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Theodore Rex [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Edmund Morris
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (367 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 20, 2001
The most eagerly awaited presidential biography in years, Theodore Rex is a sequel to Edmund Morris’s classic bestseller The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. It begins by following the new President (still the youngest in American history) as he comes down from Mount Marcy, New York, to take his emergency oath of office in Buffalo, one hundred years ago.

A detailed prologue describes TR’s assumption of power and journey to Washington, with the assassinated President McKinley riding behind him like a ghost of the nineteenth century. (Trains rumble throughout this irresistibly moving narrative, as TR crosses and recrosses the nation.) Traveling south through a succession of haunting landscapes, TR encounters harbingers of all the major issues of the new century-Imperialism, Industrialism, Conservation, Immigration, Labor, Race-plus the overall challenge that intimidated McKinley: how to harness America’s new power as the world’s richest nation.

Theodore Rex (the title is taken from a quip by Henry James) tells the story of the following seven and a half years-years in which TR entertains, infuriates, amuses, strong-arms, and seduces the body politic into a state of almost total subservience to his will. It is not always a pretty story: one of the revelations here is that TR was hated and feared by a substantial minority of his fellow citizens. Wall Street, the white South, Western lumber barons, even his own Republican leadership in Congress strive to harness his steadily increasing power.

Within weeks of arrival in Washington, TR causes a nationwide sensation by becoming the first President to invite a black man to dinner in the White House. Next, he launches his famous prosecution of the Northern Securities Company, and follows up with landmark antitrust legislation. He liberates Cuba, determines the route of the Panama Canal, mediates the great Anthracite Strike, and resolves the Venezuela Crisis of 1902-1903 with such masterful secrecy that the world at large is unaware how near the United States and Germany have come to war.

During an epic national tour in the spring of 1903, TR’s conservation philosophy (his single greatest gift to posterity) comes into full flower. He also bestows on countless Americans the richness of a personality without parallel-evangelical and passionate, yet lusty and funny; adroitly political, winningly natural, intellectually overwhelming. The most famous father of his time, he is adored by his six children (although beautiful, willful “Princess” Alice rebelled against him) and accepted as an honorary member of the White House Gang of seditious small boys.

Theodore Rex, full of cinematic detail, moves with the exhilarating pace of a novel, yet it rides on a granite base of scholarship. TR’s own voice is constantly heard, as the President was a gifted letter writer and raconteur. Also heard are the many witticisms, sometimes mocking, yet always affectionate, of such Roosevelt intimates as Henry Adams, John Hay, and Elihu Root. (“Theodore is never sober,” said Adams, “only he is drunk with himself and not with rum.”)

TR’s speed of thought and action, and his total command of all aspects of presidential leadership, from bureaucratic subterfuge to manipulation of the press, make him all but invincible in 1904, when he wins a second term by a historic landslide. Surprisingly, this victory transforms him from a patrician conservative to a progressive, responsible between 1905 and 1908 for a raft of enlightened legislation, including the Pure Food and Employer Liability acts. Even more surprising, to critics who have caricatured TR as a swinger of the Big Stick, is his emergence as a diplomat. He wins the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing about an end to the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.

Interspersed with many stories of Rooseveltian triumphs are some bitter episodes-notably a devastating lynching-that remind us of America’s deep prejudices and fears. Theodore Rex does not attempt to justify TR’s notorious action following the Brownsville Incident of 1906-his worst mistake as President-but neither does this resolutely honest biography indulge in the easy wisdom of hindsight. It is written throughout in real time, reflecting the world as TR saw it. By the final chapter, as the great “Teddy” prepares to quit the White House in 1909, it will be a hard-hearted reader who does not share the sentiment of Henry Adams: “The old house will seem dull and sad when my Theodore has gone.”

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Editorial Reviews Review

In this lively biography, Edmund Morris returns to the gifted, energetic, and thoroughly controversial man whom the novelist Henry James called "King Theodore." In his two terms as president of the United States, Roosevelt forged an American empire, and he behaved as if it was his destiny. In this sequel to his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Morris charts Roosevelt's accomplishments: the acquisition of the Panama Canal and the Philippines, the creation of national parks and monuments, and more. "Collaring Capital and Labor in either hand," Morris writes, Roosevelt made few friends, but he usually got what he wanted--and earned an enduring place in history.

