An Exceptional Man and an Inspiration: Theodore Roosevelt VI

Continuing the account of the life and exploits of Theodore Roosevelt, and touching on a little-known point of history – how he almost led his country to war with Imperial Germany during his presidency…

Almost a century later (after the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine) , the government of Germany was threatening to seize a large potion of Venezuela. The Germans had valid claims against the Venezuelan government, and the Kaiser was getting no satisfaction. The German emperor’s stated intention was to hold the lands to guarantee what was due. The reality was that Germany, having started late as a major European nation, was feeling the need to have a foreign empire like England, France and even tiny Belgium. They were grabbing or had grabbed areas of Africa and the Pacific islands, and had turned their attention to the Americas.’

Teddy Roosevelt heard about the Kaiser’s intentions and called the German minister in. He stated that if the German emperor did not call off the invasion of Venezuela and accept arbitration, which he would kindly handle, the president would order Admiral Dewey to the Venezuelan coast to prevent any landings. This would be, in effect, a casus belli, a declaration of war between the United States and Germany. Roosevelt gave the Germans ten days to agree.

The minister was said to have been Teutonically outraged and insisted the Kaiser would never accept such a demand. Just to keep the pressure on, seven days later Teddy called the same ambassador in and changed the time limit from three more days to two days. Again the German ambassador sputtered and protested, but passed on the new deadline. With less than twelve hours left before Dewey sailed, the German ambassador appeared at the White House and briefly stated that the Kaiser had agreed to call off the trooops and accept arbitration.

An even less well-known footnote was that, as a likely result, the German General Staff drew up plans for a German invasion of the United States. It called for a landing in New York City and the gradual expansion of the territory held along the east coast. This today seems ludicrous, but at that time the German army was one of the largest and best in the world and the American army was small, badly equipped, trained mostly for fighting the American Indians and reliant on the state militias to fill out its ranks in the event of a major conflict. Had fifty thousand Germans actually landed, there is no question that they could have taken New York City and a number of others. However, the Kaiser’s interests turned elsewhere and the German invasion never went beyond planning…. now lets get back to T.R.

Roosevelt took on J.P. Morgan and his cohorts, and became the greatest “trust buster” in American history, then created the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labour to make sure weaker presidents in the future didn’t give up the ground he’d taken.

America was a regional power when he became president. Then he sent the navy’s “Great White Fleet” around the world on a “goodwill tour”. By the time it returned home, the country was, for the first time, a world power.

Because he never backed down from a fight, a lot of people thought him a warmonger – but he became the first American president to win the Nobel peace prize while still in office when he media end to a war between Japan and Russia.

He created and signed the Pure Food and Drug Act.

He became the first president to leave the United States while in office when he visited Panama to inspect the canal.

Roosevelt remained physically active throughout his life. He may or may not have been the only president to be blind in one eye, but he was the only one to go blind in one eye from injuries received in a boxing match while serving as president. How?

To be continued….

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