« PreviousContinue »
HOME LIFE AND RELIGIOUS TENDENCIES.
ROMANCE OF HIS BOYHOOD-IN THE HOME AND FAMILY "ALL
CHILDREN SHOULD HAVE JUST AS GOOD A TIME AS THEY POSSIBLY CAN'-HOLDING TO THE FAITH OF HIS FATHERSAN AMERICAN CITIZEN CAN TAKE HIS BIBLE AND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES INTO THE CAUCUS.
In a famous sermon Henry Ward Beecher once exclaimed: “Blessed is the man who has a grandfather!” The student who seeks for the underlying principle of Theodore Roosevelt's home life must go back to his ancestry to secure it. He is no worshiper of name. Neither he nor Mr. Beecher could have had any patience with the profligate who would expect an honorable lineage to excuse a life of inaction or of evil. Yet both realized the value of a creditable ancestry.
As a boy Theodore Roosevelt was the heir not only of wealth and social position, but of a longestablished habit of good sense in the training of children. In looking at his home life it is well to remember that, while ever since the beginning
of the seventeenth century to the close of the nineteenth, the name has been honorably associated with history, no Roosevelt has in all that time disgraced the family, nor defied the laws of the State. There is something of value in such an ancestry as that; and in the sense that it tended to develop the best that was in the child one might well say it was fortunate to have had a grandfather.” The sons of this family had always been taught the value of personal endeavor. Idleness had not been permitted, because to permit it had been clearly recognized as the greatest unkindness that could have been inflicted. But it was a reasonable and healthful industry that was enforced, for the effect was to cultivate a habit of and a love for diligence. The children did not need to be driven. Work was never made drudgery to them. And play was by no means discouraged. A very active interest in current affairs was cultivated; and the result of it all has been that the Roosevelts were healthy and strong men, invariably devoted to home life, and always taking an active part in the affairs of the community.
It was no wonder that such an ancestry should have produced an ideal home for this lad.
It has been said that he was far from being robust in physical power, but that he gradually overcame this deficiency, so that at the time of entering Harvard College he gave good promise of fully equalling his classmates. Much of this betterment was due to his father's sensible rule of providing plenty of exercise. There was a country home at Oyster Bay (now the possession of President Roosevelt) and there the children played through their vacations, getting the benefit of pure air, healthful food and abundant exercise. Elliott Roosevelt was the elder of the two brothers, and far the stronger in those distant days of childhood. Both boys were venturesome, and found many an opportunity for testing courage and resource. The bay was before them, the woods behind. There were boats and horses, the pleasure of fishing and of hunting, and the daily opportunity for outdoor exercise which is so necessary to the proper development of a child.
But there was another side of the home life that should not be overlooked. There was a perfect understanding between the father and his children. The mother was no distant and unapproachable being, but was their friend. There
was no place in the world where they could have a better time than at home. The most perfect freedom was accorded them, and the hand which held them in check was so skilfully gloved with persuasion or was so diverting that they did not feel the restraint. The one thing they did feel from the beginning was that they must do right; that boys must be brave, and that all must be truthful. They were no more models, perhaps, than other children trained in the same manner. But it is doubtful if any children ever grew up more thoroughly grounded in truthfulness, in fairness and honesty.
There were books in plenty, and the habit of reading was cultivated. Both father and mother went with the children in their excursions in history; joined them in the interesting study of birds and beasts; so that a love for biography, and for the study of other nations and other times, and a keen appreciation of natural history, all became elements in the training of these children in the home life of young Theodore Roosevelt.
To it may be traced in large measure his own views on the proper treatment of children. In the course of a recent paper he has stated the
essence of those views: "All children should have just as good a time as they possibly can.' For he has seen the truth, that out of a happy and innocent boyhood a happy and useful manhood is most likely to come.
It has been said that young Theodore and little Edith Carow formed a childish attachment even in the days when they played about the trees and fountains of Union Square, and the reader has learned that Mr. Roosevelt later, while a student at Harvard, met Miss Alice Lee, a beautiful young woman of Boston. Their marriage followed closely upon his graduation, and they enjoyed a year of travel and reading in Europe. A daughter, Alice, was born to them, and the home life of this young man promised to be as happy and as nearly ideal as that of his fathers before him had been. But death took his wife in the summer of 1884; and shortly afterward he suffered the loss of his mother. His father had died some years before. Thereafter for three years his home life was that of a man deprived of the joys to which husband and father is entitled, yet in all ways true to the ideals of manliness and integrity which had been set before him from the beginning. Little Alice was