The Former President
After Roosevelt left office he sojourned to Africa to lead the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition. The safari was financially backed by the Smithsonian Institution and the earnings from Roosevelt’s articles written while it was underway. Over 11,000 animals were either trapped or killed during the safari, including just over one thousand big game animals, and they were shipped to the United States for mounting or display at several locations across the United States. Roosevelt later wrote African Game Trails, an account of the expedition, in which he defended the large number of animals taken.
He then traveled to Europe. On his tour of pre-war Europe he met with the German Kaiser, the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, and the British King. He found much in common with these fellow imperialists, though he did deliver a speech in England calling for a treaty limiting the rapidly expanding European Navies. He also had the opportunity to deliver his long delayed speech accepting his Nobel Prize. In this address he again called for the reduction of navies and the creation of a “League of Peace” through which all nations could work together to resolve disputes.
Although he had backed Taft as his successor he expressed his dissatisfaction with him upon his return to the United States in 1910. Divisions within the Republican Party led to the Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives that year, and Roosevelt’s criticism of the president increased. In 1912 he announced his candidacy for president and indicated that he would accept the Republican nomination if offered. It wasn’t. Roosevelt announced that he would run for the Progressives of either party and formed a third party, officially named the Progressive Party, but known to its supporters and history as the Bull Moose Party (after Roosevelt told the press that he was as healthy as a bull moose). Roosevelt was its nominee for president.
While campaigning in October Roosevelt was shot in the chest. He was wounded after the bullet penetrated his eyeglasses case and a copy of a speech he was to deliver. He announced the wound to his audience and delivered the speech, though he could be seen bleeding through his shirt. After his speech the doctors who examined the wound found the bullet in his chest muscle and decided it was less dangerous to leave it there. In the ensuing election Roosevelt garnered more votes than the Republican nominee, Taft, but they both lost to Woodrow Wilson. Roosevelt consoled himself over his defeat with another hunting expedition, this one to South America.
During the South American expedition, which he documented in the book Through the Brazilian Wilderness, Roosevelt’s health began to decline, accelerated by an infection he acquired from a cut to his leg, malarial fever, and the bullet still in his chest. He still managed to explore and chart the River of Doubt to the Amazon, a journey of more than 600 miles. He returned home to recovery and politics, and played a significant role in the Republicans wresting control of the House of Representatives in 1918. He died in January 1919 at the age of 60, at Sagamore Hill.
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