Page images

this failure, joined to the further fact that all the incidents, both real and imaginary, in the career of a Presidential candidate are now put within every one's reach by the daily newspapers, that has caused the practical disappearance of these biographies, which were written to enlighten voters and attract votes to their subject.

The case, however, is widely different when we come to what Dr. Johnson considered the only real foundation of a man's reputation—that which he has done or said or written himself. It is most important that people should be able to read and, let us hope, ponder well what has been written or said by any man to whom they are asked to intrust the Presidency of the United States. For that reason this volume has far more significance than that of being merely an addition to the collected works of President Roosevelt. Here have been brought together certain important speeches and messages which express the President's opinions upon subjects with which he has felt it his duty to deal since he has been charged with the highest public duties. In the still distant future they will form a most important contribution to the history of the time, as is always the case with the words and thoughts of men who have had the largest share in their day in directing the course and fortunes of the country. It will also be for that distant future to decide what place these speeches shall take and hold in that very small group which are remembered and repeated among men, not as history, but as literature. At the present moment, however, they have the peculiar and most important interest of being the utterances of a man who has not only filled the highest place in the gift of the American people, but who now stands before that people for their direct approbation and for re-election to office. This is neither the time nor the place to analyze or criticise these speeches from the point of view of their permanent position as examples of literature or of oratory, or even to

attempt to measure the historical value which the coming generations will surely place upon them. That which concerns us at the moment is the light which they throw upon the speaker himself, upon what he has done, and upon what the man who, with the gravest public responsibility resting on him, thinks and speaks in this way, may be counted upon to do in the future.

President Roosevelt's speeches, it is needless to say, have the quality sure to be imparted to the spoken word by a man of the highest education, who has read widely and thought deeply, and who has had the invaluable mental training which comes from many years of historical study. All the attributes which these habits of thought and education imply may be found here, but these speeches have one quality which is more important at this moment certainly than any other, although its value and meaning also to those who come after us can hardly be overrated. That which marks President Roosevelt's speeches beyond anything else is their entire sincerity. What he says is pre-eminently genuine, for all his utterances not only come straight from the heart, but are set forth with an energy and force of conviction which are as apparent as they are characteristic. He has no

The truth that is in him rises unchecked to his lips. President Roosevelt would never have succeeded in a diplomacy which deserved the ancient witticism of Sir Henry Wotton when he described an ambassador as “an honest man sent to lie abroad for the commonwealth,”-still less can he use language for the purpose of concealing thought. If he speaks at all he must perforce say what he thinks, and thus it comes to pass that men may know him as he is, a knowledge very important just now to the people of the United States. In daily life, there is nothing so unpleasant as pretence, nothing which is so restful as reality. If we know that a man or woman is real and not a sham we can bear easily with many

a defect or shortcoming. Even an unpleasant truth is, in the long run, a better companion than a genial falsehood, and the greatest failures among men are those who dwell among illusions, the greatest victors those who have looked facts, whether they smiled or frowned, steadily in the face. If, then, sham and pretence are so much to be shunned in the intercourse of private life, how infinitely more important is it to know as they really are, the men to whom the fate of the country is to be intrusted. But we cannot hope to know such men from the narratives or the criticisms of others. The only sure authority is the man himself if he be at once honest and fearless. The biographer may flatter, the political friend may paint the portrait all in rose, and the political enemy may draw it in unrelieved shadow with the blackest charcoal, but there can be no mistake about what the man himself has said. In this case we may read the speeches here printed with the profound assurance that whether we agree with the opinions expressed or not, the man who uttered them meant exactly what he said because he is both honest and fearless. In the clear note which carries the conviction of absolute truth, in the accent of profound sincerity lies one of the great attributes of the highest eloquence, but far more important here than any quality of oratory is the fact that the words and the thoughts they embody enable those who read to understand the man who speaks them.

These speeches and letters and messages deal for the most part with great public questions of varying degrees of interest and importance, which in their solution are making up the history of the United States at the present moment, but in them all is heard not only the unmistakable note of truth and courage, but also the earnest tone of exhortation which we associate with the preacher calling men upward to higher things. If President Roosevelt were descended from the men who fol

lowed Cromwell in battle or sailed with Winthrop across the stormy Atlantic, we should say he derived this attitude toward life from a Puritan ancestry. Without being fanciful, we may fairly think that it comes down to him from those ancestors of his own who died for the freedom of their country and for their religious faith among the dykes of Holland, or who gave their lives in support of the Covenant among the rugged hills of Scotland. But wherever this temperament may originate, there is no doubt that through all the President's speeches there runs the appeal of the great Apostle when he called upon men to awake to righteousness and sin not. It is always hard to catch the sound of the voice in the printed sentences or to see the manner which accompanied them, but those who have heard the President speak know that the earnestness of the words is repeated both in manner and in voice. He speaks always with an eagerness to convince the reason and arouse the better judgment as well as the best aspirations of his hearers, which can hardly be surpassed, and this eagerness and energy of appeal shine out in all the pages of this volume. For these reasons the speeches here collected have a most peculiar value at this precise moment. The American people are to be asked to give again to Mr. Roosevelt the greatest trust and the highest responsibility which any people can give to any man. In these speeches they are able to see precisely what manner of man he is. They can have the assurance that he says always what he means and means always what he says. They can judge him better from these words which he himself has uttered than from countless biographies or acres of newspaper sketches. Here in these pages is the real man. We may agree or disagree with his views, but we have that satisfaction which passes all others of knowing that it is the man himself who speaks to us and not a hollow voice sounding like that of a Greek actor from behind a mask. We may think his views of

public policies are wise or unwise, but no one can read these speeches and not realize that the man who made them is not only intensely patriotic but that he is also trying to make the world better, is seeking the triumph of good over evil, and so far as he can do it is striving to have righteousness prevail on the earth.

« PreviousContinue »