Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XI.

SEEN IN HIS STUDIES AND IDEALS.

Refilections of Himself in Writings and His Heroes—He Gives His Confidences in

Glowing Pages—Washington, Lincoln and Grant, Three Pre-eminently Great Men-Aspirations Revealed in His Laudations-He Corrects a First ImpressionLoves Cowboys, but "There Are Others"—How He Became a Remote RanchmanAnecdotes of Bravery and Generous Deeds.

IN studying the character of President Roosevelt, we must pursue his course 1 of study, for in it was developed his character. As a boy he was instructed

by his father to develop himself, and arrived at Harvard a youth with striking outlines of originality. He had an early glimpse of the beauties and wonders of botany, and felt it was worthy the devotion of his life; but as he cultivated himself, a self-made man, so that he felt the stir of energies and joy of labor and strife, he had a passion for athletic exercise, and to go afield and be a hunter. He turned from botany to mathematics, and reached the highest grade of measurement. He hastened to be a while in the Old World. The charm of antiquity enveloped him, and he saw the heart of Europe, illustrating the force of his aspirations by climbing the most difficult and dangerous mountains in Switzerland. Instead of lingering abroad, he hurried home, and took a “header" into politics. He comprehended that it was a glorious thing to be an American. He gained better knowledge of Europe with his own eyes, than he could get from books. He was attracted to public life, and his hand to hand combat with the spoilers in the Legislature, followed by the broader field offered in the National Republican Convention, gave him, at the age of twentysix, a national reputation.

Though Chairman of the Delegation of New York, he could not cast the solid vote of the State. It was the sticking point of reform in those days that the vote of the State need not be solid; that it was rather a reproach upon a delegation to vote all the time solid. The reformer developed individuality rather than unity. The vote of New York at this time was divided, and the roll was repeatedly called, that each delegate might “toe” his own mark and “show his hand;" that is, both the feet on which he stood and the hands he played. In this situation, the young Chairman's name was prominent in the record. His terms in the Assembly of his State had given him conspicuity as a hard hitter.

The spot where there was great need of a fighting champion of the people was New York City, and the young Assemblyman resolved to undertake the task, was nominated for Mayor; and ran on the regular Republican ticket. The candidates were Hewitt, Henry George and Roosevelt. A heavy vote the latter might have received, was thrown successfully to Hewitt to beat George. All the candidates were honorable men, but George's land theories caused alarm.

The mother and wife of Roosevelt died, and he withdrew from the accustomed turmoil of the metropolis. He preferred the changes of scenery and diversity of associations encountered in the wilderness. Here he became a Rough Rider, meaning in his case an accomplished horseman, and a mighty hunter for the game the wildest country on the continent afforded. The buffalo no longer roamed in great herds over the succulent but hardy grass named for the ponderous animal; but there were herds of stately elk and the delightful deer—that got their name in Virginia, and were almost co-extensive with the soil that produces Indian corn—the bounding antelope, that outmatches the "gay gazelles on Judah's hills,” the goat that is white as snow, and at home on the snowy peaks; the mountain lions, the fierce cougars, the gaunt gray wolves and the coyotes—the smaller mischief maker of the prairies—and above all, the bears of all shades, from the giant grizzly to the darker, smaller and milder editions of the same beast.

Columbus did not discover for him a newer world when he struck Cuba and had faith it was Cipango, than Roosevelt found in Ranchland. Deep in the American mountains most remote from the Atlantic, the sources of the Nile of the Hemisphere called Western before the world was rounded in human experience, he found the people most truly American, the expanders of our frontiers and embodiments of our typical countrymen, answering to the vital air and the fertile land, the vast rivers and broad horizons, from which come the bone and sinew, the strength and spirit of the men who have assimilated the best blood of the Old World; and the “let independence be your boast”-men who are the advance guard of our Manifest Destiny.

It was the New World of the Great Nation of the Greater America of the more modern Hemisphere—the American Nation that has outgrown all other Nations, and fronted on the two oceans—the Atlantic, looking toward Europe, and on the Pacific meeting Asia face to face—just at the time when our great States found it was better to be of a great than a small “Empire for Liberty," and when the transcontinental railroads defined the road to Asia, and prepared for the canal across the American isthmus, that in return is to guide the trade and travel, the broad wings of commerce and the roads of steel, surrounding

the globe in the tropics, realizing the prophecy of the ever westward emigration and the trade winds.

It was at this epoch that Theodore Roosevelt expanded his ideas of the Americans of America, and in their atmosphere finished the schooling for his great hereafter, leaving, though, to the last the final touch of the actualities of war. He was suddenly initiated into the life of the land of the coming time, and in tone with the people. The man of the metropolis and the university, the representative of an old and cultivated family, with a name the pride of the Knickerbockers, and the society of the affluent, scored the point that the least tender-footed of all men was the one who in his youth had seen other lands and people than this, and with the arts of science softened the rudeness of the strong; and the traveled and scholastic author paid this tribute to the cowboys, who were natural to the Cattle Country, but had not been native, because they hadn't had the time out there. He said:

"Everywhere among these plainsmen and mountain-men, and more important than any, are the cowboys—the men who follow the calling that has brought such towns into being. Singly, or in twos and threes, they gallop their wiry little horses down the street, their lithe, supple figures erect or swaying slightly as they sit loosely in the saddle; while their stirrups are so long that their knees are hardly bent, the bridles not taut enough to keep the chains from clanking. They are smaller and less muscular than the wielders of ax and pick, but they are as hardy and self-reliant as any men who ever breathed-with bronzed, set faces, and keen eyes that look all the world straight in the face without flinching as they flash out from under the broad-brimmed hats. Peril and hardship, and years of long toil broken by weeks of brutal dissipation, draw haggard lines across their eager faces, but never dim their reckless eyes nor break their bearing of defiant self-confidence. They do not walk well, partly because they so rarely do any work out of the saddle, partly because their chaperajos, or leather overalls, hamper them when on the ground; but their appearance is striking for all that, and picturesque, too, with their jingling spurs, the big revolvers stuck in their belts, and bright silk handkerchiefs knotted loosely round their necks over the open collars of their flannel shirts."

