An Exceptional Man and an Inspiration: Theodore Roosevelt V

And more about the life of Theodore Roosevelt. Readers will note that this is not a chronological account and therefore some details of various post he hald from time to time might be left out… I am concentrating on the juicy bits chiefly….

~~ “If I am to be any use in politics,” Roosevelt wrote to a friend, “it is because I am supposed to be a man who does not preach what he fears to practice. For the year I have preached war with Spain…”

But here we have to take a brief digression, and tell you what Roosevelt – then the assistant secretary of the navy in the administration of President William McKinley had done. The Spanish suppression of the revolt in Cuba, a part of its empire then, had stirred passions across America and the nation was slowly being pushed towards war, despite McKinley’s reservations, thanks to the efforts of people like Roosevelt. who had placed the navy on alert and transferred its weapons from storage without the very knowledge, let alone consent of his hypochondriac boss or the president.

So when war came, it was inevitable that he should leave his job in Washington and enlist in the army. He instantly became Lieutenant Colonel Roosevelt, and began putting together a very special elite unit, one perhaps that only he could have assembled.

The Rough Riders consisted, among others, of cowboys, Indians (the Red variety), tennis stars, college athletes, the marshal of Dodge City, the master of the Chevy Chase hounds, and the man who was reputed to be the best quarterback ever to play for Harvard.

They were quite a crew, Colonel Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. They captured the imagination of the public as had no other military unit in U.S. history – and perhaps it was due to the journalists they took along with them to Cuba – one of the first known examples of embedded journalism in military history. They also captured San Juan Hill in the face of some serious machine gun fire, and Roosevelt, who led the charge – and why wouldn’t it be successful when led by a commander whose order was not “Charge!” but “Follow me!”, returned home even a bigger hero than when he’d left.

While on a bear hunt in Mississippi, Colonel Roosevelt, as he liked to be called after San Juan Hill and Cuba, was told that a bear had been spotted a few miles away. When Roosevelt and his entourage – which was always included the press – arrived, he found a small, undernourished, terrified bear tied to a tree. He refused to shoot it, and turned away in disgust, ordering a member of the party to put the poor creature out of its misery. His unwillingness to kill a helpless animal was captured by Washington Post cartoonist Clifford Berryman. It made him more popular than ever and before long toy companies were turning out replicas of cute little bears that the great Theodore Roosevelt would certainly never kill, rather than ferocious game animals. (Another point in your favour, Mr President)

Just in case you ever wondered about the origin of teddy bears.

Roosevelt was vigorous and active a president as he’d been in every previous position. Consider:

Even though the country was relatively empty, he could see land being gobbled up in great quantities by settlers and others, and he created the national park system.

He arranged for a revolt against the Venezuelan government, which resulted in the founding of the nation of Panama, which then supported his plan for the Panama canal, which a century later is still vital to international shipping.

As far as Venezuela is concerned, he took on the German Empire on it…. There is no question that Theodore Roosevelt immensely enjoyed his time at war with the Rough Riders. He often spoke of how he went hand to hand with a Spanish soldier and won. What is less known is that he came very close, and seemingly was quite willing, to start a war between the United States and Germany while he was the president.

The reason behind this action was the Monroe Doctrine – well you should now what it was. In a sentence, Europe, keep your hands of the Western Hemisphere. There were exceptions for areas already controlled, such as a number of Caribbean islands and the Guianas, but basically it stated no new incursions were to be allowed. Almost a century later, the government of Germany was threatening to seize a large potion of Venezuela.

To be continued…..

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