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Roosevelt's Legacy

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Theodore Roosevelt was a man uniquely fitted to the role that he played in American

history. He became President of the United States at the crucial crossroads of the nineteenth and

twentieth centuries. At the turn of the century, the U.S. had faced countless problems as the

result of the industrial revolution's effects on society and politics. Reform was needed and it

took a man of great vision and ambition to make the changes the American public sought to

gain. Roosevelt was the type of man needed by America to improve standards of living, earn

purity in democracy, create fairness in business practice, protect the natural environment and

earning the respect of foreign nations during the United States' rise to global power. Teddy

Roosevelt was at the reigns of America in its gallop to lead the world into the twentieth century;

and with his vast progressive ideals and clear foresight of the nation's path, he found remarkable

success. In many aspects, he can be regarded as the first modern president, as he confronted and

many problems faced by the nation during his time and set standards by which we still follow


As Roosevelt's first major act as President, he focused primarily on the separation of the

Northern Securities trust formed by the economic powerhouses at that time. Roosevelt witnessed

the monopoly that had formed and acted quickly to extinguish it before other trusts of this

magnitude could form. In 1903, he asked Congress to create the Department of Commerce and a

Bureau of Corporations to investigate possible business trusts and prevent unlawful practices.

This allowed smaller businesses a greater chance of success by creating an opportunity to

compete with large-scale corporations. "Within reasonable limits", Roosevelt launched a total of

44 lawsuits against major corporations. Roosevelt's decisive action in this matter was the first of

several great changes he brought into the U.S. and set the pace for vast modernization, by

today's standards, during his tenure in office. The "Trust-buster" displayed this platform in his

convictions and actions while reforming economic policies to create fairness within the business

world. His "Square Deal", referring to his promise not to favor any one group of Americans,

became one of his most famous platforms during his presidency. This conviction was displayed

in his actions in 1902 when the United Mine Workers Union went on strike; demanding higher

wages and shorter work shifts. The mine owners rejected not only their demands, but their

recognition as a union. After five months, Roosevelt intervened and brought both sides to the

table in an attempt to resolve the matter. An arbitration commission appointed by TR helped

both sides compromise and come to agreement.

Teddy Roosevelt also drove America into the 20th century with his great contributions to

conservation of natural resources. As industrial America steam-rolled into the 20th century,

natural resources were consumed in unfathomable numbers. The previously untouched western

landscapes were subjected to rapidly advancing consumption in favor of business interests. As a

result; ranchers, farmers, miners, and foresters as well as preservationists vied for control of the

quickly diminishing land. As an avid conservationist, Roosevelt worked with all the

major figures in the conservation movement and earned more land to be set aside for national

parks. He pushed for regulation in regards to the use of the country's wilderness. Also,

throughout his tenure in office, TR designated over 200 million acres of land as national parks

and mineral reserves. Said of Roosevelt to Congress in 1907: "Optimism is a good characteristic,

but if carried to an excess, it becomes foolishness. We are prone to speak of the resources of this

country as inexhaustible; this is not so." A year later he established the National Conservation

Commission in order to manage the nation's natural resources more effectively.

"Speak softly and carry a big Stick", was TR's motto when referring to foreign policy.

As he inherited leadership of America from McKinley, he sought to make changes to U.S.

policy in foreign affairs. Roosevelt moved away from the nation's imperialistic ideals of the late

19th and relied instead upon "Gunboat Diplomacy". One of his steps in improving U.S. status in

the world was the "Roosevelt Corollary", which in essence made America the dominant power




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