« PreviousContinue »
UNTER, Rancher, Cabinet Official, Rough Rider, Governor,
Vice-President and President—such is the record of Theo
dore Roosevelt's life within the past two decades. Nor is this the whole story. He has been a New York legislator, a candidate for Mayor of New York City, a Civil Service Commissioner, and the head of the New York Police Board. This is a remarkable record for any man within so brief a period; but it is the record of a remarkable man, of an American in whom the principle of “ Americanism” has reached an extraordinary development. Sleepless energy is the Roosevelt characteristic. With him rest fills only the chinks of life ; while there is anything to be done he is up and doing it with a vigor that knows no obstacles. Whether as a hunter on the western plains or in the Mississippi cane-brakes, a soldier in the Santiago campaign, a police commissioner in the slums of New York, or President of the United States, his innate characteristic of strenuous activity displays itself, and if there is anything which Theodore Roosevelt cannot do, it is to let anything pass him without his having a hand in it. And with this physical and mental, there goes the moral activity which is needed to make a fully-rounded man. Honesty of purpose and an elevated sense of public duty are leading features in his character. He may make mistakes; his passion for settling things may lead him into hasty and ill-advised acts; but that he means well in every movement no one doubts, and his intelligent moral energy is worth an ocean of policy and expediency which have too often marked the careers of many leaders of public opinion in America and other countries. The true spirit of the Western civilization has one of its fullest exemplars in Theodore Roosevelt.
There is much that is remarkable in the recent story of Roosevelt's life. We find him, when the Spanish-American war broke out, resigning his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to take part, as leader of the Rough Riders, in the Santiago campaign. The reputation for unflinching courage and daring made there won him the governorship of New York. Breaking here through all the harness of ring methods, he was nominated and elected Vice-President to get rid of him, to “shelve” him in the Senate chamber. Destiny favored him ; President McKinley was slain and he succeeded to the Presidential office. In this elevated position he pledged himself to carry out the policy of the McKinley administration. This he has faithfully sought to do, but at the same time has developed a decided new policy of his own, one in which party interests have no share, the best good of the whole country being seemingly his overruling thought. Of all the Presidents Theodore Roosevelt promises to be the hardest to control by the leaders of his party. Fortunately he is controlled by integrity, earnestness and public virtue in its highest sense.
THE STRENUOUS LIFE [Iu addition to his activity as an official, Theodore Roosevelt has developed into an orator of striking readiness and ability. He has no hesitation in expressing himself openly on all the subjects in which the people of the country are interested, and all he says has in it the pith of thought and judgment. His ideal of administration is not of the silent sort. He does not hesitate to take the nation into his confidence. As for his principle of action, it is clearly defined in his work on “The Strenuous Life," a book which has aroused the widest interest, alike on account of its source and its subject. In his address at the Appomattox Day celebration of the Hamilton Club, of Chicago, April 10, 1899, he expressed himself to the same effect. We give the more significant portion of these suggestive remarks.]
Gentlemen : In speaking to you, men of the greatest city of the West, men of the State which gave to the country Lincoln and Grant, men who pre-eminently and distinctly embody all that is most American in the American character, I wish to preach not the doctrine of ignoble ease but the doctrine of the strenuous life; the life of toil and effort; of labor and strife ; to preach that highest form of success which comes not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.
A life of ignoble ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual. I ask only that what every
self-respecting American demands from himself, and from his sons, shall be demanded of the American nation as a whole who among you would teach your boys that ease, that peace, is to be the first consideration in your eyes; to be the ultimate goal after which they should strive? You men of Chicago have made this city great; you men of Illinois have done your share, and more than your share, in making America great; because you neither preach nor practice such a doctrine. You work yourselves, and you bring up your sons to work. If you are rich, and are worth your sale, you will teach your sons that, though they may have leisure, it is not to be spent in idleness ; for wisely used leisure merely means that those who possess it, being free from the necessity of working for their livelihood, are all the more bound to carry on some kind of non-remunerative work in science, in letters, in art, in exploration, in historical research-work of the type we most need in this country, the successful carrying out of which reflects most upon the nation.
We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor; who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail; but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort. Freedom from effort in the present, merely means that there has been stored-up effort in the past. A man can be freed from the necessity of work only by the fact that he or his fathers before him have worked to good purpose. If the freedom thus purchased is used aright, and the man still does actual work, though of a different kind; whether as a writer or a general; whether in the field of politics or in the field of exploration and adventure; he shows that he deserves his good fortune. But if he treats this period of freedom from the need of actual labor as a period not of preparation but of mere enjoyment, he shows that he is simply a cumberer of the earth's surface; and he surely unfits hiinself to hold his own with his fellows if the need to do so should again arise. A mere life of ease is not in the end a satisfactory life, and above all it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world.
