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  • Hnlembeck@aol.com
    In some of the follow up to the recent critical article about TR, there is a suggestion of an acceptance that TR was, if only because he reflected the times in
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 17, 2000
      In some of the follow up to the recent critical article about TR, there is a
      suggestion of an acceptance that TR was, if only because he reflected the
      times in which he lived, a racist, though possibly more advanced than most in
      his views on race.

      "More advanced" isn't even the half of it. We should point out to people a
      letter he wrote in 1894, when he served as commissioner with the Civil
      Service Commission. In it, he said:

      "Congressman Williams, of Mississippi, attacked the Commission in substance
      because under the Commission white men and men of color are treated with
      exact impartiality. As to this, I have to say that so long as the present
      Commissioners continue their official existence they will not make, and, so
      far as in their power lies, will refuse to allow others to make, any
      discrimination whatsoever for or against any man because of his color … We
      do equal and exact justice to all... … under our examinations honest and
      capable colored men are given an even chance with honest and capable white
      men. I esteem this approach a high compliment to the Commission, for it is
      an admission that the Commission has rigidly done its duty as required by law
      without … regard to color." The letter is quoted in Theodore Roosevelt the
      Citizen by Jacob A. Riis.

      There is, of course, the infamous Brownsville Incident. I personally know
      little other than what has been written in TR biographies, and when a man
      such as, for example, Edmund Morris speaks of it as the low point of TR's
      Presidency, I accept his scholarship and honest judgment. But I recommend
      the comments of James Amos, TR's valet and himself a black man, in Mr. Amos's
      book, Theodore Roosevelt: Hero to His Valet. Mr. Amos writes that the
      President took his action only "an agent of his own" spent many months
      gathering the facts about the matter for him.

      Mr. Amos also writes that some of the accused soldiers were brought to the
      White House to meet personally with the President and "under Mr. Roosevelt's
      questioning they broke down as admitted the guilt of their companies The
      President never used this confession in justification of his act. The
      soldiers had not made it willingly, but only under the influence of his
      dominating personality, and while it completely satisfied his mind he never
      felt at liberty to use it, though he might have hushed the whole controversy
      by doing so."

      It seems to me typical of the TR I and other so many others admire that he
      would take extraordinary measures to convince himself of the facts, and only
      then take an action he considered right, regardless of the consequences.

      As a footnote to the Brownsville incident, Mr. Amos says that, to protect the
      soldiers from the wrath of the local Texas officials, TR deployed the unit
      outside Texas, and only then did he discharge the men. Had they become
      civilians while in Texas, the would have been exposed to Texas authority and
      might have tried in the Texas courts.

      Harry Lembeck
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