ROOSEVELT, Theodore. Typed letter signed ("Theodore Roosevelt") to E.A. Valkenburg of The North American, with numerous ink corrections and interlinear additions by Roosevelt, totalling some 50 words, New York, N.Y., 5 September 1916. 2¼ pages, 4to (11 x 8½ in.), first page on Metropolitan magazine letterhead, some browning on all pages, heaviest on the first, otherwise fine.
ROOSEVELT REVIEWS HIS PRESIDENTIAL RECORD AND COUNTS HIMSELF OUT OF THE 1920 RACE
Roosevelt pens an exceptionally revealing letter on his political past. Roosevelt had failed in 1912 in his bid for a third term in the White House and strongly opposed the policies of Wilson. Here he responds to a friend's questions about his plans for the future: "[A]s regards myself I have no doubt... [M]y usefulness to this country depended so largely upon the conditions of national and international politics that its real need for me has probably passed... My great usefulness as President came in connection with the Anthracite Coal Strike, the voyage of the battle fleet around the world, the taking of Panama, the irrigation business in the west, and finally, I think, the toning up of the government service generally. Any decent and forceful man could handle the irrigation business, and could tone up the government service, and build up our navy and army...My usefulness in 1912 and again this year would have been because we were facing a period when there was need of vision in both national and international matters."
But, had he been chosen President in 1912 and 1916: "I would have done my best work in connection with the European War, the Mexican situation, and the Japanese and Chinese situation; and also in connection with universal military service...I would moreover have fought for the industrial regeneration of this country along the lines of the 1912 platform... and... for that wise and farsighted justice which no more fears organized labor than it fears Wall Street."
But Roosevelt counts himself out of the 1920 Presidential race: "... I am already an old man, and the chances are very small that I will ever again grow into touch with the people of this country to the degree that will make me useful as a leader...People used to say of me that I was an astonishingly good politician and divined what people were going to think." In actuality, he confesses: "I simply made up my mind what they ought to think, and then did my best to get them to think it. Sometimes I failed, and then my critics said my... 'ambition had overleaped itself.' Sometimes I succeeded, and then they said that I was an uncommonly astute creature..."
During the 1904 election, Roosevelt had pledged to retire at the end of a single full term. After he attended the inauguration of his hand-picked successor, William H. Taft, in 1909, he retired to Sagamore Hill but he grew uncomfortable with the conservative direction of the Taft administration. Despite his long-standing pledge, Roosevelt declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination in 1912. Losing to Taft, Roosevelt bolted the party to run on the Progressive, or Bull Moose, ticket, which left Republicans divided and paved the way for Woodrow Wilson's victory.
Provenance: Jerome Schochet (sale, Christie's New York, 20 May 1994, lot 90).