Theodore Roosevelt: A Biography

Theodore Roosevelt: A Biography

Theodore Roosevelt: A Biography

Theodore Roosevelt: A Biography


It was Brander Matthews, I think, who first suggested that Theodore Roosevelt, like Benjamin Franklin, was polygonal. He was interested in so many things, and regarding all of them had emphatic opinions. A historian himself, Roosevelt naturally held pronounced convictions on history:

I believe it would be worse than useless if it doesn't tell the exact truth, and if it doesn't tell of our disasters and shortcomings as well as our triumphs . . .

It can never be truthfully or usefully presented unless profound research, patient, laborious, painstaking, has preceded the presentation.

Many hard-working students . . . feel that complete truthfulness must never be sacrificed to color. In this they are right. They also feel that complete truthfulness is incompatible with color. In this they are wrong.

But truth is always relative, and the biographer who claims to have achieved it is rash indeed. The historian may, with approximate justification, be dogmatic regarding the wars, the political upheavals, and the economic changes of which he writes. The biographer who says "Lo! Here is an exact portrait, without flaw, the whole truth!", who blithely uses the infant art of psychoanalysis when his evidence is all too sparse, that biographer is open to question. The biographer who believes he has achieved pure objectivity, that he has eliminated all personal bias, is deceiving himself.

The author, then, does not claim that this life of Theodore Roosevelt fulfills his subject's definition of history. He could not, if only for the reason that the geometric pattern of Roosevelt's life was a figure wholly novel; a polygon with so many facets that their number approached infinity. He could be courageous and timid, honest and disingenuous. He could be moved by the highest considerations and, on occasion, by personal whims and jealousies. He was often kind, nearly always charming, and sometimes cruel. The author does point out, however, that the biography is based on patient research. No testimony has been suppressed. There is no imaginary dialogue; no psycho-

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