Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (27 October1858 – 6 January1919), also known as T.R. or Teddy, was an American statesman, author, explorer, soldier, naturalist, and reformer who served as the 26thPresident of the United States from 1901 to 1909. As a leader of the Republican Party during this time, he became a driving force for the Progressive Era in the United States in the early 20th century.
- See also:
- The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses (1910)
- I have not been able to think out any solution of the terrible problem offered by the presence of the Negro on this continent, but of one thing I am sure, and that is that inasmuch as he is here and can neither be killed nor driven away, the only wise and honorable and Christian thing to do is to treat each black man and each white man strictly on his merits as a man, giving him no more and no less than he shows himself worthy to have.
- As quoted in Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 (2008), by Gail Bederman, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. p. 198.
- The light has gone out of my life.
- Entry in Roosevelt's diary, before which he put a large X, on 14 February 1884, the day in which both his mother and wife died within hours of each other.
- There is a curse on this house.
- Theodore repeating what his brother, Elliot Roosevelt, said when Theodore reached his home in New York City to find both mother and wife dying on the evening of 13 February 1884; in this same house their father had also died from stomach cancer on 9 February 1878, at the age of 46.
- Of recent years... representative government all over the world has been threatened with a growing paralysis. Legislative bodies have tended more and more to become wholly inefficient for the purposes of legislation. The prime feature in causing this unhealthy growth has been the discovery by minorities that under the old rules of parliamentary procedure they could put a complete stop to all legislative action... If the minority is as powerful as the majority there is no use of having political contests at all, for there is no use in having a majority.
- We cannot afford merely to sit down and deplore the evils of city life as inevitable, when cities are constantly growing, both absolutely and relatively. We must set ourselves vigorously about the task of improving them; and this task is now well begun.
- "The City in Modern Life", Literary Essays (vol. 12 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed., 1926), p. 226. Book review in The Atlantic Monthly (April 1895)
- A perfectly stupid race can never rise to a very high plane; the negro, for instance, has been kept down as much by lack of intellectual development as by anything else; but the prime factor in the preservation of a race is its power to attain a high degree of social efficiency. Love of order, ability to fight well and breed well, capacity to subordinate the interests of the individual to the interests of the community, these and similar rather humdrum qualities go to make up the sum of social efficiency. The race that has them is sure to overturn the race whose members have brilliant intellects, but who are cold and selfish and timid, who do not breed well or fight well, and who are not capable of disinterested love of the community. In other words, character is far more important than intellect to the race as to the individual. We need intellect, and there is no reason why we should not have it together with character; but if we must choose between the two we choose character without a moment's hesitation.
- Responding to the social theories of Benjamin Kidd, in "Kidd's 'Social Evolution'" in The North American Review (July 1895), p. 109
- It is both foolish and wicked to teach the average man who is not well off that some wrong or injustice has been done him, and that he should hope for redress elsewhere than in his own industry, honesty and intelligence.
- "How Not To Better Social Conditions" in Review of Reviews (January 1897), p. 39
- To sit home, read one's favorite paper, and scoff at the misdeeds of the men who do things is easy, but it is markedly ineffective. It is what evil men count upon the good men's doing.
- To borrow a simile from the football field, we believe that men must play fair, but that there must be no shirking, and that the success can only come to the player who hits the line hard.
- The men of Yale, the men of the universities, all, who, when the country called, went to give their lives, did more than reflect honor upon the universities from which they came. They did that which they could not have done so well in any other way. They showed that when the time of danger comes, all Americans, whatever their social standing, whatever their creed, whatever the training they have received, no matter from what section of the country they have come, stand together as men, as Americans, and are content to face the same fate and do the same duties because fundamentally they all alike have the common purpose to serve the glorious flag of their common country.
- If we lose the virile, manly qualities, and sink into a nation of mere hucksters, putting gain over national honor, and subordinating everything to mere ease of life, then we shall indeed reach a condition worse than that of the ancient civilizations in the years of their decay.
- "The Law of Civilization and Decay", The Forum (January 1897), reprinted in American Ideals (1926), vol. 13 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed., chapter 15, pp. 259–60
- Every man among us is more fit to meet the duties and responsibilities of citizenship because of the perils over which, in the past, the nation has triumphed; because of the blood and sweat and tears, the labor and the anguish, through which, in the days that have gone, our forefathers moved on to triumph.
- Speech before the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island (June 1897), reported in "Washington’s Forgotten Maxim", American Ideals (1926), vol. 13 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed., chapter 12, p. 198
- Gentlemen: you have now reached the last point. If anyone of you doesn’t mean business let him say so now. An hour from now will be too late to back out. Once in, you’ve got to see it through. You’ve got to perform without flinching whatever duty is assigned you, regardless of the difficulty or the danger attending it. If it is garrison duty, you must attend to it. If it is meeting fever, you must be willing. If it is the closest kind of fighting, anxious for it. You must know how to ride, how to shoot, how to live in the open. Absolute obedience to every command is your first lesson. No matter what comes you mustn’t squeal. Think it over — all of you. If any man wishes to withdraw he will be gladly excused, for others are ready to take his place.
