I eagerly anticipated the release of Morris' follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize winning biography on Theodore Roosevelt as much as I did McCullough's John Adams. I certainly wasn't disappointed. This second volume of a proposed three volume series chronicles the life of one our most charismatic presidents from his ascension to the office upon William McKinley's assassination until the end of his Presidency in 1909.Read more...
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I eagerly anticipated the release of Morris' follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize winning biography on Theodore Roosevelt as much as I did McCullough's John Adams. I certainly wasn't disappointed. This second volume of a proposed three volume series chronicles the life of one our most charismatic presidents from his ascension to the office upon William McKinley's assassination until the end of his Presidency in 1909. Like John Adams I came away with a completely new appreciation of one of our most amazing and accomplished politicians.
Theodore Rex (the name is Henry James's) tells the story of Theodore Roosevelt's two successful terms as president of the United States. A massive prologue describes Vice-President Roosevelt's emergency inauguration in Buffalo after the assassination of President McKinley and presents, as he journeys to Washington on the funeral train, a panorama of the domestic and strategic state of the American union in 1901.
The youngest of all our presidents, Roosevelt's progressive views on race, trust-busting, and labor alarm conservatives, just as his role in the secession of Panama (clearing the way for the great canal) gives principled liberals pause. But his energy, charm, and political wizardry prevail over all opposition, and he wins a full term in his own right by a landslide in 1904.
After receiving the first Nobel Peace Prize, in 1905 (for mediating the end of the Russo-Japanese War), he uses his power to bring in a historic slate of progressive legislation, such as the Railroad Regulation and Pure Food acts of 1906. He also sets aside millions of acres of national parks and forests, and makes conservation his single greatest contribution to posterity.
TR's giant personality fills every page of this volume. Densely documented, the fruit of twenty years of research, it is the first major study of the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.
A stunning Roosevelt biography
One hundred years ago last summer, in another hour of national grief, Theodore Roosevelt, 42, became the youngest man ever appointed president of the United States. He assumed office following the murder of William McKinley, who was shot by an anarchist at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo.
The press had reported the president was recovering, and Roosevelt went on vacation in the Adirondacks to reassure the American people. But well-meaning doctors botched the effort to remove the bullet from the ailing McKinley. A messenger waving a telegram found the family atop a mountain, and Vice President Roosevelt sped through the night by buggy and train. While he was en route McKinley died, and the great responsibility, for which TR had been seemingly destined, devolved onto him. Thus there came to the White House one of the greatest presidents in America's history.
In The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (1979), author Edmund Morris told of Roosevelt's meteoric ascent from New York assemblyman to colonel of the Rough Riders to governor of the Empire State to Vice President. Morris' second volume, Theodore Rex, begins with that dark ride of September 14, 1901, then chronicles the two presidential administrations that ended eight years later.
Perhaps TR's single most important contribution to American history was the creation of the modern presidency. Roosevelt saw the need to apply the power of the federal government to the regulation of big business. Manufacturers, financiers and railroad barons had come to dominate the nation's life, often abusing their power through combinations in restraint of trade and exploitative working conditions in factories, mines and fields. Roosevelt asserted the concept of "the public interest," with Washington as its guardian. His administration sued to bring marauding corporations within the restraint of the law. It went on to seize the isthmus at Panama for the digging of the great canal, broker a settlement of the war between Russia and Japan, achieve campaign finance reform and create vast reserves of parklands, natural monuments and wetlands. TR the hunter even loaned his name to the Teddy Bear.
Morris' book is a triumph of biographical art. Roosevelt strides through these pages as he strode across American life. Morris is a skillful literary stylist, and this long book flies by in the reading. The exuberance, the energy and the large, hearty, boisterous and sweet nature of TR abound here. So do insightful personal and character sketches of TR's intimates, friends, supporters and enemies.
Roosevelt was much more than a president. He had significant and substantive achievements as an explorer, naturalist, sportsman, historian and journalist. He was also a devoted husband and father, and somehow found time to write 35 books. He had as great a capacity for life as anyone you're ever likely to meet, and 100 years after his presidency, TR's life and accomplishments remain an asset and inspiration for our country.
James Summerville of Nashville serves as a trustee of the Theodore Roosevelt Association. Its Web site can be found at www.theodoreroosevelt.org