Roosevelt was born a sickly child with debilitating asthma, but he successfully overcame his physical health problems by embracing a strenuous lifestyle. He integrated his exuberant personality, vast range of interests, and world-famous achievements into a "cowboy" persona defined by robust masculinity. Home-schooled, he began a lifelong naturalist avocation before attending Harvard College. His book, The Naval War of 1812 (1882), established his reputation as both a learned historian and as a popular writer. Upon entering politics, he became the leader of the reform faction of Republicans in New York's state legislature. Following the near-simultaneous deaths of his wife and mother, he escaped to a cattle ranch in the Dakotas. Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, but resigned from that post to lead the Rough Riders during the Spanish–American War. Returning a war hero, he was elected Governor of New York in 1898. After the death of Vice President Garret Hobart, the New York state party leadership convinced McKinley to accept Roosevelt as his running mate in the 1900 election, moving Roosevelt to the prestigious but powerless role of vice president. Roosevelt campaigned vigorously and the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket won a landslide victory based on a platform of peace, prosperity, and conservatism.
Following McKinley's assassination in September 1901, Roosevelt became president at age 42, and remains the youngest president. As a leader of the Progressive movement, he championed his "Square Deal" domestic policies, promising the average citizen fairness, breaking of trusts, regulation of railroads, and pure food and drugs. Making conservation a top priority, he established many new national parks, forests, and monuments intended to preserve the nation's natural resources. In foreign policy, he focused on Central America, where he began construction of the Panama Canal. He expanded the Navy and sent the Great White Fleet on a world tour to project the United States' naval power around the globe. His successful efforts to broker the end of the Russo-Japanese War won him the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize. He avoided the controversial tariff and money issues. Elected in 1904 to a full term, Roosevelt continued to promote progressive policies, but many of his efforts and much of his legislative agenda were eventually blocked in Congress. Roosevelt successfully groomed his close friend, William Howard Taft, and Taft won the 1908 presidential election to succeed him. In polls of historians and political scientists, Roosevelt is generally ranked as one of the five best presidents.
Frustrated with Taft's conservatism, Roosevelt belatedly tried to win the 1912 Republican nomination. He failed, walked out, and founded a third party, the Progressive, so-called "Bull Moose" Party, which called for wide-ranging progressive reforms. The split allowed the Democrats to win the White House. Following his election defeat, Roosevelt led a two-year expedition to the Amazon basin, where he nearly died of tropical disease. During World War I, he criticized President Woodrow Wilson for keeping the country out of the war with Germany, and his offer to lead volunteers to France was rejected. Though he had considered running for president again in 1920, Roosevelt's health continued to deteriorate, and he died in 1919.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was born on October 27, 1858, at East 20th Street in New York City. He was the second of four children born to socialite Martha Stewart "Mittie" Bulloch and businessman and philanthropist Theodore Roosevelt Sr. He had an older sister, Anna (nicknamed "Bamie"), a younger brother, Elliott, and a younger sister, Corinne. Elliott was later the father of First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of Theodore's distant cousin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His paternal grandfather was of Dutch descent; his other ancestry included primarily Scottish and Scots-Irish, English and smaller amounts of German, Welsh, and French. Theodore Sr. was the fifth son of businessman Cornelius Van Schaack "C.V.S." Roosevelt and Margaret Barnhill. Theodore's fourth cousin, James Roosevelt I, who was also a businessman, was the father of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Mittie was the younger daughter of Major James Stephens Bulloch and Martha P. "Patsy" Stewart. Through the Van Schaacks, Roosevelt was a descendant of the Schuyler family.
Roosevelt's youth was largely shaped by his poor health and debilitating asthma. He repeatedly experienced sudden nighttime asthma attacks that caused the experience of being smothered to death, which terrified both Theodore and his parents. Doctors had no cure. Nevertheless, he was energetic and mischievously inquisitive. 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; he then studied the animals and prepared them for display. At age nine, he recorded his observation of insects in a paper entitled "The Natural History of Insects".
Roosevelt's father significantly influenced him. His father was a prominent leader in New York's cultural affairs; he helped to found the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and had been especially active in mobilizing support for the Union during the Civil War, even though his inlaws included Confederate leaders. Roosevelt said, "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, shaped his cosmopolitan perspective. Hiking with his family in the Alps in 1869, Roosevelt found that he could keep pace with his father. He had discovered the significant benefits of physical exertion to minimize his asthma and bolster his spirits. Roosevelt began a heavy regime of exercise. After being manhandled by two older boys on a camping trip, he found a boxing coach to teach him to fight and strengthen his weakened body.
Roosevelt was minimally religious. He grew up in the Dutch Reformed Church, and gradually switched to attending his wife's Episcopalian church. Biographer Edmund Morris states:
When consoling bereaved people, he would awkwardly invoke 'unseen and unknown powers.' Aside from a few clichés of Protestant rhetoric, the gospel he preached had always been political and pragmatic. He was inspired less by the Passion of Christ than by the Golden Rule – that appeal to reason amounting, in his mind, to a worldly rather than heavenly law.
Roosevelt was mostly home schooled by tutors and his parents. Biographer H. W. Brands argued that "The most obvious drawback to his home schooling was uneven coverage of the various areas of human knowledge". He was solid in geography and bright in history, biology, French, and German; however, he struggled in mathematics and the classical languages. He entered Harvard College on September 27, 1876; his father advised: "Take care of your morals first, your health next, and finally your studies." After recovering from devastation over his father's sudden death on February 9, 1878, Roosevelt doubled 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 a published ornithologist; he read prodigiously with an almost photographic memory. While at Harvard, Roosevelt participated in rowing and boxing; he was once runner-up in a Harvard boxing tournament. While at Harvard, Roosevelt studied under famous professors William James and Nathaniel Shaler. Roosevelt was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi literary society, the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and the prestigious Porcellian Club; he was also an editor of The Harvard Advocate. in 1880, Roosevelt graduated Phi Beta Kappa (22nd of 177) from Harvard with an A.B. magna cum laude. Biographer Henry Pringle states:
Roosevelt, attempting to analyze his college career and weigh the benefits he had received, felt that he had obtained little from Harvard. He had been depressed by the formalistic treatment of many subjects, by the rigidity, the attention to minutiae that were important in themselves, but which somehow were never linked up with the whole.
Roosevelt gave up his earlier plan of studying natural science, He had inherited $125,000 (enough to live comfortably for the rest of his life) from his father's will. He decided to attend Columbia Law School after graduating from Harvard, and he moved back into his family's home in New York City. Roosevelt was an able law student, but he often found law to be irrational; he spent much of his time writing a book on the War of 1812. Determined to enter politics, Roosevelt began attending meetings at Morton Hall, the 59th Street headquarters of New York's 21st District Republican Association. Though Roosevelt's father had been a prominent Republican, the younger Roosevelt made an unorthodox career choice for someone of his class, as most of Roosevelt's peers refrained from becoming too closely involved in politics. Nonetheless, Roosevelt found allies in the local Republican Party, and he defeated an incumbent Republican state assemblyman closely tied to the political machine of Senator Roscoe Conkling. Roosevelt decided to drop out of law school, later saying, "I intended to be one of the governing class."
Naval history and strategy
While at Harvard, Roosevelt began a systematic study of the role played by the young US Navy in the War of 1812. Assisted by two uncles, he scrutinized original source materials and official US Navy records. Roosevelt's carefully researched book, published in 1882, remains one of the most important scholarly studies of the war, complete with drawings of individual and combined ship maneuvers, charts depicting the differences in iron throw weights of cannon shot between rival forces, and analyses of the differences between British and American leadership down to the ship-to-ship level. Published after Roosevelt's graduation from Harvard, The Naval War of 1812 was praised for its scholarship and style, and it showed Roosevelt to be a scholar of history. It remains a standard study of the war. Roosevelt waved the Stars and Stripes:
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.
With the publication of The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783 in 1890, Navy Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan was immediately hailed as the outstanding naval theorist by the leaders of Europe. Roosevelt paid very close attention to Mahan's emphasis that only a nation with the world's most powerful fleet could dominate the world's oceans, exert its diplomacy to the fullest, and defend its own borders. He incorporated Mahan's ideas into American naval strategy when he served as assistant secretary of the Navy in 1897–98. As president, 1901–1909, Roosevelt made building up a world-class fighting fleet of high priority, sending his "white fleet" around the globe in 1908–1909 to make sure all the naval powers understood the United States was now a major player. Roosevelt's fleet still did not challenge the superior British fleet, but it did become dominant in the Western Hemisphere. Building the Panama Canal was designed not just to open Pacific trade to East Coast cities, but also to enable the new Navy to move back and forth across the globe.
On his 22nd birthday in 1880, Roosevelt married socialite Alice Hathaway Lee. For their honeymoon, they went on a European tour, which was particularly energetic for Theodore who often walked alongside his wife's carriage or horse. Guides led Theodore when he climbed the Jungfrau, the Matterhorn, and a small string of minor peaks.
Their daughter, Alice Lee Roosevelt, was born on February 12, 1884. Two days after giving birth, Roosevelt's wife died due to an undiagnosed case of kidney failure (called Bright's disease at the time), 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, had died of typhoid fever eleven hours earlier at 3:00 a.m., in the same house. Distraught, Roosevelt left baby Alice in the care of his sister Bamie in New York City while he grieved. He assumed custody of his daughter when she was three.
Roosevelt also reacted by focusing on work, specifically by re-energizing a legislative investigation into corruption of the New York City government, which arose from a concurrent bill proposing that power be centralized in the mayor's office. For the rest of his life, he rarely spoke about his wife Alice and did not write about her in his autobiography. While working with Joseph Bucklin Bishop on a biography that included a collection of his letters, Roosevelt did not mention his marriage to Alice nor his second marriage to Edith Kermit Carow.
