Monday, December 31, 2012

December 1912

It's December 1912.  President Taft visits the almost-completed Panama Canal, President-elect Wilson returns from his Bermuda vacation, the governor of South Carolina tells lynchers they have nothing to fear, and the war in the Balkans either will or will not metastasize. We have our fingers crossed for 1913.


 President Taft and His Party in Key West

It was announced on December 18 that President Taft has accepted an offer from Yale University to join its faculty next year as Kent Professor of Law.  Shortly afterward he and Mrs. Taft left on an inspection trip to the Panama Canal.  At Key West they boarded the U.S.S. Arkansas (BB-33), one of the newest battleships in the United States fleet.  Prior to getting under way from its home port in Newport News, the Arkansas' flag stateroom was refitted with an extra large bathtub to accommodate the presidential bulk.

U.S.S. Arkansas Under Way Earlier This Year

On Christmas, after spending the day inspecting the progress of the canal construction, the president left the Canal Zone to attend a ball in his honor in Panama City.  On the way to the celebration, he passed down Central Avenue, the city's main thoroughfare.  An explosion destroyed a kiosk on the Avenue a few minutes after he passed by, seriously injuring one bystander.  The president and his party were not injured.  The following day, before his departure, Taft announced his selection of Colonel George Washington Goethals, the canal’s chief engineer, to be the first civil governor of the Canal Zone.

Colonel George W. Goethals


Wilson and Bryan in Trenton, December 21, 1912

During his post-election vacation in Bermuda, President-elect Wilson was invited to observe a session of the colonial assembly.  At the end of the session he gave a brief speech which the delegates received with loud cheers.  He returned to New York on December 15, and on December 17 he attended a dinner given by the Southern Society at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.  The Society gave the nation's first southern-born president since Zachary Taylor an enthusiastic reception.  In his speech, Wilson saluted the men of Virginia for their willingness during the Civil War to "fight to the death for the things in which they believed."   Although slavery was of no economic benefit, he said, they fought for the principle "that they had a right to order their own affairs."  He then addressed the concerns of the business community, saying that while many think the new administration "may disturb business," that will not happen "except as it disturbs the minds of business men," and he promised to build a "gibbet ... high as Haman's" for anyone who would use the machinery of the markets to precipitate a panic.  On his way back to Washington on December 21, he stopped in Trenton, New Jersey to confer with William Jennings Bryan.  Given his long-time leadership of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and his key role in securing Wilson's nomination in Baltimore, Bryan is assumed to be the president-elect's inevitable choice for Secretary of State in the new administration.  After returning to Washington the president-elect visited Staunton, Virginia, where he was given a warm greeting by the residents of his birthplace.

 Josephus Daniels

Another man seemingly assured of a cabinet position is Josephus Daniels, the North Carolina newspaper editor and Democratic Party activist who strongly supported Wilson for the nomination.  Daniels is known in North Carolina for his leadership of the successful campaign in the late 1890's to secure the Democratic Party's control of the state through legislation making it difficult or impossible for Negroes to vote. By the early 1900's, every state of the former Confederacy had enacted some kind of legislation (such as literacy tests, grandfather clauses, poll taxes and white primaries) with that avowed goal.

Governor Blease

The fifth annual governors' conference took place this month in Richmond, Virginia.  South Carolina's governor, Coleman Livingston Blease, has been criticized for his expansive use of the pardon power, in particular his routine pardoning of white men arrested for lynching Negroes.  In a speech to the conference, Governor Blease said he would continue to grant pardons when they are justified, and cited cases in which he had pardoned Negroes as well as white men.  He justified his policy by citing the poor conditions he had observed in the state's penitentiary, which he said was a "tuberculosis incubator"; and he described one case of a Negro man who had spent 22 years in jail for stealing a $27 watch.  He was unapologetic about his pardoning of lynchers, stating that he "will never order out the militia to shoot down their neighbors and protect a black brute who commits a crime against a white woman. ... [W]hen a Negro assaults a white woman all that is needed is that they get the right man, and they who get him will neither need nor receive a trial."  Governor Blease's views on the subject of criminal justice are not shared by most southern governors.  Governor George Washington Donaghey of Arkansas, for example, is also known for his generous use of the pardon power, but not for lynchers.  He told the conference that in his opinion nothing short of the death penalty would deter murderers, and that he thinks lynchers are no different from other murderers.

