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Theodore Roosevelt: On Clio’s Active Service

ISSUE:  Winter 1986

The most casual visitor to Sagamore Hill, Theodore Roosevelt’s home at Oyster Bay, cannot fail to grasp two of the owner’s greatest interests. The most immediately striking impression of the interior of the house comes from the plethora of animal trophies—mounted heads, antlers, tusks, stuffed birds and small game, and elephant’s feet made into footstools. Even someone who knows nothing about Theodore Roosevelt can see that he was an enthusiastic outdoorsman and an avid hunter. The next most striking impression is made by the books. Sagamore Hill is a house full of books. The library is one of the largest rooms, and a casual glance at the volumes, which come in all sizes and shapes and many of which show signs of repeated use, reveals that these are not decorative sets or collectors’ editions. Other bookcases filled with similar hodgepodges of well-worn volumes in several languages and on a galaxy of subjects abound in nearly every room of the house. Even an ignorant visitor can see that Roosevelt was a lover and a reader of books. Curiously, few mementos serve to recall that the owner of the house was also a state legislator and governor, military officer, federal appointee, and vice president and president of the United States.

The appearances are not really deceiving. Sagamore Hill was not just a refuge for Roosevelt. His private pursuits also profoundly shaped his public performance. More than any other president who was primarily a professional politician, Roosevelt enjoyed a rich and varied life apart from affairs of state. The hunting trophies bear witness to his love of nature and zest for physical challenge, which had important effects on such public concerns of his as conservation of natural resources, military preparedness, and health and safety in the workplace. Roosevelt’s outdoor interests had an intellectual side, too. Never what he scorned as a “game butcher,” he hunted as an outgrowth of the passion for animal life and the natural environment that persisted throughout his adult years. A large number of the books at Sagamore Hill treat biological and other scientific subjects. Roosevelt’s original ambition as a boy and young man had been to become a biologist, specifically a faunal naturalist. Although he abandoned that ambition during his sophomore year at Harvard, he never lost the thirst for scientific knowledge which later made him the most scientifically literate president and greatest patron of science in the White House since Thomas Jefferson.

A further glance at the section of the library devoted to the many volumes published under Roosevelt’s name reveals more about his interests. Of his own books, only the collections of speeches and state papers outnumber the works of history. All other interests, even science and nature, took a back seat to Roosevelt’s ardor for learning the histories of myriad times, peoples, and places. No subject occupied more of his writing and intellectual interests than history. Roosevelt published nine volumes of American history: The Naval War of 1812, which he began during his senior year at Harvard; brief biographies of Gouverneur Morris and Thomas Hart Benton; a collection of heroic accounts which he coauthored with his friend Henry Cabot Lodge; a short treatment of his birthplace and home political base, New York City, and his largest work, the four volumes on late 18th-century expansion and settlement entitled The Winning of the West. Also, while he was governor of New York, he wrote a book-length essay on the political character of Oliver Cromwell. In addition, many of his shorter pieces concerned historical subjects, the best known of which was his presidential address to the American Historical Association, “History as Literature.”

Roosevelt has a clear claim to the title of historian. It is true that he never did any graduate study or taught in a college or university, not even briefly, like his friends Lodge and Henry Adams. Roosevelt did not belong to the new breed of academic professionals who were emerging in the United States during his youth. He came instead toward the end of the long line of gentlemen amateurs who were best exemplified by the historian whom he admired most, Francis Parkman. Yet Roosevelt’s sheer productivity should shame others who have not devoted themselves to time-consuming public careers or followed demanding outdoor pastimes but can spend most of their waking hours in uninterrupted research and writing. Some of his work did show signs of thin research and hasty composition, but the better part of it rested on a solid base of broad acquaintance with original sources, familiarity with the latest literature on his subjects, and consultation with leading academic experts. The quantity and quality of his work established Roosevelt as an able, if not a great historian. Even without the reflected luster of his public career, he might have earned the honor of becoming president of the American Historical Association.

It would be wrong, however, to try to separate the statesman from the historian. Roosevelt first became drawn to history and public affairs at the same time, and his attitudes, interests, and reflections in each field vitally affected his conduct in the other. His attraction to history and public affairs arose out of the vocational crisis that he suffered at the age of 19, during his sophomore year in college. Roosevelt forsook his scientific ambitions in part because he had grown disgusted with the German-inspired emphasis on microscopic work and minute laboratory research which dominated biological studies at Harvard. “The sound revolt against superficiality of study had been carried to an extreme, ” he wrote later; “thoroughness in minutiae as the only end of study had been erected into a fetich [sic].” The young Roosevelt renounced a scientific career not only because his interests were changing but also because he rejected an intellectual spirit that he found alien. That rejection would, in turn, have a major impact on his approach to history.

