tv History Bookshelf CSPAN August 4, 2016 9:52am-10:45am EDT
key figures who ran for the presidency and lost, but changed political history. saturday night, former new york governor al smith. and sunday, the 1940 republican presidential nominee wendell willkie. >> as i was driving up the streets, at his vacant store window, had pictures of my opponent and his associates on t the new deal ticket. i don't know of anymore appropriate place to put those pictures. >> for a complete american history tv schedule, go to cspan.org. next on history book shelf, author james chace talks about his book. "1912: wilson. roosevelt, taft and debs -- the election that changed the country". describes the personalities and
relationships between woodrow wilson, theodore roosevelt, william howard taft and eugene debs. >> welcome to viewers on c-span's book tv. james chace's new book, "1912: wilson. roosevelt, taft and debs -- the election that changed the country". it has just been published by simon and schuster. woodrow wilson center is the memorial to our 28th president. created in 1968 by an act of congress within the smithsonian institution. because woodrow wilson headed princeton university before becoming president the center memorializes his legacy as a bridge between the worlds of academia and public policy. it serves as a neutral forum for over 400 meetings a year where even the most contentious issues can be discussed.
the center is non-advocacy. it takes no position on policy issues. rather the purpose of this institution's research and meetings is to contribute to the policy debate by providing historical context and an understanding of foreign cultures and perspectives. the results of these activities are widely disseminated through reports and books published by the center's own press, a website, wilsoncenter.org a radio and tv program called the "dialogue." as the nation's official memorial to our 28th president it is particularly appropriate that we meet here today to discuss the momentous election of 1912 that took him to the white house. we are so to speak heavily invested in that election. without that election there would be no woodrow wilson next. james chace has produced the definitive study of that
election. he's the former managing editor of foreign affairs magazine and editor of world policy journal. he's the author of eight previous books including one about the secretary of state who created the american world which was named the best book of 1988. high praise for this book has been offered by former wilson center fellow and biographer ronald steel. 1912 relates with brio, hydra ma and authority. it's the struggle of four powerful men fighting not just for the presidency but for the soul of american politics. james chace brings vividly to life the election that shaped the nation's future and in so doing illuminates the choices americans face then and face again today. james chace, thank you for being with us today. [ applause ] >> thank you, rob very much.
i'm really delighted to be back here. when i was in washington a number of years ago i spent a year here not at the wilson center but the carnegie, with friends who were there at the time. i suppose we could call this the accidental presidency but it's about four men, obviously, not just woodrow wilson but certainly true that had the republican party not been split between taft, william howard taft and theodore roosevelt it's very unlikely that woodrow wilson would have been elected president. had roosevelt gotten the nomination it would have been roosevelt who was president. however, had it been a taft/wilson thing i think wilson would have won even though the united states was basically majority party was a republican party, but it was, as we all know a period of tremendous spirit of reform and for that --
and reform was embraced by wilson as well as by roosevelt and of course by debs. therefore, taft was a moderate conservative, was not likely, i think, to have beaten wilson. roosevelt i think almost surely would have. before i talk, i want to say first of all, why i wrote the book. i say this because people often ask me why do you write a book where foreign policy plays no role when you spent your whole life writing about foreign policy. it was foreign policy that got me interested in the book. in these issues. it's counter factual history. sort of what ifs if history. what would have happened had had theodore roosevelt rather than woodrow wilson been president in 1912? had that happened, the republican party would have been the party of reform. and secondly, i would suspect that after the sinking of the
lose taken ya in 1916, that roosevelt would have brought the united states into the first world war at that time. he was sympathetic to the allies. and i think he would have taken advantage of that tragedy in effect to get the united states in world war i and perhaps the war might have ended more quickly had the united states done that. there's a couple of other what ifs i would like to mention right at the beginning. let's say roosevelt had not challenged taft for the nomination. the republican party in 1912. taft, i say, i think would have been beaten by wilson but then roosevelt would have had the nomination almost surely in 1916. indeed some of his closest colleagues told him that. if you can just wait you'll have it in 1916.
