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CHAPTER IX

GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK

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OLONEL ROOSEVELT returned from the war of a few months, just before the meeting of the

Republican State Convention in September, 1898, and he was considered a possible candidate for the nomination for Governor. Taking up a New York paper one morning I noticed that Senator Platt had stated that Colonel Roosevelt would not be nominated, but that Governor Black would be renominated for a second term. Senator Platt was the “easy boss, and I knew that unless there was a change in the situation the Colonel would not be nominated.

The Senator was at Manhattan Beach, at the Oriental Hotel. I went down to see him about the nomination of Colonel Roosevelt for the governorship. He was cold on the subject and discouraged me.

“What are your objections to the Colonel's candidacy?" I asked.

“Well, he is rash and impulsive," said the Senator.

Yes," I answered, “he is impulsive, but his impulses are good, and if you will notice, he is running in the right direction." “But he slops over," the Senator continued.

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“Yes, he does," I replied, “because there is so much of him to slop. He is so large that he often fills the vessel to overflowing. He has an overplus of vitality and manhood."

The Senator declared, “He made such a dismal failure in the administration of the police commissionership that his unwisdom and unpopularity, in the judgment of many, take him out of serious consideration for the nomination. He has provoked the violent hostility of the liquor people of the State."

“Senator,” I persisted, “I disagree with you entirely. The moral heroism he manifested in his fight against the Sunday saloons of New York will be an asset to the Republican party. Remember, there are a good many people in the State who live above the Harlem and who have no love for, nor even patience with, the saloon on Sunday, or on any other day, and, besides, I believe the number of voters in New York City who are unfriendly to the saloon is often underestimated. Are you not too smart a man and leader to attempt to compete with Tammany Hall for the saloon vote? The liquor dealers may promise to vote for your ticket, but on election day they will vote for Tammany Hall, which they count a friend to be relied upon. You can run Theodore Roosevelt and win without the saloon vote. You can win in spite of it. So able a man as David Bennett Hill—so great a national figure that, backed by his party in the State, he surely would have received the nomination for the presidency on the Democratic ticket in 1892, if Cleveland had not taken it from him-made the fatal political mistake of overestimating the saloon vote in this State, and was driven from power largely on account of his supposed friendliness to the saloon. When he ran for the governorship in 1894 it was reported that he

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said he would rather have the votes of the saloonkeepers than of the preachers.

Whether he ever made the statement or not, it was so generally believed that the preachers took him at his word and fought him, and the church people of both parties turned against him and beat him by more than 100,000 votes. On account of that mistake you are in Mr. Hill's place in the United States Senate and have displaced him as the dominant political figure of the State. If you make the mistake he did and punish Roosevelt for having fought the Sunday saloons, it will so anger the church people that they will bury your ticket under an avalanche of 150,000 votes. You will step down and out, and Mr. Hill will return to the political leadership of the State.

There are many people who are not total abstainers who count the saloon a bad institution and will knock it at the polls, and many more who resent the impertinence and impiety of the Sunday saloon and will work actively against your ticket. Senator, I have always voted a straight Republican ticket; but if you depose Colonel Roosevelt for having done his sworn duty as police commissioner I will bolt the ticket this fall, and you will find my ballot in that avalanche of votes. I never made a political speech in my life, and yet if you turn down Roosevelt, because you fear the saloon power will beat him, I will take the stump and make a score, or if need be fifty, speeches from here to Buffalo between now and election day and tell the people how it happened, and ask them what they think of it. There is especial reason for caution this fall. You will be handicapped by the fact that this is an 'off' year, not a presidential one, and by the severe criticism on the Republican party for its administration of the canals of the State;

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and you will need Roosevelt's physical, mental and moral enthusiasm to pull your ticket through.”

The Senator said, “Another strong reason why I object to Roosevelt's nomination is that he is such an independent I fear he might go back on the Republican party, if he were to be elected Governor, and fight those of us who put him in office, just like that fool of a Strong, whom we Republicans elected Mayor of New York and who had scarcely taken his seat before he turned against us, who had elected him, and gave the city back into the hands of Tammany Hall at the next election.” “Senator," I said, “I think

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” your fears are unfounded. While I am sure he would not stand for any wrongdoing in his party, I consider him a sound Republican and feel that you could rely on him as such.” Senator Platt, who was a very keen man, and one of the best judges of human nature I ever saw, sensed the conflict which indeed did come between him and the Colonel over the policies and leadership of the Republican party of the State.

It had gotten to be 5:30 o'clock in the afternoon. Who should get off the train I was to take for home but B. B. Odell, Jr., chairman of the Republican State Committee; Joseph Dickey, Mr. Bain, and others of Newburgh, my personal friends. Mr. Odell said: "Hello, what are you doing down here?

"I came down to see Senator Platt," I replied, "to try to persuade him to nominate Colonel Roosevelt for the Governorship. The paper this morning reported that he had told you boys last night that the Colonel would not be nominated.'

Mr. Odell said, “I am glad you came down. I am for Roosevelt myself and so are my friends here. I think he is the logical candidate as a war hero and reformer, and would poll a heavy vote and be elected.

The Senator has faith in your judgment, thinks that you reflect the moral sentiment of the State pretty accurately; I wish you would stay down and have another interview with Mr. Platt. Suppose you go back to the hotel and have dinner with me and see him again to-night.”

After dinner I had another talk with the Senator, in which I said: “Senator, do not think for a moment that Colonel Roosevelt sent me down to see you in the interest of his nomination. He does not know I am here. I have never spoken to him on the subject. While I have corresponded with him ever since he was Police Commissioner, even since he came back to Montauk Point to be mustered out, the matter of the Governorship has never been mentioned by either. I am here because I have seen Theodore Roosevelt at close range for two years and know him to be a man of great ability and all-daring moral courage, and believe that as a leader his administration would work for righteousness.

The Senator was so cold and keen in answering my arguments and unresponsive to my warm appeals, that I went home thoroughly discouraged. Before going to bed I sat down and wrote a letter to the Colonel at Montauk Point, in which, among other things, I said: “I had thought the Republican leaders would have had wisdom enough to offer you the nomination for the governorship, but in a morning paper I saw that Senator Platt had said you would not be the candidate. I knew that settled the matter, if that opinion continued. So, without your advice or consent, I hurried down to the Oriental at Manhattan Beach to-day and had two long, earnest interviews with the Senator, in which I tried to convince him of the wisdom of your nomination. But he discouraged

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