Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore "T.R." Roosevelt, Jr. (/ˈrzəvɛlt/ ROH-zə-velt)[a] (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919) was an American author, naturalist, explorer, historian, and politician who served as the 26th President of the United States. He was a leader of the Republican Party (the "GOP") and founder of the Progressive Party. He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity.[3] Born into a wealthy family in New York City, Roosevelt was a sickly child who suffered from asthma. To overcome his physical weakness, he embraced a strenuous life. He was home-schooled and became an eager student of nature. He attended Harvard University where he studied biology, boxed, and developed an interest in naval affairs. He entered politics in the New York state legislature, determined to become a member of the ruling class. In 1881, one year out of Harvard, he was elected to the New York State Assembly, where he became a leader of the reform faction of the GOP. His book The Naval War of 1812 (1882) established him as a learned historian and writer.

When his first wife Alice died two days after giving birth in February 1884, he was heartbroken and in despair; he temporarily left politics and became a rancher in the Dakotas. When blizzards destroyed his cattle he returned to New York City politics, running and losing a race for mayor. In the 1890s he took vigorous charge of the city police as Commissioner. By 1897 Roosevelt was in effect running the Navy Department. He called for war against Spain and when the Spanish–American War broke out in 1898 he helped form the famous Rough Riders, a combination of wealthy Easterners and Western cowboys. He gained national fame for his courage in battle in Cuba, then returned to be elected governor of New York. He was the GOP nominee for Vice President with William McKinley, campaigning successfully against radicalism and for prosperity, national honor, imperialism (regarding the Philippines), high tariffs and the gold standard. Roosevelt became President after McKinley was assassinated. He attempted to move the GOP toward Progressivism, including trust busting and increased regulation of businesses. In November 1904 he was reelected in a landslide against conservative Democrat Alton Brooks Parker. Roosevelt called his domestic policies a "Square Deal", promising a fair deal to the average citizen while breaking up monopolistic corporations, holding down railroad rates, and guaranteeing pure food and drugs. He was the first president to speak out on conservation, and he greatly expanded the system of national parks and national forests. By 1907 he propounded more radical reforms, which were blocked by the conservative Republicans in Congress. His foreign policy focused on the Caribbean, where he built the Panama Canal and guarded its approaches. There were no wars, but his slogan, "Speak softly and carry a big stick" was underscored by sending the greatly expanded Navy—the Great White Fleet—on a world tour. He negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

At the end of his second term, Roosevelt supported his close friend William Howard Taft for the 1908 Republican nomination. After leaving office, he toured Africa and Europe, and on his return in 1910 he broke with President Taft on issues of progressivism and personalities. In the 1912 election Roosevelt tried but failed to block Taft's renomination. He then launched the Progressive ("Bull Moose") Party that called for progressive reforms, splitting the Republican vote. That allowed Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the White House and Congress, while the Taft conservatives gained control of the GOP for decades. Roosevelt then led a major expedition to the Amazon jungles and contracted several illnesses. From 1914 to 1917 he campaigned for American entry into World War I, and reconciled with GOP leadership. He was seen as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in the 1920 election, but his health collapsed and he died in 1919. Roosevelt has consistently been ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.[4] His face adorns Mount Rushmore alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.[5]

 

Early life and family

Theodore Roosevelt at age 11

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. was born on October 27, 1858, in a four-story brownstone at 28 East 20th Street, in the modern-day Gramercy section of New York City. He was the second of four children born to glass businessman and philanthropist Theodore "Thee" Roosevelt, Sr. and socialite Martha Stewart "Mittie" Bulloch. He had an older sister named Anna ("Bamie"), a younger brother named Elliott, and a younger sister named Corinne. Elliott was the father of First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Thee was of Dutch, English, Irish, and Welsh descent while Mittie had Scottish, English, and French ancestry. Thee was the fifth son of businessman Cornelius Van Schaack "C.V.S." Roosevelt and Margaret Barnhill. Thee's fourth cousin businessman James Roosevelt I was the father of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Mittie was the younger daughter of Major James Stephens Bulloch and Martha P. "Patsy" Stewart.[6]

