Page images
PDF
EPUB

Does any man suppose that such a man could be elected mayor of the city of New York? Would it be possible for our people as a whole to elect one such? He is elected easily enough when you get the politicians to dickering and dealing with one another, and no more fruitful field for dickering and dealing exists than in the board of aldermen.

I think that almost without exception the mayor has been a man of far better character than the average member of the board of aldermen; that almost without exception the mayor has been a man who has responded to the will of the people — to the will of the decent people - far more readily than have the board of aldermen. More than that; in times past we have realized that we were electing as mayor a man whose bands were bound. There has been little incentive to exert all our efforts to elect a man when we knew that his endeavors could, and would, be completely nullified by the concerted action of others. Now, I propose in the future to give us a chance to elect a man who shall have the real as well as the nominal power, and I think we shall be far more likely to elect a good mayor than we have been in times past; and if we do not, then we can truly say that we ourselves are to blame accountable for his election.

I have purposely confined my bill purely to taking away the confirming power of the board of aldermen; there are many other changes that it is highly desirable to make, in my opinion, in the city of New York. I think that the mayor should be given absolute power of removal; I think that the departments ought for the most part to be made single-headed; I believe personally in spring elections; but very many of my friends on this floor utterly disagree with me upon those points; therefore I have refused to have any amendments put in this bill, and shall vote against any additional provisions to be put in, for the reason that I shall regard any attempt to put other amendments in as efforts to load down the bill and to prevent its passage, for every such amendment will increase the opposition to the bill. I will cheerfully vote on the other measures as separate bills; to give the mayor absolute power of removal; to provide for spring elections; to provide for single-headed departments. I will vote for each of those measures in turn; but I propose to have a vote taken in this Legislature upon this naked proposition, “Are you, or are you not, willing to give us a responsible government in the city of New York, unhampered by any other considerations?' Take that naked question and answer it.

VIII. PREACHING AND PRACTICE

I do not know that I shall be able to go to Cuba if there is a war. The army may not be employed at all, and even if it is employed it will consist chiefly of regular troops; and as regards the volunteers only a very small proportion can be taken from among the multitudes who are even now coming forward. Therefore it may be that I shall be unable to go, and shall have to stay here. In that case I shall do my duty here to the best of my ability, although I shall be eating out my heart. But if I

1 From Remarks of the Honorable Theodore Roosevelt on the Bill taking away the confirmatory power from the board of aldermen of the City of New York, in Assembly. February 5, 1884, in Committee of the Whole House.

am able to go I certainly shall. It is perfectly true that I shall be leaving one duty, but it will only be for the purpose of taking up another. I say quite sincerely that I shall not go for my own pleasure. On the contrary, if I should consult purely my own feelings I should earnestly hope that we would have peace. I like life very much. I have always led a joyous life. I like thought and I like action, and it will be very bitter to me to leave my wife and children; and while I think I could face death with dignity, I have no desire before my time has come to go out into the everlasting darkness. So I shall not go into a war with any undue exhilaration of spirits or in a frame of mind in any way approaching recklessness or levity.

Moreover, a man's usefulness depends upon his living up to his ideals in so far as he can. Now, I have consistently preached what our opponents are pleased to call “Jingo doctrines" for a good many years. One of the commonest taunts directed at men like myself is that we are armchair and parlor Jingoes who wish to see others do what we only advocate doing. I care very little for such a taunt, except as it affects my usefulness, but I cannot afford to disregard the fact that my power for good, whatever it may be, would be gone if I did n't try to live up to the doctrines I have tried to preach. Moreover it seems to me that it would be a good deal more important from the standpoint of the Nation as a whole that men like myself should go to war than that we should stay comfortably in offices at home and let others carry on the war that we have urged.

1 Letter to Dr. Sturgis Bigelow, March 29, 1898. From Theodore Roosevelt and His Time, by Joseph Bucklin Bishop. Copyright, 1920. Charles Scribner's Sons, publishers.

LX. THE BATTLE OF SAN JUAN HILL

We of the left wing had by degrees become involved in a fight which toward the end became not even a colonel's fight, but a squad leader's fight. The cavalry division was put at the head of the line. We were told to march forward, cross a little river in front, and then, turning to the right, march up alongside the stream until we connected with Lawton. Incidentally, this movement would not have brought us into touch with Lawton in any event. But we speedily had to abandon any thought of carrying it out. The maneuver brought us within fair range of the Spanish intrenchments along the line of hills which we called the San Juan Hills, because on one of them was the San Juan blockhouse. On that day my regiment had the lead of the second brigade, and we marched down the trail following in trace behind the first brigade. Apparently the Spaniards could not make up their minds what to do as the three regular regiments of the first brigade crossed and defiled along the other bank of the stream, but when our regiment was crossing they began to fire at us.

Under this flank fire it soon became impossible to continue the march. The first brigade halted, deployed, and finally began to fire back. Then our brigade was halted. From time to time some of our men would fall, and I sent repeated word to the rear to try to get authority to attack the hills in front. Finally General Sumner, who was fighting the division in fine shape, sent word to advance. The word was brought to me by Mills, who said that my orders were to support the regulars in the assault on the hills, and that my objective would be the red-tiled ranch house in front, on a hill which we afterwards christened Kettle Hill. I mention Mills saying this because it was exactly the kind of definite order the giving of which does so much to insure success in a fight, as it prevents all obscurity as to what is to be done. The order to attack did not reach the first brigade until after we ourselves reached it, so that at first there was doubt on the part of their officers whether they were at liberty to join in the advance.

I had not enjoyed the Guasimas fight at all, because I had been so uncertain as to what I ought to do. But the San Juan fight was entirely different. The Spaniards had a hard position to attack, it is true, but we could see them, and I knew exactly how to proceed. I kept on horseback, merely because I found it difficult to convey orders along the line, as the men were lying down; and it is always hard to get men to start when they cannot see whether their comrades are also going. So I rode up and down the lines, keeping them straightened out, and gradually worked through line after line until I found myself at the head of the regiment. By the time I had reached the lines of the regulars of the first brigade I had come to the conclusion that it was silly to stay in the valley firing at the hills, because that was really where we were most exposed, and that the thing to do was to try to rush the intrenchments. Where I struck the regulars there was no one of superior rank to mine, and after asking why they did not charge, and being answered that they had no orders, I said I would give the order. There was naturally a little reluctance shown by the elderly officer in command to accept my order, so I said, “Then let my men through, sir,"and I marched through,

« PreviousContinue »