Crimson Banners Fly: The Rise of the American Left

Eugene Debs is considered far left, @UlyssesCrab...by American standards; I agree that, in Europe or Canada, he'd be center-left (to be fair, I am not too familiar with the politics of those countries, so I apologize; who in the US would be considered far left by European or Canada standards)...
Debs would definitely not be center-left in modern Europe, he'd probably still be considered far-left. He is an actual socialist and socialism is definitely not center left in Europe. Honestly people over-exaggerate how much further left Europe is, they difference really isn't that large and pretty much only exists on economic issues.
 
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"Alice in Plunderland" Anti-Trust Cartoon, Published 1903- Source: Wiki Commons

The U.S. economy had undergone tremendous growth since the 1890s. Corporate profitability and the general prosperity of business owners reached new heights, with the unchecked consolidation of several hundred American industries aggregating over $8.8 billion by 1903. These trusts acquired unfathomable wealth over the past decade, with the stipulations in the Sulzer-Hepburn Act accounting for an indiscernible hiccup in the merger wave prior to its repeal. Over the course of the Depew presidency, an estimated 30% of American companies vanished via consolidation. Roughly two-thirds of all U.S. workers at this time were employed by fewer than 100 firms.

Domination of trusts, monopolies and pools in the economy meant newfound power for the owner class as they learned to dictate terms to the railroads. Regulation of the rail rates as described in Sulzer-Hepburn attempted to curtail the ability of these trusts, but now, with that measure eliminated, the capitalists had free reign to adjust rates at will. The Harriman-Gould-Rock Island and the Morgan-Hill-Vanderbilt-Pennsylvania, two of the most prominent railroad companies, controlled more than 60% of all railways in the United States.

J.P. Morgan, himself the very symbol of late-Gilded Age America, controlled several similarly giant trusts in this period. His claws dug deep into a sea of financial institutions ranging from banking networks to investment firms and insurance companies. In 1901, he assembled the vast United States Steel Corporation and absorbed the manufacturing plants once owned by fellow financial giant Andrew Carnegie. U.S. Steel became the world's first billion-dollar corporation and, upon its creation, held a commanding 60% market share. In finances, transportation, communications, and manufacturing, Morgan's trusts outweighed all others.

The post-Sulzer-Hepburn merger movement went unchallenged until one particular formation which threatened complete monopolization of all rail traffic from Chicago to the West Coast. This, the Northern Securities Company, had been formed by Morgan, E.H. Harriman, James J. Hill and various Rockefeller interests. Its assemblage set Western state governments in a frenzy, fearing that the monopolization of their railways would lead to high shipping fees set with legal immunity. Governors of these states plead with President Depew to explore the prospect of prosecution, but the president would hear none of it.

President Depew was of the mind, not uncommon for the Republican Party in this era, that the consolidation spree is precisely what allowed the economy to escape the imprisonment of the 1890s depression. He believed it gravely essential to retain a hands-off laissez-faire policy as to avoid the disruption of economic growth and, consequentially, being irrefutably held responsible for future turmoil. A majority of congressmen, in stark disagreement with Depew's perspective, considered legislative methods to impede the merger wave in 1903 and 1904.

Bryan Democrats, who all along had leveled accusations at these trusts for rising prices and heinous working conditions, eagerly pasted together legislation to solve the dire economic predicament. Working alongside reform-minded Republicans, Democrats crafted a bill to address mergers and the intimidation tactics frequently employed by trusts against local governments. First, it forbade rebates - a tactic often used by corporations to extort railroads - and empowered the Interstate Commerce Commission to impose fines on transport companies that offered these rebates. Second, the bill mandated that the Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce launch investigations into any consolidation that resulted in a state-wide monopoly (clearly singling out the Northern Securities Company in all but name).

Senator Thomas M. Patterson (D-CO) introduced the legislation in December of 1903, ushering in a period of exhausting senatorial debate. Conservatives in both parties sharply opposed the measure, likening its passage to treason for the American economy. Senator Platt, an opponent to economic reform, referred to the measure as "dynamite" meant to "erupt American commerce." Platt's thoughts were certainly shared by Southern Bourbons who likewise fought the Patterson bill, but Western delegates like Senators Addison Foster (R-CA) and A. S. Bennett (D-OR) faced extreme pressure by their constituents to vote in favor of passage. In early January, just when it appeared as though these vacillating Westerners were willing to proceed, President Depew authored a message to Congress revealing his resolved intention to veto the bill should it arrive to his desk as-is.

