Theodore Roosevelt

Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead

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A video clip from the film The Wind and the Lion (1975) where Brian Keith gave a superb performance as Theodore Roosevelt and John Huston gave an unforgettable portrayal of Secretary of State John Hay.  John Milius’ film was first rate entertainment, but poor history.  In the film Perdicaris is Edith Perdicaris, portrayed by Candice Bergen, who is taken captive by Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli, played with considerable panache by Sean Connery, the leader of  a band of Berber insurgents in Morocco in 1904.  Perdicaris comes to respect, perhaps even to love, her captor, who, after many adventures, ultimately frees her.  As is usually the case, reality was more prosaic than fiction.

Perdicaris the captive was not an attractive female, but a 64 year old man, Ion Pericaris.  Perdicaris did grow to respect his captor, who treated him well, regarding him as a patriot fighting against a corrupt regime.  Perdicaris was captured on May 18, 1904.  Raisuli sent to the Sultan a list of demands in exchange for the release of Perdicaris and his stepson who was also a captive.  The demands included $70,000 in gold, safe-conduct for his tribesmen, and being named governor of two districts near Tangier.

Theodore Roosevelt was outraged by this kidnapping of an American citizen, and had ships of the Navy stationed off Morocco.  His first instinct was to have the US Marines go in and rescue Perdicaris, but Secretary Hay convinced him that such a course was unwise.  Morocco was a state of first importance to many European powers, and American intervention might have set off a powderkeg similar to the events that ultimately led to World War I.  The administration faced an additional quandry when it learned that during the Civil War in 1862 Perdicaris had renounced his American citizenship in Greece, apparently to prevent the Confederate government from confiscating his holdings in the Confederacy.  The Roosevelt Administration made certain that no one outside of the administration became aware of this. Continue reading

Grover Cleveland and the Great Confederate Battle Flags Furor

During the Civil War, the flags carried by military units had intense emotional significance for the men who fought and died under them.  The flags not only symbolized the nation or state, but also stood for the units that carried them and the men who bled in their defense.  At the end of the War hundreds of captured Confederate battle flags were held by the Federal government and the victorious Union states.  Objects of pride for the men who had fought for the Union, their treatment as war trophies by the victorious North was a sore point in the vanquished South.

In 1887 Grover Cleveland was President.  The first Democrat elected to hold the office since the Civil War,  Cleveland was also the only non-Civil War veteran to hold the office since the end of the War.  During the War he had hired a substitute to fight in his stead, a perfectly legal, albeit unheroic, method of not having to fight one’s self in the conflict.

In 1887 the Secretary of War mentioned to Cleveland that the Adjutant General of the Army had suggested that the return of the battle flags to the Southern states would be a graceful gesture that would be appreciated in the South.  No doubt thinking that after more than two decades wartime passions had subsided, Cleveland ordered the return of the captured flags to the Southern governors.  This was a major blunder. Continue reading

Theodore Roosevelt: They Don’t Come Any Tougher

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A recording of a speech by that force of nature otherwise known as Theodore, he hated being called Teddy, Roosevelt during his “Bull Moose” campaign for president in 1912.  Note the clear delivery and diction.  Note also his references to French history:   politicians did not assume that they had to talk down to the average voter in those days.  By splitting the Republican vote, Roosevelt getting the larger share, Roosevelt’s third party campaign ensured the election of Woodrow Wilson.  Although he failed to win, during the campaign Roosevelt established beyond doubt that he was one of the toughest men ever to be president.

On October 14, 1912, Roosevelt was giving a speech in Milwaukee.  A deranged saloonkeeper, John Schrank, shot him in the chest.  Roosevelt refused to cancel a scheduled speech.  His opening is perhaps one of the most memorable for any speech: 

Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best. Continue reading

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