Theodore Roosevelt and His Time Shown in His Own Letters - Vol. 2

By Joseph Bishop Bucklin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXV
THE BARNES TRIAL

A SUPREME test of Roosevelt's fidelity to his political professions and principles was made in 1915, from which he emerged triumphantly. In the course of his advocacy of a Progressive ticket in the State campaign of 1914, he had published, on July 22, 1914, a statement in which he charged that the rottenness which existed in the government of the State was due directly to the dominance in politics of the leader of Tammany Hall and his sub-bosses aided and abetted by William Barnes, the leader of the Republican organization; that there was an invisible government of party bosses working through an alliance between crooked bosses and crooked politicians. On the following day, July 23, Mr. Barnes brought a suit for libel against Roosevelt, basing it on this utterance. Roosevelt welcomed the suit with a statement in which he reaffirmed his utterance and declared his eagerness to have its truth tested in court. The suit was set down for trial in Albany, the home of Mr. Barnes, but, on October 25, Roosevelt's counsel applied for a change of venue on the ground that Barnes's absolute political control in Albany made a fair trial there virtually impossible. The Albany court denied the request, but an appeal was taken to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court and that court reversed the decision of the Albany court and granted the request, assigning Syracuse as the place of trial.

From the moment that the suit was brought the political enemies of Roosevelt assumed joyfully that he would lose it and that it would result in his political ruin. Mr. Barnes was the most bitter and implacable of these enemies and he had been induced to bring the suit by a legal adviser who

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