A Tale of Two Roosevelts: Franklin Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt

In this paper we are going to concentrate on two very important figures in the political development of the USA: Franklin Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt. We would have to stop at imperialistic development, legacies of both, main historical events that took part after each of them came to power.

Thus a man, born in 1882 in New York, graduated from Harvard University and Columbia Law School, later came to politics as a Democrat, was the winner of election to the New York Senate in 1910, was a Democratic nominee for Vice President and as a result he was called a person, who help American people to go through Great Depression without loosing faith in themselves.

For his first term as a president Franklin Roosevelt was elected in November 1932. At that moment the situation in the country was far from safe and successful, there were around 13 million people without work, most of the banks were closed, people were afraid of losing not only their job but also their homes and farms. Roosevelt is well known for his first “recovery” program “first 100 days”. The aim of this strategic step was quick relief for the country. His idea about the Depression was that is happened due to lack of investments, which in its turn was the result of lack of people’s confidence, thus in order to make the situation better he offered a number of bills. “Recovery was pursued through “pump-priming” (that is, federal spending). The NIRA included $3.3 billion of spending through the Public Works Administration to stimulate the economy, which was to be handled by Interior Secretary Harold Ickes” (Nixon, Edgar B, 156). Roosevelt was cutting the regular federal budget, reduced money for education and scientific researches. When the Second New Deal started the president gave a kind of challenge for business people.

War times were really tough for economical development of the country if to compare it with peacetime, but the president underlined that American people were to consider economic rights as s Second Bill of Rights. This resulted in speedy economical development during this president’s term. It is important to mention changes in tax system of that time, before Roosevelt was elected, the top marginal tax rate was increased from 25 % to 63%. During the 2nd World War it became even higher – 91%.

“The rejection of the League of Nations treaty in 1919 marked the dominance of isolationism from world organizations in American foreign policy. Despite Roosevelt’s Wilsonian background, he and Secretary of State Cordell Hull acted with great care not to provoke isolationist sentiment. Roosevelt’s “bombshell” message to the world monetary conference in 1933 effectively ended any major efforts by the world powers to collaborate on ending the worldwide depression, and allowed Roosevelt a free hand in economic policy” (Ellis Hawley, 15).

During his second term there was not really a lot of legislation passed, for example minimum wage was defined with the help of United States Housing Authority, second Agricultural Act and Fair Labor Standards Act. In order to react to the second decrease of economy level Roosevelt worked out an aggressive program of stimulation, which resulted in creation of 3.3 million jobs by the end of 1938. Labor units got strong support from the president, but the fact that they were split in two influenced negatively the party.

During his third term the president did his best not to involve the USA in the war. At a secret meeting in 1941 he met W. Churchill in Newfoundland in order to discuss the Atlantic Charter. “By 1941, unemployment had fallen to under 1 million. There was a growing labor shortage in all the nation’s major manufacturing centers, accelerating the Great Migration of African-American workers from the Southern states, and of underemployed farmers and workers from all rural areas and small towns” (Nixon, Edgar B, 111). On the 7th December 1941 was an attack from Japan at Pearl Harbor, but for Roosevelt it was still more important to defeat Nazi Germany. Afterwards, another important task was to take the correct political decisions for after – war Europe. Although the meeting of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin in Yalta in 1945 was considered an important historical moment, most of the decisions were taken before already.

Death of president was a kind of shock not only for American people. Having been a president for around 12 years, he managed to lead the country through serious crisis and historical events.

Theodore Roosevelt was well known for his personality, interests and achievements and he became the 26th president of the USA after the assassination of William McKinley. Roosevelt was first of all a strong reformer with progressive views. “His “Square Deal” promised a fair shake for the average citizen, including regulation of railroad rates and pure foods and drugs. As an outdoorsman he promoted the conservation movement, emphasizing efficient use of natural resources” (Brands, H.W, 17).

He managed to win the Nobel Prize for negotiating peace in the war between Russia and Japan, he decided to take part in construction of Panama Canal, as he considered it to be the most important international achievement. “He dominated his era as he dominated conversation…” – that was said by historian Thomas Bailey. When Roosevelt became president he mentioned his intention to continue the policy of the former president and for some time he was in reality doing this. In 1902 during the anthracite coal strike Roosevelt managed to negotiate a compromise thus saving the urban homes from lack of heating supply.

