Theodore Roosevelt Outline Thesis: Theodore Roosevelt’s political presence altered the course of the United States, transforming it into a superpower fully ready to handle the challenges of any opposition, and changed the role of the president and executive branch of US government, making it a force to be reckoned with. I. Introduction II. Before Roosevelt A. Post-Reconstructionist Views B. The Industrial Revolution C. The Gilded Age 1.
Railroads 2. Robber Barons 3. Immigration 4. Standard Question D. McKinley III. The Roosevelt Era A.
Early Life 1. Influence of Parents 2. Invalidism B. Early Political Career 1. Ending Corruption/Enforcing Laws 2.
Political Bosses 3. Governorship C. Presidential Era 1. Vice Presidential Race 2. Manipulation of the Press 3. Federal Regulatory Laws 4. Foreign Policy 5.
Strong Executive Branch D. Post-Presidential Era 1. Taft 2. The Progressive Party IV. Post-Rooseveltian America A. Wilson 1.
Continued Progressivism 2. World War I a. Inactivity b. Activity B. Life After Wilson 1. Implementation of Roosevelt’s Reforms 2. Roosevelt’s Influence Today 3.
Influences in the Future V. Conclusion Theodore Roosevelt: The Founder of an Era The turn of the century has always been a big deal for modern civilizations. One hundred years of life is quite large compared with the average 70 or so given to most. Because of that, people tend to look in trends of decades, rather than centuries or millennia. When it does come time for a new century, when that second digit rotates, as it does so seldom, people tend to look for change. Events tend to fall before or after the century, not on top of it, and United States history, particularly, has had a tendency for sudden change at the century marks.
Columbus’ accidental discovery of the West Indies in 1492 brought on the exploration age in the 1500s. Jamestown colony, founded in 1607, was England’s first foothold on the New World. A massive population surge, brought on in part by the import of Africans, marks entry into the 18th century. Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, beginning in 1800, changed the face of American politics. 1900 was a ripe year for change, but needed someone to help the change arrive. That someone was Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s political presence altered the course of the United States, transforming it into a superpower fully ready to handle the challenges of any opposition, and changed the role of the president and executive branch of US government, making it a force with which to be reckoned.
As the first president with progressive views, Roosevelt enacted the first regulatory laws and prosecuted big businesses who had been violating them and others for years. Roosevelt also initiated the United States’ active interests in other countries, and began to spread the benefits of democracy throughout the world. Before Roosevelt, the United States was an inward-looking country, largely xenophobic to the calls of the rest of the world, and chiefly concerned with bettering itself. As one critic put it, “Roosevelt was the first modern president”(Knoll). After Roosevelt, the United States would remain a superpower, chiefly interested in all the world’s affairs for at least a century (Barck 1).
It would be foolish to assume that Roosevelt was a fantastically powerful individual who was able to change the course of the United States as easily as Superman might change the course of a river. It would be more accurate to say Roosevelt was the right person in the right place at the right time. It is necessary, though, to show how the United States was progressing, and how Roosevelt’s presence merely helped to catalyze the progression. It has been said that when John Wilkes Booth murdered Abraham Lincoln, he “extinguished the light of the republic” (Cashman 1). While this is a small hyperbole, it serves as an example of the general mood that pervaded the period from 1865 to 1901. The early dominating factor was, of course, Reconstruction. Reconstruction was a dirty game, and nobody liked it.
Johnson fought with congress and the end result proved very little had changed. The South was still largely agrarian, and the North was commercial. Most importantly, the Southerners and the Northerners still felt they had as little to do with each other as a fish does with a bicycle. To the young “Teedie” Roosevelt, this must have made itself apparent. He was born in a mixed household, where “Theodore Roosevelt (Sr.) was as profoundly..for the North as Martha Roosevelt was for the south” (Hagedorn 10). The fact that the family was able to live, from all accounts, very harmoniously, is quite astonishing and gives credit to the fine parents who raised young Theodore.