Roosevelt was soon put forth as the Republican party's candidate for the District's House seat in Albany. He was a member of 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. He blocked a corrupt effort by financier Jay Gould to lower his taxes. Roosevelt exposed suspected collusion in the matter by Judge Theodore Westbrook, and argued for and received approval for an investigation to proceed, aiming for the impeachment of the judge. The investigation committee rejected impeachment, but Roosevelt had exposed the potential corruption in Albany, and thus assumed a high and positive political profile in multiple New York publications. Roosevelt's anti-corruption efforts helped him win re-election in 1882 by a margin greater than two-to-one, an achievement made even more impressive by the fact that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Grover Cleveland won Roosevelt's district. With Conkling's Stalwart faction of the Republican Party in disarray following the assassination of President James Garfield, Roosevelt won election as the Republican party leader in the state assembly. Following his first re-election, Roosevelt allied with Governor Cleveland to win passage of a civil service reform bill. Roosevelt won re-election a second time, and sought the office of Speaker of the New York State Assembly, but he was defeated by Titus Sheard in a 41 to 29 vote of the GOP caucus. In his final term, Roosevelt served as Chairman of the Committee on Affairs of Cities; he wrote more bills than any other legislator.
With numerous presidential hopefuls to choose from, Roosevelt supported Senator George F. Edmunds of Vermont, a colorless reformer. The state GOP preferred the incumbent president, New York City's Chester Arthur, who was known for passing the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. Arthur, at the time, was suffering from Bright's disease, unknown to the public, and out of duty he did not contest his own nomination. Roosevelt fought hard and succeeded in influencing the Manhattan delegates at the state convention in Utica. He then took control of the state convention, bargaining through the night and outmaneuvering the supporters of Arthur and James G. Blaine; he gained a national reputation as a key person in New York State.
Roosevelt attended the 1884 GOP National Convention in Chicago and gave a speech convincing delegates to nominate African American John R. Lynch, an Edmunds supporter, to be temporary chair. Roosevelt fought alongside the Mugwump reformers; however, Blaine, having gained support from Arthur's and Edmunds' delegates, won the nomination by 541 votes on the fourth ballot. In a crucial moment of his budding political career, Roosevelt resisted the demand of the Mugwumps that he bolt from Blaine. He bragged about his one small success: "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." He was also impressed by an invitation to speak before an audience of ten thousand, the largest crowd he had addressed up to that date. Having gotten a taste of national politics, Roosevelt felt less aspiration for advocacy on the state level; he then retired to his new "Chimney Butte Ranch" on the Little Missouri. Roosevelt refused to join other Mugwumps in supporting Grover Cleveland, the governor of New York and the Democratic nominee in the general election. He debated the pros and cons of staying loyal with his political friend, Henry Cabot Lodge. After Blaine won the nomination, Roosevelt had carelessly said that he would give "hearty support to any decent Democrat". He distanced himself from the promise, saying that it had not been meant "for publication". When a reporter asked if he would support Blaine, Roosevelt replied, "That question I decline to answer. It is a subject I do not care to talk about." In the end, he realized that he had to support Blaine to maintain his role in the GOP, and he did so in a press release on July 19. Having lost the support of many reformers, Roosevelt decided to retire from politics and move to North Dakota.
Roosevelt moved West following the 1884 presidential election, and he built a second ranch named Elkhorn, which was thirty-five miles (56 km) north of the boomtown of Medora, North Dakota. Roosevelt learned to ride western style, rope and hunt on the banks of the Little Missouri. Though he earned the respect of the authentic cowboys, they were not overly impressed. However, 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". He reoriented, and began writing about frontier life for national magazines; he also published three books – Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, Ranch Life and the Hunting-Trail, and The Wilderness Hunter.
As a deputy sheriff, Roosevelt pursued three outlaws who had stolen his boat and escaped north down 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. 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.
Roosevelt brought his desire to address the common interests of citizens to the west. 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. After the uniquely severe US winter of 1886–87 wiped out his herd of cattle and those of his competitors, and with it over half of his $80,000 investment, Roosevelt returned to the East. Though his finances suffered from the experience, Roosevelt's time in the West helped remove the stigma of an ineffectual intellectual that could have hampered his political career.
On December 2, 1886, Roosevelt married his childhood and family friend, Edith Kermit Carow. Roosevelt was deeply troubled that his second marriage had taken place so soon after the death of his first wife, and he faced resistance from his sisters. Nonetheless, the couple married at St George's, Hanover Square in London, England. The couple had five children: Theodore "Ted" III in 1887, Kermit in 1889, Ethel in 1891, Archibald in 1894, and Quentin in 1897. The couple also raised Roosevelt's daughter from his first marriage, Alice, who often clashed with her stepmother. At the time of Ted's birth, Roosevelt was both eager and worried for Edith after losing his first wife shortly after she gave birth.
When his ranch was failing, Roosevelt returned to New York in 1886. Republican leaders quickly approached him about running for mayor of New York City, and Roosevelt accepted the nomination despite having little hope of winning the race against United Labor Party candidate Henry George and Democratic candidate Abram Hewitt. Roosevelt campaigned hard for the position, but Hewitt won with 41% (90,552 votes), taking the votes of many Republicans who feared George's radical policies. George was held to 31% (68,110 votes), and Roosevelt took third place with 27% (60,435 votes). Fearing that his political career might never recover, Roosevelt turned his attention to writing The Winning of the West, a historical work tracking the westward movement of Americans; the book was a great success for Roosevelt, earning favorable reviews and selling numerous copies.
Roosevelt thought that Blaine would win the Republican nomination in the 1888 presidential election, and he did not expect to re-enter politics. However, Benjamin Harrison defeated Blaine for the Republican nomination, and Roosevelt gave stump speeches in the Midwest in support of Harrison. On the insistence of Henry Cabot Lodge, President Harrison appointed Roosevelt to the United States Civil Service Commission, where he served until 1895. While many of his predecessors had approached the office as a sinecure, Roosevelt vigorously fought the spoilsmen and demanded enforcement of civil service laws. The New York Sun then described Roosevelt as "irrepressible, belligerent, and enthusiastic". Roosevelt frequently clashed with Postmaster General John Wanamaker, who handed out numerous patronage positions to Harrison supporters, and Roosevelt's attempt to force out several postal workers damaged Harrison politically. 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. 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.
In 1894, a group of reform Republicans approached Roosevelt about running for Mayor of New York again; he declined, mostly due to his wife's resistance to being removed from the Washington social set. Soon after he declined, he realized that he had missed an opportunity to reinvigorate a dormant political career. He retreated to the Dakotas for a time; his wife Edith regretted her role in the decision and vowed that there would be no repeat of it.
William Lafayette Strong, a reform-minded Republican, won the 1894 mayoral election and offered Roosevelt a position on the board of the New York City Police Commissioners in 1895. Roosevelt became president of the board of commissioners 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". 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. During his tenure, a Municipal Lodging House was established by the Board of Charities, and Roosevelt required officers to register with the Board; he also 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 Yorkers to the terrible conditions of the city's millions of poor immigrants with such books as How the Other Half Lives. Riis described how his book affected Roosevelt:
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.
Roosevelt made a habit of walking officers' beats late at night and early in the morning to make sure that they were on duty. He made a concerted effort to uniformly enforce New York's Sunday closing law; in this, he ran up against boss Tom Platt as well as Tammany Hall—he was notified that the Police Commission was being legislated out of existence. Roosevelt chose to defer rather than split with his party. As Governor of New York State before becoming Vice President in March 1901, Roosevelt signed an act replacing the Police Commissioners with a single Police Commissioner.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy
In the 1896 presidential election, Roosevelt backed Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Reed for the Republican nomination, but William McKinley won the nomination and defeated William Jennings Bryan in the general election. Roosevelt opposed Bryan's free silver platform, viewing many of Bryan's followers as dangerous fanatics, and Roosevelt gave campaign speeches for McKinley. Roosevelt had demonstrated, through his research and writing, a fascination with naval history; President McKinley, urged by Roosevelt's close friend Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge, appointed Roosevelt as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897. Secretary of the Navy John D. Long was more concerned about formalities than functions, was in poor health, and left major decisions to Roosevelt. Influenced by Alfred Thayer Mahan, Roosevelt called for a build-up in the country's naval strength, particularly the construction of battleships. Roosevelt also began pressing his national security views regarding the Pacific and the Caribbean on McKinley. Roosevelt was particularly adamant that Spain be ejected from Cuba, to foster the latter's independence and to demonstrate the U.S. resolve to reinforce the Monroe Doctrine. 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.
On February 15, 1898, the Maine exploded in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, killing hundreds of crew members. While Roosevelt and many other Americans blamed Spain for the explosion, McKinley sought a diplomatic solution. Without approval from Long or McKinley, Roosevelt sent out orders to several naval vessels, ordering them to prepare for war. George Dewey, who had received an appointment to lead the Asiatic Squadron with the backing of Roosevelt, later credited his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay to Roosevelt's orders. After attempting to buy Cuba, McKinley asked Congress to declare war upon Spain, beginning the Spanish–American War.
Prior to his service in the Spanish–American War, Roosevelt had already seen reserve military service from 1882 to 1886 with the New York National Guard. Commissioned on August 1, 1882 as a 2nd Lieutenant with B Company, 8th Regiment, he was promoted to Captain and company commander a year later, and he remained in command until he resigned his commission.
When the United States and Spain declared war against each other in late April 1898, Roosevelt resigned from his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and on May 6 formed the First US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment along with Army Colonel Leonard Wood. His wife and many of his friends begged Roosevelt to remain in his post in the navy, but Roosevelt was determined to see battle. When the newspapers reported the formation of the new regiment, Roosevelt and Wood were flooded with applications from all over the country. Referred to by the press as the "Rough Riders", the regiment was one of many temporary units active only for the duration of the war.
