Jacki: Theodore Roosevelt

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris

Theodore Rex, by Edmund Morris

So I went into January with full intentions of reading all 3 of Edmund Morris’ books on Teddy Roosevelt. They are award winning (The first one even won the Pulitzer!) and have super high reviews and I was all gung-ho.

As you can tell by the books I linked, I fell a little short. To be fair, I still read 1,200 pages on Theodore Roosevelt so I think I can confidently mark him off of my Presidential Challenge list, but I do intend to read the last book (Colonial Roosevelt) soon.

This was one of the presidents that I was majorly looking forward to. We have a national park pretty much in our back yard and it has made me a huge fan of the NPS and all that they do. I knew that that originated with Theodore Roosevelt and that he was an explorer and rugged, but that was about all I knew. I wasn’t sure how that went together with being president and how on earth he was important enough to end up on Mt. Rushmore.

The Edmund Morris series is set up so book one is pre-presidential life, book two is presidential life and book three is post-presidential life.

During book one, I totally developed a history-crush on The Tedster. I mean, I love him. I loved reading about his family life- I was shocked that he was born into a super rich family. I loved reading about his ascent up the political ladder. But most of all, I just loved figuring out his personality. He was a prolific journaler and letter writer, so it is easy to put together this really full picture of the kind of guy he was. He’s just this colorful character and I really enjoyed reading about him. This book was over 700 pages long and I just gobbled it up.

The second book, Theodore Rex, was tougher for me. 500 pages on 7-ish years was just a bit much. I’m sure that if I were ultra-political I would have been just as engrossed with this one as the first, but I’m just not. I’m far more interested in the presidents as men than in the whole political side of it. I think that Edmund Morris was careful to continue to show who Roosevelt was, but it still wasn’t as quick of a read for me.

There were just so many times throughout his political life where Theodore Roosevelt seemed to be able to see into the future. Of course, starting the National Park Service when conservation wasn’t even a thing was wise beyond his time, but he also set a lot of precedents about corporations and laws regarding monopolies. He saw before anyone else that corporations need to be kept in check and he jumped on it quickly. For this reason, if no other (and there are others), Teddy Roosevelt has shaped the way that America currently works. I loved reading about him inviting Booker T. Washington to the White House, making him the first black man to dine there. Roosevelt did it seemingly without thinking and people were furious. I feel like Roosevelt just kind of shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t see a problem and didn’t really see why other people did. I like that about him.

I could go on and on. I loved these books and would recommend them highly to anyone doing the challenge or anyone who just wants to know more about our nation’s history. So, so good.


Jennie: Andrew Johnson

Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy, by David Stewart

Coming off the high that is Lincoln and the low that is his assassination, the US desperately needs someone to step up and be a true, honest, and caring leader. Well, what the citizens got was Andrew Johnson instead. I’d like to say he was just not able to fill Lincoln’s shoes (or more appropriately, his hat) but Johnson wasn’t interested in filling anything of Lincoln’s. Instead, he was desperate to make his own mark.

I don’t tend to tab or sticky note most of the books I read, but these biographies for the Presidential Challenge are the exception. Surprisingly I only added two tabs to this book, but these two passages hit me heavily as I read them.

1. (Page 39) I was introduced to Ben Wade of Ohio who was an advocate for human rights – supporting both the eight-hour work day and the ability for women to own property. He’s quoted as saying, “If I had not thought my wife to be as intelligent as I, or as capable of voting understandingly, I would not have married her.”

This struck me as powerful just in the YAY EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN aspect, but also that these types of conversations were occurring in the 1860s. Obviously, this subject is of high importance to me so I’m very antsy to get to this time frame in this challenge and this passage gave me a taste of what is to come.

2. (Page 144) I’m obsessed with the French Revolution and the relationship between it and the US Revolution so when one party starts throwing around insults such as, “…the bloody rule of the Jacobins was mild compared to that which is sought.” I pretty much danced in my chair.

Now, neither of these passages I marked have much to do directly with Johnson, but a lot of this book was about more than just the man. Politics was still heavily divided on how to handle the now free black population – the South was still pursuing violence (that continued to escalate) and the North was still pursuing anyone that had stood with the South. So much anger, so much rage, so much emotion.

And then Johnson just pops up into all of it with his unbreakable desire to have it his way, even when the constitution was in the way, and even when the majority of the Capital was in his way. I found the procedural aspects of the impeachment process fascinating – the unclear process has been trial and error. I almost wish to skip ahead to Nixon to see how things are handled within the process so soon after finishing this book so the information is still fresh in my mind.

I’m hoping to read more from Grant’s perspective of the Grant/Johnson relationship in my next biography because from this book they were not happy, and mostly openly hostile towards each other. Some of my favorite aspects of this challenge is seeing the same situations through the opposing individuals – fascinating.

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