Source: Theodore Roosevelt, Twenty-Sixth President of the United States
Source type: book
Document type: introduction
Document title: “A Typical American”
Author(s): Read, Opie [introduction]; Banks, Charles Eugene [book]; Armstrong, Le Roy [book]
Publisher: S. Stone
Place of publication: Chicago, Illinois
Year of publication: 1901
|Read, Opie. “A Typical American.” Theodore Roosevelt, Twenty-Sixth President of the United States. By Charles Eugene Banks and Le Roy Armstrong. Chicago: S. Stone, 1901: pp. 25-31.|
|full text of introduction; excerpt of book|
|Theodore Roosevelt; Theodore Roosevelt (public statements).|
|David; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt.|
From title page: Theodore Roosevelt, Twenty-Sixth President of the United States: A Typical American.
From title page: By Charles Eugene Banks and Leroy Armstrong; Introductory Chapters by Gen. Joseph Wheeler and Opie Read.
A Typical American
Roosevelt represents the entire American nation.
He is the first President of the New United States. His antecedents make him
the typical American. He inherited no prejudices. He owes party allegiance to
no political machine. A hero before the election, he is now an inspiration to
every American boy. Though born in New York, the entire country claims him.
His mother was from Georgia, and he himself was a cowboy in the West. One of
his uncles was a commodore in the Confederate navy, and he recently remarked
that more than half of the Rough Riders were the sons of men who fought in the
army of the South. It would be difficult to find a man so “geographically universal.”
For the first time in our history a man of letters is at the head of the Government.
Nearly all of our Presidents have been strong and graceful writers on economic
subjects—some of them have made startling phrases and have dealt in 
periods that would put to shame the literary hack; but Roosevelt is an all-round
literary worker. He is prepared to write anything, on any subject—adventure,
philosophy, international law. His education is thorough; he represents the
college student and the college athlete. He is of the new and the old. While
he reveres the traditions of his grandfather, he recognizes the force of his
brother. With him old things have become new. He is the epitome of David’s strength.
Old things may have been wise for that day, but new things represent our power
this day. If the man who is struggling on the hill-side will only stop to think
of this fact it may be of advantage to him. We revere the past, but tradition
may have hampered us. America, the most progressive of nations, may have been
hampered by tradition.
For their day our forefathers were unquestionably wise. To them the Constitution was a dead-set faith. At that time man’s vision extended only to the limit bordering his lands. Beyond that was dark experiment. Shrinking within the limits of a narrow shell, “hands off” was the nation’s watchword. Broad-minded Jeffersonism did not comprehend the entire  world. It did not gather the spreading force of geography. Isolation was his watchword and the national cry of his successors. “Hands off” they said, and our Congressmen were on that platform elected. Europe smiled, and we contented ourselves with what they condemned as our narrowness.
Years passed, and we had a merciless war. Premiers said, “I told you so.” There was no hope for America. With the hot wax of impulsiveness, she had sealed the letter of her doom. Germany, believing in the failure of all republics, gathered herself into a sardonic laugh. England, though a monarchy—the father, the mother of all modern republics—cried “Long live the queen,” and yet mourned for us. Our war came to an end. In one part of the country there seemed to be chaos. Senators said, “We have failed.” But out of that chaos came order. Up arose leaders of men who declared that secession had been a failure. They joined the Government without having changed their principle of the rights of States. Upon that platform they were elected, and the world of mankind was forced to declare that history had been baffled. The old order of things, the kings and queens,  said they, were sleeping. Soon they will wake up. Rome taught us that such a thing could not be. Ancient Egypt declared its failure. Modern France laughs with us. The French revolution was a failure. Therefore this thing cannot stand. They called it a thing. They had lost sight of immortality. The assassin lifted his weapon as if to prove that monarchy was the only enduring form of government. Presidents sank down to die, but the Government still lived. Office may be ephemeral, but the people are eternal. The crown did not know this. They said that the scepter was God’s word. We have taught the world that this is wrong. The people are immortal. The death of McKinley proved the ever-enduring life of his nation. Before the day of enlightenment such a death would have meant chaos. The education of man means the eternal element of society. Presidents die; the country lives.
But confidence is the essence of prosperity. Without confidence we are unsteady of gaze, fixing cross-eyes upon uncertainty. With confidence we are strong, and Roosevelt gives us strength. They said that he was lacking in dignity and he became the most dignified of men.  They said that he might not be executive, and one word put the nation at rest. They acknowledged that he was brave, but they said that bravery was not wisdom. The bravest were the wisest men of Rome. Bravery, sobered with responsibility, is the most conservative ruler. They did not know this at first but they know it now. Roosevelt is a patriot, and of such is the safe statesman composed. Men who stood closest to him were astonished. He surprised his most intimate friends. They had not taken into account his devoted study of governments. Now they wonder at our short-sightedness. While riding in a carriage toward the McKinley house, Roosevelt pointed to a large building and remarked: “There is the future President for all time.” It was a public school. Some of the men who were with him did not understand this, but some of them did; and one man, a Congressman, reached over and took his hand. To Roosevelt old men came and centered their hope. They felt that American institutions were safe. In him they knew was centered the entire country. At Canton were men of every party. For the first time in the history of the States there was no political creed. America was united  against sorrow—against the world. At the steps of the house of woe the new President spoke words which must appeal to every American. “Boys”—he did not say “gentlemen,” he did not say “fellow citizens,” he said “boys,” for his mind had flown back to a time when he was fighting for his country—“Boys, we must stand together. We have met at the bier of one whom we loved. He was the product of the entire country. We are the product of all the country. He loved us and we loved him. Among you I see men from Texas and men from Maine. Is it not a glory to know that we are all as one? They predicted that this could not be. We have shown them their error. I have one word to pledge you—that we are all of us American citizens. My life and my work belong to you. I am not your ruler but your friend in council. I ask no higher honor than to serve my country. The North and the South have passed away, and we have become as one. These soldiers that you see are but the expressive force of a State—Ohio. They are the sons of the men who followed our dead chieftain to the war. Some of them were on the other side. Let us honor them, for they are representative of our country. Among you occasionally I catch  the glimpse of a countenance which I saw in battle—at a time when we charged up a hill. And to you I would extend my love and my sympathy. The nation has called upon us to do our duty. Let us do it. To public life there is due a sort of compliance. Let us conform; but at the same time let us remember that to you and your bravery is due our greatness to-day.”
The mournful dirge began and the President stood upon the steps. Sorrow en masse had gathered in the street. The President had nothing more to say. He had said enough. He had told us all what was needed. We knew that McKinley was dead; those who stood there in that throng told us that. We knew that our country was living. And that is the reason that those who followed McKinley to the tomb knew that the flag could not be pulled down. We were there to bury a tender sentiment; we were there to shed the tears of a nation—to weep with a devoted wife and mother—but to stand firm with a man who himself stood firm with a nation.
And this book gives the life of that man. Never before has it been written. And to it do I gladly subscribe my name.