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Instructor Literature Series— No. 405C (Double Number)

E 757
Copy 1





The Story of

Theodore Roosevelt

y Br


Former Superintendent of Schools, Philadelphia ;

Former Governor of Pennsylvania; Author,

"The Making of a Teacher," etc.





The Story of Roosevelt


JAN 22 '23


I believe in honesty, sincerity, and the
square deal.

I believe in making up one's mind what to
do and doing it.

I believe in fearing God and taking one's
own part.

I believe in hitting the line hard when you
are right.

T believe in speaking softly and carrying a
big stick.

I believe in hard work and honest sport.

I believe in a sane mind in a sane body.

I believe we have room for but one soul
loyalty and that is a loyalty to the
American people.






When one thinks of the kind of man that Americans
want an American to be one naturally thinks of Theo-
dore Roosevelt. He was in so many ways an example
of fine citizenship that he is held up to the youth of our
land as a type of what they may well strive to be. And
he won this place in the hearts of our people by hard
work. He did not easily become a sturdy, active,
strenuous leader of his fellows. His whole life was a
struggle: first, a struggle to become physically fit,
then a struggle to become mentally fit, and finally a
struggle to become politically fit. Things did not come
easily to young Roosevelt.

He was born in New York City, October 27, 1858.
His mother, Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, belonged to an
honored Southern family. Her people were of Scotch
descent, with some traces of Huguenot and English
blood in the family. Archibald Bulloch, his mother's
great grandfather, was the first ''President" of Geor-
gia when that colony joined the others in opposing
Great Britain. The Bulloch homestead at Roswell,
near Atlanta, was on the line of Shennan's march to-
the sea and the soldiers carried away many of the
books and much of the light furniture of their home.
Years afterward, when Theodore Roosevelt was Presi-
dent, a soldier sent him one of these books — Gray's
Poems, printed in Glasgow. To young Roosevelt his


mother's home was always a sacred -spot and he was
never tired of hearing stories of the life there.

His father, Theodore Roosevelt, also born in New
York City, was a direct descendant of Klaes Martens-
zen Van Roosevelt, who was born in Holland and came
to America about 1644. His father's mother was a
Pennsylvanian. On his father's side he had Dutch,

Quaker and Irish for-
bears. The mingling
of all these important
lines of descent gave
Roosevelt an all-round
American ancestry.
This may explain the
fact that he was so
well able to under-
stand his fellow citi-
zens and to mingle
with them in an easy
and friendly way.
This fine family in-
heritance was, no
doubt, of great ser-
vice in giving young
Roosevelt the moral
chivalry, dignity, and
courtesy that he exhibited in public and private life.
He was a weak child physically, but his father did
all that a far-seeing parent could to help the boy to a
healthy, vigorous body. At nine years of age he suf-
fered from asthma. His father built a porch gymna-
sium for him on the upper floor of their house on East
Twentieth Street. When the boy was taken to this
gymnasium his father said, ^'Theodore, you have the
brains, but brains are of little use without the body;

Theodore Roosevelt at 10 Years of Age

(Courtesy of Corinne Roosevelt Robinson and
Charles Scribner's Sons.)


you have to make your body, and it lies with you to
make it. It's dull, hard work, but you can do it." And
he did it. Daily he practiced with bars and rings and

The family spent the summers in the country, and
Theodore, a barefoot American boy, was genuinely
happy with his cats, dogs, rabbits, a coon, and a pony
named General Grant. Here also he played Indian and
frequently stained his clothes as well as his face with
poke-berry juice.

His weak body prevented him from attending public
school. He was taught by tutors and in the private
school of Professor McMullen. At the age of ten and
again four years later he was taken to Europe, and on
the second trip he was especially interested in the
birds of Egypt and of Palestine. His specimens, thus
early gathered, he later gave to the Smithsonian In-
stitution. Upon his return to America at the age of
fifteen he was taken in hand by Mr. Arthur Cutler to
be prepared for entrance to college. At this time he
also continued his studies in natural history and thus
laid the foundation for a lifelong interest in wild life
and a longing to see animals in their homes and
haunts. It was this early love of nature that carried
him in mature life to Africa and to South America.

