“A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”
The more I study Theodore Roosevelt, the more I appreciate the impact he had on this nation, both in large and small ways. He brought several phrases, for example, into common usage in this country. One of these is “weasel words”. Roosevelt did not invent the phrase, he noted that he first heard it used in conversation in 1879, but when he used it the phrase quickly entered American popular usage. Roosevelt’s most famous use of the phrase was on May 31, 1916 in a speech entitled Mr. Wilson’s Weasel Words in which he attacked Wilson’s call for “voluntary universal military training”, Roosevelt viewing such a plan as inadequate and calling for a draft.
Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in that grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
As faithful readers of this blog know, I like to play computer strategy games, almost always historical simulations. I have written before, hereand here, about the game Civilization VI which is being release on October 21 and which I eagerly anticipate. As in past incarnations of Civilization, each of the nations will have a leader. Past leaders of the US in Civilization games have been George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. This time it is Theodore Roosevelt. As a fan of Colonel Roosevelt I like the choice, but what have they done to Teddy! His girth is more reminiscent of his successor Taft instead of Roosevelt!
I suppose that few people would disagree that the spelling of words in the English language is a mess. Trying to impose rules, with myriads of exceptions, on a language that grew with no consensus as to spelling, has bedeviled generations of school children and foreigners attempting to learn the language alike.
Whenever a problem existed, Teddy Roosevelt optimistically assumed that a solution could be found. Thus in 1906 as President he became a champion of what he called spelling reform, backing the efforts of the organization called The Simplified Spelling Board, founded early in 1906, which was funded by Andrew Carnegie.
On August 27, 1906 Roosevelt wrote to the head of the US Printing Office:
Oyster Bay, August 27, 1906
To Charles Arthur Stillings
My dear Mr. Stillings:
I enclose herewith copies of certain circulars of the Simplified Spelling Board, which can be obtained free from the Board at No. 1 Madison Avenue, New York City. Please hereafter direct that in all Government publications of the executive departments the three hundred words enumerated in Circular No. 5 shall be spelled as therein set forth. If anyone asks the reason for the action, refer him to Circulars 3, 4 and 6 as issued by the Spelling Board. Most of the critcism of the proposed step is evidently made in entire ignorance of what the step is, no less than in entire ignorance of the very moderate and common-sense views as to the purposes to be cahieved, which views as so excellently set forth in the circulars to which I have referred. There is not the slightest intention to do anything revolutionary or initiate any far-reaching policy. The purpose simply is for the Government, instead of lagging behind popular sentiment, to advance abreast of it and at the same time abreast of the views of the ablest and most practical educators of our time as well as the most profound scholars—men of the stamp of Professor Lounsbury. If the slighest changes in the spelling of the three hundred words proposed wholly or partially meet popular approval, then the changes will become permanent without any reference to what officials or individual private citizens may feel; if they do not ultimately meet with popular approval they will be dropt, and that is all there is about it. They represent nothing in the world but a very slight extension of the unconscious movement which has made agricultural implement makers write “plow” instead of “plough”; which has made most Americans write “honor” without the somewhat absurd, superfluous “u”; and which is even now making people write “program” without the “me”—just as all people who speak English now write “bat,” “set,” “dim,” “sum,” and “fish” instead of the Elizabethan “batte,” “sette,” “dimme,” “summe,” and “fysshe”; which makes us write “public,” “almanac,” “era,” “fantasy,” and “wagon,” instead of the “publick,” “almanack,” “aera,” “phantasy,” and “waggon” of our great-grandfathers. It is not an attack of the language of Shakespeare and Milton, because it is in some instances a going back to the forms they used, and in others merely the extension of changes which, as regards other words, have taken place since their time. It is not an attempt to do anything far-reaching or sudden or violent; or indeed anything very great at all. It is merely an attempt to cast what sleight weight can properly be cast on the side of the popular forces which are endeavoring to make our spelling a little less foolish and fantastic.
Go here for a list of words whose spelling he wished to simplify.
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!
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 State of the Union Address
Wherever the Mohammedans have had complete sway, wherever the Christians have been unable to resist them by the sword, Christianity has ultimately disappeared. From the hammer of Charles Martel to the sword of Jan Sobieski, Christianity owed its safety in Europe to the fact that it was able to show that it could and would fight as well as the Mohammedan aggressor.
Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, (1916)
On Columbus Day 1915, Theodore Roosevelt addressed the Knights of Columbus in New York City. I will be running the entire speech in a post on October 12, but I think this section of the speech is very relevant today:
“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all.
This is just as true of the man who puts “native” before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen. Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance.
But if he is heartily and singly loyal to this Republic, then no matter where he was born, he is just as good an American as any one else.
The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans, or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality than with the other citizens of the American Republic.
The men who do not become Americans and nothing else are hyphenated Americans; and there ought to be no room for them in this country. The man who calls himself an American citizen and who yet shows by his actions that he is primarily the citizen of a foreign land, plays a thoroughly mischievous part in the life of our body politic. He has no place here; and the sooner he returns to the land to which he feels his real heart-allegiance, the better it will be for every good American.”
You’re going from dealing with people to dealing with what most people here at the Center consider a real hurdle, to do sterile room, because you have to deal with the actual abortion tissue. And for some people that’s really hard. They can be abstractly in favor of abortion rights, but they sure don’t want to see what an eighteen-week abortion looks like.
Anonymous clinic worker Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic Wendy Simonds (Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick) 1996 p 69.
Today I will be driving by Galesburg, on my way to take my daughter back to college. In the Lincoln-Douglas debate held at Galesburg on October 7, 1858, Lincoln got to the heart of the difference between him and Stephen Douglas regarding slavery:
In the actual world a churchless community, a community where men have abandoned and scoffed at or ignored their religious needs, is a community on the rapid downgrade.
