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second assembly year, and in the year following was made chairman of the committee on cities. Then began his fight for reform, preparing the way for the upheaval that came with the Lexow-Parkhurst-Goff investigation, foilowing the notable investigation of his own committee in the early 'Sos.
The democrats soon realized that young Roosevelt was as able as he was honest, a tireless worker and as merciless as a gatling gun. He was found to be dangerous, a man to be let alone unless the ambulance was near. He gave and took hard knocks, and each day became more formidable with bits of dynamite in his arguments.
About this time the heaviest blow of a man's career fell upon him. His dear mother and wife died in one week. That touch of sorrow made him new and lifelong friends among men of both parties.
In 1884, the never to be forgotten year of the Blaine campaign, Mr. Roosevelt was recognized as a power in the state and made a delegate to the republican national convention to lead the Edmunds forces, and, though opposed to Mr. Blaine, 'refused to follow the bolters who went over to Cleveland, for he believed he could do nothing except through the regular party organization.
“Whatever good I have accomplished,” he said, “has been through the republican party.” So he entered the campaign and made speeches, and then went to his Dakota ranch and spent two years writing and shooting. It was in that Western home that he developed his taste for cowboy life, became a crack shot and bronco rider and expert with the lariat. He killed big game and wrote his books on “Ranch Life” and “The Winning of the West."
We next find him a candidate for mayor of New York, in the famous Henry George campaign, when Abram S. Hewitt won on the Tammany ticket and Henry George was counted out, he declared. Under the circumstances Roosevelt made a strong fight, and President Harrison appointed him to the civil service commission, where he made a brilliant record, increasing the number of positions of the civil service list from 1,400 to 40,000.
He resigned this position to become police commissioner in New York city under the reform administration of Mayor Strong. When a literary friend expressed surprise that a man of his scholarly attainments should enter on a police crusade, he said:
“I thought the storm center was in New York, and so I came here. It is a great piece of practical work. I like to take hold of work that has been done by a Tammany leader, and do it as well, only by approaching it from the opposite direction. The thing that attracted me to it was that it was to be done in the hurly-burly, for I don't like cloister life.” The new commissioner stirred up the town. The regulation reformers did not know whether to applaud or curse. Many declared that his rigid enforcement of the excise law enabled Tammany to return to power by capturing the votes of liquor men who had temporarily joined the reformers. In reply Roosevelt said he had sworn to enforce all the laws and he would not compromise his conscience. Besides, he held that the best way to get a bad law repealed was to rigidly enforce it.
While a police commissioner in New York city, Mr. Roosevelt did not depend on the reports of his subordinates to learn whether his orders were being obeyed and that the reforms he recommended were being carried out, but pursued the simple, effective method of personally visiting the patrolmen of the force on their beats at night. On one of these trips he found two policemen drinking in a saloon. "Is this the way you do your duty ?” he asked, quietly. Neither of the officers had seen the commissioner before and they took him for some prying stranger. “What's that to you?” replied one of the men. “Get out of here or we will throw you out.” Mr. Roosevelt did not get out. Nor did he lose his temper. He replied in the same quiet voice: "No, I will not go out. I am Police Commissioner Roosevelt, and I am looking for men like you who do not obey my orders. Come to my office to-morrow.” The men apologized, but it was of no lise. They called at the commissioner's office the next day and were reduced.
On another of these incognito tours he saw one policeman capture a dangerous burglar and another risk his life to save a family from a burning building. The commissioner did what he could to help in both cases, and when the work was over he thanked the men personally for their bravery and invited them to call at his office. When they called they were again praised and thanked and notified that they had been promoted.
He said to a newspaper writer once, at the close of a meeting, that he believed a majority of policemen were good men. He believed in giving every applicant a chance to show what he could do and treating him honestly and fairly, regardless of his nationality, politics, religion or
“We have every country represented on the police force,” he said. “Hebrews working harmoniously with Irishmen; Germans making good records with Spaniards—in fact, every nationality is represented almost but the Chinese, and I find the men as a class willing to give faithful service. When men find the official in charge of them consistent, always keeping his word to the letter, they will soon begin following the example set before them. Treat a man squarely and you will get square treatment in return. That is human nature and sound doctrine, whether in the police or in any other department.”
Being an honest man and determined to do his duty fearlessly and without favor, Mr. Roosevelt was not caught in the many traps set for him. All attempts to ensnare him were failures and soon appeared so ridiculous that he became the best "let alone” official in the city government.
ROOSEVELT, THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE NAVY-PREPARATIONS
When Tammany took possession of New York, Theodore Roosevelt left the police department to become assistant secretary of the navy at Washington. It seemed an unimportant, obscure position, but he made it, by the sheer force of his personality, one of the important levers in our successful war with Spain.
He had: long been familiar with naval matters, historically and theoretically, and it was only a short time before his associates realized that he was a man to be depended upon, for practical considerations as well.
He seemed to have a kind of prophetic insight into the future, for long before the United States was stirred from center to circumference by the explosion of the Maine, he exclaimed to a friend in New York: "We shall be compelled to fight Spain within a year.”
