Theodore Roosevelt; An Intimate Biography,
William Roscoe Thayer

Part 1 out of 6







In finishing the correction of the last proofs of this sketch, I
perceive that some of those who read it may suppose that I
planned to write a deliberate eulogy of Theodore Roosevelt. This
is not true. I knew him for forty years, but I never followed his
political leadership. Our political differences, however, never
lessened our personal friendship. Sometimes long intervals
elapsed between our meetings, but when we met it was always with
the same intimacy, and when we wrote it was with the same candor.
I count it fortunate for me that during the last ten years of his
life, I was thrown more with Roosevelt than during all the
earlier period; and so I was able to observe him, to know his
motives, and to study his character during the chief crises of
his later career, when what he thought and did became an integral
part of the development of the United States.

After the outbreak of the World War, in 1914, he and I thought
alike, and if I mistake not, this closing phase of his life will
come more and more to be revered by his countrymen as an example
of the highest patriotism and courage. Regardless of popular
lukewarmness at the start, and of persistent official thwarting
throughout, he roused the conscience of the nation to a sense of
its duty and of its honor. What gratitude can repay one who
rouses the con science of a nation? Roosevelt sacrificed his life
for patriotism as surely as if he had died leading a charge in
the Battle of the Marne.

The Great War has thrown all that went before it out of
perspective. We can never see the events of the preceding
half-century in the same light in which we saw them when they
were fresh. Instinctively we appraise them, and the men through
whom they came to pass, by their relation to the catastrophe. Did
they lead up to it consciously or un consciously? And as we judge
the outcome of the war, our views of men take on changed
complexions. The war, as it appears now, was the culmination of
three different world-movements; it destroyed the attempt of
German Imperialism to conquer the world and to rivet upon it a
Prussian military despotism. Next, it set up Democracy as the
ideal for all peoples to live by. Finally, it revealed that the
economic, industrial, social, and moral concerns of men are
deeper than the political. When I came to review Roosevelt's
career consecutively, for the purpose of this biography, I saw
that many of his acts and policies, which had been misunderstood
or misjudged at the time, were all the inevitable expressions of
the principle which was the master-motive of his life. What we
had imagined to be shrewd devices for winning a partisan
advantage, or for overthrowing a political adversary, or for
gratifying his personal ambition, had a nobler source. I do not
mean to imply that Roosevelt, who was a most adroit politician,
did not employ with terrific effect the means accepted as
honorable in political fighting. So did Abraham Lincoln, who
also, as a great Opportunist, was both a powerful and a shrewd
political fighter, but pledged to Righteousness. It seems now
tragic, but inevitable, that Roosevelt, after beginning and
carrying forward the war for the reconciliation between Capital
and Labor, should have been sacrificed by the Republican Machine,
for that Machine was a special organ of Capital, by which Capital
made and administered the laws of the States and of the Nation.
But Roosevelt's struggle was not in vain; before he died, many of
those who worked for his downfall in 1912 were looking up to him
as the natural leader of the country, in the new dangers which
encompassed it. "Had he lived," said a very eminent man who had
done more than any other to defeat him, "he would have been the
unanimous candidate of the Republicans in 1920." Time brings its
revenges swiftly. As I write these lines, it is not Capital, but
overweening Labor which makes its truculent demands on the
Administration at Washington, which it has already intimidated.
Well may we exclaim, "Oh, for the courage of Roosevelt!" And
whenever the country shall be in great anxiety or in direct peril
from the cowardice of those who have sworn to defend its welfare
and its integrity, that cry shall rise to the lips of true

Although I have purposely brought out what I believe to be the
most significant parts of Roosevelt's character and public life,
I have not wished to be uncritical. I have suppressed nothing.
Fortunately for his friends, the two libel suits which he went
through in his later years, subjected him to a microscopic
scrutiny, both as to his personal and his political life. All the
efforts of very able lawyers, and of clever and unscrupulous
enemies to undermine him, failed; and henceforth his advocates
may rest on the verdicts given by two separate courts. As for the
great political acts of his official career, Time has forestalled
eulogy. Does any one now defend selling liquor to children and
converting them into precocious drunkards? Does any one defend
sweat-shops, or the manufacture of cigars under worse than
unsanitary conditions? Which of the packers, who protested
against the Meat Inspection Bill, would care to have his name
made public; and which of the lawyers and of the accomplices in
the lobby and in Congress would care to have it known that he
used every means, fair and foul, to prevent depriving the packers
of the privilege of canning bad meat for Americans, although
foreigners insisted that the canned meat which they bought should
be whole some and inspected? Does any American now doubt the
wisdom and justice of conserving the natural re sources, of
saving our forests and our mineral sup plies, and of controlling
the watershed from which flows the water-supply of entire States?

These things are no longer in the field of debate. They are
accepted just as the railroad and the telegraph are accepted. But
each in its time was a novelty, a reform, and to secure its
acceptance by the American people and its sanction in the statute
book, required the zeal, the energy, the courage of one man-
-Theodore Roosevelt. He had many helpers, but he was the
indispensable backer and accomplisher. When, therefore, I have
commended him for these great achievements, I have but echoed
what is now common opinion.

A contemporary can never judge as the historian a hundred years
after the fact judges, but the contemporary view has also its
place, and it may be really nearer to the living truth than is
the conclusion formed when the past is cold and remote and the
actors are dead long ago. So a friend's outlined portrait, though
obviously not impartial, must be nearer the truth than an enemy's
can be--for the enemy is not impartial either. We have fallen too
much into the habit of imagining that only hostile critics tell
the truth.

I wish to express my gratitude to many persons who have assisted
me in my work. First of all, to Mrs. Roosevelt, for permission to
use various letters. Next, to President Roosevelt's sisters, Mrs.
William S. Cowles and Mrs. Douglas Robinson, for invaluable
information. Equally kind have been many of Roosevelt's
associates in Government and in political affairs: President
William H. Taft, former Secretary of War; Senator Henry Cabot
Lodge; Senator Elihu Root and Colonel Robert Bacon, former
Secretaries of State; Hon. Charles J. Bonaparte, former
Attorney-General; Hon. George B. Cortelyou, former Secretary of
the Interior; Hon. Gifford Pinchot, of the National Forest
Service; Hon. James R. Garfield, former Commissioner of Commerce.

Also to Lord Bryce and the late Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, British
Ambassadors at Washington; to Hon. George W. Wickersham,
Attorney-General under President Taft; to Mr. Nicholas Roosevelt
and Mr. Charles P. Curtis, Jr.; to Hon. Albert J. Beveridge,
ex-Senator; to Mr. James T. Williams, Jr.; to Dr. Alexander
Lambert; to Hon. James M. Beck; to Major George H. Putnam; to
Professor Albert Bushnell Hart; to Hon. Charles S. Bird; to Mrs.
George von. L. Meyer and Mrs. Curtis Guild; to Mr. Hermann
Hagedorn; to Mr. James G. King, Jr.; to Dean William D. Lewis; to
Hon. Regis H. Post; to Hon. William Phillips, Assistant Secretary
of State; to Mr. Richard Trimble; to Mr. John Woodbury; to Gov.
Charles E. Hughes; to Mr. Louis A. Coolidge; to Hon. F. D.
Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy; to Judge Robert
Grant; to Mr. James Ford Rhodes; to Hon. W. Cameron Forbes.

I am under especial obligation to Hon. Charles G. Washburn,
ex-Congressman, whose book, "Theodore Roosevelt: The Logic of his
Career," I have consulted freely and commend as the best analysis
I have seen of Roosevelt's political character. I wish also to
thank the publishers and authors of books by or about Roosevelt
for permission to use their works. These are Houghton Mifflin
Co.; G. P. Putnam's Sons; The Outlook Co.; The Macmillan Co.

To Mr. Ferris Greenslet, whose fine critical taste I have often
drawn upon; and Mr. George B. Ives, who has prepared the Index;
and to Miss Alice Wyman, my secretary, my obligation is profound.

W. R. T.
August 10, 1919




Autobiography = "Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography." Macmillan
Co.; New York, 1914.

*** The titles of other books by Mr. Roosevelt are given without
his name as they occur in the footnotes.

Leupp = Francis E. Leupp: "The Man Roosevelt." D. Appleton & Co.;
New York, 1904.

Lewis = Wm. Draper Lewis: "The Life of Theodore Roosevelt." John
C. Winston Co.; Philadelphia, 1919.

Morgan = James Morgan: "Theodore Roosevelt; The Boy and the Man."
Macmillan Co., new ed., 1919.

Ogg = Frederic A.Ogg: "National Progress, 1907-1917." American
Nation Series. Harper& Bros.; New York, 1918.

Riis = Jacob A. Riis: "Theodore Roosevelt; the Citizen." Outlook
Co.; New York, 1904.

Washburn = Charles G. Washburn: "Theodore Roosevelt; The Logic of
His Career." Houghton Mifflin Co., 1916.



Nothing better illustrates the elasticity of American democratic
life than the fact that within a span of forty years Abraham
Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt were Presidents of the United
States. Two men more unlike in origin, in training, and in
opportunity, could hardly be found.

Lincoln came from an incompetent Kentuckian father, a pioneer
without the pioneer's spirit of enterprise and push; he lacked
schooling; he had barely the necessaries of life measured even by
the standards of the Border; his companions were rough frontier
wastrels, many of whom had either been, or might easily become,
ruffians. The books on which he fed his young mind were very few,
not more than five or six, but they were the best. And yet in
spite of these handicaps, Abraham Lincoln rose to be the leader
and example of the American Nation during its most perilous
crisis, and the ideal Democrat of the nineteenth century.

Theodore Roosevelt, on the contrary, was born in New York City,
enjoyed every advantage in education and training; his family had
been for many generations respected in the city; his father was
cultivated and had distinction as a citizen, who devoted his
wealth and his energies to serving his fellow men. But, just as
incredible adversity could not crush Abraham Lincoln, so lavish
prosperity could not keep down or spoil Theodore Roosevelt.

In his "Autobiography" he tells us that "about 1644 his ancestor,
Claes Martensen van Roosevelt, came to New Amsterdam as a
'settler'--the euphemistic name for an immigrant who came over in
the steerage of a sailing ship in the seventeenth century. From
that time for the next seven generations from father to son every
one of us was born on Manhattan Island." * For over a hundred
years the Roosevelts continued to be typical Dutch burghers in a
hard-working, God-fearing, stolid Dutch way, each leaving to his
son a little more than he had inherited. During the Revolution,
some of the family were in the Continental Army, but they won no
high honors, and some of them sat in the Congresses of that
generation--sat, and were honest, but did not shine. Theodore's
great-grandfather seems to have amassed what was regarded in
those days as a large fortune.

* Autobiography, 1.

His grandfather, Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt, a glass
importer and banker, added to his inheritance, but was more than
a mere money-maker.

