Teddy Roosevelt's mayoral campaign
- Featuring Henry George.
TR's mayoral campaign:
Theodore Roosevelt ran for the office of Mayor of New York City in
1886, when he was 28 years old. He had just recently moved
permanently back to New York from his cattle ranch in Medora, North
Dakota, and was already making plans to marry Edith Kermit Carow. His
future wife did not think running for Mayor in that particular
election was a good idea, simply because they were planning to be
married in Europe less than a month after Election Day and only a few
weeks before he would need to assume office if he won.
He was running against Democrat Abram S. Hewett (son-in-law of Peter
Cooper, who had built Cooper Union in NYC) and Henry George, economist
and reformer, who had moved to NYC three years before. When he lost
the election, TR's comment was, "Well anyway, I had a bully time."
For details, see _Mornings on Horseback_ by David McCullough, and the
following - it's from a rare book that's difficult to find, so the
section is included here.
From _The Epic of New York City: A Narrative History_ by Edward Robb
Ellis (1990 Old Town Books reprint of the 1996 first edition), pp.381-383:
"The year 1886 was blotched by depression, mass unemployment, strikes,
and lockouts. Among other labor disorders, New York's streetcar
employees struck for shorter hours. While city aldermen took bribes
in exchange for franchises paying enormous profits to rapid transit
owners, the workers themselves were paid a pittance for slaving up to
16 hours a day. Most aldermen were indicted for bribery, New Yorkers
turned in anger on their public servants, and labor leaders decided to
channel the mood to their own ends. The Central Labor Union (C.L.U.),
organized in 1882, now banded together 207 separate unions,
representing 50,000 workers in New York, Brooklyn, and Jersey City.
Then, deciding to plunge into politics, the C.L.U. pledged support to
Henry George in the forthcoming mayoralty race. The Democrats
nominated Abram S. Hewitt. The Republicans picked Theodore Roosevelt.
"Thus began the most stirring campaign in the city's history,"
according to historian Allan Nevins, "for never before or since have
men of such abilitycontended for the prize." Labor leader Samuel
Gompers, who supported Henry George, said in his autobiography that
"the campaign was notable in that it united people of unusual
abilities from all walks of life." With labor trying to seize control
of America's largest city and with amateurs warring on the nation's
most powerful political machine - Tammany - the eyes of all Americans
turned toward the New York battleground.
Henry George was already famous. His classic, _Progress and Poverty_,
had been translated into German, French, Dutch, Swedish, Danish,
Spanish, Russian, Magyar (Hungarian), Hebrew, and Chinese and had sold
millions of copies. In this book George argued that rent is robbery;
that wealth is the product of labor applied to natural resources; that
interest is the part of the result of labor that is paid to capital;
and that capital is the fruit of labor, not its master. His theories
influenced tax legislation aroundthe world and colored the thinking of
people as different as Leo Tolstoy and Sun Yat-sen. In the fall of
1886 Henry George was forty-seven years old. Short, quivering with
nervous energy, his reddish hair fringing the bald spot on his head
and his strong jaw encased in a sandy beard, George was sometimes
called the little red rooster.
Abram Hewitt felt ancient and weary that election season. He was
sixty-four years old and had a white beard. The eminent son-in-law of
Peter Cooper and himself a millionaire and philanthropist, Hewitt had
served for many years in Congress and did not care to return to
Washington. Ironically, six years earlier he had employed Henry
George as a ghostwriter. Now he scorned his former hired hand,
declaring that only Abram Hewitt could save New York from socialism,
communism, anarchism, nihilism, and revolution.
Theodore Roosevelt was a mere twenty-eight years of age and only six
years out of Harvard. However, he had written three books and served
three years in the New York state legislature. An aristocrat,
Roosevelt was regarded as a maverick by his peers, who considered a
political career beneath the dignity of a gentleman. But the
thin-waisted scion, even then sporting the mustache that later
delighted caricaturists, threw himself into the campaign with cyclonic
When 34,000 laborers signed pledges to work and vote for Henry George;
when the United Labor party was organized in behalf of George; when a
priest, named Edward McGlynn, declared George to be inspired "by the
same love of justice as was taught by Christ"; when the brilliant
agnostic, attorney, and orator Robert Ingersoll called on fellow
Republicans "to show that their sympathies are not given to bankers,
corporations and millionaires," Tammany became frightened.
Richard Croker, the new boss of Tammany, sent an emissary to George,
offering a deal: If George would stay out of the mayoralty race,
Tammany would guarantee his election to Congress. George rejected the
offer and then charged that Hewitt was a captive of Tammany. Hewitt,
in turn, charged that George was a captive of radicals. The campaign
developed into a duel between George and Hewitt, with Roosevelt
largely ignored. Young Teddy tried to attract attention by shouting
about "the countless evils and abuses already existing," but some
Republicans joined Ingersoll in crossing party lines and voting for
Hewitt won the election, and Roosevelt came in a poor third.
Second-place Henry George complained that he had been cheated out of
the mayor's office by Tammany trickery. Certainly there were illegal
registrations, bribery, and manipulation of the ballot count, but
historians disagree on whether this fraud was sufficiently widespread
to throw the election to Hewitt. In any event, he gave the city an