“Mr. Roosevelt is Guilty”: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for Constitutionalism, 1910–1912
In February 1912 Theodore Roosevelt sought the Republican nomination for president on a radical platform of reform that had a devotion to the Constitution as its central plank. Such an analysis differs from the standard historical explanation for Roosevelt's challenge to the incumbent Republican president, William Howard Taft, which argues that, bored with private life after his return from big game hunting in Africa in 1910 and consumed by an obsessive pursuit of presidential power, he ran to seek revenge on the successor who had failed to live up to the mentor's hopes. By initiating anti-trust suits against US Steel and International Harvester, which Roosevelt had examined when president but had not filed suit against, and by letting the Republican Party be dominated by regulars rather than Progressives, Taft had earned Roosevelt's unyielding enmity; Roosevelt's response was to seek the presidency.1 This article argues that far more important than any personal motivation, however, was Roosevelt's conviction that the issue at stake in 1912 was in essence a crusade for constitutionalism.
Throughout Roosevelt's long career constitutional issues played a primary role in formulating his political views. This was particularly true of the period after he left the presidency in 1909 when his interpretation of the Constitution was used as a means to advance various political ends. The debate about the Constitution, one which had become deep rooted in the national psyche by the close of the first decade of the twentieth century, and the judiciary's role in its interpretation was central to Roosevelt's political philosophy.
c1 Gary Murphy is Senior lecturer in Government at the School of Law and Government, Dublin City University, Dublin, 9, Eire.