Golden Nuggets from U. S. History

The Blue Quill Series
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Teddy Roosevelt Writes on Daniel Boone

Daniel Boone was a legend in his time. In 1799 Theodore Roosevelt wrote:

". . .one arose whose wanderings were to bear fruit; who was destined to lead through the wilderness the first body of settlers that ever established a community in the Far West, completely cut off from the seaboard colonies. This was Daniel Boone. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1734, but when only a boy had been brought with the rest of his family to the banks of the Yadkin in North Carolina. Here he grew up, and as soon as he came of age he married, built a log hut, and made a clearing, whereon to farm like the rest of his backwoods neighbors."

Roosevelt, like his subject, was a pioneer. He was born into a wealthy New York City family October 27, 1858, and although not formally educated in public schools, he attended Harvard where he lost the sight in one eye as a member of the boxing team. When he graduated in 1880, he married Alice Hathaway Lee. The next year, at the age of 23, he was elected to the New York State Assembly. Three years later, on Valentine's Day in 1884, both his wife and mother died in the same house as Roosevelt ran from room to room trying to comfort his mother with her "consumption" and assisting his wife with child birth.

Heartbroken over the double tragedy, Roosevelt resigned from the New York Assembly and headed west to the isolation of the Dakota Badlands. He stayed in a one room cabin and began writing while wringing sustenance from the land and enduring the hardships of punching cattle. He worked hard and made many lasting friends. To obtain supplies he had to travel many miles over rugged terrain and waterways. Once, while he was inside a trading post, a fleeing outlaw stole Teddy's canoe. The Sheriff had no interest in further pursuit but Roosevelt, himself a part time deputy, was miffed over the loss of his hand made vessel. He insisted on continuing the chase and went after the thief. Two weeks later he returned with both the outlaw and the canoe.

Returning to Long Island he renewed a relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Edith Kermit Carow. Together they left on a world cruise and were married in London on December 2, 1886. Returning to America they made their home near Oyster Bay on Long Island, New York, and from there he pursued a literary career. He was, after all, capable of reading one to three books daily and during his lifetime he wrote an estimated 150,000 letters in addition to numerous essays and books.

From Oyster Bay he resumed political activity marked by interruptions for long and arduous big game safaris in Africa.

In 1897 President William McKinley named him Assistant Secretary of the Navy and he is credited with establishing the structure of the modern American Navy. He was a proponent of solving problems with Spain by force and when the Spanish-American War erupted he resigned from government and went West to form the First United States Volunteer Cavalry, as he described it, "from a mixture of cowboys and college graduates." In 1898 with the rank of Lt. Colonel he led the "Rough Riders" to victory up San Juan Hill in Cuba.

Returning home to a heros welcome, he was elected Governor of New York that same year.

He was elected Vice-President for McKinley's second term in 1900 and took office March 4, 1901. When McKinley was assassinated on September 14, 1901, Roosevelt became the youngest man to ever become President. He handily won re-election perhaps because in 1903 he had declared that "three centuries of conversation" were enough. He had put into motion activities for the construction of the Panama Canal but Panama belonged to Columbia and he could not strike a deal. Roosevelt, in his typical "can-do" manner, engineered a civil war in Columbia and as that conflict raged he encouraged the northern isthmus to break away and form the country of Panama. He then negotiated a treaty with the new country for the canal.

He pondered the legality of these events prompting his Attorney General Philander Knox to say "Oh, Mr. President, do not let so great an achievement suffer from any taint of legality." As a historian, he never tired of pointing out that his Panamanian revolution had been merely the 53rd anti-Colombian insurrection in as many years, but he was less successful in arguing that it was accomplished within the bounds of international law.

He may have felt remorse for his Panamanian coup because he turned his attention toward Asia and in 1906 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for spearheading a settlement to the Russo-Japanese War.

His Presidency was marked with huge successes and notable activity. He established the National Wildlife Refuge program, and was largely responsible for establishment of federal control and regulation over public lands of the West. He created many desert national parks and monuments, including Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Montezuma's Castle and Petrified Forest. In total, Roosevelt created 16 national monuments, 51 wildlife refuges and 5 new national parks. He once asked "Is there any law that prevents me declaring Pelican Island a National Bird Sanctuary?" Not waiting long for an answer. "Very well, then," reaching for his pen, "I do declare it."

He discouraged the use of Christmas Trees fearing that the practice added to the destruction of forest. In 1905, Roosevelt gave Gifford Pinchot, a college-trained forester, responsibility for administering a new wilderness domain, the newly organized U.S. Forest Service. In 1908, by Presidential Proclamation, he set aside 800,000 acres in Arizona as Grand Canyon National Monument.

He busted the Northern Securities merger of 1901 which had created the greatest transport combine in the world, controlling commerce from Chicago to China. With that act he earned the reputation of "trust buster" and he relished it.

He pushed through the Pure Food and Meat Inspection laws of 1906.

Roosevelt engaged in brisk walks and outdoor activity on the White House grounds. Staffers once heard Senator Henry Cabot Lodge's voice through an open window, "Theodore!" the Senator shouted, "if you knew how ridiculous you look up that tree, you'd come down at once!" Late evening outings occasionally followed the John Quincy Adams tradition of nude swims in the Potomac.

He chose not to run for a third term feeling that nearly eight years was enough and that William Howard Taft would carry on with similar policies. He was immediately disappointed with Taft's lack of enthusiasm for the job and by 1912 decided to seek another term. The Republicans, however, because of Roosevelt's public criticisms of Taft, were not in agreement. Roosevelt and others disgruntled with the situation formed the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party and he ran as a candidate on that ticket. While campaigning in Milwaukee he was shot twice in the chest by a fanatical assassin but proceeded to deliver a 90 minute speech before seeking medical assistance. The bullets had been partially deflected by a notebook in his pocket.

He did not win the election but made a full recovery from his wounds. In 1914 he spent several months exploring the jungles of South America. It is believed that he contracted a disease from this expedition because his health steadily declined over the next few years and he died in his sleep in 1919.

Edmund Morris was awarded a Pulitzer prize for his biography of Theodore Roosevelt. In his book he offers the following passage:

"They don't hold White House lunches the way they used to at the beginning of the century. On Jan. 1, 1907, for example, the guest list was as follows: a Nobel prizewinner, a physical culturalist, a naval historian, a biographer, an essayist, a paleontologist, a taxidermist, an ornithologist, a field naturalist, a conservationist, a big-game hunter, an editor, a critic, a ranchman, an orator, a country squire, a civil service reformer, a socialite, a patron of the arts, a colonel of the cavalry, a former Governor of New York, the ranking expert on big-game mammals in North America and the President of the U.S.

"All these men were named Theodore Roosevelt."

Of course it is difficult to imagine President Theodore Roosevelt having lunch alone. His likeness was an excellent choice for inclusion on Mount Rushmore. The other three are: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.

[NOTE: In 2000, Congress agreed to posthumously award Teddy Roosevelt the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery at San Juan Hill.]

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