William Roscoe Thayer > Theodore Roosevelt > XVII. Roosevelt at Home
William Roscoe Thayer (1859–1923). Theodore Roosevelt. 1919.
XVII. Roosevelt at Home
ALTHOUGH Theodore Roosevelt was personally known to more people of the United States than any other President has been, and his manners and quick responsive cordiality made multitudes feel, after a brief sight of him, or after shaking his hand, that they were old acquaintances, he maintained during his life a dignified reticence regarding his home and family. But now that he is dead and the world craves eagerly, but not irreverently, to know as much as it can about his many sides, I feel that it is not improper to say something about that intimate side which was in some respects the most characteristic of all.   1
  Early in the eighties he bought a country place at Oyster Bay, Long Island, and on the top of a hill he built a spacious house. There was a legend that in old times Indian Chiefs used to gather there to hold their powwows; at any rate, the name, the Sagamores’ Hill, survived them, and this shortened to Sagamore Hill he gave to his home. That part of Long Island on the north coast overlooking the Sound is very attractive; it is a country of hills and hollows, with groves of tall trees, and open fields for farming, and lawns near the house. You look down on Oyster Bay which seems to be a small lake shut in by the curving shore at the farther end. From the house you see the Sound and the hills of Connecticut along the horizon.   2
  After the death of his first wife in January, 1884, Roosevelt went West to the Bad Lands of North Dakota where he lived two years at Medora, on a ranch which he owned, and there he endured the hardships and excitements of ranch life at that time; acting as cow-puncher, ranchman, deputy sheriff, or hunting big and little game, or writing books and articles. In the autumn of 1886, however, having been urged to run as candidate for Mayor of New York City, he came East again. He made a vigorous campaign, but having two opponents against him he was beaten. Then he took a trip to Europe where he married Miss Edith Kermit Carow, whom he had known in New York since childhood, and on their return to this country, they settled at Sagamore Hill. Two years later, when President Harrison appointed Roosevelt a Civil Service Commissioner, they moved to Washington. There they lived in a rather small house at 1720 Jefferson Place—“modest,” one might call it, in comparison with the modern palaces which had begun to spring up in the National Capital; but people go to a house for the sake of its occupants and not for its size and upholstery.   3
  So for almost six years pretty nearly everybody worth knowing crossed the Roosevelts’ threshold, and they themselves quickly took their place in Washington society. Roosevelt’s humor, his charm, his intensity, his approachableness, attracted even those who rejected his politics and his party. Bright sayings cannot be stifled, and his added to the gayety of more than one group. He was too discreet to give utterance to them all, but his private letters at that time, and always, glistened with his remarks on public characters. He said, for instance, of Senator X, whom he knew in Washington: He “looks like Judas, but unlike that gentleman, he has no capacity for remorse.”   4
  When the Roosevelts returned to New York, where he became Police Commissioner in 1895, they made their home again at Oyster Bay. This was thirty miles by rail from the city, near enough to be easily accessible, but far enough away to deter the visits of random, curious, undesired callers. Later, when automobiles came in, Roosevelt motored to and from town. Mrs. Roosevelt looked after the place itself; she supervised the farming, and the flower gardens were her especial care. The children were now growing up, and from the time when they could toddle they took their place—a very large place—in the life of the home. Roosevelt described the intense satisfaction he had in teaching the boys what his father had taught him. As soon as they were large enough, they rode their horses, they sailed on the Cove and out into the Sound. They played boys’ games, and through him they learned very young to observe nature. In his college days he had intended to be a naturalist, and natural history remained his strongest avocation. And so he taught his children to know the birds and animals, the trees, plants, and flowers of Oyster Bay and its neighborhood. They had their pets—Kermit, one of the boys, carried a pet rat in his pocket.   5
  Three things Roosevelt required of them all; obedience, manliness, and truthfulness. And I imagine that all these virtues were taught by affection and example, rather than by constant correction. For the family was wholly united, they did everything together; the children had no better fun than to accompany their father and mother, and there were a dozen or more young cousins and neighbors who went out with them too, forming a large, delighted family for whom “Uncle” or “Cousin Theodore” was leader and idol. And just as formerly, in the long winter nights on his ranch at Medora, he used to read aloud to the cowboys and hunters of what was then the Western Wilderness, so at Sagamore Hill, in the days of their childhood, he read or told stories to the circle of boys and girls.   6
