Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt

Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt

Infobox_President | name=Theodore Roosevelt

order=26th President of the United States
term_start=September 14, 1901
term_end=March 4, 1909
vicepresident="none" (1901-1905), [Until the ratification of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1967, there was no provision for filling a mid-term vacancy in the office of Vice President. [ Find Law for Legal Professionals - U.S. Constitution: Twenty-Fifth Amendment - Annotations] ] Charles W. Fairbanks (1905-1909)
predecessor=William McKinley
successor=William Howard Taft
order2=25th Vice President of the United States
term_start2=March 4, 1901
term_end2=September 14, 1901
president2=William McKinley
predecessor2=Garret Hobart (until 1899)
successor2=Charles W. Fairbanks (from 1905)
order3=36th Governor of New York
term_start3=January 1, 1899
term_end3=January 1, 1901
lieutenant3=Timothy L. Woodruff
predecessor3=Frank S. Black
successor3=Benjamin B. Odell, Jr.
birth_date=October 27, 1858
birth_place= New York, New York
death_date=death date and age|1919|1|6|1858|10|27
death_place= Oyster Bay, New York
spouse=(1) Alice Hathaway Lee (married 1880, died 1884) (2) Edith Kermit Carow (married 1886)
occupation=Polymath, Civil servant
religion=Dutch Reformed


Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th (1901–1909) President of the United States. He had been the 25th Vice President before becoming President upon the assassination of President William McKinley. Owing to his charismatic personality and reformist policies, which he called the "Square Deal", Roosevelt is considered one of the ablest presidents and an icon of the Progressive Era. [ H. W. Brands, "T.R.: The Last Romantic" (1997) p. 477.]


McKinley was shot by an anarchist on September 6, 1901, and died on September 14, putting Roosevelt into the presidency. Roosevelt continued McKinley's cabinet and promised to continue McKinley's policies. One of his first notable acts as President was to deliver a 20,000-word address to the House of Representatives on December 3, 1901 [] , asking Congress to curb the power of large corporations (called trusts) "within reasonable limits." For this and subsequent actions, he has been called a "trust-buster."Roosevelt relished the Presidency and seemed to be everywhere at once. He took Cabinet members and friends on long, fast-paced hikes, boxed in the state rooms of the White House, romped with his children, and read voraciously. He was permanently blinded in one eye during one of his boxing bouts.

In 1904, Roosevelt ran for President in his own right and won in a landslide victory.

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.

Domestic policy


Determined to create what he called a "Square Deal" between business and labor, Roosevelt pushed several pieces of progressive legislation through Congress.

Progressivism in the United States was the most powerful political force of the day, and in the first dozen years of the century Roosevelt was its most articulate spokesman. Progressivism meant expertise, and the use of science, engineering, technology and the new social sciences to identify the nation's problems, and identify ways to eliminate waste and inefficiency and to promote modernization. [ see George Mowry, "The Era of Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of Modern America, 1900-1912" (1954), ch. 1 online] Roosevelt, trained as a biologist, identified himself and his programs with the mystique of science. The other side of Progressivism was a burning hatred of corruption and a fear of powerful and dangerous forces, such as political machines, labor unions and especially the new large corporations — called "trusts" — which seemed to have emerged overnight. Roosevelt, the former deputy sheriff on the Dakota frontier, and police commissioner of New York City, knew evil when he saw it and was dedicated to destroying it. Roosevelt's moralistic determination set the tone of national politics. [ see Lewis L. Gould, "The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt." (1991), ch 1]

Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902

A national emergency was averted in 1902 when Roosevelt found a compromise to the Anthracite coal strike that threatened the heating supplies of most homes.Roosevelt forced an end to the strike when he threatened to use the United States Army to mine the coal and seize the mines. The labor union and the owners both reached an agreement after this episode where the labor union agreed to not be the official bargainer for the workers and the workers got better pay and fewer hours. [ see ] H.R. Brands, "T.R.: The Last Romantic" (1997) pp 434-62 ("See: Coal Strike of 1902".)

Trust busting

Trusts were increasingly the central issue in politics, with public opinion fearing that large corporations could impose monopolistic prices to cheat the consumer and squash small independent companies. By 1904, 318 trusts controlled about two-fifths of the nation's manufacturing output, not to mention powerful trusts in non-manufacturing sectors such as railroads, local transit, and banking. Roosevelt decided to do something about it. A few historians credit McKinley with starting the trust-busting era, but most credit Roosevelt, the "Trust Buster." Once President, Roosevelt worked to increase the regulatory power of the federal government. Regulation of railroads was strengthened by the Elkins Act (1903) and especially the Hepburn Act of 1906, which had the effect of favoring merchants over the railroads. Under his leadership, the Attorney General brought forty-four suits against businesses that were claimed to be monopolies, most notably J.P. Morgan's Northern Securities Company, a huge railroad combination, and J. D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company. Both were successful, with Standard Oil broken into over 30 smaller companies that eventually competed with one another. To raise the visibility of labor and management issues, he established a new federal Department of Labor and Commerce.

