by Edward Harris
Editor's note: The entry below is the second in a continuing series on Theodore Roosevelt. It is recommended that visitors read part one before proceeding to part two. Part one delves into the early birth of the Teddy Roosevelt brand, whereas this entry begins to approach Roosevelt the president—the man with bully pulpit.
Therefore, submitted for your approval…
|Thomas Nast impression of TR - 1889
Part Two of Three: Thomas Nast was one of the nation's first image-makers and helped transform Roosevelt's cowboy image into the nation's political culture. In a cartoon of 1889, the first year Roosevelt served as the U.S. civil service commissioner in Benjamin Harrison's administration, Nast blended Roosevelt's Wild West bronco busting with current notions of progressive reform. In this remarkably predictive portrayal, Nast successfully projected a youthful and determined cowboy at "Uncle Sam's Ranch," to one who disciplines the out-of-control "Spoils man" with "Civil Service Reform." During the following six years, Roosevelt gained national attention by removing thousands of jobs from political patronage, thus making civil service reform a popular cause. This move surprised the Republican Party machine and provoked the unenthusiastic Harrison to remark that Roosevelt “wanted to put an end to all the evil in the world between sunrise and sunset.”
By the time of the Cuban campaign, Roosevelt's Rough Rider performance completed his evolution from an Easterner to a hardened, purposeful cowboy-cavalry hero. He actually spent time in San Antonio recruiting cowboys in the bar at the Menger Hotel to accompany him on his adventure to Cuba and fight the Spaniards. The Menger is one of Texas’ historic hotels and located next door to the Alamo. The purpose of the campaign was a response to the sinking of the USS Maine, presumed to have been act of war perpetrated by Spanish loyalists in Cuba. At the time, Cuba was fighting for independence from Spain. America drew parallels in its view of Cuba and Spain with America and England. So the incident with the Maine sparked the flash fire that became the Spanish-American War.
|Colonel Roosevelt 1898
In this 1898 photo, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt of the Rough Riders prepares to embark for Cuba. Roosevelt as a Rough Rider presents himself as a solid and muscular, mature, battle-ready horseman, ready to charge up San Juan hill and ride confidently into the nation's political consciousness. Nast had successfully remade the youthful Roosevelt, slim, decorated, and slightly built body of the studio photos into a battle-hardened man of action worthy of national acclaim.
Perhaps Roosevelt is most remembered for the words he pinned in a letter to Henry L. Sprague, on January 26, 1900, he wrote, "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." This statement, which became a slogan, goes a long way in further defining the man and his brand. This proved true during the Boxer rebellion when the marines were sent to rescue missionaries who found themselves in the middle of a civil war in China. The notion being expressed here in this slogan is the opposite of the tactics employed by every contemporary schoolteacher—who begin stern and tough and, when discipline allows, it becomes more easy-going. The 'speak softly...' doctrine was to begin gently, but hold a decisive weapon in reserve. Roosevelt claimed the phrase was of West African origin, but this cannot be corroborated. It is entirely possible that he coined the phrase himself.
|Roosevelt with his Rough Riders - Cuba 1899
After serving as governor of New York and McKinley's vice president, Roosevelt became president September 14, 1901 following President McKinley’s assassination. He was 42 years old and remains to this day the youngest person to hold this office. Punch Magazine commemorated the ascent of the nation's favorite cowboy to the highest office. Sending its "best wishes," the magazine pictured the Rough Rider, complete with an American flag saddle blanket, reporting for duty as president of the United States.
By this time, the entire nation knew of Roosevelt’s youthful bodybuilding to overcome frailty, his cowboy and hunting exploits in the Dakotas, his pugnacious style in New York politics, and his bravery under fire in the war against Spain.
Roosevelt's own tireless self-promotion was supported by national magazines and newspapers which faithfully recorded his every move. A million Teddy bears were for sale in New York City alone. This came about following a hunting trip to Mississippi at the invitation of Governor Andrew H. Longino. After three days of hunting, other members of the hunting party had spotted bears, but not Roosevelt.
To avoid failure, the hunting guides tracked down an old black bear that the dogs had trailed and attacked. The guides intentionally tied the bear to a tree and later lead the President to the bear so he would have his trophy. It is said TR took one look at the old bear and refused to shoot it. He did, however, recognize that the bear was injured and suffering and ordered the bear put down to end its suffering. Word of this was soon reported by every major newspaper in America.
Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman picked up on the story, drawing a cartoon depicting how TR refused to shoot the bear while hunting in Mississippi.
Young boys began strengthening regimens, and grown men reveled in what the New York Tribune in 1907 called Roosevelt's "opulent efficiency of mind and body." By then well into his second term, the five-foot-eight Roosevelt weighed over two hundred pounds. He was a "strong, tough man; hard to hurt and harder to stop," remarked his heavyweight sparring partner, a professional boxer who came regularly to the White House for workouts. "His large frame and thick neck gave the impression of a big man," his cousin Nicholas Roosevelt observed, and "his chest was powerful and well developed." General Arthur MacArthur remarked to Roosevelt how pleased he was that at last the nation had a president who could review troops on horseback.
