BY EDMUND LESTER PEARSON
The author wishes to express his gratitude for permission to refer to the works which have been consulted in writing this book.
First and foremost, to Mr. William Roscoe Thayer, for "Theodore Roosevelt; An Intimate Biography." (Houghton, Mifflin Co.)
To Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons for these writings of Theodore Roosevelt: "African Game Trails"; "Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography"; "The Rough Riders"; "Through the Brazilian Wilderness"; "History as Literature." And for "Theodore Roosevelt and His Time" by Joseph Bucklin Bishop, in Scribner's Magazine, for December, 1919.
To Messrs. Harper and Brothers and to Mr. Hermann Hagedorn for "The Boys' Life of Theodore Roosevelt" by Hermann Hagedorn.
To The Century Company for these books by Theodore Roosevelt: "The Strenuous Life"; "Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail."
To Messrs. G. P. Putnam's Sons for these books by Theodore Roosevelt: "American Ideals"; "The Wilderness Hunter."
To Mr. Charles G. Washbura for his "Theodore Roosevelt; the Logic of His Career." (Houghton, Mifflin Co.)
To Messrs Doubleday, Page & Co. and to Mr. Lawrence F. Abbott for "Impressions of Theodore Roosevelt" by Lawrence F. Abbott.
I. THE BOY WHO COLLECTED ANIMALS II. IN COLLEGE III. IN POLITICS IV. "RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING TRAIL" V. TWO DEFEATS VI. FIGHTING OFFICE-SEEKERS VII. POLICE COMMISSIONER VIII. THE ROUGH RIDER IX. GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK X. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES XI. THE LION HUNTER XII. EUROPE AND AMERICA XIII. THE BULL MOOSE XIV. THE EXPLORER XV. THE MAN XVI. THE GREAT AMERICAN
THE BOY WHO COLLECTED ANIMALS
If you had been in New York in 1917 or 1918 you might have seen, walking quickly from a shop or a hotel to an automobile, a thick- set but active and muscular man, wearing a soft black hat and a cape overcoat. Probably there would have been a group of people waiting on the sidewalk, as he came out, for this was Theodore Roosevelt, Ex-President of the United States, and there were more Americans who cared to know what he was doing, and to hear what he was saying, than cared about any other living man.
Although he was then a private citizen, holding no office, he was a leader of his country, which was engaged in the Great War. Americans were being called upon,—the younger men to risk their lives in battle, and the older people to suffer and support their losses. Theodore Roosevelt had always said that it was a good citizen's duty cheerfully to do one or the other of these things in the hour of danger. They knew that he had done both; and so it was to him that men turned, as to a strong and brave man, whose words were simple and noble, and what was more important, whose actions squared with his words.
He had come back, not long before, from one of his hunting trips, and it was said that fever was still troubling him. The people wish to know if this is true, and one of the men on the sidewalk, a reporter, probably, steps forward and asks him a question.
He stops for a moment, and turns toward the man. Not much thought of sickness is left in the mind of any one there! His face is clear, his cheeks ruddy,—the face of a man who lives outdoors; and his eyes, light-blue in color, look straight at the questioner. One of his eyes, it had been said, was dimmed or blinded by a blow while boxing, years before, when he was President. But no one can see anything the matter with the eyes; they twinkle in a smile, and as his face puckers up, and his white teeth show for an instant under his light-brown moustache, the group of people all smile, too.
His face is so familiar to them,—it is as if they were looking at somebody they knew as well as their own brothers. The newspaper cartoonists had shown it to them for years. No one else smiled like that; no one else spoke so vigorously.
"Never felt better in my life!" he answers, bending toward the man.
"But thank you for asking!" and there is a pleasant and friendly note in his voice, which perhaps surprises some of those who, though they had heard much of his emphatic speech, knew but little of his gentleness. He waves his hand, steps into the automobile, and is gone.
Theodore Roosevelt was born October 27, 1858, in New York City, at 28 East Twentieth Street. The first Roosevelt of his family to come to this country was Klaes Martensen van Roosevelt who came from Holland to what is now New York about 1644. He was a "settler," and that, says Theodore Roosevelt, remembering the silly claims many people like to make about their long-dead ancestors, is a fine name for an immigrant, who came over in the steerage of a sailing ship in the seventeenth century instead of the steerage of a steamer in the nineteenth century. From that time, for the next seven generations, from father to son, every one of the family was born on Manhattan Island. As New Yorkers say, they were "straight New York."
Immigrant or settler, or whatever Klaes van Roosevelt may have been, his children and grandchildren had in them more than ordinary ability. They were not content to stand still, but made themselves useful and prosperous, so that the name was known and honored in the city and State even before the birth of the son who was to make it illustrious throughout the world.
"My father," says the President, "was the best man I ever knew.... He never physically punished me but once, but he was the only man of whom I was ever really afraid." The elder Roosevelt was a merchant, a man courageous and gentle, fond of horses and country life. He worked hard at his business, for the Sanitary Commission during the Civil War, and for the poor and unfortunate of his own city, so hard that he wore himself out and died at forty-six. The President's mother was Martha Bulloch from Georgia. Two of her brothers were in the Confederate Navy, so while the Civil War was going on, and Theodore Roosevelt was a little boy, his family like so many other American families, had in it those who wished well for the South, and those who hoped for the success of the North.
Many American Presidents have been poor when they were boys. They have had to work hard, to make a way for themselves, and the same strength and courage with which they did this has later helped to bring them into the White House. It has seemed as if there were magic connected with being born in a log-cabin, or having to work hard to get an education, so that only the boys who did this could become famous. Of course it is what is in the boy himself, together with the effect his life has had on him, that counts. The boy whose family is rich, or even well-off, has something to struggle against, too. For with these it is easy to slip into comfortable and lazy ways, to do nothing because one does not have to do anything. Some men never rise because their early life was too hard; some, because it was too easy.
Roosevelt might have had the latter fate. His father would not have allowed idleness; he did not care about money-making, especially, but he did believe in work, for himself and his children. When the father died, and his son was left with enough money to have lived all his days without doing a stroke of work, he already had too much grit to think of such a life. And he had too much good sense to start out to become a millionaire and to pile million upon useless million.
He had something else to fight against: bad health. He writes: "I was a sickly, delicate boy, suffered much from asthma, and frequently had to be taken away on trips to find a place where I could breathe. One of my memories is of my father walking up and down the room with me in his arms at night, when I was a very small person, and of sitting up in bed gasping, with my father and mother trying to help me. I went very little to school. I never went to the public schools, as my own children later did." [Footnote: "Autobiography."] For a few months he went to a private school, his aunt taught him at home, and he had tutors there.
When he was ten his parents took him with his brother and sisters for a trip to Europe, where he had a bad time indeed. Like most boys, he cared nothing for picture-galleries and the famous sights, he was homesick and he wished to get back to what really pleased him,—that is, collecting animals. He was already interested in that. And only when he could go to a museum and see, as he wrote in his diary, "birds and skeletons" or go "for a spree" with his sister and buy two shillings worth of rock-candy, did he enjoy himself in Europe.
His sister knew what he thought about the things one is supposed to see in Europe, and in her diary set it down:
"I am so glad Mama has let me stay in the butiful hotel parlor while the poor boys have been dragged off to the orful picture galary."
These experiences are funny enough now, but probably they were tragic to him at the time. In a church in Venice there were at least some moments of happiness. He writes of his sister "Conie":
"Conie jumped over tombstones spanked me banged Ellies head &c."
But in Paris the trip becomes too monotonous; and his diary says:
November 26. "I stayed in the house all day, varying the day with brushing my hair, washing my hands and thinking in fact having a verry dull time."
November 27. "I did the same thing as yesterday."
They all came back to New York and again he could study and amuse himself with natural history. This study was one of his great pleasures throughout life and when he was a man he knew more about the animals of America than anybody except the great scholars who devoted their lives to this alone.
It started with a dead seal that he happened to find laid out on a slab in a market in Broadway. He was still a small boy, but when he heard that the seal had been killed in the harbor, it reminded him of the adventures he had been reading about in Mayne Reid's books. He went back to the market, day after day, to look at the seal, to try to measure it and to plan to own it and preserve it. He did get the skull, and with two cousins started what they gave the grand name of the "Roosevelt Museum of Natural History"!
Catching and keeping specimens for this museum gave him more fun than it gave to some of his family. His mother was not well pleased when she found some young white mice in the ice-chest, where the founder of the "Roosevelt Museum" was keeping them safe. She quickly threw them away, and her son, in his indignation, said that what hurt him about it was "the loss to Science! The loss to Science!" Once, he and his cousin had been out in the country, collecting specimens until all their pockets were full. Then two toads came along,—such novel and attractive toads that room had to be made for them. Each boy put one toad under his hat, and started down the road. But a lady, a neighbor, met them, and when the boys took off their hats, the toads did what any sensible toads would do, hopped down and away, and so were never added to the Museum.
The Roosevelt family visited Europe again in 1873, and afterwards went to Algiers and Egypt, where the air, it was hoped, would help the boy's asthma. This was a pleasanter trip for him, and the birds which he saw on the Nile interested him greatly.
