Unreasonable Men: Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics
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"As Michael Wolraich argues in his sharp, streamlined new book, Unreasonable Men, it was 'the greatest period of political change in American history.'" -Washington Post, 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction
At the turn of the twentieth century, the Republican Party stood at the brink of an internal civil war. After a devastating financial crisis, furious voters sent a new breed of politician to Washington. These young Republican firebrands, led by "Fighting Bob" La Follette of Wisconsin, vowed to overthrow the party leaders and purge Wall Street's corrupting influence from Washington. Their opponents called them "radicals," and "fanatics." They called themselves Progressives.
President Theodore Roosevelt disapproved of La Follette's confrontational methods. Fearful of splitting the party, he compromised with the conservative House Speaker, "Uncle Joe" Cannon, to pass modest reforms. But as La Follette's crusade gathered momentum, the country polarized, and the middle ground melted away. Three years after the end of his presidency, Roosevelt embraced La Follette's militant tactics and went to war against the Republican establishment, bringing him face to face with his handpicked successor, William Taft. Their epic battle shattered the Republican Party and permanently realigned the electorate, dividing the country into two camps: Progressive and Conservative.
Unreasonable Men takes us into the heart of the epic power struggle that created the progressive movement and defined modern American politics. Recounting the fateful clash between the pragmatic Roosevelt and the radical La Follette, Wolraich's riveting narrative reveals how a few Republican insurgents broke the conservative chokehold on Congress and initiated the greatest period of political change in America's history.
of History 52, no. 2 (Dec. 1, 1968): 132–157. Anderson, Donald F. William Howard Taft: A Conservative’s Conception of the Presidency. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973. Anthony, Carl Sferrazza. Nellie Taft: The Unconventional First Lady of the Ragtime Era. New York: William Morrow, 2005. Arthur, Anthony. Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair. New York: Random House, 2006. Baker, Ray Stannard [David Grayson, pseud.]. American Chronicle: The Autobiography of Ray Stannard Baker. New York: C.
determine what was a reasonable rate and to enforce its decisions.” He had some ideas about how to improve the bill, but no one seemed to want to hear them. He had hoped that Roosevelt would consult him because of his legislative experience in Wisconsin, but he hadn’t received any White House invitations since the diplomatic reception. He was convinced that the President had been warned about his “dangerous and extreme” ideas.17 In late January, Lincoln Steffens came to Washington. Since
Securities Company. After Roosevelt broke up the trust, Morgan sent Mellen to the New Haven-Hartford with orders to forge a monopoly from various New England railroads and streetcar companies. In early 1906, Mellen began negotiating to acquire United Traction & Electric Company, Aldrich’s trolley company in Providence. But the trolley directors’ asking price was much too high, and Mellen pulled out of the negotiations.75 Aldrich came to Stockbridge to revive the deal. He stayed for half-an-hour.
harder, and cooperate with the Standpatters—except for Senator Foraker, whom he should “smash.” He should avoid talking about his Unitarian faith, and he should certainly not play any more golf.48 When Taft didn’t respond, Roosevelt invited Nellie to come see him in Washington, knowing how much influence she had over her husband, but he found her to be no more pliable. “I can’t imagine what Teddy wants,” Nellie wrote to her husband when she received the invitation, “but probably only to
Ballinger was only guilty of poor judgment. The congressional committee completed its investigation without taking action, and the furor died away. Nonetheless, the administration’s attempt to conceal its maneuvers took another bite from Taft’s dwindling popularity. Through all the bombardment in his first year, he had held onto his reputation for honesty. Now, even that was tainted. The investigation that he hoped would vindicate his conduct toward Pinchot instead brought him lower than ever.