- Address to U.S. Army recruits (1898), as quoted in U.S. Army Field Manual 22-5 (1986)
- Greatness means strife for nation and man alike. A soft, easy life is not worth living, if it impairs the fibre of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage... We are face to face with our destiny and we must meet it with a high and resolute courage. For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.
- Address at the opening of the gubernatorial campaign, New York City (5 October 1898), reported in "The Duties of a Great Nation", Campaigns and Controversies, vol. 14 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed. (1926), chapter 45, p. 291
- Don’t let anyone impose on you. Don’t be quarrelsome, but stand up for your rights. If you've got to fight, fight hard and well. To my mind, a coward is the only thing meaner than a liar.
- There are two things that I want you to make up your minds to: first, that you are going to have a good time as long as you live – I have no use for the sour-faced man – and next, that you are going to do something worthwhile, that you are going to work hard and do the things you set out to do.
- Talk to schoolchildren in Oyster Bay, Christmastime (1898), as quoted in The Bully Pulpit : A Teddy Roosevelt Book of Quotations (2002) by H. Paul Jeffers, p. 22
- I have always been fond of the West African proverb "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."
- Letter to Henry L. Sprague (26 January 1900); this is the first known use of this phrase, which became a signature motto of Roosevelt's after he used it in a speech as Vice-President at the Minnesota State Fair:
- There is a homely adage which runs "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." If the American nation will speak softly and yet build and keep at a pitch of highest training a thoroughly efficient Navy, the Monroe Doctrine will go far. (2 September 1901)
- (Accounts of the precise wording with which he introduced this proverb vary. Another version is given below, within a more extensive transcript of the speech.)
- Death is always and under all circumstances a tragedy, for if it is not, then it means that life itself has become one.
- In short, in life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard; don't foul and don't shirk, but hit the line hard!
- "The American Boy", published in St. Nicholas 27, no. 7 (May 1900), p. 574
- I'm as strong as a bull moose and you can use me to the limit.
- Letter to Mark Hannah (27 June 1900)
- I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.
- Response when a dignitary asked if he could better control his daughter, as quoted in Hail to the Chiefs : My Life and Times with Six Presidents (1970) by Ruth Shick Montgomery, and TIME magazine (3 March 1980)
- Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let the vices of envy and hatred enter deep into our own natures.
But there is another harm; and it is evident that we should try to do away with that. The great corporations which we have grown to speak of rather loosely as trusts are the creatures of the State, and the State not only has the right to control them, but it is duty bound to control them wherever the need of such control is shown.
- Speech at Kennedy Plaza, Providence, Rhode Island (23 August 1902), Presidential Addresses and State Papers (1910), p. 103.
- I cannot consent to take the position that the door of hope — the door of opportunity — is to be shut upon any man, no matter how worthy, purely upon the grounds of race or color. Such an attitude would, according to my convictions, be fundamentally wrong.
- The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight; that he shall not be a mere passenger, but shall do his share in the work that each generation of us finds ready to hand; and, furthermore, that in doing his work he shall show, not only the capacity for sturdy self-help, but also self-respecting regard for the rights of others.
- Speech at New York (11 November 1902)
- Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable development of modern industrialism, and the effort to destroy them would be futile unless accomplished in ways that would work the utmost mischief to the entire body politic. We can do nothing of good in the way of regulating and supervising these corporations until we fix clearly in our minds that we are not attacking the corporations, but endeavoring to do away with any evil in them. We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to subserve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth.
- State of the Union address (2 December 1902)
- A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that no man is entitled to, and less than that no man shall have.
- Speech at Springfield, Illinois (4 July 1903)
- There are good men and bad men of all nationalities, creeds and colors; and if this world of ours is ever to become what we hope some day it may become, it must be by the general recognition that the man's heart and soul, the man's worth and actions, determine his standing.
- Letter (1 September 1903), Oyster Bay, New York
- No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor.
- We face the future with our past and our present as guarantors of our promises; and we are content to stand or to fall by the record which we have made and are making.
- Of all the officers of the Government, those of the Department of Justice should be kept most free from any suspicion of improper action on partisan or factional grounds, so that there shall be gradually a growth, even though a slow growth, in the knowledge that the Federal courts and the representatives of the Federal Department of Justice insist on meting out even-handed justice to all.
- Letter to Attorney General William H. Moody (August 9, 1904); reported in Homer S. Cummings, Federal Justice (1937), p. 500
- Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.
- It is enough to give any one a sense of sardonic amusement to see the way in which the people generally, not only in my own country but elsewhere, gauge the work purely by the fact that it succeeded. If I had not brought about peace I should have been laughed at and condemned. Now I am over-praised. I am credited with being extremely longheaded, etc. As a matter of fact I took the position I finally did not of my own volition but because events so shaped themselves that I would have felt as if I was flinch- ing from a plain duty if I had acted otherwise. … Neither Government would consent to meet where the other wished and the Japanese would not consent to meet at The Hague, which was the place I desired. The result was that they had to meet in this country, and this necessarily threw me into a position of prominence which I had not sought, and indeed which I had sought to avoid — though I feel now that unless they had met here they never would have made peace.
