October 14, 1912 :: While on a campaign stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, former President Theodore Roosevelt is shot by saloon keeper John Flammang Schrank. The bullet hit Roosevelt in the chest pocket, which fortunately contained his steel eye glass case and a folded copy of the speech he was going to present that day entitled “Progressive Cause Greater Than Any Individual”. Roosevelt rescued the would be assasin from the mob that wanted to lynch him for his crime. Roosevelt refused to go to the hospital before he finished giving his speech – which lasted over 90 minutes. Fortunately later it was discovered that the bullet had not penetrated farther than his outer chest muscle and the bullet was left in place.
He opened his speech with the comment: “Friends, I
shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully
understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a
Text of “Progressive Cause Greater Than Any
Individual” by Theodore Roosevelt
Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t
know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more
than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see
I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the
bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The
bullet is in me now, so that I can not make a very long speech, but I will try
And now, friends, I want to take advantage of this incident
and say a word of solemn warning to my fellow countrymen. First of all, I want
to say this about myself: I have altogether too important things to think of to
feel any concern over my own death; and now I can not speak to you insincerely
within five minutes of being shot. I am telling you the literal truth when I
say that my concern is for many other things. It is not in the least for my own
life. I want you to understand that I am ahead of the game, anyway. No man has
had a happier life than I have led; a happier life in every way. I have been
able to do certain things that I greatly wished to do, and I am interested in
doing other things. I can tell you with absolute truthfulness that I am very
much uninterested in whether I am shot or not. It was just as when I was
colonel of my regiment. I always felt that a private was to be excused for
feeling at times some pangs of anxiety about his personal safety, but I can not
understand a man fit to be a colonel who can pay any heed to his personal
safety when he is occupied as he ought to be occupied with the absorbing desire
to do his duty.
I am in this cause with my whole heart and soul. I believe
that the Progressive movement is for making life a little easier for all our
people; a movement to try to take the burdens off the men and especially the
women and children of this country. I am absorbed in the success of that
Friends, I ask you now this evening to accept what I am
saying as absolutely true, when I tell you I am not thinking of my own success.
I am not thinking of my life or of anything connected with me personally. I am
thinking of the movement. I say this by way of introduction, because I want to
say something very serious to our people and especially to the newspapers. I
don’t know anything about who the man was who shot me tonight. He was seized at
once by one of the stenographers in my party, Mr. Martin, and I suppose is now
in the hands of the police. He shot to kill. He shot – the shot, the bullet
went in here – I will show you.
I am going to ask you to be as quiet as possible for I am
not able to give the challenge of the bull moose quite as loudly. Now, I do not
know who he was or what party he represented. He was a coward. He stood in the
darkness in the crowd around the automobile, and when they cheered me, and I
got up to bow, he stepped forward and shot me in the darkness.
Now, friends, of course, I do not know, as I say, anything
about him; but it is a very natural thing that weak and vicious minds should be
inflamed to acts of violence by the kind of awful mendacity and abuse that have
been heaped upon me for the last three months by the papers in the interest of
not only Mr. Debs but of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Taft.
Friends, I will disown and repudiate any man of my party who
attacks with such foul slander and abuse any opponent of any other party; and
now I wish to say’ seriously to all the daily newspapers, to the Republican,
the Democratic and the Socialist parties, that they can not, month in and month
out and year in and year out, make the kind of untruthful, of bitter assault
that they have made and not expect that brutal, violent natures, or brutal and
violent characters, especially when the brutality is accompanied by a not very
strong mind; they can not expect that such natures will be unaffected by it.
Now, friends, I am not speaking for myself at all. I give
you my word, I do not care a rap about being shot; not a rap.
I have had a good many experiences in my time and this is
one of them. What I care for is my country. I wish I were able to impress upon
my people – our people, the duty to feel strongly but to speak the truth of
their opponents. I say now, I have never said one word against any opponent
that I can not – on the stump – that I can not defend. I have said nothing that
I could not substantiate and nothing that I ought not to have said – nothing
that I – nothing that, looking back at, I would not say again.
