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Progressive Party (United States, 1912)

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Title: Progressive Party (United States, 1912)  
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Subject: Third-party members of the United States House of Representatives, California gubernatorial election, 1914, United States presidential election, 1912, Theodore Roosevelt, United States presidential election, 1916
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Progressive Party (United States, 1912)

Progressive Party
Founded 1912 (1912)
Dissolved 1916 (1916)
Succeeded by Progressive Party, 1924, Progressive Party, 1948
Ideology Progressivism,
New Nationalism,
International affiliation None
Politics of the United States
Political parties
National Progressive Convention, 1912, in the Chicago Coliseum

The Progressive Party of 1912 was an American political party. It was formed by former President Theodore Roosevelt, after a split in the Republican Party between him and President William Howard Taft.

The party also became known as the Bull Moose Party after journalists quoted Roosevelt saying "I'm feeling like a bull moose" shortly after the new party was formed.[1]

Birth of a new party

Theodore Roosevelt was the founder of the Bull Moose Progressive Party and thus is often associated with the party.

Roosevelt left office in 1909. He had selected Taft, his [2] They became openly hostile, and Roosevelt decided to seek the presidency.

Roosevelt entered the campaign late, as Taft was already being challenged by populist Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin.

Roosevelt far outpolled Taft in the International Harvester Company — one of the trusts Taft had attacked — became its executive secretary.[5][6][7]

Roosevelt's ambitions to reclaim the Presidency suffered two setbacks in the interim.

First, not many Republicans joined his new party. Only 5 of the 15 "progressive" Republican Senators declared support for it. Republican Representatives, governors, committeemen, and the publishers and editors of Republican-leaning newspapers showed comparable reluctance. Many of Roosevelt's closest political allies supported Taft, including his son-in-law, Nicholas Longworth (though Roosevelt's daughter Alice stuck with her father, causing a permanent chill in her marriage). For men like Longworth, expecting a future of his own in Republican politics, bolting the party would have seemed tantamount to career suicide.

However, many independent reformers still signed up.

The Progressive convention and platform

Despite these obstacles, the August convention opened with great enthusiasm. Over 2,000 delegates attended, including many women. In 1912, neither the other Republican candidate, President W. H. Taft, or the Democrat's nominee Woodrow Wilson, endorsed women's suffrage on the national level.[8] The famed suffragette and social worker Jane Addams gave a seconding speech for Roosevelt's nomination. However, Roosevelt insisted on excluding African-American Republicans from The South (whom he regarded as a corrupt and ineffective element); but, he did include black delegates from all other parts of the country.[9] Roosevelt further alienated white southern supporters on the eve of the election, by publicly dining with black people at a Rhode Island hotel.[10]

Roosevelt was nominated by acclamation, with Johnson as his running mate.

The main work of the convention was the platform, which set forth the new party's appeal to the voters. It included a broad range of social and political reforms advocated by progressives.[9][11]

16-page campaign booklet with party platform of the Progressive Party

The platform's main theme was reversing the domination of politics by business interests, which allegedly controlled the Republicans' and Democrats' parties, alike. The platform asserted that: To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.[12]

To that end, the platform called for

In the social sphere the platform called for

The political reforms proposed included

The platform also urged states to adopt measures for "direct democracy", including:

Besides these measures, the platform called for reductions in the tariff, limitations on naval armaments by international agreement and improvements to inland waterways.

The biggest controversy at the convention was over the platform section dealing with trusts and monopolies such as Standard Oil. The convention approved a strong "trust-busting" plank, but Roosevelt had it replaced with language that spoke only of "strong National regulation" and "permanent active [Federal] supervision" of major corporations. This retreat shocked reformers like Pinchot, who blamed it on Perkins (a director of U.S. Steel). The result was a deep split in the new party that was never resolved.[9]

In general the platform expressed Roosevelt's "New Nationalism": a strong government to regulate industry, protect the middle class and working classes, and carry on great national projects. This New Nationalism was paternalistic in direct contrast to Wilson's individualistic philosophy of "New Freedom".

Roosevelt also favored a vigorous foreign policy, including strong military power. Though the platform called for limiting naval armaments, it also recommended the construction of two new battleships per year, much to the distress of outright pacifists such as Jane Addams.

Election of 1912

Roosevelt depicted as "concocting a heady brew in his speeches" in this 1912 political cartoon
Roosevelt and Johnson after nomination

Roosevelt ran a vigorous campaign, but the campaign was short of money, as the business interests which had supported Roosevelt in 1904 either backed the other candidates or stayed neutral. Roosevelt was also handicapped by the fact that he had already served nearly two full terms as President, and thus was challenging the unwritten "no third term" rule.

