Reports from the 1904 Republican National Convention

Jul 12, 2011

As part of their time with us, we ask our digital cataloging interns to write a blog post to share some of their experiences and “finds” while working in the Roosevelt collections. As they start to wrap up their internship hours, we will start to share their blog entries with you. Jessica from New York looks at the 1904 Republican National Convention this morning.

The area I cataloged from the Library of Congress Manuscripts Collection contains letters dating from early June 1904 through mid-July 1904. Although Theodore Roosevelt’s correspondence pertains to a variety of subjects, political and personal alike, several major events took place in the space of those two months. The Republican National Convention, held in Chicago from June 21-23, and the Democratic National Convention, held in St. Louis July 6-9, determined the presidential candidates for the 1904 election, Theodore Roosevelt and Alton B. Parker.

Since Roosevelt did not attend the Republican National Convention himself, letters poured in from various attendees reporting on all aspects of the convention. From maneuvering to ensure that George B. Cortelyou would be chosen as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee to the series of events that lead to Charles W. Fairbanks being selected as the Vice Presidential nominee, Roosevelt was kept informed throughout the duration of the meeting. Afterwards, numerous letters continued to provide Roosevelt with analysis of the proceedings and sharing joy at his nomination and the direction in which the party was heading.

Although the adoption of the Republican Party platform did not produce nearly as many letters as Roosevelt’s nomination, a few of the more interesting letters about the platform revealed a split in the party over how to deal with southern states disenfranchising potential African American voters in the south. One “plank” of the platform included a provision to fight the disenfranchisement by reducing states’ representation in Congress by the proportion of citizens excluded from voting by the laws regulating who is eligible to vote. A letter from Louis T. Michener to James Sullivan Clarkson dated June 25, 1904, forwarded to Roosevelt by Clarkson, illustrates Michener’s enthusiastic support of the idea of punishing states for discrimination.

While Michener praised this particular approach to dealing with the question of voter discrimination and in his letter hoped Roosevelt would act on this part of the platform, Attorney General William Henry Moody reminded Roosevelt that he did not believe that punishment of states was the proper course of action. In July 1904, Moody sent Roosevelt a copy of the speech in which he discusses the circumstances that lead to southern legislatures adopting their suffrage laws and explains why he believes it is wrong to punish southern states with decreased representation:

Congress has no moral right, even if it has the power, to accept the disenfranchisement of citizens of the United States in defiance of the Constitution, and base upon that disenfranchisement a reduction of representation. In such a case the plain duty is to vindicate the violated constitution in the courts or elsewhere, rather than to share in the guilt of disobedience by profiting by it.

Moody believed that if representation reduction should only be used if it was applied to all states that denied a portion of male citizens voting rights and then, only after any practices that discriminated by race were eliminated.

This is just one of the issues discussed after the Republican National Convention as the party planned strategies for the 1904 presidential election.

Jessica received her MLS from C.W. Post’s Palmer School of Library and Information Science and works in a local history repository and museum on Long Island.

Posted by Jessica Ruppert on Jul 12, 2011 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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