  In 1901, Mr. Roosevelt became President, and for seven years and a half his official residence was the White House, where he was obliged to spend most of the year. But whenever he could steal away for a few days he sought rest and recreation at Oyster Bay, and there, during the summers, his family lived. So far as the changed conditions permitted, he did not allow his official duties to interfere with his family life. “One of the most wearing things about being President,” a President once said to me, “is the incessant publicity of it. For four years you have not a moment to yourself, not a moment of privacy.” And yet Roosevelt, masterful in so many other things, was masterful in this also. Nothing interfered with the seclusion of the family breakfast. There were no guests, only Mrs. Roosevelt and the children, and the simplest of food. At Oyster Bay he would often chop trees in the early morning, and sometimes, while he was President, he would ride before breakfast, but the meal itself was quiet, private, uninterrupted. Then each member of the family would go about his or her work, for idleness had no place with them. The President spent his morning in attending to his correspondence and dictating letters, then in receiving persons by appointment, and he always reserved time when any American, rich or poor, young or old, could speak to him freely. He liked to see them all and many were the odd experiences which he had. He asked one old lady what he could do for her. She replied: “Nothing; I came all the way from Jacksonville, Florida, just to see what a live President looked like. I never saw one before.”   7
  “That’s very kind of you,” the President replied; “persons from up here go all the way to Florida just to see a live alligator”—and so he put the visitor at her ease.   8
  Luncheon was a varied meal; sometimes there were only two or three guests at it; at other times there might be a dozen. It afforded the President an opportunity for talking informally with visitors whom he wished to see, and not infrequently it brought together round the table a strange, not to say a motley, company.   9
  After luncheon followed more work in his office for the President, looking over the letters he had dictated and signing them, signing documents and holding interviews. Later in the afternoon he always reserved two hours for a walk or drive with Mrs. Roosevelt. Nothing interfered with that. In the season he played tennis with some of the large group of companions whom he gathered round him, officials high and low, foreign Ambassadors and Cabinet Ministers and younger under-secretaries who were popularly known as the “Tennis Cabinet.” There were fifty or more of them, and that so many should have kept their athletic vigor into middle age, and even beyond it, spoke well for the physique of the men of official Washington at that time.   10
  At Oyster Bay Roosevelt had instituted “hiking.” He and the young people and such of the neighbors as chose would start from Sagamore Hill and walk in a bee-line to a point four or five miles off. The rule was that no natural impediment should cause them to digress or to stop. So they went through the fields and over the fences, across ditches and pools, and even clambered up and down a haystack, if one happened to be in the way, or through a barnyard. Of course they often reached home spattered with mud or even drenched to the skin from a plunge into the water, but with much fun, a livelier circulation, and a hearty appetite to their credit.   11
  In Washington the President continued this practice of hiking, but in a somewhat modified form. His favorite resort was Rock Creek, then a wild stream, with a good deal of water in it, and here and there steep, rocky banks. To be invited by the President to go on one of those hikes was regarded as a mark of special favor. He indulged in them to test a man’s bodily vigor and endurance, and there were many amusing incidents and perhaps more amusing stories about them. M. Tardieu, who at that time was paying a short visit to this country and was connected with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told me that the dispatches which the new French Ambassador, M. Jusserand, sent to Paris were full of reports on President Roosevelt’s personality. The Europeans had no definite conception of him at that time, and so the sympathetic and much-esteemed Ambassador, who still represents France at Washington, tried to give his Government information by which it could judge for itself what sort of a person the President was. What must have been the surprise in the French Foreign Office when it received the following dispatch: (I give the substance, of course, because I have not seen the original.)