Roosevelt's youth was in large part shaped by his poor health and his need to overcome severe asthma, with debilitating impact on the body and the personality. He experienced recurring sudden nighttime asthma attacks that caused near deathlike experiences of being smothered to death, terrifying the boy and his parents. Doctors had no cure.[7] Nevertheless he was energetic and mischievously inquisitive.[8] His lifelong interest in zoology began at age seven when he saw a dead seal at a local market – after obtaining the seal's head, Roosevelt and two cousins formed what they called the "Roosevelt Museum of Natural History". Having learned the rudiments of taxidermy, he filled his makeshift museum with animals that he killed or caught, then studied and prepared for display. At age nine, he codified his observation of insects with a paper entitled "The Natural History of Insects".[9]

Thee had a significant influence on him. Theodore Jr. later wrote: "My father, Theodore Roosevelt, was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness." Family trips abroad, including tours of Europe in 1869 and 1870, and Egypt in 1872, also had a lasting impact.[10] Hiking with his family in the Alps in 1869, he found he could actually keep pace with his father. He had discovered the significant benefits of physical exertion to minimize his asthma and bolster his spirits.[11][12] With encouragement from his father, he then began a heavy regime of exercise. After being manhandled by two older boys on a camping trip, a boxing coach was added, to strengthen a weakened body and psyche.[13][14]

Roosevelt later articulated the abiding influence of the courageous men he found in his reading as well as in his family: "I was nervous and timid. Yet from reading of the people I admired – ranging from the soldiers of Valley Forge and Morgan's riflemen, to the heroes of my favorite stories – and from hearing of the feats of my southern forefathers and kinsfolk and from knowing my father, I felt a great admiration for men who were fearless and who could hold their own in the world, and I had a great desire to be like them."[15]

Education

Roosevelt's taxidermy kit[16]

Young Theodore was mostly home schooled by tutors and his parents. Biographer Henry William Brands opined: "The most obvious drawback to the home schooling Roosevelt received was uneven coverage of the various areas of human knowledge."[17] He was solid in geography, from self study during travels, and bright in history and biology, French, and German; however, he struggled in mathematics and the classical languages. He entered Harvard University on September 27, 1876. Shortly before Roosevelt left for Harvard, his father told him "Take care of your morals first, your health next, and finally your studies".[18]

After recovering from devastation over his father's death on February 9, 1878, Roosevelt redoubled his activities. He did well in science, philosophy, and rhetoric courses but continued to struggle in Latin and Greek. He studied biology intently and was already an accomplished naturalist and published ornithologist; he read prodigiously with an almost photographic memory.[19] While at Harvard, Roosevelt was active in rowing and boxing; he was runner-up in a Harvard boxing tournament. Roosevelt was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi literary society, the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and the Porcellian Club; he also was an editor of The Harvard Advocate. Roosevelt graduated Phi Beta Kappa (22nd of 177) from Harvard with an A.B. magna cum laude on June 30, 1880.[18]

He underwent a physical examination after graduation – his doctor diagnosed him with heart problems and recommended he avoid strenuous activity, advice which he spurned.[20] He entered Columbia Law School, and was an able student, but found the law often a frustration of irrationality; he spent much of his time writing a book on the War of 1812. Roosevelt became entirely disenchanted with the monotonous study of law and soon found a diversion to satisfy his gregarious nature – it came in the form of political discussions – which he encountered at Morton Hall on 59th Street, the headquarters for New York's 21st District Republican Association. When pushed to run for public office, he dropped out of law school to pursue his new goal, saying later "I intended to be one of the governing class."[21]

