Noah's ARKives

(Archive - Week of February 7, 2006)

Theodore Roosevelt

President's Day is always in the month of February. During the next couple of weeks, I will refresh our memory on some of our past leaders that made a difference in our world today. Teddy Roosevelt did, indeed make, the United States of America a better place to live.

Theodore Roosevelt
(October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919) was the 26th (1901–09) President of the United States. He had been the 25th Vice President before becoming President upon the assassination of President William McKinley. Inaugurated at the age of 42, Roosevelt became the youngest sitting President. Thanks to his amazingly energetic personality, Roosevelt is considered one of the ablest presidents; surveys of scholars put him at the top of the second tier.

Roosevelt is a remarkable historical character, particularly in leading what he called the "strenuous life". During his tenure in the White House, he boxed voraciously, even practiced judo with a visiting Japanese team, and took friends and colleagues on long hikes.

Roosevelt was decisive in building the Panama Canal. He was the first American to win a Nobel Prize in any category, having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his mediation of the Russo-Japanese War. Roosevelt was the fifth cousin of the later President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the uncle of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Childhood and education

Roosevelt was born at 28 East 20th Street ( GPS +40.73900 -073.98940 ) in the modern-day Gramercy section of New York City on October 27, 1858, as the second of four children of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. (1831–78) and Martha Bulloch (1834–84). Theodore was younger than his sister Anna but older than his brother Elliott and his sister Corinne. His father was a New York City philanthropist, merchant, and partner in the glass-importing firm Roosevelt and Son. Martha Bulloch was a Southern belle from Georgia and had Confederate sympathies. His uncle was a leading Confederate admiral.

Sickly and asthmatic as a youngster, Roosevelt had to sleep propped up in bed or slouching in a chair during much of his early childhood, and had frequent ailments. Despite his illnesses, he was a hyperactive and oftentimes mischievous young man. His lifelong interest in zoology was first formed at age seven upon seeing a dead seal at a local market. After obtaining the seal's head, the young Roosevelt and two of his cousins formed what they called the "Roosevelt Museum of Natural History". Roosevelt filled his makeshift museum with many animals that he caught, studied, and prepared for display. At age nine, he codified his observation of insects with a paper titled "The Natural History of Insects."

To combat his poor physical condition, his father compelled the young Roosevelt to take up exercise. To deal with bullies Roosevelt started boxing lessons. Two trips abroad also had a great effect on him;

  • From 1869 to 1870 his family toured Europe.
  • From 1872 to 1873 the Roosevelt family traveled in Egypt, the Holy Land, and spent several months in Dresden, Germany. Soon afterwards, he became a sporting and outdoor enthusiast, a hobby that would last a lifetime.

Young "Teedie," as he was nicknamed as a child, was mostly home schooled by tutors. He matriculated at Harvard College in 1876. His father's death in 1878 was a tremendous blow, but Roosevelt redoubled his activities. He did well in science, philosophy, and rhetoric courses, but fared poorly in classical languages. He especially studied biology, and indeed was already an accomplished naturalist with a special interest in birds. He had a photographic memory, and started his life-long habit of devouring books, memorizing every detail. He was an unusually eloquent conversationalist, who throughout his life sought out the company of the smartest men and women. He could multitask in extraordinary fashion, dictating letters to one secretary and memoranda to another, while browsing through a book.

While at Harvard, Roosevelt was :

  • editor of the student newspaper, the Advocate ;
  • vice-president of the Natural History Club;
  • member of the Porcellian Club;
  • secretary of the Hasty Pudding Club;
  • founder of the Finance Club;
  • member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club.
  • runner-up in the Harvard boxing championship, losing to C.S. Hanks. The sportsmanship Roosevelt showed in that fight was long remembered.

He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude (21st of 177) from Harvard in 1880, and entered Columbia Law School. Finding the law boring, however, Roosevelt researched and wrote his first major book, The Naval War of 1812 (1882). Presented with an opportunity to run for New York Assemblyman in 1881, he dropped out of law school to pursue his new goal of entering public life.

Life in the Badlands

Roosevelt was an activist during his years in the Assembly, writing more bills than any other New York state legislator. Already a major player in state politics, in 1884, he attended the Republican National Convention and fought alongside the Mugwump reformers who opposed the Stalwarts; they lost to the conservative faction that nominated James G. Blaine. Refusing to join other Mugwumps in supporting Grover Cleveland, the Democratic nominee, he stayed loyal to the party and supported Blaine.

His wife and mother died on the same day earlier that year, and in the same house, only two days after his wife gave birth to their only daughter, Alice. Roosevelt was distraught, writing in his diary, "the light has gone out of my life forever." Later that year, he left the General Assembly and moved to the Badlands of the Dakotas for the life of a rancher and lawman.

Living near the boomtown of Medora, North Dakota, Roosevelt learned to ride and rope, and occasionally got himself into fistfights, spending his time with the rough-and-tumble world of the final days of the American Old West. On one occasion,as a Deputy Sherriff, he hunted down notorious outlaws on the Little Missouri River, heading into the uninhabited Badlands.

