from all I had seen in the paper, but I did not say so because
I was afraid your dear father might think I was speaking
a little harshly of Mr. Stillman. Let me say that I have
never heard anything to Mr. Stillman's discredit.
The spirit of this note is one that actuated Theo-
dore Roosevelt in all his journalistic relations.
He was quick to see the good in every man and
while in controversy he often "got mad, " to use
the vivid expression of boyhood, he never stayed
32 IMPRESSIONS OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT
mad nor cherished resentments of any kind. He
was always ready to renew friendly relations with
an antagonist unless they had been broken be-
cause of some fundamental vicious streak in his
opponent which could not be remedied by any kind
THEODORE ROOSEVELT was born into the
Republican party as inevitably as Woodrow
Wilson was born a Democrat, a fact which may
well arouse some curious and interesting specula-
tion about the influence of birth and heredity upon
statesmanship and national history. If Roose-
velt's father had been a Southerner, as his mother
was, and Theodore had been born at "Roswell,"
the maternal family homestead in Georgia, it Is
quite possible, perhaps even probable, that he
would have become a member of the Democratic
party. But his ancestry and surroundings in New
York being what they were, it was as natural for
him to attach himself to the Republican party as
it was to go to Harvard College. In fact, in his
autobiography he intimates as much himself in
these words :
At that day, in 1880, a young man of my bringing up and
convictions could join only the Republican party, and join it
I accordingly did. It was no simple thing to join it then.
That was long before the era of ballot reform and the control
34 IMPRESSIONS OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT
of primaries; long before the era when we realized that the
Government must take official notice of the deeds and acts
of party organizations. The party was still treated as a pri-
vate corporation, and in each district the organization formed
a kind of social and political club. A man had to be regularly
proposed for and elected into this club, just as into any other
club. As a friend of mine picturesquely phrased it, I "had
to break into the organization with a jimmy."
Had Theodore Roosevelt become a scientific
naturalist, as Father Zahm thinks he might have,
or a historian and man of letters, as Brander
Matthews almost wishes he had, he would doubt-
less have habitually voted the Republican ticket
although his energies would never have been de-
voted to political administration. But since his
career was that of a statesman it is interesting to
know how it happened that, at twenty-two years
of age, he became a Republican office-holder and
thus entered upon an active political life.
Various people have claimed the honour of first
suggesting his name as a Republican candidate for
the New York Legislature. The matter, however,
is easily settled on Theodore Roosevelt's own au-
thority. He says that the man who launched him
into practical politics was Joe Murray, a Republican
leader â€” "lesser captain'' Mr. Roosevelt calls him
â€” in the twenty-first district Republican Associa-
tion in the City of New York. In one of the most
entertaining and readable chapters of his auto-
biography Mr. Roosevelt tells the story and testi-
fies to his respect and friendship for Joe Murray.
Joe Murray's version of this important episode in
the life of the future President of the United States
has never yet, so far as I know, been publicly told,
and I am fortunate in being able to reproduce it
here. I came into possession of the story, which
I shall proceed to relate in Mr. Murray's own
words, in this way.
In 1910, when Theodore Roosevelt returned from
his memorable trip through Africa and Europe, he
was appealed to by a group of younger men in the
Republican party to aid them in attempting to
wrest the party control from the hands of the so-
called "Old Guard." He somewhat reluctantly
consented, as will appear hereafter, and went to
the State Republican Convention at Saratoga as
an ordinary delegate from Nassau County. I hap-
pened to be elected to the same convention as an
alternate delegate from my own county, Orange. I
went from New York to Saratoga in company with
Mr. Roosevelt. On the train he introduced me to
a strong, vigorous, ruddy-faced man of about sixty,
saying: "I want you to know my friend, Joe Mur-
ray. He started me in politics. Take him into the
smoking room and get him to tell you the story."