 Governor Hadley

Governor Herbert Hadley of Missouri, who was a strong supporter of Colonel Roosevelt for the Republican nomination this year, is trying to patch the Republican Party back together.  After the Governors' Conference in Richmond, he visited Washington and made the rounds on Capitol Hill, promoting his idea of a Republican convention to be held this year, not to nominate candidates but to reunite the party.  His idea seems to have met with little favor so far.  Colonel Roosevelt himself has a very different idea.  Speaking at a Progressive Party conference in Chicago on December 9, he denounced both political parties and vowed a four-years fight for progressive principles in every state legislature. The conference unanimously endorsed the Colonel for president in 1916.

Colonel Archibald Gracie

Almost eight months after the sinking of the Titanic, a birth and a death occurred, both with connections to the disaster.  John Jacob Astor VI was born on December 2.  Both of his parents were on the Titanic; his mother was rescued but his father, John Jacob Astor IV, was lost.  Survivors report that Astor asked if he could accompany his pregnant wife in her lifeboat, and when he was told that only women and children were being boarded he accepted the decision gracefully and was not seen again.  Another prominent passenger survived the sinking but died on December 4.  After the ship went down, Colonel Archibald Gracie struggled to the surface and survived by climbing onto the keel of an overturned lifeboat along with several other men.  He spent the night there, soaked and shivering, before being dragged onto another lifeboat in the early morning light.  He was haunted to his final days by memories of the sinking, and had just finished writing a book describing his experiences.

E. H. Harriman

When Collis P. Huntington, the last of the "Big Four" founders of the Southern Pacific Railroad, died in 1900, E. H. Harriman's Union Pacific Railroad began buying Southern Pacific stock, eventually acquiring a forty-six percent interest.  On December 2 of this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Union Pacific's ownership interest in the Southern Pacific violated the Sherman Act's prohibition on "combinations in restraint of trade."  This ruling follows the Court's decisions last year dissolving the Standard Oil and American Tobacco trusts.  In those decisions the Court ruled in favor of the government, but read into the Act a "rule of reason," raising concerns about the ultimate effectiveness of the Sherman Act in protecting competition.  This month's decision, because it was unanimous and because it treated a controlling (though minority) stock interest as a "combination," may allay some of those concerns.

J. P. Morgan with his son and daughter arriving for the Pujo Committee hearings

Earlier this year, at the urging of Representative Charles Lindbergh (Rep., Minn.) and others, a special committee under the chairmanship of Representative Arsene Pujo (Dem., La.) was formed to investigate the so-called "Money Trust."  With the convening of Congress this month, hearings resumed on December 9.  Samuel Untermeyer, the Committee's counsel, examined several witnesses, including Walter Frew, director of the Bankers Trust Company, and J. P. Morgan, founder and chairman of J. P. Morgan & Co., who ridiculed the idea that there was or could be such a thing as a money trust.

Rosalie Gardiner Jones (center) with other suffragists

A group of women led by "General" Rosalie Gardiner Jones left New York City on December 16 on a "suffrage hike" to Albany to demand votes for women.  Miss Jones is a Long Island socialite who has taken a leading role in the cause of woman suffrage.  Braving sore feet and snowstorms, the hikers reached Albany on December 28.  On the last day of the year they presented a petition to Governor-elect William Sulzer, who promised them his support.

Governor-elect Sulzer

Sulzer's term as governor will begin with the new year.  His political career thus far has been as a loyal member of Tammany Hall and beneficiary of its support.  Since his election, however, he has shown signs of independence that must be raising eyebrows at the Tammany Wigwam on Fourteenth Street.  Perhaps inspired by Woodrow Wilson's success in presenting himself as a progressive reformer after using machine support to get elected, Sulzer has lately been insisting that he will take directions from no one in staffing his administration and carrying out the people's business.  It remains to be seen how Sulzer's declaration of independence will affect his political future.  Tammany Hall's power in the New York Democratic Party is considerably greater than the Smith machine's ever was in New Jersey.

Anita Loos

“The New York Hat” was released on December 5.  Filmed in Fort Lee, New Jersey, directed by D.W. Griffith, written by Anita Loos and starring Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore, it is one of the latest moving picture productions of the Biograph Studios (click to play):

The New York Hat


Greek Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis

The fighting in the Balkans has been partially suspended, but still threatens to expand into a much wider war.  With Austria-Hungary mobilizing to head off Serbian expansion to the Adriatic, Germany announced the renewal of its Triple Alliance with Austria-Hungary and Italy, and warned Russia not to interfere.  France announced its intention to support Russia, and Great Britain is expected to support its fellow members of the Triple Entente, France and Russia.  Offering hope of a peaceful resolution, the major European powers agreed to convene in London in an attempt to resolve the crisis, and Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro agreed to an armistice with Turkey.  Even as those hopeful signs were emerging, however,  the Turkish fleet sortied to challenge Greek control of the Aegean and a battle ensued off the coast of Gallipoli.  The Greek fleet, commanded by Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis, won a decisive victory, forcing the Turks to retreat to the safety of the Dardanelles, under the protective guns of the Turkish forts.  On December 23 in London, the Balkan allies presented their territorial demands, which if implemented would effectively end Turkish sovereignty in Europe. 