  Yesterday,’ wrote Ambassador Jusserand, ‘President Roosevelt invited me to take a promenade with him this afternoon at three. I arrived at the White House punctually, in afternoon dress and silk hat, as if we were to stroll in the Tuileries Garden or in the Champs Elysees. To my surprise, the President soon joined me in a tramping suit, with knickerbockers and thick boots, and soft felt hat, much worn. Two or three other gentlemen came, and we started off at what seemed to me a breakneck pace, which soon brought us out of the city. On reaching the country, the President went pell-mell over the fields, following neither road nor path, always on, on, straight ahead! I was much winded, but I would not give in, nor ask him to slow up, because I had the honor of La belle France in my heart. At last we came to the bank of a stream, rather wide and too deep to be forded. I sighed relief, because I thought that now we had reached our goal and would rest a moment and catch our breath, before turning homeward. But judge of my horror when I saw the President unbutton his clothes and heard him say, “We had better strip, so as not to wet our things in the Creek.” Then I, too, for the honor of France, removed my apparel, everything except my lavender kid gloves. The President cast an inquiring look at these as if they, too, must come off, but I quickly forestalled any remark by saying, “With your permission, Mr. President, I will keep these on, otherwise it would be embarrassing if we should meet ladies.” And so we jumped into the water and swam across.
  M. Jusserand has a fine sense of humor and doubtless he has laughed often over this episode, although he must have been astonished and irritated when it occurred. But it gave Roosevelt exactly what he wanted by showing him that the plucky little French man was “game” for anything, and they remained firm friends for life.   13
  Occasionally, one of the guests invited on a hike relucted from taking the plunge, and then he was allowed to go up stream or down and find a crossing at a bridge; but I suspect that his host and the habitual hikers instinctively felt a little less regard for him after that. General Leonard Wood was one of Roosevelt’s boon companions on these excursions, and, speaking of him, I am reminded of one of the President’s orders which caused a great flurry among Army officers in Washington.   14
  The President learned that many of these officers had become soft, physically, through their long residence in the city, where an unmilitary life did not tend to keep their muscles hard. As a consequence these great men of war became easy-going, indolent even, better suited to loaf in the armchairs of the Metropolitan Club and discuss campaigns and battles long ago than to lead troops in the field. “Their condition,” said Roosevelt, “would have excited laughter, had it not been so serious, to think that they belonged to the military arm of the Government. A cavalry colonel proved unable to keep his horse at a sharp trot for even half a mile when I visited his post; a major-general proved afraid even to let his horse canter when he went on a ride with us; and certain otherwise good men proved as unable to walk as if they had been sedentary brokers.” After consulting Generals Wood and Bell, who were themselves real soldiers at the top of condition, the President issued orders that the infantry should march fifty miles, and the cavalry one hundred, in three days. There was an outcry. The newspapers denounced Roosevelt as a tyrant who followed his mere caprices. Some of the officers intrigued with Congressmen to nullify the order. But when the President himself, accompanied by Surgeon-General Rixey and two officers, rode more than one hundred miles in a single day over the frozen and rutty Virginia roads, the objectors could not keep up open opposition. Roosevelt adds, ironically, that three naval officers who walked the fifty miles in a day, were censured for not obeying instructions, and were compelled to do the test over again in three days.   15
  Dinner in the White House was usually a formal affair, to which most, if not all the guests, at least, were invited some time in advance. There were, of course, the official dinners to the foreign diplomats, to the justices of the Supreme Court, to the members of the Cabinet; ordinarily, they might be described as general. The President never forgot those who had been his friends at any period of his life. It might happen that Bill Sewall, his earliest guide from Maine, or a Dakota ranchman, or a New York policeman, or one of his trusted enthusiasts in a hard-fought political campaign, turned up at the White House. He was sure to be asked to luncheon or to dinner, by the President. And these former chums must have felt somewhat embarrassed, if they were capable of feeling embarrassment, when they found themselves seated beside some of the great ladies of Washington. Perhaps Roosevelt himself felt a little trepidation as to how the unmixables would mix. He is reported to have said to one Western cowboy of whom he was fond: “Now, Jimmy, don’t bring your gun along to-night. The British Ambassador is going to dine too, and it wouldn’t do for you to pepper the floor round his feet with bullets, in order to see a tenderfoot dance.”   16
