Sunday, March 21, 2010


Here is how it went:
1902 (and earlier): Roosevelt reads Powell and others; he becomes excited about the Grand Canyon. 
1903: TR visits the Canyon, and explicitly calls for GCNP. He orders Interior to move along on readying Park bill. 
1904: he is re-elected. 
1905: he orders Interior, USGS & GLO, to bring forward the bill, now that the work on surveying and Santa Fe exchange is done. The bill is introduced along with Arizona statehood. 
1906-7:  Congressional fight  led by Rep. Lacey. Passed as tribute to TR's great conservationist leadership. 
Or if you are dubious, let there be a big fight, and with Lacey gone after 1906, maybe no bill; but the issues would have been joined a decade earlier. 
This, of course, is not what happened. Why not? Why didn't Roosevelt speak and act on this enthusiasm of his? Why did he not even start the administrative machinery working in Interior?

And specifically, what is there to learn from Brinkley (=B) on the mystery of Roosevelt and the missing Grand Canyon National Park? (Brinkley, Douglas, The Wilderness Warrior  Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, 2009)

What follows is my rendering of the substance of what he tells us.
As a teen-ager, TR read JW Powell (p 290, 450).
Claims staked for zinc, copper, lead, asbestos at Canyon were a menace.
B claims, by which I mean he cites no source, Roosevelt wanted a Grand Canyon National Park in 1902, but there were so many hurdles that Pinchot's advice was to go first for Crater Lake NP, which Pinchot had visited and been lobbied on by its major proponent.(457 ff) Then, Pinchot supposedly said, TR could go by train to the Canyon, stirring up public sympathy.
Roosevelt wrote an essay on wilderness and preservation and their relation to strengthening a democracy by saving great places for all.

B mentions the railroad slashing through the forest, leading to increased tourism. Eastern fortune hunters were looking for minerals and timber. Others wanted to construct buildings at scenic sites. TR decided there should be a police force of rangers and wildlife protectors to deal with increasing development. B cites TR's  A Book-lover's Holidays in the Open, 1916. 

An important congressional figure in preservation was John F. Lacey of Iowa, especially for wildlife and Petrified Forest protection. Lacey was chairman of the House Public Lands Committee, and pushed Antiquities Act. Another ally was Interior Secretary Hitchcock, a persecutor of corrupt timber operators, who believed in protecting the public domain, though he was more deliberate than TR wanted.

B says TR had read Dutton's "Tertiary History" not long before the 1903 Great Loop Tour, during which he spent an afternoon on the rim at the railroad terminus. In the description of the visit, B includes many statements about TR's attitude and intentions, without sources. He does not mention that TR did not call for a National Park in his speech, which read one way is solely concerned with there not being a hotel on the rim and, generalized, not any marring.

In writing about the visit (pp 525-9), B attributes many vigorous and negative ideas about Arizonans to TR (no references, = NR). Yet, just as TR never acted on his desire for a Park, he never used the desire of Arizonans for statehood as a lever to get their support for a Park, though he championed statehood, B says (635), in 1906, just in the period TR mentioned a Park in his annual messages (1905 & 6; not in B). Strangely (649), B says TR "indicated", though never in writing, that statehood had the quid pro quo of turning over natural wonders like the Canyon and Petrified Forest. "The precondition was implied." I consider this a baffling statement. Is B saying Roosevelt never did any legislative horse-trading, as B calls it? Is he offering this as a general attitude held by TR, never to deal with Congress, or to have his congressional allies deal for him? The path of the Antiquities Act was not short or smooth, but Lacey persevered. He was also instrumental in reducing opposition to Crater Lake NP in 1902, which Pinchot had convinced Roosevelt to push. 

B, during his narrative of the 1903 tour, said TR was disturbed by Arizonans debating preserving versus mining the Canyon. He "immediately resolved" to "make" it a National Park following the 1904 election (527, NR). B offers much else about attitudes and hopes, but nothing solid, and no references. (I call this retro-thinking; taking our ideas and placing them retroactively in the minds of those who cannot fight back.) B makes a big thing of TR's Rough Riders, asking to have them crusade to preserve the GC. I have never come across this idea before. He also says all leading Arizona politicians were in the audience. (And yet, he did not call on them to join him in campaigning for state- and GCNP-hood. How could he not?) B then goes on and on in a rhetorical vein, making bizarre errors (see my previous post for some).

B suggests Roosevelt and President Harrison did not respect each other (226), but also writes that anti-war environmentalist Sierra Club types like Brower and Stegner saw TR as bogeyman (535 NR). Good example of B's attacking TR opponents for him is on 633, when (NR) he writes about R confronting dimwitted legislators whose insatiable craving for profit, blah, blah, blah. This rhetoric is B's substitute for telling the story, though if it actually represented TR's views, which we do not know, we could understand a lack of legislation. And yet, in 1906, Congress enacted a Mesa Verde National Park bill, at the same time it passed the Antiquities Act after a six-year effort. 

Yet, as on 754-5, B talks of TR not wanting to abide by old rules, not make backroom deals, welcoming scrutiny. Congress drowsy; he would wake it. Then B makes more errors of fact, and goes so far as to say Congress was scared, being worried about miners and ranchers (NR), when it appears to me that TR was the one who was scared. There is just no information here (754-8), and many errors (he speaks of the GC never returning to private hands and of reprivitization??). 

B says Rough Riders looked at illegal mining in Kaibab NF. And the game preserve would mean not a single oil well, ore mine, or asbestos vein was permitted, so he misunderstands that, too (775-6)

After 1906 election, TR eased out Hitchcock and appointed Garfield SecInt--young, ambitious, ready to go after land abuse (remember SFe dust-up). In presenting the 1908 Muir Woods proclamation, he prefers the rhetoric to the details; maybe that is the point of this book: heavy, but not weighty. Buoyed along by satisfying gusts of hot air, not ballasted by facts. It is derivative history, with no contributory research (in my area, anyway) that opens up details and processes. He uses secondary opinion, tangential writings, adding no content, but offering the rhetoric of a unifying portrait. 

Brinkley's picture: TR didnt want to confront Congress in 1902. He would not use statehood to get Arizonan support. He thought legislators dimwits (though on the Canyon, not on Mesa Verde or Crater Lake or the Antiquities Act). So he never made the slightest effort to get GCNP legislation (B never mentions it was being worked on in Interior) even introduced. He went for the easy Parks, and ran away from the big fight, B seems to imply. Yet there was a likely narrative arc, and the mystery is why it wasnt followed. Brinkley never even realizes there is a question.

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