As if tainted by poison, nearly every Republican immediately backed away from the reform and, furthermore, declined to pursue any amendments to soften the proposed regulations. Democrats were enraged. Minority Leader Lentz remarked upon the tabling of the Patterson bill, "Our obligation is to defend the principles of the Constitution of the United States and deliver to the American people ordinances that seek to uphold our sacred rights. These robber barons who shadow our government have darkened the halls of Congress and hushed out the light of Constitutional responsibility." Lentz' opinion was not his alone. Bryan Democrats had ramped up criticisms of Depew and the Republicans as puppets of Morgan, Carnegie, and Rockefeller. In this time, when the economy seemed under threat by mergers and unfettered capitalism, the president's acclaimed notions concerning laissez-faire economics seemed tone deaf.

Depew's disinterest in prosecution against Northern Securities Trust, his pillaging of the Philippines, and his inaction during the Anthracite Strike irreparably tarnished the New Yorker's notoriety. Political cartoons depicting the president as unquestionably beholden to the moneyed interests became commonplace in the political press throughout the end of 1903 and into 1904. It gifted to the Democratic Party a cache of ammunition to utilize against the presumed Depew candidacy unseen since James G. Blaine's ill-fated run for the Executive Mansion in 1884. The reformist faction of the GOP, one which often overlapped with the imperialist sect, could no longer stomach further support to the accidental president and penned an ultimatum to Chairman McKinley: Either the RNC dissuade Depew from running or they would consider supporting a third-party candidacy.

Somewhere in the depths of a smoke-filled, D.C. Republican National Committee meeting, McKinley, Lodge, Cannon and a host of others settled their deal. The United States could not afford, they concluded, a disunited and squabbling Republican Party. At any cost, the likes of William Jennings Bryan must never be allowed to return to Washington. McKinley issued the decisive call, cementing the policy that whomever won the 1904 nomination would be wholeheartedly supported by the entirety of the national party. "It was on February 10th, 1904," historian Jay Morgan wrote, "that President Depew announced his disinterest in seeking an additional presidential term. He cited personal health concerns (likely entirely fabricated) and his wish to return to private life (also a lie). One of the more intriguing elements of the committee arrangement was that the conservatives bet the farm without a farmer while the progressive wing identified their favorite long ago."
 
Part 3: Chapter X New

"Tacoma Times" Cartoon Demonstrating the Futility of the Conservatives, December 21st, 1903 - Source: Wiki Commons

Chapter X: The Election of 1904: The True Fourth Party System, or How We Trekked Along the Boulevard Of Broken Promises

The Republican Party had a critical choice to make. Who shall guide the Party of Lincoln forward in meeting the novel and complex challenges of the twentieth century? This topic weighed heavily on GOP leaders' minds in the aftermath of Depew's apparent bowing out of the race. Theoretically, the nomination was a free-for-all and the extraordinarily coveted presidential nod was anyone's game. Conservatives scattered in search of a prized fighter capable of eliminating any opposition, but the reformist faction silently understood the name of their standard bearer well in advance.

Secretary of War Theodore Roosevelt, popularly recognized as a war hero, a progressively-minded governor, and the only voice promoting economic reform in the Depew Administration, embodied the mood of the United States citizenry leading into the election season. Greatly perturbed by the vast economic inequalities of unregulated capitalism and the limitless power of the trusts and wealthy few, many Americans demanded intervention by the federal government. Depew's unwillingness to take a leading role in arbitrating the Anthracite Strike and total refusal to prosecute the Northern Securities Trust drove scores of otherwise loyal Republicans further to the Left. Roosevelt sought to return them to the fold with a reinvigorated presidential candidacy espousing a mightier federal government working on behalf of the people.

Sometime in late February, Secretary Roosevelt started hiring the core staff of his presidential campaign. He enlisted the assistance of several figures from his failed 1900 bid, including former State Secretary John Hay and Jacob Riis, in addition to Ohio State Senator James R. Garfield, Representative Charles Hamlin, and former Sixth Circuit Judge William Howard Taft. In order for the campaign to find triumph, it first and foremost required direct appeal to the voters. Roosevelt privately blamed the party establishment for the failure of his past candidacy and deeply resented the RNC for "underhanded thievery" at the Philadelphia Convention. Having worked tremendously hard in 1900 to appeal to the Republican leadership and state parties only to be snubbed at zero hour, the war secretary no longer counted on the benevolence of the Old Guard.

