The Three Roosevelts: Patrician Leaders Who Transformed America

James MacGregor Burns, Author, Susan Dunn, Joint Author
James MacGregor Burns, Author, Susan Dunn, Joint Author Atlantic Monthly Press $37.5 (544p) ISBN 978-0-87113-780-7
Reviewed on: 03/01/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
Paperback - 688 pages - 978-0-8021-3872-9
Hardcover - 688 pages - 978-1-903809-08-2
Ebook - 688 pages - 978-1-55584-615-2
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As president, Theodore Roosevelt modeled himself after the man he admired mostDhis father, who believed in moral justiceDand after the man his father admired mostDPresident Lincoln, for his ability to be both a radical reformer and a shrewdly conservative politician. Although all three men were Republicans, TR grew further away from the party ideals held by the privileged class into which he was born (a life dedicated to pleasure bored him, and he was stimulated by the opportunities politics presented despite its grimy reputation), pushing for better conditions for workers, nationalized health care, the Pure Food and Drug Act and much more. His fifth cousin, Franklin (husband to TR's favorite niece), consciously mimicked TR's career path, going from assistant secretary of the navy, to New York governor, to president, eventually following another reform-oriented mentor, Woodrow Wilson, to become a Democrat. Growing up knowing little about politics, Eleanor Roosevelt was active in Junior League volunteerism and later the League of Women Voters, but it was under the influence of her husband's aide Louis Howe that she refined her political voice as a ""big stick"" activist like her uncle TR and her husband, who founded the welfare state. Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Burns (Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom) and Williams College professor Dunn (The Deaths of Louis XVI) do an excellent job of summarizing the political theology shared by these three Knickerbocker bluebloods, who were, in their time, categorized as ""class traitors."" While offering no new details, Burns and Dunn nevertheless succeed in approaching their subjects with grace, respect and insight. In the end, they do great justice to three remarkable lives superbly lived. (Mar.) Forecast: The Roosevelts remain a popular subject for readers, and with Burns's excellent reputation and the wide reviews this is bound to receive, it should sell handsomely beyond the narrow history market.
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