Gifford Pinchot, chief of the U.S. Forest Service, accused Interior Secretary
Richard Ballinger of colluding with coal companies to plunder federal reserves
in Alaska. President Taft fired Pinchot for insubordination, angering many
progressive Republicans who considered it an assault on the environmental
conservation legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, Taft’s predecessor. Ballinger
was exonerated by a congressional committee, but resigned in March 1911, citing
Sponsored by Republican James Mann of Illinois and Republican Senator Stephen
Elkins of West Virginia, the law strengthened the authority of the Interstate
Commerce Commission (ICC) to set maximum rates charged by railroads. It
also prohibited higher rates for short hauls, and placed telegraph and telephone
companies under ICC regulations.
Sponsored by Republican James Mann of Illinois, the federal statute banned and
imposed heavy penalties on the transportation of women across state lines for
immoral purposes (e.g., prostitution).
Marines in Nicaragua:
In October 1909, a rebellion arose against Nicaraguan dictator Jose Santos
Zelaya. When two Americans were executed for aiding the rebels, President
Taft severed diplomatic relations with Nicaragua and sent in the U.S. Marines.
A new government, which was friendlier to American interests in the country,
took power in August 1910.
Democrats won control of the U.S. House for the first time since the election of
1894, and elected six governors, including Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey.
Progressive Republicans also did better than their conservative GOP
Marines in Nicaragua:
In May 1911, another revolt in Nicaragua placed Adolfo Diaz in power. The
country’s economic chaos and military fighting escalated, prompting President
Taft to send in the U.S. Marines in August 1912 to support the government.
Meeting at the Chicago Coliseum on June 18-22, the raucous event ended with the
party divided into two factions. The Credentials Committee awarded 235 of
254 contested delegates to President Taft, infuriating challenger Theodore
Roosevelt and his supporters. Most of the former president’s credentialed
delegates refused to participate in the rest of the convention, allowing Taft to
win renomination by a large margin, with 561 votes to 107 for Roosevelt and 41
for Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. Vice President James Sherman
was renominated. Roosevelt announced his plan to form a third party.
Meeting in Baltimore on June 25-July 2, the closely contested presidential
nomination finally went to Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey on the 46th
ballot. He defeated Speaker of the House Champ Clark of Missouri, the
former frontrunner, Congressman Oscar Underwood of Alabama, and Governor Judson
Harmon of Ohio. Wilson’s victory was helped by William Jennings Bryan’s
endorsement on the 14th ballot and secured by negotiations between
Wilson’s managers and various state party bosses. One of the deals
resulted in the nomination of Governor Thomas R. Marshall of Indiana for vice
Meeting at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall on August 5-7, the Progressive Party chose
Theodore Roosevelt as its presidential nominee and Governor Hiram Johnson of
California as its vice-presidential nominee. In giving a seconding speech
for Roosevelt’s nomination, social reformer Jane Addams became the first woman
to address a major party convention. Roosevelt broke tradition by
delivering his acceptance speech at the convention. He called for sweeping
political, judicial, economic, and social reforms, and ended by declaring, “We
stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.”
On November 5, 1912, Woodrow Wilson became the first Democrat elected president
in 20 years. He received a large majority of Electoral College votes, 435
to Roosevelt’s 88 and Taft’s 8. However, he only won a plurality of the
popular vote, 42% to Roosevelt’s 27%, Taft’s 23%, and Socialist Eugene Deb’s 6%.
The Democrats remained the majority party in the U.S. House, with 291 seats to
127 for Republicans and 14 for Progressives, and gained control of the U.S.
Senate, with 51 Democrats to 44 Republicans and 1 Progressive.