Jun 10, 2016

Theodore Roosevelt - 26th President of the United States (1901-1909)

(October 27, 1958 – January 6, 1919)
A writer, naturalist, and soldier. He expanded the powers of the presidency and of the federal government in support of the public interest in conflicts between big business and labour and steered the nation toward an active role in world politics, particularly in Europe and Asia. He won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1906 for mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War, and he secured the route and began construction of the Panama Canal (1904–14).

Roosevelt was the second of four children born into a long-established, socially prominent family of Dutch and English ancestry; his mother, Martha Bulloch of Georgia, came from a wealthy, slave-owning plantation family. In frail health as a boy, Roosevelt was educated by private tutors. From boyhood, he displayed intense, wide-ranging intellectual curiosity. He graduated from Harvard College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, in 1880. He then studied briefly at Columbia Law School but soon turned to writing and politics as a career. In 1880 he married Alice Hathaway Lee, by whom he had one daughter, Alice. After his first wife's death, in 1886 he married Edith Kermit Carow (Edith Roosevelt), with whom he lived for the rest of his life at Sagamore Hill, an estate near Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. They had five children: Theodore, Jr., Kermit, Ethel, Archibald, and Quentin.

As a child, Roosevelt had suffered from severe asthma, and weak eyesight plagued him throughout his life. By dint of a program of physical exertion, he developed a strong physique and a lifelong love of vigorous activity. He adopted “the strenuous life,” as he entitled his 1901 book, as his ideal, both as an outdoorsman and as a politician.

Elected as a Republican to the New York State Assembly at 23, Roosevelt quickly made a name for himself as a foe of corrupt machine politics. In 1884, overcome by grief by the deaths of both his mother and his wife on the same day, he left politics to spend two years on his cattle ranch in the badlands of the Dakota Territory, where he became increasingly concerned about environmental damage to the West and its wildlife. Nonetheless, he did participate as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1884. His attempt to reenter public life in 1886 was unsuccessful; he was defeated in a bid to become mayor of New York City. Roosevelt remained active in politics and again battled corruption as a member of the U.S. Civil Service Commission (1889–95) and as president of the New York City Board of Police Commissioners. Appointed assistant secretary of the navy by President William McKinley, he vociferously championed a bigger navy and agitated for war with Spain. When war was declared in 1898, he organized the 1st Volunteer Cavalry, known as the Rough Riders, who were sent to fight in Cuba. Roosevelt was a brave and well-publicized military leader. The charge of the Rough Riders (on foot) up Kettle Hill during the Battle of Santiago made him the biggest national hero to come out of the Spanish-American War.

On his return, the Republican bosses in New York tapped Roosevelt to run for governor, despite their doubts about his political loyalty. Elected in 1898, he became an energetic reformer, removing corrupt officials and enacting legislation to regulate corporations and the civil service. His actions irked the party's bosses so much that they conspired to get rid of him by drafting him for the Republican vice presidential nomination in 1900, assuming that his would be a largely ceremonial role.

Elected with McKinley, Roosevelt chafed at his powerless office until September 14, 1901, when McKinley died after being shot by an assassin and he became president. Six weeks short of his 43rd birthday, Roosevelt was the youngest person ever to enter the presidency. Although he promised continuity with McKinley's policies, he transformed the public image of the office at once. He renamed the executive mansion the White House and threw open its doors to entertain cowboys, prizefighters, explorers, writers, and artists. His refusal to shoot a bear cub on a 1902 hunting trip inspired a toy maker to name a stuffed bear after him, and the teddy bear fad soon swept the nation….

From what he called the presidency's “bully pulpit,” Roosevelt gave speeches aimed at raising public consciousness about the nation's role in world politics, the need to control the trusts that dominated the economy, the regulation of railroads, and the impact of political corruption. He appointed young, college-educated men to administrative positions…

Also in 1902 Roosevelt intervened in the anthracite coal strike when it threatened to cut off heating fuel for homes, schools, and hospitals. The president publicly asked representatives of capital and labour to meet in the White House and accept his mediation. He also talked about calling in the army to run the mines, and he got Wall Street investment houses to threaten to withhold credit to the coal companies and dump their stocks. The combination of tactics worked to end the strike and gain a modest pay hike for the miners. This was the first time that a president had publicly intervened in a labour dispute at least implicitly on the side of workers. Roosevelt characterized his actions as striving toward a “Square Deal” between capital and labour, and those words became his campaign slogan in the 1904 election.

Once he won that election—overwhelmingly defeating the Democratic contender Alton B. Parker by 336 to 140 electoral votes—Roosevelt put teeth into his Square Deal programs… Also in 1906, Roosevelt pressed Congress to pass the Pure Food and Drug and Meat Inspection acts, which created agencies to assure protection to consumers...

Roosevelt's boldest actions came in the area of natural resources. At his urging, Congress created the Forest Service (1905) to manage government-owned forest reserves, and he appointed a fellow conservationist, Gifford Pinchot, to head the agency. Simultaneously, Roosevelt exercised existing presidential authority to designate public lands as national forests in order to make them off-limits to commercial exploitation of lumber, minerals, and waterpower. Roosevelt set aside almost five times as much land as all of his predecessors combined, 194 million acres (78.5 million hectares)…

In commemoration of Roosevelt's dedication to conservation, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and Theodore Roosevelt Island in Washington, D.C., a 91-acre (37-hectare) wooded island in the Potomac River, were named in his honour…

Several times during Roosevelt's first years in office, European powers threatened to intervene in Latin America, ostensibly to collect debts owed them by weak governments there. To meet such threats, he framed a policy statement in 1904 that became known as the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine.  It stated that the United States would not only bar outside intervention in Latin American affairs but would also police the area and guarantee that countries there met their international obligations. In 1905, without congressional approval, Roosevelt forced the Dominican Republic to install an American “economic advisor,” who was in reality the country's financial director.

Quoting an African proverb, Roosevelt claimed that the right way to conduct foreign policy was to “speak softly and carry a big stick.” Roosevelt resorted to big-stick diplomacy most conspicuously in 1903, when he helped Panama to secede from Colombia and gave the United States a Canal Zone. Construction began at once on the Panama Canal, which Roosevelt visited in 1906, the first president to leave the country while in office. He considered the construction of the canal, a symbol of the triumph of American determination and technological know-how, his greatest accomplishment as president… Other examples of wielding the big stick came in 1906 when Roosevelt occupied and set up a military protectorate in Cuba and when he put pressure on Canada in a boundary dispute in Alaska.

Roosevelt showed the soft-spoken, sophisticated side of his diplomacy in dealing with major powers outside the Western Hemisphere. In Asia he was alarmed by Russian expansionism and by rising Japanese power. In 1904–05 he worked to end the Russo-Japanese War by bringing both nations to the Portsmouth Peace Conference and mediating between them. More than just to bring peace, Roosevelt wanted to construct a balance of power in Asia that might uphold U.S. interests. In 1907 he defused a diplomatic quarrel caused by anti-Japanese sentiment in California by arranging the so-called Gentlemen's Agreement, which restricted Japanese immigration. In another informal executive agreement, he traded Japan's acceptance of the American position in the Philippines for recognition by the United States of the Japanese conquest of Korea and expansionism in China. 
(Adapted from Britannica Encyclopedia)