1 Zulkigore

Theodore Roosevelt A Push 2016 Long Essay Question How To Answer

Tackling the AP US History exam is a tough undertaking. There is a ton of information to be learned, many skills to master, and not a lot of time to do it all.  But you absolutely can do it! And we want to help you through these easy to use study tips!

AP US History DBQ and Free Response Tips

1. Answer the question. If I could only give you one piece of advice for your essay questions, it would be just to answer it. You will probably have this said to you over and over again, and you are probably already tired of hearing it. But the reason people say it so much is because students tend not do it! It doesn’t matter if you have the best-written paper of all time, or include a ton of history facts, if you don’t answer the question; you aren’t going to get all the points. Before you start outlining your answer or reading through documents, make sure you know what the question is really asking you.

2. Pay attention to the rubric. The number one priority of a DBQ or FRQ is answering the question. Aside from that, you need to know what the AP test is looking for in your answer. For a starting point, check out our breakdown of the DBQ rubric here. Understanding this rubric gives you a mental checklist to work through as you write your response.

Writing an outline of your essay will result in a better answer. When you just write without planning ahead much, you might get to the last paragraph and realize that you have nothing left to say, or that none of your ideas flow together. If you just do a rough outline of your main points and supporting details, you will write a much more fluid paper that is easy to follow and stays on track.

3. Understand the documents. As you read through the documents, don’t waste too much time analyzing every single detail and sentence. Instead of picking out every detail, read the documents for understanding. Highlight or underline important parts. At the end of the document, write a sentence or two explaining the main idea of the document and which side of the argument it supports. This will be handy for outlining your essay and seeing how the documents can be used as evidence.

4. Group the documents. This is something you want to do while reading the documents initially, when you are outlining your essay and when actually writing your essay. The test grader is going to be looking for your ability to do this. Most good essays will contain at least three main points, and you want to be sure that you have sources or evidence to support each of those points. For example, you might group documents based on whether they are related to the political, social, or economic side of a question.

5. Use the documents. You want to make sure you use a lot of the documents, but don’t force it. You can get the highest score possible by using most of the available evidence. Just use the sources in a way that naturally supports your argument. Don’t simply throw the documents in randomly just to check it off the list.

6. Don’t “data dump.” One of the key parts of the rubric is that you need to bring in outside information and evidence to support your answer. However, don’t overload the reader with unnecessary information that doesn’t really fit the context. Just because you know the date of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination does not mean you need to throw that into an essay about the first Great Awakening.

7. Go specific. For your free response question choices, choose the topic that is most specific instead of something broad. The broadest topic seems appealing because you think you know a lot about it, but it can actually be really tough to formulate a good thesis because it is so broad. The specific question is more likely to create a solid detailed answer. It makes it easier to answer the question, which we already know is incredibly important.

8. Find the right voice. Your voice. This can be tricky, because it is all about finding a balance between too formal and too personal. You don’t want to write like a robot, stating only facts and not expressing any hints of personality, but you also don’t want it to be like a letter to a friend. Avoid “I” and “you” statements. Basically, don’t be afraid to be yourself in your answer; it just needs to be a very well-spoken version of yourself.

9. Take a stand. Writing for historical purposes is about making an argument and supporting that argument well. When you are writing, it can be easy to just explain both sides of an argument and nothing else. All that does is show your ability to reword information. The essay section of the test wants to know how well you can synthesize lots of information into one cohesive argument. In order to do that, you have to actually take a side. Don’t be biased or make unreasonable claims. Just use the evidence to support a specific claim that is rooted in facts. Got it?

Start your APUSH Prep today

AP US History Multiple Choice Tips

1. Read the question and answers all the way through.This is a super basic test-taking tip, but it’s still worth mentioning here. Don’t fall into the trap of reading the question partially and jumping to conclusions, or picking the first question that seems right. There are 55 source-based multiple choice questions and 55 minutes to do them, so you have a minute per question. This is enough time to carefully read the question and each answer choice, and consider the best option.

2. Cross out obviously wrong answers. No matter what, you should know that Theodore Roosevelt did not sign the Declaration of Independence. Immediately cross his name off the list of answer choices. This is beneficial because it brings you one step closer to the right answer, and it tells your brain that you are doing something. It is a good way to build confidence, which is going to help you score much higher.

3. Use context clues. If you are unsure of an answer, just try to approach it from a logical perspective. You may not know the exact date of a certain event, but when you put that event in context of other events that you do know the dates for, it can definitely help you narrow down your choices. When you think of history as a giant puzzle that you are trying to put together, you can use all the pieces you do know to try and figure out the piece that you don’t know.

4. Use questions to give you answers. You can learn a lot just from reading the questions. You may not directly get the answer to a question from other questions, but it can certainly give you more information and put you one step closer to the correct answer. You will almost always be able to walk away from the test knowing more than you did before. Also, keep the multiple-choice questions in mind as you write your free response and DBQ essays. You can also just try to think logically about it. Sometimes it works out that if the answer to question 3 is C, then the answer to question 6 has to be D.

5. Take a guess. Losing points for incorrect answers is a thing of the past so you might as well take a stab at the ones you don’t know. Obviously, you want to take your best guess and use all of the skills and techniques you can to narrow down the possible correct answers. But if you get to the point where you really just don’t know, just give it your best shot. As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

6. Pace yourself. Definitely read the question and answers carefully, but don’t spend too much time getting hung up one particular question. If you read it, don’t know it, and can’t figure it out, move on. It is much better to finish the test and answer all of the questions that you do know than to get stuck on a question early on and not have time to answer all the latter questions. Like I mentioned earlier, you have less than a minute per question, so use your time wisely.

7. Answer the right question. It might seem silly, but when you are answering 80 questions at a time it can be really easy to get mixed up on your answer sheet. Don’t accidentally skip a question and get to the end wondering what you did wrong. Sometimes you just get into a flow and stop paying attention to which bubble you are filling in.