Emotional factors played an even stronger role in his renunciation of science. The death of his father in February 1878, also during his sophomore year, plunged the 19-year-old Roosevelt into a harrowing nine months of grief and turmoil. He emerged from the ordeal a changed person, with a newfound interest in public affairs and a determination to become more worldly. Shortly afterward he also began his first historical research. By his senior year at Harvard, he was at work on his first book, which was published two years after his graduation, The Naval War of 1812. Family background almost certainly played a part in his choosing naval history as a field. For several generations, the Roosevelts had engaged in overseas shipping, while two of his maternal uncles had seen colorful service during the Civil War as Confederate naval officers. The particular subject, naval operations during the War of 1812, attracted him, Roosevelt said, for the simple reason that historians had neglected it.

The Naval War of 1812 set the pattern for his subsequent historical work. Copious research in original sources, including material from out-of-the-way places, undergirds his narrative and interpretations. Mastery of technical matters— shipbuilding, naval tactics, and seamanship in this case— informs his account of events. Despite his admiration for Parkman, Roosevelt did not excel at description and narrative. He wrote as he spoke, in vivid, exciting bursts, but not in a rounded, crafted whole. His battle scenes are rather flat and full of distracting detail, and the overall effect of the book is one of tedious recounting. The best writing comes in passages which make assessments or render judgments. The judgments reflect a mixture of partisanship and detachment. Roosevelt left no doubt that he was an American, a white man, and a Republican nationalist of Federalist and Whig antecedents. He delights in the defeats of the British and the Indians and in the embarrassment of Thomas Jefferson’s and James Madison’s earlier Republicans. At the same time, he distributes praise and blame evenhandedly. American mistakes and shortcomings in battle receive censure, while virtues and accomplishments of their British and Indian foes gain commendation. New England Federalists earn condemnation for their opposition to the war, while an old nemesis of his forebears, that “master spirit” Andrew Jackson gets high marks for “his cool head and quick eye, his stout heart and strong hand” in carrying the day at New Orleans.

The blending of current public concerns with historical interests is unmistakable. Roosevelt’s main reason for writing about the War of 1812, aside from its scholarly neglect, sprang from his nationalism and attraction to military life. He wanted to expose the evils of governmental fragmentation, social particularism, and military unpreparedness, and he found plenty of bad examples among the Republicans of the 1810’s, in sorry contrast to the deeds of their Federalist predecessors. Naval affairs remained one of Roosevelt’s main public concerns for the rest of his life. During the 1880’s he joined the small band of advocates of expansion and modernization of the United States Navy. He became an early convert to the strategic and geopolitical doctrines of Alfred Thayer Mahan, and in 1890 he wrote an enthusiastic review of Mahan’s The Influence of Seapower upon History. As assistant secretary of the Navy in 1897 and 1898, Roosevelt boosted Mahan’s career as a naval officer. Both in that office and later as president, he pushed tirelessly for a bigger, stronger, more up-to-date navy. The statesman was applying the lessons learned by the historian.

One other precedent that Roosevelt established in The Naval War of 1812 was personal involvement with his historical subjects. He wrote no other naval history except for short pieces. A different interest had already attracted him. Oddly for a book of naval history, The Naval War of 1812 devotes a great deal of attention to events and developments on the North American mainland. Another of the author’s unconcealed delights lies in his depiction of white settlers crossing the Appalachians, clearing the wilderness, and conquering and displacing “savage” natives. Roosevelt was writing about the subject that interested him most—the West. Of his remaining works of American history, only the volume on New York City failed to touch on westward expansion and settlement. The biography of Gouverneur Morris contains discussions of diplomatic negotiations about the new nation’s western boundaries and deplores Federalist opposition to the Louisiana Purchase. Given its subject’s Missouri residence and expansionist politics, the Benton biography offered much broader scope to Roosevelt’s Western interests, and it served as a warm-up for his most ambitious undertaking, The Winning of the West.


