Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Roosevelt, Theodore (elder)

ROOSEVELT, THEODORE, an American statesman, historian, essayist, publicist, naturalist, explorer, civil and political reformer, soldier, 26th president of the United States. Born, New York City, Oct. 27, 1858; was graduated from Harvard University 1880, and was subsequently the recipient of many honorary degrees from American and European universities. During early life Roosevelt was frail, but succeeded in building up a strong physical constitution by exercise and open air life.

After graduation he engaged in the study of law, but abandoned the pursuit to become a member of the New York State Legislature, 1882-84, representing the 21st Assembly District of New York. The key to his later attitude as a reformer will be found in his indignation over the decision of the Court of Appeals that a law he had fathered in favor of public health by prohibiting the manufacture and the preparation of tobacco in tenement-houses was declared unconstitutional.

He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, 1884, and during the campaign supported James G. Blaine. From 1884-86 he lived on a ranch in North Dakota, which gave the background for his subsequent writings on life in the far west. In 1886 he was defeated for the mayoralty of New York City by Abram F. Hewitt. Upon appointment by President Benjamin Harrison, Roosevelt became a member of the United States Civil Service Commission serving 1889-95. Into this work he threw great enthusiasm, and forced the question of civil service reform upon Congress and the American people. He resigned in 1895 to become President of the Board of Police Commissioners for the City of New York, in which position he probably made himself more felt than any other official in the history of the city.

At the request of President McKinley in 1897 he resigned to become Assistant Secretary of the Navy under John D. Long of Massachusetts. Foreseeing that war with Spain was inevitable, he insisted on putting the United States fleet in preparation for instant action. When the war with Spain came he resigned his naval position, May 6, 1898, and entered the military service as Lieutenant Colonel, First United States Cavalry Volunteers, known subsequently as the “Rough Riders.” He was in command of his regiment in the fight at San Juan Hill, was commended for gallantry and promoted to be Colonel.

In November, 1898, Roosevelt was elected Governor of the State of New York. During his incumbency he fought strenuously against boss control and for the many measures he had advocated while United States Civil Service Commissioner.

The Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, 1900, nominated him for, the Vice-Presidency on the McKinley ticket, a candidacy which Roosevelt was very reluctant to accept. President McKinley was assassinated on Sept. 14, 1901, and Roosevelt succeeded to the Presidency at the age of 43. During his term of office he fulfilled his promise and adhered strictly to the Republican platform and principles as enunciated by McKinley during the campaign, and retained the Cabinet which McKinley had chosen. One of his outstanding acts was to appoint the Anthracite Strike Arbitration Commission, which brought about peace in the anthracite coal regions for many subsequent years.

The Republican National Convention at Chicago in 1904 unanimously nominated Roosevelt for the Presidency, and he received 7,623,486 popular votes and 336 electoral votes to 5,077,970 popular votes and 140 electoral college votes given for the Democratic candidate, Alton B. Parker. During his presidency Roosevelt endeavored to regulate the influence of large corporations without destroying their equities. He resisted the German Kaiser and brought about the submission of the Moroccan dispute to a conference of the Powers of Algeciras. Evidence has come to light that both Roosevelt and his Secretary, John Hay, were well aware at that time of the plans of the German Emperor for universal dominion, and they succeeded in frustrating those plans so far as American interests were concerned, and particularly in relation to China. Through Roosevelt's influence in 1905 Russia was persuaded to come to terms with Japan and thus close the costly Russo-Japanese War, for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1906. Throughout his administration Roosevelt's chief domestic policy was the conservation of natural resources. The most conspicuous and spectacular of Roosevelt's acts as President was the recognition of the new republic of Panama which led to the subsequent completion of the Panama Canal.

Upon the expiration of his term Roosevelt went immediately on a big game hunting excursion through Central Africa. From 1909-14 he was contributing editor of the “Outlook,” in which journal he commented on national and international affairs. In 1910 he was special ambassador of the United States at the funeral of King Edward VII.