  But those dinners were mainly memorable occasions, and the guests who attended them heard some of the best talk in America at that time, and came away with increased wonder for the variety of knowledge and interest, and for the unceasing charm and courtesy of their host, the President. Contrary to the opinion of persons who heard him only as a political speaker shouting in the open air from the back platform of his train or in a public square, Roosevelt was not only a speaker, he was also a most courteous listener. I watched him at little dinners listen not only patiently, but with an astonishing simulation of interest, to very dull persons who usurped the conversation and imagined that they were winning his admiration. Mr. John Morley, who was a guest at the White House at election time in 1904, said: “The two things in America which seem to me most extraordinary are Niagara Falls and President Roosevelt.”   17
  Jacob Riis, the most devoted personal follower of Roosevelt, gives this as the finest compliment he ever heard of him. A lady said that she had always been looking for some living embodiment of the high ideals she had as to what a hero ought to be. “I always wanted to make Roosevelt out that,” she declared, “but somehow every time he did something that seemed really great it turned out, upon looking at it closely, that it was only just the right thing to do.” 1   18
  But at home Roosevelt had affection, not compliments, whether these were unintentional and sincere, like that of the lady just quoted, or were thinly disguised flattery. And affection was what he most craved from his family and nearest friends, and what he gave to them without stint. As I have said, he allowed nothing to interrupt the hours set apart for his wife and children while he was at the White House; and at Oyster Bay there was always time for them. A typical story is told of the boys coming in upon him during a conference with some important visitor, and saying reproachfully, “It’s long after four o’clock, and you promised to go with us at four.” “So I did,” said Roosevelt. And he quickly finished his business with the visitor and went. When the children were young, he usually saw them at supper and into bed, and he talked of the famous pillow fights they had with him. House guests at the White House some times unexpectedly caught sight of him crawling in the entry near the children’s rooms, with two or three children riding on his back. Roosevelt’s days were seldom less than fifteen hours long, and we can guess how he regarded the laboring men of today who clamor for eight and six, and even fewer hours, as the normal period for a day’s work. He got up at half-past seven and always finished breakfast by nine, when what many might call the real work of his day began.   19
  The unimaginative laborer probably supposes that most of the duties which fall to an industrious President are not strictly work at all; but if any one had to meet for an hour and a half every forenoon such Congressmen and Senators as chose to call on him, he would understand that that was a job involving real work, hard work. They came every day with a grievance, or an appeal, or a suggestion, or a favor to ask, and he had to treat each one, not only politely, but more or less deferently. Early in his Administration I heard it said that he offended some Congressmen by denying their requests in so loud a voice that others in the room could hear him, and this seemed to some a humiliation. President McKinley, on the other hand, they said, lowered his voice, and spoke so softly and sweetly that even his refusal did not jar on his visitor, and was not heard at all by the bystanders. If this happened, I suspect it was because Roosevelt spoke rather explosively and had a habit of emphasis, and not because he wished in any way to send his petitioner’s rebuff through the room.   20
  Nor was the hour which followed this, when he received general callers, less wearing. As these persons came from all parts of the Union, so they were of all sorts and temperaments. Here was a worthy citizen from Colorado who, on the strength of having once heard the President make a public speech in Denver, claimed immediate friendship with him. Then might come an old lady from Georgia, who remembered his mother’s people there, or the lady from Jacksonville, Florida, of whom I have already spoken. Once a little boy, who was almost lost in the crush of grown-up visitors, managed to reach the President. “What can I do for you?” the President asked; and the boy told how his father had died leaving his mother with a large family and no money, and how he was selling typewriters to help support her. His mother, he said, would be most grateful if the President would accept a typewriter from her as a gift. So the President told the little fellow to go and sit down until the other visitors had passed, and then he would attend to him. No doubt, the boy left the White House well contented—and richer.   21