Those four volumes, which were published in installments in 1889, 1894, and 1896, constitute Roosevelt’s major bid for serious consideration as an historian. None of his other works matches it in scope and sophistication. Dedicated to Francis Parkman, “to whom Americans who feel a pride in the pioneer history of their country are so greatly indebted,” The Winning of the West takes up where Parkman’s great history leaves off, with the defeat of the French in 1763, and ends with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, although there are also brief accounts of later trans-Mississippi exploration and Aaron Burr’s conspiracy. These four volumes reflect the same balance of strengths and weaknesses as Roosevelt’s previous work. Extensive research in primary materials again informs the writing. A variety of well-mastered subjects, including agriculture, transportation, social and political organization, weapons technology, and diplomacy, enter into the account of westward movement and settlement. Roosevelt showed a keen appreciation of what the frontier experience meant to the people who underwent it and to the rest of the nation. Thereby, he anticipated in his first two volumes Frederick Jackson Turner’s famous thesis of 1893. Once more, the best writing is in the interpretative passages, whereas narrative and description, even of armed clashes and natural scenes, remain competent at best. As an account of what happened in the West, Roosevelt’s work is good but nowhere near in the same league with Parkman.

The outstanding feature of The Winning of the West lies in its analysis not of what happened to people on the frontier but of what outside influences impelled them to go there. Roosevelt brought an astonishing breadth and penetration of learning to bear on his subject. He was among the first to grasp the significance of Turner’s statement of the frontier thesis, and with due acknowledgment he incorporated the interpretation into the last two volumes of The Winning of the West. Still more remarkable is the sweep of Roosevelt’s historical vision. He depicts westward settlement against the backdrop not just of three preceding centuries of transatlantic migration by Europeans but of movements of Western peoples going back a thousand years and more. He invokes mythology and literature from ancient times and diverse places to illuminate the behavior of white men and Indians in the primitive environment of the woodlands, swamps, and prairies. The two departments in which Roosevelt does approach his idol Parkman are in conveying a sense of the literary universality of his characters and of the contending of grand cultural and geopolitical forces in the conquest of a continent.

Even more than his earlier works, The Winning of the West brings Roosevelt’s personal engagement with his subject into sharp relief. By the time he wrote the first volume he had become, thanks to his sojourn in the Dakota Territory in the mid-1880’s, a part-time Westerner by adoption. To readers of higher-toned magazines he was well known as a Western writer through his articles about ranching, hunting, and chasing outlaws. Roosevelt invoked his own experiences in The Winning of the West when he compared personal observations of wintering in the wilderness with Daniel Boone’s exploits and when he declared in the introduction, “The men who have shared in the fast-vanishing frontier life of the present feel a peculiar sympathy with the already long-vanished frontier life of the past.” Such sympathy suffuses his re-creation of soldiers, scouts, traders, and settlers enduring hardship and loneliness and resorting to violence as they make their way far beyond the fringes of settled society. In that respect as an historian, too, Roosevelt resembled Parkman, the amateur who had trekked the Oregon Trail and insisted on visiting the scenes he wrote about, more than Turner, the academic who evoked the frontier through intellectual projection.

Public concerns continued to mesh with historical writing in Roosevelt’s work on the West. He saw his subject as one phase in a still unfolding drama in which he meant to play a major role himself. In his view, he asserted in December 1897 “that mighty westward thrust of our people” was but one more “part of the great movement which within three centuries has made the expansion of the English-speaking peoples infinitely the greatest feature in the world’s history.” Within a year, Roosevelt would personally advance that movement by helping prepare the Navy for the Spanish-American War, leading his regiment of Rough Riders in battle, advocating retention of the Philippine Islands as an American colony, and rising like a political skyrocket to become governor of New York and a likely future contender for the White House. Seldom has an historian enjoyed a clearer chance to draw on his study of the past to create and then play a leading role in the events of the present.

After 1898, the pressures of public life left little room for historical study, even for someone so preternaturally energetic. Roosevelt had originally intended to write several more volumes of The Winning of the West, which would carry the story through the Mexican War and the beginning of settlement of the Pacific Coast. “I believe that this summer I shall be able to break the back of the next two volumes of The Winning of the West,” he told his publisher in January 1898, “or at least of the next volume.” But he added a caution: “I am a very busy man here.” He soon became busier still, as he readied the fleet for war, fought in Cuba, and hit the campaign trail first for governor and then for vice-president in 1900, with an exciting interlude between in the statehouse in Albany. The only time Roosevelt could contemplate a return to history came during his half-year as vice president. After leaving office, he told a Harvard professor in May 1901, “There is nothing I should like more than to become a “docent,” a professor of history who would deal only with graduate students who had a serious purpose, and who would be expected in addition himself to do, or at any rate try to do, serious scholarly work of a type which should go on the shelves at least with Henry Charles Lea and John Fiske, if not with Parkman and [John Lothrop] Motley.” Four months later, William McKinley’s assassination sent Roosevelt to the White House.