After securing modern multiple-round Krag smokeless carbines, Lieutenant Colonel Roosevelt arrived on May 15. The regiment trained for several weeks in San Antonio, Texas, and in his autobiography Roosevelt wrote that his prior National Guard experience had been invaluable, in that it enabled him to immediately begin teaching his men basic soldiering skills. 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 former Confederate general Joseph Wheeler. It was one of three divisions in the V Corps under Lieutenant 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 parts of the 1st and 10th Regular Cavalry on the lower road northwest and sent the "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 put in command of the brigade. The Rough Riders had a short, minor skirmish known as the Battle of Las Guasimas; they fought their way through Spanish resistance and, together with the Regulars, forced the Spaniards to abandon their positions.
Under his leadership, the Rough Riders became famous for the charge up Kettle Hill on July 1, 1898, while supporting the regulars. 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 despite the absence of any orders from superiors. He was forced to walk up the last part of Kettle Hill, because his horse had been entangled in barbed wire. The victories came at a cost of 200 killed and 1,000 wounded.
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."
In August, Roosevelt and other officers demanded that the soldiers be returned home. Roosevelt always recalled the Battle of Kettle Hill (part of the San Juan Heights) 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. After returning to civilian life, Roosevelt preferred to be known as "Colonel Roosevelt" or "The Colonel". However, "Teddy" remained much more popular with the public, even though Roosevelt openly despised it. Men working closely with Roosevelt customarily called him "Colonel" or "Theodore".
After leaving Cuba in August 1898, the Rough Riders were transported to a camp at Montauk Point, Long Island, where Roosevelt and his men were briefly quarantined due to the War Department's fear of spreading yellow fever. Shortly after Roosevelt's return to the United States, Republican Congressman Lemuel E. Quigg, a lieutenant of party boss Thomas C. Platt, asked Roosevelt to run as the Republican in the 1898 gubernatorial election. Platt disliked Roosevelt personally, feared that he would oppose Platt's interests in office, and was reluctant to propel Roosevelt to the forefront of national politics. But Platt also needed a strong candidate due to the unpopularity of the incumbent Republican governor, Frank S. Black, and Roosevelt agreed to become the nominee and to try not to "make war" with the Republican establishment once in office. Roosevelt defeated Black in the Republican caucus by a vote of 753 to 218, but feared that he would lose in the general election to Democrat Augustus Van Wyck, a well-respected judge. Roosevelt campaigned vigorously on his war record, winning the election by a margin of just one percent.
As governor, Roosevelt learned much about ongoing economic issues and political techniques that later proved valuable in his presidency. He was exposed to the problems of trusts, monopolies, 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".
By holding twice-daily press conferences—which was an innovation—Roosevelt remained connected with his middle-class political base. Roosevelt 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". 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.
The 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 that 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, such as in the spring of 1899, when Platt 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".
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. Roosevelt sought to position himself against the excesses of large corporations on the one hand and radical movements on the other.
As the chief executive of the most populous state in the union, Roosevelt was widely considered a potential future presidential candidate, and supporters such as William Allen White encouraged him to run for president. Roosevelt had no interest in challenging McKinley for the Republican nomination in 1900, and was denied his preferred post of Secretary of War. As his term progressed, Roosevelt pondered a 1904 presidential run, but was uncertain about whether he should seek re-election as governor in 1900.
In November 1899, Vice President Garret Hobart died of heart failure. Though Henry Cabot Lodge and others urged him to run for vice president in 1900, Roosevelt was reluctant to take the powerless position and issued a public statement saying that he would not accept the nomination. Additionally, Roosevelt was informed by President McKinley and campaign manager Mark Hanna that he was not being considered for the role of vice president, as they considered Roosevelt unreliable due to his actions prior to the Spanish–American War. Eager to be rid of Roosevelt, Platt nonetheless began a newspaper campaign in favor of Roosevelt's nomination for the vice presidency. Roosevelt attended the 1900 Republican National Convention as a state delegate and struck a bargain with Platt: Roosevelt would accept the nomination if the convention offered it to him, but would otherwise serve another term as governor. Platt asked Pennsylvania party boss Matthew Quay to lead the campaign for Roosevelt's nomination, and Quay outmaneuvered Hanna at the convention to put Roosevelt on the ticket. Roosevelt won the nomination unanimously.
Roosevelt proved highly energetic and an equal match for Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan's famous barnstorming style of campaigning. Roosevelt's theme was that McKinley had brought America peace and prosperity and deserved reelection. In a whirlwind campaign, Roosevelt made 480 stops in 23 states. Roosevelt showed the nation his energy, crisscrossing the land denouncing the radicalism of 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, which 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 conservative McKinley an even larger landslide than in 1896.
The office of Vice President was a powerless sinecure and did not suit Roosevelt's aggressive temperament. Roosevelt's six months as Vice President (March to September 1901) were uneventful, and Roosevelt presided over the Senate for a mere four days before it adjourned. On September 2, 1901, Roosevelt first publicized an aphorism that thrilled his supporters at the Minnesota State Fair: "Speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far."
On September 6, President McKinley was attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York when he was shot by Leon Czolgosz. Roosevelt was vacationing in Vermont, and traveled to Buffalo to visit McKinley in the hospital. It appeared that McKinley would recover, so Roosevelt resumed his vacation in the Adirondacks. When McKinley's condition worsened, Roosevelt began the trip to Buffalo. McKinley died on September 14, and Roosevelt was informed while he was in North Creek; he continued on to Buffalo and was sworn in at the Ansley Wilcox House. As there was no formally designated order of succession for the post in the event that a president resigned, became incapacitated, or died (the Twenty-fifth Amendment would not be drafted and ratified until the 1960s), Roosevelt served his first term without a vice president. McKinley's supporters were nervous about the new president, and Hanna was particularly bitter that the man he had opposed so vigorously at the convention had succeeded McKinley. Roosevelt assured party leaders that he intended to adhere to McKinley's policies, and he retained McKinley's Cabinet. Nonetheless, Roosevelt sought to position himself as the party's undisputed leader, seeking to bolster the role of the president and position himself for the 1904 election.
Shortly after taking office, Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House. To his dismay, this sparked a bitter, and at times vicious, reaction across the heavily segregated South. Roosevelt reacted with astonishment and protest, saying that he looked forward to many future dinners with Washington. Upon further reflection, Roosevelt wanted to ensure that this had no effect on political support in the South, and further dinner invitations to Washington were avoided; their next meeting was scheduled as typical business at 10:00am instead.
Throughout much of the 1890s Roosevelt rarely spoke on anti-trust policy in his private letters and public speaking. It was not until his election as Governor of New York in November 1898, that Roosevelt began to politically sympathize with the public concern over the corporate monopolies created by the super wealthy. When Roosevelt became president in 1901 he shifted the Republican Party to a more populist direction by increasing anti-trust prosecutions. One of Roosevelt's acts as president was to deliver a 20,000-word address to Congress asking it to curb the power of large corporations (called "trusts"). He also spoke in support of organized labor to further chagrin big business, but to their delight, he endorsed the gold standard, protective tariffs and lower taxes. For his aggressive use of 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act, compared to his predecessors, he became mythologized as the "trust-buster"; but in reality he was more of a trust regulator. Roosevelt viewed big business as a necessary part of the American economy, and sought only to prosecute the "bad trusts" that restrained trade and charged unfair prices. He brought 44 antitrust suits, breaking up the Northern Securities Company, the largest railroad monopoly; and regulating Standard Oil, the largest oil and refinery company. Presidents Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, and William McKinley combined prosecuted only 18 anti-trust violations under the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Bolstered by his party's success in the 1902 elections, Roosevelt proposed the creation of the United States Department of Commerce and Labor, which would include the Bureau of Corporations. While Congress was receptive to Department of Commerce and Labor, it was more skeptical of the anti-trust powers that Roosevelt sought to endow within the Bureau of Corporations. Roosevelt successfully appealed to the public to pressure Congress, and Congress overwhelmingly voted to pass Roosevelt's version of the bill.
In May 1902, anthracite coal miners went on strike, threatening a national energy shortage. After threatening the coal operators with intervention by federal troops, Roosevelt won their agreement to an arbitration of the dispute by a commission, which succeeded in stopping the strike. The accord with J.P. Morgan resulted in the miners getting more pay for fewer hours, but with no union recognition. Roosevelt said, "My action on labor should always be considered in connection with my action as regards capital, and both are reducible to my favorite formula—a square deal for every man." Roosevelt was the first president to help settle a labor dispute.
During Roosevelt's second year in office it was discovered there was corruption in the Indian Service, the Land Office, and the Post Office Department. Roosevelt, who had a high sense of morality and national purpose, investigated and prosecuted corrupt Indian agents who had cheated the Creeks and various tribes out of land parcels. Land fraud and speculation were found involving Oregon federal timberlands. In November 1902, Roosevelt and Secretary Ethan A. Hitchcock forced Binger Hermann, the General Land Office Commissioner, to resign office. On November 6, 1903 Francis J. Heney was appointed special prosecutor, and obtained 146 indictments involving an Oregon Land Office bribery ring. U.S. Senator John H. Mitchell was indicted for bribery to expedite illegal land patents, found guilty in July 1905, and sentenced to six months in prison. More corruption was found in the Postal Department, that brought on the indictments of 44 government employees on charges of bribery and fraud. Historians generally agree that Roosevelt moved "quickly and decisively" to prosecute misconduct in his administration.
Merchants complained that some railroad rates were too high. In the 1906 Hepburn Act Roosevelt sought to give the Interstate Commerce Commission the power to regulate rates, but the Senate, led by conservative Nelson Aldrich fought back. Roosevelt worked with the Democratic Senator Benjamin Tillman to pass the bill. Roosevelt and Aldrich ultimately reached a compromise that gave the ICC the power to replace existing rates with "just-and-reasonable" maximum rates, but allowed railroads to appeal to the federal courts on what was "reasonable."
