Cover image for Theodore Roosevelt : a strenuous life
Title:
Theodore Roosevelt : a strenuous life
Author:
Dalton, Kathleen (Kathleen M.)
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
x, 708 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780679446637
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library E757 .D24 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Searching...
Hamburg Library E757 .D24 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Searching...
Audubon Library E757 .D24 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

Theodore Roosevelt made himself the hero of his own strenuous life. He transformed himself from a sickly and fearful patrician boy into a fiercely adventurous--and always active--hunter, sportsman, writer, politician, and finally president. But one self-making was never enough for TR. He slowly fashioned himself into a man of the people, a defender of the poor and downtrodden, and a prophet of political ideas advanced for his day. This is the story of his personal and political development, of one man's struggle to conquer his own fears and to build a greater nation out of a divided collection of states. He urged America to engage life to the utmost, as he did. Kathleen Dalton's Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life incorporates the latest scholarship into a vigorous narrative. It stands as the only full-length biography to use manuscripts recently discovered in Roosevelt attics. Dalton sheds new light on young Theodore's life during the Civil War and his fascination with the new natural history, his shame over his father's failure to enlist in the Union army, his struggle to achieve manhood, and his desperate pursuit of and sometimes less than idyllic marriage to Alice Hathaway Lee, the daughter of a banking magnate, when she was seventeen. Her death four years later left Roosevelt a grieving widower and father at twenty-six, and he went west to make himself a cowboy and western writer, before he could recommit himself to a new life and a new love in the East. No other biographer has described how formative Roosevelt's marriage to Edith Carow proved to be in shaping his political career. In an account that may be compared with Joseph Lash's Eleanor and Franklin, Dalton demonstrates how Edith and Theodore's marriage, with its ups and downs, remade our history. In partnership with Massachusetts political mastermind Henry Cabot Lodge, Edith served as her husband's advisor, image builder, conscience, and at times censor. Dalton unravels the complex relationship between Roosevelt's initial political conservatism and the growing mood of progressivism that swept the nation in the early 1900s. He found unlikely allies among the army of women reformers who campaigned for pure milk and clean streets in the cities, and by 1912 he had become an active suffragist. Out of this biography emerges a new picture of the Progressive Era, of state-building and reform won in partnership between TR and activists such as Jane Addams and Frances Kellor. In his political maturity Roosevelt aspired to be the builder of the modern American welfare state in order to give industrial workers a better life and at the same time to stand up more forcefully against the arrogance and greed of large corporations. Dalton shows how TR called for a revival of American arts and letters, and how his career as a scientist affected his reform program and his views on race, and how toward the end of his life he finally commited himself to the cause of racial equality. Both an updated political interpretation and an intimate personal story of a loving but difficult man, his wife, his family, and his loyal friends, Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life will change persuasively the way we see this great and complex man and his times. From the Hardcover edition.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Like the Bible, the career of Theodore Roosevelt contains enough contradictory elements to please and frustrate both sides of the political spectrum. The author is a history teacher at Phillips Academy, Andover, and has been researching Roosevelt's life since 1975. While her work is unlikely to garner the attention of Edmund Morris' multivolume biography, she has provided a solid, single-volume examination of one of our most attractive yet puzzling presidents. Roosevelt was born to wealth and privilege but harbored disdain for the idle rich and became increasingly disturbed by economic disparity. He often displayed an unhealthy attraction to the use of military force and yet took great pride in his role as a mediator during the Russo-Japanese War. While this superbly researched biography does not convincingly explain the quirkier aspects of Roosevelt's personal and political life, Dalton admirably captured the vitality, insatiable curiosity, and passion that made Roosevelt such a compelling figure, both for his contemporaries and for historians. --Jay Freeman


Publisher's Weekly Review

