These negotiations were concluded with the utmost secrecy, General Schofield being the only man who knew exactly what my plan was, and Senator Quay, two members of my Cabinet, and ex-President Cleveland and the other men whom I proposed to put on the Commission, the only other men who knew that I had a plan. As I have above outlined, my efforts to bring about an agreement between the operators and miners were finally successful. I was glad not to have to take possession of the mines on my own initiative by means of General Schofield and the regulars. I was all ready to act, and would have done so without the slightest hesitation or a moment's delay if the negotiations had fallen through. And my action would have been entirely effective. But it is never well to take drastic action if the result can be achieved with equal efficiency in less drastic fashion; and, although this was a minor consideration, I was personally saved a good deal of future trouble by being able to avoid this drastic action. At the time I should have been almost unanimously supported. With the famine upon them the people would not have tolerated any conduct that would have thwarted what I was doing. Probably no man in Congress, and no man in the Pennsylvania State Legislature, would have raised his voice against me. Although there would have been plenty of muttering, nothing would have been done to interfere with the solution of the problem which I had devised, until the solution was accomplished and the problem ceased to be a problem. Once this was done, and when people were no longer afraid of a coal famine, and began to forget that they ever had been afraid of it, and to be indifferent as regards the consequences to those who put an end to it, then my enemies would have plucked up heart and begun a campaign against me. I doubt if they could have accomplished much anyway, for the only effective remedy against me would have been impeachment, and that they would not have ventured to try.[*]
[*] One of my appointees on the Anthracite Strike Commission was Judge George Gray, of Delaware, a Democrat whose standing in the country was second only to that of Grover Cleveland. A year later he commented on my action as follows:
"I have no hesitation in saying that the President of the United States was confronted in October, 1902, by the existence of a crisis more grave and threatening than any that had occurred since the Civil War. I mean that the cessation of mining in the anthracite country, brought about by the dispute between the miners and those who controlled the greatest natural monopoly in this country and perhaps in the world, had brought upon more than one-half of the American people a condition of deprivation of one of the necessaries of life, and the probable continuance of the dispute threatened not only the comfort and health, but the safety and good order, of the nation. He was without legal or constitutional power to interfere, but his position as President of the United States gave him an influence, a leadership, as first citizen of the republic, that enabled him to appeal to the patriotism and good sense of the parties to the controversy and to place upon them the moral coercion of public opinion to agree to an arbitrament of the strike then existing and threatening consequences so direful to the whole country. He acted promptly and courageously, and in so doing averted the dangers to which I have alluded.
"So far from interfering or infringing upon property rights, the Presidents' action tended to conserve them. The peculiar situation, as regards the anthracite coal interest, was that they controlled a natural monopoly of a product necessary to the comfort and to the very life of a large portion of the people. A prolonged deprivation of the enjoyment of this necessary of life would have tended to precipitate an attack upon these property rights of which you speak; for, after all, it is vain to deny that this property, so peculiar in its conditions, and which is properly spoken of as a natural monopoly, is affected with a public interest.
"I do not think that any President ever acted more wisely, courageously or promptly in a national crisis. Mr. Roosevelt deserves unstinted praise for what he did."
They would doubtless have acted precisely as they acted as regards the acquisition of the Panama Canal Zone in 1903, and the stoppage of the panic of 1907 by my action in the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company matter. Nothing could have made the American people surrender the canal zone. But after it was an accomplished fact, and the canal was under way, then they settled down to comfortable acceptance of the accomplished fact, and as their own interests were no longer in jeopardy, they paid no heed to the men who attacked me because of what I had done—and also continue to attack me, although they are exceedingly careful not to propose to right the "wrong," in the only proper way if it really was a wrong, by replacing the old Republic of Panama under the tyranny of Colombia and giving Colombia sole or joint ownership of the canal itself. In the case of the panic of 1907 (as in the case of Panama), what I did was not only done openly, but depended for its effect upon being done and with the widest advertisement. Nobody in Congress ventured to make an objection at the time. No serious leader outside made any objection. The one concern of everybody was to stop the panic, and everybody was overjoyed that I was willing to take the responsibility of stopping it upon my own shoulders. But a few months afterward, the panic was a thing of the past. People forgot the frightful condition of alarm in which they had been. They no longer had a personal interest in preventing any interference with the stoppage of the panic. Then the men who had not dared to raise their voices until all danger was past came bravely forth from their hiding places and denounced the action which had saved them. They had kept a hushed silence when there was danger; they made clamorous outcry when there was safety in doing so.
Just the same course would have been followed in connection with the Anthracite Coal Strike if I had been obliged to act in the fashion I intended to act had I failed to secure a voluntary agreement between the miners and the operators. Even as it was, my action was remembered with rancor by the heads of the great moneyed interests; and as time went by was assailed with constantly increasing vigor by the newspapers these men controlled. Had I been forced to take possession of the mines, these men and the politicians hostile to me would have waited until the popular alarm was over and the popular needs met, just as they waited in the case of the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company; and then they would have attacked me precisely as they did attack me as regards the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company.
Of course, in labor controversies it was not always possible to champion the cause of the workers, because in many cases strikes were called which were utterly unwarranted and were fought by methods which cannot be too harshly condemned. No straightforward man can believe, and no fearless man will assert, that a trade union is always right. That man is an unworthy public servant who by speech or silence, by direct statement or cowardly evasion, invariably throws the weight of his influence on the side of the trade union, whether it is right or wrong. It has occasionally been my duty to give utterance to the feelings of all right thinking men by expressing the most emphatic disapproval of unwise or even immoral notions by representatives of labor. The man is no true democrat, and if an American, is unworthy of the traditions of his country who, in problems calling for the exercise of a moral judgment, fails to take his stand on conduct and not on class. There are good and bad wage-workers just as there are good and bad employers, and good and bad men of small means and of large means alike.
But a willingness to do equal and exact justice to all citizens, irrespective of race, creed, section or economic interest and position, does not imply a failure to recognize the enormous economic, political and moral possibilities of the trade union. Just as democratic government cannot be condemned because of errors and even crimes committed by men democratically elected, so trade-unionism must not be condemned because of errors or crimes of occasional trade-union leaders. The problem lies deeper. While we must repress all illegalities and discourage all immoralities, whether of labor organizations or of corporations, we must recognize the fact that to-day the organization of labor into trade unions and federations is necessary, is beneficent, and is one of the greatest possible agencies in the attainment of a true industrial, as well as a true political, democracy in the United States.
This is a fact which many well-intentioned people even to-day do not understand. They do not understand that the labor problem is a human and a moral as well as an economic problem; that a fall in wages, an increase in hours, a deterioration of labor conditions mean wholesale moral as well as economic degeneration, and the needless sacrifice of human lives and human happiness, while a rise of wages, a lessening of hours, a bettering of conditions, mean an intellectual, moral and social uplift of millions of American men and women. There are employers to-day who, like the great coal operators, speak as though they were lords of these countless armies of Americans, who toil in factory, in shop, in mill and in the dark places under the earth. They fail to see that all these men have the right and the duty to combine to protect themselves and their families from want and degradation. They fail to see that the Nation and the Government, within the range of fair play and a just administration of the law, must inevitably sympathize with the men who have nothing but their wages, with the men who are struggling for a decent life, as opposed to men, however honorable, who are merely fighting for larger profits and an autocratic control of big business. Each man should have all he earns, whether by brain or body; and the director, the great industrial leader, is one of the greatest of earners, and should have a proportional reward; but no man should live on the earnings of another, and there should not be too gross inequality between service and reward.
There are many men to-day, men of integrity and intelligence, who honestly believe that we must go back to the labor conditions of half a century ago. They are opposed to trade unions, root and branch. They note the unworthy conduct of many labor leaders, they find instances of bad work by union men, of a voluntary restriction of output, of vexations and violent strikes, of jurisdictional disputes between unions which often disastrously involve the best intentioned and fairest of employers. All these things occur and should be repressed. But the same critic of the trade union might find equal causes of complaint against individual employers of labor, or even against great associations of manufacturers. He might find many instances of an unwarranted cutting of wages, of flagrant violations of factory laws and tenement house laws, of the deliberate and systematic cheating of employees by means of truck stores, of the speeding up of work to a point which is fatal to the health of the workman, of the sweating of foreign-born workers, of the drafting of feeble little children into dusty workshops, of black-listing, of putting spies into union meetings and of the employment in strike times of vicious and desperate ruffians, who are neither better nor worse than are the thugs who are occasionally employed by unions under the sinister name, "entertainment committees." I believe that the overwhelming majority, both of workmen and of employers, are law-abiding peaceful, and honorable citizens, and I do not think that it is just to lay up the errors and wrongs of individuals to the entire group to which they belong. I also think—and this is a belief which has been borne upon me through many years of practical experience—that the trade union is growing constantly in wisdom as well as in power, and is becoming one of the most efficient agencies toward the solution of our industrial problems, the elimination of poverty and of industrial disease and accidents, the lessening of unemployment, the achievement of industrial democracy and the attainment of a larger measure of social and industrial justice.
