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“This is all wrong," said the young assemblyman. “A clerk or anybody else doing his duty faithfully should not be thrown out as soon as there is a political change.” The new law was passed, and this was the beginning of what is commonly called the merit system, whereby a large number of those who work for the state are judged solely by their capabilities and not by their political beliefs. This system has since been extended to other states and also to officeholding under the national government.
Another important measure pushed through the Assembly by Theodore Roosevelt was what was known as the Edson Charter for New York City, giving to the mayor certain rights which in the past had rested in the board of aldermen. This measure was defeated during Roosevelt's second term of office, but in 1884 he pressed it with such force that it overcame all opposition and became a law. Many have considered this victory his very best work.
By those who knew him at this time he is described as having almost a boyish figure, frank face, clear, penetrating eyes, and
a smile of good-natured friendship and dry humor. When he talked it was with an earnestness that could not be mistaken. By those who were especially bitter against him he was sometimes called a dude and a silk stocking, but to these insinuations he paid no attention, and after the encounter at the Delavan House his opponents were decidedly more careful as to how they addressed him.
“Take him all the way through he was generally even tempered,” one has said who met him at that time. “But occasionally there was a flash from his eye that made his opponent draw back in quick order. He would stand a good deal, but there were some things he wouldn't take, and they knew it. One thing is certain, after he was in the Assembly for a few months everybody knew perfectly that to come to him with any bill that was the least bit shady was a waste of time and effort. Roosevelt wouldn't stand for it a minute.”
In those days Theodore Roosevelt did not give up his habits of athletic exercise, and nearly every day he could be seen taking long walks in the country around
Albany. In the meantime his “ Naval War of 1812” was well under way, but he could spare only a few hours occasionally to complete his manuscript.
His married life had thus far been a happy one, and its joy was greatly increased by the birth of his daughter Alice. As will be seen later, Mr. Roosevelt is what is called a family man, and he took great comfort in this new addition to his little household. But his happiness was shortlived, for in 1884, when the daughter was but a baby, the beloved wife died, and the little one had to be given over to the care of the grandparents in Boston. Not many months later Mr. Roosevelt's mother died also, heaping additional sorrow upon his head.
With the conclusion of his third term in the Assembly Theodore Roosevelt's work as a member of that body came to an end. If he had made some enemies, he had made more friends, and he was known as an ardent supporter of reform in all branches of politics. In recognition of his ability he was chosen as a delegate-at-large to the Re publican convention brought together to
nominate a candidate to succeed President Arthur.
At that time James G. Blaine from Maine had served many years in the United States Senate, and it was thought that he would surely be both nominated and elected. But many were opposed to Blaine, thinking he would not support such reform measures as they wished to see advanced, and among this number was Theodore Roosevelt.
“ We must nominate Mr. Edmunds," said the young delegate-at-large, and did his best for the gentleman in question.
“It cannot be done,” said another delegate.
The convention met at Exposition Hall in Chicago, and Mr. Roosevelt was placed on the Committee on Resolutions. It was a stormy convention, and ballot after ballot had to be taken before a nomination could be secured. Blaine led from the start, with Senator Edmunds a fairly close second.
“If Blaine is nominated, he will be defeated,” said more than one.
At last came the deciding vote, and James G. Blaine was put up at the head of the ticket, with John A. Logan for VicePresident.