Page images

experience some actual data which will prove useful in his present larger public career. When his cattle came to the Little Missouri country, the region was inhabited by less than a score of white hunters, and a good many Indians ranged across the plains at all times, and in every direction. The title of the white hunters was certainly as good as that of the Indians to the lands claimed by the latter. Yet nobody dreamed of asserting that the white hunters owned the country, or that they could hold it against the advance of subsequent settlers. Each could have filed his claim to a quarter-section of land—160 acres—under the laws of the nation, and might have held that much against any imaginable power. But there was no reason for his monopolizing more. “And,” Mr. Roosevelt declares, “the Indians should be treated in just the same way that we treat the white settlers. Give each his claim to a quarter-section, If, as generally happens, he should decline this, then let him share the fate of the thousands of white hunters who have lived on the game that the settlement of the country has exterminated, and let him, like these whites who will not work, perish from the face of the earth which he encumbers. The doctrine seems merciless, and so it is. But it is just and rational, for all that. It does not do to be too merciful to the few at the cost of justice to the many. The cattlemen at least keep herds and build houses on the land. Yet I would not for a moment debar settlers from the right of entry to the cattle country, though their coming in means the destruction of us and our industry.” There is a rugged justice in the sentiment, and a proof of disinterestedness which adds to the weight of the principle enunciated. The profits in the business were at first very great; and the chances for losses were great as well. One winter of unusual severity would work sad havoc among the cattle, particularly the young heifers; and a peculiar disease was likely to attack the herd, destroying thousands in a week. But the cost of producing beef, when carried on as it was then, was very small. The eharge for freight from the upper Missouri country to the market at Chicago or Omaha made up the largest item. There were no stables for that complete shelter which a farmer of the middle country, or the East, would understand by the work. The investment was chiefly for wages paid to cowboys; and these were never very large. So that fortunes were gathered in ranching. But it is significant that there are no cattle kings, even in the country where the cattle industry has been most largely followed. The woods of Michigan and Wisconsin have produced lumber kings; the hills of Idaho and Nevada and half a dozen other States have presented mining kings to the nation, and the sugar kings and kings of various other industries abound everywhere. But the cattle king has been always a star of brief shining, and his domain has never been an extensive one. He did a great deal in the development of the frontier country, and contributed much to the food supply of the world. But he did pretty well, as a general rule, if he took out of the business as much as he put in— and enjoyed life while the occupation lasted. As for Mr. Roosevelt's experience in ranch life, it can only be said that he was most happy in it, and that while it did not add greatly to his fortunes, it did not entail a failure. It came at a period in his life—perhaps the only one he could have found—when he had the time for it; when it fitted into the rounding and filling of his personality. In some measure it contained the elements of a special wisdom, of which he seems to have taken advantage, and it withdrew him so far from “the madding crowd” that he had opportunity for much writing which his countrymen have very keenly enjoyed. His “Ranch Life in the Bad Lands” was one of his most valuable ventures.



FIRST AUTHOR TO BECOME PRESIDENT – BEGINNING AS EDITOR of HIs college PAPER, HE DEVELOPS STRIKING LITERARY TALENT — success of His FIRST work, ‘‘NAVAL war of 1812,” “win NING of THE west,” “THE STRENUous LIFE AND other Essays,’’ ‘‘oliver croMwFLL”—A voluminous Writer.

For the first time in the history of America an author is at the head of the Government, an author, too, of whom the country may well be proud. It lends a radiance to letters in the new world to have for the first citizen of the land a man who is not only a statesman and a historian but a poet as well, for in all his writings Mr. Roosevelt discovers that broad comprehension and deep sympathy with nature in all its forms that is the delight of the poet and is possessed by him alone. It is astonishing that one who has taken such an active part in the political life of the nation, as well as that of his native State and city, should have found time to produce so many volumes on subjects requiring great research as

well as an intimate knowledge of the histories of

« PreviousContinue »