Theodore Roosevelt: A Political Lion

American statesman (New York, 1858, Oyster Bay - state of New York, 1919). He was born to a high-class family, and carried out his studies at the University of Harvard, where he studied law and stood out for his maturity. However, with all evidence, he was not so much interested in the law career; On the contrary, he was very passionate about History, a passion that he will keep throughout his entire life: he wrote The Naval War of 1812, published in 1882. He was also interested in politics, and wanted to enter into the political scenario, not in order to accept the statu quo, but to commit acts of generosity, to express his willingness to change how things worked. He was a pragmatic man who appointed himself a special mission and despised the rich men: "the merchant classes have too much tendency to consider everything, wondering exclusively: is it profitable?; and more than a merchant don't participate in politics because they lack insight, up to the point where they think that is more beneficial to work for money and too selfish to impose themselves obligations on behalf of an abstract duty".

Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919)




For this reason, he was elected Republican Representative of the state of New York; he occupied his seat for 2 years (1882-1884.) Unsatisfied, he decided to go towards the West, in a moment when the Indian wars had just finished. He settled in a ranch in the state of Dakota, he lived the rude lifestyle of the cowboys and there he wrote several historical works in his spare time. From his settlement in the West, he would preserve specific moments that appear in his work The Winnings of the West of 1896. His attitude, once consolidated, wouldn't change in the future. He liked physical exercise, in particular, boxing, hunting, war... In few words, the action. This same concept also would be manifested in politics: United States, he thought, would have the best of the political regimes if, only gets rid of the impure elements; the country would also have economic expansion necessities which it would find in the Antilles and in the American Continent itself. Roosevelt was an intransigent nationalist to whom the moralism and the idealism meant signs of weakness, as well as the refusal to the virile virtues. Strong partisan of Imperialism and Realism, he didn't let himself get influenced by the powerful businessmen and refused to let his country being towed by Great Britain.


In 1886, in his comeback to New York, he tried to become mayor of the city, but he failed and was appointed Civil Service Commissioner. In 1895, was appointed chief of the New York Police: the uses and abuses of influence were always there and, to whom wanted to "sanitize" the political climate at the time, the task was hard. However, Roosevelt stayed in this post for little time: the access of McKinley to the presidency (1897) allowed him to obtain an important role: Assistant Secretary of the Navy; Roosevelt, faithful reader and admirer of Commander Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914) was satisfied.

In 1898, the war with Spain broke out: the United States assist the Cubans and declared very clearly its determination to occupy the first place in the Antilles and even Spanish territories in the Pacific. Roosevelt wasn't there during the outbreak of the war. He had resigned from his charge and founded, with future general Leonard Wood (1860-1927) a paramilitary group in order to fight in the Battle of San Juan Hill. His success was widely divulged; from then to his death, his nickname was "the colonel". When returning home from the war, he was elected New York governor. He started reformations in the State's Administration; the partisans of the Republican Party were a bit concerned about how this new political player was changing and challenging the political game. This way, members of its own party decided to counterattack, founding a project which aimed to finish Roosevelt's political career, or at least, limit his powers. McKinley, who never said "no" to the New York "machine", would form with Roosevelt a team in the course of the following elections in 1900; limited to the functions of vice-president, Roosevelt wouldn't damage anyone. But the strategy didn't work. McKinley was elected according to the original plan, but he was murdered in 1901. Theodore Roosevelt, "the cowboy", as they called him, became the 26th president of the United States.

The President

Pretty soon, it was discovered that president Roosevelt was not the typical politician; he knew that, in order to govern, it was necessary the support from his party colleagues, especially from the old members of the party. However, the country was in a difficult political situation: the progressive movement made people doubt about the values of society, demanded a renovation of the political and economic life. The president carefully acted, especially before his electoral winning in 1904, which would give him full powers, and then he would be able to carry out his mission of cleaning out the political establishment.

His personal aspirations and the spirit of the time, drove him to reinforce the executive power. The Civil Service, the Military High-Command, and the Navy were rearranged and became much more effective. Acting after Lincoln, Roosevelt confirmed his powers as a leader. He defended the national interest against the diversity of particular interests. This way he leaded, advised by Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946) Silviculture Service Chief, a crusade for the conservation of natural resources; despite the protests and speculations of the businessmen from the West, he converted millions of acres of forests into protected zones, and sensitize the popular opinion to work for the defense of nature. He also applied stricter quality and health control proceedings to the preparation of food, particularly of animal-derivative products. He reinforced the powers of the Commission of Commerce between the states and passed a law in 1906 which regularized the activity of the railway. In 1903, he created in his cabinet, a Department of Commerce and Labour, where a service, the Office of the Commercial Companies proceeded to the elaboration of surveys. However, his policies towards the "trusts" was not negative: he distinguished between the "good" and "bad" trusts. Despite the fact that he avoided in 1902 the fusion of the United States Steel Corporation and a railway company, Northern Securities, he kept the biggest companies of the country alive and managed to restrain the workers' demands.

His foreign policies didn't contradict his past as "Rough Rider". In 1903, he took over the Panama Canal Project, a waterway in the Panama isthmus, which connects the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean. He made use of the so-called "Big Stick Diplomacy", overseeing all Latin American countries; he imposed the Russians and the Japanese his arbitration in 1905, which made him win the Nobel Peace Prize. He sent an observer to the Algeciras Conference in 1906. Regarding Japan, he showed himself flexible and determined to use the force.

To sum up, Roosevelt satisfied those progressives who desired for their country, to be a worldwide reference place.

Before abandoning the White House, Roosevelt chose his successor. But William Howard Taft, once in the presidency (1909-1913) didn't last long before giving the power back to the old guard. Roosevelt, once again, launched himself to politics, this time by founding a new progressive party, dividing the Republican Party. The Democrats took advantage of the situation, and Wilson succeeded Taft. The Republican Party was in crisis and they needed to restore their unity.  Roosevelt continued to encourage the most ambitious projects; he urged the federal government to prepare the war against Germany; in 1917, he proposed recruiting and sending a volunteers division; without any rest, he didn't stop criticizing Wilson's policies. Finally, he died on January 6, 1919, some months before the famous ratification of the Treaty of Versailles that would condemn Germany and lead to unthinkable consequences, as well as the Covenant of the League of Nations that same year. There is no doubt Roosevelt would have fought in these projects with his characteristic energy, as he had been doing all his entire life.

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