Then President Theodore Roosevelt, at center, poses with John Muir to his left at the foot of a giant sequoia tree in Mariposa Grove, California, in 1903.  Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University

John Muir writes the President

In one of the most poetic pieces of literature we’ve come across, John Muir writes President Theodore Roosevelt recounting their time together in the Mariposa Sequoia Grove. Their bond created on this campout and travel through Yosemite was a pivotal time in our nation’s history leading to the start of the National Parks, and the eventual conservation of Yosemite. The fruit of the partnership between Muir and Roosevelt helped to save the giant Sequoias under which these men camped.

In a brief description of the letter provided by Theodore Roosevelt center, “John Muir wishes Theodore Roosevelt a happy new year and thanks him for his contributions to conservation. He specifically mentions Roosevelt saving the Tamalpais redwoods and Yosemite National Park. Muir’s daughter Helen Lillian Funk Muir has been sick. He took her to the Mohave Desert for the healing dry air.”

The letter uniquely demonstrates John Muir’s deep devotion and affection for the President and expresses Muir’s faith, both in quoting the Bible while attributing a passage of Scripture to Roosevelt, and using God’s attribute of “unchangeable foundational righteousness” as a metaphor “like Sequoias going to the sky.”

Read Muir’s beautifully handwritten letter below with the text here transcribed by Brian Petersen in January, 2019.

Martinez, California

Dear Mr President,

I wish you another of your great New Years of great works – joining the oceans, controlling and putting to right use waterways and landways, forests, deserts, gardens, mines; overcoming obstacles like a glacier, serene amid the maddest maelstroms of every sort the peoples are swirling in, going straight ahead in the strength of God’s simple unchangeable foundational righteousness like Sequoias going to the sky. Your work Mr. President often brings to mind a walk with Emerson in the Mariposa woods where we camped. He quoted the scripture “There were giants in those days.” Your works show that there are giants in these days also. All good citizens here as everywhere admire you and love you; you have all our hearts, and though we regret the end of your presidency is drawing nigh we are glad to know that in reality you will be in many ways our President as long as you live.

In particular I think you for saving the Tamalpais Redwoods and doubt not you will also save our great Yosemite National Park.

This greeting has been delayed by my daughter’s illness. I have taken her to the Mohave desert where the dry healing air will I fondly hope, bring back her natural Scottish wholeness and strength.

I am ever my dear President faithfully yours

John Muir

January 1908

Credit

Muir, Muir.: , [1908, January 27?]. 0. Theodore Roosevelt Papers. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

Retrieved from https://www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org/Research/Digital-Library/Record?libID=o58024.

Photo Credit

These images are presented through a cooperative effort between the Library of Congress and Dickinson State University. No known restrictions on publication.

Letter Repository

Library of Congress Manuscript Division

Creation Date

1908-01-27?

Creator: Muir, John, 1838-1914

Recipient: Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919

California, a land of giant trees and big dreams, where orchards abound in the Central Valley nestled at the edge of the great Sierra Nevada mountain range with natural glory beyond imagination. We celebrate the rich history of the region and the giant Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, National Forests, and Monument as they attract the world. This great land is the home of The Sequoia King. Family owned and independently operated with tourism and news from the Sequoias, celebrating our relationship with care of creation and love for our common man.

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We support the National Park and Forest Service, and every great organization that supports them.

As John Muir said, “I bid you good-bye, thanking the Lord for the hope of seeing you and for his goodness to you in turning your face towards his most holy mansion of the mountains.”

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