Steven Peterson's Reviews > Colonel Roosevelt

Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
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Dec 04, 10

A wonderful conclusion to Edmund Morris' trilogy, the biography of Theodore Roosevelt. Here he is, warts and all (and there are surely warts to be seen).

The work starts off after TR has left the White House to become "citizen Roosevelt." We see him leaving for an African tour, replete with many animal trophies from his hunting prowess. He made a tour of Europe, in which he was hailed by national leaders of all stripes--from monarchs to democratically elected officials. The visits from one country to another were a great event in the Old World, with TR being lionized. Some of his speeches ruffled feathers, as he was not always diplomatic. But that seemed itself to energize responses to him. One chapter, indeed, is entitled "The Most Famous Man in the World."

Upon his return to the United States, we learn of the slow dissolution of his relationship with then President William Howard Taft. The two were simply very different people, with distinct temperaments, energy levels, and policy views. What was a rift became a chasm, and the book tells the story well of how Roosevelt and Taft went from somewhat friendly to political enemies, culminating in TR's quixotic bid to win the Republican nomination in 1912. Roosevelt felt that Taft had betrayed key principles of progressivism and sought to wrest party control away from Taft and his allies. The political turbulence described in the book also includes Roosevelt's effort to reform the New York state Republican policy; he ended up bruised and defeated. The point? Roosevelt had a hard time getting politics out of his blood.

After his failure to win the Republican nomination, of course, he rapidly (and it appears nearly miraculous that he did it with the help of key supporters) created a "third party" and ran as what came to be called the "Bull Moose party." He understood that he was unlikely to win, but felt that the effort was necessary for the political system. The end result? Woodrow Wilson became the first Democratic president since Grover Cleveland's second term.

The book continues with the post-election life of Roosevelt. He was proud that his sons joined the military in World War I, and experienced tragedy as a result. Then, the book concludes with his precipitous physical decline, stunning for one so physical and his death at sixty--the age at which he had predicted his own death so many years before.

Morris, as a biographer, can be idiosyncratic. He is capable of being very judgmental (note his negativity toward Taft). However, this work is extremely well done and concludes most successfully his mammoth biographical project.
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message 1: by Jim (new)

Jim I loved his "Rise of..." but "Rex" bored me, my uncle & cousin badly. None of us could get into it. I hadn't realized he'd written this 3d one. I tried "Dutch", but found Morris put way too much of himself into it, so I never finished it, either.

Steven Peterson I never read "Dutch," but I heard a lot of negativity about it.

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