TR, President & Conservationist - After exploring the badlands, TR decided he would venture further west and explore lands that are now known as Yellowstone. Although Yellowstone had become a national park under Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency little had been done to bring the park to the forefront of America’s consciousness. For the west, Roosevelt was its best promoter. His most important legislation as president was in the areas of conservation.
At the urging of Gifford Pinchot, a college-trained forester who argued that the natural resources of the West required scientific management to prevent their depletion by private developers, Roosevelt seized on the 1891 Forest Reserves Act, which empowered the president to set aside public lands as national forests, and used it to increase federal land reserves from approximately 40 million acres when he took office to nearly 200 million acres by the end of his second term.
In 1905, Roosevelt gave Pinchot responsibility for administering this vast domain as head of the newly organized U.S. Forest Service, and ushered in the modern era of western land management, which aims at sustained efficient use of natural resources rather than exploitation and development. Under Pinchot and his successors, much of the West came under bureaucratic control, with local communities and business interests subject to federal regulation in their use of the resources surrounding them.
Roosevelt initiated similar sweeping change in the West with his support of the National Reclamation Act (or Newlands Act) of 1902, which gave the federal government primary responsibility for dam construction and irrigation projects. A new federal agency, the Reclamation Service, brought scientific expertise and bureaucratic administration to this task, and by 1906 there were water projects underway in all the western states, establishing federal control of the use of this vital resource as well.
Roosevelt also extended federal control over the scenic wonders of the West, using the 1906 Antiquities Act, which had been intended to preserve historic landmarks, to set aside 800,000 acres in Arizona as the Grand Canyon National Monument. All told, he created 16 national monuments, 51 wildlife refuges and five new National Parks, including Crater Lake in Oregon and the Anasazi ruins at Mesa Verde, Colorado. He helped pave the way for eventual recognition of such "national treasures" as natural resources requiring federal management to sustain their use by the west's growing tourist industry into the future.
TR, President & Arbitrator - Aside from his conservation programs, Roosevelt's most significant influence on the history of the west came as a result of his efforts to strengthen American interests in East Asia. He recognized the Pacific as a potential avenue for U.S. trade and sought political stability in the region through improved relations with Japan. In 1905, he negotiated a settlement of the Russo-Japanese War, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, and in 1907, he worked out what was called a "Gentleman's Agreement" with Japan when he forced San Francisco to end its segregation of Japanese schoolchildren in exchange for a curb on the emigration of Japanese laborers to the United States.
Earlier, in 1905, Roosevelt had used gunboat diplomacy to resolve a similar situation with China, forcing the government there to end a trade boycott protesting the U.S. exclusion of Chinese workers. Both actions showed Roosevelt's sympathy with the longstanding racial prejudices of the West, but underscored as well his conviction that the future of the west lay in the Far East.
TR, President & Statesman – Often considered the first modern President. He significantly expanded the influence and power of the executive office. From 1865 to the beginning of the 1900’s, the power in the national government resided in the U.S. Congress. For the last twenty years of the 1800’s, the executive branch gradually increased its power. Roosevelt recognized this trend, and believing that the President had the right to use all powers except those that were specifically denied him to accomplish his goals seized this opportunity. As a result, the President, rather than Congress or, the political parties, became the center of the American political arena.
As President, Roosevelt challenged the ideas of limited government and individualism. He advocated government regulation to achieve social and economic justice. He used executive orders to accomplish his goals, especially in conservation, and waged an aggressive foreign policy. He was also an extremely popular President and the first to use the media to appeal directly to the people, bypassing the political parties and career politicians. As President, Roosevelt worked to ensure that the government improved the lives of American citizens. His "Square Deal" domestic program reflected the progressive call to reform the American workplace, initiating welfare legislation and government regulation of industry. Indeed, this became a foundation of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, following the great Depression.
TR was also the nation's first environmentalist President, setting aside nearly 200 million acres for national forests, reserves, and wildlife refuges. In foreign policy, Roosevelt wanted to make the United States a global power by increasing its influence worldwide. He led the effort to secure rights to build the Panama Canal, one of the greatest engineering feats at that time. He also issued his "corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine, which established the United States as the "policeman" of the Western Hemisphere. In addition, he used his position as President to help negotiate peace agreements between belligerent nations, believing that the world should settle international disputes through diplomacy rather than war.
Next Post: TR the President was so impactful to the Union that his bust joins the Founding Fathers on Mount Rushmore. It was during his watch that the foundations set for an America that would come after World War II. But Roosevelt did not stop after being president. Unlike others, he did not fade into the backroom of the American public psyche. His brand continued to feed a hungry American expectation.
About Edward Harris - Harris leads an award wining agency and has long been recognized as one of the top marketing leaders in Houston, and for clients nationally and internationally. His B2B branding and marketing expertise has helped many of the major oil companies. as well as vendors who serve the oil & gas industry. Harris is considered one of the original forward thinkers, developing tailored processes that has lead his clients to great success. Read more about Harris in Knights of the Round Table.