U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt After the Presidency

About the U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, biography and history of his post-presidential career.

FULL PORTRAITS OF SELECTED PRESIDENTS

26th President

THEODORE ROOSEVELT

PRESIDENCY

AFTER THE PRESIDENCY

At age 50, Roosevelt was the youngest man ever to retire from the presidency, and he still considered himself in the prime of life. He went big-game hunting in Africa and toured Europe, meeting crowned heads and dignitaries wherever he stopped. In 1912 TR challenged an old friend, William Howard Taft, for the Republican presidential nomination, but the bosses of the party, who had always disliked Roosevelt, threw the convention behind his opponent. Roosevelt and his many supporters walked out and formed their own party, the Progressive, or "Bull Moose," party.

In the campaign that followed, TR adopted a platform that was truly radical, and he was widely accused of socialist tendencies. Nevertheless, Roosevelt was convinced that his enormous personal popularity would enable him to win. On Oct. 14, three weeks before the election, TR was leaving his hotel in Milwaukee, Wis., to deliver a major speech when he was shot by a saloonkeeper named John F. Schrank. Schrank, who was later declared insane, claimed that he hated Roosevelt because of the former President's desire for a third term. Though pale and bleeding, with a bullet lodged deep in his chest, TR refused to go to a hospital, insisting that he would "give this speech or die." When he arrived at the hall, he referred to his would-be assassin as "that poor creature" and talked for 50 minutes before leaving to seek proper medical aid. A thorough examination revealed that the bullet had been slowed sufficiently by Roosevelt's steel pince-nez case and the folded copy of his speech to have saved his life. The wound was serious enough, however, to put TR out of action for the final weeks of the campaign. When the votes were counted, Roosevelt had won 4,127,788 votes, or 27.4%--the best showing ever made by a third-party candidate. Roosevelt easily outpolled the Republican candidate, Taft, but it was the Democrat Wilson who won the election.

After 1912, TR was forced to find new outlets for his formidable energy. He led a hazardous exploring expedition in the Brazilian jungle, published a book on African game animals, and won a libel suit against an editor who had accused him of excessive drinking. When war broke out in Europe in 1914, Roosevelt became the leading American advocate of an immediate entry on the side of the Allies. He declined the Progressive party's presidential nomination in 1916 and urged the Progressives to support Charles Evans Hughes, the Republican candidate, as an alternative to Wilson and his neutralist war policy. After the U.S. entered the war in April, 1917, TR requested permission to lead a volunteer division to Europe.

For more than a year before the U.S. declaration of war, the former President had been organizing this force, and applications for service in the "Roosevelt Division" had mounted to 200,000. When Wilson turned down TR's request, Roosevelt suspected political considerations as the motive. The real reason was that TR had said Wilson was without "a spark of manhood," and Wilson had privately responded that Roosevelt wanted to go to war as an ego trip, adding, "I really think the best way to treat Mr. Roosevelt is to take no notice of him." When his son Quentin was killed in action on July 14, 1918, some of the spirit seemed to leave the former President. Nevertheless, Republican and Progressive leaders were agreed that Roosevelt should be the candidate of a new united party. Roosevelt spoiled these plans when his health failed in the winter of 1918, shortly after Armistice Day. He died in 1919, 9 years and 309 days after the end of his last term as president.

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