Theodore Roosevelt An Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt

Part 2 out of 11

secondary need, and that while it was my business to make more money
where I legitimately and properly could, yet that it was also my
business to treat other kinds of work as more important than money-

Almost immediately after leaving Harvard in 1880 I began to take an
interest in politics. I did not then believe, and I do not now
believe, that any man should ever attempt to make politics his only
career. It is a dreadful misfortune for a man to grow to feel that his
whole livelihood and whole happiness depend upon his staying in
office. Such a feeling prevents him from being of real service to the
people while in office, and always puts him under the heaviest strain
of pressure to barter his convictions for the sake of holding office.
A man should have some other occupation--I had several other
occupations--to which he can resort if at any time he is thrown out of
office, or if at any time he finds it necessary to choose a course
which will probably result in his being thrown out, unless he is
willing to stay in at cost to his conscience.

At that day, in 1880, a young man of my bringing up and convictions
could join only the Republican party, and join it I accordingly did.
It was no simple thing to join it then. That was long before the era
of ballot reform and the control of primaries; long before the era
when we realized that the Government must take official notice of the
deeds and acts of party organizations. The party was still treated as
a private corporation, and in each district the organization formed a
kind of social and political club. A man had to be regularly proposed
for and elected into this club, just as into any other club. As a
friend of mine picturesquely phrased it, I "had to break into the
organization with a jimmy."

Under these circumstances there was some difficulty in joining the
local organization, and considerable amusement and excitement to be
obtained out of it after I had joined.

It was over thirty-three years ago that I thus became a member of the
Twenty-first District Republican Association in the city of New York.
The men I knew best were the men in the clubs of social pretension and
the men of cultivated taste and easy life. When I began to make
inquiries as to the whereabouts of the local Republican Association
and the means of joining it, these men--and the big business men and
lawyers also--laughed at me, and told me that politics were "low";
that the organizations were not controlled by "gentlemen"; that I
would find them run by saloon-keepers, horse-car conductors, and the
like, and not by men with any of whom I would come in contact outside;
and, moreover, they assured me that the men I met would be rough and
brutal and unpleasant to deal with. I answered that if this were so it
merely meant that the people I knew did not belong to the governing
class, and that the other people did--and that I intended to be one of
the governing class; that if they proved too hard-bit for me I
supposed I would have to quit, but that I certainly would not quit
until I had made the effort and found out whether I really was too
weak to hold my own in the rough and tumble.

The Republican Association of which I became a member held its
meetings in Morton Hall, a large, barn-like room over a saloon. Its
furniture was of the canonical kind: dingy benches, spittoons, a dais
at one end with a table and chair and a stout pitcher for iced water,
and on the walls pictures of General Grant, and of Levi P. Morton, to
whose generosity we owed the room. We had regular meetings once or
twice a month, and between times the place was treated, at least on
certain nights, as a kind of club-room. I went around there often
enough to have the men get accustomed to me and to have me get
accustomed to them, so that we began to speak the same language, and
so that each could begin to live down in the other's mind what Bret
Harte has called "the defective moral quality of being a stranger." It
is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can
put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come he is
ready to take advantage of them. This was what happened to me in
connection with my experiences in Morton Hall. I soon became on good
terms with a number of the ordinary "heelers" and even some of the
minor leaders. The big leader was Jake Hess, who treated me with
rather distant affability. There were prominent lawyers and business
men who belonged, but they took little part in the actual meetings.
What they did was done elsewhere. The running of the machine was left
to Jake Hess and his captains of tens and of hundreds.

Among these lesser captains I soon struck up a friendship with Joe
Murray, a friendship which is as strong now as it was thirty-three
years ago. He had been born in Ireland, but brought to New York by his
parents when he was three or four years old, and, as he expressed it,
"raised as a barefooted boy on First Avenue." When not eighteen he had
enlisted in the Army of the Potomac and taken part in the campaign
that closed the Civil War. Then he came back to First Avenue, and,
being a fearless, powerful, energetic young fellow, careless and
reckless, speedily grew to some prominence as leader of a gang. In
that district, and at that time, politics was a rough business, and
Tammany Hall held unquestioned sway. The district was overwhelmingly
Democratic, and Joe and his friends were Democrats who on election day
performed the usual gang work for the local Democratic leader, whose
business it was to favor and reward them in return. This same local
leader, like many other greater leaders, became puffed up by
prosperity, and forgot the instruments through which he had achieved
prosperity. After one election he showed a callous indifference to the
hard work of the gang and complete disregard of his before-election
promises. He counted upon the resentment wearing itself out, as usual,
in threats and bluster.

But Joe Murray was not a man who forgot. He explained to his gang his
purposes and the necessity of being quiet. Accordingly they waited for
their revenge until the next election day. They then, as Joe expressed
it, decided "to vote furdest away from the leader"--I am using the
language of Joe's youth--and the best way to do this was to vote the
Republican ticket. In those days each party had a booth near the
polling-place in each election district, where the party
representative dispensed the party ballots. This had been a district
in which, as a rule, very early in the day the Republican election
leader had his hat knocked over his eyes and his booth kicked over and
his ballots scattered; and then the size of the Democratic majority
depended on an elastic appreciation of exactly how much was demanded
from headquarters. But on this day things went differently. The gang,
with a Roman sense of duty, took an active interest in seeing that the
Republican was given his full rights. Moreover, they made the most
energetic reprisals on their opponents, and as they were distinctly
the tough and fighting element, justice came to her own with a whoop.
Would-be repeaters were thrown out on their heads. Every person who
could be cajoled or, I fear, intimidated, was given the Republican
ticket, and the upshot was that at the end of the day a district which
had never hitherto polled more than two or three per cent of its vote
Republican broke about even between the two parties.

To Joe it had been merely an act of retribution in so far as it was
not simply a spree. But the leaders at the Republican headquarters did
not know this, and when they got over their paralyzed astonishment at
the returns, they investigated to find out what it meant. Somebody
told them that it represented the work of a young man named Joseph
Murray. Accordingly they sent for him. The room in which they received
him was doubtless some place like Morton Hall, and the men who
received him were akin to those who had leadership in Morton Hall; but
in Joe's eyes they stood for a higher civilization, for opportunity,
for generous recognition of successful effort--in short, for all the
things that an eager young man desires. He was received and patted on
the back by a man who was a great man to the world in which he lived.
He was introduced to the audience as a young man whose achievement was
such as to promise much for the future, and moreover he was given a
place in the post-office--as I have said, this was long before the day
of Civil Service Reform.

Now, to the wrong kind of man all this might have meant nothing at
all. But in Joe Murray's case it meant everything. He was by nature as
straight a man, as fearless and as stanchly loyal, as any one whom I
have ever met, a man to be trusted in any position demanding courage,
integrity, and good faith. He did his duty in the public service, and
became devotedly attached to the organization which he felt had given
him his chance in life. When I knew him he was already making his way
up; one of the proofs and evidences of which was that he owned a
first-class racing trotter--"Alice Lane"--behind which he gave me more
than one spin. During this first winter I grew to like Joe and his
particular cronies. But I had no idea that they especially returned
the liking, and in the first row we had in the organization (which
arose over a movement, that I backed, to stand by a non-partisan
method of street-cleaning) Joe and all his friends stood stiffly with
the machine, and my side, the reform side, was left with only some
half-dozen votes out of three or four hundred. I had expected no other
outcome and took it good-humoredly, but without changing my attitude.

Next fall, as the elections drew near, Joe thought he would like to
make a drive at Jake Hess, and after considerable planning decided
that his best chance lay in the fight for the nomination to the
Assembly, the lower house of the Legislature. He picked me as the
candidate with whom he would be most likely to win; and win he did. It
was not my fight, it was Joe's; and it was to him that I owe my entry
into politics. I had at that time neither the reputation nor the
ability to have won the nomination for myself, and indeed never would
have thought of trying for it.

Jake Hess was entirely good-humored about it. In spite of my being
anti-machine, my relations with him had been friendly and human, and
when he was beaten he turned in to help Joe elect me. At first they
thought they would take me on a personal canvass through the saloons
along Sixth Avenue. The canvass, however, did not last beyond the
first saloon. I was introduced with proper solemnity to the saloon-
keeper--a very important personage, for this was before the days when
saloon-keepers became merely the mortgaged chattels of the brewers--
and he began to cross-examine me, a little too much in the tone of one
who was dealing with a suppliant for his favor. He said he expected
that I would of course treat the liquor business fairly; to which I
answered, none too cordially, that I hoped I should treat all
interests fairly. He then said that he regarded the licenses as too
high; to which I responded that I believed they were really not high
enough, and that I should try to have them made higher. The
conversation threatened to become stormy. Messrs. Murray and Hess, on
some hastily improvised plea, took me out into the street, and then
Joe explained to me that it was not worth my while staying in Sixth
Avenue any longer, that I had better go right back to Fifth Avenue and
attend to my friends there, and that he would look after my interests
on Sixth Avenue. I was triumphantly elected.

Once before Joe had interfered in similar fashion and secured the
nomination of an Assemblyman; and shortly after election he had grown
to feel toward this Assemblyman that he must have fed on the meat
which rendered Caesar proud, as he became inaccessible to the ordinary
mortals whose place of resort was Morton Hall. He eyed me warily for a
short time to see if I was likely in this respect to follow in my
predecessor's footsteps. Finding that I did not, he and all my other
friends and supporters assumed toward me the very pleasantest attitude
that it was possible to assume. They did not ask me for a thing. They
accepted as a matter of course the view that I was absolutely straight
and was trying to do the best I could in the Legislature. They desired
nothing except that I should make a success, and they supported me
with hearty enthusiasm. I am a little at a loss to know quite how to
express the quality in my relationship with Joe Murray and my other
friends of this period which rendered that relationship so beneficial
to me. When I went into politics at this time I was not conscious of
going in with the set purpose to benefit other people, but of getting
for myself a privilege to which I was entitled in common with other
people. So it was in my relationship with these men. If there had
lurked in the innermost recesses of my mind anywhere the thought that
I was in some way a patron or a benefactor, or was doing something
noble by taking part in politics, or that I expected the smallest
consideration save what I could earn on my own merits, I am certain
that somehow or other the existence of that feeling would have been
known and resented. As a matter of fact, there was not the slightest
temptation on my part to have any such feeling or any one of such
feelings. I no more expected special consideration in politics than I
would have expected it in the boxing ring. I wished to act squarely to
others, and I wished to be able to show that I could hold my own as
against others. The attitude of my new friends toward me was first one
of polite reserve, and then that of friendly alliance. Afterwards I
became admitted to comradeship, and then to leadership. I need hardly
say how earnestly I believe that men should have a keen and lively
sense of their obligations in politics, of their duty to help forward
great causes, and to struggle for the betterment of conditions that
are unjust to their fellows, the men and women who are less fortunate
in life. But in addition to this feeling there must be a feeling of
real fellowship with the other men and women engaged in the same task,
fellowship of work, with fun to vary the work; for unless there is
this feeling of fellowship, of common effort on an equal plane for a
common end, it will be difficult to keep the relations wholesome and
natural. To be patronized is as offensive as to be insulted. No one of
us cares permanently to have some one else conscientiously striving to
do him good; what we want is to work with that some one else for the
good of both of us--any man will speedily find that other people can
benefit him just as much as he can benefit them.

Neither Joe Murray nor I nor any of our associates at that time were
alive to social and industrial needs which we now all of us recognize.
But we then had very clearly before our minds the need of practically
applying certain elemental virtues, the virtues of honesty and
efficiency in politics, the virtue of efficiency side by side with
honesty in private and public life alike, the virtues of consideration
and fair dealing in business as between man and man, and especially as
between the man who is an employer and the man who is an employee. On
all fundamental questions Joe Murray and I thought alike. We never
parted company excepting on the question of Civil Service Reform,
where he sincerely felt that I showed doctrinaire affinities, that I
sided with the pharisees. We got back again into close relations as
soon as I became Police Commissioner under Mayor Strong, for Joe was
then made Excise Commissioner, and was, I believe, the best Excise
Commissioner the city of New York ever had. He is now a farmer, his
boys have been through Columbia College, and he and I look at the
questions, political, social, and industrial, which confront us in
1913 from practically the same standpoint, just as we once looked at
the questions that confronted us in 1881.

