The Corner

TR’s History

When it comes to the political beliefs of our presidents, I’m a Coolidge man. But Coolidge isn’t the most personally interesting of our presidents, not by a long shot. That honor, in my view, probably belongs to Theodore Roosevelt.

I’ve made the point around here that TR was one of our better writer-presidents. A brand-new book helps prove it: Theodore Roosevelt’s History of the United States: His Own Words, Selected and Arranged by Daniel Ruddy, which officially publishes today. It’s a smart idea for a book: the story of America, told by TR, through the careful culling and combining of his books, articles, and letters. Roosevelt is no cool observer of the national story. “The best historian must of necessity take sides,” he once wrote. On these pages, he blows hot and cold on a wide range of topics. Here’s a good passage, from a section on Eugene V. Debs:

The socialism that nominates Debs is a well-nigh unmixed evil, and the ultra-socialism which has for one of its necessary tenets free love would, if applied, bring men back to the unpolished stone age and to living as scattered hordes of savages, were it not for the fact that long before this event could happen, it would have produced by simple reaction the rule of absolutism and despotism everywhere, in order to save civilization.

TR was no systemic thinker, but he was a passionate writer who cared deeply about his country. On the pages of Ruddy’s book, conservatives will find passages to argue with. They’ll also be entertained and informed the whole way through.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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