His Son Killed in Action, Theodore Roosevelt Longed to Go to War

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
May 23 2014 2:15 PM

His Son Killed in Action, Theodore Roosevelt Longed to Go to War

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

In this letter, written a month after his son Quentin, a pilot, was shot down over the Marne River in France, 60-year-old Theodore Roosevelt wishes he could join the fight.

Roosevelt had advocated for American preparedness and, later, entry into World War I quite early in the conflict. In a series of newspaper articles, he harshly critiqued his erstwhile electoral opponent Woodrow Wilson’s neutral stance.

Advertisement

“Peace is ardently to be desired, but only as the handmaid of righteousness,” Roosevelt wrote in his foreword to his collected newspaper articles, published as America and the World War in 1915. “There can be no … peace until well-behaved, highly civilized small nations [such as Belgium] are protected from oppression and subjugation.”

Once the United States entered the war in 1917, Roosevelt offered to form a division of volunteer troops, a la the Rough Riders of earlier days. Wilson turned him down. Roosevelt’s sons Theodore Jr., Quentin, Kermit, and Archibald all served. 

John Burroughs, the letter’s addressee, was a famous naturalist and writer as well as a longtime friend of Roosevelt’s. Roosevelt calls the older Burroughs “Oom John,” which means “Uncle John” in Dutch.

1TRLetterFinal

Image courtesy of Shapell Manuscript Foundation.

2TRLetterFinal

Image courtesy of Shapell Manuscript Foundation.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 16 2014 6:30 PM Nothing Succeeds Like Secession Breakaway movements across the United States want to get on the Scottish bandwagon. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 6:23 PM Bryan Cranston Reenacts Baseball’s Best Moments to Promote the Upcoming Postseason
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.