Roosevelt responded to public anger over the abuses in the food packing industry by pushing Congress to pass the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and the Pure Food and Drug Act. Though conservatives initially opposed the bill, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, published in 1906, helped galvanize support for reform. The Meat Inspection Act of 1906 banned misleading labels and preservatives that contained harmful chemicals. The Pure Food and Drug Act banned food and drugs that were impure or falsely labeled from being made, sold, and shipped. Roosevelt also served as honorary president of the American School Hygiene Association from 1907 to 1908, and in 1909 he convened the first White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children.
During the Panic of 1907, nearly all agreed that a more flexible system to ensure liquidity was needed—the Republicans sought a response to the money supply through the bankers, whereas the Democrats sought government control; Roosevelt was unsure, but leaned towards the Republican view while continuing to denounce corporate corruption. Nonetheless, in 1910, Roosevelt commented on "enormously wealthy and economically powerful men" and suggested "a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes... increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate".
Roosevelt was also inclined to extend the regulatory reach of his office. In a moment of frustration, House Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon commented on Roosevelt's desire for executive branch control in domestic policy-making: "That fellow at the other end of the avenue wants everything from the birth of Christ to the death of the devil." Biographer Brands states, "Even his friends occasionally wondered whether there wasn't any custom or practice too minor for him to try to regulate, update or otherwise improve." In fact, Roosevelt's willingness to exercise his power included attempted rule changes in the game of football; at the Naval Academy, he sought to force retention of martial arts classes and to revise disciplinary rules. He even ordered changes made in the minting of a coin whose design he disliked, and ordered the Government Printing Office to adopt simplified spellings for a core list of 300 words, according to reformers on the Simplified Spelling Board. He was forced to rescind the latter after substantial ridicule from the press and a resolution of protest from the House of Representatives.
Of all Roosevelt's achievements, he was proudest of his work in conservation of natural resources, and extending federal protection to land and wildlife. Roosevelt worked closely with Interior Secretary James Rudolph Garfield and Chief of the United States Forest Service Gifford Pinchot to enact a series of conservation programs that often met with resistance from Western members of Congress such as Charles William Fulton. Nonetheless, 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 (930,000 km2).
Roosevelt was the first President to issue over 1,000 executive orders. According to Dr. Graham G. Dodds, a professor of political science at Concordia University, Roosevelt issued almost as many executive orders as all of his predecessors combined.
Roosevelt used executive orders on a number of occasions to protect forest and wildlife lands during his tenure as President. By the end of his second term in office, Roosevelt used executive orders to establish 150 million acres of reserved forestry land. Roosevelt was unapologetic about his extensive use of executive orders to protect the environment despite the perception in congress that he was encroaching on too many lands. Eventually, Senator Charles Fulton (R-OH) to attach an amendment to an agricultural appropriations bill that effectively prevented the president from reserving any further land. Regardless of whatever feelings Roosevelt may have had regarding this amendment, he signed the bill into law. However, prior to doing so, he again used executive orders to establish an additional 21 forest reserves, waiting until the last minute to sign the bill into law. Roosevelt's willingness to make extensive use of executive orders pertaining to land conservation may have been fueled by his belief that the preservation of the forests and waterways was the most important domestic issue facing the country in that period. In total, Roosevelt used executive orders to establish 121 forest reserves in 31 states. Roosevelt's use of executive orders to protect the environment was another example of the extent to which Roosevelt's use of executive orders differed from past presidents.
Prior to Roosevelt, only one president had issued over 200 executive orders, Grover Cleveland (253). The first 25 presidents issued a total of 1,262 executive orders. Roosevelt issued 1,081.
Members of Congress eventually got tired of Roosevelt's excesses in using executive orders to create policy. On February 25, 1907, Senator Charles W. Fulton, a Republican from Oregon, added an amendment to the 1907 Agricultural Appropriations Bill declaring these activities as falling under congressional authority, not executive.
In the late 1890s, Roosevelt had been an ardent imperialist, and vigorously defended the permanent acquisition of the Philippines in the 1900 election campaign. After the rebellion ended in 1901, he largely lost interest in the Philippines and Asian expansion in general, despite the contradictory opinion of his Secretary of War, William Howard Taft. As president, he primarily focused the nation's overseas ambitions on the Caribbean, especially locations that had a bearing on the defense of his pet project, the Panama Canal. Roosevelt also increased the size of the navy, and by the end of his second term the United States had more battleships than any other country besides Britain.
Following the Spanish–American War, Roosevelt believed that the United States had emerged as a world power, and he sought ways to assert America's newly-eminent position abroad. In 1905, Roosevelt offered to mediate a treaty to end the Russo-Japanese War. The parties agreed to meet in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and they resolved the final conflict over the division of Sakhalin– Russia took the northern half, and Japan the south; Japan also dropped its demand for an indemnity. Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize for his successful efforts in bringing about the Treaty of Portsmouth. George E. Mowry concludes that Roosevelt handled the arbitration well, doing an "excellent job of balancing Russian and Japanese power in the Orient, where the supremacy of either constituted a threat to growing America". Roosevelt also played a major role in mediating the First Moroccan Crisis by calling the Algeciras Conference, which averted war between France and Germany.
Roosevelt's presidency saw the strengthening of ties with Great Britain. The Great Rapprochement had begun with British support of the United States during the Spanish–American War, and it continued as Britain withdrew its fleet from the Caribbean in favor of focusing on the rising German naval threat. In 1901, Britain and the United States signed the Hay–Pauncefote Treaty, abrogating the Clayton–Bulwer Treaty, which had prevented the United States from constructing a canal connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. The long-standing Alaska boundary dispute was settled on terms favorable to the United States, as Great Britain was unwilling to alienate the United States over what it considered to be a secondary issue. As Roosevelt later put it, the resolution of the Alaskan boundary dispute "settled the last serious trouble between the British Empire and ourselves."
The Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907 resolved unpleasant racial tensions with Japan. Tokyo was angered over the segregation of Japanese children in San Francisco schools. The tensions were ended, but Japan also agreed not to allow unskilled workers to emigrate to the U.S.
Roosevelt's attention concerning Latin American turmoil was heightened by his plans for building a canal. In December 1902, the Germans, British, and Italians sought to impose a naval blockade against Venezuela in order to force the repayment of delinquent loans. Roosevelt was particularly concerned with the motives of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm. He succeeded in getting the aggressors to agree to arbitration by a tribunal at The Hague, and averted the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903. The latitude granted to the Europeans by the arbiters was in part responsible for the "Roosevelt Corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine, which the President issued in 1904: "Chronic wrongdoing or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere, the adherence of the United States to the Monroe doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power."
The pursuit of an isthmus canal in Central America during this period focused on two possible routes—Nicaragua and Panama, which was then a rebellious district within Colombia. Roosevelt convinced Congress to approve the Panamanian alternative, and a treaty was approved, only to be rejected by the Colombian government. When the Panamanians learned of this, a rebellion followed, was supported by Roosevelt, and succeeded. A treaty with the new Panama government for construction of the canal was then reached in 1903. Roosevelt received criticism for paying the bankrupt Panama Canal Company and the New Panama Canal Company $40,000,000 for the rights and equipment to build the canal. Critics charged that an American investor syndicate allegedly divided the large payment among themselves. There was also controversy over whether a French company engineer influenced Roosevelt in choosing the Panama route for the canal over the Nicaragua route. Roosevelt denied charges of corruption concerning the canal in a January 8, 1906 message to Congress. In January 1909, Roosevelt, in an unprecedented move, brought criminal libel charges against the New York World and the Indianapolis News known as the "Roosevelt-Panama Libel Cases". Both cases were dismissed by U.S. District Courts, and on January 3, 1911, the U.S. Supreme Court, upon federal appeal, upheld the lower courts' rulings. Historians are sharply critical of Roosevelt's criminal prosecutions of the World and the News, but are divided on whether actual corruption in acquiring and building the Panama Canal took place.
In 1906, following a disputed election, an insurrection ensued in Cuba; Roosevelt sent Taft, the Secretary of War, to monitor the situation; he was convinced that he had the authority to unilaterally authorize Taft to deploy Marines if necessary, without congressional approval.
Examining the work of numerous scholars, Ricard (2014) reports that:
The most striking evolution in the twenty-first century historiography of Theodore Roosevelt is the switch from a partial arraignment of the imperialist to a quasi-unanimous celebration of the master diplomatist.... [Regarding British relations these studies] have underlined cogently Roosevelt's exceptional statesmanship in the construction of the nascent twentieth-century "special relationship". ...The twenty-sixth president's reputation as a brilliant diplomatist and realpolitician has undeniably reached new heights in the twenty-first century...yet, his Philippine policy still prompts criticism.
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. After noticing the reporters huddled outside the White House in the rain one day, he gave them their own room inside, effectively inventing the presidential press briefing. The grateful press, with unprecedented access to the White House, rewarded Roosevelt with ample coverage.
Roosevelt normally enjoyed very close relationships with the press, which he used to keep in daily contact with his middle-class base. While out of office, he made a living as a writer and magazine editor. He loved talking with intellectuals, authors, and writers. He drew the line, however, at expose-oriented scandal-mongering journalists who, during his term, set magazine subscriptions soaring by their attacks on corrupt politicians, mayors, and corporations. Roosevelt himself was not usually a target, but his speech in 1906 coined the term "muckraker" for unscrupulous journalists making wild charges. "The liar", he said, "is no whit better than the thief, and if his mendacity takes the form of slander he may be worse than most thieves."