  Roosevelt’s official day ended at half-past nine or ten in the evening, and then, after the family had gone to bed, he sat down to read or write, and it was long after midnight, sometimes one o’clock, some times much later, before he turned in himself. He regarded the preservation of health as a duty; and well he might so regard it, because in childhood he had been a sickly boy, with apparently only a life of invalidism to look forward to. But by sheer will, and by going through physical exercises with indomitable perseverance, he had built up his body until he was strong enough to engage in all sports and in the hardships of Western life and hunting. After he became President, he allowed nothing to interfere with his physical exercise. I have spoken of his long hikes and of his vigorous games with members of the Tennis Cabinet. On many afternoons he would ride for two hours or more with Mrs. Roosevelt or some friend, and it is a sad commentary on the perpetual publicity to which the American people condemn their Presidents, that he sometimes was obliged to ride off into the country with one of his Cabinet Ministers in order to be able to discuss public matters in private with him. Roosevelt took care to provide means for exercise indoors in very stormy weather. He had a professional boxer and wrestler come to him, and when jiu-jitsu, the Japanese system of physical training, was in vogue, he learned some of its introductory mysteries from one of its foremost professors.   22
  It was in a boxing bout at the White House with his teacher that he lost the sight of an eye from a blow which injured his eyeball. But he kept this loss secret for many years. He had a wide acquaintance among professional boxers and even prize-fighters. Jeffries, who had been a blacksmith before he entered the ring, hammered a penholder out of a horseshoe and gave it to the President, a gift which Roosevelt greatly prized and showed among his trophies at Oyster Bay. John L. Sullivan, perhaps the most notorious of the champion prize-fighters of America, held Roosevelt in such great esteem that when he died his family invited the ex-President to be one of the pall-bearers. But Mr. Roosevelt was then too sick himself to be able to travel to Boston and serve.   23
  At Oyster Bay in summer, the President found plenty of exercise on the place. It contained some eighty acres, part of which was woodland, and there were always trees to be chopped. Hay-making, also, was an equally severe test of bodily strength, and to pitch hay brought every muscle into use. There, too, he had water sports, but he always preferred rowing to sailing, which was too slow and inactive an exercise for him. In old times, rowing used to be the penalty to which galley-slaves were condemned, but now it is commended by athletes as the best of all forms of exercise for developing the body and for furnishing stimulating competition.   24
  No President ever lived on better terms with the newspaper men than Roosevelt did. He treated them all with perfect fairness, according no special favors, no “beats,” or “scoops to any one. So they regarded him as “square”; and further they knew that he was a man of his word, not to be trifled with. “It is generally supposed,” Roosevelt remarked, “that newspaper men have no sense of honor, but that is not true. If you treat them fairly, they will treat you fairly; and they will keep a secret if you impress upon them that it must be kept.”   25
  The great paradox of Roosevelt’s character was the contrast between its fundamental simplicity and its apparent spectacular quality. His acts seemed to be unusual, striking, and some uncharitable critics thought that he aimed at effect; in truth, however, he acted at the moment as the impulse or propriety of the moment suggested. There was no premeditation, no swagger. Dwellers in Berlin noticed that after William the Crown Prince became the Kaiser William II, he thrust out his chest and adopted a rather pompous walk, but there was nothing like this in Roosevelt’s manner or carriage. In his public speaking, he gesticulated incessantly, and in the difficulty he had in pouring out his words as rapidly as the thoughts came to him, he seemed sometimes almost to grimace; but this was natural, not studied. And so I can easily understand what some one tells me who saw him almost daily as President in the White House. “Roosevelt,” he said, “had an immense reverence for the Presidential office. He did not feel cocky or conceited at being himself President; he felt rather the responsibility for dignity which the office carried with it, and he was humble. You might be as intimate with him as possible, but there was a certain line which no one ever crossed. That was the line which the office itself drew.”   26