Now, friends, it ought not to be too much to ask that our
opponents – [speaking to some one on the stage] – I am not sick at all. I am
all right. I can not tell you of what infinitesimal importance I regard this
incident as compared with the great issues at stake in this campaign, and I ask
it not for my sake, not the least in the world, but for the sake of our common
country, that they make up their minds to speak only the truth, and not to use
the kind of slander and mendacity which if taken seriously must incite weak and
violent natures to crimes of violence. Don’t you make any mistake. Don’t you
pity me. I am all right. I am all right and you can not escape listening to the
And now, friends, this incident that has just occurred –
this effort to assassinate me, emphasizes to a peculiar degree the need of this
Progressive movement. Friends, every good citizen ought to do everything in his
or her power to prevent the coming of the day when we shall see in this country
two recognized creeds fighting one another, when we shall see the creed of the
“Have-nots ” arraigned against the creed of the “Haves.” When that
day comes then such incidents as this tonight will be commonplace in our
history. When you make poor men – when you permit the conditions to grow such
that the poor man as such will be swayed by his sense of injury against the men
who try to hold what they improperly have won, when that day comes, the most
awful passions will be let loose and it will be an ill day for our country.
Now, friends, what we who are in this movement are
endeavoring to do is to forestall any such movement by making this a movement
for justice now – a movement in which we ask all just men of generous hearts to
join with the men who feel in their souls that lift upward which bids them
refuse to be satisfied themselves while their countrymen and countrywomen
suffer from avoidable misery. Now, friends, what we Progressives are trying to
do is to enroll rich or poor, whatever their social or industrial position, to
stand together for the most elementary rights of good citizenship, those
elementary rights which are the foundation of good citizenship in this great
Republic of ours.
My friends are a little more nervous than I am. Don’t you
waste any sympathy on me. I have had an A-1 time in life and I am having it
I never in my life was in any movement in which I was able
to serve with such whole-hearted devotion as in this; in which I was able to
feel as I do in this that common weal. I have fought for the good of our common
And now, friends, I shall have to cut short much of the
speech that I meant to give you, but I want to touch on just two or three of
In the first place, speaking to you here in Milwaukee, I
wish to say that the Progressive Party is making its appeal to all our fellow
citizens without any regard to their creed or to their birthplace. We do not
regard as essential the way in which a man worships his God or as being
affected by where he was born. We regard it as a matter of spirit and purpose.
In New York, while I was Police Commissioner, the two men from whom I got the
most assistance were Jacob Riis, who was born in Denmark, and Oliver Van
Briesen, who was born in Germany – both of them as fine examples of the best
and highest American citizenship as you could find in any part of this country.
I have just been introduced by one of your own men here –
Henry Cochems. His grandfathers, his father and that father’s seven brothers,
all served in the United States army, and they entered it four years after they
had come to this country from Germany. Two of them left their lives, spent
their lives, on the field of battle. I am all right – I am a little sore.
Anybody has a right to be sore with a bullet in him. You would find that if I
was in battle now I would be leading my men just the same. Just the same way I
am going to make this speech.
At one time I promoted five men for gallantry on the field
of battle. Afterward in making some inquiries about them I found it happened
that two of them were Protestants, two Catholics and one a Jew. One Protestant
came from Germany and one was born in Ireland. I did not promote them because
of their religion. It just happened that way. If all five of them had been Jews
I would have promoted them, or if all five had been Protestants I would have promoted
them; or if they had been Catholics. In that regiment I had a man born in Italy
who distinguished himself by gallantry; there was a young fellow, a son of
Polish parents, and another who came here when he was a child from Bohemia, who
likewise distinguished themselves; and friends, I assure you, that I was
incapable of considering any question whatever, but the worth of each
individual as a fighting man. If he was a good fighting man, then I saw that
Uncle Sam got the benefit from it. That is all.
I make the same appeal in our citizenship. I ask in our
civic life that we in the same way pay heed only to the man’s quality of
citizenship, to repudiate as the worst enemy that we can have whoever tries to
get us to discriminate for or against any man because of his creed or his
Now, friends, in the same way I want our people to stand by
one another without regard to differences of class or occupation. I have always
stood by the labor unions. I am going to make one omission tonight. I have prepared
my speech because Mr. Wilson had seen fit to attack me by showing up his record
in comparison with mine. But I am not going to do that tonight. I am going to
simply speak of what I myself have done and of what I think ought to be done in
this country of ours.