If I were a factory employee, a workman on the railroads or a wage-earner of any sort, I would undoubtedly join the union of my trade. If I disapproved of its policy, I would join in order to fight that policy; if the union leaders were dishonest, I would join in order to put them out. I believe in the union and I believe that all men who are benefited by the union are morally bound to help to the extent of their power in the common interests advanced by the union. Nevertheless, irrespective of whether a man should or should not, and does or does not, join the union of his trade, all the rights, privileges and immunities of that man as an American and as a citizen should be safeguarded and upheld by the law. We dare not make an outlaw of any individual or any group, whatever his or its opinions or professions. The non-unionist, like the unionist, must be protected in all his legal rights by the full weight and power of the law.
This question came up before me in the shape of the right of a non-union printer named Miller to hold his position in the Government Printing Office. As I said before, I believe in trade unions. I always prefer to see a union shop. But any private preferences cannot control my public actions. The Government can recognize neither union men nor non-union men as such, and is bound to treat both exactly alike. In the Government Printing Office not many months prior to the opening of the Presidential campaign of 1904, when I was up for reelection, I discovered that a man had been dismissed because he did not belong to the union. I reinstated him. Mr. Gompers, the President of the American Federation of Labor, with various members of the executive council of that body, called upon me to protest on September 29, 1903, and I answered them as follows:
"I thank you and your committee for your courtesy, and I appreciate the opportunity to meet with you. It will always be a pleasure to see you or any representative of your organizations or of your Federation as a whole.
"As regards the Miller case, I have little to add to what I have already said. In dealing with it I ask you to remember that I am dealing purely with the relation of the Government to its employees. I must govern my action by the laws of the land, which I am sworn to administer, and which differentiate any case in which the Government of the United States is a party from all other cases whatsoever. These laws are enacted for the benefit of the whole people, and cannot and must not be construed as permitting the crimination against some of the people. I am President of all the people of the United States, without regard to creed, color, birthplace, occupation or social condition. My aim is to do equal and exact justice as among them all. In the employment and dismissal of men in the Government service I can no more recognize the fact that a man does or does not belong to a union as being for or against him than I can recognize the fact that he is a Protestant or a Catholic, a Jew or a Gentile, as being for or against him.
"In the communications sent me by various labor organizations protesting against the retention of Miller in the Government Printing Office, the grounds alleged are twofold: 1, that he is a non-union man; 2, that he is not personally fit. The question of his personal fitness is one to be settled in the routine of administrative detail, and cannot be allowed to conflict with or to complicate the larger question of governmental discrimination for or against him or any other man because he is or is not a member of a union. This is the only question now before me for decision; and as to this my decision is final."
Because of things I have done on behalf of justice to the workingman, I have often been called a Socialist. Usually I have not taken the trouble even to notice the epithet. I am not afraid of names, and I am not one of those who fear to do what is right because some one else will confound me with partisans with whose principles I am not in accord. Moreover, I know that many American Socialists are high-minded and honorable citizens, who in reality are merely radical social reformers. They are oppressed by the brutalities and industrial injustices which we see everywhere about us. When I recall how often I have seen Socialists and ardent non-Socialists working side by side for some specific measure of social or industrial reform, and how I have found opposed to them on the side of privilege many shrill reactionaries who insist on calling all reformers Socialists, I refuse to be panic-stricken by having this title mistakenly applied to me.
None the less, without impugning their motives, I do disagree most emphatically with both the fundamental philosophy and the proposed remedies of the Marxian Socialists. These Socialists are unalterably opposed to our whole industrial system. They believe that the payment of wages means everywhere and inevitably an exploitation of the laborer by the employer, and that this leads inevitably to a class war between those two groups, or, as they would say, between the capitalists and the proletariat. They assert that this class war is already upon us and can only be ended when capitalism is entirely destroyed and all the machines, mills, mines, railroads and other private property used in production are confiscated, expropriated or taken over by the workers. They do not as a rule claim—although some of the sinister extremists among them do—that there is and must be a continual struggle between two great classes, whose interests are opposed and cannot be reconciled. In this war they insist that the whole government—National, State and local—is on the side of the employers and is used by them against the workmen, and that our law and even our common morality are class weapons, like a policeman's club or a Gatling gun.
I have never believed, and do not to-day believe, that such a class war is upon us, or need ever be upon us; nor do I believe that the interests of wage-earners and employers cannot be harmonized, compromised and adjusted. It would be idle to deny that wage-earners have certain different economic interests from, let us say, manufacturers or importers, just as farmers have different interests from sailors, and fishermen from bankers. There is no reason why any of these economic groups should not consult their group interests by any legitimate means and with due regard to the common, overlying interests of all. I do not even deny that the majority of wage-earners, because they have less property and less industrial security than others and because they do not own the machinery with which they work (as does the farmer) are perhaps in greater need of acting together than are other groups in the community. But I do insist (and I believe that the great majority of wage-earners take the same view) that employers and employees have overwhelming interests in common, both as partners in industry and as citizens of the republic, and that where these interests are apart they can be adjusted by so altering our laws and their interpretation as to secure to all members of the community social and industrial justice.
I have always maintained that our worst revolutionaries to-day are those reactionaries who do not see and will not admit that there is any need for change. Such men seem to believe that the four and a half million Progressive voters, who in 1912 registered their solemn protest against our social and industrial injustices, are "anarchists," who are not willing to let ill enough alone. If these reactionaries had lived at an earlier time in our history, they would have advocated Sedition Laws, opposed free speech and free assembly, and voted against free schools, free access by settlers to the public lands, mechanics' lien laws, the prohibition of truck stores and the abolition of imprisonment for debt; and they are the men who to-day oppose minimum wage laws, insurance of workmen against the ills of industrial life and the reform of our legislators and our courts, which can alone render such measures possible. Some of these reactionaries are not bad men, but merely shortsighted and belated. It is these reactionaries, however, who, by "standing pat" on industrial injustice, incite inevitably to industrial revolt, and it is only we who advocate political and industrial democracy who render possible the progress of our American industry on large constructive lines with a minimum of friction because with a maximum of justice.
Everything possible should be done to secure the wage-workers fair treatment. There should be an increased wage for the worker of increased productiveness. Everything possible should be done against the capitalist who strives, not to reward special efficiency, but to use it as an excuse for reducing the reward of moderate efficiency. The capitalist is an unworthy citizen who pays the efficient man no more than he has been content to pay the average man, and nevertheless reduces the wage of the average man; and effort should be made by the Government to check and punish him. When labor-saving machinery is introduced, special care should be taken—by the Government if necessary—to see that the wage-worker gets his share of the benefit, and that it is not all absorbed by the employer or capitalist. The following case, which has come to my knowledge, illustrates what I mean. A number of new machines were installed in a certain shoe factory, and as a result there was a heavy increase in production even though there was no increase in the labor force. Some of the workmen were instructed in the use of these machines by special demonstrators sent out by the makers of the machines. These men, by reason of their special aptitudes and the fact that they were not called upon to operate the machines continuously nine hours every day, week in and week out, but only for an hour or so at special times, were naturally able to run the machines at their maximum capacity. When these demonstrators had left the factory, and the company's own employees had become used to operating the machines at a fair rate of speed, the foreman of the establishment gradually speeded the machines and demanded a larger and still larger output, constantly endeavoring to drive the men on to greater exertions. Even with a slightly less maximum capacity, the introduction of this machinery resulted in a great increase over former production with the same amount of labor; and so great were the profits from the business in the following two years as to equal the total capitalized stock of the company. But not a cent got into the pay envelope of the workmen beyond what they had formerly been receiving before the introduction of this new machinery, notwithstanding that it had meant an added strain, physical and mental, upon their energies, and that they were forced to work harder than ever before. The whole of the increased profits remained with the company. Now this represented an "increase of efficiency," with a positive decrease of social and industrial justice. The increase of prosperity which came from increase of production in no way benefited the wage-workers. I hold that they were treated with gross injustice; and that society, acting if necessary through the Government, in such a case should bend its energies to remedy such injustice; and I will support any proper legislation that will aid in securing the desired end.