Theodore Roosevelt, 1917 interview Ladies Home Journal-Among his ten reasons to go to church every Sunday
Colonel Roosevelt, he hated being called Teddy and preferred being called Colonel, loved Christmas. Whenever he was at home he would always appear at the local school in his home town as Santa, to dispense gifts he bought to the local kids, a fact highlighted in his local paper after he died:
Roosevelt was a religious man with a deep love of the Bible and a strong faith in Christ. It therefore comes as a surprise to learn that Roosevelt initially did not want a Christmas tree in the White House after he became President.
Matt Archbold at National Catholic Register brings us this story about President Roosevelt and the Christmas Tree:
President Theodore Roosevelt, an avowed environmentalist, banned Christmas trees from the White House during his presidency. The president was against real Christmas trees because he feared that Christmas trees would lead to deforestation. Mind you, at the time Christmas trees were very controversial with environmentalists. President William McKinley even reportedly received a letter in 1899 saying Christmas trees were “arboreal infanticide” and “un-American.”
Roosevelt’s action was intended to inspire Americans to just say no to Christmas trees. Clearly his bully pulpit didn’t have the effect he wanted, even on his own children.
In 1902, Roosevelt’s two youngest sons, Archie and Quentin, went outside and cut down a smallish tree right there on the White House grounds, snuck back into the White House, and hid it in a closet. The two boys decorated the tree in secret and even enlisted the help of an electrician on staff at the White House to help decorate it with lights. When Christmas morning came, Archie gathered his family outside the closet, turned on the switch, and opened the door to reveal the tree decorated with gifts for the entire family.
Roosevelt acknowledged the event in a letter in which he wrote:
Yesterday Archie got among his presents a small rifle from me and a pair of riding boots from his mother. He won’t be able to use the rifle until next summer, but he has gone off very happy in the riding boots for a ride on the calico pony Algonquin, the one you rode the other day. Yesterday morning at a quarter of seven all the children were up and dressed and began to hammer at the door of their mother’s and my room, in which their six stockings, all bulging out with queer angles and rotundities, were hanging from the fireplace. So their mother and I got up, shut the window, lit the fire (taking down the stockings of course), put on our wrappers and prepared to admit the children. But first there was a surprise for me, also for their good mother, for Archie had a little birthday tree of his own which he had rigged up with the help of one of the carpenters in a big closet; and we all had to look at the tree and each of us got a present off of it. There was also one present each for Jack the dog, Tom Quartz the kitten, and Algonquin the pony, whom Archie would no more think of neglecting that I would neglect his brothers and sisters. Then all the children came into our bed and there they opened their stockings.
According to the website White House Christmas Cards Teddy was “amused by his boys’ ingenuity” but took him to see his friend and environmental advisor, Gifford Pinchot, to explain to horrors of chopping down Christmas trees. But a funny thing happened.
To his surprise, Pinchot went into a lengthy explanation regarding how sometimes, cutting down some larger trees was in the best interests of forests, as it allowed a larger number of smaller young trees to receive the sunlight they need to flourish. While there is no public record of any other Christmas tree being displayed in the White House during Roosevelt’s presidency, a number of environmental acts and reforestation laws had been passed by the end of his term, and the public controversy over the use of live trees for decorative and traditional use had subsided for the time being.
During the Civil War, Theodore Roosevelt’s home was literally a house divided. His father was whole heartedly for the Union, while his mother backed the Confederacy with the same passion. Our of respect for his wife, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr, put aside his strong desire to enlist in the Union army and served in a civilian non-combatant capacity. Many of his mother’s relations fought for the Confederacy, and Roosevelt, Jr, was especially fond of two of his uncles who had served in the Confederate Navy:
“My mother’s two brothers, James Dunwoody Bulloch and Irvine Bulloch, came to visit us shortly after the close of the war. Both came under assumed names, as they were among the Confederates who were at that time exempted from the amnesty. “Uncle Jimmy” Bulloch was a dear old retired sea-captain, utterly unable to “get on” in the worldly sense of that phrase, as valiant and simple and upright a soul as ever lived, a veritable Colonel Newcome. He was a commander in the Confederate navy, and was the builder of the famous Confederate war vessel Alabama. My uncle Irvine Bulloch was a midshipman on the Alabama, and fired the last gun discharged from her batteries in the fight with the Kearsarge. Both of these uncles lived in Liverpool after the war. “
My uncle Jimmy Bulloch was forgiving and just in reference to the Union forces, and could discuss all phases of the Civil War with entire fairness and generosity. But in English politics he promptly became a Tory of the most ultra-conservative school. Lincoln and Grant he could admire, but he would not listen to anything in favor of Mr. Gladstone. The only occasions on which I ever shook his faith in me were when I would venture meekly to suggest that some of the manifestly preposterous falsehoods about Mr. Gladstone could not be true. My uncle was one of the best men I have ever known, and when I have sometimes been tempted to wonder how good people can believe of me the unjust and impossible things they do believe, I have consoled myself by thinking of Uncle Jimmy Bulloch’s perfectly sincere conviction that Gladstone was a man of quite exceptional and nameless infamy in both public and private life.”
“[A] physician of wealth and high standing had seduced a girl and then induced her to commit abortion-I rather lost my temper, and wrote to the individuals who had asked for the pardon, saying that I extremely regretted that it was not in my power to increase the sentence.”
Theodore Roosevelt, from his Autobiography recalling his days as governor of New York (1913)
“Theodore Roosevelt” and “hero” tend to pop into my mind simultaneously when I recall him, and this is yet another reason for me to cherish his memory.
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.
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 beexterminated.
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.