There are many debts that I owe Joe Murray, and some for which he was
only unconsciously responsible. I do not think that a man is fit to do
good work in our American democracy unless he is able to have a
genuine fellow-feeling for, understanding of, and sympathy with his
fellow-Americans, whatever their creed or their birthplace, the
section in which they live, or the work which they do, provided they
possess the only kind of Americanism that really counts, the
Americanism of the spirit. It was no small help to me, in the effort
to make myself a good citizen and good American, that the political
associate with whom I was on closest and most intimate terms during my
early years was a man born in Ireland, by creed a Catholic, with Joe
Murray's upbringing; just as it helped me greatly at a later period to
work for certain vitally necessary public needs with Arthur von
Briesen, in whom the spirit of the "Acht-und-Vierziger" idealists was
embodied; just as my whole life was influenced by my long association
with Jacob Riis, whom I am tempted to call the best American I ever
knew, although he was already a young man when he came hither from

I was elected to the Legislature in the fall of 1881, and found myself
the youngest man in that body. I was reelected the two following
years. Like all young men and inexperienced members, I had
considerable difficulty in teaching myself to speak. I profited much
by the advice of a hard-headed old countryman--who was unconsciously
paraphrasing the Duke of Wellington, who was himself doubtless
paraphrasing somebody else. The advice ran: "Don't speak until you are
sure you have something to say, and know just what it is; then say it,
and sit down."

My first days in the Legislature were much like those of a boy in a
strange school. My fellow-legislators and I eyed one another with
mutual distrust. Each of us chose his seat, each began by following
the lead of some veteran in the first routine matters, and then, in a
week or two, we began to drift into groups according to our several
affinities. The Legislature was Democratic. I was a Republican from
the "silk stocking" district, the wealthiest district in New York, and
I was put, as one of the minority members, on the Committee of Cities.
It was a coveted position. I did not make any effort to get on, and,
as far as I know, was put there merely because it was felt to be in
accordance with the fitness of things.

A very short experience showed me that, as the Legislature was then
constituted, the so-called party contests had no interest whatever for
me. There was no real party division on most of the things that were
of concern in State politics, both Republicans and Democrats being for
and against them. My friendships were made, not with regard to party
lines, but because I found, and my friends found, that we had the same
convictions on questions of principle and questions of policy. The
only difference was that there was a larger proportion of these men
among the Republicans than among the Democrats, and that it was easier
for me at the outset to scrape acquaintance, among the men who felt as
I did, with the Republicans. They were for the most part from the
country districts.

My closest friend for the three years I was there was Billy O'Neill,
from the Adirondacks. He kept a small crossroads store. He was a young
man, although a few years older than I was, and, like myself, had won
his position without regard to the machine. He had thought he would
like to be Assemblyman, so he had taken his buggy and had driven
around Franklin County visiting everybody, had upset the local ring,
and came to the Legislature as his own master. There is surely
something in American traditions that does tend toward real democracy
in spite of our faults and shortcomings. In most other countries two
men of as different antecedents, ancestry, and surroundings as Billy
O'Neill and I would have had far more difficulty in coming together. I
came from the biggest city in America and from the wealthiest ward of
that city, and he from a backwoods county where he kept a store at a
crossroads. In all the unimportant things we seemed far apart. But in
all the important things we were close together. We looked at all
questions from substantially the same view-point, and we stood
shoulder to shoulder in every legislative fight during those three
years. He abhorred demagogy just as he abhorred corruption. He had
thought much on political problems; he admired Alexander Hamilton as
much as I did, being a strong believer in a powerful National
government; and we both of us differed from Alexander Hamilton in
being stout adherents of Abraham Lincoln's views wherever the rights
of the people were concerned. Any man who has met with success, if he
will be frank with himself, must admit that there has been a big
element of fortune in the success. Fortune favored me, whereas her
hand was heavy against Billy O'Neill. All his life he had to strive
hard to wring his bread from harsh surroundings and a reluctant fate;
if fate had been but a little kinder, I believe he would have had a
great political career; and he would have done good service for the
country in any position in which he might have been put.

There were other Republicans, like Isaac Hunt and Jonas van Duzer and
Walter Howe and Henry Sprague, who were among my close friends and
allies; and a gigantic one-eyed veteran of the Civil War, a gallant
General, Curtis from St. Lawrence County; and a capital fellow, whom
afterwards, when Governor, I put on the bench, Kruse, from Cattaraugus
County. Kruse was a German by birth; as far as I know, the only German
from Cattaraugus County at that time; and, besides being a German, he
was also a Prohibitionist. Among the Democrats were Hamden Robb and
Thomas Newbold, and Tom Welch of Niagara, who did a great service in
getting the State to set aside Niagara Falls Park--after a
discouraging experience with the first Governor before whom we brought
the bill, who listened with austere patience to our arguments in favor
of the State establishing a park, and then conclusively answered us by
the question, "But, gentlemen, why should we spend the people's money
when just as much water will run over the Falls without a park as with
it?" Then there were a couple of members from New York and Brooklyn,
Mike Costello and Pete Kelly.

Mike Costello had been elected as a Tammany man. He was as fearless as
he was honest. He came from Ireland, and had accepted the Tammany
Fourth of July orations as indicating the real attitude of that
organization towards the rights of the people. A month or two in
Albany converted him to a profound distrust of applied Tammany
methods. He and I worked hand in hand with equal indifference to our
local machines. His machine leaders warned him fairly that they would
throw him out at the next election, which they did; but he possessed a
seasoned-hickory toughness of ability to contend with adverse
circumstances, and kept his head well above water. A better citizen
does not exist; and our friendship has never faltered.

Peter Kelly's fate was a tragedy. He was a bright, well-educated young
fellow, an ardent believer in Henry George. At the beginning he and I
failed to understand each other or to get on together, for our
theories of government were radically opposed. After a couple of
months spent in active contests with men whose theories had nothing
whatever to do with their practices, Kelly and I found in our turn
that it really did not make much difference what our abstract theories
were on questions that were not before the Legislature, in view of the
fact that on the actual matters before the Legislature, the most
important of which involved questions of elementary morality, we were
heartily at one. We began to vote together and act together, and by
the end of the session found that in all practical matters that were
up for action we thought together. Indeed, each of us was beginning to
change his theories, so that even in theory we were coming closer
together. He was ardent and generous; he was a young lawyer, with a
wife and children, whose ambition had tempted him into politics, and
who had been befriended by the local bosses under the belief that they
could count upon him for anything they really wished. Unfortunately,
what they really wished was often corrupt. Kelly defied them, fought
the battles of the people with ardor and good faith, and when the
bosses refused him a renomination, he appealed from them to the
people. When we both came up for reelection, I won easily in my
district, where circumstances conspired to favor me; and Kelly, with
exactly the same record that I had, except that it was more creditable
because he took his stand against greater odds, was beaten in his
district. Defeat to me would have meant merely chagrin; to Kelly it
meant terrible material disaster. He had no money. Like every rigidly
honest man, he had found that going into politics was expensive and
that his salary as Assemblyman did not cover the financial outgo. He
had lost his practice and he had incurred the ill will of the
powerful, so that it was impossible at the moment to pick up his
practice again; and the worry and disappointment affected him so much
that shortly after election he was struck down by sickness. Just
before Christmas some of us were informed that Kelly was in such
financial straits that he and his family would be put out into the
street before New Year. This was prevented by the action of some of
his friends who had served with him in the Legislature, and he
recovered, at least to a degree, and took up the practice of his
profession. But he was a broken man. In the Legislature in which he
served one of his fellow-Democrats from Brooklyn was the Speaker--
Alfred C. Chapin, the leader and the foremost representative of the
reform Democracy, whom Kelly zealously supported. A few years later
Chapin, a very able man, was elected Mayor of Brooklyn on a reform
Democratic ticket. Shortly after his election I was asked to speak at
a meeting in a Brooklyn club at which various prominent citizens,
including the Mayor, were present. I spoke on civic decency, and
toward the close of my speech I sketched Kelly's career for my
audience, told them how he had stood up for the rights of the people
of Brooklyn, and how the people had failed to stand up for him, and
the way he had been punished, precisely because he had been a good
citizen who acted as a good citizen should act. I ended by saying that
the reform Democracy had now come into power, that Mr. Chapin was
Mayor, and that I very earnestly hoped recognition would at last be
given to Kelly for the fight he had waged at such bitter cost to
himself. My words created some impression, and Mayor Chapin at once
said that he would take care of Kelly and see that justice was done
him. I went home that evening much pleased. In the morning, at
breakfast, I received a brief note from Chapin in these words: "It was
nine last evening when you finished speaking of what Kelly had done,
and when I said that I would take care of him. At ten last night Kelly
died." He had been dying while I was making my speech, and he never
knew that at last there was to be a tardy recognition of what he had
done, a tardy justification for the sacrifices he had made. The man
had fought, at heavy cost to himself and with entire
disinterestedness, for popular rights; but no recognition for what he
had done had come to him from the people, whose interest he had so
manfully upheld.

Where there is no chance of statistical or mathematical measurement,
it is very hard to tell just the degree to which conditions change
from one period to another. This is peculiarly hard to do when we deal
with such a matter as corruption. Personally I am inclined to think
that in public life we are on the whole a little better and not a
little worse than we were thirty years ago, when I was serving in the
New York Legislature. I think the conditions are a little better in
National, in State, and in municipal politics. Doubtless there are
points in which they are worse, and there is an enormous amount that
needs reformation. But it does seem to me as if, on the whole, things
had slightly improved.

When I went into politics, New York City was under the control of
Tammany, which was from time to time opposed by some other--and
evanescent--city Democratic organization. The up-country Democrats had
not yet fallen under Tammany sway, and were on the point of developing
a big country political boss in the shape of David B. Hill. The
Republican party was split into the Stalwart and Half-Breed factions.
Accordingly neither party had one dominant boss, or one dominant
machine, each being controlled by jarring and warring bosses and
machines. The corruption was not what it had been in the days of
Tweed, when outside individuals controlled the legislators like
puppets. Nor was there any such centralization of the boss system as
occurred later. Many of the members were under the control of local
bosses or local machines. But the corrupt work was usually done
through the members directly.

Of course I never had anything in the nature of legal proof of
corruption, and the figures I am about to give are merely approximate.
But three years' experience convinced me, in the first place, that
there were a great many thoroughly corrupt men in the Legislature,
perhaps a third of the whole number; and, in the next place, that the
honest men outnumbered the corrupt men, and that, if it were ever
possible to get an issue of right and wrong put vividly and
unmistakably before them in a way that would arrest their attention
and that would arrest the attention of their constituents, we could
count on the triumph of the right. The trouble was that in most cases
the issue was confused. To read some kinds of literature one would
come to the conclusion that the only corruption in legislative circles
was in the form of bribery by corporations, and that the line was
sharp between the honest man who was always voting against
corporations and the dishonest man who was always bribed to vote for
them. My experience was the direct contrary of this. For every one
bill introduced (not passed) corruptly to favor a corporation, there
were at least ten introduced (not passed, and in this case not
intended to be passed) to blackmail corporations. The majority of the
corrupt members would be found voting for the blackmailing bills if
they were not paid, and would also be found voting in the interests of
the corporation if they were paid. The blackmailing, or, as they were
always called, the "strike" bills, could themselves be roughly divided
into two categories: bills which it would have been proper to pass,
and those that it would not have been proper to pass. Some of the
bills aimed at corporations were utterly wild and improper; and of
these a proportion might be introduced by honest and foolish zealots,
whereas most of them were introduced by men who had not the slightest
intention of passing them, but who wished to be paid not to pass them.
The most profitable type of bill to the accomplished blackmailer,
however, was a bill aimed at a real corporate abuse which the
corporation, either from wickedness or folly, was unwilling to remedy.
Of the measures introduced in the interest of corporations there were
also some that were proper and some that were improper. The corrupt
legislators, the "black horse cavalry," as they were termed, would
demand payment to vote as the corporations wished, no matter whether
the bill was proper or improper. Sometimes, if the bill was a proper
one, the corporation would have the virtue or the strength of mind to
refuse to pay for its passage, and sometimes it would not.

A very slight consideration of the above state of affairs will show
how difficult it was at times to keep the issue clear, for honest and
dishonest men were continually found side by side voting now against
and now for a corporation measure, the one set from proper and the
other set from grossly improper motives. Of course part of the fault
lay in the attitudes of outsiders. It was very early borne in upon me
that almost equal harm was done by indiscriminate defense of, and
indiscriminate attack on, corporations. It was hard to say whether the
man who prided himself upon always antagonizing the corporations, or
the man who, on the plea that he was a good conservative, always stood
up for them, was the more mischievous agent of corruption and

In one fight in the House over a bill as to which there was a bitter
contest between two New York City street railway organizations, I saw
lobbyists come down on the floor itself and draw venal men out into
the lobbies with almost no pretense of concealing what they were
doing. In another case in which the elevated railway corporations of
New York City, against the protest of the Mayor and the other local
authorities, rushed through a bill remitting over half their taxes,
some of the members who voted for the measure probably thought it was
right; but every corrupt man in the House voted with them; and the man
must indeed have been stupid who thought that these votes were given

The effective fight against this bill for the revision of the elevated
railway taxes--perhaps the most openly crooked measure which during my
time was pushed at Albany--was waged by Mike Costello and myself. We
used to spend a good deal of time in industrious research into the
various bills introduced, so as to find out what their authors really
had in mind; this research, by the way, being highly unappreciated and
much resented by the authors. In the course of his researches Mike had
been puzzled by an unimportant bill, seemingly related to a
Constitutional amendment, introduced by a local saloon-keeper, whose
interests, as far as we knew, were wholly remote from the
Constitution, or from any form of abstract legal betterment. However,
the measure seemed harmless; we did not interfere; and it passed the
House. Mike, however, followed its career in the Senate, and at the
last moment, almost by accident, discovered that it had been "amended"
by the simple process of striking out everything after the enacting
clause and unobtrusively substituting the proposal to remit the
elevated railway taxes! The authors of the change wished to avoid
unseemly publicity; their hope was to slip the measure through the
Legislature and have it instantly signed by the Governor, before any
public attention was excited. In the Senate their plan worked to
perfection. There was in the Senate no fighting leadership of the
forces of decency; and for such leadership of the non-fighting type
the representatives of corruption cared absolutely nothing. By bold
and adroit management the substitution in the Senate was effected
without opposition or comment. The bill (in reality, of course, an
absolutely new and undebated bill) then came back to the House
nominally as a merely amended measure, which, under the rules, was not
open to debate unless the amendment was first by vote rejected. This
was the great bill of the session for the lobby; and the lobby was
keenly alive to the need of quick, wise action. No public attention
whatever had so far been excited. Every measure was taken to secure
immediate and silent action. A powerful leader, whom the beneficiaries
of the bill trusted, a fearless and unscrupulous man, of much force
and great knowledge of parliamentary law, was put in the chair.
Costello and I were watched; and when for a moment we were out of the
House, the bill was brought over from the Senate, and the clerk began
to read it, all the black horse cavalry, in expectant mood, being in
their seats. But Mike Costello, who was in the clerk's room, happened
to catch a few words of what was being read. In he rushed, despatched
a messenger for me, and began a single-handed filibuster. The Speaker
pro tem called him to order. Mike continued to speak and protest; the
Speaker hammered him down; Mike continued his protests; the sergeant-
at-arms was sent to arrest and remove him; and then I bounced in, and
continued the protest, and refused to sit down or be silent. Amid wild
confusion the amendment was declared adopted, and the bill was ordered
engrossed and sent to the Governor. But we had carried our point. The
next morning the whole press rang with what had happened; every detail
of the bill, and every detail of the way it had been slipped through
the Legislature, were made public. All the slow and cautious men in
the House, who had been afraid of taking sides, now came forward in
support of us. Another debate was held on the proposal to rescind the
vote; the city authorities waked up to protest; the Governor refused
to sign the bill. Two or three years later, after much litigation, the
taxes were paid; in the newspapers it was stated that the amount was
over $1,500,000. It was Mike Costello to whom primarily was due the
fact that this sum was saved the public, and that the forces of
corruption received a stinging rebuff. He did not expect recognition
or reward for his services; and he got none. The public, if it knew of
what he had done, promptly forgot it. The machine did not forget it,
and turned him down at the next election.

One of the stand-by "strikes" was a bill for reducing the elevated
railway fare, which at that time was ten cents, to five cents. In one
Legislature the men responsible for the introduction of the bill
suffered such an extraordinary change of heart that when the bill came
up--being pushed by zealous radicals who really were honest--the
introducers actually voted against it! A number of us who had been
very doubtful about the principle of the bill voted for it simply
because we were convinced that money was being used to stop it, and we
hated to seem to side with the corruptionists. Then there came a wave
of popular feeling in its favor, the bill was reintroduced at the next
session, the railways very wisely decided that they would simply fight
it on its merits, and the entire black horse cavalry contingent,
together with all the former friends of the measure, voted against it.
Some of us, who in our anger at the methods formerly resorted to for
killing the bill had voted for it the previous year, with much heart-
searching again voted for it, as I now think unwisely; and the bill
was vetoed by the then Governor, Grover Cleveland. I believe the veto
was proper, and those who felt as I did supported the veto; for
although it was entirely right that the fare should be reduced to five
cents, which was soon afterwards done, the method was unwise, and
would have set a mischievous precedent.

An instance of an opposite kind occurred in connection with a great
railway corporation which wished to increase its terminal facilities
in one of our great cities. The representatives of the railway brought
the bill to me and asked me to look into it, saying that they were
well aware that it was the kind of bill that lent itself to blackmail,
and that they wished to get it through on its merits, and invited the
most careful examination. I looked carefully into it, found that the
municipal authorities and the property-owners whose property was to be
taken favored it, and also found that it was an absolute necessity
from the standpoint of the city no less than from the standpoint of
the railway. So I said I would take charge of it if I had guarantees
that no money should be used and nothing improper done in order to
push it. This was agreed to. I was then acting as chairman of the
committee before which the bill went.

A very brief experience proved what I had already been practically
sure of, that there was a secret combination of the majority of the
committee on a crooked basis. On one pretext or another the crooked
members of the committee held the bill up, refusing to report it
either favorably or unfavorably. There were one or two members of the
committee who were pretty rough characters, and when I decided to
force matters I was not sure that we would not have trouble. There was
a broken chair in the room, and I got a leg of it loose and put it
down beside me where it was not visible, but where I might get at it
in a hurry if necessary. I moved that the bill be reported favorably.
This was voted down without debate by the "combine," some of whom kept
a wooden stolidity of look, while others leered at me with sneering
insolence. I then moved that it be reported unfavorably, and again the
motion was voted down by the same majority and in the same fashion. I
then put the bill in my pocket and announced that I would report it
anyhow. This almost precipitated a riot, especially when I explained,
in answer to statements that my conduct would be exposed on the floor
of the Legislature, that in that case I should give the Legislature
the reasons why I suspected that the men holding up all report of the
bill were holding it up for purposes of blackmail. The riot did not
come off; partly, I think, because the opportune production of the
chair-leg had a sedative effect, and partly owing to wise counsels
from one or two of my opponents.

Accordingly I got the bill reported to the Legislature and put on the
calendar. But here it came to a dead halt. I think this was chiefly
because most of the newspapers which noticed the matter at all treated
it in such a cynical spirit as to encourage the men who wished to
blackmail. These papers reported the introduction of the bill, and
said that "all the hungry legislators were clamoring for their share
of the pie"; and they accepted as certain the fact that there was
going to be a division of "pie." This succeeded in frightening honest
men, and also in relieving the rogues; the former were afraid they
would be suspected of receiving money if they voted for the bill, and
the latter were given a shield behind which to stand until they were
paid. I was wholly unable to move the bill forward in the Legislature,
and finally a representative of the railway told me that he thought he
would like to take the bill out of my hands, that I did not seem able
to get it through, and that perhaps some "older and more experienced"
leader could be more successful. I was pretty certain what this meant,
but of course I had no kind of proof, and moreover I was not in a
position to say that I could promise success. Accordingly, the bill
was given into the charge of a veteran, whom I believe to have been a
personally honest man, but who was not inquisitive about the motives
influencing his colleagues. This gentleman, who went by a nickname
which I shall incorrectly call "the bald eagle of Weehawken," was
efficient and knew his job. After a couple of weeks a motion to put
the bill through was made by "the bald eagle"; the "black horse
cavalry," whose feelings had undergone a complete change in the
intervening time, voted unanimously for it, in company with all the
decent members; and that was the end. Now here was a bit of work in
the interest of a corporation and in the interest of a community,
which the corporation at first tried honestly to have put through on
its merits. The blame for the failure lay primarily in the supine
indifference of the community to legislative wrong-doing, so long as
only the corporations were blackmailed.

Except as above mentioned, I was not brought in contact with big
business, save in the effort to impeach a certain judge. This judge
had been used as an instrument in their business by certain of the men
connected with the elevated railways and other great corporations at
that time. We got hold of his correspondence with one of these men,
and it showed a shocking willingness to use the judicial office in any
way that one of the kings of finance of that day desired. He had
actually held court in one of that financier's rooms. One expression
in one of the judge's letters to this financier I shall always
remember: "I am willing to go to the very verge of judicial discretion
to serve your vast interests." The curious thing was that I was by no
means certain that the judge himself was corrupt. He may have been;
but I am inclined to think that, aside from his being a man of coarse
moral fiber, the trouble lay chiefly in the fact that he had a genuine
--if I had not so often seen it, I would say a wholly inexplicable--
reverence for the possessor of a great fortune as such. He sincerely
believed that business was the end of existence, and that judge and
legislator alike should do whatever was necessary to favor it; and the
bigger the business the more he desired to favor it. Big business of
the kind that is allied with politics thoroughly appreciated the
usefulness of such a judge, and every effort was strained to protect
him. We fought hard--by "we" I mean some thirty or forty legislators,
both Republicans and Democrats--but the "black horse cavalry," and the
timid good men, and the dull conservative men, were all against us;
and the vote in the Legislature was heavily against impeachment. The
minority of the committee that investigated him, with Chapin at its
head, recommended impeachment; the argument for impeachment before the
committee was made by Francis Lynde Stetson.

It was my first experience of the kind. Various men whom I had known
well socially and had been taught to look up to, prominent business
men and lawyers, acted in a way which not only astounded me, but which
I was quite unable to reconcile with the theories I had formed as to
their high standing--I was little more than a year out of college at
the time. Generally, as has been always the case since, they were
careful to avoid any direct conversation with me on a concrete case of
what we now call "privilege" in business and in politics, that is, of
the alliance between business and politics which represents improper
favors rendered to some men in return for improper conduct on the part
of others being ignored or permitted.

One member of a prominent law firm, an old family friend, did,
however, take me out to lunch one day, evidently for the purpose of
seeing just what it was that I wished and intended to do. I believe he
had a genuine personal liking for me. He explained that I had done
well in the Legislature; that it was a good thing to have made the
"reform play," that I had shown that I possessed ability such as would
make me useful in the right kind of law office or business concern;
but that I must not overplay my hand; that I had gone far enough, and
that now was the time to leave politics and identify myself with the
right kind of people, the people who would always in the long run
control others and obtain the real rewards which were worth having. I
asked him if that meant that I was to yield to the ring in politics.
He answered somewhat impatiently that I was entirely mistaken (as in
fact I was) about there being merely a political ring, of the kind of
which the papers were fond of talking; that the "ring," if it could be
called such--that is, the inner circle--included certain big business
men, and the politicians, lawyers, and judges who were in alliance
with and to a certain extent dependent upon them, and that the
successful man had to win his success by the backing of the same
forces, whether in law, business, or politics.