It is essential that there should be organizations of labor.
This is an era of organization. Capital organizes and therefore labor must
My appeal for organized labor is twofold; to the outsider
and the capitalist I make my appeal to treat the laborer fairly, to recognize
the fact that he must organize, that there must be such organization, that the
laboring man must organize for his own protection, and that it is the duty of
the rest of us to help him and not hinder him in organizing. That is one-half
of the appeal that I make.
Now, the other half is to the labor man himself. My appeal
to him is to remember that as he wants justice, so he must do justice. I want
every labor man, every labor leader, every organized union man, to take the
lead in denouncing crime or violence. I want them to take the lead in
denouncing disorder and in denouncing the inciting of riot; that in this
country we shall proceed under the protection of our laws and with all respect
to the laws, and I want the labor men to feel in their turn that exactly as
justice must be done them so they must do justice. That they must bear their
duty as citizens, their duty to this great country of ours, and that they must
not rest content unless they do that duty to the fullest degree.
I know these doctors when they get hold of me they will
never let me go back, and there are just a few things more that I want to say
And here I have got to make one comparison between Mr.
Wilson and myself, simply because he has invited it and I can not shrink from
Mr. Wilson has seen fit to attack me, to say that I did not
do much against the trusts when I was President. I have got two answers to make
to that. In the first place what I did, and then I want to compare what I did while
I was President and what Mr. Wilson did not do while he was Governor.
When I took office the Anti-Trust Law was practically a dead
letter and the Inter-State Commerce Law in as poor a condition. I had to revive
both laws. I did. I enforced both. It will be easy enough to do now what I did
then, but the reason that it is easy now is because I did it when it was hard.
Nobody was doing anything. I found speedily that the
Inter-State Commerce Law by being made more perfect could be made a most useful
instrument for helping solve some of our industrial problems. So with the
Anti-Trust Law. I speedily found that almost the only positive good achieved by
such a successful lawsuit as the Northern Securities suit, for instance, was in
establishing the principle that the Government was supreme over the big
corporation, but that by itself that law did not accomplish any of the things
that we ought to have accomplished; and so I began to fight for the amendment
of the law along the lines of the Inter-State Commerce Law, and now we propose,
we Progressives, to establish an inter-State commission having the same power
over industrial concerns that the Inter-State Commerce Commission has over
railroads, so that whenever there is in the future a decision rendered in such
important matters as the recent suits against! the Standard Oil, the sugar – no
not that – tobacco – Tobacco Trust – we will have a commission which will see
that the decree of the court is really made effective; that it is not made a
merely nominal decree.
Our opponents have said that we intend to legalize monopoly.
Nonsense. They have legalized monopoly. At this moment the Standard Oil and
Tobacco Trust monopolies are legalized; they are being carried on under the
decree of the Supreme Court.
Our proposal is really to break up monopoly. Our proposal is
to put in the law – to lay down certain requirements, and then require the
commerce commission – the industrial commission – to see that the trusts live
up to those requirements. Our opponents have spoken as if we were going to let
the commission declare what the requirements should be. Not at all. We are
going to put the requirements in the law and then see that the commission
requires them to obey that law.
And now, friends, as Mr. Wilson has invited the comparison,
I only want to say this: Mr. Wilson has said that the States are the proper
authorities to deal with the trusts. Well, about eighty per cent. of the trusts
are organized in New Jersey. The Standard Oil, the tobacco, the sugar, the
beef, all those trusts are organized in New Jersey and Mr. Wilson – and the
laws of New Jersey say that their charters can at any time be amended or
repealed if they misbehave themselves and it gives the Government – the laws
give the Government ample power to act about those laws, and Mr. Wilson has
been Governor a year and nine months and he has not opened his lips. The
chapter describing what Mr. Wilson has done about the trusts in New Jersey
would read precisely like a chapter describing the snakes in Ireland, which
ran: “There are no snakes in Ireland.” Mr. Wilson has done precisely
and exactly nothing about the trusts.
