TR as seen by a Brit 

TR as seen by a Brit

Lord Grey of Fallodon got to know Theodore Roosevelt slightly in the days shortly before World War I. (Twenty-Five Years, Vol. II).

pp. 135-6: November 1912: Grey wrote to TR, expressing concern at news that TR had been shot, but had been able to go ahead and give a speech anyway. (An assassination attempt, not an unfortunate shooting by a dear friend, er, acquaintance).


[blockquote]I am a little amused, my dear fellow, at your saying that the account of the shooting stirred you with a curiosity to know whether, if the experience had been yours, you would "have had the nerve to make the speech," and whether your "body would have proved as healthy.".... [after reassuring Grey that he would have done fine] Modern civilization is undoubtedly somewhat soft, and the average political orator or party leader, the average broker or banker or factory owner, at least when he is past middle age, is apt to be soft--I mean both mentally and physically--and such a man accepts being shot as a frightful and unheard-of calamity, and feels very sorry for himself and thinks only of himself, and not of the work on which he is engaged or of his duty to others, or indeed of his real self-respect. But a good soldier or sailor, or, for the matter of that, even a civilian accustomed to hard and hazardous pursuits, a deep-sea fisherman, or railwayman, or cowboy, or lumber-jack, or miner, would normally act as I acted without thinking anything about it. I believe half the men in my regiment at the least would have acted just as I acted.[/blockquote]

The end of this passage brings to mind an old Paul Lynde joke: Q: How many men are there are on a football team? A: About half.

The strange thing is to see this bright, educated man, a once and future president, concerned to demonstrate that he has the physical courage of a fairly typical stevedore.

pp. 90-91: "The popular impression of Roosevelt conveyed by the Press was that of a very important and striking personality; but it was nevertheless in one respect very inadequate. He was renowned as a man of action; public opinion was fascinated by this quality, and it was not so generally recognized that he was also remarkable as a man of reading and knowledge....Roosevelt could be rough, and he was always ready, and his manner incontroversy was that of a fighter. There was not much of the patience of Job, there was a great deal of the war-horse rejoicing in his strength and saying "Ha, ha" among the controversy he would take a short cut to his point....[Asked whether major tax increases would goahead in the U.S. as they had in Britain]: "It would depend upon whether a Judge of the Supreme Court came down heads or tails."

Some vivid details. TR was bright and brave; but somehow he always threatened to shade into something a bit ridiculous. He is known for his pithy aphorisms; apparently even he thought they gave an inadequate sense of his thinking about things. But he did enjoy the pithy remark--intended, as Grey suggests, as an act of war. "The Presidency is a bully pulpit." "Speak softy, and carry a big stick." It is so tempting for a president to fall in love with the pulpit, shout and brag, and then admit that he has only a small stick to threaten anyone with.

Apparently TR didn't like the fact that the Teddy bear, with its glassy eyes, was named after him; but again, there is that slighly laughable possibility.

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