The press did briefly target Roosevelt in one instance. Ever since 1904, he had been periodically criticized for the manner in which he facilitated the Panama Canal. In the least judicious use of executive power, according to biographer Brands, Roosevelt, near the end of his term, demanded that the Justice Department bring charges of criminal libel against Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. The publication had accused him of "deliberate misstatements of fact" in defense of family members who were criticized as a result of the Panama affair. Though indictment was obtained, the case was ultimately dismissed in federal court—it was not a federal offense, but one enforceable at the state court level. The Justice Department had predicted that result, and had also advised Roosevelt accordingly.
The control and management of the Republican Party lay in the hands of Ohio Senator and Republican Party chairman Mark Hanna until McKinley's death. Roosevelt and Hanna frequently cooperated during Roosevelt's first term, but Hanna left open the possibility of a challenge to Roosevelt for the 1904 Republican nomination. Roosevelt and Ohio's other Senator, Joseph B. Foraker, forced Hanna's hand by calling for Ohio's state Republican convention to endorse Roosevelt for the 1904 nomination. Unwilling to break with the president, Hanna was forced to publicly endorse Roosevelt. Hanna and Pennsylvania Senator Matthew Quay both died in early 1904, and with the waning of Thomas Platt's power, Roosevelt faced little effective opposition for the 1904 nomination. In deference to Hanna's conservative loyalists, Roosevelt at first offered the party chairmanship to Cornelius Bliss, but he declined. Roosevelt turned to his own man, George B. Cortelyou of New York, the first Secretary of Commerce and Labor. To buttress his hold on the party's nomination, Roosevelt made it clear that anyone opposing Cortelyou would be considered to be opposing the President. The President secured his own nomination, but his preferred vice-presidential running mate, Robert R. Hitt, was not nominated. Senator Charles Warren Fairbanks of Indiana, a favorite of conservatives, gained the nomination.
While Roosevelt followed the tradition of incumbents in not actively campaigning on the stump, he sought to control the campaign's message through specific instructions to Cortelyou. He also attempted to manage the press's release of White House statements by forming the Ananias Club. Any journalist who repeated a statement made by the president without approval was penalized by restriction of further access.
The Democratic Party's nominee in 1904 was Alton Brooks Parker. Democratic newspapers charged that Republicans were extorting large campaign contributions from corporations, putting ultimate responsibility on Roosevelt, himself. Roosevelt denied corruption while at the same time he ordered Cortelyou to return $100,000 of a campaign contribution from Standard Oil. Parker said that Roosevelt was accepting corporate donations to keep damaging information from the Bureau of Corporations from going public. Roosevelt strongly denied Parker's charge and responded that he would "go into the Presidency unhampered by any pledge, promise, or understanding of any kind, sort, or description...". Allegations from Parker and the Democrats, however, had little impact on the election, as Roosevelt promised to give every American a "square deal". Roosevelt won 56% of the popular vote, and Parker received 38%; Roosevelt also won the Electoral College vote, 336 to 140. Before his inauguration ceremony, Roosevelt declared that he would not serve another term. Democrats afterwards would continue to charge Roosevelt and the Republicans of being influenced by corporate donations during Roosevelt's second term.
A 1912–1913 Senate investigation, led by progressive Minnesota Senator Moses E. Clapp, into the 1904 election showed that Standard Oil had contributed a total of $150,000 to the Republican campaign and that large corporations had in total contributed $2,195,000 to the Republican Party. Other corporate contributors to the Republicans included U.S. Steel, J.P. Morgan & Co., and George J. Gould (railroads). The Democrats had raised $700,000 campaign contributions, one-third of the Republican contributions. Historians generally agree that Roosevelt was unaware that the Standard Oil contribution was actually kept and spent. This information was probably purposely kept secret from Roosevelt by Republican Treasurer Cornilius Bliss, a standard practice at the time to protect candidates. There is no direct evidence that corporate contributions were linked to specific favorable corporate policy treatment by Roosevelt or his immediate subordinates.
As his second term progressed, Roosevelt moved to the left of his Republican Party base and called for a series of reforms that were mostly not passed. Roosevelt's influence waned as he approached the end of his second term, as his promise to forego a third term made him a lame duck and his concentration of power provoked a backlash from many Congressmen. He sought a national incorporation law (at a time when all corporations had state charters, which varied greatly state by state). He called for a federal income tax, but the Supreme Court in the 1890s had ruled any income tax would require a constitutional amendment. Roosevelt sought an inheritance tax so the great fortunes could not pay out in perpetuity. In the area of labor legislation, Roosevelt called for limits on the use of court injunctions against labor unions during strikes; injunctions were a powerful weapon that mostly helped business. He wanted an employee liability law for industrial injuries (pre-empting state laws). He called for an eight-hour law for federal employees. In other areas he also sought a postal savings system (to provide competition for local banks), and he asked for campaign reform laws. He secured passage of the 1906 Hepburn Bill, with help from Democrats, which increased the regulating power of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Eventually some of his proposals were enacted under his successors. When Roosevelt ran for president on an independent Progressive Party ticket in 1912, in addition to these policies he proposed stringent new controls on the court system, especially state courts, to make them more democratic. His court policies in particular caused his anointed successor, William Howard Taft, to lead a counter-crusade that defeated Roosevelt in 1912.
The election of 1904 continued to be a source of contention between Republicans and Democrats. A Congressional investigation in 1905 revealed that corporate executives donated tens of thousands of dollars in 1904 to the Republican National Committee. In 1908, a month before the general presidential election, Governor Charles N. Haskell of Oklahoma, former Democratic Treasurer, said that Senators beholden to Standard Oil lobbied Roosevelt, in the summer of 1904, to authorize the leasing of Indian oil lands by Standard Oil subsidiaries. He said Roosevelt overruled his Secretary of Interior Ethan A. Hitchcock and granted a pipeline franchise to run through the Osage lands to the Prairie Oil and Gas Company. The New York Sun made a similar accusation and said that Standard Oil, a refinery who financially benefited from the pipeline, had contributed $150,000 to the Republicans in 1904 after Roosevelt's alleged reversal allowing the pipeline franchise. Roosevelt branded Haskell's allegation as "a lie, pure and simple" and obtained a denial from Shaw that Roosevelt had neither coerced Shaw nor overruled him.
Roosevelt had mixed feelings about a third term, as he enjoyed being president and was still relatively youthful, but felt that a limited number of terms provided a check against dictatorship. Roosevelt ultimately decided to stick to his 1904 pledge not to run for a third term, and Roosevelt decided to throw his support behind a successor so as to avoid a potential pro-Roosevelt delegate stampede at the 1908 Republican National Convention. Roosevelt personally favored Secretary of State Elihu Root, but Root's ill health made him an unsuitable candidate. New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes loomed as potentially strong candidate and shared Roosevelt's progressivism, but Roosevelt disliked him and considered him to be too independent. Instead, Roosevelt settled on his Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, who had ably served under Presidents Harrison, McKinley, and Roosevelt in various positions. Roosevelt and Taft had been friends since 1890, and Taft had consistently supported President Roosevelt's policies. Roosevelt was determined to install the successor of his choice, and wrote the following to Taft: "Dear Will: Do you want any action about those federal officials? I will break their necks with the utmost cheerfulness if you say the word!" Just weeks later he branded as "false and malicious"; the charge was that he was using the offices at his disposal to favor Taft. At the 1908 Republican convention, many chanted for "four years more" of a Roosevelt presidency, but Taft won the nomination after Henry Cabot Lodge made it clear that Roosevelt was not interested in a third term.
In the 1908 election, Taft easily defeated the Democratic nominee, three-time candidate William Jennings Bryan. Taft promoted a progressivism that stressed the rule of law; he preferred that judges rather than administrators or politicians make the basic decisions about fairness. Taft usually proved to be a less adroit politician than Roosevelt and lacked the energy and personal magnetism, along with 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 creating severe tensions inside the Republican Party by pitting producers (manufacturers and farmers) against merchants and consumers, he stopped talking about the issue. Taft ignored the risks and tackled the tariff boldly, encouraging reformers to fight for lower rates, and 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 Wilmarth Aldrich and big businesses, Taft took credit, calling it the best tariff ever. He managed to alienate all sides. While the crisis was building inside the Party, Roosevelt was touring Africa and Europe, to allow Taft to be his own man.
In March 1909, shortly after the end of his presidency, Roosevelt left New York for the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition, a safari in east and central Africa outfitted by the Smithsonian Institution. Roosevelt's party landed in Mombasa, British East Africa (now Kenya), traveled to the Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), before following the Nile to Khartoum in modern Sudan. Financed by Andrew Carnegie and by his own writings, Roosevelt's party hunted for specimens for the Smithsonian Institution and for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The group, led by the legendary hunter-tracker RJ Cunninghame, included scientists from the Smithsonian, and was joined from time to time by Frederick Selous, the famous big game hunter and explorer. Among other items, Roosevelt brought with him four tons of salt for preserving animal hides, a lucky rabbit's foot given to him by boxer John L. Sullivan, a Holland & Holland double rifle in .500/450 donated by a group of 56 admiring Britons, a Winchester 1895 rifle in .405 Winchester, an Army (M1903) Springfield in .30-06 caliber stocked and sighted for him, a Fox No. 12 shotgun, and the famous Pigskin Library, a collection of classics bound in pig leather and transported in a single reinforced trunk. Participants on the expedition included Kermit Roosevelt, Edgar Alexander Mearns, Edmund Heller, and John Alden Loring.
Roosevelt and his companions killed or trapped approximately 11,400 animals, from insects and moles to hippopotamuses and elephants. The 1,000 large animals included 512 big game animals, including six rare White rhinos. Tons of salted animals and their skins were shipped to Washington; it took years to mount them all, and the Smithsonian shared many duplicate specimens with other museums. Regarding the large number of animals taken, Roosevelt said, "I can be condemned only if the existence of the National Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and all similar zoological institutions are to be condemned".
