Theodore Rex

Theodore Rex

4.3 94
by Edmund Morris

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The most eagerly awaited presidential biography in years, Theodore Rex is a sequel to Edmund Morris's classic best-seller The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. It begins by following the new President (still the youngest in American history) as he comes down from Mount Marcy, New York, to take his emergency oath of office in Buffalo, one hundred years ago.


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The most eagerly awaited presidential biography in years, Theodore Rex is a sequel to Edmund Morris's classic best-seller The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. It begins by following the new President (still the youngest in American history) as he comes down from Mount Marcy, New York, to take his emergency oath of office in Buffalo, one hundred years ago.

A detailed prologue describes TR's assumption of power and journey to Washington, with the assassinated President McKinley riding behind him like a ghost of the nineteenth century. (Trains rumble throughout this irresistibly moving narrative, as TR crosses and recrosses the nation.) Traveling south through a succession of haunting landscapes, TR encounters harbingers of all the major issues of the new century - Imperialism, Industrialism, Conservation, Immigration, Labor, Race - plus the overall challenge that intimidated McKinley: how to harness America's new power as the world's richest nation.

Theodore Rex (the title is taken from a quip by Henry James) tells the story of the following seven and a half years - years in which TR entertains, infuriates, amuses, strong-arms, and seduces the body politic into a state of almost total subservience to his will. It is not always a pretty story: one of the revelations here is that TR was hated and feared by a substantial minority of his fellow citizens. Wall Street, the white South, Western lumber barons, even his own Republican leadership in Congress strive to harness his steadily increasing power.

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Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
Theodore Roosevelt and his two-term presidency (1901-9) deserve a king-size, seize-the-man biography -- and Edmund Morris has provided one. "TR" typifies the "can do" American; his famous maxim, of course, was "Speak softly but carry a big stick." Morris presents eyewitness history through the voices of the makers and shakers. His exhilarating narrative will captivate readers, providing welcome confirmation that this nation can produce presidents who bring leadership to great issues, hold to their purpose, and shape the destinies of nations.

President McKinley's assassination brought the 43-year-old TR a challenging presidency, one to which Morris is a clearsighted guide. At home, TR had to persuade Congress to curb competition-stifling corporate trusts, monopolistic transcontinental railroads, and unhygienic food industries that saw consumers as sheep. He also faced labor and racial strife. Abroad, the American presence in Cuba and the Philippines brought criticism, the Russo-Japanese conflict threatened major power shifts in the Far East and Europe, and a politically and financially fraught decision on the Central American canal route -- Panama or Nicaragua? -- had to be made. TR rose to every challenge. Despite the demands of family and social life, he read, wrote, and traveled extensively. Not least, TR put national parks and conservation of natural resources on the legislative agenda.

All TR's notable contemporaries -- including historian Henry Adams, naturalists John Burroughs and John Muir, robber barons E. H. Harriman and James J. Hill, poet Oliver Wendell Holmes, financier J. P. Morgan, fellow politician William Howard Taft, civil rights leader Booker T. Washington, and novelist Owen Wister -- appear onstage, their clear voices projecting the excitement of the day.

Morris is blessed with the imagination and skills to write gripping popular history. He doesn't dilute but illuminates events in presenting an account that immediately sparks interest and captures the mind. Readers will note that American interventionism abroad (today's major issue) was much debated during TR's presidency, when major interventional imperatives challenged the new superpower's tradition of relative restraint in foreign affairs.

Theodore Rex is the long-awaited second volume of the TR saga. Morris delivered the first volume, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, in 1979. It won a Pulitzer Prize; Theodore Rex is a solid bet for another. (Peter Skinner)

Peter Skinner lives in Manhattan.

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Random House Publishing Group
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Modern Library Paperbacks Series
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5.22(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.33(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
The First Administration: 1901-1904

The epigraphs at the head of every chapter are by "Mr. Dooley," Theodore Roosevelt's favorite social commentator.

The Shadow of the Crown

I see that Tiddy, Prisidint Tiddy-here's his health-is th' youngest prisidint we've iver had, an' some iv th' pa-apers ar-re wondherin' whether he's old enough f'r th' raysponsibilities iv' th' office.

On the morning after McKinley's interment, Friday, 20 September 1901, a stocky figure in a frock coat sprang up the front steps of the White House. A policeman, recognizing the new President of the United States, jerked to attention, but Roosevelt, trailed by Commander Cowles, was already on his way into the vestibule. Nodding at a pair of attaches, he hurried into the elevator and rose to the second floor. His rapid footsteps sought out the executive office over the East Room. Within seconds of arrival he was leaning back in McKinley's chair, dictating letters to William Loeb. He looked as if he had sat there for years. It was, a veteran observer marveled, "quite the strangest introduction of a Chief Magistrate . . . in our national history."

