THEDORE ROOSEVELT



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