ROOSEVELT, Theodore. Typed letter (unsigned, probably a draft) WITH VERY HEAVY REVISIONS AND ADDITIONS BY ROOSEVELT, to Ernest Brucken, Oyster Bay, Long Island, n.d. [early 1916].
6 pages, 4to, on rectos only of six sheets, a ribbon copy, with corrections, cross-outs and additions PROBABLY TOTALLING SOME 400 WORDS. Bound with 2 fine sepia-toned portraits and a complete typed transcript in red morocco gilt.
ROOSEVELT PROCLAIMS HIS DEFINITION OF "AMERICANISM" AND RAILS AGAINST "BASE POLITICIANS"," "PROFESSIONAL PACIFISTS" AND "SORDID MATERIALISTS"
Brucken, of the German-American Alliance, had written the former President in advance of an address he was to give, suggesting that German-Americans and Americans should not "be on opposite sides" in the continuing European conflict, and hinting that in the approaching election the votes of Americans of German ancestry might actually determine the outcome. A feisty T. R. responds in an exceptionally long, passionate statement.
"...You have gone to Chicago to attend a political meeting whose object is to make a great mass of our voters vote, not as Americans, but as champions of a foreign country; your alliance seeks to make Americans vote, not with regard for the interests of America but with regard to the interests of Germany..." "...For over thirty years," Roosevelt notes, "I have insisted...with all my heart and soul...that the American nation 'should be American and nothing but American now and forever' and not merely 'English or Anglo-Saxon....'" Roosevelt points to his recent book Fear God and Take Your Own Part (1916) where he had written "I do not believe in German-Americans or Irish-Americans, and...just as little in English-Americans...." We should expect, he explains, that "all of these immigrants and the sons of these immigrants...become Americans and nothing else."
But Brucken and his supporters, in attempting to establish a block of German-American voters, "are trying to make [the U.S.] a second-rate appendage of the German Empire." While "you are trying to influence the choice of the people as to who shall be President...you are not trying to elect by American votes an American President who shall be loyal only to American ideals. You are trying to elect...a President who shall be loyal to the interests of Germany," he declares.
As to the power of the German-American block, he notes that Brucken's "statement is equivalent to a threat when made to anyone whose ambition is to secure the Presidency for himself or for the party to which he belongs. Personally,...I am concerned only with the honor and the spiritual greatness and material well-being of America; I don't care a snap of my fingers about threats from German-Americans, English-Americans, or the representative of any other hyphenated Americanism; and I regard with unspeakable scorn the base politicians whose patriotism is so feeble that they will not stand up against such threats. I wish this country to stand up for its own rights and duties..." Alluding to the continuing German submarine attacks on non-military vessels, he asks, "Do you suppose that the Kaiser or Von Terpitz would for a moment have tolerated the murder of German women and children by American submarines? You know they would not let organizations like the German-American Alliance [to] have joined with professional pacifists and the sordid materialists in forcing this government to the course of abject tameness it has followed...." Roosevelt tails against the passivity of the Wilson administration in the face of submarine sinkings and the brutal German invasion of Belgium. Seeking a parallel, he quotes from an 1861 letter of the Prussian Minister protesting the American seizure of the English vessel "Trent" on the high seas during the Lincoln administration.
Whether Roosevelt ever mailed a retyped version incorporating his lengthy additions is not known. Founded in 1901, Brucken's German-American Alliance was a political lobby that sought to exert political pressure on elected officials. Even before the outbreak of World War I, the Alliance was a consistent supporter of the Kaiser and German war aims. Its rhetoric grew more strident after the May 1915 torpedoing of the British passenger liner Lusitania, with great loss of life including some 120 Americans. Roosevelt branded the Lusitania sinking "piracy on a vaster scale of murder than old-time pirates ever practiced." In speeches and magazine articles, Teddy relentlessly assailed President Wilson's policy of neutrality. The Progressive Party nominated him for President in June, a nomination he declined.