Pure Food and Drugs

framed|During_his_tenure_as_President,_Roosevelt_became_known_for_his_role_as_the_leader_of_Progressivism in the United States, for trust-busting and for his enthusiastic conservationist policies.]

In response to public clamor, Roosevelt pushed Congress to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, as well as the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. These laws provided for labeling of foods and drugs, inspection of livestock and mandated sanitary conditions at meatpacking plants. Congress replaced Roosevelt's proposals with a version supported by the major meatpackers who worried about the overseas markets, and did not want small unsanitary plants undercutting their domestic market. [Blum 1980 pp 43-44]

Railroad regulation

Roosevelt firmly believed that "The Government must in increasing degree supervise and regulate the workings of the railways engaged in interstate commerce." Inaction was a danger, he argued, "Such increased supervision is the only alternative to an increase of the present evils on the one hand or a still more radical policy on the other." (Annual Message Dec 1904) The Elkins Act of 1903 was the Administration's first effort at the regulation of railroad rates; it proved ineffective in practice. Roosevelt agreed with the shipping interests who wanted lower rates and a stronger Interstate Commerce Commission to enforce them. As Roosevelt told Congress, "Above all else, we must strive to keep the highways of commerce open to all on equal terms; and to do this it is necessary to put a complete stop to all rebates." Politically this was action on behalf of shippers; it was assumed that the railroads would always be powerful and no amount of regulation would seriously weaken them. (No one dreamed of a vast highway system carrying millions of trucks and automobiles.) Roosevelt encountered opposition in his party, led in the Senate by Nelson Aldrich of Rhode Island, the party leader; Joseph B. Foraker of Ohio; Chauncey Depew of New York (the president of the New York Central Railroad),
Stephen Elkins of West Virginia, Philander Knox of Pennsylvania (formerly Roosevelt's Attorney General), and one of his closest personal friends Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts. Roosevelt therefore planned to rely on a group of Midwestern Republicans, especially William Allison of Iowa. He wanted to avoid having to collaborate with Ben Tillman of South Carolina, whom he considered "one of the foulest and rottenest demagogues in the whole country." In the end Roosevelt convinced the conservatives that the courts would protect the railroads' interests, and he carried the bill without Tillman. [Brands, 545-8; Harbaugh ch 14 ]

The Hepburn Act of 1906 gave the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) the power to set maximum railroad rates and stopped free passes given to friends of the railroad. In addition, the ICC could view the railroads' financial records, a task simplified by standardized booking systems. For any railroad that resisted, the ICC's conditions would be in effect until the outcome of litigation said otherwise. By the Hepburn Act, the ICC's authority was extended to cover bridges, terminals, ferries, sleeping cars, express companies and oil pipelines. Along with the Elkins Act of 1903, the Hepburn Act accomplished one of Roosevelt's major goals, railroad regulation.


Roosevelt was a prominent conservationist, putting the issue high on the national agenda. He worked with all the major figures of the movement, especially his chief advisor on the matter, Gifford Pinchot. Roosevelt was deeply committed to conserving natural resources, and is considered to be the nation's first conservation President. He encouraged the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902 to promote federal construction of dams to irrigate small farms and placed 230 million acres (360,000 mi² or 930,000 km²) under federal protection. Roosevelt set aside more Federal land for national parks and nature preserves than all of his predecessors combined.

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.

Gifford Pinchot had been appointed by McKinley as chief of Division of Forestry in the Department of Agriculture. In 1905, his department gained control of the national forest reserves. Pinchot promoted private use (for a fee) under federal supervision. In 1907, Roosevelt designated 16 million acres (65,000 km²) of new national forests just minutes before a deadline.

In May 1908, Roosevelt sponsored the Conference of Governors held in the White House, with a focus on natural resources and their most efficient use. Roosevelt delivered the opening address: "Conservation as a National Duty."

In 1903 Roosevelt toured the Yosemite Valley with John Muir, who had a very different view of conservation, and tried to minimize commercial use of water resources and forests. Working through the Sierra Club he founded, Muir succeeded in 1905 in having Congress transfer the Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley to the National Park Service. While Muir wanted nature preserved for the sake of pure beauty, Roosevelt subscribed to Pinchot's formulation, "to make the forest produce the largest amount of whatever crop or service will be most useful, and keep on producing it for generation after generation of men and trees." [Pinchot, Gifford (1947). "Breaking New Ground," p. 32. Island Press. ISBN 1-55963-670-X.]