This conversation not only interested me, but made such an impression
that I always remembered it, for it was the first glimpse I had of
that combination between business and politics which I was in after
years so often to oppose. In the America of that day, and especially
among the people whom I knew, the successful business man was regarded
by everybody as preeminently the good citizen. The orthodox books on
political economy, not only in America but in England, were written
for his especial glorification. The tangible rewards came to him, the
admiration of his fellow-citizens of the respectable type was apt to
be his, and the severe newspaper moralists who were never tired of
denouncing politicians and political methods were wont to hold up
"business methods" as the ideal which we were to strive to introduce
into political life. Herbert Croly, in "The Promise of American Life,"
has set forth the reasons why our individualistic democracy--which
taught that each man was to rely exclusively on himself, was in no way
to be interfered with by others, and was to devote himself to his own
personal welfare--necessarily produced the type of business man who
sincerely believed, as did the rest of the community, that the
individual who amassed a big fortune was the man who was the best and
most typical American.

In the Legislature the problems with which I dealt were mainly
problems of honesty and decency and of legislative and administrative
efficiency. They represented the effort, the wise, the vitally
necessary effort, to get efficient and honest government. But as yet I
understood little of the effort which was already beginning, for the
most part under very bad leadership, to secure a more genuine social
and industrial justice. Nor was I especially to blame for this. The
good citizens I then knew best, even when themselves men of limited
means--men like my colleague Billy O'Neill, and my backwoods friends
Sewall and Dow--were no more awake than I was to the changing needs
the changing times were bringing. Their outlook was as narrow as my
own, and, within its limits, as fundamentally sound.

I wish to dwell on the soundness of our outlook on life, even though
as yet it was not broad enough. We were no respecters of persons.
Where our vision was developed to a degree that enabled us to see
crookedness, we opposed it whether in great or small. As a matter of
fact, we found that it needed much more courage to stand up openly
against labor men when they were wrong than against capitalists when
they were wrong. The sins against labor are usually committed, and the
improper services to capitalists are usually rendered, behind closed
doors. Very often the man with the moral courage to speak in the open
against labor when it is wrong is the only man anxious to do effective
work for labor when labor is right.

The only kinds of courage and honesty which are permanently useful to
good institutions anywhere are those shown by men who decide all cases
with impartial justice on grounds of conduct and not on grounds of
class. We found that in the long run the men who in public blatantly
insisted that labor was never wrong were the very men who in private
could not be trusted to stand for labor when it was right. We grew
heartily to distrust the reformer who never denounced wickedness
unless it was embodied in a rich man. Human nature does not change;
and that type of "reformer" is as noxious now as he ever was. The
loud-mouthed upholder of popular rights who attacks wickedness only
when it is allied with wealth, and who never publicly assails any
misdeed, no matter how flagrant, if committed nominally in the
interest of labor, has either a warped mind or a tainted soul, and
should be trusted by no honest man. It was largely the indignant and
contemptuous dislike aroused in our minds by the demagogues of this
class which then prevented those of us whose instincts at bottom were
sound from going as far as we ought to have gone along the lines of
governmental control of corporations and governmental interference on
behalf of labor.

I did, however, have one exceedingly useful experience. A bill was
introduced by the Cigar-Makers' Union to prohibit the manufacture of
cigars in tenement-houses. I was appointed one of a committee of three
to investigate conditions in the tenement-houses and see if
legislation should be had. Of my two colleagues on the committee, one
took no interest in the measure and privately said he did not think it
was right, but that he had to vote for it because the labor unions
were strong in his district and he was pledged to support the bill.
The other, a sporting Tammany man who afterwards abandoned politics
for the race-track, was a very good fellow. He told me frankly that he
had to be against the bill because certain interests which were all-
powerful and with which he had dealings required him to be against it,
but that I was a free agent, and that if I would look into the matter
he believed I would favor the legislation. As a matter of fact, I had
supposed I would be against the legislation, and I rather think that I
was put on the committee with that idea, for the respectable people I
knew were against it; it was contrary to the principles of political
economy of the /laissez-faire/ kind; and the business men who spoke to
me about it shook their heads and said that it was designed to prevent
a man doing as he wished and as he had a right to do with what was his

However, my first visits to the tenement-house districts in question
made me feel that, whatever the theories might be, as a matter of
practical common sense I could not conscientiously vote for the
continuance of the conditions which I saw. These conditions rendered
it impossible for the families of the tenement-house workers to live
so that the children might grow up fitted for the exacting duties of
American citizenship. I visited the tenement-houses once with my
colleagues of the committee, once with some of the labor union
representatives, and once or twice by myself. In a few of the
tenement-houses there were suites of rooms ample in number where the
work on the tobacco was done in rooms not occupied for cooking or
sleeping or living. In the overwhelming majority of cases, however,
there were one, two, or three room apartments, and the work of
manufacturing the tobacco by men, women, and children went on day and
night in the eating, living, and sleeping rooms--sometimes in one
room. I have always remembered one room in which two families were
living. On my inquiry as to who the third adult male was I was told
that he was a boarder with one of the families. There were several
children, three men, and two women in this room. The tobacco was
stowed about everywhere, alongside the foul bedding, and in a corner
where there were scraps of food. The men, women, and children in this
room worked by day and far on into the evening, and they slept and ate
there. They were Bohemians, unable to speak English, except that one
of the children knew enough to act as interpreter.

Instead of opposing the bill I ardently championed it. It was a poorly
drawn measure, and the Governor, Grover Cleveland, was at first
doubtful about signing it. The Cigar-makers' Union then asked me to
appear before the Governor and argue for it. I accordingly did so,
acting as spokesman for the battered, undersized foreigners who
represented the Union and the workers. The Governor signed the bill.
Afterwards this tenement-house cigar legislation was declared invalid
by the Court of Appeals in the Jacobs decision. Jacobs was one of the
rare tenement-house manufacturers of cigars who occupied quite a suite
of rooms, so that in his case the living conditions were altogether
exceptional. What the reason was which influenced those bringing the
suit to select the exceptional instead of the average worker I do not
know; of course such action was precisely the action which those most
interested in having the law broken down were anxious to see taken.
The Court of Appeals declared the law unconstitutional, and in their
decision the judges reprobated the law as an assault upon the
"hallowed" influences of "home." It was this case which first waked me
to a dim and partial understanding of the fact that the courts were
not necessarily the best judges of what should be done to better
social and industrial conditions. The judges who rendered this
decision were well-meaning men. They knew nothing whatever of
tenement-house conditions; they knew nothing whatever of the needs, or
of the life and labor, of three-fourths of their fellow-citizens in
great cities. They knew legalism, but not life. Their choice of the
words "hallowed" and "home," as applicable to the revolting conditions
attending the manufacture of cigars in tenement-houses, showed that
they had no idea what it was that they were deciding. Imagine the
"hallowed" associations of a "home" consisting of one room where two
families, one of them with a boarder, live, eat, and work! This
decision completely blocked tenement-house reform legislation in New
York for a score of years, and hampers it to this day. It was one of
the most serious setbacks which the cause of industrial and social
progress and reform ever received.

I had been brought up to hold the courts in especial reverence. The
people with whom I was most intimate were apt to praise the courts for
just such decisions as this, and to speak of them as bulwarks against
disorder and barriers against demagogic legislation. These were the
same people with whom the judges who rendered these decisions were apt
to foregather at social clubs, or dinners, or in private life. Very
naturally they all tended to look at things from the same standpoint.
Of course it took more than one experience such as this Tenement Cigar
Case to shake me out of the attitude in which I was brought up. But
various decisions, not only of the New York court but of certain other
State courts and even of the United States Supreme Court, during the
quarter of a century following the passage of this tenement-house
legislation, did at last thoroughly wake me to the actual fact. I grew
to realize that all that Abraham Lincoln had said about the Dred Scott
decision could be said with equal truth and justice about the numerous
decisions which in our own day were erected as bars across the path of
social reform, and which brought to naught so much of the effort to
secure justice and fair dealing for workingmen and workingwomen, and
for plain citizens generally.

Some of the wickedness and inefficiency in public life was then
displayed in simpler fashion than would probably now be the case. Once
or twice I was a member of committees which looked into gross and
widely ramifying governmental abuses. On the whole, the most important
part I played was in the third Legislature in which I served, when I
acted as chairman of a committee which investigated various phases of
New York City official life.

The most important of the reform measures our committee recommended
was the bill taking away from the Aldermen their power of confirmation
over the Mayor's appointments. We found that it was possible to get
citizens interested in the character and capacity of the head of the
city, so that they would exercise some intelligent interest in his
conduct and qualifications. But we found that as a matter of fact it
was impossible to get them interested in the Aldermen and other
subordinate officers. In actual practice the Aldermen were merely the
creatures of the local ward bosses or of the big municipal bosses, and
where they controlled the appointments the citizens at large had no
chance whatever to make their will felt. Accordingly we fought for the
principle, which I believe to be of universal application, that what
is needed in our popular government is to give plenty of power to a
few officials, and to make these few officials genuinely and readily
responsible to the people for the exercise of that power. Taking away
the confirming power of the Board of Aldermen did not give the
citizens of New York good government. We knew that if they chose to
elect the wrong kind of Mayor they would have bad government, no
matter what the form of the law was. But we did secure to them the
chance to get good government if they desired, and this was impossible
as long as the old system remained. The change was fought in the way
in which all similar changes always are fought. The corrupt and
interested politicians were against it, and the battle-cries they
used, which rallied to them most of the unthinking conservatives, were
that we were changing the old constitutional system, that we were
defacing the monuments of the wisdom of the founders of the
government, that we were destroying that distinction between
legislative and executive power which was the bulwark of our
liberties, and that we were violent and unscrupulous radicals with no
reverence for the past.

Of course the investigations, disclosures, and proceedings of the
investigating committee of which I was chairman brought me into bitter
personal conflict with very powerful financiers, very powerful
politicians, and with certain newspapers which these financiers and
politicians controlled. A number of able and unscrupulous men were
fighting, some for their financial lives, and others to keep out of
unpleasantly close neighborhood to State's prison. This meant that
there were blows to be taken as well as given. In such political
struggles, those who went in for the kind of thing that I did speedily
excited animosities among strong and cunning men who would stop at
little to gratify their animosity. Any man engaged in this particular
type of militant and practical reform movement was soon made to feel
that he had better not undertake to push matters home unless his own
character was unassailable. On one of the investigating committees on
which I served there was a countryman, a very able man, who, when he
reached New York City, felt as certain Americans do when they go to
Paris--that the moral restraints of his native place no longer
applied. With all his ability, he was not shrewd enough to realize
that the Police Department was having him as well as the rest of us
carefully shadowed. He was caught red-handed by a plain-clothes man
doing what he had no business to do; and from that time on he dared
not act save as those who held his secret permitted him to act.
Thenceforth those officials who stood behind the Police Department had
one man on the committee on whom they could count. I never saw terror
more ghastly on a strong man's face than on the face of this man on
one or two occasions when he feared that events in the committee might
take such a course as to force him into a position where his
colleagues would expose him even if the city officials did not.
However, he escaped, for we were never able to get the kind of proof
which would warrant our asking for the action in which this man could
not have joined.

Traps were set for more than one of us, and if we had walked into
these traps our public careers would have ended, at least so far as
following them under the conditions which alone make it worth while to
be in public life at all. A man can of course hold public office, and
many a man does hold public office, and lead a public career of a
sort, even if there are other men who possess secrets about him which
he cannot afford to have divulged. But no man can lead a public career
really worth leading, no man can act with rugged independence in
serious crises, nor strike at great abuses, nor afford to make
powerful and unscrupulous foes, if he is himself vulnerable in his
private character. Nor will clean conduct by itself enable a man to
render good service. I have always been fond of Josh Billings's remark
that "it is much easier to be a harmless dove than a wise serpent."
There are plenty of decent legislators, and plenty of able
legislators; but the blamelessness and the fighting edge are not
always combined. Both qualities are necessary for the man who is to
wage active battle against the powers that prey. He must be clean of
life, so that he can laugh when his public or his private record is
searched; and yet being clean of life will not avail him if he is
either foolish or timid. He must walk warily and fearlessly, and while
he should never brawl if he can avoid it, he must be ready to hit hard
if the need arises. Let him remember, by the way, that the
unforgivable crime is soft hitting. Do not hit at all if it can be
avoided; but never hit softly.