Dalton, a history instructor at Phillips Academy, Andover, seems determined to cut TR down to size and drain his life of color in this dry, questionably reasoned biography. She complains that other books about Roosevelt "are often rich with dramatic adventure and colorful scenes, just as the Bull Moose would have wanted." With this in mind, she sets herself apart from established TR biographers, who she believes have been duped into perpetuating the autobiographical canards of their self-mythologizing subject. Thus Dalton devotes vast chunks of prose to debunking many of the most popular Theodore Roosevelt images common from books by such writers as Edmund Morris and David McCullough. Unfortunately, the shaky foundation Dalton offers instead seems incapable of carrying so full a load as the life of Theodore Roosevelt. In the final analysis, Dalton offers an unsatisfying, one-dimensional definition of TR's complex psychology. She sees him as little more than an overgrown and preposterous boy: a boy who always gets into trouble, a boy who never asks for or follows advice, a boy who needs constant supervision. By the end of the book, it seems a wonder that Dalton's self-centered and fractious TR ever achieved the White House, wrote books that became classics, won the Nobel Peace Prize, set aside millions of acres for conservation, or loomed large on any stage other than that of his own imagination. 32 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Oct. 15) Forecast: Readers who made Edmund Morris's two-volume bio a bestseller may be sated with TR; they may further question Dalton's positioning herself as the only one to find "the real TR." (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Dalton's fascinating biography traces Teddy Roosevelt's personal and political development from his birth as a sickly asthmatic child of the privileged and wealthy class through his presidency and death. It paints Roosevelt as a Renaissance man whose interests included natural science, hunting, political reform, women's suffrage, conservation, and art. Dalton also describes the tragic loss of Roosevelt's first wife, Alice; his loving relationship with his second wife and confidante, Edith; and his playfulness with and enjoyment of his six children. Suzanne Toren's expressive narration makes Roosevelt come alive; through her tone the listener gets a sense of the President's emotion and passion when he spoke from the "bully pulpit." Because of its length, this tape is recommended for academic and public libraries that focus on biography or American history.-Ilka Gordon, Medical Lib., Fairview General Hosp., Cleveland (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter 1 The Handicap of Riches A merican presidents are not supposed to start out in life the way Theodore Roosevelt did. His was not a rags-to-riches story begun in a log cabin. He lacked humble origins. He could make no steady climb from modest economic beginnings toward the apex of fame or fortune because he was born near the top in wealth and social standing. Unlike Abraham Lincoln and Richard Nixon, he also did not have the type of sainted, self-sacrificing mother who could inspire his aspirations for a better life. Instead, TR was born blessed with a millionaire grandfather and a distinguished family name. When he remembered his childhood, he had his sainted patrician father to thank for guiding his ascent. His privileged station, however, did not insulate him from facing serious trials in life. TR was born to wage a different kind of battle. Ahead of him lay a fateful struggle for life and identity-a fight grueling enough to allow him to see himself as a classic American self-made man. Roosevelt's task of self-making began with the work of living up to past greatness. Often, when TR told the story of his childhood he began not with himself, but with his family's high standing. Proud to tell of his elite origins he wrote: "I was born in New York, October 27th 1858; my father of old dutch knickerbocker stock; my mother was a Georgian, descended from the revolutionary Governor Bulloch." TR's father, Theodore Roosevelt Senior (called Thee), gave his first son his name and admitted he loved him best of his four offspring. But with such favored love came the weight of familial expectations. The senior Roosevelt would look to young TR to prove he had enough "stern old Dutch blood" coursing in his veins to bring credit to the Roosevelt name. Roosevelts had been men of consequence, members of the Knickerbocker elite who had provided New York with leadership for generations. The family rose to economic prominence after the American Revolution when Isaac Roosevelt added Tory farmland to the family's already large holdings. The Roosevelts became one of the city's "governing families." TR's grandfather C.V.S. Roosevelt, a conservative merchant who thought of little besides trade, turned the family hardware business into a plate-glass importing firm, using his profits to buy up more Manhattan real estate. He later became a founder and director of the Chemical National Bank. C.V.S. Roosevelt's brother, Judge James I. Roosevelt, had been a congressman and prominent member of the New York Democratic Party before he was appointed to New York's highest court. Wealth, power, and social standing were part of the heritage Theodore was expected to preserve. Roosevelts, however, did not need to hold office to exercise power. The rise of popular voting rights in the Jacksonian age and the later arrival of vast numbers of immigrant voters, who were managed at the ballot box by Democratic Tammany Hall leaders and other competing bosses, challenged the old elite to fight harder than ever to shape their city's culture and politics. Businessmen eager for low labor costs initially welcomed rural and foreign newcomers, but they were thereafter unprepared to deal with competition in the political realm from bosses and their immigrant supporters and a large and often unemployed working class who hovered on the edge of starvation. In a chaotic city with a skyrocketing murder rate, twenty thousand prostitutes, an ineffective police force, gang rapes, highway robbery, and street fights, the old elite unfairly blamed the crisis on the wretched morals of the poor and the bosses who represented them in politics. Men like the Roosevelts fought Democratic Boss Tweed when he insisted on fire protection by volunteer companies manned by his political cronies. The anti-Tweed forces won the right to hire a professional salaried fire company, and then further modernized Manhattan's government by creating a Metropolitan Board of Health that enforced new disinfectant