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Learn more about
Theodore Roosevelt's
political career

    Theodore Roosevelt

      "I intended to be one of the governing class."

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The Square Deal

Let the watchwords of all our people be the old familiar
watchwords of honesty, decency, fair-dealing, and
commonsense.... We must treat each man on his worth and
merits as a man. We must see that each is given a square
deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive
no less.... The welfare of each of us is dependent
fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us."

      - New York State Fair, Syracuse, September 7, 1903

Books about T.R.'s
Career in Politics

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Theodore Roosevelt : A Political Career in Pictures

New York State Representative : 1882 - 1884

T.R.'s foray into politics began when his local Republican Club nominated him to a State Representative candidacy. T.R. left his law studies at Columbia University,
and won the election easily thereby becoming at age 23 the youngest State Representative in the history of the State.
T.R. made his mark in State politics by exposing the corrupt relationship between a New York Supreme Court Justice and railroad magnate Jay Gould.
With his whirlwind enthusiasm and calculating mind, TR was easily reelected in 1882 and 1883, eventually being elected the youngest Speaker of the Assembly in the
history of New York. In April 1884, TR was appointed Chairman of the Committee on Cities, whose efforts resulted in vital changes in the Charter of New York City.
ORIGINAL letters detailing T.R.'s Campaign Expenses:     1882     1883

U.S. Civil Service Commissioner : 1889 - 1895

T.R.'s active support and campaigning for Benjamin Harrison during the 1888 Presidential campaign earned T.R. a presidential appointment to the U.S. Civil Service Commission.
T.R.'s was reappointed to the post in 1892 by incoming President Grover Cleveland; Theodore thus continued his "irrepressible, belligerent, and enthusiastic" enforcement of
civil service laws and fight against the spoils system.
1886 - "Present Position of Civil Service Reform" - The New Princeton Review                            1895 - "Six Years of Civil Service Reform" - Scribner's

Commissioner and President of the New York City Police Board : 1895 - 1897

In 1895, TR received an invitation from New York City Mayor William Strong to become a Commissioner of the New York City Police Board. T.R. resigned his post in Washington,
and promptly set out to reform the police force. T.R. established the first Police Academy in the U.S., pioneered bicycle patrols, promoted civil service reforms
for recruitment and promotion of officers, created meritorious service medals, closed corrupt police hostelries, established a Municipal Lodging House through the Board of Charities,
required officers to register with the Board, and had telephones installed in station houses. TR was famous for disguising himself and patrolling the streets at night with
his journalist friend Jacob Riis, both hoping to catch a sleeping "beat cop" or other policemen conducting themselves shamefully (accepting bribes, drinking on the job, etc.).
As Governor of New York State, T.R. signed an act in March 1901 to replace the bureaucratic and politicized Board of Police Commissioners with a single Police Commissioner.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy : 1897 - 1898

Coupling T.R.'s good press with his charisma gained him a national reputation for indefatigable honesty; traits valued by newly elected President William McKinley
who appointed TR, in 1897, Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Shortly after taking his appointment, the U.S.S. Maine, anchored off Havana, Cuba, (at that time a
Spanish possession) blew up killing 234 U.S. sailors. Naturally, hawks in the US blamed and demanded war against Spain, who denied all responsibility for the tragedy.
A student of military affairs and international politics, TR knew that the key to winning the brewing conflict with Spain would be to control the seas. When TR's boss,
Secretary Long, unexpectedly went out of town, TR lost no time and cabled Admiral Dewey who was stationed in Hong Kong at the time. TR ordered Dewey to load coal and sail
for the Philippines immediately; and added that should war be declared, then Dewey must, at all costs, prevent the large yet aged Spanish fleet from leaving Manila Harbor.

Governor of New York State : 1889 - 1895

Following the success and publicity generated by his exploits in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, T.R. ran for Governor of New York State and won the post.
T.R.'s firebrand approach against corruption and "machine politics" inevitably clashed with the State's political bosses, particularly Mark Hanna and Thomas Platt.
These two bosses decided that the best way to be rid of T.R. would be to "bump him up" into a position of political neutrality: The Vice Presidency.
Read T.R.'s Public Papers as 33rd Governor of the State of New York
1899            1900


Vice-President of the United States : 1901

At the Republican National Convention of 1900, T.R.'s name was put forth by the State machine bosses for nomination as William McKinley’s running mate. Unhappy but always
loyal to the party, T.R. accepted his fate with resignation and campaigned successfully for the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket of 1900. His six months in the office were quiet
and uneventful, until President McKinley was shot by Leo Colgosz on September 13, 1901. Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as the nation's 26th President at the Wilcox Mansion
near Buffalo, New York, on September 14, 1901.
T.R.'s inaugural speech as Vice-President