Theodore Roosevelt “There’s only one life between that madman and the presidency”

  • Philip Abbott
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)


Although Johnson is generally regarded as the most unsuccessful of accidental presidents and Roosevelt the most successful, the two presidents have much in common. Both succeeded popular assassinated leaders. Both assumed the presidency with a high degree of popular support. Both were men of strong will and conviction who used aggressive personae to intimidate opponents. Both challenged limited conceptions of the presidency. Both sought to strengthen wings of their congressional party by “going public.”1 Both were peacetime presidents after wars. Both initiated their independent strategy with a brief homage that moved directly to independence.


Attorney General Republican Party Panama Canal Congressional Party Independent Strategy 
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  1. 1.
    Jeffrey Tulis in The Rhetorical Presidency (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987) discusses the novelty of Johnson’s decision to “go public” and compares it to Roosevelt’s.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Edmund Morris, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (New York: McCann and Geoghegan, 1979), pp. 12, 13, 20, 21; Stephen Gwynn, ed., The Letters and Friendships of Sir Cecil Spring-Rice (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1929), 1:437; Bernard de Voto, ed., Mark Twain in Eruption (New York: Harpers, 1940, p. 8; Theodore Roosevelt, “National Life and Character” in American Ideals (New York: Putnam’s, 1897), 2:93.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    H. W. Brands, T. R.: The Last Romantic (New York: Basic Books, 1997), p. 339.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ibid., p. 357.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Theodore Roosevelt, “National Life and Character” in American Ideals, (New York: Putnam’s, 1897), 2:93.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Ibid., p. 123.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Elting E. Morison and John Blum, eds., The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951–54), 1:102; Morgan, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, p. 333.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Morgan, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, p. 374; Thomas Hart Benton in Works, 7:5, 6, 232. Two years later in volume I of The Winning of the West, TR expanded his account of westward migration in terms of “race expansion.” The Winning of the West (New York: Putnam’s, 1889), 1:1–27.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Theodore Roosevelt, The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt (McLean, VA:, 2002), p. 42.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    Kathleen Dalton, Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life (New York: Knopf, 2002), p. 81.Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    Paul Grondahl, I Rose like a Rocket: The Political Education of Theodore Roosevelt (New York: Free Press, 2004), p. 107.Google Scholar
  12. 28.
    Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt: Letters and Speeches (New York: Library of America, 2004), p. 243.Google Scholar
  13. 33.
    John Morton Blum, The Republican Roosevelt (New York: Atheneum, 1968), p. 52. For TR’s views on Hanna’s intentions as a candidate himself, see his letter to his son in January, 1904. Theodore Roosevelt: Letters and Speeches, pp. 307–8.Google Scholar
  14. 34.
    Theodore Roosevelt, “First Annual Message,” in Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 14:6642–43.Google Scholar
  15. 35.
    Ibid., pp. 6641, 6642, 6645.Google Scholar
  16. 36.
    Harbaugh, The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt (New York: Collier, 1961) p. 172.Google Scholar

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© Philip Abbott 2008

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  • Philip Abbott

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