Although the safari was ostensibly conducted in the name of science, it was as much a political and social event as it was a hunting excursion; Roosevelt interacted with renowned professional hunters and land-owning families, and met many native peoples and local leaders. Roosevelt had become a life member of the National Rifle Association in 1907. He wrote a detailed account of the safari in the book African Game Trails, recounting the excitement of the chase, the people he met, and the flora and fauna he collected in the name of science.
After arriving in Khartoum in March 1910, Roosevelt toured Europe. Stopping first in Egypt, he commented favorably on British rule of the region, giving his opinion that Egypt was not yet ready for independence (Roosevelt held similar views about the Philippines). He refused a meeting with the Pope due to a dispute over a group of Methodists active in Rome, but Roosevelt met with Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, King George V of Great Britain, and other European leaders. In Oslo, Norway, Roosevelt delivered a speech calling for limitations on naval armaments, a strengthening of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the creation of a "League of Peace" among the world powers. He also delivered the Romanes Lecture at Oxford, in which he denounced those who sought parallels between the evolution of animal life and the development of society. Though Roosevelt attempted to avoid domestic politics during his time abroad, he met with Pinchot, who related his own disappointment with the Taft Administration. Pinchot had been forced to resign as head of the forest service after clashing with Taft's Interior Secretary, Richard Ballinger, who had prioritized development over conservation. After touring parts of Europe and Africa, Roosevelt returned to the United States in June 1910.
Roosevelt had attempted to refashion Taft into a younger version of himself, but as soon as Taft began to display his individuality, the former president expressed his disenchantment. He was offended on election night when Taft wrote and indicated that his success had been possible not just through the efforts of Roosevelt, but also his brother Charley. Roosevelt was further alienated when Taft, intent on becoming his own man, did not consult him about cabinet appointments. Lodge empathized with Roosevelt, and therefore declined an offer to become Secretary of State. Roosevelt and other progressives were also dissatisfied over Taft's conservation policies and his handling of the tariff, which had indirectly concentrated more power in the hands of conservative party leaders in Congress.
Returning from Europe, Roosevelt urged progressives to take control of the Republican Party at the state and local level, and to avoid splitting the party in a way that would hand the presidency to the Democrats in 1912. Additionally, Roosevelt expressed optimism about the Taft Administration after meeting with the president in the White House in June 1910. In August 1910, Roosevelt gave notable speech at Osawatomie, Kansas, which was the most radical of his career and openly initiated his break with the Taft administration and the conservative Republicans. Osawatomie was well known as the base used by John Brown when he launched his bloody attacks on slavery. Advocating a program of "New Nationalism", Roosevelt emphasized the priority of labor over capital interests, a need to more effectively control corporate creation and combination, and proposed a ban on corporate political contributions. Returning to New York, Roosevelt began a battle to take control of the state Republican party from William Barnes, Jr., Platt's successor as the state party boss. Taft had pledged his support to Roosevelt in this endeavor, but was outraged when Taft failed to back Roosevelt at the 1910 state convention. Roosevelt nonetheless campaigned for the Republicans in the 1910 elections, which saw the Democrats gain control of the House for the first time since the 1890s. Among the newly elected Democrats was New York state senator Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who argued that he represented his cousin's policies better than his Republican opponent.
The Republican progressives interpreted the 1910 defeats as compelling argument for the complete reorganization of the party in 1911. Senator Robert M. La Follette Sr. of Wisconsin joined with Pinchot, William White, and California Governor Hiram Johnson to create the National Progressive Republican League; their objectives were to defeat the power of political bossism at the state level and to replace Taft at the national level. Despite skepticism of La Follette's new league, Roosevelt expressed general support for progressive principles; between January and April 1911, Roosevelt wrote a series of articles for The Outlook, defending what he called "the great movement of our day, the progressive nationalist movement against special privilege, and in favor of an honest and efficient political and industrial democracy". With Roosevelt apparently uninterested in running in 1912, La Follette declared his own candidacy in June 1911. Roosevelt continually criticized Taft after the 1910 elections, and the break between the two men became final after the Justice Department filed an anti-trust lawsuit against US Steel in September 1911; Roosevelt was humiliated by this suit because he had personally approved of an acquisition that the Justice Department was now challenging. However, Roosevelt was still unwilling to run against Taft in 1912; he instead hoped to run in 1916 against whichever Democrat beat Taft in 1912.
In November 1911, a group of Ohio Republicans endorsed Roosevelt for the party's nomination for president; the endorsers included James R. Garfield and Dan Hanna. This was notable, as the endorsement was made by leaders of President Taft's home state. Roosevelt conspicuously declined to make a statement requested by Garfield—that he flatly refuse a nomination. Soon thereafter, Roosevelt said, "I am really sorry for Taft... I am sure he means well, but he means well feebly, and he does not know how! He is utterly unfit for leadership and this is a time when we need leadership." In January 1912, Roosevelt declared "if the people make a draft on me I shall not decline to serve". Later that year, Roosevelt spoke before the Constitutional Convention in Ohio, openly identifying as a progressive and endorsing progressive reforms—even endorsing popular review of state judicial decisions. In reaction to Roosevelt's proposals for popular overrule of court decisions, Taft said, "Such extremists are not progressives—they are political emotionalists or neurotics".
Roosevelt began to envision himself as the savior of the Republican party (the "GOP") from defeat in the upcoming Presidential election and declared as a candidate for the GOP banner. In February 1912, Roosevelt announced in Boston, "I will accept the nomination for president if it is tendered to me. I hope that so far as possible the people may be given the chance through direct primaries to express who shall be the nominee. Both Elihu Root and Henry Cabot Lodge thought that division of the party would lead to its defeat in the next election; Taft believed he was witnessing the end of his political career—it was only a matter of whether he would be defeated by his own party or in the general election.
After Roosevelt's announcement, the subject of the 1904 Republican campaign contributions was raised again by Old Guard Republican Senator Boies Penrose. According to Penrose, Roosevelt had taken the $150,000 donation from Standard Oil and had asked for more. Roosevelt denied Penrose's accusation and insisted he told Cortelyou, at the time his campaign manager, to return $100,000 of the gift. Penrose's allegation prompted a Senate investigation into campaign financing of the 1904 presidential election.
The 1912 primaries represented the first extensive use of the presidential primary, a reform achievement of the progressive movement. The primaries in the South, where party regulars dominated, went for Taft, as did results in New York, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Roosevelt won in Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, California, Maryland and Pennsylvania; Roosevelt also won Taft's home state of Ohio. These primary elections, while demonstrating Roosevelt's continuing popularity with the electorate, were not pivotal. The final credentials of the state delegates at the national convention were determined by the national committee, which was controlled by the party leaders, headed by the incumbent president.
Prior to the 1912 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Roosevelt expressed doubt about his prospects for victory, noting that Taft had more delegates and control of the credentials committee. His only hope was to convince party leaders that the nomination of Taft would hand the election to the Democrats, but party leaders were determined not cede their leadership to Roosevelt. The credentials committee awarded almost all contested delegates to Taft, and Taft won the nomination on the first ballot. Black delegates from the South played a key role: they voted heavily for Taft and put him over the top. Roosevelt said "Seven-eights of the negro delegates, and about the same proportion of white men representing negro districts in the South, went for Mr. Taft." La Follette also helped Taft's candidacy; he hoped that a deadlocked convention would result in his own nomination, and refused to release his delegates to support Roosevelt.
Once his defeat as the GOP nominee was probable, Roosevelt announced that he would "accept the progressive nomination on a progressive platform and I shall fight to the end, win or lose". At the same time, Roosevelt prophetically said, "My feeling is that the Democrats will probably win if they nominate a progressive". After two weeks at the GOP convention, Roosevelt asked his followers to leave the hall, and they moved to the Auditorium Theatre. Then Roosevelt, along with key allies such as Pinchot and Albert Beveridge, created the 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", after Roosevelt told reporters, "I'm as fit as a bull moose". At the 1912 Progressive National Convention, Roosevelt cried out, "We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord." California Governor Hiram Johnson was nominated as Roosevelt's running mate.
Roosevelt's platform echoed his 1907–8 proposals, calling for vigorous government intervention to protect the people from the selfish interests;
To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day. This country belongs to the people. Its resources, its business, its laws, its institutions, should be utilized, maintained, or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest. This assertion is explicit... Mr. Wilson must know that every monopoly in the United States opposes the Progressive party... I challenge him... to name the monopoly that did support the Progressive party, whether... the Sugar Trust, the US Steel Trust, the Harvester Trust, the Standard Oil Trust, the Tobacco Trust, or any other... Ours was the only program to which they objected, and they supported either Mr. Wilson or Mr. Taft
Many Progressive party supporters in the North were supporters of civil rights for blacks. Roosevelt did not want to alienate them. On the other hand, his chief advisors in the South insisted the Progressive party had to be a white man's party there. Rival all-white and all-black delegations from four southern states arrived at the Progressive national convention. Roosevelt decided to seat the all-white delegations. He ran a "lily-white" campaign in the South in 1912. Nevertheless, he won little support outside mountain Republican strongholds. Out of nearly 1100 counties in the South, Roosevelt won two counties in Alabama, one in Arkansas, seven in North Carolina, three in Georgia, 17 in Tennessee two in Texas, one in Virginia, and none in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, or South Carolina.
