Theodore Roosevelt: an Autobiography, Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt: an Autobiography
Theodore Roosevelt
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Theodore Roosevelt Jr., often referred to as Teddy or his initials T. R., was an American politician, statesman, conservationist, naturalist, historian, and writer who served as the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909. He previously served as the 25th vice president under William McKinley from March to September 1901, and as the 33rd governor of New York from 1899 to 1900. Having assumed the presidency after McKinley's assassination, Roosevelt emerged as a leader of the Republican Party and became a driving force for anti-trust and Progressive policies. This book is a 1920 edition of his autobiography, first published in 1913.

Theodore Roosevelt:
an Autobiography

Theodore Roosevelt


Naturally, there are chapters of my autobiography which cannot now bewritten.

It seems to me that, for the nation as for the individual, what is mostimportant is to insist on the vital need of combining certain sets ofqualities, which separately are common enough, and, alas, useless enough.Practical efficiency is common, and lofty idealism not uncommon; it is thecombination which is necessary, and the combination is rare. Love of peaceis common among weak, short-sighted, timid, and lazy persons; and on theother hand courage is found among many men of evil temper and badcharacter. Neither quality shall by itself avail. Justice among thenations of mankind, and the uplifting of humanity, can be brought aboutonly by those strong and daring men who with wisdom love peace, but wholove righteousness more than peace. Facing the immense complexity ofmodern social and industrial conditions, there is need to use freely andunhesitatingly the collective power of all of us; and yet no exercise ofcollective power will ever avail if the average individual does not keephis or her sense of personal duty, initiative, and responsibility. Thereis need to develop all the virtues that have the state for their sphere ofaction; but these virtues are as dust in a windy street unless back ofthem lie the strong and tender virtues of a family life based on the loveof the one man for the one woman and on their joyous and fearlessacceptance of their common obligation to the children that are theirs.There must be the keenest sense of duty, and with it must go the joy ofliving; there must be shame at the thought of shirking the hard work ofthe world, and at the same time delight in the many-sided beauty of life.With soul of flame and temper of steel we must act as our coolest judgmentbids us. We must exercise the largest charity towards the wrong-doer thatis compatible with relentless war against the wrong-doing. We must be justto others, generous to others, and yet we must realize that it is ashameful and a wicked thing not to withstand oppression with high heartand ready hand. With gentleness and tenderness there must go dauntlessbravery and grim acceptance of labor and hardship and peril. All for each,and each for all, is a good motto; but only on condition that each workswith might and main to so maintain himself as not to be a burden toothers.

We of the great modern democracies must strive unceasingly to make ourseveral countries lands in which a poor man who works hard can livecomfortably and honestly, and in which a rich man cannot live dishonestlynor in slothful avoidance of duty; and yet we must judge rich man and poorman alike by a standard which rests on conduct and not on caste, and wemust frown with the same stern severity on the mean and vicious envy whichhates and would plunder a man because he is well off and on the brutal andselfish arrogance which looks down on and exploits the man with whom lifehas gone hard.


SAGAMORE HILL, October 1, 1913.

Chapter I
Boyhood and Youth

My grandfather on my father’s side was of almost purely Dutch blood. Whenhe was young he still spoke some Dutch, and Dutch was last used in theservices of the Dutch Reformed Church in New York while he was a smallboy.

About 1644 his ancestor Klaes Martensen van Roosevelt came to NewAmsterdam as a “settler” — the euphemistic name for an immigrant whocame over in the steerage of a sailing ship in the seventeenth centuryinstead of the steerage of a steamer in the nineteenth century. From thattime for the next seven generations from father to son every one of us wasborn on Manhattan Island.

My father’s paternal ancestors were of Holland stock; except that therewas one named Waldron, a wheelwright, who was one of the Pilgrims whoremained in Holland when the others came over to found Massachusetts, andwho then accompanied the Dutch adventurers to New Amsterdam. My father’smother was a Pennsylvanian. Her forebears had come to Pennsylvania withWilliam Penn, some in the same ship with him; they were of the usual typeof the immigration of that particular place and time. They included Welshand English Quakers, an Irishman, — with a Celtic name, and apparentlynot a Quaker, — and peace-loving Germans, who were among the foundersof Germantown, having been driven from their Rhineland homes when thearmies of Louis the Fourteenth ravaged the Palatinate; and, in addition,representatives of a by-no-means altogether peaceful people, the ScotchIrish, who came to Pennsylvania a little later, early in the eighteenthcentury. My grandmother was a woman of singular sweetness and strength,the keystone of the arch in her relations with her husband and sons.Although she was not herself Dutch, it was she who taught me the onlyDutch I ever knew, a baby song of which the first line ran, “Trippe troppatronjes.” I always remembered this, and when I was in East Africa itproved a bond of union between me and the Boer settlers, not a few of whomknew it, although at first they always had difficulty in understanding mypronunciation — at which I do not wonder. It was interesting to meetthese men whose ancestors had gone to the Cape about the time that minewent to America two centuries and a half previously, and to find that thedescendants of the two streams of emigrants still crooned to theirchildren some at least of the same nursery songs.

Of my great-grandfather Roosevelt and his family life a century and overago I know little beyond what is implied in some of his books that havecome down to me — the Letters of Junius, a biography of John PaulJones, Chief Justice Marshall’s “Life of Washington.” They seem toindicate that his library was less interesting than that of my wife’sgreat-grandfather at the same time, which certainly included such volumesas the original Edinburgh Review, for we have them now on our ownbook-shelves. Of my grandfather Roosevelt my most vivid childishreminiscence is not something I saw, but a tale that was told meconcerning him. In his boyhood Sunday was as dismal a day for smallCalvinistic children of Dutch descent as if they had been of Puritan orScotch Covenanting or French Huguenot descent — and I speak as oneproud of his Holland, Huguenot, and Covenanting ancestors, and proud thatthe blood of that stark Puritan divine Jonathan Edwards flows in the veinsof his children. One summer afternoon, after listening to an unusuallylong Dutch Reformed sermon for the second time that day, my grandfather, asmall boy, running home before the congregation had dispersed, ran into aparty of pigs, which then wandered free in New York’s streets. He promptlymounted a big boar, which no less promptly bolted and carried him at fullspeed through the midst of the outraged congregation.

By the way, one of the Roosevelt documents which came down to meillustrates the change that has come over certain aspects of public lifesince the time which pessimists term “the earlier and better days of theRepublic.” Old Isaac Roosevelt was a member of an Auditing Committee whichshortly after the close of the Revolution approved the following bill:

Think of the Governor of New York now submitting such a bill for such anentertainment of the French Ambassador and the President of the UnitedStates! Falstaff’s views of the proper proportion between sack and breadare borne out by the proportion between the number of bowls of punch andbottles of port, Madeira, and beer consumed, and the “coffee for eightgentlemen” — apparently the only ones who lasted through to that stageof the dinner. Especially admirable is the nonchalant manner in which,obviously as a result of the drinking of said bottles of wine and bowls ofpunch, it is recorded that eight cut-glass decanters and sixtywine-glasses were broken.

During the Revolution some of my forefathers, North and South, servedrespectably, but without distinction, in the army, and others renderedsimilar service in the Continental Congress or in various locallegislatures. By that time those who dwelt in the North were for the mostpart merchants, and those who dwelt in the South, planters.

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