Like most young men in politics, I went through various oscillations
of feeling before I "found myself." At one period I became so
impressed with the virtue of complete independence that I proceeded to
act on each case purely as I personally viewed it, without paying any
heed to the principles and prejudices of others. The result was that I
speedily and deservedly lost all power of accomplishing anything at
all; and I thereby learned the invaluable lesson that in the practical
activities of life no man can render the highest service unless he can
act in combination with his fellows, which means a certain amount of
give-and-take between him and them. Again, I at one period began to
believe that I had a future before me, and that it behooved me to be
very far-sighted and scan each action carefully with a view to its
possible effect on that future. This speedily made me useless to the
public and an object of aversion to myself; and I then made up my mind
that I would try not to think of the future at all, but would proceed
on the assumption that each office I held would be the last I ever
should hold, and that I would confine myself to trying to do my work
as well as possible while I held that office. I found that for me
personally this was the only way in which I could either enjoy myself
or render good service to the country, and I never afterwards deviated
from this plan.

As regards political advancement the bosses could of course do a good
deal. At that time the warring Stalwart and Half-Breed factions of the
Republican party were supporting respectively President Arthur and
Senator Miller. Neither side cared for me. The first year in the
Legislature I rose to a position of leadership, so that in the second
year, when the Republicans were in a minority, I received the minority
nomination for Speaker, although I was still the youngest man in the
House, being twenty-four years old. The third year the Republicans
carried the Legislature, and the bosses at once took a hand in the
Speakership contest. I made a stout fight for the nomination, but the
bosses of the two factions, the Stalwarts and the Half-Breeds,
combined and I was beaten. I was much chagrined for the moment. But
the fact that I had fought hard and efficiently, even though defeated,
and that I had made the fight single-handed, with no machine back of
me, assured my standing as floor leader. My defeat in the end
materially strengthened my position, and enabled me to accomplish far
more than I could have accomplished as Speaker. As so often, I found
that the titular position was of no consequence; what counted was the
combination of the opportunity with the ability to accomplish results.
The achievement was the all-important thing; the position, whether
titularly high or low, was of consequence only in so far as it widened
the chance for achievement. After the session closed four of us who
looked at politics from the same standpoint and were known as
Independent or Anti-Machine Republicans were sent by the State
Convention as delegates-at-large to the Republican National Convention
of 1884, where I advocated, as vigorously as I knew how, the
nomination of Senator George F. Edmunds. Mr. Edmunds was defeated and
Mr. Blaine nominated. Mr. Blaine was clearly the choice of the rank
and file of the party; his nomination was won in fair and aboveboard
fashion, because the rank and file of the party stood back of him; and
I supported him to the best of my ability in the ensuing campaign.

The Speakership contest enlightened me as regards more things than the
attitude of the bosses. I had already had some exasperating
experiences with the "silk stocking" reformer type, as Abraham Lincoln
called it, the gentlemen who were very nice, very refined, who shook
their heads over political corruption and discussed it in drawing-
rooms and parlors, but who were wholly unable to grapple with real men
in real life. They were apt vociferously to demand "reform" as if it
were some concrete substance, like cake, which could be handed out at
will, in tangible masses, if only the demand were urgent enough. These
parlor reformers made up for inefficiency in action by zeal in
criticising; and they delighted in criticising the men who really were
doing the things which they said ought to be done, but which they
lacked the sinewy power to do. They often upheld ideals which were not
merely impossible but highly undesirable, and thereby played into the
hands of the very politicians to whom they professed to be most
hostile. Moreover, if they believed that their own interests,
individually or as a class, were jeoparded, they were apt to show no
higher standards than did the men they usually denounced.

One of their shibboleths was that the office should seek the man and
not the man the office. This is entirely true of certain offices at
certain times. It is entirely untrue when the circumstances are
different. It would have been unnecessary and undesirable for
Washington to have sought the Presidency. But if Abraham Lincoln had
not sought the Presidency he never would have been nominated. The
objection in such a case as this lies not to seeking the office, but
to seeking it in any but an honorable and proper manner. The effect of
the shibboleth in question is usually merely to put a premium on
hypocrisy, and therefore to favor the creature who is willing to rise
by hypocrisy. When I ran for Speaker, the whole body of machine
politicians was against me, and my only chance lay in arousing the
people in the different districts. To do this I had to visit the
districts, put the case fairly before the men whom I saw, and make
them understand that I was really making a fight and would stay in the
fight to the end. Yet there were reformers who shook their heads and
deplored my "activity" in the canvass. Of course the one thing which
corrupt machine politicians most desire is to have decent men frown on
the activity, that is, on the efficiency, of the honest man who
genuinely wishes to reform politics.

If efficiency is left solely to bad men, and if virtue is confined
solely to inefficient men, the result cannot be happy. When I entered
politics there were, as there always had been--and as there always
will be--any number of bad men in politics who were thoroughly
efficient, and any number of good men who would like to have done
lofty things in politics but who were thoroughly inefficient. If I
wished to accomplish anything for the country, my business was to
combine decency and efficiency; to be a thoroughly practical man of
high ideals who did his best to reduce those ideals to actual
practice. This was my ideal, and to the best of my ability I strove to
live up to it.

To a young man, life in the New York Legislature was always
interesting and often entertaining. There was always a struggle of
some kind on hand. Sometimes it was on a naked question of right and
wrong. Sometimes it was on a question of real constructive
statesmanship. Moreover, there were all kinds of humorous incidents,
the humor being usually of the unconscious kind. In one session of the
Legislature the New York City Democratic representatives were split
into two camps, and there were two rivals for leadership. One of these
was a thoroughly good-hearted, happy-go-lucky person who was
afterwards for several years in Congress. He had been a local
magistrate and was called Judge. Generally he and I were friendly, but
occasionally I did something that irritated him. He was always willing
to vote for any other member's bill himself, and he regarded it as
narrow-minded for any one to oppose one of his bills, especially if
the opposition was upon the ground that it was unconstitutional--for
his views of the Constitution were so excessively liberal as to make
even me feel as if I belonged to the straitest sect of strict
constructionists. On one occasion he had a bill to appropriate money,
with obvious impropriety, for the relief of some miscreant whom he
styled "one of the honest yeomanry of the State." When I explained to
him that it was clearly unconstitutional, he answered, "Me friend, the
Constitution don't touch little things like that," and then added,
with an ingratiating smile, "Anyhow, I'd never allow the Constitution
to come between friends." At the time I was looking over the proofs of
Mr. Bryce's "American Commonwealth," and I told him the incident. He
put it into the first edition of the "Commonwealth"; whether it is in
the last edition or not, I cannot say.

On another occasion the same gentleman came to an issue with me in a
debate, and wound up his speech by explaining that I occupied what
"lawyers would call a quasi position on the bill." His rival was a man
of totally different type, a man of great natural dignity, also born
in Ireland. He had served with gallantry in the Civil War. After the
close of the war he organized an expedition to conquer Canada. The
expedition, however, got so drunk before reaching Albany that it was
there incarcerated in jail, whereupon its leader abandoned it and went
into New York politics instead. He was a man of influence, and later
occupied in the Police Department the same position as Commissioner
which I myself at one time occupied. He felt that his rival had gained
too much glory at my expense, and, walking over with ceremonious
solemnity to where the said rival was sitting close beside me, he said
to him: "I would like you to know, Mr. Cameron [Cameron, of course,
was not the real name], that Mr. Roosevelt knows more law in a wake
than you do in a month; and, more than that, Michael Cameron, what do
you mane by quoting Latin on the floor of this House when you don't
know the alpha and omayga of the language?"

There was in the Legislature, during the deadlock above mentioned, a
man whom I will call 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!

The deadlock was tedious; and we hailed with joy such enlivening
incidents as the above.

During my three years' service in the Legislature I worked on a very
simple philosophy of government. It was that personal character and
initiative are the prime requisites in political and social life. It
was not only a good but an absolutely indispensable theory as far as
it went; but it was defective in that it did not sufficiently allow
for the need of collective action. I shall never forget the men with
whom I worked hand in hand in these legislative struggles, not only my
fellow-legislators, but some of the newspaper reporters, such as
Spinney and Cunningham; and then in addition the men in the various
districts who helped us. We had made up our minds that we must not
fight fire with fire, that on the contrary the way to win out was to
equal our foes in practical efficiency and yet to stand at the
opposite plane from them in applied morality.

It was not always easy to keep the just middle, especially when it
happened that on one side there were corrupt and unscrupulous
demagogues, and on the other side corrupt and unscrupulous
reactionaries. Our effort was to hold the scales even between both. We
tried to stand with the cause of righteousness even though its
advocates were anything but righteous. We endeavored to cut out the
abuses of property, even though good men of property were misled into
upholding those abuses. We refused to be frightened into sanctioning
improper assaults upon property, although we knew that the champions
of property themselves did things that were wicked and corrupt. We
were as yet by no means as thoroughly awake as we ought to have been
to the need of controlling big business and to the damage done by the
combination of politics with big business. In this matter I was not
behind the rest of my friends; indeed, I was ahead of them, for no
serious leader in political life then appreciated the prime need of
grappling with these questions. One partial reason--not an excuse or a
justification, but a partial reason--for my slowness in grasping the
importance of action in these matters was the corrupt and unattractive
nature of so many of the men who championed popular reforms, their
insincerity, and the folly of so many of the actions which they
advocated. Even at that date I had neither sympathy with nor
admiration for the man who was merely a money king, and I did not
regard the "money touch," when divorced from other qualities, as
entitling a man to either respect or consideration. As recited above,
we did on more than one occasion fight battles, in which we neither
took nor gave quarter, against the most prominent and powerful
financiers and financial interests of the day. But most of the fights
in which we were engaged were for pure honesty and decency, and they
were more apt to be against that form of corruption which found its
expression in demagogy than against that form of corruption which
defended or advocated privilege. Fundamentally, our fight was part of
the eternal war against the Powers that Prey; and we cared not a whit
in what rank of life these powers were found.

To play the demagogue for purposes of self-interest is a cardinal sin
against the people in a democracy, exactly as to play the courtier for
such purposes is a cardinal sin against the people under other forms
of government. A man who stays long in our American political life, if
he has in his soul the generous desire to do effective service for
great causes, inevitably grows to regard himself merely as one of many
instruments, all of which it may be necessary to use, one at one time,
one at another, in achieving the triumph of those causes; and whenever
the usefulness of any one has been exhausted, it is to be thrown
aside. If such a man is wise, he will gladly do the thing that is
next, when the time and the need come together, without asking what
the future holds for him. Let the half-god play his part well and
manfully, and then be content to draw aside when the god appears. Nor
should he feel vain regrets that to another it is given to render
greater services and reap a greater reward. Let it be enough for him
that he too has served, and that by doing well he has prepared the way
for the other man who can do better.



Though I had previously made a trip into the then Territory of Dakota,
beyond the Red River, it was not until 1883 that I went to the Little
Missouri, and there took hold of two cattle ranches, the Chimney Butte
and the Elkhorn.

It was still the Wild West in those days, the Far West, the West of
Owen Wister's stories and Frederic Remington's drawings, the West of
the Indian and the buffalo-hunter, the soldier and the cow-puncher.
That land of the West has gone now, "gone, gone with lost Atlantis,"
gone to the isle of ghosts and of strange dead memories. It was a land
of vast silent spaces, of lonely rivers, and of plains where the wild
game stared at the passing horseman. It was a land of scattered
ranches, of herds of long-horned cattle, and of reckless riders who
unmoved looked in the eyes of life or of death. In that land we led a
free and hardy life, with horse and with rifle. We worked under the
scorching midsummer sun, when the wide plains shimmered and wavered in
the heat; and we knew the freezing misery of riding night guard round
the cattle in the late fall round-up. In the soft springtime the stars
were glorious in our eyes each night before we fell asleep; and in the
winter we rode through blinding blizzards, when the driven snow-dust
burned our faces. There were monotonous days, as we guided the trail
cattle or the beef herds, hour after hour, at the slowest of walks;
and minutes or hours teeming with excitement as we stopped stampedes
or swam the herds across rivers treacherous with quicksands or brimmed
with running ice. We knew toil and hardship and hunger and thirst; and
we saw men die violent deaths as they worked among the horses and
cattle, or fought in evil feuds with one another; but we felt the beat
of hardy life in our veins, and ours was the glory of work and the joy
of living.

