Election of 1904, Teddy Roosevelt has been busy for the last several years as the acting president after McKinley’s death, but now he’s looking to win the up-and-coming election on his own terms… let’s get into it.
The Progressive President
Following the assassination attempt and later death of William McKinley just months after winning a second term in the election of 1900, Theodore Roosevelt (who was McKinley’s VP at the time) was sworn in as the 26th president of the United States and becoming the youngest person to ever be president at just 42 years old.
While most commander and chiefs take their time when it comes to getting stuff done in their first 100 days never mine their first term, Roosevelt wasn’t like most presidents as he made a sweeping amount of change upon entering the White House like regulating monopolies with the help of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, installing laws that supported conservation whilst creating national parks and he even helped in the construction of what would later be the Panama Canal which was a key part of overseas trading for the United States.
Roosevelt also expanded the size of the navy while also playing a crucial part in ending the Russo-Japanese War making him the first president to win a Nobel Peace Prize in the process among other impressive achievements.
In short, Roosevelt was very popular and he looked determined to get win the 1904 election in order to win an official term as president. However, many Republicans didn’t like Roosevelt for his progressive policies and they tried to get McKinley’s campaign manager and then Senator of Ohio, Mark Hanna to run against the incumbent.
Unfortunately for the pro-business side of the Republican Party, Mark Hanna died from complications of Typhoid Fever in February of 1904 and no serious contender had enough influence to go against the president, so Roosevelt got the nomination with Charles Fairbanks, a pro-business Senator from Indiana as his running mate in order to pacify the conservatives within the Republican Party.
Roosevelt’s platform in this election saw him and Fairbanks run on the ideas of protective tariffs, continuing to run on the Gold Standard and supporting international trade and finally promoting Roosevelt’s accomplishments regarding his domestic and foreign policies.
So, that’s the Republican ticket in 1904, now let’s see who the Democrats will nominate as their candidates for this election.
Choosing the Nominee
After his two previous losses for the presidency, William Jennings Bryan decided not to run for a third time and some of the pro-business Democrats tried to get Grover Cleveland to run for the presidency a fourth time, but he refused which was probably for the best as his health wasn’t in the best shape anyway and he would end up dying in June of 1908.
A slew of other names ran for the party’s nomination but none of them could really excite the base or even win the general election. One name that did have promise was William Randolph Hearst, the famous newspaper magnate and U.S. Representative from New York who garnered some support from the progressive wing of the party but, Bryan himself didn’t endorse Hearst.
Eventually, another name emerged to run for the party’s nomination in the form of Alton B. Parker who was the Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals and a very pro-business Democrat who even was popular with many conservatives in the Republican Party.
While Parker didn’t actively seek the nomination, he threw his name in the race thanks to the help of his mentor and former Governor and Senator of New York, David Hall who had previously ran for the party’s nomination in 1892 but lost.
Thanks to the support of many Bourbon Democrats within the party, Alton Parker became the nominee with Henry Davis who was a coal and railroad owner from West Virginia as his running mate; At the age of 80 years old, Davis was the oldest man to ever be nominated for a major party’s presidential ticket.
Alright, we have a pro-business Democrat running against a progressive Republican for the presidency but before we go into the campaigns and the issues of the day, let’s take a look at the third-party candidates because there are some interesting names running this time around.
Third Party Candidates
While the election of 1904 wasn’t as spirited as the previous two (more on that in a little bit), it did see a whole lot of third party’s run with at least four of them standing out in particular.
The first one is Eugene Victor Debs, a former union leader from Indiana who became known for his participation in the Pullman Strike of 1894 and had actually ran for president in the election of 1900 but got less than 1% of the popular vote, however his support had got stronger since the last election and his hoping to do much better this time around with the newly created Socialist Party of America.
Next up was Silas Swallow, a Methodist preacher from Pennsylvania who ran with the Prohibition Party with a lumberman and oilman from Texas named George Washington Carroll as his running mate.
Thomas E. Watson, a former Senator and U.S. Representative from Georgia and longtime member of the Populist Party decided to run for president despite the popularity of the party falling into decline over last several years.
Finally, there was George Edwin Taylor who was a journalist and social activist from Little Rock, Arkansas who ran with the National Negro Liberty Party which ran on a platform of ending Jim Crow laws, anti-lynching, giving pensions to former slaves and an anti-imperialist foreign policy.
The party initially was going to nominate a man by the name of William Thomas Scott as their nominee, but he was arrested for failing to pay a fine that he had back in 1901, so the party decided to go with Taylor instead as their candidate.
While Taylor and the National Negro Liberty Party got less than all the other candidates due to the fact that many states refuse to put his name on the ballot because of his race, in fact the amount of votes he got wasn’t even recorded). Despite this, he does stand out for being the first African American to actually run for president in American history, So those are all the third parties taken care of, now let’s talk about the campaigns between Roosevelt and Parker.
As I mentioned briefly, the campaigning between Alton Parker and Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t too spirited which is due to the fact that both men agreed on similar issues regarding the gold standard, labour unions and supporting the Filipino community.
Both men were also the polar opposite of what their party stood for at the time with Roosevelt being a reform-minded progressive in a party that was mostly pro-business and Parker being a pro-business conservative in a party that was quickly becoming more progressive and anti-monopoly.
While Roosevelt’s whole perception of being a trust buster is still remembered today, he actually played well with the business communities as many of them including the insurance companies heavily funded his campaign in 1904, plus Roosevelt regulated most monopiles rather than destroying them.
While Parker was also funded by some in the business community, he had a few things working against him like a lack of support from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, a speech he gave criticizing Roosevelt’s foreign policy backfired on the campaign trail and his personality was seen as boring and uninteresting compared to the charismatic Roosevelt.
Now that the campaigns and the issues have been discussed, let’s look at the results.
The electoral votes needed to win in this election has gone up since the 1900 election as you only need 239 or more votes to win this race. As you can see from the map above Theodore Roosevelt easily won, remaining the 26th president of the United States with 336 electoral votes and 56.4% of the popular vote compared to Alton B. Parker’s 140 electoral votes and 37.6% of the popular vote.
Eugene V. Debs came in third place with 3% of the popular vote, in fourth place Silas Swallow with 1.9% and in fifth place Thomas Watson with 0.8%.
Teddy Roosevelt won 32 states to Parker’s 13, and he even won the state of Missouri which hadn’t voted for the Republicans since 1868; Roosevelt’s margin of victory in the popular vote was 18.8% which was the highest in American history since the uncontested election of James Monroe in 1820.
And that’ll do it for the election of 1904, Theodore Roosevelt has won the presidency in his own right and his looking to continue his progressive policies as we headed in 1908, where a familiar face returns to take another crack at the White House.
The Election of 1900: William McKinley vs. William Jennings Bryan
The Election of 1896: William McKinley vs. Williams Jennings Bryan
The Election of 1892: Grover Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison vs. James B. Weaver
The Election of 1888: Grover Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison