DescriptionTheodore Roosevelt Superb Patriotic Autograph Letter Signed: Less than five months before the United States would enter World War I, TR urges approval of a law "making it obligatory upon every male American citizen between the ages of 18 and 21 to serve 6 months or a year in the field... no one should be allowed to vote who has not thus served."
Signed: "Theodore Roosevelt", one page, 5.25" x 6.5". On stationery of The Langdon hotel, 5th Avenue at 56th Street, New York City, but penned from Sagamore Hill, November 15, 1916. To Lt. Gen. Samuel B.M. Young, President, Am for National Service. In full: "My dear General Young, I most cordially and emphatically approve your efforts as President of the Association to secure the passage of a law making it obligatory upon every male American citizen between the ages of 18 and 21 to serve 6 months or a year - as the case may demand - in the field with its colors. I believe no one should be allowed to vote who has not thus served - poltroons and professional pacifists are out of place in a free Republic. There should be education towards military training along the lines followed in Australia, Argentina, Switzerland and Japan. No man is fit to be a freeman [sic] unless he has fitted himself to fight efficiently for his freedoms. With all good wishes, I am Your fellow-American"
Samuel B.M. Young (1840-1924) served with distinction in the Civil War, being brevetted Brigadier General of Volunteers for his services during the final campaign from Petersburg and Appomattox. In the Spanish-American War, he commanded a brigade in Cuba and was promoted Major General of Volunteers. In 1903, Young was promoted to Lieutenant General and appointed the first Chief of Staff of the Army, holding this post until his retirement in 1904. In 1909-1910, he presided over a board of inquiry that investigated the alleged riot of Black soldiers in Brownsville, Texas, in 1906, and affirmed the subsequent discharge of 159 men by order of President Theodore Roosevelt. From 1910-1920, Young was governor of the Soldiers Home in Washington, D.C. Two photographs of Young accompany this letter.
"He kept us out of war" was the slogan the Democrats used in the 1916 presidential campaign, and President Wilson was narrowly reelected over Republican Charles Evans Hughes, 277-254 electoral votes. Eight days later, Theodore Roosevelt wrote this letter to Lieutenant General Young who was then serving as President of Americans for National Service. The law favored by Roosevelt and Young was never passed. On February 3, 1917, President Wilson announced that all diplomatic relations with Germany had been severed. On April 2, 1917, he told Congress that since German submarines have sunk American ships, "Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government to be in fact nothing less than war against the Government and people of the United States" and that "it will involve the immediate addition to the armed forces of the United States already provided for by law in case of war at least 500,000 men, who should, in my opinion, be chosen upon the principle of universal liability to service." Congress declared war four days later and on May 18, 1917, the Selective Service Act was passed authorizing the President to increase temporarily the military establishment of the United States. The act provided for the registration of all men aged 21 through 30. A second conscription law was enacted in August 1918, extending registration to all men between the ages of 18 and 45.
Theodore Roosevelt had four sons and two daughters. All four sons served in World War I. The eldest, 29-year-old Theodore, Jr., was wounded and was later awarded the Medal of Honor as a General in World War II. 27-year-old Kermit was awarded the British Military Cross and served with distinction with the American Expeditionary Force in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. 23-year-old Archie was severely wounded in 1918 and awarded the Croix de Guerre. Roosevelt's youngest child, 20-year-old Quentin, was a pilot in the 95th Aero Squadron and was killed in action on July 14, 1918. In his eulogy for his son, Roosevelt wrote, "Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die."
In this remarkably patriotic letter, Theodore Roosevelt has concluded, "No man is fit to be a free man unless he has fitted himself to fight efficiently for his freedoms..." signing it "Your fellow-American." This letter is in extra fine condition with two tiny staple holes and a faint clip rust mark in the blank upper left. It would be a superb addition to an Americana or presidential collection. From the Gary Grossman Collection.
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