- It is a very poor thing, whether for nations or individuals, to advance the history of great deeds done in the past as an excuse for doing poorly in the present; but it is an excellent thing to study the history of the great deeds of the past, and of the great men who did them, with an earnest desire to profit thereby so as to render better service in the present. In their essentials, the men of the present day are much like the men of the past, and the live issues of the present can be faced to better advantage by men who have in good faith studied how the leaders of the nation faced the dead issues of the past. Such a study of Lincoln's life will enable us to avoid the twin gulfs of immorality and inefficiency—the gulfs which always lie one on each side of the careers alike of man and of nation. It helps nothing to have avoided one if shipwreck is encountered in the other. The fanatic, the well-meaning moralist of unbalanced mind, the parlor critic who condemns others but has no power himself to do good and but little power to do ill—all these were as alien to Lincoln as the vicious and unpatriotic themselves. His life teaches our people that they must act with wisdom, because otherwise adherence to right will be mere sound and fury without substance; and that they must also act high-mindedly, or else what seems to be wisdom will in the end turn out to be the most destructive kind of folly.
- Theodore Roosevelt's introduction to "The Writings and Papers And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln, Volume One, Constitutional Edition", edited by Arthur Brooks Lapsley and released as "The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Papers And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln, Volume One, by Abraham Lincoln" by Project Gutenberg on July 4, 2009. Roosevelt wrote his introduction at Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York, September 22, 1905 according to the introduction.
- Men with the muckrake are often indispensable to the well-being of society, but only if they know when to stop raking the muck, and to look upward to the celestial crown above them. … If they gradually grow to feel that the whole world is nothing but muck their power of usefulness is gone.
- Address on the laying of the cornerstone of the House Office Building, Washington, D.C. (14 April 1906)
- Malefactors of great wealth.
- Phrase first used in a speech at Provincetown, Massachusetts (20 August 1907)
- To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.
- You tell me that saccharin is injurious to health? Dr. Rixey gives it to me every day. Anybody who says saccharin is injurious to health is an idiot.
- Response when Harvey W. Wiley opposed the the of saccharin because it is injurious to health, as quoted in The History of a Crime Against the Food Law (1929) by Harvey W. Wiley
- You ask that Mr. Taft shall "let the world know what his religious belief is." This is purely his own private concern; it is a matter between him and his Maker, a matter for his own conscience; and to require it to be made public under penalty of political discrimination is to negative the first principles of our Government, which guarantee complete religious liberty, and the right to each to act in religious affairs as his own conscience dictates. Mr. Taft never asked my advice in the matter, but if he had asked it, I should have emphatically advised him against thus stating publicly his religious belief. The demand for a statement of a candidate’s religious belief can have no meaning except that there may be discrimination for or against him because of that belief. Discrimination against the holder of one faith means retaliatory discrimination against men of other faiths. The inevitable result of entering upon such a practice would be an abandonment of our real freedom of conscience and a reversion to the dreadful conditions of religious dissension which in so many lands have proved fatal to true liberty, to true religion, and to all advance in civilization.
- To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular church, or because, like Abraham Lincoln, he has not avowed his allegiance to any church, is an outrage against that liberty of conscience which is one of the foundations of American life. You are entitled to know whether a man seeking your suffrages is a man of clean and upright life, honorable in all of his dealings with his fellows, and fit by qualification and purpose to do well in the great office for which he is a candidate; but you are not entitled to know matters which lie purely between himself and his Maker. If it is proper or legitimate to oppose a man for being a Unitarian, as was John Quincy Adams, for instance, as is the Rev. Edward Everett Hale, at the present moment Chaplain of the Senate, and an American of whose life all good Americans are proud then it would be equally proper to support or oppose a man because of his views on justification by faith, or the method of administering the sacrament, or the gospel of salvation by works. If you once enter on such a career there is absolutely no limit at which you can legitimately stop.
- Letter to Mr. J.C. Martin concerning religion and politics (6 November 1908)
- To permit every lawless capitalist, every law-defying corporation, to take any action, no matter how iniquitous, in the effort to secure an improper profit and to build up privilege, would be ruinous to the Republic and would mark the abandonment of the effort to secure in the industrial world the spirit of democratic fair dealing.
The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses (1900)
Main article: The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses
- Text available available at bartleby.com. Scanned image at theodore-roosevelt.com
The Strenous Life
- "Speech before the Hamilton Club, Chicago, April 10, 1899"
- I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.
- A life of slothful ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual. [...] If you are rich and are worth your salt, you will teach your sons that though they may have leisure, it is not to be spent in idleness; for wisely used leisure merely means that those who possess it, being free from the necessity of working for their livelihood, are all the more bound to carry on some kind of non-remunerative work in science, in letters, in art, in exploration, in historical research—work of the type we most need in this country, the successful carrying out of which reflects most honor upon the nation. We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort. Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been stored up effort in the past. A man can be freed from the necessity of work only by the fact that he or his fathers before him have worked to good purpose. If the freedom thus purchased is used aright, and the man still does actual work, though of a different kind, whether as a writer or a general, whether in the field of politics or in the field of exploration and adventure, he shows he deserves his good fortune. But if he treats this period of freedom from the need of actual labor as a period, not of preparation, but of mere enjoyment, even though perhaps not of vicious enjoyment, he shows that he is simply a cumberer of the earth's surface, and he surely unfits himself to hold his own with his fellows if the need to do so should again arise.