The Naval War of 1812

While at Harvard, Roosevelt began a systematic study of the role played by the nascent US Navy in the War of 1812, largely completing two chapters of a book he published after graduation.[22][23] Assisted by two uncles, he scrutinized original source materials and official US Navy records. Roosevelt's carefully researched book, published in 1882, was comparable to modern doctoral dissertations, complete with drawings of individual and combined ship maneuvers, charts depicting the differences in iron throw weights of cannon shot between American and British forces, and analyses of the differences between English and American leadership down to the ship-to-ship level. Published after Roosevelt's graduation from college, The Naval War of 1812 was praised for its scholarship and style, and demonstrated Roosevelt as a scholar of history. One modern naval historian wrote: "Roosevelt's study of the War of 1812 influenced all subsequent scholarship on the naval aspects of the War of 1812 and continues to be reprinted. More than a classic, it remains, after 120 years, a standard study of the war."[24] Roosevelt summarized one of the primary morals of the war thus: "It must be but a poor spirited American whose veins do not tingle with pride when he reads of the cruises and fights of the sea-captains, and their grim prowess, which kept the old Yankee flag floating over the waters of the Atlantic for three years, in the teeth of the mightiest naval power the world has ever seen"[25]

First marriage and widowhood

On his 22nd birthday, Roosevelt married socialite Alice Hathaway Lee, daughter of banker George Cabot Lee and Caroline Watts Haskell. Their daughter Alice Lee Roosevelt was born on February 12, 1884. Alice died two days after their daughter was born from an undiagnosed case of kidney failure (in those days called Bright's disease), which had been masked by the pregnancy. In his diary, Roosevelt wrote a large 'X' on the page and then, "The light has gone out of my life." His mother Mittie died of typhoid fever on the same day, at 3:00 am, some eleven hours earlier, in the same house. Distraught, he left baby Alice in the care of his sister Bamie in New York City while he took time to grieve. Roosevelt assumed custody of his daughter when she was three.[18]

He also reacted by focusing on work, specifically re-energizing a legislative investigation into corruption in New York City with a concurrent bill to centralize power in the mayor's office.[26] For the rest of his life, he rarely spoke of his wife Alice and did not write about her in his autobiography. He did not mention his marriage to Alice or his second marriage to Edith Kermit Carow when working with Joseph Bucklin Bishop on a biography that included a collection of his letters.[27]

Early political career

Roosevelt as NY State Assemblyman, 1883

State Assemblyman

Roosevelt made quick work of his political introduction to the membership in the Republican Party ("GOP") and was soon put forth as the party's candidate for the District's House seat in Albany.[28] He was elected to the New York State Assembly (New York Co., 21st D.) in 1882, 1883, and 1884. He immediately began making his mark, specifically in corporate corruption issues; Jay Gould, head of the New York World, allegedly spearheaded an effort to slander the Manhattan Elevated Co., with the intention of driving down the stock price of the company, allowing Gould to purchase a controlling interest. Gould then arranged for allies in the state assembly to engineer a last minute bill to reduce Manhattan's taxes. Roosevelt and another legislator uncovered the effort and prevented the passage of the bill at the eleventh hour. Roosevelt also exposed suspected collusion in the matter by Judge Theodore Westbrook, and argued for and received approval for an impeachment investigation to proceed. The investigating committee ultimately declined to propose impeachment, but Roosevelt had made inroads to the potential corruption in Albany, and thus assumed a high and positive political profile in multiple publications in NewYork.[29] In 1883, he was the GOP minority candidate for Speaker – in 1884, he lost the nomination for Speaker to Titus Sheard by a vote of 41 to 29 in the GOP caucus.[30] He was a GOP activist during his years in the Assembly, writing more bills than any other legislator.

Presidential election of 1884

Roosevelt attended the GOP National Convention in 1884 and fought alongside the Mugwump reformers; they lost to the Stalwart faction that nominated James G. Blaine. In a crucial moment of his budding political career, he resisted the instinct to bolt from the Party that would overwhelm his political sense in 1912. Roosevelt's choice at the convention, Senator George Franklin Edmunds, had little chance for the nomination-indeed, his endorsement was primarily intended as a rebuke of party regulars. Nevertheless, Roosevelt considered his first efforts on the national stage to be a moral victory. He remarked, "We achieved a victory in getting up a combination to beat the Blaine nominee for temporary chairman... To do this needed a mixture of skill, boldness and energy... to get the different factions to come in... to defeat the common foe."[31] He was impressed also by an invitation to speak before his largest audience to date, of ten thousand. Having gotten a taste of national politics, Roosevelt then felt less aspiration for advocacy on the state level; with that, he retired to his new "Chimney Butte Ranch" on the Little Missouri.[31]

