Theodore Roosevelt believed that the President should exhibit strong, active executive leadership as well as initiate reforms.  How did his administration measure up to these standards?



        ....So a strong president may exert infinitely more influence than a weak prime minister, or vice versa.  But this is merely another way of stating that in any office the personal equation is always of vital consequence....The president has certainly most important legislative functions, and the upper branch of the national legislature shares with the president one of the most important of his executive functions; that is, the president can either sign or veto the bills passed by Congress, while on the other hand, the Senate confirms or rejects his nominations....yet the fact remains that in his hands is infinitely more power than in the hands of any other man in our country during the time that he holds the office; that there is upon him always a heavy burden of responsibility; and that in certain crises this burden may become so great as to beat down any but the strongest and bravest man....But the president must do on a large scale what every governor of a state has to do on a small scale, balance the demands on the Treasury with the capacities of the Treasury.

SOURCE:  Theodore Roosevelt, The Presidency, 1900.



           Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all moneys received from the sale of public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, beginning with the fiscal year ending June thirteenth, nineteen hundred and one....shall be a special fund in the Treasury to be known as the, ‘reclamation fund,’ to be used in the examination and survey of the construction and maintenance of irrigation works for the storage, diversion, and development of waters for the reclamation of arid and semiarid lands in the said States and Territories, and for the payment of all other expenditures provided for in this Act....

SOURCE: National Reclamation Law, June 17, 1902.



          Acting in accordance with the request of the president, the heads of the several anthracite coal companies and President Mitchell of the mine workers met in conference at on Friday with a view to ending the coal strike. President Roosevelt in earnest words pointed out the seriousness of the situation raised by the continuance of the strike and urged the operators and representatives of the miners to agree upon a basis for the resumption of work in the mines, basing his plea, not on legal grounds or official right, but upon the necessities and rights of the public and upon the duty and patriotism of the contestants....For calling this fruitless conference President Roosevelt is unanimously praised by the press, public men, and the representatives of labor.

SOURCE:  "Operators and Miners Called Together by the President," Public Opinion October 9,1902.




SOURCE:  "Operators and Miners Called Together by the President," Public Opinion October 9,1902.



          I have recently had an investigation...of the situation in Chicago packing houses.  It is hideous, and it must be remedied at once.  I was at first so indignant that I resolved to send in the full report to Congress....I am there-fore going to withhold the report for the time being, and until I can also report that the wrongs have been remedied, provided that without making it public I can get the needed legislation; that is, provided we can have the meat inspection amendment that has been put on in the Senate in substance enacted into law.... What I want is the immediate betterment of the dreadful conditions that prevail, and moreover the providing against a possible recurrence of these conditions....This is good as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough, and it is absolutely necessary that we shall have legislation which will prevent the recurrence of these wrongs.  I should not make the report public with the idea of damaging the packers.  I should do it only if it were necessary in order to secure the remedy.

 SOURCE:  Roosevelt Insists on Regulatory Legislation For the Meatpacking Industry, 1906.



          Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That it shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture within any Territory or the District of Columbia any article of food or drug which is adulterated or misbranded, within the meaning of this Act; and any person who shall violate any of the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and for each offense shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined not to exceed five hundred dollars or shall be sentenced to one year’s imprisonment....

          ...The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the Secretary of Commerce and Labor shall make uniform rules and regulations for carrying out the provisions of this Act, including the collection and examination of specimens of foods and drugs manufactured or offered for sale on the District of Columbia, or in any Territory of the United States....

 SOURCE:  Pure Food and Drug Act, 1906.



          Mr. President, the most marked feature of American politics at this time is the dominating influence and control of the executive branch of the Government over the legislative, and, in a less degree, over the judicial branches....The Constitution lodges the power of appointment in the hands of the President, and the immense patronage of the office, amounting to millions and millions of dollars, has furnished an instrumentality with which to coerce Senators and Congressmen to acquiesce and yield obedience to the Executive will....

           ...Turning from this aspect of the case, let us consider some of the facts known of all men which can not be ignored in making up a judgment as to the President’s shortcomings and responsibilities....He [Roosevelt] has absolute faith in his own infallibility, and is apparently so drunk with power....The President clamors for changes in some old laws and enactment of new ones....Some of these proposed changes are undoubtedly very desirable and necessary, but others appear to me to be most pernicious and dangerous.

 SOURCE Benjamin R. Tillman, U.S. Senator, Congressional Record, 60th Cong., 1st session, 1908.



          I state the facts here just as they transpired, because they illustrate the difference in methods which sometimes rendered it impossible for President Roosevelt and myself to cooperate on important legislation.  He acted upon the  maxim that half a loaf is better than no bread.  I believe that half a loaf is fatal whenever it is accepted at the sacrifice of the basic principle sought to be obtained....After weeks of study and preparation, with the assistance of the Attorney General’s department, a broad conservation measure was evolved which, when presented to Roosevelt, received his emphatic approval...Because railroad and special interest Senators bitterly opposed the bill, as they were certain to do, and because they denounced me and my plan as socialistic, the President withdrew his support.

SOURCE:  La Follette’s Autobiography:  A Personal Narrative of Political Experiences, 1911.



          In conclusion, there is presented as the solution of the difficulties of the present industrial situation, concentration, co-operation, and control....Either we must modify our present obsolete laws regarding concentration and co-operation so as to conform with the world movement, or else fall behind in the race for the world’s markets.  Concentration and co-operation are conditions imperatively essential for industrial advance; but if we allow concentration and co-operation there must be control in order to protect the people, and adequate control is only possible through the administrative commission....The only effective way in which to regulate the trusts is through the exercise of the collective power of our people as a whole through Governmental agencies established by the Constitution for this very purpose.

SOURCE:  Theodore Roosevelt, Progressive Party Acceptance Speech, 1912.



SOURCE:  U.S. Census Bureau.





Hunt, John Gabriel, ed.  Words of Our Nation.  Avenel:  Random House, 1993.  262-45.


National Reclamation Law, June 17, 1902




Lorant, Stefan. The Life and the Times of Theodore Roosevelt. New York:Doubleday & Company, 1959. 412.


Lorence, James J., ed.  Enduring Voices.  Lexington:  Heath and Co., 1996.  145.


Pure Food and Drug Act, 1906  


Grantham, Dewey W., ed.  Theodore Roosevelt:  Great Lives Observed. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971. 121-22


Grantham, Dewey W., ed.  Theodore Roosevelt:  Great Lives Observed.  Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971. 122-23.


Hofstadter, Richard and Hofstadter, Beatrice, eds.  Great Issues in American History:  From Reconstruction to the Present Day, 1864-1981.  New York:  Vintage Books, 1982.  281-282.


Nash, Gary B.  et al., eds.  The American People:  Creating a Nation and a Society.  3rd ed.  New York:  HarperCollins College Publishers, 1994.


DBQ Question created by:
Ms. Carol Davin
Class of 2001
Maria Regina H. S.
Hartsdale, NY
created in:  April, 2000