- A mere life of ease is not in the end a very satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world. In the last analysis a healthy state can exist only when the men and women who make it up lead clean, vigorous, healthy lives; when the children are so trained that they shall endeavor, not to shirk difficulties, but to overcome them; not to seek ease, but to know how to wrest triumph from toil and risk.
- Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in that grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
- We cannot, if we would, play the part of China, and be content to rot by inches in ignoble ease within our borders, taking no interest in what goes on beyond them, sunk in a scrambling commercialism; heedless of the higher life, the life of aspiration, of toil and risk, busying ourselves only with the wants of our bodies for the day, until suddenly we should find, beyond a shadow of question, what China has already found, that in this world the nation that has trained itself to a career of unwarlike and isolated ease is bound, in the end, to go down before other nations which have not lost the manly and adventurous qualities. If we are to be a really great people, we must strive in good faith to play a great part in the world.
- We cannot avoid meeting great issues. All that we can determine for ourselves is whether we shall meet them well or ill.
- We have a given problem to solve. If we undertake the solution, there is, of course, always danger that we may not solve it aright; but to refuse to undertake the solution simply renders it certain that we cannot possibly solve it aright.
- No country can long endure if its foundations are not laid deep in the material prosperity which comes from thrift, from business energy and enterprise, from hard, unsparing effort in the fields of industrial activity; but neither was any nation ever yet truly great if it relied upon material prosperity alone. All honor must be paid to the architects of our material prosperity, to the great captains of industry who have built our factories and our railroads, to the strong men who toil for wealth with brain or hand; for great is the debt of the nation to these and their kind. But our debt is yet greater to the men whose highest type is to be found in a statesman like Lincoln, a soldier like Grant. They showed by their lives that they recognized the law of work, the law of strife; they toiled to win a competence for themselves and those dependent upon them; but they recognized that there were yet other and even loftier duties—duties to the nation and duties to the race. We cannot sit huddled within our own borders and avow ourselves merely an assemblage of well-to-do hucksters who care nothing for what happens beyond. Such a policy would defeat even its own end; for as the nations grow to have ever wider and wider interests, and are brought into closer and closer contact, if we are to hold our own in the struggle for naval and commercial supremacy, we must build up our power without our own borders. We must build the Isthmian Canal, and we must grasp the points of vantage which will enable us to have our say in deciding the destiny of the oceans of the East and the West.
- Let us, as we value our own self-respect, face the responsibilities with proper seriousness, courage, and high resolve. We must demand the highest order of integrity and ability in our public men who are to grapple with these new problems. We must hold to a rigid accountability those public servants who show unfaithfulness to the interests of the nation or inability to rise to the high level of the new demands upon our strength and our resources. Of course we must remember not to judge any public servant by any one act, and especially should we beware of attacking the men who are merely the occasions and not the causes of disaster.
- We must see that there is civic honesty, civic cleanliness, civic good sense in our home administration of city, State, and nation. We must strive for honesty in office, for honesty toward the creditors of the nation and of the individual; for the widest freedom of individual initiative where possible, and for the wisest control of individual initiative where it is hostile to the welfare of the many. But because we set our own household in order we are not thereby excused from playing our part in the great affairs of the world. A man's first duty is to his own home, but he is not thereby excused from doing his duty to the State; for if he fails in this second duty it is under the penalty of ceasing to be a freeman. In the same way, while a nation's first duty is within its own borders, it is not thereby absolved from facing its duties in the world as a whole; and if it refuses to do so, it merely forfeits its right to struggle for a place among the peoples that shape the destiny of mankind.
- If we stand idly by, if we seek merely swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to uphold righteousness by deed and by word; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals, yet to use practical methods. Above all, let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife is justified, for it is only through strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.
- Address at the Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul, 2 September 1901, Pdf at theodore-roosevelt.com
- Our country has been populated by pioneers, and therefore it has in it more energy, more enterprise, more expansive power than any other in the wide world. [...] They have shown the qualities of daring, endurance, and far-sightedness, of eager desire for victory and stubborn refusal to accept defeat, which go to make up the essential manliness of the American character. Above all, they have recognized in practical form the fundamental law of success in American life—the law of worthy work, the law of high, resolute endeavor. We have but little room among our people for the timid, the irresolute, and the idle; and it is no less true that there is scant room in the world at large for the nation with mighty thews that dares not to be great.
- Throughout our history the success of the homemaker has been but another name for the up-building of the nation.
- Poverty is a bitter thing; but it is not as bitter as the existence of restless vacuity and physical, moral, and intellectual flabbiness, to which those doom themselves who elect to spend all their years in that vainest of all vain pursuits—the pursuit of mere pleasure as a sufficient end in itself.
