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IN THE NEW YORK ASSEMBLY.
Roosevelt's Way of Self-Making-Disciplined Body and Mind-Studied and Assailed
Corrupt Public Life-Relations with Grover Cleveland-Legislation Charged to Their Joint Action-Interesting Association.
N his youth, Theodore Roosevelt subjected his mind and body to the power
of his will. He was to himself a scientific problem and applied his
strength to it with ceaseless and systematic energy. His resolution was absolute to get the best results out of his endowment. In his boyishness there was a stern and constant manliness. The daily training of his physical forces was a serious occupation with a fixed purpose. He looked forward to leaving college an athlete and scholar. His running, jumping, riding, boxing, were as regularly ordered as his studies. He was a gymnast and mathematician. Instead of fitfully overdoing his work, he exercised his best intelligence to refrain from extreme effort. His frequent foot racing was not with the aim of winning races, and he did not exert himself desperately to be a winner. However, he won health. His schooling in boxing was not that he might have superior physical advantages and bully anyone. He thought it a peace measure to know and make known that he could protect himself. He gave his ardent attention to the manly art of self-defence, and found in politics, early and late, that it was well to keep the peace as a fighting man. He felt it within his capacity to be a strong one, and strove for strength as a prize-ability to do hard work, to be sure of himself on his feet and with his hands. He came out with testimony that he was sound, his constitution firm, for he expanded his lungs with vital air, vivified his blood, cleared his brain, and put that in severe training, along with his muscles, gave his memory the task of recording the drawing color and perspective of the pictures he alone saw, that gave him vistas of the treasures he remembered, resembling those galleries with which Florence spans her parent river.
The young man rejoiced in his strength-strength for action, not dissipation, the storage of energy gotten from the air, the light piercing it, the oxygen pervading it; and there was yielded the energy for the accomplishment of ambitious designs. He was not a prodigal wasting forces, but prudent and
frugal, and success did not resolve itself into lassitude. With his methods he gained capital for investment in enterprise.
When he graduated at Harvard, the storied halls of Dresden, the palaces that are museums, received him, and the gathered masterpieces of the Saxon kings welcomed him. The study of history was as a stroll at a festival and as a student he always had a task. The lofty Alps awaited him, with marvelous light on their peaks.
There is a light on the Alps unseen elsewhere. It shines from the lamps that guide the student's feet along the worn paths of history, where the footsteps of Hannibal and Napoleon are on the rocks, and there are gathered in the mysteries of the mountains the stories of thousands of years. Roosevelt of course had to climb the most difficult of the peaks, saw the sunrises and the sunsets, got a glimpse of the Mediterranean waters, saw the Italian cities of golden and glorious memories, and venerable traditions; Peter's dome men "builded wiser than they knew;" the sunny fields of France, the white cliffs of England, the heather of Scotland, the green landscapes of Ireland, the sparkling waters where Caesar's galleys and the Conqueror's barges, the Spanish Armada, the dusky red sails and bristling hulks of the hardy Hollanders swept; and where the fleets of Nelson and the steel-clad thunderers of Victoria in their turn, rushed to doom or rode in triumph.
The young man returned to his country prouder of it than ever, ready and resolved to fight for it, to go where the banners of glory would guide, and bear them up if they were threatened. Both sides of the big war when he was a baby were in his brain, educated to be quick to hear the trumpet call to arms. He saw on the gray old ocean that spread before him added fuel for fancy, and arched the way with the rainbows that youth beholds beyond, not on, the clouds. He landed in his own native land, heard the demand of duty clear as a bugle's call and responded wherever he could reach a battlefield. It was to go into politics, to enter the primary meetings, to fight the beasts in the slums and the slimy things that swarmed there. There was the field to break the stings, and crush the reptiles that crawled to power. At twenty-three he was in the Legislature, and had stricken the bullies that beset him, with blows from his shoulders, better aimed and heavier than they could deliver, for he put brains into them.
When he returned to New York from Europe, he had an excellent opportunity to enter "Society,” for he was a member of one of the old familiesone of the ninth generation of Americans. He preferred to be a politician, to find occupation in libraries, and in those pursuits that require vigor of mind and body. It is possibly an inexact and yet a substantially true report which attributes to him the statement that if a man wants to be good he must get into politics. His home in young manhood was in the twenty-third assembly
district, which, because of the men of wealth living there, was known as the “Diamond Back District.” Into the political life of this district he entered with such zeal he soon became a leader. In 1881 he was elected to the Assembly, which at that time was Democratic. The fact that he was in a minority seemed to delight this young man who loved a contest. He immediately made his mark as a fearless, honest and untiring workman, and until he got a reputation as a fighting man he could pick up a fight without the least trouble.