Despite his horrific foreign policy and assortment of character faults, President Beveridge managed to popularize the concept of sensible progressive reform during his presidency. His calls for child labor abolition and an end to poverty resonated with voters who otherwise associated such programs with Bryan Democracy, even if Beveridge never actually got around to enacting these domestic initiatives. The reformist faction of the Republican Party gradually developed during Depew's presidency into a force to be reckoned with, and, by 1904, with the Roosevelt Campaign offering an uncompromising vision of worthwhile innovation, it attracted new allies. Small businessmen, artisans, mechanics and some Western farmers found a home in the Roosevelt wing of the party.

As the blustering war secretary vyed for support straight from the electorate, conservative forces in the Republican Party conceived their own path forward. The Old Guard considered coalescing around various prominent party stalwarts in the aftermath of McKinley's settlement with the left-leaning sect. Speaker Joseph Cannon reportedly entered talks to plot a path to the nomination, but, fearing a loss may result in his removal from the speakership, he ultimately declined to contest the election. Some reached out to the Senator Thomas Platt as a viable figurehead of the conservatives, but he too stated his clear disinterest. To the relief of the RNC majority, several candidacies began sprouting up shortly after it became evident that Roosevelt would run once more.

Senator Joseph Foraker of Ohio indicated the start of a presidential candidacy in March, writing, "We Republicans stand grateful for the dutiful service of President Depew. His retirement necessitates a successor to that office, the highest honor in the land [...] to the nomination I will not actively fight, though neither will I decline." Charles W. Fairbanks, the staunch conservative senator from Indiana, released a similar proclamation to Foraker's and subsequently organized an effort to appeal to Midwestern party bosses. Two additional candidates, former governors William O'Connell Bradley (R-KY) and William A. Stone (R-PA), joined the field that spring.

The only member of the Old Guard considered capable of bringing down Theodore Roosevelt, however, was Senator Marcus Hanna. An advisor to President Depew and a colossal force in the Ohio Republican Party, Hanna had been viewed as the rightful presidential successor in the event that the incumbent opted against a second term. The Ohioan most recently assisted in the legislative efforts to repeal Sulzer-Hepburn, and for this was extensively lauded by J.P. Morgan. In January, however, Hanna fell profoundly ill with typhoid fever and on February 15th, a mere five days after McKinley orchestrated his arrangement with the disparate GOP factions, succumbed to the illness.


Hanna's death threw a wrench into the plans of the Republican establishment. His illness was well-known throughout the party apparatus, but few anticipated that it truly meant finality to the larger-than-life senator. McKinley's deal counted solely on the theory that his preferred faction [the conservatives] could earnestly manage their own opposition to Roosevelt. The committee chair held little faith in Foraker or Fairbanks to carry out this mission due to their low name recognition by the rank-and-file and relative inexperience campaigning against a strong Democratic foe like Bryan. In the midst of this gloom, McKinley issued a command to Foraker that skewed the fate of the convention. "Ensure the resolution is passed. Damn the consequences. We cannot let it fall into anarchy."
Jay R. Morgan, The American Elephant: A Study of the Republican Party, 1980
 
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Well now, that's a fascinating turn. I am starting to feel a bit of morbid curiosity about the lengths the GOP establishment might go to deny Roosevelt the candidacy...
 
Well now, that's a fascinating turn. I am starting to feel a bit of morbid curiosity about the lengths the GOP establishment might go to deny Roosevelt the candidacy...
Noteworthy to recall that OTL Pres. Roosevelt nearly faced a nomination challenge in 1904 despite being the incumbent. Not quite an easy hill for an insurgent to climb.
 

Former President Bryan Speaking in Seattle, March 18th, 1903- Source: Wiki Commons

In the fallout of political defeat at the hands of Albert Beveridge, William J. Bryan departed the Executive Mansion intent on influencing public policy through printed and spoken word. Bryan continued to generate a fair income via the lecture circuit and, free from the shackles of the presidency, was free to speak his mind without repercussions. He reached out on a moral level to his base and warned his followers not to despair in the face of defeat. Rather, he asked of them to fight for their policy goals. Shortly after Beveridge pledged ground troops to the Philippines, Bryan remarked, "The simple truth of the matter is that this Administration intends on conquest by any means necessary. It is high time the American public got over its delusions about this war. It has deceived itself too long with the notion that it was fighting by a sense of patriotism. The only true patriot is one that defends our principles of liberty and self-government, whether it pertains to Americans or Filipinos."

