Unreasonable Men: Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics

Unreasonable Men: Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics

Michael Wolraich

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 023034223X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


"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.

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the ubiquitous John Fitzgerald filibustered it on the last day of the session. Cannon allowed repeated interruptions and multiple roll calls to sidetrack the vote until it was almost noon, leaving no time to pass the bill. Its supporters surrendered, and “one of the dearest requests of President Taft” expired to the sound of Democrats cheering. Even so, the clock had to be set back half an hour before the House finished its business. It was nearly 12:30 when Cannon delivered his final

Gym” (Madison, Wisconsin), 1–3, 18 Reed, Thomas Brackett, 71 Republican National Convention 1904, 1–29, 221 1908, 126–9 1912, 232–8 Reynolds, James Bronson, 69–70, 82–3. See also Neill-Reynolds report Rockefeller, John D., 11, 25–6, 101, 140 Rockefeller, John D. Jr., 40 Roosevelt, Edith, 19, 55–6 Roosevelt, Franklin D., 89, 256 Roosevelt, Kermit, 25, 62, 68, 73, 121, 182, 249, 252 Roosevelt, Theodore Africa trip, 149, 173, 181–2, 195, 206 African-Americans and, 84–5, 90, 242 Nelson

correct specific instances of rate discrimination between competing shippers, but it would do little to reduce overall shipping rates. He believed that the railroads were gouging customers across the board, generating tremendous profits for shareholders at the expense of ordinary consumers who had to pay inflated prices for goods due to high shipping costs. The Dolliver-Hepburn bill, he argued, “never touched the heart of the matter, namely, whether the commission should be given the power to

distinguished Senator from Rhode Island, who is the chairman of the Committee on Finance, what he thinks of the wisdom and expediency, in order that it may not be delayed, of a commission to investigate and to inquire into and give Congress the benefit of its deliberations upon this very grave subject.” Aldrich rose and replied, “Mr. President, the bill before the Senate is a bill to provide an emergency currency for use whenever emergencies arise. It does not undertake to treat the general

The railroad man offered to put him in touch with some colleagues who would give him some dirt on the governor. A few weeks later, Steffens slipped up to Milwaukee to interview them.36 “He’s a fanatic,” charged a corporate attorney, “and the way that man goes around spreading discontent is a menace to law, property, business, and all American institutions. If we don’t stop him here he will go out and agitate all over the United States. We’re getting him now; you’ll get him next. That man must be

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