His son Theodore, born in 1831, was the father of the President.
Inheriting sufficient means to live in great comfort, not to say
in luxury, he nevertheless engaged in business; but he had a high
sense of the obligation which wealth lays on its possessors. And
so, instead of wasting his life in merely heaping up dollars, he
dedicated it to spending wisely and generously those which he
had. There was nothing puritanical, however, in his way of
living. He enjoyed the normal, healthy pleasures of his station.
He drove his coach and four and was counted one of the best whips
in New York. Taking his paternal responsibilities seriously, he
implanted in his children lively respect for discipline and duty;
but he kept very near to their affection, so that he remained
throughout their childhood, and after they grew up, their most
intimate friend.

What finer tribute could a son pay than this which follows?

'My father, Theodore Roosevelt, was the best man I ever knew. He
combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and
great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children
selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness.
As we grew older he made us understand that the same standard of
clean living was demanded for the boys as for the girls; that
what was wrong in a woman could not be right in a man. With great
love and patience and the most understanding sympathy and
consideration he combined insistence on discipline. He never
physically punished me but once, but he was the only man of whom
I was ever really afraid.' *

*Autobiography, 16.

Thus the President, writing nearly forty years after his father's
death. His mother was Martha Bulloch, a member of an old Southern
family, one of her ancestors having been the first Governor of
Georgia. During the Civil War, while Mr. Roosevelt was busy
raising regiments, supporting the Sanitary Commission, and doing
whatever a non-combatant patriot could do to uphold the Union,
Mrs. Roosevelt's heart allegiance went with the South, and to the
end of her life she was never "reconstructed." But this conflict
of loyalties caused no discord in the Roosevelt family circle.
Her two brothers served in the Confederate Navy. One of them,
James Bulloch, "a veritable Colonel Newcome," was an admiral and
directed the construction of the privateer Alabama. The other,
Irvine, a midshipman on that vessel, fired the last gun in its
fight with the Kearsarge before the Alabama sank. After the war
both of them lived in Liverpool and "Uncle Jimmy" became a rabid
Tory. He "was one of the best men I have ever known," writes his
nephew Theodore; "and when I have sometimes been tempted to
wonder how good people can believe of me the unjust and
impossible things they do believe, I have consoled myself by
thinking of Uncle Jimmy Bulloch's perfectly sincere conviction
that Gladstone was a man of quite exceptional and nameless infamy
in both public and private life."

Theodore Roosevelt grew up to be not only a stanch but an
uncompromising believer in the Union Cause; but the fact that his
parents came from the North and from the South, and that, from
his earliest memory, the Southern kindred were held in affection
in his home, must have helped him towards that non-sectional,
all-American point of view which was the cornerstone of his
patriotic creed.

The Roosevelt house was situated at No. 28 East Twentieth Street,
New York City, and there Theodore was born on October 27, 1858.
He passed his boyhood amid the most wholesome family life.
Besides his brother Elliott and two sisters, as his Uncle Robert
lived next door, there were cousins to play with and a numerous
kindred to form the background of his young life. He was,
fortunately, not precocious, for the infant prodigies of seven,
who become the amazing omniscients of twenty-three, are seldom
heard of at thirty. He learned very early to read, and his
sisters remember that when he was still in starched white
petticoats, with a curl carefully poised on top of his head, he
went about the house lugging a thick, heavy volume of
Livingstone's "Travels" and asking some one to tell him about the
"foraging ants" described by the explorer. At last his older
sister found the passage in which the little boy had mistaken
"foregoing" for "foraging." No wonder that in his mature years he
became an advocate of reformed spelling. His sense of humor,
which flashed like a mountain brook through all his later
intercourse and made it delightful, seems to have begun with his
infancy. He used to say his prayers at his mother's knee, and one
evening when he was out of sorts with her, he prayed the Lord to
bless the Union Cause; knowing her Southern preferences he took
this humorous sort of vengeance on her. She, too, had humor and
was much amused, but she warned him that if he repeated such
impropriety at that solemn moment, she should tell his father.

Theodore and the other children had a great fondness for pets,
and their aunt, Mrs. Robert, possessed several of unusual
kinds--pheasants and peacocks which strutted about the back yard
and a monkey which lived on the back piazza. They were afraid of
him, although they doubtless watched his antics with a fearful
joy. From the accounts which survive, life in the nursery of the
young Roosevelts must have been a perpetual play-time, but
through it all ran the invisible formative influence of their
parents, who had the art of shaping the minds and characters of
the little people without seeming to teach.

Almost from infancy Theodore suffered from asthma, which made him
physically puny, and often prevented him from lying down when he
went to bed. But his spirit did not droop. His mental activity
never wearied and he poured out endless stories to the delight of
his brother and sisters. "My earliest impressions of my brother
Theodore," writes his sister, Mrs. Robinson, "are of a rather
small, patient, suffering little child, who, in spite of his
suffering, was the acknowledged head of the nursery .... These
stories," she adds, "almost always related to strange and
marvelous animal adventures, in which the animals were
personalities quite as vivid as Kipling gave to the world a
generation later in his 'Jungle Books.'"

Owing to his delicate health Theodore did not attend school,
except for a little while, when he went to Professor MacMullen's
Academy on Twentieth Street. He was taught at home and he
probably got more from his reading than from his teachers. By the
time he was ten, the passion for omnivorous reading which
frequently distinguishes boys who are physically handicapped,
began in him. He devoured Our Young Folks, that excellent
periodical on which many of the boys and girls who were his
contemporaries fed. He loved tales of travel and adventure; he
loved Cooper's stories, and especially books on natural history.

In summer the children spent the long days out of doors at some
country place, and there, in addition to the pleasure of being
continuously with nature, they had the sports and games adapted
to their age. Theodore was already making collections of stones
and other specimens after the haphazard fashion of boys. The
young naturalist sometimes met with unexpected difficulties.
Once, for instance, he found a litter of young white mice, which
he put in the ice-chest for safety. His mother came upon them,
and, in the interest Of good housekeeping, she threw them away.
When Theodore discovered it he flew into a tantrum and protested
that what hurt him most was "the loss to Science! the loss to
Science!" On another occasion Science suffered a loss of unknown
extent owing to his obligation to manners. He and his cousin had
filled their pockets and whatever bags they had with specimens.
Then they came upon two toads, of a strange and new variety.
Having no more room left, each boy put one of them on top of his
head and clapped down his hat. All went well till they met Mrs.
Hamilton Fish, a great lady to whom they had to take off their
hats. Down jumped the toads and hopped away, and Science was
never able to add the Bufo Rooseveltianus to its list of Hudson
Valley reptiles.

In 1869 Mr. Roosevelt took his family to Europe for a year. The
children did not care to go, and from the start Theodore was
homesick and little interested. Of course, picture galleries
meant nothing to a boy of ten, with a naturalist's appetite, and
he could not know enough about history to be impressed by
historic places and monuments. He kept a diary from which Mr.
Hagedorn* prints many amusing entries, some of which I quote:

* H. Hagedorn: The Boy's Life of Theodore Roosevelt. Harper &
Bros. 1918.

Munich, October. "In the night I had a nightmare dreaming that
the devil was carrying me away and had collorer morbos (a
sickness that is not very dangerous) but Mama patted me with her
delicate fingers."

Little Conie also kept a diary: the next entry is from it:

Paris. "I am so glad Mama has let me stay in the butiful hotel
parlor while the poor boys have been dragged off to the orful
picture galary."

Now Theodore again:

Paris, November 26. "I stayed in the house all day, varying the
day with brushing my hair, washing my hands and thinking in fact
haveing a verry dull time."

"Nov. 27. I Did the same thing as yesterday."

Chamounix. "I found several specimens to keep and we went on the
great glacier called 'Mother of ice!'"

"We went to our cousins school at Waterloo. We had a nice time
but met Jeff Davises son and some sharp words ensued."

Venice. "We saw a palace of the doges. It looks like a palace you
could be comfortable and snug in (which is not usual)--We went to
another church in which Conie jumped over tombstones spanked me
banged Ellies head &c."

"Conie" was his nickname for his younger sister Corinne.*

* She subsequently married Mr. Douglas Robinson.

November 22. "In the evening Mama showed me the portrait of
Eidieth Carow and her face stirred up in me homesickness and
longings for the past which will come again never aback never."

The little girl, the sight of whose portrait stirred such
longings for the past in the heart of the young Theodore, was
Edith Carow, the special playmate of his sister Conie and one of
the intimate group whom he had always known. Years later she
became his wife.

The Roosevelt family returned to New York in May, 1870, and
resumed its ordinary life. Theodore, whom one of his fellow
travelers on the steamer remembers as "a tall thin lad with
bright eyes and legs like pipestems," developed rapidly in mind,
but the asthma still tormented him and threatened to make a
permanent invalid of him. His father fitted up in the house in
Twentieth Street a small gymnasium and said to the boy in
substance, "You have brains, but you have a sickly body. In order
to make your brains bring you what they ought, you must build up
your body; it depends upon you." The boy felt both the obligation
and the desire; he willed to be strong, and he went through his
gymnastic exercises with religious precision. What he read in his
books about knights and paladins and heroes had always greatly
moved his imagination. He wanted to be like them. He understood
that the one indispensable attribute common to all of them was
bodily strength. Therefore he would be strong. Through all his
suffering he was patient and determined. But I recall no other
boy, enfeebled by a chronic and often distressing disease, who
resolved as he did to conquer his enemy by a wisely planned and
unceasing course of exercises.

Improvement came slowly. Many were the nights in which he spent
hours gasping for breath. Sometimes on summer nights his father
would wrap him up and take him on a long drive through the
darkness in search of fresh air. But no matter how hard the
pinch, the boy never complained, and when ever there was a
respite his vivacity burst forth as fresh as ever. He could not
attend school with other boys and, indeed, his realization that
he could not meet them on equal physical terms made him timid
when he was thrown with them. So he pursued his own tastes with
all the more zeal. He read many books, some of which seemed
beyond a boy's ken, but he got something from each of them. His
power of concentration already surprised his family. If he was
absorbed in a chapter, nothing which went on outside of him,
either noise or interruption, could distract his attention. His
passion for natural his tory increased. At the age of ten, he
opened in one of the rooms of his home "The Roosevelt Museum of
Natural History." Later, he devoted himself more particularly to
birds, and learned from a taxidermist how to skin and stuff his

In 1873, President Grant appointed Mr. Roosevelt a Commissioner
to the Vienna Exposition and the Roosevelt family made another
foreign tour. Hoping to benefit Theodore's asthma they went to
Algiers, and up the Nile, where he was much more interested in
the flocks of aquatic fowl than in the half-buried temples of
Dendera or the obelisks and pylons of Karnak. He even makes no
mention of the Pyramids, but records with enthusiasm that he
found at Cairo a book by an English clergyman, whose name he
forgot, on the ornithology of the Nile, which greatly helped him.
Incidentally, he says that from the Latin names of the birds he
made his first acquaintance with that language. While Mr.
Roosevelt attended to his duties in Vienna the younger children
were placed in the family of Herr Minckwitz, a Government
official at Dresden. There, Theodore, "in spite of himself,"
learned a good deal of German, and he never forgot his pleasant
life among the Saxons in the days be fore the virus of Prussian
barbarism had poisoned all the non-Prussian Germans. Minckwitz
had been a Liberal in the Revolution of 1848, a fact which added
to Theodore's interest in him.