- The willfully idle man, like the willfully barren woman, has no place in a sane, healthy, and vigorous community. Moreover, the gross and hideous selfishness for which each stands defeats even its own miserable aims. Exactly as infinitely the happiest woman is she who has borne and brought up many healthy children, so infinitely the happiest man is he who has toiled hard and successfully in his life-work. The work may be done in a thousand different ways —with the brain or the hands, in the study, the field, or the workshop—if it is honest work, honestly done and well worth doing, that is all we have a right to ask. Every father and mother here, if they are wise, will bring up their children not to shirk difficulties, but to meet them and overcome them; not to strive after a life of ignoble ease, but to strive to do their duty, first to themselves and their families, and then to the whole state; and this duty must inevitably take the shape of work in some form or other.
- You, the sons of the pioneers, if you are true to your ancestry, must make your lives as worthy as they made theirs. They sought for true success, and therefore they did not seek ease. They knew that success comes only to those who lead the life of endeavor.
- It seems to me that the simple acceptance of this fundamental fact of American life, this acknowledgment that the law of work is the fundamental law of our being, will help us to start aright in facing not a few of the problems that confront us from without and from within. As regards internal affairs, it should teach us the prime need of remembering that, after all has been said and done, the chief factor in any man’s success or failure must be his own character—that is, the sum of his common sense, his courage, his virile energy and capacity. Nothing can take the place of this individual factor.
- Besides each one of us working individually, all of us have got to work together. We cannot possibly do our best work as a nation unless all of us know how to act in combination as well as how to act each individually for himself. The acting in combination can take many forms, but of course its most effective form must be when it comes in the shape of law —that is, of action by the community as a whole through the lawmaking body.
- But it is not possible ever to insure prosperity merely by law. Something for good can be done by law, and a bad law can do an infinity of mischief; but, after all, the best law can only prevent wrong and injustice, and give to the thrifty, the farseeing, and the hard-working a chance to exercise to best advantage their special and peculiar abilities.
- No hard-and-fast rule can be laid down as to where our legislation shall stop in interfering between man and man, between interest and interest. All that can be said is that it is highly undesirable, on the one hand, to weaken individual initiative, and, on the other hand, that in a constantly increasing number of cases we shall find it necessary in the future to shackle cunning as in the past we have shackled force. It is not only highly desirable but necessary that there should be legislation which shall carefully shield the interests of wage-workers, and which shall discriminate in favor of the honest and humane employer by removing the disadvantage under which he stands when compared with unscrupulous competitors who have no conscience and will do right only under fear of punishment. Nor can legislation stop only with what are termed labor questions. The vast individual and corporate fortunes, the vast combinations of capital, which have marked the development of our industrial system create new conditions, and necessitate a change from the old attitude of the state and the nation toward property.
- It is probably true that the large majority of the fortunes that now exist in this country have been amassed not by injuring our people, but as an incident to the conferring of great benefits upon the community; and this, no matter what may have been the conscious purpose of those amassing them. There is but the scantiest justification for most of the outcry against the men of wealth as such; and it ought to be unnecessary to state that any appeal which directly or indirectly leads to suspicion and hatred among ourselves, which tends to limit opportunity, and therefore to shut the door of success against poor men of talent, and, finally, which entails the possibility of lawlessness and violence, is an attack upon the fundamental properties of American citizenship.
- Our interests are at bottom common; in the long run we go up or go down together. Yet more and more it is evident that the state, and if necessary the nation, has got to possess the right of supervision and control as regards the great corporations which are its creatures; particularly as regards the great business combinations which derive a portion of their importance from the existence of some monopolistic tendency. The right should be exercised with caution and self restraint; but it should exist, so that it may be invoked if the need arises.
- The man who works, the man who does great deeds, in the end dies as surely as the veriest idler who cumbers the earth’s surface; but he leaves behind him the great fact that he has done his work well. So it is with nations. While the nation that has dared to be great, that has had the will and the power to change the destiny of the ages, in the end must die, yet no less surely the nation that has played the part of the weakling must also die; and whereas the nation that has done nothing leaves nothing behind it, the nation that has done a great work really continues, though in changed form, to live forevermore. The Roman has passed away exactly as all the nations of antiquity which did not expand when he expanded have passed away; but their very memory has vanished, while he himself is still a living force throughout the wide world in our entire civilization of today, and will so continue through countless generations, through untold ages.
- We admit with all sincerity that our first duty is within our own household; that we must not merely talk, but act, in favor of cleanliness and decency and righteousness, in all political, social, and civic matters. No prosperity and no glory can save a nation that is rotten at heart. We must ever keep the core of our national being sound, and see to it that not only our citizens in private life, but, above all, our statesmen in public life, practice the old commonplace virtues which from time immemorial have lain at the root of all true national wellbeing.
- Exactly as each man, while doing first his duty to his wife and the children within his home, must yet, if he hopes to amount to much, strive mightily in the world outside his home, so our nation, while first of all seeing to its own domestic well-being, must not shrink from playing its part among the great nations without. Our duty may take many forms in the future as it has taken many forms in the past. Nor is it possible to lay down a hard-and-fast rule for all cases. We must ever face the fact of our shifting national needs, of the always-changing opportunities that present themselves. But we may be certain of one thing: whether we wish it or not, we cannot avoid hereafter having duties to do in the face of other nations. All that we can do is to settle whether we shall perform these duties well or ill.
- Right here let me make as vigorous a plea as I know how in favor of saying nothing that we do not mean, and of acting without hesitation up to whatever we say. A good many of you are probably acquainted with the old proverb: "Speak softly and carry a big stick—you will go far." If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble; and neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power.