The vacations of his later boyhood were spent in the
woods of Maine, where he hunted, fished, trapped,
paddled, rowed and gradually made himself physically
fit. Once he was sent alone to Moosehead Lake in
Maine. A stagecoach took him the last part of the
journey. In the coach were two boys of about his own
age, and as he says in his Autobiography, these boys
"proceeded to make life miserable'' for him. Theo-
dore was not much hurt in the struggle that ensued
but he was very much ashamed of the fact that he


could not defend himself. Then and there he decided
to take lessons in self-defense.


He entered Harvard College in the fall of 1876. Be-
coming interested in the subject of the naval history
of the War of 1812, he compiled notes which eventually
became a two-volume book, published two years after
his graduation. It was warmly commended by his-
torians and other critics. In college he did not care
for the formal compositions he was required to pre-
pare, nor was he at all interested in public debate.
He gave his time to his studies, to his health, and to
the development of his social sense.

Engaging in many activities, Roosevelt easily
found in his college life how to live in a large way with
his fellow students. This was especially fortunate,
because his weak body had kept him from that wide
contact with others so essential to a rounded character.
Here he learned not only the theories of social life but
the method of living in a helpful way with his kind.
While young Roosevelt was in college his father died,
at the age of forty-six, a loss the son felt most keenly.
Theodore Roosevelt, Senior, had impressed upon his
son that one must work and make his own way in the
world. He also stressed the fact that if one is to give
himself to scientific study and not to the earning of
large sums of money he must also decide not to spend
money. This vital lesson of living within one's income
was of great value to the young man. In a way, it de-
cided his economic thinking and influenced all his pub-
lic utterances.

When he graduated in 1880, twenty-second in his
class, Roosevelt had not fully mapped out his future.



His early interests had been in the field of natural
science, but he decided he did not want to spend his
life as a professor. He considered the law, but did
not like that profession. He did not believe in the jus-
tice of the maxim "Let the buyer beware." Both in
law and in business he thought that the seller should
not profit at the expense of the buyer, but that all bar-
gains should be to the profit of both. He believed fully

in justice but not in
legalism. He could
not bring himself to
the idea that it is
right for a lawyer to
take the side he knows
to be in the wrong.
He knew, too, that his
father had left him
financially independ-
ent. The young man
finally decided to give
his life to the service
of the public rather
than to the selfish pur-
pose of increasing his
own fortune.

In October of the
year that he left Har-
vard, Roosevelt was married to Miss Alice Hathaway
Lee, who belonged to a distinguished Boston family.
They traveled abroad for a time and returned to reside
in New York.,/

When Roosevelt decided that he would take an ac-
tive- part in the political life of his country, it was
partly because he scorned the men who felt free to sit
back and criticize the government. He scorned also

Theodore Roosevelt as a Youth of 16,
at Oyster Bay

(Courtesy of Corinne Roosevelt Robinson and
Charles Scribner's Sons.)


the mean-minded men who for selfish reasons set
themselves up as political leaders. He decided it was
one's duty to "pull his own weight in the boat" and
not to be pulled by others. Some of his wealthy
friends told him political life was low, that it was not
to his social advantage to get mixed up with common
folks. Roosevelt replied that common folks were
really the governing class and that they were well
worth knowing and helping. He decided to seek a seat
in the New York State Assembly. In this he was aid-
ed by Joe Murray, a leader among the rough-and-
tumble gangs of the East Side in New York. Murray
was square, fearless and loyal. He nominated Roose-
velt, against the wishes and efforts of the political
bosses, and saw him elected in 1881, and twice re-

Roosevelt has been criticized for making friends
with Joe Murray and men of his sort, known in the
cities as small-fry politicians. But he defended his
friendship by declaring that no man is fit to do good
work in our American democracy unless he is able to
have a genuine fellow-feeling and sympathy with his
compatriots, whatever their creed, origin or place in
life. He fellowshipped with any man who was really
American in spirit and denounced all those who were
not. This spirit led him to regard Jacob Riis, who had
once been a poor young immigrant from Denmark, as
the best American he ever knew.