36 IMPRESSIONS OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT
Whereupon Murray and I went into the smoking
compartment of the parlour car and he told me in a
most entertaining fashion how he happened in
1 88 1 to pick Theodore Roosevelt as a candidate
for the Legislature. The main points and the
agreeable flavour of Joe Murray's story have re-
mained with me ever since. But in order to be ver-
bally accurate I got him to come to my office not
long after Mr. Roosevelt's death and tell me the
story again. I am sure that Mr. Murray will not
object to my giving his colloquial and intimate
language just as it fell from his lips, for it consti-
tutes, I think, a human document of both charm
and importance in the record of Theodore Roose-
velt's political career. Incidentally, it reveals
some of the methods of American politics at the
time when Roosevelt was getting his first impres-
sions of the need of social, industrial, and political
reforms. This is the story, verbatim et literatim,
taken down stenographically as Joe Murray told
me how he first met young Roosevelt:
joe Murray's story
In i 88 i Jake Hess was the leader in the Republican Twenty-
first Assembly District organization of this city, the boun-
daries of which were the north side of Fortieth Street, the
south side of Fifty-ninth Street, the east side of Seventh
Avenue, and the west side of Lexington Avenue. Its head-
quarters were Morton Hall at Fifty-ninth Street and Fifth
Avenue, on the southeast corner. At that time a hotel had
been started there by Tweed, but was never completed. The
iron frame-work was partitioned off, and our organization
occupied a portion of it, with stores underneath. The por-
tion which we occupied was known as Morton Hall.
In those days I believed in the organization and I do now
to a very large extent, but I did not think it was infallible.
It makes mistakes. I believe to keep the party strong it
is necessary to keep it pure.
In 1 88 1, after the district was portioned off, we elected
a man for the Legislature. The newspapers made a rather
severe attack on him, and Major Bullard, who was one of the
leaders in our organization, and myself had an idea that if he
was renominated it would be necessary for us to have a
defensive campaign, which is not a good thing for a Republican
candidate. This Assemblyman had supported Piatt and
Conkling, the state bosses, in the previous Legislature, and
they wanted him renominated, if he desired it, as a reward
for his loyalty. Major Bullard and myself did not think he
could be elected, and we considered that it would be a disaster
to the Republican party to have the Twenty-first District go
Democratic. Jake Hess wanted to follow the wishes of the
State bosses, Piatt and Conkling, and intended to nominate
this man even if he couldn't be elected.
Hess was at that time one of the Commissioners of Chari-
ties and Corrections, and was of course a very influential
man in the party, while I was more or less insignificant com-
pared to him. He and Major Bullard and I got together to
arrange a ticket for the coming primaries.
What Hess and Bullard and myself had to do was to pick
out the delegates to be elected to the conventions, including
the Assembly Convention which was going to nominate our
candidate from the district. Hess wanted me as a delegate
to the Congressional Convention and also to the Senatorial
Convention because I was familiar with the routine; but I
'38 IMPRESSIONS OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT
wanted, although I did not say so, to have a part in the
Assembly Convention in order to prevent the renomination
of this weak candidate that I have already spoken of. I as-
sented to Hess's wishes and was a delegate, but I paid no
attention to either the Senatorial or the Congressional Con-
vention. Of course we knew beforehand that William Wal-
dorf Astor was to be our Congressional candidate. What I
wanted to give my special attention to was the Assembly
Convention, although I was not a regular delegate. As a
matter of fact, while I was not a delegate to the Assembly
Convention, Major Bullard and I named fifteen out of the
twenty-five delegates to this convention among our personal
friends on whom we could depend.
Major Bullard, like myself, was a veteran of the Civil War.
He and I went down to see Hess at the office of the Commis-
sioner of Charities on Third Avenue, and there we met the
candidate who represented the district the year previous
and was seeking renomination. We took a walk over to the
Sinclair House to get a drink. Bullard and Hess walked
ahead, the Assemblyman and I were behind them. On the
way over the Assemblyman says to me: "Joe, don't you think
I ought to get a larger vote this year than I did a year ago?"
I says:*' For what?" He says: "For the Assembly, of course.
You know I am better known now than I was then." I says:
"Well, you're certainly better known. The fact of it is that
anybody who knows you wouldn't vote for you." He says:
"You'd vote for me, wouldn't you?" "Billy," I says, "I
know a trick or two better than that. I wouldn't do any-
thing of the kind."