8. Pay attention to wording. Skimming over a question can sometimes cause you to totally misinterpret said question. Don’t do that. Make sure that you know if the question is asking “Which of the following IS…” or “Which of the following IS NOT…“ That is a huge difference and is going to make for two very different answers. This is such a common and easy mistake to make.

9. Practice! Practice makes perfect, right? But seriously, there are a ton of resources out there for you to practice your AP test taking skills. This will give you a much better idea of what to look for in multiple-choice questions and can guide you in your studying.

10. Use flash cards. Using flash cards is a great way to consistently study and practice. Lucky for you, we even have a guide to making great AP US History flash cards. This is especially helpful for studying for the multiple choice section because you can write the information on flash cards in a question form, or use old questions to make your flash cards. They are also really great for last minute or speedy study sessions, because you can cover a large amount of material in a short amount of time.

Start your APUSH Prep today

General AP US History Study Tips

1. Start early. We aren’t your parents, and we aren’t going to nag you about doing your homework. But it is absolutely so important that you get an early start on your APUSH review. There is a lot of information to learn, but it is only daunting if you are trying to learn it all in one night. Get out ahead of the game and start chipping away at it. You will be able to spend more time on each idea and will actually learn and remember the things you are studying. When you frantically cram for an exam, you usually only remember the stuff for that day.

2. Outline the course. The wonderful people over at AP CollegeBoard have provided a breakdown of the entire AP US History course. This is such a good place to start, because it breaks the course into nine different periods, ranging from 1491-present. These pre-set periods make it super easy for you to study chunks of history at a time. A really helpful thing when outlining the course is to write a paragraph summary of each section and then explain how each time period transitioned into the next. This helps you establish some continuity in your thinking.

3. Use a giant whiteboard. This is one of my favorite study tips for almost any type of course. Whiteboards allow you to think about things on a big picture scale. Flow charts outlining the transitions between time periods are super helpful. Also, when you use a whiteboard to diagram historical ideas, those ideas become ingrained in your visual, as well as auditory memory. It’s crazy how much having a visual representation of something can help it stick in your mind.

4. Study with friends. This is a pretty dangerous game, because friends can sometimes be the biggest distraction from studying. But if you do it right, they can also be a huge help! Being able to talk about ideas helps you better understand them. And if there is a part of history that you are just really struggling with, chances are you have a friend who is pretty knowledgeable about it. Using the whiteboard technique or a course outline can be very effective when studying with friends. Just be sure to pick your friends wisely and don’t waste your time together watching funny cat videos on YouTube.

5. Get a review book. A review book is one of the most helpful study tools out there. They usually have a pretty comprehensive overview of course material and break down the information in an understandable way. Most are broken into chapters with summaries and review questions at the end of each one. Another great feature of review books is that they usually include test taking strategies or techniques to help you succeed. They also, typically, have practice tests included to put those techniques to good use.

6. Create a study game. No matter how interesting (or boring) you may think APUSH is, studying any type of material for a long time can grow very tiresome. Sometimes, you just need to mix things up and making a game out of it is a good way to do so. A lot of people do Jeopardy style review for history. I prefer to do some kind of weird punishment or wager with friends. For example, we will go through asking each other various questions and for every question one of us gets wrong we have to do three push ups. Or we win a couple of skittles for each correct answer. Whatever it takes to mix things up.

7. Ask your teacher for help! Once again, probably not a piece of advice that you really want to hear, but it is a good thing to do.Your teacher is teaching the class for a reason, and they are probably not only super knowledgeable, but also passionate. Most teachers would be thrilled to give you an extra hand or piece of advice. They are such an untapped resource that students generally don’t take advantage of. If they offer any kind of after school help or study hours, take the opportunity! It certainly isn’t going to hurt, and if anything else, it’s always great to be in good graces with your teacher.

8. Watch extra review videos. Crash Course, a YouTube channel, has a series of 47 videos dedicated to helpingyou understand US History. They are each anywhere between 10-15 minutes long and are great ways to learn. They are quick and entertaining, but also incredibly informative. They can serve as a great introduction to a topic or a good summary after you have finished reviewing it. And there are many more videos like these out there. Aside from helping you learn actual information from the course, there are also a lot of videos to help with test taking strategies. Tom Richey has created a great AP US History review page here.

9. Look at practice questions. Seriously, there are so many resources out there to help you succeed. One of those is a compilation of AP US History sample questions. This 16-page document features not only realistic AP test questions, but also answers and explanations for each one. They even tell you which “Historical Thinking Skills” and key concepts are being tested. This is really an efficient way to become familiar with AP style questions and to see which material you are struggling with. You can also simply do a Google search for APUSH test questions and find a ton to work with.

10. Make a timeline. This kind of goes along with making a course outline, but this is more about testing yourself than using the course description. Take key events, without looking at their dates, and try to put them in order. Some people use a whiteboard for this or just try to organize flash cards. Basically this is just a good way of seeing how things fit together. As you make the timeline, try to pay attention to the sequence of events, or any cause and effect relationships that may be at play.

11. Figure out your greatest weakness. A great way to do this is through practice tests. A lot of practice tests online will show you which areas you need to learn the most in. Use these areas as a starting point and work from there. You don’t want to waste a lot of time focusing on the areas that you are already familiar with. Be smart about your time management.

12. Think about things thematically. This is one of the main historical skills that you are tested on. Encompassed in the testing of themes is the analysis of change over time. These go hand in hand as you think about the way that certain themes evolve through history. For example, you need to be able to explain how the economy of the US has changed over the years, or think about America’s evolving philosophy on foreign affairs.

Tips from the Pros: Teachers and Former Students

1. Pay attention in class! AP US History is a course that is usually pretty heavy on the lecture side. You won’t be able to rely on worksheets or handouts to get by in class. Instead, you will have to pay attention to what the teacher says and take great notes. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever look at your notes again, it is still worth writing things down because the act of writing actually helps you remember.