It was right and necessary that this life should pass, for the safety
of our country lies in its being made the country of the small home-
maker. The great unfenced ranches, in the days of "free grass,"
necessarily represented a temporary stage in our history. The large
migratory flocks of sheep, each guarded by the hired shepherds of
absentee owners, were the first enemies of the cattlemen; and owing to
the way they ate out the grass and destroyed all other vegetation,
these roving sheep bands represented little of permanent good to the
country. But the homesteaders, the permanent settlers, the men who
took up each his own farm on which he lived and brought up his family,
these represented from the National standpoint the most desirable of
all possible users of, and dwellers on, the soil. Their advent meant
the breaking up of the big ranches; and the change was a National
gain, although to some of us an individual loss.

I first reached the Little Missouri on a Northern Pacific train about
three in the morning of a cool September day in 1883. Aside from the
station, the only building was a ramshackle structure called the
Pyramid Park Hotel. I dragged my duffle-bag thither, and hammered at
the door until the frowsy proprietor appeared, muttering oaths. He
ushered me upstairs, where I was given one of the fourteen beds in the
room which by itself constituted the entire upper floor. Next day I
walked over to the abandoned army post, and, after some hours among
the gray log shacks, a ranchman who had driven into the station agreed
to take me out to his ranch, the Chimney Butte ranch, where he was
living with his brother and their partner.

The ranch was a log structure with a dirt roof, a corral for the
horses near by, and a chicken-house jabbed against the rear of the
ranch house. Inside there was only one room, with a table, three or
four chairs, a cooking-stove, and three bunks. The owners were Sylvane
and Joe Ferris and William J. Merrifield. Later all three of them held
my commissions while I was President. Merrifield was Marshal of
Montana, and as Presidential elector cast the vote of that State for
me in 1904; Sylvane Ferris was Land Officer in North Dakota, and Joe
Ferris Postmaster at Medora. There was a fourth man, George Meyer, who
also worked for me later. That evening we all played old sledge round
the table, and at one period the game was interrupted by a frightful
squawking outside which told us that a bobcat had made a raid on the

After a buffalo hunt with my original friend, Joe Ferris, I entered
into partnership with Merrifield and Sylvane Ferris, and we started a
cow ranch, with the maltese cross brand--always known as "maltee
cross," by the way, as the general impression along the Little
Missouri was that "maltese" must be a plural. Twenty-nine years later
my four friends of that night were delegates to the First Progressive
National Convention at Chicago. They were among my most constant
companions for the few years next succeeding the evening when the
bobcat interrupted the game of old sledge. I lived and worked with
them on the ranch, and with them and many others like them on the
round-up; and I brought out from Maine, in order to start the Elkhorn
ranch lower down the river, my two backwoods friends Sewall and Dow.
My brands for the lower ranch were the elkhorn and triangle.

I do not believe there ever was any life more attractive to a vigorous
young fellow than life on a cattle ranch in those days. It was a fine,
healthy life, too; it taught a man self-reliance, hardihood, and the
value of instant decision--in short, the virtues that ought to come
from life in the open country. I enjoyed the life to the full. After
the first year I built on the Elkhorn ranch a long, low ranch house of
hewn logs, with a veranda, and with, in addition to the other rooms, a
bedroom for myself, and a sitting-room with a big fire-place. I got
out a rocking-chair--I am very fond of rocking-chairs--and enough
books to fill two or three shelves, and a rubber bathtub so that I
could get a bath. And then I do not see how any one could have lived
more comfortably. We had buffalo robes and bearskins of our own
killing. We always kept the house clean--using the word in a rather
large sense. There were at least two rooms that were always warm, even
in the bitterest weather; and we had plenty to eat. Commonly the
mainstay of every meal was game of our own killing, usually antelope
or deer, sometimes grouse or ducks, and occasionally, in the earlier
days, buffalo or elk. We also had flour and bacon, sugar, salt, and
canned tomatoes. And later, when some of the men married and brought
out their wives, we had all kinds of good things, such as jams and
jellies made from the wild plums and the buffalo berries, and potatoes
from the forlorn little garden patch. Moreover, we had milk. Most
ranchmen at that time never had milk. I knew more than one ranch with
ten thousand head of cattle where there was not a cow that could be
milked. We made up our minds that we would be more enterprising.
Accordingly, we started to domesticate some of the cows. Our first
effort was not successful, chiefly because we did not devote the
needed time and patience to the matter. And we found that to race a
cow two miles at full speed on horseback, then rope her, throw her,
and turn her upside down to milk her, while exhilarating as a pastime,
was not productive of results. Gradually we accumulated tame cows,
and, after we had thinned out the bobcats and coyotes, more chickens.

The ranch house stood on the brink of a low bluff overlooking the
broad, shallow bed of the Little Missouri, through which at most
seasons there ran only a trickle of water, while in times of freshet
it was filled brimful with the boiling, foaming, muddy torrent. There
was no neighbor for ten or fifteen miles on either side of me. The
river twisted down in long curves between narrow bottoms bordered by
sheer cliff walls, for the Bad Lands, a chaos of peaks, plateaus, and
ridges, rose abruptly from the edges of the level, tree-clad, or
grassy, alluvial meadows. In front of the ranch-house veranda was a
row of cottonwood trees with gray-green leaves which quivered all day
long if there was a breath of air. From these trees came the far-away,
melancholy cooing of mourning doves, and little owls perched in them
and called tremulously at night. In the long summer afternoons we
would sometimes sit on the piazza, when there was no work to be done,
for an hour or two at a time, watching the cattle on the sand-bars,
and the sharply channeled and strangely carved amphitheater of cliffs
across the bottom opposite; while the vultures wheeled overhead, their
black shadows gliding across the glaring white of the dry river-bed.
Sometimes from the ranch we saw deer, and once when we needed meat I
shot one across the river as I stood on the piazza. In the winter, in
the days of iron cold, when everything was white under the snow, the
river lay in its bed fixed and immovable as a bar of bent steel, and
then at night wolves and lynxes traveled up and down it as if it had
been a highway passing in front of the ranch house. Often in the late
fall or early winter, after a hard day's hunting, or when returning
from one of the winter line camps, we did not reach the ranch until
hours after sunset; and after the weary tramping in the cold it was
keen pleasure to catch the first red gleam of the fire-lit windows
across the snowy wastes.

The Elkhorn ranch house was built mainly by Sewall and Dow, who, like
most men from the Maine woods, were mighty with the ax. I could chop
fairly well for an amateur, but I could not do one-third the work they
could. One day when we were cutting down the cottonwood trees, to
begin our building operations, I heard some one ask Dow what the total
cut had been, and Dow not realizing that I was within hearing,
answered: "Well, Bill cut down fifty-three, I cut forty-nine, and the
boss he beavered down seventeen." Those who have seen the stump of a
tree which has been gnawed down by a beaver will understand the exact
force of the comparison.

In those days on a cow ranch the men were apt to be away on the
various round-ups at least half the time. It was interesting and
exciting work, and except for the lack of sleep on the spring and
summer round-ups it was not exhausting work; compared to lumbering or
mining or blacksmithing, to sit in the saddle is an easy form of
labor. The ponies were of course grass-fed and unshod. Each man had
his own string of nine or ten. One pony would be used for the morning
work, one for the afternoon, and neither would again be used for the
next three days. A separate pony was kept for night riding.

The spring and early summer round-ups were especially for the branding
of calves. There was much hard work and some risk on a round-up, but
also much fun. The meeting-place was appointed weeks beforehand, and
all the ranchmen of the territory to be covered by the round-up sent
their representatives. There were no fences in the West that I knew,
and their place was taken by the cowboy and the branding-iron. The
cattle wandered free. Each calf was branded with the brand of the cow
it was following. Sometimes in winter there was what we called line
riding; that is, camps were established and the line riders traveled a
definite beat across the desolate wastes of snow, to and fro from one
camp to another, to prevent the cattle from drifting. But as a rule
nothing was done to keep the cattle in any one place. In the spring
there was a general round-up in each locality. Each outfit took part
in its own round-up, and all the outfits of a given region combined to
send representatives to the two or three round-ups that covered the
neighborhoods near by into which their cattle might drift. For
example, our Little Missouri round-up generally worked down the river
from a distance of some fifty or sixty miles above my ranch toward the
Kildeer Mountains, about the same distance below. In addition we would
usually send representatives to the Yellowstone round-up, and to the
round-up along the upper Little Missouri; and, moreover, if we heard
that cattle had drifted, perhaps toward the Indian reservation
southeast of us, we would send a wagon and rider after them.

At the meeting-point, which might be in the valley of a half-dry
stream, or in some broad bottom of the river itself, or perchance by a
couple of ponds under some queerly shaped butte that was a landmark
for the region round about, we would all gather on the appointed day.
The chuck-wagons, containing the bedding and food, each drawn by four
horses and driven by the teamster cook, would come jolting and
rattling over the uneven sward. Accompanying each wagon were eight or
ten riders, the cow-punchers, while their horses, a band of a hundred
or so, were driven by the two herders, one of whom was known as the
day wrangler and one as the night wrangler. The men were lean, sinewy
fellows, accustomed to riding half-broken horses at any speed over any
country by day or by night. They wore flannel shirts, with loose
handkerchiefs knotted round their necks, broad hats, high-heeled boots
with jingling spurs, and sometimes leather shaps, although often they
merely had their trousers tucked into the tops of their high boots.
There was a good deal of rough horse-play, and, as with any other
gathering of men or boys of high animal spirits, the horse-play
sometimes became very rough indeed; and as the men usually carried
revolvers, and as there were occasionally one or two noted gun-
fighters among them, there was now and then a shooting affray. A man
who was a coward or who shirked his work had a bad time, of course; a
man could not afford to let himself be bullied or treated as a butt;
and, on the other hand, if he was "looking for a fight," he was
certain to find it. But my own experience was that if a man did not
talk until his associates knew him well and liked him, and if he did
his work, he never had any difficulty in getting on. In my own round-
up district I speedily grew to be friends with most of the men. When I
went among strangers I always had to spend twenty-four hours in living
down the fact that I wore spectacles, remaining as long as I could
judiciously deaf to any side remarks about "four eyes," unless it
became evident that my being quiet was misconstrued and that it was
better to bring matters to a head at once.

If, for instance, I was sent off to represent the Little Missouri
brands on some neighboring round-up, such as the Yellowstone, I
usually showed that kind of diplomacy which consists in not uttering
one word that can be avoided. I would probably have a couple of days'
solitary ride, mounted on one horse and driving eight or ten others
before me, one of them carrying my bedding. Loose horses drive best at
a trot, or canter, and if a man is traveling alone in this fashion it
is a good thing to have them reach the camp ground sufficiently late
to make them desire to feed and sleep where they are until morning. In
consequence I never spent more than two days on the journey from
whatever the point was at which I left the Little Missouri, sleeping
the one night for as limited a number of hours as possible.

As soon as I reached the meeting-place I would find out the wagon to
which I was assigned. Riding to it, I turned my horses into the
saddle-band and reported to the wagon boss, or, in his absence, to the
cook--always a privileged character, who was allowed and expected to
order men around. He would usually grumble savagely and profanely
about my having been put with his wagon, but this was merely
conventional on his part; and if I sat down and said nothing he would
probably soon ask me if I wanted anything to eat, to which the correct
answer was that I was not hungry and would wait until meal-time. The
bedding rolls of the riders would be strewn round the grass, and I
would put mine down a little outside the ring, where I would not be in
any one's way, with my six or eight branding-irons beside it. The men
would ride in, laughing and talking with one another, and perhaps
nodding to me. One of their number, usually the wagon foreman, might
put some question to me as to what brands I represented, but no other
word would be addressed to me, nor would I be expected to volunteer
any conversation. Supper would consist of bacon, Dutch oven bread, and
possibly beef; once I won the good graces of my companions at the
outset by appearing with two antelope which I had shot. After supper I
would roll up in my bedding as soon as possible, and the others would
follow suit at their pleasure.