So after we got to the bar-room he was particularly anxious
to get away from me in order to talk to Hess. (Up to this
time Hess knew nothing about this or about the position
which Bullard and I were taking. But the delegates had
been picked and he could not do anything.) After awhile,
however, the prospective candidate got away. He went
over to Hess, and after talking with him a very short time I
Mr. Roosevelt as a member of the New York Assembly
Theodore Roosevelt, Civil Service Commissioner, 1889 to 1895
saw Hess look over at me. We had our drink and went out.
Hess then says to me: "Billy tells me that you are opposed
to him." I says: "Yes." "Well," he says, "he will be
nominated anyway. You don't amount to anything." I
says: "No? Well, I don't amount to much, but if Billy goes
up to the Legislature he certainly will not be indebted to Joe
Of course Hess had a copy of the list of delegates selected â€”
the primary ticket â€” and he sent a man named Jake Weller
and his brother Charlie around to see the different delegates.
Some of them told these men that they had not made up
their minds; but the majority of them said: "Charlie, I
should like to do you a favour very much, but I promised Joe
Murray to vote for his candidate." When we had reached
this point Major Bullard and I were sure of the convention.
Now the thing to do was to get a candidate.
A night or two after this talk at the Sinclair House Mr.
Roosevelt came around to a regular meeting at Morton Hall
to enter his protest against the renomination of the candidate
that the county organization desired to have renominated.
So I spoke to young Roosevelt that night. I told him that
I was also opposed to the renomination of the regular candi-
date and that I was looking around to try to get a suitable
candidate. I had seen young Roosevelt at the meetings of
the organization. My first interest in him was that of a vote-
getter. It was later that I became interested in him as a man.
At that time Columbia College was in the district. His
father figured more or less prominently in philanthropy, and
the name was a good one. In addition to that, I thought
I would interest the football team of Columbia, the baseball
team, and the other different athletes connected with the
College, together with the professors, among the most prom-
inent of whom was Professor Van Amringe. Later, this pro-
fessor got out and worked like a beaver.
When I asked young Roosevelt if he would take the nomi-
nation, he says: "No, I wouldn't dream of such a thing. It
4 o IMPRESSIONS OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT
would look as though I had had selfish motives in coming
around to oppose this man." "Well," I says, "get me a
desirable candidate." "Oh," he says, "you won't have
any trouble." "Well," I says, "it looks kind of easy, but
so far I have not been able to get a candidate â€” the kind of a
candidate that the Major and I think is a suitable one. We
want to get the strongest one we can."
So finally he promised to look around. By that time I
made up my mind that it was Theodore Roosevelt or no one.
Of course I did not tell him so. We parted that night, and
I met him by appointment the next night. I forget now
whether he asked me if I had a candidate or whether I asked
him if he had found any one. Neither one of us had one.
I says: "The convention meets in a couple of nights and we
have got this man beaten, but we have no candidate. What
excuse can we give to the organization for not renominating
this man when we have no candidate?"
"We won't have any trouble in getting a candidate," says
I says: "I hope not, but Mr. Roosevelt, in case we can't
get a suitable candidate, will you take the nomination?"
He hesitated a moment, and says: "Yes, but I don't want
it. In the meantime, I want you to promise me that if you
can find a suitable man, have no hesitancy about nominating
him and do not take me into consideration."
I says: "All right, I'll do it." But I knew what I was going
to do. So I met him the next night, and I reached out to
shake hands with him, and instead of taking one hand he
grabbed both hands.
He says: "Mr. Murray, I have done you a great injustice.
I had an idea that you were guying me. I met our friend,
Mr. Edward Mitchell [afterwards United States District
Attorney and one of the Trustees of Columbia College at
the time] this morning. I had a talk with him, and I told
him about my conversation with Mr. Murray. He said:
'Mister Murray? Do you mean Joe Murray?' I said,
'Yes/ He said: 'Mr. Roosevelt, did he tell you he would
nominate you?' I said 'Yes.' And Mitchell answered me
and said: 'Well, Joe is not in the habit of making statements
that he cannot make good. There is one thing I'll tell you.
You have fallen into very good hands.'"
"Oh," I says, when Mr. Roosevelt finished his story about
Mitchell, "that's all right." Afterward he made me say
that I should have no hesitancy about pulling him out if I
could get another candidate.
