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1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs -- The Election that Changed the Country
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1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs -- The Election that Changed the Country

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  617 ratings  ·  73 reviews
Beginning with former president Theodore Roosevelt’s return in 1910 from his African safari, Chace brilliantly unfolds a dazzling political circus that featured four extraordinary candidates.

When Roosevelt failed to defeat his chosen successor, William Howard Taft, for the Republican nomination, he ran as a radical reformer on the Bull Moose ticket. Meanwhile, Woodrow
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by Simon Schuster (first published 2004)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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Start your review of 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs -- The Election that Changed the Country
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
An interesting election on the eve of the long emergency of the short 20th century (1914-1991) the election of 1912 which was a four-way race between Taft (Rep) Wilson (Dem) Roosevelt (Bull Moose) and Eugene Debs (socialist). Our politics today resembles this pre WWI era politics than the politics of the long emergency of the short 20th century. Probably because we have more in common in the gilded age than the welfare state of the mid-twentieth century so our politics look like it. Follow the ...more
Mark Desrosiers
Two of the world's dullest humans face off against two brave, charismatic heroes for the U.S. Presidency. The dullest man wins, and six years later throws the kick-ass one in jail.

Chace is more a storyteller than a historian, something most evident when he's trying to pin down Wilson's evasive ideology (if such a thing existed). Worth a look, but I'm definitely moving on to August Heckscher for my next take on this era.
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
I wonder how many Americans know that at one time in this country the Democratic Party stood for segregation and limited government, and that the Republican Party represented progressivism and reform. Of course it's more complicated than that. In the early days of the 20th century the two most powerful presidents were progressives, and they ran against each other in 1912....Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. There were also two other candidates - Taft and Debs - in case people wanted a ...more
Porter Broyles
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: genre-presidents
Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, and Deebs for good will. What could possibly go wrong in a story about these four characters?

The Book itself is a fairly well written summary of the evens leading to the presidential election. Mucth of the story has been told in other works. Bully Pulpit and the recent biography on Wilson cover most of the events in much more detail and much more skill.

This book is a good servicable coverage of the election. It is moderately well written, theres just not too much new or
Tony Heyl
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
It's about, get this, the election of 1912! It's a very interesting book, though not altogether brilliant. Wilson, Taft, Teddy Roosevelt, and Debs all have plusses and faults. Taft never really wanted to be President and was goaded by his power hungry wife. Wilson cheated on his wife, who later died, and then remarried. That wife was almost de-facto President for a time after Wilson's stroke. Wilson is an interesting character, actually pretty forthright in his willingness to shift positions and ...more

“The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.—[Eugene V. Debs], page 257
“…that every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.” –[Theodore Roosevelt], page 57
Andrew Canfield
Jun 30, 2018 rated it liked it
1912 was a year which saw a four-way race for president, and it was one of the rare cycles when a third party candidate (Theodore Roosevelt, running for a nonconsecutive third term under the Progressive Party banner) actually won a handful of states. It also featured the worst performance ever by an incumbent president: William Taft came in third in the popular vote as well as the electoral college, winning only two states.

Yet perhaps what 1912 is still most known for is serving as the high
Michael Lewyn
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book combines short biographies of the major 1912 contenders with the story of the 1912 election. Chace's discussion of Wilson is more interesting than his discussion of the others; Wilson comes across as reptilian in his willingness to stab old allies in the back, and yet self-destructively self-righteous in refusing to compromise. Debs comes across as simply saintly, Taft as kindly and a bit dull, and Roosevelt as a force of nature. Some of the questions I hoped the book would answer are: ...more
Sarah Rigg
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What an election year! It was interesting to read about how radicalized the American people were in that era- the socialist candidate got the highest percentage of the vote before or since, and Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose party and the Democrats were running on progressive platforms. And, never before have I felt so sorry for an ex-president as I did for Taft after reading this book. He never wanted to be president, but Teddy Roosevelt and especially Taft's wife talked him into it. This book ...more
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Easy-to-read account of 1912 election between Taft, Wilson, Debs, Teddy Roosevelt...parallels to 2016, with Trump as New Nationalist like TR, Hillary as Wilson, Bernie as Debs, Bush as we can see what happens when history moves in a different direction....
Doris Raines
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
Some overview facts, not particularly put together well and not always consistent but adequate.
Andy Nguyen
Aug 12, 2013 rated it liked it
James Chace undertook an admirable project: to document the thoughts and circumstances of the 4 presidential candidates of 1912, yet his book is a let down. His biggest flaw is that he wasted too much valuable time to chronicle unimportant events, such as Roosevelt's Europe trip, and to document minor characters from Louis Brandeis to Charles Murphy, without ever telling us why these backgrounds and events are important in understanding what was unfolding.

