Study Guide

Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt President Theodore Roosevelt

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President Theodore Roosevelt

A couple hours past midnight on 14 September 1901, William McKinley died of his gunshot wounds. Theodore Roosevelt suddenly became the youngest man ever to hold the office of president of the United States.

Entrenched political elites were not happy. From Congress's perspective, Roosevelt's political priorities could not have been more wrong. Roosevelt wanted to promote the rights of workers. Meanwhile, Congress would have been happier to continue confirming judges who struck down labor regulations as violating the freedom of contract. Roosevelt wanted the federal government to take the lead in dealing with public health and poverty. But congressional Democrats from the South, since returning to the government after the Civil War, had tried to restrict the federal government's power in the interest of states' rights. Roosevelt idolized Abraham Lincoln, and even wore a ring with Lincoln's hair in it. He would quote from Lincoln often, reminding Americans of what Lincoln had told Congress in 1861: "Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." The Gilded Age Congress, for its part, was in the pay of the railroad industry. Even Republicans had mostly abandoned Lincoln's dreams when they traded Reconstruction for Rutherford B. Hayes. From the start of his presidency, T.R. understood that he and the Congress were not going to see eye-to-eye.blank">African safari. When Taft won the election of 1908 (largely on the strength of Roosevelt's popularity), T.R. was able to relax. It would be difficult to leave the United States, but his vision, he thought, was safe in the hands of a man he could trust.

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