R.J. Pestritto reminds us that TR was the first progressive, what that really means, and what a serious break from the Founder’s view of limited government that was (and is).
This reminds me of a consequential event: Teddy Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House in December (26th, I think) of 1901 (TR had been consulting him on dispensation of patronage in the south as soon as he became president, which, until then, Mark Hanna had controlled). Even though Washington had been to the White House, he knew that no black man had ever dined there (and he must have remembered the harsh criticism President Cleveland got when he hosted Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii at the White House in 1895). Although concerned about how this could be viewed, he did not think he had a right to refuse in part because this represented a "recognition of the race." He had dinner with the President and his wife Edith, three of his sons, and his seventeen-year-old daughter Alice. Within forty-eight hours a kind of hysteria overtook white southerners at such a display of "social equality." TR was condemned and it was said that he would lose all political support and authority in the south. Senator Ben Tillman of South Carolina said that TR’s entertaining that man, "will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the South before they will learn their place again."
This example of "social equality" marked both the peak and the beginning of the end of Booker Washington’s authority and power over race matters in the country.
A few years later Washington was on a trip to Gainsville, Florida, when the train stopped in a village where a local white farmer asked to meet Washington. As they shook hands the farmer said: "You are the greatest man in the country!" Washington replied that surely the greatest man in the country was the president, to which the white farmer answered: "Huh! Roosevelt! I used to think that Roosevelt was a great man until he ate dinner with you. That settled him for me."