the likelihood is he would have been elected because the person who ran against wilson in 1916, which was -- i meant 1916, who was charles evans hughes, a moderate reformist governor from new york state and a supreme court justice, fact is that hughes almost won. when wilson went to sleep that night, he thought he had lost the election to hughes. and then the results from california came in the next morning, and that was what put wilson over in 1916 and largely because hughes had alienated members of the progressive party, the then governor of california, a man called hiram johnson. had he been, had he paid more attention to johnson in the right way, he would have probably taken california, had he taken california wilson would not have been president in 1916 and would not have been the war president then. finally, this is very
interesting, i found out, which is that roosevelt repaired his relationships with the republican party which had split in 1912 by 1918. in 1916 he campaigned for hughes. referred to as the iceberg. but he nevertheless made his piece with him and campaigned vigorously for him and if nothing else roosevelt was a vigorous campaigner. he became very critical of woodrow wilson's handling of the war. almost all historians agree that by 1919 roosevelt would have been the nominee of the republican party in 1920. he died at the age, relatively young age of 60, in january of 1919. largely because, i think, he lived a strenuous life but he
died almost in 1915 on an expedition. even in 1920, it is possible that roosevelt would have become president had he lived. in which case, again, the what ifs of history. in which case there would have been league of nation with a large reservation which was not very serious and also been, therefore, a versailles treaty and doubtless the military guarantee to france which wilson had given and that roosevelt was very eager to have an alliance with france and britain. so had that happened, had the united states been locked into the league and more important into an actual military guarantee one has to ask if the german general staff would have ever risked a war in the 1930s. these are big stretches, i agree. but as i look at that and i think what happened? why did it happen? what went on.
that's what i want to talk about now, which is that election. but i want to keep in mind, as i said, these what ifs of history. first of all, as i said, there were four men and i'm going to talk about roosevelt last, actually, and talk about each of them in a certain way and then talk about them all together. let me talk first of all about william howard taft. first of all, william howard taft came from a very distinguished family in ohio. and was a great friend, became a great friend of theodore roosevelt before roosevelt was president and then later on, of course, when roosevelt became president after the assassination of mckinley in 1901 he made taft secretary of war and governor general of philippines. taft was an extremely decent man.
his politics were conservative. he was not against reform. but he was not a person who wanted to rock the boat too much whereas theodore roosevelt was only too willing to rock the boat. basically, taft was a perfect lieutenant. when roosevelt announced in 1904 that he would not run for a third term, which he didn't need to do and no sooner were the words out of his mouth, he tried to find someone who he believed would carry on the policies of reform in 1908 that he had started and taft seemed to be finally the logical man to do that because taft was a very able man. taft himself never wanted to be president. he'd always hoped some day to be on the supreme court. but his wife was a very ambitious woman and she very much wanted her husband to become president of the united states. twice taft turned down offers from theodore roosevelt when roosevelt was president to be on the supreme court. mainly again because his wife didn't want him to do that but to wait.
and so, finally, you know, he didn't get on to the supreme court til much later when warren harding appoints him the chief justice of the supreme court which is what taft always cared the most about. what happened when taft was president, over simplified slightly, he was not able to manage things that roast was -- that roosevelt was able to. roosevelt was able to handle these arch conservatives which taft was unable to do so. it was said taft was surrounded by men who knew exactly what they wanted to do. and they were led by a particularly powerful figure, general nelson aldridge of rhode island who was called the manager of the united states, so powerful was he in the senate. taft couldn't manage him at all. roosevelt could to a degree. so roosevelt found that the policies he had urged were not being carried out in a way he had hoped to.
there's another point too, of course. roosevelt missed power. he was only 50 when he left the presidency. younger man bill clinton when he left. he missed that power. what was referred to as the habit forming drug of public life. the split, therefore, became very, very bitter. and i'll get into this a little later. but a little more about him as a person, rather amusing stories, too. first of all as everybody must know, taft was enormous. he usually came to 300, 350 pounds. he once had to be pried out of a bathtub. so he had a special bathtub was put in the white house, another one on a naval ship. when he was counter general of the philippines, he rode his horse about 25 miles up in the hills and then cabled back to the secretary of state that he never felt better. rupp responded with, how's the
horse? [ laughter ] so, as i say, he was a very decent guy, and an able man but not someone who should ever have been president. let's go on to woodrow wilson. woodrow wilson, first of all, to understand wilson you have town -- have to understand he was a conservative southern democrat. born in virginia, grew up in georgia and south carolina. he was a man who began -- who was -- i'll give the basic facts. he was president of princeton university and picked by the political bosses of new jersey as the perfect person to run for the governor of new jersey. they thought he was reliable. he was reasonably conservative democrat but he's honest and moderately, very moderately reformist as they saw it.