2. Take part in class discussion. The ultimate way to know that you are fully engaged in class is to be part of a class discussion. Teachers usually mix these in with lectures, and it is so important to be involved. It shows the teacher that you care, and it shows a good study ethic. But also, when you get involved and contribute to discussion, those ideas that you discussed will stick out in your mind. The best way to learn something is by being a part of something.

3. Keep up with your assigned reading. Chances are, your teacher has a lot of reading for you to do throughout the year. There might not always be quizzes on the reading, but it is SO important that you do it. There is no way you can always catch up on an entire year’s worth of AP US History reading, so it is essential to stay on top of things.

4. Do it for the college credit. Sticking with an AP class throughout the year can be pretty tough, but it is absolutely worth it when you get your passing score. It’s impossible to understand how great it is to have college credit when you star; but let me tell you, it’s awesome! College isn’t cheap these days and any extra help you can get is worth it. AP US History can usually get you out of at least one General Education History requirement. That’s one less class you have to take, and one step closer to graduation. Let that be your motivation!

5. Show up to everything extra.Teachers are usually willing to take time out of their busy schedules to do some extra review or give you some more tips. Take them all up! It might not seem like the most fun to spend your free time learning about AP US History, but I promise, it is worth it. It is a great way to consistently study and stay up to speed.

6. You can never practice writing too much.The DBQ and FRQ are pretty consistent topics of concern among APUSH students, and for a good reason. They can be pretty tough, and are usually obstacles between students and the grade they want. One of the hardest parts about this section is that, it just takes a really long time to be writing. Your hand will start to get tired, and you will slowly feel your brain turn to mush as you go. You have to build up a certain kind of stamina for writing long essays, and you can only do that by practicing. There is no shortage of practice questions, and classmates or teachers are usually willing to grade them for you.

7. Start reading your review books early.Lots of students have nightmarish tales of rushing through their review books in the last couple of weeks leading up to the exam. Its doable, but it sure isn’t fun. Review books are crucial to passing the test, so make sure you actually have enough time to dedicate to actually reading it. This will make your studies a lot less overwhelming. If you need help choosing one, make sure you check out our guide to the best AP US History review books of 2015.

8. Try to have some fun. It may not sound like the most fun, but APUSH really can be. Or at least you can try to make it be fun. Chances are, you don’t plan on dropping the class, and so if you are going to stick it out, you might as well try to make it an enjoyable experience. It can actually be pretty fun learning about the historical events that made America what it is today. If anything else, think of it as a chance to make some new friends while learning some new skills. Oh, and if you pay attention, AP US History might even make you a little better at Trivia Crack and show off for your friends.

9. Always ask, “Why do we care?” Students are conditioned to focus on names and dates as opposed to causes and results; “Why” gets them to start thinking in depth.

10. Support every claim with evidence. My favorite “catch phrase” is…“Evidence please…. ” Everyone has a theory in APUSH…Who has the evidence to back up their theory?

11. Think like a test maker and not a test taker.  Think about what the AP question writer might have been looking to test you on when answering each question.  Understanding this is key to knowing how to answer the question.

Are you a teacher or student? Do you have an awesome tip? Let us know!

The Send Off

If you made it to this point in the article, good job. You are already on your way to being ready for your APUSH exam. Work hard, use some of our helpful tips and ideas, and you are going to crush it.

Start your APUSH Prep today

Looking for AP US History practice?

Kickstart your AP US History prep with Albert. Start your AP exam prep today.

1. My Girl Tisa: Roosevelt’s Post World War II Reputation as the Friend of the Immigrant

1Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to regularly appear on film during his life. Even after his death his personage has appeared in more than thirty movies. The portrayal of Roosevelt changed after World War II from a cowboy representing the strenuous life to that of a reformist politician. The first post-World War II film to depict him as a reformer was a 1948 release, My Girl Tisa. The end of the film shows Roosevelt in 1905, rescuing a Hungarian girl, Tisa Kepes, from deportation from Ellis Island, after her boyfriend, Mark Denek, appeals directly to him.1 Even though the release of this film in early 1948 put the film in the midst of the debate about persons displaced by World War II and revisions to the immigration policy in the Truman administration, it is, nevertheless, a romantic comedy rather than a political statement.

2The cast had a number of first and second generation immigrant actors, among them German immigrant Lili Palmer, who played the protagonist, Tisa Kepes. The story is set in New York City, where Tisa has recently arrived to work in a sweatshop. She diligently saves her wages to bring her father over from Europe. Each week travel agent Tesco collects payments from poor immigrant girls in the factory for passage tickets. Tisa’s new friend Mark, played by the second-generation Ukrainian Jew Sam Wanamaker, dreams of a career in politics, but cannot hold a job because he argues with employers who criticize Teddy Roosevelt. When Tisa lends Mark $100 to sign up for a correspondence course in law, she realizes that her generosity will delay her father’s arrival. Tesco presents a solution and persuades her to sign a document which turns out to be a forced labor contract for her father. Tesco pays the passage on the next ship, the Queen Victoria, in exchange for years of work by Tisa’s father in a lumber camp. When Mark discovers the scheme he confronts Tesco, who turns the tables by accusing Tisa of prostitution and reporting her to the immigration authorities for deportation. Mark tries to save her by offering to marry her, but when he suggests this during the deportation hearing, he is arrested for illegal action, and she is brought to Ellis Island to be deported.

3When Tisa sees her father’s ship enter the port from her cell, she calls on Miss Liberty, the famous statue on Ellis Island, to take care of Mark. Meanwhile, Mark makes bail and comes to visit her. When he leaves the prison, he finds himself in the midst of a parade featuring President Roosevelt who has come to meet the same ship to welcome a European Crown Prince to America. Mark disrupts the parade to catch the president’s attention. The president listens to Mark, visits the detention center, orders Tisa’s release, and takes the couple in his carriage to the arrival of the ship and a happy ending: Mark’s ambition to advise presidents is satisfied and good immigrants are welcomed to America.