After a blizzard wiped out Roosevelt's herd of cattle, and his $60,000 investment, he returned to the Eastern United States, where in 1885, he purchased Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, New York. It would be his home and estate until his death. Roosevelt ran as the Republican candidate for mayor of New York City in 1886, coming in a distant third. Following the election, he went to London and married his childhood sweetheart, Edith Kermit Carow. They honeymooned in Europe, and Roosevelt took the time to climb Mount Blanc, leading only the third expedition to successfully reach the top. Roosevelt is the only President to have become a widower and remarry before becoming President.

In the 1880s, he gained recognition as a serious historian. Roosevelt's The Naval War of 1812 (1882) was the standard history for two generations, but his hasty biographies of Thomas Hart Benton (1887) and Gouverneur Morris (1888) were potboilers. His major achievement was a four-volume history of the frontier, The Winning of the West (1889-96), which had a notable impact on historiography as it presented a highly original version of the frontier thesis developed in 1893 by his friend Frederick Jackson Turner. His many articles in upscale magazines provided a much needed income, as well as cementing a reputation as a major national intellectual. He was later elected president of the American Historical Association.

Return to public life

In the 1888 presidential election, Roosevelt campaigned for Benjamin Harrison in the Midwest. President Harrison appointed Roosevelt to the United States Civil Service Commission where he served until 1895. In his term, he vigorously fought the spoilesmen and demanded enforcement of civil service laws. In spite of Roosevelt's support for Harrison's reelection bid in the presidential election of 1892, the eventual winner, Grover Cleveland (a Democrat), reappointed him to the same post.

In 1895, Roosevelt became president of the New York Board of Police Commissioners. During the two years that he held this post, Roosevelt radically changed the way a police department was run. Roosevelt required his officers to be registered with the Board and to pass a physical fitness test. He also saw that telephones were installed in station houses. Always an energetic man, Roosevelt made a habit of walking officers' beats late at night and early in the morning just to make sure that they were on duty. He also engaged a pistol expert to teach officers how to shoot their firearms. While serving on the Board, Roosevelt also opened up job opportunities in the department to women and Jews for the first time.

Urged by Roosevelt's close friend, Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge, President William McKinley appointed Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897. Roosevelt was instrumental in preparing the Navy for the coming conflict with Spain. Upon the declaration of war in 1898, Roosevelt resigned from the Navy Department and, with the aid of U.S. Army Colonel Leonard Wood, organized the First U.S. National Cavalry out of a diverse crew that ranged from cowboys from the Western territories to Ivy League chums from New York. The newspapers billed them as the "Rough Riders." Originally, Roosevelt held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and served under Col. Wood, but after Wood was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteer Forces, Roosevelt was promoted to Colonel and put in control of the Rough Riders. Under his direct command, the Rough Riders became famous for their dual charges up Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill in July 1898, the battle being named after the latter hill.

Upon his return from Cuba, Roosevelt reentered New York State politics and was elected governor of New York in 1898. He made such a concerted effort to root out corruption and "machine politics" that Republican boss Thomas Collier Platt forced him on McKinley as a running mate in the 1900 election to simplify their control of the state.

Vice Presidency

McKinley and Roosevelt won the presidential election of 1900, defeating William Jennings Bryan and Adlai E. Stevenson, Sr. At his inauguration on March 4, 1901, Roosevelt became the second youngest U.S. vice president (John C. Breckinridge, at 36, was the youngest) at the time of his inauguration. Roosevelt found the vice-presidency unfulfilling, and thinking that he had little future in politics, considered returning to law school after leaving office. On September 2, 1901, Roosevelt first uttered a sentence that would become strongly associated with his presidency, urging Americans to "speak softly and carry a big stick" during a speech at the Minnesota State Fair. Only twelve days later, he would be catapulted forever into the American public's consciousness.


McKinley was shot by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, on September 6, 1901, and died September 14, vaulting Roosevelt into the presidency. Roosevelt took the oath of office on September 14 in the Ansley Wilcox House at Buffalo, New York. One of his first notable acts as President was to deliver a 20,000-word address to the House of Representatives on December 3, 1901 asking Congress to curb the power of trusts "within reasonable limits." For this and subsequent actions, he has been called a "trust-buster."

Roosevelt relished the Presidency and seemed to be everywhere at once. He took Cabinet members and friends on long, fast-paced hikes, boxed in the state rooms of the White House, romped with his children, and read voraciously. He was permanently blinded in one eye during one of his boxing bouts.

Ironically three days before the first anniversary of the day McKinley was shot, on Sept 3, 1902 the carraige Roosevelt was riding in was struck by a streetcar and a Secret Service Operative was killed.

In 1904 Roosevelt ran for President in his own right and won in a landslide victory.