Bryan rallied incessantly against the strength of the Beveridge Administration once the war effort escalated. As the most recent living president, the political celebrity's words were frequently cited as the chief opposition to Beveridge. In the span of 1901 through 1904, Bryan's electrifying speeches were just as celebrated as before he won the presidency, with onlookers often observing the Nebraskan's revitalized spirit and upbeat outlook on the future. To no one's astonishment, the orator gave no consideration to political retirement despite the harsh repudiation he received in the 1900 election. His following persisted and Bryan Democrats endured as a hearty faction of the national party.

Regardless of Bryan's defiant rigor and untouchable fortitude, his stinging loss in the presidential election still cost him dearly. The Democratic National Committee and a coalition of Eastern and Southern Democratic conservative figures wholly blamed the former president for exposing the nation to the imperialist mania of Beveridge. They regarded that Bryan tore apart the party at its seams whilst leaving few lasting achievements in his wake (especially following the repeal of Sulzer-Hepburn). In encapsulating the backlash to the former president's left-leaning promises of reform and populist rhetoric, the conservatives unapologetically charged the former president with betrayal of the Jeffersonian foundations of the Democratic Party. A return to form, they found, was long overdue.

This sect, the "reorganizers", managed to reassert control over the DNC in the months following the 1900 elections and plotted to boot out any and all Bryan Democrats in positions of leadership. These reorganizers believed that the only method to ridding the country of Republican rule was to reshape their party into a promoter of noncontroversial, moderate and business-friendly policies. Other than the lowering of the tariff, this last gasp of Bourbonism pushed to eliminate 'divisive' populist messaging and any discussion on reforming the national economic system. Therefore, in a move purely emblematic of this shift, former Treasury Secretary Horace Boies (a Silverite) was removed from a prominent leadership position in the Democratic committee in order to award that post to former Senator David B. Hill of New York.

By the end of 1902, the chief reorganizers of Democratic policy were David B. Hill, the Wilson-Gorman Act's co-architect Senator Arthur Gorman (D-MD), U.S. Shipbuilding Company Owner and former Senator James Smith Jr. (D-NJ), white supremacist Senator John W. Daniel (D-VA, and increasingly conservative journalists Henry Watterson and Joseph Pulitzer. Besides purging affiliates of Bryan from the party leadership (with the rare exception of Speaker Lentz), the new class (or, more accurately, the returned old class) of Bourbons searched for the right breed of standard bearer to, as Gorman stated, launch a "noble campaign of reason," and, thereby, re-capture the presidency. To this effect, they called upon a figure then-considered the single most formidable Democrat: Grover Cleveland.

Former President Cleveland, who in 1904 was 67 and in declining health, was often depicted by the Bourbons as a symbol of nostalgic, post-Reconstruction greatness and prosperity. His presidency hearkened back to an era of classical liberalism and strict fiscal conservatism, when Democrats applauded the gold standard and attracted the cyclopean forces of big business instead of alienating them. Of course, the aged former president also oversaw the calamitous Pullman Strike response as well as a bitter economic depression, but the rose-tinted glasses of the Bourbons tucked away those unfortunate remembrances. Those facets of Cleveland's tenure notwithstanding, the DNC reached out incessantly to petition the retired president to consider a third term. Although Cleveland's response indeed implied a sense of dread over the prospect of Bryan's renomination and a distaste for the power-mad, empire-building Republicans, he eventually refused their offer.

As the conservatives frenzied, Bryan pondered his own political destiny. "The Great Commoner," Ackerman wrote, "still had trouble processing his Popular Vote loss in the preceding election. His entire theory of governing banked on support by the public. Without it, all he fought for was for naught. [...] Comprehending the counter-revolution from the party leadership and the extent to which it infiltrated the Democratic Party overall, [Bryan] soberly accepted the embarrassingly low likelihood for his presidential re-nomination. Knowing, even counting on, the squandering of the election by the Bourbons, Bryan announced that he would not be seeking the nomination in 1904. Boosting the credibility of his movement depended on building it from below, not above."

