Source: International Socialist Review
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Roosevelt—A Character Sketch”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 2
Issue number: 4
|“Roosevelt—A Character Sketch.” International Socialist Review Oct. 1901 v2n4: pp. 314-15.|
|Theodore Roosevelt (assumption of presidency); Theodore Roosevelt (personal character); Theodore Roosevelt (compared with Abraham Lincoln).|
|Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt.|
Roosevelt—A Character Sketch
Nothing could better illustrate the uselessness of
assassination as a means of accomplishing political changes than the results
of the cowardly murder of President McKinley. Roosevelt has at once declared
his intention of continuing unchanged the policy of his predecessor. The same
cabinet will remain, and it is certain that whatever deviation may follow will
not be in the directions desired by the enemies of the previous administration.
Nothing could more perfectly demonstrate the socialist contention that present
governments are but committees to carry out the will of the ruling economic
class. So long as that economic rule is undisturbed, no change of officials,
administrations, or even forms of government, will have any great effect upon
There can be no denying, however, that the man who now occupies the presidential chair possesses in many ways the strongest individuality of any man who has occupied that chair since the time of Lincoln. Strange as it may seem, Roosevelt is at once the counterpart and the antithesis of the great liberator of the slaves. Lincoln was the finest flower of competition. He was the greatest example of the self-made man known to history. He was the true child of the American frontier, where more than anywhere else since man rose from savagery “all men have been created equal.” He was the best product of the poverty of the broad prairie, the trackless forest and the open sky,—the poverty that really ennobles, strengthens and develops, even though it does so by the crude and cruel process of “eliminating the unfit.”
In the same way Roosevelt represents the best that fully developed monopolistic capitalism can produce. A child of wealth, he had and used from his earliest days the best that capitalism could give. Physically and mentally he received all that control over the labor of wage-slaves could give. The result is worthy of examination. Both Roosevelt and Lincoln presented remarkable physical characteristics. But one was the sinewey strength of honest toil; the other the carefully trained muscles of the gymnasium athlete. One had the quiet courage that comes from continuous combat with Nature in an effort  to subdue her to the service of man. The other has the ferocious bravado of the prize-fighter, who fights for the love of battle. The one was forced by the demands of his surroundings to extraordinary exertions. The other preaches the “strenuous life” as a theoretical duty. Intellectually Lincoln was the pupil of the forest, the stream, the prairie and his fellow men, and from them gained the broad yet keen knowledge of men and things for which the world now knows him best. Roosevelt is the intellectual child of the university and the library, with their classified and encyclopedic, but artificial and secondhand knowledge. To repeat,—one is the climax of all that is good in competition; the other is the synthesis of the best in monopolistic plutocracy. Both, while men of commanding ability, leave something to be desired.
It is not without significance that these two men appeared at the time they did. With the completion of the period of Reconstruction, that really closed the Civil War, the competitive stage in American society reached its height and began to merge into monopoly. With the coming of Roosevelt there is every reason to believe that the monopolistic stage has reached its height, and must soon give way to the era of co-operation. We may rest assured that during the seven years of the reign of Roosevelt (for only a miracle can prevent his election in 1904) all the powers of government will be used in the interest of concentrated wealth. Just because Roosevelt is the incarnation of the spirit of plutocracy will it appear that he is consciously directing social machinery according to his individual ideas. For the very reason that he is so perfectly adapted to the purposes of capitalism it will appear as if he were formulating and directing instead of merely reflecting those purposes.