Refusing to join other Mugwumps in supporting Grover Cleveland, the Democratic nominee in the general election, he debated with his friend Henry Cabot Lodge the pros and cons of staying loyal, but vocally concentrated on being critical of Cleveland. To complicate matters, Roosevelt was quoted as having said at the conclusion of the GOP convention that he would give "hearty support to any decent Democrat." He later took great pains to attempt to distance himself from the earlier comment, indicating that while he made it, it had not been made "for publication."[32] When asked by a reporter whether he would support Blaine, he replied, "That question I decline to answer. It is a subject I do not care to talk about."[33]

In 1886, Roosevelt was the Republican ("GOP") candidate for mayor of New York City, portraying himself as "The Cowboy of the Dakotas." Based on information spread in the course of the voting, GOP insiders warned voters that the United Labor candidate Henry George was leading and that Roosevelt was likely beat, thus causing a last-minute defection of GOP voters to the Democratic candidate Abram Hewitt. Theodore Roosevelt took third place. The election results showed Hewitt with 90,552 votes, George with 68,110, and Roosevelt with 60,435.[34]

Cowboy in Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt as Badlands hunter in 1885. New York studio photo

Roosevelt built a second ranch named Elk Horn, thirty-five miles (56 km) north of the boomtown of Medora, North Dakota. On the banks of the Little Missouri, Roosevelt learned to ride western style, rope and hunt, and though he earned the respect of the authentic cowboys, they were not overly impressed.[35] But he identified with the herdsman of history, a man he said possesses, "few of the emasculated, milk-and-water moralities admired by the pseudo-philanthropists; but he does possess, to a very high degree, the stern, manly qualities that are invaluable to a nation."[36][37] He reoriented, and began writing about frontier life for national magazines, as well publishing three books – Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, Ranch Life and the Hunting-Trail, and The Wilderness Hunter.[38]

As a deputy sheriff, Roosevelt pursued three outlaws who had stolen his riverboat and escaped north up the Little Missouri. He captured them but decided against a vigilante hanging; instead, he sent his foreman back by boat, and conveyed the thieves to Dickinson for trial. He assumed guard over them for forty hours without sleep, while reading Leo Tolstoy to keep himself awake. When he ran out of his own books, he read a dime store western that one of the thieves was carrying.[39] On another occasion, while searching for a group of relentless horse thieves, Roosevelt met Seth Bullock, the famous sheriff of Deadwood, South Dakota. The two would remain friends for life.[40]

Roosevelt brought to the west his desire to address the common interests of citizens. He successfully led efforts to organize ranchers to address the problems of overgrazing and other shared concerns; his work resulted in the formation of the Little Missouri Stockmen's Association. He was also compelled to coordinate conservation efforts and was able to form the Boone and Crockett Club, whose primary goal was the conservation of large game animals and their habitats.[41] After the uniquely severe US winter of 1886–1887 wiped out his herd of cattle and those of his competitors, and with it most of his $80,000 investment, Roosevelt returned to the East.[42]

Second marriage

On December 2, 1886, he married his childhood and family friend Edith Kermit Carow (August 6, 1861 – September 30, 1948), a daughter of Charles Carow and Gertrude Elizabeth Tyler.[43] The couple married at St George's, Hanover Square in London, England. English diplomat Cecil Arthur Spring Rice, Roosevelt's close friend, served as best man.[44] The couple honeymooned in Europe and while there Roosevelt led a group to the summit of Mont Blanc, an achievement that resulted in his induction into the Royal Society of London.[45] They had five children:

At the time of Ted's birth, Roosevelt was initially both eager and worried at the same time for Edith after losing Alice shortly after childbirth.[18]

