Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November 30, 1911

 President Taft, Secretary Meyer and Major Archibald Butt reviewing the fleet

Back on the east coast after his cross-country speaking tour, President Taft joined Secretary of the Navy George von Lengerke Meyer on November 2 for a review of the United States fleet on the Hudson River.  He then traveled back to his home town of Cincinnati to vote in the local election.   After a swing through Kentucky and Tennessee, Taft returned to the White House on November 12, finally ending his eight-week 15,000 mile trip, one of the longest ever undertaken by an American president while in office.

 Ohio Governor Judson Harmon

The results of the Ohio elections were not what Taft was hoping for: Democrats won in Cincinnati and swept offices throughout the state.  Those results in a bellwether state are seen as worrying for Republican prospects next year and also as enhancing Governor Judson Harmon’s prospects for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.  Republicans were more successful in New York, New Jersey and Maryland, but the Democratic governor of Massachusetts, a state that usually votes Republican, was reelected.

Theodore Roosevelt

Former President Roosevelt has responded angrily to the Taft administration’s antitrust suit against U.S. Steel, insisting in a signed editorial in the Outlook that he was not misled when he approved U.S. Steel’s acquisition of Tennessee Coal and Iron in 1907, as the suit alleges.  He took issue not only with the suit itself but also with the overall thrust of the Taft administration’s policy regarding the trusts, which he argues is wrong in attempting to regulate big business through enforcement of the Sherman Antitrust Act in the courts rather than through regulations adopted and enforced by federal agencies.  This represents a change of direction from his policies during his presidency, when he achieved some renown for breathing life into the moribund Sherman Act by initiating lawsuits against some of the nation's largest trusts.  In a coincidence of timing, one of those lawsuits came to an end this month with the issuance of a court order requiring that the Standard Oil Trust be dissolved and separated into 34 independent operating companies.

Despite his differences with Taft, Roosevelt has allowed himself to be quoted as stating once again that he is not available as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.  He added that he has not pledged his support for the nomination to any candidate, including the president.

Rodgers Arrives in Pasadena

Aviator Calbraith Rodgers and his Vin Fiz Flyer reached Pasadena, California on November 5, completing a journey that began at Sheepshead Bay, New York, on September 27.  This is the first time anyone has traveled by air across the United States.  After landing his machine at Tournament Park, Rodgers was wrapped in an American flag and driven around the field to the acclaim of thousands of spectators who rushed the Flyer and had to be driven back by policemen.  In 49 days, he had flown over 4,000 railroad miles, experienced a dozen crashes and suffered multiple injuries.  Although his arrival in Pasadena marked the official end of his journey, he decided to fly on to the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach.  On the way there, the Flyer crashed again.  At month's end, Rodgers is recuperating from new injuries including a broken ankle.

John and James McNamara

In a startling development in the McNamara trial in Los Angeles, where the brothers are on trial for murder in the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building last year, an investigator employed by the defense team has been arrested for attempting to bribe a juror.  Clarence Darrow, the McNamaras' attorney, has denied the charges and posted bail for his investigator.

Army and Navy Square Off in Philadelphia

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the Navy football team defeated Army at Franklin Field in Philadelphia by a score of 3-0.  On the same day, the Harvard and Yale elevens played to a scoreless tie at Harvard Stadium in Allston, Massachusetts.

General Bernardo Reyes

The instability of the government in Mexico is having repercussions on this side of the border.  On November 18, the United States Marshal in San Antonio arrested Mexican General Bernardo Reyes, who has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Laredo for organizing an invasion of Mexico from the United States aiming to overthrow the government of President Francisco Madero.  General Reyes was an early supporter of Madero (who forced long-time president Porfirio Diaz out of office earlier this year) but has recently turned against him.  Another former Madero supporter, Emiliano Zapata, is leading guerrilla attacks on government forces in the southern Mexican state of Morelos.

 Weapon of the Future?