His studies of natural history had been carried on in the summers at Oyster Bay on Long Island, on the Hudson and in the Adirondacks. They soon became more than a boy's fun, and some of the observations made when he was fifteen, sixteen or seventeen years old have found their way into learned books. When the State of New York published, many years afterwards, two big volumes about the birds of the state, some of these early writings by Roosevelt were quoted as important. A friend has given me a four- page folder printed in 1877, about the summer birds of the Adirondacks "by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and H. D. Minot." Part of the observations were made in 1874 when he was sixteen. Ninety- seven different birds are listed.
When he was fifteen and had returned a second time from Europe, he began to study to enter Harvard. He was ahead of most boys of his age in science, history and geography and knew something of German and French. But he was weak in Latin, Greek and mathematics. He loved the out-of-doors side of natural history, and hoped he might be a scientist like Audubon.
Roosevelt entered the Freshman class of Harvard University in 1876. It is worth while to remember that this man who became as much of a Westerner as an Easterner, who was understood and trusted by the people of the Western States, was born on the Atlantic coast and educated at a New England college.
The real American, if he was born in the East, does not talk with contempt about the West; if he is a Westerner he does not pretend that all the good in the world is on his side of the Mississippi. Nor, wherever he came from, does he try to keep up old quarrels between North and South. Theodore Roosevelt was an American, and admired by Americans everywhere. Foolish folk who talk about the "effete East," meaning that the East is worn out and corrupt, had best remember that Abraham Lincoln did not believe that when he sent his son to the same college which Theodore Roosevelt's father chose for him.
At Harvard he kept up his studies and interest in natural history. In the house where he lived he sometimes had a large, live turtle and two or three kinds of snakes. He went in to Boston and came back with a basket full of live lobsters, to the consternation of the other people in the horse-car. He held a high office in the Natural History Society, and took honors, when he graduated, in the subject. His father had encouraged his desire to be a professor of natural history, reminding him, however, that he must have no hopes of being a rich man. In the end he gave up this plan, not because it did not lead to money, for never in his life did he work to become wealthy, but because he disliked science as it was then taught. One of the bad things the German universities had done to the American colleges was to make them worship fussy detail, and so science had become a matter of microscopes and laboratories. The field-work of the naturalist was unknown or despised.
He took part in four or five kinds of athletics. He seems never to have played baseball, perhaps because of poor eyesight which made him wear glasses. But he practiced with a rifle, rowed and boxed, ran and wrestled. In his vacations he went hunting in Maine. Boxing was one of his favorite forms of sport,—for two reasons. He thought a boy or a man ought to be able to defend himself and others, and he enjoyed hard exercise.
It is important to know what he thought and did about self-defense and fighting. Many people dodge this, and other difficult subjects, when they are talking to boys. It was not Roosevelt's way to hide his thoughts in silence because of timidity, and then call his lack of action by some such fine name as "tact" or "discretion." When there was good reason for speaking out he always did so. Since a boy who is forever fighting is not only a nuisance, but usually a bully, some older folk go to the extreme and tell boys that all fighting is wrong.
Theodore Roosevelt did not believe it. When he was about fourteen, and riding in a stage-coach on the way to Moosehead Lake, two other boys in the coach began tormenting him. When he tried to fight them off, he found himself helpless. Either of them could handle him, could hit him and prevent him from hitting back. He decided that it was a matter of self-respect for a boy to know how to protect himself and he learned to box.
Speaking to boys he said later:
"One prime reason for abhorring cowards is because every good boy should have it in him to thrash the objectionable boy as the need arises."
"The very fact that the boy should be manly and able to hold his own, that he should be ashamed to submit to bullying, without instant retaliation, should in return, make him abhor any form of bullying, cruelty, or brutality."
[Footnote: These two quotations from essay called "The American Boy" in "The Strenuous Life," pp. 162, 164]
When he was teaching a Sunday School class in Cambridge, during his time at college, one of his pupils came in with a black eye. It turned out that another boy had teased and pinched the first boy's sister during church. Afterwards there had been a fight, and the one who tormented the little girl had been beaten, but he had given the brother a black eye.
"You did quite right," said Roosevelt to the brother and gave him a dollar.
But the deacons of the church did not approve, and Roosevelt soon went to another church.
Meanwhile he was learning to box. In his own story of his life he makes fun of himself as a boxer, and says that in a boxing match he once won "a pewter mug" worth about fifty cents. He is honest enough to say that he was proud of it at the time, "kept it, and alluded to it, and I fear bragged about it, for a number of years, and I only wish I knew where it was now."
His college friends tell a different story of him. He was never one of the best boxers, they say, and he was at a disadvantage because of his eyesight. But he was plucky enough for two, and he fought fair. He entered in the lightweight class in the Harvard Gymnasium, March 22, 1879. He won the first match. When time was called he dropped his hands, and his opponent gave him a hard blow on the face. The fellows around the ring all shouted "Foul! Foul!" and hissed. But Roosevelt turned toward them, calling "Hush! He didn't hear!"
In the second match he met a man named Charlie Hanks, who was a little taller, and had a longer reach, and so for all Roosevelt's pluck and willingness to take punishment, Hanks won the match.
He was a member of three or four clubs,—the Institute, the Hasty Pudding and the Porcellian. He was one of the editors of the Harvard Advocate, took part in three or four college activities, and was fond of target shooting and dancing. It is told that he never spoke in public, until about his third year in college, that he was shy and had great difficulty in speaking. It was by effort that he became one of the best orators of his day.
Roosevelt did not like the way college debates were conducted. He said that to make one side defend or attack a certain subject, without regard to whether they thought it right or wrong, had a bad effect.
"What we need," he wrote, "is to turn out of colleges young men with ardent convictions on the side of right; not young men who can make a good argument for either right or wrong, as their interest bids them."
He did one thing in college which is not a matter of course with students under twenty-two years old. He began to write a history, named "The Naval War of 1812." It was finished and published two years after he graduated, and in it he showed that his idea of patriotism included telling the truth. Most American boys used to be brought up on the story of the American frigate Constitution whipping all the British ships she met, and with the notion that the War of 1812 was nothing but a series of brilliant victories for us.
Theodore Roosevelt thought that Americans were not so soft that they were afraid to hear the truth, and that it was a poor sort of American who dared not point out to his fellow-countrymen the mistakes they had made and the disasters which followed. It did not seem patriotic to him to dodge the fact that lack of wisdom at Washington had let our Army run down before the war, so that our attempts to invade Canada were failures, and that we suffered the disgrace of having Washington itself captured and burned by the enemy.
There was a great deal to be proud of in what our Navy did, and in the Army's victory in the Battle of New Orleans, and these things Roosevelt described with the pride of every good American. But he had no use for the old-fashioned kind of history, which pretends that all the bravery is on one side. He did his best to get at the truth, and he knew that the English and Canadians had fought bravely and well, and so he said just that. Where our troops or our ships failed it was not through lack of courage, but because they were badly led, and what was worse, since it was so unnecessary, because the Government at Washington had lost the battle in advance by neglecting to prepare.
Before he was twenty-four, Roosevelt was so well-informed in the history of this period that he was later asked to write the chapter dealing with the War of 1812 in a history of the British Navy.
At his graduation from Harvard he stood twenty-second in a class of one hundred and seventy. This caused him to be elected to the Phi Beta Kappa, the society of scholars. Before he graduated he became engaged to be married to Miss Alice Lee of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
He told his friend, Mr. Thayer, what he was going to do after graduation.
"I am going to try to help the cause of better government in New York City," he said. And he added:
"I don't know exactly how."
When he graduated from college Roosevelt was no longer in poor health. His boxing and exercise in the gymnasium, and still more his outdoor expeditions, and hunting trips in Maine, had made a well man of him. He was yet to achieve strength and muscle, and his life in the West was to give him the chance to do that.
His father died while he was in college and he was left, not rich, but so well off that he might have lived merely amusing himself. He might have spent his days in playing polo, hunting and collecting specimens of animals. What he did during his life, in adding to men's knowledge of the habits of animals, would have gained him an honorable place in the history of American science, if he had done nothing else. So with his writing of books. He earned the respect of literary men, and left a longer list of books to his credit than do most authors, and on a greater variety of subjects. But he was to do other and still more important work than either of these things.
He believed in and quoted from one of the noblest poems ever written by any man,—Tennyson's "Ulysses." And in this poem are lines which formed the text for Roosevelt's life:
How dull it is to pause, to make an end, To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use! As tho' to breathe were life.
This was the doctrine of "the strenuous life" which he preached,— and practiced. It was to perform the hard necessary work of the world, not to sit back and criticize. It was to do disagreeable work if it had to be done, not to pick out the soft jobs. It was to be afraid neither of the man who fights with his fists or with a rifle, nor of the man who fights with a sneering tongue or a sarcastic pen.
To go into New York politics from 1880-1882 was, for a young man of Roosevelt's place in life, just out of college, what most of his friends and associates called "simply crazy." That young men of good education no longer think it a crazy thing to do, but an honorable and important one, is due to Theodore Roosevelt more than to any other one man.