On October 14, 1912, while campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Roosevelt was shot by a saloonkeeper named John Flammang Schrank. The bullet lodged in his chest after penetrating his steel eyeglass case and passing through a thick (50 pages) single-folded copy of the speech titled "Progressive Cause Greater Than Any Individual", which he was carrying in his jacket. Roosevelt, as an experienced hunter and anatomist, correctly concluded that since he was not coughing blood, the bullet had not reached his lung, and he declined suggestions to go to the hospital immediately. Instead, he delivered his scheduled speech with blood seeping into his shirt. He spoke for 90 minutes before completing his speech and accepting medical attention. His opening comments to the gathered crowd were, "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose." Afterwards, probes and an x-ray showed that the bullet had lodged in Roosevelt's chest muscle, but did not penetrate the pleura. Doctors concluded that it would be less dangerous to leave it in place than to operate to remove it. Roosevelt carried the bullet with him for the rest of his life.
Because of the bullet wound, Roosevelt was taken off the campaign trail in the final weeks of the race (which ended on election day, November 5). Though the other two campaigners stopped their own campaigns during the week Roosevelt was in the hospital, they resumed it once he was released. The bullet lodged in his chest exacerbated his rheumatoid arthritis and prevented him from doing his daily stint of exercises; Roosevelt soon became obese.
After the Democrats nominated Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey, Roosevelt did not expect to win the general election, as Wilson had compiled a record attractive to many progressive Democrats who might have otherwise considered voting for Roosevelt. Roosevelt still campaigned vigorously, and the election developed into a two-person contest between Wilson and Roosevelt, despite the presence of the incumbent president in the race. Roosevelt respected Wilson, but the two differed on various issues; Wilson opposed any federal intervention regarding women's suffrage or child labor (he viewed these as state issues), but attacked Roosevelt's tolerance of large businesses.
Roosevelt won 4.1 million votes (27%), compared to Taft's 3.5 million (23%). Wilson gained 6.3 million votes (42% of the total), enough for a massive landslide in the Electoral College, with 435 electoral votes; Roosevelt won 88 electoral votes, and Taft had 8. Pennsylvania was the only eastern state won by Roosevelt; in the Midwest, he carried Michigan, Minnesota, and South Dakota; in the West, California, and Washington. The South as usual was solidly Democratic. Wilson's victory represented the first Democratic presidential election victory since Cleveland's 1892 campaign, and it was the party's best performance in the Electoral College since 1852. Roosevelt, meanwhile, garnered a higher share of the popular vote than any other third party presidential candidate in history.
A friend of Roosevelt's, Father John Augustine Zahm, a Catholic priest and scientist at the University of Notre Dame, had searched for new adventures and found them in the forests of South America. After a briefing of several of his own expeditions, he persuaded Roosevelt to participate in such an expedition in 1912. To finance the expedition, Roosevelt received support from the American Museum of Natural History, promising to bring back many new animal specimens. Roosevelt's popular book, Through the Brazilian Wilderness describes his expedition into the Brazilian jungle in 1913 as a member of the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition, co-named after its leader, Brazilian explorer Cândido Rondon. The book describes the scientific discovery, scenic tropical vistas, and exotic flora and fauna experienced during the adventure.
Once in South America, a new, far more ambitious goal was added: to find the headwaters of the Rio da Duvida, the River of Doubt, and trace it north to the Madeira and thence to the Amazon River. It was later renamed Roosevelt River in honor of the former President. Roosevelt's crew consisted of his son Kermit, naturalist Colonel Rondon, George K. Cherrie, sent by the American Museum of Natural History, Brazilian Lieutenant João Lira, team physician Dr. José Antonio Cajazeira, and 16 skilled paddlers and porters (called camaradas [comrades] in Portuguese). The initial expedition started somewhat tenuously on December 9, 1913, at the height of the rainy season. The trip down the River of Doubt started on February 27, 1914.
During the trip down the river, Roosevelt suffered a minor leg wound after he jumped into the river to try to prevent two canoes from smashing against the rocks. The flesh wound he received, however, soon gave him tropical fever that resembled the malaria he had contracted while in Cuba fifteen years before. Because the bullet lodged in his chest from the assassination attempt in 1912 was never removed, his health worsened from the infection. This weakened Roosevelt so greatly that six weeks into the adventure, he had to be attended to day and night by the expedition's physician and his son Kermit. By then, he could not walk because of the infection in his injured leg and an infirmity in the other, which was due to a traffic accident a decade earlier. Roosevelt was riddled with chest pains, fighting a fever that soared to 103 °F (39 °C) and at times made him delirious. Regarding his condition as a threat to the survival of the others, Roosevelt insisted he be left behind to allow the poorly provisioned expedition to proceed as rapidly as it could. Only an appeal by his son persuaded him to continue.
Despite Roosevelt's continued decline and loss of over 50 pounds (23 kg), Commander Rondon reduced the pace of the expedition to allow for his commission's mapmaking and other geographical tasks, which required regular stops to fix the expedition's position by sun-based survey. Upon Roosevelt's return to New York, friends and family were startled by his physical appearance and fatigue. Roosevelt wrote, perhaps prophetically, to a friend that the trip had cut his life short by ten years. For the rest of his few remaining years, he would be plagued by flare-ups of malaria and leg inflammations so severe as to require surgery. Before Roosevelt had even completed his sea voyage home, critics raised doubts over his claims of exploring and navigating a completely uncharted river over 625 miles (1,006 km) long. When he had recovered sufficiently, he addressed a standing-room-only convention organized in Washington, D.C., by the National Geographic Society and satisfactorily defended his claims.
Roosevelt returned to the United States in May 1914. Roosevelt was outraged by the Wilson Administration's conclusion of a treaty that expressed "sincere regret" for the way in which the United States had acquired the Panama Canal Zone, but was impressed by many of the reforms passed under Wilson. Progressives asked Roosevelt to run for Governor of New York in 1914, but he had no interest in another gubernatorial term and was still recovering from malaria. Roosevelt made several campaign appearances for the Progressives, but the 1914 elections were a disaster for the fledgling third party. Roosevelt began to envision another campaign for president, this time with himself at the head of the Republican Party, but conservative party leaders remained opposed to Roosevelt. In hopes of engineering a joint nomination, the Progressives scheduled the 1916 Progressive National Convention at the same time as the 1916 Republican National Convention. When the Republicans instead nominated Hughes on the third ballot, Roosevelt declined the Progressive nomination. He instead chose to endorse Hughes, with whom he largely agreed on policy, and many Progressives followed Roosevelt in rejoining the Republican Party. Though Roosevelt had long disliked Hughes, he disliked Wilson even more, and he campaigned energetically for the Republican nominee. However, Wilson won the 1916 election by a narrow margin. The Progressives disappeared as a party following the 1916 election, and Roosevelt and many of his followers re-joined the Republican Party.
When World War I began in 1914, Roosevelt strongly supported the Allies and demanded a harsher policy against Germany, especially regarding submarine warfare. Roosevelt angrily denounced the foreign policy of President Wilson, calling it a failure regarding the atrocities in Belgium and the violations of American rights. In 1916, while campaigning for Republican Hughes, Roosevelt repeatedly denounced Irish-Americans and German-Americans whom he described as unpatriotic, saying they put the interests of Ireland and Germany ahead of America's by supporting neutrality. He insisted that one had to be 100% American, not a "hyphenated American" who juggled multiple loyalties. In March 1917, Congress gave Roosevelt the authority to raise a maximum of four divisions similar to the Rough Riders, and Major Frederick Russell Burnham was put in charge of both the general organization and recruitment. However, the Commander-in-chief, President Woodrow Wilson, announced to the press that he would not send Roosevelt and his volunteers to France, but instead would send an American Expeditionary Force under the command of General John J. Pershing. Roosevelt was forced to disband the volunteers. He never forgave Wilson, and quickly published The Foes of Our Own Household, an indictment of the sitting president. Roosevelt's youngest son, Quentin, a pilot with the American forces in France, was shot down behind German lines on July 14, 1918, at the age of 20. It is said that Quentin's death distressed Roosevelt so much that he never recovered from his loss.
Roosevelt's attacks on Wilson helped the Republicans win control of Congress in the off-year elections of 1918. He declined a request from New York Republican to run for another gubernatorial term, but attacked Wilson's Fourteen Points, calling instead for the unconditional surrender of Germany. He was cautiously optimistic about the proposed League of Nations, but had reservations about its impact on United States sovereignty. Roosevelt was popular enough to contest the 1920 Republican nomination, but his health was broken by 1918, because of the lingering malaria. His family and supporters threw their support behind Roosevelt's old military companion, General Leonard Wood, but Taft supporter Warren G. Harding defeated Wood on the tenth ballot of the 1920 Republican National Convention.
On the night of January 5, 1919, Roosevelt suffered breathing problems. After receiving treatment from his physician, Dr. George W. Faller, he felt better and went to bed. Roosevelt's last words were "Please put out that light, James" to his family servant James Amos. Between 4:00 and 4:15 the next morning, Roosevelt died in his sleep at Sagamore Hill after a blood clot had detached from a vein and traveled to his lungs. He was sixty years old. Upon receiving word of his death, his son Archibald telegraphed his siblings: "The old lion is dead." Woodrow Wilson's vice president, Thomas R. Marshall, said that "Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight." Following a private farewell service in the North Room at Sagamore Hill, a simple funeral was held at Christ Episcopal Church in Oyster Bay. Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, Charles Evans Hughes, Warren Harding, Henry Cabot Lodge, and William Howard Taft were among the mourners. The snow-covered procession route to Youngs Memorial Cemetery was lined with spectators and a squad of mounted policemen who had ridden from New York City. Roosevelt was buried on a hillside overlooking Oyster Bay.
Roosevelt was a prolific author, writing with passion on subjects ranging from foreign policy to the importance of the national park system. Roosevelt was also an avid reader of poetry. Poet Robert Frost said that Roosevelt "was our kind. He quoted poetry to me. He knew poetry."
