When home ties are loosened; when men and women cease to regard a worthy family life, with all its duties fully performed, and all its responsibilities lived up to, as the life best worth living; then evil days for the commonwealth are at hand. There are regions in our land, and classes of our population, where the birth rate has sunk below the death rate. Surely it should need no demonstration to show that wilful sterility is, from the standpoint of the nation, from the standpoint of the human race, the one sin for which the penalty is national death, race death; a sin for which there is no atonement; a sin which is the more dreadful exactly in proportion as the men and women guilty thereof are in other respects, in character, and bodily and mental powers, those whom for the sake of the state it would be well to see the fathers and mothers of many healthy children, well brought up in homes made happy by their presence. No man, no woman, can shirk the primary duties of life, whether for love of ease and pleasure, or for any other cause, and retain his or her self-respect.
Theodore Roosevelt, Sixth Annual Message (State of the Union) to Congress (1906)
A new series beginning on PBS tonight: The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. A seven part Ken Burns history marathon it will examine the lives of Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. Burns is a fairly strident liberal Democrat so it will be interesting to see if FDR and Eleanor are treated as plaster saints, or if we will sight any meaningful analysis of those complex figures.
Theodore Roosevelt was a cousin of Franklin and an uncle to Eleanor. He loomed large over their lives, Theodore acting as conservator of the drunken, suicidal Elliott, his beloved black sheep brother, the father of Eleanor, and Franklin seeking to model himself and his career after his famous fifth cousin. Ironically, the contrasts between Theodore and Franklin are stark. Theodore’s brand of progressive Republicanism was rejected by his party, while Franklin was successful in remodeling the Democrat party into the embodiment of the progressive nostrums of his time. Theodore was an extremely moral man who exercised absolute fidelity to his two wives, his first wife having died on the same day as his mother. Franklin Roosevelt was a precursor of such bounders as JFK, LBJ and Bill Clinton who exercised the moral probity of low rent Casanovas. Theodore Roosevelt, a man made to be a war president, was president in a time of profound peace for the nation; FDR achieved his lasting fame as commander in chief during World War II. Theodore’s political career ended in defeat in 1912, the Grim Reaper preventing a possible resurgence in 1920, Roosevelt having mended political fences with the Republican Party by his constant criticism of Wilson during World War I. FDR knew unprecedented political success as President, setting the dangerous precedent of being elected four times to the office, and only the Grim Reaper ending his grip on the White House. Continue reading
Christianity is not the creed of Asia and Africa at this moment solely because the seventh century Christians of Asia and Africa had trained themselves not to fight, whereas the Moslems were trained to fight. Christianity was saved in Europe solely because the peoples of Europe fought. If the peoples of Europe in the seventh and eighth centuries, on up to and including the seventeenth century, had not possessed a military equality with, and gradually a growing superiority over the Mohammedans who invaded Europe, Europe would at this moment be Mohammedan and the Christian religion would be exterminated.
May the soul of journalist James Foley, a Catholic, beheaded by the terrorists of ISIS, rest in peace. May he now be enjoying the Beatific Vision. May those responsible for his foul murder receive justice to the full for this deed in this world and the next.
Death had to take him in his sleep, for if he was awake there’d have been a fight.
Remark of Charles Marshall, Vice President of the United States, upon hearing of the death of Theodore Roosevelt
On October 12, 1915, Columbus Day, that force of nature Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech to the Knights of Columbus in New York City. Roosevelt packed so many lives into his 60 years: historian, reformer, rancher, politician, Undersecretary of the Navy, soldier, Governor of New York, President, explorer, naturalist, etc. In 1915 his crusade was to rouse America into readiness if it should become necessary to fight Germany and to instill in the American people a sense of unity and patriotism. He wanted this nation of immigrants to understand that they were Americans and he wanted no talk of hyphenated Americans. Many of the important issues of his day translate poorly to our time, and Roosevelt took positions which would inspire, and offend, virtually every segment of the contemporary American political spectrum. This speech however does have a contemporary ring to it, and if I had been present I suspect that I would have come close to wearing out my hands madly applauding most of it. Here is the text of the speech:
FOUR centuries and a quarter have gone by since Columbus by discovering America opened the greatest era in world history. Four centuries have passed since the Spaniards began that colonization on the main land which has resulted in the growth of the nations of Latin-America. Three centuries have passed since, with the settlements on the coasts of Virginia and Massachusetts, the real history of what is now the United States began. All this we ultimately owe to the action of an Italian seaman in the service of a Spanish King and a Spanish Queen. It is eminently fitting that one of the largest and most influential social organizations of this great Republic, a Republic in which the tongue is English, and the blood derived from many sources, should, in its name, commemorate the great Italian. It is eminently fitting to make an address on Americanism before this society.
