Page images
PDF
EPUB

"But this is not all. A man might have all these qualities and yet fail under the test of actual performance. But Roosevelt has been legislator, police commissioner of the great City of New York, United States Civil Service Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, commander of a regiment in battle, and Governor of the Empire State. In all these positions-covering an unusual variety of service and testing the practical capacity and ability of their holder-he has made his mark.

“Then, too, his life and career cover a great variety of the phases of our national life, and identify him with all classes of the people. He was born of a good well-to-do family of Dutch stock in New York; he was a student at Harvard; he lived on a ranch in the far West; he has run the courses of local, State and National politics; he has consorted with the refinements of the city and taken the rough and tumble of the frontier. Everybody knows him. Every college boy swears by him. Every cow boy ties to him. Every soldier and sailor counts him a friend. The policemen who served under him know that he was as just to their deserts as he was relentless to their faults. The citizen, who prays for good government and honest politics, relies on him for both. It may be that now and then some overzealous reformer, whose sole idea of reform is to kill the Republican party because it does not lay a nestful of golden eggs, 'every day in the hour,' has been unable to forgive him, because he will not desert it; but his very bitterness is really the highest tribute to his ideals and performance.

"He therefore comes to the candidacy for the Vice-Presidency not only well equipped for the high place, but specially qualified to add strength to the ticket. It was because it was universally recognized that this would be the effect that his nomination was spontaneous. While the office is one to which his active tendencies would not ordinarily incline him, there seems to be at this time no other in the candidacy for which he can render so much service to the Republican party. Young, irrepressible and with an honorable ambition, it is pleasant to think that long years are before him in which he can not fail with his strong character and ability to be a great part in the growth, beneficence and history of his country.”

The President accepts the responsibility, and appoints men for better reason than paying the political debts of members of Congress. He ignores the question of color, on behalf of one of the most honorable, able and useful of American citizens. He does not refuse to appoint the son of a laboring man or of a billionaire. He has use for all sorts of people who are industrious and honest, faithful and, according to their means, frugal.

No amount of education or combination, said Roosevelt as Governor, could supply the lack of individual energy, honesty, thrift and industry. The development in the extent of variety of industries had necessitated legislation

in the interests of labor. The Governor touched all the questions of special interest in this association, saying "the law regulating the hours of labor of minors, under fourteen years of age, and of women employed in working for establishments, and the sanitary condition of stores and buildings, would, if the city government failed to furnish appropriation, and to appoint the necessary officers to carry out the law, be practically a dead letter as it was in the City of New York.” The law, the Governor said, regulating the hours of labor, on surface railroads was an excellent provision against the tendency to work men too many hours; but the enforcement of this law was left to the railroad commissioners, and they had no active force to use for such a purpose. Therefore, the law failed by default, except when prosecution was undertaken by individuals, for the employee would not complain for fear of being discharged.

An important phase of this subject of sanitary conditions, the Governor said, was found in the "sweat shop" system, which was practically the conversion of the poorest class of living apartments into unwholesome pest creating and crime-breeding workshops. The “most effective and uninquisitive" cure for this was a Massachusetts law, providing that buildings used for manufacturing should be licensed only on condition that the building should fulfill the requirements of the law for manufacturing purposes.

The New York politicians, who sought to raise the strife among "classes," and had faith the poor men would always be revolutionists as against the rich, and war on property in large accumulations, called Roosevelt when he appeared at Albany an Assemblyman, a “silk stocking,” and a "dude," until he knocked some of them down; but one of his early onslaughts was for the abolishment of “sweat shops," whose pestilence was cultivated, and one of his scathing phrases was "the guilty rich.” He demanded wholesome workshops, and caused their betterment. At the same time, he protected the rights of property; and we quote his remarks:

"As a rule the man who is the loudest denouncer of corporate wealthspelling “corporate” with a large "C" and "wealth” with a large “W”-and who is most inflammable in his insistence, in public, that he will not permit the liberties of the country to be subverted by the men of means, is himself the very man for whom you want to look out most sharply when there comes up something which some corrupt corporation does really want, and about which there is not any great popular excitement at the moment.

"On the one hand we have the perfectly simple savage, who believes that you should tax franchises to the extent of confiscating them, and that it is the duty of all railroad corporations to carry everybody free and give him a chromo.

“On the other, we have the scarcely less primitive mortal, who believes that there is something sacred in a franchise and that there is no reason why it should pay its share of the public burdens at all.

“The rich man who buys a privilege from a board of aldermen for a railway which he represents, the rich man who gets a privilege through the Legislature by bribery and corruption, for any corporation, is committing an offense against the community, which it is possible may some day' have to be condoned in blood and destruction, not by him, not by his sons, but by you and your sons.”

Those who have sought to grapple with the syndicates of corruption, and found the task not hopeless nor endless, will find in this passage from the President's writings evidence of his public spirit, sagacity and sincerity:

