I understand the idea of medieval monarchies using the relatives of the monarch for diplomacy, as blood ties and closeness to the throne indicated political position and thus the reliability of any deal being agreed to and trust from the throne.

However, what was the point of sending Alice Roosevelt (Theodore's daughter) on a diplomatic mission to Japan and Asia?

  • US wasn't a monarchy

  • Even if one wants to argue that family closeness to POTUS would still indicate trust, that was patently untrue of Alice, who was not on good terms with Roosevelt and bad terms with the rest of the family.

  • And, she didn't really have any sort of official position in administration

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    From#2, maybe they couldn't find a more distant place to send her. Now seriously, a couple of possibilities: a) USA was not a monarchy, but Japan and other asiatic countries were. Sending in a relative of the Head of State could have been a nicety appreciated by them, even if everyone understood that she had no actual power at all (she was 21 years and, to top that, a woman at thath time). b) Exotic holidays, it wasn't as if it was as easy as it is now.
    – SJuan76
    Dec 3, 2016 at 8:41
  • IIRC this is a deceptively interesting question. I'd have to dig up old notes, but bullet 1 really isn't a simple thought.
    – MCW
    Jun 8, 2017 at 17:38
  • I would argue with the "... not on good terms with Roosevelt and bad terms with the rest of the family.", given that she campaigned for the Bull Moose party in 1912, against her own husband and at great stress to her own marriage. Jun 8, 2017 at 20:47
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    Thanks, this turned into a much more interesting question then I was expecting.
    – justCal
    Jun 8, 2017 at 21:00
  • While literally true that "•US wasn't a monarchy", it must be noted that it's constitution has been cleverly crafted to, amongst other things, make it a "pseudo monarchy". This is generally true of all republics of course, but none more so than the U.S. Jun 9, 2017 at 6:53

2 Answers 2


Alice Roosevelt was a wild young woman who smoked and drank as the "First Daughter." Teddy Roosevelt sent her with Taft to Asia as a version of the "grand tour" that the daughters of most wealthy families were given in those days to complete their education. (Except that hers was to Asia, which Roosevelt saw as an up-and-coming global flash point rather than Europe.) It probably was because she didn't get along so well at home that he did so, just to get rid of her. He was not sending her as a representative of his Administration.

  • 1
    Chip off the old block then. (+1 for teaching me something I'd never heard of before).
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 8, 2017 at 18:36
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    Is there a source for this theory? Jun 9, 2017 at 2:26
  • @I referenced key elements of this theory, including Alice's "wildness," and the notion of "grand tour" in the llnks. The first reference includes TR's comments "I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both." The "theory" itself is not sourced because it is my own synthesis. That's true of most of my posts, unless otherwise noted.
    – Tom Au
    Jun 9, 2017 at 8:58

I have to debate some contentions made by this question. It states that the US isn't a monarchy, and that Alice Roosevelt Longworth had no position in the administration. The question seems to imply a 'Royal' presence would have more impact on such a trip. It may have been true that she was occasionally a thorn in the side of her father (from the wiki page):

"I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both."

but she was still the daughter of the President of the United States, and on this trip was often treated as royalty.This article at SmithsonionMag seems to agree (emphasis mine):

She was, after all, the president’s daughter, which made her a princess in all but title, and she conducted herself accordingly

The autobiography Crowded Hours has a couple of chapters dedicated to this trip, and this web page has many excerpts and photos. (All excerpts below from the web sites discussion of the book)

This particular passage relates Alice's reaction concerning being acknowledged alongside Japanese royalty:

“The Griscoms gave a garden party to which were invited all the Americans in Tokio and Yokohama and all the Japanese Government officials above a certain rank; also two pretty young Japanese princesses, Nashimoto and Higashi-Fushimi—pretty even in occidental dress. A matting was placed for them to stand on and I was escorted up to stand beside them. All the Japanese women who approached them curtsied, and then, to my astonishment, curtsied in my direction, too. They only did it while I was standing on the matting with the Princesses. The mere physical proximity to their venerated royalties caused me to become, for the time it lasted, an object of respect. It was a real "magic."”

Later in Canton where Americans weren't very welcome at the time:

Later we heard of lampoons that had been circulated in Canton, in which I was pictured seated in a chair carried by four turtles. The meaning of the writing around the picture was said to be very rude indeed. It seems that in China to call one a turtle or to associate one's name with a turtle is the equivalent of making a reflection upon one's ancestry. We were told that the authors of the pamphlet would be executed. So I had to intercede for them, to ask for mercy which I believe was granted."”

I doubt executing the pamphlet authors would have been the response. If she wasn't considered either a direct representative Roosevelt and or the US, and requesting mercy on their behalf shows composure beyond that of some spoiled child on summer vacation.

Later, her observation concerning the Chinese Dowager Empress shows a definite political awareness of her trip.

“The Empress Tsz'e Hsi ranks with Catherine of Russia and Elizabeth of England, with the Egyptian Queens Hatshepsut and Cleopatra, as one of the great women rulers in history.

A later incident is related concerning a conversation with the Empress:

“The interpreter was Wu Ting Fang who had been Minister in Washington. He stood between us, a little to the side, but suddenly, as the conversation was going on, the Empress said something in a small savage voice, whereat he turned quite gray, and got down on all fours, his forehead touching the ground.”

“The Empress would speak; he would lift his head and say it in English to me; back would go his forehead to the ground while I spoke; up would come his head again while he said it in Chinese to the Empress; then back to the ground would go his forehead again. There was no clue to her reason for humiliating him before us.”

and later, showing she was not just 'along for the ride', she discussed this with her father, showing that she was indeed involved, if unofficially, in the politics of the trip:

When I told Father about it he thought it might have been to show us that this man whom we accepted as an equal was to her no more than something to put her foot on—

So even though parts of her book speak of Kipling and Marco Polo, showing the excitement she was feeling on this trip, the actions reported show she was treated with the respect and dignity afforded any foreign dignitary, and as daughter of the President was often treated as an American princess by those regions which could really only see her (or at least treat her) in the context of their own cultures. All this shows she was treated as an extension of the Roosevelt administration, whether or not she actually actually held any position.

Sorry for the book-length response.

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    "I have to debate some contentions made by this question. It states that the US isn't a monarchy,..." I'm confused - you are going to argue that the US is a monarchy? Good answer, but that first line thew me.
    – MCW
    Jun 9, 2017 at 8:09
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    @MarkC.Wallace: But structurally, the U.S. is a monarchy; with an elected and term-limited monarch. This is generally true of all republics, and can be thought of as a distinguishing characteristic of republics. It is in part why new republics without an existing tradition of rule of law often quickly descend into dictatorship: "One man; one vote; once." Jun 9, 2017 at 16:08
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    @ Mark C. Wallace No, just that for all intents, the daughter of the president had a social position nearly equivalent to that of a princess.
    – justCal
    Jun 9, 2017 at 16:09
  • If the distinguishing characteristic of Republics is that they are monarchies (which still confounds me), then isn't "monarchy" merely a synonym for "government"? What other kind of government is there?
    – MCW
    Jun 15, 2017 at 9:02

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