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    Roosevelt Reviews His Presidential Record

    Theodore Roosevelt Typed Letter Signed. Three pages, 8.5" x 11", New York, September 5, 1916. After serving two terms as president, Roosevelt declined to seek a third term, believing the precedent set by Washington was prudent. It was a decision he later regretted as he believed his full agenda remained unfinished. In 1912, he, along with the more progressive members of the Republican Party, split from the GOP and formed the Progressive Party and Roosevelt again ran for president in the 1912 election. His third bid failed and Woodrow Wilson became the twenty-eighth president.

    Years later, when asked by his friend, E. A. Van Valkenburg of The North American, about his future plans, he responded with this letter, saying, in part: "I was not only immensely amused, but immensely pleased by your note. Praise the Lord, you are a reformer with common sense, and with a gift of humorous insight into your fellows. I would really like to speak to those 'Last ditch gangsters who would scuttle the Ship of State' but who are at heart for me and have been so for many years, and who are now delighted at the chance to express their real sentiments! But I can't regards your expressed doubt 'whether indeed, there be a future'; as regards myself I have no doubt. Of course, we can never be absolutely certain; but my usefulness to this country depended so largely upon condition of national and international politics that its real need for me has probably passed... My great usefulness as President came in connection with the Anthracite Coal Strike, the voyage of the battle fleet around the world, the taking of Panama, the handling of Germany in the Venezuela business, England and the Alaska boundary matter, the irrigation business in the west, and finally, I think, the toning up of the government service generally. Any decent and forceful man could handle the irrigation business, and could tone up the government service, and build up our navy and army, But as to the other matters I am unsure. My usefulness in 1912 and again this year would have been because we were facing a period when there was need of vision in both national and international matters..."

    He muses what could have been had he been elected in 1912 or 1916, saying: "I would have done my best work in connection with the European War [the First World War], the Mexican situation, and the Japanese and Chinese situation; and also in connection with universal military service... of prime consequence to us socially and industrially. I would...have fought for the industrial regeneration of this country along the lines of the 1912 platform....[and] for that wise and farsighted justice which no more fears organized labor than it fears Wall Street."

    As far as the 1920 election is concerned: "...when 1920 arrives no human being can tell what the issues will be. I am already an old man, and the chances are very small that I will ever again grow into touch with the people of this country to the degree that will make me useful as a leader; and a man who has been a leader, is very rarely useful as an advisor when the period of his leadership has passed. People always used to say of me that I was an astonishingly good politician and divined what people were going to think. This really was not an accurate way of stating the case. I did not 'divine' how the people were going to think; I simply made up my mind what they ought to think, and then did my best to get them to think it. Sometimes I failed, and then my critics said that my 'ambition had overleaped itself.' Sometimes I succeeded; and then they said that I was an uncommonly astute creature..."

    Roosevelt did not live to see the 1920 election, dying in his sleep of a heart attack in January 1919. Of his passing, Vice President Thomas Marshall said, "Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight." Heavily toned, the letter contains several holographic emendations in Roosevelt's hand. Light overall wrinkling of the pages. Pages two and three show weakening of the folds with slight separation at the edges. Small chip at the left edge of page three.

    Provenance: Forbes Collection, 2002.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2013
    11th Thursday
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