wilson was, therefore, elected governor, but then he turned on the bosses and put through a highly reformist program in new jersey. they felt completely betrayed by him. and as a consequence, he became one of the most likely candidates for the nomination of the republican party in 1912 because he then had adopted reform as his platform during that period. but his reforms were not as radical as roosevelt, it was more so than wilson. and after an incredibly tense convention which went to 46 ballots in baltimore, where at one point he withdrew his name thinking he wouldn't get the nomination to chad clark who was the speaker of the house and was really the favorite to get the nomination. he finally secured it through the machinations of that old democratic war horse william jennings bryan who was trying to get it for himself again and
he played things for clark and then switched to woodrow. betrayed wilson and then for various reasons he supported wilson. ironically wilson got the nomination precisely because the party bosses wanted him at the last minute. so it's an irony there. again, let me talk about him as a person now. his father was a preacher. a presbyterian. and a man who wilson really adored and also felt deeply inferior too. his father often humiliated wilson. wilson could never please him enough. wilson suffered from dyslexia. he was insecure. had terrible headaches. and felt he would never really measure up to what his father expected of him. he was -- he used to practice speaking, however, because he
thought himself -- he might become a presbyterian minister himself. he finally decided after graduating from princeton, he became a professor at bryn mawr and wesley before returning to princeton but always wanted to go to politics. he was a very slow reader, probably from his dyslexia. couldn't read very well. after he became president he said he hadn't read a serious book in ten years. he was slow in that way. slow and deliberate. he was a very, very stubborn man and he did not like to be criticized. and he broke with his friends who did so. that was another part. his presidency at princeton began very, very well. he had various reforms. he put in the tutorial system. he had two very good ideas.
one he wanted to break the club system of princeton which i thought was a good idea, but he didn't handle it well and the alumni stopped him cold there. he also wanted to keep -- erect a new graduate school near the college and, again, he didn't handle it well at all on the faculty. so by the time his 1910 came along, he was not a successful president at princeton. he had the opposite effect of what became well became worse for him. so he was only too eager to try to run for governor when he was approached by the new jersey bosses. he was also, by the way, probably by this time a southern white supremacist. he allowed the resegregation in washington of the federal bureaucracy. it wasn't the kind of polite, if you want to call it polite,
most american blacks at that time, but in the case of wilson, it was much deeper. he admired enormously this movie by d.w. griffith for, as he said, "the birth of a nation" a very racist film, calling history written with lightning. he was a man who could be among people he felt secure with, he was very funny, could be very, very charming. liked women a great deal. had his daughters, his two wives and actually an illicit affair, which did come to light later in the election of 1912 to roosevelt's attention. roosevelt refused to make that an issue in the campaign. he said no one could believe a man who looks like an apothecary could possibly be a romeo. whatever the reason was, he didn't do that. it was not the sort of thing roosevelt would do. he was rather victorian. as we all know, it was wilson's
stubbornness that made it difficult in negotiating with the british prime minister at versailles during 1919 and then trying to put together the versailles treaty. he often felt himself to be the personal instrument of god. in contrast to that, by the way, lloyd george remarked after the peace conference quote, i think i did pretty well, as might be expected, seeing as i was between jesus christ and napoleon bonaparte. that was george's view what it was like between them. he refused to compromise with some relatively small reservations, that with his closest friend, then senate majority leader henry cabot john insisted on. they were not serious. they were reiterating the fact that the senate has to declare war and no one else has a right to do so.