On getting home, Theodore, who was fifteen years old, set to work
seriously to fit himself to enter Harvard College. Up to this
time his education had been unmethodical, leaving him behind his
fellows in some subjects and far ahead of them in others. He had
the good fortune now to secure as a tutor Mr. Arthur H. Cutler,
for many years head of the Cutler Preparatory School in New York
City, thanks to whose excellent training he was able to enter
college in 1876. During these years of preparation Theodore's
health steadily improved. He had a gun and was an ardent
sportsman, the incentive of adding specimens to his collection of
birds and animals outweighing the mere sport of slaughter. At
Oyster Bay, where his father first leased a house in 1874, he
spent much of his time on the water, but he deemed sailing rather
lazy and unexciting, compared with rowing. He enjoyed taking his
row-boat out into the Sound, and, if a high headwind was blowing,
or the sea ran in whitecaps, so much the better. He was now able
to share in all of the athletic pastimes of his companions,
although, so far as I know, he never indulged in baseball, the
commonest game of all.

When he entered Harvard as a Freshman in 1876, that institution
was passing through its transition from college to university,
which had begun when Charles W. Eliot became its President seven
years before. In spite of vehement assaults, the Great Educator
pushed on his reform slowly but resistlessly. He needed to train
not only the public but many members, perhaps a majority, of his
faculty. Young Roosevelt found a body of eight hundred
undergraduates, the largest number up to that time. While the
Elective System had been introduced in the upper classes,
Freshmen and Sophomores were still required to take the courses
prescribed for them.

To one who looks back, after forty years, on the Harvard of that
time there was much about it, the loss of which must be
regretted. Limited in many directions it was, no doubt, but its
very limitations made for friendship and for that sense of
intimate mutual, relationship, out of which springs mutual
affection. You belonged to Harvard, and she to you. That she was
small, compared with her later magnitude, no more lessened your
love for her, than your love for your own mother could be
increased were she suddenly to become a giantess. The
undergraduate community was not exactly a large family, but it
was, nevertheless, restricted enough not only for a fellow to
know at least by sight all of his classmates, but also to have
some knowledge of what was going on in other classes as well as
in the College as a whole. Academic fame, too, had a better
chance then than it has now. There were eight or ten professors,
whom most of the fellows knew by sight, and all by reputation;
now, however, I meet intelligent students who have never heard
even the name of the head of some department who is famous
throughout the world among his colleagues, but whose courses that
student has never taken.

In spite of the simplicity and the homelikeness of the Harvard
with eight hundred undergraduates, however, it was large enough
to afford the opportunity of meeting men of many different tastes
and men from all parts of the country. So it gave free play to
the development of individual talents, and its standard of
scholarship was already sufficiently high to ensure the
excellence of the best scholars it trained. One quality which we
probably took little note of, although it must have affected us
all, sprang from the fact that Harvard was still a crescent
institution; she was in the full vigor of growth, of expansion,
of increase, and we shared insensibly from being connected with
that growth. In retrospect now, and giving due recognition to
this crescent spirit, I recall that, in spite of it, Omar Khayyam
was the favorite poet of many of us, that introspection, which
sometimes deepened into pessimism, was in vogue, and that a
spiritual or philosophic languorous disenchantment sicklied o'er
the somewhat mottled cast of our thought.

Roosevelt took rooms at No. 16 Winthrop Street, a quiet little
lane midway between the College Yard and Charles River, where he
could pursue his hobbies without incessant interruption from
casual droppers-in. Here he kept the specimens which he went on
collecting, some live--a large turtle and two or three harmless
snakes, for instance--and some dead and stuffed. He was no
"grind"; the gods take care not to mix even a drop of pedantry in
the make-up of the rare men whom they destine for great deeds or
fine works. Theodore was already so much stronger in his health
that he went on to get still more strength. He had regular
lessons in boxing. He took long walks and studied the flora and
fauna of the country round Cambridge in his amateurish but
intense way. During his first Christmas vacation, he went down to
the Maine Woods and camped out, and there he met Bill Sewall, a
famous guide, who remained Theodore's friend through life, and
Wilmot Dow, Sewall's nephew, another woodsman; and this trip,
subsequently followed by others, did much good to his physique.
He still had occasional attacks of asthma--he "guffled" as Bill
Sewall called it--and they were sometimes acute, but his tendency
to them slowly wore away.

All his days Roosevelt was proud of being a Harvard man. Even in
the period when academic Harvard was most critical of his public
acts, he never wavered in his devotion to Alma Mater herself,
that dear and lovely Being, who, like the ideal of our country,
lives on to inspire us in spite of unsympathetic administrations
and unloved leaders.

"The One remains, the many change and pass."

Nevertheless, in his "Autobiography," Theodore makes very scant
record of his college life. "I thoroughly enjoyed Harvard," he
says, "and I am sure it did me good, but only in the general
effect, for there was very little in my actual studies which
helped me in after life." * Like nine out of ten men who look
back on college he could make no definite estimate of the actual
gains from those four years; but it is precisely the
indefiniteness, the elusiveness of the college experience which
marks its worth. This is not to be reckoned financially by an
increase in dollars and cents, or intellectually, by so many
added foot-pounds of knowledge. Harvard College was of
inestimable benefit to Roosevelt, because it enabled him to find
himself--to be a man with his fellow men.

*Autobiography, 27.

During his youth his physical handicap had rather cut him off
from companionship on equal terms with his fellows. Now, however,
he could enter with zest in their sports and societies. At the
very beginning of his Freshman year he showed his classmates his
mettle. During the presidential torchlight parade when the
jubilant Freshmen were marching for Hayes, some Tilden man
shouted derisively at them from a second-story window and pelted
them with potatoes. It was impossible for them to get at him, but
Theodore, who was always stung at any display of meanness-- and
it was certainly mean to attack the paraders when they could not
retaliate--stood out from the line and shook his fist at the
assailant. His fellow marchers asked who their champion was, and
so the name of Roosevelt and his pugnacious little figure became
generally known to them. He was little then, not above five feet
six in height, and under one hundred and thirty pounds in weight.
By degrees they all knew him. His unusual ways, his loyalty to
his hobbies, which he treated not as mere whims but as being
worthy of serious application, his versatility, his
outspokenness, his almost unbroken good-nature, attracted most of
the persons with whom he came in contact. He rose to be President
of the Natural History Society, a distinction which implied some
real merit in its possessor. His family antecedents, but still
more his personal qualities, made easy for him the ascent of the
social terraces at Harvard--the Dicky, the Hasty Pudding Club,
and the Porcellian. He was editor of the Harvard Advocate, which
opened the door of the O.K. Society, where he found congenial
intellectual companionship with the editors from the classes
above and below him; and when Dr. Edward Everett Hale wished to
revive and perpetuate the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity, Roosevelt
was one of the half-dozen men from the Class of 1880 whom he

My first definite recollection of him is at the annual dinner of
the Harvard Crimson in January or February, 1879. He was invited
as a guest to represent the Advocate. Since entering college I
had met him casually many times and had heard of his oddities and
exuberance; but throughout this dinner I came to feel that I knew
him. On being called on to speak he seemed very shy and made,
what I think he said, was his maiden speech. He still had
difficulty in enunciating clearly or even in running off his
words smoothly. At times he could hardly get them out at all, and
then he would rush on for a few sentences, as skaters redouble
their pace over thin ice. He told the story of two old gentlemen
who stammered, the point of which was, that one of them,--after
distressing contortions and stoppages, recommended the other to
go to Dr. X, adding, "He cured me."

A trifling bit of thistledown for memory to have preserved after
all these years; but still it is interesting to me to recall that
this was the beginning of the public speaking of the man who
later addressed more audiences than any other orator of his time
and made a deeper impression by his spoken word.

One other reminiscence of Roosevelt at Harvard, almost as
unsubstantial as this. Late in his Senior year we had a committee
meeting of the Alpha Delta Phi in Charles Washburn's room at 15
Holworthy. Roosevelt and I sat in the window-seat overlooking the
College Yard and chatted together in the intervals when business
was slack. We discussed what we intended to do after graduation.
"I am going to try to help the cause of better government in New
York City; I don't know exactly how," said Theodore.

I recall, still, looking hard at him with an eager, inquisitive
look and saying to myself, "I wonder whether he is the real
thing, or only the bundle of eccentricities which he appears."
There was in me then, as there has always been, a mingling of
skepticism and of deep reverence for those who dealt with
reality, and I had not had sufficient opportunity to determine
whether Roosevelt was real or not. One at least of his
classmates, however, saw portents of greatness in Theodore, from
their Freshman year, and most of us, even when we were amused and
puzzled by his " queerness," were very sure that the man from
whom they sprang was not commonplace.

So far as I remember, Roosevelt was the first undergraduate to
own and drive a dog-cart. This excited various comments; so did
the reddish, powder-puff side whiskers which no chaffing could
make him cut. There was never the slightest suggestion of the
gilded youth about him; though dog-carts, especially when owned
by young men, implied the habits and standards of the gilded
rich. How explain the paradox? On the other hand, Theodore taught
Sunday School at Christ Church, but he was so muscular a
Christian that the decorous vestrymen thought him an unwise guide
in piety. For one day a boy came to class with a black eye which
he had got in fighting a larger boy for pinching his sister.
Theodore told him that he did perfectly right--that every boy
ought to defend any girl from insult--and he gave him a dollar as
a reward. The vestrymen decided that this was too flagrant
approval of fisticuffs; so the young teacher soon found a welcome
in the Sunday School of a different denomination.

Of all the stories of Roosevelt's college career, that of his
boxing match is most vividly remembered. He enrolled in the
light-weight sparring at the meeting in the Harvard Gymnasium on
March 22 1879, and defeated his first competitor. When the
referee called "time," Roosevelt immediately dropped his hands,
but the other man dealt him a savage blow on the face, at which
we all shouted, "Foul, foul!" and hissed; but Roosevelt turned
towards us and cried out "Hush! He didn't hear," a chivalrous act
which made him immediately popular. In his second match he met
Hanks. They both weighed about one hundred and thirty-five
pounds, but Hanks was two or three inches taller and he had a
much longer reach, so that Theodore could not get in his blows,
and although he fought with unabated pluck, he lost the contest.
More serious than his short reach, however, was his
near-sightedness, which made it impossible for him to see and
parry Hanks's lunges. When time was called after the last round,
his face was dashed with blood and he was much winded; but his
spirit did not flag, and if there had been another round, he
would have gone into it with undiminished determination. From
this contest there sprang up the legend that Roosevelt boxed with
his eyeglasses lashed to his head, and the legend floated hither
and thither for nearly thirty years. Not long ago I asked him the
truth. "Persons who believe that," he said, "must think me
utterly crazy; for one of Charlie Hanks's blows would have
smashed my eyeglasses and probably blinded me for life."

