Theodore Roosevelt was sworn into the presidency following the assassination of President William McKinley in September 1901. President Roosevelt is pinned with the start of the Progressive Era. The Roosevelt Administration focused on progressive reforms, such as big business regulations, foreign policy, environmental conservation efforts, and improving conditions for the people of the nation.
During his presidency, Roosevelt did experience some backlash from critics for various decisions he made and the nature in which he carried himself as president. However, Roosevelt has been applauded for many of his decisions while in office. This debate brings the question of was Theodore Roosevelt a good president?
Theodore Roosevelt was a rather aggressive president in terms of wanting to get things done, often without referring to Congress for various decisions. Varying political views also play into how Roosevelt was viewed. As with any presidency, there was criticism toward some of his decisions.
However, Roosevelt’s progressive views and attitude led to tremendous accomplishments. He attacked major issues that impacted the welfare of citizens and the environment, as well as the creation of stronger foreign policies to support foreign relationships. Altogether, Theodore Roosevelt was a good president who tackled some of the issues America faced at the time.
Theodore Roosevelt’s Life Before Presidency
Theodore Roosevelt was born in Manhattan, New York into a wealthy family in 1858. He was homeschooled until the age of 17 when he was admitted to Harvard University. While attending Harvard, Roosevelt studied a variety of subjects, including zoology, natural history, German, and forensics. Roosevelt always had a love for reading and was very studious.
Roosevelt faced hardship in his mid-20s when his wife of four years, Alice, and mother died on the same day. He remarried two years later and returned to New York in 1886 after a trip to the Dakota Badlands to grieve. For the next 10 years, Roosevelt wrote several books, mostly pertaining to history and biographies. He served as Commissioner of the U.S. Civil Service Commission from 1889 to 1895 until he became President of the New York City Police Board.
In 1897, Roosevelt was an assistant secretary for the Navy for a short period of time before becoming Commander of the Rough Riders, which was a voluntary cavalry involved in the success of ending the Spanish-American War. The following year, Roosevelt was elected as governor of New York, but was quickly pushed out by his own party members. His time as governor ended when he was encouraged to run as Vice President under William McKinley in 1900.
Theodore Roosevelt Becomes President
President McKinley served one term prior to his re-election. Just six months after he was sworn into office for his second term, McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz at the Pan-American Exposition. President Theodore Roosevelt was sworn into office the same day on September 14, 1901.
Theodore Roosevelt was only 42 years old when he took office, setting the record for the youngest president in history. Roosevelt ran for a second term in 1904 and won against Democratic Party nominee Alton B. Parker.
Roosevelt decided to take a step back as president after his second full term and did not run again until 1912. William Howard Taft succeeded Roosevelt in office after winning the 1908 Presidential Election. Roosevelt was originally supportive of Taft, but soon grew critical of some of his views and ideas that didn’t agree with progressive reform.
Roosevelt decided to run in the 1912 Presidential Election under the Progressive Party against Taft and Woodrow Wilson. The party was commonly referred to as the “Bull Moose” Party, which reflected Roosevelt’s relatively strong demeanor and admiration for nature. Woodrow Wilson won, with Roosevelt coming in second.
Key Accomplishments of President Theodore Roosevelt
On a broader spectrum, Theodore Roosevelt established numerous ideas for reform that would pave the way for future presidencies. He firmly believed that the government should be more involved with domestic and foreign affairs and that as president, he had the right to expend what resources were available to him. Some of Roosevelt’s most notable accomplishments while in office included:
- Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the Russo-Japanese conflict
- Hay-Buneau-Varilla Treaty
- American Antiquities Act of 1906
- Order of the Great White Fleet
- Established 150 national forests, 18 national monuments, and 5 national parks
- Creation of the first federal bird reservation, along with 50 others
Signing the Hay-Buneau-Varilla Treaty was the first step in Roosevelt’s plan to build the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal is one of Roosevelt’s most notable accomplishments because it greatly limited the time it took for cargo ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.