has to have the responsibility for treaties. it was something not very serious, but wilson refused to compromise whatsoever saying notably the senate must take its medicine. well, that was not a wise thing to say, particularly when the senate and house were controlled by the republican party after 1918 elections. but to get the treaty passed, he went on a barn storming tour throughout the country and during that tour on september 28th, 1919 that he had a severe stroke in colorado, and on september 28th. he was not seen by anybody until the end of october. as many of you know, he was brought back here into the white house and there he laid -- he was really incapacitated for the first few weeks after the stroke. he finally did make more than a partial recovery but never more
than a full recovery. during the first stage of that illness he saw nobody but his wife and his doctor, private doctor, dr. grayson. when people were admitted he was propped up in bed and his body was covered except for his head and right arm. curtains were drawn. very dimly lit. when somebody wanted to consult her husband over matter of state mrs. wilson took the message and reported back what her husband presumably said and sometimes she answered with a handwritten note. a number of letters went unopened. eventually he recovered enough to talk and take quiet automobile rides. his personal rigidity grew. when he left office, he lived here in washington on s street until he died in 1924 where he's buried at the national cathedral. the third man is eugene debs. who's an extraordinary figure in american labor history. he grew up in terre haute,
indiana. worked on the railroad as a fireman. was a decently well educated man. read french and german. his parents were well educated people. eventually he joined the socialist party. the greatness of debs in my view lay in the fact that he never lost sight of the goal of what we would call industrial unionism. the only powerful organization when debs came around was the american federation of labor which was a craft union. you had to be a skilled worker with a skilled craft to be in that union. the ordinary unskilled worker was excluded from the union. what debs saw was needed was a broad based unionism, a unionism where skilled craftsman joined with the unskilled craftsman with one great, strong union. throughout this period he was a dominant party in the socialist party. in the election of 1912, when he got the highest percentage of vote the socialist party ever
gotten in this country. really the apex of the socialist party where he almost got a million votes. in a way the legacy of debs, really the cio. that had the kind of broad based industrial unionism which debs felt was necessary to combat the evils of capitalism which grew up in the late 19th-century. a few things personally about debs. he was a man who would go off on a speaking tour and literally give everything he might have to people who needed money. would return back home dead broke. he was in prison twice, the first time in 1894 when he led the strike against the pullman sleeping car company. nothing like it had ever been seen in this country. more than 100,000 men quit work. and the strike was finally broken when federal troops were sent in at the behest of
president at the time, grover cleveland. in jail debs became a socialist and also a national celebrity. the reason he ran again and again for the presidency on the socialist party several times he was widely respected throughout the country and was a national figure. in 1920 when he was in jail, he ran for the presidency for 1912 and almost got a million votes again. as i say, the first time he was jailed was over the pullman strike. the second time he was jailed by a federal court in 1918 for speaking out against the first world war under the provision of the new espionage law and sedition agent. although many prominent citizens who were not socialists petitioned woodrow wilson to give debs a pardon. wilson said debs was a traitor to his country and would never be pardoned. it was warren harding in 1921
released debs from his prison in georgia, asking him to drop by the white house on his way home. which he did. when debs stepped into harding's office, harding strode over. shook his hands. i've heard so damn much about you mr. debs that i'm glad to meet you personally. debs said they understood each other perfectly and i suspect they did. theodore roosevelt sought the republican nomination in 1912 for basically two reasons. one, as i said earlier he felt taft betrayed his promises to follow the reformist policies that t.r. had begun in his presidency. and the other reason is he missed power. and he was nonetheless, unable to secure the republican nomination despite the fact that he had won more primaries than taft including taking taft's home state of ohio. this was the first period in which direct primaries were
becoming more common in the united states. and as i say, roosevelt did -- all but swept them. ironically it was his former secretary of state who was the chairman of the republican convention and disqualified 80 of t.r.'s delegates. rupp believed the party must be held together this way and couldn't have this kind of insurgency and, in fact, t.r. had the nomination stolen from him. he should have had at least 75 of those votes and that would have given him the nomination. if not then in the next round. undaunted, he joined the progressive party known in history as the bull moose party. this was a party made up of middle class reformers, school teachers, well meaning intellectuals, some populists. a lot of people supporting women's suffrage. municipal reformers who were fed up with bosses in the cities.
and roosevelt really became their standard bearer. in his opening speech he proclaimed very famously we stand in armageddon to do battle for the lord. the time he came in he would be, i would describe as a partition reformer. he had been police commissioner of new york city, governor of new york state. and always wanted to curb the successes of the great trust. by regulating them not destroying them as he believed that big business was here to stay. what he wanted to do was have people rise above their own sectarian interests. of course he had been an imperialist. was imperialist when he first became president. the spanish/american war which
he resigned from being assistant secretary of the navy in order to get into the war, led a group of combination of ivy league graduates and wild west cowboys as the rough riders, and stormed san juan hill in a skirmish against the spaniards but made him a national figure and led -- prepared the way for him ultimately to get the nomination for vice president. the new york republicans were only too willing to get rid of roosevelt. he was a reformer, didn't want him around. they thought what better place to get rid of him than the vice presidency. when mckinley was assassinated, famously, mark hannah, the boss of the republican party, said now we got that damn cowboy in the white house. it was the last thing they ever expected would happen. the british ambassador once said of t.r. he was always, you must
remember, he was always a secure old boy. there was a lot of that in roosevelt. he was surely the most intellectual president we had since the founders. on his expedition to shoot wild beasts in africa in 1909 after he left the presidency he took 80 books with him to read. his energy was awesome. he would read literally a book a day. he would be writing constant letters. letters of theodore roosevelt are amazing. not that there's so many of them. but they're so lengthy and so well written. this is day after. hard to imagine anyone with quite that energy. he was also very much a family man and he liked to have as he called a romp with the boys. the four boys. all the boys served in the first world war. and the death of the youngest boy quinten who said before he joined the air force, we got to practice what pa preaches.
