Taft-Roosevelt Split

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TAFT-ROOSEVELT SPLIT. When Republican President William Howard Taft took office in 1909 he did so with the support of his reform-minded predecessor Theodore Roosevelt. Within a year, however, Progressive reformers in Congress complained that the administration had allied itself with the conservative Congressional establishment. The reformers, known as Insurgents and led by Senator Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin, took particular exception to Taft's controversial firing of Gifford Pinchot in January 1910. Pinchot, head of the Forest Service and a leading conservationist, had been a longtime friend of Roosevelt's and his firing became a rallying point for Progressives. On his return from a year-long trip to Africa, Roosevelt consulted with Pinchot and other Progressive leaders and plotted a political comeback. In a speech in Kansas in August 1910, Roosevelt attacked Taft's conservatism and proposed a sweeping program of reforms he called the "New Nationalism." At the 1912 Chicago convention, Roosevelt contested for the Republican nomination, but conservative party leaders defiantly renominated Taft. Outraged by the conservatives' heavy-handed tactics, Roosevelt organized the Bull Moose Progressive Party, and became its candidate for president. The split between Roosevelt and Taft allowed the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, to win the presidency with only about 42 percent of the vote.


Broderick, Francis L. Progressivism at Risk: Electing a President in 1912. New York: Greenwood, 1989.

Harbaugh, William H. The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.

Mowry, George E. Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1946.

Edgar EugeneRobinson/a. g.

See alsoBull Moose Party ; Conservation ; Conventions, Party Nominating ; Elections, Presidential: 1912 ; Progressive Movement ; Progressive Party, Wisconsin ; Republican Party .