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Vermont History Explorer

On Friday, August 31, 2012, approximately 250 enthusiastic people crowded the streets of Barre to greet actor John Alexander (Teddy R.) as Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose campaign reigned again 100 years later. One woman exclaimed from the crowd, "Teddy Roosevelt for President!"

The crowd cheered throughout the speech, marveling at how timely some of the issues were for 2012. Since so many participants asked that "Teddy's" speech be published on our website, we are making it available here.

"Teddy Roosevelt" re-enactmentPhoto Credit: Bob's Camera of Barre

Many thanks for making this event happen: Bill Avery, Bellavance Trucking, Ben & Jerry's, Bob's Camera, City of Barre, Lost Nation Theater, Times Argus and the Vermont Community Foundation.

PHOTO CREDIT: Bob's Camera of Barre

My Friends, it is a very great pleasure to be here in Barre in Vermont this evening. I was driven here by the intrepid motorist from Burlington, Horatio Nelson Jackson who, just nine years ago, drove from San Francisco to New York and became the first ever to transverse this great nation in an automobile!

Friends, I have come here to Barre, the great Granite City of the Green Mountains to make my appeal for the Progressive Party. We proceed upon the assumption that the American people are fit to rule themselves and that only by them thus ruling themselves would it be possible to get real social and economic justice in this country. Now, if any man thinks that a boss can rule him better than he can rule himself, then he doesn’t belong with us.

The principles which I champion I have not come to as a result of mere study in a library. I have come to them because I have lived and toiled with men and women, because I have worked with my chums, because I know how they live and how they feel.

Some have called me a socialist. What I can say is this: in our platform we have grappled with certain of the evils with which the Socialists have striven to grasp. The difference is that we are grappling with those evils in a practical way that will cure them and Socialists are chasing will-o-the-wisps. That is the difference. That is the first difference between us and them.

And, also tomorrow, you will read in the papers that some say that I am a Socialist or I am an Anarchist. Now, Friends, listen to me tonight. I am preaching neither anarchism nor socialism. I am preaching and trying to practice the policy of a square deal to every man and woman in this republic.

I recently received a letter signed by various socialists in this city who said, among other things, that the Progressive Party has taken some planks from the socialist platform. I want to say that if anything is right, I am for it and don’t care who backs it up.

I am opposed to some of the socialists, those who preach hatred - but there are many who see existing evils and who are trying to find a solution for them. The trouble is that they are trying to take about 200 steps at once. I am in favor of taking two or three now, and then, perhaps, we will take two or three more when we can meet our needs.

We do not promise you the millennium. We do say that if you choose to put into power the old parties you will make no progress at all toward any solution. 

Here in Vermont I feel that we have a peculiar right to appeal on behalf of the Progressive Party. You men and women of Vermont represent the very type of American citizen in whom we must trust when we strive to make this Government really a Government by the people themselves in the interest of all the people and not any one class of people.

From the days of Ethan Allen to the present the people of Vermont have sustained the same character for rugged independence and for the possession of a strong individual initiative combined with the ability to cooperate one with another.

The National Progressive platform, like your own Progressive platform here in Vermont, represents radically a new departure when compared with any of the political platforms of the last 40 years. But these principles are not new. They are fundamentally the principles of Lincoln, the principles of Washington.

What is new is that we Progressives are trying in good faith to apply these principles to the actual and vital needs of the present day instead of confining ourselves to praising our forefathers for having applied them to the needs of their day.

The old parties have confined themselves to thrashing over again the old straw. There is not one particle of hope for social or economic reform contained in the triumph of either of their policies.

Each is boss-ridden and privilege controlled. Each proposes sham remedies and tries to distract attention of the people from their real needs by the empty sound and fury with which they quarrel over false issues, and they serve no other purpose than that of screens, each for its own sinister alliance of crooked politicians and crooked financiers who rule and pillage with impunity.

We shall win this fight. And my plea to you is that Vermont, the Green Mountain State, which has always stood aright in every great movement of the past, shall take the lead in standing right in this great moment.

I make an especial appeal to the farmers of Vermont. Our platform alone of the three platforms shows an intelligent purpose to deal fundamentally with the causes that are at work to harm American agriculture and to diminish the full value of life in the open country.

Another plank of the Progressive platform which goes close to my heart is the one that deals with social and industrial justice. We pledge ourselves to legislation looking to the prevention of industrial accidents and occupational diseases. We intend to deal with the problems of involuntary unemployment and of overwork. We intend to secure compensation for men or women who are killed or crippled in industry; to prohibit sweatshops, to secure a minimum wage standard for working women, and a living wage in industrial occupations. We pledge ourselves to secure one day’s rest in seven for all wageworkers, and an eight hour day in continuous twenty-four hour industries, the prohibition of night work and the establishment of the eight-hour day for women. We pledge ourselves to the abolition of the convict labor contract system, and the application of prisoners’ earning to the support of their dependent families. We recognize in all matters such as these, women are as vitally concerned as men. We recognize that there should be equality of rights between men and women, and we are therefore for equal suffrage for men and women.

I will say that there are unmarried men and unmarried women who perform service of the utmost consequence to the whole people and it is equally foolish and wicked for a man to slur the unmarried woman when he would not dream of slurring the unmarried man. 

I grew to believe in Woman Suffrage not because of associating with women whose chief interest was in woman suffrage, but because of finding that the women from whom I received the most aid in endeavoring to grapple with the social and industrial problems of the day were themselves believers in suffrage. For a long time I have been interested in such questions as the betterment of tenement house conditions, the abolition of sweat shop factories, the betterment of conditions of work and life of working girls in industry, the establishment of children’s courts, playgrounds, and putting a stop to the employment of children in factories and other like matters.

Friends, our opponents have said that I go about the country preaching discontent and class warfare. I have never in my life preached hatred of any class except the class of crooks, and I have never preached discontent with anything except that which was wrong.  I am bound to strive with all the strength there is in me to try to make conditions better, juster, and fairer and do what I can toward helping up men and women whom I see struggle painfully along because the road is needlessly hard for them. That we can make conditions of life such that it can be easier for the next man and the next woman to live their lives  under proper conditions; to earn their daily bread in such a manner that they shall bring up their children to be fit for citizenship in this great republic of ours

I feel that we have the right to ask you in Vermont to be with us in this fight. Every crook and every boss, including the bosses in your own state, is against us. Let us stand for the people, not a part of the people but for all the people. I ask you to come with us. Young and old, veterans of the Civil War who fought for Abraham Lincoln and people’s rights, we ask you to face the future and stand with us because we are standing for you and bringing near the day of social and industrial justice.

I thank you.