was shot down over germany and terrible blow. he had one daughter which the outspoken alice, sharp tongue of alice longworth whom he never could control. when somebody complained about alice's outrageous behavior he said i can be president or try to control alice i can't do both. he was the offspring of t.r.'s first wife, alice lee, who died a few years after her harmarria on the same day of his mother. his second birth to edith carroll was a happy one. edythe adored him since childhood. she supported his need forced a venture, the rough housing days with cowboys, safari in africa. his all but fatal exploration of the river of doubt in brazil after he lost the election of 1912. one more about roosevelt. how perhaps the most famous example of his energy occurred during the 1912 campaign. this was after a period when
there was, before television and radio and so, of course, you had to speak for hours at a time orations were meant to be a long time. this began the whistle stop campaign from the back of railroad cars. he went from town to town. the two most gifted orators was debs and roosevelt. wilson also spoke beautifully, but it was not as energetic as the other two. they were stemwinders in that sense. in the late stages of the campaign in october when roosevelt was campaigning in the middle west a man came out of a hotel and as roosevelt got into the car he picked up a gun and shot roosevelt. roosevelt's life was only saved because he had a 50 page speech inside his pocket. he was bleeding, and nonetheless
he insisted to go on to make the speech he was supposed to make against the advice of his doctor. no one could stop roosevelt. and when he got up on the platform before about 10,000 people, he opened his coat and you could see the blood, you know and he said you know it takes more than one bullet to kill a bull moose and then spoke for 45 minutes. finally then went off to a hospital where he spent the next two weeks and then wilson and debs and taft all stopped campaigning while he recovered. now, what was the importance of the election of 1912? well, i think first of all it introduced a conflict between, progressive idealism and conservative values. this struggle i think dominates the politics of the 20th century.
t.r. became the progressive idealism. he called the new nationalism which he described as using executive power as a steward of public welfare. in other words, when roosevelt became president, he knew he couldn't get certain things passed by congress and congress between roughly the end of the civil war, after lincoln to roosevelt was far stronger than the presidency, the executive branch and most presidents believed congress should propose and they were disposed. they were not as strong at all. how do you get around this? well, roosevelt really used executive orders as much as possible, executive action, grievance which the congress didn't have to vote on. much of the millions of acres that roosevelt saved for conservation purposes were not really passed by congress they were done through executive agreements. by 1912, though, he had become
far more radical. the platform in many ways the most radical platform that any presidential candidate had ever stood for. he called for women's suffrage, graduated income tax, inheritance tax, workmen's compensation act, prohibition of child labor, down revision of the tariffs, interstate commerce commission to supervise all corporations engaged in interstate business, and even national health care. to fulfill the promise of american life which was a book written by herbert crowley which was what he thought the leader should be like. he thought the country needed hamiltonian means to achieve jeffersonian ends. he thought that era was not devotion to equality but the inability to see the degree to which they were sacrificing a desirable liberty to an
undesirable quality. jefferson believed there should be as little government as possible and the good things of life which had formerly be held by the few should be distributed by all the people. hamilton while too eager perhaps to attach to the government the support of the well-to-do, that well-to-do and elites would best be able to run the country was nonetheless more clear thinking than jefferson. he knew genuine liberty could only be protect by the central government and the idea of the central government, the energy of the executive to accomplish these things. thus hamiltonian means for jeffersonian end. in another way, in a new book, it's very, very worth reading. hamilton saw the future of the united states far more clearly also than jefferson. became what hamilton thought it might. industrial and urban, financial. wilson and his campaign, in his campaign, wilson echoed the need to restore competition.