As an editor of Outlook magazine, Roosevelt had weekly access to a large, educated national audience. In all, Roosevelt wrote about 18 books (each in several editions), including his autobiography, The Rough Riders, History of the Naval War of 1812, and others on subjects such as ranching, explorations, and wildlife. His most ambitious book was the four volume narrative The Winning of the West, focused on the American frontier in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Roosevelt said that the American character – indeed a new "American race" (ethnic group) had emerged from the heroic wilderness hunters and Indian fighters, acting on the frontier with little government help. Roosevelt also published an account of his 1909–10 African expedition entitled African Game Trails.
In 1907, Roosevelt became embroiled in a widely publicized literary debate known as the nature fakers controversy. A few years earlier, naturalist John Burroughs had published an article entitled "Real and Sham Natural History" in the Atlantic Monthly, attacking popular writers of the day such as Ernest Thompson Seton, Charles G. D. Roberts, and William J. Long for their fantastical representations of wildlife. Roosevelt agreed with Burroughs' criticisms, and published several essays of his own denouncing the booming genre of "naturalistic" animal stories as "yellow journalism of the woods". It was the President himself who popularized the negative term "nature faker" to describe writers who depicted their animal characters with excessive anthropomorphism.
Roosevelt intensely disliked being called "Teddy", and was quick to point out this fact to those who referred to him as such, though it would become widely used by newspapers during his political career. He attended church regularly. In 1907, concerning the motto "In God We Trust" on money, he wrote, "It seems to me eminently unwise to cheapen such a motto by use on coins, just as it would be to cheapen it by use on postage stamps, or in advertisements." He was also a member of the Freemasons and Sons of the American Revolution.
Roosevelt had a lifelong interest in pursuing what he called, in an 1899 speech, "The Strenuous Life". To this end, he exercised regularly and took up boxing, tennis, hiking, rowing, polo, and horseback riding. As governor of New York, he boxed with sparring partners several times each week, a practice he regularly continued as President until being hit so hard in the face he became blind in his left eye (a fact not made public until many years later). Thereafter, he practiced judo, attaining a third degree brown belt; he also continued his habit of skinny-dipping in the Potomac River during the winter.
Roosevelt was an enthusiastic singlestick player and, according to Harper's Weekly, showed up at a White House reception with his arm bandaged after a bout with General Leonard Wood in 1905. Roosevelt was an avid reader, reading tens of thousands of books, at a rate of several per day in multiple languages. Along with Thomas Jefferson, Roosevelt was the most well-read of all American presidents.
Historians credit Roosevelt for changing the nation's political system by permanently placing the presidency at center stage and making character as important as the issues. His notable accomplishments include trust busting and conservationism. He is a hero to liberals for his proposals in 1907–12 that presaged the modern welfare state of the New Deal Era, and put the environment on the national agenda. Conservatives admire his "big stick" diplomacy and commitment to military values. Dalton says, "Today he is heralded as the architect of the modern presidency, as a world leader who boldly reshaped the office to meet the needs of the new century and redefined America's place in the world."
However, liberals have criticized him for his interventionist and imperialist approach to nations he considered "uncivilized". Conservatives reject his vision of the welfare state and emphasis on the superiority of government over private action. Historians typically rank Roosevelt among the top five presidents.
Dalton says Roosevelt is remembered as, "one of the most picturesque personalities who has ever enlivened the landscape". His friend, historian Henry Adams, proclaimed:
Roosevelt, more than any other man... showed the singular primitive quality that belongs to ultimate matter—the quality that medieval theology assigned to God—he was pure act.
Recent biographers have stressed Roosevelt's personality. Cooper compared him with Woodrow Wilson, and discovered that both of them played the roles of warrior and priest. Dalton stressed Roosevelt's strenuous life. Sarah Watts examined the desires of the "Rough Rider in the White House". Brands calls Roosevelt "the last romantic", arguing that his romantic concept of life emerged from his belief that "physical bravery was the highest virtue and war the ultimate test of bravery".
Roosevelt as the exemplar of American masculinity has become a major theme. As president, he repeatedly warned men that they were becoming too office-bound, too complacent, too comfortable with physical ease and moral laxity, and were failing in their duties to propagate the race and exhibit masculine vigor. French historian Serge Ricard says, "the ebullient apostle of the Strenuous Life offers ideal material for a detailed psycho-historical analysis of aggressive manhood in the changing socio-cultural environment of his era; McKinley, Taft, or Wilson would perhaps inadequately serve that purpose". He promoted competitive sports and the Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910, as the way forward. Brands shows that heroic displays of bravery were essential to Roosevelt's image and mission:
What makes the hero a hero is the romantic notion that he stands above the tawdry give and take of everyday politics, occupying an ethereal realm where partisanship gives way to patriotism, and division to unity, and where the nation regains its lost innocence, and the people their shared sense of purpose.
Roosevelt was included with Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln at the Mount Rushmore Memorial, designed in 1927 with the approval of Republican President Calvin Coolidge. For his gallantry at San Juan Hill, Roosevelt's commanders recommended him for the Medal of Honor. In the late 1990s, Roosevelt's supporters again recommended the award. On January 16, 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded Theodore Roosevelt the Medal of Honor posthumously for his charge on San Juan Hill, Cuba, during the Spanish–American War. The United States Navy named two ships for Roosevelt: the USS Theodore Roosevelt (SSBN-600), a submarine that was in commission from 1961 to 1982, and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), an aircraft carrier that has been on active duty in the Atlantic Fleet since 1986. On November 18, 1956, the United States Postal Service released a 6¢ Liberty Issue postage stamp honoring Roosevelt. A 32¢ stamp was issued on February 3, 1998, as part of the Celebrate the Century stamp sheet series. In 2008, Columbia Law School awarded a law degree to Roosevelt, posthumously making him a member of the class of 1882.
In 1919, the Theodore Roosevelt Association (originally known as the Permanent Memorial National Committee) was founded by friends and supporters of Roosevelt. Soon renamed the Roosevelt Memorial Association (RMA), it was chartered in 1920 under Title 36 of the United States Code. In parallel with the RMA was an organization for women, The Women's Theodore Roosevelt Association, that had been founded in 1919 by an act of the New York State Assembly. Both organizations merged in 1956 under the current name. This organization preserved Roosevelt's papers in a 20-year project, preserved his photos and established four public sites: the reconstructed Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, New York City, dedicated in 1923 and donated to the National Park Service in 1963; Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park, Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, dedicated in 1928 and given to the people of Oyster Bay; Theodore Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., given to the federal government in 1932; Sagamore Hill, Roosevelt's Oyster Bay home, opened to the public in 1953 and was donated to the National Park Service in 1963 and is now the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.
Dickinson State University in western North Dakota is attempting to create a presidential Library called the Theodore Roosevelt Center. It has pursued the mission of digitizing and archiving all of TR’s letters, diaries, photographs, political cartoons, audio and video recordings, as well as other media. In 2013, the North Dakota legislature appropriated $12 million to build an actual complex similar to the official libraries run by the National Archives. As of May 2017, the physical library is expected to be completed in 2019.
Roosevelt's "Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick" ideology is still quoted by politicians and columnists in different countries—not only in English, but also in translations to various other languages.
One lasting, popular legacy of Roosevelt is the stuffed toy bears—teddy bears—named after him following an incident on a hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902. Roosevelt famously refused to shoot a defenseless black bear that had been tied to a tree. After the cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman illustrated the President with a bear, a toy maker heard the story and named the teddy bear after Roosevelt. Bears, and later bear cubs, became closely associated with Roosevelt in political cartoons, despite Roosevelt openly despising being called "Teddy". On June 26, 2006, Roosevelt was on the cover of TIME magazine with the lead story, "The Making of America—Theodore Roosevelt—The 20th Century Express": "At home and abroad, Theodore Roosevelt was the locomotive President, the man who drew his flourishing nation into the future."
In 1905, Roosevelt, an admirer of various western figures, named Captain Bill McDonald of the Texas Rangers as his bodyguard and entertained the legendary Texan at the White House. Ironically, in the 1912 campaign, McDonald was Woodrow Wilson's bodyguard. Wilson thereafter named the Democrat McDonald as the U.S. Marshal for the Northern district of Texas.
Roosevelt has been portrayed many times in film and on television. Karl Swenson played him in the 1967 western picture Brighty of the Grand Canyon, the story of a real-life burro who guided Roosevelt on a hunting trip to find mountain lions. Brian Keith played Roosevelt in the 1975 film The Wind and the Lion. He was also portrayed by actor Tom Berenger in 1997 for the TNT movie Rough Riders, a made-for-cable film about his exploits during the Spanish–American War in Cuba. Frank Albertson played Roosevelt in the 1956 episode "Rough and Ready" of the CBS series My Friend Flicka." Robert Vaughn portrayed a younger Roosevelt in the Law of the Plainsman 1959 episode, "The Dude." Robin Williams portrayed Roosevelt in the form of a wax mannequin that comes to life in Night at the Museum and its sequels Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.
In 2017, it was announced that Leonardo DiCaprio will portray Roosevelt in a biopic to be directed by Martin Scorsese.
In Don Rosa's comic book series The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck (1994–1996), Roosevelt meets and befriends Scrooge McDuck in 1882 when both were visiting the Dakota badlands and later again in 1902 at Fort Duckburg. In Don Rosa's story The Sharpie of the Culebra Cut (2001), collected in The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion, they meet for the third time during the construction of the Panama Canal in 1906.Theodore Roosevelt was one of the first presidents whose voice was recorded for posterity. Several of his recorded speeches survive. A 4.6-minute voice recording, which preserves Roosevelt's lower timbre ranges particularly well for its time, is among those available from the Michigan State University libraries (this is the 1912 recording of The Right of the People to Rule, recorded by Edison at Carnegie Hall). The audio clip sponsored by the Authentic History Center includes his defense of the Progressive Party in 1912, wherein he proclaims it the "party of the people" – in contrast with the other major parties.Roosevelt goes for a ride in Arch Hoxsey's plane in October 1910