- In private life there are few beings more obnoxious than the man who is always loudly boasting; and if the boaster is not prepared to back up his words his position becomes absolutely contemptible. So it is with the nation. It is both foolish and undignified to indulge in undue self-glorification, and, above all, in loose-tongued denunciation of other peoples. Whenever on any point we come in contact with a foreign power, I hope that we shall always strive to speak courteously and respectfully of that foreign power.
- Let us make it evident that we intend to do justice. Then let us make it equally evident that we will not tolerate injustice being done to us in return. Let us further make it evident that we use no words which we are not prepared to back up with deeds, and that while our speech is always moderate, we are ready and willing to make it good. Such an attitude will be the surest possible guarantee of that self-respecting peace, the attainment of which is and must ever be the prime aim of a self-governing people.
- We most earnestly hope and believe that the chance of our having any hostile military complication with any foreign power is very small. But that there will come a strain, a jar, here and there, from commercial and agricultural—that is, from industrial—competition is almost inevitable. Here again we have got to remember that our first duty is to our own people, and yet that we can best get justice by doing justice. We must continue the policy that has been so brilliantly successful in the past, and so shape our economic system as to give every advantage to the skill, energy, and intelligence of our farmers, merchants, manufacturers, and wage-workers; and yet we must also remember, in dealing with other nations, that benefits must be given where benefits are sought. It is not possible to dogmatize as to the exact way of attaining this end, for the exact conditions cannot be foretold. In the long run, one of our prime needs is stability and continuity of economic policy; and yet, through treaty or by direct legislation, it may, at least in certain cases, become advantageous to supplement our present policy by a system of reciprocal benefit and obligation.
- The first essential of civilization is law. Anarchy is simply the handmaiden and forerunner of tyranny and despotism. Law and order enforced with justice and by strength lie at the foundations of civilization. Law must be based upon justice, else it cannot stand, and it must be enforced with resolute firmness, because weakness in enforcing it means in the end that there is no justice and no law, nothing but the rule of disorderly and unscrupulous strength. Without the habit of orderly obedience to the law, without the stern enforcement of the laws at the expense of those who defiantly resist them, there can be no possible progress, moral or material, in civilization. There can be no weakening of the law-abiding spirit here at home, if we are permanently to succeed; and just as little can we afford to show weakness abroad.
- Barbarism has, and can have, no place in a civilized world. It is our duty toward the people living in barbarism to see that they are freed from their chains, and we can free them only by destroying barbarism itself. The missionary, the merchant, and the soldier may each have to play a part in this destruction, and in the consequent uplifting of the people. Exactly as it is the duty of a civilized power scrupulously to respect the rights of all weaker civilized powers and gladly to help those who are struggling toward civilization, so it is its duty to put down savagery and barbarism. As in such a work human instruments must be used, and as human instruments are imperfect, this means that at times there will be injustice; that at times merchant or soldier, or even missionary, may do wrong. Let us instantly condemn and rectify such wrong when it occurs, and if possible punish the wrongdoer. But shame, thrice shame to us, if we are so foolish as to make such occasional wrongdoing an excuse for failing to perform a great and righteous task. Not only in our own land, but throughout the world, throughout all history, the advance of civilization has been of incalculable benefit to mankind, and those through whom it has advanced deserve the highest honor. All honor to the missionary, all honor to the soldier, all honor to the merchant who now in our own day have done so much to bring light into the world’s dark places.
- We shall make mistakes; and if we let these mistakes frighten us from our work we shall show ourselves weaklings.
Speak softly and carry a big stick (1901)
- Quotes from a transcription of Roosevelt's speech at the opening of the Minnesota State Fair, as it appeared in the Minneapolis Tribune (3 September 1901)
- For further quotes from this speech see "National Duties" subsection in the "The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses (1900)" section above.
- No hard and fast rule can be laid down as to where our legislation shall stop in interfering between man and man, between interest and interest. All that can be said is that it is highly undesirable on the one hand, to weaken individual initiative, and on the other hand, that in a constantly increasing number of cases we shall find it necessary in the future to shackle cunning as in the past we have shackled force.
- The vast individual and corporate fortunes, the vast combinations of capital which have marked the development of our industrial system, create new conditions, and necessitate a change from the old attitude of state and the nation toward property.
- Right here let me make as vigorous a plea as I know how in favor of saying nothing that we do not mean, and of acting without hesitation up to whatever we say. A good many of you are probably acquainted with the old proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick — you will go far.” If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble, and neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power. In private life there are few beings more obnoxious than the man who is always loudly boasting, and if the boaster is not prepared to back up his words, his position becomes absolutely contemptible. So it is with the nation. It is both foolish and undignified to indulge in undue self-glorification, and, above all, in loose-tongued denunciation of other peoples. Whenever on any point we come in contact with a foreign power, I hope that we shall always strive to speak courteously and respectfully of that foreign power.
- Let us make it evident that we intend to do justice. Then let us make it equally evident that we will not tolerate injustice being done us in return. Let us further make it evident that we use no words which we are not which prepared to back up with deeds, and that while our speech is always moderate, we are ready and willing to make it good. Such an attitude will be the surest possible guarantee of that self-respecting peace, the attainment of which is and must ever be the prime aim of a self-governing people.
