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idea of men and the means to be employed in managing them; with a better idea of public life, and the means of using it for the benefit of the people, and with a far better understanding of himself. But there was a consideration still more important: he was introduced to the nation. A young man, with the handicap of wealth and lineage and good breeding, and even with a partisan majority against him, he succeeded in effecting some most important legislation. New York looked toward him hopefully. The whole country realized the fact that he was one of those referred to in these words by Lord Beaconsfield: “They have letters in their pockets addressed to posterity”; and it came to be very generally understood that these letters would be delivered.
It is but fair to glance critically at Mr. Roosevelt's work in the legislature. It was the beginning of his public career, and certainly contains an earnest of what might fairly be expected of him in the days that were to follow.
For one thing, he secured the enactment of a civil service law. He was one of that company of reformers in both great parties, of which George William Curtis, Senator Edmunds and Grover
Cleveland, the latter then governor of New York, were members. So far as the public service of the State went, the new law was the beginning of the merit system, and its advance from there to adoption in national legislation was immensely facilitated.
He secured an investigation of the county offices of the State, by which it was discovered that the principal officials in New York county were drawing nearly a million dollars a year in fees, while discharging no duties whatever; and all like offices were placed on a moderate—though adequate-salary system.
He began that inquiry into the abuse of police powers which has continued until better conditions prevail, and which will result in purity of administration, unless the people of the greatest city in the country shall be timid enough or supine enough to permit known wickedness to prevail.
He secured an amendment to the Constitution of the State taking from the aldermen of New York city the supreme executive power, and placing it in the hands of the mayor, where it belongs.
But, above all things, he made it clear that
good government was within the reach of the people if only they really desired it, and had the courage and honesty and ability to proceed to fight for it.
It was prophesied of him that he could not be reëlected at the expiration of his first term; but he had little difficulty going back-even for the third term. And it is likely he could have remained in the assembly much longer if he had so desired. But there was other work for him, and to this he turned when his task there was accomplished.
IN NATIONAL AND CITY POLITICS.
RECOGNIZED AS A FACTOR IN NATIONAL AFFAIRS-A LEADER OF
MEN, LOYAL TO THE BEST TRADITIONS OF HIS PARTY, BUT INTENSELY AN AMERICAN-MAINTAINING A SPLENDID INDEPENDENCE—THE FORLORN HOPE IN THE RACE FOR ELECTION
AS MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY.
So far from his aggressive methods and independent principles proving the causes of Mr. Roosevelt's retirement from political life, as his enemies had predicted, these were the very qualities which won for him the strong endorsement of all that was good in his party organization, and among the better classes of that party's following. He had marked out for himself a very definite course, and his watchword was reform. When he retired from the legislature, he had already become a character of national interest; and so far from being consigned to private life, he was chosen as a delegate at large to the National Republican convention in 1884, and sent uninstructed to the councils of his party.
It has been humorously said of that period that it was a time of reform, with a capital R.” There was a feeling among a number of men, for whom George William Curtis, editor of Harper's Weekly, was a sort of spokesman, that civil service deserved more consideration than had so far been accorded it. By that term, always inaccurate, was meant a betterment of the public service by relieving it of the incubus of the spoils system. It would have been more in accordance with the end aimed at to have employed the term “merit system.” For it was a known fact that most of the offices were portioned out to party followers on the basis of their party services, and wholly without regard to fitness for place. It was desired that selection and tenure might depend upon the degree of merit men possessed. With or without reason, Mr. Blaine was regarded generally as unfriendly to the cult advocated by Mr. Curtis, Mr. Andrew D. White and Mr. Roosevelt.
But Mr. Blaine was a candidate for the nomination to the presidency, and there was no sort of doubt he had marshalled an immense strength. He had been called “the magnetic statesman”; and he certainly did draw to his support a host