Roosevelt’s ‘Big Stick’ Phrase First Used in Blocking Insurance Pol

April 5, 2007

The original letter in which former President Theodore Roosevelt first used the iconic phrase “Speak softly and carry a big stick” is up for sale with an asking price of $200,000 (euro150,000).

In the two-paged typed letter to a Republican ally, dated Jan. 26, 1900, Roosevelt, then governor of the state of New York, expresses his pleasure in convincing the state’s Republican leaders to reject the reappointment of Louis F. Payn as insurance commissioner.

“I have always been fond of the West African proverb: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.’ If I had not carried the big stick … I would not have had ten votes. But I was entirely good natured, kept perfectly cool and steadfastly refused to listen to anything save that Payn had to go, and that I would take none but a thoroughly upright and capable man in his place.”

Less than two years after writing the letter, Roosevelt was president.

The letter for years has been in the personal collection of The Raab Collection, a dealer of rare manuscripts based in suburban Philadelphia. It is the first time the letter has been offered for sale to the general public, the dealer said.

A carbon copy of Roosevelt’s letter was retained by the soon-to-be president’s family and donated by his heirs to the Library of Congress, where it is on display in the “American Treasures” exhibition in Washington.


On the Net:

Raab Collection copy:

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