The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 80, July 1976 - April, 1977

Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the
Disputed Delegates in 1912: Texas as a Test Case
LEWIS L. GOULD*
THE CONTEST BETWEEN THEODORE ROOSEVELT AND WILLIAM HOWARD
Taft for the Republican nomination in 1912 was a pivotal event in
the history of the GOP. Accordingly, scholars have devoted extended at-
tention to the bitter primary contests in which two one-time political com-
rades exchanged insults and mud. Vivid accounts of the Republican Na-
tional Convention have captured the excitement of a gathering that ended
amid charges and countercharges of fraud and deceit.'
One of the most bitter episodes in that year of Republican debacle was
the contest over the disputed delegates to the national convention. Chal-
lenges and formal contests placed 254 delegates in question, of whom all
but 19 were ultimately awarded to Taft. Since 540 votes were required for
nomination, and Taft received 561 votes in his first ballot victory, the con-
tested seats were decisive in producing the president's renomination. His-
torians appear to agree that this result was unjust. The Republican Nation-
al Committee and the convention's credentials committee, which decided
the fate of the delegates, had "a cynical disregard for the merits of the
contestants," and paid "little attention to the evidence." The scholarly
judgment echoes Roosevelt's contemporary cry of "Thou Shalt Not Steal."2
*Lewis L. Gould, professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, is prepar-
ing a history of the Republican party between 1897 and 1913. Research for this article,
which will be a part of the larger study, was supported in part by the University Research
Institute of the University of Texas at Austin, and by the National Endowment for the
Humanities.
'George E. Mowry, Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement (Madison,
1946), 220-255, remains the best scholarly account from its subject's perspective. Nor-
man M. Wilensky, Conservatives in the Progressive Era: The Taft Republicans of z912
(Gainesville, 1965), covers the details of Taft's campaign. Useful and complete about
the central participants are Henry F. Pringle, The Life and Times of William Howard
Taft (2 vols.; New York, 1939), II, 765-814, and William Henry Harbaugh, Power and
Responsibility: The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt (New York, 1961), 412-436.
Oscar King Davis, Released for Publication: Some Inside Political' History of Theodore
Roosevelt and His Times, z898-9gr8 (Boston, 1925), 292-313, a pro-Roosevelt memoir,
discusses the convention from Roosevelt's point of view. Victor Rosewater, Backstage in
1912: The Inside Story of the Split Republican Convention (Philadelphia, 1932), 8o-
I85, gives the Taft side.
2Theodore Roosevelt, "Thou Shalt Not Steal," The Works of Theodore Roosevelt:

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 80, July 1976 - April, 1977. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101204/. Accessed April 16, 2014.