« PreviousContinue »
does what is right. These threats are only a challenge to greater courage and a more strenuous fight.
It is a strange coincidence that the man that shot him while he was making a speech was an ex-saloonkeeper from New York City.
I noticed the singular politeness as well as dignity of a policeman at Fifth Avenue, at a shopping street. "Would you like to be promoted?" I said one day. He answered, "There isn't a ghost of a chance of my being promoted. I am a poor man and have no money to buy any promotion or any pull of any kind. I guess I will have to stick on this job. "I understand that under the Roosevelt administration money is not needed for promotion, and that the offer of it would be a reason for putting a man to the rear,” I said to him. "I happen to be a friend of Commissioner Roosevelt, and if you would like to change your beat I will talk with the Commissioner about you. Mr. Roosevelt is a man who requires fitness for the task. You come up to our parsonage at any time you indicate and I will find out something about your individual history." He said, "That is very kind of you and I will be up to see you to-morrow.' He came, and after finding out some facts about his family and personal history, I asked him, "Did you ever do a brave thing? Did you ever take any risk? Did you ever make any dangerous arrest?" He said, "Yes, I have had several close shaves in my life. This one I think is the closest. I was going down the Bowery to the Police Headquarters one day and I saw a crook steal a watch from a man's pocket and run for the door of the car. The man cried: "That man has got my watch,' but I had seen the fellow take it before the scream came and ran after him. We both got off the car in full speed and he got off a few feet
ahead of me. I ran fully a square before I could gain on him and when I got just where I was ready to grab him, he turned about suddenly, whipped out a revolver and shot me in the abdomen. I felt I had gotten my death shot but intended to get my man anyhow. I caught him, slung him to the ground, took his revolver away from him, beat him almost into insensibility with the handle of it and then dragged him by force to Police Headquarters. I was sure the bullet would kill me, for I felt the blood running down my legs and a sense of exhaustion. When I gave my prisoner up, I said: "He has killed me. Now lay me out on this lounge and send for a doctor. When they examined me they found that the bullet had struck a button of my underwear and deflected, and that what I thought was blood was only perspiration running down my limbs. I was the happiest man on earth when told that ball had not entered my body."
I did not write the Commissioner nor telephone him, but went down on purpose to see him about the case. As I told the story to him I got so excited over it in my own heart that he interrupted me, saying: "Good, good, splendid! that's the kind of stuff we want in this department. That's the kind of a man that shall have a chance." Then he touched a button and called the clerk and said: "Have Officer So-and-So report to me at 10 o'clock to-morrow morning." The officer reported to him, and the next time I saw him he was riding a nice horse and with the roundsman's straps on his sleeve, and when I called on the late Li Hung Chang at the Waldorf Astoria, during his visit to America, the policeman who had charge of the reception was my handsome friend with his beautiful officer's uniform, a lieutenant of the New York police.
A policeman called at my parsonage one morning
and said: "Commissioner Roosevelt wants to see you at once. It is on a matter of importance." When I got there he took me into his private room and said: "I am just informed that there is a movement on hand to legislate me out of office. The united city papers have bombarded me, the leaders of both parties have conspired to suppress me. They have not succeeded in killing me, and they think their only plan to get rid of me will be to pass a law abolishing my office and, of course, me with it. I have sent for you hurriedly because I want to know what you think about the situation." I said to him: "Commissioner, I do not like the situation. I regard it as serious. In fact, I think that the knife is inconveniently close to your jugular.' He said laughingly: "It looks that way to me." "You can do without the Commissionership," I said to him, "but the city cannot do without you. We will not surrender, and will not run, Commissioner. They shall not touch a hair of your head. Our church people are splendidly organized in this fight and we will make it mighty uncomfortable for any leader or leaders to snuff you out in any such fashion." I immediately went to the Methodist Preachers' Meeting, to which I belonged, and which was enthusiastically in favor of the saloonclosing movements, and told them the sneaking plan of those who were leading the saloon forces for the Commissioner's removal and asked them in their individual charges to speak about it and institute an earnest protest against it. I then went to a number of other preachers' meetings and told them of the plot and asked them to unite vigorously in the fight against it, which they consented to do and did. I immediately opened communication with the Republican leaders at Albany and elsewhere, telling them what
disastrous consequences politically would follow such a foolish and wicked course; that the good people of the State were with Roosevelt and would settle at the polls with any man or party who should attempt to punish him for doing his duty. The legislative plot to eliminate Roosevelt was thus nipped in the bud. I wrote a lengthy article for The North American Review appealing to the conscience and loyalty of all lovers of law and order to stand with Mr. Roosevelt in the fight and received from him a letter which is very precious to me now. It is as follows:
POLICE DEPARTMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK 300 MULBERRY STREET, NEW YORK, OCTOBER 23, 1895.
MY DEAR DR. IGLEHART:
I have just been reading your admirable article in the North American Review on the saloons and the Sabbath. Permit me to say how deeply I appreciate the valiant and effective fight you have waged for decent government in this city.
Commissioner Roosevelt was also a member of the Board of Health, and with his dear friend, Jacob Riis, secured tenement-house reforms whose healthful, physical and moral influence will be felt for generations to come. Roosevelt did more than enforce the Sunday law. He so organized the force and impressed himself on it, that it ceased to be the tool of the underworld and was ever after stronger.
The Theodore Roosevelt, the man as I knew him, and the world knew him, stands out life-size in the following letter:
I thank you for the slip you cant me, and I thank
you still more cordially for what you said in your sermon.
As I told you, it is with me a simply "question
of observing my oath of office. Nothing that either the saloonkeepers or the politicians say, will alter in any degree my position.
At the close of our two years' fight President McKinley appointed Mr. Roosevelt Assistant Secretary of the Navy.