Blogs > Liberty and Power > They Really Are the Heirs of T.R.

Mar 24, 2006 10:46 am

They Really Are the Heirs of T.R.

Many mainstream conservatives and neoconservatives admire Teddy Roosevelt. And they share a number of characteristics with T.R.: The incessant self-conscious blather about manliness. The warped belief that war is a wonderful tonic for what ails the national spirit. And a cultish devotion to presidential power inconsistent with free government.

I knew all that, but what I didn't know is that in their desire for a federal marriage amendment, they're following T.R.'s lead as well. Roosevelt was ahead of his time in proposing a constitutional amendment federalizing marriage, in his sixth Annual Message:

I am well aware of how difficult it is to pass a constitutional amendment. Nevertheless in my judgment the whole question of marriage and divorce should be relegated to the authority of the National Congress. At present the wide differences in the laws of the different States on this subject result in scandals and abuses; and surely there is nothing so vitally essential to the welfare of the nation, nothing around which the nation should so bend itself to throw every safeguard, as the home life of the average citizen. The change would be good from every standpoint. In particular it would be good because it would confer on the Congress the power at once to deal radically and efficiently with polygamy; and this should be done whether or not marriage and divorce are dealt with. It is neither safe nor proper to leave the question of polygamy to be dealt with by the several States. Power to deal with it should be conferred on the National Government.

T.R. also proclaimed that your care-free bachelor may look like a pleasant fellow, but he's really a race traitor:

When home ties are loosened; when men and women cease to regard a worthy family life, with all its duties fully performed, and all its responsibilities lived up to, as the life best worth living; then evil days for the commonwealth are at hand. There are regions in our land, and classes of our population, where the birth rate has sunk below the death rate. Surely it should need no demonstration to show that wilful sterility is, from the standpoint of the nation, from the standpoint of the human race, the one sin for which the penalty is national death, race death; a sin for which there is no atonement; a sin which is the more dreadful exactly in proportion as the men and women guilty thereof are in other respects, in character, and bodily and mental powers, those whom for the sake of the state it would be well to see the fathers and mothers of many healthy children, well brought up in homes made happy by their presence. No man, no woman, can shirk the primary duties of life, whether for love of ease and pleasure, or for any other cause, and retain his or her self-respect.

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Keith Halderman - 3/25/2006

The term Progressivism has always begged the question progressing towards what?

Steven Horwitz - 3/24/2006

This post also nicely illustrates the long-neglected connection between turn of the century "progressive" politics adn the eugenics movement. Anyone on the modern-day left who harkens romatically for the salad days of Progressivism is going to have to have some very big blind spots.

Keith Halderman - 3/24/2006

There is one big difference between the neo-cons and Roosevelt. When it came to war T.R. put his body where his mouth was. His modern day admirers love war but only if someone else does the fighting and dying.