codes and street-cleaning regulations. The anti-Tweed Citizens Association, so heavily funded and publicly led by Theodore's closest relatives that it was called a Rooseveltian oligarchy, finally ousted Tweed from power when Theodore was in his teens. Before he was old enough to shave, he had learned from his intensely political uncles and his father how to use newspaper exposÃ(c)s and scandals to arouse public outrage and bring about reform. Thee worked in his father's plate-glass importing firm, Roosevelt and Son, where he also managed the family's immense real estate, stock, banking, mining, and insurance holdings. When Theodore was a boy, C.V.S. Roosevelt and his five sons owned Manhattan's Piers Nine and Ten, a farm on Staten Island, land in upstate New York, stock in the New York Central Railroad, and property all over lower Manhattan. Thee and his brothers managed all their business concerns well enough to save time for civic reform and philanthropy, ministering with heartfelt noblesse oblige to the less fortunate members of society. The power of Roosevelt money and beneficence reverberated through Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, Roosevelt Hospital, the Bellevue Training School for Nurses, the Children's Aid Society, and Thee's creation, the New York Orthopaedic Dispensary for the Deformed and Crippled. As a young man Theodore wrote with aristocratic pride: "The older races of the city made the mould into which the newer were poured." He did not doubt the value of leadership by those who presumed they were "the best men," but in his mature years he would take the position that the cultural authority and political power which accrued to his kind because they were upper class was built upon a system of unjust privilege. During Theodore's boyhood the old elite worked hard to remain keepers of the "mould" by incorporating newer industrial elites into their businesses, clubs, philanthropies, and social circles, where they taught them to invest in the cultural future of the city. Together they hoped to make New York a grand and dignified city worthy of pride around the world, rather than the stink hole of greedy commercialism and crime it was reputed to be. Not that nouveau riche stock traders and magnates like Jim Fisk and Jay Gould who used bribery and deception to corner markets after the Civil War were easily remade morally. The old elite remained suspicious of the suddenly rich who were "vikings in energy, unscrupulousness and violence, who swept through the land in railroad land grabs, in mining speculations, in purchase of legislatures, in stock dilutions, in great corners on stocks and grains." The striving industrial culture that emerged after the Civil War called upon elite women, presumed to be angelic repositories of morality, to elevate the moral tone of polite society by drawing clear social lines. When Caroline Astor stepped forward in the 1870s to form a bastion of gentility which became the socially select Four Hundred, Thee acted as one of her Patriarchs who extended invitations to grand balls to new and old worthies while excluding climbers with low morals. Edith Wharton in her Age of Innocence portrayed Knickerbockers like the Roosevelts as the van der Luydens, lofty patricians who expected to arbitrate a chaotic new society by speaking as the voice of cultural authority. Thee raised Theodore within the upper-class "mould" of old New York: he taught his son how to behave in receiving lines and when to wear patent leather shoes and a black tie. Most significantly, he provided him with a loving example of how one man can use his privilege to make society better. Thee had traveled enough as an importer and on Grand Tours to see that New York was inferior to the great European cities that he regarded as the vanguards of advancing world civilization. To bring home to Manhattan the benefits of the British Museum and the Louvre, he helped to found the American Museum of Natural History and planned the first building and the fledgling collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His philanthropy applied science and art to the cause of making New York a more civilized city, and he favored the modernizing benefits of a cleaner water supply, less partisan police and firemen, and public health enforcement. Thee also hobnobbed with muscular Christians like Thomas Hughes in England, and became a convert to their belief that religion had become too feminized and ethereal and needed to be reformed by a spirit of aggressive manliness and athleticism. Rejecting the image of Jesus Christ as gentle, saintly, and long-suffering, muscular Christians reinterpreted him as a soldier of righteousness and vigor. They argued that training boys to see their bodies as one means of salvation, a "living sacrifice to God," was the best method to keep them away from sensuousness and self-indulgence. Not long after the Reverend Charles Kingsley began preaching muscular Christianity in England, his counterpart in the states, Bishop Phillips Brooks, spread his belief that "physical courage is a grand and precious thing" tied intimately with true Christian faith. The Reverend Thomas Wentworth Higginson popularized the idea further that men could be made soldiers in service to Christ by toughening themselves with sports, and Brooks' hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers" spread the new muscular Christian cause across pews to schools and playing fields. Thee and his friends put the same spirit to use in reform and philanthropy to rejuvenate urban life in New York. To help the poor man climb and the wealthy man resist sin, Thee promoted muscular Christianity through the Young Men's Christian Association, the Children's Aid Society, and later through Dwight L. Moody's urban revivals. Thee worried that in an era when many youths