U.S. History II
1912 Election Summary
On a dreadful evening in April of 1865 the country experienced one of the worst tragedies in our history. Sitting with his wife, Mary Todd, in a private viewing balcony while taking in the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C., Abraham Lincoln – the sixteenth President of the United States - was shot in the back of the head by southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth (Tindall).
The country was now in the hands of Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s vice president and unanticipated early successor. As Johnson was suddenly thrust into office, he was now faced with the task of rebuilding this great nation (Tindall).
Over the course of the next twelve years America went through what was called an era of Reconstruction. Such issues during this period included figuring out a way to provide equal rights to freed slaves; how to handle “carpetbaggers” trying to take advantage of the reconstructing south; and dealing with the economic impact most southerners were now experiencing due to the shattered world of slavery (Tindall).
The reconstruction period was aided by, among other things, the Freedmen’s Bureau, Civil Rights Act of 1868, and amendments calling for the end of slavery, as well as granting voting rights to all citizens.
However, a new set of issues presented itself to the country, both domestic and abroad, at the turn of the century. By the 1900’s the population in America exceeded the 75 million mark; the country encountered yet another assassination of a president (William McKinley); the Boxer Rebellion took place in China, which resulted in America’s prestige as a world power increasing; and Theodore Roosevelt introduced his “Big Stick” diplomacy as a way to address foreign adversaries (Tindall).
By 1912 the United States was faced with the difficult choice of choosing the twenty-eighth president of the country. Aside from simply selecting the right person to run the country, though, the electorate was voting on many significant issues.
The reason that many historians believe that the election of 1912 was the most important presidential race – up to this point – in our nation’s history was because of the magnitude of the issues that America had to deal with. Some of these key issues included: tariffs – how taxes were used, direct democracy – should the people have total electoral control, business regulation – should businesses be policed by the government, women’s suffrage – women’s right to vote, isolationism – America’s role in the world, and labor practices – the role of unions in the workplace (Flehinger).
The candidates for the 1912 election were a who’s who of political contenders.
One candidate was Theodore Roosevelt. Eleven years prior, Roosevelt, as vice-president to William McKinley, took over office and became the twenty-sixth President of the United States in September of 1901 when McKinley was shot, and later died, in Buffalo, New York (Tindall).
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