You might wonder why novels are included with Theodore Roosevelt books. There is an excellent reason which will be explained in this description.
James Fenimore Cooper's LEATHERSTOCKING TALES consists of 5 stories.
The Last of the Mohicans, The Deerslayer, The Pathfinder, The Pioneers, The Prairie
When TR was asked about these books by JACOB A. RIIS this is what he said:
He whirled round with kindling eyes.
" Like them," he cried, " like them! Why, man, there is nothing like them. I could pass examination in the whole of them today. Deer slayer with his long rifle, Jasper and Hurry Harry, Ishmael Bush with his seven stalwart sons—do I not know them? I have bunked with them and eaten with them, and I know their strength and their weakness. They were narrow and hard, but they were mighty men and they did the work of their day and opened the way for ours. Do I like them? Cooper is unique in American literature, and he will grow upon us as we get farther away from his day, let the critics say what they will."
Cooper's heroic central characters portray character traits that TR could identify with and those that fell short of honor were examples to be avoided. Here is a short paragraph from Cooper that may have had particular appeal to TR's need to aspire to higher moral goals.
"It is now becoming obscured by time; and thousands, who know that Montcalm died like a hero on the plains of Abraham, have yet to learn how much he was deficient in that moral courage without which no man can be truly great. Pages might be written to prove, from this illustrious example, the defects of human excellence; to show how easy it is for generous sentiments, high courtesy, and chivalrous courage, to lose their influence beneath their chilling blight of selfishness, and to exhibit to the world a man who was great in all the minor attributes of character, but who was found wanting when it became necessary to prove how much principle is superior to policy. But the task would exceed our prerogatives; and, as history, like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of imaginary brightness, it is probable that Louis de Saint Veran will be viewed by posterity only as the gallant defender of his country, while his cruel apathy on the shores of the Oswego and of the Horican will be forgotten."
Unlike Montcalm from the quoted novel TR faced his fate and offered his country, his most treasured possessions, for the defense of the country in World War One. Montcalm did not completely take the easy path of self preservation at Oswego. He put his life at risk to saved some of those he promised to protect but he was not wise in time. He caused his prisoners to be placed in a situation of peril either by miss judgment or a need to appease his allied Indians. The books TR read were like the oil a blacksmith uses to temper steel. His books tempered his mind to aspire to a noble goal. If America fails to hear him today his visionary messages may be lost on bookshelves, but if they awake to his words from the pages of history he will teach new generations the values of his discoveries.
TR believed average people can develop their abilities and make meaningful contributions in good citizenship. I do not have the polish and reserve of a diplomat or an impressive command of grammar and spelling but when I see things that average people can act upon I try to take some sort of action to help bring it about. I do not fear failing. I fear not trying when I am sure that something can be accomplished. TR wanted people to be part of solutions that improved the country. This country needs to hear his philosophy based upon an honesty that served him and the country so well. Anyone with a desire and a willingness to pich in can be part of something that has never been done before. We are in the so called "Information Age" where information holds the keys to the future. You can play a part.
Here is what FERDINAND IGLEHART said about the man he knew:
"Before Mr. Roosevelt had made his name and fame a household word I noticed that he was by far the best informed man I had ever met. Of the hundreds of subjects I have taken up with him, there was not one about which he did not know much more than I did myself, and some of those subjects were specialties upon which years of study and labor had been spent. And as years advanced I learned that he was not only regarded by those closest to him, but by well-nigh universal consent, as the best informed man in the largest range of subjects of anybody in the nation, if not in the world."
How impressive would it be to have the eight thousand books from Theodore Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill home scanned and put on line for others to read. I would call that an impressive Library unlike no other. What would make it even more impressive in the public's eye is to have Universities, Colleges and High School students share in the project of editing some of the books after they are scanned to put them in user-friendly formats. This would help create a buzz that would insure that the public knew of the New Concept Presidential Library. Average people with an interest could work within a system of cross checked editing to complete this project in record time. Creating audio books of high quality would give people pride in being part of the project. OCR (optical character recognition) production of pre 1923 books has advantages but is edit intensive. TR wanted people to find ways to take action. He made it possible for people to take action on many public issues and we prospered. Creating his On line Presidential Public Library could be a public effort in some areas of the endeavor. These are just a few thoughts that I would like an advisory board to consider. The first step is for those that love the principles TR stood for is to say they would like such a Theodore Roosevelt on line Library.
Here is a final example from HERMANN HAGEDORN that further show the importance of novels to a young Theodore Roosevelt.
"For, one day, he picked up the Dramatic Romances of Browning and read "The Flight of the Duchess" and he had not read far before he came on a description of a young duke, a poor sprig of a grand line:
the pertest little ape
That ever affronted human shape;
and this was the duke's ambition:
All that the old Dukes had been without knowing it, This Duke would fain know he was, without being it.
In other words, the duke admired his ancestors and wanted to appear to be like them without making any effort actually to be like them.
Those lines pulled Theodore Roosevelt up sharp, like a lasso. He felt that the resemblance between that young duke and himself was close enough to be disquieting. He felt discovered; he felt ashamed. He, too, had had his heroes. He had wanted to be like those heroes; or had he wanted merely to appear to be like them ?
Those lines made him unhappy. They pursued him, taunting him. Then one day he suddenly discovered that a new resolve had taken shape in him. There was no harm in dreaming, but henceforth he would not be satisfied unless, even while he dreamed, he labored to translate the dream into action.
That was a very important resolve. It gave Theodore Roosevelt back his peace of mind and set his face in the direction of the highroad.
It was not long after this new resolve had taken root in him that chance or destiny or the good Lord, who likes to test the vitality of the good resolutions that boys make, put Theodore Roosevelt's high-sounding decision to the test. "
The books we read in life can make a difference. Browning's book, it would seem, open TR's conscience to one of his most important character traits.... the need to do more than just read and talk but to take action.