4Unquestionably, the film puts both Roosevelt and European immigrants in a positive light, although a New York Times review found the film with its “sentimental reminiscences about first-generation Americans” intolerable.2 Other newspapers were equally critical of the script, though more generous about the actors, and they raised the issue whether or not Theodore Roosevelt’s intervention was in or out of character. The Los Angeles Times concluded that the rescue scene was “about as unlike an incident as one might witness.”3 Today the film is all but forgotten, but 75 years later it takes us to the heart of the theme of this paper: immigration, urban poverty, and the role of Theodore Roosevelt. This paper answers two questions. The first is whether Theodore Roosevelt’s deserves to be remembered as the immigrant’s friend and second, whether his policies were a preview of the long debate on immigration that followed. The answers to both questions are positive.

2. Historiographical Framework

5Before zooming in on Roosevelt’s direct involvement in immigration policy, widening the horizon of the debate so as to understand the importance of the immigration issue itself will help prevent ascribing too much or too little value to Roosevelt’s ideas and actions. There are three major insights that help create this broader perspective.

6The first contribution comes from historian Matthew Frye Jacobson. He puts Roosevelt’s dealings with immigrants into the broader scope of America’s rapid incorporation into the global economy. America’s eagerness for new markets made encounters with other cultures inevitable both at home and abroad. Jacobson outlines America’s search for global markets and the relationship between the state and the immigrant with these words: “World labor migration was a natural twin to the phenomenon of the world market; and since their own superiority to most of the world’s peoples was a powerful current in American thought and illimitable foreign markets, Americans were decidedly uneasy about the growing presence of these inferior foreigners, either within the gates of the American factory or within the bounds of the domestic policy.”4 Only fragments of this perspective were visible during Roosevelt’s lifetime, as privileged middle and upper class Americans saw immigrants as the source of the country’s wealth and simultaneously as the cause of its social ills, including those problems arising from the non-immigrant labor class.

7The argument that unfit immigrants on the labor market depressed wages can be found in Roosevelt’s speeches. He echoed the voices of others, who had expressed these concerns in the late 1870s.5 By the time of Roosevelt’s political awakening in the early 1880s, labor violence had become a serious issue and was associated with the immigrant. In 1884, for instance, Roosevelt’s future Secretary of State, John Hay, wrote a novel about labor unrest in his home town, Cleveland, Ohio. The impulse to blame the immigrant was not restricted to the upper-class. Similarly the same verdict could be heard among labor leaders and in the Socialist Party.6

8A second notion relevant to the immigration issue is a consequence of Roosevelt’s nationalist agenda for his domestic policies. Roosevelt’s biographer Kathleen Dalton has drawn attention to the apparent contradiction between Roosevelt the realist champion of imperialism and Roosevelt the idealist at home who had the aim of increasing the power of the citizen.7 She finds a parallel tension between the liberal and conservative acts of Roosevelt’s social policy agenda. This is no surprise, as progressivism was a mixed bag of proposals. Roosevelt stood to the left of most market capitalists but to the right of social democrats. Dalton harmonizes the apparent discrepancy between foreign and domestic policies by bringing them together as two tactics for strengthening the American nation-state. As corruption and inefficiency harmed the growth of the nation, Roosevelt used Federal institutions to attack both. He made strides towards a welfare state after 1906.8 His main goal stood in service to his nation-building when he realized that America’s social protections lagged far behind those in other Western nations. He wanted to increase equality by breaking down structures of privilege and he voiced these domestic concerns strongly in the 1912 campaign. They eventually came to overshadow his imperialist agenda. Most historians have acknowledged Roosevelt’s domestic policy turn to the left after 1906.

9Some scholars, such as labor historian Gary Gerstle, have qualified Roosevelt’s shift as civic rather than racial. Roosevelt’s famous Osawatomie speech on his New Nationalism delivered in Kansas on August 31, 1910, contained a shopping list for a liberal nation, including securing membership in unions and collective bargaining, maximum hours of work, a minimum wage, and workmen’s compensation. Yet, this left turn had its limits, kept a safe distance from socialism and did not include any improvement in race relations. It was exactly the immigration issue, standing as it did at the cross-roads of foreign and domestic policy, and connecting economic and racial concerns, that allowed federal power to protect and become coercive. The Bureau of Immigration was founded to advance the naturalization process, encourage immigrants to adapt to WASP values, and to suppress other loyalties.9

10European historian Axel Schäfer of Keele University added a third element to the larger perspective, namely the internal tension caused by immigration in a time of modernization. In a recent collection of essays on transatlantic views on U.S. history, he analyzed immigration as an issue in the recurrent general debate about the universal and unique features of historical phenomena.10 This discussion on the proper historical balance between the unique and the general, surfaces again in the debate about transnationalism. On the universalist side, economists emphasize immigrants’ economic contributions or burden on society. On the particularist side, historians emphasize essentialist features of immigrants and often applaud their cultural contributions or inversely, the threat that they pose. Schäfer argues that transnationalism does not really add new elements to our body of knowledge, but rather reveals how the perspective on immigrants as assets or liabilities are crossed by opposite perspectives on general or unique features.

11When high levels of immigration coincide with high expectations of social security, the tension easily erupts. This is a helpful insight to explain the timing of Roosevelt’s immigration policy. He had to curb access first before he could expand the quality and coverage of the welfare state. Furthermore the legislation of the 1920s and 1930s that restricted immigration resulted from a host of professionals dealing with the problem, an intensification of transnational interests, and a growing attention on the cultural aspects of immigration.11 However, in the decades preceding the 1920s Progressive politicians had laid the foundation for these trends. During Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency new forms of state supervision in interstate commerce, the Pure Food and Drug Act, regulation of labor conditions, and the first comprehensive immigration investigation marked the intersection of migration dynamics and the debate on social welfare policies.

