Theodore Roosevelt

Twenty-Sixth President 1901-1909

Theodore Roosevelt was the second of four children. He was born in New York City on October 27, 1858 of Dutch, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, French and German heritage. Partially due to poor health, he suffered from Asthma and bad vision, he was educated by tutors until he entered Harvard College, where he received his B.A. degree in 1880. At Harvard he also achieved membership in Phi Beta Kappa. To gain strength, he taught himself to ride, box and shoot, and he developed an early interest in natural history and military affairs.

On October 27, 1880 he married Alice Hathaway Lee. His happy marriage ended when Alice died on February 14, 1884 following the birth of their daughter, Alice. Rooseveltís mother died on the same day. When his wife Alice died, he was already serving his third term in the New York State Assembly. First elected at the age of 23, he rose rapidly in influence as the leader of a minority of reform-minded Republicans.

After Aliceís death, Roosevelt spent much of the next two years on his ranch in the Badlands of Dakota Territory. There he slowly got over the loss of his wife as he lived in the saddle, driving cattle, hunting big game, and even capturing an outlaw. He returned east in the fall of 1886 to run for mayor of New York against Congressman Abram S. Hewitt and the economist Henry George. Hewitt, a Democrat, won easily with Roosevelt finishing a poor third.

Roosevelt then married his childhood sweetheart, Edith Kermit Carow, in London. Edith was an intelligent and cultivated, yet private woman. She bore him four sons; Theodore, Jr.; Kermit; Archibald; and Quentin, and a daughter, Ethel.

For two and one-half years after his second marriage Roosevelt lived as a sportsman and scholar in Sagamore Hill, his house at Oyster Bay, on Long Island. He published biographies of Gouverneur Morris and Thomas Hart Benton and works on the American West, some based on his personal experiences.

In 1889 he was appointed to the U.S. Civil Service Commission. As head of the commission for much of his six years of service, Roosevelt was guided by the belief that the system was full of corruption that kept good men out of politics. During his tenure Civil Service examinations were revised, fraud was pursued, and the number of positions open to competitive examinations was doubled. In addition, women were placed on the same competitive plane as men in many positions.

Roosevelt left Washington in 1895 to serve for two years as president of the Police Commission of the City of New York. He was opposed not only by Tammany Hall, the Democratic organization, but also by powerful members of his own party. In particular, the Republican party's large German-American membership resented his enforcement, in order to eliminate payoffs to the police, of a law closing saloons and beer gardens on Sundays.

President William McKinley named Roosevelt assistant secretary of the navy in 1897. In this position, Roosevelt worked behind the scenes for war against Spain, which was fighting an independence movement in Cuba. He wished to see European influence eliminated from the Caribbean islands, and he was driven by the conviction that superior nations had the right to dictate to inferior ones in the interest of civilization.

When war broke out in 1898, Roosevelt resigned his position as assistant secretary to accept a position as lieutenant colonel in the 1st U. S. Volunteer Cavalry (the "Rough Riders"). Promoted to colonel in Puerto Rico, he led the Rough Riders in a heroic charge up Kettle Hill in the battle for San Juan. This action established his reputation throughout the United States.

Roosevelt returned to New York in the summer of 1898 to run for governor. Though he won by fewer than 20,000 votes, Roosevelt became the best governor of New York up to that time. The business community didnít like Roosevelt's tax, regulatory, and other programs and tried to get him out of the state. He was encouraged to seek the office of Vice President with President McKinley in 1900. The office had been vacant since the death of Vice President Garret Hobart in 1899. Roosevelt was not enthusiastic about this because he liked being governor and he thought