President of the United States
With the 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.
During the Spanish-American War,
Roosevelt was lieutenant colonel of the Rough Rider Regiment, which he led on
a charge at the battle of San Juan. He was one of the most conspicuous heroes
of the war.
Boss Tom Platt, needing a hero
to draw attention away from scandals in New York State, accepted Roosevelt as
the Republican candidate for Governor in 1898. Roosevelt won and served with
As President, Roosevelt held the
ideal that the Government should be the great arbiter of the conflicting
economic forces in the Nation, especially between capital and labor,
guaranteeing justice to each and dispensing favors to none.
Roosevelt emerged spectacularly
as a "trust buster" by forcing the dissolution of a great railroad
combination in the Northwest. Other antitrust suits under the Sherman Act
Roosevelt steered the United
States more actively into world politics. He liked to quote a favorite
proverb, "Speak softly and carry a big stick. . . . "
Aware of the strategic need for
a shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific, Roosevelt ensured the
construction of the Panama Canal. His corollary to the Monroe Doctrine
prevented the establishment of foreign bases in the Caribbean and arrogated
the sole right of intervention in Latin America to the United States.
He won the Nobel Peace Prize for
mediating the Russo-Japanese War, reached a Gentleman's Agreement on
immigration with Japan, and sent the Great White Fleet on a goodwill tour of
Some of Theodore Roosevelt's
most effective achievements were in conservation. He added enormously to the
national forests in the West, reserved lands for public use, and fostered
great irrigation projects.
He crusaded endlessly on matters
big and small, exciting audiences with his high-pitched voice, jutting jaw,
and pounding fist. "The life of strenuous endeavor" was a must for
those around him, as he romped with his five younger children and led
ambassadors on hikes through Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.
Leaving the Presidency in 1909,
Roosevelt went on an African safari, then jumped back into politics. In 1912
he ran for President on a Progressive ticket. To reporters he once remarked
that he felt as fit as a bull moose, the name of his new party.
While campaigning in Milwaukee,
he was shot in the chest by a fanatic. Roosevelt soon recovered, but his words
at that time would have been applicable at the time of his death in 1919:
"No man has had a happier life than I have led; a happier life in every