Men who have repudiated the party creed and the party candidates, yet pride themselves upon their superior Democracy, urge a return to what they call the first principles of Democracy. Pressed for some definite statement of their views they either evade the question or resort to language too ponderous for the understanding.

These so-called Democrats who voted the Republican ticket showed by doing so that they were nearer to the Republican position than they were the Democratic position. In order to regain their confidence, they must undergo a change or the Democratic Party must move over toward the Republican position. As the re-organizers have manifested no change of heart the effort to re-organize might more property be called an effort to Republicanize the Democratic Party. To make the effort a success the Democrats must either be converted to Republican ideas, or be deceived into the support of men who wear the livery of Democracy, but lean toward Republican doctrines.
William J. Bryan, "The Organization," March 3rd, 1904
 
In the previous post, I thought I detected hints that Roosevelt might be shifting further to the left. It seems to me that a man with no love for big business could find it in him to work alongside moderate socialists.
 

Delegates to the First Socialist Party Convention, July 29th, 1901 - Source: MarxistsDotOrg

Leaders of the early movement for American Socialism vigorously studied their failures from the 1900 presidential campaign and arrived at two key conclusions. First, as elucidated by Eugene Debs, was the need to soften opposition to Socialist thought in American culture. It was of utmost importance for the Left, its candidates for office as well as its union organizers, to thoroughly explain the inherent contradictions between the mythical promise of prosperity under a capitalist mode of production versus the reality of life in the United States for an average working class individual. More so, until the disjointed, neophyte movement coalesced under a single crimson banner it had virtually no hope of supplanting the dominant parties in power.

Various factions of localized socialist organizations eventually agreed, partly at the behest of Debs, to attend a Socialist Unity Convention on July 29th, 1901, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The two largest factions present at this conference, the 'Kangaroo' wing of the DeLeonist Socialist Labor Party and the Chicago Social Democratic Party, looked to sort out their variations and peacefully join together. Delegates of the Chicago SDP, led by Victor Berger, called on the newfound consortium to inscribe into its principles immediate demands aside from general socialism. "We are no longer a sect," one delegate declared, "we are a political party. The inclusion of a political programme, ownership of the railroads and suffrage expansion particularly, will demonstrate empathy to the workers on which our party is based." This debate, over whether to concentrate efforts on sweeping reforms as opposed to a strict interpretation of socialist revolution, would not be solved at the founding convention, but, for the time being, the majority concurred with Berger.

Victor Berger himself referred to opponents of the measure as "impossiblists," harmful and childlike "disappointed Populists who have been led by their nose by the free silver, free paper money and other free things." Berger, an Austrian-American educator, moved to a German neighborhood within Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the 1880s. He fostered extensive roots with the German immigrant population of the city and found solace as an editor for two left-wing newspapers: the Wisconsin Vorwärts (Forward) and Die Wahrheit (The Truth). Politically conservative, as relative to the socialists, Berger favored participation with Gompers' AFL and disapproved of orthodox Marxism. According to his personal acquaintances, the Wisconsinite possessed no shortage of self-admiration, with political rival Morris Hillquit once remarking, "He was sublimely egotistical, but somehow his egotism did not smack of conceit and was not offensive."

Hillquit, a young Russian-American union organizer and a garment worker by trade, led the dissident Kangaroo faction of the SLP in 1901. He complied with the demand by the Berger faction to include capitalist reforms into the platform, arguing the only remaining option meant, "waiting with folded arms for the arrival of the revolution." It was pivotal, Hillquit stated, to run agreeable candidates on a broad program. Otherwise, regardless as to the ferocity of their support of a massive socialist revolution, the capitalist alternatives would stand for "progress, and we for dreams." Hillquit and Berger forces stayed temporary allies in the 1901 conference, voting approvingly for a policy of autonomous state branches instead of a overpowered centralized committee, the appointment of the inoffensive Leon Greenbaum as national secretary, and the selection of St. Louis for a base of operations. Finally, perhaps the least significant policy-wise but crucial as a symbolic measure, the delegates settled on a name - the Socialist Party of America.


