Theodore Roosevelt - Conclusion

That Theodore Roosevelt is counted among the great heroes of the progressive democratic tradition, alongside Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, must be counted an oddity of historical circumstance. In essence, he was profoundly conservative, especially in his exaltation of martial values; in his emphasis on duty; in his simplistic view of patriotism; in his absolutistic understanding of morality, justice, and right; in his candid assertion of the moral superiority of the "right people" (defined by their effective organization and uses of power); in his easy distinction between the righteous and the malevolent, the civilized and the savage. But he happened upon the presidency just as the nation confronted seriously for the first time the emergence of a national, interstate corporate power that transformed traditional modes of business enterprise, threatened the integrity of democratic processes, and tampered with the mechanisms for free-market allocation of economic resources, rewards, and opportunities. As champion of a federal government strong enough and willful enough to restrain the men of new corporate power, Roosevelt became a democratic hero. His foreign policy, equally vigorous, bold, and prescient, continues to draw more mixed reviews.

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