Building on McKinley's effective use of the press, Roosevelt made the White House the center of news every day, providing interviews and photo opportunities. His children were almost as popular as he was, and their pranks and hijinks in the White House made headlines. His daughter, Alice Lee Roosevelt, became the toast of Washington. When friends asked if he could rein in his only daughter, Roosevelt said, "I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both." In turn, Alice said of him that he always wanted to be "the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral." His many enthusiastic interests and limitless energy led one ambassador to wryly explain, "You must always remember that the President is about six."


Determined to create what he called a "Square Deal" between business and labor, Roosevelt pushed several pieces of progressive legislation through Congress.

Progressivism in the United States was the most powerful political force of the day, and in the first dozen years of the century Roosevelt was its most articulate spokesman. Progressivism meant expertise, and the use of science, engineering, technology and the new social sciences to identify the nation's problems, and identify ways to eliminate waste and inefficiency and to promote modernization. Roosevelt, trained as a biologist, identified himself and his programs with the mystique of science. The other side of Progressivism was a burning hatred of corruption and a fear of powerful and dangerous forces, such as political machines, labor unions and especially the new large corporations — called "trusts" — which seemed to have emerged overnight. Roosevelt, the former deputy sheriff on the Dakota frontier, and police commissioner of New York City, knew evil when he saw it and was dedicated to destroying it. Roosevelt's moralistic determination set the tone of national politics.

Trusts were increasingly the central issue in politics, with public opinion fearing that large corporations could impose monopolistic prices to cheat the consumer and squash small independent companies. By 1904, 318 trusts controlled about two-fifths of the nation's manufacturing output, not to mention powerful trusts in non-manufacturing sectors such as railroads, local transit, and banking. Roosevelt decided to do something about it. A few historians credit McKinley with starting the trust-busting era, but most credit Roosevelt, the "Trust Buster." Once President, Roosevelt worked to increase the regulatory power of the federal government. Regulation of railroads was strengthened by the Elkins Act (1903) and especially the Hepburn Act of 1906, which had the effect of favoring merchants over the railroads. Under his leadership, the Attorney General brought forty-four suits against businesses that were claimed to be monopolies, most notably J.P. Morgan's Northern Securities Company, a huge railroad combination, and J. D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company. Both were successful, with Standard Oil broken into over 30 smaller companies that eventually competed with one another. To raise the visibility of labor and management issues, he established a new federal Department of Labor and Commerce.

In response to public clamor, Roosevelt pushed Congress to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, as well as the Meat Inspection Act of 1906.

By 1907-08, his last two years in office, Roosevelt was increasingly distrustful of big business, despite its close ties to the Republican party in every large state. Abandoning his earlier caution and conservatism, Roosevelt freely lambasted his conservative critics and called on Congress to enact a series of radical new laws — the Square Deal — that would regulate the economy. He wanted a national incorporation law (all corporations had state charters, which varied greatly state by state), a federal income tax and inheritance tax (both targeted on the rich), limits on the use of court injunctions against labor unions during strikes (injunctions were a powerful weapon that mostly helped business), an employee liability law for industrial injuries (pre-empting state laws), an eight-hour law for federal employees, a postal savings system (to provide competition for local banks), and, finally, campaign reform laws. None of his agenda was enacted, and Roosevelt carried over the ideas into the 1912 campaign. Roosevelt's increasingly radical stance proved popular in the Midwest and Pacific Coast, and among farmers, teachers, clergymen, clerical workers and some proprietors, but appeared as divisive and unnecessary to eastern Republicans, corporate executives, lawyers, party workers, and Congressmen.


Roosevelt was also interested in conserving natural wonders and resources, and is considered by many to be the nation's first conservation President. He encouraged the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902 to promote federal construction of dams to irrigate small farms and placed 230 million acres (360,000 mi² or 930,000 km²) under federal protection. Roosevelt set aside more Federal land for national parks and nature preserves than all of his predecessors combined. As one story has it, he once asked his advisors, "Is there any law which prohibits me from declaring this island a bird refuge?" When they indicated there was not, Roosevelt signed the paper with a flourish and said, "Very well, then, I so declare it!"

During his presidency, Roosevelt established the United States Forest Service, signed into law the creation of five National Parks, and signed the 1906 Antiquities Act, under which he proclaimed 18 new U.S. National Monuments. He also established the first 51 Bird Reserves, four Game Preserves, and 150 National Forests, including Shoshone National Forest, the nation's first. The area of the United States that he placed under public protection totals approximately 230,000,000 acres.

Today, Roosevelt's dedication to conservation is remembered by a national park that bears his name in the North Dakota Badlands. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is home to a variety of plants and animals, including bison, prairie dogs, and elk.


Although Roosevelt did some work improving race relations, he, like most leaders of the Progressive Era, lacked initiative on most racial issues. Booker T. Washington, the most important black leader of the day, was the first freeman of color to be invited to dinner on October 16, 1901, at the White House, where he discussed politics and racism with Roosevelt. News of the dinner reached the press two days later. The public outcry following the dinner was so strong, especially from the Southern states, that Roosevelt never repeated the experiment.