Jubilant and full of promise, the Socialist Party of the United States, a cohesive collection of diverse theory and perspectives, unleashed itself upon the nation in the summer of 1901. It was no stunted reformist project, not Democratic, Republican nor Populist, but an independent socialist collective uncompromisingly and explicitly seeking the toppling of Capitalism. Localized and restrictive efforts along this guideline had been attempted before, state parties donning the 'socialist' label, the ill-fated Socialist Labor Party, etc, but never before had a unified front succeeded to such a profound scale.
Benjamin McIntyre, The Workers' Struggle: The Birth of a Columbian International, 2018

The Socialist Party gathered serious momentum in the period between 1901 and 1904. William Mailly, the successor to Greenbaum, oversaw a packed and lively national office as well as a flood of new memberships in his tenure. In November of 1904, Mailly's documentation reported a stunning 45,000 active memberships in the Socialist Party (The Social Democratic Party, at its height, named 10,000 total members in 1900). New York City and Milwaukee, two strongholds for SP membership, elected socialists to local offices as Republican incumbents struggled to retain the support of poor immigrant populations. Socialist speakers toured across America spreading the organization's message and countering the prevailing narrative that all was well.

Eugene Debs was unanimously selected as the presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America. His fame and adoration by the party proper could not be matched, and few believed any other had the capability to run a successful national campaign. In hopes that the broad appeal and solid organization of the SP could serve to benefit the candidate, Debs, joined by New York printer Benjamin Hanford, made his case to the electorate. His ideology stressed the innate relation of socialism to American culture, comparing unfettered capitalism to cataclysm.

He interpreted Marxian determinism and class structure through a uniquely American lens, proclaiming, "In this system absolutely no man is secure, and you instinctively know it. We live in the most favored land beneath the bending skies. We have raw materials in overwhelming abundance [...] and millions of eager and anxious workers stand ready to apply their labor. Yet, the surplus is forced back upon us. Men are pitted against men in every department of activity, and the struggle has become so sharp [...] that it develops and appeals to all that is cold and cruel and dehumanizing in men. Should Benjamin Franklin have witnessed this libel upon the human race, if Abraham Lincoln observed the wage-slavery of competitive capitalism, I do not doubt they would join in our call to transfer the operation of the machinery of production and distribution into the hands of the working class."
 

Internal View of the Republican National Convention, June 21st, 1904 - Source: Wiki Commons

On the sunny morning of Tuesday, June 21st, one of the tensest conventions in Republican Party history was brought to order. The ongoing, uneasy power struggle between conservative and reformist sects cast a discernible shadow over the festivities, metamorphosing a standard, regularly lighthearted nominating ceremony into an event with far-reaching implications. It appeared as though the divisiveness of the 1900 convention merely set the stage for this, the true opening night. Within the Chicago Coliseum, an enormous crowd, split about evenly betwixt the factions, filled the vast arena.

Alongside confidants Foraker and Fairbanks, McKinley and the RNC had engineered a dramatic alteration in the conservatives' plot to retain power in the party. Starting with the state government of Ohio, these figures forced the implementation of smoke-and-mirrors Draft Depew movement. Ohio delegates, largely pressured by Foraker and the national organization, passed a resolution endorsing President Depew for re-election regardless of the incumbent's aforementioned disinterest. Foraker then released an impromptu statement recognizing Depew's supposed rise and committing to the president's effort to achieve a second term. When time came for the Indiana GOP to endorse their preferred candidate, Fairbanks ensured Depew won out. Likewise, in states all across the Northeast and Midwest, the RNC semi-stealthily strong-armed state parties.

Now, a heated Theodore Roosevelt, in lock-step with his contingent of delegates, prepared for the worst after the convention's opening prayer and moment of remembrance for the late President Beveridge, in addition to Senators Hanna and Quay. The New York insurgent was undoubtedly informed of the RNC operation to curtail his presidential bid, yet, despite his enormous disadvantage, pressed on in a gentlemanly fashion. Passage of the pro-Depew resolutions by various state governments, after all, went against the wishes of the Republicans' increasingly pro-Roosevelt electorate. These supporters of the Rough Rider anxiously awaited the results of the Republican National Convention, praying that the majority of delegates come to their senses and break from the corrupt national committee.

Chairman McKinley presided over the convention at its start, then passed the gavel to the designated temporary chairman, Secretary William B. Allison. The latter delivered a short address to the convention summarizing the successes of the prior four years and the promising economic conditions for American commerce. He inferred that the legislative efforts of President Depew allowed for expansive entrepreneurial profitability, leading into to the introduction of the avidly pro-business national party platform. Roosevelt delegates, in eight separate instances, were overruled by the traditional majority when they pursued challenges to planks concerning, "the integral role of consolidation to which there should be no persecution," and "morally and legally justified [...] defensive maneuvers to protect private property from destructive radicals."