Prime Minister Katsura Taro

Former Prime Minister Katsura Taro returned to the premiership of Japan on December 17.  This will be his third term as prime minister.  In his first, he entered into a mutual defense treaty with Great Britain in 1902 and presided over Japan’s 1905 victory in the Russo-Japanese War.  In his second, he negotiated the Korean Annexation Treaty of 1910, under which Japan now rules the Korean peninsula.

Ambassador Whitelaw Reid

On December 9, Great Britain formally protested the Panama Canal legislation that was signed into law earlier this year by President Taft.  The British object to the provision granting free passage to American ships traveling between American ports, arguing that it violates the term of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty of 1901 that provides for equal access to the canal for ships of all nations.  Britain demands repeal of that provision, or in the alternative that the issue be submitted to international arbitration.  Further discussion of the issue was momentarily interrupted by the death on December 15 of Whitelaw Reid, the American ambassador to the United Kingdom.  Reid was a newspaper editor and prominent Republican.  In addition to his service as ambassador to England, Reid served as ambassador to France in the Benjamin Harrison administration and was President Harrison's running mate in his unsuccessful bid for reelection in 1892.

Sir Robert Borden with First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill

On December 5, Secretary of the Navy George von Lengerke Meyer submitted a request to Congress for an appropriation to build three new first-class battleships for the United States Navy.  On the same day, Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden asked the Canadian parliament for an appropriation to build three dreadnoughts for the Royal Navy.  He explained that the cost of imperial defense had become too great for the United Kingdom alone to bear, and that it is now necessary for the dominions to make a contribution.  He added that the ships would be subject to recall to the Canadian navy if circumstances required.

December 1912 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading
Contemporary Records and Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, January and February 1913
Literary Digest, December 1912
New York Times, December 1912

Books and Articles:
James Chace, 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs -- the Election That Changed the Country
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
Andre Gerolymatos, The Balkan Wars 
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
Richard C. Hall, Balkan Wars 1912-1913: Prelude to the First World War
Erle Heath, Seventy-Five Years of Progress: A Historical Sketch of the Southern Pacific, 1869-1944
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
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

Friday, November 30, 2012

November 1912

It's November 1912, as Americans go to the polls for a presidential election.  Democrat Woodrow Wilson wins in a landslide, defeating both the incumbent president and his predecessor. Another in a wave of assassinations of world leaders takes place, this one in Spain. There is turmoil in the British House of Commons. The Ottoman Empire is under attack, and a wider war threatens. The Great War is a month closer, but nobody knows it.


1912 Presidential Election Results

Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey has been elected the twenty-eighth president of the United States, defeating the incumbent President William Howard Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt by a decisive margin.  He received less than 42 percent of the popular vote, but because two strong candidates split the Republican vote he swept the Electoral College, 435 votes to 88 for Roosevelt and only eight (Vermont and Utah) for Taft.  Wilson is only the second Democrat to be elected to the presidency since the Civil War; the first, Grover Cleveland, was elected by much slimmer Electoral College margins in 1884 and 1892, and lost by an equally slim margin in 1888.  Despite the efforts of Roosevelt's Bull Moose campaign to appeal to white southerners, the Democratic Party retained its grip on the "Solid South," aided in part by the candidacy of native southerner Woodrow Wilson and in part by the widespread disfranchisement of Negroes, most of whom would otherwise probably vote Republican.  Wilson rolled up commanding majorities in all the states of the old Confederacy (Mississippi gave him 89 percent of its vote).  Of the other states, not a single one gave Wilson a majority, but he won a plurality in most of them because of the split in the Republican vote.

Colonel House

Governor Wilson has almost four months before he assumes the presidency, and he has stated that he will remain in office as governor while the New Jersey legislature is in session.  The first item on his agenda, however, is an extended vacation in Bermuda.  He set sail with his wife and two of their daughters on November 16.  In his absence, the transition to the new administration is being managed by "Colonel" Edward Mandell House.  Colonel House is a wealthy Texan who was instrumental in organizing support for Wilson prior to the Baltimore convention and has emerged since the election as his most influential adviser.  Having turned down the offer of a cabinet post for himself, House is well positioned to become a power behind the throne in the new administration.