At three in the morning or thereabouts, at a yell from the cook, all
hands would turn hurriedly out. Dressing was a simple affair. Then
each man rolled and corded his bedding--if he did not, the cook would
leave it behind and he would go without any for the rest of the trip--
and came to the fire, where he picked out a tin cup, tin plate, and
knife and fork, helped himself to coffee and to whatever food there
was, and ate it standing or squatting as best suited him. Dawn was
probably breaking by this time, and the trampling of unshod hoofs
showed that the night wrangler was bringing in the pony herd. Two of
the men would then run ropes from the wagon at right angles to one
another, and into this as a corral the horses would be driven. Each
man might rope one of his own horses, or more often point it out to
the most skillful roper of the outfit, who would rope it for him--for
if the man was an unskillful roper and roped the wrong horse or roped
the horse in the wrong place there was a chance of the whole herd
stampeding. Each man then saddled and bridled his horse. This was
usually followed by some resolute bucking on the part of two or three
of the horses, especially in the early days of each round-up. The
bucking was always a source of amusement to all the men whose horses
did not buck, and these fortunate ones would gather round giving
ironical advice, and especially adjuring the rider not to "go to
leather"--that is, not to steady himself in the saddle by catching
hold of the saddle-horn.

As soon as the men had mounted, the whole outfit started on the long
circle, the morning circle. Usually the ranch foreman who bossed a
given wagon was put in charge of the men of one group by the round-up
foreman; he might keep his men together until they had gone some ten
or fifteen miles from camp, and then drop them in couples at different
points. Each couple made its way toward the wagon, gathering all the
cattle it could find. The morning's ride might last six or eight
hours, and it was still longer before some of the men got in. Singly
and in twos and threes they appeared from every quarter of the
horizon, the dust rising from the hoofs of the steers and bulls, the
cows and calves, they had collected. Two or three of the men were left
to take care of the herd while the others changed horses, ate a hasty
dinner, and then came out to the afternoon work. This consisted of
each man in succession being sent into the herd, usually with a
companion, to cut out the cows of his brand or brands which were
followed by unbranded calves, and also to cut out any mavericks or
unbranded yearlings. We worked each animal gently out to the edge of
the herd, and then with a sudden dash took it off at a run. It was
always desperately anxious to break back and rejoin the herd. There
was much breakneck galloping and twisting and turning before its
desire was thwarted and it was driven to join the rest of the cut--
that is, the other animals which had been cut out, and which were
being held by one or two other men. Cattle hate being alone, and it
was no easy matter to hold the first one or two that were cut out; but
soon they got a little herd of their own, and then they were
contented. When the cutting out had all been done, the calves were
branded, and all misadventures of the "calf wrestlers," the men who
seized, threw, and held each calf when roped by the mounted roper,
were hailed with yelling laughter. Then the animals which for one
reason or another it was desired to drive along with the round-up were
put into one herd and left in charge of a couple of night guards, and
the rest of us would loaf back to the wagon for supper and bed.

By this time I would have been accepted as one of the rest of the
outfit, and all strangeness would have passed off, the attitude of my
fellow cow-punchers being one of friendly forgiveness even toward my
spectacles. Night guards for the cattle herd were then assigned by the
captain of the wagon, or perhaps by the round-up foreman, according to
the needs of the case, the guards standing for two hours at a time
from eight in the evening till four in the morning. The first and last
watches were preferable, because sleep was not broken as in both of
the other two. If things went well, the cattle would soon bed down and
nothing further would occur until morning, when there was a repetition
of the work, the wagon moving each day eight or ten miles to some
appointed camping-place.

Each man would picket his night horse near the wagon, usually choosing
the quietest animal in his string for that purpose, because to saddle
and mount a "mean" horse at night is not pleasant. When utterly tired,
it was hard to have to get up for one's trick at night herd.
Nevertheless, on ordinary nights the two hours round the cattle in the
still darkness were pleasant. The loneliness, under the vast empty
sky, and the silence, in which the breathing of the cattle sounded
loud, and the alert readiness to meet any emergency which might
suddenly arise out of the formless night, all combined to give one a
sense of subdued interest. Then, one soon got to know the cattle of
marked individuality, the ones that led the others into mischief; and
one also grew to recognize the traits they all possessed in common,
and the impulses which, for instance, made a whole herd get up towards
midnight, each beast turning round and then lying down again. But by
the end of the watch each rider had studied the cattle until it grew
monotonous, and heartily welcomed his relief guard. A newcomer, of
course, had any amount to learn, and sometimes the simplest things
were those which brought him to grief.

One night early in my career I failed satisfactorily to identify the
direction in which I was to go in order to reach the night herd. It
was a pitch-dark night. I managed to get started wrong, and I never
found either the herd or the wagon again until sunrise, when I was
greeted with withering scorn by the injured cow-puncher, who had been
obliged to stand double guard because I failed to relieve him.

There were other misadventures that I met with where the excuse was
greater. The punchers on night guard usually rode round the cattle in
reverse directions; calling and singing to them if the beasts seemed
restless, to keep them quiet. On rare occasions something happened
that made the cattle stampede, and then the duty of the riders was to
keep with them as long as possible and try gradually to get control of

One night there was a heavy storm, and all of us who were at the
wagons were obliged to turn out hastily to help the night herders.
After a while there was a terrific peal of thunder, the lightning
struck right by the herd, and away all the beasts went, heads and
horns and tails in the air. For a minute or two I could make out
nothing except the dark forms of the beasts running on every side of
me, and I should have been very sorry if my horse had stumbled, for
those behind would have trodden me down. Then the herd split, part
going to one side, while the other part seemingly kept straight ahead,
and I galloped as hard as ever beside them. I was trying to reach the
point--the leading animals--in order to turn them, when suddenly there
was a tremendous splashing in front. I could dimly make out that the
cattle immediately ahead and to one side of me were disappearing, and
the next moment the horse and I went off a cut bank into the Little
Missouri. I bent away back in the saddle, and though the horse almost
went down he just recovered himself, and, plunging and struggling
through water and quicksand, we made the other side. Here I discovered
that there was another cowboy with the same part of the herd that I
was with; but almost immediately we separated. I galloped hard through
a bottom covered with big cottonwood trees, and stopped the part of
the herd that I was with, but very soon they broke on me again, and
repeated this twice. Finally toward morning the few I had left came to
a halt.

It had been raining hard for some time. I got off my horse and leaned
against a tree, but before long the infernal cattle started on again,
and I had to ride after them. Dawn came soon after this, and I was
able to make out where I was and head the cattle back, collecting
other little bunches as I went. After a while I came on a cowboy on
foot carrying his saddle on his head. He was my companion of the
previous night. His horse had gone full speed into a tree and killed
itself, the man, however, not being hurt. I could not help him, as I
had all I could do to handle the cattle. When I got them to the wagon,
most of the other men had already come in and the riders were just
starting on the long circle. One of the men changed my horse for me
while I ate a hasty breakfast, and then we were off for the day's

As only about half of the night herd had been brought back, the circle
riding was particularly heavy, and it was ten hours before we were
back at the wagon. We then changed horses again and worked the whole
herd until after sunset, finishing just as it grew too dark to do
anything more. By this time I had been nearly forty hours in the
saddle, changing horses five times, and my clothes had thoroughly
dried on me, and I fell asleep as soon as I touched the bedding.
Fortunately some men who had gotten in late in the morning had had
their sleep during the daytime, so that the rest of us escaped night
guard and were not called until four next morning. Nobody ever gets
enough sleep on a round-up.

The above was the longest number of consecutive hours I ever had to be
in the saddle. But, as I have said, I changed horses five times, and
it is a great lightening of labor for a rider to have a fresh horse.
Once when with Sylvane Ferris I spent about sixteen hours on one
horse, riding seventy or eighty miles. The round-up had reached a
place called the ox-bow of the Little Missouri, and we had to ride
there, do some work around the cattle, and ride back.

Another time I was twenty-four hours on horseback in company with
Merrifield without changing horses. On this occasion we did not travel
fast. We had been coming back with the wagon from a hunting trip in
the Big Horn Mountains. The team was fagged out, and we were tired of
walking at a snail's pace beside it. When we reached country that the
driver thoroughly knew, we thought it safe to leave him, and we loped
in one night across a distance which it took the wagon the three
following days to cover. It was a beautiful moonlight night, and the
ride was delightful. All day long we had plodded at a walk, weary and
hot. At supper time we had rested two or three hours, and the tough
little riding horses seemed as fresh as ever. It was in September. As
we rode out of the circle of the firelight, the air was cool in our
faces. Under the bright moonlight, and then under the starlight, we
loped and cantered mile after mile over the high prairie. We passed
bands of antelope and herds of long-horn Texas cattle, and at last,
just as the first red beams of the sun flamed over the bluffs in front
of us, we rode down into the valley of the Little Missouri, where our
ranch house stood.

I never became a good roper, nor more than an average rider, according
to ranch standards. Of course a man on a ranch has to ride a good many
bad horses, and is bound to encounter a certain number of accidents,
and of these I had my share, at one time cracking a rib, and on
another occasion the point of my shoulder. We were hundreds of miles
from a doctor, and each time, as I was on the round-up, I had to get
through my work for the next few weeks as best I could, until the
injury healed of itself. When I had the opportunity I broke my own
horses, doing it gently and gradually and spending much time over it,
and choosing the horses that seemed gentle to begin with. With these
horses I never had any difficulty. But frequently there was neither
time nor opportunity to handle our mounts so elaborately. We might get
a band of horses, each having been bridled and saddled two or three
times, but none of them having been broken beyond the extent implied
in this bridling and saddling. Then each of us in succession would
choose a horse (for his string), I as owner of the ranch being given
the first choice on each round, so to speak. The first time I was ever
on a round-up Sylvane Ferris, Merrifield, Meyer, and I each chose his
string in this fashion. Three or four of the animals I got were not
easy to ride. The effort both to ride them and to look as if I enjoyed
doing so, on some cool morning when my grinning cowboy friends had
gathered round "to see whether the high-headed bay could buck the boss
off," doubtless was of benefit to me, but lacked much of being
enjoyable. The time I smashed my rib I was bucked off on a stone. The
time I hurt the point of my shoulder I was riding a big, sulky horse
named Ben Butler, which went over backwards with me. When we got up it
still refused to go anywhere; so, while I sat it, Sylvane Ferris and
George Meyer got their ropes on its neck and dragged it a few hundred
yards, choking but stubborn, all four feet firmly planted and plowing
the ground. When they released the ropes it lay down and wouldn't get
up. The round-up had started; so Sylvane gave me his horse, Baldy,
which sometimes bucked but never went over backwards, and he got on
the now rearisen Ben Butler. To my discomfiture Ben started quietly
beside us, while Sylvane remarked, "Why, there's nothing the matter
with this horse; he's a plumb gentle horse." Then Ben fell slightly
behind and I heard Sylvane again, "That's all right! Come along! Here,
you! Go on, you! Hi, hi, fellows, help me out! he's lying on me!" Sure
enough, he was; and when we dragged Sylvane from under him the first
thing the rescued Sylvane did was to execute a war-dance, spurs and
all, on the iniquitous Ben. We could do nothing with him that day;
subsequently we got him so that we could ride him; but he never became
a nice saddle-horse.

As with all other forms of work, so on the round-up, a man of ordinary
power, who nevertheless does not shirk things merely because they are
disagreeable or irksome, soon earns his place. There were crack riders
and ropers who, just because they felt such overweening pride in their
own prowess, were not really very valuable men. Continually on the
circles a cow or a calf would get into some thick patch of bulberry
bush and refuse to come out; or when it was getting late we would pass
some bad lands that would probably not contain cattle, but might; or a
steer would turn fighting mad, or a calf grow tired and want to lie
down. If in such a case the man steadily persists in doing the
unattractive thing, and after two hours of exasperation and harassment
does finally get the cow out, and keep her out, of the bulberry
bushes, and drives her to the wagon, or finds some animals that have
been passed by in the fourth or fifth patch of bad lands he hunts
through, or gets the calf up on his saddle and takes it in anyhow, the
foreman soon grows to treat him as having his uses and as being an
asset of worth in the round-up, even though neither a fancy roper nor
a fancy rider.

