T. Roosevelt, born in 1858 and living until 1919, was an author, explorer, former soldier, and reformer who was the 26th U.S. President, serving in this position between 1901 and 1909. With his leadership of the Republican Party during his presidency, he was a principal force in the Progressive Era, the period of U.S. history between 1890 and 1920s when there was extensive political reform and social activism aimed at ridding the government of corruption and promoting democracy. Despite a sickly childhood owing to difficulties with asthma, he embraced a spirited routine in life and a “cowboy” personality before leading a reform group in the Republican Party at the state level in New York. After serving briefly as New York governor, the state party leaders’ distrust of him influenced their support for his role as a running mate for William McKinley in the elections of 1900, considering the role of a vice-president as a prestigious but powerless one. Following a vigorous countrywide campaign to support the president’s election, he became VP, which allowed him to succeed the president following the leader’s assassination in September 1901.
As the new president, Roosevelt’s vigor and youth, aged only 42, transformed the public perception of the presidency, especially as he expressed and enforced a progressive agenda based on the idea that the government ought to serve a mediating role between the conflicting forces of labor and capitalism, development and conservation, and expansionism and isolationism to promote social stability. He championed the “Square Deal” regime of domestic policies, promising fairness for average citizens and laying the framework for a reformist era featuring the breakage of trusts, provision of pure drugs and foods, and regulation of railroads. One of the most famous decisions and demonstrations of his reformist philosophy to battle industrial combinations (trusts) in favor of common citizens was his intervention and negotiation to end a strike at a mine in Pennsylvania and secure a pay increase for the miners. He made conservation a leading priority throughout his presidency, establishing national parks, forests, and monuments aimed at preserving natural resources. In terms of foreign policy, he focused on ending the conflict between Russia and Japan, (whose success earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1906), expanding the U.S. Navy and projecting its power in the world by sending a fleet on a global tour, and strengthening the Monroe Doctrine by supporting interventionism to end political problems in Latin America. He also restarted the abandoned construction of Panama Canal, enabling its service from 1914.
During his second term following the 1904 elections, Roosevelt persisted with his progressive policies, although Congress obstructed many of his agendas and efforts. He prepared William Taft, a close friend, as his replacement, but grew frustrated with Taft’s approach and orientation as president. Following an expedition in Africa, he was unsuccessful in bidding for a Republican Party nomination for the presidential elections in 1912, eventually founding a party to rival the Republicans. This split weakened the Republican Party severely, influencing the rise of Democrats and enabling their success in the 1912 elections. Roosevelt remained active physically and politically until January 1919, when he passed away in his sleep aged 60.
Political analysts and scholars rank Roosevelt consistently among the greatest leaders in U.S. history, based on achievements during his presidency and leadership qualities. These scholars and analysts often identify his impact, leadership, and achievements in the Progressive era and in inspiring conservationism as important influences in U.S. history.