Eugene V. Debs Campaigning in 1912

The landslide Electoral College defeat of an incumbent president and his predecessor is not the only unique feature of the 1912 election.  Riding the nationwide progressive wave, Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist Party's candidate for president, received over 900,000 votes, by far the best showing in the party's history.  Debs was the leader of the American Railway Union at the time of the 1894 Pullman strike, when President Cleveland obtained an injunction against the strike and sent in federal troops to enforce it.  Debs and other officers of the union were jailed for disobeying the injunction.  They were represented by Clarence Darrow, who has since built a reputation as a vigorous spokesman for socialist and labor causes, including most famously his successful defense of "Big Bill" Haywood and others in their 1907 trial for the murder of former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg.  Most recently, Darrow represented the McNamara brothers in their trial last year for dynamiting the Los Angeles Times building.  After the brothers pled guilty, Darrow was indicted on two counts of jury tampering.  He was tried and acquitted on the first count earlier this year but still faces trial on the second.

Speaker Champ Clark

This has been a good year for Democrats, who not only won the White House but also gained control of both houses of Congress.  They kept their two-year-old majority in the House of Representatives and gained a majority in the Senate for the first time in twenty years.  Representative Champ Clark of Missouri, who came within a whisker of winning the Democratic presidential nomination this year (and thus most likely the presidency), will continue as Speaker.  As required by Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution, the Sixty-second Congress will reconvene for its "lame duck" session on December 2, the first Monday in December.  Although the Sixty-third Congress will not convene in regular session until next December, most observers expect that Wilson will call a special session shortly after March 4, when he and the new Congress will take office.

1912 has been a good year for American popular music.  Two of the most popular songs of the year are "Moonlight Bay" and "Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee," both recorded by popular recording star Billy Murray (click to play):

Moonlight Bay (sung by the American Quartet, featuring Billy Murray)

Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee (sung by Ada Jones and Billy Murray)


Prime Minister Canalejas y Mendez

Prime Minister Jose Canalejas y Mendez of Spain was shot and killed on the streets of Madrid on November 12.  This is the latest in a wave of assassinations that over the last twenty years has also claimed the lives of an empress of Austria, a king of Italy, a king and a crown prince of Portugal, a king and queen of Serbia, a shah of Persia, an empress of Korea, prime ministers of Russia, Japan and Greece, two prime ministers of Bulgaria, another prime minister of Spain, and presidents of France and the United States.  Count Alvarado de Romanones has been appointed to succeed Canalejas y Mendez as Spanish premier.

Ambassador Bryce

James Bryce, the British ambassador to the United States, has announced his intention to resign his post and return to England.  The timing of his move may be seen as unfortunate.  Bryce is an outspoken liberal politician who is known and respected by President-elect Wilson, while his replacement, Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, is a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt, the new president's most outspoken political adversary.

Sir Rufus Isaacs

The British House of Commons was the scene of a rare, if not entirely unprecedented, outburst of pandemonium this month.  On November 11, the House surprised the government by defeating a routine amendment to the Irish Home Rule Bill.  Two days later the Government introduced a resolution to rescind the adverse vote.  Unionist members loudly objected, refusing to allow the Attorney General, Sir Rufus Isaacs, to speak in support of the resolution.  The House was adjourned for an hour, but when it reconvened the shouting from the Unionist side of the chamber resumed.  At the height of the tumult, a book hurled by a Unionist member struck First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill on the ear.  Order was restored only when a Labor Party member began singing "Auld Lang Syne" and others joined in.

The Greek Navy Preparing for War, October 1912

The war in the Balkans poses a serious threat to world peace.  It is being waged on three fronts.  Serbia and Montenegro have occupied the Sanjak of Novibazar, a Turkish area that separates Serbia and Montenegro and borders on Bosnia, now a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to the north.  To the south, Greece has occupied Macedonia, and Bulgaria has invaded Thrace, advancing toward Adrianople and Constantinople, where an epidemic of cholera has broken out.  The Balkan League's success against the Ottoman Empire thus far has been due in part to the Greek Navy's control of the Aegean Sea, which blocks reinforcements from Asian Turkey.  Turkey appealed to the major European powers to intervene, but they declined to do so, telling Turkey it must deal directly with the Balkan nations.  On November 8, in a move that underscores the religious tensions underlying the conflict between the Muslim Ottomans and the largely Christian Balkan League, the Sheik-ul-Islam, the highest ranking ecclesiastical official of the Ottoman Empire, declared a Jihad, or holy war, against unbelievers.

