restricted access Edmund Morris: Theodore Rex
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Throughout the 555 riveting pages of action-packed narrative of Theo­ dore Rex, Edmund Morris’s long awaited sequel to his Pulitzer-Prizewinning volume, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt(1979), one can feel the sense of relief and zest Morris had returning to Teddy Roosevelt as a subjectafterthemorassofconflictingemotionsandliteraryhesitations he displayed in Dutch, his 1999 “memoir” of Ronald Reagan. Morris’s new book picks up Roosevelt’s story at full gallop, with the vice president “bouncing in a buckboard down the rainswept slopes of Mount Marcy,” after Roosevelt had received telegrams at his vacation cabin in the Adirondacks documenting “the spread of gangrene through his bullet-ridden Chief.” WilliamMcKinley’sassassinationin1901,atthestartofhissecond term, by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz, elevated Roosevelt to the presidency , and exposed him to charges of illegitimacy, not so much from the public, which accepted him readily, but from within his own party. McKinley was hardly cold in his grave when Mark Hanna, the Republican power broker, told Roosevelt, “Do not think anything about a second term.” This dynamic – acceptance by the public at large and opposition within his own party – was a hallmark of Roosevelt’s seven years in office, and kept his natural skepticism fresh. Edmund Morris: Theodore Rex 187 188 At forty-two, Roosevelt was the youngest man to serve as president , and America was the youngest of world powers. He inherited the job at the dawn of a new century. Modern America was being invented then:itsinstitutions,itslanguage,itslandscape.AndRooseveltputhis stamp on all of it; he is even responsible for the “teddy bear.” ThatRooseveltbecamepresidentbecauseofamurderwas,indeed, “Rex”-like, king-like. The novelist Henry James dubbed him “Theodore Rex,” though that was because Roosevelt enhanced the powers of the executive branch of government. But, Roosevelt was haunted by hismethodofascendancy.Hiscrashingthroughlife(hewastheT.Rex of presidents), his abundant energies and exaggerated appetites, were life-long defenses against the charges of usurpation, and fear of chaos he saw lurking at the edges of democracy. Morris makes Roosevelt’s stance clear: “Youth, size, and strength: these things, surely, would render America proof against the anarchic strain.” Morris’s The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt was published in 1979. He interrupted work on the second volume for the contentious Reagan memoir, but that experience certainly aided the book at hand: since Morris was Reagan’s authorized biographer, he had free access to the White House during a long presidency, and Theodore Rex is the beneficiary. Morris can, and does, re-imagine Roosevelt’s daily life as president , in all its permutations. (The current president will envy Roosevelt ’s long summer vacations.) Morris’s familiarity with the territory enhances his narrative. He knows, firsthand, how power is distributed throughout the government, and what the force of personality can bestow on the office. Morris’s portrait intertwines a number of narrative threads. One is Roosevelt the quixotic imperialist, spreading American hegemony around the globe; another is Roosevelt the visionary, who alters the 189 landscape, ours and the hemisphere’s, with the creation of the Panama Canal and the federalizing of so many of our natural wonders. And there is the domestic Roosevelt, the trust-buster, the rich boy with a yen for a “square deal” for everyone, the man of privilege who, nonetheless, was sympathetic to issues of class and race. As Roosevelt said himself, “I find I can work best with those people in whom the money sense is not too highly developed.” Morris follows these parallel stories, scene after scene. It is not so much a cinematic depiction, but more like modern television drama, where storylines alternate throughout the hour. Surveying the world, Roosevelt saw, Morris writes, “A gulf, not merely of years but of ideology, separated him from these heroes of the past. They had fought to preserve the Union; he had fought to create a world power. The old soldiers had cheered when the young soldiers liberated Cuba, but they fell silent when similar ‘freedoms’ were imposed on Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.” FollowingMcKinley’sfootsteps,Rooseveltwasaproponentofexpansion (and his weight increased in size as did American territories). It wasn’t quite the racist “white man’s burden,” but Roosevelt did see it as, at least, a burden, a responsibility. Morris, doubtless because of the earlier volume, and its Pulitzer Prize, is such a fan of Roosevelt he cannot brook any criticism of him. Theodore Rex is Roosevelt as Roosevelt might have wished to have seen himself. Luckily, such an impassioned and opinionated point of view by an historian is warranted by...


pdf