Theodore Roosevelt 1915 Typed Letter Signed – “Not Using The Hard Language Of Which You Complain”


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26th President.  Typed letter signed (TLS) “Theodore Roosevelt”, April 10, 1915, “Oyster Bay / Long Island, N.Y.” stationery, to “Rev. Dr. W.S. Rainsford” in Camden, South Carolina, in full:

That’s an awfully nice letter!  I must thank you for it and I am going to try to show my appreciation by not using the hard language of which you complain any more!  It is awfully difficult to strike the just middle between the sappy refusal ever to condemn wrong in the concrete, which is one of the failings of our public men, and the overstrained violence that defeats its own ends. 

TR adds a small handwritten line at the end of the text, which appears to state:  “well as can be”.

The original recipient adds pencil notes at top explaining what provoked this response from Roosevelt.

William Stephen Rainsford (October 30, 1850 − December 17, 1933) was the rector of St. George’s Church in Stuyvesant Square in New York from 1882 to 1906.  He was a longtime correspondent with Roosevelt.

Folds, toning, several darker spots.

In his autobiography The Story of A Varied Life:  An Autobiography, Rainsford discusses this very letter.  He writes:

In 1915 there was the Barnes trial, and I felt called to write a letter to my leader that I was sure no one among his many friends would venture to write.  Not that I was intimate with him as were some others, but that, ever since he had been Governor of the State, I had consistently tried to help him in the only way I could, by letting him see what enemies or half-hearted friends were saying or doing.  From experience I know well that this sort of help is the hardest to get or to give, and is often misunderstood and resented.  But by now I knew that my friend knew that I might be stupidly mistaken or wrong-headed, but that I loved and honoured him.  The only thing in my letter I here briefly state:

You are going to meet a hostile crowd.  Your enemies will be there.  They will catch at any opportunity to hurt you.  They will do what they can to make you appear to the world to be the sort of man they have always declared you to be.  You know what they accuse you of being.  Let me remind you.  As you face them remember it will:

(Then, categorically, I named three popular accusations.)

(1) You call all men who differ from you liars.

(2) You want everything for yourself.

(3) You never admit you are wrong.

The answer touched me to the heart.  It is humble and beautiful and true.  It should find, it will find, a place in the history, at some future day to be written, of Theodore Roosevelt.

Roosevelt spent April 19, 1915 through May 22, 1915 in Syracuse, New York while on trial in a libel suit.  The outspoken Roosevelt had called New York Republican Chairman William Barnes “a political boss of the most obnoxious type.” Barnes sued for libel. The trial was moved from Albany to Syracuse after Roosevelt complained he could not get a fair trial in the state capital. The trial took place in the Onondaga County Courthouse. It went on for more than five weeks. Roosevelt was on the stand for nine days.  The judge ruled in Roosevelt’s favor.