The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898
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On February 15, 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor. The sinking of the Maine was just the provocation Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt was looking for. Along with his friend Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and his rival, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, Roosevelt began stirring the public's desire for war against Spain. Roosevelt was soon charging up San Juan Hill in Cuba with his Rough Riders in a tragi-comic campaign that marked America's emergence as an empire abroad. Through the perspective of five larger-than-life characters—war lovers Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and two prominent doves, House Speaker Thomas Reed and philosopher William James—Evan Thomas portrays a pivotal chapter in American history.
An intriguing examination of the pull that war has on men, THE WAR LOVERS is moving saga of courage, ambition, and broken friendships with a provocative relevance to today.
something of a nuisance by most of his superiors, he nevertheless became the most influential naval officer in history, if ideas can be measured against exploits in battle. Drawing heavily on social Darwinist notions of the destiny of the Anglo-Saxon race, Mahan saw sea power as the key to world dominance. Great Britain was his model and inspiration: an empire built on a great navy that protected trade across the seven seas. Mahan’s ideas, coming as the European powers were carving up the
something like ten thousand dollars from members of the Somerset Club [Boston’s most exclusive club] who never gave a dime to any public object before.”26 Money and fear—and, Roosevelt and Lodge would insist, common sense—carried the day. “You may easily imagine our relief,” Roosevelt wrote Bamie on November 8, after McKinley had solidly defeated Bryan. “It was the greatest crisis in our national fate, save only the civil war.” Still, Roosevelt, lapsing into the easy bigotry of his time, wasn’t
wrought up by more than the pictures of suffering women and children. Feeling misunderstood and put upon, he feared that the public had developed amnesia during the generation that had passed since the Civil War. And he believed that Cuba was unready for independence. It was all very well for the mob and their elected representatives to clamor for Cuba Libre, McKinley believed; but it was his responsibility as president to look beyond the war cries and calls for revenge and ask just what would
2 The Noble Hacks “Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough.” ROOSEVELT AND LODGE, nine years apart at Harvard, had met, casually and briefly, in the rooms of the Porcellian Club on the days of commencements and football games.1 Both were scholars—Roosevelt had written a naval history of the War of 1812, while Lodge was one of the first three PhDs awarded at Harvard, in “Anglo Saxon” history—and both had taken the road less traveled as gentlemen politicians.
officer. When he had joined the army in May, the odds were greater that he would die of tropical fever than become a war hero. At the time his friends feared that he was delusional. His wife and eldest son had been seriously ill but, as Roosevelt would later confess, he would have deserted his wife’s deathbed to go into battle.9 He wanted to become a legend, and he made sure to keep newsmen nearby to tell the tale, including a reporter from Hearst’s paper, even though he personally disdained