Tag Archives: Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt’s South American adventure

Before moving on to Taft, here’s another book about Teddy. This one is about his perilous journey with a group of explorers down an unmapped river in Brazil. “River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey” takes place in 1913, a year after the bespectacled former president had lost his insurgent third-party run for what would have been an unprecedented third term.

Fred Michmershuizen


Roosevelt teamed up with a number of naturalists and explorers for a trip that lasted several months, through an unknown section of the Brazilian rainforest. Roosevelt’s second oldest son, Kermit, was part of the expedition. Along the way, there were many hardships. It took the men more than a month just to get to the river, and once they got started downstream in their canoes they were not exactly sure where they were going. They were hoping to eventually reach the Amazon. Once on the River of Doubt — that was the name of the river, but it was later renamed after Roosevelt himself — there were dangerous fish and snakes. Food was scarce, and the mosquitoes, ants and termites made everyone miserable. When rapids or waterfalls made navigating the river impossible, they had to portage all their supplies around the obstacles, causing excruciating delays that often took many extra days.

At one point before a difficult portage one of the men was swept down the river to his death, in an incident that was Kermit’s fault. Later another of the men committed murder by shooting one of his compatriots, then vanishing into the forest. Roosevelt himself came close to death after succumbing to an infection resulting from cutting his leg on a rock.

The co-leader of the expedition was a legendary native Brazilian explorer named Colonel Candido Rondon, who had dedicated his life to mapping the Amazon and who was a fierce defender of the native Indians. He had famously instructed his men who might encounter the Indians, “Die if you must, but never kill.”

This book is by Candice Millard, who is also author of a similarly gripping book called “Destiny of the Republic,” about the assassination of President James Garfield. “River of Doubt” is skimpy on maps but has plenty of helpful pictures. For me, the most interesting sections were Millard’s descriptions of the animal and plant life of the Amazon rain forests. She describes how South America was formed over millions of years and how living things evolved by carving out specialized niches. She also describes the various native Indian tribes, who were largely unseen. They could have killed the intruders at any time but chose not to.

Theodore Roosevelt pointing towards the area explored during the Roosevelt-Rondon expedition. (Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

The post-presidency of Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt left office in 1909 and lived another 10 years. It was a momentous decade for the former President, as well as for the nation and for the world. Today’s book report is about “Colonel Roosevelt,” the third and final installment in an excellent, three-volume biography by Edmund Morris. After I write about the events described in the book, I am going to make two general observations and then share a personal reflection. But first, here’s what I learned about the third and final phase of Theodore Roosevelt’s life:

review of “Colonel Roosevelt” by Edmund MorrisImmediately after leaving office Roosevelt departed for a hunting safari in Africa, followed by a grand tour of Europe in which he visited several major cities and gave scholarly speeches at universities. On the safari Roosevelt was accompanied by a large hunting expedition that included his second oldest son, Kermit. They covered many hundreds of miles and shot so much wildlife that it was considered excessive even back then. He killed hundreds of animals, including lions, elephants, zebras, antelope, giraffes, hippos and rhinos.

The trip lasted more than a year. While Roosevelt was still overseas King Edward VII of England died, and President Taft asked Theodore Roosevelt to represent the United States at the funeral. It was a momentous occasion in which the crowned heads gathered for the last time before World War I changed everything. At the time, the United States and France were the only countries that did not have royalty. During the events leading up to and after the funeral, which was the most elaborate event anyone could remember, Roosevelt met with pretty much all the various emperors, kings and queens of Europe — and for the rest of his life he would regale listeners with funny stories of what he would jokingly refer to as “the wake.”

By the time Roosevelt returned to the United States in 1910 he was perceived as an elder statesman (he was in his early 50s) and was greeted by large crowds of supporters. He received a ticker tape parade in New York City. He had been displeased with his anointed successor’s conduct in office and had an eye on running for President again. But by this time President William Howard Taft had strengthened himself within the Republican Party. Nevertheless, Roosevelt decided to challenge Taft for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 1912. At the convention that summer in Chicago, Roosevelt came close but lost the nomination to the incumbent president. When Roosevelt was defeated for the nomination, he did not accept defeat graciously but instead claimed that Taft’s men had “stolen” the nomination from him (tell me if this sounds familiar?) and he allowed his own supporters to literally storm out of the convention and form a third political party, the Progressive Party, which later became known as the Bull Moose Party.