12The question of economic and cultural approaches to immigration was recognized by Roosevelt and seen in a transnational light. Roosevelt investigated the European labor movement as well as its insurance and state institutions. Meanwhile concrete European-American connections between immigration and social welfare programs developed in the settlement houses. In order to protect immigrants from exploitation, these social laboratories bolstered pluralist cultural self-awareness, as well as cooperative immigrant institutions in politics, in the market place, in housing, and in social insurance. These social workers and intellectuals recognized the important place of immigrants in society and opened up distribution of social means to them, even though non-white immigrants from Asia and Latin America never received a share of the benefits equal to those given to European immigrants.

13To sum up, to understand the importance of Roosevelt’s ideas about immigration and social conditions, one should embed these in the context of expanding markets which brought foreign cultures closer. This growing tension erupted during Theodore Roosevelt’s formative years and connected labor unrest with immigration. As president he pursued nation building, he recognized the need for cohesion, efficiency, and fair competition. He looked towards Europe to compare its social conditions and welfare arrangements with those in the United States. He had to sort out the tension of facing the immigrant issue from a particular cultural perspective and a universalist’s economic one. These factors should be kept in mind when analyzing Roosevelt’s reflection on his encounters with immigrants in his autobiography and the formation and application of his political agenda.

3. The Immigration Issue in Roosevelt’s Autobiography

14Roosevelt began writing his autobiography immediately after the Bull Moose electoral defeat in late 1912, because he needed funds to replenish his finances. Facing rising costs and declining income, he needed quick cash in order to pay legal and medical bills, to finance his travels, and to keep up a level of public entertaining, including hosting a reception for five hundred guests at his daughter Ethel’s wedding. The easiest and most dignified way for a gentleman to earn money was to sell books. This was a tested device, but his royalties slipped from $ 28,620 per month in 1911, to barely a thousand a month a year later. Macmillan offered him an advance of $ 20,000 and a 50-50 split of the royalties if Roosevelt produced his autobiography in the summer of 1913, after serialization in The Outlook.12

15Roosevelt did not mean his reflections to be final. He was not done yet with his active life and called the series, “A Possible Autobiography.” The title was correct, as it was meant to contain “certain chapters of my past experiences.” His wife Edith protected the privacy of the Roosevelt family by vetoing revelations of intimate matters. Roosevelt listened to her and was even worried that his childhood stories were too personal. This made him concentrate on his experiences in nature and his political highlights. Far from complete, the autobiography was not meant to expose his inner life and private affairs, nor stir up the recent upheaval in the Republican and the Progressive Parties. Despite its fragmented and mostly dispassionate character, the book contained enough information for the reader to follow Roosevelt’s development.13 He found a proper tone for his narration, which he dictated to a secretary, thanks to his preparations for a major address as chairman of the American Historical Association. This assignment framed his own history as an object lesson for political victory. It softened the pain of his recent defeat as it was put in the context of (rare) earlier defeats, which had called for and caused reform.

16Just before he committed his recollections to paper the immigrant problem had literary jumped out at him. In October 1912, a paranoid German immigrant, John Schrank, shot him in Milwaukee and Roosevelt was saved by a thick pad of papers and other obstacles that prevented the bullet from entering his heart. Still, this event did not turn him against the immigrant in general. To the contrary, the opening paragraphs of his autobiography celebrated his own forefather, Claes Maertenszoon, the inhabitant of the Dutch Republic who moved to New Amsterdam in the 1640s, as an immigrant. Roosevelt emphasized that his ancestor had gone through the same experience on a sailing ship as the millions now traveling in steerage by steamer, though in reality these experiences were very different. He quickly turned to highlight the mixed origins of his more respectable roots including a Pilgrim father, Welsh and English Quakers, Scotch-Irish, Germans, and Huguenots. The qualities of these men and women shone in the sterling character of his celebrated father and matched Roosevelt’s high expectation from the mixture of nations that would continue to generate the true American.

17Early in his youth Roosevelt’s father confronted him with urban immigrant children and their problems. His father had taken Teddy and his siblings to Miss Sattery’s Night school for Italian children and to lodging houses for newsboys who were eventually sent to work on Western farms.14 Rural solutions for urban problems are a major theme in Roosevelt’s autobiography. The tales of his exploration of nature show his preference for the countryside over the city. Urban life could be tolerated only with great effort. Physical exercise and training could overcome bad behavior, which was the recipe for success that many could achieve, and a message for immigrants.15 In his reflections on his own education, he took issue with the emphasis on man making the best for oneself, because it ignored his responsibility to improve conditions in general. He credited his father with this insight.16

18His model American immigrant was the Danish journalist, Jacob Riis, “the best American I ever knew,” and he claimed that in his early political education he learned to judge people on how they behaved individually, not on the “class” they belonged to. He later applied this principle to other categories, such as ethnicity and race. One of his first labor inspection trips, to determine whether cigar manufacturing need regulation, led him to cigar makers working in tenement houses in Lower Manhattan. A visit to a Bohemian immigrant family of five adults and several children, living, sleeping, and working in the same room, convinced him he had to support additional labor regulation, thus showing that he sided with individual qualities and looked beyond ethnic stereotyping.17

19Roosevelt believed in analogies between the individual body and the body politic. In an undated lecture he praised the poverty of the poor man over the rich man, because the latter became distracted by all kinds of unproductive pastimes. “Real work appeals only to real men, and if he is of the right metal he will want to get out into the big world and do his part in it…. No matter how poor he may be, he, with his health and his strength, his brisk walk and shining eyes, his face all aglow with the fullness and freshness of life and of hope for the future, will ever be the envy of the rich man made poor in health in his struggle for the almighty dollar.”18 Though he had never been destitute himself, the essay expressed his own belief in developing and mastering oneself, which especially immigrants could benefit from.