As the President worked, squads of cleaners, painters, and varnishers hastened to refurbish the private apartments down the hall. He sent word that he and Mrs. Roosevelt would occupy the sunny riverview suite on the south corner. Not for them the northern exposure favored by their predecessors, with its cold white light and panorama of countless chimney pots.

A pall of death and invalidism hung over the fusty building. Roosevelt decided to remain at his brother-in-law's house until after theweekend. It was as if he wanted the White House to ventilate itself of the sad fragrance of the nineteenth century. Edith and the children would breeze in soon enough, bringing what he called "the Oyster Bay atmosphere."

At eleven o'clock he held his first Cabinet meeting. There was a moment of strangeness when he took his place at the head of McKinley's table. Ghostly responsibility sat on his shoulders. "A very heavy weight," James Wilson mused, "for anyone so young as he is."

But the President was not looking for sympathy. "I need your advice and counsel," he said. He also needed their resignations, but for legal reasons only. Every man must accept reappointment. "I cannot accept a declination."

This assertion of authority went unchallenged. Relaxing, Roosevelt asked for briefings on every department of the Administration. His officers complied in order of seniority. He interrupted them often with questions, and they were astonished by the rapidity with which he embraced and sorted information. His curiosity and apparent lack of guile charmed them.

The President's hunger for intelligence did not diminish as the day wore on. He demanded naval-construction statistics and tariff-reciprocity guidelines and a timetable for the independence of Cuba, and got two visiting Senators to tell him more than they wanted to about the inner workings of Congress. In the late afternoon, he summoned the heads of Washington's three press agencies.

"This being my first day in the White House as President of the United States," Roosevelt said ingratiatingly, "I desired to have a little talk with you gentlemen who are responsible for the collection and dissemination of the news."

A certain code of "relations," he went on, should be established immediately. He glanced at the Associated Press and Sun service representatives. "Mr. Boynton and Mr. Barry, whom I have known for many years and who have always possessed my confidence, shall continue to have it." They must understand that this privilege depended on their "discretion as to publication." Unfortunately, he could not promise equal access to Mr. Keen of the United Press, "whom I have just met for the first time."

Boynton and Barry jumped to their colleague's defense. Roosevelt was persuaded to trust him, but warned again that he would bar any White House correspondent who betrayed him or misquoted him. In serious cases, he might even bar an entire newspaper. Barry said that was surely going too far. Roosevelt's only reply was a mysterious smile. "All right, gentlemen, now we understand each other."

Much later that evening, after a small dinner with friends in the Cowles house on N Street, the President allowed himself a moment or two of querulousness. "My great difficulty, my serious problem, will meet me when I leave the White House. Supposing I have a second term . . ."

Commander Cowles, replete with roast beef, sank deep into leather cushions and folded his hands over his paunch. He paid no attention to the cataract of talk pouring from the walnut chair opposite. For years he had benignly suffered his brother-in-law's fireside oratory; he was as deaf to Rooseveltian self-praise as he was to these occasional moments of self-doubt. How like Theodore to worry about moving out of the White House before moving in! The Commander's eyes drooped. His breathing grew rhythmic; he began to snore.

"I shall be young, in my early fifties," Roosevelt was saying. "On the shelf! Retired! Out of it!"

Two other guests, William Allen White and Nicholas Murray Butler, listened sympathetically. Prodigies themselves-White, at thirty-three, had a national reputation for political journalism, and Butler, at thirty-nine, was about to become president of Columbia University-they were both aware that they had reached the top of their fields, and could stay there for another forty years. Roosevelt was sure of only three and a half. Of course, the power given him dwarfed theirs, and he might win an extension of it in 1904. But that would make its final loss only harder to bear.

So Butler and White allowed the President to continue lamenting his imminent retirement. They interrupted only when he grew maudlin-"I don't want to be the old cannon loose on the deck in the storm!"

