Theodore Roosevelt: Twenty-Sixth President of the United States

Theodore Roosevelt
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Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) served as America's 26th president. He was known as a trust buster and progressive politician. His fascinating life included serving as a Rough Rider during the Spanish American War. When he decided to run for reelection, he created his own third party nicknamed the Bull Moose Party. 

Theodore Roosevelt's Childhood and Education

Born on October 27, 1858, in New York City, Roosevelt grew up very sickly with asthma and other illnesses. As he grew up, he exercised and boxed to try and build up his constitution. His family was wealthy traveling to Europe and Egypt in his youth. He received his earliest education from his aunt along with a series of other tutors before entering Harvard in 1876. Upon graduation, he went to Columbia Law School. He stayed there one year before dropping out to begin his political life.

Family Ties

Roosevelt was the son of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., who was a wealthy merchant, and Martha "Mittie" Bulloch, a southerner from Georgia who was sympathetic to the Confederate cause. He had two sisters and a brother. He had two wives. He married his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, on October 27, 1880. She was the daughter of a banker. She died at the age of 22. His second wife was named Edith Kermit Carow. She grew up next door to Theodore. They married on December 2, 1886. Roosevelt had one daughter named Alice by his first wife. She would get married in the White House while he was president. He had four sons and one daughter by his second wife.

Theodore Roosevelt's Career Before the Presidency

In 1882, Roosevelt became the youngest member of the New York State Assembly. In 1884 he moved to the Dakota territory and worked as a cattle rancher. From 1889-1895, Roosevelt was a U.S. Civil Service Commissioner. He was President of the New York City Police Board from 1895-97 and then Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1897-98). He resigned to join the military. He was elected Governor of New York (1898-1900) and Vice President from March-September 1901 when he succeeded to the presidency.

Military Service

Roosevelt joined the U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment which became known as the Rough Riders to fight in the Spanish-American War. He served from May-September, 1898 and quickly rose to colonel. On July 1, he and the Rough Riders had a major victory at San Juan charging up Kettle Hill. He was part of the occupying force of Santiago.

Becoming the President

Roosevelt became president on September 14, 1901, when President McKinley died after being shot on September 6, 1901. He was the youngest man to ever become president at the age of 42. In 1904, he was the obvious choice for the Republican nomination. Charles W. Fairbanks was his vice presidential nominee. He was opposed by Democrat Alton B. Parker. Both candidates agreed about the major issues and the campaign became one of personality. Roosevelt easily won with 336 out of 476 electoral votes.

Events and Accomplishments of Theodore Roosevelt’s Presidency

President Roosevelt served through most of the first decade of the 1900s. He was determined to build a canal across Panama. America aided Panama in gaining independence from Colombia. The U.S. then created a treaty with the newly independent Panama to gain the canal zone in exchange for $10 million-plus annual payments.

The Monroe Doctrine is one of the keystones of American foreign policy. It says that the western hemisphere is off-limits to foreign encroachment. Roosevelt added the Roosevelt Corollary to the Doctrine. This stated that it was the responsibility of America to intervene with force if necessary in Latin America to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. This was part of what became known as 'Big Stick Diplomacy'.

From 1904-05, the Russo-Japanese War occurred. Roosevelt was the mediator of peace between the two countries. Due to this, he won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.

While in office, Roosevelt was known for his progressive policies. One of his nicknames was Trust Buster because his administration used existing antitrust laws to fight against corruption in the railroad, oil, and other industries. His policies concerning trusts and labor reform were part of what he called the "Square Deal."

Upton Sinclair wrote about the disgusting and unsanitary practices of the meat packing industry in his novel The Jungle. This resulted in the Meat Inspection and the Pure Food and Drug Acts in 1906. These laws required the government to inspect meat and protect consumers from food and drugs that might be dangerous.

Roosevelt was well-known for his conservation efforts. He was known as the Great Conservationist. During his time in office, over 125 million acres in national forests were set aside under public protection. He also established the first national wildlife refuge.

In 1907, Roosevelt made an agreement with Japan known as the Gentleman's Agreement whereby Japan agreed to slow the immigration of laborers to America and in exchange, the U.S. would not pass a law like the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Post-Presidential Period

Roosevelt did not run in 1908 and retired to Oyster Bay, New York. He went on a safari to Africa where he collected specimens for the Smithsonian Institute. Even though he promised not to run again, he sought the Republican nomination in 1912. When he lost, he formed the Bull Moose Party. His presence caused the vote to be split allowing Woodrow Wilson to win. Roosevelt was shot in 1912 by a would-be assassin but was not seriously injured. He died on January 6, 1919, of a coronary embolism.

Historical Significance

Roosevelt was a fiery individualist who embodied the American culture of the early 1900s. His conservationism and willingness to take on big business are examples of why he is considered to be one of the better presidents. His progressive policies set the stage for important reforms of the 20th century.

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Kelly, Martin. "Theodore Roosevelt: Twenty-Sixth President of the United States." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Kelly, Martin. (2023, April 5). Theodore Roosevelt: Twenty-Sixth President of the United States. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "Theodore Roosevelt: Twenty-Sixth President of the United States." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).