20His Autobiography bore testimony to the result of his prescription, when he came into even closer contact with the immigrant community as police commissioner of New York City. The Russian Jew, Otto Raphael, was his personal favorite for a position in the police force, because he had shown courage by rescuing women and children from a fire. Raphael’s job helped spread improvement in this immigrant family and his example proved to Roosevelt that the recipe that had worked for himself, (physical courage, education, and discipline) worked wonders on immigrants as well. Furthermore, his inspections of police operations identified immigrants as model officers. He noticed they were the best bicyclists, for example. His inspection tours proved to him that the police force integrated all nationalities thanks to an emphasis on physical fitness and good instincts.19

21Roosevelt developed an eye for particular situations. He did not believe “that the differences [in number of prostitutes among immigrant groups] are due to permanent race characteristics.” He noted that girls from all nations behaved well after attending settlement houses. His remedy to reduce the risk of women entering prostitution was to secure proper working conditions and time to relax lest they be tempted to seek better conditions in brothels.20 All these urban encounters functioned as a testing ground for his national policies. Urban reform as a prelude for initiating national policies was not a unique Roosevelt feature. Urban experiences stood as the basis of welfare reform for many European and Western states.21

22When he moved up the political ladder, and became the governor of New York, he listed a few cases where he admitted becoming emotionally involved in procedures to grant or refuse pardons. These cases mostly involved rape, prostitution, or cruelty against women and children. He specifically remembered a case of the rape of an immigrant girl which angered and made him press for social justice. In this specific case he denied the request for a pardon and instead reprimanded the petitioners, who were wealthy and powerful. This event is a first indication that the fictional representation of Roosevelt saving Tisa was perhaps not out of character. Roosevelt’s autobiography gave evidence of his emotional response to this combination of a physical threat to a young woman and exploitation by the privileged.22

23A universalist perspective gradually became more visible in the immigration measures he supported and introduced as president. He expressed an understanding of the fear that wage workers or agricultural laborers from Asia would replace American workers in California by undercutting their wages. At the same time he was very much aware of the foreign policy risks of restriction. Therefore he urged politicians to introduce restrictive measures in a polite way, taking into account “mutual fairness and reciprocal obligation.”23 His support for restriction was based on his conviction that people in substantially different stages of civilization should not be mixed, especially when immigrants were bound to come in great numbers and their economic position was weak. But he also underscored that this was a federal issue and not one to be left to the states.24

24Actually the autobiography shows more concern for the proper relationship between the federal and state governments than it does for immigration per se. His recollections failed to mention the importance he had given to the immigration issue in his State of the Union addresses, nor did it talk about the important Dillingham Report, which was his administration’s effort to collect data on the issue of immigration upon which to base future policies. Political reform, conservation, and foreign policy strategy occupied most of the pages. The sparse mention of immigration in the autobiography could be explained by the function of the book as a preliminary report, which hampers final conclusions about Roosevelt deeper motives, as well as an absence of urgency on the immigration issue during the 1912 campaign. Yet, Roosevelt had taken the reconstruction of his memoirs seriously, collecting first-hand information from his former associates, and indeed, there were plenty of available records on immigration.25

25 In the end, his Autobiography leaves an impression of Roosevelt at the top of the immigrant pyramid, an aspiring urban reformer in close and meaningful personal contact with immigrants and as a politician, confident that the integration opportunities of social institutions could lighten the dark shadows of urban poverty. The universal side of economic interpretations grew stronger during the formation of his presidential immigration policy. For greater illumination of this phase, we shall now observe his political record more closely.

4. Roosevelt’s Policy Record on Immigration

26Before Roosevelt connected immigration with social policy, he subjected immigrants to his nation-building agenda. His idea of a comprehensive social policy was still limited to legal protection rather than to financial redistribution. Roosevelt had coined the term “True Americanism,” in an essay in 1894 in defense of public schools over parochial schools, and he would frequently revive the concept.26 The central direction of Americanism was forward looking; it was “a question of spirit, conviction, and purpose, not of creed or birthplace.” Reasoning from a futurist American perspective he called on European immigrants to give up their Old-Worldpolitical and religious loyalties, to “cease to be European, and become Americans like the rest of us.” Similarly he admonished native-born citizens to fully accept Americanized immigrants as equal citizens. “A Scandinavian, a German, or an Irishman who has really become an American,” he declared in 1894, “has the right to stand on exactly the same footing as any native-born citizen in the land.”27

27As his career progressed, Roosevelt viewed immigration increasingly from the perspective of labor. In 1897, he showed that he understood labor’s fear of restricting immigrants: “Many workingmen look with distrust upon laws which really would help them; laws for the intelligent restriction of immigration, for instance. I have no sympathy with mere dislike of immigrants; there are classes and even nationalities of them which stand at least on an equality with the citizens of native birth, as the last election showed. But in the interest of our workingmen we must in the end keep out laborers who are ignorant, vicious, and with low standards of life and comfort, just as we have shut out the Chinese.”28 There were also representatives of the working class that opposed unlimited immigration out of a fear that wages would be undercut. Roosevelt promised to restrict immigration when it threatened the political system, the country’s economic stability, or the physicalwell-being of its population. When ethnic loyalties, labor agitation, or regional tensions disrupted the unity of the nation, these should be suppressed. To him Asian immigrants were more likely to jeopardize progress than European ones, simply because they occupied different civilization levels in his list of peoples and nations. But European nations could also lose their higher levels, when cultures weakened, and even America itself would run that risk if its birthrate would continue to decline.

28The event that catapulted Roosevelt into the presidency put him inmedias res. The anarchist politics of McKinley’s assassin, Leon Frank Czolgosz, provoked hysteria about the supposed threat posed by foreigners. The event spurred Roosevelt to use his first annual message to Congress on December 3, 1901 to call for the exclusion of immigrants with similar sympathies and to suppress anarchists at home. He turned the personal attack on McKinley into a general attack against the entire state. Roosevelt emphasized that social problems and tensions should never be an excuse for murder. Other solutions had to be found.29 This did not mean that the root causes could be neglected. On the contrary, the social or labor issue was the most pressing one, Roosevelt told Congress. This congressional address triggered close scrutiny of immigrants to prevent anarchy from spreading and welcomed able-bodied men wanting to earn a decent wage. The message was that unhealthy types would cause a drop in wages and threaten a balanced labor market. A minimum educational level of the immigrant would increase the chances of success. Congress responded by submitting nineteen draft proposals leading to an immigration bill fifteen months later. It contained a two dollar threshold for newcomers, an extension of the period for deportation, but no literacy test, which was considered too rough a sieve for undesirables.30

29Technically, McKinley’s assassin was not an immigrant. Leon Czolgosz was born in Michigan, the son of a Prussian immigrant with a Polish name. Yet, his foreign sounding name was enough to link him to a growing fear of aliens. The barring of anarchists at the gate was the first, but not the only response. The new president was very much aware that physical and social circumstances had a serious impact on an individual’s behavior.31 He had even done his part to find a solution by cleaning up unhealthy slums and unsafe environments during his career as an urban reformer.

