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Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt

Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt

Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt: Assistant Secretary of the Navy

Unfortunately, T.R.'s vision was out of step with the ruling powers in New York. Roosevelt lost the support of the citizens (who otherwise loved reading about their commissioner's daring nighttime escapades) when he tried to enforce a law closing saloons on Sundays. Meanwhile, New York Republicans, who had their own corrupt political machine in New York, resented T.R.'s reform efforts. They wanted him out of the city, and fast. When the Republican William McKinley won the presidential election of 1896, they saw their chance to send T.R. back to Washington. Lodge, now a Republican Senator, pressured McKinley to give T.R. a cabinet post; McKinley, wary of giving the independent firebrand too much power or public exposure, instead offered him the job of assistant secretary of the Navy.

Aware that he was no longer being very productive in New York, T.R. moved back to D.C. to take up the president's offer. It may look like he put his domestic reform projects on hold… but the story is a bit more complicated. T.R. had wanted to see America change its naval policy ever since he wrote his first book, on The Naval War in 1812. He was a firm believer in expansionism: T.R. thought the United States should build up its navy and start asserting its global power. But that expansionism was rooted in the same desire for renewal T.R. showed in his domestic policies. T.R. thought that war was purifying. It was regenerating. Being wounded was proof of manly valor, and thus something to be desired. Besides, Roosevelt (like other Victorian-era imperialists) thought the American military could be used to spread "civilization" to more backward peoples. Over-civilization was bad, sure, but a complete lack of (Western) civilization was even worse. T.R. took up his responsibilities in April 1897 and immediately began pushing for war.

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