Roosevelt's Albany career was a constant fight for
decency and honesty. In his capacity as chairman of
the Committee on Cities he was anxious to secure the
enactment of a law to provide better terminal facili-
ties for a railroad company. His associates refused to
vote the bill out of the committee. Roosevelt an-
nounced that he would report it. This caused a great


uproar. Evidently soiTie of the coinmit!/?.o wanted to
receive money before voting on the bill, ic was finally
passed. The young man had put the bribe-taking
crowd to flight. He had v/on his spurs as a legislator.

A judge in the state had shown himself guilty of
improper if not illegal relations with certain selfish
interests. It stirred young Roosevelt to action. He
demanded the impeachment of the unworthy judge.
A storm of protests arose in the Assembly. He was
voted down. Day after day for eight days he came
back to the attack. His enemies gave up the fight.
The young legislator won, with only six votes against
his motion. It was a great moral victory.

A bill came up to prohibit the manufacture of cigars
in tenement houses. Roosevelt v/as placed upon a com-
mittee to investigate the subject. He went into the
tenement houses. He found living in one room three
men, two women, and several children. Here such
families ate, slept, lived and made cigars — all in one
room. Roosevelt supported the bill. It was vigorous-
ly opposed by those capitalists who were coining
money from the foul conditions the young man saw.
The bill passed and was approved by Governor Cleve-
land, who later became President of the United States.

In these early fights for the right Roosevelt finally
came to the conclusion that he could not accomplish
much unless he had the aid of other men, men whom
he did not think of as possessing large views or hu-
mane ideals, but men who had the votes and power to
help or hinder him. He told his friend Jacob Riis that
if he were to be of use he must work with men as they
are. "As long as the good in them overbalances the
evil I will work with them for the best that can be
got." This did not in any way lower his own ideals
but gave him a basis of success in his entire political



career. He made the most of conditions as he found
them. He fought steadily to improve the conditions.
At the proper time, when education of the pubHc mind
had advanced, he strove for the wiser, the better, the
loftier things, and he usually won.

When Blaine was nominated in 1884 there arose the
Mugwump opposition — so-called by Charles A. Dana,
editor of the New York Su7i. Roosevelt served as a
delegate to the Republi-
can National Conven-
tion in Chicago and
was known there as an
anti-Blaine leader. But
after the nomination he
believed it his duty to
support the candidate
of the party. This
stand led Roosevelt's
friends to charge him
with impulsiveness.
Indeed, in his long pub-
lic career, that charge
was made time after
time. Roosevelt denied
that he was impulsive.
He thought things out
in advance. He knew
when occasion arose
just what he would do.
He was thus ready to
act. His prompt action was called impulsiveness, but
he himself says, 'It was nothing of the sort." It really
was foresight and preparedness. Preparedness he be-
lieved in both for persons and for nations. He had no
use for the typical pacifist.

Theodore Roosevelt in His Freshman
Year at Harvard— 1876.

(Courtesy of Corinne Roosevelt Robinson and
Charles Scribner's Sons. )



While still an Assemblyman, Roosevelt tasted life
on the plains. In September, 1883, he left the train
at a little town called Medora, in North Dakota. He
struck up an acquaintance with two brothers named
Ferris, went buffalo hunting with them, and with them
as partners bought the Chimney Butte Ranch near the
Little Missouri River. He used as his brand the Mal-
tese cross. Because his poor sight compelled him to
wear spectacles, Roosevelt the ranch owner was known
as **Four Eyes." It was thus he began his long and
valuable training as a frontiersman.

In 1884, saddened by the death of both his wife and
his mother, he again went West. While retaining
Chimney Butte Ranch, he started another, Elkhom
Ranch, having sent for two Maine woodsman friends,
Sewall and Dow, to help him. In building the house
for Elkhorn Ranch, Roosevelt helped the others cut
the necessary cottonwood logs. Someone asked Dow
what the total cut for one day was, and he replied,
*'Well, Bill (Sewall) cut down fifty-three, I cut forty-
nine, and the boss he 'beavered' down seventeen."