Undisturbed by the clamor of younger voices, Commander Cowles slept on.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Copyright 2001 by Edmund Morris

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Theodore Rex 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 93 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Morris' second book of the trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt (TR) is a most enjoyable read. This book covers TR's White House years and gives great insight into one of Americas greatest presidents and most influential men of the twentieth century. Morris gives you an in depth but not dry look at what TR accomplished in his two terms. He created the Dept. of Interior and protected more land for posterity than any other president. He created the Food and Drug Administration after reading a book written by Sinclair Lewis about the unsanitary conditions in the meat packing industry. He mediated the peace treaty between the Russians and the Japanese after the Russo-Japanese war for which he was the first president to be awarded the Nobel peace prize. He built our Navy from fourth to second place in the world and prepared us for super power status. He was instrumental in our building of the Panama Canal, which made us a two-ocean power. These are just some of the highlights of his busy administration. He wrote over 30 books in his life was fluent in six languages and was an astute politician and statesman. There is much to be learned from reading about this great American, the man who was always in the arena.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Theodore Roosevelt has fast become my hero. A champion for the common man, protector of our true heartland and wilderness, President Theodore Roosevelt's life story is told eloquently by the author. He makes me feel like I knew the former President and want to know more about him. Theodore Roosevelt is one of the truly 'real men' in our Country. The books is fascinating and very tough to put down. Page after page of TR's life jumps alive in the imagination and makes me wonder what life in those days was really like. As for both the author and the subject, I say 'BULLY!'
Guest More than 1 year ago
In his sequel to The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris masterfully helps his (American) readers better understand how and why they still bask in the legacy of President Roosevelt both here and abroad. Roosevelt, who leveraged President Monroe¿s doctrine, turned the United States of America into a superpower on the global scene. The other great powers of that time duly took note of Roosevelt¿s expeditions in the Americas and Asia and his key role in bringing the Russo-Japanese war to an end. On the domestic front, Roosevelt has left an enduring legacy as his contributions to the development of national parks, anti-trust legislation ¿ and the Teddy Bear have revealed. Roosevelt progressively liberated himself from the influence of the Republican Party by pursuing an increasingly progressive legislative agenda to the discontent of some fellow Republicans. To the chagrin of some readers, Morris does not spend too much time discussing Theodore¿s beloved Edith, their children and the rest of his family.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you did not like Mr. Morris¿s biography of President Reagan, give Mr. Morris another chance. Theodore Rex is the best book I have read on President Theodore Roosevelt¿s almost 8 years in office, after having started as our youngest president to that point in time. I found the recent David McCullough biography of John Adams as the closest comparable work. Both biographers rely a lot on the subject¿s own words and those of the people he interacted with. I found three qualities of Theodore Rex to be superior to the Adams biography. First, Mr. Morris has chosen to magnify issues that are of more interest to us today which are often virtually ignored in conventional histories. Some of these subjects involved Mr. Roosevelt¿s attitudes towards minority groups including African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Jews. Other related subjects included what he chose to say and do about discrimination and lynchings, willingness to address a pogrom in Russia, and atrocities conduced by the Army in the Philippines. Second, Mr. Morris doesn¿t try to ¿pretty up¿ the ugly sides of his subject. In these first areas above, President Roosevelt did some good things . . . but he also did some pretty awful ones. His support for bad conduct dismissals of African-American troops after complaints in Brownsville, Texas, was particularly questionable, coming at a time when he had little at risk politically by doing the right thing and he was outspoken in other areas. Third, Mr. Morris has an eye for detail that makes the scenes come alive to extend beyond the mere words and events being presented. I particularly enjoyed the description of Roosevelt¿s first few days as president. The Adams biography is superior in that most of that material came in the form of letters from Abigail and John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and the quality of what they had to say was usually a lot more interesting than what President Roosevelt and his cronies and family wrote or said. The perspective on Roosevelt is almost totally a near contemporary one. This material reads like something we might review now about President Reagan¿s presidency. For those who are not familiar with U.S. political, social, and economic history prior to and during this time, some of the sections will be hard to fathom. That is a major weakness of the book. The other major weakness is that the coverage of subjects is unbalanced in length. For example, there is a lengthy section on some gunboat diplomacy to help out two hostages in Morocco, one of whom is thought to be an American. Other than showing that Roosevelt liked to send in the Navy, this material didn¿t warrant the attention it receives here. If you are like me, you will enjoy the way that Mr. Morris displays how Roosevelt built a power base by espousing popular issues like trust-busting to wean himself away from political dependency on Senator Mark Hanna. President Roosevelt¿s ability to work the newspapers to his advantage was astonishingly adroit for an ¿accidental¿ president with limited prior experience in public office. On the personal side, the book is filled with examples of President Roosevelt¿s love of all forms of physical activity, including eating, and the way that he sought to preserve privacy for his personal life. Late in his presidency, he could not read very well with his left eye due to a boxing injury received in a match while president. Having become president due to the assassination of President McKinley, you will read with interest his own close calls with death and a potential assassin. The vignettes involving his very independent daughter, Alice, will amuse you in many cases. On the other hand, you may be annoyed (as I was) to learn that President Roosevelt¿s final decision about the Brownsville soldiers was withheld for a few days with the probable motive of helping his son-in-law, Alice¿s husband, be re-elected to Congress. The almost total silence on the drawb
