Theodore Roosevelt

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Administration's Promises Kept Cartoon.jpg
This campaign poster for McKinley and Roosevelt advocates their re-election by contrasting the previous impoverished economic conditions of the United States with the prosperity brought about by McKinley's presidency.

Theodore Roosevelt was born on October 27, 1858, in New York City. In 1880, he graduated from Harvard University and immediately embarked upon a political career, winning election to the New York Assembly as a member of the Republican Party in 1881. Roosevelt's mother and first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt, died on the same date, February 14, 1884, and, shortly after, Roosevelt moved to the American West, where he began a literary career.

Roosevelt did not remain out of politics for long, unsuccessfully running for mayor of New York City in 1886. Roosevelt spent the next two years traveling in Europe, remarrying, and authoring additional books. Most of his writings focused on the West, including his most famous series, The Winning of the West, a four-volume collection originally published between 1889 and 1896.

Despite his unsuccessful bid in the mayoral race, Roosevelt remained active in the Republican Party. In 1888, Roosevelt campaigned for Benjamin Harrison for the presidency of the United States. Harrison won the election and appointed Roosevelt as the United States Civil Service Commissioner. Roosevelt was a firm believer that government appointees must be qualified for the positions that they held. When Grover Cleveland, a member of the Democratic Party, won the presidency in 1892, he retained Roosevelt as commissioner, despite the fact that Roosevelt had campaigned against him in both 1888 and 1892.

Roosevelt eventually resigned as commissioner and became, in 1895, president of New York City's police board. Roosevelt succeeded in creating a more professional and less corrupt police force, despite holding the position for only a year. In 1896, President-elect William McKinley appointed Roosevelt as assistant secretary of the navy. Roosevelt resigned this post once the Spanish-American War erupted. He volunteered for service in the United States Army and was commissioned as a lieutenant-colonel with the First United States Volunteer Cavalry. The Rough Riders, as this unit became known, performed admirably in the conflict, and Roosevelt was promoted to colonel. He became a war hero and utilized his new-found fame to enhance his political career.

Upon the war's conclusion in 1898, Roosevelt sought the governor's seat of New York, winning by a small majority. In 1900, President McKinley chose Roosevelt as his vice-presidential running mate. The pair won the election. With McKinley's assassination in September 1901, Roosevelt became president.

As president, Roosevelt implemented numerous Progressive reforms. He opposed monopolies and actively assisted industrial workers against their employers, including coal miners in a strike in 1902. Roosevelt named his domestic policy the “Square Deal,” hoping to provide all people in the United States with the opportunity to better themselves socially, economically, and politically. In his foreign policy, Roosevelt desired to enhance the United States' reputation abroad. His greatest accomplishment was negotiating a treaty with Panama that allowed the United States to construct the Panama Canal.

In 1904, Roosevelt sought to retain the presidency. He won easily. During this term, Roosevelt continued to implement Progressive programs, including signing into law the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. Both of these laws helped protect the U.S. public from unsafe food and drugs. Roosevelt also continued to play a role in international affairs, including helping to negotiate the end to the Russo-Japanese War. Roosevelt's actions in this war helped win him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906.

In 1908, Roosevelt did not seek reelection. Instead, he threw his support behind William Howard Taft, an Ohioan. Taft won the election. Roosevelt intended to retire from public life at this point. He traveled to Africa, where he collected animal specimens for the Smithsonian Institution, and visited Europe with his family. During that time Roosevelt became increasingly disenchanted with Taft's policies as president. By 1912, Roosevelt had decided to try to unseat his fellow Republican.

At the Republican National Convention in 1912, delegates eventually chose Taft as the party's candidate. Members of the Ohio Progressive Republican League, as well as many other Progressives, left the convention to form their own political party. This new party was named the Progressive Party, and its members chose Roosevelt as their presidential candidate. Because of this split in the Republican Party, Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic Party's candidate, won the presidential election of 1912. Wilson was only the second Democrat elected to the presidency since the American Civil War's conclusion.

Roosevelt remained active in politics following this defeat, but he never attained another elective office. He is the only president in the history of the United States to be awarded both the Congressional Medal of Honor as well as the Nobel Peace Prize award.

He died on January 6, 1919.

See Also