as the best way of destroying the trusts. he was influenced by a brilliant lawyer in boston via louisville and later appointed by wilson to the supreme court. destroying monopolies was the best way to restore competition. he called this the new freedom. as wilson put it, what created these monopolies? unregulated competition. wilson hoped to appeal to t. r.'s constituency without offending the state's rights. traditions of the democratic party's white southern base. debs, of course, stated against those who would mistake reform for revolution. he wanted state to have ownership of monopolies that he believed controlled the american people. this utopian program also included much of the reform legislation which t.r. and later wilson adopted. at one point debs said my god they are taking my platform away from me and to a certain degree
they did. taft's conservatism, he saw reform as embedded in the law. corporations that violated the law should be prosecuted and taft brought more suits against the trust than t.r. did during his term in office. taft also believed progressive project would stimulate unfulfillble expectations. taft's seizure of the republican nomination in 1912 produced such a deep split in the republican party that it's never been healed to this very day. t.r.'s reformism in a way represents a road not taken. wilson in his first term, having adopted these reformist policies was able to pass more progressive legislation than any other president except for franklin roosevelt in the new deal. encouraged by a democratic congress wilson, passed the graduated income tax, established the federal trade commission which intensified regulation of business.
the clayton antitrust act which was -- put forth antitrust measures from the earlier sherman act. the popular election of u.s. senators and perhaps most important of all the federal reserve act which reformed the banking system by creating a european style central bank that would monitor the nation's money supply and smooth out these danger roadways fluctuations. private bankers could not run the monetary policy of the banks. which is exactly what he did a few years earlier. t.r.'s and wilson's approaches, regulation or competition are still, in my view, still how it government should promote the commerce and welfare of the american people. the argument over the role of the executive expanded in t. r.'s and later wilson's view as well, despite the talk of small business and states'
rights. wilson, in fact was also very strong executive. together t.r. and wilson really invented the modern presidency. the legacy was really a belief that a centralized power would create a stronger democracy and franklin roosevelt was their greatest inher tore in that respect. he became what he called a practical idealist who best combined in my view the realism of t.r. with the idealism of woodrow wilson. as for taft and roosevelt, their splintered friendship was repaired before t.r. died. and the last man to leave roosevelt's grave site after his funeral was william howard taft
weeping. thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you very much, james. we have some time for some comments and questions from the floor. after the session, the book will be available for purchase in the foyer. we have a reception as well. but we have some time for comments from the floor. who would like to address and we have a microphone for you. thank you. >> back to the struggle for the republican nomination in 1912, no incumbent republican president who sought renomination was denied it, had been denied it by his party in 28 years. >> right. >> how realistic, knowing especially that you had delegates from southern states that the republican party could not carry but who were wholly dependent on patronage and not in play, was it ever a realistic hope on theodore roosevelt's
part he could wrest the nomination from the republican? >> initially roosevelt was pessimistic about getting the nomination. he felt he had to do it because of the so-called betrayal of the reform policies of taft. but as time went on, of course, he began to believe he might get it. the difference really wasn't about the primary system. the fact is direct primaries were coming into fore and won them all. not all. therefore when he came to the convention he had enough delegates to get that nomination. what he didn't bank on was that the very party machine which he had set up -- you see roosevelt was extremely able politician. this is why 1912 made him seem as someone who was unrealistic. on the contrary. he was an extremely able politician.