The 1904 Republican platform proved to be exceptionally conservative and reinforced by the anti-union Depew doctrine. Even relatively moderate stipulations related to limiting child labor, securing fair wages, and denouncing monopolies - milquetoast motions unanimously approved in previous platform debates - were wiped out. No longer would the GOP present the facade of even-mindedness and adherence to the Sherman Antitrust Act. Anything and everything that offended the American corporate interests disappeared. Still, the Roosevelt sect believed it possible to, at the very least, convince the opposing side to settle on a middle ground candidate.

This day's processions in the Republican National Convention demonstrated the reality of an unambiguous rift. Managers for President Depew are assured in their chances at renomination while the Roosevelt shouters stand equally convinced. President Depew must have 498 votes to obtain the nomination. Upon an analysis of the votes cast in shaping the platform, we cannot yet predict an outcome. We are told there are talks of a compromise candidate. [...] The Colonel [Roosevelt] called his delegates and urged them to keep their fire lit. The Colonel was fighting mad after today's defeats and that looked to add to his sharpness and determination. His speech, which awarded thunderous applause, failed to indicate any fondness toward the committee.
Edward K. Morris, "Depew Wins Initial Spar," The New York Times, June 22nd, 1904

By the moment Depew's nominating speech, a rather simplistic address presented by Senator James Sherman of New York, ended in a deafening rapture of cheers, the Roosevelt forces universally understood defeat was on the horizon. This convention, as became apparent on its third and final day, was frankly uninterested in mediating (eerily reflective of the response to the Anthracite Strike). Left with few options aside from a complete surrender, the Roosevelt faction enacted a last-ditch strategy.

Just prior to the state-by-state roll call, Governor Robert M. La Follette (R-WI) threw a bombastic Hail Mary pass in his formal nomination of Roosevelt.


Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen of the Convention. Four years ago, we Republicans convened in Philadelphia and, in this assemblage, selected for president the embodiment of Republican ideals. Mr. Albert Beveridge recognized that the pure and righteous spirit of the nation had the potential to provide enlightenment to the world - over the waves of the Pacific and beyond. The United States of America, in the vision of Mr. Beveridge, was standing at the precipice of a glorious golden age. We merely needed to reach out and grasp it. Preferring peace but not afraid to war, a leader in civil life and yet so quick to comprehend the arts of war, Mr. Beveridge met the moment and rose to accept his place in history. The time is now for us to do the same. [...] And so it is with these events which have led you to a single name which I am chosen only to pronounce: Gentlemen, I nominate for President of the United States the prodigy and chosen strategist of Mr. Beveridge, the vigor and promise of a great country and a great age, Theodore Roosevelt of New York.
Robert M. La Follette, Roosevelt Nomination Speech, June 23rd, 1904

La Follette's speech was reprinted in dozens of prominent newspapers and listed often as the legendary address which, as Morgan wrote, "flung the unknown Wisconsinite into national stardom," but upon its end at the Republican convention, its reception was not kind. Conservatives hissed at the governor for insinuating that Roosevelt, not Depew, was the rightful successor to Beveridge. La Follette's claims of Roosevelt as a biblical "prodigal son" of the late president ruffled the feathers of the easily incensed conservative majority. His mission to sway moderate delegates to the insurgent candidate without bringing up the blatant corruption of the national committee ultimately failed.

As the roll call neared its end, however, and it became clear that Depew would be the final victor, scores of Roosevelt delegates rose to their feet and began exiting the arena. This act of intra-party warfare stunned the committee and flabbergasted Allison. Hoarsely, the temporary chairman worked to call the convention to order and halt the roll call, but he was drowned out by a loud mix of chanting and jeers emanating from the attendees. "Bastards!" one delegate was heard screaming. "Anarchists! We'll see to your expulsion!" About four hundred delegates stormed out of the Chicago Auditorium, literally shaking the entire convention hall. Unwilling to allow for the party to operate as a vehicle of the trusts and forever distrustful of the national committee, the reformists pledged to see Roosevelt nominated on a separate ticket. Undeterred, the RNC selected Depew and Fairbanks as their nominees.


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