Publicly, Roosevelt spoke out against racism and discrimination, and appointed many blacks to lower-level Federal offices, and wrote fondly of the "Buffalo Soldiers," led by "Black Jack" Pershing, who had fought beside his Rough Riders at the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba in July 1898. Roosevelt opposed school segregation, having ended the practice as Governor of New York, and also did not subscribe to anti-Semitism—he was the first to appoint a Jew, Oscar S. Straus, to the Presidential Cabinet.

Like most intellectuals of the era, Roosevelt believed in evolution. He saw the different races as having reached different levels of civilization (with whites at the top and blacks at the bottom). Every race, and every individual, was capable of unlimited improvement, Roosevelt felt. Furthermore, a new "race" (in the cultural sense, not biological) had emerged on the American frontier, the "American race," and it was quite distinct from other ethnic groups, such as the Anglo-Saxons. Roosevelt thought himself as Dutch, not Anglo-Saxon. After criticism of Washington's invitation to the White House, Roosevelt seemed to wilt publicly on the cause of racial equality. In 1906, he approved the dishonorable discharges of three companies of black soldiers involved in a riot in Brownsville, Texas, known as the Brownsville Raid.

Foreign policy

Roosevelt fervently urged the United States to build a strong navy. He believed in an imperial mission for the United States, and that the U.S could eventually be pulled into war in the Pacific Ocean with the Japanese people. Roosevelt ordered what came to be called the Great White Fleet (due to its gleaming white paint) on an around-the-world goodwill cruise, including a prominent stop in Japan. Roosevelt hoped to ease Japanese-American tensions and to show the Japanese leadership, as well as the rest of the world, the global reach of the United States' military might. The Great White Fleet returned to the U.S. in 1909, and Roosevelt had the pleasure of reviewing the Fleet just before leaving office. As a tribute to him, several Navy warships have been named after Roosevelt over the years, including a Nimitz class supercarrier.

Panama Canal

In 1903, Roosevelt encouraged the local political class in Panama to form a nation independent from Colombia, after that nation refused the American terms for the building of a canal across the isthmus. Roosevelt dispatched navy vessels to the area to apply political pressure on the Colombian government, allowing the Panamanian rebels to secede without much opposition. The new nation of Panama sold a canal zone to the United States for 10 million U.S. dollars and a steadily increasing yearly sum. Roosevelt felt that a passage through the Isthmus of Panama was vital to protect American interests and to create a strong and cohesive United States Navy. The resulting Panama Canal was completed in 1914 and revolutionized world travel and commerce.

Russian-Japanese War

In 1905, Roosevelt became the first president to negotiate peace in a major foreign war between Japan and Russia. Roosevelt won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his work to hasten the end of the Russian-Japanese War. He was the first American to win a Nobel Prize in any category.


President Theodore Roosevelt 1901 – 1909
Vice President Charles Fairbanks 1905 – 1909
Secretary of State John Hay 1901 – 1905
Elihu Root 1905 – 1909
Robert Bacon 1909
Secretary of the Treasury Lyman J. Gage 1901 – 1902
Leslie M. Shaw 1902 – 1907
George B. Cortelyou 1907 – 1909
Secretary of War Elihu Root 1901 – 1904
William Howard Taft 1904 – 1908
Luke E. Wright 1908 – 1909
Attorney General Philander C. Knox 1901 – 1904
William H. Moody 1904 – 1906
Charles J. Bonaparte 1906 – 1909
Postmaster General Charles E. Smith 1901 – 1902
Henry C. Payne 1902 – 1904
Robert J. Wynne 1904 – 1905
George B. Cortelyou 1905 – 1907
George von L. Meyer 1907 – 1909
Secretary of the Navy John D. Long 1901 – 1902
William H. Moody 1902 – 1904
Paul Morton 1902 – 1906
Charles J. Bonaparte 1906 – 1908
Victor H. Metcalf 1906 – 1908
Truman H. Newberry 1908 – 1909
Secretary of the Interior Ethan A. Hitchcock 1901 – 1907
James Rudolph Garfield 1907 – 1909
Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson 1901 – 1909
Secretary of Commerce and Labor George B. Cortelyou 1903 – 1904
Victor H. Metcalf 1904 – 1906
Oscar S. Straus 1906 – 1909

Supreme Court appointments

Roosevelt appointed three Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in 1902; William Rufus Day in 1903; and William Henry Moody in 1906. Although Moody was a close associate of Roosevelt, Holmes, who would become the longest-serving Justice in the Supreme Court, gained his appointment by virtue of sharing a mutual acquaintance with Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge.

Lodge, who served as a member of the United States Senate for the state of Massachusetts, convinced Roosevelt that Holmes would be a "safe" appointment and would not oppose Roosevelt's policies. Holmes himself may have campaigned for his appointment, as he paid a visit to the home of Roosevelt's children to tell them stories of his service in the American Civil War. Roosevelt, who knew little of Holmes' judicial writings, already had obtained a favorable impression of Holmes due to the latter's speech entitled "The Soldier's Faith."

