twice and failed to overcome the opposition, Eugene Debs stayed the obvious choice. Just as he was in 1900, Debs remained the most well-known standard bearer of socialism in the modern American era and the greatest asset to the organization he once called, "A monument above internal dissension and factional strife." He had written to the effect of disfavor with a third consecutive run, however granted that he would head the campaign if nominated. Those like Illinois UMWA organizer Adolph Germer egged the mainstay candidate on. Germer stressed in April of 1908 that, "No man is better suited to appeal to the cause of a worker-ran society than [Debs.]"

As an aftereffect of the newfound camaraderie shared by Eugene Debs and the Industrial Workers of the World, Bill Haywood became more receptive to the Socialist Party than he had once been. Haywood's notoriety by industrial workers was towering by this point in the public consciousness, so it had made sense for the former to enter as a candidate if Debs declined the offer. The Western organizer lettered the SP that he would be willing to accept the nomination if offered. A majority of convention delegates were not convinced, however, with moderates and conservatives ardently opposing Haywood's interpretation of socialism. Other candidates like State Senator James Carey of Massachusetts (Morris Hillquit's associate), former ISR editor Algie Simmons (preferred by civil liberties lawyer Seymour Stedman), and Wisconsin State Representative Carl D. Thompson (propped up by Victor Berger) sharply obstructed the Haywood candidacy.

Executive Secretary John Mahlon Barnes, acting as chairman of the convention, worked to retain order as debate escalated on the second day. The fate of the nominee, it seemed, would also decide the fate of the Socialist Party's union policy. Haywood, as a member and founder of the IWW, would obviously support intimacy with that organization. A more conservative selection, like Thompson, called to continue efforts to reform the AFL. This fight that had heated the convention hall in entrenched deliberation lasted until a telegram arrived from Eugene Debs. Debs, recalled by one delegate as "the embodiment of the American proletarian movement," offered Haywood a personal endorsement. Though that did not suddenly end all debate, nor did it dissipate the sense that the nomination was an open free-for-all, his invisible hand did, eventually, guide the delegates.


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To Hillquit and Berger's immense dissatisfaction, the incendiary Bill Haywood won the nomination in a majority vote. He did not personally attend the SNC, instead taking time to rest at his Idaho abode following a strenuous engagement the state court system, but the nominee did telegraph an acceptance speech to the Chicago convention. During the proper campaign, Haywood reiterated the core tenants of that speech.

Tonight I am going to speak on the class struggle, and I am going to make it so plain that even a lawyer can understand it. [...] They can't stop us. No matter what they do we will go on until we, the roughnecks of the world, will take control of all production and work when we please and how much we please. The man who makes the wagon will ride in it himself. The capitalist has no heart, but harpoon him in the pocketbook and you will draw blood. [...] So, on this great force of the working class I believe we can agree that we should unite into one great organization—big enough to take in the children that are now working; big enough to take in the black man; the white man; big enough to take in all nationalities, an organization that will be strong enough to obliterate state boundaries, to obliterate national boundaries, and one that will become the great industrial force of the working class of the world.
Bill Haywood, "Speech to Cleveland Steelworkers", September 9th, 1908

Traveling state-by-state in a customized train, referred to in the press as the "Red Special," the Haywood Campaign brought its arguments to the people. Alongside Barnes and vice presidential nominee John Slayton of Pennsylvania, the campaign darted across the country for a period of four months straight. It distributed radical literature to the huge audiences it encountered, and occasionally brought on other well-known figures like Debs for short duration of the tour. Haywood recognized the compounded problems facing industrial workers at the turn of the century and looked to attach the lines betwixt individualized cases of exploitation and employer negligence with the grander mission of attaining socialism.
 
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