Address at Providence (1901)
- Address at Providence, Rhode Island (23 August 1902)
- We are passing through a period of great commercial prosperity, and such a period is as sure as adversity itself to bring mutterings of discontent. At a time when most men prosper somewhat some men always prosper greatly; and it is as true now as when the tower of Siloam fell upon all alike, that good fortune does not come solely to the just, nor bad fortune solely to the unjust. When the weather is good for crops it is also good for weeds.
- Where men are gathered together in great masses it inevitably results that they must work far more largely through combinations than where they live scattered and remote from one another… Under present-day conditions it is necessary to have corporations in the business world as it is to have organizations, unions, among wage workers.
- The great corporations which we have grown to speak of rather loosely as trusts are the creatures of the State, and the State not only has the right to control them wherever need of such control is shown… [Applause] The immediate necessity in dealing with trusts is to place them under the real, not the nominal, control of some sovereign to which, as its creatures, the trusts owe allegiance, and in whose courts the sovereign's orders may be enforced. In my opinion, this sovereign must be the National Government.
- To any nation that stands for human liberties, they have an Ally in the United States.
First Annual Message to Congress (1901)
- First annual message to the US Senate and House of Representatives (December 3, 1901)
- The tremendous and highly complex industrial development which went on with ever accelerated rapidity during the latter half of the nineteenth century brings us face to face, at the beginning of the twentieth, with very serious social problems. The old laws, and the old customs which had almost the binding force of law, were once quite sufficient to regulate the accumulation and distribution of wealth. Since the industrial changes which have so enormously increased the productive power of mankind, they are no longer sufficient.
- The growth of cities has gone on beyond comparison faster than the growth of the country, and the upbuilding of the great industrial centers has meant a startling increase, not merely in the aggregate of wealth, but in the number of very large individual, and especially of very large corporate, fortunes. The creation of these great corporate fortunes has not been due to the tariff nor to any other governmental action, but to natural causes in the business world, operating in other countries as they operate in our own.
- The process has aroused much antagonism, a great part of which is wholly without warrant. It is not true that as the rich have grown richer the poor have grown poorer. On the contrary, never before has the average man, the wage-worker, the farmer, the small trader, been so well off as in this country and at the present time. There have been abuses connected with the accumulation of wealth; yet it remains true that a fortune accumulated in legitimate business can be accumulated by the person specially benefited only on condition of conferring immense incidental benefits upon others. Successful enterprise, of the type which benefits all mankind, can only exist if the conditions are such as to offer great prizes as the rewards of success.
- The captains of industry who have driven the railway systems across this continent, who have built up our commerce, who have developed our manufactures, have on the whole done great good to our people. Without them the material development of which we are so justly proud could never have taken place. Moreover, we should recognize the immense importance of this material development of leaving as unhampered as is compatible with the public good the strong and forceful men upon whom the success of business operations inevitably rests. The slightest study of business conditions will satisfy anyone capable of forming a judgment that the personal equation is the most important factor in a business operation; that the business ability of the man at the head of any business concern, big or little, is usually the factor which fixes the gulf between striking success and hopeless failure.
- An additional reason for caution in dealing with corporations is to be found in the international commercial conditions of to-day. The same business conditions which have produced the great aggregations of corporate and individual wealth have made them very potent factors in international Commercial competition. Business concerns which have the largest means at their disposal and are managed by the ablest men are naturally those which take the lead in the strife for commercial supremacy among the nations of the world. America has only just begun to assume that commanding position in the international business world which we believe will more and more be hers. It is of the utmost importance that this position be not jeoparded, especially at a time when the overflowing abundance of our own natural resources and the skill, business energy, and mechanical aptitude of our people make foreign markets essential. Under such conditions it would be most unwise to cramp or to fetter the youthful strength of our Nation. Moreover, it cannot too often be pointed out that to strike with ignorant violence at the interests of one set of men almost inevitably endangers the interests of all. The fundamental rule in our national life —the rule which underlies all others—is that, on the whole, and in the long run, we shall go up or down together.
In a particularly scathing 2001 essay for the London Review of Books, Jenny Diski wrote about a book titled Misogyny: The Male Malady, by an anthropology professor named David Gilmore. Diski argued that the book, which billed itself as a “comprehensive historical and anthropological survey of woman-hating that casts new light on this age-old bias,” was nothing more than a wan apologia for sexism and, in her words, “the real victims of the malady of misogyny: the psychogenically challenged male who needs all the understanding we can give him.” I’ll give you more Diski here, because it’s so good: “Lord, how easily the image of the oppressed is appropriated. If women think they’ve had a hard time as a result of being loathed and bullied by men, it’s nothing compared to the hardship suffered by men that has resulted in their feeling the loathing.”
