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of his ground before he espouses any cause, but once he has made the decision there is no thought of surrender. He is as great in defeat as in victory, because he fights for the truth in all its nakedness, and, while he may not succeed in his undertaking, the principle for which he battles remains impregnable. Among all the famous characters that make American history a continuous story of romance and adventure, none can compare with Theodore Roosevelt in purposeful action. From the day he first entered Harvard College to the day he stood up in Buffalo and, with eyes dim from grief, declared his intention of carrying out the policy of his murdered chief, he seems never to have rested. In college he was not only a diligent student, but the leader in all manly sports and pastimes. He wrestled and boxed, ran races and played football with the same tense earnestness that he gave to his studies. He could never bear to remain in second place in any adventure, and had his full share in the gay rout that keeps alive the humanity of young men getting the foundations of an education. No sooner was he out of college than he plunged into active work. The son of wealthy parents, he might have lived a life of idle luxury, letting his less fortunate fellows get on as best they could. The path was well beaten before him. Four generations of economy and thrift had placed him and all those with whom he was on intimate terms, beyond the need of toil, and the rosy gate of pleasure stood open before him. But the ways of the drawling and effeminate imitators of foreign degeneracy were as impossible to him as the ways of a trained ape would be to a royal Bengal tiger. He was the owner of a spirit that would not let him rest. His whole being demanded action, and his reason would be satisfied with nothing less than action to some good end. He plunged into literature and in less than two years completed a most incisive work, the “History of the American Navy in the War of 1812.” This work was published before he was twenty-four years old, but young as the author was it bears the stamp of a finished historical investigator. For the period which it covers it is looked upon in the Navy as the final word, and a copy is kept in every ship's library.
But to be simply a chronicler of noble thoughts and heroic deeds could not satisfy a man of Theodore Roosevelt’s fiber. He had already gained a broad and firm grasp on the main threads of American history, and the ambition to be an actor in the growth and development of this great nation, even as his fathers had been before him, took possession of him, and he at once became active in the affairs of his State.
Mr. Roosevelt early developed a liking for politics. He had descended from a long line of merchants, but his paternal ancestors for four generations had always taken an active interest in public affairs, and had served their city and State as aldermen, assemblymen and Congressmen. But in Theodore Roosevelt all the ambitions of his race seem to have crystallized in the one thought of country. In his philosophy, to be a free man under a free government is the nearest approach to earthly happiness. He became a hunter of wild beasts almost as soon as he was able to sight a rifle, and took as much pride in the trophies of the chase as any old viking would have done. The floors of his house at Oyster Bay are strewn with the skins of bears and mountain lions, as well as many of those of smaller though not less ferocious animals, slain by him in their native fastnesses. Horns of stag and moose decorate the halls, and sea-turtles are
the playthings of his children. He delights in overcoming things worth while, just to emphasize the supremacy of man's genius. The same dominant spirit that sends him alone through the forest on the trail of a panther spurs him into the thick of the fight during a political campaign, and keeps him there until the reforms he promised from the rostrum are achieved in legislative halls or he is altogether overthrown.
In his treatment of political questions Mr. Roosevelt's methods exhibit much of the shrewdness of his merchant ancestors. He believes in honest goods, but not in mixing his silks and satins with the cheap prints in the show-window. He believes in woolen as an every-day costume. He can see no hope in the reform that has not a practical basis. In his essay on “Americanism” he says: "There are philosophers who assure us that in the future patriotism will be regarded not as a virtue at all, but merely as a mental stage in the journey toward a state of feeling when our patriotism will include the whole human race and all the world. This may be so; but the age of which these philosophers speak is still several æons distant. In fact, philosophers of this type are so very far advanced that they
are of no practical service to the present generation. It may be that in ages so remote that we cannot now understand any of the feelings of those who will dwell in them, patriotism will no longer be regarded as a virtue, exactly as it may be that in those remote ages people will look down upon and disregard monogamic marriage; but as things now are and have been for two or three thousand years past, and are likely to be for two or three thousand years to come, the words “home’ and “country’ mean a great deal. Nor do they show any tendency to lose their significance. At present treason, like adultery, ranks as one of the worst of all possible crimes.”
This utterance gives an insight into one distinguishing characteristic of Mr. Roosevelt. He states his position with absolute frankness. The dream of a millennium is nothing to him unless you can prove that it is practical and can be brought about at once. “Let us get hold of things as they are,” is his motto, “and when we have them straightened out we will try something else. Let us stick close to the thought that we are Americans, first, last and all the time. We may not be so polished as our neighbors across seas, but we have certainly as good timber