Before the preoccupations of the statesman completely overwhelmed the writing of the historian, one final work did appear. While he was governor of New York, Roosevelt wrote two books, mainly by dictating to stenographers at odd moments in the day, particularly while he was being shaved by his barber. One was his war memoir, The Rough Riders; the other was a 260-page volume entitled Oliver Cromwell. According to one recollection, a friend of Roosevelt’s quipped “that it was a fine imaginative study of Cromwell’s qualifications for the governorship of New York.” The joke had a point. Cromwell suffers from the same shortcomings as Roosevelt’s lesser previous works. The writing shows signs of hasty, interrupted composition, with scant reworking. No original research and not even a lot of detailed knowledge of 17th-century English history inform the study. It also appears to fall into anachronism, with repeated references to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the American Revolution, the Civil War, and men and events of his own time.

In another way, those drawbacks are beside the point. It would be more accurate to call the book an imaginative study of Roosevelt’s qualifications for leadership of the English Civil War. In it, the statesman and the historian merge at their best. Cromwell helps Roosevelt gain his bearings as he enters the 20th century, while Roosevelt uses his experiences to place Cromwell in the 17th century. As an extended meditation by a leader on the character and performance of a great predecessor, Roosevelt’s Cromwell contains some of the finest reflections by an American on the balance between thought and action in wielding power. “Cromwell, like so many a so-called “practical man,”” observes Roosevelt, “would have done better if he had followed a more clearly defined theory, for though the practical man is better than the mere theorist, he cannot do the highest work unless he is a theorist also.”

The references to Washington, Lincoln, and American events are hardly gratuitous, either. They spring from a comparative perspective on revolutionary movements in the modern world, through which Roosevelt reflected on the competing demands of liberty and order. The English Civil War was, he argues, “the first modern and not the last medieval, movement” and therefore “the men who figured in it and the principles for which they contended, are strictly akin to the men and the principles that have appeared in all similar great movements since: in the English Revolution of 1688; in the American Revolution of 1776; and the American Civil War of 1861.” Between them, its latitude for reflections on power and for comparison of movements and its freedom from the burden of narrative make Oliver Cromwell Roosevelt’s finest single work. The book made a fitting valedictory to Roosevelt’s writing as an historian.

Although he wrote no more works of history, the subject seldom left his mind after 1900, not even amid the pressures of office or in the heat of political controversy. Patronage of art, science, and culture became the hallmark of the Roosevelt presidency. Publicly, through exhortation from his “bully pulpit” and the example of entertaining novelists, poets, scientists, explorers, and historians at the White House, he promoted excellence in intellectual pursuits. Privately, he offered comment and criticism to scholars and scientists in a variety of fields. In all these activities, Roosevelt recalled, in gentler and updated fashion, the Italian princes of the Renaissance who had made themselves cultural arbiters of their states. History occupied a prominent place in both the public and private sides of Roosevelt’s role as an intellectual patron. Henry Adams and James Ford Rhodes numbered among his most frequent guests at the White House, as did other historians. Rhodes not only corresponded with the President about published volumes of his History of the United States, 1850—1877, but he also got him to read at least one volume in manuscript. For his part, Roosevelt felt no reticence about challenging Rhodes on facts and interpretations of Civil War military operations and politics.

The historian in the White House went beyond benign public encouragement and private exchanges. Roosevelt promulgated his own views of how history should be written and how knowledge in general should be pursued. In January 1904, he stole time from political matters to write a six-page letter commending the British historian Sir George Otto Trevelyan for his “noble” rejoinder to calls by J.B. Bury and others for a “scientific” history. Actually, the rejoinder had come from Trevelyan’s son, George Macaulay Trevelyan, and Roosevelt was confusing the two in his praise. “In a very small way,” he added “I have been waging war with their kind on this side of the water for a number of years. We have a preposterous little organization called the American Historical Association, which when I was just out of Harvard and very ignorant I joined.” Roosevelt counted himself fortunate that “good sense, or obstinacy, or something” had inoculated him against the “distinctly noxious” conceits of the “conscientious, industrious, painstaking little pedants” who filled the ranks of his country’s professional historians. Although he appreciated their “excellent revolt against superficiality and lack of research,” Roosevelt scorned their delusion “that the ideal history of the future will consist not even of the work of one huge pedant but of a multitude of articles by a multitude of small pedants,” Any such historian was “a good-enough day laborer, trundling his barrowful of bricks,” but when he and his fellows “imagined by their activity they rendered the work of the architect unnecessary they became both absurd and mischievous.”

