The Life of Theodore Roosevelt
The 26th President of the United States
Following the assassination of President William McKinley in 1900, Theodore Roosevelt became the youngest president in American history to that point.
Roosevelt brought energy and power to the Presidency as he led the Congress and the American people toward progressive reform and a strong foreign policy. Roosevelt believed that the President was the steward of the American people, and as such should be allowed to take whatever steps were necessary to protect American interests, unless barred from doing so by the American constitution. “I did not usurp power, but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power.”
Theodore Roosevelt’s Early Years
Roosevelt’s childhood was very different from those of the so-called log cabin presidents of the 19th Century. Theodore Roosevelt was born into an affluent family in New York City in 1858. As a child, Roosevelt struggled against continuing poor health. He eventually overcame childhood illness and became an advocate of an active life.
In 1884, Roosevelt’s mother and his first wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt died on the same day. Following these two deaths, Roosevelt spent much of the next two years on his ranch in the Dakota Territory, working through his grief. While there, Roosevelt lived in the saddle, driving cattle, hunting big game and even capturing an outlaw. In 1886, Roosevelt married again, this time to Edith Carrow, while visiting London.
Theodore Roosevelt enters Politics
During the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt served as a lieutenant-colonel with the Rough Rider Regiment. He became one of the war’s most conspicuous heroes following the Battle of San Juan Hill.
Needing a hero to draw attention away from the scandals that had plagued the State of New York, Republican boss Tom Platt accepted Roosevelt’s nomination for the Republican nomination for Governor of New York in 1898. He won the election and served with distinction. While Governor of New York, Roosevelt made such a concentrated effort to root out corruption in the state of New York that he became known as a trust buster. In the 1900 Presidential election Roosevelt joined William McKinley’s campaign as McKinley’s Vice President. Roosevelt proved to be a powerful campaign asset for the Republicans. As a result McKinley and Roosevelt defeated William Jennings Bryan in a landslide.
President Theodore Roosevelt
After he was sworn in as the 26th President of the United States, following McKinley’s assassination, Roosevelt believed that the government should be the arbiter between conflicting economic forces as they existed at that time, particularly capital and labour. Roosevelt believed that the government should ensure justice for each, while dispensing favours for neither.
As a result, Roosevelt once again gained a reputation as a trust buster after he broke up a major railroad conglomerate in the Western United States. He also steered the United States into a more active role in world politics, often saying, “Speak softly and carry a big stick…”
Roosevelt was also aware of the need for a strategic short cut between the Atlantic and the Pacific. This resulted in Congress passing measures that led to the construction of the Panama Canal.
He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation of the Russo-Japanese War, in addition to reaching a gentleman’s agreement with Japan over immigration. Around the same time, Roosevelt also sent the Great White Fleet on a world-wide goodwill tour.
Some of the most effective achievements of Roosevelt’s Administration concerned conservation. Roosevelt added large tracts of land to the national forests and set aside land for public use in addition to sponsoring several major irrigation projects.
Roosevelt campaigned endlessly on a wide variety of issues. He excited audiences with his high pitched voice and pounding fists. “The life of strenuous endeavour” was a must for Roosevelt and his cabinet. He was often seen romping around with his five children and was known to take foreign diplomats on hikes in Washington DC’s Rock Creek Park.
After leaving the White House, following the election of William Howard Taft, Roosevelt went on a safari in Africa. After his return, Roosevelt re-entered politics, running for President in 1912. While campaigning in Milwaukee, Roosevelt was shot in the chest.
During World War I, Roosevelt criticized Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy as weak. He pushed President Wilson for the creation of a volunteer regiment and was refused.
Theodore Roosevelt died on January 6, 1919 of a heart attack, following a two month battle with inflammatory rheumatism.
Theodore Roosevelt.The White House. US Government. Sept.16/09
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- September 22, 2009 / 5:17 pm
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