When at the Progressive Convention last August, I met George Meyer for
the first time in many years, and he recalled to me an incident on one
round-up where we happened to be thrown together while driving some
cows and calves to camp. When the camp was only just across the river,
two of the calves positively refused to go any further. He took one of
them in his arms, and after some hazardous maneuvering managed to get
on his horse, in spite of the objections of the latter, and rode into
the river. My calf was too big for such treatment, so in despair I
roped it, intending to drag it over. However, as soon as I roped it,
the calf started bouncing and bleating, and, owing to some lack of
dexterity on my part, suddenly swung round the rear of the horse,
bringing the rope under his tail. Down went the tail tight, and the
horse "went into figures," as the cow-puncher phrase of that day was.
There was a cut bank about four feet high on the hither side of the
river, and over this the horse bucked. We went into the water with a
splash. With a "pluck" the calf followed, described a parabola in the
air, and landed beside us. Fortunately, this took the rope out from
under the horse's tail, but left him thoroughly frightened. He could
not do much bucking in the stream, for there were one or two places
where we had to swim, and the shallows were either sandy or muddy; but
across we went, at speed, and the calf made a wake like Pharaoh's army
in the Red Sea.

On several occasions we had to fight fire. In the geography books of
my youth prairie fires were always portrayed as taking place in long
grass, and all living things ran before them. On the Northern cattle
plains the grass was never long enough to be a source of danger to man
or beast. The fires were nothing like the forest fires in the Northern
woods. But they destroyed large quantities of feed, and we had to stop
them where possible. The process we usually followed was to kill a
steer, split it in two lengthwise, and then have two riders drag each
half-steer, the rope of one running from his saddle-horn to the front
leg, and that of the other to the hind leg. One of the men would spur
his horse over or through the line of fire, and the two would then
ride forward, dragging the steer bloody side downward along the line
of flame, men following on foot with slickers or wet horse-blankets,
to beat out any flickering blaze that was still left. It was exciting
work, for the fire and the twitching and plucking of the ox carcass
over the uneven ground maddened the fierce little horses so that it
was necessary to do some riding in order to keep them to their work.
After a while it also became very exhausting, the thirst and fatigue
being great, as, with parched lips and blackened from head to foot, we
toiled at our task.

In those years the Stockman's Association of Montana was a powerful
body. I was the delegate to it from the Little Missouri. The meetings
that I attended were held in Miles City, at that time a typical cow
town. Stockmen of all kinds attended, including the biggest men in the
stock business, men like old Conrad Kohrs, who was and is the finest
type of pioneer in all the Rocky Mountain country; and Granville
Stewart, who was afterwards appointed Minister by Cleveland, I think
to the Argentine; and "Hashknife" Simpson, a Texan who had brought his
cattle, the Hashknife brand, up the trail into our country. He and I
grew to be great friends. I can see him now the first time we met,
grinning at me as, none too comfortable, I sat a half-broken horse at
the edge of a cattle herd we were working. His son Sloan Simpson went
to Harvard, was one of the first-class men in my regiment, and
afterwards held my commission as Postmaster at Dallas.

At the stockmen's meeting in Miles City, in addition to the big
stockmen, there were always hundreds of cowboys galloping up and down
the wide dusty streets at every hour of the day and night. It was a
picturesque sight during the three days the meetings lasted. There was
always at least one big dance at the hotel. There were few dress
suits, but there was perfect decorum at the dance, and in the square
dances most of the men knew the figures far better than I did. With
such a crowd in town, sleeping accommodations of any sort were at a
premium, and in the hotel there were two men in every bed. On one
occasion I had a roommate whom I never saw, because he always went to
bed much later than I did and I always got up much earlier than he
did. On the last day, however, he rose at the same time and I saw that
he was a man I knew named Carter, and nicknamed "Modesty" Carter. He
was a stalwart, good-looking fellow, and I was sorry when later I
heard that he had been killed in a shooting row.

When I went West, the last great Indian wars had just come to an end,
but there were still sporadic outbreaks here and there, and
occasionally bands of marauding young braves were a menace to outlying
and lonely settlements. Many of the white men were themselves lawless
and brutal, and prone to commit outrages on the Indians.
Unfortunately, each race tended to hold all the members of the other
race responsible for the misdeeds of a few, so that the crime of the
miscreant, red or white, who committed the original outrage too often
invited retaliation upon entirely innocent people, and this action
would in its turn arouse bitter feeling which found vent in still more
indiscriminate retaliation. The first year I was on the Little
Missouri some Sioux bucks ran off all the horses of a buffalo-hunter's
outfit. One of the buffalo-hunters tried to get even by stealing the
horses of a Cheyenne hunting party, and when pursued made for a cow
camp, with, as a result, a long-range skirmish between the cowboys and
the Cheyennes. One of the latter was wounded; but this particular
wounded man seemed to have more sense than the other participants in
the chain of wrong-doing, and discriminated among the whites. He came
into our camp and had his wound dressed.

A year later I was at a desolate little mud road ranch on the Deadwood
trail. It was kept by a very capable and very forceful woman, with
sound ideas of justice and abundantly well able to hold her own. Her
husband was a worthless devil, who finally got drunk on some whisky he
obtained from an outfit of Missouri bull-whackers--that is,
freighters, driving ox wagons. Under the stimulus of the whisky he
picked a quarrel with his wife and attempted to beat her. She knocked
him down with a stove-lid lifter, and the admiring bull-whackers bore
him off, leaving the lady in full possession of the ranch. When I
visited her she had a man named Crow Joe working for her, a slab-
sided, shifty-eyed person who later, as I heard my foreman explain,
"skipped the country with a bunch of horses." The mistress of the
ranch made first-class buckskin shirts of great durability. The one
she made for me, and which I used for years, was used by one of my
sons in Arizona a couple of winters ago. I had ridden down into the
country after some lost horses, and visited the ranch to get her to
make me the buckskin shirt in question. There were, at the moment,
three Indians there, Sioux, well behaved and self-respecting, and she
explained to me that they had been resting there waiting for dinner,
and that a white man had come along and tried to run off their horses.
The Indians were on the lookout, however, and, running out, they
caught the man; but, after retaking their horses and depriving him of
his gun, they let him go. "I don't see why they let him go," exclaimed
my hostess. "I don't believe in stealing Indians' horses any more than
white folks'; so I told 'em they could go along and hang him--I'd
never cheep. Anyhow, I won't charge them anything for their dinner,"
concluded my hostess. She was in advance of the usual morality of the
time and place, which drew a sharp line between stealing citizens'
horses and stealing horses from the Government or the Indians.

A fairly decent citizen, Jap Hunt, who long ago met a violent death,
exemplified this attitude towards Indians in some remarks I once heard
him make. He had started a horse ranch, and had quite honestly
purchased a number of broken-down horses of different brands, with the
view of doctoring them and selling them again. About this time there
had been much horse-stealing and cattle-killing in our Territory and
in Montana, and under the direction of some of the big cattle-growers
a committee of vigilantes had been organized to take action against
the rustlers, as the horse thieves and cattle thieves were called. The
vigilantes, or stranglers, as they were locally known, did their work
thoroughly; but, as always happens with bodies of the kind, toward the
end they grew reckless in their actions, paid off private grudges, and
hung men on slight provocation. Riding into Jap Hunt's ranch, they
nearly hung him because he had so many horses of different brands. He
was finally let off. He was much upset by the incident, and explained
again and again, "The idea of saying that I was a horse thief! Why, I
never stole a horse in my life--leastways from a white man. I don't
count Indians nor the Government, of course." Jap had been reared
among men still in the stage of tribal morality, and while they
recognized their obligations to one another, both the Government and
the Indians seemed alien bodies, in regard to which the laws of
morality did not apply.

On the other hand, parties of savage young bucks would treat lonely
settlers just as badly, and in addition sometimes murder them. Such a
party was generally composed of young fellows burning to distinguish
themselves. Some one of their number would have obtained a pass from
the Indian Agent allowing him to travel off the reservation, which
pass would be flourished whenever their action was questioned by
bodies of whites of equal strength. I once had a trifling encounter
with such a band. I was making my way along the edge of the bad lands,
northward from my lower ranch, and was just crossing a plateau when
five Indians rode up over the further rim. The instant they saw me
they whipped out their guns and raced full speed at me, yelling and
flogging their horses. I was on a favorite horse, Manitou, who was a
wise old fellow, with nerves not to be shaken by anything. I at once
leaped off him and stood with my rifle ready.

It was possible that the Indians were merely making a bluff and
intended no mischief. But I did not like their actions, and I thought
it likely that if I allowed them to get hold of me they would at least
take my horse and rifle, and possibly kill me. So I waited until they
were a hundred yards off and then drew a bead on the first. Indians--
and, for the matter of that, white men--do not like to ride in on a
man who is cool and means shooting, and in a twinkling every man was
lying over the side of his horse, and all five had turned and were
galloping backwards, having altered their course as quickly as so many
teal ducks.

After this one of them made the peace sign, with his blanket first,
and then, as he rode toward me, with his open hand. I halted him at a
fair distance and asked him what he wanted. He exclaimed, "How! Me
good Injun, me good Injun," and tried to show me the dirty piece of
paper on which his agency pass was written. I told him with sincerity
that I was glad that he was a good Indian, but that he must not come
any closer. He then asked for sugar and tobacco. I told him I had
none. Another Indian began slowly drifting toward me in spite of my
calling out to keep back, so I once more aimed with my rifle,
whereupon both Indians slipped to the other side of their horses and
galloped off, with oaths that did credit to at least one side of their
acquaintance with English. I now mounted and pushed over the plateau
on to the open prairie. In those days an Indian, although not as good
a shot as a white man, was infinitely better at crawling under and
taking advantage of cover; and the worst thing a white man could do
was to get into cover, whereas out in the open if he kept his head he
had a good chance of standing off even half a dozen assailants. The
Indians accompanied me for a couple of miles. Then I reached the open
prairie, and resumed my northward ride, not being further molested.

In the old days in the ranch country we depended upon game for fresh
meat. Nobody liked to kill a beef, and although now and then a
maverick yearling might be killed on the round-up, most of us looked
askance at the deed, because if the practice of beef-killing was ever
allowed to start, the rustlers--the horse thieves and cattle thieves--
would be sure to seize on it as an excuse for general slaughter.
Getting meat for the ranch usually devolved upon me. I almost always
carried a rifle when I rode, either in a scabbard under my thigh, or
across the pommel. Often I would pick up a deer or antelope while
about my regular work, when visiting a line camp or riding after the
cattle. At other times I would make a day's trip after them. In the
fall we sometimes took a wagon and made a week's hunt, returning with
eight or ten deer carcasses, and perhaps an elk or a mountain sheep as
well. I never became more than a fair hunter, and at times I had most
exasperating experiences, either failing to see game which I ought to
have seen, or committing some blunder in the stalk, or failing to kill
when I fired. Looking back, I am inclined to say that if I had any
good quality as a hunter it was that of perseverance. "It is dogged
that does it" in hunting as in many other things. Unless in wholly
exceptional cases, when we were very hungry, I never killed anything
but bucks.

Occasionally I made long trips away from the ranch and among the Rocky
Mountains with my ranch foreman Merrifield; or in later years with
Tazewell Woody, John Willis, or John Goff. We hunted bears, both the
black and the grizzly, cougars and wolves, and moose, wapiti, and
white goat. On one of these trips I killed a bison bull, and I also
killed a bison bull on the Little Missouri some fifty miles south of
my ranch on a trip which Joe Ferris and I took together. It was rather
a rough trip. Each of us carried only his slicker behind him on the
saddle, with some flour and bacon done up in it. We met with all kinds
of misadventures. Finally one night, when we were sleeping by a slimy
little prairie pool where there was not a stick of wood, we had to tie
the horses to the horns of our saddles; and then we went to sleep with
our heads on the saddles. In the middle of the night something
stampeded the horses, and away they went, with the saddles after them.
As we jumped to our feet Joe eyed me with an evident suspicion that I
was the Jonah of the party, and said: "O Lord! I've never done
anything to deserve this. Did you ever do anything to deserve this?"

In addition to my private duties, I sometimes served as deputy sheriff
for the northern end of our county. The sheriff and I crisscrossed in
our public and private relations. He often worked for me as a hired
hand at the same time that I was his deputy. His name, or at least the
name he went by, was Bill Jones, and as there were in the neighborhood
several Bill Joneses--Three Seven Bill Jones, Texas Bill Jones, and
the like--the sheriff was known as Hell Roaring Bill Jones. He was a
thorough frontiersman, excellent in all kinds of emergencies, and a


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