Theodore Roosevelt was more
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Theodore Roosevelt was more
than just the 26th president of the
United States. He was a writer,
historian, explorer, big-game
hunter, soldier, conservationist,
ranchman and Nobel Peace Prize
winner. It is not surprising that his
philosophy of life was known as
The Strenuous Life.
Theodore was born into a
wealthy and socially prominent
New York family in 1858.
Although blessed with a quick
mind he was not blessed with a
strong body. He suffered from
life-threatening asthma attacks throughout his childhood.
Spurred on by his father, Theodore began to build up his body
by strenuous exercise, and by adulthood he had become a
model of physical courage and toughness. This early example
of his character was indicative of the way he lived the rest of
his life. He did not back down in the face of adversity, and he
continually displayed remarkable physical and moral courage.
Early Political Life
As a young man Roosevelt decided on a dual career; law and
politics. At the time, New York politics was dominated by
men involved in machine politics. These were not exactly the
kind of people he had met at Harvard. Yet he persisted in
getting to know and understand them, while at the same time
attending Columbia Law School. Eventually he secured the
friendship and patronage of an influential man named Joe
Murray who was able to get him nominated as a 21st District
State Republican Assemblyman. Together, with Murray's
contacts and knowledge of machine politics and his own
family and social connections, Roosevelt was able to easily
win the election. He was 23 and in Albany.
Theodore served three terms in the New York Assembly. He
became known as an outspoken and active opponent of the
"wealthy criminal class" as he called them and of political
corruption - of which there was no shortage. He was a rising
progressive star. His ascent, however, was cut short by the
presidential election of 1884. Roosevelt was a delegate to the
Republican convention, and as a matter of principle he
vigorously opposed the leading candidates - James G. Blaine
and President Arthur. Roosevelt supported a reformer,
Senator George F. Edmunds. In the end Blaine won the
nomination, and this put Roosevelt in a difficult position. He
did not believe that Blaine was honest, yet if he followed the
example of other progressives and did not support him he
realized he would be through in the Republican party. He
supported Blaine. When Blaine lost Theodore received no
political position, and his political career was over.
Roosevelt not only suffered political defeat in 1884 but deeply
personal defeats as well. On the same day both his mother and
wife died. These disappointments led to a radical change in
Roosevelt's life. He decided to move to the Dakota Badlands
to become a rancher. At the time many people thought that
this was a good way to become rich.
The Dakotas were not like the East - life could be a little wild
and woolly. Resolution of disputes was done at the end of a
gun, and thieves were often hanged as soon as they were
caught. Roosevelt excelled at this rough and tumble way of life
and earned the respect and devotion of the men around him.
Roosevelt, however, did not excel at making money. He lost
about half of his entire capital in ranching. But what he gained
was, in the long run, of much greater value. The men he met
there were to later join the famous Rough Riders whose
exploits were the major impetus to his political success.
In 1886 Roosevelt returned to New York to marry a childhood
friend - Edith Carow. Highly intelligent, Edith was one of the
few people who could actually manage Theodore. In order to
control his free spending habits she put him on a strict two
dollar a day allowance - even when he was president.
Together they had a very successful marriage and produced
five children in addition to Alice, Roosevelt's child by his first
still the place
be, but there
power. In order to support his family Roosevelt spent his time
writing. This was not a new vocation for Roosevelt. Equally at
home hunting for a book as hunting for a bear he wrote his
first book The Naval War of 1812 while in law school and
running for the New York Assembly. By the end of his life he
had written and published dozens of books.
In 1888 Roosevelt saw his chance to jump back into politics
by campaigning for the election of Benjamin Harrison. When
Harrison won he appointed Roosevelt to be a Civil Service
Commissioner. It was with this job and later as Police
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