The round-ups for the purpose of branding the
young animals were always occasions of great interest.
They were often times of trouble, and if a roundsman
was looking for a fight he could easily have one. But
Roosevelt found that if a man avoided brag and blus-
ter, did his work well, and never forced himself unduly
upon his fellows he got along well. These hardy men
of the plains were at heart real Americans and loved
their country and the ideals of liberty and justice. On
many occasions the round-up requires much daring
and great endurance. Roosevelt once was in the sad-
dle continuously for sixteen hours, on another occasion


for twenty-four hours and once for nearly forty hours.

His lessons in boxing stood him in good stead, and
many are the stories of the foolish ranchers and cow-
boys that came to grief through his skill, not his
strength. He kept up the boxing even when he was
President until, in a friendly bout with a young ar-
tillery captain, his left eye was injured so severely
that ever afterward its vision was dim. He said, *'If
it had been the right eye I should have been entirely
unable to shoot."

Roosevelt's struggle for health was finally success-
ful. The life of the plains and mountains put into his
body the fine vigor and tireless energy that showed it-
self in all his mature years. "Bill" Sewall said, "He
went to Dakota a frail young man, suffering from
asthma and stomach trouble. When he got back into
the world again he was as husky as almost any man I
have ever seen who wasn't dependent on his arms for
his livelihood. He weighed one hundred and fifty
pounds, and was clear bone, muscle and grit." And he
had won the respect, admiration, and love of the cow-

His heroic example in gaining for himself the
strength of body so necessary to a successful career is
an inspiration to all young Americans. Physical fit-
ness is the basis of intellectual and moral fitness. A
nation that does not directly train for physical power
in its people will never achieve leadership or accom-
plish large services for mankind.

In the fall of 1886, Roosevelt at his Elkhom Ranch
read in the newspapers that he had been nominated by
the Independents to run for mayor of New York City.
He returned to the East to enter the campaign. But
even with the Republican support which he received,
he was unable to overthrow Tammany. After his de-


feat oy Abram S. Hewitt, he sailed for England, and
in London he was married to Miss Edith Kermit
Carow of New York, who had been a friend of his
sister Corinne and himself since childhood. The cou-
ple returned to New York, and Roosevelt thereafter,
although he still journeyed to his ranch for vacations,
devoted himself chiefly to political affairs. In 1888 he
went on the stump for General Harrison, in the Pres-
idential campaign, and Harrison, after taking office,
appointed Roosevelt a Civil Service Commissioner. In
New York he had to fight the old, deep-set, vicious sys-
tem of politics that proclaimed 'To the victor belong
the spoils." He gave life and meaning to the merit
system and successfully fought its enemies in public
life. His six years in this office greatly advanced civil
reform and taught all Americans, save the office-seek-
ing horde, that public office is a public trust, and that
only those should hold office who honestly and capably
serve the whole people. /


In 1895, when Mayor Strong came into office in New
York, Roosevelt became president of the Police Com-
mission. He accepted this post knowing well that
there was much important work to do. He set about
doing it. The policemen of the city he liked. The
system that directed them was bad. Roosevelt said,
''There are no better men anywhere than the men of
the New York police force ; and when they go bad it is
because the system is wrong, and because they are not
given the chance to do the good work they can do and
would rather do." He set about to change this evil
system. Partisan politics and places for ward hench-
men were not viewed with favor. The system of sell-


ing to the best bidder places on the force was vigor-
ously denounced and destroyed. Again he declared,
"We pay not the slightest attention to a man's politics,
or creed, or where he was born, so long as he is a good
American citizen." This declaration is in complete
harmony with the loftiest ideals of our Republic.

As head of the Police Department, young Roosevelt
made his own study of conditions. Night after night
he walked the streets, visited the resort places of the
rougher elements of the city's complex population, and
saw for himself just what conditions were and what
treatment was necessary to correct the evils and crime
of the community. On one of these journeys he met a
young Jew, named Raphael, who had won renown in
the rescue of women and children from a burning
building. Roosevelt urged Raphael to take the exami-
nation for a place on the police force. The young man
did so, was successful, and became a policeman of un-
usual ability. Roosevelt says of him, *'He and his
family have been close friends of mine ever since."