In a class of one hundred and seventy he graduated twenty second,
which entitled him to membership in the Phi Beta Kappa, the
society of high scholars. To one who examines his academic record
wisely, the best symptom is that he did fairly well in several
unrelated subjects, and achieved preeminence in one, natural
history. He had the all-round quality which shows more promise
than does a propensity to light on a particular topic and suck it
dry; but he had also power of concentration and thoroughness. As
I have just said, he was a happy combination of the amateurish
and intense. His habit of absorption became a by-word; for if he
visited a, classmate's room and saw a book which interested him,
instead of joining in the talk, he would devour the book,
oblivious of, everything else, until the college bell rang for
the next lecture, when he would jump up with a start, and dash
off. The quiet but firm teaching of his parents bore fruit in
him: he came to college with a body of rational moral principles
which he made no parade of, but obeyed instinctively. And so,
where many young fellows are thrown off their balance on first
acquiring the freedom which college life gives, or are dazed and
distracted on first hearing the babel of strange philosophies or
novel doctrines, he walked straight, held himself erect, and was
not fooled into mistaking novelty for truth, or libertinism for

Two outside events which deeply influenced him must be noted.
During his Sophomore year his father died; and during his Senior
year, Theodore became engaged to Miss Alice Hathaway Lee,
daughter of George C. Lee, of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.


Roosevelt was a few months less than twenty-two years old when he
graduated from Harvard. His career in college had wrought several
important changes in him. First of all, his strength was
confirmed. Although he still suffered occasionally from asthma,
he was no longer handicapped. In business, or in pleasure, he did
not need to consider his health. Next, he had come to some
definite decision as to what he would do. His earlier dream of
becoming a professor of natural history had faded away. With the
inpouring of vigor into his constitution the ideal of an academic
life, often sedentary in mind as well as in body, ceased to lure
him. He craved activity, and this craving was bound to grow more
urgent as he acquired more strength. Next, and this consideration
must not be neglected, he was free to choose. His father's death
left him the possessor of a sufficient fortune to live on
comfortably without need of working to earn his bread and
butter--the motive which determines most young men when they
start in life. Finally, his father's example, reinforced by
wholesome advice, quickened in Theodore his sense of obligation
to the community. Having money, he must use it, not for mere
personal gratification, but in ways which would benefit those who
were deprived, or outcast, or bereft. But Theodore was too young
and too energetic to be contented with the life of a
philanthropist, no matter how noble and necessary its objects
might be. He had already accepted Emerson's dictum:

"He who feeds men, serves a few;
He serves all who dares be true."

Young as he was, he divined that much of the charitable work, to
which good people devote them selves in order to lighten or
relieve the ills which the sins and errors of mankind beget,
would be needless if the remedy were applied, as it ought to be,
to fundamental social conditions. These, he believed, could be
reached in many cases through political agency, and he resolved,
therefore, to make a trial of his talents in political life. The
point at which he decided to "break into politics, " as he
expressed it, was the Assembly, or Lower House of the New York
State Legislature. Most of his friends and classmates, on hearing
of his plan, regarded it as a proof of his eccentricity; a few of
them, the more discerning, would not prejudge him, but were
rather inclined to hope. By tradition and instinct, he was a
Republican, and in order to learn the political ropes he joined
the Twenty-first District Republican Association of New York
City. The district consisted chiefly of rich, respectable, and
socially conspicuous inhabitants of the vortex metropolis, with a
leaven of the "masses." The "classes" had no real zeal for
discharging their political duty. They subscribed to the campaign
fund, but had too delicate a sense of propriety to ask how their
money was spent. A few of them--and these seemed to be endowed
with a special modicum of patriotism--even attended the party
primaries in which candidates were named. The majority went to
the polls and cast their vote on election day, if it did not rain
or snow. For a young man of Roosevelt's position to desire to
take up politics seemed to his friends almost comic. Politics
were low and corrupt; politics were not for "gentlemen"; they
were the business and pastime of liquor-dealers, and of the
degenerates and loafers who frequented the saloons, of horse-car
conductors, and of many others whose ties with "respectability"
were slight.

To join the organization, Roosevelt had to be elected to the
Twenty-first District Republican Club, for the politicians of
those days kept their organization close, not to say exclusive,
and in this way they secured the docility of their members. The
Twenty first District Club met in Morton Hall, a dingy, barnlike
room situated over a saloon, and furnished severely with wooden
benches, many spittoons, and a speaker's table decorated with a
large pitcher for ice-water. The regular meetings came once a
month and Roosevelt attended them faithfully, because he never
did things by halves, and having made up his mind to learn the
mechanism of politics, he would not neglect any detail.

Despite the shyness which ill health caused him in his youth, he
was really a good "mixer," and, growing to feel more sure of
himself, he met men on equal terms. More than that, he had the
art of inspiring confidence in persons of divers sorts and, as he
was really interested in knowing their thoughts and desires, it
never took him long to strike up friendly relations with them.

Jake Hess, the Republican "Boss" of the Twenty-first District,
evidently eyed Roosevelt with some suspicion, for the newcomer
belonged to a class which Jake did not desire to see largely
represented in the business of "practical politics," and so he
treated Roosevelt with a "rather distant affability." The young
man, however, got on well enough with the heelers--the immediate
trusty followers of the Boss--and with the ordinary members. They
probably marveled to see him so unlike what they believed a youth
of the "kid-glove" and "silkstocking" set would be, and they
accepted him as a "good fellow."

Of all Roosevelt's comrades during this first year of initiation,
a young Irishman named Joe Murray was nearest to him, an honest
fellow, fearless and stanch, who remained his loyal friend for
forty years. Murray began as a Democrat of the Tammany Hall
tribe, but having been left in the lurch by his Boss at an
election, he determined to punish the Boss, and this he did at
the first opportunity by throwing his influence on the side of
the Republican candidate. The Republicans won, although the
district was overwhelmingly Democratic, and Murray joined the
Republican Party. He worked in the district where Jake Hess
ruled. Like other even greater men, Jake became arrogant and
treated the gang under him with condescension. Murray resented
this and resolved that he would humble the Boss by supporting
Roosevelt as a candidate for the Assembly. Hess protested, but
could not prevent the nomination and during the campaign he seems
to have supported the candidate whom he had not chosen.

Roosevelt sent the following laconic appeal to some of the voters
of his district:

New York, November 1, 1881.


Having been nominated as a candidate for member of Assembly for
this District, I would esteem it a compliment if you honor me
with your vote and personal influence on Election day.

Very respectfully


Certainly, nothing could be simpler than this card, which
contains no puff of either the party or the candidate, or no
promise. It drew a cordial response.

Twenty-first Assembly District.

40th to 86th Sts., Lexington to 7th Aves.

We cordially recommend the voters of the Twenty-first Assembly
District to cast their ballots for

Theodore Roosevelt

for member of Assembly

and take much pleasure in testifying to our appreciation of his
high character and standing in the community. He is conspicuous
for his honesty and integrity, and eminently qualified to
represent the District in the Assembly.

New York November 1, 1881

F. A. P. Barnard, William T. Black, Willard Bullard, Joseph H.
Choate, William A. Darling, Henry E. Davies, Theodore W. Dwight,
Jacob Hess, Morris K. Jesup, Edward Mitchell, William F. Morgan,
Chas. S. Robinson, Elihu Root, Jackson S. Shultz, Elliott F.
Shepard, Gustavus Tuckerman, S. H. Wales, W. H. Webb.

This list bears the names of at least two men who will be long
remembered. There are also several others which were doubtless of
more political value to the aspirant to office in 1881.

Just after the election Roosevelt wrote to his classmate, Charles
G. Washburn:

'Too true, too true; I have become a "political hack." Finding it
would not interfere much with my law, I accepted the nomination
to the Assembly and was elected by 1500 majority, leading the
ticket by 600 votes. But don't think I am going to go into
politics after this year, for I am not.'

Roosevelt's allusion to the law requires the statement that in
the autumn of 1880 he had begun to read law in the office of his
uncle, Robert Roosevelt; not that he had a strong leaning to the
legal profession, but that he believed that every one, no matter
how well off he might be, ought to be able to support himself by
some occupation or profession. Also, he could not endure being
idle, and he knew that the slight political work on which he
embarked when he joined the Twenty-first District Republican Club
would take but little of his time. During that first year out of
college he established himself as a citizen, not merely
politically, but socially. On his birthday in 1880 he married
Miss Lee and they set up their home at 6 West Fifty-seventh
Street; he joined social and literary clubs and extended his
athletic interests beyond wrestling and boxing to hunting, rifle
practice, and polo.

His law studies seem to have absorbed him less than anything else
that he undertook during all his life. He could not fail to be
interested in them, but he never plunged into them with all his
might and main as if he intended to make them his chief concern.
For a while he had a desk in the office of the publishers, G. P.
Putnam's Sons: but Major George Putnam recalls that he did little
except suggest wonderful projects, which "had to be sat down
upon." Already a love of writing infected him. Even before he
left Harvard he had begun "A History of the Naval War of 1812,"
and this he worked on eagerly. The Putnams published it in 1882.

One incident of Roosevelt's canvass must not be overlooked. The
Red Indians of old used to make their captives run the gauntlet
between two lines of warriors: political bosses in New York in
1880 made their nominee run the gauntlet of all the saloonkeepers
in their district. Accordingly, Jake Hess and Joe Murray
proceeded to introduce Roosevelt to the rum-sellers of Sixth
Avenue. The first they visited received Theodore with injudicious
condescension almost as if he were a suppliant. He said he hoped
that the young candidate, if elected, would treat the liquor men
fairly, to which the "suppliant" replied that he intended to
treat all interests fairly. The suggestion that liquor licenses
were too high brought the retort that they were not high enough.
Thereupon, the wary Hess and the discreet Joe Murray found an
excuse for hurrying Roosevelt out of the saloon, and they told
him that he had better look after his friends on Fifth Avenue and
that they would look after the saloon-keepers on Sixth Avenue.
That any decent candidate should have to pass in review before
the saloon-keepers and receive their approval, is so monstrous as
to be grotesque. That a possible President of the United States
should be the victim needs no comment. It was thoroughly
characteristic of Roosevelt that he balked at the first trial.