I tell you, and I told you at the beginning, I do not say
anything on the stump that I do not believe. I do not say anything I do not
know. Let any of Mr. Wilson’s friends on Tuesday point out one thing or let Mr.
Wilson point out one thing he has done about the trusts as Governor of New
And now, friends, there is one thing I want to say
especially to you people here in Wisconsin. All that I have said so far is what
I would say in any part of this Union. I have a peculiar right to ask that in
this great contest you men and women of Wisconsin shall stand with us. You have
taken the lead in progressive movements here in Wisconsin. You have taught the
rest of us to look to you for inspiration and leadership. Now, friends, you
have made that movement here locally. You will be doing a dreadful injustice to
yourselves; you will be doing a dreadful injustice to the rest of us throughout
this Union, if you fail to stand with us now that we are making this National
movement, and what I am about to say now I want you to understand if I speak of
Mr. Wilson I speak with no mind of bitterness. I merely want to discuss the
difference of policy between the Progressive and the Democratic Party and to
ask you to think for yourselves which party you will follow. I will say that,
friends, because the Republican Party is beaten. Nobody need to have any idea
that anything can be done with the Republican Party.
When the Republican Party – not the Republican Party – when
the bosses in the control of the Republican Party, the Barneses and Penroses,
last June stole the nomination and wrecked the Republican Party for good and
all; I want to point out to you nominally they stole that nomination from me,
but really it was from you. They did not like me, and the longer they live the
less cause they will have to like me. But while they do not like me, they dread
you. You are the people that they dread. They dread the people themselves, and
those bosses and the big special interests behind them made up their mind that
they would rather see the Republican Party wrecked than see it come under the
control of the people themselves. So I am not dealing with the Republican
Party. There are only two ways you can vote this year. You can be progressive
or reactionary. Whether you vote Republican or Democratic it does not make any
difference, you are voting reactionary.
Now, the Democratic Party in its platform and through the
utterances of Mr. Wilson has distinctly committed itself to the old flintlock,
muzzle-loaded doctrine of States’ rights, and I have said distinctly that we
are for the people’s rights. We are for the rights of the people. If they can
be obtained best through the National Government, then we are for National
rights. We are for the people’s rights however it is necessary to secure them.
Mr. Wilson has made a long essay against Senator Beveridge’s
bill to abolish child labor. It is the same kind of an argument that would be
made against our bill to prohibit women from working more than eight hours a
day in industry. It is the same kind of argument that would have to be made; if
it is true, it would apply equally against our proposal to insist that in
continuous industries there shall be by law one day’s rest in seven and a
three-shift eight-hour day. You have labor laws here in Wisconsin, and any
Chamber of Commerce will tell you that because of that fact there are
industries that will not come into Wisconsin. They prefer to stay outside where
they can work children of tender years, where they can work women fourteen and
sixteen hours a day, where, if it is a continuous industry, they can work men
twelve hours a day and seven days a week.
Now, friends, I know that you of Wisconsin would never
repeal those laws even if they are to your commercial hurt, just as I am trying
to get New York to adopt such laws even though it will be to New York’s
commercial hurt. But if possible I want to arrange it so that we can have
justice without commercial hurt, and you can only get that if you have justice
enforced Nationally. You won’t be burdened in Wisconsin with industries not
coming to the state if the same good laws are extended all over the other
States. Do you see what I mean? The States all compete in a common market; and
it is not justice to the employers of a State that has enforced just and proper
laws to have them exposed to the competition of another State where no such
laws are enforced. Now, the Democratic platform, and their speakers, declare
that we shall not have such laws. Mr. Wilson has distinctly declared that you
shall not have a National law prohibit the labor of children, to prohibit child
labor. He has distinctly declared that we shall not have a law to establish a
minimum wage for women.
I ask you to look at our declaration and hear and read our
platform about social and industrial justice and then, friends, vote for the
Progressive ticket without regard to me, without regard to my personality, for
only by voting for that platform can you be true to the cause of progress
through-out this Union.