As head of the Bull Moosers, Roosevelt campaigned extensively on a third-party platform of government oversight of big business, the breaking up of trusts and monopolies, the enactment of child labor laws, primary elections for party nominations and statewide elections for the selection of senators, and women’s suffrage. He also supported (unwisely) recall elections for judges and unpopular judicial decisions.

Toward the end of the campaign, while on his way to give a speech in Milwaukee, Theodore Roosevelt was shot! The would-be assassin was angered that someone would try for an unprecedented third term in office and decided to take matters into his own hands. The bullet went through Roosevelt’s folded-up speech and his eyeglasses case and lodged in his chest. But instead of going immediately to the hospital, as he should have, Roosevelt instead insisted that he be taken to the campaign rally, where he delivered his speech as scheduled, with blood seeping into his shirt. When he was finally taken to the hospital, later that night, doctors determined that it was too dangerous to remove the bullet, and Roosevelt walked around with it inside his body for the rest of his life.

The assassination attempt took place just weeks before the general election. Roosevelt came in second, losing to the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, who was New Jersey Governor and former president of Princeton University. Wilson had campaigned on a similarly progressive but much less radical platform than Roosevelt’s. Wilson received 42 percent of the popular vote, while Roosevelt got 27 percent and Taft 23 percent. In the Electoral College, it was a landslide for Wilson, who received 435 electoral votes, to Roosevelt’s 88 and Taft’s 8. After the election Roosevelt became something of a pariah among Republicans, because he opened a giant rift in the party that would take many years to heal. It was many years before Roosevelt and Taft would again be on speaking terms with each other.

In 1913 Roosevelt embarked on a tour of South America. He visited Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, then back to Brazil. The purpose of the trip was a scientific expedition sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, in which Roosevelt and his team of scientists and adventurers were to collect specimens. But before embarking on the predetermined itinerary, Roosevelt decided he wanted to do something more challenging. So he teamed up with a Brazilian explorer to travel down a then-unmapped river located in a remote section of Brazil. Kermit also was part of the expedition. The river was known as the Duvida, or River of Doubt. It would later be named after Roosevelt. It turned out to be a perilous and deadly journey. It took months for the expedition to even reach the river, it was that remote. The waters were filled with piranhas, and the jungle was inhabited by hostile natives who shot poisoned arrows. Many times they had to carry their boats over long stretches where the rapids were too rough to navigate, and there were many hardships. They lost their boats and had to carve canoes out of logs. There was a drowning and a murder among the crew. At one point Roosevelt injured his leg and was stricken with malaria, and he almost died. When he returned to the United States he published a book about the expedition, and he also presented lectures.

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, at first Roosevelt was careful not to criticize President Wilson but that did not last. Roosevelt thought that Wilson had not responded forcefully enough when Germany invaded Belgium, and his exasperation grew even more after the sinking of the Lusitania. He also felt that Wilson had not engaged in “preparedness” for war. When the United States finally entered the global conflict in 1917, Roosevelt asked Wilson and his secretary of war to grant him permission to raise a volunteer regiment. Wisely and correctly, Wilson denied Roosevelt’s request. The United States was instituting a draft and was amassing a modern, professional military. While Roosevelt was not able to serve as he so desperately wanted, all four of his sons enlisted in the war in various capacities. Sadly, in 1918 Roosevelt lost his youngest son, Quentin, a fighter pilot, who was shot down by German forces.

Theodore Roosevelt died in January 1919, shortly after World War I ended, at Sagamore Hill on the north shore of Long Island. Today the home is a national historic site, open to the public.

Here are a few more notes about Theodore Roosevelt:

  • After Roosevelt left office his pen was his primary source of income. He wrote books, magazine articles and newspaper columns on a wide range of topics.
  • Roosevelt was involved in two high-profile libel lawsuits that were decided by jury trials, one in which he was the plaintiff and one in which he was the defendant. He won both cases.
  • Theodore Roosevelt had six children in all. His eldest was a daughter, Alice, named after his first wife, who died. Roosevelt had five more children with his second wife, Edith Kermit Carow. They were Theodore Jr., Kermit, Ethel, Archie and Quentin.
  • Theodore Jr. married an Eleanor — not to be confused with Roosevelt’s own niece Eleanor, who married his distant cousin Franklin!
  • The title of the book, “Colonel Roosevelt,” is so named because that is the way the former President was addressed after he left office. It was in recognition of the former president’s service in Cuba as leader of the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War.

As presidential biographies go, I thoroughly enjoyed all three of the volumes by Edmund Morris. My favorite of the trilogy was the first book, “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,” but all three were page-turners, complete with helpful maps and photographs. I felt that the author did a good job of presenting his subject as a complete human, with not only his triumphs getting attention but also his many faults and contradictions. One of the best things presented by Morris, in my view, is an epilogue to the final book, in which he describes all of the major biographies written about Theodore Roosevelt since his death and how these works influenced the general public’s perception of our nation’s 26th President over the decades.

Three volumes on Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

Now for my two general observations. First is that presidential assassinations at this time had, sadly, become rather frequent. There is not one American alive today who has lived through the assassination of more than one president, and many more who were not alive for even one. But at the time Theodore Roosevelt was alive, many Americans had experienced three! Theodore Roosevelt was six years old when Lincoln was killed in 1865 (he and his brother had watched Lincoln’s funeral procession through Manhattan from a window), he was in his early 20s when Garfield was killed in 1881, and then he was vice president in 1901 when McKinley was killed and he became president. In Europe, there were additional assassinations, including that of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, whose killing in 1914 sparked the onset of war, and then the execution in 1918 of Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II and his family as part of the Russian Revolution. So when Theodore Roosevelt was shot while campaigning for president in 1912, it must have been sad but not completely shocking.

My second observation is about the makeup of the American voting public. Up until this time, it had been all men. Mostly all white men at that. Theodore Roosevelt lived until 1919, but women were not allowed to vote until 1920! Think about that. Theodore Roosevelt was our nation’s 26th President, and he lived to see a 27th and a 28th elected. Yet each and every one of them was elected by men only. We are currently on our 45th President, so in all of our nation’s history women have been allowed to vote for less than half of our presidents. And if you combine that with the fact that in large parts of our country African-Americans did not get the right to vote until the 1960s, one thing is quite evident if you ask me: White male privilege is definitely a thing, and it’s been practically ingrained in our history!

And finally, I want to share a personal reflection, upon having read about the first century and a half (approximately) of our nation’s history, via these presidential biographies. I am grateful to have been born at a time in which going off to war was not expected of me. I’ve now read about the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and now World War I. Still to come will be World War II, Korea and Vietnam. I am so very glad that I was not a young man for any of these wars, and that we no longer have compulsory military service for the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not getting killed in war is something I am most grateful for.

The presidency of Theodore Roosevelt

“Speak softly and carry a big stick” is one of many Theodore Roosevelt-isms that became part of the American vernacular. The way he saw things, the best way to keep our country out of war was to build up military strength, particularly naval forces. Theodore Roosevelt was a naval historian and had served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. As president he added lots of warships to the U.S. fleet. He used this strength on the seas to help enforce the Monroe Doctrine, the longstanding U.S. policy that had been articulated by our fifth president, which said in essence that European powers had no business meddling in the affairs of the Americas.

When a dispute over unpaid debts owed by Venezuela caused England and Germany to set up a blockade, Theodore Roosevelt added his own twist to the Monroe Doctrine, what became known as the “Roosevelt Corollary.” Now, the United States would itself intervene in affairs of Latin American countries, to enforce legitimate claims by Europeans and to keep European forces out. This new policy kept Germany out of Venezuela, and it was used as justification for our own country’s intervention in what would become the country of Panama, which had been part of Colombia.

Oh, and one more thing: The often-overlooked “speak softly” part of the phrase was key to the equation, too. Theodore Roosevelt believed in subtle diplomacy. He did not want to antagonize or humiliate foreign powers or their leaders, especially the Kaiser of Germany or the Tsar of Russia. When Japan waged war against Russia, Theodore Roosevelt helped negotiate a peace settlement, which he did largely in secret.

Another Roosevelt-ism was the “Square Deal,” which was a phrase he used in calling both sides of a nasty coal miners strike to Washington to negotiate. Roosevelt was not necessarily on the side of the workers over management, but he did want them to have the right to bargain for better wages and working conditions. Roosevelt also sought to rein in the power of large market-stifling trusts, especially those controlling the nation’s railroads. He felt that big business was getting too large and powerful, and he wanted reasonable government oversight.

Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris book reviewAlso during this time Upton Sinclair wrote his famous book, “The Jungle,” which exposed unsanitary conditions in the nation’s meat processing plants. Theodore Roosevelt wanted federal legislation to bring in inspectors. He also called for worker protections, including an eight-hour workday.

One other famous phrase coined by Theodore Roosevelt, still used today, is that the presidency gives the officeholder a “bully pulpit.” But interestingly, the phrase might not have meant to Roosevelt what it means to modern ears. That’s because the word “bully” back then meant “nifty.” But Theodore Roosevelt could also be a bully, especially to get what he wanted. He knew how to pull all the levers of power to get more warships added to the budget, to get the Pure Food and Drug and Meat Inspection acts passed — and to get that long-anticipated canal built through Central America! The Panama Canal was not finished during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, but he got it started. (Never mind if some strings had to be pulled behind the scenes to facilitate Panama declaring independence from Colombia.) He visited the construction zone in person before he left office.

Theodore Roosevelt’s biggest legacy of all, though, was the conservation of our nation’s national resources. In creating more than 20 new national monuments and parks, he preserved 230 million acres of forests, lakes and canyons — including the Grand Canyon itself! Toward the end of his presidency, he summoned the governors of all states to Washington for a conservation conference.

Here are some additional facts about Theodore Roosevelt:

  • He’s on Mount Rushmore! Along with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, of course.
  • He was a voracious reader.
  • He traveled extensively as President.
  • He was physically active. He engaged in swimming, tennis, hiking, horseback riding and hunting.
  • His home in Oyster Bay, Long Island, became known as his “Summer White House.”
  • One his first acts as president was to have Booker T. Washington to the White House for dinner. This caused a huge uproar from both north and south. Sadly, the country just was not ready for such a gesture.
  • Perhaps one of his most egregious acts as President was to unfairly discharge a contingent of black soldiers who had been stationed in Brownsville, Texas, after they had been wrongly accused of attacking locals.
  • Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of his mediation between Japan and Russia. Apparently the committee overlooked all those new warships Roosevelt had built! Toward the end of his presidency, in a bellicose display, Theodore Roosevelt sent the “Great White Fleet” on a grand voyage around the world.
  • More than once during his presidency there was financial panic. There was a problem with the nation’s money supply, and big financiers like J.P. Morgan stepped in to avert catastrophe.
  • Because of his spectacles and his prominent front teeth, Theodore Roosevelt was easily caricatured.
  • The Teddy bear was invented during Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency and is named after him!
  • During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt participated in two significant weddings. His eldest daughter, Alice, married a congressman in a ceremony that took place in the White House. And he gave away his niece Eleanor Roosevelt, in her wedding to his distant cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a ceremony that took place in New York City.

Theodore Roosevelt became our 26th president in September 1901, taking office after the assassination of William McKinley. He was a Republican from New York. In 1904 he defeated Democrat Alton B. Parker, also of New York, to win a full term in his own right. By 1908 he was at the height of his powers, but he decided not to seek another term. He instead threw his support to William Howard Taft, assuming his designated successor would carry on just the way he wanted him to.

“Theodore Rex” is the second in a three-volume biography by Edmund Morris. This book covers his presidency. The title derives from a quote from the novelist Henry James, who noted that the president had become something of an autocrat. I enjoyed “Theodore Rex” and thought it was very well written and certainly very comprehensive. But with all the names and places to remember it was a bit more challenging for me to get through than the first book in the series, “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.”

I’ve since moved on to the third and final installment by Morris, “Colonel Roosevelt,” which takes place after the spectacled one leaves office. That will be a book report for another day.

Theodore Rooevelt book review by Fred Michmershuizen
Official White House portrait of Theodore Roosevelt by John Singer Sargent, 1903 (public domain).


Ready Teddy

Even before he became our nation’s 26th President in September 1901 at the young age of 42, Theodore Roosevelt had accomplished more than most people could in multiple lifetimes. He was a self-taught natural historian, a respected expert on naval warfare, a reform-minded civil servant, a police commissioner, an author, a rancher, a politician and a military hero. Historian Edmund Morris describes all this and more in the first volume of a three-volume biography. After a short prologue, this first book in the set — called “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” — covers Theodore Roosevelt’s jam-packed life before he became president. It’s an informative, entertaining and gripping narrative, and I found it an absolute pleasure to read.

book review by Fred Michmershuizen


A physician told Theodore Roosevelt early in his life that he had a weak heart. The doctor recommended the cocky young man take a sedentary desk job. It was advice that Theodore Roosevelt ignored. He had been a sickly child who suffered from asthma, but that did not stop him. He exercised his body and even learned how to box. As a curious boy, little “Teedie” studied insects, birds and small animals. He taught himself how to perform taxidermy, and he started preserving specimens of animals he caught or killed. He called his collection the Roosevelt Museum of Natural History.

