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