Source: A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents
Source type: government document
Document type: essay
Document title: “Roosevelt”
Author(s): Lewis, Alfred Henry
Volume number: 13
Publisher: Bureau of National Literature, Inc.
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: 
|Lewis, Alfred Henry. “Roosevelt.” A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents. Vol. 13. New York: Bureau of National Literature, : pp. 6636C-36D.|
|full text of essay; excerpt of book|
|Theodore Roosevelt (presidential character); Theodore Roosevelt (fitness for office); Roosevelt presidency (accomplishments).|
|Ulysses S. Grant; Andrew Jackson; Thomas Jefferson; Abraham Lincoln; Walter Raleigh; Theodore Roosevelt; George Washington.|
| This book does not provide a publication or copyright year; however,
an internal reference to Roosevelt’s death (1919) as well as references
to the separately published “encyclopedic indexes” suggest the same year
of publication as the indexes themselves (1922).
From title page: With Additions and Encyclopedic Index by Private Enterprise.From title page: Prepared under the Direction of the Joint Committee on Printing, of the House and Senate, Pursuant to an Act of the Fifty-Second Congress of the United States.
There are two kinds who seek a
Presidency. One aims at eminence, the other hungers for fame. With one the White
House is an object; with the other a method. The first, if made President, sits
calmly down; he has had his victory and the White House is his. With him of
the fame-hunger, it is the other way about. Given the White House his great
work begins. He does not think to write his name with the immortals by simply
signing himself “President.” He can only achieve the purpose that has called
him to the field, by labors of lasting good to the whole people. Of our entire
line of Presidents no more than six were of the latter. Six there were who sought
and found their wreaths. The others will live in history whenever and wherever
Presidents are enumerated; not one by his record, however, bequeathed himself
It shone out as a best hope of the hour that Mr. Roosevelt was heart and soul a fame-hunter. The nobility of one’s action is determined by the nobility of one’s aspirations. Mr. Roosevelt did not rest content with being merely a President. He must go down the aisles of coming time a great President, or in his own conscience he would fail. To that end, he set before himself the examples of those mighty ones of time past. The Washingtons, the Jeffersons, the Jacksons, the Lincolns and the Grants were his exemplars. With such to be as guides to him—and because he was true and bold and wise, and no man owned him—it was not strange if he conquered entrance to Valhalla. Moreover, it is good for the public to know and say these things.
If there be any worth-while thing in mere experience, if reading and travel and the study of men be of good avail, Mr. Roosevelt had the making of a great President. Before he went to the White House he was taught how State laws were made as a member of the assembly at Albany, and subsequently took lessons in executing those laws as Governor. He was shown the inner workings of a great city as a Commissioner of Police. As Chief of Civil Service, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Soldier in the field, and Vice-President it was given him to look into every nook and corner of national government. Even as a Deputy Sheriff in the utter West it may safely be assumed that he was learning. Also his travels had been wide, and he knew from practical touch and observation not only Europe, but every phase of American existence. He had wandered East and West and North and South, and ate and drank and talked and slept with the peoples of those regions. He knew what they felt and thought and desired; he could gauge their needs, anticipate their drift of sentiment. [6636C][6636D]
Mr. Roosevelt intended the Panama Canal to be the great work of his regime. With all the power in his hands—and no one has measured the power of a President—he pushed the Panama business to its conclusion. By this or that, he meant to split the Isthmus with that Canal. American ships should translate themselves from one ocean to the other without troubling Cape Horn; upon that marine miracle he stood resolved. And it was likewise current that, as demanded by a long-ago Secretary of State, now dead and under the grass-roots, he was determined that both banks of the Canal should be part of the coast line of this country. Such decision was native to and in keeping with the Roosevelt character, which is American; and its carrying out by no means inconsistent with Roosevelt tastes, which never fail to favor boldness.
The propriety of the Canal, no one American—save the trans-Continental railways—was ever heard to deny. But to the last crowned head of them, every European ruler, and even the elected one of France had been opposed. They believed with Sir Walter Raleigh that he who held the Isthmus of Darien held the keys to the world, and were solicitous that no such lockopener should hang at the girdle of America.
It was well for the world while Mr. Roosevelt abode in Washington. He was not duped abroad or deluded at home. The government was neither a plutocracy nor a mobocracy, but a democracy, while he prevailed. He was the friend of Capital, the friend of Labor, the fool and tool of neither. It was he who said that during his stay the door of the White House should yield as easily to the touch of Labor as to the touch of Capital, but no easier.
During those years of on-coming towards a Presidency, Mr. Roosevelt was not morally or mentally going backward or standing still. He ripened and rounded, and grew in wisdom as he grew in politics. With experience his prudence increased, while his courage was not diminished. Over all and beyond all, towered his indomitable honesty. He is a big man—big for the country, big for mankind. Whole peoples respect him, kings are jealous of his fame. To-day, to that Fate which waits ever at the elbow of time, the nation may say:
“Bring on the Hour; here stands the Man!”