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In His Own Words: To Fight

Mar 13, 2014

Theodore Roosevelt did not consider himself a fighter, although he never shrank from a fight that presented itself. In the following passage, taken from a letter to Edward Sanford Martin, TR explained the reasoning behind his theory of fighting.

"Now, do you want to know the real underlying feeling which has made me fight myself and want Ted to fight? Well, I summed it up to Ted once or twice when I told him, apropos of lessons of virtue, that he could be just as virtuous as he wished if only he was prepared to fight. Fundamentally this has been my own theory. I am not naturally at all a fighter, so far as any man is capable of analyzing his own impulses and desires, mine incline me to amiable domesticity and the avoidance of effort and struggle and any kind of roughness and to the practice of home virtues. Now, I believe that these are good traits, not bad ones. But I also believe that if unsupported by something more virile, they may tend to evil rather than good. The man who merely possesses these traits, and in addition is timid and shirks effort, attracts and deserves a good deal of contempt.

"He attracts more, though he deserves less, contempt than the powerful, efficient man who is not at all virtuous, but is merely a strong, selfish, self-indulgent brute; the latter being the type on which I wish to wage active war."

Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Edward Sanford Martin

Detail, Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Edward Sanford Martin, November 26, 1900, MS Am 1863 (378). Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.

Posted by Keri Youngstrand on Mar 13, 2014 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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