We of the United States need above all things to remember that, while we are by blood and culture kin to each of the nations of Europe, we are also separate from each of them. We are a new and -distinct nationality. We are developing our own distinctive culture and civilization, and the worth of this civilization will largely depend upon our determination to keep it distinctively our own. Our sons and daughters should be educated here and not abroad. We should freely take from every other nation whatever we can make of use, but we should adopt and develop to our own peculiar needs what we thus take, and never be content merely to copy.
Our nation was founded to perpetuate democratic principles. These principles are that each man is to be treated on his worth as a man without regard to the land from which his forefathers came and without regard to the creed which he professes. If the United States proves false to these principles of civil and religious liberty, it will have inflicted the greatest blow on the system of free popular government that has ever been inflicted. Here we have had a virgin continent on which to try the experiment of making out of divers race stocks a new nation and of treating all the citizens of that nation in such a fashion as to preserve them equality of opportunity in industrial, civil, and/ political life. Our duty is to secure each man against any injustice by his fellows. Continue reading
An audio recording of Woodrow Wilson in 1912 taking advantage of the division in Republican ranks that would lead Theodore Roosevelt to bolt the party and run as the standard bearer of the Bull Moose party that he created. Wilson’s matter of fact, dry delivery, so in keeping with his profession of professor, reminds me of how in so many ways he was the anti-Roosevelt in style, although the similarities in domestic policy between him and Roosevelt were closer that either of them, both of whom cordially detested the other, were comfortable with.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
Born to a family of wealth, Theodore Roosevelt could have led a quiet life of indulgence and plenty. Instead he devoted himself to service to the country, one of the few elected officials who actually deserved the title public servant. He combined this with a belief that life is an adventure, sometimes a hard and dangerous one, but always an adventure. Roosevelt always heard the trumpets of life and he led his life at a joyous charge. As a country and a civilization we desperately need his energy, his optimism and his sheer joy. May we know his like again at the head of our nation. Continue reading
Hattip to Matt Archbold at Creative Minority Report. Veep and Beloved National Clown Joe Biden excuses his refusal to kiss the ring of the pope by making up a fable about his Mom:
Theodore Roosevelt throughout his life eagerly embraced new technology, and so it was no surprise that during the 1912 election he recorded some of his speeches. Go here for links to the sound recordings of these speeches. I wish there was a sound recording made of many of the nuggets of wisdom dispensed by Roosevelt. I especially have always been fond of these two: Continue reading
From the Deadliest Warrior television series. I have always enjoyed absurd alternate history speculations a la “What if Napoleon had a B-52 at Waterloo?”
By the time Lawrence of Arabia arrived on the scene TR was getting fairly long in the tooth and was in ill health, however, I would not have bet against him. He used knives for killing fairly frequently. This letter to his kids in 1901 is typical:
Keystone Ranch, Colo., Jan. 14th, 1901 –
Soon we saw the lion in a treetop, with two of the dogs so high up among the branches that he was striking at them. He was more afraid of us than of the dogs, and as soon as he saw us he took a great flying leap and was off, the pack close behind. In a few hundred yards they had him up another tree. This time, after a couple of hundred yards, the dogs caught him, and a great fight followed. They could have killed him by themselves, but he bit or clawed four of them, and for fear he might kill one I ran in and stabbed him behind the shoulder, thrusting the knife right into his heart. I have always wished to kill a cougar as I did this one, with dogs and the knife. Continue reading
Death had to take him in his sleep, for if he was awake there’d have been a fight.
Thomas R. Marshall, Vice President of the United States, on hearing of the death of Theodore Roosevelt
One of his worst enemies once said about Theodore Roosevelt that a man would have to hate him a lot not to like him a little. It was hard not to admire Roosevelt for his courage, his enthusiasm and his obvious good will. That last aspect of his character is illustrated by the fact that for many years he would go to Cove School at Oyster Bay dressed as Santa Claus, talk to the kids, and give them presents he had purchased out of his own pocket. When he did it in 1898, after achieving renown leading his Rough Riders in Cuba, the little boys at the school mobbed their Santa hero! Continue reading
(I couldn’t resist reposting this on the hundredth anniversary. If Theodore Roosevelt were a fictional character, this passage would be rejected by an editor as being impossible!)
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.
Only after he completed his speech, he spoke for 90 minutes with blood running down his shirt, did he consent to go to a hospital. The bullet could not be removed from his chest and he carried it in him for the rest of his life. He was off the campaign trail for a scant one week, a week in which his opponents, sportsmanlike, also left the campaign trail out of respect for him. What a man! No matter one’s political views, and Roosevelt held a diverse group of views certain to both offend and inspire virtually all portions of the American political spectrum today, it is hard not to admire him. As one of his enemies once said about him, “A man would have to hate him a lot, not to like him a little!”