Reentering public life

Civil Service Commission

In the 1888 presidential election, Roosevelt successfully campaigned, primarily in the Midwest, for Benjamin Harrison. President Harrison appointed Roosevelt to the United States Civil Service Commission, where he served until 1895, vigorously fought the spoilsmen and demanded enforcement of civil service laws.[46] The New York Sun then described Roosevelt as "irrepressible, belligerent, and enthusiastic"[47] Despite Roosevelt's support for Harrison's reelection bid in the presidential election of 1892, the eventual winner, Grover Cleveland (a Bourbon Democrat), reappointed him to the same post.[48] Roosevelt's close friend and biographer, Joseph Bucklin Bishop, described his assault on the spoils system:

The very citadel of spoils politics, the hitherto impregnable fortress that had existed unshaken since it was erected on the foundation laid by Andrew Jackson, was tottering to its fall under the assaults of this audacious and irrepressible young man... Whatever may have been the feelings of the (fellow Republican party) President (Harrison) – and there is little doubt that he had no idea when he appointed Roosevelt that he would prove to be so veritable a bull in a china shop — he refused to remove him and stood by him firmly till the end of his term.[47]

New York City Police Commissioner

In 1894 a group of reformist Republicans approached Roosevelt about running for Mayor of New York City again; he declined mostly due to his wife's resistance to being removed from the Washington social set. No sooner had he declined than he realized the missed opportunity to reinvigorate a dormant political career. He retreated to the Dakotas for a time; wife Edith regretted her role in the decision and vowed there would be no repeat of it.[49]

NYC Police Commissioner Roosevelt walks the beat with journalist Jacob Riis in 1894 – Illustration from Riis' autobiography.

Roosevelt became president of the board of New York City Police Commissioners in 1895 for two years and radically reformed the police force. The New York Police Department (NYPD) was reputed as one of the most corrupt in America; the NYPD's history division records that Roosevelt was "an iron-willed leader of unimpeachable honesty, (who) brought a reforming zeal to the New York City Police Commission in 1895."[50] Roosevelt implemented regular inspections of firearms and annual physical exams; he appointed 1,600 recruits based on their physical and mental qualifications, regardless of political affiliation, established Meritorious Service Medals and closed corrupt police hostelries. Also during his tenure a Municipal Lodging House was established by the Board of Charities, and Roosevelt required officers to register with the Board; he as well had telephones installed in station houses.

In 1894, Roosevelt met Jacob Riis, the muckraking Evening Sun newspaper journalist who was opening the eyes of New York's rich to the terrible conditions of the city's millions of poor immigrants with such books as How the Other Half Lives. In Riis' autobiography, he described the effect of his book on the new police commissioner:

When Roosevelt read [my] book, he came... No one ever helped as he did. For two years we were brothers in (New York City's crime-ridden) Mulberry Street. When he left I had seen its golden age... There is very little ease where Theodore Roosevelt leads, as we all of us found out. The lawbreaker found it out who predicted scornfully that he would "knuckle down to politics the way they all did," and lived to respect him, though he swore at him, as the one of them all who was stronger than pull... that was what made the age golden, that for the first time a moral purpose came into the street. In the light of it everything was transformed.[51]

Roosevelt made a habit of walking officers' beats late at night and early in the morning to make sure they were on duty.[52] He made a concerted effort to more uniformly enforce New York's Sunday closing law; in this he ran up against boss Tom Platt as well as Tammany Hall - he was put on notice that the Police Commission was being legislated out of existence. Roosevelt chose to defer rather than split with his party.[53] As Governor of New York State before becoming Vice President in March 1901, Roosevelt later signed an act replacing the Police Commissioners with a single Police Commissioner.[54]