In 1906, Congress had to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act.

Roosevelt was one of the first to pay enough attention to conservation of national resources, he had a strong support from the side of hunters and fishermen. He insisted on establishment of The United States Forest Service in 1905, thus talking care of forest land. The words of Roosevelt were: “There is an intimate relation between our streams and the development and conservation of all the other great permanent sources of wealth.” (Blum, John Morton, 118).

Talking about foreign policy it is necessary to mention the concentration on the idea that more developed countries were to help and to support the less developed countries to go forward. Thus people from Cuba, Philippines, Puerto Rico received medical and other kinds of help for their infrastructure.

The size of the navy was growing till finally there was the Great White Fleet formed. During his presidency there were a lot of other firsts, for example: a Cabinet Secretary was for the first time a Jew, Roosevelt himself was the first president under Secret Service Protection, he was the first to put on a tie for the official portrait, he was the first president who was reelected in his own right.

Roosevelt was known also for his attitude to press, as soon as he realized its power and support he started to invite press people to the White House constantly.

In 1909 Roosevelt went for his famous safari, apart of a lot of animals hunted during that safari, this was not a simple entertainment trip, this was more of social interference with people’s lives there.

In 1908 Roosevelt was pushing Taft to the position of his Secretary of war for the Presidency as his considered him also a genuine progressive. But his progressivism turned out to be different, while he preferred to trust to law people to take basic decisions about fairness, and not to politicians. Thus when Roosevelt started to attack federal courts, Taft was not happy about it. “Not only had Roosevelt alienated big business, he was also attacking both the judiciary and the deep faith Republicans had in their judges (most of whom had been appointed by McKinley, Roosevelt or Taft.) In the 1910 Congressional elections, Democrats swept to power, and Taft’s reelection in 1912 was increasingly in doubt.” (Blum, John Morton, 252).

In the year 1913 the president took up an expedition to Brazilian jungle, which was a really hard ordeal for him and his health.

Thus if to compare these two presidents, it is necessary first of all to underline that both were without any doubts great personalities and they by right occupy their places on the historical pages of the USA development. They both were concerned with interests of people and did their best to help them to go through hard times of economical stagnation and wars. Mostly their ideas and bills were a success, although basically their approaches were different. We are talking about Franklin Roosevelt and his conservative approach – “new Left writers have chided him for offering a “profoundly conservative” response to a situation that had the potential for revolutionary change, while commentators of no particular persuasion have criticized him for failing to bring the country out of the Depression short of war, for maneuvering America into World War II (or for not taking the nation to war soon enough, for refusing to advocate civil rights legislation, for permitting Jews to perish in Hitler’s death camps, and for sanctioning the internment of Japanese-Americans” (Millard, Candice, 89). Whereas Theodore Roosevelt was considered to be progressive reformer, he was trying to offer fair conditions for usual citizens starting from food and drugs and finishing by railroads. He was very much interested in natural resources, was concerned about creating the natural museum and as it was already mentioned he himself made trips for both social and scientific reasons. Franklin Roosevelt in his turn had to cut money for scientific needs, as his goal was to return people’s confidence and to certain recovery of economics.

On the other hand it is not so easy to compare these two presidents and their political steps, as by the time each of them came to power there were different social and economical situation in the countries, the Great Depression itself can be called a unique event in the history, thus the country at those moments probably at any rate needed different approaches and strategies.

Overall, this papers presents a general short analysis of the political reforms and social situations during the time when at power was F. Roosevelt and T. Roosevelt with an attempt to compare and contrast the two presidents.


1. Ellis Hawley, The New Deal and the Problem of Monopoly, 1966 p. 124
2. Cantril, Hadley and Mildred Strunk, eds.; Public Opinion, massive compilation of many public opinion polls from USA, 1951
3. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, 1976
4. Nixon, Edgar B. ed. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Foreign Affairs 3 vol, 1969
5. Beale Howard K. Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power, 1956
6. Blum, John Morton The Republican Roosevelt, 1954.
7. Brands, H.W. Theodore Roosevelt, full biography, 2001
8. Millard, Candice. River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, 2005

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