As he sat on the window-seat of his friend's room in Holworthy Hall, that day, and said he was going to try to help the cause of better government in New York, Mr. Thayer looked at him and wondered if he were "the real thing." Thirty-nine years later Mr. Thayer looked back over the career of his college mate, and knew that he had talked that day with one of the great men of our Republic, with one who, as another of his college friends says, was never a "politician" in the bad sense, but was always trying to advance the cause of better government
The reason why it seemed to many good people a crazy thing to go into politics was that the work was hard and disagreeable much of the time. Politics were in the hands of saloon-keepers, toughs, drivers of street cars and other "low" people, as they put it. The nice folk liked to sit at home, sigh, and say: "Politics are rotten." Then they wondered why politics did not instantly become pure. They demanded "reform" in politics, as Roosevelt said, as if reform were something which could be handed round like slices of cake. Their way of getting reform, if they tried any way at all, was to write letters to the newspapers, complaining about the "crooked politicians," and they always chose the newspapers which those politicians never read and cared nothing about.
If any decent man did go into politics, hoping to do some good, these same critics lamented loudly, and presently announced their belief that he, too, had become crooked. If it were said that he had been seen with a politician they disliked, or that he ate a meal in company with one, they were sure he had gone wrong. They seemed to think that a reformer could go among other officeholders and do great work, if he would only begin by cutting all his associates dead, and refusing to speak to them.
It was a fortunate day for America when Theodore Roosevelt joined the Twenty-first District Republican Club, and later when he ran for the New York State Assembly from the same district. He was elected in November, 1881. This was his beginning in politics.
In the Assembly at Albany, he presently made discoveries. He learned something about the crooked politicians whom the stay-at- home reformers had denounced from afar. He found that the Assembly had in it many good men, a larger number who were neither good nor bad, but went one way or another just as things happened to influence them at the moment. Finally, there were some bad men indeed. He found that the bad men were not always the poor, the uneducated, the men who had been brought up in rough homes, lacking in refinement. On the contrary, he found some extremely honest and useful men who had had exactly such unfavorable beginnings.
Also, he soon discovered that there were, in and out of politics, some men of wealth, of education, men who boasted that they belonged to the "best families," who were willing to be crooked, or to profit from other men's crooked actions. He soon announced this discovery, which naturally made such men furious with him. They pursued him with their hatred all his life. Some people really think that great wealth makes crime respectable, and if it is pointed out to a wealthy but dishonest man, that he is merely a common thief, and if in addition, the fact is proved to everybody's satisfaction, his anger is noticeable.
Along with his serious work in the Assembly, Roosevelt found that there was a great deal of fun in listening to the debates on the floor, or the hearings in committees. One story, which he tells, is of two Irish Assemblymen, both of whom wished to be leader of the minority. One, he calls the "Colonel," the other, the "Judge." There was a question being discussed of money for the Catholic Protectory, and somebody said that the bill was "unconstitutional." Mr. Roosevelt writes:
The Judge, who knew nothing—of the constitution, except that it was continually being quoted against all of his favorite projects, fidgetted about for some time, and at last jumped up to know if he might ask the gentleman a question. The latter said "Yes," and the Judge went on, "I'd like to know if the gintleman has ever personally seen the Catholic Protectoree?" "No, I haven't," said his astonished opponent. "Then, phwat do you mane by talking about its being unconstitootional? It's no more unconstitootional than you are!" Then turning to the house with slow and withering sarcasm, he added, "The throuble wid the gintleman is that he okkipies what lawyers would call a kind of a quasi-position upon this bill," and sat down amid the applause of his followers.
His rival, the Colonel, felt he had gained altogether too much glory from the encounter, and after the nonplussed countryman had taken his seat, he stalked solemnly over to the desk of the elated Judge, looked at him majestically for a moment, and said, "You'll excuse my mentioning, sorr, that the gintleman who has just sat down knows more law in a wake than you do in a month; and more than that, Mike Shaunnessy, phwat do you mane by quotin' Latin on the flure of this House, WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW THE ALPHA AND OMAYGA OF THE LANGUAGE!" and back he walked, leaving the Judge in humiliated submission behind him. [Footnote: "American Ideals," p. 93.]
Another story also relates to the "Colonel." He was presiding at a committee meeting, in an extremely dignified and severe state of mind. He usually came to the meetings in this mood, as a result of having visited the bar, and taken a number of rye whiskies. The meeting was addressed by "a great, burly man ... who bellowed as if he had been a bull of Bashan."
The Colonel, by this time pretty far gone, eyed him malevolently, swaying to and fro in his chair. However, the first effect of the fellow's oratory was soothing rather than otherwise, and produced the unexpected result of sending the chairman fast asleep bolt upright. But in a minute or two, as the man warmed up to his work, he gave a peculiar resonant howl which waked the Colonel up. The latter came to himself with a jerk, looked fixedly at the audience, caught sight of the speaker, remembered having seen him before, forgot that he had been asleep, and concluded that it must have been on some previous day. Hammer, hammer, hammer, went the gavel, and—
"I've seen you before, sir!"
"You have not," said the man.
"Don't tell me I lie, sir!" responded the Colonel, with sudden ferocity. "You've addressed this committee on a previous day!"
"I've never—" began the man; but the Colonel broke in again:
"Sit down, sir! The dignity of the chair must be preserved! No man shall speak to this committee twice. The committee stands adjourned." And with that he stalked majestically out of the room, leaving the committee and the delegation to gaze sheepishly into each other's faces. [Footnote: "American Ideals," p. 96.]
There was in the Assembly a man whom Mr. Roosevelt calls "Brogan."
He looked like a serious elderly frog. I never heard him speak more than once. It was before the Legislature was organized, or had adopted any rules; and each day the only business was for the clerk to call the roll. One day Brogan suddenly rose, and the following dialogue occurred:
Brogan. Misther Clu-r-r-k!
The Clerk. The gentleman from New York.
Brogan. I rise to a point of ordher under the rules!
The Clerk. There are no rules.
Brogan. Thin I object to them.
The Clerk. There are no rules to object to.
Brogan. Oh! (nonplussed; but immediately recovering himself.) Thin I move that they be amended until there ar-r-re! [Footnote: "Autobiography," p 99.]
Roosevelt was three times elected to the Assembly. He took an interest in laws to reform the Primaries and the Civil Service, and he demanded that a certain corrupt judge be removed. This astonished the Assembly, for the judge had powerful and rich friends. His own party advised the twenty-three years old Assemblyman to sit down and shut his mouth. The judge might be corrupt, as it was charged, but it was "wiser" to keep still about it. Roosevelt, they said, was "rash" and "hot-headed" to make trouble. And they refused to hear him.
But he got up next day, and the next, and the next after that, and demanded that the dishonest judge be investigated. And on the eighth day, his motion was carried by a vote of 104 to 6. The politicians saw to it that the judge escaped, but it was shown that Roosevelt's charges were true ones. And New York State found that she had an Assemblyman with a back-bone.
Roosevelt carried some bills for the cause of better government through the Assembly and they were signed by a courageous and honest Governor, named Grover Cleveland. Thomas Nast, America's great cartoonist of those days, drew a cartoon of the two men together. Cleveland was forty-four and Roosevelt was twenty-three.
One of the most important events while he was in the Assembly arose from a bill to regulate the manufacture of cigars in New York City. He had found that cigars were often made under the most unhealthy surroundings in the single living room of a family in a tenement. In one house which he investigated himself, there were two families, and a boarder, all living in one room, while one or more of the men carried on the manufacture of cigars in the same room. Everything about the place was filthy, and both for the health of the families and of the possible users of the cigars, it was necessary to have this state of affairs ended.
He advocated a bill which passed, and was signed by Governor Cleveland, forbidding such manufacture. So far, so good; but there were persons who found that the law was against their interests. They succeeded in getting the Court of Appeals to set the law aside, and in their decision the judges said the law was an assault upon the "hallowed associations" of the home!
This made Roosevelt wake to the fact that courts were not always the best judges of the living conditions of classes of people with whom they had no contact They knew the law; they did not know life. The decision blocked tenement house reform in New York for twenty years, and was one more item in Roosevelt's political education.
"RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING TRAIL"
At the end of Mr. Roosevelt's membership in the New York Assembly, he began his life on a ranch in North Dakota. In this way he not only learned much about the Western people, but came to know the ranchman's life, and to have his first chance to shoot big game.
He had married Miss Lee in 1880, the autumn of the year he left college. Less than four years afterwards his wife died, following the birth of a daughter. His mother died on the next day, and Roosevelt under the sorrow of these two losses, left New York, and spent almost all his time on his ranch, the Elkhorn, at Medora.
The people in Dakota looked on this Eastern tenderfoot with a little amusement, and, at first, probably with some contempt. He was, to their minds, a "college dude" from the East, and moreover he wore eyeglasses. To some of the people whom he met, this fact, he says, was enough to cause distrust. Eyeglasses were under suspicion.
But, with two men who had been his guides in Maine, Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dow, he began his life as a ranchman and a cow-puncher, and went through all the hard work and all the fun. He took long rides after cattle, rounded them up and helped in the branding. He followed the herd when it stampeded in a thunderstorm. He hunted all the game that there was in the county, and also acted as Deputy Sheriff and helped clear the place of horse-thieves and "bad men."
In one of his adventures Roosevelt showed that he had taken to heart the celebrated advice which, in Hamlet, Polonius gives to his son:
Beware Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Mulvaney, in one of Kipling's stories, proved that he knew something about Shakespeare, for he put this advice into his own language so as to express the meaning perfectly:
"Don't fight wid ivry scutt for the pure joy av fightin', but if you do, knock the nose av him first an' frequint."
