Theodore Roosevelt (October 27, 1858–January 6, 1919): 26th President of the United States, First American to Receive the Nobel Peace Prize and a Progressive
In 1886 Roosevelt once more entered into politics. President Harrison, after his election in 1889, appointed Roosevelt as a member of the Civil Service Commission of which he later became president. This office he retained until 1895 when he undertook the direction of the Police Department of New York City. In 1897 he joined President McKinley’s administration as assistant secretary of the Navy.
As Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy he prepared for and advocated war with Spain in 1898. He organized and helped command the First U.S. Volunteer
Cavalry Regiment, the “Rough Riders”, during the Spanish-American War. Returning to New York as a war hero he was elected Republican governor in 1898. He was a professional historian, naturalist and explorer of the Amazon Basin. He wrote on subjects as diverse as outdoor life, natural history, U.S. Western and political history, Naval Battles of the War of 1812, and an autobiography. The dominant personality of the era, he helped redefine masculinity. He preached and lived the “strenuous life,” ridiculing the sedentary life of luxury and attempting the most strenuous and dangerous feats–which finally cost his life.
Roosevelt’s life was filled with contradictions. He was a member of one of the country’s 20 richest families, yet he denounced business magnates as “malefactors of great wealth.” The first president born in a big city, he was a hunter as a well as a conservationist. He was a bellicose man who boxed in the White House. He was also the first American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering peace between Russia and Japan.
Incredibly active and energetic, Roosevelt was “a steam engine in trousers” who somehow found time to write three dozen books, on topics ranging from history to hunting and in languages ranging from Italian and Portuguese to Greek and Latin. He was the first celebrity president known simply by his initials. Said a British envoy, “You must always remember the president is about six.”
In office, Roosevelt greatly expanded the powers of the presidency. A bold and forceful leader, he viewed the White House as a “bully pulpit” from which he could preach his ideas about the need for an assertive government, the inevitability of bigness in business, and an active American presence in foreign policy. He broke up trusts that dominated the corporate world and regulated big business. He created the Departments of Commerce and Labor.
Roosevelt pushed legislation though Congress, authorizing and establishing the authority of the Interstate Commerce Commission to set railroad rates. In 1904, he won reelection by the largest popular majority up to that time. But on election night, he announced that he would not seek reelection in 1908–a statement that undercut his influence during his second term. In 1909, he retired to hunt big game in Africa, and passed the presidency to his hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft. Roosevelt’s candidate for president, William Howard Taft, took office in 1909. Dissatisfied with Taft’s performance, Roosevelt bolted the regular Republican Party in 1912 and accepted the presidential nomination by the Progressive Party. He out-polled Taft, but Woodrow Wilson out-polled each of them. In 1917 Wilson refused his offer to raise and command a division to fight in World War I.
In 1919, at the age of sixty, Roosevelt died in his sleep.
The Theodore Roosevelt Collection in the Library of Congress contains some 150,000 Roosevelt letters besides drafts of state papers and speeches. The Roosevelt Memorial Association Collection at Harvard University contains his diaries, some original M S S, microfilms, and most of his publications.
Beale, Howard, K., Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, 1956.
Beers, Henry A., «Roosevelt as Man of Letters» in Four Americans. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1920.
Bradford, Gamaliel, «The Fury of Living: Theodore Roosevelt» in The Quick and the Dead. New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1931.
Dennett, Tyler, Roosevelt and the Russo-Japanese War. New York, Doubleday, 1925.
Hagedorn, Hermann, ed., The Works of Theodore Roosevelt. 24 vols. Memorial ed. New York, Scribner, 1923-1926.
Harbaugh, William H., The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt. New York, Straus and Cudahy, 1961.
How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Social Welfare History Project (2011). Theodore Roosevelt (October 27, 1858-January 6, 1919): 26th President of the United States, first American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and a progressive. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/people/roosevelt-theodore/
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