Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
The New York Times Best Seller
A Mental Floss Book to Read in Summer 2019
"Gripping.... Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense is a must-read." (NPRA)
President on Trial. A Reputation at Stake.
ABC News legal correspondent and host of LIVE PD Dan Abrams reveals the story of Teddy Roosevelt's last stand - an epic courtroom battle against corruption - in this thrilling follow-up to the New York Times best seller Lincoln's Last Trial.
"No more dramatic courtroom scene has ever been enacted," reported the Syracuse Herald on May 22, 1915, as it covered "the greatest libel suit in history", a battle fought between former President Theodore Roosevelt and the leader of the Republican party. Roosevelt, the boisterous and mostly beloved legendary American hero, had accused his former friend and ally, now turned rival, William Barnes of political corruption. The furious Barnes responded by suing Roosevelt for an enormous sum that could have financially devastated him.
The spectacle of Roosevelt defending himself in a lawsuit captured the imagination of the nation, and more than 50 newspapers sent reporters to cover the trial. Accounts from inside and outside the courtroom combined with excerpts from the trial transcript give us Roosevelt in his own words and serve as the heart of Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense.
This was Roosevelt's final fight to defend his political legacy, and perhaps regain his fading stature. He spent more than a week on the witness stand, revealing hidden secrets of the American political system, and then endured a merciless cross-examination. Witnesses including a young Franklin D. Roosevelt and a host of well-known political leaders were questioned by two of the most brilliant attorneys in the country.
Following the case through court transcripts, news reports, and other primary sources, Dan Abrams and David Fisher present a high-definition picture of the American legal system in a nation standing on the precipice of the Great War, with its former president fighting for the ideals he held dear.
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|Listening Length||12 hours and 4 minutes|
|Author||Dan Abrams, David Fisher|
|Narrator||Dan Abrams, Roger Wayne|
|Audible.ca Release Date||May 21 2019|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #200,759 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#772 in Law (Audible Books & Originals)
#874 in Legal History (Books)
#2,148 in U.S. Politics
Top review from Canada
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The authors have meticulously researched the trial of Barnes v. Roosevelt, held in Syracuse, relying on contemporary news reports, correspondence, and especially on trial transcripts. They give a detailed account of what took place during the five week trial, introducing the reader to the litigants, the lawyers, the trial judge, the jury and the witnesses, among the latter group including the defendant's cousin, future President Franklin Roosevelt. They also set the mood in the community at the time as well as in the nation, which had not yet entered the ongoing world war that was raging overseas.
The authors also carefully explain the legal nuances of the trial process, including the history behind the rules of evidence and procedure, as well as substantive law in cases of libel. They also discuss the legal and political strategies that intersected at the trial, as well as how the presiding judge sought to keep the jury from letting their personal allegiances (political and ancestral) cause them to stray from their sworn duty to follow the law. The trial contained some very technical legal issues, including what use the jury could and couldn't make of certain pieces of evidence about sketchy dealings on the part of the plaintiff Barnes. It was a trial filled to the brim with objections and with some of the witnesses called to the stand more than once. The authors work very hard to provide the reader with a play-by-play of not only what took place, buy why as well.
A libel trial does not have the same sense of drama as a criminal trial, and for this reason parts of the book seem to lag as the authors maintain their fidelity to providing a description of what took place, including the mundane as well as the exciting. They excel in painting a picture of the litigants: the energetic Roosevelt struggling to contain his exuberance while remaining at the center of attention, and the smug and crafty Barnes, whose cross-examination was likened to trying to nail jello to a wall.
This is a book that will especially appeal to those with an interest in trials and in courtroom proceedings. It is a tale of egos and politics, of populism and the political establishment. A minor criticism is that the authors constantly refer to the ex-president as "Teddy", a moniker that Roosevelt detested and that those close to him never used. That small nit-picking aside, this book's appeal will be stronger to some readers than to others, but it is certainly a worthwhile read for those with an interest in the life and times of Theodore Roosevelt.
Top reviews from other countries
If not the trial of the century, it ranked right up there with the most important trials of American history. At its core was the very definition of what American democracy was and should be. Roosevelt, in an article that became widely published and was at the heart of the claim of libel, claimed that the party bosses, elected by no one and accountable only to the moneyed class that gave them power and wealth (given to both parties by the same people, as remains the current custom), colluded to deny the interests of the citizens at large in favor of their own power and fortune.
That, however, by definition, would seem to suggest, despite Roosevelt ultimately being found innocent, to deny the trial the status of a turning point in American jurisprudence or political history. For, it is obvious to even the most casual observer, nothing has really changed. The bosses of the era may have morphed into the politicians, the lobbyists, and the rich themselves (”This brought to the courtroom an unpleasant truth about American politics; the moneyed interests used their money to protect those interests.”), but there is little question that money is what makes the wheels of government turn and they turn primarily, if not exclusively, to protect the interests of the moneyed class that once supported the bosses and their machines and now protect the politicians – without shame, for the most part - openly and without apology or embarrassment.
Theodore Roosevelt was a fascinating man and in this book, Dan Abrams brings out both the greatness and the humanity; the virtue and the contradictions. And like his distant cousin and in-law who would occupy the oval office at an equally crucial time in American history, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I do believe that the Colonel had the best interests of the common man in his heart in everything he did. Oh how I wish we could somehow bring him back, desperate as we are for such willingness to put the ideals of our nation above the individual thirst for power.
Beyond its value as a book of legal and political history, this is a book about language. Language, after all, does not occur naturally, like oxygen or the rivers. It is of human origin, an artificial convention created to make communication more efficient and effective. As a result, however, language is, by definition, highly imprecise, which is why we have lawyers and courtrooms – and poets. The plaintiff, the defendant, and all of the lawyers who represent them, in addition to the judge himself, are all gifted in the art of language and its power. And that, itself, to me, was both fascinating and entertaining. I adore and respect language. (Which is one of the reasons I write so many reviews, of course.)
There is a lot of history here. I grew up very close to Syracuse, where the trial took place, and learned a great many things about the trial and the area that I had never known before. In the end, however, I gave it a three as a kind of trigger warning, as much as I don’t believe in that concept in general.
If you are a lawyer you should read this book to hone your skills. If you are a historian you should read this book for its well-written insight into an important man and an important period (pre-World War I) in American history. And if you are a law student ordered to read this by your professor, well, it doesn’t matter, you have to read it.
If, however, you are just looking for a light, entertaining read; say, a mystery or a love story, you will not find it here. But you must decide who you are and why you read.
I will tell you this. As an author myself, I long ago committed to seeing every book I begin to read through to the finish. I believe we owe it to the author for their hard work and there are many a book which makes its mark in the final chapters. And I did fulfill my commitment to that pledge in this case (and I didn’t skim) and am glad I did.
If only the world had really changed and money no longer compromised (i.e. COMPROMISED) our politics to the extent it does. Rest in Peace, Colonel.
There than follows page after page of recorded court room dialogue among the parties and the numerous witnesses called by either side. I found this exceedingly boring. The details of the court room proceeding may have interesting in 1915 but scarcely so to day. There also a number of discussions on the fie points of the applicable law. of interest to the litigants
and possibly to those readers who are attorneys. Meanwhile the trial was proceedings against the on coming of World War I There also discussions of the state and local politics of New York. The book contains numerous photos. The jury found for Roosevelt. A dramatis personae of all the persons connected with trial would have been hek]lpfull
This is more a book for lawyers than general readers.