  Roosevelt had that reverence for the great men of the past which should stir every heart with a capacity for noble things. In the White House he never forgot the Presidents who had dwelt there before him. “I like to see in my mind’s eye,” he said to Mr. Rhodes, the American historian, “the gaunt form of Lincoln stalking through these halls.” During a visit at the White House, Mr. Rhodes watched the President at work throughout an entire day and set down the points which chiefly struck him. Foremost among these was the lack of leisure which we allow our Presidents. They have work to do which is more important than that of a railroad manager, or the president of the largest business corporation, or of the leader of the American Bar. They are expected to know the pros and cons of each bill brought before them to sign so that they can sign it not only intelligently but justly, and yet thanks to the constant intrusion which Americans deem it their right to force on the President, he has no time for deliberation, and, as I have said, Mr. Roosevelt was often obliged, when he wished to have an undisturbed consultation with one of his Cabinet Secretaries, to take him off on a long ride.   27
  “I chanced to be in the President’s room,” Mr. Rhodes continues, “when he dictated the rough draft of his famous dispatch to General Chaffee respecting torture in the Philippines. While he was dictating, two or three cards were brought in, also some books with a request for the President’s autograph, and there were some other interruptions. While the dispatch as it went out in its revised form could not be improved, a President cannot expect to be always so happy in dictating dispatches in the midst of distractions. Office work of far-reaching importance should be done in the closet. Certainly no monarch or minister in Europe does administrative work under such unfavorable conditions; indeed, this public which exacts so much of the President’s time should in all fairness be considerate in its criticism.” 2   28
  To cope in some measure with the vast amount of business thrust upon him, Roosevelt had unique endowments. Other Presidents had been indolent and let affairs drift; he cleared his desk every day. Other Presidents felt that they had done their duty if they merely dispatched the important business which came to them; Roosevelt was always initiating, either new legislation or new methods in matters which did not concern the Government. One autumn, when there was unusual excitement, with recriminations in disputes in the college football world, I was surprised to receive a large four-page typewritten letter, giving his views as to what ought to be done.   29
  He reorganized the service in the White House, and not only that, he had the Executive Mansion itself remodeled somewhat according to the original plans so as to furnish adequate space for the crowds who thronged the official receptions, and, at the other end of the building, proper quarters for the stenographers, typewriters, and telegraphers required to file and dispatch his correspondence. Promptness was his watchword, and in cases where it was expected, I never knew twenty-four hours to elapse before he dictated his reply to a letter.   30
  The orderliness which he introduced into the White House should also be recorded. When I first went there in 1882 with a party of Philadelphia junketers who had an appointment to shake hands with President Arthur, as a preliminary to securing a fat appropriation to the River and Harbor Bill of that year, the White House was treated by the public very much as a common resort. The country owned it: therefore, why shouldn’t any American make himself at home in it? I remember that on one of the staircases, Dr. Mary Walker (recently dead), dressed in what she was pleased to regard as a masculine costume, was haranguing a group of five or six strangers, and here and there in the corridors we met other random visitors. Mr. Roosevelt established a strict but simple regimen. No one got past the Civil War veteran who acted as doorkeeper without proper credentials; and it was impossible to reach the President himself without first encountering his Secretary, Mr. Loeb.   31
  To the President some persons were, of course, privileged. If an old pal from the West, or a Rough Rider came, the President did not look at the clock, or speed him away. The story goes that one morning Senator Cullom came on a matter of business and indeed rather in a hurry. On asking who was “in there,” and being told that a Rough Rider had been with the President for a half-hour, the Senator said, “Then there’s no hope for me,” took his hat, and departed.   32
