"OF COURSE A POLITICIAN CAN BE A CHRISTIAN": ORIGINAL AUTOGRAPH LETTER, 1889, REGARDING THE NECESSITY OF CHRISTIAN VALUES IN POLITICS, WRITTEN ENTIRELY IN THEODORE ROOSEVELT'S HAND AND SIGNED BY HIM
ROOSEVELT, Theodore. Autograph letter signed. Washington, November 27, 1889. Single sheet of unlined white letterhead, measuring 5 by 4 inches; matted and framed with a portrait and typed letter, entire piece measures 23 by 20-1/2 inches. $4900.
Scarce autograph letter, dated 1889, about the necessity of upholding Christian morality in politics if one wishes to be successful, written entirely in Teddy Roosevelt's hand and signed by him. Accompanied by a typed signed letter written and with an autograph postscript by Roosevelt's son, Theodore, Jr., to Methodist Bishop Frederick DeLand Leete opposing a Prohibition law.
The letter, dated "Nov 27th, '89" and written entirely in Teddy Roosevelt's hand On Civil Service Commission stationery, reads in full: "My dear sir, Of course a politician can be a Christian; he will never do really first class work in politics unless he applies the rules of morality and Christianity as rigidly in public as in private life. Yours truly, Theodore Roosevelt." After losing the mayoral race two years earlier, Roosevelt reentered politics in 1888. "[H]e campaigned for Republican presidential nominee Benjamin Harrison. When Harrison won the election, he appointed Roosevelt to the U.S. Civil Service Commission. Roosevelt was re-appointed to the Commission by Democratic President Grover Cleveland in 1893. As commissioner, he worked hard to enforce the civil service laws, although he regularly clashed with party regulars and politicians who wanted him to ignore the law in favor of patronage" (Miller Center, University of Virginia). Teddy Roosevelt's Christianity remains a great fascination of religious scholars. A member of the Dutch Reformed Church since his teenage years, Roosevelt believed that Christianity was synonymous with duty. He equated his patriotism and public service with morality and godliness, often citing lessons learned during his weekly church attendance. During his presidency, Roosevelt issued seven religious Thanksgiving proclamations, nearly all encouraging his fellow citizens to also devote themselves to spirituality and duty. Accompanied by a typed signed letter, hand-marked "Personal," with an autograph postscript by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., in which the postscript reads: "I've underlined the statements concerning law enforcement. T.R." The letter attempts to explain Roosevelt's views on Prohibition and, in particular, the Volstead Law to prominent Methodist Bishop Frederick DeLand Leete (who was assigned to Indianapolis in 1927 and thus was far outside of Roosevelt's orbit). The Bishop evidently characterized Roosevelt as hostile to the enforcement of Prohibition laws, when, in fact, Roosevelt merely objected to the particular law but nevertheless enforced it. He wished to find a middle ground between ardent Prohibitionists and their equally ardent opposition. Primarily known for his heroic military service in both World Wars—he was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously—Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., spent the interim period in government and public service. Widely respected for his work forming the American Legion, he also served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1921–1924), Governor of Puerto Rico (1929–1932), and Governor-General of the Philippines (1932–1933), before returning to private industry in the 1930s as Chairman of the Board of American Express Company and Vice-President of Doubleday Books.