Emergence as a national figure

Assistant Secretary of the Navy

Roosevelt had demonstrated, through his research and writing, a fascination with naval history; President William McKinley, urged by Roosevelt's close friend Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge, appointed Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897.[55] Secretary of the Navy John D. Long cared more for formalities than functions, was in poor health, and left major decisions to Roosevelt. Roosevelt seized the opportunity and began pressing on the president his national security views regarding the Pacific and the Caribbean. Roosevelt was particularly adamant that Spain be ejected from Cuba, to foster the latter's independence and demonstrate U.S. resolve to reenforce the Monroe Doctrine.[56] Ten days after the battleship Maine exploded in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, the Secretary left the office and Roosevelt became Acting Secretary for four hours. Roosevelt cabled the Navy worldwide to prepare for war, ordered ammunition and supplies, brought in experts and went to Congress asking for authority to recruit as many sailors as he wanted.[57] Roosevelt was instrumental in preparing the Navy for the Spanish–American War. Roosevelt had an analytical mind, even as he was itching for war. He explained his priorities to one of the Navy's planners in late 1897:

I would regard war with Spain from two viewpoints: first, the advisability on the grounds both of humanity and self-interest of interfering on behalf of the Cubans, and of taking one more step toward the complete freeing of America from European dominion; second, the benefit done our people by giving them something to think of which is not material gain, and especially the benefit done our military forces by trying both the Navy and Army in actual practice."[58]

Col. Theodore Roosevelt

War in Cuba

Both sides declared war in late April. On April 25, Roosevelt resigned the Navy and together with Army Colonel Leonard Wood, formed the First US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment; the newspapers called them the "Rough Riders." Like many other volunteer units, it was a temporary organization for the duration of the war.[59][page needed]

The regiment trained for several weeks in San Antonio, Texas; after securing modern multiple round Krag smokeless carbines, Roosevelt arrived on May 16. The Rough Riders used some standard issue gear and some of their own design, purchased with gift money. Diversity characterized the regiment, which included Ivy Leaguers, professional and amateur athletes, upscale gentlemen as well as cowboys, frontiersmen, Native Americans, hunters, miners, prospectors, former soldiers, tradesmen, and sheriffs. The Rough Riders were part of the cavalry division commanded by the former Confederate general Joseph Wheeler. It was one of 3 divisions in V Corps under Lt General William Rufus Shafter. Roosevelt and his men departed Tampa on June 13, landed in Daiquiri, Cuba, on June 23, 1898 and marched to Siboney. Wheeler sent elements of the 1st and 10th Regular Cavalry on the lower road northwest and sent the 1st Volunteers "Rough Riders" on the parallel road running along a ridge up from the beach. To throw off his infantry rival, Wheeler left one regiment of his Cavalry Division, the 9th, at Siboney so that he could claim that his move north was only a limited reconnaissance if things went wrong. Roosevelt was promoted to colonel and took command of the regiment when Wood was moved up to command the brigade. The Rough Riders had a short, minor skirmish known as the Battle of Las Guasimas, then fought their way through Spanish resistance and together with the Regulars forced the Spaniards to abandon their positions.[60]

Colonel Roosevelt and the Rough Riders after capturing San Juan Hill

Under his leadership, the Rough Riders became famous for dual charges up Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898. Roosevelt had the only horse, and rode back and forth between rifle pits at the forefront of the advance up Kettle Hill, an advance that he urged in absence of any orders from superiors. He was forced to walk up the last part of Kettle Hill on foot, because of barbed wire entanglement. The victories came at a cost of 200 killed and 1000 wounded.[61]

Roosevelt commented on his role in the battles: "On the day of the big fight I had to ask my men to do a deed that European military writers consider utterly impossible of performance, that is, to attack over open ground an unshaken infantry armed with the best modern repeating rifles behind a formidable system of entrenchments. The only way to get them to do it in the way it had to be done was to lead them myself."[62]

Roosevelt as a veteran

In August, Roosevelt and other officers demanded that the soldiers be returned home. Roosevelt always recalled the Battle of San Juan Hill as "the great day of my life" and "my crowded hour." In 2001, Roosevelt was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions; he had been nominated during the war but Army officials, annoyed at his grabbing the headlines, blocked it.[63] After return to civilian life, Roosevelt preferred to be known as "Colonel Roosevelt" or "The Colonel." However, the "Teddy" name remained much more popular with the public, even though Roosevelt openly despised it. Men working closely with Roosevelt customarily called him "Colonel" or "Theodore".[64]

