ROOSEVELT, THEODORE

Theodore Roosevelt ALS and His Conservationist “Big Stick” Policy: “I have just received the ‘Big Stick’ …'

Item #20353


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ROOSEVELT, THEODORE - Theodore Roosevelt ALS and His Conservationist “Big Stick” Policy: “I have just received the ‘Big Stick’ …'
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ROOSEVELT, THEODORE - Theodore Roosevelt ALS and His Conservationist “Big Stick” Policy: “I have just received the ‘Big Stick’ …'

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“I have just received the ‘Big Stick’ … It is very interesting that the gnarled end grew under unprotected conditions, while the straight portion represents the growth under Government regulation”

 

ROOSEVELT, THEODORE. (1858-1919).Twenty-sixth president of the United States and Nobel Prize and U.S. Medal of Honor winner.  TLS. (“Theodore Roosevelt”). 1p. 4to. New York, May 9, 1912. On The Outlook stationery to LAFAYETTE F. CORNWELL (1863-1945), a jeweler, gold mine owner and autograph collector in Grand Junction and Pueblo, Colorado.

 

Through Mr. Gifford Pinchot I have just received the ‘Big Stick’ which you very kindly presented to me. I appreciate the gift, but I appreciate still more the kind thought which lies back of the gift. It is very interesting that the gnarled end grew under unprotected conditions, while the straight portion represents the growth under Government regulation. I was also glad to get the book The History of the Origin of All Things.It was good of you to send it to me. I may explain that the lateness of this reply is due to the fact that the package which you handed to Mr Pinchot was mislaid by him, and he did not come across it again until a few days ago when he brought it in to me. With all good wishes…”

 

Roosevelt is a larger-than-life figure who simultaneously represents reform, conservation and the American spirit. He overcame health problems in his youth to serve in New York politics and famously lead his Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War. After accelerating through the offices of governor and vice president, he became, with the assassination of President McKinley in 1901, the youngest man ever to serve as president of the United States. It was in 1900, prior to his election as vice president, that the Brooklyn Daily Eaglereported that “His motto, he says, he has taken from the South African people: ‘Speak softly— carry a big stick— and you will go far.’”He later repeated the phrase, with which he has become so identified, at the Minnesota State Fair in September 1901. “Roosevelt inherited an empire-in-the-making when he assumed office in 1901. After the Spanish-American War in 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the United States. In addition, the United States established a protectorate over Cuba and annexed Hawaii. For the first time in its history, the United States had acquired an overseas empire. As President, Roosevelt wanted to increase the influence and prestige of the United States on the world stage and make the country a global power,” (“Theodore Roosevelt: Foreign Affairs,” millercenter.org, Milkis)

 

During his two terms, he deftly combined military interventions with diplomacy. Among his greatest accomplishments was the construction of the Panama Canal which allowed the United States to become a military power in Central America and which was made possible through American support of a Panamanian revolution against Colombia. He also employed his diplomatic philosophy in enforcing the Monroe Doctrine, the U.S. policy of opposing European colonization in the Americas, and mediating peace and ending the Russo‑Japanese War of 1904, for which he was awarded the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize. Domestically, Roosevelt opposed big labor while expanding the power of the presidency, developing consumer protection laws and creating national forests. “One of Roosevelt’s central beliefs was that the government had the right to regulate big business to protect the welfare of society,” a notion which he pointedly addresses in our letter, (“Theodore Roosevelt: Domestic Affairs,” millercenter.org, Milkis).

 

An ardent conservationist, one of his most lasting legacies was the federal protection of America’s natural resources. “By the end of the nineteenth century more than half of the nation’s priceless timber had been cut, vast quantities of topsoil had been washing into the rivers and many species of wild life faced extinction. It was fortunate at this juncture that a natural scientist of T.R.’s caliber and training became president. Against powerful opposition he set aside 150 million acres of forest timberland, over fifty wild game preserves, and doubled the number of national parks. Of the sixteen national monuments he established, best known is the Grand Canyon of Arizona,” (TR: Champion of the Strenuous Life, Johnston).

 

Roosevelt was ably assisted by American conservationist and Progressive politician Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946), whose family made their fortune in timber. Pinchot advised President Cleveland on the management of western forest reserves, founded the Society of American Foresters in 1900 and endowed Yale’s forestry school in order to promote the field. Shaping public policy and forest management practices had always been his goal, one that he realized when, in 1905, Roosevelt chose him to lead the newly established United States Forest Service. Pinchot’s career at the agency came to an end during what became known as the Pinchot–Ballinger controversy. After William Howard Taft succeeded Roosevelt as president, he appointed Secretary of the Interior Richard A. Ballinger, who privatized three million acres of public land. Pinchot was dismissed after publicly speaking out against the change. The firing contributed to Roosevelt’s disapproval of Taft, his hand-picked successor, with the resulting schism in the Republican Party prompting Roosevelt’s unsuccessful 1912 bid for the Republican presidential nomination and the founding of his famous “Bull Moose Party.” Pinchot went on to serve two nonconsecutive terms as Governor of Pennsylvania.

 

Our letter is accompanied by a TLS from Pinchot to Cornwell dated November 10, 1910, that reads: “Your courteous letter of October 11th has just reached me on my return, so has the package containing the big stick and the book. I shall take great pleasure in handing both to Colonel Roosevelt at our next meeting. In the meantime, I want to express my keen sense of your courtesy, which I am sure will be greatly appreciated by the Colonel. Sincerely yours, Clifford Pinchot.” Cornwell has added in pencil in the lower margin “A wonderful big stick (cane) cut on my mining claim in Colo[rado] LF Cornwell.

 

Less than two weeks before writing to Pinchot, Cornwell met attendees of the 1910 National Irrigation Congress held September 26-30 in Pueblo, where the federal versus private control of irrigation systems in the West was debated. As a landowner he might have attended himself. Pueblo’s development, and indeed much of Colorado’s, was shaped by irrigation projects. After mining brought railroads to the region, farming followed and rapidly grew with the ability to ship crops to markets across the U.S. During the second half of the 19th century, private companies, often funded by foreign investors, dug “ditches,” essentially canals which diverted water from rivers’ headwaters in the mountains to the arid plains below allowing farmers to expand their operations. By the turn of the century, the private, for-profit ditch companies had developed a complicated and unreliable delivery system that shaped much of western water law. However, in 1902, Congress passed the Reclamation Act and established the United States Reclamation Service, part of the United States Geological Survey, charged with overseeing water resource management including irrigation and conservation. During the next five years, it completed 30 irrigation projects in the West before becoming an independent bureau within the Department of the Interior. It is likely the issues raised at the recent National Irrigation Congress that prompted Cornwell to send his letter and “big stick” to TR, and elicited the former president’s comments supporting “Government regulation.”

 

Roosevelt’s letter is folded and soiled with some paper loss at the edges, not affecting the text, but a tiny portion of the “lt” in TR’s last name. Professionally restored. In good condition with a fascinating reference to a government domestic “Big Stick” policy designed to protect and encourage sensible conservation.

 

Item #20353

 


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