The Convention met a couple of nights after that. Hess
started around to capture my delegates. I had an idea that
two could play at that game. Therefore while he was trying
to capture four or five of my delegates, I happened to capture
one of his; so, instead of the vote being fifteen to ten, it was
sixteen to nine.
After his nomination Theodore Roosevelt, Hess, Bullard,
and I went out on a personal canvass. It was the custom in
those days to visit the gin-mills, the stores, and places of
business. The first place we happened to go into was the
lager-beer saloon on Sixth Avenue, near _ Fifty-fifth Street
kept by a German named Fischer. Hess introduced Mr.
Roosevelt to the proprietor as the candidate for Assembly.
Mr. Fischer says to him: "Well, Mr. Roosevelt, the liquor
interest has not been getting a square deal. We are paying
excessive taxes. I have no doubt that you will try to give
us some relief when you get up to the Legislature." (One
of the grievances of Mr. Fischer was that the license was too
high.) Mr. Roosevelt asked him: "Mr. Fischer, what is the
license now?" Mr. Fischer named the figure â€” what he had
to pay â€” and Mr. Roosevelt says, "Well, that's not right.
I don't think you pay enough. I thought it would be at
least twice as much!"
After that we hustled him out and told him that he had
better see to the college boys and his friends on Fifth Avenue,
the society folks; that Hess, Bullard, and I would do the
42 IMPRESSIONS OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT
I took charge of his canvass. Mr. Roosevelt referred a
great many of his friends to me to find out what they could do,
among them being Professor Van Amringe â€” I recollect him
because he was more active than the others. Quite a few
of the football team, two-thirds of the baseball team, and
the boxing club and the wrestlers came down to see what
they could do. I told them to go around to see their friends.
They wanted to know, however, what they could do on Elec-
tion Day. I told them that they could stand at the booths
and ask their friends, irrespective of politics, to vote for
Roosevelt. But a very large majority wanted to know where
the tough districts were. I wanted to send them to the dude
districts where they belonged, as I thought, but they thought
they would be of more service where there was more fighting to
be done. So the districts that we considered difficult to
carry were the ones that were particularly well manned. In
fact, we had ten men where under ordinary circumstances
we would only send one. There were no special difficulties
in the election, for the simple reason that the Tammany men
knew what was coming to them if they started any rough
Some of Mr. Roosevelt's friends who had "inside informa-
tion," as they thought, came around and told him that I
was an organization man, and that we wanted to elect Mr.
Astor at all hazards; that he was simply put up for trading
purposes in order to get votes for Astor from the Democrats,
while in return we would vote for the Democratic candidate
for Assembly. There were twenty-five election districts,
and we only carried twenty-three out of the twenty-five for
Roosevelt. It did not look, therefore, as though we had done
much trading. The fact of the matter is there might have
been some trading, but if there was we did not get the worst of
it. As Mr. Roosevelt has said in his autobiography, it was a
question between Jake Hess and Joe Murray. If Mr.
Roosevelt was beaten Mr. Murray was beaten, and Joe could
not afford to have himself beaten.
Is it not a matter of satisfaction, a source of a
kind of affectionate pride to those who believe in
American democracy, that Theodore Roosevelt
had this kind of introduction, thus described by
Joe Murray, into the career which was eventually
to make him one of the great figures of world his-
tory? There is certainly a distinctively American
flavour in the fact that the Irish immigrant of sim-
ple origin and the native American of aristocratic
lineage thus formed a political and personal ac-
quaintanceship which ripened into a friendship
that lasted until the day of the ex-President's
death. It reveals a certain endearing human qual-
ity in Theodore Roosevelt to know that he often
expressed his sense of indebtedness to Murray
as though the latter had been one of his earliest
preceptors in the practice and philosophy of poli-
tics. Indeed, he says of Murray in his autobi-
We never parted company excepting on the question of
Civil Service Reform, where he sincerely felt that I showed
doctrinaire affinities, that I sided with the Pharisees. We
got back again into close relations as soon as I became Police
Commissioner under Mayor Strong, for Joe was then made
Excise Commissioner, and was, I believe, the best Excise
Commissioner the city of New York ever had. He is now a
farmer, his boys have been through Columbia College, and
he and I look at the questions, political, social, and industrial,
44 IMPRESSIONS OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT
which confront us in 1913, from practically the same stand-
point, just as we once looked at the questions that con-
fronted us in 1 88 1.