he made the republican party even more powerful in terms of its organization. and turned that very organization over to taft. it was the organization in the long run, stood against him, and disqualified these delegates, and he said it was a stolen nomination. it was. the answer is yes and no, because in one way yes it should have happened but the party was too strong. to deny it to him for that reason. yes? >> during the campaign you mentioned that roosevelt's platform in 1912 did support women's suffrage. i know wilson stood against it. in reading some of the materials during that period, i saw one speech he's giving on the trusts and a woman got up and said what
about the suffrage. and wilson said my subject is the monopolies and she said so is mine. did he in any way justify his opposition to women's suffrage and also what was taft's position on that issue during the campaign? >> you know, interestingly enough, on the suffrage issue, all of them, and that would include debs to a certain degree and would have included roosevelt, would have felt the country wasn't ready for this kind of thing and took very traditional, for that period view of a wife's role. so i don't think -- we're not ready for it yet. roosevelt changed, became more radical. it's interesting how radical he became after he left office. he wasn't for women's suffrage but by the time 1912 came he embraced it. one of the persons who seconded
his nomination at the progressive convention was jane adams who was perhaps a leading suffragist during that period. same thing towards blacks, american blacks. roosevelt had invited booker t. washington for dinner at the white house shortly after he became president. well that caused a scandal. and the south never forgave him for that and he never invited him back to the white house itself. so, he had a complicated problem in 1912 because he had become much more supportive of what we adopt civil rights for blacks particularly getting rid of jim crow laws and the poll tax which effectively prevented them from voting in the south. at the same time he wanted to get the republican party, to get some white voters out of south so he straddled to a certain
degree 1912 of embracing american blacks openly. and yet he dined with them in new jersey and rhode island and other parts of the country. he had also when he was president appointed many of them into jobs in the federal government, got many federal jobs for them. but he had to do a straddling act. it was a big mistake. he didn't get anywhere. the republicans got nowhere in the south in 1912. he was free in some way, realizing the mistake he made and therefore much more openly supportive of what we call civil rights for american blacks. when he was very sick and died in january of 1919, he had been in the hospital in december and the last speech he made was in late december of 1918.
week or two before he died. wasn't very well. he got up and nevertheless made his speech in new york city for the most radical of all back leaders, w.d. dubois. so, it was interesting because he grew. taft, taft probably was fairly conventional about suffrage himself. like wilson and the early roosevelt. >> i would like to ask a question about debs and socialism. did he openly campaign as a socialist? the word socialism has become such a dirty word in american politics is that attributable on the bolshevik revolution or a dirty word back then?
>> it was always a dirty word depending on where you stood, so to speak. but, i would say, that certainly the bolshevik revolution changed it. and he was socialist. but he was not, how to put it -- the socialist party was driven by theological splits between more conservative socialists who said we should cooperate with reformers, the people far more revolutionary like big bill hayward. and debs wasn't, he didn't, he was not not -- he didn't care much for all these intellectual discussions which became quite bitter at times and saw himself as above these, this, trying to unify the party. he kept his eye on the union, unionism and often identified it with the american revolution. the man he admired most was
abraham lincoln and invoked lincoln, also washington. so that he tied to it the revolutionary tradition of the united states. socialists were quite popular. this is a period of enormous reform and, of course, as we all know, rampant capitalism which was brutally treating workers, no question about that late 19th-century, early 20th century. so the socialist party had a lot of support, quite frankly. it wasn't until later -- first of all a lot of reforms was taken over by t.r. and wilson, and then the party lost support during the war because the socialist party opposed the war but many individual socialists did not. that's pretty much all i can say there. >> well, thank you very much, james chace, for visiting the woodrow wilson center to talk about your book. please join me in thanking him for his presentation. [ applause ]
and there's a reception and opportunity to purchase the book in the foyer. thank you. if you missed any of our american history tv programming about eugene debs and the election of 1912, you'll have another chance to see it tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern time here on cspan3. and american history tv continues on friday night with programs about republican charles evan hughes, his campaign and foreign policy as an issue in that election. american history tv in prime time, each night at 8:00 p.m. eastern time on cspan3. on saturday, cspan's issue spotlight looks at police and race relations. we'll show president obama at the memorial service for five police officers shot and killed
in dallas. >> when the bullets started flying, the men and women of the dallas police, they did not flinch, and they did not react recklessly. >> and south carolina republican senator tim scott giving a speech on the senate floor about his own interactions with police. >> but the vast majority of the time, i was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or some other reason just as trivial. >> our program also includes one family's story about an enkointer with police in washington, d.c., followed by a panel with the city's police chief. >> most people get defensive if they feel like you're being offensive. so being very respectful, you know, in encounters and request if it's not a crisis, a dangerous situation, requests versus demands, those things
change the dynamics a little bit. >> police and race relations saturday at 8:00 eastern on cspan and cspan.org. did you miss any of the republican or democratic national conventions? now you can go back and watch every moment. go to cspan.org to find every speech from both conventions. at the top of the cspan.org home page, click on the democratic or republican convention. you'll find videos from each day of both conventions. you'll also find convention highlights near the spot. click on the speech you want to watch and you can clip any speech and share on social media or e-mail. cspan.org is your most comprehensive guide for finding video of any convention moment. cspan, created by cable, offered as a public service by your television provider. columbia univers