Roosevelt tried to keep out of the fight,—but this is the way it happened. He was out after lost horses, and had to put up at a little hotel where there were no rooms downstairs, but a bar, a dining-room and a kitchen. It was late at night, and there was trouble on, for he heard one or two shots in the bar as he came up. He disliked the idea of going in, but it was cold outside and there was nowhere else to go. Inside the bar, a cheap "bad man" was walking up and down with a cocked revolver in each hand. He had been shooting at the clock, and making every one unhappy and uncomfortable.
When Roosevelt came in, he called him "Four eyes," because he wore spectacles, and announced "Four eyes is going to set up the drinks." Roosevelt tried to pass it off by laughing, and sat down behind the stove to escape notice, and keep away from trouble. But the "bad man" came and stood over him, a gun in each hand, using foul language, and insisting that "Four eyes" should get up and treat.
"Well," Roosevelt reluctantly remarked, "if I've got to, I've got to!" As he said this, he rose quickly, and hit the gun-man with his right fist on the point of the jaw, then with his left, and again with his right. The guns went off in the air, as the "bad man" went over like a nine-pin, striking his head on the corner of the bar as he fell. Roosevelt was ready to drop on him if he moved, for he still clutched the revolvers. But he was senseless.
The other people in the bar recovered their nerve, once the man was down. They hustled him out into the shed, and there was no more trouble from him.
Roosevelt hunted geese and ducks, deer, mountain sheep, elk and grizzly bear during his stay in the West. It was still possible to find buffalo, although most of the great herds had vanished. The prairie was covered with relics of the dead buffalo, so that one might ride for hundreds of miles, seeing their bones everywhere, but never getting a glimpse of a live one. Yet he managed, after a hard hunt of several days, to shoot a great bull buffalo.
An encounter with a grizzly bear is much more exciting, and he was nearly killed by one bear. In later years Roosevelt killed almost every kind of large and dangerous game that there is on the earth,—lions, elephants, the African buffalo, and the rhinoceros. The Indian tiger is perhaps the only one of the large savage animals which he never encountered. Yet after meeting all these and having some close shaves, especially with a wounded elephant in Africa, he said that his narrowest escape was with this grizzly bear.
It was when he had returned to the West and was on a hunt in Idaho. He had had trouble with his guide, who got drunk, so they parted company, and Roosevelt was alone. Looking down into a valley, from a rocky ridge, he saw a dark object, which he discovered was a large grizzly bear. He fired, and the bear giving a loud grunt, as the bullet struck, rushed forward at a gallop into a laurel thicket. Roosevelt paused at the edge of the thicket and peered within, trying to see the bear, but knowing too much about them to go into the brush where he was.
When I was at the narrowest part of the thicket, he suddenly left it, directly opposite, and then wheeled and stood broadside to me on the hillside, a little above. He turned his head stiffly towards me; scarlet strings of froth hung from his lips; his eyes burned like embers in the gloom.
I held true, aiming behind the shoulder, and my bullet shattered the point or lower end of his heart, taking out a big nick. Instantly the great bear turned with a harsh roar of fury and challenge, blowing the bloody foam from his mouth, so that I saw the gleam of his white fangs; and then he charged straight at me, crashing and bounding through the laurel bushes, so that it was hard to aim. I waited until he came to a fallen tree, raking him as he topped it with a ball, which entered his chest and went through the cavity of his body, but he neither swerved nor flinched, and at the moment I did not know that I had struck him. He came steadily on, and in another second was almost upon me. I fired for his forehead, but my bullet went low, entering his open mouth, smashing his lower jaw and going into the neck. I leaped to one side almost as I pulled the trigger; and through the hanging smoke the first thing I saw was his paw as he made a vicious side blow at me. The rush of his charge carried him past. As he struck he lurched forward, leaving a pool of bright blood where his muzzle hit the ground; but he recovered himself and made two or three jumps onwards, while I hurriedly jammed a couple of cartridges into the magazine, my rifle holding only four, all of which I had fired. Then he tried to pull up, but as he did so his muscles seemed suddenly to give way, his head drooped, and he rolled over and over like a shot rabbit. Each of my first three bullets had inflicted a mortal wound. [Footnote: "The Wilderness Hunter," pp. 305-6.]
There were, once, near Mr. Roosevelt's ranch, three men who had been suspected of cattle-killing and horse-stealing. The leader was a tall fellow named Finnegan, who had long red hair reaching to his shoulders, and always wore a broad hat and a fringed buckskin shirt. He had been in a number of shooting scrapes. The others were a half-breed, and a German, who was weak and shiftless rather than actively bad. They had a bad reputation, and were trying to get out of the country before the Vigilance Committee got them.
About the only way to travel—it was early in March and the rivers were swollen—was by boat down the river. So when the cowboys on Mr. Roosevelt's ranch found that his boat was stolen, they were sure who had taken it. As it is every man's duty in a half-settled country to bring law-breakers to justice, and as Roosevelt was, moreover, Deputy Sheriff, he decided to go after the three thieves. Two of his cowboys, Sewall and Dow from Maine, in about three days built another boat. In this, with their rifles, food enough for two weeks, warm bedding and thick clothes, Roosevelt, Sewall and Dow set out down the Little Missouri River.
There had been a blizzard, the weather was still bitterly cold, and the river full of drifting ice. They shot prairie fowl and lived on them, with bacon, bread and tea. It was cold work poling and paddling down the river, with the current, but against a head wind. The ice froze on the pole handles. At night where they camped the thermometer went down to zero. Next day they shot two deer, for they needed meat, as they were doing such hard work in the cold.
On the third day they sighted smoke,—the campfire of the three thieves. Two boats, one of them the stolen one, were tied up to the bank. It was an exciting moment, for they expected a fight. As it turned out, however, it was a tough job, but not a fighting one. The German was alone in camp, and they captured him without trouble. The other two were out hunting. When they came back an hour or two later, they were surprised by the order to hold up their hands. The half-breed obeyed at once, Finnigan hesitated until Roosevelt walked in close, covering him with a rifle, and repeated the command. Then he gave up.
But this was only the beginning of a long, hard task. It was often the way to shoot such men at once, but Sheriff Roosevelt did not like that. He was going to bring them back to jail. At night the thieves could not be tied up, as they would freeze to death. So Roosevelt, Sewall and Dow had to take turns in watching them at night. After they started down river again, they found the river blocked by ice, and had to camp out for eight days in freezing weather. The food all but gave out, and at last there was nothing left but flour. Bread made out of flour and muddy water and nothing else, is not, says Mr. Roosevelt, good eating for a steady diet. Besides they had to be careful of meeting a band of Sioux Indians, who were known to be in the region.
At last they worked back to a ranch, borrowed a pony, on which Roosevelt rode up into the mountains to a place where there was a wagon. He hired this, with two broncos and a driver. Sewall and Dow took the boats down the river, while Roosevelt set out on a journey which took two days and a night, walking behind the wagon, and guarding the three men. The driver of the wagon was a stranger.
At night they put up at a frontier hut, and the Deputy Sheriff had to sit up all night to be sure the three prisoners did not escape. When he reached the little town of Dickinson, and handed the men over to the Sheriff, he had traveled over three hundred miles. He had brought three outlaws to justice, and done something for the cause of better government in the country where he lived.
Although he was still under twenty-five when he left the New York Assembly, Roosevelt was favorably known throughout the State. He had been heard of, by those who keep up with politics, all over the country. In 1884, the year of a Presidential election, he was one of the four delegates-at-large from New York to the Republican convention at Chicago. The leader for the Presidential nomination was James G. Blaine, a brilliant man who had many warm admirers. Also, there were many in his own party, who distrusted him, who thought that in the past he had not been strictly honest. Good men differed on this question and differ still.
Roosevelt favored Senator Edmunds of Vermont, but he had agreed beforehand, with other young Republican delegates, that they would support for the election the man named by the convention. Since, in later years, Roosevelt refused to abide by the decision of a party convention, and led one of the most extraordinary "bolts" in the history of American politics, it is important to consider for a moment the question of political parties and the attitude a man may take toward them.
Because parties are responsible for a good many small, mean, and sometimes dishonorable acts, we often hear parties and partisanship denounced. People express the wish that there might be an end to "party politics" and to "partisanship," and that "all good men might get together" for the good of the whole country. This may happen when there is Heaven on earth, but not before. Even the good and honest men continue to differ about which is the wisest way to do things, and so the people who think the same way about most matters get together in a party. The suggestion, by the way, that people should give up "partisanship" often comes from people who do not by any means intend to give up their own partisanship,—they wish other folk to come over to their own way of thinking. We are all apt to wish that others would only be reasonable enough to agree with US.
Nor is it at all sure that everything would be fine if there were no parties. Countries which have tried to do without parties, have not made a great success of it. There must be some organized group to hold responsible if men in office do badly; some people to warn that the things they are doing are not approved by the majority of the people.
With parties in existence, as they have been for almost all of our history as a nation, there are in the main, four ways in which a man may act toward them. He may be a hidebound party man, always voting the party ticket, and swallowing the party platforms whole. Such persons often get into the newspapers when they are elderly, as having voted for every candidate on this or that party ticket for fifty or sixty or seventy years. It simply means, of course, that these men are proud of the fact that they let other people do their thinking for them.
