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President Theodore Roosevelt

Updated on January 6, 2017

Theodore Roosevelt, (1858-1919), 26th President of the USA, was born in New York, the son of wealthy parents of Dutch descent. A sickly child, he built up his physique by a rigorous training programme and after graduating from Harvard entered politics, but in disgust at the corruption he encountered spent two adventurous years as a cattleman in the Wild West. Back in New York, as Police Commissioner, he cleaned up the force before becoming Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Favoring war with Spain, he put the navy in a high state of readiness, but when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898 he resigned in order to raise a volunteer cavalry unit, the famous 'Rough Riders', whom he led with courageous zest in Cuba.

As Governor of New York after the war he tackled rackets and doubtful business enterprises with such energy that the party bosses decided to get rid of him by having him returned as Vice President, a post which normally carried practically no power. Almost immediately, however, President McKinley was assassinated (1901) and Roosevelt succeeded him for the next three and a half years. He was returned in 1904 by a huge majority for a further four years . Among his many achievements as President were the starting of the Panama Canal scheme, the ending of the Russo-Japanese War by his intervention, the cleaning up of politics and defeat of big business monopolies . In foreign affairs his declared policy was 'to speak softly and carry a big stick'.

Refusing to stand for election again in 1908, he went big-game hunting in Africa and then returned to America to stand for his new Progressive 'Bull Moose' Party, which split the Republican vote and allowed Woodrow Wilson to win the presidency in 1912. Once again Roosevelt set off on his travels, this time to the jungles of Brazil, where he fell seriously ill and came home a sick man. However, when war broke out in Europe, he attacked Wilson's neutrality policy with his old vigor, and after America entered the war he tried to get permission to serve with a division of volunteers he had raised. His four sons fought in France and one was killed in action; Roosevelt himself died in 1919, opposing Wilson to the end.

'Teddy' Roosevelt was a flamboyant character, who possessed abnormal energy and Lincoln's ability to coin memorable phrases; he did much for reform and justice and in his company nobody ever had a dull moment. In addition to his other achievements, he was a prolific writer, whose books included accounts of his adventures and his own autobiography.


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