Count Leopold von Berchtold

Although they have declined to intervene, the major European powers are watching developments in the Balkans with grave concern.  The most directly concerned is Austria-Hungary, which borders Serbia, Montenegro and the Ottoman Empire itself, and whose annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908 remains a source of friction with Serbia.  Alarmed by the victories of the Balkan League, Austria wants to deny Serbian ambitions to expand its borders to the south and west, in particular to gain a port on the Adriatic from which it could challenge Austrian naval power.  Count Leopold von Berchtold, Austria-Hungary's foreign minister, has persuaded Emperor Franz Joseph to mobilize Austrian forces along its borders with Serbia and Russia, Serbia's ally and protector.  Germany, Austria-Hungary's ally, appears ready to come to its aid in the event of conflict with Russia, and France appears ready to stand by its ally, Russia.  Prime Minister Asquith of Great Britain, speaking at the Lord Mayor's banquet at the Guild Hall on November 10, urged the parties to pursue a general settlement rather than forcing a decision on "isolated questions" such as Adriatic ports.  The prime minister was preceded by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, who announced the presence of a strong British fleet of more than twenty battleships and cruisers in the eastern Mediterranean.  The United States has sent two warships to Turkey to protect American interests.

At month's end, there is reason to hope that the threatened general war may be averted.  Under the terms being discussed, the belligerent nations would agree to an armistice and Austria-Hungary would support the creation of a new state of Albania between Serbia and the Adriatic with guarantees of access to the Adriatic for Serbian trade.

November 1912 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading
Contemporary Records and Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, December 1912 and January 1913
Literary Digest, November 1912
New York Times, November 1912

Books and Articles:
James Chace, 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs -- the Election That Changed the Country
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
John A. Farrell, Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned
Andre Gerolymatos, The Balkan Wars
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
Richard C. Hall, Balkan Wars 1912-1913: Prelude to the First World War
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
J. Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble
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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 1912

In October 1912, as the presidential campaign enters its final weeks, Theodore Roosevelt is shot on his way to a speech in Milwaukee.  The vice president, a candidate for reelection as President Taft's running mate, suddenly dies of kidney disease.  President Grover Cleveland's widow announces her engagement (it will be 56 years before another president's widow remarries) and the Red Sox win the World Series.  In world news, one war ends and another begins, both involving the Ottoman Empire.


Roosevelt Campaigning in Milwaukee Before the Shooting

The 1912 presidential campaign took a dramatic turn as it entered its final weeks.  At about eight o'clock in the evening of October 14, in front of the Hotel Gilpatrick in Milwaukee, former President Roosevelt was shot as he was entering an automobile to go to the auditorium to deliver a campaign speech.  The would-be assassin approached Roosevelt and fired once at close range.  He was identified as John Schrank, a New York City saloon-keeper, who objected to Roosevelt's bid for a third term.  Schrank had been stalking Roosevelt for some time, following him from Charleston to Atlanta to Chicago and several cities in between before catching up with him in Milwaukee.  The bullet entered Roosevelt's right breast, its force diminished by striking Roosevelt's glasses case and the manuscript of the speech he was about to deliver.  Albert Martin, one of Roosevelt's secretaries who was accompanying Roosevelt, jumped on Schrank and knocked him to the ground, preventing a second shot.  As Schrank was pulled to his feet, the angry crowd pushed forward with cries of "Lynch him, kill him!"  Roosevelt raised his hand and called for the crowd to stand back, saying he was unhurt.  Only after Roosevelt was in in the automobile on his way to the auditorium was it noticed that there was a hole in his coat and blood on his shirt.  His doctor, who was in the automobile with him, wanted him to return to the hotel, but Roosevelt insisted on proceeding to the auditorium and delivering his speech, which began with the dramatic announcement that he had just been shot.  Opening his coat and showing the audience his blood-stained shirt, Roosevelt boasted that "it takes more than that to kill a bull moose!" and proceeded to speak for approximately an hour.  After speaking, he was taken to a hospital where it was determined that the bullet had lodged in the chest wall and had not entered the lung.  He was given medical clearance to travel to Chicago, his next destination.  After a few days in a Chicago hospital he returned to his home at Oyster Bay, New York.  He gave no more speeches until October 30 when he addressed a crowd of 16,000 at Madison Square Garden.  He was greeted affectionately by the partisan audience, but seemed subdued in his delivery, showing the strain of his recent injury.

Wilson at Madison Square Garden, October 31, 1912

Woodrow Wilson also resumed his campaign at the end of the month, having suspended it while Roosevelt was recovering from his wound.  The day after Roosevelt's appearance he also mounted the stage at Madison Square Garden, where he was given an enthusiastic welcome.  He was accompanied by William Sulzer and Martin Glynn, the Democratic candidates for New York governor and lieutenant governor, respectively.