Chace did not provide any insightful
Sep 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
- When elected for 2nd term (1904) TR said he wouldn't seek a third term. He passed presidency to Taft, who said he would keep TR's policies, but TAFT became more conservative and TR was unhappy with his

- Taft wanted to be supreme court justice, not president. (his wife wanted him to be president) - after presidency he became justice!

- Roosevelt split from Republican party - new party Progressive Party BULL MOOSE. ("i'm feeling like a bull moose" TR had responded). Very liberal: unions,
Jan 24, 2011 rated it liked it
1912 provides a brief but mostly comprehensive overview of that year's U.S. presidential election, a unique and historically significant contest that pitted against one another four viable political parties – Democrat, Republican, Progressive, and Socialist – each of which had national reach and a formidable candidate at the top of the ticket: respectively, Wilson, Taft (the incumbent), Roosevelt, and Debs.

James Chace tells the story competently. The book is most engaging in its first section,
Josh Liller
Jun 21, 2009 rated it liked it
This is an interesting, somewhat short (under 300 pages), and fairly easy to read book about the 1912 US presidential election and the four candidates: Woodrow Wilson (Democrat), William Howard Taft (incumbent Republican), Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive), and Eugene Debs (Socialist). Giving equal treatment to Debs is a pleasantly surprising choice; he usually gets ignored as a fringe candidate who never won a single electoral vote and never got more than about 5% of the popular vote. However, ...more
Ruby Hollyberry
Dec 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I left it so long at around 200 pages read, this time I went back and read the entire book. Extremely interesting but the writing is weird. Each little section, sometimes paragraph, is ended with a "punchy" quotation or a reference to some political term and nearly all of these need to be explained because I have no idea what they mean. What did that obscure politician 100 years ago mean when he made that remark? Please illuminate. So, not entirely a read to recommend to everyone. My education ...more
Oct 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm biased toward this kind of electoral history in general, as well as toward biographies of both Roosevelt and Debs, so my rating probably reflects that. Nevertheless, this is a well-written history of a key U.S. election, which balances erudition with readability nicely. 1912 was a fascinating election year for a variety of reasons: it pit 3 presidents (past, present, and future) against each other; it featured the most successful runs ever by a 3rd-party candidate (Roosevelt) and by a ...more
Feb 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
It certainly is a good account of the 1912 election. However, my main dislikes of the book were that it often provided asides to note some future importance of some figures. While this can certainly be helpful, there were times when it became distracting and seemingly unnecessary. At one point. he notes the year that John Schrank died was the same year that Franklin Roosevelt was elected to his third term. While an interesting coincidence, it seemingly bore no relevance to the story whatsoever. ...more
Lawrence A
Oct 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a fascinating history of the presidenital race of 1912, when even the "conservative" candidate, the incumbent William Howard Taft, embraced many of Progressivism's most cherished ideals, including Teddy Roosevelt's famed "trust-busting." I knew that Wilson, a native Virginian, had changed his economic stripes, morphing from a classic "southern-style" Jacksonian Democrat, with all that such a characterization entailed in the early 20th Century [including deeply-ingrained racism], to a ...more
Mark Fallon
Feb 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A running buddy found out I was a Roosevelt fan, and he sent me this book.