Governor of New York

Chicago newspaper sees cowboy-TR campaigning for governor

The war hero left the Army, and discovered New York Republicans needed him because their current governor was tainted by scandal and would probably lose. He campaigned vigorously on his war record winning the 1898 state election by a historical margin of 1%.[65]

Governor Roosevelt learned a great deal about current economic issues and political techniques that later proved valuable to his presidency. He was exposed to the problems of trusts, monopoly, labor relations, and conservation. Chessman argues that Roosevelt's program "rested firmly upon the concept of the square deal by a neutral state." The rules for the Square Deal were "honesty in public affairs, an equitable sharing of privilege and responsibility, and subordination of party and local concerns to the interests of the state at large."[66]

By holding twice-daily press conferences—an innovation—he remained connected with his middle-class political base.[67] The governor successfully pushed the Ford Franchise-Tax bill which taxed public franchises granted by the state and controlled by corporations, declaring that "a corporation which derives its powers from the State, should pay to the State a just percentage of its earnings as a return for the privileges it enjoys."[68] He rejected "boss" Thomas C. Platt's worries that this approached Bryanite Socialism, explaining that without it New York voters might get angry and adopt public ownership of streetcar lines and other franchises.[69]

New York state government affected many interests, and the power to make appointments to policy-making positions was a key role for the governor. Platt insisted he be consulted; Roosevelt appeared to comply but then made his own decisions. Historians marvel that Roosevelt managed to appoint so many first-rate men with Platt's approval. He even enlisted Platt's help in securing reform, as in spring 1899 when the boss pressured state senators to vote for a civil service bill that the secretary of the Civil Service Reform Association called "superior to any civil service statute heretofore secured in America."[70]

Chessman argues that as governor Roosevelt developed the principles that shaped his presidency, especially insistence upon the public responsibility of large corporations, publicity as a first remedy for trusts, regulation of railroad rates, mediation of the conflict of capital and labor, conservation of natural resources and protection of the less fortunate members of society.[66]

Vice President

Roosevelt anticipated a second term as governor or in the alternative a cabinet post in the War Department; his friends (especially Henry Cabot Lodge) saw that as a dead end. They promoted him for vice president, and no one else of prominence was actively seeking that job. Grass roots opinion in the Party wanted Roosevelt as vice president. His friends were pushing and so were his foes. Roosevelt's reforming zeal ran afoul of the insurance and franchise businesses who had a major voice in the New York GOP. Platt therefore engineered his removal from the state by pushing hard for the governor to accept the GOP nomination as vice president in 1900. McKinley refused to consider Roosevelt as Secretary of War, but saw no risk in making him Vice President. He went along although his campaign manager Mark Hanna thought Roosevelt was too cowboy-like. While the party bosses were pleased with their success in engineering Roosevelt's next political foray, the nominee, very much to the contrary, thought he had "stood the state machine on its head".[71]

The office of vice president was a powerless sinecure and did not suit Roosevelt's aggressive temperament.[72] However campaigning for it played to his skills. Roosevelt threw himself into the campaign with his accustomed energy, crisscrossing the nation denouncing the radicalism of William Jennings Bryan in contrast to the heroism of the soldiers and sailors who fought and won the war against Spain. Bryan had strongly supported the war itself, but he denounced the annexation of the Philippines as imperialism that would spoil America's innocence. Roosevelt countered that it was best for the Filipinos to have stability, and the Americans to have a proud place in the world. With the nation basking in peace and prosperity, the voters gave McKinley an even larger landslide then in 1896.[73] Roosevelt's six months as Vice President (March to September 1901) were uneventful.[74] On September 2, 1901, Roosevelt first publicized an aphorism that thrilled his supporters: "Speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far."[75]

Presidency 1901–1909

Main article: Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt

On September 6, President McKinley was shot by an anarchist acting alone while in Buffalo, New York. Initial reports suggested his condition was improving, so Roosevelt, after paying a visit to the ailing president, embarked for the west. When McKinley's condition worsened


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