 "Parramatta," President Taft's Summer Home

President Taft spent most of the month at his summer home in Beverly, Massachusetts, where for the last two years he has rented "Parramatta" from Mrs. Henry Peabody.  He left Beverly to return to Washington on October 26.  He did not entirely neglect his campaign for reelection, making a brief visit to New York City  and several speeches in the New England area while staying in Beverly.  In a setback to Taft's campaign, the California Supreme Court ruled on October 3 that the names of his electors could not be on the ballot in that state as Republicans, since electors pledged to Roosevelt had won the Republican primary.

Vice President James S. Sherman

The month ended with the death of one of the major party nominees.  Vice President James S. Sherman, the Republican Party's nominee for reelection, died on October 30 of Bright's Disease.  "Sunny Jim" Sherman, a former member of the House of Representatives from Utica, New York, was elected to the vice presidency in 1908 as President Taft's running mate.  Because there is no constitutional provision for filling a vacancy in the office of vice president, it will remain open until the new term for the president and vice president begins on March 4.  It is expected that the Republican Party will designate another person as its nominee for vice president some time before the electoral college meets in January.

Launching Ceremony of the U.S.S. New York

On October 30, the battleship U.S.S. New York (BB-34) was launched at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  She is the sister ship of U.S.S. Texas (BB-35), which was launched May 18, 1912 at Newport News, Virginia.

Becker (center, head down) on his way to Sing Sing's Death Row

Lieutenant Charles Becker of the New York City Police Department was tried and convicted this month of first degree murder in the death of the mobster Herbert Rosenthal.  On October 30, Justice John W. Goff sentenced him to die in the electric chair.  After his sentencing, he was taken back across the "Bridge of Sighs" to the Tombs, and from there transported to death row in the state penitentiary at Sing Sing.  His execution is scheduled to take place the week of December 9.  He continues to protest his innocence, and has appealed his conviction.

The 1912 Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox won the 1912 World Series, four games to three.  The series, pitting the Red Sox against the New York Giants, got under way at the Polo Grounds on October 8 and ended at Fenway Park on October 16.  It took eight games to decide the winner: the second game ended in a 6-6 tie when it was called after eleven innings on account of darkness.  The series pitted two of the greatest pitchers in the game against each other: the Giants' Christy Mathewson and the Red Sox's "Smoky Joe" Wood, who ended the regular season with a 34-5 record and an earned run average of 1.91.  In the final game, the Giants had a one run lead in the bottom of the tenth when Clyde Engel, pinch-hitting for Wood, hit an easy fly ball to center field.  Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass dropped the ball and the Red Sox went on to score two runs to win the game.

Ziegfeld Follies of 1912

The Ziegfeld Follies of 1912 opened this month at the Moulin Rouge Theatre in New York.  One of the hit songs from the show is "Row, Row, Row" (click to play):


Frances Folsom at the Time of Her Marriage to President Cleveland

Frances Folsom Cleveland, the widow of former President Grover Cleveland, has announced her engagement.  She will marry Thomas J. Preston, Jr., a professor of archaeology at Wells College.  Mrs. Cleveland was only 21 years old when she married the president in the White House in 1885.  They had five children, one of whom, "Baby" Ruth Cleveland, died in 1904.

Thomas Fortune Ryan Out for a Stroll

 On October 2, the Senate committee investigating political contributions received a complete list of contributions to the 1904 Republican campaign to reelect President Roosevelt, including $150,000 contributed by J.P. Morgan & Co.  Roosevelt has issued a statement in which he asserts that campaign contributions did not purchase any favors or special treatment.  On the other side of the political divide, Thomas Fortune Ryan, the transportation, tobacco and insurance magnate, testified on October 21 that he contributed $450,000 to Democratic candidates that year.  This year Ryan was a Virginia delegate to the Democratic national convention, where William Jennings Bryan denounced him by name, along with J. P. Morgan and August Belmont, as a member of "the privilege-hunting or favor-seeking class."


 Turkish and Italian Delegations at the Signing of the Treaty of Lausanne

The Ottoman Empire and Italy have agreed to peace terms ending the Italo-Turkish War.  Under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne, Turkey will retain nominal sovereignty of Libya, but it will withdraw its troops and consult the Italian government concerning the appointment of administrative officials.  In return, Italy will withdraw its troops from Rhodes and the other Aegean islands it occupied during the war.

