Edmund Morris wrote three books about the twenty-sixth (or twenty-fifth if you don’t count Cleveland twice) President of the United States. The best known is Theodore Rex, which chronicles Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. Colonel Roosevelt reveals his later years, including his failed bid for a third term in office.
But his first volume is The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, and in it, we discover where this, possibly the toughest and most robust man to occupy the Oval Office came from. Roosevelt’s reputation as a big game hunter, soldier, and embodiment of “the strenuous life” are legendary. Equally legendary are his mind and his ego. All three are the result of a sickly childhood that young “Teedy” decided would no longer define him.
The son of a prominent New York City businessman, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., suffered from near-sightedness, asthma, and “chlorea morbus” (or, nervous diarrhea). He nearly died in infancy and as a toddler. Unable to be active as a young child, the young TR took to books and read them voraciously. As a result, he reached adolescence largely self-educated, not unlike Abraham Lincoln before him. As he grew older, he began to become more active as a way to combat the ailments that plagued him. By the time he attended Harvard University, he had already become an accomplished hunter and naturalist, both of which would become life-long passions. Near the end of his term as a student, he took seriously ill. A doctor advised him to slow down and avoid stress as strenuous activity would kill him in a year. He decided he would prefer to die fighting than live bed-ridden. But he also gave himself only sixty years to live. (Rather prophetic as he was as he died at age 60.) The combination of intelligence and belief his time was limited resulted in a force of nature that could not be denied.
When a man believes he has little time to accomplish all he intends, he will do everything in his power to accomplish it all in the time he has. At age 22, with his first session in the New York State Assembly, Roosevelt would not be denied, demanding to be heard and often pushing his way into leadership positions. He soon became an ardent reformer
I listened to The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt on audio. The reader does a good job conveying Roosevelt’s distinctive voice and delivery style.Even though recording was in its infancy during Roosevelt’s lifetime, that voice still will not be denied. Over a short period of time, he rose in his own party (a Republican Party unrecognizable from today’s) to its leadership, owned a somewhat successful ranch in the Dakota Territory, wrote several well-regarded books, and made reform the primary cause throughout the rest of his life. Roosevelt can be accused of many things. He was shamelessly egotistical, a devoted hawk, and an imperialist, but one adjective that could never describe him was corrupt. Theodore Roosevelt was, quite possibly, the least corrupt man to ever sit in the Oval Office, less corrupt than even some more highly regarded presidents.