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Twenty-sixth U.S. president. Born October 27, 1858 in New York City (fifth cousin of
Franklin Delano Roosevelt). A strong nationalist and a resourceful leader, Theodore
Roosevelt gloried in the opportunities and responsibilities of world power, and during his
years in office he greatly expanded the power of the presidency. He especially enlarged
the United States role in the Far East and Latin America. At home he increased regulation
of business, encouraged the labor movement, and waged a long, dramatic battle for
conservation of national resources. He also organized the Progressive party (1912) and
advanced the rise of the welfare state with a forceful campaign for social justice.His
father was of an old Dutch mercantile family long prominent in the city's affairs. His
mother came from an established Georgia family of Scotch-Irish and Huguenot ancestry. A
buoyant, dominant figure, his father was the only man, young Roosevelt once said, he "ever
feared." He imbued his son with an acute sense of civic responsibility and an attitude of
noblesse oblige.Partly because of a severe asthmatic condition, Theodore was educated by
private tutors until 1876, when he entered Harvard College. Abandoning plans to become a
naturalist, he developed political and historical interests, was elected to Phi Beta
Kappa, and finished twenty-first in a class of 158. He also began writing The Naval War of
1812 (1882), a work of limited range but high technical competence. Four months after his
graduation in 1880, he married Alice Hathaway Lee, with whom he had a daughter.Bored by
the study of law in the office of an uncle and at Columbia University, Roosevelt willingly
gave it up in 1882 to serve the first of three terms in the New York State Assembly. He
quickly distinguished himself for his integrity, courage, and independence, and upon his
retirement in 1884 he had become the leader of the Republican party's reform wing. Though
his reputation was based on his attacks against corruption, he had shown some interest in
social problems and had begun to break with laissez-faire economics. Among the many bills
he drove through the Assembly was a measure, worked out with labor leader Samuel Gompers,
to regulate tenement workshops.Roosevelt's last term was marred by the sudden deaths of
his mother and his wife within hours of one another in February 1884. After the
legislative session ended, he established Elkhorn ranch on the Little Missouri River in
the Dakota Territory. Immersing himself in history, he completed Thomas Hart Benton (1886)
and Gouverneur Morris (1887) and began to prepare his major work, the four-volume Winning
of the West (1889-1896). A tour de force distinguished more for its narrative power and
personality sketches than its social and economic analysis, it won the respect of the
foremost academic historian of the West, Frederick Jackson Turner. It also gave Roosevelt
considerable standing among professional historians and contributed to his election as
president of the American Historical Association in 1912. Meanwhile, he published numerous
hunting and nature books, some of high order.Politics and a romantic interest in a
childhood friend, Edith Carow, drew Roosevelt back east. Nominated for mayor of New York,
he waged a characteristically vigorous campaign in 1886 but finished third. He then went
to London to marry Carow, with whom he had four sons and a daughter. In 1889, Roosevelt
was rewarded for his earlier services to President Benjamin Harrison with appointment to
the ineffectual Civil Service Commission. Plunging into his duties with extraordinary
zeal, he soon became head of the Commission. He insisted that the laws be scrupulously
enforced in order to open the government service to all who were qualified, and he
alienated many politicians in his own party by refusing to submit to their demands. By the
end of his six years in office Roosevelt had virtually institutionalized the civil
service.Roosevelt returned to New York City in 1895 to serve two tumultuous years as
president of the police board. Enforcing the law with relentless efficiency and
uncompromising honesty, he indulged once more in acrimonious controversy with the leaders
of his party. He succeeded in modernizing the force, eliminating graft from the promotion
system, and raising morale to unprecedented heights. "It's tough on the force, for he was
dead square ... and we needed him," said an unnamed policeman when Roosevelt resigned in
the spring of 1897 to become President William McKinley's assistant secretary of the
Navy.As assistant secretary, Roosevelt instituted personnel reforms, arranged meaningful
maneuvers for the fleet, and lobbied energetically for a two-ocean navy. He uncritically
accepted imperialistic theories, and he worked closely with senators Henry Cabot Lodge and
Alfred Beveridge for war against Spain in 1898. Although moved partly by humanitarian
considerations, he was animated mainly by lust for empire and an exaggerated conception of
the glories of war. "No qualities called out by a purely peaceful life," he wrote, "stand
on a level with those stern and virile virtues which move the men of stout heart and
strong hand who uphold the honor of their flag in battle."Anxious to prove himself under
fire, Roosevelt resigned as assistant secretary of the Navy in April to organize the 1st
U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (the "Rough Riders"). He took command of the unit in Cuba
and distinguished himself and his regiment in a bold charge up the hill next to San Juan.
In late summer 1898, he returned to New York a war hero. Nominated for governor, Roosevelt
won election in the fall of 1898 by a narrow margin. His two year administration was the
most enlightened of the time. By deferring to the Republican machine on minor matters, by
mobilizing public opinion behind his program, and by otherwise invoking the arts of the
master politician, Roosevelt forced an impressive body of legislation through a
recalcitrant Assembly and Senate. Most significant, perhaps, was a franchise tax on
corporations. As the Democratic New York World concluded when he left office, "the
controlling purpose and general course of his administration have been high and
good."Roosevelt accepted the vice-presidential nomination in 1900. A landslide victory for
McKinley and Roosevelt ensued. Then, on September 14, 1901, following McKinley's death by
an assassin's bullet, Roosevelt was sworn in. Not quite 43, he became the youngest
president in history.Roosevelt's first three years in office were inhibited by the
conservatism of Republican congressional leaders and the accidental nature of his coming
to power. He was able to sign the Newlands Reclamation Bill into law (1902) and the Elkins
Antirebate Bill (1903); he also persuaded Congress to create a toothless Bureau of
Corporations. But it was his sensational use of the dormant powers of his office that
lifted his first partial term above the ordinary.On February 18, 1902, Roosevelt shook the
financial community and took a first step toward bringing big business under Federal
control by ordering antitrust proceedings against the Northern Securities Company, a
railroad combine formed by J. P. Morgan and other magnates. Suits against the meat-packers
and other trusts followed, and by the time Roosevelt left office 43 actions had been
instituted. Yet he never regarded antitrust suits as a full solution to the corporation
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