On August 11, 1902, while the Senate was in recess, Roosevelt appointed Holmes to the Supreme Court. However, Holmes's recess appointment would not be binding until the Senate agreed to confirm him, which it did on December 4. However, Lodge's assurance that Holmes would be "safe" turned out to be mistaken, and Roosevelt later regretted appointing Holmes to the Supreme Court for the latter's striking down of several reforms Roosevelt supported.

William Rufus Day, former Secretary of State for McKinley, had been appointed by the latter to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for four years after leaving his post in the cabinet. Roosevelt appointed him to the Supreme Court on January 29, 1903. If the President had expected a Justice who would toe the line on his progressive policies, Roosevelt was not initially disappointed; however, Day would later oppose the President on a number of issues, such as the regulation of hours and wages of labor.

Moody, Roosevelt's Secretary of the Navy and then as Attorney General, was appointed to the Court on December 12, 1906 but he only stayed on the court for less than four years. Illness forced him to resign in 1910.

Growing Split inside Republican Party

Roosevelt certified William Howard Taft to be a genuine "progressive", in 1908, when Roosevelt pushed through the nomination of his uncharismatic Secretary of War. Taft easily defeated three-time candidate William Jennings Bryan. Taft sincerely considered himself a "progressive" because in his deep belief in "The Law" as the scientific device that should be used by judges to solve society's problems. Taft proved an inept politician, and lacked the energy and personal magnetism, not to mention the publicity devices, the dedicated supporters, and the broad base of public support that made Roosevelt so formidable. When Roosevelt realized that lowering the tariff would risk severe tensions inside the GOP, pitting producers (manufacturers and farmers) against department stores and consumers, he stopped talking about the issue. Taft ignored the risks and tackled the tariff boldly, on the one hand encouraging reformers to fight for lower rates, then cutting deals with conservative leaders that kept overall rates high. The resulting Payne-Aldrich tariff of 1909 was too high for most reformers, but instead of blaming this on Senator Nelson Aldrich and big business, Taft took credit, calling it the best tariff ever. Again he had managed to alienate all sides. While the crisis was building inside the GOP, Roosevelt was touring Africa and Europe, so as to allow Taft to be his own man.

Unlike Roosevelt, Taft never attacked business or businessmen in his rhetoric. However, he was attentive to the law, so he launched 90 antitrust suits, including one against the largest corporation, U.S. Steel for an acquisition that Roosevelt had personally approved. The upshot was that Taft lost the support of antitrust reformers (who disliked his conservative rhetoric), of big business (which disliked his actions), and of Roosevelt, who felt humiliated by his protege.

Under the leadership of Senators Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin and Albert Beveridge of Indiana, Midwestern progressives increasingly became party insurgents, battling both Taft and the conservative wing of the Republican party. The tariff issue initially brought the insurgents together, but they broadened their attack to cover a wide range of issues. In 1910, they cooperated with Democrats to reduce the power of Speaker Joseph Cannon, a key conservative. Roosevelt had always disliked Cannon, but respected his power and never attempted to undercut it. The insurgents were much bolder. In 1911, LaFollette created the National Progressive Republican League to defeat the power of political bossism at the state level, and to replace Taft at the national level. More trouble came when Taft fired Gifford Pinchot, a leading conservationist and close ally of Roosevelt. Pinchot alleged that Taft's Secretary of Interior Richard Ballinger was in league with big timber interests. Conservationists sided with Pinchot, as Taft alienated yet another vocal constituency.

Roosevelt, back from Europe, unexpectedly launched an attack on the federal courts, which deeply upset Taft. Not only had Roosevelt alienated big business, he was also attacking both the judiciary and the deep faith Republicans had in their judges (most of whom had been appointed by McKinley, Roosevelt or Taft.) In the 1910 Congressional elections, Democrats swept to power and Taft's reelection in 1912 was increasingly in doubt.

Progressive Party Candidate in 1912

Late in 1911, Roosevelt finally broke with Taft and LaFollette and announced as a candidate for the Republican nomination. Most of LaFollette's supporters went over to Roosevelt, leaving the Wisconsin Senator embittered. Roosevelt, stepping up his attack on judges, carried 9 of the states with preferential primaries, LaFollette took two, and Taft only one. Most professional Republican politicians were supporting Taft, and they proved difficult to upset in non-primary states. In a decisive move, Taft's people purchased support of corrupt politicians who represented the shadow Republican party in southern states. (These states always voted Democratic in presidential elections, but their delegates had over 300 votes at the Republican convention.) Taft's managers, led by Elihu Root beat back challenges to their southern delegations; Taft now had more delegates than Roosevelt, but not a clear-cut majority. Roosevelt's people had made similar purchases in the South in 1904, but this time the Rough Rider called foul. Not since 1872 had there been a major schism in the Republican party; Roosevelt himself in 1884 had refused to bolt the ticket even though he distrusted candidate James G. Blaine. Now, with the Democrats holding about 45% of the national vote, any schism would be fatal. Roosevelt's only hope at the convention was to form a "stop-Taft" alliance with LaFollette, but LaFollette hated Roosevelt too much to allow that. Unable to tolerate the personal humiliation he suffered at the hands of Taft and the Old Guard, and refusing to entertain the possibility of a compromise candidate, Roosevelt struck back hard. Outvoted, Roosevelt pulled his delegates off the convention floor and decided to form a third party.