My knowledge of the election was mostly limited to the TR side of the story. I’ve always look at the personal split between him and Taft as a very dark moment, and a real tragedy. I always wonder what would have happened if Archie Butts hadn’t booked a ticket on the Titanic.

The background on Wilson and Debs was fascinating. The political maneuverings of Wilson, combined with the missteps of others, makes some of the modern
Sep 08, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Historians
This is an interesting take on the Presidential campaign of 1912. I learned a lot not only about the political climate of that period but about the candidates themselves. The book gives insight into the rift between Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft (Roosevelt was a petulant child in a lot of ways, and Taft was too human to be always a good policitian; Roosevelt was vindictive in the rift between the two men, while it pained Taft greatly to have lost such a good friend). I also learned ...more
Ronald Wise
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining historical analysis of the American presidential election of 1912, which was essentially a four-way race. The Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, would benefit from a split in the Republican party following the return of Theodore Roosevelt as candidate for the Bull Moose Party, but the Socialist Eugene Debs would make the strongest showing ever for that party. Author Chace was a respected analyst of American foreign policy, especially for the attention he paid to the ...more
Apr 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Solid, workmanlike history of the 1912 election and surrounding context.

I would have like to have seen a bit more on the 1920s, where Harding and Coolidge really ran counter to the trends of the early 1910s. In particular, I would have like to have seen a bit more on 1924, a truly odd election in comparison to 1912, where there were two very conservative candidates (Coolidge, Davis) getting the lion's share of the vote. Instead, he draws a line between the 1912 campaign and FDR, which is
Admittedly, I have just a cursory knowledge of the United States presidency prior to FDR. So, when I saw the book 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs--The Election that Changed the Country in the library, I hoped it would be a good, introductory read for me. My instincts proved correct, overall. The book excelled in the beginning, when we were introduced to the four candidates; yet, I felt the author got bogged down later on with the minutiae of the party conventions. Even so, I learned a ...more
Kevin Scott
Aug 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was a nice capsule of the era, which is what I was looking for, but I was probably more interested in the Taft-Roosevelt dynamic and establishing why they broke than Chace was probably able to determine. But there's a nice intellectual history here in terms of Roosevelt and Wilson (in particular). I went in asking how history would have been different had Roosevelt secured the Republican nomination and my answer is basically "not much" because the Democrats basically preempted so much of ...more
Nov 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Chace presents an excellent account of an important election in American history. This was the most successful election for two parties outside of the main ones. The Democrats took the election with a victory for Woodrow Wilson but TR's progressive party and Debs socialist party polled amazing results given their standing. This book goes beyond the 1912 election and takes people through the world war showing what happened to each of these parties and the men. Debs life in particular was ...more
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
A readable history of a pivotal time in American political history. Theodore Roosevelt running on the Bull Moose party pulled votes away from incumbent Taft so that Wilson could win the presidency. Eugene Debs gained 900,000 votes for the Socialist party--the largest number in history.

This is a fascinating look at an election that would put Wilson in the White House while Europe was on the brink of war. James Chace does a good job of describing personalities and how their idiosyncrasies
Aug 13, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
And you thought the upcoming presidential election would have one of the most interesting casts of characters? Try 1912, when the contestants included Woodrow Wilson, who is really rather unlikeable despite his noble principles and his eventual victory; William Howard Taft, the incumbent; Teddy Roosevelt, trying a comeback in a third party; and Eugene Debs, a socialist campaigning from prison. This was the last book by this fine historian, and is a strong depiction of the turmoil of early ...more
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: us-history
While four individuals are named in the title, the book provides information on several others who had an effect on American history. The 1912 election is what the front two thirds of the book builds up to. A lot of information on other, earlier events, is used to work up to the election. A small section covers the election itself and the last two chapters are on the aftermath. Many programs on the progressive platform were adopted by the major parties. Though only a few Progressive Party ...more
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