ROOSEVELT, Theodore, President. Typed letter signed ("Theodore Roosevelt") to Major Rock H. Channing, Oyster Bay, N.Y., 27 July 1918. 1 page, 4to, 4 lines autograph postscript, "Oyster Bay" personal stationery, with envelope.
TEN DAYS AFTER THE DEATH OF HIS SON IN THE WAR, ROOSEVELT VOWS THAT "THE OLD SHOULD NOT LIVE WHEN THE YOUNG DIE"
A strikingly direct and emotional letter written ten days after the death of his son, 21-year old Quentin Roosevelt, in aerial combat over Chamery, France on 17 July 1918. Roosevelt writes wistfully: "I am very glad to get your letter. Well, I wish you and I were on the other side!" In a telling autograph addition, he scrawls: "It is hard for me because the old should not live when the young die. My four boys have done pretty well, haven't they?"
A vociferous advocate of American intervention in the Great War, Roosevelt had offered to raise and train a division of Americans to fight in the European conflict, but to his outrage, President Wilson refused to activate the force, depriving him of his last chance to go to war. His four sons, however, were soon serving in the Expeditionary Force at the front; three of them were wounded and one, Quentin, was killed. "All the children of Theodore Roosevelt--most especially his four boys--grew up in the light of his great martial example. Each came of age sharing Roosevelt's Kiplingesque view of the battlefield as a place of honor, fulfillment, and robust democracy...each was forever infused with Roosevelt's passion for righteous battle. Yet they also saw that romantic vision of armed conflict tarnished by the first great war they encountered as adults, and the tragedies it inflicted on their family." (Edward J. Renehan, Jr., The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War, 1998, p.4).