From the date of his appointment, in April, 1897, he began to make ready for such an event with a vigor that took away the breath of more conservative naval officers. “To be prepared for war is the most effectual means to promote peace,” was the subject upon which he addressed a class at the naval academy of Annapolis. He carried out this maxim of Washington to its fullest conclusion. He hastened work on the new warships and ordered repairs on the old ones. Neither did he content himself with giving directions. He saw to it personally that they were carried out. No man who came within the radius of his authority was suffered to shirk. He seemed ubiquitous. As illustrative of his thoroughness is a characteristic remark, which made his inefficient employes shudder.
“In ordinary routine matters,” he said, "if a man does ordinarily well I am satisfied; but if he doesn't do the work of importance in the navy with the snap and vigor I believe is necessary, I'll cinch him till he squeals."
Roosevelt also issued orders that the crew of every ship be recruited to its full strength. He began to buy provisions, guns and ammunition, and to insist on more extended gunnery practice, which seemed extravagant to some of his less radical brethren. He filled the bins of every supply station with coal. Accordingly, when Dewey steamed
across the Pacific, he found fuel waiting for him. Without the unnecessary delay of an instant, the Admiral took on his coal and sailed calmly by the astonished Spaniards, who supposed him miles away.
Events justified Roosevelt in the preparations he had made. The result of his course was so obvious as to make Senator Davis, chairman of the senate committee on foreign relations, declare that if it had not been for Roosevelt we should not have been able to strike the blow that we did at Manila. Because of the forethought, therefore, of the assistant secretary of the navy, one of the most brilliant victories in our history was made possible.
Secretary Roosevelt was occupied not only with the material needs of the navy, but he found time also to accomplish a change in the administration of it, which will be of great advantage for years to come. This change found expression in the well-known naval personal bill, which amalgamates the line and engineer corps of the navy. By means of it the work of the navy department in detailing officers for duty will be made much simpler, since every officer of the new line will be able to perform any of the duties which involve the management of large bodies of men or the control of machinery.
The issue with Spain was held off as long as possible, to give the war department time to gather itself for the coming struggle, but finally the words rang through the country:
“War is declared!"
The naval department was overwhelmed with new duties and responsibilities. Like the rest of its members, Theodore Roosevelt scarcely allowed himself time to eat and sleep. Among numberless other things, he had the immediate charge of purchasing vessels for the auxiliary fleet. There were to be sixty of them, as staunch and well adapted for service as it was possible to find.
Again the country profited by his unimpeachable honesty. Shipbrokers flocked to him by the dozen. They had hulks to sell in various stages of disrepair and rottenness. They had powerful backing, too. But they found Roosevelt as hard as adamant.
He refused unconditionally to buy any ships not recommended by the board which examined them and pronounced upon their merits. The board was made up of careful, expert men, and no unfit vessel won their approbation. So the ship-brokers found the task of cheating the navy too difficult for them and retired discomfited. As a consequence the auxiliary fleet was one to which the country could commit with, safety the lives of her loyal sons. He set himself against the bureaucracy that had marked time with such inefficiency that the ships could get no powder for target practice. His intense effort soon secured an appro
priation of $800,000. Within a month he was back with a request for $500,000 more.
"But where is the $800,000 you got?" he was asked. “Burned,” was the laconic reply.
And it was the burning of that powder, in part, that made Dewey's gunners invincible at Manila.
Roosevelt describes himself, during this time, as "sharpening the tools of the navy.” When the task was accomplished to the satisfaction of every one concerned, he gave way to the desire which was overwhelming him. “There is nothing more for me to do here," he said. “I've got to get into the fight myself."
A furor arose. His friends tried to dissuade him, and all the leading newspapers of the country assured him that he was taking just the right course to ruin his career. They told him that there were plenty of men to stop bullets but very few who could manage a navy.
"You are leaving a wife and six children," said one of the female population, with tears in her eyes.
"I have done as much as any one to bring on this war,” replied Roosevelt, “and shall I shirk now?"
His resignation was therefore tendered, and accepted with mucli regret by the President and Secretary Long. He was free to carry out the plan which had enlisted his interest so thoroughly.
American history was as familiar to Secretary Roosevelt as his a b c's. He knew all about Mad Anthony Wayne; the dramatic story of Marion's men in the American Revolution, and the part that the Texas Rangers played in the Mexican war. What Andy Jackson's soldiers did in the war of 1812 stirred his martial spirit, too, and from a knowledge of the deeds accomplished by all these commanders, he concluded that such service would be invaluable in the Spanish war.
Congress, agreeing with him, authorized the raising of three cavalry regiments from among the wild riders and riflemen of the Rockies and the great plains. Roosevelt was offered the command of one of them. His knowledge of military matters was established by practical experiment, for as far back as 1884 he had been a lieutenant of the Eighth regiment of the National Guard of the State of New York. He afterwards rose to the rank of captain, and remained a militiaman for more than four years.
He felt that he could learn how to command a regiment in a month, but that the month at that time was of inestimable importance to the country. So he declined the commission of colonel.
"Later,” he said, “after I have gained some experience, perhaps that may come.” It did come, not a colonelcy only, but a recommendation also for the medal of honor for gallant conduct in action.