March 2012 Bar Bulletin
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March 2012 Bar Bulletin

Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement

By Gene Barton


"He aims at a leadership far in the future, as a sort of Moses and Messiah for a vast progressive tide of a rising humanity."
-Elihu Root1

"We, here in America, hold in our hands the hope of the world, the fate of the coming years; and shame and disgrace will be ours if in our eyes the light of high resolve is dimmed, if we trail in the dust the golden hopes of men."24
-Theodore Roosevelt

On February 21, 1912, Theodore Roosevelt stood before the Ohio Constitutional Convention in Columbus - President William Howard Taft's home turf - and officially launched his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.2

Roosevelt had, of course, left office in 1909, having served most of two terms as president and vowing not to seek a third term, thus honoring the tradition of Washington and Jefferson. But in 1912, Teddy was simply exercising the Roosevelt prerogative, as it were, to change his mind, particularly when a popular call was raised - as often happened - and he felt obliged to answer.

In his speech, Roosevelt laid the planks - not all of them new - that would form the foundation of the platform for the Progressive Party that would emerge a few months later as Roosevelt split from his lifelong party and, according to some, fomented virtual rebellion.

His words were, indeed, prophetic:

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