TR & Sq. Dealing

Theodore Roosevelt & Square Dealing:

Before his cousin came up with the New Deal, Teddy offered the square deal.

Lincoln Steffens, a ­reform-­minded journalist who had met Roosevelt long before his presidency, inadvertently gave the agenda its name. Steffens interviewed TR often and knew that he fancied himself a reformer too. Peeved by the caution of TR’s first year in office, Steffens tried to embarrass him into action. “You don’t stand for anything fundamental,” Steffens told him one day at the White House. “All you represent is the square deal.”

Roosevelt, plainly overjoyed, leapt out of his chair, pounded his desk, and bellowed, “That’s it. That’s my slogan: the square deal.”


TR tried to assure the bullies that the Square Deal was not socialism. He did not plan to confiscate the aces and give them to the poor, he said; he meant only to prevent crookedness in the dealing. He had no objection to men of great wealth, only to the “malefactors of great wealth,” as he would call them. He didn’t name names, but the press was soon slapping the label on J. Pierpont ­Morgan and every other tycoon who ran into trouble with the trust buster. TR also declared that he would not tolerate demagogues who incited the ­have-­nots to violence against the haves. From his presidency through his run for a third term in 1912, he would denounce class envy in one breath and in the next opine that “of all the forms of tyranny the least attractive and most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth.”
It's an interesting article from The Wilson Quarterly.

On the subject of tyrants, though, I must say that I prefer Edward Abbey's argument: "No tyranny is so irksome as petty tyranny: the officious demands of policemen, government clerks, and electromechanical gadgets." It was that sort of tyranny that drove the American revolution: not torture and secret courts, but the stamp act.

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