In the end Roosevelt fell far short of winning. He drew 4.1 million votes—27%, well behind Wilson's 42% but ahead of Taft's 23%. (6% went to Socialist Eugene Debs). He received 88 electoral votes, compared to 435 for Wilson and 8 for Taft.[13]

This was nonetheless the best showing by any third party since the modern two-party system was established in 1864. Roosevelt was the only third-party candidate to outpoll a candidate of an established party.

Pro-Roosevelt cartoon contrasts the Republican Party bosses in back row and Progressive party reformers in front

Many historians have concluded that the Republican split allowed Wilson to win the presidency. Others argue that even without the split, Wilson would have won (as he did in 1916).

In addition to Roosevelt's presidential campaign, hundreds of other candidates sought office as Progressives in 1912.

Twenty-one ran for governor. Over 200 ran for U.S. Representative (the exact number is not clear because there were many Republican-Progressive fusion candidacies, and some candidates ran with the labels of ad hoc groups such as "Bull Moose Republicans" or (in Pennsylvania) the "Washington Party".

On October 14, 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and still delivered his 90-minute presidential campaign speech as planned. The would-be assassin, John Flammang Schrank, claimed the ghost of William McKinley had appeared to him in a dream and ordered him to avenge his death by killing Roosevelt. Had it not been for the 50-page speech and steel eyeglass case he was carrying in his jacket, the bullet would have gone deeper into his chest and penetrated his lung. When asked if this would halter his election campaign, he said to the reporter "I'm fit as a bull moose," which inspired the party's emblem.[14]

In California, the state Republican party was controlled by governor and Roosevelt ally Hiram Johnson, the Vice-Presidential nominee, so progressives there stayed with the Republican label (with one exception).

Most of the Progressive candidates were in New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Massachusetts. Only a few were in the South.

The lesser Progressive candidates generally got between 10% and 30% of the vote. Nine Progressives were elected to the House; none won governorships.[15]

Some historians speculate that if the Progressive Party had run only the Roosevelt presidential ticket, it might have attracted many more Republicans willing to split their ballot. But the progressive movement was strongest at the state level, and, so the new party had fielded candidates for governor and state legislature. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the local Republican boss, at odds with state party leaders, joined Roosevelt's cause.

In spite of this, very few Progressives were elected to local offices; about 250. The Democrats gained many state legislature seats, which gave them 10 additional U.S. Senate seats; they also gained 63 U.S. House seats.


Despite the failure of 1912, the Progressive Party did not disappear at once. 138 candidates, including women,[16] ran for the U.S. House as Progressives in 1914, and 5 were elected. However, almost half the candidates failed to get more than 10% of the vote.[17]

Hiram Johnson was denied renomination for Governor as a Republican; he ran as a Progressive and was re-elected. Seven other Progressives ran for governor; none got more than 16%.[18]

Some state parties remained fairly strong. In Washington, Progressives won a third of the seats in the Washington State Legislature


Louisiana businessman John M. Parker ran for governor as a Progressive early in the year. (The Republican Party was deeply unpopular in Louisiana.) Parker got a respectable 37% of the vote. He was the only Progressive to run for governor that year.[19]

Later that year, the party held its second national convention, in conjunction with the Republican national convention. This was to facilitate a possible reconciliation. Five delegates from each convention met to negotiate.

The Progressives wanted reunification, but with Roosevelt as nominee, which the Republicans adamantly opposed. Meanwhile, Charles Evans Hughes, a moderate progressive, became the front-runner at the Republican convention, though opposed by many conservatives. The Progressives suggested Hughes as a compromise candidate. Then Roosevelt sent a message proposing conservative Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. The shocked Progressives immediately nominated Roosevelt again, with Parker as the Vice Presidential nominee.

Roosevelt refused to accept the nomination and endorsed Hughes, who was immediately approved by the Republican convention.[20]

The national Progressive party promptly disintegrated. Nearly all Progressives reverted to the Republican Party, including Roosevelt, who stumped for Hughes, and Hiram Johnson, who was elected to the Senate as a Republican.

Some leaders, such as Harold Ickes of Chicago, supported Wilson.

Five Progressives were elected to the House in 1916, all with joint Republican backing except Whitmell Martin of Louisiana.[21]


All the remaining "Progressives" in Congress rejoined the Republican Party, except Martin, who became a Democrat. No candidates ran as Progressives for governor, Senator, or Representative.

Later years

From 1916 to 1932 the Taft wing controlled the Republican Party and refused to nominate any prominent 1912 Progressives to the Republican national ticket. Finally, Frank Knox was nominated for Vice President in 1936.

The relative domination of the Republican Party by conservatives left many former Progressives with no real affiliation till the 1930s, when most joined the New Deal Democratic Party coalition of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Robert M. La Follette, Sr. broke bitterly with Roosevelt in 1912, and ran for President on his own ticket, the 1924 Progressive Party, in 1924.

