assassination of President McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, not quite 43, became the youngest President in the Nation's history. He brought new excitement and power to the Presidency, as he vigorously led Congress and the American public toward progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy.
He took the view that the President as a "steward of the people" should take whatever action necessary for the public good unless expressly forbidden by law or the Constitution." I did not usurp power," he wrote, "but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power."
Roosevelt's youth differed sharply from that of the log cabin Presidents. He was born in New York City in 1858 into a wealthy family, but he too struggled -- against ill health -- and in his triumph became an advocate of the strenuous life.
In 1884 his first wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt, and his mother died on the same day. Roosevelt spent much of the next two years on his ranch in the Badlands of Dakota Territory. There he mastered his sorrow as he lived in the saddle, driving cattle, hunting big game -- he even captured an outlaw. On a visit to London, he married Edith Carow in December 1886. This is the beginning of the story of the life of the indefatigable Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States.
The early life of Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt was born in New York City on October 27, 1858 to Theodore "Thee" Roosevelt Sr., of Dutch heritage, and Martha "Mittie" Bulloch. His family were wealthy industrialists who owned a successful plate-glass import business. As a young boy, "Teedie" spend much of his time indoors and was homeschooled due to his asthma but his youth was a vigorous one, spent largely in physical pursuits such as weightlifting and boxing due to the influence of his father.
Teddy graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1880, attended Colombia Law School and married Alice Hathaway Lee of Massachusetts (Blum, 1954)
His political life started early. Replacing law with politics, Theodore became the youngest representative in the New York State Assembly assuming a variety of public positions from captain of the National Guard and minority leader of the New York Assembly. The double death of his mother and his wife on the same day (February 14, 1884), however, caused Roosevelt to once again make another life shift and become a cowboy / cattle rancher not the terrains of Dakota Territory. It was there that he sought a peace of mind and reflection that would serve him well for the rest of his life.
Those years as cowboy were life changing and affirming and were something that Roosevelt would turn to time and again. They are also described evocatively in his Autobiography and would serve as catalyst for his national plans for conservation.
In 1886, Roosevelt returned to political life to be defeated in his run for New York mayor sip. he married his second wife, Edith Kermit Carow (they were cousins; both had watched the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln from their grandfather's house as children), and resumed his political trajectory as civil service commissioner, and later as New York City police commissioner and U.S. Navy assistant secretary under President William McKinley.
In 1898, he organized a volunteer cavalry known as the Rough Riders, which he led in a bold charge up San Juan Hill in the Battle of San Juan Heights, and was nominated as war hero. This subsequently led to his achieving the governorship of New York in that same year. (Blum, 1954)
Ironically, it was Roosevelt's attitude that led him to the presidency. His progressive policies ran him afoul of his own Republican party. They attempted to quiet him by squelching him in the thankless post of vice-presidency. In 1901, McKinley was assassinated and Theodore Roosevelt became the 26ht president of the United States at the youngest age of 42.
The political administration of Theodore Roosevelt may be summed up by these sayings:
"Don't hit at all if you can help it; don't hit a man if you can possibly avoid it; but if you do hit him, put him to sleep." (New York City, February 17, 1899)
This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in." (Chicago, IL, June 17, 1912).
Theodore Roosevelt has often been epitomized as a 'real' American, likely for his rugged confident personality and his do-it-yourself style. But Roosevelt too had a deep love for his country which can best be evidenced in his correspondence to John Hay, American Ambassador to the Court of St. James, and London in June 7, 1897:
Is America a weakling, to shrink from the work of the great world powers? No! The young giant of the West stands on a continent and clasps the crest of an ocean in either hand. Our nation, glorious in youth and strength, looks into the future with eager eyes and rejoices as a strong man to run a race." (Theodore Roosevelt Association; online)
Roosevelt was determined to put America on the map and to keep it there as the most exciting, most progressive, wealthiest nation in the world. He largely succeeded due to his bold, incorrigible plans.
Roosevelt's first public relations effort was centered on the U.S. navy where he boosted it, created the "Great White Fleet," and sent it on an international tours exhibition of its strength. Shortly after, he expedited completion of the Panama Canal, a feat that allowed ships to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in half the time previously required ( Brinkely, 2009).
"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready." (San Francisco, CA, May 13, 1903)
Often accused of 'interfering' both at home and abroad -- Roosevelt was no lazy president -- Teddy won the Nobel Prize in 1906 for his role in negotiating the end of the Russo-Japanese War.
Roosevelt's public image is that of bully dog who became well-known for his use of the 'big stick' -- although he also advocated placating talk. However, what Roosevelt is less well-known for is his philosophy as statesman which emphasized negotiations rather than war. Roosevelt has been accused of colonialism, of mistreating the Indians and colonizing the Mexican-Americans as well as of ruthlessly expanding his empire. However, all great individuals are complex and Roosevelt was no exception. He was also a man who believed in diplomacy rather than war and thought that discussion was the best way to settle international dispute. Ironically, this perspective led to the 'bull dog' stance where Roosevelt's Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which claimed the right to intervene in cases of "wrongdoing by a Latin American Nation," made the United States seem the "policeman" of the Western world.
This country has nothing to fear from the crooked man who fails. We put him in jail. It is the crooked man who succeeds who is a threat to this country." (Memphis, TN, October 25, 1905)
Theodore Roosevelt achieved acclaim and disapproval in his own time as a man who feared naught and who put (as he was won't to say) "bullied in their place." An integral man, Roosevelt fought an ongoing war against leaders of powerful but corrupt corporations and against money-hungry and politically ineffective statesmen. These included governors, police, and all members of the hierarchy of political life. Theodore Roosevelt's crusade was for a better America, a more democratic nation, where the underdog could thrust back the overdog and become an individual in his own right. Born before communism, Roosevelt was presumably no communist or Marxists (after he was a thorough-bred capitalist). Nonetheless, he resonated with the ideals of socialism and curbed the excess of capitalism. For this he was hated by the powerful, but loved by the populace.
It is no wondered that muckraking (journalism that investigated and publicizes scandalous activities of influential and affluential individuals) was born and grew into power in his days.
For Roosevelt, it was clear:
Let the watchwords of all our people be the old familiar watchwords of honesty, decency, fair-dealing, and commonsense."... "We must treat each man on his worth and merits as a man. We must see that each is given a square deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive no less. "The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us." (New York State Fair, Syracuse, September 7, 1903)
The "Square Deal" was a commitment introduced in his first term. It was intended to a domestic program that embraced reform of the American workplace, government regulation of industry and consumer protection, with the overall aim of helping the middle class.
Theodore Roosevelt- a modern president
Theodore Roosevelt has often been painted as the paragon of the U.S.A. And indeed Roosevelt represents many of the mythic qualities of the…