The fullest form of the quote I have been able to find online is from thinkexist.com and goes as follows:

Americanism means the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and hardihood—the virtues that made America. The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life.

However, the linguistic properties of the quote make it feel dubious that anyone would have ever said such a thing in this way in the late 19th or early 20th century, and I have been unable to find any literary citations for the excerpt or any information about the original source.

Did Roosevelt or anyone of historical significance actually say this? If not, where did the quote come from, and why is it always attributed to Theodore Roosevelt?

  • What "linguistic properties"? Not only was this language typical of the time, it was direct potshot at Woodrow Wilson's stump language. Aug 11, 2014 at 16:56

2 Answers 2


According to Google Books the book "Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations" edited by Suzy Platt says that this came from a letter to S Stanwood Menken in 1917 and was read by Roosevelt's sister to a national meeting that same year. Sounds legit.


As was already mentioned, the quote comes from letter to S. Stanwood Menken, dated 1917-01-10. You can read the full wording of the letter at Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library. Your quote is on the page 2.

  • If you know a bit about the man, this quote fits TR's personal philosophy perfectly. He had such a, er, thing for what he perceived as manly qualities, one is tempted to wonder exactly what he was compensating for.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 11, 2014 at 18:08
  • 3
    From most accounts, a sickly youth with severe asthma attacks.
    – Oldcat
    Oct 10, 2014 at 23:46
  • @T.E.D.: TR was so sickly as a young boy, that he had to enlist his younger brother to defend him from bullies. He was forever embarrassed by that, and determined to overcome his weakness through sheer power of will; he succeeded. Aug 28, 2017 at 18:09
  • @PieterGeerkens - There are arguments, most notably put forth by biographer David McCullough, that his bouts of sickness were tactical. I'm uncomfortable with those, simply because people have a long and nasty history of making arguments like that to dismiss kids' legit problems, but it is out there.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 28, 2017 at 18:35

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