Office holders from the Progressive Party

Position Name State Dates held office
Representative James W. Bryan Washington 1913–15
Representative Walter M. Chandler New York 1913–19
Representative Ira Clifton Copley Illinois 1915–17 as a Progressive
Representative John Elston California 1915–17 as a Progressive, 1917–1921 as a Republican
Lieutenant Governor John Morton Eshleman California 1915–17
Representative Jacob Falconer Washington 1913–15
Representative William H. Hinebaugh Illinois 1913–15
Representative Willis J. Hulings Pennsylvania 1913–15
Governor Hiram Johnson California 1911–1917
Representative Melville Clyde Kelly Pennsylvania 1917–19 as a Progressive, 1919–1935 as a Republican
Representative William MacDonald Michigan 1913–15
Representative Whitmell Martin Louisiana 1915–19 as a Progressive, 1919–1929 as a Democrat
Senator Miles Poindexter Washington 1913–15
Representative William Stephens California 1913–17
Representative Henry Wilson Temple Pennsylvania 1913–15
Representative Roy Woodruff Michigan 1913–15
State Treasurer Homer D. Call New York 1914
Mayor Louis Will Syracuse, New York 1914–16
Representative Parley P. Christensen Utah 1914–16

See also


  1. ^ Morris, Edmund. Colonel Roosevelt. (Random House Trade pbk. ed. ed.). New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks. p. 215.  
  2. ^ P.O. Box 400406 (2012-08-22). "American President: William Howard Taft: A Life in Brief". Retrieved 2012-1o. 
  3. ^ Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U. S. elections. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Inc. 1985. pp. 75, 387–388,.  
  4. ^ CQG, 1985, p. 75
  5. ^ Geisst, Charles R. (October 2003). Deals of the Century. John Wiley & Sons. p. 28.  
  6. ^ Ed. (1912). The Financial World 19. The Guenther Publishing Company. p. 1. 
  7. ^ Zinn, Howard (November 2010, revised). A People’s History of the United States. HarperCollins. p. 353.  
  8. ^ "Bull Moose years of Theodore Roosevelt by Theodore Roosevelt Association". Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  9. ^ a b c CQG, 1985, pp. 77–78
  10. ^ Baum, B.; Harris, D. (2009). Racially Writing the Republic: Racists, Race Rebels, and Transformations of American Identity. Durham: Duke University Press. p. 188.  
  11. ^ P.O. Box 400406 (2012-08-22). "American President: Theodore Roosevelt: Campaigns and Elections". Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  12. ^ By Patricia OToole Sunday, June 25, 2006 (2006-06-25). "O'TOOLE, PATRICIA, "The War of 1912," ''Time'' in partnership with CNN, Jun. 25, 2006". Retrieved 2012-01-06. 
  13. ^ CQG, 1985, pp. 295, 348
  14. ^
  15. ^ CQG, 1985, pp. 489–535, 873–879
  16. ^ "A Kansas Woman Runs for Congress". The Independent. Jul 13, 1914. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  17. ^ CQG, 1985, pp. 880–885
  18. ^ CQG, 1985, pp. 489–535
  19. ^ CQG, 1985, p. 503
  20. ^ CQG, 1985, pp. 78–79
  21. ^ CQG, 1985, pp. 886–891

Further reading

  • Epstein, David A. (2012). Left, Right, Out: The History of Third Parties in America. Arts and Letters Imperium Publications. ISBN 978-0-578-10654-0.
  • Benjamin P. DeWitt, The Progressive Movement: A Non-Partisan, Comprehensive Discussion of Current Tendencies in American Politics. New York: Macmillan, 1915.
  • John A. Gable, The Bullmoose Years: Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Party. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1978.
  • Harold Howland, Theodore Roosevelt and His Times: A Chronicle of the Progressive Movement. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1921.
  • Richard Jensen, "Theodore Roosevelt: 1912," in Encyclopedia of Third Parties. Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe, 2000.
  • Sidney M. Milkis, Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party, and the Transformation of American Democracy. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2009.
  • George E. Mowry,The Era of Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of Modern America. New York: Harper and Row, 1962.
  • Painter, Carl, The Progressive Party In Indiana," Indiana Magazine of History, vol. 16, no. 3 (Sept. 1920), pp. 173–283. In JSTOR
  • Amos Pinchot, What's the Matter with America: The Meaning of the Progressive Movement and the Rise of the New Party. n.c.: Amos Pinchot, 1912.
  • Amos Pinchot, History of the Progressive Party, 1912–1916. Introduction by Helene Maxwell Hooker. New York: New York University Press, 1958.
  • William English Walling, Progressivism — And After. New York: Macmillan, 1914.

External links

  • Bull Moose Information
  • 1912 platform of the Progressive Party
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