Although Roosevelt did some work improving race relations, he, like most leaders of the Progressive Era, lacked initiative on most racial issues. Booker T. Washington, the most important black leader of the day, was the first African American to be invited to dinner, on October 16, 1901, at the White House, where he discussed politics and racism with Roosevelt. News of the dinner reached the press two days later. The white public outcry following the dinner was so strong, especially from the Southern states, that Roosevelt never repeated the experiment.

Publicly, Roosevelt spoke out against racism and discrimination, and appointed many blacks to lower-level Federal offices, and wrote fondly of the "Buffalo Soldiers," who had fought beside his Rough Riders at the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba in July 1898. Roosevelt opposed school segregation, having ended the practice in New York State during his governorship. T.R. rejected anti-Semitism—he was the first to appoint a Jew, Oscar S. Straus, to the Presidential Cabinet.

Like most intellectuals of the era, Roosevelt believed in evolution; as an authority on biology he paid special attention to the issue. He saw the different races as having reached different levels of civilization (with whites at the top and blacks at the bottom). Every race, and every individual, was capable of unlimited improvement, Roosevelt felt. Furthermore, a new "race" (in the cultural sense, not biological) had emerged on the American frontier, the "American race," and it was quite distinct from other ethnic groups, such as the Anglo-Saxons. Roosevelt thought himself as Dutch, not Anglo-Saxon. [ Thomas G. Dyer, "Theodore Roosevelt and the Idea of Race" (1992)] After criticism of Washington's invitation to the White House, Roosevelt seemed to wilt publicly on the cause of racial equality. In 1906, he approved the dishonorable discharges of three companies of black soldiers who all refused his direct order to testify regarding their actions during a violent episode in Brownsville, Texas, known as the Brownsville Raid.

Radical shift, 1907-1908

By 1907-08, his last two years in office, Roosevelt was increasingly distrustful of big business, despite its close ties to the Republican party in every large state. Public opinion had been shifting to the left after a series of scandals, and big business was in bad odor. Abandoning his earlier caution and conservatism, Roosevelt freely lambasted his conservative critics and called on Congress to enact a series of radical new laws — the Square Deal — that would regulate the economy. He wanted a national incorporation law (all corporations had state charters, which varied greatly state by state), a federal income tax and inheritance tax (both targeted on the rich), limits on the use of court injunctions against labor unions during strikes (injunctions were a powerful weapon that mostly helped business), an employee liability law for industrial injuries (preempting state laws), an eight-hour law for federal employees, a postal savings system (to provide competition for local banks), and, finally, campaign reform laws.

None of his agenda was enacted, and Roosevelt carried over the ideas into the 1912 campaign. Roosevelt's increasingly radical stance proved popular in the Midwest and Pacific Coast, and among farmers, teachers, clergymen, clerical workers and some proprietors, but appeared as divisive and unnecessary to eastern Republicans, corporate executives, lawyers, party workers, and Congressmen.

Roosevelt's move left allowed Senator Nelson Aldrich to tighten his control of Congress. In 1908, Aldrich introduced the constitutional amendment to establish an income tax. The same year he wrote the Aldrich-Vreeland Act which created the National Monetary Commission, which he directed. It made an in-depth study of central banking in Europe--which was far more effective than America in that regard. Aldrich's dramatic proposals for comprehensive reform became the Federal Reserve in 1913.

Foreign policy

Roosevelt urged the United States to build a strong navy. He believed in an imperial mission for the United States, and that the U.S. could eventually be pulled into war in the Pacific Ocean with the Japanese people. Roosevelt ordered what came to be called the Great White Fleet (due to its gleaming white paint) on an around-the-world cruise, including a prominent stop in Japan. Roosevelt hoped to ease Japanese-American tensions and to show the Japanese leadership, as well as the rest of the world, the global reach of the United States' military might. The Great White Fleet returned to the U.S. in 1909, and Roosevelt had the pleasure of reviewing the Fleet just before leaving office. As a tribute to him, several Navy warships have been named after Roosevelt over the years, including a Nimitz class supercarrier. Roosevelt helped to expand the Navy greatly. By 1904, the United States had the fifth largest Navy in the world; by 1907, it had the third largest.