Reconstruction’s greatest (and perhaps only) accomplishment was the establishment of a basis for industrialization. The basic destruction of the southern agrarian process combined with the greater need for items in the North caused the economy of the post-war United States to shift toward the cities (Nash 576). The general aim of the Untied States had turned toward the big cities, but was still focused on building the nation’s power from within. And along with the improvement of industry in the United States came the spark of ingenuity that found itself in the minds of great inventors like Edison and Bell. Once again maintaining the goal of “hasten[ing] and secur[ing] settlement,” both men concentrated on improvements in communications, improving the transmission of light and sound (Cashman 14). The presence of these two, who are representative of so many others, shows the interest the citizens of the United States had at this time in improving their infrastructure.
It is interesting to note here that Roosevelt, as the first president to make use of the popular press to his advantage, grew up at the same time as these men, eleven years their junior. The period of the United States directly before Roosevelt’s was known as the Gilded Age, due to a book of the same name by Mark Twain that made use of references to “gild[ing] refined gold,” and “guilt” from Shakespeare combined with the “guilty, gilden guilds” that had sprung up in the forms of interest groups, labor unions, and monopolies (Cashman 3-4). Indeed, the most dominant figures in this age (for the presidents were certainly beneath mention) were the robber barons. These individuals came to power in two generations. The first, peppered by those such as Jay Gould, Jim Fisk, and Daniel Drew, rose to the top quickly by acquiring the nation’s railroads through not always legitimate means (Cashman 34).
The railroads were power, as can be seen by the significant rise in miles of rail, nearly a 500% increase from 1865 to 1900. Those who controlled the railroads controlled the country, and were able to maintain a lock on the industry. Later robber barons, such as Rockefeller, Carnegie, and, of course, J. P. Morgan, operated much the same way, eliminating the competition by one way or another until they could control their industry (Cashman 38).
As the three or four thousand tycoons made their fortunes, defying government, and basically creating a plutocracy of businessmen, another large group was entering the American melting pot in larger numbers than before. Ten million people came to the United States between 1860 and 1890, and the great majority of them had little more worth to their name save the clothes on their back and the boat ticket that had brought them to America (Cashman 86). Having nowhere to turn, the large majority settled in the port cities into which they came. These immigrations were largely unrestricted; the United States not yet having installed a quota system. The Chinese-Exclusion act and the subsequent “gentlemen’s agreement” with Japan slowed the influx of Asian immigration after 1880, but these did not impact the numbers of immigrants as much as one would think. Americans could not flee, as there was no frontier left to speak of, and assimilation increasingly failed to be effective.
The result was nativism, “a defensive type of nationalism” (Cashman 106). The need to impose the will of the American civilization onto other nations can be seen here, in its early stages. The main difference between this era and the next, in that respect, is that the jingoism had not yet left the country. The Gilded Age’s strongest presidential race would end up to be its last, and the resulting president, McKinley, can not be classified as a Gilded Age president. However, the issue of the Gold and Silver standards shows the United States for the last time as a totally inward-looking nation. Although a metal standard would not disappear from United States currency until well into the mid-twentieth century, and the question of the purchase of silver would again be raised by President Franklin Roosevelt, the Free Silver campaign of William Jennings Bryan versus the Gold Standard enforced by McKinley shows the last internal economic agitation until the great depression.
The National Grange died upon McKinley’s election, and “after the excitement of Bryan’s Free Silver campaign died down, the agrarian ferment largely subsided” (Barck 21). The end of the old era could now begin. It is ironic that McKinley’s presidency ended in assassination, for without the sudden change of leadership in the White House in 1901, the transformation undergone by the United States may have appeared as gradual as it was intended to be. McKinley was president over the “closing years of the nineteenth century, mark[ing] the end of comparative isolation and the beginning of an epoch during which the United States emerged as a world power” (Barck 77). Indeed, McKinley fits this description of the end of the nineteenth century well.
