"When they call the roll in the Senate, the senators do not know whether to answer ‘present’ or ‘not guilty’” is a saying usually credited to Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919; U.S. president 1901-1909). It’s not certain when Roosevelt said it and he probably did not say it first. In April 1904, the “present"/"not guilty” quotation was used regarding the New York legislature; in September 1904, the U.S. Senate was mentioned (without credit to Theodore Roosevelt).
WHEN THEY CALL THE ROLL IN THE SENATE, THE SENATORS DO NOT KNOW WHETHER TO ANSWER PRESENT OR NOT GUILTY.
President T. Roosevelt
24 April 1904, San Jose (CA) Mercury News, pg. 20:
Representative Shober, referring to the “Bristow report,” declares the state of mind of some of the members of the house reminds him of a New York City assemblyman’s characterization of the legislative body at Albany.
This assemblyman of whom M. Shober tells is reported to have said that when the roll was called in the New York legislature, half the members did not know whether they were expected to answer “present” or “not guilty.”
September 1904, Leslie’s Monthly Magazine, “Side-Stepping the Vice Presidency” by J. Adam Bede, pg. 508, col. 1:
While his joys are few his sorrows are many, for how oppressive it must be to him in the light of recent events to look the Senators full and fair in the face and wonder as the roll is called whether ‘they will answer “present” or “not guilty.”
3 April 1906, Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer, pg. 10, col. 2:
THE SENATOR’S DILEMMA.
Doesn’t Know Whether to Say Present or “Not Guilty.”
BY PLAIN DEALER’S LEASED WIRE.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass., April 2.—At the Jefferson banquet of the W. L. Douglas club today ex-Congressman John R. Trayer of Worcester said:
“A United States senator said to me: ‘Thayer (sic), it is so rotten in Washington than (sic) when the roll is called in congress I don’t know whether to say “present” or “not guilty."‘“
August 1906, Record of Christian Work, pg. 552:
In these days when there is so much corruption being unearthed in all realms of life, when it is said that there are many men in our Senate who, when the roll is called, do not know whether to answer “present” or “not guilty,” there certainly is a crying need for institutions which put character above coin, manhood above money, principle above position.
March 1907, Journal of the Switchmen’s Union, pg. 285, col. 1:
A United States Senator said it is so rotten in Washington that when the roll is called in Congress he doesn’t know whether to say “present” or “not guilty.”
By Baron Godfrey Rathbone Benson Charnwood
Boston, MA: Atlantic Monthly Press
Anecdotes abound, indeed, of the comical vigor with which he would denounce, in any hearing, weighty personages and even august bodies who conflicted with him; they were accused of not knowing, when the roll of their grave assembly was called, whether to answer “present” or “not guilty”;...
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When they call the roll in the Senate, the senators do not know whether to answer “present” or “not guilty.” — Theodore Roosevelt
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Sunday, November 28, 2010 • Permalink