“From an armor plant to a street railway, no work which is really beneficial to the public can be performed to the best advantage of the public save by men of such business capacity that they will not do the work unless they themselves receive ample reward for doing it. The effort to deprive them of an ample reward, merely means that they will turn their energies in some other direction, and the public will be by just so much the loser. Moreover to tax corporations or men of means in such a way as to drive them out of the State works great damage to the State. To drive out of a community the men of means and the men who take the lead in business enterprises, would probably entail, as one of its first results, the starvation of a considerable portion of the remainder of the population. But while I freely admit all this, it remains true that a corporation which derives its powers from the State, should pay to the State a just percentage of its earnings as a return for the privileges it enjoys. This should be especially true for the franchises bestowed upon gas companies, street railroads and the like. The question of the municipal ownership of these franchises can not be raised with propriety until the governments of all municipalities show greater wisdom and virtue than has been recently shown, for instance, in New York City; and the question of allaying and assessing the tax for franchises of every kind throughout the State should, in my opinion, be determined by the State itself. I need not point out to you that in foreign communities a very large percentage of the taxes comes from corporations which use the public domain for pipes, tracks and the like. Whether these franchises should be taxed as realty, or whether it would be wiser to provide that, after the gross earnings equal, say, ten per cent of the actual original cost, then five per cent of all the gross earnings over and above this shall be paid into the city treasury; or whether some yet different plan should be tried, can only be settled after careful examination of the whole subject. One thing is certain, that the franchises should in some form yield a monied return to the Government. To put on a tax here and there as new franchises are asked for

T. R.--20

may be advisable, but of course is inequitable, to the extent that it handicaps the few thus taxed in their competition with the untaxed corporations."

A man who faces the truth as President Roosevelt does, in all cases, is a man who in the highest degree accepts responsibility. He holds that the only line of conduct a public man can take is the straight line forward of duty, for there is no evasion of snap shots when leaden hail is flying; and he gives his personal experience of a happening under fire:

“A curious incident happened as I was getting the men started forward. Always when men have been lying down under cover for some time, and are required to advance, there is a little hesitation, each looking to see whether the others are going forward. As I rode down the line, calling to the troopers to go forward, and rasping brief directions to the captains and lieutenants, I came upon a man lying behind a little bush, and I ordered him to jump up. I do not think that he understood that we were making a forward move, and he looked up at me for a moment with hesitation, and I again bade him rise, jeering him and saying: 'Are you afraid to stand up when I am on horseback?' As I spoke, he suddenly fell forward on his face, a bullet having struck him and gone through him lengthwise. I suppose the bullet had been aimed at me; at any rate, I, who was on horseback in the open, was unhurt, and the man lying flat on the ground in the cover beside me was killed.”

There is the same high authority for this:

“We were talking of the curious angles bullets sometimes fly off at when they ricochet. To illustrate the matter he related an experience which I shall try to give in his own words: ‘One time when I was keeping a saloon down in New Mexico, there was a man owed me a grudge. Well, he took sick of the smallpox, and the doctor told him he'd sure die, and he said if that was so he reckoned he'd kill me first. So he come a-riding in with his gun and begun shooting; but I hit him first and away he rode. I started to get on my horse to follow him; but there was a little Irishman there who said he'd never killed a man, and he begged hard for me to give him my gun and let him go after the other man and finish him. So I let him go, and when he caught up, blamed if the little cuss didn't get so nervous that he fired off into the ground, and the darned bullet struck a crowbar and glanced up and hit the other man square in the head and killed him! Now, that was a funny shot, wasn't it?'”

Perhaps the most difficult of the Presidential responsibilities is in the questions arising from the system of protection of our industries, in agriculture and manufactures, and our natural resources. The balance of trade and the new possessions increase the complex nature of that which we seek to accomplish. All interests are touched. If there is a balance of trade in our favor of six hundred millions a year, how is that sum paid ? A great part of it is settled by undervaluations of importations. We pay a great sum for foreign goods not taxed, and this reduces the surplus in our favor. It is estimated Americans spend a hundred millions a year in Europe-more than Europeans spend with us—and seventy-five millions for American freights in foreign lines of steamers. There is an unknown but very large sum paid in purchasing our securities held abroad; that is, we are taking up our notes held abroad. This leaves a great margin still, and how much it is or how it is paid has not been closely calculated. How are Europe, and presently Asia, to pay what they owe us when the trade balance is ascertained? We might do better than to take the whole balance in gold. We have not ascertained all the items of the amount with authority; and there is a good illustration in what Mr. Pierpont Morgan said when asked why he did not talk for publication. Said the great financier, “While a great operation is still incomplete, it is never safe to talk about it, and when it is all settled, there's not much to say.".

The need for reciprocity to sustain protection through coming changes inevitable in our condition, was apparent last year to President McKinley. He will hardly be suspected of unfaithfulness to the principle of protection. VicePresident Roosevelt had the same comprehension that President McKinley had. There is great trouble as to the islands we have acquired, and those for the destiny of whose people we are responsible, not on account of the poverty of the land gained in various forms, but on account of their riches. Shall we reject sugar lands because they are richer than ours ? Shall a few people who handle a great deal of sugar, manage the settlement of this question, or shall the majority do it? We must have a care to prevent the damage of protection under which we have prospered, by the insistence that the consumers must be compelled to pay higher prices for sugar and tobacco, because our sugar land is not as good as that near our doors. We must pursue the principle of protection on its popular side, and not for the few. President Roosevelt takes the responsibility of applying reciprocity, maintaining unbroken the policy of McKinley in his farewell address. However, if Cuba wants to be with us, the part of wisdom would be to propose to become a State, and pay her share of taxes. If she shares with our burdens, she should partake of our privileges. There would be sugar interests, however, if the Cubans were unanimously in favor of becoming citizens of the United States, opposed to her annexation.

The sugar trust would, undoubtedly, prefer to have the sugar consumers situated so as to select between inferior sugars and higher prices. The Standard oil managers could, if the question of the annexation of Texas was before the country, oppose her admission, on account of the discoveries of oil. If the people at large would have the benefit of great aggregations of capital, that world-wide enterprises may be conducted by Americans, without going in debt to Europe, they should include in expansion the lands richest in resources.

« PreviousContinue »