In 1906, Roosevelt was the first president to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in mediating the conflict of the Russo-Japanese War. His efforts ultimately ended the war in 1905 after the Portsmouth Treaty was signed by both parties. The treaty also benefited the U.S. in maintaining foreign relations with the Far East.
The American Antiquities Act of 1906 was implemented by President Roosevelt, which gave the president authority over the declaration of historically and scientifically significant land and structures. Once approved, Roosevelt jumped on the opportunity to use this power to preserve over 200 million acres of land for conservation, including national parks, forests, and monuments.
In 1907, Roosevelt ordered the Great White Fleet voyage, which consisted of 16 battleships that traveled the seas across the globe. The voyage was an effort to establish positive foreign relations and make the U.S. Navy known as a global presence. Some critics viewed this as unnecessary and a highly aggressive act as the fleet paraded across the ocean. However, it is one of Roosevelt’s most known accomplishments and was considered a huge success.
Was Theodore Roosevelt Well-Liked?
Since Roosevelt was president at the start of the Progressive Era, much of the criticism revolving around his administration dealt with these new approaches and ideas that came with the era. He was often described as a modern president who implemented rather bold ideas of his time.
One of the biggest reasons that President Roosevelt can be seen as a bad president was his view on race. Roosevelt was fairly open about his opposition to civil rights. The beginning of the 20th century was especially difficult for Black people, as Jim Crow laws were beginning to appear after slavery was abolished in 1865. Those who supported civil rights were rightfully angry to see a president openly support white supremacy.
Those who supported capitalism and monopolistic business ventures also disliked Roosevelt. Even though Roosevelt didn’t want to fully get rid of monopolies, he did want the federal government to be more involved in supervising and regulating certain aspects of big businesses. He was also viewed negatively for his aggressive attitude toward foreign policy.
Despite these negative insights, Roosevelt was unbothered by any backlash he received. He gained the attention and support of progressives who wanted to see change that worked to improve the well-being of the people. Environmental advocates were especially fans of Roosevelt because of his work in conservation. Many people also viewed him as a war hero from his days as a Rough Rider in the Spanish-American War.
How the Roosevelt Administration Impacted the Nation
Theodore Roosevelt created a progressive foundation for President Taft and Wilson to follow. Although Taft was slightly more conservative than Roosevelt, he adopted some progressive reforms that were staples of the Roosevelt administration.
The nation was suffering from the aftermath of the first Industrial Revolution, while in the midst of the second. Due to the poor working and living conditions, people were living in squalor. Roosevelt implemented various reform policies and laws to tackle these welfare issues. Some of these policies and laws included:
- Creation of the Department of Commerce and Labor
- Elkins Act of 1903
- Hepburn Act of 1906
- Meat Inspection Act
- Pure Food and Drug Act
The Department of Commerce and Labor was created by the Roosevelt Administration in 1903 to conduct investigations on business pratices and labor issues, as well as the assurance of fair trade. Much of Roosevelt’s focus while in office concentrated on workers reform and regulating big businesses.
Theodore Roosevelt’s heavy emphasis on conservation greatly influenced the way future administrations would see the importance of the environment. Through his creation of national parks, monuments, and wildlife reserves, Roosevelt left a stamp on the nation as an outdoor enthusiast who had a deep administration for nature and its preservation.
Overview: Was Theodore Roosevelt a Good President?
Theodore Roosevelt is arguably one of the most interesting presidents to ever take office. He was deemed a war hero after commanding the Rough Riders into winning the Spanish-American War. He made exhaustive efforts to establish foreign relations, regulate big business, and tackle domestic welfare issues. Overall, Roosevelt took advantage of his presidential resources to make an impact while in office.
Despite his opposition to civil rights and various criticisms in relation to his aggressive approach as president, Roosevelt made an effort to make a difference as a progressive, modern-thinking leader. With that said, Theodore Roosevelt was a good president that helped push for more reform to better the welfare of the nation as a whole.
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