26th President. Typed letter signed “Theodore Roosevelt” AS PRESIDENT, December 6, 1907, The White House Washington stationery, to Elbert H. Gary from the United States Steel Corporation, in full:
I particularly value your letter. In the course of a week or so I shall ask you to come down here and take dinner with me, alone or simply with Root and Bacon, and then go over the general situation.
Mailing fold, paperclip impression at top left, else fine.
Huge TR signature as was his custom.
On December 3, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt transmitted his annual message to Congress. At more than 27,000 words, it was the longest of his presidency and among the longest delivered by any president. Although Presidents George Washington and John Adams read their annual messages to Congress in person, Thomas Jefferson felt the practice too monarchical and began a tradition of forwarding a written message to Congress that persevered until President Woodrow Wilson delivered his message in person in December 1913. Known as the Annual Message until 1946, it is now officially known as the State of the Union Address.
In his written message, Roosevelt declared that “as a rule, the business of our people is conducted with honesty and probity, and this applies alike to farms and factories, to railroads and banks, to all our legitimate commercial enterprises.” “In any large body of men, however,” the President continued, “there are certain to be some who are dishonest, and if the conditions are such that these men prosper or commit their misdeeds with impunity, their example is a very evil thing for the community.” Roosevelt admitted that “there may be honest differences of opinion as to many governmental policies,” but he was certain that “there can be no such differences as to the need of unflinching perseverance in the war against successful dishonesty.” Roosevelt went on to urge greater federal control over interstate commerce engaged in by “great business concerns.” He acknowledged that “Corporation and labor union alike have come to stay. Each if properly managed is a source of good and not evil. Whenever in either there is evil, it should be promptly held to account; but it should receive hearty encouragement so long as it is properly managed.”
On December 4, E. H. Gary, the President and Chairman of the Board of U.S. Steel, wrote to President Roosevelt, praising his recent Annual Message “as the best one ever transmitted to the two Houses of Congress” and as “able, conservative and timely.” Gary continued, “To my mind the choice of language is excellent in making it perfectly clear that you have not changed in your firm determination to protect all the interests of all the people, and that you intend to permit no injustice to any one.” Gary observed that “during the last year there have been some clouds, and even storms, in the business world (for which the President is not responsible); but it is only a question of a short time when it will be conceded generally that property and property rights are more valuable and better protected, and business methods on a better basis, for the reason that one in authority had the courage and independence to speak and act from the highest standard of right and justice.”
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.