Of course, after his heroics in the Spanish-American War, such behavior was only to be expected. In 2001 Roosevelt was finally awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the battle of San Juan Hill. Here is the citation: Continue reading
Two Presidents have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Barack Obama in 2009, for no reason I can discern other than a slap at his predecessor George Bush by the left-leaning award committee, and Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 for being the driving force behind the negotiations that led to the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Due to his duties as President, Roosevelt was unable to give his acceptance speech until May 5, 1910. It is an interesting address. Peace, he stated, was not the highest good unless it was wedded to righteousness. Peace is evil if it is merely a mask for sloth and cowardice. Tyrants have often prattled about peace in order to silence opposition to their schemes. Individuals, and nations, must ever be ready to defend themselves. He then offered some practical suggestions for a more peaceful world. Arbitration of disputes between nations. The establishment of a tribunal at the Hague. A League of Peace by the great powers to attempt to keep the peace of the world. The irony of course is that it was the European Great Powers that would lead the world into War just four years after Roosevelt’s speech, but of course the future was for him an unknown country, just as our future is to us. The text of the speech of Theodore Roosevelt: Continue reading
The death-knell of the Republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.
Well, I see that President Obama is seeking to emulate Theodore Roosevelt. I have been thinking about it, and Obama is exactly the same as Roosevelt. Let us count the ways:
1. Theodore Roosevelt raised the Rough Riders regiment and was awarded the medal of honor for his extreme heroism in leading the charges of the Rough Riders up Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. He was the only man mounted in that fight and it is a miracle he survived. All accounts testify to his complete contempt for death that day. Obama was a community organizer in Chicago, a town noted for inclement weather.
2. Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for taking the lead in the negotiations which led to the treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War. Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for not being George Bush.
3. Theodore Roosevelt wrote 43 books, his favorite topic being America, the land that he loved. Obama has thus far written two books on the subject that he loves above all else, himself.
4. Theodore Roosevelt was a highly religious man who regularly attended church. Obama engages in regular morning worship when he looks in the mirror to shave.
5. Theodore Roosevelt engaged in a never-ending battle against political corruption throughout his career. Obama and his associates have helped provide work for prosecutors investigating political corruption. Continue reading
Theodore Roosevelt, that force of nature that was once President of these United States, was a deeply religious man. He attended church faithfully his entire life. (He was Dutch Reformed, but he often attended Episcopal services with his wife.) He opposed putting the national motto “In God We Trust” on currency, for fear it would cheapen the noble sentiment, as would be the case, in his view, if it were used on postage stamps or in advertisements. He was opposed to all religious bigotry as he would state immediately after the campaign of 1908 when the Unitarian Willam Howard Taft came under fire for his religion:
“I did not answer any of these letters during the campaign, because I regarded it as an outrage even to agitate such a question. … To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular Church, or because, like Abraham Lincoln, he has not avowed his allegiance to any Church, is an outrage against the liberty of conscience which is one of the foundations of American life. … I do not for one moment believe that the mass of our fellow-citizens, or that any considerable number of our fellow citizens, can be influenced by such narrow bigotry as to refuse to vote for any thoroughly upright and fit man because he happens to have a particular religious creed. … I believe that this Republic will endure for many centuries. If so, there will doubtless be among its Presidents Protestants and Catholics, and very probably at some time, Jews. … In my Cabinet at the present moment there sit side by side Catholic and Protestant, Christian and Jew, each man chosen because in my belief he is peculiarly fit to exercise on behalf of all our people the duties of the office. … In no case does a man’s religious belief in any way influence his discharge of his duties, save as it makes him more eager to act justly and uprightly in his relations to all men.”
A frequent reader of the Bible, Roosevelt once opined that a thorough knowledge of it was more valuable to a person than a college education.
His Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1908 rejoices in the material well being of the country, but notes that there is far more to life than piling up material possessions. He would have vigorously dissented from the idiotic bumper sticker: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Here is the text of the Proclamation: Continue reading
Ah, if only “talkies” had existed during Theodore Roosevelt’s life. Here we see a silent film of the Fourth of July speech in 1903 given by Roosevelt in Huntington, New York, during the 250th anniversary year of that town. We cannot hear him speak, but the energy and passion which he poured into every speech he gave is clear from the film.
A few weeks later, Colonel Roosevelt (That is the title by which he liked to be addressed, being proud of his service with the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War. He despised being called Teddy.) addressed the Holy Name Society on August 16, 1903. Note his appeal to men and boys to lead good and moral lives and to give full expression to the masculine virtues of courage and fortitude. Today of course the speech would be denounced as sexist, moralistic, Christianist and you can write the remainder of the list for yourself. Such complaints would be the sheerest rubbish. Men and boys need precisely this type of message if they are going to be a positive force in society and to be good husbands, fathers and sons. Too many churches, and the Church, tend to ignore giving this type of message and society has suffered greatly as a result. Here is the text of the speech: Continue reading
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
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