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T. R. On The Telephone
By private wire from Oyster Bay Roosevelt angled for the 1916 Progressive and Republican nominations, but his strategy backfired and killed the Progressive party
December 1957 | Volume 9, Issue 1
Roosevelt: Now I’ll tell you, Gifford, I have purposely arranged that I would tell everything to Hiram Johnson and George Perkins. … Now you consult Hiram Johnson.
Pinchot: Now will you tell George Perkins the same thing? You cannot expect our convention to wait until Hughes makes a statement. We have got to act before that happens. You cannot keep our people here a week.
Roosevelt: Now, Gifford, take that up with Hiram Johnson and Perkins and have them make some suggestions to me.
Pinchot: All you have to do, Theodore, is to let your will be known to your managers.
Roosevelt: My will known to the managers? I am not going to dictate to that convention as if I were a Tammany chieftain. That is just what I want to avoid doing.
Pinchot: There is no question of your dictating. The convention wants to do only one thing and is afraid that plans are being put in operation to prevent it from doing so, and I want you to make it plain that those plans have not your approval, if they exist.
Roosevelt: Very good; now you mean that plans are being put in existence to secure the endorsement of Hughes if he is nominated—the endorsement of Hughes before he has made any statement. Now then, I personally will not support Hughes until I know where he stands.
Pinchot: May I quote you as to that?
Roosevelt: Yes, but you must not quote me to the newspapers.
Pinchot: Well, then, whom can I quote you to?
Roosevelt: What do you mean? Do you mean to say that you think you can quote me to the newspapers? Of course you cannot. Quote me to Hiram Johnson, to William Allen White, to Henry Allen, to George Perkins.
Pinchot: Dr. Rumely wants to speak to you for one moment.
Roosevelt: O, for the Lord’s sake! All right.
Rumely: They are having difficulty in keeping the Progressive convention from nominating you. Johnson is holding the floor now. He is saying that for two days he has been part of a strategy he did not believe in; that it is only your will that has kept him from going through with the plan he thought should be put through. If you could realize the situation in Chicago you would feel you have a much stronger hand than I think you now feel you have.
Roosevelt: I have told Hiram Johnson and I have told George Perkins that they must be in consultation. Let Hiram Johnson and George Perkins get together, and if they differ then let them come to me.
At 10:30 P.M. George B. Cortelyou, Roosevelt’s former secretary, was on the wire, speaking to Roosevelt about the meeting—then just getting under way at the Chicago Club—of the Progressive-Republican conference committee.
Cortelyou: … G. W. [Perkins] asked what I thought they should do when they went into this conference committee tonight. Neither convention can push the thing to a conclusion until the conference committee reports back that their efforts have been unavailing; any other course would be a slap in the face of the convention. They cannot go on forever. I should think that tonight there ought to be a showdown. … I should imagine G. W. would have to be guided somewhat by the statement made to him by the Republican conferees as to the line he will take. Of course he feels now that he has about got to the point where he cannot hold that Progressive crowd much longer. They meet at 10:30 tomorrow—a half hour before the other one—so that they will get into action right away unless they are controlled and unless this conference committee has something to say.
“Now, George, it’s hard to know what is best to do. What is your judgment?”
Roosevelt: My judgment is that the conference committee cannot say anything. They will have to say that they disagreed.
Cortelyou: The next question comes up after the action of the Progressive convention tomorrow. If they nominate you at once, then comes the question of whether they should complete the ticket or hold over a while to see what effect the first nomination will have.