Aftermath of the Controversy

The aftermath of the Ballinger-Pinchot Controversy led to significant political developments. Theodore Roosevelt had assured Americans during the election of 1908 that Taft would continue the policies established during T.R.’s administration. The Ballinger-Pinchot Controversy, however, demonstrated Taft’s unwillingness to follow the conservation policies of Roosevelt and his supporters. Many Republicans in Congress were disappointed in Taft for what they perceived as his betrayal of Roosevelt. The furor that Pinchot raised about the conservation policies of Ballinger and Taft encouraged insurgent Republicans to oppose Taft's renomination as the Republican presidential standard-bearer. These events were important for the eventual split in the GOP and the formation of the Progressive Party in 1912.

Source: Zim:The Autobiography of Eugene Zimmerman

One of the staunchest supporters of the Progressives was Gifford Pinchot. Pinchot, highly motivated by Taft's unwillingness to support scientific conservation fullly, became an active supporter of the movement to deny Taft the Republican nomination in 1912. Pinchot became a member of the Nominating and Executive Committees of the National Progressive Republican League, which was organized in January of 1911 in response to these and other issues. He also advised Progressive candidates, wrote Progressive propaganda, and actively campaigned for the party. Pinchot was instrumental in convincing Roosevelt to run for President in 1912 as a Progressive.

The Ballinger-Pinchot Controversy had won Roosevelt and Pinchot’s conservation policies a great deal of popular support, which influenced the Progressive platform. T.R.’s “New Nationalism” called for a strong central government to correct America’s social problems and protect citizens from special interests. Among the basic components of this philosophy was the scientific conservation of natural resources.

However, not all of the repercussions of the Ballinger-Pinchot Controversy helped the conservation cause. The controversy made conservation a partisan issue that obscured the complicated business of managing the country’s resources. The controversy also ended the interdepartmental cooperation that Pinchot relied on to carry out his ideas. Without a strong figure like Pinchot to force government agencies to work together, a comprehensive conservation program was more difficult to achieve. Furthermore, the Ballinger-Pinchot Controversy united many conservationists against Taft even though not everyone agreed with Roosevelt. The unified front eventually splintered as natural differences among conservationists became apparent once the election was over, and Taft was out of office.

The upheaval created by the Ballinger-Pinchot Controversy did not end with the Election of 1912. In 1940, Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes reexamined the events of 1910 and proclaimed that Ballinger was innocent of any wrong doing. Furthermore, Ickes attacked Pinchot for trumping up charges against Ballinger without sufficient evidence, merely to serve his own political ends. Pinchot retaliated about ten years later when he published his autobiography, Breaking New Ground, in an attempt to refute Icke’s charges.