Today in History : Theodore Roosevelt Libel Trial in Syracuse Comes to a Close

Theodore Roosevelt in Syracuse

On May 22, 1915, after a five-week trial, the William Barnes vs. Theodore Roosevelt libel suit ended. Barnes, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, had sued Roosevelt for $50,000 for an alleged libelous statement in which Roosevelt had referred to Barnes as a corrupt political boss. More specifically, he publicly called Barnes “a political boss of the most obnoxious type.” Roosevelt’s defense was to prove that his statement was indeed true. The trial was moved from Albany, the State capital, to the courthouse in Syracuse as it was a more neutral location.

The trial did not begin well for the former President. While he admitted to his son, Kermit, that the judge was fair—if a bit legalistic—he was frustrated by the proceedings as a whole. While on the witness stand, the uncontainable former president said whatever he wanted. Not even the lawyers’ objections or judge’s gaveling could stop him. After two days of deliberations, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Roosevelt.

Want to learn more? You can read Barnes vs. Roosevelt: Theater in the Courtroom By Hon. Stewart F. Hancock, Jr.  by clicking below