Morris combines a fine command of the era's big issues with an appreciation for the daily minutiae involved in governing a nation. Less controversially inventive, but no less readable, than the Ronald Reagan biography Dutch, Theodore Rex gives readers new reason both to admire and fault an American phenomenon. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

The second entry in Morris's projected three-volume life of Theodore Roosevelt focuses on the presidential years 1901 through early 1909. Impeccably researched and beautifully composed, Morris's book provides what is arguably the best consideration of Roosevelt's presidency ever penned. Making good use of TR's private and presidential papers as well as the archives of such prot‚g‚s as John Hay, William Howard Taft, Owen Wister and John Burroughs Morris marshals a rich array of carefully chosen and beautifully rendered vignettes to create a dazzling portrait of the man (the youngest ever to hold the office of president). Morris proves the perfect guide through TR's eight breathless, fertile years in the White House: years during which the doting father and prolific author conserved millions of Western acres, swung his "big stick" at trusts and monopolies, advanced progressive agendas on race and labor relations, fostered a revolution in Panama (where he sought to build his canal), won the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War and pushed through the Pure Food and Drug Act. John Burroughs once wrote that the hypercreative TR "was a many sided man, and every side was like an electric battery." In the end, Morris succeeds brilliantly at capturing all of TR's many energized sides, producing a book that is every bit as complex, engaging and invigorating as the vibrant president it depicts. Illus. (On-sale: Nov. 20)Forecast: Long-awaited, this volume comes out in the centennial of TR's rise to the presidency. Morris's gift for storytelling and his outstanding reputation from volume one (and perhaps his notoriety for the controversial Reagan bio Dutch) should guarantee large sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (November 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394555090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394555096
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (367 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
115 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good news. Morris doesn't show up in this book. January 26, 2002
Bully book. Fascinating man and time, for sure.
Here's something I decided while reading the book: if TR were alive today, he would have a weblog; the guy wrote hours everyday: articles, letters, books, speeches. Reminds me a lot of Churchill's prolificacy. Roosevelt's topics ranged from bird watching (and listening) to naval warfare. A voracious and multilingual reader, as well.
Author Edmond Morris , (despite his missteps on the Reagan biography, Dutch) is a tremendous storyteller. Roosevelt and his times provide excellent material for Morris's skills. I couldn't help drawing parallels with today, as Roosevelt's era (turn of last century) saw so many changes taking place in transportation, communication and technology. The roles of and relationships between government and business were also major issues as they are today.
There are parallels in his years in the White House with today's headlines like the Microsoft antitrust case and the imploding of Enron. Also some striking similarities to today's challenges militarily and geopolitically. Politics aside, Roosevelt is a fascinating historical figure. And did he ever know how to get a way from it all. Even though it is not mentioned in either this book or Morris's volume on TR's earlier life, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, I seem finally to understand why TR made it onto Mt. Rushmore with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.
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105 of 117 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A President Who Enjoyed Center Stage November 25, 2001
If you did not like Mr. Morris's biography of President Reagan, give Mr. Morris another chance. Theodore Rex is the best book I have read on President Theodore Roosevelt's almost 8 years in office, after having started as our youngest president to that point in time.
I found the recent David McCullough biography of John Adams as the closest comparable work. Both biographers rely a lot on the subject's own words and those of the people he interacted with. I found three qualities of Theodore Rex to be superior to the Adams biography. First, Mr. Morris has chosen to magnify issues that are of more interest to us today which are often virtually ignored in conventional histories. Some of these subjects involved Mr. Roosevelt's attitudes towards minority groups including African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Jews. Other related subjects included what he chose to say and do about discrimination and lynchings, willingness to address a pogrom in Russia, and atrocities conduced by the Army in the Philippines. Second, Mr. Morris doesn't try to "pretty up" the ugly sides of his subject. In these first areas above, President Roosevelt did some good things . . . but he also did some pretty awful ones. His support for bad conduct dismissals of African-American troops after complaints in Brownsville, Texas, was particularly questionable, coming at a time when he had little at risk politically by doing the right thing and he was outspoken in other areas. Third, Mr. Morris has an eye for detail that makes the scenes come alive to extend beyond the mere words and events being presented. I particularly enjoyed the description of Roosevelt's first few days as president.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly researched, not-as-amazingly written January 14, 2002
