Lion in the White House – Aida Donald

Born in 1858 in NYC. Very wealthy family. Father stressed education. Uncle Robert Barnwell Roosevelt interested in social reform and conservation.

Sickly as a child. Father encouraged him to build up his body, which he did. Became very interested in natural science. Studied insects intensely.

Went to Harvard. Very good student.

Tried law school. Didn’t like it. Dropped out.

Won election as assemblyman in New York state. Worked primarily on civil service reforms. Wife and mother died practically at same time. Had sister raise child. He was an Independent, opposed the Stalwarts.

Started a ranch after wife died. In the Dakotas. He liked the life, became friends for the first time with those from lower classes.

Lost race for NYC governor.

Became a prodigious writer. Authored around twenty books and many articles. The Naval War of 1812 was very popular. The Winning of the West is considered his best.

Became Civil Service Commissioner under Harrison and Cleveland.

Became Police Commissioner of NYC. Would walk around looking for policeman shirking their duties. Hard reporters come along to report on what they found.

Started visiting slums. Perhaps inspired by  journalist Jacob Riis.

Reformed police department. Introduced a test to determine qualififcation. Hired regardless of color.

McKinley appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

Joined the army at start of the Spanish-American war. Formed and bravely lead the Rough Riders in the battle for Santiago. Was put up for a medal of Honor (which he wasn’t awarded until 2001). Cuba, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines were all colonies of Spain, became U.S. territories after war.

Elected governor of New York in 1898.

“There is much less need of genius of any special brilliancy in the administration of our government than there is such homely virtues and qualities as common sense, honesty, and courage.”

See bottom of page 118 for his thoughts on labor unrest.

Favored suffrage for women.

Created Forest Preserve in Catskill mountains.

Coined the phrase “the strenuous life.”

Platt, anxious to be rid of Roosevelt, got him elected for vice president.

Became president in 1901.

Invited Booker Washington to dine with him at the White House. Caused a big thing with the Southerners. One headline: “Our Coon-Flavored President”.

Roosevelt believed in the supremacy of federal power over state.

He took The Northern Securities Corporation to court over violations of the Sherman Act (monopoly). (NS was a railroad run by JP Morgan.) Supreme Court ultimately broke up the company. During his time the Department of Justice went after many big companies.

Preferred “open-shop” over closed-shop unions.

War in the Philippines was on when Roosevelt took over. US army was using torture. Roosevelt ordered an investigation. Roosevelt created the most progressively governed colonial territory ever.gave land back to Philippinos.

Roosevelt corollary.

Panama “revolution”.

Appointed Oliver Wendell Holmes to Supreme Court. He was a progressive, pro-union.

Bear story.

Won reelection very easily.

Roosevelt wanted to forbid corporation gifts to political campaigns. Wanted federal campaign financing. Passed Tillman Act, but it had no enforcement mechanism built-in.

Passed Hepburn Act. Made many enemies doing so.

Introduced many new regulatory laws.

Square deal.

Naturalization Act.

Antiquities Act.

Father of the modern Navy.

Nagotatated the end of the Russo-Prussian war.

Awarded Nobel peace prize.

Barred Chinese from entering the country.

Supported estate tax, workman’s compensation. Safe working conditions, women’s rights in the workplace.


Roosevelt was shot while giving a speech during 1912 campaign (running as Progressive candidate). Continued speech.

Took a trip into Brazilian jungle. Almost died. Lost fifty pounds.