In the Italo-Turkish War, Italian troops have captured Tripoli and Cyrenaica, but the Turkish Army outside Tripoli is mounting vigorous counterattacks.  There have been reports from correspondents on the scene of atrocities committed by the Italian Army against unarmed Arab civilians in Tripoli.  Turkey has appealed to the United States to exert its influence to stop attacks on civilians, but the Italian Minister of War has rejected the charges, insisting that any violence in Tripoli was instigated by the Arabs.
The beginning of November saw the use of a new tactic in the war.  An Italian aviator conducting a reconnaissance flight in a Bleriot XI monoplane dropped bombs onto a Turkish military encampment.  This is believed to be the first time a military attack of any kind has been conducted from the air, and may signal the beginning of a new and horrific kind of warfare.  On this occasion, however, there were no reports of injury.

Marie Curie

Marie Curie has been awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry.  Funded by a trust set up under the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will, Nobel Prizes have been awarded annually since 1901 in recognition of outstanding scientific and cultural advances.  In 1903, Mme. Curie became the first woman recipient, sharing the physics prize with her late husband, Pierre Curie.  She is now the first person, male or female, to win the prize twice.

Arthur Balfour

On November 8, former British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour resigned as leader of the Unionist (Conservative) Party.  Lord Lansdowne will continue as the Unionist Party leader in the House of Lords, and Andrew Bonar Law will lead the party in the House of Commons.  Also this month, the governing Liberal Party announced that it is preparing an Irish Home Rule bill, which it will submit in March.  The Unionist Party, as its name implies, is expected to mount a vigorous opposition.

The English Monarchs at their Coronation Earlier This Year

In other developments in Great Britain, King George V and Queen Mary have departed for India, where they will be installed as Emperor and Empress at the Delhi Durbar.  A four-man commission including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the king’s cousin Prince Arthur of Connaught will exercise the royal authority in the king’s absence.

Sir Edward Grey

On November 27, Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey gave a speech in the House of Commons reviewing Britain’s actions in the Agadir crisis, which has now been formally resolved with the signing of an agreement between France and Germany.  Both Sir Edward’s speech and the government’s policy of firm support for France have received wide public approval in Britain.

The German Crown Prince

The reaction has been very different in Germany.  Speeches in the Reichstag on November 9 denounced the government’s perceived weakness in backing down from its original demands in Morocco.  After a particularly violent anti-government speech, Crown Prince Frederick William, who was in attendance, applauded vigorously.  This display of political opinion by a member of the royal family has drawn criticism and led to a rebuke from his father the Kaiser.

Morgan Shuster (front) and His Staff in Tehran

Russia has turned its attention to its southern border.  After a revolution in Persia in 1906 forced the shah to accept a representative assembly (Majlis), Russia and Great Britain agreed in 1907 to divide Persia into Russian and British spheres of influence.  The Persian government, in an attempt to assert its independence, appointed an American, William Morgan Shuster, to manage its finances as Treasurer-General.  Shuster’s subsequent attempts to collect taxes from influential Persians allied with Russian interests caused Russia to issue an ultimatum demanding that Shuster be dismissed and that future appointments be cleared with Russia and Great Britain.  Despite the ultimatum’s reference to Britain, it appears that it was issued without consulting the British government.

Yuan Shi Kai

The revolution in China has proceeded with astonishing swiftness.  Yuan Shi Kai, commander of forces loyal to the emperor, has been made premier in a new government, and on November 3 the emperor accepted a constitution that limits the emperor’s power and places the budget under the control of the national assembly.  Not satisfied with these reforms, revolutionary forces led by General Li Yuan Heng have occupied the city of Shanghai.  By the middle of November, they controlled all of central China except Hankow and Nanking, where a brutal crackdown by government forces is in progress.  The United States, Britain, Russia, Germany and Japan are considering sending troops to China to protect their nationals’ interests.

November 1911 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, December 1911 and January 1912
Current Literature, December 1911
New York Times, November 1911
Outlook, November 1911

Books and Articles:
James Chace, 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs -- the Election That Changed the Country
Lewis L. Gould, Four Hats in the Ring: The 1912 Election and the Birth of Modern American Politics
Lewis L. Gould, The William Howard Taft Presidency
Sherwood Harris, Coast to Coast in 12 Crashes, American Heritage, October 1964
Edmund Morris, Colonel Roosevelt
Patricia O'Toole, When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House
Henry F. Pringle, The Life and Times of William Howard Taft