The Roosevelt family was large and wealthy. Theodore Roosevelt’s father, Theodore Roosevelt Sr., was a merchant. The senior Roosevelt was nominated by President Hayes to replace Chester A. Arthur as head of the New York Customs House, in Hayes’ dispute with Senator Roscoe Conkling over civil service reform. The elder Roosevelt’s nomination was then rejected by the U.S. Senate, leaving a bad taste in the Roosevelt family’s mouth over politics.

Theodore Roosevelt Sr. took his whole family overseas twice when “Teedie” was young. They traveled all over Europe and Egypt. One of the overseas trips lasted more than a year. Along the way Roosevelt learned French and German. Back home, Roosevelt went to Harvard and then later went to law school. But he did not like law school and instead decided, against the wishes of his relatives, to try his hand at politics. In this era, it was not common for someone of Roosevelt’s social standing to enter politics.

He served three terms in the New York State Assembly in Albany. At this time, future U.S. President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, was governor. In the Assembly Roosevelt developed a reputation as a reformer bent on rooting out corruption. In 1886 Roosevelt ran for Mayor of New York City but lost. He then went on to serve in the federal government in Washington, D.C., on the Civil Service Commission, appointed by President Benjamin Harrison. Again in this role he waged battles against corrupt and incompetent jobholders and officeholders. When Grover Cleveland became president for the second time, Roosevelt stayed on for a time in the same job. Later he became Police Commissioner in New York City, serving on a four-man panel for two tumultuous years. In this role, he further cemented his reputation as a reformer, someone who was not afraid to buck the system. To everyone’s shock and horror, he enforced the city’s no-booze-on-Sundays law. He also would sneak out late at night and pounce on cops who were sleeping on the job, scaring and embarrassing them to get back to work.

When Theodore Roosevelt was still in college, his father died, leaving him an inheritance that would have allowed him to live modestly for the rest of his life as an academic or author. He had a childhood sweetheart, Edith Kermit Carow, but he spurned her and instead married a socialite, Alice Hathaway Lee, with whom he had a daughter, Alice. But his first wife died, tragically on the very same day as Roosevelt’s mother, in the same house. Roosevelt later married a second time, this time to Edith, and they had several more children. Their wedding took place in London.

Theodore was close to a sister, Anna, aka “Bamie,” who raised the younger Alice after her mother died. His older brother, Elliott, was troubled and eventually died of alcoholism. According to the book, Elliott fathered an illegitimate child with a woman who was not his wife and the family likely made hush money payments to keep the story out of the press.

After his first wife and mother died, Theodore Roosevelt spent much time in the Badlands of the Dakotas, where he went on many hunting trips and became a rancher. He invested a large portion of his inheritance on cattle, hiring others to run things, but unfortunately this venture was ultimately unsuccessful. During one particularly harsh winter, most of his herd died. During one especially memorable incident out west, he caught three men who had stolen a boat, an adventure that took him hundreds of miles and lasted several weeks.

As if this all weren’t enough, Roosevelt also wrote many books. Among the titles he published before he became president were “The Natural History of Insects,” “History of New York City,” “The Winning of the West” and “Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail.” His book on warships, “The Naval War of 1812,” was considered authoritative. He also wrote multiple books about birds, plus three biographies — of Gouverneur Morris, one of America’s founding fathers, Senator Thomas Hart Benton, proponent of “Manifest Destiny,” and Oliver Cromwell, the English historical figure.

Oh, and he also climbed the Matterhorn!

Here are a few more facts about Theodore Roosevelt:

  • Born in a New York City townhouse! It’s located at 28 E. 20th Street — just blocks from where I live!
  • When he was a boy, he watched from a window as the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln passed through the streets of New York City.
  • He wore spectacles and had big, flashy teeth.
  • He liked to fight.
  • When he got to work each morning, whether at the state capitol in Albany or the civil service department in Washington or police headquarters in Manhattan, he often ran up the steps. He was that energetic.
  • He was the youngest to ever become president, when he was 42. (JFK was the second youngest to become president as a 43-year-old.)
  • Theodore Roosevelt was related to both Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Eleanor was his niece (daughter of his older brother Elliott), and Franklin was a distant cousin.

