President Theodore Roosevelt States That He Strives “In good faith” to Do Right

He feels he does not deserve the praise Lewis gave comparing him to founding Americans.

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“I think that you are wrong in degree and not in kind – in other words, you portray me as having done the things I have at least in good faith striven to do.”

Alfred Henry Lewis was an investigative journalist, lawyer, novelist, editor, and short story writer. Starting about 1882 he...

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President Theodore Roosevelt States That He Strives “In good faith” to Do Right

He feels he does not deserve the praise Lewis gave comparing him to founding Americans.

“I think that you are wrong in degree and not in kind – in other words, you portray me as having done the things I have at least in good faith striven to do.”

Alfred Henry Lewis was an investigative journalist, lawyer, novelist, editor, and short story writer. Starting about 1882 he traveled in the southwest collecting frontier lore from the colorful characters of Kansas, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The cowboys and miners Lewis met in his western travels became the dominant figures in his books. It is said that he caught the spirit and vernacular of the latter-day Old West more accurately than any writer of his era. He was even editor of the Mora County Pioneer in New Mexico. He next turned his hand to writing political articles. In the newspaper field Lewis was best known as Washington correspondent of the Chicago Times and New York Journal. He was a regular contributor to Collier’s, Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan and other magazines. In 1896 Lewis became the Washington correspondent for the Hearst newspapers, doing fiction and political writing for them. He established a reputation as one of the foremost political writers of the country and a foremost advocate for the Progressive philosophy. He was not afraid to attack a company like International Harvester, whose trust he asserted was killing competition and stifling invention.

In June, 1908, Lewis began a series of articles on the nation’s leading businessmen called the “Owners of America”, in which he explained how these men controlled the political process. His books included westerns like “Woolfville: Episodes of Cowboy Life”, “The Sunset Trail”, “The Throwback”, and “The Boss”, a story about the corruption of politics in New York City, among many others. A number of his stories were later turned into films. He was precisely the sort of man who Theodore Roosevelt would choose as a colleague and indeed friend. In 1905, he selected Lewis to edit “A Compilation of the Messages and Speeches of Theodore Roosevelt 1901 – 1905.”

In 1903 the United States, using what might be called gunboat diplomacy or the big stick, assisted installation of a friendly government in Panama, to replace Colombian rule there. In 1904, TR received approval to buy the French equipment and excavations and began work on the Panama Canal on May 4, 1904. Not long after, TR and Lewis met for lunch, during which TR compared himself to Andrew Jackson, feeling his actions in Panama were Jacksonian, and saying Jackson was “my kind of man.” Lewis wrote an article for Success Magazine comparing the two presidents that ran in the September 1904 issue. The article spoke of a parallel between them, and contained the clarion, “Andrew Jackson, Old Hickory. Theodore Roosevelt, New Hickory!” Lewis also wrote additional articles about Roosevelt at about the same time.

Typed Letter Signed, on White House letterhead, Oyster Bay, NY, September 7, 1904, to Lewis, approving the comparison, but more importantly, reflecting on the difference of intent vs. accomplishment. “I like what you have written about me; but I like most your article in Success. Now, my dear sir, do not misunderstand me. I am perfectly well aware that I do not deserve what you have said; but I think that you are wrong in degree and not in kind – in other words, you portray me as having done the things I have at least in good faith striven to do. Cannot you come out here to take lunch someday soon; or, if more convenient, come to Washington to take lunch or dinner anytime after the 25th!” An interesting distinction, and a very unusual modest statement by the generally immodest Roosevelt.

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