Page images
PDF
EPUB

comment: "I was never shot at maliciously but once. My assailant was a broad-hat old ruffian of a cheap type. The fact that I wore glasses, together with my evident ardent desire to avoid a fight, apparently gave him the impression -a mistaken one-that I would not resent an injury."

What enormous exertion was involved in climbing those rugged mountains and in pursuing those large and dangerous wild beasts! Yet he did it all with eagerness because he loved it. This cowboy ranchman in scuffling with his herds, this mighty hunter with his gun, built up one of the most powerful bodies in America and at the same time contributed to the building up of one of the greatest minds in America. The vigor of that out-of-door life got into his every muscle and nerve, into his every word and into every act he performed in after life.

It so happened that Theodore Roosevelt, up to the time of his election, was the only man but one who was born in a city who ever became President, and that was Hayes, who was born in Dayton, Ohio. Since his time two other city-bred men have occupied the White House-Taft, who was born in Cincinnati, and Wilson, who was born at Staunton, Virginia. If Theodore Roosevelt had stayed in New York or even had gone only to Harvard, likely, he never would have been President. The life of the cowboy and the hunter was necessary to fit him for the Presidency. The silence and solitude and life of nature developed the creative faculty as nothing else could. It was because Lincoln was such a simple child of nature, and was with nature so much in its silence and solitude, that the reflective faculty was so strongly developed in him, that faculty so necessary for the highest type of leadership among men.

Mr. Roosevelt's life in the West brought him into contact not only with cattle and cowboys and guides

and "grizzly" bears, but it brought him into contact with the virility and progress of a pioneer civilization. One of the most statesmanlike acts of any President was the Louisiana Purchase, negotiated by Thomas Jefferson in December, 1803, for $15,000,000. He bought of France the territory embraced by the modern states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota west of the Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, nearly all Kansas, and Oklahoma, the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Rocky Mountains, and Louisiana west of the Mississippi, but including New Orleans. It would take very many billions of dollars to buy this territory now with its abundant crops and precious mines. This was the great empire which appealed to the young Roosevelt, which he thought about, wrote about in his "Winning of the West," and which he knew thoroughly by residence in it and his active participation in its affairs.

In his address at the laying of the cornerstone of the Lewis and Clark memorial at Portland, Oregon, May 21st, 1903, he thus refers to the population entering upon this Northwest Territory: "We come here to-day to lay the cornerstone of a monument that is to call to mind the greatest single pioneering feat on this continent, the voyage across the continent by Lewis and Clark, which rounded out the ripe statesmanship of Jefferson and his fellows by giving to the United States all of the domain between the Mississippi and the Pacific. Following their advent came the reign of the fur trade; and then, some sixty years ago, those entered whose children and children's children were to possess the land. Across the continent in the early 40's came the ox-drawn, canvas-topped wagons bearing the pioneers, the stalwart, sturdy,

sun-burned men, with their wives and their little ones, who entered into this country to possess it. You have built up here this wonderful commonwealth, a commonwealth great in its past and infinitely greater in its future. The men gave us this region because they were not afraid, because they did not seek the living of ease and safety, because their life training was not to shrink from obstacles, but to meet and overcome them."

Roosevelt, the ranchman, had a prophet's eye and saw the great material, mental and moral civilization that was to possess that empire; he knew what busy men would till the ground over which his cattle grazed; and what thrifty cities would occupy the vast plains; and what a population would adorn them. Up to the time he went out to his ranch on the plains, the Eastern people knew very little about the prairies of the West. Until about 1850 little was known about the prairies by American authors, who for the most part were men of the Atlantic seaboard, who had seldom if ever passed the Alleghanies. Longfellow, Lowell and Whittier knew the old West only by hearsay. Only Irving and one or two other prominent literary men had some personal knowledge of it. The men of the West were too busy taming the wilderness to write romance or poetry about the new home of literature. To the literary people of the country the prairie was the great American desert. The settler without capital took the treeless prairies in hand because they were cheap and treeless land, and found that they would grow grass and grain. The railroads came and brought them fuel and market for their crops. The sod house or hut of cottonwood logs gave way to the square pine house of one story, and then a house like the one they had left in the East; and

now has come the home of fine architecture and interior, decoration and lovely grounds. Those vast, monotonous, marshy districts have been transmuted into a veritable garden. The social evolution of the prairie has been as marked as its material progress. It is an empire of hardy, intelligent, industrious, thrifty and virtuous people, who fear God and love men, who want the school and church, but who will not tolerate the saloon.

The evolution of the forest and the mountain has been almost as great as that of the prairie. Sharp axes have turned the forest into productive farms, and the rugged hand of industry has turned many mountain districts into fruitful farms with thrifty cities.

Roosevelt wrote about the "Winning of the West" -he, himself, won the West as no other one man ever did. He knew intimately its geography, its farms, its forestry, its mines, its population, its characteristics and the wild creatures that inhabit it. No man living ever interpreted that western life as well as he, and no one ever incarnated it in his thought and action as he did that irresistible strenuousness greater than that of any man of our time was literally a fresh breeze from the West, its prairies, its mountains, its

sea.

After eighteen years of home life, four years at Harvard, three years in the Assembly, he was fortunate in having this post-graduate course of three years in the university of the great West to fit him for the supreme place in our nation.

« PreviousContinue »