Theodore Roosevelt Research Papers
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Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) became President by accident. The assassination of William McKinley put the forty-two-year old adventurer into the White House just as America was beginning its imperial rise onto the world stage. Known as the "Trust Buster", Roosevelt has come to be identified with the strong presidency, the first man to really stretch the powers of the office and pave the way for the dominant role presidents have enjoyed over the last century, but his varied career let many wondering in 1901 just how this cowboy was going to run the country.
Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. was born in New York City on October 28, 1858, a child of wealthy parents, descended from an Old Dutch family with long roots in New York. From his earliest infancy, the boy was sick. Young Theodore suffered from asthma. “One of my memories,” he would later write in his Autobiography, “is of my father walking up and down the room with me in his arms at night when I was a very small person, and of sitting up in bed gasping, with my father and mother trying to help me”. As a result of being sickly, young Theodore became bookish, with an abnormal knowledge of natural history. When he was twelve, his father had a talk with the boy that forever changed his life. “You have the mind but you do not have the body,” his father told him, “and without the help of the body the mind cannot go as far as it should. You must make your body”. From this point on, Theodore devoted himself to a strenuous course of calisthenics, developing his physique and a passion for the outdoor life.
Roosevelt’s crash course in physical fitness greatly improved the boy’s health. In his diary for August 1871, Theodore Roosevelt does not make a single reference to illness, the longest period of health in the boy’s life. It was during that month that the boy made his first contact with actual wilderness, convincing his family to vacation in the Adirondacks, where the male members camped out for three days. By the age of seventeen, Theodore Roosevelt stood 5’8” and weighed 124 pounds, “a skinny, sunburned boy…with wiry muscles and a clean glow of health about him. Occasional attacks of asthma still came and went, but did not bother him unduly”.
On September 14, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt was camping in the Adirondacks when news reached him of President McKinley’s assassination in Buffalo. Mark Hanna, a powerful GOP boss, is reported to have said: “Look what we’ve got! That damned cowboy is president of the United States!”. Theodore Roosevelt’s first presidential crisis came in early 1902 when the United Mine Workers shut down the nation’s coalmines and quadrupled the price of coal. President Roosevelt invited both sides to Washington to negotiate. When these talks stalled, the president announced his intention to have the federal government take over the mines.
Theodore Roosevelt was the first President to invite an African-American, Booker T. Washington, to dine at the White House. A list of the major legislative triumph’s of Roosevelt’s two terms can be listed as:
- The Elkins law, prohibiting railroad rebates;
- Creation of the Department of Commerce and Labor, along with the Bureau of Corporations, which came to regulate every business that crossed state lines;
- The Hepburn Bill, giving the government the power to regulate railroad rates;
- The Pure Food and Drug Act, inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s reading of The Jungle;
- The Employers’ Liability and Safety Appliance Laws, limiting the hours an employee could work
- Roosevelt also authorized the United States to build the Panama Canal, purchasing the rights from France for $40 million dollars and finally completing the project
Roosevelt also gained a reputation as a trustbuster. Theodore Roosevelt instructed his Attorney General, Philander Knox, to prosecute Northern Securities. Northern Securities was owned by J.P. Morgan and was the holding company for the stock of two of the nation’s largest railroads. Theodore Roosevelt was reelected in 1904, but quickly announced that he would not run again in 1908. This seriously hurt his power in Washington, and insured that his second term would not be as successful. The Panic of 1907 served as illustrative of Theodore Roosevelt’s second term, when the country was saved from depression by the actions of J.P. Morgan.
Roosevelt chose William Howard Taft to succeed him in 1908, only to become dissatisfied with his successor’s term. Theodore Roosevelt sought the Republican nomination in 1912, and when the party chose Taft, split to form his own Bull Moose Party. “Nothing, however, could save a party fatally spilt in two. Woodrow Wilson won with more than six million votes; Roosevelt polled four and Taft only three and a half. Theodore Roosevelt had handed the nation over to the Democrats and become the greatest mugwump in Republican history”. When World War I broke out, Roosevelt found “the final five-year battle of his own life: his passionate opposition to everything Woodrow Wilson did, wrote, and said, before, during, and after the direct military involvement of the United States in the conflict”. Roosevelt’s youngest son, Quentin, was killed during World War I, and the father never recovered from the grief. Theodore Roosevelt died in his sleep in January 1919.