I was astonished by two things about President Theodore Roosevelt, whose presidency is covered in Edmund Morris’s new biography ~ his incredible personality and his understanding that corporations need to be controlled, since their tendency to merge into “combinations” or monopolies is inherently undemocratic.
Rotund, jokey, outrageous, bouncy, playful, boundlessly enthusiastic and incorrigibly all over the place – wading around Rock Creek, galloping his horse through city parks in every kind of weather, leaping out of a train to climb into a steam shovel in Panama, exploding out of the White House to participate in a war his sons and neighborhood children have gotten embroiled in, voracious reader of everything from the classics (in the original) to the latest book hot off of the press ~ it’s his love of life and persistent cheerfulness I admire.
He got a tremendous amount done during his two terms ~ expressing his abhorrence of lynching, inviting Booker T. Washington to sit down with him and his family at the White House early in his presidency, fighting for the most efficient route and then building the Panama Canal, seeing to it that food was inspected for purity, and carrying on a militant but effective diplomacy all over the world.
He had no doubts that untrammeled corporate monopoly was an unpatriotic evil, and fought against the mergers through which “Robber Barons” of various railroads, Standard Oil, and banking conglomerates like “Northern Securities” sought to maximize their profit. He considered the trend towards monopolies “a new and dark power” threatening “every prospect in American life.” Like Lincoln and, for that matter, the Founding Fathers, Theodore Roosevelt recognized that “Such combinations in restraint of trade are contrary to the common law since Henry II,” and did everything he could to defend consumers from their prices and smaller businesses from being gobbled up.
Now that’s the kind of Republican Party we could use today!