Theodore Roosevelt and the
Modern Presidency
Despite ridicule from respectable friends, Roosevelt
entered into politics after graduating from Harvard.
Except for a brief interlude as a cattle rancher after
the deaths of his wife and mother, he spent his early
years seeking to become “one of the governing
Roosevelt’s service as a Rough Rider in the war
against Spain made him a national hero. He rode his
new fame to victory in the 1898 race for the governor
of New York.
Mckinley assassinated
• In 1900 President McKinley added Roosevelt
to the Republican ticket by naming him as his
vice presidential running mate. Fifteen
months later, an anarchist assassin’s bullet
thrust Roosevelt into the presidency.
Roosevelt as president
Roosevelt saw the
presidency as a “bully
pulpit” to preach his own
ideas. Throughout his
government career, he
supported progressive
reform in strong language
while in practice he pursued
a more moderate course of
action, especially toward
The Modern Presidency
• As President, Roosevelt employed the full
powers of his office, reversing the pattern of
strong Congresses and weak Presidents that
had predominated in the late 1800s. In doing
so, he became the first modern President.
He won such widespread popularity that
members of Congress confronted him more
cautiously than the unpopular and/or scandalridden Presidents of the late 1800s.
Natural resources
Roosevelt put his stamp on the presidency
most clearly in the area of conservation
• To settle competition between farmers and
city dwellers over scarce water in the dry
Western states, Roosevelt supported the
Newlands Reclamation Act, which authorized
the use of federal funds from the sale of
public lands to pay for irrigation and land
development projects.
Resource management
• Like Gifford Pinchot, the head of the newly
formed U.S. Forest Service, Roosevelt
believed in resource management. He
approved Pinchot’s efforts to regulate
lumbering on federal lands. He also added
150 million acres to the national forests and
established 5 national parks, 51 federal bird
reservations, and 4 national game preserves.
Regulating business
• Congress had passed the Sherman Antitrust
Act in 1890 to prevent trusts from establishing
monopolies, but industrialists devised
substitute methods of retaining control, such
as holding companies.
• Roosevelt won fame as a “trustbuster” for
using the Sherman Antitrust Act to file suit
against the Northern Securities Company, a
giant holding company created by J.P.
Morgan to control the railroads.
The trusts
Roosevelt publicly touted victory in the case.
However, in reality he did little to hinder the
day-to-day operations of the railroads, which
continued to function under the control of a
few railroad firms.
Mine strike
• In 1902 Roosevelt turned to J.P. Morgan to
persuade mine owners to accept arbitration
in a crippling strike led by the United Mine
Workers. In a compromise, miners got a
wage increase and a shorter work day.
However, they lost on the issue of union
recognition, which mine owners refused to
grant. Roosevelt threatened the use of troops
to seize the mines from the owners
A square deal
Although mine owners passed along wage
increases in the form of higher coal prices,
Roosevelt convinced the public that it had
gotten a “square deal” through resolution of
the strike. The words “square deal” became
the campaign slogan that carried him to
election in 1904.
Food and drugs
• In 1906 (same year as the publication of The
Jungle) Roosevelt signed the Meat Inspection
Law (government inspection of meat and
banned the use of dangerous preservatives
and misleading labels) and the Pure Food
and Drug Act (prohibited the manufacture of
of impure or falsely labeled food and drugs).
The laws laid the groundwork for future
government regulations.
After two terms
Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor William Howard
Taft won the presidency in 1906.
• In four years, Taft prosecuted almost twice as many
trusts (including Standard Oil and American Tobacco
Company) as Roosevelt did in eight years. He
expanded national forest lands, supported laws
requiring improved safety for miners, and established
the Children’s Bureau to protect the rights of children.
• Because Taft did not have Roosevelt’s flair for
publicity, the public underestimated his
achievements– prodding Roosevelt to think of
another run for the White House.

Theodore Roosevelt and the Modern Presidency