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Thoedore Roosevelt

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Theodore Roosevelt

And the Modern Presidency

I. Early Political Career

Despite ridicule from his educated and respectable friends, Roosevelt entered politics immediately after graduating from Harvard College in 1880. In 1881,Roosevelt showed the strength of his intention by winning election to the New York State Assembly. He gained reelection twice before personal tragedy, On February 14,1884, in a tragic coincidence, Roosevelt's young wife died in childbirth just hours after the death of his beloved mother. Emotionally shattered, Roosevelt left politics and fled New York for the Dakota Territory. In 1886, after a disastrous winter demolished most of his cattle herd, Roosevelt returned east to politics, his first love. For the next 12 years, he held various government positions, from Civil Service Commissioner to Assistant Secretary of the Navy. When the United States went to war against Spain in 1898, Roosevelt resigned and organized a group of volunteers called the Rough Riders. Their successful assault on San Juan Hill in Cuba made Roosevelt a National hero. He rode his new fame to victory in the 1898 race for governor of New York.

II. Roosevelt and McKinley

When President McKinley prepared to run for reelection in 1900, he needed someone to replace Garret Hobart, his first vice president, who had died in 1899.Roosevelt seemed a logical choice. Basically a man of action, Roosevelt considered the vice presidency a do-nothing position leading to political oblivion. The bosses schemed to kick Roosevelt out of New York to serve as McKinley's vice president. After he and McKinley won the election, Roosevelt sadly wrote to a friend, "I do not expect to go any further in politics." Wherever Roosevelt went he became the center of attention. During the late 1800s, the country had been designated by strong Congresses and relatively weak presidents. Roosevelt reversed that traditional division of power. The new president employed the considerable powers of his office and his own personal magnetism to bypass congressional opposition. In doing so, Roosevelt became the first modern president.

III. Managing Natural Resources

In 1902 Roosevelt supported passage of the Newlands Reclamation Act, which authorized the use of federal funds from the sale of public lands to pay for irrigation and land development projects in the dry farms and cities of the West. Under new law, Roosevelt supported the construction of 25irrigation or reclamation projects. Roosevelt also backed efforts to save the nation's forests by preventing shortsighted lumbering companies from overcutting. He appointed close friend Gifford Pinchot to head the U.S. Forest Service. Like President Roosevelt, Pinchot was a firm believer in resource management, the rational scientific management of natural resources such as forests. He added 150 million acres to the national forests, quadrupling the amount of land they contained. Roosevelt also established five new national parks, created 51 federal bird reservations, and started four national game preserves.

IV. Supervising Big Business

Other issues were already on the national agenda when Roosevelt took office. One involved the growth of large trusts, which were giant firms that controlled whole areas of industry by buying up all the companies with which they did business. Buy-outs, takeovers, and mergers reached a feverish pitch between 1897 and 1903. Indeed, by 1899 an elite group of six companies controlled about 95 percent of the railroads in the country. In 1890 Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act, which was designed to prohibit such monopolies, but it had proven hard to enforce. Industrialists simply devised substitute methods of retaining control, for example, the holding company. Holding companies bought controlling shares of stock in the member companies instead of purchasing the companies outright. While the "held" companies remained separate businesses on paper, in reality the holding company controlled them.

a. Battling Monopolies

In 1902 J.P. Morgan, a powerful banker, had joined with a handful of the nation's wealthiest men to finance the Northern Securities Company. This holding company combined the stock of the Union Pacific, Northern Pacific, and Burlington railroads to dominate rail service from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean. Roosevelt, deciding that the company was a monopoly in violation of

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