Evoking the political intrigue of the Gilded Age, Laurence Jurdem's book The Rough Rider and the Professor: Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and the Friendship that Changed American History (Pegasus Books, 2023) chronicles the extraordinary thirty-five-year friendship between President Theodore Roosevelt and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts.
Theodore Roosevelt was a uniquely gifted figure. A man of great intellect and physicality, the New York patrician captured the imagination of the American people with his engaging personality and determination to give all citizens regardless of race, color, or creed the opportunity to achieve the American dream.
While Roosevelt employed his abilities to rise from unknown New York legislator to become the youngest man ever to assume the presidency in 1901, that rapid success would not have occurred without the assistance of the powerful New Englander, Henry Cabot Lodge.
Eight years older than Roosevelt, from a prominent Massachusetts family, Lodge, was one of the most calculating, combative politicians of his age. From 1884 to 1919 Lodge and Roosevelt encouraged one another to mine the greatness that lay within each of them. As both men climbed the ladders of power, Lodge, focused on dominating the political landscape of Massachusetts, served as the future president's confidant and mentor, advising him on political strategy while helping him obtain positions in government that would eventually lead to the White House.
Despite the love and respect that existed between the two men, their relationship eventually came under strain. Following Roosevelt's ascension to the presidency, T. R.'s desire to expand the social safety net--while attempting to broaden the appeal of the Republican Party--clashed with his older friend's more conservative, partisan point of view. Those tensions finally culminated in 1912. Lodge's refusal to support the former president's independent bid for a third presidential term led to a political break-up that was only repaired by each man's hatred for the policies of Woodrow Wilson.
Despite their political disagreements, Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge remained devoted friends until the Rough Rider took his final breath on January 6, 1919.
Charles Coutinho, PH. D., Associate Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written for Chatham House’s International Affairs, the Institute of Historical Research's Reviews in History and the University of Rouen's online periodical Cercles.