It’s been very difficult to process all the women’s stories that have come out in the last two weeks since Harvey Weinstein was revealed to be what we already knew he was, but worse. There have been a lot of feelings from everyone. Going online is like attending an Irish wake, just constant collective wailing, everyone’s nerve endings exposed. This is good, I think. Necessary catharsis. But somehow, even when women are suffering, as they have for the totality of human history while pushing new humans through their pelvic bones or being shamed about how they don’t want to push new humans through their pelvic bones, men feel entitled to let the Earth’s women know that actually, they are the ones who are suffering, even though it’s mostly (94 percent) them causing the sum total of the world’s pain (the remaining six percent is split as follows: three percent natural disasters, two percent random animal attacks, a half-percent glacial shifts, a half-percent women).
So it’s been quite rich to watch men squirm in their seats as the Weinstein story erupted into a national cascade of everyone telling how they, too, were sexually assaulted or otherwise violated by a disgusting but powerful man. Something else also happened: Men took to the internet to apologize to women, or profess their goodness, or say that they were once bad but are now better because they don’t drink anymore, and sometimes all three. “I’m not that guy!” they all wanted say, but, of course, they are.
SELL MORE STUFF
I’ve been thinking a lot about Andrea Dworkin since all this shit hit the fan. I’m glad she did not have to live to see Chapo Trap House (she died in 2005), but maybe she would have been an entertaining guest on it. No one wrote like Andrea, whose ideas crackled beneath her words, and whose words thundered with the weight of their severity. I was in my mid-twenties when I first read her book Intercourse; my friend said that it would make me “never want to have sex again,” which sounded great at the time, and it was.
Men feel entitled to let the Earth’s women know that, actually, they are the ones who are suffering.
For the uninitiated, Dworkin holds a very low opinion of men, which is correct, and thinks they subjugate women simply by existing and also pushing us into various gender constructs, which is also correct. “Being female in this world is having been robbed of the potential for human choice by men who love to hate us,” she writes in Intercourse. “One does not make choices in freedom. Instead, one conforms in body type and behavior and values to become an object of male sexual desire, which requires an abandonment of a wide-ranging capacity for choice.”
Crucially, Dworkin’s feminism, however outdated some of it seems today, was one propelled by ideas, rather than feelings — the idea that men are bad rather than the feeling that they are, the idea that all men should be castrated rather than the feeling that they should be (I’m extrapolating a bit here). The false choices of modern feminism — Women are “empowered!” They work! AND they have babies now! And they do twice the amount of work as a man for less money! Slay! — have led us to a place of complacency, where what we feel takes precedence over what we think. The Women’s March on Washington earlier this year gathered an unprecedented number of women to “harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change,” but what if there was a march to stop men from groping?
It’s unrealistic to think that any true power reversal or shift of roles will emerge in our post-Harvey world. Men have already tainted the groundswell by shifting the narrative towards them, simply by posting Facebook statuses to apologize to women they “might have harmed,” they’re not sure, they were drunk, if they have hurt someone can you let them know? Men: please remember that an apology can be a selfish act. And PLEASE do not email a woman you have raped or harmed in any way, even if you’re not sure you did it and you are just hoping to get confirmation.
What if there was a march to stop men from groping?
I would like to take a moment here to address the “Shitty Men in Media List.” Personally, I loved this list. I thought it was genius. There it was, plainly, written down, a list of 75 bad men and their (alleged) acts of violence and grossness against women. Was I worried about the possibility of a man being falsely accused? Not in the least. I think the violent experiences of likely hundreds of women at the hands of men who have gone unpunished by our pathetic justice system and other various pathetic systems outweigh the risk of damaging a man's “reputation,” even if those accusations were recorded anonymously. Sorry it's just math! (It's unfortunate, sure, that men who may have sent women "creepy DMs" got lumped in with a bunch of (alleged!) rapists, but I really can't muster the energy to care.)
The list was completely overwhelming to look at, and I was overcome with a combination of nausea, horror, and relief as I watched it being filled out by scores of anonymous women. In its aftermath, I have rarely seen so many men so scared, so angry, searching so hard for someone to blame, and spiraling when there was no one. Men became scared of other men, of what they may or may not have known or encouraged. “Weird that the internet has facilitated the fifth wave of women’s liberation: the great doxxing of bad men,” one of my friends said. “Fear is the only deterrent,” another wrote to me.
I have rarely seen so many men so scared, so angry, searching so hard for someone to blame.
My Fear friend likes to talk about one of the great paradoxes of being a woman: That no one is ever afraid of you. This is great in some situations (like if you’re Erin Brockovich trying to find incriminating documents) and horrible in others (most everything else). A woman can be so easily squashed, destroyed, silenced, ruined, and yet, we are mostly the ones who are afraid. As Dworkin famously said in a 1975 speech at Queens College: “By the time we are women, fear is as familiar to us as air. It is our element."
But with the Weinstein fallout, and the List, we saw men actually becoming afraid of what they did or did not do (and honestly, if they didn’t feel any fear, they were deluded). If there’s one thing to learn from the endless morass of emotions that has been the past few weeks it’s that it’s good to make men feel fear, and this is something women absolutely have the power to do, even if it has to come anonymously, and in aggregate. Many men wonder what to do with their entitled mouths and brains at moments like this and the answer is: shut up and go away. Fear, not common sense or respect, is the only thing that seems to drive some of them to silence. However fleeting this change may be, it is a distinct role reversal and, I hope, it is progress.
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