The New and Former Grand Vizier

The end of its war with Italy will not bring peace to the Ottoman Empire.  As the ink was still drying on the Treaty of Lausanne, another war involving the Empire broke out in the Balkans.  The weakness of the Empire having just been demonstrated in north Africa and the Mediterranean, the Balkan countries saw an opportunity to achieve their long-standing goal of evicting Turkey from Europe and decided to take action.  Montenegro declared war on October 8, followed on October 17 by the other members of the Balkan League: Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia.  At month's end, the Bulgarian army inflicted a crushing defeat on the Turks near Adrianople.  Grand Vizier Muchtar Pasha resigned and was replaced by former Grand Vizier Kiamil Pasha.


Felix Diaz

On October 16 Felix Diaz, a nephew of deposed Mexican president Porfirio Diaz, raised the standard of revolt in Veracruz against the government of Francisco Madero.  It was a short-lived rebellion: government forces captured the city and Diaz himself on October 23, and on October 27 he was sentenced to death.  This is far from the end of attempts to overthrow the Madero government, however, as rebellions led by Emiliano Zapata, Pascual  Orozco and others continue throughout Mexico.

October 1912 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading
Contemporary Records and Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, November and December 1912
Literary Digest, November 2, 1912
New York Times, October 1912

Books and Articles:
Matthew Algeo, The President Is a Sick Man
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
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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 1912

It's September 1912, and the American presidential campaign is in full cry. Woman suffrage is defeated in Ohio. Opposition builds to Irish home rule. U.S. Marines are in Nicaragua. Elections are held for the Russian Duma. Anarchy reigns in Mexico, and there is racial controversy at the American Bar Association.


Roosevelt Campaigning in Iowa, September 1912

One of Roosevelt’s most controversial positions in his campaign for the presidency this year has been his support of recall, not only of elected officials but also of judges and judicial decisions.  This month he took his position a step further.  In a speech at the Denver Auditorium on September 19, in the course of answering a question posed by William Jennings Bryan in Pueblo the night before, he stated that he favors subjecting even the president to the possibility of recall.  Bryan's question was "How many terms may a president serve?", a question designed to call attention to the fact that Roosevelt has already served almost two complete terms, and that his election this year would put him in office for a third term, giving him an unprecedented tenure of almost twelve years.  Roosevelt answered Bryan's question by arguing that the two-term tradition applies only to consecutive terms.  

Another challenge for Roosevelt this month has been responding to testimony by John D. Archbold, former vice-president of the Standard Oil Company, that during the 1904 presidential campaign Roosevelt solicited and received a campaign contribution of $125,000 from Standard Oil.  Roosevelt denies that any such contribution was asked for or made.  Congressional hearings on that subject are resuming at month's end.

Suffragists in Ohio

The voters of Ohio went to the polls on September 3 to vote on several proposed amendments to the state constitution, including initiative, referendum and woman suffrage.  All of the proposed amendments were adopted except woman suffrage, which went down to a decisive defeat, losing most surprisingly by a two to one margin in the city of Cleveland.  The women of Ohio, of course, did not vote.

General MacArthur

On September 5, Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur, Jr. died of a heart attack while giving a speech in Milwaukee.  A Civil War veteran and winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, he was one of the Army’s last remaining lieutenant generals, a rank that is no longer authorized by Congress.   He was military governor of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, and was replaced in 1901 by a civilian government headed by William Howard Taft, with whom he had a strained relationship.  He was the ranking general in the Army in 1906 when the post of Army Chief of Staff became vacant, but by then Taft was Secretary of War, and he passed over MacArthur in favor of Major General Franklin Bell.  MacArthur retired from the Army in 1909.  He is survived by his two sons, both of whom have followed their father into military careers.  Lieutenant Commander Arthur MacArthur III is an 1896 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and his younger brother, Captain Douglas MacArthur, is a 1903 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

William H. Lewis

In a compromise decision this month, the American Bar Association readmitted three Negro attorneys to membership.  They were expelled earlier this year at the insistence of members who complained that they had been unaware of their race when their membership was proposed.  Under the terms of the compromise, the Negroes will be readmitted to the Association but all future applicants for membership will be required to disclose their race on their applications.  The most prominent of the new Negro members is Assistant Attorney General William H. Lewis, who was appointed to that post by President Taft in 1910.  Lewis is the first Negro ever to hold such a high office in the executive branch of the federal government.  A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School, he played and coached football at Harvard, served as an assistant United States Attorney, and is a recognized authority and published author on the techniques and strategy of football.  Attorney General George W. Wickersham was Lewis's sponsor for membership in the ABA, and his interest in the case was undoubtedly instrumental in causing the ABA to reverse its prior decision.