Roosevelt, along with key allies such as Pinchot and Beveridge created the United States Progressive Party structuring it as a permanent organization that would field complete tickets at the presidential and state level. It was popularly known as the "Bull Moose Party." At his Chicago convention Roosevelt cried out, "We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord." The crusading rhetoric resonated well with the delegates, many of them long-time reformers, crusaders, activists and opponents of politics as usual. Included in the ranks were Jane Addams and many other feminists and peace activists. The platform echoed Roosevelt's 1907-08 proposals, calling for vigorous government intervention to protect the people from the selfish interests.

The great majority of Republican governors, congressmen, editors and local leaders refused to join the new party, even if they had supported Roosevelt before. Only five of the 15 most prominent progressive Republicans in the Senate endorsed the new party; three came out for Wilson. Many of Roosevelt's closest political allies supported Taft, including his son-in-law, Nicholas Longworth. Roosevelt's daughter Alice Roosevelt Longworth stuck with her father, causing a permanent chill in her marriage. For men like Longworth expecting a future in politics, bolting the Republican party ticket was simply too radical a step; for others it was safer to go with Woodrow Wilson, and quite a few supporters of progressivism had doubts about the reliability of Roosevelt's beliefs.

Historians speculate that if The Bull Moose had only run a presidential ticket, it might have attracted many more Republicans willing to split their ballot. But the progressive movement was strongest at the state level, and therefore the new party had to field candidates for governor and state legislature. In Pittsburgh, the local Republican boss, at odds with state party leaders, joined Roosevelt's cause. In California, Governor Hiram Johnson and the Bull Moosers took control of the regular Republicans party; Taft was not even listed on the California ballot. Johnson became Roosevelt's running-mate. In most states there were full Republican and Progressive tickets in the field, thus splitting the Republican vote. Roosevelt campaigned vigorously on the ("Bull Moose") ticket. While campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he was shot by saloonkeeper John Schrank in a failed assassination attempt on October 14, 1912. With the bullet still lodged in his chest, Roosevelt still delivered his scheduled speech. He was not seriously wounded, although his doctors thought it too dangerous to attempt to remove the bullet, and he carried it with him until he died.

The central problem faced by Progressive Party was that the Democrats were more united and optimistic than they had been in years. The Bull Moosers fancied they had a chance to elect Roosevelt by drawing out progressive elements from both the Republican and Democratic parties. That dream evaporated in July, when the Democrats unexpectedly rejected party hacks and instead nominated their most articulate and prominent progressive, Woodrow Wilson. As the crusading governor of New Jersey, Wilson had attracted national attention. As a leading educator and political scientist, he qualified as the ideal "expert" to handle affairs of state. Wilson appealed to regular Democrats, to progressive Democrats, and to independent progressives of the sort Roosevelt was targeting. At least half the nation's independent progressives flocked to Wilson's camp, both because of Wilson's policies and, in the expectation of victory, leaving the Bull Moose party high and dry. Roosevelt haters, such as LaFollette, also voted for Wilson instead of wasting their vote on Taft who could never win.

Roosevelt nonetheless conducted a vigorous national campaign, denouncing the way the Republican nomination had been "stolen." He bundled together his reforms under the rubric of "The New Nationalism" and stumped the country for a strong federal role in regulating the economy, and, especially, watching and chastising bad corporations and overruling federal and state judges who made unprogressive decisions. Wilson called for "The New Freedom", which emphasized individualism rather than the collectivism that Roosevelt was promoting. Once he was in office, however, Wilson, in practice, supported reforms that resembled Roosevelt's collectivism more than his own individualism. Taft, knowing he had no chance to win, campaigned quietly, emphasizing the superior role of judges over the demagogy of elected officials. The departure of the more extreme progressives left the conservatives even more firmly in control of the GOP, and many of the Old Guard leaders even distrusted Taft as a bit too progressive for their taste, especially on matters of antitrust and tariffs. Much of the Republican effort was designed to discredit Roosevelt as a dangerous radical, but people knew Roosevelt too well to buy that argument. The result was the weakest Republican effort in history.

The most serious problem faced by Roosevelt's third party was money. The business interests who usually funded Republican campaigns distrusted Roosevelt and either sat the election out, or supported Taft. Newspaper publisher Frank Munsey provided most of the funds, with large sums also given by George Perkins. Perkins was a divisive factor; a former official of U.S. Steel, he single-handedly removed the antitrust plank from the Progressive platform. Radicals, such as Pinchot, deeply distrusted Perkins and Munsey, though realizing the fledgling party depended on their deep pockets. Roosevelt, however, strongly backed Perkins, who remained as party chairman to the bitter end. A few newspapers endorsed Roosevelt, including the Chicago Tribune, but the great majority stood behind Taft or Wilson. Lacking a strong party press, the Bull Moosers had to spend most of their money on publicity.

