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Theodore Roosevelt; an Intimate Biography   By: (1859-1923)

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THEODORE ROOSEVELT

AN INTIMATE BIOGRAPHY

BY

WILLIAM ROSCOE THAYER

1919

PREFACE

In finishing the correction of the last proofs of this sketch, I perceive that some of those who read it may suppose that I planned to write a deliberate eulogy of Theodore Roosevelt. This is not true. I knew him for forty years, but I never followed his political leadership. Our political differences, however, never lessened our personal friendship. Sometimes long intervals elapsed between our meetings, but when we met it was always with the same intimacy, and when we wrote it was with the same candor. I count it fortunate for me that during the last ten years of his life, I was thrown more with Roosevelt than during all the earlier period; and so I was able to observe him, to know his motives, and to study his character during the chief crises of his later career, when what he thought and did became an integral part of the development of the United States.

After the outbreak of the World War, in 1914, he and I thought alike, and if I mistake not, this closing phase of his life will come more and more to be revered by his countrymen as an example of the highest patriotism and courage. Regardless of popular lukewarmness at the start, and of persistent official thwarting throughout, he roused the conscience of the nation to a sense of its duty and of its honor. What gratitude can repay one who rouses the con science of a nation? Roosevelt sacrificed his life for patriotism as surely as if he had died leading a charge in the Battle of the Marne.

The Great War has thrown all that went before it out of perspective. We can never see the events of the preceding half century in the same light in which we saw them when they were fresh. Instinctively we appraise them, and the men through whom they came to pass, by their relation to the catastrophe. Did they lead up to it consciously or un consciously? And as we judge the outcome of the war, our views of men take on changed complexions. The war, as it appears now, was the culmination of three different world movements; it destroyed the attempt of German Imperialism to conquer the world and to rivet upon it a Prussian military despotism. Next, it set up Democracy as the ideal for all peoples to live by. Finally, it revealed that the economic, industrial, social, and moral concerns of men are deeper than the political. When I came to review Roosevelt's career consecutively, for the purpose of this biography, I saw that many of his acts and policies, which had been misunderstood or misjudged at the time, were all the inevitable expressions of the principle which was the master motive of his life. What we had imagined to be shrewd devices for winning a partisan advantage, or for overthrowing a political adversary, or for gratifying his personal ambition, had a nobler source. I do not mean to imply that Roosevelt, who was a most adroit politician, did not employ with terrific effect the means accepted as honorable in political fighting. So did Abraham Lincoln, who also, as a great Opportunist, was both a powerful and a shrewd political fighter, but pledged to Righteousness. It seems now tragic, but inevitable, that Roosevelt, after beginning and carrying forward the war for the reconciliation between Capital and Labor, should have been sacrificed by the Republican Machine, for that Machine was a special organ of Capital, by which Capital made and administered the laws of the States and of the Nation. But Roosevelt's struggle was not in vain; before he died, many of those who worked for his downfall in 1912 were looking up to him as the natural leader of the country, in the new dangers which encompassed it. "Had he lived," said a very eminent man who had done more than any other to defeat him, "he would have been the unanimous candidate of the Republicans in 1920." Time brings its revenges swiftly. As I write these lines, it is not Capital, but overweening Labor which makes its truculent demands on the Administration at Washington, which it has already intimidated... Continue reading book >>




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