Hisbits: Theodore Roosevelt Part One

Col RooseveltTheodore Roosevelt was an American. It may be a strange thing to say, but more than almost any other President, he personified the United States. Many people know only four things about him. First that he was President, second, the caricature of his features, thirdly the teddy bear is named after him, and finally, he was a soldier. All of those things are part of him, but there was much more to him than most Americans know.

Some know that he was a sickly child, who through perseverance and difficulty strengthened his feeble frame. A few know that it was his Father that inspired him to do so. Many don’t know that he lost his first Wife, and his Mother on the same day. This devastated the man behind the myth. He left his life as a State Assemblyman to become a rancher and also served as a Deputy Sheriff. This rough adventure helped to build the man we know today.

When he returned to New York, he remarried and returned to politics. Along with his daughter Alice from his first marriage, five children were born into the Roosevelt home. These children were the delight of his life. He served on the Civil Service Commission, was a New York Police Commissioner, and became the Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

War in Cuba caused him to resign his position and formed the volunteer regiment “The Rough Riders.” While serving, after Colonel Wood was promoted to Brigadier General of the volunteer forces, Roosevelt was placed in charge of his regiment. He was promoted from Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel. Upon his return to civilian life, many would refer to him as either T.R. or Colonel.

He described that day at San Juan Hill as the happiest day of his life. He lead two very important charges that day, and was nominated for the Medal Of Honor. It would later be awarded posthumously, after his son received it for exemplary service in World War II. He gladly left the halls of power for the battlefield, and cherished his service there.

He was elected Governor of New York, and did so much to weed out corruption, that the “Boss” of his party nominated him to the Vice Presidency, just to get rid of him. In one of my favorite stories, the Colonel outsmarted the politician. Party boss Thomas Platt promised to support Roosevelt’s bid for Governor if he agreed to meet with him before acting. Roosevelt agreed, and true to his word met with him. Then, he would proceed to do exactly what he felt was right, instead of what Platt wanted. This lack of corruption propelled him to the second highest office in the land.

Upon the death of McKinley, Roosevelt became President. It seems he was always meant to be President, as a small boy, he witnessed the funeral procession of President Lincoln. Two presidential assassinations would leave their impact on both him, as well as the country.

We’ll continue talking about “The Colonel” in our next Hisbit, Theodore Roosevelt Part Two.

Hisbits: George Washington

GeorgeWashingtonWatercolorTJWe love history at PruittWrites. We hope that you enjoy our first historical article on our first President, George Washington.

Whether your first vision of Washington is behind a President’s desk or wearing a Continental uniform, you see the Great Washington, not the dreaming one. This is not an essay to pick apart the hero. Sadly, that seems to be the trend in biographies in the present world. This man was too idealistic, let’s find his secrets. She was too beautiful, seek out her warts. I submit to you that in the centuries of time, while only One was perfect, He helped many do more than there best.

When we think of great historical men, we think of them, not first as strapping young dreamers, but the great men we know they became.Today I would like to ponder the roadmap of a historical giant. His name, George Washington. I ask that you view him, not with a powdered wig crossing the Potomac. Instead, look on him as a young surveyor in Virginia.

He lost his Father at a young age. Had it not been for help from his brother, he would not have received his chance for a start at a better life. He suffered the loss of a fort in the French and Indian War. However, the lessons he learned would rove invaluable in the near future.

My focus on Washington is not the fact that he held our country together as a General. Although his influence was vital to the success of the revolution. It was his choice to resign from power that even amazed King George III. He chose freedom over power, and then helped to formulate the keystone for a free and open form of government.

George Washington is called the Father of our country, and I believe rightly so. More than that, he was the Friend of our country. He realized that the decisions he made while in office would be the foundation of those who came after him. A precedent is described as the person or thing that becomes the model. Washington was not only presidential, but to coin a phrase, precedental.

Throughout his tenure, He would appear to never forget these two things. The first was that he would be the first of many, and second, that his time would end. All new Presidents do not begin there term thinking about there last day, but they should. When you remember the destination, you’re more careful about the journey.

Great leaders can discover and promote greatness in others when they’re not bogged down by ego. Even when they show very little sign of greatness. Such was the case with a member of President Washington’s cabinet, who had been part of General Washington’s staff.

His peers were of the opinion that this aide de camp was aristocratic, stubborn, and arrogant. Alexander Hamilton’s nickname was “The Little Lion”. In contrast to his young subordinate, Washington had learned when to roar and when to keep silent.

Washington was able to look past opinions to see virtue. Because of this, Hamilton impacted Washington’s administration and the history of the United States. He made a difference, but it was by Washington’s invitation only.

Another incident occurred that he did not invite, it was called The Whiskey Rebellion. Congress passed an excise tax on distilled whiskey that was highly unpopular. A group organized an armed rebellion. Among the President’s responses, dusting off his uniform and saddling his horse.
President Washington lead an army roughly the same size as the Continental Army into Pennsylvania. He sent a message that was essentially saying, that he had fought for his country once, and he was willing to once more.

We make the mistake of imagining Washington’s terms as easy, that wasn’t the case. Part of our Founding Father’s time was spent refereeing between two prominent American sons, Hamilton and Jefferson. Washington’s goal was not to be either Hamiltonian or Jeffersonian, it was to be an American. This meant making decisions based on the needs of the country even when it angered his fellow countrymen. It must have been exhausting. A tired man would have given up, but a tired soldier marched on for another term.

Today, in a cynical world, we cannot imagine anyone not wanting to be President for as long as humanly possible. George Washington was the exception. His two feuding Cabinet members temporarily forged a truce to convince him to even serve a second term. He agreed, but a third term was out of the question. After seeing the country through a revolution and spearheading a fledgling government, he was ready to leave.

When a man leaves something it is his duty to leave a legacy. This is not for his sake, that would be a monument. Others would build Washington’s monument, he was more concerned about scaffolding. A legacy is meant to be like the framework of a building or garden, it provides a means for the future to grow straight and tall. Washington’s farewell address, to this day, is considered one of America’s most important documents. It is read on the floor of the Senate every year. This soldier, this farmer, this surveyor laid the plum line America would hold to for years to come.

Most think his story ends farming in Mt Vernon. It’s a beautiful picture, the man who stood for a nation now planted the seeds for its future. An that’s true,but it wasn’t his farming in Virginia where he sowed. At President Adams’ request, he reluctantly returned to the military to help organize an army that would outlive him.

President Washington would be the first to point out that he wasn’t perfect. After all, If he ever doubted, Valley Forge had reminded him how human he was. It’s told that a very human general called on a very Divine God of armies in a blanket of snow. In the end my image of Washington is more than dates and events. It’s not merely a canvas and brush strokes. It’s a mixture of humility and nobility, with touches of perseverance, commitment, and consistency.