Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Teddy Roosevelt and manliness

The March issue of The New Criterion has a very fine article by

Harvey Mansfield on the manliness of Theodore Roosevelt. It is part of his forthcoming book,
"A Modest Defense of Manliness", which will be published next year. I have been teaching TR recently and this essay is very useful and rather convincing, and of course, reveals my imperfections in thinking it through. TR’s virtues--and flaws if you like--are well revealed in this piece. This is a must read.

Nothing was more obvious than Roosevelt’s manliness because he made such a point of it not only in his own case but also as necessary for human progress. It was being a progressive that made him so eager to be manly. Here is gristle to chew for liberals and conservatives, both of whom—except for the feminists—have abandoned manliness mostly out of policy rather than abhorrence.

UPDATE: Only after posting did I notice that Joe also brought this article to your attention, but because I think it very important, I’ll leave mine up as well. The Mansfield piece is a must read. Students should pay special attention. We will spend some time on this.

Discussions - 2 Comments

What is not made explicit concerning TR’s "manliness" is its fundamentally secular character. To justify the concept in terms of "nature" or "action" or "pragmatism" reveals how divorced TR’s "progressive" political philosophy was from the religiously-inspired traditionalists on both the left (William Jennings Bryan) and the right (William McKinley).

An interesting case study would involve the Brownsville soldiers. TR continued to justify his discharge of the troops in terms of manliness and obedience to authority, while his main opponent in this matter, Joseph B. Foraker, invoked the theme of justice ultimately inspired from Scripture.

If TR’s "manliness" is to be properly studied, it must be tempered by the knowledge of its secular and anti-religious character.

But some Christians are men too and maybe more manly than others, (even T.R.) because Christians don’t use their brains as much as other people. Many on the left contend that Christians let the Bible do their thinking for them, and thus use their brain hardly at all. That virtue alone would make them manlier by modern standards. Therefore secular manliness is inferior to religious manliness.


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