« PreviousContinue »
HE family at home had done its part faithfully in the preliminary education of Theodore, and
the time had come for a new factor to enter into his mental and moral life, that of a tutor to prepare him for college. A brilliant young Harvard graduate, Mr. Arthur H. Cutler, who had tried the woolen business in New York and had tired of it, concluded he would undertake the task of preparing boys and young men for college. He always said that fortune came his way when he was asked just then to tutor the Roosevelt boys. Theodore's father had just moved uptown to No. 6 West 57th Street, and young Cutler came up to that home com 9 to 12 every school day for three years to fit the Roosevelt boys for college. There were three of them— Theodore and his brother, Elliott, and his cousin, J. West Roosevelt. After three years of this special work of tuition, Mr. Cutler concluded that he would make the Roosevelt boys and the few others he had been able to handle himself the basis of a boys' preparatory school. Theodore Roosevelt was claimed as the first graduate, and the late Elliott Roosevelt and J. West Roosevelt graduated in 1877.
It would have been thought that Theodore's father, having been so strict a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, would have sent his son to Rutgers or to Princeton, but young Cutler's recommendation of Harvard and his splendid educational equipment influenced the father to send the boy to Harvard in the autumn of 1876. Theodore's respect for his tutor the first year was great; it increased the next year and the next, and the two were lifelong friends. Colonel Roosevelt never ceased to recognize the tremendous influence of this young teacher on his education, character and destiny. Dr. Cutler's school, which he founded on the Roosevelt boys, became one of the finest institutions of its kind in America, and numbered among its graduates the sons of some of the most influential families in New York City and elsewhere, among them: William Havemeyer, J. Pierpont Morgan, Prof. T. C. Janeway, the late doctor; John Harsen Rhoades, Harry Payne Whitney, Hon. Frank L. Polk, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and many others. For forty years Professor Cutler through his school honored his profession and blessed the young manhood of America as few have done.
One of the masters, Prof. Herbert S. Boyd, told me this incident, illustrating not only the intimacy of Dr. Cutler with Colonel Roosevelt, but also Mr. Roosevelt's wide knowledge of books. Professor Boyd said: “Dr. Cutler was always a most welcome guest at Sagamore Hill and at the White House. In his visits to the White House the old times were talked over and also matters of public interest. But the President al. ways called up the question of the new books that had been written and their merits were discussed. Almost the first questions which the President would put to his old tutor was, 'What have you been reading?' And
Dr. Cutler would tell him the books which he had read, and it seemed that Mr. Roosevelt had already read them. Dr. Cutler decided to get ahead of him, so he went to a book store and asked for the latest publication (a book in two volumes). Dr. Cutler took the first volume with him on the train to Washington and had the other sent to his own home in the city. Try as he might it was of such heavy reading that between New York and Washington he could complete only about 200 pages. When Roosevelt asked him what he had been reading, he told him and expected to have the advantage of Mr. Roosevelt. Mr. Roosevelt asked him how he liked the book and Dr. Cutler attempted to discuss what he had read, but the President said, 'You know nothing about the book, Wait till you get to page 455 of volume two; that is where the work shines.'"
Theodore Roosevelt, fully prepared by Professor Cutler, entered Harvard in 1876, a slim young man of eighteen, not weighing over one hundred and thirty pounds and wearing a pair of side whiskers. He had not entirely recovered from his old enemy the asthma, and wheezed and suffered with it considerably through his college course, but he continued his physical exercise, walking, horse-back riding, boxing and other gymnastic exercises and retained his strength and gained muscle and general health despite his strenuous course. He was not counted a great student, did not stand very high in his class and did not win many honors. He never worked for marks. He was so busy in the investigation of the realm of science that he did not set himself to grind on the studies that did not appeal to him. He had very respectable marks, however; he was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, which is supposed to include the best intellects of the class, and was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi College Society, which indicated good intellectual rank.
While he was a member of the sophomore class his name was presented as one of the twelve to be selected from his class for the editorial staff of the Harvard Advocate, the college organ; and a committee was appointed to examine into his qualifications for that position and the chairman of that committee reported to the editors: “I cannot see that he is the kind of man we want, although I find that he is a thoroughly good fellow and much liked by his classmates. I do not believe that he has much literary interest. He spends his spare time chipping off pieces of rock and exam. ining strata, catching butterflies and bugs, and would, I think, be better suited for a scientific society than for us." The editors rejected him. He was, however, elected, some time after, to a position on the editorial staff of the Advocate, but did not do any conspicuous work,
He was a game sport but was not large enough to figure in football or rowing or most strenuous games. He was physically disqualified from being at the front or even being included in the coveted team. He did some very clever light-weight boxing. There is a story that in one of these pugilistic encounters, his adversary struck him a blow on the nose, starting the red current, after time had been called. The spectators cried, "Shame," and hissed him. He raised his hand demanding silence and called out that the man did not intend to give him a foul hit, that he had not heard the time called. He shook the man's hand and taking his place again gave his antagonist a left stroke on the chin that knocked him out for the round. This illustrates in the young man the same sense of fair play which he practiced himself and asked in others.