Or, a man may look upon a party as the means through which he may secure better government. He is proud of its wise and good acts, and is willing to forgive its mistakes, because he knows that no large group of men can be perfect. He believes in remaining loyal to his party as long as possible, but he does not set it above his country, nor agree to follow it when it goes absolutely wrong, or falls into the hands of men who hold party welfare above patriotism. Roosevelt was a party man of this kind
Furthermore, a man may be an Independent, one who will not join any party for long. Many of these are highly honorable and wise citizens, who are of great value to the country, although they can usually be nothing but helpers in any good cause. Their position nearly always prevents their becoming the chief actors in bringing about any good and desirable reform.
The fourth class in which a man may find himself in regard to parties, is that of the so-called independent, who mistakes his own fussiness for nobility of character. He can find fault with everybody and every party, but he can be loyal to none. He is strong on leaving a party for the smallest excuse; never on staying with it. It is as if a member of a football team, half an hour before the game, should refuse to play, because some other member of the team had once cheated in an examination. He satisfies his own conscience, but he fails in the loyalty he owes to the team and its friends.
At the convention in 1884 Roosevelt took an important part for so young a man. He made speeches and worked for Senator Edmunds, but Mr. Blaine was nominated. This caused a split in the party, and many of its members joined the Democrats. They were called by their opponents "Mugwumps," and since they believed they were acting for the best, they did not mind being called that or any other name.
So many prominent and able Republicans joined the Mugwumps it is sometimes forgotten that many more equally good and wise Republicans refused to "bolt," but stayed with the party and voted for Mr. Blaine. Either they did not at all believe the charges which had been made against him—and it is as impossible now as it was then to prove the charges—or else they thought that the country would be far worse off with the Democratic party in power than with the Republicans successful.
Mr. Roosevelt was disgusted with the result of the convention, but did not believe that he was justified in leaving the party. He therefore stayed in it, and supported Mr. Blaine.
The Democrats nominated the courageous Governor of New York, Grover Cleveland. Both before and after this, he and Mr. Roosevelt worked together for measures of good government, and respected each other, while belonging to different parties. The presidential election turned out to be close, and in the end several incidents besides the split in the Republican party worked against Blaine. He was narrowly defeated. The change of a few hundred votes in the State of New York would have made Blaine the President. As in later years large election frauds were discovered to have been going on in New York, some people contend with good show of reason, that Blaine and not Cleveland was really the choice of the voters.
Two years after this, in 1886, when Roosevelt was on his Dakota ranch, the Republicans nominated him for Mayor of New York City. He was about twenty-eight years old, and it is evident that he had made a mark in politics. He came East, accepted the nomination, and made the campaign.
The opponents were, first, Abram S. Hewitt, a respectable candidate nominated by Tammany Hall in its customary fashion of offering a good man, now and then, to pull the wool over the eyes of persons who naturally need some excuse for voting to put New York into the hands of the political organization whose existence has always been one of America's greatest disgraces.
The other candidate was Henry George, a man of high character, nominated by the United Labor Party. Mr. Hewitt was elected, with Mr. George second and Mr. Roosevelt third.
About a month after the election, Mr. Roosevelt went to England, where he married Miss Edith Kermit Carow, of New York. She had been his friend and playmate when he was a boy, and was his sister's friend. The groomsman was a young Englishman, Mr. Cecil Spring-Rice. Years later the groom and his "best man" came together again in Washington, when the American was President Roosevelt, and the Englishman was Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, the British Ambassador to the United States.
To tell the story of Roosevelt's life it is necessary to talk much about politics, and that to some people is a dull subject. But he was in political office over twenty years of his life, always interested and active in politics, and the vigor which he brought to his duties made public affairs attractive to thousands of Americans who had felt little concern about them.
This alone was a great service. If a man is going the wrong way in political life, if he is trying to do unwise or evil things, he is a danger, but a danger which may be corrected. He may be made to turn his efforts in useful directions. But the man who takes no interest at all in the government of his city, state or nation, who is so feeble that he cannot even take the time to vote on election day, but goes hunting or fishing instead,—this man is a hopeless nuisance, who does not deserve the liberty which he enjoys, nor the protection which his government gives him.
Politics, when Mr. Roosevelt was active, were not dull. Few men have ever made them so lively and interesting. Every activity in life meant something to him, a chance for useful work or for good fun. He had a perfectly "corking time," he said, when he was President, and the words shocked a number of good people who had pardoned or overlooked dirty actions by other public men, so long as these other men kept up a certain copy-book behavior which they thought was "dignity."
It is a question if any man ever had a better time, ever had more real fun in his life, than did Mr. Roosevelt. In spite of the hard work he put in, in spite of long days and weeks of drudgery he knew how to get happiness out of every minute. He did not engage in drinking and gambling for his amusements. He did not adopt a priggish attitude on these matters,—he simply knew that there were other things which were better sport. He was a religious man, a member all his life of his father's church, but religion did not sour him, make him gloomy, or cause him to interfere with other people about their belief or lack of it.
He got an immense amount of pleasure in his family life, in half a dozen kinds of athletic sports, especially the ones which led him outdoors, and in books. In these things he was marvelously wise or marvelously fortunate. Some men's lives are spent indoors, in an office or in a study among books. Their amusements are indoor games, and they come to despise or secretly to envy, the more fortunate men who live outdoors.
Some of the outdoors men, on the other hand, become almost as one- sided. Knowing nothing of the good fun that is in books they deny themselves much pleasure, and take refuge in calling "high-brows" the men who have simply more common sense and capacity for enjoyment than themselves.
Mr. Roosevelt, more than most men of his time, certainly more than any other public man, could enjoy to the utmost the best things the world has in it. He knew the joy of the hard and active life in the open, and he knew the keen pleasure of books. So when he returned to America after his marriage in 1886, he built a house on Sagamore Hill at Oyster Bay on Long Island. Here he could ride, shoot, row, look after his farm, and here in the next year or two he wrote two books. One was the life of Gouverneur Morris, American minister to France in the early years of our nation; the other a life of Senator Thomas H. Benton of Missouri.
But he was not long to stay out of political office. In 1888 President Cleveland had been defeated for reelection by the Republican candidate, Benjamin Harrison. The new President appointed Mr. Roosevelt as one of the Civil Service Commissioners, with his office in Washington.
Most politicians are charged, certainly Mr. Roosevelt was sometimes charged, with being a selfish seeker after personal advancement. There is not much on which to base this argument in Mr. Roosevelt's acceptance of this office. For the man who is looking out merely for his own ambitions, for his own success in politics, is careful of the position he takes, careful to keep out of offices where there are many chances to make enemies. The Civil Service Commission was, of all places at that time, the last where a selfish politician would like to be. Nobody could do his duties there and avoid making enemies. It was a thankless job, consisting of trying to protect the public interests against a swarm of office-seekers and their friends in Congress.
It is ridiculous now to remember what a fight had to be waged to set up the merit system of the Civil Service in this country. The old system, by which a good public servant was turned out to make room for a hungry office-seeker of the successful political party, was firmly established. Men and women were not appointed to office because they knew anything about the work they were to do, but because they were cousins of a Congressman's wife, or political heelers who had helped to get the Congressman elected. Nobody thought of the offices as places where, for the good of the whole country, it was necessary to have the best men. Instead, the offices were looked on as delicious slices of pie to be grabbed and devoured by the greediest and strongest person in sight.
The Civil Service Commission, when Mr. Roosevelt became a member, had been established by Congress, but it was hated and opposed by Congress and the Commission was still fought, secretly or openly. Congressmen tried to ridicule it, to hamper it by denials of money, and to overrule it in every possible way. A powerful Republican Congressman and a powerful Democratic Senator tried to browbeat Roosevelt, and were both caught by him in particularly mean lies. Naturally they did not enjoy the experience.
At the end of his term, President Harrison was defeated by Mr. Cleveland, who came back again to the Presidency. He re-appointed Mr. Roosevelt, who thus spent six years in the Commission. When he retired he had made a good many enemies among the crooked politicians, and some friends and admirers among well-informed men who watch the progress of good government. He was still unknown to the great body of citizens throughout the country, although he had been fighting their fight for six years.
He went from Washington to accept another thankless and still more difficult position in New York City. It was one which had been fatal to political ambitions, and was almost certain to end the career of any man who accepted it. This was the Presidency of the Board of Police Commissioners.
Experienced politicians always warn young men who wish to rise in politics, who wish to hold high office in the state or national government, to keep out of city politics. It is a graveyard for reputations, and it was that in 1895, when Roosevelt took charge of the New York Police, even more than to-day.
Between the unreasonable reformers, who expect perfection, arrived at in their own way; the sensible folk who demand an honest government; the lax and easy-going people who do not care how much rottenness there is about, so that it is kept partly covered up (and this is one of the largest classes) and the plain criminals who are out for graft and plunder, the city office-holder is torn in a dozen ways at once.
