Island of Vice

Theodore Roosevelt's Doomed Quest To Clean Up Sin-Loving New York
. 978-0-38551-972-4. History
Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed an almost storied political rise, with one of the more intriguing chapters being his time as one of four New York City police commissioners. He was appointed in 1895 with a mandate to clean up the city, "the vice capital of the United States." Zacks (The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd) shows the widespread municipal corruption that affected the entire police force, enabling prostitution, gambling, and lax enforcement of Sunday no-drinking laws. He has mined archival riches that offer remarkably graphic eye-witness accounts of undercover visits made by Roosevelt and other reformers to saloons, brothels, and other such establishments. TR was largely successful in reforming the police and reducing vice crimes. While Zacks feels these were largely Pyrrhic victories, he suggests that the real legacy of these efforts was that Roosevelt became a stronger politician and a more effective orator. This valuable addition to the TR canon sheds further light on the future President as alternatively arrogant and obstinate, if not downright absolutist, in the execution of his office, qualities that would continue to dog him in later years.
VERDICT Highly recommended to a wide range of readers, especially those interested in presidential history or late 19th-century America's social issues.
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