During President William McKinley’s first term, Theodore Roosevelt became Assistant Secretary of the Navy. But the secretary he served under was old and lazy and went on long vacations, leaving Theodore Roosevelt to run amok. He drafted war plans, agitated for war with Spain — and got George Dewey sent to command the U.S. fleet in Asia, a move that would later have immense consequences on world events. When war was declared with Spain over its occupation of Cuba, Dewey attacked the Spanish fleet in the Philippines, sinking it, which caused the United States to take over the Philippines as a protectorate. This went just as Theodore Roosevelt had planned!

The minute war was declared with Spain, Theodore Roosevelt resigned his post in the Naval Department and joined the U.S. Army. He helped found the First United States Volunteer Cavalry, nicknamed the Rough Riders, to fight in Cuba, in what would become known as the Spanish American War. The Rough Riders was a mounted regiment that included a ragtag band of outdoorsmen, cowboys and ranchers, plus a bunch of Roosevelt’s friends from college. Roosevelt was second in command, as lieutenant colonel, but later he was promoted to colonel. While in Cuba, Roosevelt was involved in two key battles — Las Guasimas and San Juan Hill — in which he led troops under enemy fire. Roosevelt fought bravely, if recklessly, leading a charge up Kettle Hill. Many around him were killed or maimed. He would for the rest of his life be called Colonel Roosevelt.

Returning to New York a genuine war hero, Roosevelt ran for Governor of New York State and won, again with the idea of instituting reforms to root out corruption. He instantly began clashing with the powerful Senator from New York, Thomas C. Platt, who was a Republican Party heavyweight at the time.

Meanwhile McKinley’s vice president, Garrett Hobart, had died, leaving an opening on the Republican ticket for the election of 1900. According to the book, Platt arranged to have Roosevelt nominated as the vice presidential candidate for what would have been McKinley’s second term, largely to get Roosevelt out of his way. With the economy booming and war with Spain won, the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket sailed to victory that November. Less than a year later, in September 1901, when McKinley was shot in Buffalo, Roosevelt rushed to his bedside. But it soon looked like McKinley was going to recover, so Roosevelt took his family on vacation. The thinking was that by doing so, he would reassure the American people that their president was going to recover and that everything would be OK. But it did not turn out that way. Roosevelt was climbing Mount Marcy, in a remote location in the Adirondacks, when a messenger arrived with a telegram that McKinley was near death.

And that’s where this book leaves off.

It was a dramatic ending. In reading this book, I learned so much and developed a number of key insights about Theodore Roosevelt, the man.

First, I was struck by his tremendous energy and vigor. He could run circles around just about anyone, both physically and intellectually. He seemed immune to discomforts such as cold weather, rain or snow, hunger or fatigue. The author does not mention this, but reading between the lines it almost seems that Roosevelt might possibly have been bi-polar. He also had immense political skills and a flair for the dramatic. He was able to communicate with people from all walks of life, from rich aristocrats to ranchers out west.

Then of course is Roosevelt’s desire for reform. In all of his public service jobs, he became known as someone who was going to turn over rocks, to ask hard questions, to enforce the law. As an assemblyman, as a civil service commissioner and as a police commissioner, he went after corruption and bucked the system. He did not care if he was caricatured in the press or if power brokers mocked him. Sometimes his efforts at reform were successful, other times not.

Finally and most importantly is Roosevelt’s view of the United States and its role in the world. If you think of the word “jingoism,” think of Theodore Roosevelt. For better or worse, Roosevelt envisioned nothing but greatness for our country, and having a strong navy, and control of the seas, was key to building a world empire as he envisioned it. He wanted our nation to exert power on the world stage, starting with driving the last of the European colonizers out of the Western Hemisphere once and for all. He wanted the United States to finally build a canal, long envisioned, through the Central American isthmus. And he wanted Americans to continue to settle the great American West.

As Morris writes, when Roosevelt became president at the dawn of a new century the United States was poised to become a superpower. It already had enormous economic strength and had the potential for great military might. What will Theodore Roosevelt do as president? I’ve already started into “Theodore Rex,” the second book in this series by the same author, which covers TR’s White House years. There’s so much more to learn about this colossus of a man.