Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was born today in 1858. Roosevelt is known for his brash and progressive style during his time in politics during the late 19th and early 20th century, which included his views on legalism. In David H. Burton’s Theodore Roosevelt: Confident Imperialist, Burton explains Roosevelt felt that legalism supported sharp practice of law as opposed to an honest bargain to fight for what was just, which he would depend on later. On the other hand, Roosevelt’s Social Darwinian outlook came through when defining who was capable of political freedom, something he thought not every race of people was qualified to handle. Roosevelt’s imperialist attitude, something Burton points out, explaining how the state of America during the latter half of the 19th century lined up with that of Roosevelt’s early life and growth during his time at Harvard. This is clearly evident during the Spanish American War in 1898 when the United States intervened in Cuban revolt against Spanish rule and Roosevelt put together his band of “Rough Riders” to aid in the fight.
In 1915, Roosevelt would make a journey to Syracuse to defend himself against this brash style in what became known as the Barnes-Roosevelt Libel Case. Here’s what the Theodore Roosevelt Center has on the case:
“On April 19, 1915, a libel suit long in the making finally began in Syracuse, New York. Boss William Barnes had sued Theodore Roosevelt for libel, because a year earlier Roosevelt had publicly called Barnes “a political boss of the most obnoxious type.” The trial was moved to the Supreme Court in Syracuse to give both men an impartial jury as it was feared if the trial were held in Albany County, the jury would be skewed in favor of Barnes.
The trial began badly for the former president. The judge placed the burden of proof on Roosevelt to prove his innocence. He believed the burden should have fallen to Barnes. While Roosevelt admitted to his son Kermit that the judge was fair—if a bit legalistic—he was frustrated by the proceedings as a whole and surprised when, on May 22, 1915, the judge ruled in his favor.”
Here’s Theodore Roosevelt libel verdict, via The Post-Standard
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