Guest More than 1 year ago
I began this book interested in, and left it fascinated by, Theodore Roosevelt. It was amazing to learn how many aspects of America's evolution from frontier society to the 20th century were shaped by TR's presidency. For those with an interest in American history, this books links the eras between the conquest of the West and World War I in a comprehensive and compelling fashion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BrianIndianFan More than 1 year ago
Theodore Rex constitutes the second in Edmund Morris' biographical trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt. Unlike his previous effort, Theodore Rex only covers his eight years in the White House. As a result, the work is more focused and delves deeper into issues that arose during his term as America's 26th president. Seeking stability in an hour of crisis following McKinley's assassination, Roosevelt wisely kept the counsel of his predecessor's cabinet. This allowed the markets and the country to see that Roosevelt would indeed carry on McKinley's policies. However, he quickly committed his first perceived faux pas, inviting Booker T. Washington to the White House for dinner. This action inflamed passions throughout the segregated south and got him off to a bad start with that region. (In fact, he would win no states south of the Mason-Dixon line in his romp to re-election in 1904.) Domestically, he attempted to obtain better relations between companies and their workers while also attempting to deal with the rising tide of trusts that he believed where de facto monopolies. Overall, Roosevelt managed to achieve more than could have been expected, given his reputation. It is this reviewer's opinion that his progressive reforms led to the split which eventually came to the Republican party.  Internationally, he was successful in negotiating the end to the Russo-Japanese War which led to him being awarded the Nobel Peace prize. He also reinforced the tenets of the Monroe Doctrine, averting crises in Venezuela, Cuba, and Santo Domingo. His delicacy and discretion in these matters won him plaudits from foreign dignitaries. Morris once again weaves all of these events into a cohesive narrative that gives a history lesson in a manner that anyone who seeks to learn more about the most masculine of presidents. The negative to the book is the constant use of foreign phrases and $5 words which detract from the narrative. However, these are not enough to disqualify the book from your attention. It is also fitting that Morris includes the story of the origin of the Teddy bear as it occurred during his presidency. It is a humorous story that does provide a relief from the tension of the situation regarding his dealings with the post-Reconstruction south. BOTTOM LINE: A thorough work on the administration of Teddy Roosevelt.
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obeythekitty More than 1 year ago
great biographical trilogy, and will help you answer more questions on Jeopardy!
MRIL More than 1 year ago
Morris brings the reader into the story and you feel like you are living in the 1900's along with Roosevelt in his life. Also great sense of humor.
GregCoxGC More than 1 year ago
Wold you like to know how Teddy Roosevelt's mug ended up on the face of Mount Rushmore? Read this book and find out! A leader that was driven to do the right thing. A man that was bigger than life, but far from perfect. This book does a wonderful job in documenting his massive contributions as well as a few blunders (The Brownsville Incident). This books makes me want to sit down for a long dinner with T.R., and while I might not be able to get a word in edge wise, he would show me how truly inspired leadership rolls! Wouldn't it be great to see our country have a President that the majority of Americans loved?
Gibletmom More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much and the knowledge I gained into the life of Theodore Roosevelt. Mr. Morris is a great researcher and the entire trilogy has been a great read about a very accomplished man. Fascinating.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very well writen text. The book demonstrates that this was a very passionate president who held hard to his beliefs. The 2 part series is a needed read for anyone wanting to know about history, especially how history applies to what is happening today. The only problem I found with the book is that is does end rather abruptly. I would have liked it more if it had taken more time at the end to discuss his life after the presidency. I definitely recommend this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you make a commitment to read Edmund Morris' 900+ page trilogy of the life of Theodore Roosevelt, you've signed on for 2,700 pages on wild, large, bold, adventurous, grand, loud, magnetic, boisterous and unapologetic history. "Theodore Rex", "Colonel Roosevelt", and "The Rise of" constitute a fair, open, and honest view of the impossibly full and frenetic life of TR as told by Edmund Morris. Any serious student of TR, American history, 19th-20th Turn of the Century, presidency, diplomacy, or world events NEEDS to include these 3 volumes. But TR goes beyond all this into geology, botany, plant, flora, fauna, geneology, science, sociology, natural history, and 19th century technology. And so any study of those disciplines would warrant reading. Morris tells the tale, WELL (no easy task), and allows a personal look at the great man from Oyster Bay, NY. I haven't read the biography of a life as full as this before. I developed an attachment to the man as I laughed and cried through this set. A most TEEEEEEEERific read!!!!!
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