He says in his "Autobiography" that he was not conscious of going
into politics to benefit other people, but to secure for himself
a privilege to which every one was entitled. That privilege was
self-government. When his "kid-glove" friends laughed at him for
deliberately choosing to leap into the political mire, he told
them that the governing class ought to govern, and that not they
themselves but the bosses and "heelers" were the real governors
of New York City. Not the altruistic desire to reform, but the
perfectly practical resolve to enjoy the political rights to
which he had a claim was his leading motive. It is important to
understand this because it will explain much of his action as a
statesman. Roosevelt is the greatest idealist in American public
life since Lincoln; but his idealism, like Lincoln's, always had
a firm, intelligent, practical footing. Roosevelt himself thus
describes his work during his first year in the New York

I paid attention chiefly while in the Legislature to laws for the
reformation of Primaries and of the Civil Service and endeavored
to have a certain Judge Westbrook impeached, on the ground of
corrupt collusion with Jay Gould and the prostitution of his high
judicial office to serve the purpose of wealthy and unscrupulous
stock gamblers, but was voted down.

This brief statement gives no idea of either the magnitude or
quality of his work in which, like young David, he went forth to
smite Goliath, the Giant Corruption,, entrenched for years in the
Albany State House. I do not believe that in at tacking the
monster, Roosevelt thought that he was displaying unusual
courage, much less that he was winning the crown of a moral hero.
He simply saw a mass of abuse and wickedness which every decent
person ought to repudiate. Most decent persons saw it, too, but
convention, or self-interest, party affiliation, or unromantic,
every-day cowardice, made them hold their tongues. Being assigned
to committees which had some of the most important concerns of
New York City in charge, Roosevelt had the advantage given by his
initiation into political methods as practiced in the
Twenty-first District of knowing a little more than his
colleagues knew about the local issues. Three months of the
session elapsed before he stood up in the Chamber and attacked
point-blank,one formidable champion of corruption. Listen to an
anonymous writer in the Saturday Evening Post:

It was on April 6, 1882, that Roosevelt took the floor in the
Assembly and demanded that Judge Westbrook, of New bury, be
impeached. And for sheer moral courage that act is probably
supreme in Roosevelt's life thus far. He must have expected
failure. Even his youth and idealism and ignorance of public
affairs could not blind him to the apparently inevitable
consequences. Yet he drew his sword and rushed apparently to
destruction--alone, and at the very outset of his career, and in
disregard of the pleadings of his closest friends and the plain
dictates of political wisdom. That speech--the deciding act in
Roosevelt's career--is not remarkable for eloquence. But it is
remarkable for fear less candor. He called thieves thieves,
regardless of their millions; he slashed savagely at the judge
and the Attorney General; he told the plain unvarnished truth as
his indignant eyes saw it.*

* Riis, 54-55.

Astonishment verging on consternation filled the Assemblymen,
who, through long experience, were convinced that Truth was too
precious to be exhibited in public. Worldly wisdom came to the
aid of the veteran Republican leader who wished to treat the
assault as if it were the unripe explosion of youth. The
callowness of his young friend must excuse him. He doubtless
meant well, but his inexperience prevented him from realizing
that many a reputation in public life had been shattered by just
such loose charges. He felt sure that when the young man had time
to think it over, he would modify his language. It would be
fitting, therefore, for that body to show its kindliness by
giving the new member from New York City leisure to think it

Little did this official defender of corruption understand Mr.
Roosevelt, whose business it was then to uphold Right. That was a
question in which expediency could have no voice. He regarded
neither the harm he might possibly do to his political future nor
to the standing of the Republican Party. I suspect that he
smarted under the leader's attempt to treat him as a young man
whose breaks instead of causing surprise must be condoned.
Although the magnates of the party pleaded with him and urged him
not to throw away his usefulness, he rose again in the Assembly
next day and renewed his demand for an investigation of Judge
Westbrook. Day after day he repeated his demand. The newspapers
throughout the State began to give more and more attention to
him. The public applauded, and the legislators, who had sat and
listened to him with contemptuous indifference, heard from their
constituents. At last, on the eighth day, by a vote of 104 to 6
the Assembly adopted Roosevelt's resolution and appointed an
investigating committee. The evidence taken amply justified
Roosevelt's charges, in spite of which the committee gave a
whitewashing verdict. Nevertheless the "young reformer" had not
only proved his case, but had suddenly made a name for himself in
the State and in the Country.

Before his first term ended he discovered that there were enemies
of honest government quite as dangerous as the open supporters of
corruption. These were the demagogues who, under the pretense of
attacking the wicked interests, introduced bills for the sole
purpose of being bought off. Sly fellows they were and sneaks.
Against their "strike" legislation Roosevelt had also to fight.
His chief friend at Albany was Billy O'Neil, who kept a little
crossroads grocery up in the Adirondacks; had thought for himself
on American politics; had secured his election to the Assembly
without the favor of the Machine; and now acted there with as
much independence as his young colleague of the Twenty first
District. Roosevelt remarks that the fact that two persons,
sprung from such totally different surroundings, should come
together in the Legislature was an example of the fine result
which American democracy could achieve.

The session came to a close, and although Roosevelt had protested
the year before that he was not going into politics as a career,
he allowed himself to be renominated. Naturally, his desire to
continue in and complete the task in which he had already
accomplished much was whetted. He would have been a fool if he
had not known, what every one else knew, that he had made a very
brilliant record during his first year. A false standard which
comes very near hypocrisy imposes a ridiculous mock modesty on
great men in modern times: as if Shakespeare alone should be
unaware that he was Shakespeare or that Napoleon or Darwin or
Lincoln or Cavour should each be ignorant of his worth. Better
vanity, if you will, than sham modesty. There was no harm done
that Roosevelt at twenty-three felt proud of being recognized as
a power in the Assembly. We must never forget also that he was a
fighter, and that his first contests in Albany had so roused his
blood that he longed to fight those battles to a finish, that is,
to victory. We must make a distinction also in his motives. He
did not strain every nerve to win a cause because it was his
cause; but having adopted a cause which his heart and mind told
him was good, he strove to make that cause triumph because he
believed it to be good.

So he allowed himself to be renominated and he was reelected by
2000 majority, although in that autumn of 1882 the Democratic
candidate for Governor, Grover Cleveland, swept New York State by
192,000 and carried into office by the momentum of his success
many of the minor candidates on the Democratic ticket.

The year 1883 opened with the cheer of dawn in New York politics.
Cleveland, the young Governor of forty-four, had proved himself
fearless, public-spirited, and conscientious. So had Roosevelt,
the young Assemblyman of twenty-three. One was a Democrat, one a
Republican, but they were alike in courage and in holding honesty
and righteousness above their party platforms.

Roosevelt pursued in this session the methods which had made him
famous and feared in the preceding. He admits that he may have
had for a while a "swelled head," for in the chaos of conflicting
principles and no-principles in which his life was thrown, he
decided to act independently and to let his conscience determine
his action on each question which arose. He flocked by himself on
a peak. He was too practical, however, to hold this course long.
Experience had already taught him that under a constitutional
government parties which advocate or oppose issues must rule, and
that in order to make your issues win you must secure a majority
of the votes. Not by playing solitaire, therefore, not by
standing aloof as one crying in the wilderness, but by honestly
persuading as many as you could to support you, could you promote
the causes which you had at heart. The professional politicians
and the Machine leaders still thought that he was stubborn and
too conceited to listen to reason, but in reality he had a few
intimates like Billy O'Neil and Mike Costello with whom he took
counsel, and a group of thirty or forty others, both Republican
and Democratic, with whom he acted harmoniously on many

They all united to fight the Black-Horse Cavalry, as the gang of
"strike" legislators was called. One of the most insidious bills
pushed by these rascals aimed at reducing the fares on the New
York Elevated Railway from ten cents to five cents. It seemed so
plausible! So entirely in the interest of the poor man! Indeed,
the affairs of the Elevated took up much of Roosevelt's attention
and enriched for years the Black-Horse Cavalrymen and the
lobbyists. He also forced the Assembly to appoint a commission to
investigate the New York City police officials, the police
department being at that time notoriously corrupt. They employed
as their counsel George Bliss, a lawyer of prominence, with a
sharp tongue and a contempt for self-constituted reformers. While
Roosevelt was cross-examining one of the officials, Bliss, who
little understood the man he was dealing with, interrupted with a
scornful and impertinent remark. "Of course you do not mean that,
Mr. Bliss," said the young reformer with impressive politeness,
"for if you did we should have to put you out in the street."
Even in those early days, when Roosevelt was in dead earnest, he
had a way of pointing his forefinger and of fixing his under jaw
which the person whom he addressed could not mistake. That
forefinger was as menacing as a seven shooter. Mr. Bliss, with
all the prestige of a successful career at the bar behind him,
quickly understood the meaning of the look, the gesture, and the
studied courtesy. He deemed it best to retract and apologize at
once; and it was.

Roosevelt consented to run for a third term and he was elected in
spite of the opposition of the various elements which united to
defeat him. Such a man was too. dangerous to be acceptable to Jay
Gould and the "interests," to Black-Horse Cavalry, and to gangs
of all kinds who made a living, directly or indirectly, by
office-holding. His friends urged him for the speakership; but
this was asking too much of the Democratic majority, and besides,
there were Republicans who had winced under his scourge the year
before and were glad enough to defeat him now. Occasionally, some
kind elderly friend would still attempt to show him the folly of
his ways, and we hear reports of one gentleman, a member of the
Assembly and an "old friend," who told him that the great concern
in life was Business, and that lawyers and judges, legislators
and Congressmen, existed to serve the ends of Business. "There is
no politics in politics," said this moral guide and sage. But he
could not budge the young man, who believed that there are many
considerations more important than the political.

During this third year, he made a straight and gallant fight to
improve the condition under which cigars were made in New York
City. By his own investigation, he found that the cigar makers
lived in tenements, in one room, perhaps two, with their families
and often a boarder; these made the cigars which the public
bought, in ignorance of the facts. Roosevelt proposed that, as a
health measure which would benefit alike the cigar-makers and the
public, this evil practice be prohibited and that the police put
a stop to it. His bill passed in 1884, but the next year the
Court of Appeals declared it unconstitutional, because it
deprived the tenement-house people of their liberty and would
injure the owners of the tenements if they were not allowed to
rent their property to these tenants. In its decision, the court
indulged in nauseating sanctimony of this sort: " It cannot be
perceived how the cigar-maker is to be improved in his health, or
his morals, by forcing him from his home and its hallowed
associations and beneficent influences to ply his trade
elsewhere." This was probably not the first time when Roosevelt
was enraged to find the courts of justice sleekly upholding
hot-beds of disease and vice, on the pretense that they were
protecting liberty. Commenting on this episode, Mr. Washburn well
says: "As applied to the kind of tenement I have referred to,
this reference to the 'home and its hallowed associations' seems
grotesque or tragic depending upon the point of view."*

* Washburn, 11.

Amid work of this kind, fighting and fearless, constantly adding
to his reputation among the good as a high type of reformer, and
adding to the detestation in which the bad held him, he completed
his third term. He resolutely refused to serve again and declined
the offers which were pressed upon him to run for Congress; nor
did he accept a place on the Republican National Committee.

The death of his mother on February 12, 1884, followed in
twenty-four hours by that of his wife, who died after the birth
of a daughter, brought sorrow upon Roosevelt which made the
burden of his political work heavier and caused him to consider
how he should readjust his life, for he was first of all a man of
deep family affections and the loss of his wife left him adrift.