  Although, as I have said, Roosevelt might be as intimate and cordial as possible with any visitor, he never forgot the dignity which belonged to his office. Nor did he forget that as President he was socially as well as officially the first person in the Republic. In speaking of these social affairs, I must not pass over without mention the unfailing help which his two sisters gave him at all times. The elder, the wife of Admiral William S. Cowles, lived in Washington when Roosevelt was Civil Service Commissioner, and her house was always in readiness for his use.   33
  His younger sister, Mrs. Douglas Robinson, lived in New York City, and first at No. 422 Madison Avenue and later at No. 9 East Sixty-third Street, she dispensed hospitality for him and his friends. Nothing could have been more convenient. If he were at Oyster Bay, it was often impossible to make an appointment to meet there persons whom he wished to see, but he had merely to telephone to Mrs. Robinson, the appointment was made, and the interview was held. It was at her house that many of the breakfasts with Senator Platt—those meetings which caused so much alarm and suspicion among over-righteous reformers—took place while Roosevelt was Governor. Mr. Odell nearly always accompanied the Senator, as if he felt afraid to trust the astute Boss with the very persuasive young Governor. Having Mrs. Robinson’s house as a shelter, Theodore could screen himself from the newspaper men. There he could hold private consultations which, if they had been referred to in the papers, would have caused wild guesses, surmises, and embarrassing remarks. His sisters always rejoiced that, with his wonderful generosity of nature, he took them often into his political confidence, and listened with unfeigned respect to their point of view on subjects on which they might even have a slight difference of opinion.   34
  Mr. Charles G. Washburn tells the following story to illustrate Roosevelt’s faculty of getting to the heart of every one whom he knew. When he was hunting in Colorado, “he met a cowboy who had been with him with the Rough Riders in Cuba. The man came up to speak to Roosevelt, and said, ‘Mr. President, I have been in jail a year for killing a gentleman.’ ‘How did you do it?’ asked the President, meaning to inquire as to the circumstances. ‘Thirty-eight on a forty-five frame,’ replied the man, thinking that the only interest the President had was that of a comrade who wanted to know with what kind of a tool the trick was done. Now, I will venture to say that to no other President, from Washington down to and including Wilson, would the man-killer have made that response.” 3   35
  I think that all of us will agree with Mr. Washburn, who adds another story of the same purport, and told by Roosevelt himself. Another old comrade wrote him from jail in Arizona: “Dear Colonel: I am in trouble. I shot a lady in the eye, but I did not intend to hit the lady; I was shooting at my wife.” Roosevelt had large charity for sinners of this type, but he would not tolerate deceit or lying. Thus, when a Congressman made charges to him against one of the Wild Western appointees whom he accused of drinking and of gambling, the President remarked that he had to take into consideration the moral standards of the section, where a man who gambled or who drank was not necessarily an evil person. Then the Congressman pressed his charges and said that the fellow had been in prison for a crime a good many years before. This roused Roosevelt, who said, “He never told me about that,” and he immediately telegraphed the accused for an explanation. The man replied that the charge was true, whereupon the President at once dismissed him, not for gambling or for drinking, but for trying to hide the fact that he had once been in jail.   36
  In these days of upheaval, when the most ancient institutions and laws are put in question, and anarchists and Bolshevists, blind like Samson, wish to throw down the very pillars on which Civilization rests, the Family, the fundamental element of civilized life, is also violently attacked. All the more precious, therefore, will Theodore Roosevelt’s example be, as an upholder of the Family. He showed how essential it is for the development of the individual and as a pattern for Society. Only through the Family can come the deepest joys of life and can the most intimate duties be transmuted into joys. As son, as husband, as father, as brother, he fulfilled the ideals of each of those relations, and, so strong was his family affection, that, while still a comparatively young man, he drew to him as a patriarch might, not only his own children, but his kindred in many degrees. With utter truth he wrote, “I have had the happiest home life of any man I have ever known.” And that, as we who were his friends understood, was to him the highest and dearest prize which life could bestow.   37

Note 1. Riis, 268–69. [ back ]

Note 2. Rhodes: Historical Essays, 238–39. [ back ]

Note 3. Washburn, 202–03. [ back ]



Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.