Roosevelt Corollary

In late 1904 Roosevelt announced his Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. It stated that the U.S. would intervene in the finances of unstable Caribbean and Central American countries if they defaulted on their debts to European creditors and, in effect, guarantee their debts, making it unnecessary for European powers from intervening to collect unpaid debts. In the case of Venezuela's default, Germany had threatened to seize the customs houses her ports. Thus, Roosevelt's pronouncement was especially meant as a warning to Germany, and had the result of promoting peace in the region, as the Germans decided to not intervene directly in Venezuela and in other countries, insurgents would no longer be allowed take over the a country's treasury by winning a civil war. [ Marks III, Frederick W. Velvet, "Iron: The Diplomacy of Theodore Roosevelt (1979), pg 140", ]

Panama Canal

In 1903, Roosevelt encouraged the local political class in Panama to form a nation independent from Colombia, after that nation refused the American terms for the building of a canal across the isthmus. Roosevelt dispatched navy vessels to the area to apply political pressure on the Colombian government, allowing the Panamanian rebels to secede without much opposition. The new nation of Panama sold a canal zone to the United States for 10 million U.S. dollars and a steadily increasing yearly sum. Roosevelt felt that a passage through the Isthmus of Panama was vital to protect American interests and to create a strong and cohesive United States Navy. The resulting Panama Canal was completed in 1914 and revolutionized world travel and commerce.

Administration and Cabinet

upreme Court appointments

Roosevelt appointed three Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:
*Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. - 1902
*William Rufus Day - 1903
*William Henry Moody - 1906

tates admitted to the union

During Roosevelt's Presidency, one state, Oklahoma, was admitted to the Union.


Primary sources

*Brands, H.W. ed. "The Selected Letters of Theodore Roosevelt." (2001)
*Harbaugh, William ed. "The Writings Of Theodore Roosevelt" (1967). A one-volume selection of Roosevelt's speeches and essays.
*Hart, Albert Bushnell and Herbert Ronald Ferleger, eds. "Theodore Roosevelt Cyclopedia" (1941), Roosevelt's opinions on many issues. online at []
*Morison, Elting E., John Morton Blum, and Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., eds., "The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt", 8 vols. (1951-1954). Very large, annotated edition of letters from TR.
*Roosevelt, Theodore (1999). " [ Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography] ". online at
*Roosevelt, Theodore. "The Works of Theodore Roosevelt" (National edition, 20 vol. 1926); 18,000 pages containing most of TR's speeches, books and essays, but not his letters; a CD-ROM edition is available; some of TR's books are available online through [ Project Bartleby]

Domestic policy

*Blum, John Morton "The Republican Roosevelt." (1954). essays that examine how TR did politics
*Brands, H.W. "Theodore Roosevelt" (2001)
*Cooper, John Milton "The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt." (1983) a dual biography
*Gould, Lewis L. "The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt." (1991), the major scholarly study
*Harbaugh, William Henry. "The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt." (1963)
* Harrison, Robert. "Congress, Progressive Reform, and the New American State" (2004)
*Keller, Morton, ed., "Theodore Roosevelt: A Profile" (1967) excerpts from TR and from historians.
*Morris, Edmund "Theodore Rex". (2001), unusually well-written biography covers 1901-1909
* [ Mowry, George. "The Era of Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of Modern America, 1900-1912." (1954) online]
*Pringle, Henry F. "Theodore Roosevelt" (1932; 2nd ed. 1956)
*Rhodes, James Ford Rhodes. "The McKinley and Roosevelt Administrations, 1897-1909" (1922)
* Sanders, Elizabeth. "Roots of Reform: Farmers, Workers and the American State, 1877-1917" (1999)
*Wiebe, Robert H. "Businessmen and Reform: A Study of the Progressive Movement" (1968)

Foreign Policy

* Beale Howard K. "Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power." (1956). standard history of his foreign policy
* Holmes, James R. "Theodore Roosevelt and World Order: Police Power in International Relations." 2006. 328 pp.
* Marks III, Frederick W. "Velvet on Iron: The Diplomacy of Theodore Roosevelt" (1979)
* David McCullough. "The Path between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914" (1977).
* Mellander, Gustavo A.; Nelly Maldonado Mellander (1999). Charles Edward Magoon: The Panama Years. Río Piedras, Puerto Rico: Editorial Plaza Mayor. ISBN 1563281554. OCLC 42970390.
* Mellander, Gustavo A. (1971). The United States in Panamanian Politics: The Intriguing Formative Years. Danville, Ill.: Interstate Publishers. OCLC 138568.
* Ricard, Serge. "The Roosevelt Corollary." "Presidential Studies Quarterly" 2006 36(1): 17-26. Issn: 0360-4918 Fulltext: in Swetswise and Ingenta

External links

* [ Extensive essay on Theodore Roosevelt and shorter essays on each member of his cabinet and First Lady from the Miller Center of Public Affairs]


ee also

*Roosevelt Corollary
*Theodore Roosevelt
*Perdicaris incident

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