There is a refined wisdom about this that is rare in those who count their years in the early forties, and one goes on to read his estimation of great men with a curious stimulation of interest. A young man who assigns himself to his place and tells how he grew as a tree, and put forth new leaves in their season, has given vouchers that he can draw likenesses and evolution other than his own, with a lead pencil. Governor Roosevelt, April 27, 1900, in his address at the Grant Anniversary, Galena, Illinois, names the three great men of all time in our country, as he sees and sketches.

"As the generations slip away, as the dust of conflict settles, and as through the clearing air we look back with keener wisdom into the Nation's past, mightiest among the mighty dead loom the three great figures of Washington, Lincoln and Grant. There are great men also in the second rank; for in my gallery of merely national heroes, Franklin and Hamilton, Jefferson and Jackson would surely have their place. But these three greatest men have taken their place among the great men of all Nations, the great men of all time. They stood supreme in the two great crises of our history, on the two great occasions when we stood in the van of all humanity and struck the most effective blows that have ever been struck for the cause of human freedom under the law; for that spirit of orderly liberty which must stand at the base of every wise movement to secure to each man his rights, and to guard each from being wronged by his fellows.

“Washington fought in the earlier struggle, and it was his good fortune to win the highest renown alike as soldier and statesman. In the second and even greater struggle, the deeds of Lincoln, the statesman, were made good by those of Grant, the soldier, and later Grant himself took up the work that dropped from Lincoln's tired hands when the assassin's bullet went home, and the sad, patient, kindly eyes were closed forever.

“It was no mere accident that made our three mightiest men, two of them soldiers and one the great war President. It is only through work and strife that either Nation or individual moves on to greatness. The great man is always the man of mighty effort, and usually the man whom grinding need has trained to mighty effort. Rest and peace are good things, are great blessings, but only if they come honorably; and it is those who fearlessly turned away from them when they have not been earned, who in the long run deserve the best of their country. In the sweat of our brows do we eat bread, and though the sweat is bitter at times, yet in the long run it is far more bitter to eat of the bread that is unearned, unwon, undeserved. America must nerve herself for labor and peril. The men who have made our national greatness are those who faced danger and overcame it, who met difficulties and surmounted them, not those whose paths were cast in such pleasant places that toil and dread were ever far from them. Neither was it an accident that our three leaders were men who, while they did not shrink from war, were nevertheless heartily men of peace.

"So it was with the Civil War. If the four iron years had not been followed by peace, they would not have been justified. If the Great Silent Soldier, the Hammer of the North, had struck the shackles off the slave only, as so many conquerors in civil strife before him have done, to rivet them around the wrists of freemen, then the war would have been fought in vain, and worse than in vain. If the Union which so many men shed their blood to restore, were not now a Union in fact, then the precious blood would have been wasted. But it was not wasted; for the work of peace has made good the work of war, and North and South, East and West, are one people in fact as well as in name; one in purpose, in fellow-feeling and in high resolve, as we stand to greet the new century.”

In an address which was a character study of General Grant, Governor Roosevelt gave an interesting account of a change of opinion in a relation that has indelibly colored his life and being. He tells with as sharp analysis as if he was writing of another person how he had been taught not to love cowboys less, but other human creatures more. And he appears to have regarded the plainsman as an incomparable creature, and thus explains how he kept his first love of the rude and tameless rough rider on his pedestal, but let him down from premiership by the elevation of other products by humanity under American conditions.

"The first time I ever labored alongside and got thrown into intimate companionship with men who were mighty men of their land, was in the cattle country of the Northwest. I soon grew to have an immense liking and respect for my associates; and as I knew them, and did not know similar workers in other parts of the country, it seemed to me then the ranch owner was a great deal better than any Eastern business man, and that the cow puncher stood on a corresponding altitude compared to any of his brethren in the East.

"Well, after a little while I got thrown into close relations with the farmers, and it did not take long before I had moved them up alongside of my beloved cowmen, and made up my mind that they really formed the backbone of the land. Then, because of circumstances, I was thrown into intimate contact with railroad men; and I gradually came to the conclusion that these railroad men were about the finest citizens there were anywhere around. Then, in the course of some official work, I was thrown into close contact with a number of the carpenters, blacksmiths and men in the building trades—that is, skilled mechanics of high order—and it was not long before I had them on the same pedestal with the others. By that time it began to dawn on me that the difference was not in the men but in my own point of view, and that if any man is thrown into close contact with any large body of our fellow-citizens, it is apt to be the man's own fault if he does not grow to feel for them a very hearty regard and, moreover, grow to understand that on the great questions that lie at the root of human well-being, he and they feel alike.” He continued :

“I shall ask attention not to Grant's life, but to the lessons taught by that life as we of to-day should learn them. Foremost of all, the lessons of tenacity, of stubborn fixity of purpose. In the Union armies there were generals as brilliant as Grant, but none with his iron determination. This quality he showed as President no less than as general. He was no more to be influenced

« PreviousContinue »