Roosevelt succeeded in his main goal of punishing Taft; with 4.1 million votes (27%) he ran well ahead of Taft's 3.5 million (23%). However, Wilson's 6.3 million votes (42%) was enough to garner 435 electoral votes. Taft, with two small states, Vermont and Utah, had 8 electoral votes. Roosevelt had 88: Pennsylvania was his only Eastern state; in the Midwest he carried Michigan, Minnesota and South Dakota; in the West, California and Washington; in the South, nothing. The Democrats gained ten seats in the Senate, just enough to form a majority, and 63 new House seats to solidify their control there. Progressive statewide candidates trailed about 20 percent behind Roosevelt's vote. Almost all, including Beveridge of Indiana, went down to defeat; the only governor elected was Hiram Johnson of California. A mere seventeen Bull Moosers were elected to Congress, and perhaps 250 to local office. Outside California, there obviously was no real base to the party beyond the personality of Roosevelt himself.

Roosevelt had scored a second-place finish, but he trailed so far behind Wilson that everyone realized his party would never win the White House. With the poor performance at state and local levels in 1912, the steady defection of top supporters, the failure to attract any new support, and a pathetic showing in 1914, the Bull Moose party disintegrated. Some leaders, such as Harold Ickes of Chicago, supported Wilson in 1916. Most followed Roosevelt back into the GOP, which nominated Charles Evans Hughes. The ironies were many: Taft had been Roosevelt's hand-picked successor in 1908 and the split between the two men was personal and bitter; if Roosevelt had supported a compromise candidate in 1912, the GOP would not have split, and probably would have won; if Roosevelt had just waited, he likely would have been nominated and elected in 1916, as a Republican. Roosevelt's schism allowed the conservatives to gain control of the Republican party and left Roosevelt and his followers drifting in the wilderness.

Roosevelt and the First World War

Roosevelt was bitterly disappointed with the foreign policies of President Woodrow Wilson and his pacifist Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan. When World War One began in 1914, Roosevelt sympathized more with the Allies and demanded a harsher policy against Germany, especially regarding submarine warfare. In 1916 he campaigned energetically for Hughes and repeatedly denounced Irish-Americans and German-Americans, whose pleas for neutrality Roosevelt labelled as unpatriotic. He insisted that one had to be 100% American, not a "hyphenated-American." When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, Roosevelt sought to raise a volunteer division, but Wilson refused, perhaps because his famed publicity machine would upstage the White House. Roosevelt's attacks on Wilson helped the Republicans win control of Congress in the elections of 1918. Had Roosevelt remained healthy, he could have won the 1920 GOP nomination, but his health was broken by 1918 due to tropical disease.

Roosevelt was buried with his wife, Edith, in Young's Memorial Cemetery.


On March 23, 1909, shortly after the end of his second term (but only full term) as President, Roosevelt left New York for a post-presidency safari in Africa. The trip was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society and received worldwide media attention. Despite his commitment to conservation, his party killed over 6,000 animals, including some of the last remaining white rhino.

As an author, Roosevelt continued to write with great passion on subjects ranging from American foreign policy to the importance of the national park system. One of Roosevelt's more popular books, Through the Brazilian Wilderness   was about his expedition into the Brazilian jungle. After the election of 1912, Roosevelt went on the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition, exploring the Brazilian jungle with Brazilian explorer Candido Rondon. During this expedition, he discovered the Rio of Doubt, later renamed Rio Roosevelt in honor of the President. Roosevelt also caught a debilitating tropical disease that cut short his life. In all, Roosevelt wrote about 18 books, including his Autobiography , Rough Riders and histories of the Naval Academy, ranching and wildlife, which are still in use today.

On January 6, 1919, at the age of 60, Roosevelt died in his sleep of a coronary embolism at Oyster Bay, Nassau County, New York, and was buried in Young's Memorial Cemetery. Upon receiving word of his death, his son, Archie, sent a telegram to his siblings, stating simply, "The old lion is dead."

Personal life

Roosevelt was baptised in the family's Dutch Reformed church; he attended the Madison Square Presbyterian Church until the age of 16. Later in life when Roosevelt lived at Oyster Bay he attended an Episcopal church with his wife. While in Washington, D.C., he attended services at Grace Reformed Church. As President he firmly believed in the separation of church and state and thought it unwise to have In God We Trust on U.S. currency, because he thought it sacrilegious to put the name of the Deity on something so common as money.

Roosevelt had a lifelong interest in pursuing what he called "the strenuous life." To this end he exercised regularly and took up boxing, tennis, hiking, rowing, hunting, polo, and horseback riding. As Governor of New York, he boxed with sparring partners several times a week, a practice he regularly continued as President until one blow detached his left retina, leaving him blind in that eye. Thereafter he practiced jiujitsu and continued as well his habit of skinny-dipping in the Potomac River during winter.