If those opinions sounded familiar, it was because they drew upon the same intellectual spirit that had earlier led Roosevelt to forsake a scientific career. His objections extended much further than history. “Even in science itself,” Roosevelt asserted to Trevelyan, “I think we shall see a turning back from the dry-as-dust fact-collecting methods after a while.” He deplored the lack of appreciation of faunal naturalists among American biologists, thanks to “the Germanization of our colleges and universities.” All of their minute work represented “only the gathering of material for some man of large mind to mould into matter of importance. But as it is treated as the be all and end all, the result has been a lamentable dearth in America of work in the abstract sciences which is of notable and permanent value.” American scientific education snuffed out “any impulse toward originality,” leaving the student “a stereotyped well-meaning little creature, only fit for microscopic work in the laboratory. Now such work is good, but it is chiefly good in so far as it gives a wider and deeper foundation to the scientific man like Darwin or Huxley . . .,” As Roosevelt made clear to Trevelyan, his view of the proper pursuit of historical knowledge extended to all fields, especially the sciences. In his own way, he was very much a “scientific” historian.

Those views—which put the highest premium on imagination and synthesis in all intellectural work and on literary excellence in historical writing—remained largely confined to private correspondence and conversation, but not entirely. “American scholarship will be judged,” Roosevelt asserted in a speech at Harvard in 1907, “not by the quantity of routine work produced by routine workers, but by the small amount of first-class output of those who, in whatever branch, stand in the first rank. No industry in compilation and in combination will ever take the place of this first-hand original work, this productive and creative work, whether in science, in art, in literature.” Other hints of his views sometimes cropped up in the speeches, essays, and presidential papers in which Roosevelt exhorted Americans to foster a new Augustan age. But the fullest expression of his approach to history did not come until after he had left the White House and reentered the political arena.


In 1912, that “preposterous little organization,” the American Historical Association, elected Roosevelt its president. He accepted the accolade and addressed the organization’s annual meeting in Boston on Dec.27, 1912. Roosevelt’s appearance signaled no softening of his scorn for pedantry, and the title of his presidential address, “History as Literature, ” waved a red flag at fact-grubbers. The address elaborated on the points he had made to Trevelyan nearly nine years before. Though conceding the necessity for accurate research, Roosevelt had no patience with the notion “that science is definitely severed from literature and that history must follow suit. Not only do I refuse to accept this as true for history, but I do not even accept it as true for science.” Like the great scientist, the great historian must possess “imaginative power. The industrious collector of dead facts bears to such a man precisely the relation that a photographer bears to Rembrandt.” Imagination is the indispensable gift. “When we say that the great historian must be a man of imagination, we use the word as we use it when we say that a statesman must be a man of imagination. Moreover, together with imagination must go the power of expression. The great speeches of statesmen and the great writings of historians can live only if they possess the deathless quality that inheres in all great literature.”

In that quality—the power to move people through artistry of presentation joined to loftiness of subject—the historian and the statesman become one to Roosevelt. “History as Literature” concludes with injunctions to “bring the past before our eyes as if it were the present.” Not just the deeds of great men but “the days of common things” from countless times and places must come alive in their sights, sounds, smells, and dreams. People must learn from history as from other branches of literature. “We shall see the glory of triumphant violence, and the revel of those who do wrong in high places; and the brokenhearted despair that lies beneath the glory and the revel. We shall also see the supreme righteousness of the wars for freedom and justice, and know that the men who fell in these wars made all mankind their debtors.” Americans, above all others, would learn from Washington and Lincoln and the ordinary folk who fought the Revolution and the Civil War that they “possess an emergency-standard far above mere money-getting,” a standard that proclaimed “our belief that righteousness exalteth a nation.”