By "dcdre"
Having read "The Rise of TR" immediately before I continued on to "Theodore Rex," I have to say (regretfully) that the first installment in the planned trilogy of Roosevelt's life was far better than the second.
Morris' research was just as impressive for "Theodore Rex" as it was for "The Rise of TR," using countless collections of letters, diaries, books by TR, and books about TR to paint the picture of his subject.
Unfortunately, and perhaps this is the result of the sheer quantity of presidential accomplishments by Roosevelt, Morris' work reads like a laundry list of activities, events, dialogues, and crises. I felt like I was reading TR's daily planner, with Morris' commentary added under each day's schedule.
To be fair, one would expect Morris' account of TR's presidential years to be more sequential and less anecdotal that his account of his pre-presidential years. That having been said, I've read many other presidential biographies that are not like this at all, that give the big picture of a President's term(s) in office and then get into the nitty-gritty of his major accomplishments and failures.
Of course, "Theodore Rex" focused only on TR's presidential years, so Morris didn't have to spend any time or space describing how Roosevelt's mind and soul were formed (he had already done so in "The Rise of TR.").
Given this challenge of having already written an account of TR's early years, Morris does an incredible job of researching his subject, and a good job of telling his story.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just as good as it's predecessor May 13, 2002
By D. Wolf
Morris follows up with another excellent biography. On the plus side is his extensive coverage of Roosevelt's presidency. He shows clearly how TR masters the political issues associated with limiting the Trusts that had taken hold of the American economy; and, how he established an executed his imperialistic vision of America.
The book falls short in two areas - the first is in the discussion of Roosevelt's personal life. Morris provides anecdotes but not any real view of how his family affected him. Given the apparent amount of time he spent with them (a contrast to his early years), something other than anecdotal snippets of the life of daughter Alice should have been included.
Second, and more significant, is that Morris again does little to address the huge paradoxes in Roosevelt's policies. This is most evident in his views and actions on race relations. Clearly, Roosevelt tried to make some progress in this area; but, he only attempted to make small steps forward. The president who made America a real world power, cut the Panama canal, reined in the trusts, surely had the political power to do more with race relations. Roosevelt appears to have been genuinely sympathetic to the needs of American minorities, but Morris never makes it clear what restrained him. It appears that TR thought race was a lower political priority than other parts of his agenda. If that's the case, Morris should provide that explanation; if not, then the question is unanswered.
These concerns should not stop you from reading this otherwise terrific book. TR was definitely one of our great presidents, and this biography makes it clear how he transformed America and the world for the better.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well written and very interesting.
Published 11 hours ago by Old School
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Was a great followup to book one
Published 25 days ago by Jerry Beland
5.0 out of 5 stars ... of the series of two books continues the authors great effort in...
This second of the series of two books continues the authors great effort in collecting, collating, and presenting a fascinating reading experience. Read more
Published 29 days ago by William Hendell
4.0 out of 5 stars Good history refresher
Very good. I had forgotten much of the history of that time and found it interesting to 'go back' and see what was happening at that time. Read more
Published 1 month ago by imogene brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book and will buy his others
Published 1 month ago by Dennis E. Daley, M.D.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great bib. Shows him as possibly most educated president
Great bib.Shows him as possibly most educated president. He however did circumvent the constitution to get around congress like our current idiot president.
Published 1 month ago by J A Kesel
5.0 out of 5 stars Theodore
An excellent book well worth the effort. It brings great insight into one of my personal hero's. I will refer to the passages often and will recommend it highly.
Published 1 month ago by Al Wangenheim
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth your time
What a remarkable president and having this man at that particular point in history. I had no clue as to the accomplishments that Teddy Roosevelt had. Read more
Published 1 month ago by DumbFish
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent summation and end for the series
Published 1 month ago by Jacob Bruce Lefkovitz
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading
An excellent, well written and informative treatise of an important portion of, in my estimation, the greatest president * of the United States of America. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dennis D
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More About the Author

Edmund Morris is one of America's best political biographers and journalists. He is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of biographies of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. He lives in New York and Washington, DC.

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