He first tried the law profession by enrolling in Columbia University. He did
not enjoy it and soon left school. He published his first book in 1882 it was
entitled “The Naval War of 1812”. He had begun work on it while still at
Harvard. Then Teddy decided that he would try a career in politics. His first
position was on the state assembly in the state of New York. He ran as a
republican and won the position easily. At this position he did two major
things: first he exposed a corrupt judge and secondly he learned to work with
men from both parties. Instead of going for a second term of legislature he
decided that he would go to the Republican National Convention in Chicago.
He went as the chairman for the New York delegation.
While Roosevelt’s professional life was flourishing his personal life was
not in very good shape. In 1884 both his wife and mother died. His wife died
while giving birth to their daughter, Alice. Roosevelt would take a break from
politics and form the Elkhorn ranch on the Little Missouri River in the Dakota
Territory. On his ranch he led the life of a cowboy. He would round up cattle
and ride horses all day. It was a good break for Roosevelt. One story tells of
Roosevelt capturing three thieves and holding them at gun point for 6 days
until they reached the proper authorities. Also during this time Roosevelt
wrote 2 more books (Hunting Trips of a Ranch Man and Thomas Hart Benton)
and fell in love with Edith Kermit Carow. On December 2, 1886 Roosevelt and
Carow went to London to be married. When they returned to the United
States Roosevelt set his mind back on politics.
He was very active in the presidential campaign of 1888 when Benjamin
Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland. Roosevelt believed in hiring government
workers on their skills not based on their party affiliation. At the time the
winner of the race would hire every one that had helped them win the race
even if they were not qualified for the position. Harrison would award his
efforts by appointing him the U.S. Civil Services Commissioner. As
commissioner he would continue to challenge “patronage”. He did such a
good job that when Cleveland beat Harrison for reelection he kept him as Civil
Services Commissioner. In 1895 Roosevelt would return to New York City to
take the position of Police Commissioner. He would battle police corruption
and try to reform the police department in his years as commissioner. He
would then become Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
In 1898 after the U.S. had declared war on Spain Roosevelt resigned
from his position so he could form what would become known as the Rough
Riders. While in Cuba Teddy would gain fame in the papers for his daring
and intelligence in battle. After the war he would be elected governor of New
York. Soon afterward New York Senator Thomas Platt would convince him to
run with McKinley as Vice President. McKinley won but eight days later he
was shot and Roosevelt became President of the United States.
One of the major things Roosevelt did as President was come up with
what he called the “Square Deal”. In this “Square Deal” he planned that
everyone would be treated the same and that the rich should not be given
special privileges that the poor were not given. One of Roosevelt’s more
famous quotes was “Speak softly but carry a big stick”. The big stick was the
threat of war on forgein countries.
Another major accomplishment of Roosevelt’s administration was the
building of the Panama Canal which he would supervise during his time in
office. In 1904 he would be elected to his second term in office. He defeated
Alton B. Parker, a judge who was from New York. During his second term in
office he would establish the Pure Food and Drug Act which prevented food
that could potential harm you from being sold. He also started major
conservation projects to help save forest land and also establish National
In the election of 1908 Roosevelt would not run for the Presidency
because he earlier had promised not to run for a third term. This left the
Republican slot for president open. It was filled with William Taft who with
Roosevelt’s backing would wind the presidency.
AFTER THE PRESIDENCY
Later in 1912 after Taft had enraged him, Roosevelt decided to run for
the presidency again. On his campaign tour while in Milwaukee someone
attempted to assassinate him. He survived and pressed on but he would lose
the race to democrat Woodrow Wilson. He spent most of the rest of his life
campaigning and helping the Republican party. He did take a break to go on
a journey down the Amazon River. This would contribute to his failing health
and he would die in his sleep at his home in Oyster Bay.
Whitney, David C. The American Presidents. Doubleday, 6th ed., 1986.
Great Lives from History: American Series. Ed. by Frank N. Magill. 5v.
Encarta ‘98 “Teddy Roosevelt”.
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