When he delivered that address, Roosevelt remained a man in whom the public figure and the historian reinforced each other. Like his earlier historical work, his views on the proper pursuit of history owed much to his advocacy of certain policies. His sneer at “mere money-getting” near the end of “History as Literature” echoed the political and economic reform arguments that he had recently made when he had run again for president in 1912 at the head of the newly formed Progressive Party. Roosevelt’s historical interpretations played a critical part in his conduct after he left the White House. His growing admiration for Lincoln as an apostle of inspired moderation between dangerous extremes and his analogies between his own time and the slavery and sectional crises of the 1840’s and 1850’s weighed heavily in his decisions to oppose his handpicked presidential successor, bolt the Republican party, and lead the Progressives. More personally, his sense of having led the nation in prosaic times with little opportunity for heroism disposed him to see overweening significance in those later events and in his part in them. Historical perspective served, for a change, not to induce calm and forbearance but to incite zeal and daring. For Roosevelt, unlike others, Clio was not a conservative muse.

As both historian and statesman, one field attracted Theodore Roosevelt above all others—the field of battle. Wars and smaller armed combat figured, usually to a large extent, in all his historical writing. War was the activity with which his name became most closely linked. From youth onward, Roosevelt believed that the greatest tests of human character and the greatest achievements open to men, if not to women, came in war. Intellectual reflection, particularly from historical reading and research, reinforced emotional convictions about the place of war in human affairs. For himself as ex-president, Roosevelt felt deep pangs of regret at not having had the chance to lead his nation in war. “If there is not a war, you don’t get the great general,” he declared in a speech in 1910; “if there is not the great occasion, you don’t get the great statesman; if Lincoln had lived in times of peace, no one would have known his name now.” That sense of lost personal opportunity, even more than political and strategic views, lent special fury to Roosevelt’s opposition to Woodrow Wilson during World War I. That yearning to play one more great role in history lent special poignancy to his plea to Wilson to allow him to raise a division to fight on the Western Front after the United States entered the war. Once more, the public man was grasping at the part the historian had set out for him.

But Roosevelt had to stay on the sidelines. His one solace at being shunted off the historical stage came from his four sons’ service in the war. All of them saw action; two were wounded; one, the youngest, Quentin, was killed when his airplane was shot down. “You are having your crowded hours of glorious life,” Roosevelt exulted to his oldest son; “you have seized the great chance, as it was seized by those who fought at Gettysburg, and Agincourt, and Arbella and Marathon.” Time ran out for Roosevelt himself just after World War I ended. He remained a public figure almost to his last breath, as he planned peacemaking strategy with Lodge, regained leadership among Republicans, and was probably preparing to run again for president. Death came to him unexpectedly on Jan.6, 1919, as he slept among the trophies and the books at Sagamore Hill. The curtain had come down on a unique American career.

No one like him had risen to the top rank in American politics since long before the Civil War; no one like him would go so far after him. Roosevelt shared with Wilson the distinction of being the only genuine intellectual to become president since the first decades of the American Republic. Both he and Wilson recalled the fusion of intellect and power that had marked such early leaders as Jefferson, Madison, John and John Quincy Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. Still more striking, however, were the differences that separated Roosevelt from both his great rival and his illustrious predecessors. Not a professional academic like Wilson, he remained a gentleman-scholar and amateur, somewhat after the fashion of the bygone aristocrats who had led the new nation. Yet Roosevelt’s simultaneous pursuit of public and intellectual life bore little similarity to the reasoned, enlightened assumptions that had guided his predecessors, even the fiery Hamilton and the skeptical, pessimistic Adamses. Among American writers about danger, war, and elemental challenge Roosevelt fell between Francis Parkman and Ernest Hemingway, and he embodied a sensibility somewhere between 19th-century romanticism and 20th-century existentialism. Above all, no other American before or since has combined the statesman with the historian as fruitfully as he did.

Fittingly for someone with his cosmopolitan upbringing and frame of reference, Roosevelt’s closest equivalents during his lifetime and later were to be found abroad, particularly in Great Britain. Such British contemporaries as his friends Trevelyan and James Bryce, as well as John Morley, furnished comparable examples of historians-in-politics, but in their beliefs and temperament those men more strongly resembled Wilson and the earlier American intellectuals in power. Roosevelt’s nearest spiritual, political, and intellectual kin was an Englishman who was born 16 years and one month after him whom he knew slightly and did not like— Winston Churchill. Dislike notwithstanding, no man resembled Theodore Roosevelt more than Churchill in the way that he fused the public man with the historian. If Roosevelt had lived to read Churchill’s life of his ancestor the Duke of Marlborough, whom he also admired, or his memoirs of the World Wars or his history of the English-speaking peoples, the bonds of sympathy would have been apparent. If Roosevelt had lived to witness Churchill’s war leadership, the reflection in the glass would have been unmistakable. The man of the crowded hours and the man of the finest hour would have known each other as brothers in history and statesmanship.


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