Mack Sennett

Motion picture production is still centered mostly in New York, but increasingly in recent years it can be found in Southern California.  Part of the reason is climate and scenery, and part is the proximity of the Mexican border, which makes it easier for independent producers to escape the enforcement efforts of the Motion Picture Patents Company.  Most recently, Biograph producer Mack Sennett has moved west and started a new company, which he calls Keystone Productions.  Keystone is located in Edendale, a district northwest of downtown Los Angeles, which is fast becoming the center of west coast motion picture production (though some production has also begun to take place in the nearby village of Hollywood).  Keystone released its first "Keystone Comedy," called The Water Nymph, on September 23  (click to play):


General Nogi (center left) and Russian General Anatoly Stoessel (center right)
 at the Surrender of Port Arthur, January 1905

In Japan, the funeral of the Meiji Emperor took place on September 13.  Secretary of State Philander Knox attended as the representative of the United States.  The funeral was also attended by Count Nogi Maresuke, the ranking general of the Japanese army, who led Japanese forces in the capture of Port Arthur in the Sino-Japanese War in 1895 and again in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.  As the funeral was in progress, General Nogi and his wife committed ritual suicide in accordance with an ancient Japanese custom.  Those who follow this custom believe that it is the general’s duty to accompany the emperor’s soul into the afterlife, and the wife’s duty to accompany her husband’s.  Ten days after the funeral, as if on cue, a typhoon struck Japan, causing widespread destruction.

Nicaragua President Adolfo Diaz

Disorder is the order of the day in Mexico.  The states of Chihuahua, Durango and Sinaloa are overrun by bands of rebels and outlaws.  This month President Francisco Madero offered amnesty to the rebel leader Pascual Orozco.  Elsewhere in Latin America, a revolution in Nicaragua has threatened American interests, causing the dispatch of American troops.  On September 25, General Luis Mena, the leader of rebels seeking the overthrow of President Adolfo Diaz, surrendered to American Navy and Marine Corps forces under the command of Rear Admiral William Henry Hudson Southerland and Marine Corps Colonel Joseph H. Pendleton.

Italian Warships in Action

In the bloodiest engagement to date in the Italo-Turkish War, Turkish and Arab forces attacked Italian troops near Derna in Tripoli on September 17 and were driven back with heavy losses.  This month marks the first anniversary of Italy's declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire, a war that has proved far more difficult and costly than Italy expected.  Because of its superior naval presence in the Mediterranean, Italy continues to control the Libyan coast, but it has been unable to move inland.  It has attempted with some success to apply additional pressure by attacking and occupying Turkish coastal cities and islands in the eastern Mediterranean.  Informal negotiations have begun in Switzerland, but so far appear to be deadlocked over Italy’s insistence on sovereignty in Tripoli.

The Italian war is not the only crisis facing the Ottoman Empire.  At month's end, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece began mobilization of their military reserves amid accusations of Turkish interference in Macedonian affairs.

Andres Bonar Law, Leader of the Unionist Party

In Great Britain, resistance to Irish home rule, encouraged by leaders of the Unionist Party, shows no sign of abating.  On September 25, the Ulster Unionist Council approved the text of a covenant pledging Ulsterites not to recognize the authority of an Irish parliament should one be created as proposed in the government's Home Rule Bill.  On September 27, a massive demonstration against home rule took place in Belfast, and the next day thousands of Ulsterites signed the covenant of resistance to home rule.

Meanwhile, the diplomatic crisis with the United States over Panama Canal tolls continues.  The British government has apparently decided not to retaliate by raising Suez Canal tolls on American ships, mainly because American use of that canal is relatively insignificant.  Instead, Britain has announced that it will seek international arbitration of the dispute.

Georges Legagneux

News continues to be made in the air.  On September 6, Roland Garros set an altitude record of 16,240 feet.  The record lasted eleven days.  On September 17 French aviator Georges Legagneux flew an aeroplane to an altitude of three and a half miles (18,480 feet).  The next day, a German airship paid a visit to Copenhagen.  Not all the aviation news was good.  In a single day (September 23), two German military aviators were killed in a crash near Freiburg and a crash in Belfast killed an English aviator, making thirteen deaths in aviation accidents in a three week period.

 Premier Vladimir Kokovtsov

In the wake of Russia's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and the ensuing 1905 revolution, Tsar Nicholas II issued the October Manifesto establishing the Duma as Russia's legislative body.  The Third Duma was dissolved on September 12, and elections for a Fourth Duma are under way.  Vladimir Kokovtsov will continue as premier, a post that is filled by imperial appointment.

September 1912 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading
Contemporary Records and Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, October and November1912
Literary Digest, September 7, 1912
New York Times, September 1912

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
Edmund Morris, Colonel Roosevelt
Patricia O'Toole, When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House