Theodore Roosevelt's political creed was indeed,
from the very beginning, a distinctively human
one. He liked men of all sorts and conditions of
life so long as they were really men. He was not a
fc hail fellow well met" of the shoulder-slapping
variety. No man knew better than he how to
command respect and how to preserve his own dig-
nity. But when he formed a friendship â€” and
no man of our time has had wider, deeper, or more
varied friendships â€” his personal relations with his
friends were natural, simple, and confident. For
him, a fundamentally good quality in a man cov-
ered, like charity, a multitude of sins, which would
have repelled a more austere and exacting judge.
At the same time his own standards were extraor-
dinarily high and consistent. Yet he was often
accused of associating and working with political
publicans and sinners â€” by men whom it is perhaps
not unfair to call political Pharisees. This appar-
ent anomaly was clearly seen to be no anomaly
at all by those who understood his own doctrine of
political association. It was once expressed by
him to his intimate friend, Jacob Riis, in a pic-
turesque and illuminating fashion: "I suppose,"
he said, speaking of his earliest experiences in the
New York Legislature, "that my head was swelled.
It would not be strange if it was. I stood out for
my own opinion alone. I took the best 'mug-
wump' stand â€” my own conscience, my own judg-
ment were to decide in all things. I would listen
to no argument, no advice. I took the isolated
peak on every issue, and my associates left me.
When I looked around, before the session was well
under way, I found myself alone. I was absolutely
deserted. The people didn't understand. The
men from Erie, from Suffolk, from anywhere, would
not work with me. 'He won't listen to anybody,'
they said, and I would not. My isolated peak had
become a valley; every bit of influence I had had
was gone. The things I wanted to do I was power-
less to accomplish. I looked the ground over, and
made up my mind that there were several other
excellent people there, with honest opinions of the
right, even though they differed from me. I turned
in to help them, and they turned to and gave me a
hand. And so we were able to get things done.
We did not agree in all things, but we did in some,
and those we pulled at together. That was my
first lesson in real politics. It is just this: if you
are cast on a desert island with only a screwdriver,
a hatchet, and a chisel to make a boat with, why,
46 IMPRESSIONS OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT
go make the best one you can. It would be better
if you had a saw, but you haven't. So with men.
Here is my friend in Congress who is a good man, a
strong man, but cannot be made to believe in some
things in which I trust. It is too bad that he
doesn't look at it as I do, but he does not, and we
have to work together as we can. There is a point,
of course, where a man must take the isolated peak
and break with all his associates for clear principle :
but until that time comes he must work, if he
would be of use, with men as they are. As long
as the good in them overbalances the evil, let him
work with them for the best that can be obtained. ,,
One of the common virtues that most strongly
appealed to him, socially as well as politically, was
dependability. He was chary of making promises
himself but when he did make them he kept them
and he expected other men to do so, too. No Re-
publican leader of the late eighties was more gener-
ally charged with being pastmaster in all the arts
and finesse of reactionary and corrupt machine
politics than Senator Matthew Quay of Pennsyl-
vania, popularly known as "Matt" Quay. Now
Roosevelt had not the slightest toleration for cor-
ruption of any kind, but I have heard him more
than once defend "Matt" Quay against attacks
on the ground that when Quay made a promise to
perform a certain act or to take a certain course
that he could be depended upon to carry out that
promise no matter what the political cost to his own
interests might be. And I have also heard him in
the same spirit criticize with almost extravagant
severity a great leader of the Republican party,
whom the people at large regarded as a shining
exemplar of uprightness and high principles, be-
cause this leader would make a promise and then
fail to carry it out loyally and energetically.
There naturally was never a warm friendship
between this leader and Mr. Roosevelt, a lack of
friendship which by Mr. Roosevelt's critics was
sometimes ascribed to jealousy â€” a wholly mistaken