Theodore Roosevelt’s writing has the same verve, panache, and energy as the life he lived. Perhaps no president in U.S. history–not even Jefferson–had so many opinions and intellectual interests, believed in so many causes, or worked so hard to translate his beliefs into action. A hard-headed idealist, an unabashed interventionist, a crusader on behalf of environmental preservation and against big business “trusts,” he was also a writer of uncommon grace and passion with a gift for the memorable phrase.
His autobiography, one of the two or three finest ever written by a U.S. president, abounds in exciting episodes of personal transformation and insights into the bitter politics of the day. Roosevelt was a sickly youth who steeled himself for a life of vigor, growing up surrounded by wealth in nineteenth-century Manhattan but vacationing in the West, where he rode with cowboys and learned to revere and study the natural world. His book describes his early failures in his political career and his ascent from the New York City police board to assistant secretary of the Navy where he advocated war with Spain, to his brief stint and public renown as a Rough Rider; and on to the governorship of New York, vice presidency under McKinley, and finally the presidency itself.
Elting Morison’s new introduction analyzes what Roosevelt has included-and not included-about his many political conflicts, his role in the acquisition of the Panama Canal, and the deaths of his wife and his mother. As everywhere in his writing, the personality of T.R.-alert, voluble, forceful, compassionate-shines forth from this book, which remains a singular study of a dynamic and, in many respects, exemplary man who was also a key figure in the Age of Reform.