The most interesting episode of the career of Theodore Roosevelt in the Assembly of New York, was his relations, as a reformer, with Governor Cleveland, now the only "Elected” President of the United States, in the sense in which President Roosevelt uses the word in his first message to Congress, confining election, to the electoral votes counted by Congress in joint session of the two Houses. The cordiality with which the President and ex-President met at the funeral of the murdered martyr, McKinley, was regarded with good feeling at the time. Mr. Cleveland's tribute to McKinley, in an address at Princeton, was of such elevated character, so strong and clear, so happy in thought and language, that it gave the ex-President the increased kindly friendliness of millions of his fellow citizens. It has not been forgotten that Cleveland's act in adding two years to Roosevelt's Civil Service Commission labors, was the conversion of the reform from a fad that was personal to a fact that was of common knowledge, and removed from it the dynastic distinction; no President refraining from giving it confidence if it conferred upon his appointees perpetuity in office. Cleveland wanted Roosevelt to stay but he had a genius for knowing when to go; and he took no steps backward.
In the course of his career, President Roosevelt has been subject to accusations, young as he still is, of taking an important part in the political education of his predecessor, Cleveland. This story, like many others, would be incredible on account of age, if not well attested. Fancy that Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt were, when the latter was a "boy," engaged in putting each other in the way of becoming President of the United States ! They were co-workers in an important sense, at any rate, in the city of Albany, as for some years later in Washington City. Mr. Cleveland was, at the time of the unique development of friendship between himself and Roosevelt, Governor of New York. The story should be told as it was related by the Honorable Richard Barthold, of the Tenth Congressional District, of Missouri, in the city of St. Louis. When young Roosevelt was stirring up in the Legislature the "guilty rich” of his own New York City District, the present member of Congress from the 10th District, of Missouri, was the Albany correspondent of the Brooklyn Free Press, and later of the New York Staats
Zeitung. Mr. Barthold, the German reporter, now Congressman, became an admirer of Mr. Roosevelt, who, as the youngest man in the Legislature, became the most distinguished. He has not been doing much talking about Albany times with the President, but the other day made a few casual, but very authentic observations, that become, when put on paper, a new chapter of the greatest interest in the life of the President. The career of Roosevelt opened as a New York law maker. It was at Albany he manifested himself, and was the Chairman of the next New York delegation of the Republicans to a National Convention—1884. Twenty years ago, when Roosevelt became a legislator, he was twenty-three years old. He had but a brief experience in politics, and he was young enough to care bitterly about elevating politics, which was an unpromising cry to start with, but he was as robust then as at any time, and nominated for the Assembly in Jacob Hess' district, contrary to the wishes of that leader, who ruled the politics of his party with severe autocracy until he was up against Roosevelt. This victory over the machine attracted attention, and caused old politicians to note with concern the personality of this young man, who came from one of the old New York families, and, nevertheless, was one of the people, without foolish pretense.
It requires some opportunity for a young man in politics, even after he has entered a legislative body, to cause the public eye to turn his way. It is easy, and usual, for the political novice to remain obscure, but Theodore Roosevelt was not of that kind. He was not pushing himself forward to advertise, but watching the proceedings of the Assembly with the closest interest, forming his own conclusions on matters that developed, and doing his part modestly. Early in the session, a Democratic leader spoke and made historical references, and perhaps the day was one of Destiny. All days of Destiny have in them opportunity. The boy who was a thorn in the side of the “criminal rich,” was on his feet, and made his first speech. They at once called it impromptu, but the young man was crammed with facts, and apparently knew enough about the matter in hand to instruct the Legislature. He dispensed information. The forcefulness of delivery, the ready command of facts and their logical presentation, showed accurate knowledge of American history. The speech was a sensation. The young New Yorker made a profound impression upon the Assembly. He established himself as one of the real men of that body, and whenever he had anything to say, was listened to respectfully. He had, seizing his chance, compelled recognition. Old members and others congratulated him heartily and whenever the name of Roosevelt was mentioned, everybody knew somebody had arrived.
The incident involving Cleveland was later, showing Roosevelt with glistening clearness, moral courage and fearless devotion to the right, even if the