The wage-worker should not only receive fair treatment; he should give fair treatment. In order that prosperity may be passed around it is necessary that the prosperity exist. In order that labor shall receive its fair share in the division of reward it is necessary that there be a reward to divide. Any proposal to reduce efficiency by insisting that the most efficient shall be limited in their output to what the least efficient can do, is a proposal to limit by so much production, and therefore to impoverish by so much the public, and specifically to reduce the amount that can be divided among the producers. This is all wrong. Our protest must be against unfair division of the reward for production. Every encouragement should be given the business man, the employer, to make his business prosperous, and therefore to earn more money for himself; and in like fashion every encouragement should be given the efficient workman. We must always keep in mind that to reduce the amount of production serves merely to reduce the amount that is to be divided, is in no way permanently efficient as a protest against unequal distribution and is permanently detrimental to the entire community. But increased productiveness is not secured by excessive labor amid unhealthy surroundings. The contrary is true. Shorter hours, and healthful conditions, and opportunity for the wage-worker to make more money, and the chance for enjoyment as well as work, all add to efficiency. My contention is that there should be no penalization of efficient productiveness, brought about under healthy conditions; but that every increase of production brought about by an increase in efficiency should benefit all the parties to it, including wage-workers as well as employers or capitalists, men who work with their hands as well as men who work with their heads.
With the Western Federation of Miners I more than once had serious trouble. The leaders of this organization had preached anarchy, and certain of them were indicted for having practiced murder in the case of Governor Steunenberg, of Idaho. On one occasion in a letter or speech I coupled condemnation of these labor leaders and condemnation of certain big capitalists, describing them all alike as "undesirable citizens." This gave great offense to both sides. The open attack upon me was made for the most part either by the New York newspapers which were frankly representatives of Wall Street, or else by those so-called—and miscalled—Socialists who had anarchistic leanings. Many of the latter sent me open letters of denunciation, and to one of them I responded as follows:
THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON, April 22, 1907.
I have received your letter of the 19th instant, in which you enclose the draft of the formal letter which is to follow. I have been notified that several delegations, bearing similar requests, are on the way hither. In the letter you, on behalf of the Cook County, Moyer-Haywood conference, protest against certain language I used in a recent letter which you assert to be designed to influence the course of justice in the case of the trial for murder of Messrs. Moyer and Haywood. I entirely agree with you that it is improper to endeavor to influence the course of justice, whether by threats or in any similar manner. For this reason I have regretted most deeply the actions of such organizations as your own in undertaking to accomplish this very result in the very case of which you speak. For instance, your letter is headed "Cook County Moyer-Haywood-Pettibone Conference," with the headlines: "Death—cannot—will not—and shall not claim our brothers!" This shows that you and your associates are not demanding a fair trial, or working for a fair trial, but are announcing in advance that the verdict shall only be one way and that you will not tolerate any other verdict. Such action is flagrant in its impropriety, and I join heartily in condemning it.
But it is a simple absurdity to suppose that because any man is on trial for a given offense he is therefore to be freed from all criticism upon his general conduct and manner of life. In my letter to which you object I referred to a certain prominent financier, Mr. Harriman, on the one hand, and to Messrs. Moyer, Haywood and Debs on the other, as being equally undesirable citizens. It is as foolish to assert that this was designed to influence the trial of Moyer and Haywood as to assert that it was designed to influence the suits that have been brought against Mr. Harriman. I neither expressed nor indicated any opinion as to whether Messrs. Moyer and Haywood were guilty of the murder of Governor Steunenberg. If they are guilty, they certainly ought to be punished. If they are not guilty, they certainly ought not to be punished. But no possible outcome either of the trial or the suits can affect my judgment as to the undesirability of the type of citizenship of those whom I mentioned. Messrs. Moyer, Haywood, and Debs stand as representatives of those men who have done as much to discredit the labor movement as the worst speculative financiers or most unscrupulous employers of labor and debauchers of legislatures have done to discredit honest capitalists and fair-dealing business men. They stand as the representatives of those men who by their public utterances and manifestoes, by the utterances of the papers they control or inspire, and by the words and deeds of those associated with or subordinated to them, habitually appear as guilty of incitement to or apology for bloodshed and violence. If this does not constitute undesirable citizenship, then there can never be any undesirable citizens. The men whom I denounce represent the men who have abandoned that legitimate movement for the uplifting of labor, with which I have the most hearty sympathy; they have adopted practices which cut them off from those who lead this legitimate movement. In every way I shall support the law-abiding and upright representatives of labor, and in no way can I better support them than by drawing the sharpest possible line between them on the one hand, and, on the other hand, those preachers of violence who are themselves the worst foes of the honest laboring man.
Let me repeat my deep regret that any body of men should so far forget their duty to the country as to endeavor by the formation of societies and in other ways to influence the course of justice in this matter. I have received many such letters as yours. Accompanying them were newspaper clippings announcing demonstrations, parades, and mass-meetings designed to show that the representatives of labor, without regard to the facts, demand the acquittal of Messrs. Haywood and Moyer. Such meetings can, of course, be designed only to coerce court or jury in rendering a verdict, and they therefore deserve all the condemnation which you in your letters say should be awarded to those who endeavor improperly to influence the course of justice.
You would, of course, be entirely within your rights if you merely announced that you thought Messrs. Moyer and Haywood were "desirable citizens"—though in such case I should take frank issue with you and should say that, wholly without regard to whether or not they are guilty of the crime for which they are now being tried, they represent as thoroughly undesirable a type of citizenship as can be found in this country; a type which, in the letter to which you so unreasonably take exception, I showed not to be confined to any one class, but to exist among some representatives of great capitalists as well as among some representatives of wage-workers. In that letter I condemned both types. Certain representatives of the great capitalists in turn condemned me for including Mr. Harriman in my condemnation of Messrs. Moyer and Haywood. Certain of the representatives of labor in their turn condemned me because I included Messrs. Moyer and Haywood as undesirable citizens together with Mr. Harrison. I am as profoundly indifferent to the condemnation in one case as in the other. I challenge as a right the support of all good Americans, whether wage-workers or capitalists, whatever their occupation or creed, or in whatever portion of the country they live, when I condemn both the types of bad citizenship which I have held up to reprobation. It seems to be a mark of utter insincerity to fail thus to condemn both; and to apologize for either robs the man thus apologizing of all right to condemn any wrongdoing in any man, rich or poor, in public or in private life.
You say you ask for a "square deal" for Messrs. Moyer and Haywood. So do I. When I say "Square deal," I mean a square deal to every one; it is equally a violation of the policy of the square deal for a capitalist to protest against denunciation of a capitalist who is guilty of wrongdoing and for a labor leader to protest against the denunciation of a labor leader who has been guilty of wrongdoing. I stand for equal justice to both; and so far as in my power lies I shall uphold justice, whether the man accused of guilt has behind him the wealthiest corporation, the greatest aggregations of riches in the country, or whether he has behind him the most influential labor organization in the country.
I treated anarchists and the bomb-throwing and dynamiting gentry precisely as I treated other criminals. Murder is murder. It is not rendered one whit better by the allegation that it is committed on behalf of "a cause." It is true that law and order are not all sufficient; but they are essential; lawlessness and murderous violence must be quelled before any permanence of reform can be obtained. Yet when they have been quelled, the beneficiaries of the enforcement of law must in their turn be taught that law is upheld as a means to the enforcement of justice, and that we will not tolerate its being turned into an engine of injustice and oppression. The fundamental need in dealing with our people, whether laboring men or others, is not charity but justice; we must all work in common for the common end of helping each and all, in a spirit of the sanest, broadest and deepest brotherhood.