At the age of 22, Roosevelt married his first wife, 19-year-old Alice Hathaway Lee. Their marriage ceremony was held on October 27, 1880, at the Unitarian Church in Brookline, Massachusetts. Alice was the daughter of the prominent banker George Cabot Lee and Caroline Haskell Lee. The couple first met on October 18, 1878, at the residence of her next-door neighbors, the Saltonstalls. By Thanksgiving Roosevelt had decided to marry Alice. He finally proposed in June 1879, though Alice waited another six months before accepting the proposal; their engagement was announced on Valentine's Day 1880. Alice Roosevelt died shortly after the birth of their first child, whom they also named Alice. In a tragic coincidence, his mother died on the same day as his wife at the Roosevelt family home in Manhattan.

In 1886 he married Edith Carow. They had five children: Theodore, Jr. Kermit, Ethel, Archibald, and Quentin. Although Roosevelt's father was also named Theodore Roosevelt, he died while the future president was still childless and unmarried, and the future President Roosevelt took the suffix of Sr. and subsequently named his son Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Because Roosevelt was still alive when his grandson and namesake was born, said grandson was named Theodore Roosevelt III, and consequently the president's son retained the Jr. after his father's death.


On January 16, 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded Theodore Roosevelt the Medal of Honor. The award was accepted on Roosevelt's behalf by his great-grandson, Tweed Roosevelt. The Roosevelts thus became one of only two father-son pairs to receive this honor. Roosevelt's eldest son, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt II, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism at Normandy during the D-Day invasion of 6 June 1944. The other pair was Douglas MacArthur and his father, Civil War hero Arthur MacArthur, Jr.


  • "The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, or preventing all possibility of its continuing as a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities."
  • "...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done."
  • "I have a perfect horror of words that are not backed up by deeds."
  • "I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well."
  • "There are good men and bad men of all nationalities, creeds and colors; and if this world of ours is ever to become what we hope some day it may become, it must be by the general recognition that the man's heart and soul, the man's worth and actions, determine his standing."
  • "There is not in all America a more dangerous trait than the deification of mere smartness unaccompanied by any sense of moral responsibility."

In popular culture

  • Roosevelt, together with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, is depicted in stone at the Mount Rushmore Memorial.
  • Roosevelt appears as a semi-fictional character in the novel The Alienist by Caleb Carr. The novel is set in New York City in 1896 when Roosevelt was the city's police commissioner.
  • Roosevelt appears as the mayor of New York City (which he never was) in Chris Elliott's spoof novel The Shroud of the Thwacker .
  • Roosevelt appears several times in Scrooge McDuck comics by Keno Don Rosa. Scrooge and Roosevelt met each other in 1882, and on several other occasions they meet each other coincidentally. He is credited with mentoring an adolescent Scrooge in the values of self-confidence and self-reliance.
  • Stuffed toy bears (teddy bears) are named after him; his childhood nickname was "Teedie," (not "Teddie") but his adult nickname was "Teddy" (which he despised and considered improper, preferring "T.R."). Toy bear manufacturers took to naming them after him following an incident on a hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902 in which he refused to kill a black bear cub. Bear cubs became closely associated with Roosevelt in political cartoons thereafter.
  • Roosevelt is also depicted fictionally in Gore Vidal's novel Empire , Harry Turtledove's How Few Remain , and the movie The Wind and the Lion  written and directed by John Milius.
  • His 1909 African safari was included in an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and in an episode of the Disney TV animated series The Legend of Tarzan .
  • In Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 alternate history, Roosevelt raised an "Unauthorized Regiment" during the Second Mexican War (1881) and became a war hero. He later served as Democratic President in 1913–21, defeating the Confederate States and crushing Canada during the Great War (1914–17). He was defeated by Socialist Upton Sinclair in his historic run for a third term; he died in 1924 as the most beloved president in recent U.S. history.
  • Theodore Roosevelt is a part of the inspiration for the Roosevelt Institution, a student think tank.

Presidential firsts

  • First American to be awarded a Nobel Prize (in any category) in 1907.
  • First and only U.S. President to be awarded the Medal of Honor (posthumously in 2001), for his charge up San Juan Hill.
  • First and only President to knife-fight a cougar in 1901.
  • First sitting U.S. President to make an official trip outside of the United States, visiting Panama to inspect the construction progress of the Panama Canal on November 9, 1906.
  • First President to sail in a submarine (aboard the USS Plunger . 1905), and first former president to fly in an airplane (October 11, 1910).

(Note: After sailing in said submarine, he ordered an additional $10 in pay be added to the salaries of men who served on submarines.)

  • First President to invite a black man (Booker T. Washington in 1901) to dine at the White House.
  • First President to appoint a Jew, Oscar S. Straus in 1906, as a Presidential Cabinet Secretary.
  • First to use the boxing idea of "throwing one's hat in the ring" in a political race when he announced his campaign for the



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