After Theodore Roosevelt lost the Republican nomination to William Howard Taft in June of 1912, he broke away from the party, and he and his supporters formed the Progressive Party. They took their name from the social movement that was sweeping the nation at that time. Many other progressives joined Roosevelt, effectively splitting the Republican Party.
On August 5, 1912, the first National Convention of the Progressive Party opened at the Chicago Coliseum, which had also hosted the Republican National Convention two months earlier. The atmosphere at the convention held a nearly religious fervor, reflecting the absolute dedication party members had to their cause.
The proceedings of the Convention describe the scene when the time came for Theodore Roosevelt to speak to the assembled delegates:
“Colonel Roosevelt entered the hall and was escorted to the platform by the committee. On arriving he was given an ovation which lasted fifty-five minutes, during which the delegates marched around the hall, and great enthusiasm was manifested. When the Chairman was able to restore order a photograph was taken of the Convention, and then the Chairman introduced Colonel Roosevelt. ‘Gentlemen of the Convention: The hour and the man, Theodore Roosevelt.’ (Applause)”
Roosevelt’s speech censured not only the other parties, but the whole political system at the time. He issued a clarion call for reform, and his audience was ready to take up arms. His two-hour speech ended with this rousing call, “We stand at Armegeddon, and we battle for the Lord.”
Address by Theodore Roosevelt before the Convention of the National Progressive Party in Chicago, August, 1912. From the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site.
To commemorate the centennial of the National Convention of the Progressive Party, the Theodore Roosevelt Association is hosting their 93rd annual meeting in Chicago this year. More information regarding this event can be found at the Annual Meeting website – TRA 2012.