Clip from the Past: Teddy Roosevelt

The following is a recording of Teddy Roosevelt from 1912 who was looking for a third term as President against sitting President William Taft (R) and New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson (D).  Roosevelt was running as a Bull Moose candidate in 1912.

Here is a transcript of the recording:

“The difference between Mr. Wilson and myself is fundamental. The other day in a speech at Sioux Falls, Mr. Wilson stated his position when he said that the history of government, the history of liberty, was the history of the limitation of governmental power. This is true as an academic statement of history in the past. It is not true as a statement affecting the present. It is true of the history of medieval Europe. It is not true of the history of 20th century America. In the days when all governmental power existed exclusively in the king or in the baronage and when the people had no shred of that power in their own hands, then it undoubtedly was true that the history of liberty was the history of the limitation of the governmental power of the outsider to possess that power. But today the people have, actually or potentially, the entire governmental power. It is theirs to use and to exercise if they choose to use and to exercise it. It offers the only adequate instrument with which they can work for the betterment, for the uplifting of the masses of our people. The liberty of which Mr. Wilson speaks today means merely the liberty of some great trust magnate to do that which he is not entitled to do. It means merely the liberty of some factory owner to work haggard women over hours for underpay and himself to pocket the proceeds. It means the liberty of the factory owner to crowd his operatives into some crazy death trap on the top floor where, if fire starts, the slaughter is immense. It means the liberty of the big factory owner who is conscienceless and unscrupulous to work his men and women under conditions which eat into their lives like a maggot. It means the liberty of even less conscientious factory owners to make their money out of the toil, the labor of little children. Men of this stamp are the men whose liberty would be preserved by Mr. Wilson. Men of this stamp are the men whose liberty would be preserved by the limitation of governmental power. We propose on the contrary to extend governmental power in order to secure the liberty of the wage worker, of the men and women who toil in industry, to save the liberty of the oppressed from the oppressor. Mr. Wilson stands for the liberty of the oppressor to oppress. We stand for the limitation of his liberty thus to oppress those who are weaker than himself. ”

What is your take on Roosevelt’s speech?  What is your definition of liberty?

7 responses to “Clip from the Past: Teddy Roosevelt

  1. Katelyn Mategrano

    Roosevelt was reaching out to the people who worked in factories and addressing the issues of working conditions. He believes factory workers are not given any liberties and wants to be able to give them liberties. liberty has a variety of definitions i see liberty as being able to choose your own path in life.

  2. Roosevelt was talking about the factory workers. He was talking about the working conditions and how the owners of these factory workers don’t care about the workers. The workers work in unsafe, low pay, And hard work. He wS being a voice for the under dogs. Liberty is the ability to have chooses and be able to better yourself.

  3. My definition of liberty is freedom. Roosevelt believes that workers should have the freedom to make the choices they want. He believes everyone should be free to make their lives better.

  4. My definition of liberty is what Roosevelt said about us having access to the government and being able to exercise our rights, that is the ultimate freedom for some people. Even though he was referring to factory workers, his message can be applied to us, just as we are. We take our liberty for granted sometimes, knowing whats going on in different countries.

  5. Roosevelt took Wilson’s use of the word liberty, from monarchs to a republic, and related it to the theme of labor struggle during that time period. Roosevelt used the analogy of the factory owner that was a tyrant oppressing workers, like a mad king forcing them in unhealthy working environments. Roosevelt catered to the labor audience and incorporated current events of that time period such as the fire comment and mentioning women because of the Triangle Fire of 1911 (NY). However it is ironic because women couldn’t even vote at that time.

  6. Roosevelt wanted the workers to have the liberty to do as they choose. My definition of Liberty would be freedom of oppression. I do not, however, believe that Liberty truly exist. I believe that every person is a slave to something, whether it’s a job or a person. I do not believe that any person is truly free.

  7. Christopher Gaona

    Teddy Roosevelt takes Woodrow Wilson’s statement and flips it to criticize Wilson’s stance on the American worker. Although Wilson was trying to give his take on the limitation of government, Roosevelt takes the statement to say on the contrary if you support this you also support the abuse of the thousands of factory workers. My definition of liberty is having my rights protected, my property respected and not being molested.

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