He was a very transitionary character; not as bland or powerless as the three who had come before him, yet still figurehead enough to be led by Mark Hanna, the national republican boss. McKinley’s stare typifies his character: “His stare was intimidating in its blackness and steadiness..Only very perceptive observers were aware that there was no real power behind the gaze: McKinley stared in order to concentrate a sluggish, wandering mind” (Morris 586). McKinley was president when the United States’ first modern military interventions began. However it is clear McKinley was not an expansionist at heart. He declared in his inaugural address, “We want no wars of conquest; we must avoid the temptation of territorial aggression”(Cashman 315). However, much of America did want war with Spain, and after the American ship Maine blew up in Havana, killing 266 soldiers, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt called for war with Spain to free Cuba. The subsequent defeat of the Spanish in 100 days and the capture of the Philippines demonstrates the expansionist nature of the United States increasing.
During the election of 1900, Bryan ran against McKinley again. This time, both men campaigned on the same side of the same issue, advocating annexation of overseas territories (Cashman 329). This confused Democrats and allowed McKinley’s re-election for the last year of the nineteenth century. The progress of the United States from the death of Lincoln to the Assassination of McKinley has shown the trend away from Jeffersonian views of a loose government, allowing the people to be independent, and into one more pro-government, like that of Hamilton. Coupled to this was a tendency to look outside United States borders into the global community. The pendulum of history had passed its middle mark and was sweeping upward. It needed, however, an individual to carry it to its apex.
Theodore Roosevelt was in the right place at the right time. Whether he was the right person for the job remains a matter that must be dealt with. His foundations and his career demonstrate that he was the perfect person to succeed McKinley and take the United States into its modern era. Roosevelt was born on October 27, 1858, one week before Buchanan was elected president, and two and a half years before the outbreak of the Civil war. Not having much in the way of genuine learning skills at such an early age, Roosevelt, in a sense, “slept through [the war]” (Hagedorn 11).
In another sense, he did not. Theodore Roosevelt was born into a house of strikingly opposite leaders. His father was a large, cheerful, powerful man, who tended to be joyful and move quickly. It is safe to say Theodore Roosevelt, junior, received his stature from the man bearing his name (Morris 34). If Roosevelt’s father was a “northern burgher,” his mother was an archetypal Southern belle, refined and elegant. By all accounts she was absolutely lovely, and had a wonderful taste for the beautiful things in life (Morris 36).
From her, young Theodore inherited his love of the natural, his sense of decorum, and his strong wit. The even balance that existed in the Roosevelt home fell into a disarray of sorts as war broke out. TR, Senior was a Lincoln Republican and desired strongly a chance to fight, however his wife, her sister, and her mother, all staunch confederates, resided in the same house. To compromise, TR, Senior hired someone to fight for him and served the army in a civilian sense. TR, Junior has always been known as a staunch militaristic man. Although his father was, in his own words, “the best man I ever knew” (Miller 32), in his failure to fight for his government, Roosevelt felt ashamed, and never mentioned this blemish on his father’s great reputation in his Autobiography.
It is speculated that it was this lack of military display that encouraged Roosevelt to be so military and almost hysterically desire warfare (Morris 40). Theodore Roosevelt, Senior, was always a strong individual in body and soul. Consequently, he felt sympathy towards those about him, and strove to help them by teaching mission schools, providing care for poor children, and finding jobs out west for those upon whom hard times had fallen. He was even known to take in invalid kittens, placing them in his coat-pockets (Morris 34). The powerful mind and will of Theodore Roosevelt, Junior, however, was born into a sickly body. Teedie suffered from bronchial asthma, and incurred, along with it, a host of associated diseases such as frequent colds, nervous diarrhea, and other problems (Miller 31). He was left very weak as a young child, and was often subject to taunting.
His father spoke to him, saying: Theodore, you have the mind but not the body, and without the help of the body the mind cannot go as far as it should. You must make your body. It is hard drudgery to make one’s body, but I know you will do it (Miller 46). Accordingly, Teedie replied with fervor, “I’ll make my body!” Indeed he did. The young Roosevelt spent hours in the gym, working on weights to make himself better. It was this indomitable spirit that pushed Roosevelt forward, and urged him into his form of powerful politics.
Theodore Roosevelt, Senior, had always hated politics. He had received a particularly nasty dose when caught up in the Rutherford B. Hayes campaign. Roosevelt, a Hayes supporter, had drawn the particular ire of Hayes’ opponent for the Republican nomination, Roscoe Conkling. Hayes attempted to put Roosevelt in as position of Collecto …