Teddy Roosevelt’s Liberty

The following is from Teddy Roosevelt 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 the transcript:

“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?

4 responses to “Teddy Roosevelt’s Liberty

  1. Mr. Roosevelt’s speech concerning the term ahead was quite thorough and specific to the point. I thought it was a decently written piece of work, and it stands for the good of society. He made a clear point across the table for millions of individuals. The next question being what is liberty, well I would just read the following excerpt about the oppressor and the oppressed. It makes perfect sense.

  2. Ryan Whitcomb

    Roosevelt’s speech was very descriptive but yet still made a point across as to how liberty has changed. It shows what liberty and freedom should/does mean. Liberty, to me, is the ability to be free. Though there are still limitations on freedom, we all are able to be our own person.

  3. Katie Peterson

    I actually really like his speech. It explained what he thought of liberty and how it should be dealt with. He described the importance of a good society, but showed what must be needed in order to control liberty. Although I do not fully agree with government control, I think America needs a certain amount to keep our citizens safe and under good circumstances. If we do not have laws, there would be countless problems that would occur. Liberty in my definition would be the freedom to do whatever you please, if it does not harm the good. Meaning that liberty is the freedom to speak, write, or believe in whatever you want, but if it intentionally hurts another, the law must be then added to the situation.

  4. I think that Roosevelt was saying Wilson does not have a clear vision on what he thought America needed at the time. He made it seem that Wilson was talking about liberty for people and how he could make it for them. Roosevelt thought that it is up to the people to fight for their liberty and do what they wish with it. I think liberty means that you have the power to make yourself happy and to make yourself sad. Everyone is given the same rights, the same 24 hours in the day, and most of the time the same opportunities. So, with this liberty that you are given, it is up to you to use it to your advantage and make the most of it that you can.

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