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President Theodore Roosevelt Responds to Praise from U.S. Steel President About Annual Message
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I particularly value your letter.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT. Typed Letter Signed, to Elbert Henry Gary, December 6, 1907, Washington, D.C. On “The White House” letterhead. 1 p., 7-1/8 x 8-7/8 in.

Inventory #26174.07       Price: $450

Complete Transcript

The White House.


                                                                        December 6, 1907.

My dear Judge Gary:

            I particularly value your letter. In the course of a week or so I shall ask you to come down here and take dinner with me, alone or simply with Root and Bacon,[1] and then go over the general situation.

                                                                        Sincerely yours,
                                                            Theodore Roosevelt

Hon. E. H. Gary,
United States Steel Corporation,
New York.


Historical Background
On December 3, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt transmitted his annual message to Congress. At more than 27,000 words, it was the longest of his presidency and among the longest delivered by any president. Although Presidents George Washington and John Adams read their annual messages to Congress in person, Thomas Jefferson felt the practice too monarchical and began a tradition of forwarding a written message to Congress that persevered until President Woodrow Wilson delivered his message in person in December 1913. Known as the Annual Message until 1946, it is now officially known as the State of the Union Address.

In his written message, Roosevelt declared that “as a rule, the business of our people is conducted with honesty and probity, and this applies alike to farms and factories, to railroads and banks, to all our legitimate commercial enterprises.” “In any large body of men, however,” the President continued, “there are certain to be some who are dishonest, and if the conditions are such that these men prosper or commit their misdeeds with impunity, their example is a very evil thing for the community.” Roosevelt admitted that “there may be honest differences of opinion as to many governmental policies,” but he was certain that “there can be no such differences as to the need of unflinching perseverance in the war against successful dishonesty.” Roosevelt went on to urge greater federal control over interstate commerce engaged in by “great business concerns.” He acknowledged that “Corporation and labor union alike have come to stay. Each if properly managed is a source of good and not evil. Whenever in either there is evil, it should be promptly held to account; but it should receive hearty encouragement so long as it is properly managed.”

On December 4, E. H. Gary, the President and Chairman of the Board of U.S. Steel, wrote to President Roosevelt, praising his recent Annual Message “as the best one ever transmitted to the two Houses of Congress” and as “able, conservative and timely.” Gary continued, “To my mind the choice of language is excellent in making it perfectly clear that you have not changed in your firm determination to protect all the interests of all the people, and that you intend to permit no injustice to any one.” Gary observed that “during the last year there have been some clouds, and even storms, in the business world (for which the President is not responsible); but it is only a question of a short time when it will be conceded generally that property and property rights are more valuable and better protected, and business methods on a better basis, for the reason that one in authority had the courage and independence to speak and act from the highest standard of right and justice.”

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) was born in New York City, graduated from Harvard University in 1880, and attended Columbia Law School. He served in the New York State Assembly from 1882 to 1884, and as president of the New York City Police Commissioners in 1895 and 1896, then as Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1897 to 1898. After service in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, he won election as Governor of New York and served from 1899 to 1900. He ran as Vice President to William McKinley in 1900 and became President in September 1901, when McKinley was assassinated. Reelected in 1904, Roosevelt was President until 1909. A prolific author and naturalist, Roosevelt was instrumental in the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century, helped preserve the nation’s natural resources, and extended American power throughout the world with a focus on a modern navy. In 1912, he again sought the Republican nomination for President, but when the convention chose incumbent William Howard Taft, Roosevelt formed the Progressive Party and outpolled Taft in the general election. The Republican division allowed Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the presidency.

Elbert Henry Gary (1846-1927) was born in Illinois and graduated first in his class from the Union College of Law (Northwestern University School of Law) in 1868. He began to practice law in Chicago in 1871 and also co-founded a bank with his uncle. He served as a county judge from 1882 to 1890, and as mayor of Wheaton, Illinois, in the 1890s. He served as president of the Chicago Bar Association in 1893-94. In 1898, he became president of the Federal Steel Corporation in Chicago and retired from the practice of law. Two years later, Gary moved to New York City, where he and J. P. Morgan collaborated to found the U.S. Steel Corporation. Gary served as chairman of the board of America’s first billion-dollar corporation from 1901 until his death and as president from 1903 to 1911. In 1904, Gary offered President Theodore Roosevelt a deal. U.S. Steel would open its books to the Bureau of Corporations, but if the Bureau found evidence of wrongdoing, it would warn the corporation privately and give it an opportunity to remedy the situation. Roosevelt accepted the “gentlemen’s agreement.”

[1] Elihu Root (1845-1937) served as Secretary of State under President Theodore Roosevelt from July 1905 to January 1909. Robert Bacon (1860-1919) served as Assistant Secretary of State from October 1905 to January 1909, when he succeeded Root as Secretary of State for five weeks until the end of Roosevelt’s term.

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