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Theodore Roosevelt verses Machiavelli

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  • kuniegel@verizon.net
    Some years ago while studying philosophy at the University of Scranton I had the good fortune to study both Socratic and Machiavellian philosophy. My professor
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 25, 2011

      Some years ago while studying philosophy at the University of Scranton I had the good fortune to study Socratic philosophy and Machiavellian philosophy. What follows is a quote from “The Prince”. My professor stated the following quote is a direct attack upon the practice of using Socratic philosophy. I agreed with him. I will include two quotes as a follow up by TR. The first TR is stating what ought to be done. The second is a story of a person that did what ought to be done and was destroyed.  Modern political philosophy follows Machiavellian teachings of working in the shadows of truth for self-preservation.  The story I offer seems to support TR being wrong. It is my contention that Peter Kelly and TR were absolutely correct in there assertions and actions. Would anyone wish to enter a friendly list server debate in support or against my currently unsupported assertion that TR and Kelly were correct?


      (Cover of)  "Machiavelli The Prince" (The famous analysis of statesmanship and power. This world renowned study reveals the techniques and strategy of gaining and keeping political control)


      “The Prince” (chapter 15 paragraph one)


      “For how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather learn to bring about his own ruin than his preservation. A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good. Therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case”.


      “Theodore Roosevelt and His Time” Joseph Bucklin Bishop (volume 2 chapter 34)


      " It is our duty to tell the truth.  If conditions are good, tell the truth.  If they are bad, tell the truth.  If they have been bad and become good, tell the truth.  We are told now and then that the truth would frighten our people so that they would not go on with the war.  If they are such a set of weaklings and cowards, then nothing can save us.  On the contrary, I believe that the full telling of the truth will wake the American people up to a sterner realization of the task that is before them, and therefore to a sterner resolve that, cost what it may, every deficiency shall be remedied, every wrong undone, every failure of Government officials turned into an achievement and a success, so that as speedily as possible we may harden our giant but soft and lazy strength, and exert it to the fullest degree necessary to bring the peace of liberty in this mighty conflict for civilization and the welfare of mankind." (end quote)


      Theodore Roosevelt An Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt 1913



      The story of Peter Kelly


      Peter Kelly's fate was a tragedy. He was a bright, well-educated young

      fellow, an ardent believer in Henry George. At the beginning he and I

      failed to understand each other or to get on together, for our theories

      of government were radically opposed. After a couple of months spent in

      active contests with men whose theories had nothing whatever to do with

      their practices, Kelly and I found in our turn that it really did not

      make much difference what our abstract theories were on questions that

      were not before the Legislature, in view of the fact that on the actual

      matters before the Legislature, the most important of which involved

      questions of elementary morality, we were heartily at one. We began to

      vote together and act together, and by the end of the session found that

      in all practical matters that were up for action we thought together.

      Indeed, each of us was beginning to change his theories, so that even

      in theory we were coming closer together. He was ardent and generous; he

      was a young lawyer, with a wife and children, whose ambition had tempted

      him into politics, and who had been befriended by the local bosses

      under the belief that they could count upon him for anything they really

      wished. Unfortunately, what they really wished was often corrupt. Kelly

      defied them, fought the battles of the people with ardor and good faith,

      and when the bosses refused him a renomination, he appealed from them

      to the people. When we both came up for reelection, I won easily in my

      district, where circumstances conspired to favor me; and Kelly, with

      exactly the same record that I had, except that it was more creditable

      because he took his stand against greater odds, was beaten in his

      district. Defeat to me would have meant merely chagrin; to Kelly it

      meant terrible material disaster. He had no money. Like every rigidly

      honest man, he had found that going into politics was expensive and that

      his salary as Assemblyman did not cover the financial outgo. He had lost

      his practice and he had incurred the ill will of the powerful, so that

      it was impossible at the moment to pick up his practice again; and

      the worry and disappointment affected him so much that shortly after

      election he was struck down by sickness. Just before Christmas some of

      us were informed that Kelly was in such financial straits that he and

      his family would be put out into the street before New Year. This was

      prevented by the action of some of his friends who had served with him

      in the Legislature, and he recovered, at least to a degree, and took

      up the practice of his profession. But he was a broken man. In the

      Legislature in which he served one of his fellow-Democrats from

      Brooklyn was the Speaker--Alfred C. Chapin, the leader and the foremost

      representative of the reform Democracy, whom Kelly zealously supported.

      A few years later Chapin, a very able man, was elected Mayor of Brooklyn

      on a reform Democratic ticket. Shortly after his election I was asked

      to speak at a meeting in a Brooklyn club at which various prominent

      citizens, including the Mayor, were present. I spoke on civic decency,

      and toward the close of my speech I sketched Kelly's career for my

      audience, told them how he had stood up for the rights of the people of

      Brooklyn, and how the people had failed to stand up for him, and the way

      he had been punished, precisely because he had been a good citizen who

      acted as a good citizen should act. I ended by saying that the reform

      Democracy had now come into power, that Mr. Chapin was Mayor, and that I

      very earnestly hoped recognition would at last be given to Kelly for the

      fight he had waged at such bitter cost to himself. My words created some

      impression, and Mayor Chapin at once said that he would take care of

      Kelly and see that justice was done him. I went home that evening much

      pleased. In the morning, at breakfast, I received a brief note from

      Chapin in these words: "It was nine last evening when you finished

      speaking of what Kelly had done, and when I said that I would take care

      of him. At ten last night Kelly died." He had been dying while I was

      making my speech, and he never knew that at last there was to be a

      tardy recognition of what he had done, a tardy justification for the

      sacrifices he had made. The man had fought, at heavy cost to himself and

      with entire disinterestedness, for popular rights; but no recognition

      for what he had done had come to him from the people, whose interest he

      had so manfully upheld.





      For me, Robert J. Kuniegel, I believe we can pay Theodore Roosevelt no greater honor than to debate what he may have been trying to tell us. Human nature does not change no matter how many years pass. TR constantly talks about human nature and how humans react. Can anyone try to refute or support what I believe to be a fact that he rejected Machiavellian in favor of Socratic type action? He is as relevant today as he was in his day. I think we only need to be cautious to say when making assertions about today that it is our opinion and not his but that his words and actions “seem” to point in a particular direction.


      Here is a plug for ways to use the TR research library located at TRAmericanPatriot.com. One of the nice advantages of the library is that you can download books in audio version and listen to them on a mp3 player or ipod at your leisure in a car or whenever. You can make a note if you hear something of interest and then go to the web site open the entire book in search mode and find the section of the book. You can than copy and paste that section for use in a discussion like I have done above. What say you TR fans that wish others would gain by his teachings?





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