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Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)

On September 14, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office as the 26th and youngest president of the United States. Only 42 years old, he succeeded President William McKinley, who had succumbed to an assassin’s bullet earlier that day. For Roosevelt, who had hoped to rise to the presidency some day, it was "a dreadful thing to come into the Presidency in this way.” In typical Roosevelt fashion, however, he continued, “Here is the task, and I have got to do it to the best of my ability." Three years later, he was elected to a full term in his own right. Roosevelt had a lasting impact on the nation, expanding the powers of the presidency, advocating consumer protection laws and regulation of big business, supporting conservation, and asserting America's authority abroad.

Twenty-sixth President of the United States. Born at New York City, Oct. 27, 1858. He was graduated from Harvard College, 1880, and Columbia University Law School. Lawyer, ranchman, statesman and author. In 1881 he was elected to the State Assembly of New York from the twentyfirst district (was champion of Civil Service principles), serving untfl 1884. He introduced into the Assembly the first Civil Service Bill passed in 1883. In 1886 he was nominated by the Republicans for Mayor of New York, but was defeated by Abram S. Hewitt. He was appointed by President Harrison a member of the United States Civil Service Commission. President of the New York Police Commission 1895. Assistant Secretary of the Navy to Secretary John D. Long 1897, where he did much in building up the gun practice, and secured extra appropriations from Congress for ammunition.

Lieutenant-Colonel of the Roosevelt Rough Riders 1898. Distinguished himself at San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898, in the Spanish-American War. July 11, promoted to Colonel of his regiment. Sept. 27, 1898, elected Governor of New York. Nominated by acclamation at the Philadelphia Convention, 1900, for Vice-President of the United States, with William McKinley President. Took the oath of office as President of the United States at Buffalo, N. Y., Sept. 14, 1901, at the death of President McKinley. Called a special session of Congress on Cuban independence, and brought about the Panama Free State and Canal Treaty. Boldly cleaned out the postal frauds. Settled the great anthracite coal strike. He was nominated for President at the Chicago Convention 1904, with Charles Fairbanks as Vice-President, and elected President of United States Nov. 8, 1904, receiving the largest vote ever polled by a President, being the first Vice-President elected by the people. He brought about peace between Russia and Japan/arranging the Peace Conference at Portsmouth, NH Treaty signed Sept. 5, 1905.

Roosevelt’s political career began when he won a seat in the State legislature in 1882. His independence and zeal for industrial and governmental reform annoyed old-guard politicians, but attracted the attention of reporters. His last year of service in the legislature came in 1884, the same year his wife died from complications of childbirth and his mother died of typhoid on the same day. Roosevelt spent much of the next two years ranching in the rugged Dakota Territory.

The leaders of the New York Republican Party chose Roosevelt as their candidate for the governorship in 1898, but did not trust his reform policies. In 1900, they managed to maneuver him into accepting nomination to the relatively powerless job of vice-president. A year later, he became president after President McKinley’s assassination.

Roosevelt was a very active president. He backed labor unions and initiated numerous suits against trusts. He was instrumental in enactment of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, signed legislation for the inspection of stockyards and packinghouses, and expanded the Interstate Commerce Commission control over the railroads. Roosevelt used his powerful influence to pressure mine owners into arbitration with the miners during a coal strike in 1902. In 1903, he convinced Congress to establish the Departments of Commerce and Labor. Roosevelt shocked many people North and South by issuing an unprecedented invitation to an African American, Booker T. Washington, to a dinner at the White House.

In international affairs, Roosevelt’s policy was "speak softly and carry a big stick." He sent the “Great White Fleet” to impress the world with the strength of the United States Navy. He helped create the Republic of Panama and began construction of the Panama Canal. He became the first American recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his role in ending the Russo-Japanese War. He convinced a San Francisco school board to abandon its policy of segregating Asian children in 1907, but a year later negotiated a “gentlemen’s agreement” with the Japanese government to limit immigration.

Overwhelmingly elected to a full term in his own right in 1904, Roosevelt vowed not to run for a second term. He backed William Howard Taft as his successor in 1908, but later became dissatisfied with his conservative policies. He ran as the nominee of the new Progressive Party in 1912, but his third party candidacy helped insure the victory of Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Theodore Roosevelt raised fundamental questions under the head of "the New Nationalism" and proposed to make the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies created by railways, the consolidation of industries, the closure of free land on the frontier, and the new position of labour in American economy.

An intellectual and a man of action, energetic, positive, and supremely confident, Roosevelt was one of the most popular presidents ever to fill that office. He had a clear understanding of how politics worked and strong opinions on the role the United States should play in the world. He pressed for construction of the Panama Canal. He earned a Nobel Peace prize for bringing about the peace treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 — he met separately with the Japanese and Russian envoys on the presidential yacht “Mayflower” on Oyster Bay before their face-to-face negotiations in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

He changed the relationships among industry, labor, and the government. He made the conservation of the country’s natural resources a headline issue of the day. He considered himself the “steward of the people;” the people knew him as “Teddy,” the “trust buster,” and the man with the “big stick.” He pioneered new ways of gaining popular support, granting or denying access to Sagamore Hill to ensure that the press would give his policies favorable treatment. For Roosevelt, the law and the Constitution were the only limits to his power as president. “I did not usurp power, but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power.” In many ways, Theodore Roosevelt was the first modern president.

He died in his sleep at Sagamore Hill in 1919.

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Page last modified: 04-09-2017 16:26:21 ZULU