Upon his return from Africa and Europe Roosevelt became convinced that the Republican Party was falling into the hands of reactionaries. The Republican National Convention, Chicago, 1912, brought on a crisis in which the Liberal or Progressive Republicans demanded Roosevelt's nomination. There was bitter dispute over the seating of certain delegates, but William H. Taft was nominated for the presidency. Owing to a belief that certain rulings of the Chairman were unparliamentary, the Progressive Republicans felt that they were not bound by the vote. This gave birth to what was known as the Progressive or Bull Moose Party, which six weeks later met in Chicago and nominated Roosevelt for the presidency on a new party ticket. The platform adopted stressed many of the liberal doctrines which Roosevelt had advocated during his career and some to which he gave personally only reluctant assent. The chief planks in the platform were direct primaries, conservation of natural resources, woman suffrage, the initiative, the referendum and the recall of judicial decisions. Woodrow Wilson, Governor of New Jersey, was nominated by the Democratic Party which resulted in an intensely bitter three-cornered fight. At the election on Nov. 5, Wilson was elected by 6,286,000 votes out of 15,310,000. Roosevelt received 4,126,000 and Taft 3,483,000.

Although many of the Progressives felt that they had formed a new permanent political party, Roosevelt did not share their views, for in 1916 he gave his unqualified support to Charles E. Hughes, the Republican candidate for the presidency. In 1913 Roosevelt went to South America where he delivered a series of addresses, and in 1914 explored a tributary of the Madeira river, in Brazil, for a distance of 600 miles. Fever contracted during this expedition led to physical troubles which finally ended in death. The year 1915 is memorable in his life because of a law-suit brought against him by William Barnes, Jr., of Albany, N. Y., charging Roosevelt with libel. The verdict was in favor of the defendant.

The Progressive Party in 1916 nominated Roosevelt for the presidency which he declined almost immediately, in order to throw his personal influence in favor of Hughes against Wilson.

During the World War, 1914-18, Roosevelt spoke and wrote incessantly on the duty of America to take a more positive stand in the conflict. He offered to raise and equip an army division or several divisions and lead them to France in 1917, but the offer was declined by President Wilson.

Roosevelt died unexpectedly Jan. 6, 1919. Since his death all partisan feeling toward him has passed away, and he is now recognized as one of the greatest leaders of the United States, certainly the most versatile man America has produced. He was apparently impulsive in his utterances, but when his conclusions were examined, almost invariably they were found to rest upon sound erudition and had been reached by sustained and consecutive thought. His reading was unusually extensive, and his personal friendship with statesmen, scientists and eminent thinkers and writers of many lands made him familiar with the best and most advanced contemporaneous thought of the world.

Besides a multitude of magazine and newspaper articles he wrote the following volumes: “Winning of the West” (1889-96); “History of the Naval War of 1812” (1882); “Hunting Trips of a Ranchman” (1885); “Life of Thomas Hart Benton” (1886); “Life of Gouverneur Morris” (1887); “Ranch Life and Hunting Trail” (1888); “History of New York” (1890); “The Wilderness Hunter” (1893); “American Ideals and Other Essays” (1897); “The Rough Riders” (1899); “Life of Oliver Cromwell” (1900); “The Strenuous Life” (1900); “Works” (8 Vols., 1902); “The Deer Family” (1902); “Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter” (1906); “Good Hunting” (1907); “True Americanism”; “African and European Addresses” (1910); “African Game Trails” (1910); “The New Nationalism” (1910); “Realizable Ideals” (the Earl lectures, 1912); “Conservation of Womanhood and Childhood” (1912); “History as Literature, and Other Essays” (1913); “Theodore Roosevelt, an Autobiography” (1913); “Life Histories of African Game Animals” (2 vols., 1914); “Through the Brazilian Wilderness” (1914); “America and the World War” (1915); “A Book-lover's Holidays in the Open” (1916); “Fear God, and Take Your Own Part” (1916); “Foes of Our Own Household” (1917); “National Strength and International Duty” (Stafford Little Lectures, Princeton Univ., 1917); “Theodore Roosevelt's Letters to His Children” (1919).