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hostelry, since burned, where legislators from all over the State congregated every evening, and where much of the actual business of the session was transacted.
It has always been a peculiarity of Mr. Roosevelt’s nature that he never “got mad” at people, no matter what the provocation. He always remembered faces, and all that had passed in his association with a man; but he never avoided that person, no matter what the latter’s conduct may have been. In legislative life that is an especially valuable trait. He could fight a man all day on the floor, and then meet him with a laugh and a jest in the evening. And so on this night, after a day when he had been a particularly sharp thorn in the side of corruption, he moved about the lobby of the old hotel, chatting with friends, tossing a laugh and a goodnatured thrust at those who had opposed him, and treating the whole matter from the standpoint of one who understands the motives as well as the actions of those with whom he is associated. He did not pose. He made no pretense of loftier morality than those about him, but let them draw their own conclusions from his conduct.
At ten o’clock he started to leave the hotel. On the way from the upper portion of the lobby, where he had been chatting with fellow members, he passed the door leading to the buffet. And from that door, as by a preconcerted signal from the “honorable mem” with whom he had been associating, came a group of fellows, rather noisy, and full of the jostling which follows tarrying at the wine. They were not a pleasant lot. One in particular was a pugilist called “Stubby” Collins; and this bully bumped rather forcibly against Mr. Roosevelt. The latter was alone, but he saw in an instant, with the eye of a man accustomed to collisions, the fact that this little party had waylaid him with a purpose. He paused, fully on his guard, and then “Stubby,” with an appearance of the greatest indignation, struck at him, demanding angrily: “What do you mean, running into me that way?” The blow did not land. The men who hired “Stubby” had not informed him that this young member of the assembly had been one of the very best boxers at Harvard, and rather liked a fight. They had simply paid the slugger a certain price to “do up” the man who could not take a hint in any other way.
In an instant Mr. Roosevelt had chosen his position. It was beyond the group of revellers, and where he could keep both them and the more aristocratic party of their employers in view. And there, standing quite alone, “Stubby” made his rush. In half a minute the thug was beaten. He had met far more than his match; and the two or three of his friends who tendered their assistance were gathering themselves up from the marble floor of the lobby, and wondering if there had not been a mistake. When it was all over Mr. Roosevelt walked, still smiling, down the room, and told the “honorable” providers of this combat that he understood perfectly their connection with it, and that he was greatly obliged to them. He had not enjoyed himself more for a year. After that the representative of the Murray Hill district was treated with the consideration which his varied talents deserved. In one of his essays Mr. Roosevelt has taken occasion to lay the blame for a corrupt legislature where it properly belongs; and he does it in the most graphic manner imaginable. A young man had done good and honest work in the legislature, but had by no means been the pliant tool of the politicians that bad government required, and so a combination was made to defeat him. Mr. Roosevelt undertook to assist his friend to a return, in spite of the opposition. A voter, a man of large interests, was inveighing bitterly against the tyranny of politicians who should conspire for the young man's overthrow, and Mr. Roosevelt said to him: “Of course you will stay at the polls all day, and work for his reëlection?” “Unfortunately,” said the citizen who yearned for better government, “I have an engagement to go quail-shooting next Tuesday.” The moral Mr. Roosevelt tried to convey was that lawmakers and officials generally were quite what the public made them; and that, above all things, the legislator was representative of the people who employed him. He had learned the men with whom he served. Some he could trust. Some he must fight. And he took up his tasks accordingly. He became in a month, without the aid of any caucus, the leader of the minority—and the best hated man in Albany. He found a large number of men who were good enough in themselves, but who were “owned” by some interest or some man desiring favors at the hands of the legislators. These men would act with their party, whichever it might be, on what were regarded as unimportant matters—that is, matters touching the general good of the people. But they were held to a strict accountability whenever really vital matters were concerned. “Vital matters” were those only which touched the pockets of the men who owned the assemblymen. Some idea of the method employed by Mr. Roosevelt in this phase of his activity may be gleaned from a passage in his essay on “Phases of State Legislation.” “On one occasion there came before a committee of which I happened to be a member, a perfectly proper bill in the interest of a certain corporation. The majority of the committee, six in number, were thoroughly bad men, who opposed the measure in the hope of being paid to cease their opposition. When I consented to take charge of the bill I had stipulated that not one penny should be paid to insure its passage. It therefore became necessary to see what pressure could be brought to bear on the recalcitrant members; and, accordingly, we had to find out who were the authors and sponsors of their polit