Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris Essay
Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris
Writing this paper, I faced a challenging task of exploring, discussing and analyzing a well-written book about one of the most prominent and controversial figures in American politics and history.
In the first part of my report I would like to discover basic themes and concepts of the book as well as compare and contrast “Theodore Rex” and other books about the twenty-sixth US President. Also I would like to concentrate my attention on the major accomplishments of the author and on possible bias found in the book.
The book is a thorough and profound biographical account of Roosevelt’s presidency and discusses and evaluates his major deeds and successes. The book concentrates on the two presidential terms he served, while “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt”, another celebrated biographical work by Morris, sheds light on Roosevelt’s career before presidency. “Theodore Rex” ends with Mr. Roosevelt quitting the office.
Edmund Morris writes about Theodore Roosevelt with great respect combined with admiration. The author doesn’t always clearly state it, but we can read it between the lines. When exploring Roosevelt external policy in the global context, the author quotes London Morning Post that stated Roosevelt’s presidency marked, “the emergence of a new world peacemaker: Mr. Roosevelt’s success has amazed everybody, not because he succeeded, but because of the manner by which he achieved success.” (Morris, 2002: p.391)
Roosevelt is positioned as a great an innovative man of state for the ample reason that he was the first US president to leave the country or to fly in an airplane.
I strongly deem that any book addressing questions connected with politics or history can’t be absolutely free from bias. For instance, Morris argues that American world hegemony and superpower is largely, if not only, Roosevelt’s accomplishment. But we know that economic and political conditions at the beginning of the century were very favourable, and the president seized the moment and American gilded age so he enhanced country’s position on the international arena.
The book is different from others in many ways. First of all, it concentrates not only on the strengths of the twenty-sixth president, but also on his faults. The book provides the reader with full and comprehensive account of Roosevelt as a man of state and some insightful information about Roosevelt as a personality. Another difference is the focus of this biography solely on the presidential years of Theodore Roosevelt.
Now let me proceed with evaluating the organization and the persuasive power of the book. The choice of the sources is satisfactory; the bibliography of the book is diverse and trustworthy. Morris consults sources dating from the early 20th centuries up to nowadays. The major material for Morris’ research consists of Roosevelt’s presidential whitepapers and worksheets, his private documentation, the archives of John Hay, William Howard Taft and Owen Wister. The author manages to be stylistically good and historically balanced.
The book gives very specific account of political events that happened during the presidency of Roosevelt and goes through every political crisis, external or internal. The book doesn’t give much information about personal life of the twenty-sixth president, but it makes the reader feel as if sharing all the daily routine with Mr. Roosevelt.
Let me enlist the issues, on which the author concentrates most. Morris reminds us about the success of Roosevelt’s external policy and stresses the fact of US acquisition of Panama Canal and the Philippines, signing a treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War and strengthening American naval forces. The book states that, “French foreign-policy experts believed him to be the strongest international personality since Bismarck.” (Morris, 2002: 193)
He gives a positive account of Roosevelt’s policy in the spheres of culture, science, and ecology and urges to keep in mind presidential initiatives to create national parks and monuments and to start national conservation policy. He praises the president’s ability of dealing with labor issues by discussing the settlement of the significant coal strike in the early 1990s. Still, the author admits the existence of complicated points during the Roosevelt’s career, for instance, the Brownsville Incident.
I believe that Morris concentrates too much on the description of major and minor state affairs. The book is purely a narrative. Instead of going so deep into daily matters of the president, Morris might have included more analysis of Roosevelt’s policies and practices. I would like to read more about Roosevelt in the wider historical context; the reader wants not only a success story, but the discussion of president’s actions to ensure success.
Still, enough attention is paid to important people in Roosevelt’s life, namely Edith and Alice. Morris shows us the twenty-sixth president as a loving husband and caring father. Roosevelt’s family supported him in the turmoil of state affairs, and the president valued his dearest and nearest very much. When his wife arrived, “Careless of watching eyes, he threw his arms around Edith, then escorted her inside for supper.” (Morris, 2002: 47)
Morris clearly states what traits of character are necessary for an outstanding leader. The author describes sometimes controversial behavior and complicated character of the president. Some small personal details give us better understanding of Theodore’s nature, for example, president’s habit to carry pistols with him.
The detailed descriptions in a combination with easy way of presenting the information made the book seem convincing and trustworthy.
In the concluding part I would speak about the relevance and historical value of “Theodore Rex The book is readable and enjoyable, giving insight into big and small issues of governing. Sometimes the book may seem to be too detailed for a non-professional reader.
I dare call this book to be a research of Roosevelt’s biography, since it keeps track of everything taking place in the president administration. Morris’ book may be useful for historians as well as for the general public.
The book is very short still it has everything the one needs to know about Roosevelt and the US at the dawn of the 20th century.
The organization of the book is good, but the tone of the story isn’t always adequate since Morris describes very official events using lyrical language. Let’s analyze the episode concerned with Panama-US treaty:
“Pens scratched across parchment. Wax melted on silk. Two oceans brimmed closer, ready to spill.” (Morris, 2002: p.298)
The prologue is marked by unnecessary romanticism, too. But it can’t be called a disadvantage since it saves the book from being boring. Paragraph and sentence structure is adequate and quite clear.
And I didn’t notice any serious contradictions worth mentioning here. The organizational drawback is that personal and political episodes aren’t described in separate chapters. Still, the strictly chronological way of presenting the events with clear separation of the first and the second administration is definitely a plus.
I believe that some practical solutions of social and economical problems, e.g. unemployment or discrimination, can be used by contemporary politicians as well.
I would like to end my report with giving an overall assessment of “Theodore Rex” by Edmund Morris. This account of Roosevelt’s presidency and charismatic personality is in-depth but transparent, analytical but charming, complex but inspiring. I believe that such a charismatic leader as Theodore Roosevelt definitely deserves such a brilliant biographer as Edmund Morris.
Morris, E. 2002. Theodore Rex. New York: Modern Library