To S. N. D. North, editor of the Utica Herald and a well-wisher
of his, he wrote from Albany on April 30, 1884:

Dear Mr. North: I wish to write you a few words just to thank you
for your kindness towards me, and to assure you that my head will
not be turned by what I well know was a mainly accidental
success. Although not a very old man, I have yet lived a great
deal in my life, and I have known sorrow too bitter and joy too
keen to allow me to become either cast down or elated for more
than a very brief period over success or defeat.

I have very little expectation of being able to keep on in
politics; my success so far has only been won by absolute
indifference to my future career; for I doubt if any one can
realize the bitter and venomous hatred with which I am regarded
by the very politicians who at Utica supported me, under
dictation from masters who were influenced by political
considerations that were national and not local in their scope. I
realize very thoroughly the absolutely ephemeral nature of the
hold I have upon the people, and the very real and positive
hostility I have excited among the politicians. I will not stay
in public life unless I can do so on my own terms; and my ideal,
whether lived up to or not, is rather a high one. For very many
reasons I will not mind going back into private life for a few
years. My work this winter has been very harassing, and I feel
both tired and restless; for the next few months I shall probably
be in Dakota, and I think I shall spend the next two or three
years in making shooting trips, either in the Far West or in the
Northern woods--and there will be plenty of work to do writing.*

* Douglas, 41-42.

This letter is a striking revelation of the inmost intentions of
the man of twenty-five, who already stood on a pinnacle where
hard heads and mature might well have been dizzy. Evidently he
knew him self, and even in his brief experience with the world he
understood how uncertain and evanescent are the winds of Fame. If
he had ever suffered from a "swelled head," he was now cured. He
felt the emptiness of life's prizes when the dearest who should
have shared them with him were dead.


The year 1884 was a Presidential year, and Roosevelt was one of
the four delegates-at-large* of New York State to the Republican
National Convention at Chicago. The day seemed to have come for a
new birth in American politics. The Republican Party was grown
fat with four and twenty years of power, and the fat had overlain
and smothered its noble aims. The party was arrogant, it was
corrupt, it was unashamed. After the War, immense projects
involving huge sums of money had to be managed, and the
Republicans spent like spendthrifts when they did not spend like
embezzlers. I do not imply that the Democrats would not have done
the same if they had been in command, or that there were not
among them many who saw where their profit lay, and took it. The
quadrupeds which feed at the Treasury trough are all of one
species, no matter whether their skins be black or white.

* The other delegates-at-large were President Andrew D. White of
Cornell University, J. T. Gilbert, and Edwin Packard.

But now a new generation was springing up, with its leaven of
hope and idealism and its intuitive faith in honesty.

More completely than any one else, Roosevelt embodied to the
country the glorious promise of this new generation. But the old
always dies hard after it has long been the blood and mind of a
creed, a class, or a party. Terrible also is the blind,
remorseless sweep of a custom which may have sprung up from good
soil, not less than one spawned and nurtured in iniquity.
Frankenstein laboriously constructing his monster seems to
personify society at its immemorial task of creating
institutions; each institution as it becomes viable rends its

So the Republican Party lived on its traditions, its privileges,
its appetites, its arrogance, and it refused to be transmuted by
its youngest members. In 1876 it resorted to fraud to perpetuate
its hold on power. Unchastened in 1880, three hundred and six of
its delegates attempted through thick and thin to force the
nomination of General Grant for a third term. The chief opposing
candidate was James G. Blaine, whose unsavory reputation,
however, caused the majority of the convention which was not
pledged to Grant to repudiate Blaine and to choose Garfield as a
compromise. Then followed four years of factional bitterness in
the party, and when 1884 came round, Blaine's admirers pushed him
to the front.

Blaine himself was not a person of delicate instinct. The
repudiation which he had twice suffered by the better element of
the Republican Party, seemed only to redouble his determination
to be its candidate. He had much personal magnetism. Both in his
methods and ideals, he represented perfectly the politicians who
during the dozen years after Lincoln's death flourished at
Washington, and at every State capitol in the Union. By the luck
of a catching phrase applied to him by Robert G. Ingersoll, he
stood before the imagination of the country "as the plumed
knight," although on looking back we search in vain for any trait
of knightliness or chivalry in him. For a score of years he
filled the National Congress, House and Senate, with the bustle
of his egotism. His knightly valor consisted in shaking his fist
at the "Rebel Brigadiers " and in waving the "bloody shirt,"
feats which seemed to him heroic, no doubt, but which were safe
enough, the Brigadiers being few and Blaine's supporters many.
But where on the Nation's statute book do you find now a single
important law fathered by him? What book contains one of his
maxims for men to live by? Many persons still live who knew him,
and remember him, but can any of them repeat a saying of his
which passes current on the lips of Americans? So much sound and
fury, so much intrigue and sophistry, and self-seeking, and now
the silence of an empty sepulchre!

The better element of the Republican Party went to the Chicago
Convention sworn to save the party from the disgrace of
nominating Blaine. Roosevelt believed the charges against him,
and by all that he had written and spoken, and by his political
career, he was bound to oppose the politician, who, as Speaker of
the National House, had, by the showing of his own letters, taken
bribes from unscrupulous interests. In the convention, and in the
committee meetings, and in the incessant parleys which prepare
the work of a convention, Roosevelt fought unwaveringly against
Blaine. The better element made Senator George F. Edmunds their
candidate, and Roosevelt urged his nomination on all comers. When
the convention met, Mr. Lodge, of Massachusetts, nominated J. R.
Lynch, a negro from Mississippi, to be temporary chairman,
thereby heading off Powell Clayton, a veteran Republican
"war-horse" and office-holder. Roosevelt had the honor--and it
was an honor for so young a man--to make a speech, which proved
to be effective, in Lynch's behalf; and when the vote was taken,
Lynch was chosen by 424 to 384. This first victory over the
Blaine Machine, the Edmunds men hailed as a good omen.

Roosevelt was chairman of the New York State delegation. The
whirling days and nights at Chicago confirmed his position as a
national figure, but he strove in vain in behalf of honesty. The
majority of the delegates would not be gainsaid. They had come to
Chicago resolved to elect James G. Blaine, and no other, and they
would not quit until they had accomplished this. Pleas for
morality and for party concord fell on deaf ears, as did warnings
of the comfort which Blaine's nomination would give to their
enemies. His supporters packed the great convention hall, and
when his name was put in nomination, there followed a riot of
cheers, which lasted the better part of an hour, and foreboded
his success.

As had been predicted, Blaine's nomination split the Republican
Party. Many of the better element came out for Grover Cleveland,
the Democratic candidate, who, as Governor of New York, had
displayed unfailing courage, integrity, and intelligence. Others
again, disgusted with many of the principles and leaders of both
parties, formed themselves into a special group or party of
Independents. They were hateful alike to the Bosses who
controlled the Republican or Democratic organization; and Charles
A. Dana, of the New York Sun, who took care never to be "on the
side of the angels," derisively dubbed them "mugwumps"--a title
which may carry an honorable meaning to posterity.

I was one of these Independents, and if I cite my own case, it is
not because it was of any importance to the public, but because
it was typical. During the days of suspense before the Chicago
Convention met, the proposed nomination of Blaine weighed upon me
like a nightmare. I would not admit to myself that so great a
crime against American ideals could be committed by delegates who
represented the standard of any political party, and were drawn
from all over the country. I cherished, what seems to me now the
sadly foolish dream, that with Roosevelt in the convention the
abomination could not be done. I thought of him as of a paladin
against whom the forces of evil would dash themselves to pieces.
I thought of him as the young and dauntless spokesman of
righteousness whose words would silence the special pleaders of
iniquity. I wrote him and besought him to stand firm.

There followed the days of suspense when the newspapers brought
news of the wild proceedings at the convention, and for me the
shadow deepened. Then the telegraph reported Blaine's triumphant
nomination. I waited, we all waited, to learn what the delegates
who opposed him intended to do. One morning a dispatch in the New
York Tribune announced that Roosevelt would not bolt. That very
day I had a little note from him saying that he had done his best
in Chicago, that the result sickened him, that he should,
however, support the Republican ticket; but he intended to spend
most of the summer and autumn hunting in the West.

I was dumfounded. I felt as Abolitionists felt after Webster's
Seventh of March speech. My old acquaintance, our trusted leader,
whose career in the New York Assembly we had watched with an
almost holy satisfaction, seemed to have strangely abandoned the
fundamental principles which we and he had believed in, and he
had so nobly upheld. Whittier's poem "Ichabod" seemed to have
been aimed at him, especially in its third stanza:

"Oh, dumb be passion's stormy rage,
When he who might
Have lighted up and led his age,
Falls back in night."

Amid the lurid gleams and heat of such a disappointment, men
cannot see clearly. They impute wrong motives, base motives, to
the backslider. In their wrath, they assume that only guilt can
account for his defection.

We see plainly enough now that we misjudged Roosevelt. We assumed
that because he was with us in the crusade for pure politics, he
agreed with us in the estimate we put on party loyalty.
Independents and mugwumps felt little reverence and set even less
value on political parties, which we regarded simply as
instruments to be used in carrying out policies. If a party
pursued a policy contrary to our own, we left it as we should
leave a train which we found going in the wrong direction. There
was nothing sacred in a political party.

In assuming that Roosevelt must have coincided with us in these
views, we did him wrong. For he held then, and had held since he
first entered politics, that party transcended persons, and that
only in the gravest case imaginable was one justified in bolting
his party because one disapproved of its candidate. He did not
respect Blaine; on the contrary, he regarded Blaine as a bad man:
but he believed that the future of the country would be much
safer under the control of the Republican Party than under the
Democratic. This doctrine exposes its adherents to obvious
criticism, if not to suspicion. It enables persons of callous
consciences to support bad platforms and bad candidates without
blushing; but after all, who shall say at what point you are
justified in bolting your party? The decision must rest with the
individual. And although it was hard for the bolting Independents
in 1884 to accept the tenet that party transcends persons, it was
Roosevelt's reason, and with him sincere. Some of his colleagues
in the better element who had struggled as he had to defeat
Blaine, and then, almost effusively, exalted Blaine as their
standard-bearer, were less fortunate than he in having their
sincerity doubted. George William Curtis, Carl Schurz, Charles
Francis Adams, and other Independents of their intransigent
temper formed a Mugwump Party and this turned the scale in
electing Grover Cleveland President.