If he is dishonest or weak, he goes under immediately. If he is honest, but lacking in perfect courage, he is nearly useless. And if he is both honest and brave, but has not good brains, is not able to use his mind quickly and well, he is either helpless, or soon placed in a position where he seems to have been dishonorable. For, of course the first method which a crooked man uses to destroy his honest opponent, is to try to make him look crooked, too. Often during his life Roosevelt insisted upon the fact that a man in public life must not only be honest, but that he must have a back-bone and a good head into the bargain.
Nothing but a sense of public duty, nothing but a desire to help the cause of better government, could have made a man take the Police Commissionership in 1895. Mayor Strong, on a Reform ticket, had beaten Tammany Hall. He wanted an able and energetic man and so sent for Roosevelt. The condition of the Police Department sounds more like a chapter from a dime novel gone mad, than from any real state of things which could exist in a modern city. Yet it did exist.
The police were supposed to protect the city against crime. What they really did was to stop some of the crime—when the criminal had no "pull"—and to protect the rest of it. The criminal handed over a certain amount of his plunder to the police, and they let him go on with his crime. More than that, they saw that no one bothered him. There was a regular scale of prices for things varying all the way from serious crime down to small offenses. It cost more to be a highway robber, burglar, gun-man or murderer, for instance, than merely to keep a saloon open after the legal time for closing. A man had to pay more for running a big gambling-house, than simply for blocking the side-walk with rubbish and ash-cans.
Roosevelt found that most of the policemen were honest, or wished to be honest. But, surrounded as they were by grafters, it was almost impossible for a man to keep straight. If he began by accepting little bribes, he ended, as he rose in power, by taking big ones, and finally he was in partnership with the chief rascals. The hideous system organized by the powerful men in Tammany Hall spread outward and downward, and at last all over the city. Roosevelt did not stop all the crime, of course, nor leave the city spotless when he ended his two years service. But he did make it possible for one of his chief opponents, one of the severest of all critics, Mr. Godkin, a newspaper editor, to write him, at the end of his term of office:
"In New York you are doing the greatest work of which any American to-day is capable, and exhibiting to the young men of the country the spectacle of a very important office administered by a man of high character in the most efficient way amid a thousand difficulties. As a lesson in politics, I cannot think of anything more instructive." [Footnote: Thayer, "Theodore Roosevelt," p. 106.]
How did he do this? First, he tried to keep politics out of the police-force,—to appoint men because they would make good officers, not because they were Republicans or Democrats. Next, he tried to reward and promote policemen who had proved themselves brave,—who had saved people in burning houses or from drowning, or had arrested violent men at great danger to themselves. This is commonly done in the New York Police Department to-day: it was not so common before 1895. Roosevelt and his fellow commissioners found one old policeman who had saved twenty-five people from drowning and two or three from burning buildings. They gave him his first promotion. He began to have the Department pay for a policeman's uniform when it was torn in making an arrest or otherwise ruined in the performance of duty. Before, the policeman had had to pay for a new uniform himself. He had each policeman trained to use a pistol, so that if he had to fire it at a criminal, he would hit the criminal, and not somebody else. He did his best to stop the custom of selling beer and whiskey to children. Finally he stopped disrespect for law by having law enforced, whether people liked it or not.
Of course, this got him into hot water. One of our worst faults in America lies in passing a tremendous number of laws, and then letting them be broken. In many instances the worst troubles are with laws about strong drink. People in the State, outside of New York City, and some of those in the City, wished to have a law to close the saloons on Sunday. So they passed it. But so few people in the City really wished such a law, so many of them wished to drink on Sunday, that the saloons stayed open, and the saloon- keepers paid bribes to the police for "protection." The result was not temperance, but the opposite. Moreover it led to disrespect for the law, and corruption for the police. It was not Commissioner Roosevelt's business whether the law was a wise one or not, but it was his business to enforce it.
He enforced it, and had the saloons closed. As he said: "The howl that rose was deafening. The professional politicians raved. The yellow-press surpassed themselves in clamor and mendacity. A favorite assertion was that I was enforcing a 'blue law,' an obsolete law that had never before been enforced. As a matter of fact, I was enforcing honestly a law that had hitherto been enforced dishonestly." [Footnote: "Autobiography," p. 210.]
In the end, those who wished to drink on Sundays found a way to do it, and the law intended to regulate drinking habits failed, as such laws nearly always have done. A judge decided that as drink could be served with meals, a man need only eat one sandwich or a pretzel and he could then drink seventeen beers, or as many as he liked. But the result of Roosevelt's action had nearly stopped bribe-giving to the police. So there was something gained.
Roosevelt went about the city at night, sometimes alone, sometimes with his friend Jacob Riis, a reporter who knew about police work and the slum districts of the city. If he caught policemen off their beat, they were ordered to report at his office in the morning and explain. When his friends were dancing at fashionable balls, he was apt to be looking after the police outside.
From about this time, Roosevelt began to be known all over the United States. He had been heard of ever since he was in the Assembly, but only by those who follow politics closely. Now, New York newspapers, with their cartoons, began to make him celebrated everywhere. The fact that when he spoke emphatically, he showed his teeth for an instant, was enlarged upon in pictures and in newspaper articles, and it became connected with him henceforth.
We demand amusing newspapers; we like the fun in every subject brought out as no other nation does. And we get it. Our newspapers are by far the brightest and most readable in the world. But we have to pay for it, and we often pay by having the real truth concealed from us in a mass of comedy. Newspapers seize upon a man or woman who has something amusing in his life, manner, or speech, and play upon that peculiarity until at last the true character of the person is hidden.
This happened with Roosevelt. About the time of his Police Commissionership, the newspaper writers and artists began to invent a grotesque and amusing character called "Teddy," who was forever snapping his teeth, shouting "Bully!" or rushing at everybody, flourishing a big stick. This continued for years and was taken for truth by a great many people. To this day, this imaginary person is believed in by thousands. And in the meantime, the genuine man, a brave high-minded American, loving his country ardently, and serving her to the utmost of his great strength and ability, was engaged in his work, known by all who had personal contact with him to be stern indeed against evil-doers, but tender and gentle to the unfortunate, to women and children and to animals.
THE ROUGH RIDER
In 1897 the Republican Party came again into power; Mr. McKinley was inaugurated as President. Roosevelt was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and came with his family to Washington. The Secretary of the Navy was Mr. John D. Long.
America was within a year of getting into war, and as usual was not ready for it. There are men so foolish as to rejoice because we have never been ready for the wars in which we have taken part about every twenty or thirty years in our history. This simply means that they rejoice at the unnecessary deaths of thousands of other Americans who die from disease in camp, or are killed in the field through neglect to prepare in advance. Preparation for war is not wholly the matter of having weapons ready to fight the enemy. It also means healthy camps for our soldiers to live in, and readiness to furnish clothing, food and medical supplies. For lack of these, thousands of our friends and relatives die in every war we are in. A rebellion had been going on in Cuba for years. The cruel government of Spain had kept the Cubans in misery and in rebellion, and disturbed the friendship between Spain and the United States. It was our duty to see that Cuban expeditions did not sail from our coast to help their friends, and in this work a great many ships of our Navy were busy all the time. Nobody liked to have to do this for we naturally sympathized with the Cubans, who were making such a brave fight against stupid and tyrannical governors sent from Spain. One of the last of these was particularly bad. He herded the Cuban people into camps where they died of disease and starvation, and he had great numbers of them shot without mercy. We had justly revolted against the mis- government of King George III in 1776, but nothing that King George's governors and generals had done to us was as bad as the things the Spaniards were doing in Cuba, in 1896 and 1897.
Many of the men in Washington felt that war would come sooner or later. Roosevelt believed it and worked constantly to have the Navy ready. He had the support of the President and of Secretary Long in nearly everything that he proposed, and so was able to do some useful work. It is important to understand what Roosevelt thought about war, not only about this, but about all wars. Here it is in his own words.
I abhor unjust war. I abhor injustice and bullying by the strong at the expense of the weak, whether among nations or individuals, I abhor violence and bloodshed. I believe that war should never be resorted to when, or so long as, it is honorably possible to avoid it. I respect all men and women who from high motives and with sanity and self-respect do all they can to avert war. I advocate preparation for war in order to avert war; and I should never advocate war unless it were the only alternative to dishonor. [Footnote: "Autobiography," p. 226.]
You will be able to see from what he did while he was President, when he was in a position where he could have plunged the country into war half a dozen times, whether these words were true, or whether he was really the fire-eater which some of his enemies insisted he was.
He secured from Congress nearly a million dollars, to permit the Navy to engage in target-practice. To those who were alarmed at such "waste," he remarked that gun-powder was meant to be burned, and that sailors must learn to shoot, since in battle, the shots that hit are the only ones that count. There is nothing wonderful about such remarks. In looking back at them there seems to be nothing wonderful about many things that he said and did. They are merely examples of plain, common-sense, and it appears ridiculous that anybody should have had to make such remarks, or to fight hard to get such clearly necessary things done. Yet he did have to fight for them. It had to be driven into the heads of some of the men in Congress that it is not the proper use of gun-powder to keep it stored up, until war is declared, then bring it out, partly spoiled, and give it to soldiers and sailors, who for lack of practice, do not know how to shoot straight.
Roosevelt also was able to help in having appointed to command the Asiatic squadron, a naval officer named Commodore George Dewey.
