Commander of the “Rough Riders” cavalry during the Spanish-American War, Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) made a name for himself as a robust outdoorsman, scrappy soldier, clever statesman and American nationalist. He was one of the most outspoken proponents of American interventionism of his time.
Roosevelt believed a country could only progress if men fought and died for ideals they believed in. A product of the bloody 19th and early 20th centuries, Roosevelt’s nationalist ideology fell just short of fascism.
Roosevelt penned his essay “Lincoln and Free Speech” at the conclusion of the First World War, an international conflict sparked by rampant, surging nationalisms across Europe. Just as Abraham Lincoln pressured then-president James Polk to intensify America’s war efforts against Mexico, Roosevelt thought it necessary to pressure any president who spoke of peace during time of war. His essay on presidential skepticism stemmed from his vehement dislike for Woodrow Wilson and his policy of isolationism during WWI.
Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy as a presidential skeptic rides on the coattails of his legacy as a war hero and great American executive.