There used to be much discussion as to who persuaded Roosevelt,
although he detested Blaine, to stand by the Republicans in 1884.
Those were the days when very few of his critics understood that,
in spite of his youth, he had already thought for himself on
politics and had reached certain conclusions as to fundamental
principles. These critics assumed that he must have been won over
by Henry Cabot Lodge, with whom he had been intimate since his
Harvard days, and who was supposed to be his political mentor.
The truth is, however, that Roosevelt had formed his own opinion
about bolting, and that he and Lodge, in discussing possibilities
before they went to the Chicago Convention, had independently
agreed that they must abide by the choice of the party there.
They held, and a majority of men in similar position still hold,
that delegates cannot in honor abandon the nominee chosen by the
majority in a convention which they attend as delegates. If the
rule, "My man, or nobody," were to prevail, there would be no use
in holding conventions at all. And after that of 1884, George
William Curtis, one of the chief leaders of the Independents,
admitted that Roosevelt, in staying with the Republican Party,
played the game fairly. While Curtis himself bolted and helped to
organize the Mugwumps, Roosevelt, after his trip to the West,
returned to New York and took a vigorous part in the campaign.
Nevertheless, Roosevelt's decision, in 1884, to cleave to the
Republican Party disappointed many of us. We thought of him as a
lost leader. Some critics in their ignorance were inclined to
impute false motives to him; but in time, the cloud of suspicion
rolled away and his action in that crisis was not laid up against
him. The election of Cleveland relieved him of seeming
perfunctorily to uphold Blaine.


A perfect biography would show definitely the interaction between
mind and body. At present we can only guess what this interaction
may be. In some cases the relations are evident, but in most they
are vague and often unsuspected. The psychologists, whose
pretensions are so great and whose actual results are still so
small, may perhaps lead, an age or two hence, to the desired
knowledge. But the biographer of today must beware of adopting
the unripe formulas of any immature science. Nevertheless, he
must watch, study, and record all the facts pertaining to his
subject, although he cannot explain them. Theodore Roosevelt was
a wonderful example of the partnership of mind and body, and any
one who writes his biography in detail will do well to pay great
heed to this intricate interlocking. I can do no more than allude
to it here. We have seen that Roosevelt from his earliest days
had a quick mind, happily not precocious, and a weak body which
prevented him from taking part in normal physical activity and
the play and sport of boyhood. So his intellectual life grew out
of scale to his physical. Then he set to work by the deliberate
application of will-power to develop his body, and when he
entered Harvard he was above the average youth in strength.
Before he graduated, those who saw him box or wrestle beheld a
fellow somewhat slim and light, but unusually well set up. During
the succeeding four years he never allowed his duties as
Assemblyman to encroach upon his exercise; on the contrary, he
played regularly and he played hard, adding new kinds of sport to
develop new faculties and to give the spice of variety. He rode
to hounds with the Meadowbrook Hunt; he took up polo; and he
boxed and wrestled as in his college days.

In a few years Roosevelt became physically a very powerful man. I
recall my astonishment the first time I saw him, after the lapse
of several years, to find him with the neck of a Titan and with
broad shoulders and stalwart chest, instead of the city-bred,
slight young friend I had known earlier. His body was now equal
to any burden or strain which his mind might have to endure; and
hence forth it is no idle fancy that suggests a perpetual
competition between the two. Thanks to his extraordinary will,
however, he never allowed his body to get control; but, as
appetite comes with eating, so his strong and healthy muscles
craved more and more exercise as he used them. And now he took a
novel way to gratify them.

Ever since his first taste of camp life, when he went into the
Maine Woods under the guidance of Bill Sewall and Will Dow,
Roosevelt felt the lure of wild nature, and on many successive
seasons he repeated these trips. Gradually, fishing and hunting
in the wilderness of Maine or the Adirondacks did not afford him
enough scope for his brimming vigor. He decided to go West, to
the real West, where great game and Indians still survived, and
the conditions of the few white men were almost as primitive as
in the days of the earliest explorers. When the session of 1883
adjourned, he started for North Dakota, then a territory with a
few settlers, and among the Bad Lands on the Little Missouri he
bought an interest in two cattle ranches, the Chimney Butte and
the Elkhorn. The following year, after the Presidential campaign
which placed Cleveland in the White House, Roosevelt determined,
as we saw in the letters I have quoted, to abandon the East for a
time and to devote himself to a ranchman's life. He was still in
deep grief at the loss of his wife and of his mother; there was
no immediate prospect of usefulness for him in politics; the
conventions of civilization, as he knew them in New York City,
palled upon him; a sure instinct whispered to him that he must
break away and seek health of body and heart and soul among the
re mote, unspoiled haunts of primeval Nature. For nearly two
years, with occasional intervals spent in the East, the Elkhorn
Ranch at Medora was his home, and he has described the life of
the ranchman and cow-puncher in pages which are sure to be read
as long as posterity takes any interest in knowing about the
transition of the American West from wilderness to civilization.
He shared in all the work of the ranch. He took with a "frolic
welcome" the humdrum of its routine as well as its excitements
and dangers. He says that he does not believe that there was ever
any more attractive life for a vigorous young fellow than this,
and assuredly no one else has glorified it as Roosevelt did with
his pen. At one time or another he performed all the duties of a
ranchman. He went on long rides after the cattle, he rounded them
up, he helped to brand them and to cut out the beeves destined
for the Eastern market. He followed the herd when it stampeded
during a terrific thunderstorm. In winter there was often need to
save the wandering cattle from a sudden and deadly blizzard. The
log cabin or "shack" in which he dwelt was rough, and so was the
fare; comforts were few. He chopped the cottonwood which they
used for fuel; he knew how to care for the ponies; and once at
least he passed more than twenty-four hours in the saddle without
sleep. According to the best standards, he says, he was not a
fine horseman, but it is clear that he could do everything with a
horse which had to be done, and that he never stopped from
fatigue. When they needed fresh meat, he would shoot it. In
short, he held his own under all the hardships and requirements
demanded of a cowboy or ranchman. To adapt himself to these wild
conditions of nature and work was, however, only a part of his
experience. Even more dangerous than pursuing a stampeding herd
at night over the plains, and plunging into the Little Missouri
after it, was intercourse with some of the lawless nomads of that
pioneer region. Nomads they were, though they might settle down
to work for a while on one ranch, and then pass on to another;
the sort of creatures who loafed in the saloons of the little
villages and amused them selves by running amuck and shooting up
the town. These men, and indeed nearly all of the pioneers, held
the man from the civilized East, the "tenderfoot," in scorn. They
took it for granted that he was a weakling, that he had soft
ideas of life and was stuck-up or affected. Now Roosevelt saw
that in order to win their trust and respect, he must show
himself equal to their tasks, a true comrade, who accepted their
code of courage and honor. The fact that he wore spectacles was
against him at the outset, because they associated spectacles
with Eastern schoolmasters and incompetence. They called him
"Four Eyes," at first with derision, but they soon discovered
that in him they had no "tenderfoot" to deal with. He shot as
well as the best of them; he rode as far; he never complained of
food or tasks or hardship; he met every one on equal terms. Above
all, he left no doubt as to his courage. He would not pick a
quarrel nor would he avoid one. Many stories of his prowess
circulated; mere heckling, or a practical joke, he took with a
laugh; as when some of the men changed the saddle from his pony
to a bucking broncho.

But he knew where to draw the line. At Medora, for instance, the
Marquis de Mores, a French settler, assumed the attitude of a
feudal proprietor. Having been the first to squat in that region
he regarded those who came later as interlopers, and he and his
men acted very sullenly. They even carried their ill-will and
intimidation to the point of shooting. In due time the Marquis
discovered cause for grievance against Roosevelt, and he sent him
a letter warning the newcomer that if the cause were not removed
the Marquis knew how one gentleman settles a dispute with
another. Roosevelt despised dueling as a silly practice, which
would not determine justice between disputants; but he knew that
in Cowboy Land the duel, being regarded as a test of courage,
must not be ignored by him. Any man who declined a challenge lost
caste and had better leave the country at once. So Roosevelt
within an hour dispatched a reply to the surly Marquis saying
that he was ready to meet him at any time and naming the rifle,
at twelve paces' distance, as the weapon that he preferred. The
Marquis, a formidable swordsman but no shot, sent back word,
expressing regret that Mr. Roosevelt had mistaken his meaning: in
referring to "gentlemen knowing how to settle disputes," he meant
that of course an amicable explanation would restore harmony.
Thenceforward, he treated Roosevelt with effusive courtesy.
Perhaps a chill ran down his back at the thought of standing up
before an antagonist twelve paces away and that the fighters were
to advance towards each other three paces after each round, until
one of them was killed.

So Theodore fought no duel with either the French Marquis or with
any one else during his life in the West, but he had several
encounters with local desperadoes. One cold night in winter,
having ridden far and knowing that he could reach no refuge for
many hours, he unexpectedly saw a light. Going towards it, he
found that it came from a cabin which served as saloon and
tavern. On entering, he saw a group of loafers and drinkers who
were apparently terrorized by a big fellow, rather more than half
drunk, who proved to be the local bully. The function of this
person was to maintain his bullyship against all comers:
accordingly, he soon picked on Roosevelt, who held his peace as
long as he could. Then the rowdy, who grasped his pistols in his
hands, ordered the "four-eyed tenderfoot" to come to the bar and
set up drinks for the crowd. Roosevelt walked deliberately
towards him, and before the bully suspected it, the "tenderfoot"
felled him with a sledgehammer blow. In falling, a pistol went
off wide of its mark, and the bully lay in a faint. Before he
could recover, Roosevelt stood over him ready to pound him again.
But the bully did not stir, and he was carried off into another
room. The crowd congratulated the stranger on having served him

At another place, there was a "bad man" who surpassed the rest of
his fellows in using foul language. Roosevelt, who loathed
obscenity as he did any other form of filth, tired of this bad
man's talk and told him very calmly that he liked him but not his
nastiness. Instead of drawing his gun, as the bystanders thought
he would do, Jim looked sheepish, acknowledging the charge, and
changed his tone. He remained a loyal friend of his corrector.
Cattle-thieves and horse-thieves infested the West of those days.
To steal a ranchman's horse might not only cause him great
annoyance, but even put his life in danger, and accordingly the
rascals who engaged in this form of crime ranked as the worst of
all and received no mercy when they were caught. If the sheriff
of the region was lax, the settlers took the matter into their
own hands, enrolled themselves as vigilantes, hunted the thieves
down, hanged those whom they captured, and shot at sight those
who tried to escape. It happened that the sheriff, in whose
jurisdiction Medora lay, allowed so many thieves to get off that
he was suspected of being in collusion with them. The ranch men
held a meeting at which he was present and Roosevelt told him in
very plain words their complaint against him and their
suspicions. Though he was a hot-tempered man, and very quick on
the trigger, he showed no willingness to shoot his bold young
accuser; he knew, of course, that the ranchmen would have taken
vengeance on him in a flash, but it is also possible that he
recognized the truth of Roosevelt's accusation and felt

Some time later Roosevelt showed how a zealous officer of the
law--he was the acting deputy sheriff - ought to behave. He had a
boat in which he used to cross the Little Missouri to his herds
on the other side. One day he missed the boat, its rope having
been cut, and he inferred that it must have been stolen by three
cattle-thieves who had been operating in that neighborhood. By
means of it they could easily escape, for there was no road along
the river on which horsemen could pursue them. Notwithstanding
this, Roosevelt resolved that they should not go free. In three
days Bill Sewall and Dow built a flat, water-tight craft, on
which they put enough food to last for a fortnight, and then all
three started downstream. They had drifted and poled one hundred
and fifty miles or more, before they saw a faint column of smoke
in the bushes near the bank. It proved to be the temporary camp
of the fugitives, whom they quickly took prisoners, put into the
boat, and carried another one hundred and fifty miles down the
river to the nearest town with a jail and a court. Going and
coming, Roosevelt spent nearly three weeks, not to mention the
hardships which he and his trusty men suffered on the way; but he
had served justice, and Justice must be served at any cost. When
the story be came known, the admiration of his neighbors for his
pluck and persistence rose; but they wondered why he took the
trouble to make the extra journey, in order to deliver the
prisoners to the jail, instead of shooting them where he overtook

I chronicle these examples of Roosevelt's courage among the
lawless gangs with whom he was thrown in North Dakota, because
they reveal several qualities which came to be regarded as
peculiarly Rooseveltian during the rest of his days. We are apt
to speak of "mere" physical courage as being inferior to moral
courage; and doubtless there are many heroes unknown to the world
who, under the torture of disease or the poignancy of social
injustice and wrongs, deserve the highest crown of heroism. Men
who would lead a charge in battle would shrink from denouncing an
accepted convention or even from slighting a popular fashion. But
after all, the instinct of the race is sound in revering those
who give their lives without hesitation or regret at the point of
deadly peril, or offer their own to save the lives of others.