On February 15, 1898, while affairs were at their worst between America and Spain, our battleship Maine was blown up in Havana Harbor. She had gone there on a friendly visit, but now was destroyed and sent to the bottom. Over two hundred and fifty of our men were killed. Almost every one knew that war was now certain. For weeks the country debated as to the cause of the explosion which sank the Maine, and the matter was investigated by naval officers assisted by divers. They found that the explosion had come from the outside. Somebody had set off a mine or torpedo beneath the ship. Nobody in America disputed this, except a few of the peace-at-any-price folk, who preferred to think that the carelessness of our own sailors had been the cause. These gentlemen always think the best of the people of other nations, which is a fine thing; but they are always ready to believe the worst of their own countrymen, which is, on the whole, rather a nasty trait.
Roosevelt worked at top-speed in the Navy Department, and began to lay plans for going to the war himself. He believed that it was right and necessary to fight Spain, and end the horrible suffering in Cuba. And he believed that it was the duty first and foremost of men like himself, who advised war, to take part in it. He was nearly forty years old, and had a family. Many other men in his place would have discovered that their services were most important in Washington. They would have stayed in their offices, and let other men (whom they called "jingoes") do the fighting for them. It was never Roosevelt's custom to act that way.
Later in February, while Mr. Long was away, and Roosevelt was Acting-Secretary of the Navy, he sent this cable message to Commodore Dewey:
WASHINGTON, February 25, '98.
Dewey, Hong Kong
Order the squadron, except the "Monocacy," to Hong Kong. Keep full of coal. In the event of declaration of war Spain, your duty will be to see that the Spanish squadron does not leave the Asiatic coast, and then offensive operations in Philippine Islands. Keep "Olympia" until further orders.
War against Spain was declared in April,—the month in our history which has also seen the beginning of our Revolution, our Civil War, and our entrance into the Great War against Germany. Congress arranged for three regiments of volunteer cavalry to be raised among the men in the Rockies and on the Great Plains who knew how to ride and shoot. Here Roosevelt saw his chance. He knew these men and longed to go to war in their company.
The Secretary of War offered to make him Colonel of one of these regiments. It is worth while to notice what his reply was. He knew how to manage a horse and a rifle, he had lived in the open and could take care of himself in the field. He had had three years in the National Guard in New York, rising to the rank of Captain. Many men in the Civil War without one half of his experience and knowledge, gayly accepted Brigadier-Generalships. Also, in the Spanish War, another public man, Mr. William J. Bryan, allowed himself to be made a Colonel, and took full command of a regiment, without one day's military experience. Yet Roosevelt declined the offer of a Colonel's commission and asked to be made Lieutenant- Colonel, with Leonard Wood, of the regular Army as his Colonel.
When you hear or read that Roosevelt was a conceited man, always pushing himself forward, it may be well to ask if that is the way a conceited man would have acted.
Colonel Wood was an army surgeon, who had been a fighting officer in the campaign against the Apaches. He had been awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest decoration an American soldier can win for personal bravery.
The new regiment, the First United States Volunteer Cavalry, was promptly called, by some newspaper or by the public, the "Rough Riders," and by that name it is always known. Most of the men in it came from Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and the Indian Territory, but it had members from nearly every State. Many Eastern college men were in it, including some famous foot-ball players, polo-players, tennis champions and oarsmen. The regiment trained at San Antonio, and landed in Cuba for the attack on Santiago on June 22. The troopers had to leave their horses behind, so they were to fight on foot after all. Roosevelt's Rough Riders, somebody said, had become Wood's Weary Walkers. The walking was not pleasant to some of the cow-boys, who never used to walk a step when there was a horse to ride.
Within a day or two they were in a fight at Las Guasimas. It was a confusing business, advancing through the jungle and fired at by an enemy they could not see. The Rough Riders lost eight men killed and thirty-four wounded. The Spaniards were using smokeless powder, then rather a new thing in war. Two of our regiments at Santiago were still using black powder rifles, and the artillery used black powder, which by its smoke showed the enemy just where they were. Our artillery was always silenced or driven off, because this country had been so neglectful of its Army and its men as to let poor, old backward Spain get better guns, and more modern ammunition than ours. That never should happen with a rich, progressive country like ours.
A few days later came the fight at San Juan. Colonel Wood had been put in command of the brigade, so Roosevelt led the regiment of Rough Riders. It was a fearfully hot day; many men dropped from exhaustion. The regular regiments of cavalry, together with the Rough Riders, all fighting on foot, moved forward against the low hills on which were the Spaniards in block-houses or trenches. For some while they were kept waiting in reserve, taking what shelter they could from the Mauser bullets, which came whirring through the tall jungle grass. This is the most trying part of a fight. It is all right when at last you can charge your enemy and come to close quarters with him, but to lie on the ground under fire, unable to see anybody to fire upon, is the worst strain upon the soldiers' nerves. As one after another is shot, the officers begin to watch the men closely to see how they are standing it. Roosevelt received a trifling wound from a shrapnel bullet at the beginning of the fight. Later his orderly had a sun-stroke, and when he called another orderly to take a message, this second man was killed as he stood near, pitching forward dead at Roosevelt's feet.
Finally came the order to charge. Roosevelt was the only mounted man in the regiment. He had intended to go into the fight on foot, as he had at Las Guasimas, but found that the heat was so bad that he could not run up and down the line and superintend things unless he was on horseback. When he was mounted he could see his own men better, and they could see him. So could the enemy see him better, and he had one or two narrow escapes because of being so conspicuous.
He started in the rear of the regiment, which is where the Colonel should be, according to the books, but soon rode through the lines and led the charge up "Kettle Hill,"—so-called by the Rough Riders because there were some sugar kettles on top of it. His horse was scraped by a couple of bullets, as he went up, and one of the bullets nicked his elbow. Members of the other cavalry regiments were mingled with the Rough Riders in the charge,—their officers had been waiting for orders, and were glad to join in the advance. The Spaniards were driven out and the Rough Riders planted their flags on the hill.
But there were other hills and other trenches full of Spaniards beyond, and again the Rough Riders, mixed with men of other regiments, went forward. In cleaning out the trenches Roosevelt and his orderly were suddenly fired on at less than ten yards by two Spaniards. Roosevelt killed one of them with his revolver. The Rough Riders had had eighty-eight killed and wounded out of less than five hundred men who were in the fight.
The American forces were now within sight of Santiago, but they had to dig in and hold the ground they had taken. There was a short period in the trenches, which seemed tedious to the riders from the plains, but was nothing to what men, years later, had to endure in the Great War against Germany. At last Santiago surrendered, on July 17.
The war ended within about a month. Commodore Dewey had beaten the Spanish Fleet at Manila and Admiral Sampson and his fleet had destroyed the Spanish cruisers which were forced out of Santiago Harbor on July 3rd, as a result of the Army getting within striking distance of the city. One other thing of importance was done by Roosevelt before the regiment was brought home to Montauk Point and mustered out. After the surrender of Santiago it was supposed that the war was going on and that there would be a campaign in the winter against Havana. But the American Army was full of yellow fever. Half the Rough Riders were sick at one time, and the condition of other regiments was as bad. The higher officers knew that unless the troops were taken to some healthier climate to recover, there would be nothing left of them. Over four thousand men were sick, and not ten per cent, of the Army was fit for active work. But the War Department would not listen to the suggestion that the army be sent for a while to a cooler climate.
What none of the regular Army officers could afford to do, Roosevelt did. He wrote a letter to General Shafter, the commander of the expedition, explaining the state of things, and setting out how important it was, if any of the army was to be kept alive, that they should be sent away from Cuba, until the sickly season was over. General Shafter really wished such a letter to be written, and he allowed the Associated Press reporter to have it as soon as it was handed to him.
Then, all the Generals joined with Roosevelt in a "Round Robin" to General Shafter, saying the same things. The Government at Washington began to take notice, and in a short time ordered the army home.
Roosevelt had taken a leading part in an act which caused him to be severely blamed by many, to be denounced by all who worship military etiquette, and charged with "insubordination" by men who would rather make a mess of things and do it according to the rules of the book, than succeed in something useful and do it by commonsense rules made up at the time. He had shocked the folks who like red tape, and he had helped save the lives of perhaps four thousand men.
GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK
When the Rough Riders were disbanded at Montauk Point in September 1898, Theodore Roosevelt was the most popular man in America. This is the judgment of his best historian, Mr. Thayer, and it is undoubtedly correct. The war had made known to the country a number of professional soldiers or sailors—especially Admiral Dewey and Admiral Sampson, whose conduct had been splendid. It had also created some popular "heroes," whose fame was brief. But Colonel Roosevelt was first and foremost a CITIZEN, his career as a soldier was for a few months only. Behind that was a solid foundation of service in civil office. Ahead of it were still finer achievements, also in civil life. He felt the pride which all men feel—despite much pretense and humbug—to have had the chance to lead men in battle for a just cause, to have put his life in danger when his country needed such offer of sacrifice.
But the Santiago campaign, the charge up San Juan hill, did not "make" Roosevelt. It was a dramatic episode in his history; it attracted attention to him. Such are the peculiar conditions of politics, it proved a short cut to the White House. He said, frankly, that he would never have been President if the Rough Riders had not gone to Cuba. In this he underestimated himself, as he often did. He had too much ability in politics, too much courage in fighting for the cause of better government, at a time when courage was badly needed, to have failed to rise to the highest office. Back in the days when he was Civil Service Commissioner two visitors in the White House, saw him, also a visitor, looking about the rooms.