In his heroic work to make our greatest city the best
governed city, Roosevelt was signally fortunate to
have as his friend and supporter Jacob Riis, who did
more than any other man of his time to clean up the
slums of the great city. His book How the Other Half
Lives was an inspiring call to service. When Theo-
dore Roosevelt read it he called at Mr. Riis's office
but finding him out left a card on which he wrote, **I
have read your book. I have come down to help."
These great-hearted men became lifelong allies in pub-
lic service. In 1901, in the White House, President
Roosevelt told the writer that in" case the United States
purchased the Danish West Indies (Virgin Islands)
during his administration, he intended to make Jacob
Riis governor of them.


When Roosevelt endeavored to find the records of
policemen who might deserve reward for unusual
bravery, honesty, or capacity, it was found that no rec-
ord of individual policemen was kept. No one knew,
apparently no one cared, what the policemen did. The
Commissioner was shocked to find that a rule of the
Department provided that the officer who spoiled his
uniform in rescuing man, woman or child from the
river must get a new one at his own expense. It took
Theodore Roosevelt not many minutes to blot out this
disgraceful rule and to establish the principle that un-
usual service of a high order should have proper recog-
nition. In his two years as Commissioner, over one
hundred men were singled out for special mention and
reward because of some act of heroism.

A certain fine old policeman, a veteran of the Civil
War, one day saved a woman from drowning. Roose-
velt sent for the man. He came, timid and fearful, for
he had never been summoned before the Commissioner
and had never been promoted. In twenty-two years
on the force he had saved more than twenty-five per-
sons from drowning and had rescued many from burn-
ing buildings. No one in New York noted his heroic
work, though Congress had twice given him medals
for distinguished gallantry in saving life. Other
medals came to him. The one thing he could not get
was a promotion. He had no political backing. When
Roosevelt learned all this he was quick to render jus-
tice to a worthy man, and *'It may be worth mention-
ing," says Roosevelt, ''that he kept on saving life after
he was given his sergeantcy."

The young reformer's greatest struggle was against
the illegally operated saloons. The law forbade the
sale of liquor on Sunday. But somebody ''high up" in
politics had issued orders to allow certain saloons to


sell liquor openly on Sunday. Doubtless these saloons
were enjoying special favors and paid dearly to the
blackmailers who defied the law and corrupted the
police force. Roosevelt ordered these saloons to close.
The ''personal liberty" crowd began to yell. Certain
sordid newspapers set up a great cry. The owners of
the favored saloons ran to those ''higher up." A storm
had set in. The saloons were closed and they remain-
ed closed until a judge friendly to the liquor interests
ruled that drink could be sold with a "meal." At once
they resumed operations, selling a pretzel as a "meal"
and with it all the drink desired. But blackmail and
political "higher-ups" had had a lesson. A moral vic-
tory was won. The country was learning bit by bit to
move toward national prohibition.


In 1897 President McKinley called Theodore Roose-
velt to Washington as Assistant Secretary of the
Navy. He had served in this capacity for one year
when the Cuban situation led to war with Spain.

The country was wholly unprepared for war.
Roosevelt declared that he believed America would al-
ways be unready for war. So much has been said
about Roosevelt being a fighting man, a lover of strife,
a believer in war, that it is well to know from his own
pen just what he did believe. He says, "I abhor unjust
war. I abhor injustice and bullying by the strong at
the expense of the weak, whether among nations or in-
dividuals. I abhor violence and bloodshed. I believe
that war should never be resorted to when, or so long
as, it is honorably possible to avoid it. I respect all
men and women who from high motives and with san-
ity and self-respect do all they can to avert war. I ad-


vocate preparation for war in order to avert war ; and
I should never advocate war unless it were the only al-

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Online LibraryMartin Grove BrumbaughThe story of Theodore Roosevelt, F.A. Owen publishing company → online text (page 1 of 5)