Theodore Rex / Edmund Roosevelt

Theodore Rex, the sequel to The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, opens with the new President traveling by train to take the oath of office in Buffalo. The year is 1900 and President McKinley had died just the day before, after being wounded in an assassination attempt. In the book’s opening chapter, Morris introduces the major issues Roosevelt would tackle during his presidency—military preparedness to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, regulation of industrial monopolies, conserving the country’s wilderness areas, labor relations, immigration, and improving conditions for African Americans. At 42 years old, to this day he remains the youngest man to become President. From the moment he took the oath, Roosevelt confidently assumed the reins of power. Not only did he quickly win the affection of the American people, he proved to be a master in manipulating Congress to pass his legislative agenda. His accomplishments while in office were numerous, with lasting implications. He strengthened the Navy, spearheaded the building of the Panama Canal, negotiated peace between Russia and Japan and was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, and introduced regulations to curtail corporate power and government corruption. But the eighteen national monuments and five national parks he created are by far his most important contribution to the nation. His one notable failure was in improving race relations; lynching of African Americans remained a common practice during his Administration. During his seven and a half years in office, Roosevelt seemed to be a whirling dervish, crisscrossing the nation numerous times and always seeking new ways to remain physically active. When not dealing with national affairs, he climbed mountains, hunted in the wilderness, swam nude in the Potomac, and played tennis every chance he got. Morris does a marvelous job of capturing the physical presence of Theodore Roosevelt and his boundless energy. The writing is concise, rich in detail, and always entertaining. He also shows how the President was sorely tempted to run for another term in 1908. After all, Roosevelt was just fifty years old and still in his prime. Yet, wisely, he chose to leave politics behind. At least that is what he hoped when he decided not to run for reelection, although by this time it is obvious that the lure of power had become an intoxicant he craved. This sequel proved to be just as well researched and fascinating as the first in the series. I’m eager to dive into the third book that chronicles the remaining days of Roosevelt’s life.

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