"There is a young man," said one of them, who knew him, "who is going to move into this house himself, before long."
After Cuba, the next step was the Governorship of New York State. Before he was out of uniform, the politicians began talking about him for the place. The Republican party in New York was in a bad way. They had quarreled among themselves; the Democrats had just beaten them in an election. They knew they must have a strong candidate for Governor, or the Democrats, (that is, Tammany Hall) would get control at Albany.
This was the great day of the political Bosses. Perhaps at no time since have they been quite as powerful as they were then. A man named Croker was the Boss of the Democratic Party; a man named Platt, the Boss of the Republicans. Men called the Boss of their own party the "Leader," but they referred to the "Leader" of the other party as the Boss, without wasting any politeness. Most men do not pay much attention to politics; a Boss is a man who pays too much attention to them. He exists because the average citizen thinks he has done his whole duty if he votes on election day. A Boss works at his business, which is politics, night and day, all the year round. He might be very useful if he could be kept honest. He manages to get a great deal of power, in ways that are shady, if not actually criminal. Then, if he is one kind of a Boss, greedy for money, he sells this power to the highest bidder. Men are nominated for office, because the Boss has picked them out, as a poultryman might select a fat goose. Usually he selects a man who will obey orders. But another kind of Boss does not especially care for money. He likes the power which his position gives him, he likes to be able to move men about as if they were toy-soldiers.
Such apparently was Senator Platt, the Republican Boss of New York. People had so neglected their duty of managing their own affairs in politics, that he had seized the reins, and could say who should be nominated. In the same way Croker was the ruler of the Democratic party in New York, and could say who should be nominated in his party.
Now, in such a situation, what was an honest man to do? The best men in the Republican party believed that Roosevelt was the only one who could be elected, that the people believed so firmly in his honor and courage that they would vote for him. Senator Platt did not want him, did not like him, but he came to see that they could win with him, and with no one else. So Roosevelt was nominated, and elected, by a narrow lead of 18,000 votes. So far, the people could rule with Roosevelt as their servant. But the Governor can do little alone; he must have the support of the Legislature and the other State officers. The Boss hoped to rule through them, to say who should be appointed to office, to decide which bill should pass and which be defeated.
There were people who would have had Governor Roosevelt declare war on Platt; refuse to have anything to do with him; refuse even to speak to him. In that way he could have done nothing for the good of the State; he could have spent his term in fighting Platt, made a great show of independence and reform, but, in point of fact, advanced the cause of good government not an inch. All of his proposals would have been blocked by Platt's men in the Legislature.
Instead, he acted in accord with the facts as they were; not as if they were the way he would have liked them to be. If Platt could not rule he could ruin. So the Governor treated him politely, and only disagreed with him when the Boss proposed something actually bad. For instance, there was a most important officer, the Superintendent of Public Works, to be appointed. Senator Platt informed Governor Roosevelt that a certain man had been chosen; he showed him the telegram with the man's acceptance. Roosevelt said, quietly, something like this:
"I think not, Senator. The Governor appoints that officer, and I am the Governor."
Platt was very angry; Roosevelt refused to get angry, but stuck to his decision, and made his own choice. Things like this happened again and again, during the two years while Roosevelt was Governor of New York.
Every honorable man in American politics has to fight against this evil of the Boss. Officeholders, Presidents and Governors, come and go, but the Bosses hold their power for a long time. So long as they exist it is not wise for us to talk too much about Kings and their tyranny. For a Boss is very like a King. Platt and Croker thought that the people were not fit to rule; theirs was much the same idea that King George the Third and the German Kaiser had. The best and wisest men have had to admit the strength of the Boss and try to deal with him as well as they could; Abraham Lincoln even had to appoint one to his Cabinet. The Boss creeps into power while the people are asleep.
Roosevelt pointed out that it is not hard for a man to be good if he lives entirely by himself. Nor is it difficult for him to get things done, if he is careless about right and wrong. The hard thing, yet the one which must be demanded of the public man, is to get useful things done, and to keep straight all the while. When Roosevelt was elected Governor, John Hay, the Secretary of State, wrote to him:
"You have already shown that a man may be absolutely honest and yet practical; a reformer by instinct and a wise politician; brave, bold and uncompromising, and yet not a wild ass of the desert. The exhibition made by the professional independents in voting against you for no reason on earth except that somebody else was voting for you, is a lesson that is worth its cost." [Footnote: "Autobiography," p. 296.]
The year 1900 was the year of a Presidential election. Mr. McKinley was to run again on the Republican ticket, and later it appeared that Mr. Bryan would oppose him again, as he had in 1896. The Republican Vice-President, Mr. Hobart, had died in office, so the Republicans had to find someone to go on the ticket with President McKinley. Roosevelt was mentioned for the office, and Platt warmly agreed, hoping to get him out of New York politics. Roosevelt, at first, refused to consider an office which has more dignity than usefulness about it. Another utterance of Secretary of State John Hay is interesting. He wrote to a friend:
"Teddy has been here: have you heard of it? It was more fun than a goat. He came down with a somber resolution thrown on his strenuous brow to let McKinley and Hanna know once for all that he would not be Vice-President, and found to his stupefaction that nobody in Washington, except Platt, had ever dreamed of such a thing." [Footnote: Thayer, p. 148.]
Mr. Hay was one of the wisest of our statesmen; one of the most polished and agreeable men in public life. Yet this letter shows how the older men often mistook Roosevelt. For, in less than a year after Mr. Hay had gently poked fun at "Teddy" for thinking that he might be made Vice-President, and said that there was not the slightest danger of such a thing happening, Roosevelt had been elected to that office. His enjoyment of his work, his bubbling merriment, his lack of the old-fashioned, pompous manners which used to be supposed proper for a statesman, made many older men inclined to treat him with a sort of fatherly amusement. They looked at his acts as an older man might look at the pranks of a boy. And then, suddenly, they found themselves serving under this "youngster," in the Government! It was a surprise from which they never recovered. I have said that the reporters, the makers of funny pictures in the newspapers, and others, exaggerated Roosevelt's traits, and created a false idea about him. This is true. But it is also true that there was a great deal of real and honest fun poked at him throughout his life, and that it added to the public enjoyment of his career. The writers of comic rhymes, the cartoonists, and the writers of political satire had a chance which no other President has ever given them. Many of our Presidents—wise and good men—and many Senators, Governors, Cabinet officers and others, have gone about as if they were all ready to pose for their statues. Roosevelt never did this. He bore himself in public with dignity, and respect for the high offices to which the people elected him. But he did not suggest the old style of portrait, in which a statesman is standing stiffly, hand in the breast of his coat, a distant view of the Capitol in the background. He had too keen a sense of fun for anything of the sort.
Nobody laughed at the jokes about him more heartily than he did himself. When "Mr. Dooley" described his adventures as a Rough Rider, and spoke of him as "Alone in Cubia," as if he thought he had won the war all by himself, he wrote to the author:
"Three cheers Mr. Dooley! Do come on and let me see you soon. I am by no means so much alone as in Cubia. ..."
"Let me repeat that Dooley, especially when he writes about Teddy Rosenfelt has no more interested and amused reader than said Rosenfelt himself." [Footnote: Scribner's Magazine, December, 1919, p. 658.]
Mr. McKinley was re-elected President of the United States and Mr. Roosevelt was elected Vice-President in November 1900. Roosevelt had taken part in the campaign before election, and of this Mr. Thayer writes:
He spoke in the East and in the West, and for the first time the people of many of the States heard him speak and saw his actual presence. His attitude as a speaker, his gestures, the way in which his pent up thoughts seemed almost to strangle him before he could utter them, his smile showing the white rows of teeth, his fist clenched as if to strike an invisible adversary, the sudden dropping of his voice, and leveling of his forefinger as he became almost conversational in tone, and seemed to address special individuals in the crowd before him, the strokes of sarcasm, stern and cutting, and the swift flashes of humor which set the great multitude in a roar, became in that summer and autumn familiar to millions of his countrymen; and the cartoonists made his features and gestures familiar to many other millions. [Footnote: Thayer, p. 51.]
In the following March he was sworn in as Vice-President. His duties as presiding officer of the Senate were not severe, and he went on a cougar hunt in Colorado in the winter before inauguration to enable him to bear the physical inactivity of his new work.
When he came back to Washington again, to hold the second highest place in the national government, it troubled him to think that he had never finished the study of law, begun in New York many years before. He asked his friend, Justice White of the Supreme Court, if it would be wrong for him to take a legal course in a Washington law school. The Justice told him that it would hardly be proper for the Vice-President to do that, but offered to tutor him in law. They agreed to study together the following winter.
But Roosevelt's term as Vice-President was coming to an end. He only occupied the office for six months. He was soon to succeed to the highest office of all.
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
In the first week of September 1901, President McKinley was killed by an anarchist in Buffalo. The young man who shot him was rather weak-minded, and had been led to believe, by the speeches and writings of others, craftier and wickeder than himself, that he could help the poor and unfortunate by murdering the President. This he treacherously did while shaking hands with him.