As it is with the individual, so it is with the nation. It is a base untruth to say that happy is the nation that has no history. Thrice happy is the nation that has'a glorious history. Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. J If in 1861 the men who loved the Union had believed that peace was the end of all things and war and strife the worst of all things, and
had acted up to their belief, we would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives; we would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, besides saving all the blood and treasure we then lavished, we would have prevented the heart-break of many women, the desolation of many homes; and we would have spared the country those months of gloom and shame when it seemed as if our armies marched only to defeat. We could have avoided all this suffering simply by shrinking from strife. And if we had thus avoided it we would have shown that we were weaklings and that we were unfit to stand among the great nations of the
Thank God for the iron in the blood of our fathers, the men who upheld the wisdom of Lincoln and bore sword or rifle in the armies of Grant! Let us, the children of the men who proved themselves equal to the mighty days; let us, the children of the men who carried the great Civil War to a triumphant conclusion; praise the God of our fathers that the ignoble counsels of peace were rejected, that the suffering and loss, the blackness of sorrow and despair, were unflinchingly faced and the years of strife endured; for in the end the slave was freed, the Union restored, and the mighty American Republic placed once more as a helmeted queen among the nations.
We of this generation do not have to face a task such as that our fathers faced, but we have our tasks, and woe to us if we fail to perform them! We cannot, if we would, play the part of China, and be content to rot by inches in ignoble ease within our borders, taking no interest in what goes on beyond them ; sunk in a scrambling commercialism; heedless of the higher life, the life of aspiration, toil and risk; busying ourselves only with the wants of our bodies for the day; until suddenly we should find, beyond a shadow of question, what China has already found, that in this world the nation that has trained itself to a career of unwarlike and isolated ease is bound in the end to go down before other nations which have not lost the manly and adventurous qualities. If we are to be a really great people, we must strive in good faith to play a great part in the world. We cannot avoid meeting great issues. All that we can determine for ourselves is whether we shall meet them well or ill.
NATIONAL AND INDUSTRIAL PEACE [New York is the greatest port of entry for the United States. The Chamber of Commerce of New York-an association of the merchants who have given that city its commercial prominence—is a body whose influence is felt in the industrial relations of the entire people. On the with of November, 1902, this association dedicated to its purposes a new and splendid edifice, the ceremony being witnessed by high dignitaries of the nation and representatives of foreign governments. Chief among the participants was the President of the United States, and his remarks on that occasion were so
significant of his attitude towards nations abroad and his people at home, that we take pleasure in quoting from them. They bear the same characteristics of earnestness and fairness that are found in all his utterances.]
This body stands for the triumphs of peace both abroad and at home. We have passed that stage of national development when depreciation of other peoples is felt as a tribute to our own. We watch the growth and prosperity of other nations, not with hatred or jealousy, but with sincere and friendly good will. I think I can say safely that we have shown by our attitude toward Cuba, by our attitude toward China, that as regards weaker powers our desire is that they may be able to stand alone, and that if they will only show themselves willing to deal honestly and fairly with the rest of mankind we on our side will do all we can to help, not to hinder them. With the great powers of the world we desire no rivalry that is not honorable to both parties. We wish them well. We believe that the trend of the modern spirit is ever stronger toward peace, not war; toward friendship, not hostility; as the normal international attitude. We are glad, indeed, that we are on good terms with all the other peoples of
mankind, and no effort on our part shall be spared to secure a continuance Lof these relations. And remember, gentlemen, that we shall be a potent
factor for peace largely in proportion to the way in which we make it evident that our attitude is due, not to weakness, not to inability to defend ourselves, but to a genuine repugnance to wrongdoing, a genuine desire for self-respecting friendship with our neighbors. The voice of the weakling or the craven counts for nothing when he clamors for peace; but the voice of the just man armed is potent. We need to keep in a condition of preparedness, especially as regards our navy, not because we want war; but because we desire to stand with those whose plea for peace is listened to with respectful attention.
Important though it is that we should have peace abroad, it is even more important that we should have peace at home.) You, men of the Chamber of Commerce, to whose efforts we owe so much of our industrial well being, can, and I believe surely will, be influential in helping toward that industrial peace which can obtain in society only when in their various relations employer and employed alike show not merely insistence each upon his own rights, but also regard for the rights of others, and a full acknowledgment of the interests of the third party—the public. It is no easy matter to work out a system or rule of conduct, whether with or without the help of the lawgiver, which shall minimize that jarring and clashing of interests in the industrial world which causes so much individual irritation and suffering at the present day, and which at times threatens baleful consequences to large portions of the body politic. But