Roosevelt's experience established in him that physical courage
which his soul had aspired to in boyhood, when the consciousness
of his bodily inferiority made him seem shy and almost timid. Now
he had a bodily frame which could back up any resolution he might
take. The emergencies in a ranchman's career also trained him to
be quick to will, instantaneous in his decisions, and equally
quick in the muscular activity by which he carried them out. In a
community whose members gave way to sudden explosions of passion,
you might be shot dead unless you got the drop on the other
fellow first. The anecdotes I have repeated, indicate that
Roosevelt must often have outsped his opponent in drawing.

We learn from them, too, that he was far from being the
pugnacious person whom many of his later critics insisted that he
was. Having given ample proof to the frontiersmen that he had no
fear, he resolutely kept the peace with them, and they had no
desire to break peace with him. Bluster and swagger were foreign
to his nature, and he loathed a bully as much as a coward. If we
had not already had the record of his. three years in the
Legislature, in which he surprised his friends by his wonderful
talent for mixing with all sorts of persons, we might marvel at
his ability to meet the cowboys and ranchmen, and even the
desperadoes, of the Little Missouri on equal terms, to win the
respect of all of them, and the lifelong devotion of a few. They
knew that the usual tenderfoot, however much he might wish to
fraternize, was fended from them by his past, his traditions, his
civilized life, his instincts; but in Roosevelt's case, there was
no gulf, no barrier.

Even after he became President of the United States, I can no
more imagine that he felt embarrassment in meeting any one, high
or low, than that he scrutinized the coat on a man's back in
order to know how to treat him.

To have gained solid health, to have gained mastery of himself,
and to have put his social nature to the severest test and found
it flawless, were valid results of his life on the Elkhorn Ranch.
It imparted to him also a knowledge which was to prove most
precious to him in the unforeseen future. For it taught him the
immense diversity of the people, and consequently of the
interests, of the United States. It gave him a national point of
view, in which he perceived that the standards and desires of the
Atlantic States were not all-inclusive or final. Yet while it
impressed on him the importance of geographical considerations,
it impressed, more deeply still, the fact that there are moral
fundamentals not to be measured by geography, or by time, or by
race. Lincoln learned this among the pioneers of Illinois; in
similar fashion Roosevelt learned it in the Bad Lands of Dakota
with their pioneers and exiles from civilization, and from
studying the depths of his own nature.


One September day in 1886, Roosevelt was reading a New York
newspaper in his Elkhorn cabin, when he saw that he had been
nominated by a body of Independents as candidate for Mayor of New
York City. Whether he had been previously consulted or not, I do
not know, but he evidently accepted the nomination as a call, for
he at once packed up his things and started East. The political
situation in the metropolis was somewhat abnormal. The United
Democracy had nominated for Mayor Abram S. Hewitt, a merchant of
high standing, one of those decent persons whom Tammany Hall puts
forward to attract respectable citizens when it finds itself in a
tight place and likely to be defeated. At such a pinch, Tammany
even politely keeps in the background and allows it to appear
that the decent candidate is wholly the choice of decent
Democrats: for the Tammany Tiger wears, so to speak, a reversible
skin which, when turned inside out, shows neither stripes nor
claws. Mr. Hewitt's chief opponent was Henry George, put up by
the United Labor Party, which had suddenly swelled into
importance, and had discovered in the author of "Progress and
Poverty" and in the advocate of the Single Tax a candidate whose
private character was generally respected, even by those who most
hated his economic teachings. The mere thought that such a
Radical should be proposed for Mayor scared, not merely the Big
Interests, but the owners of real estate and intangible property.

Against these redoubtable competitors, the Independents and
Republicans pitted Roosevelt, hoping that his prestige and
personal popularity would carry the day. He made a plucky
campaign, but Hewitt won, with Henry George second. In his letter
of acceptance he went straight at the mark, which was that the
government of the city was strictly a business affair. " I very
earnestly deprecate," he says, "all attempts to introduce any
class or caste feeling into the mayoralty contest. Laborers and
capitalists alike are interested in having an honest and
economical city government, and if elected I shall certainly
strive to be the representative of all good citizens, paying heed
to nothing whatever but the general well-being."* When Tammany
reverses its hide, the Republicans in New York City need not
expect victory; and in 1886 Henry George drew off a good many
votes which would ordinarily have been cast for Roosevelt.

* Riis, 101.

Nevertheless, the fight was worth making. It reintroduced him to
the public, which had not heard him for two years, and it helped
erase from men's memories the fact that he had supported Blaine
in 1884. His contest with Hewitt and George set him in his true
light--a Republican by conviction, a party man, also by
conviction, but above all the fearless champion of what he
believed to be the right, in its struggle against economic heresy
and political corruption.

The election over, Roosevelt went to Europe, and on December 2,
1886, at St. George's, Hanover Square, London, he married Miss
Edith Kermit Carow, of New York, whom he had known since his
earliest childhood, the playmate of his sister Corinne, the
little girl whose photograph had stirred up in him "homesickness
and longings for the past," when he was a little boy in Paris.
Cecil Spring-Rice, an old friend (subsequently British Ambassador
at Washington), was his groomsman, and being married at St.
George's, Theodore remarks, "made me feel as if I were living in
one of Thackeray's novels."

Mrs. Roosevelt's father came of Huguenot stock, the name being
originally Quereau; the first French immigrants of the family
having migrated to New York in the seventeenth century at about
the same time as Claes van Roosevelt. Like the Roosevelts, the
Carows had so freely intermarried with English stock in America
that the French origin of one was as little discernible in their
descendants as was the Dutch origin of the other. Through her
American line Mrs. Roosevelt traced back to Jonathan Edwards, the
prolific ancestor of many persons who emerged above the common
level by either their virtue or their badness.

After spending several months in Europe, Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt
returned and settled at Oyster Bay, Long Island, where he had
built, not long before, a country house on Sagamore Hill. His
place there comprised many acres--a beautiful country of hill and
hollow and fine tall trees. The Bay made in from Long Island
Sound and seemed to be closed by the opposite shore, so that in
calm weather you might mistake it for a lake. This home was
thoroughly adapted for Roosevelt's needs. Being only thirty miles
from New York, with a railroad near by, convenient but not
intrusive, it gave easy access to the city, but was remote enough
to discourage casual or undesired callers. It had sufficient land
to carry on farming and to sustain the necessary horses and
domestic cattle. Mrs. Roosevelt supervised it; he simply loved it
and got distraction from his more pressing affairs; if he had
chosen to withdraw from these he might have devoted himself to
the pleasing and leisurely life of a gentleman farmer. For a
while his chief occupation was literary. Into this he pitched
with characteristic energy. His innate craving for
self-expression could never be satiated by speaking alone, and
now, since he filled no public position which would be a cause or
perhaps an excuse for speaking, he wrote with all the more

Although he was less than seven years out of college, his
political career had given him a national reputation, which
helped and was helped by the vogue of his writings. The American
public had come to perceive that Theodore Roosevelt could do
nothing commonplace. The truth was, that he did many things that
other men did which ceased to be commonplace only when he did
them. Scores of other young men went on hunting trips after big
game in the Rockies or the Selkirks, and even ranching had been
engaged in by the enterprising and the adventurous, who hoped to
find it a short way to a fortune. But whether as ranch man or as
hunter, Roosevelt was better known than all the rest. His skill
in describing his experiences no doubt largely accounted for
this; but the fact that the experiences were his, was the
ultimate explanation.

Roosevelt began to write very early. He thought that the
instruction in rhetoric which he received at Harvard enlightened
him, and during his Senior year he began the "History of the
Naval War of 1812," which he completed and published in 1882.
This work at once won recognition for him, and it differed from
the traditional accounts, embedded in the school histories of the
United States, in doing full justice to the British naval
operations. Probably, for the first time, our people realized
that the War of 1812 had not been a series of victories,
startling and irresistible, for the American Navy. Nearly ten
years later, Roosevelt in the "Winning of the West" made his
second excursion into history. These volumes, which eventually
numbered six, are regarded by experts in the subject as of great
value, and I suppose that in them Roosevelt did more than any
other writer to popularize the study of the historical origin and
development of the vast region west of the Alleghanies which now
forms a vital part of the American Republic. One attribute of a
real historian is the power to discern the structural or pregnant
quality of historic periods and episodes; and this power
Roosevelt displayed in choosing both the War of 1812 and the
Winning of the West.

In his larger history Roosevelt had a swift, energetic, and
direct style. He never lacked for ideas. Descriptions came to him
with exuberant details of which he selected enough to leave his
reader with the feeling that he had looked on a vivid and
accurate picture. Here, for instance, is a portrait of Daniel
Boon which seems remarkably lifelike, because I remember how
difficult other writers find it to individualize most of the
figures of the pioneers.

The backwoodsmen, he says, "all tilled their own clearings,
guiding the plow among the charred stumps left when the trees
were chopped down and the land burned over, and they were all, as
a matter of course, hunters. With Boon, hunting and exploration
were passions, and the lonely life of the wilderness, with its
bold, wild freedom, the only existence for which he really cared.
He was a tall, spare, sinewy man, with eyes like an eagle's, and
muscles that never tired; the toil and hardship of his life made
no impress on his iron frame, unhurt by intemperance of any kind,
and he lived for eighty-six years, a backwoods hunter to the end
of his days. His thoughtful, quiet, pleasant face, so often
portrayed, is familiar to every one; it was the face of a man who


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