Theodore Roosevelt 1906 Typed Letter Signed as President – “What A Corker Root Is, Isn’t He?”


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26th President.  Typed letter signed “Theodore Roosevelt” AS PRESIDENT, November 5, 1906, The White House Washington stationery, to Elbert H. Gary from the United States Steel Corporation, in full:

Many thanks for your letter.  Of course Root and I went over his speech word by word, and where he said he was authorized to speak he meant just exactly that – just exactly that he was authorized to use the very words he did.  What a corker Root is, isn’t he?

Mailing fold, else fine.

Huge TR signature as was his custom.

On November 1, 1906, Secretary of State Elihu Root delivered a speech at a mass meeting in Utica, New York, in which he denounced Democratic candidate for Governor of New York, William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951). “I say to you with President Roosevelt’s authority,” Root said, “that he regards Mr. Hearst as wholly unfit to be governor, as an insincere, self-seeking demagogue, who is trying to deceive the workingmen of New York by false statements and false promises; and I say to you, with his authority, that he considers that Mr. Hearst’s election would be an injury and a discredit alike to honest labor and to honest capital, and a serious injury to the work in which he is engaged of enforcing just and equal laws against corporate wrong-doing.” Root went on to declare that Hearst incited people like President McKinley’s assassin to hatred and violent acts. In contrast, Root praised Republican candidate Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948), describing him as “the most conspicuous and fit representative” of Roosevelt’s agenda “in this state.”

The following day, E. H. Gary, the President and Chairman of the Board of U.S. Steel, wrote to President Roosevelt from New York, “You have a habit of rising to occasions at the right time and in the right way; and points in the address of Secretary Root last evening…will have a marked and deciding influence on the political situation here.” He continued by praising as “splendid” the addresses that Roosevelt had delivered since they last corresponded. “I do not think,” Gary wrote, “any one can reasonably disapprove of anything you have ever said or done against the wrongs that have been connected with capital or corporations, because it has been evidence that it was the wrong and not the individual you attacked, and because also you have been just as pronounced in your words and actions against wrongful practices by the poor man or the laboring man. Your entire fairness to all classes has won my respect and admiration and confidence.”

President Roosevelt responded to Gary’s praise with this letter, acknowledging that Root spoke for him because they went over Root’s speech “word by word.” Hughes went on to win the election on November 6, with 50.5 percent of the vote to Hearst’s 46.6 percent. Roosevelt had played a direct role in gaining the Republican nomination for Hughes, and his support was critical to Hughes’ victory.

Elbert Henry Gary (October 8, 1846 – August 15, 1927) was an American lawyer, county judge and corporate officer. He was a key founder of U.S. Steel in 1901, bringing together partners J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and Charles M. Schwab. The city of Gary, Indiana, a steel town, was named for him when it was founded in 1906. Gary, West Virginia was also named after him. When trust busting President Theodore Roosevelt said that Gary was head of the steel trust, Gary considered it a compliment. The two men communicated in a nonconfrontational way, unlike Roosevelt’s communications with leaders of other trusts.

Gary served as chairman of the board of America’s first billion-dollar corporation, from the company’s founding in 1901 until his death in August 1927. In November 1904, with a government suit looming, Gary approached President Roosevelt with a deal: cooperation in exchange for preferential treatment. U.S. Steel would open its books to the Bureau of Corporations; if the Bureau found evidence of wrongdoing, the company would be warned privately and given a chance to set matters right. Roosevelt accepted this “gentlemen’s agreement” because it met his interest in accommodating the modern industrial order while maintaining his public image as slayer of the trusts.