Theodore Roosevelt embarked upon a strenuous campaign in the fall of 1912. He traversed the nation, giving speeches and promoting the Progressive Party platform. It was an exhausting enterprise, and Roosevelt was beginning to wear out by the beginning of October. In a letter to his son Kermit, dated October 11, 1912, TR is very candid about how he feels the campaign is going.
Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Kermit Roosevelt, October 11, 1912. MS Am 1541.1 (91). Houghton Library. Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.
This insightful letter proves that Roosevelt was aware of his prospects for the election. He “doubt[s] there has ever been a more infamous campaign of falsehood and slander” than the one waged against him. He states that “the odds in Wilson’s favor are so enormous that I do not see how they can be overcome. However, I shall fight just as hard as I know how up to the last minute.” Although he recognizes that the likelihood of victory is dim, Theodore Roosevelt is not one to give up.
This attitude is tested a few days later when TR is shot on his way to give a speech in Milwaukee, WI. After taking a bullet in the chest, Roosevelt refuses to acquiesce to the advice of his doctors and carries on as was described in an earlier post. He famously pronounces that “it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” The reason for his resolve is clarified in another letter to Kermit, this one written from the hospital on October 19, 1912.
Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Kermit Roosevelt, October 19, 1912. MS Am 1541.1 (92). Houghton Library. Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.
TR writes, “I am a great hand to think possible contingencies out in advance, and I had always determined that if I was shot when I was about to make a speech or anything of the kind I should go on with the speech or whatever I was doing, because two or three hours always elapse before a man is so incapacitated by a wound as to make it physically impossible for him to do his work.” This statement not only displays Roosevelt’s foresight, but also his tenacity. When faced with a desperate situation, he held to the plan he had devised much earlier. Although TR did not win the election of 1912, he saw the campaign through to the end, even with a bullet permanently lodged in his chest.