30Social equality was Roosevelt’s aim and the federal government an instrument to secure fair conditions. Late in his second term Roosevelt expanded his protective agenda to include workmen’s compensation for those employed by federal projects, an end to child labor, support for labor organizations, and a redistribution of wealth by the initiation of the progressive tax on inherited fortunes. These were still ideas, mere proposals, but they led the country in a new direction.32 At the mature stage of Roosevelt’s political life, immigration regulation gave way to building a modest welfare state.

31During his presidency Roosevelt continued his campaign to reform the civil service. Just as he had replaced patronage with a merit system in Washington and in the New York City police force, his reform campaign now extended to immigration officers, tax collectors, and other malfunctioning federal appointees. This intensified his inspection of performance and character and led to (forced) resignations of scores of malfunctioning government employees. Roosevelt believed strongly, perhaps too strongly, that good people in the proper place would cleanse the system. As America had little experience beyond the local level, it needed Roosevelt’s nationalist policy to pave the way.33

32Roosevelt’s friendships with successful European immigrants confirmed his ideas about solving urban poverty. Danish-American crime reporter Jacob Riis, Dutch editor Edward Bok, and the Jewish German entrepreneur, Oscar Straus, had all climbed the social ladder in white collar positions, but had not cut their sentimental ties to their native countries.34Roosevelt liked this limited sample of men because they were shining examples of personal success that in turn improved the American nation. It was different when, in Roosevelt’s view, immigrants threatened America’s stability, such as anarchists, Japanese laborers, or German-Americans active on behalf of imperial Germany in World War I. Roosevelt was no miracle worker. It was Riis who summarized the encouraging role Roosevelt played in reversing cynicism in hope of cleansing the city of its evils: “He could not set us free. We have got to do that ourselves. But he cut our bonds and gave us arms, if we chose to use them.”35

33Was it fair to credit the executive branch for these changes rather than pressure from congress? In an effort to balance the lopsided emphasis on presidential leadership in late nineteenth and early twentieth century politics, historian Elizabeth Sanders has shown how Congress challenged Progressive Era presidents to expand federal control over the economy. But no matter congressional efforts, Roosevelt was in charge, especially in the field of international relations. His administration significantly doubled the number of federal employees from one to two million. This trend continued after he left office.36

34Congressmen submitted many drafts for legislation, but it was the president who set the agenda. Whether speaking in his State of the Union address, or reaching out to transcend the differences between warring factions, Roosevelt became the symbol of policy making. On the executive side, he strengthened the involvement of immigrant agencies in the defense of immigrants who were accused of violating the rules. He secured the presence of two Irishmen, two Germans, and one Jew to monitor the admission process on Ellis Island in an effort to stop deportation decisions from being based on prejudice. Earlier on, state and local authorities had tried to dominate immigrant entry inspections, and Roosevelt was unhappy with the string of scandals associated with those authorities. He concluded that the inspection agency needed federal supervision to pressure the Ellis Island commissioner to play by the official rules. He wrestled the entrance process away from corrupt hands by firing the supervisors of Ellis Island who had allowed the sale of fake citizen certificates, had appointed political friends, or had allowed labor contractors to recruit cheap labor. He then went on to strengthen the naturalization procedure and to make the steamship companies responsible for the quality of the immigrant flow.37

35Roosevelt’s immigration policy clearly fit in the category of Progressive legislation seeking equal access, transparency, and solidarity, and it singled out big businesses that sacrificed America’s health for a quick profit. He also believed the recruitment practices of travel agents and steamship companies attracted poor, unskilled immigrants, including those from Europe, who could undercut wages in the United States. As he saw it, the entire “coolie” class from China threatened labor relations because Chinese laborers were lured to the American shores under false pretenses and were forced to work for low wages. The deal made with Chinese labor was bound to result in a lowering of the standard of living and cause future problems. Roosevelt’s response was to close the door for Asia.

36To manage the flow from Europe, the twenty-sixth president put the emphasis on the origin of the immigration flow, putting into place policies that selected persons before entry, thinking that would prevent the negative consequences of sharing the burdens of the unfit, or correcting their potentially rebellious behavior. Roosevelt was convinced that a stable and healthy immigration policy preceded an advancing social welfare system. The president made this explicit in a letter to the American Federation of Labor leadership in 1906: “We must not let our national sentiment for succoring the oppressed and unfortunate of other lands lead us into that warped moral and mental attitude of trying to succor them at the expense of pulling down our own people. Laws should be enacted to keep out all immigrants who do not show that they have the right stuff in them to enter into our life on terms of decent equality with our own citizens. This is needed, first, in the interest of the laboring man, but furthermore in the interests of all of us as American citizens.”38 The goal of labor stability was also served by advancing the settlement of immigrants in the countryside. And when in 1907 the South needed laborers in the cotton industry, labor organizations protested this settling of immigrants in the countryside saying it violated the ban on labor contracts. The courts, however, upheld the policy.39

37President Roosevelt did not go as far as to agree with Ellis Island Commissioner William Williams who shifted the burden of evidence to the immigrant. Williams’ rubric was that an immigrant had to prove that he or she would be a good, healthy addition to the country “clearly beyond a doubt.” The president instead emphasized that it was sometimes necessary to deport a person who had been allowed entry under false pretenses. According to Roosevelt, no matter how unfortunate it may be to deport some immigrants, the public should be made aware of the careful manner in which immigrants were screened. Roosevelt thought it was very important to cooperate closely with the leaders of the immigrant communities and with Congress. No discrimination according to race or creed could be allowed in deportation proceedings which were prone to considerable pressure and anxiety. Thus, the immigrant was entitled to a fair chance to convince the authorities of her or his innocence, before they reached a decision about deportation.40