It was not always easy to avoid feeling very deep anger with the selfishness and short-sightedness shown both by the representatives of certain employers' organizations and by certain great labor federations or unions. One such employers' association was called the National Association of Manufacturers. Extreme though the attacks sometimes made upon me by the extreme labor organizations were, they were not quite as extreme as the attacks made upon me by the head of the National Association of Manufacturers, and as regards their attitude toward legislation I came to the conclusion toward the end of my term that the latter had actually gone further the wrong way than did the former—and the former went a good distance also. The opposition of the National Association of Manufacturers to every rational and moderate measure for benefiting workingmen, such as measures abolishing child labor, or securing workmen's compensation, caused me real and grave concern; for I felt that it was ominous of evil for the whole country to have men who ought to stand high in wisdom and in guiding force take a course and use language of such reactionary type as directly to incite revolution—for this is what the extreme reactionary always does.
Often I was attacked by the two sides at once. In the spring of 1906 I received in the same mail a letter from a very good friend of mine who thought that I had been unduly hard on some labor men, and a letter from another friend, the head of a great corporation, who complained about me for both favoring labor and speaking against large fortunes. My answers ran as follows:
April 26, 1906.
"Personal. My dear Doctor:
"In one of my last letters to you I enclosed you a copy of a letter of mine, in which I quoted from [So and so's] advocacy of murder. You may be interested to know that he and his brother Socialists—in reality anarchists—of the frankly murderous type have been violently attacking my speech because of my allusion to the sympathy expressed for murder. In The Socialist, of Toledo, Ohio, of April 21st, for instance, the attack [on me] is based specifically on the following paragraph of my speech, to which he takes violent exception:
"We can no more and no less afford to condone evil in the man of capital than evil in the man of no capital. The wealthy man who exults because there is a failure of justice in the effort to bring some trust magnate to an account for his misdeeds is as bad as, and no worse than, the so-called labor leader who clamorously strives to excite a foul class feeling on behalf of some other labor leader who is implicated in murder. One attitude is as bad as the other, and no worse; in each case the accused is entitled to exact justice; and in neither case is there need of action by others which can be construed into an expression of sympathy for crime.
"Remember that this crowd of labor leaders have done all in their power to overawe the executive and the courts of Idaho on behalf of men accused of murder, and beyond question inciters of murder in the past."
April 26, 1906.
"My dear Judge:
"I wish the papers had given more prominence to what I said as to the murder part of my speech. But oh, my dear sir, I utterly and radically disagree with you in what you say about large fortunes. I wish it were in my power to devise some scheme to make it increasingly difficult to heap them up beyond a certain amount. As the difficulties in the way of such a scheme are very great, let us at least prevent their being bequeathed after death or given during life to any one man in excessive amount.
"You and other capitalist friends, on one side, shy off at what I say against them. Have you seen the frantic articles against me by [the anarchists and] the Socialists of the bomb-throwing persuasion, on the other side, because of what I said in my speech in reference to those who, in effect, advocate murder?"
On another occasion I was vehemently denounced in certain capitalistic papers because I had a number of labor leaders, including miners from Butte, lunch with me at the White House; and this at the very time that the Western Federation of Miners was most ferocious in its denunciation of me because of what it alleged to be my unfriendly attitude toward labor. To one of my critics I set forth my views in the following letter:
November 26, 1903.
"I have your letter of the 25th instant, with enclosure. These men, not all of whom were miners, by the way, came here and were at lunch with me, in company with Mr. Carroll D. Wright, Mr. Wayne MacVeagh, and Secretary Cortelyou. They are as decent a set of men as can be. They all agreed entirely with me in my denunciation of what had been done in the Court d'Alene country; and it appeared that some of them were on the platform with me when I denounced this type of outrage three years ago in Butte. There is not one man who was here, who, I believe, was in any way, shape or form responsible for such outrages. I find that the ultra-Socialistic members of the unions in Butte denounced these men for coming here, in a manner as violent—and I may say as irrational—as the denunciation [by the capitalistic writer] in the article you sent me. Doubtless the gentleman of whom you speak as your general manager is an admirable man. I, of course, was not alluding to him; but I most emphatically was alluding to men who write such articles as that you sent me. These articles are to be paralleled by the similar articles in the Populist and Socialist papers when two years ago I had at dinner at one time Pierpont Morgan, and at another time J. J. Hill, and at another, Harriman, and at another time Schiff. Furthermore, they could be paralleled by the articles in the same type of paper which at the time of the Miller incident in the Printing Office were in a condition of nervous anxiety because I met the labor leaders to discuss it. It would have been a great misfortune if I had not met them; and it would have been an even greater misfortune if after meeting them I had yielded to their protests in the matter.
"You say in your letter that you know that I am 'on record' as opposed to violence. Pardon my saying that this seems to me not the right way to put the matter, if by 'record' you mean utterance and not action. Aside from what happened when I was Governor in connection, for instance with the Croton dam strike riots, all you have to do is to turn back to what took place last June in Arizona—and you can find out about it from [Mr. X] of New York. The miners struck, violence followed, and the Arizona Territorial authorities notified me they could not grapple with the situation. Within twenty minutes of the receipt of the telegram, orders were issued to the nearest available troops, and twenty-four hours afterwards General Baldwin and his regulars were on the ground, and twenty-four hours later every vestige of disorder had disappeared. The Miners' Federation in their meeting, I think at Denver, a short while afterwards, passed resolutions denouncing me. I do not know whether the Mining and Engineering Journal paid any heed to this incident or know of it. If the Journal did, I suppose it can hardly have failed to understand that to put an immediate stop to rioting by the use of the United States army is a fact of importance beside which the criticism of my having 'labor leaders' to lunch, shrinks into the same insignificance as the criticism in a different type of paper about my having 'trust magnates' to lunch. While I am President I wish the labor man to feel that he has the same right of access to me that the capitalist has; that the doors swing open as easily to the wage-worker as to the head of a big corporation—and no easier. Anything else seems to be not only un-American, but as symptomatic of an attitude which will cost grave trouble if persevered in. To discriminate against labor men from Butte because there is reason to believe that rioting has been excited in other districts by certain labor unions, or individuals in labor unions in Butte, would be to adopt precisely the attitude of those who desire me to discriminate against all capitalists in Wall street because there are plenty of capitalists in Wall Street who have been guilty of bad financial practices and who have endeavored to override or evade the laws of the land. In my judgment, the only safe attitude for a private citizen, and still more for a public servant, to assume, is that he will draw the line on conduct, discriminating against neither corporation nor union as such, nor in favor of either as such, but endeavoring to make the decent member of the union and the upright capitalists alike feel that they are bound, not only by self-interest, but by every consideration of principle and duty to stand together on the matters of most moment to the nation."
On another of the various occasions when I had labor leaders to dine at the White House, my critics were rather shocked because I had John Morley to meet them. The labor leaders in question included the heads of the various railroad brotherhoods, men like Mr. Morrissey, in whose sound judgment and high standard of citizenship I had peculiar confidence; and I asked Mr. Morley to meet them because they represented the exact type of American citizen with whom I thought he ought to be brought in contact.
One of the devices sometimes used by big corporations to break down the law was to treat the passage of laws as an excuse for action on their part which they knew would be resented by the public, it being their purpose to turn this resentment against the law instead of against themselves. The heads of the Louisville and Nashville road were bitter opponents of everything done by the Government toward securing good treatment for their employees. In February, 1908, they and various other railways announced that they intended to reduce the wages of their employees. A general strike, with all the attendant disorder and trouble, was threatened in consequence. I accordingly sent the following open letter to the Inter-State Commerce Commission:
February 16, 1908.
"To the Inter-State Commerce Commission:
"I am informed that a number of railroad companies have served notice of a proposed reduction of wages of their employees. One of them, the Louisville and Nashville, in announcing the reduction, states that 'the drastic laws inimical to the interests of the railroads that have in the past year or two been enacted by Congress and the State Legislatures' are largely or chiefly responsible for the conditions requiring the reduction.
"Under such circumstances it is possible that the public may soon be confronted by serious industrial disputes, and the law provides that in such case either party may demand the services of your Chairman and of the Commissioner of Labor as a Board of Mediation and Conciliation. These reductions in wages may be warranted, or they may not. As to this the public, which is a vitally interested party, can form no judgment without a more complete knowledge of the essential facts and real merits of the case than it now has or than it can possibly obtain from the special pleadings, certain to be put forth by each side in case their dispute should bring about serious interruption to traffic. If the reduction in wages is due to natural causes, the loss of business being such that the burden should be and is, equitably distributed between capitalist and wage-worker, the public should know it. If it is caused by legislation, the public, and Congress, should know it; and if it is caused by misconduct in the past financial or other operations of any railroad, then everybody should know it, especially if the excuse of unfriendly legislation is advanced as a method of covering up past business misconduct by the railroad managers, or as a justification for failure to treat fairly the wage-earning employees of the company.
"Moreover, an industrial conflict between a railroad corporation and its employees offers peculiar opportunities to any small number of evil-disposed persons to destroy life and property and foment public disorder. Of course, if life, property, and public order are endangered, prompt and drastic measures for their protection become the first plain duty. All other issues then become subordinate to the preservation of the public peace, and the real merits of the original controversy are necessarily lost from view. This vital consideration should be ever kept in mind by all law-abiding and far-sighted members of labor organizations.
"It is sincerely to be hoped, therefore, that any wage controversy that may arise between the railroads and their employees may find a peaceful solution through the methods of conciliation and arbitration already provided by Congress, which have proven so effective during the past year. To this end the Commission should be in a position to have available for any Board of Conciliation or Arbitration relevant data pertaining to such carriers as may become involved in industrial disputes. Should conciliation fail to effect a settlement and arbitration be rejected, accurate information should be available in order to develop a properly informed public opinion.
"I therefore ask you to make such investigation, both of your records and by any other means at your command, as will enable you to furnish data concerning such conditions obtaining on the Louisville and Nashville and any other roads, as may relate, directly or indirectly, to the real merits of the possibly impending controversy.
This letter achieved its purpose, and the threatened reduction of wages was not made. It was an instance of what could be accomplished by governmental action. Let me add, however, with all the emphasis I possess, that this does not mean any failure on my part to recognize the fact that if governmental action places too heavy burdens on railways, it will be impossible for them to operate without doing injustice to somebody. Railways cannot pay proper wages and render proper service unless they make money. The investors must get a reasonable profit or they will not invest, and the public cannot be well served unless the investors are making reasonable profits. There is every reason why rates should not be too high, but they must be sufficiently high to allow the railways to pay good wages. Moreover, when laws like workmen's compensation laws, and the like are passed, it must always be kept in mind by the Legislature that the purpose is to distribute over the whole community a burden that should not be borne only by those least able to bear it—that is, by the injured man or the widow and orphans of the dead man. If the railway is already receiving a disproportionate return from the public, then the burden may, with propriety, bear purely on the railway; but if it is not earning a disproportionate return, then the public must bear its share of the burden of the increased service the railway is rendering. Dividends and wages should go up together; and the relation of rates to them should never be forgotten. This of course does not apply to dividends based on water; nor does it mean that if foolish people have built a road that renders no service, the public must nevertheless in some way guarantee a return on the investment; but it does mean that the interests of the honest investor are entitled to the same protection as the interests of the honest manager, the honest shipper and the honest wage-earner. All these conflicting considerations should be carefully considered by Legislatures before passing laws. One of the great objects in creating commissions should be the provision of disinterested, fair-minded experts who will really and wisely consider all these matters, and will shape their actions accordingly. This is one reason why such matters as the regulation of rates, the provision for full crews on roads and the like should be left for treatment by railway commissions, and not be settled off hand by direct legislative action.
As regards what I have said in this chapter concerning Socialism, I wish to call especial attention to the admirable book on "Marxism versus Socialism," which has just been published by Vladimir D. Simkhovitch. What I have, here and elsewhere, merely pointed out in rough and ready fashion from actual observation of the facts of life around me, Professor Simkhovitch in his book has discussed with keen practical insight, with profundity of learning, and with a wealth of applied philosophy. Crude thinkers in the United States, and moreover honest and intelligent men who are not crude thinkers, but who are oppressed by the sight of the misery around them and have not deeply studied what has been done elsewhere, are very apt to adopt as their own the theories of European Marxian Socialists of half a century ago, ignorant that the course of events has so completely falsified the prophecies contained in these theories that they have been abandoned even by the authors themselves. With quiet humor Professor Simkhovitch now and then makes an allusion which shows that he appreciates to perfection this rather curious quality of some of our fellow countrymen; as for example when he says that "A Socialist State with the farmer outside of it is a conception that can rest comfortably only in the head of an American Socialist," or as when he speaks of Marx and Engels as men "to whom thinking was not an irrelevant foreign tradition." Too many thoroughly well-meaning men and women in the America of to-day glibly repeat and accept—much as medieval schoolmen repeated and accepted authorized dogma in their day—various assumptions and speculations by Marx and others which by the lapse of time and by actual experiment have been shown to possess not one shred of value. Professor Simkhovitch possesses the gift of condensation as well as the gift of clear and logical statement, and it is not possible to give in brief any idea of his admirable work. Every social reformer who desires to face facts should study it—just as social reformers should study John Graham Brooks's "American Syndicalism." From Professor Simkhovitch's book we Americans should learn: First, to discard crude thinking; second, to realize that the orthodox or so-called scientific or purely economic or materialistic socialism of the type preached by Marx is an exploded theory; and, third, that many of the men who call themselves Socialists to-day are in reality merely radical social reformers, with whom on many points good citizens can and ought to work in hearty general agreement, and whom in many practical matters of government good citizens well afford to follow.
THE MONROE DOCTRINE AND THE PANAMA CANAL
No nation can claim rights without acknowledging the duties that go with the rights. It is a contemptible thing for a great nation to render itself impotent in international action, whether because of cowardice or sloth, or sheer inability or unwillingness to look into the future. It is a very wicked thing for a nation to do wrong to others. But the most contemptible and most wicked course of conduct is for a nation to use offensive language or be guilty of offensive actions toward other people and yet fail to hold its own if the other nation retaliates; and it is almost as bad to undertake responsibilities and then not fulfil them. During the seven and a half years that I was President, this Nation behaved in international matters toward all other nations precisely as an honorable man behaves to his fellow-men. We made no promise which we could not and did not keep. We made no threat which we did not carry out. We never failed to assert our rights in the face of the strong, and we never failed to treat both strong and weak with courtesy and justice; and against the weak when they misbehaved we were slower to assert our rights than we were against the strong.
As a legacy of the Spanish War we were left with peculiar relations to the Philippines, Cuba, and Porto Rico, and with an immensely added interest in Central America and the Caribbean Sea. As regards the Philippines my belief was that we should train them for self-government as rapidly as possible, and then leave them free to decide their own fate. I did not believe in setting the time-limit within which we would give them independence, because I did not believe it wise to try to forecast how soon they would be fit for self-government; and once having made the promise I would have felt that it was imperative to keep it. Within a few months of my assuming office we had stamped out the last armed resistance in the Philippines that was not of merely sporadic character; and as soon as peace was secured we turned our energies to developing the islands in the interests of the natives. We established schools everywhere; we built roads; we administered an even-handed justice; we did everything possible to encourage agriculture and industry; and in constantly increasing measure we employed natives to do their own governing, and finally provided a legislative chamber. No higher grade of public officials ever handled the affairs of any colony than the public officials who in succession governed the Philippines. With the possible exception of the Sudan, and not even excepting Algiers, I know of no country ruled and administered by men of the white race where that rule and that administration have been exercised so emphatically with an eye single to the welfare of the natives themselves. The English and Dutch administrators of Malaysia have done admirable work; but the profit to the Europeans in those States has always been one of the chief elements considered; whereas in the Philippines our whole attention was concentrated upon the welfare of the Filipinos themselves, if anything to the neglect of our own interests.
I do not believe that America has any special beneficial interest in retaining the Philippines. Our work there has benefited us only as any efficiently done work performed for the benefit of others does incidentally help the character of those who do it. The people of the islands have never developed so rapidly, from every standpoint, as during the years of the American occupation. The time will come when it will be wise to take their own judgment as to whether they wish to continue their association with America or not. There is, however, one consideration upon which we should insist. Either we should retain complete control of the islands, or absolve ourselves from all responsibility for them. Any half and half course would be both foolish and disastrous. We are governing and have been governing the islands in the interests of the Filipinos themselves. If after due time the Filipinos themselves decide that they do not wish to be thus governed, then I trust that we will leave; but when we do leave it must be distinctly understood that we retain no protectorate—and above all that we take part in no joint protectorate—over the islands, and give them no guarantee, of neutrality or otherwise; that, in short, we are absolutely quit of responsibility for them, of every kind and description.
The Filipinos were quite incapable of standing by themselves when we took possession of the islands, and we had made no promise concerning them. But we had explicitly promised to leave the island of Cuba, had explicitly promised that Cuba should be independent. Early in my administration that promise was redeemed. When the promise was made, I doubt if there was a single ruler or diplomat in Europe who believed that it would be kept. As far as I know, the United States was the first power which, having made such a promise, kept it in letter and spirit. England was unwise enough to make such a promise when she took Egypt. It would have been a capital misfortune to have kept the promise, and England has remained in Egypt for over thirty years, and will unquestionably remain indefinitely; but though it is necessary for her to do so, the fact of her doing so has meant the breaking of a positive promise and has been a real evil. Japan made the same guarantee about Korea, but as far as can be seen there was never even any thought of keeping the promise in this case; and Korea, which had shown herself utterly impotent either for self-government or self-defense, was in actual fact almost immediately annexed to Japan.
We made the promise to give Cuba independence; and we kept the promise. Leonard Wood was left in as Governor for two or three years, and evolved order out of chaos, raising the administration of the island to a level, moral and material, which it had never before achieved. We also by treaty gave the Cubans substantial advantages in our markets. Then we left the island, turning the government over to its own people. After four or five years a revolution broke out, during my administration, and we again had to intervene to restore order. We promptly sent thither a small army of pacification. Under General Barry, order was restored and kept, and absolute justice done. The American troops were then withdrawn and the Cubans reestablished in complete possession of their own beautiful island, and they are in possession of it now. There are plenty of occasions in our history when we have shown weakness or inefficiency, and some occasions when we have not been as scrupulous as we should have been as regards the rights of others. But I know of no action by any other government in relation to a weaker power which showed such disinterested efficiency in rendering service as was true in connection with our intervention in Cuba.
In Cuba, as in the Philippines and as in Porto Rico, Santo Domingo, and later in Panama, no small part of our success was due to the fact that we put in the highest grade of men as public officials. This practice was inaugurated under President McKinley. I found admirable men in office, and I continued them and appointed men like them as their successors. The way that the custom-houses in Santo Domingo were administered by Colton definitely established the success of our experiment in securing peace for that island republic; and in Porto Rico, under the administration of affairs under such officials as Hunt, Winthrop, Post, Ward and Grahame, more substantial progress was achieved in a decade than in any previous century.
The Philippines, Cuba, and Porto Rico came within our own sphere of governmental action. In addition to this we asserted certain rights in the Western Hemisphere under the Monroe Doctrine. My endeavor was not only to assert these rights, but frankly and fully to acknowledge the duties that went with the rights.
The Monroe Doctrine lays down the rule that the Western Hemisphere is not hereafter to be treated as subject to settlement and occupation by Old World powers. It is not international law; but it is a cardinal principle of our foreign policy. There is no difficulty at the present day in maintaining this doctrine, save where the American power whose interest is threatened has shown itself in international matters both weak and delinquent. The great and prosperous civilized commonwealths, such as the Argentine, Brazil, and Chile, in the Southern half of South America, have advanced so far that they no longer stand in any position of tutelage toward the United States. They occupy toward us precisely the position that Canada occupies. Their friendship is the friendship of equals for equals. My view was that as regards these nations there was no more necessity for asserting the Monroe Doctrine than there was to assert it in regard to Canada. They were competent to assert it for themselves. Of course if one of these nations, or if Canada, should be overcome by some Old World power, which then proceeded to occupy its territory, we would undoubtedly, if the American Nation needed our help, give it in order to prevent such occupation from taking place. But the initiative would come from the Nation itself, and the United States would merely act as a friend whose help was invoked.
The case was (and is) widely different as regards certain—not all—of the tropical states in the neighborhood of the Caribbean Sea. Where these states are stable and prosperous, they stand on a footing of absolute equality with all other communities. But some of them have been a prey to such continuous revolutionary misrule as to have grown impotent either to do their duties to outsiders or to enforce their rights against outsiders. The United States has not the slightest desire to make aggressions on any one of these states. On the contrary, it will submit to much from them without showing resentment. If any great civilized power, Russia or Germany, for instance, had behaved toward us as Venezuela under Castro behaved, this country would have gone to war at once. We did not go to war with Venezuela merely because our people declined to be irritated by the actions of a weak opponent, and showed a forbearance which probably went beyond the limits of wisdom in refusing to take umbrage at what was done by the weak; although we would certainly have resented it had it been done by the strong. In the case of two states, however, affairs reached such a crisis that we had to act. These two states were Santo Domingo and the then owner of the Isthmus of Panama, Colombia.
The Santo Domingan case was the less important; and yet it possessed a real importance, and moreover is instructive because the action there taken should serve as a precedent for American action in all similar cases. During the early years of my administration Santo Domingo was in its usual condition of chronic revolution. There was always fighting, always plundering; and the successful graspers for governmental power were always pawning ports and custom-houses, or trying to put them up as guarantees for loans. Of course the foreigners who made loans under such conditions demanded exorbitant interest, and if they were Europeans expected their governments to stand by them. So utter was the disorder that on one occasion when Admiral Dewey landed to pay a call of ceremony on the President, he and his party were shot at by revolutionists in crossing the square, and had to return to the ships, leaving the call unpaid. There was default on the interest due to the creditors; and finally the latter insisted upon their governments intervening. Two or three of the European powers were endeavoring to arrange for concerted action, and I was finally notified that these powers intended to take and hold several of the seaports which held custom-houses.
This meant that unless I acted at once I would find foreign powers in partial possession of Santo Domingo; in which event the very individuals who, in the actual event deprecated the precaution taken to prevent such action, would have advocated extreme and violent measures to undo the effect of their own supineness. Nine-tenths of wisdom is to be wise in time, and at the right time; and my whole foreign policy was based on the exercise of intelligent forethought and of decisive action sufficiently far in advance of any likely crisis to make it improbable that we would run into serious trouble.
Santo Domingo had fallen into such chaos that once for some weeks there were two rival governments in it, and a revolution was being carried on against each. At one period one government was at sea in a small gunboat, but still stoutly maintained that it was in possession of the island and entitled to make loans and declare peace or war. The situation had become intolerable by the time that I interfered. There was a naval commander in the waters whom I directed to prevent any fighting which might menace the custom-houses. He carried out his orders, both to his and my satisfaction, in thoroughgoing fashion. On one occasion, when an insurgent force threatened to attack a town in which Americans had interests, he notified the commanders on both sides that he would not permit any fighting in the town, but that he would appoint a certain place where they could meet and fight it out, and that the victors should have the town. They agreed to meet his wishes, the fight came off at the appointed place, and the victors, who if I remember rightly were the insurgents, were given the town.
It was the custom-houses that caused the trouble, for they offered the only means of raising money, and the revolutions were carried on to get possession of them. Accordingly I secured an agreement with the governmental authorities, who for the moment seemed best able to speak for the country, by which these custom-houses were placed under American control. The arrangement was that we should keep order and prevent any interference with the custom-houses or the places where they stood, and should collect the revenues. Forty-five per cent of the revenue was then turned over to the Santo Domingan Government, and fifty-five per cent put in a sinking fund in New York for the benefit of the creditors. The arrangement worked in capital style. On the forty-five per cent basis the Santo Domingan Government received from us a larger sum than it had ever received before when nominally all the revenue went to it. The creditors were entirely satisfied with the arrangement, and no excuse for interference by European powers remained. Occasional disturbances occurred in the island, of course, but on the whole there ensued a degree of peace and prosperity which the island had not known before for at least a century.
All this was done without the loss of a life, with the assent of all the parties in interest, and without subjecting the United States to any charge, while practically all of the interference, after the naval commander whom I have mentioned had taken the initial steps in preserving order, consisted in putting a first-class man trained in our insular service at the head of the Santo Domingan customs service. We secured peace, we protected the people of the islands against foreign foes, and we minimized the chance of domestic trouble. We satisfied the creditors and the foreign nations to which the creditors belonged; and our own part of the work was done with the utmost efficiency and with rigid honesty, so that not a particle of scandal was ever so much as hinted at.
Under these circumstances those who do not know the nature of the professional international philanthropists would suppose that these apostles of international peace would have been overjoyed with what we had done. As a matter of fact, when they took any notice of it at all it was to denounce it; and those American newspapers which are fondest of proclaiming themselves the foes of war and the friends of peace violently attacked me for averting war from, and bringing peace to, the island. They insisted I had no power to make the agreement, and demanded the rejection of the treaty which was to perpetuate the agreement. They were, of course, wholly unable to advance a single sound reason of any kind for their attitude. I suppose the real explanation was partly their dislike of me personally, and unwillingness to see peace come through or national honor upheld by me; and in the next place their sheer, simple devotion to prattle and dislike of efficiency. They liked to have people come together and talk about peace, or even sign bits of paper with something about peace or arbitration on them, but they took no interest whatever in the practical achievement of a peace that told for good government and decency and honesty. They were joined by the many moderately well-meaning men who always demand that a thing be done, but also always demand that it be not done in the only way in which it is, as a matter of fact, possible to do it. The men of this kind insisted that of course Santo Domingo must be protected and made to behave itself, and that of course the Panama Canal must be dug; but they insisted even more strongly that neither feat should be accomplished in the only way in which it was possible to accomplish it at all.
The Constitution did not explicitly give me power to bring about the necessary agreement with Santo Domingo. But the Constitution did not forbid my doing what I did. I put the agreement into effect, and I continued its execution for two years before the Senate acted; and I would have continued it until the end of my term, if necessary, without any action by Congress. But it was far preferable that there should be action by Congress, so that we might be proceeding under a treaty which was the law of the land and not merely by a direction of the Chief Executive which would lapse when that particular executive left office. I therefore did my best to get the Senate to ratify what I had done. There was a good deal of difficulty about it. With the exception of one or two men like Clark of Arkansas, the Democratic Senators acted in that spirit of unworthy partisanship which subordinates national interest to some fancied partisan advantage, and they were cordially backed by all that portion of the press which took its inspiration from Wall Street, and was violently hostile to the Administration because of its attitude towards great corporations. Most of the Republican Senators under the lead of Senator Lodge stood by me; but some of them, of the more "conservative" or reactionary type, who were already growing hostile to me on the trust question, first proceeded to sneer at what had been done, and to raise all kinds of meticulous objections, which they themselves finally abandoned, but which furnished an excuse on which the opponents of the treaty could hang adverse action. Unfortunately the Senators who were most apt to speak of the dignity of the Senate, and to insist upon its importance, were the very ones who were also most apt to try to make display of this dignity and importance by thwarting the public business. This case was typical. The Republicans in question spoke against certain provisions of the proposed treaty. They then, having ingeniously provided ammunition for the foes of the treaty, abandoned their opposition to it, and the Democrats stepped into the position they had abandoned. Enough Republicans were absent to prevent the securing of a two-thirds vote for the treaty, and the Senate adjourned without any action at all, and with a feeling of entire self-satisfaction at having left the country in the position of assuming a responsibility and then failing to fulfil it. Apparently the Senators in question felt that in some way they had upheld their dignity. All that they had really done was to shirk their duty. Somebody had to do that duty, and accordingly I did it. I went ahead and administered the proposed treaty anyhow, considering it as a simple agreement on the part of the Executive which would be converted into a treaty whenever the Senate acted. After a couple of years the Senate did act, having previously made some utterly unimportant changes which I ratified and persuaded Santo Domingo to ratify. In all its history Santo Domingo has had nothing happen to it as fortunate as this treaty, and the passing of it saved the United States from having to face serious difficulties with one or more foreign powers.
It cannot in the long run prove possible for the United States to protect delinquent American nations from punishment for the non-performance of their duties unless she undertakes to make them perform their duties. People may theorize about this as much as they wish, but whenever a sufficiently strong outside nation becomes sufficiently aggrieved, then either that nation will act or the United States Government itself will have to act. We were face to face at one period of my administration with this condition of affairs in Venezuela, when Germany, rather feebly backed by England, undertook a blockade against Venezuela to make Venezuela adopt the German and English view about certain agreements. There was real danger that the blockade would finally result in Germany's taking possession of certain cities or custom-houses. I succeeded, however, in getting all the parties in interest to submit their cases to the Hague Tribunal.
By far the most important action I took in foreign affairs during the time I was President related to the Panama Canal. Here again there was much accusation about my having acted in an "unconstitutional" manner—a position which can be upheld only if Jefferson's action in acquiring Louisiana be also treated as unconstitutional; and at different stages of the affair believers in a do-nothing policy denounced me as having "usurped authority"—which meant, that when nobody else could or would exercise efficient authority, I exercised it.
During the nearly four hundred years that had elapsed since Balboa crossed the Isthmus, there had been a good deal of talk about building an Isthmus canal, and there had been various discussions of the subject and negotiations about it in Washington for the previous half century. So far it had all resulted merely in conversation; and the time had come when unless somebody was prepared to act with decision we would have to resign ourselves to at least half a century of further conversation. Under the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty signed shortly after I became President, and thanks to our negotiations with the French Panama Company, the United States at last acquired a possession, so far as Europe was concerned, which warranted her in immediately undertaking the task. It remained to decide where the canal should be, whether along the line already pioneered by the French company in Panama, or in Nicaragua. Panama belonged to the Republic of Colombia. Nicaragua bid eagerly for the privilege of having the United States build the canal through her territory. As long as it was doubtful which route we would decide upon, Colombia extended every promise of friendly cooperation; at the Pan-American Congress in Mexico her delegate joined in the unanimous vote which requested the United States forthwith to build the canal; and at her eager request we negotiated the Hay-Herran Treaty with her, which gave us the right to build the canal across Panama. A board of experts sent to the Isthmus had reported that this route was better than the Nicaragua route, and that it would be well to build the canal over it provided we could purchase the rights of the French company for forty million dollars; but that otherwise they would advise taking the Nicaragua route. Ever since 1846 we had had a treaty with the power then in control of the Isthmus, the Republic of New Granada, the predecessor of the Republic of Colombia and of the present Republic of Panama, by which treaty the United States was guaranteed free and open right of way across the Isthmus of Panama by any mode of communication that might be constructed, while in return our Government guaranteed the perfect neutrality of the Isthmus with a view to the preservation of free transit.
For nearly fifty years we had asserted the right to prevent the closing of this highway of commerce. Secretary of State Cass in 1858 officially stated the American position as follows:
"Sovereignty has its duties as well as its rights, and none of these local governments, even if administered with more regard to the just demands of other nations than they have been, would be permitted, in a spirit of Eastern isolation, to close the gates of intercourse of the great highways of the world, and justify the act by the pretension that these avenues of trade and travel belong to them and that they choose to shut them, or, what is almost equivalent, to encumber them with such unjust relations as would prevent their general use."
We had again and again been forced to intervene to protect the transit across the Isthmus, and the intervention was frequently at the request of Colombia herself. The effort to build a canal by private capital had been made under De Lesseps and had resulted in lamentable failure. Every serious proposal to build the canal in such manner had been abandoned. The United States had repeatedly announced that we would not permit it to be built or controlled by any old-world government. Colombia was utterly impotent to build it herself. Under these circumstances it had become a matter of imperative obligation that we should build it ourselves without further delay.
I took final action in 1903. During the preceding fifty-three years the Governments of New Granada and of its successor, Colombia, had been in a constant state of flux; and the State of Panama had sometimes been treated as almost independent, in a loose Federal league, and sometimes as the mere property of the Government at Bogota; and there had been innumerable appeals to arms, sometimes of adequate, sometimes for inadequate, reasons. The following is a partial list of the disturbances on the Isthmus of Panama during the period in question, as reported to us by our consuls. It is not possible to give a complete list, and some of the reports that speak of "revolutions" must mean unsuccessful revolutions:
May 22, 1850.—Outbreak; two Americans killed. War vessel demanded to quell outbreak.
October, 1850.—Revolutionary plot to bring about independence of the Isthmus.
July 22, 1851.—Revolution in four Southern provinces.
November 14, 1851.—Outbreak at Chagres. Man-of-war requested for Chagres.
June 27, 1853.—Insurrection at Bogota, and consequent disturbance on Isthmus. War vessel demanded.
May 23, 1854.—Political disturbances. War vessel requested.
June 28, 1854.—Attempted revolution.
October 24, 1854.—Independence of Isthmus demanded by provincial legislature.
April, 1856.—Riot, and massacre of Americans.
May 4, 1856.—Riot.
May 18, 1856.—Riot.
June 3, 1856.—Riot.
October 2, 1856.—Conflict between two native parties. United States force landed.
December 18, 1858.—Attempted secession of Panama.
October 4, 1860.—Landing of United States forces in consequence.
May 23, 1861.—Intervention of the United States force required, by intendente.
October 2, 1861.—Insurrection and civil war.
April 4, 1862.—Measures to prevent rebels crossing Isthmus.
June 13, 1862.—Mosquera's troops refused admittance to Panama.
March, 1865.—Revolution, and United States troops landed.
August, 1865.—Riots; unsuccessful attempt to invade Panama.
March, 1866.—Unsuccessful revolution.
April, 1867.—Attempt to overthrow Government.
August, 1867.—Attempt at revolution.
July 5, 1868.—Revolution; provisional government inaugurated.
August 29, 1868.—Revolution; provisional government overthrown.
April, 1871.—Revolution; followed apparently by counter revolution.
April, 1873.—Revolution and civil war which lasted to October, 1875.
August, 1876.—Civil war which lasted until April, 1877.
June, 1884.—Revolutionary attempt.
December, 1884.—Revolutionary attempt.
January, 1885.—Revolutionary disturbances.
April, 1887.—Disturbance on Panama Railroad.
November, 1887.—Disturbance on line of canal.
January, 1895.—Revolution which lasted until April.
March, 1895.—Incendiary attempt.
February, 1900, to July, 1900.—Revolution.
July, 1901.—Revolutionary disturbances.
September, 1901.—City of Colon taken by rebels.
March, 1902.—Revolutionary disturbances.
The above is only a partial list of the revolutions, rebellions, insurrections, riots, and other outbreaks that occurred during the period in question; yet they number fifty-three for the fifty-three years, and they showed a tendency to increase, rather than decrease, in numbers and intensity. One of them lasted for nearly three years before it was quelled; another for nearly a year. In short, the experience of over half a century had shown Colombia to be utterly incapable of keeping order on the Isthmus. Only the active interference of the United States had enabled her to preserve so much as a semblance of sovereignty. Had it not been for the exercise by the United States of the police power in her interest, her connection with the Isthmus would have been sundered long before it was. In 1856, in 1860, in 1873, in 1885, in 1901, and again in 1902, sailors and marines from United States warships were forced to land in order to patrol the Isthmus, to protect life and property, and to see that the transit across the Isthmus was kept open. In 1861, in 1862, in 1885, and in 1900, the Colombian Government asked that the United States Government would land troops to protect Colombian interests and maintain order on the Isthmus. The people of Panama during the preceding twenty years had three times sought to establish their independence by revolution or secession—in 1885, in 1895, and in 1899.
The peculiar relations of the United States toward the Isthmus, and the acquiescence by Colombia in acts which were quite incompatible with the theory of her having an absolute and unconditioned sovereignty on the Isthmus, are illustrated by the following three telegrams between two of our naval officers whose ships were at the Isthmus, and the Secretary of the Navy on the occasion of the first outbreak that occurred on the Isthmus after I became President (a year before Panama became independent):
September 12, 1902.
United States guarantees perfect neutrality of Isthmus and that a free transit from sea to sea be not interrupted or embarrassed. . . . Any transportation of troops which might contravene these provisions of treaty should not be sanctioned by you, nor should use of road be permitted which might convert the line of transit into theater of hostility.
COLON, September 20, 1902.
Secretary Navy, Washington:
Everything is conceded. The United States guards and guarantees traffic and the line of transit. To-day I permitted the exchange of Colombian troops from Panama to Colon, about 1000 men each way, the troops without arms in trains guarded by American naval force in the same manner as other passengers; arms and ammunition in separate train, guarded also by naval force in the same manner as other freight.
PANAMA, October 3, 1902.
Secretary Navy, Washington, D.C.:
Have sent this communication to the American Consul at Panama:
"Inform Governor, while trains running under United States protection, I must decline transportation any combatants, ammunition, arms, which might cause interruption to traffic or convert line of transit into theater hostilities."
When the Government in nominal control of the Isthmus continually besought American interference to protect the "rights" it could not itself protect, and permitted our Government to transport Colombian troops unarmed, under protection of our own armed men, while the Colombian arms and ammunition came in a separate train, it is obvious that the Colombian "sovereignty" was of such a character as to warrant our insisting that inasmuch as it only existed because of our protection there should be in requital a sense of the obligations that the acceptance of this protection implied.
Meanwhile Colombia was under a dictatorship. In 1898 M. A. Sanclamente was elected President, and J. M. Maroquin Vice-President, of the Republic of Colombia. On July 31, 1900, the Vice-President, Maroquin, executed a "coup d'etat" by seizing the person of the President, Sanclamente, and imprisoning him at a place a few miles out of Bogota. Maroquin thereupon declared himself possessed of the executive power because of "the absence of the President"—a delightful touch of unconscious humor. He then issued a decree that public order was disturbed, and, upon that ground, assumed to himself legislative power under another provision of the constitution; that is, having himself disturbed the public order, he alleged the disturbance as a justification for seizing absolute power. Thenceforth Maroquin, without the aid of any legislative body, ruled as a dictator, combining the supreme executive, legislative, civil, and military authorities, in the so-called Republic of Colombia. The "absence" of Sanclamente from the capital became permanent by his death in prison in the year 1902. When the people of Panama declared their independence in November, 1903, no Congress had sat in Colombia since the year 1898, except the special Congress called by Maroquin to reject the canal treaty, and which did reject it by a unanimous vote, and adjourned without legislating on any other subject. The constitution of 1886 had taken away from Panama the power of self-government and vested it in Columbia. The coup d'etat of Maroquin took away from Colombia herself the power of government and vested it in an irresponsible dictator.
Consideration of the above facts ought to be enough to show any human being that we were not dealing with normal conditions on the Isthmus and in Colombia. We were dealing with the government of an irresponsible alien dictator, and with a condition of affairs on the Isthmus itself which was marked by one uninterrupted series of outbreaks and revolutions. As for the "consent of the governed" theory, that absolutely justified our action; the people on the Isthmus were the "governed"; they were governed by Colombia, without their consent, and they unanimously repudiated the Colombian government, and demanded that the United States build the canal.
I had done everything possible, personally and through Secretary Hay, to persuade the Colombian Government to keep faith. Under the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, it was explicitly provided that the United States should build the canal, should control, police and protect it, and keep it open to the vessels of all nations on equal terms. We had assumed the position of guarantor of the canal, including, of course, the building of the canal, and of its peaceful use by all the world. The enterprise was recognized everywhere as responding to an international need. It was a mere travesty on justice to treat the government in possession of the Isthmus as having the right—which Secretary Cass forty-five years before had so emphatically repudiated—to close the gates of intercourse on one of the great highways of the world. When we submitted to Colombia the Hay-Herran Treaty, it had been settled that the time for delay, the time for permitting any government of anti-social character, or of imperfect development, to bar the work, had passed. The United States had assumed in connection with the canal certain responsibilities not only to its own people but to the civilized world, which imperatively demanded that there should be no further delay in beginning the work. The Hay-Herran Treaty, if it erred at all, erred in being overgenerous toward Colombia. The people of Panama were delighted with the treaty, and the President of Colombia, who embodied in his own person the entire government of Colombia, had authorized the treaty to be made. But after the treaty had been made the Colombia Government thought it had the matter in its own hands; and the further thought, equally wicked and foolish, came into the heads of the people in control at Bogota that they would seize the French Company at the end of another year and take for themselves the forty million dollars which the United States had agreed to pay the Panama Canal Company.
President Maroquin, through his Minister, had agreed to the Hay-Herran Treaty in January, 1903. He had the absolute power of an unconstitutional dictator to keep his promise or break it. He determined to break it. To furnish himself an excuse for breaking it he devised the plan of summoning a Congress especially called to reject the canal treaty. This the Congress—a Congress of mere puppets—did, without a dissenting vote; and the puppets adjourned forthwith without legislating on any other subject. The fact that this was a mere sham, and that the President had entire power to confirm his own treaty and act on it if he desired, was shown as soon as the revolution took place, for on November 6 General Reyes of Colombia addressed the American Minister at Bogota, on behalf of President Maroquin, saying that "if the Government of the United States would land troops and restore the Colombian sovereignty" the Colombian President would "declare martial law; and, by virtue of vested constitutional authority, when public order is disturbed, would approve by decree the ratification of the canal treaty as signed; or, if the Government of the United States prefers, would call an extra session of the Congress—with new and friendly members—next May to approve the treaty." This, of course, is proof positive that the Colombian dictator had used his Congress as a mere shield, and a sham shield at that, and it shows how utterly useless it would have been further to trust his good faith in the matter.