moved to the city and stopped attending church, $4 million was being spent each year on the newly commercialized vice industry-from billiard saloons and brothels to "gambling hells" and pornographic bookstands. Vice and sin on an individual level were bad enough, but moral reformers like Thee believed that new businesses designed to commercialize sex (via dance halls, pornography, and brothels) sought to make huge profits out of pandering to human weakness-and, in doing so, pulled the whole society down. "Satan's empire" had to be stopped. For Theodore, his father's muscular Christian cures defined the terms of his upbringing and his own later diagnosis of what ailed American culture. Theodore learned at his father's knee that Christ himself was not a self-effacing saint but a "strong man physically, muscular, sinewy, enduring," a man who embodied moral purity and, in the Darwinian language of the day, "healthy animalism." Thee and his close friend William E. Dodge, Jr., saw to it that young clerks who moved to the city would have barbells and Bibles to help them withstand temptation in the new Y.M.C.A. building they erected in the Roosevelts' neighborhood. Thee often took Theodore with him when he preached manly fortitude and purity to the newsboys at his friend the Reverend Charles Loring Brace's Newsboys' Lodging House and his other missions. He made sure that Brace's houses provided boys with boxing gloves, horizontal bars, and exercise equipment because he believed they helped boys fight the "weakening of true masculine vigor, . . . [and] a hidden growth of secret and contagious vices" so rampant in their city. Thee's muscular Christianity argued not for dog-eat-dog social Darwinism or survival of the fittest, but for Christian obligation that man owed man across class divides. Like the rich benefactors in the popular stories written by Brace's other prominent patron, Horatio Alger, Jr., Thee felt obliged to be the deus ex machina who offered the poor a helping hand out of poverty-buying them a ticket to Albany to make a new start, sending them a winter's load of coal to heat their homes, or paying for their children's medical care. He even refused to acquire tenements because he did not want to profit from the meager earnings of the needy. Thee agreed with Brace's view that a boy could be made manlier and therefore purer if he could "gratify 'the savage in one's blood,' and lead a wild life in the woods," so the Children's Aid Society with Thee's help exported ninety thousand of New York's pauper children to the countryside of the Midwest and West. Theodore learned that muscular Christian exercise and the nature cure were democratic forms of salvation insofar as they promised to revive any type of man, but none of the Roosevelts understood fully that the power of noblesse oblige enabled them to impose their cures on less powerful men and boys, who were not always eager to be saved in this fashion. Thee disliked those who did not practice what they preached, so he took his children to the countryside in the summer, and promoted his own manliness and morality by riding, camping, and playing active sports including polo, fox hunting, and tennis. Theodore's atypical patrician boyhood, then, carried unusual lessons and examples. He was born into a clan who stood out among the New York elite as a strong, enduring, extended family self-assured in its outspokenness. His second cousin Nicholas wrote that "to be a Roosevelt was to be something distinctive-usually vital and energetic, often brilliant, generally intolerant, and always highly vocal. . . . they were openly and even zealously critical of each other." Their Hyde Park fifth cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt later wrote that the longevity and "the virility of the Roosevelts" came from their "very democratic spirit," but Theodore's branch of the family allied themselves with the barely democratic remnants of the Federalist elite, the Jays, Livingstons, and Schuylers. Even though they accepted republicanism, civic virtue, and democratic participation as basic American ideals, the Manhattan Roosevelts were what TR's nephew Sheffield called "Dutch money-grubbers" who derived their clan identity from deep Hamiltonian, Federalist, and unequivocally aristocratic roots. TR grew up with a double legacy, carrying the weight of the Bulloch heritage of manly heroism as well. His southern mother, Martha "Mittie" Bulloch Roosevelt, made sure that her son heard about the military feats of her grandfather General Daniel Stewart in the American Revolution and her father, Major James Stephens Bulloch, a hero in Texas' War for Independence. Even the political leaders within the battling Bulloch clan were never content to let others do their fighting for them. Mittie's great-grandfather Archibald Bulloch, representative to the Continental Congress and commander in chief of Georgia at the outset of the American Revolution, personally led a war party against a Loyalist stronghold. Mittie's father, the "impetuous" Major James Bulloch, after his fighting days were over, married his stepmother-in-law, Martha Stewart Elliott, and in a flurry of scandal over the marriage left Savannah behind, packed up his wife, their children from previous marriages, and slaves, and moved to Roswell, Georgia. In Roswell the Bullochs settled on land which the Cherokees had recently held, before gold was discovered and President Andrew Jackson forced the native people to walk to Oklahoma on the infamous Trail of Tears. Though much less blessed with commercial success than the Roosevelts, TR's cavalier southern kin made their mark as a more daring and adventure-loving people. Excerpted from Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life by Kathleen Dalton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Google Preview