38The new naturalization act of 1906, standardized naturalization procedures by establishing the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization under the Commerce Department to oversee a national immigration policy. New requirements for immigration included a mastery of the English language, and a homogenization of naturalization procedures which brought them under the jurisdiction of Federal courts from the five thousand state and local courts that had previously handled such matters. Also this piece of legislation was meant to prevent and severely punish fraud in the political system.41

39As a former president, Roosevelt continued to vigorously defend a directive role of the federal government in immigration regulation in lines of what he had done when dealing with the Japanese, and as expressed in his first five State of the Union addresses. His main criticism of the Democratic Party in the 1912 campaign was its “absolutely outworn principles, especially … the ruinous principle of States’ rights.”42

40This principle was supported by personal observation. He had once again seen the need for federal protection when he witnessed a strike among teenage immigrant girls in the garment industry, who “are absolutely helpless if they are obliged to bargain for their rights individually. They must possess the right of collective bargaining.” Roosevelt argued that the government should guarantee free labor organizations.43

5. Conclusion

41This evidence is sufficient to positively answer the question whether President Roosevelt would have acted as a friend of the immigrant as the 1948 movie My Girl Tisa suggests. Based on personal experience, Roosevelt applauded the contribution of millions of immigrants to a vigorous country, but he also recognized the pressure on society of the entire immigrant inflow. Therefore he put immigration on the national agenda, deftly maneuvered between competing pressures from a variety of sources, removed obstacles to the efficient functioning of the immigration authorities, and assessed a growing number of measures to select immigrants with potential. Roosevelt paved the way for the end of free immigration, without resorting to blatantly racist exclusion except of course, in the case of Chinese exclusion which was already in place and which he did nothing to alter. The future of America, Roosevelt expressed on various occasions, was more important than pride in a European past. His most important legislative legacy regarding immigration was the Dillingham Commission, which laid the groundwork for the restrictive measures that were implemented in the 1920s. Later in the century, Europe would lose part of its privileged status, but never entirely.44

42In addition to these individual acts, Roosevelt showed an awareness of the transition of the social welfare system from a privatized one towards a state-run system that spanned his political career. The first type was built on charity (good) and patronage (bad). The latter system was exemplified by despicable political bosses, who bought the immigrant’s vote by dispensing essential material services as food, clothing, and lodging as social services, as well as providing help in finding jobs, escaping prosecution, and solving more personal needs. In his early political career young Roosevelt did everything to wean the electoral masses from their corrupt benefactors. Throughout his career he used civic reform to build a strong nation. Immigration regulations also served this end. As it was difficult to curb democratic voting rights for legal white, male citizens, Roosevelt’s solution was to select them at the gate, allowing racial stereotypes of fitness to guide the selection process.

43Roosevelt faced the growing power of Congress to secure the nation against foreign threats. While legislative power increased, even to the point that the Supreme Court felt it needed to restrain it, President Roosevelt was the exception to the rule of congressional dominance. He took the initiative and balanced immigration policy with foreign policy and skillfully used public opinion to advance harmony.45

6. Postlude: History Beats Fiction

44On one occasion Roosevelt actually acted similarly to the script of My Girl Tisa. On Wednesday September 16, 1903, he made his first visit to Ellis Island. The trip had all the elements of a dramatic movie. He traveled by presidential yacht the Sylph which ran into a storm that left the party and president “dripping wet,” and arrived in the early afternoon. In five hours, Roosevelt characteristically moved like a whirlwind on the premises. He dashed into the Commissioner’s office announced the establishment of an inspection committee, inspected the main hall, encouraged a fifteen-year-old Slav boy — an orphan on his way to his uncle in Minnesota — to go ahead, and had a five dollar note given to a young German mother with a baby in a basket. Then he entered the women’s detention area. There he was surrounded by 200 women and children when a desperate dark-haired Russian woman drew his attention by crying “Oh, please, please let me out to look for my husband!” She explained that she had arrived six weeks earlier, following her husband and oldest daughter, who had been detained because they had symptoms of the eye disease trachoma, only to subsequently escape. As a consequence the authorities had summoned the deportation of the mother and her four children.

45The president improvised a hearing and acquired sufficient information to release the family. What might have persuaded Roosevelt more than the woman’s sobs was that the eldest son had earned $25 as a barber shaving immigrants on Ellis Island. Another immigrant had only $12 at hand and made an appeal to be allowed to enter the country to be with his son-in-law. Two out of three special commissioners present feared he would become a public charge. Von Briesen had a smart quip in reply. He told the committee that even Jakob Riis had had less money when he entered, and of course the president’s presence persuaded the men to let the immigrant go.46 So My Girl Tisa was based on a believable plot showing Roosevelt’s concern and intervention on behalf of immigrants who he believed would succeed. It proves once again that fact can be more surprising than fiction.

46The relevance of Theodore Roosevelt for today’s debate on immigration could be that he viewed the immigrant first of all from a positive perspective of his or her contribution to America’s future, and then moved on to regulate any unintended consequences. Secondly, he did not consider poverty a crime, but often attributed it to oppressive situations. Thirdly, he began a comprehensive fact-finding operation, leading to the Dillingham Report, which refuted many misconceptions about immigrant behavior. Fourthly, he curtailed the activities of the transport business at all levels because it often ignored the interests of the migrants and of the country. Lastly, he was alert to prejudice and exploitation among immigrant officials. He intervened and insisted on fair treatment for those who did not comply with the access regulations. It is not too far-fetched to call Tisa “Roosevelt’s girl,” as one who dramatized Roosevelt’s progressive long-term approach to immigration.47

Top of page

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *